BEFORE WE GET STARTED, I SHOULD LET YOU KNOW, **THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS.
I love S’mores. They make me happy. And when I say S’mores, I mean the real thing…roasted over an open flame of pure hellfire and brimstone. Your mortal S’mores up here topside are okay, but I really miss the ones I used to get down in Hell. I mean, come on…everyone knows the best S’mores in Hell are made by Dante himself, toasted to sublime gooey perfection in the Inferno.
When I’m not having my treats handcrafted by the marshmallow master himself, I make my own using an empty skull and a few smoldering brimstone coals. Not only am I guaranteed the perfect roast, but the brimstone adds a subtle flavor of damnation that’s almost impossible to replicate here on Earth.
As we’ve discussed before, Hellfire is pretty rare around here, which is why I have had to make some substitutions…and although it’s not perfect, for now, it will do.
The first thing we’re going to need to do is to make a mold of a skull. This skull mold will be used with plaster-of-Paris and should NOT be used for molding food products. If you need a mold that can be used for food, check out my tutorials for making a food safe silicone skull mold part 1 here, and part 2 here.
For this project, we are going to be making a latex mold. Latex is relatively easy to find year-round (you can get it at Michael’s for fairly cheap. I’ve also included a link below to Amazon if you’re more inclined to order).
Once you’re done with this project, save your mold. You can use it again and again and again to make as many plaster skulls as your dark little heart desires (a great thing if you’re building an ossuary). You can also use it to make resin skulls (but I suggest using a mold release spray).
Because latex is flexible, we will also be making a “mother mold” (a hard rigid shell) to help hold the shape of your skull as the plaster hardens.
To make your latex mold you will need:
- 1 plastic skull
- 1 jar mold builder
- 1 foam brush
- Small amount of non-oil based clay
- 2 rolls of plaster-soaked cloth
Before we begin making your mold, we need to prep your skull. My favorite skulls to use for molding are the cheap hard hollow plastic ones you can pick up for half off after Halloween. Make sure the material your skull is made of isn’t porous (this includes some plastics, clay, other plaster skulls, wood, and all actual bone). If it is porous, be sure to seal it first with a layer or two of clear coat.
If your skull has any oil based weathering, make sure to scrub it off as it will affect the way the latex cures. (This is also the reason we use clay that is not oil based).
If your skull has any details that include gaps, sharp undercuts or holes, those will need to be filled with clay. If you have holes inside your eyes for optic nerves, large gaps between your teeth, or holes within the nasal cavity, fill those with clay. You also want to make sure you fill the zygomatic arch gap as well (see photo below).
Brush a thin layer of latex over your entire mold, leaving only the bottom bare. Allow it to dry before adding your next layer. (You’ll be able to see it drying. As latex dries, it turns from a thick white to a pale clear-ish yellow).
Continue adding layers, letting them dry before applying the next until you have between 5 and 7 thick latex layers.
Onto the mother mold. This is a hard shell that we’ll build around your latex mold which will help to keep it from warping as you mold your skull. Build your mother mold like you would a clamshell, with your skull in the middle. Start by first building up two layers of plaster cloth on one-half of your skull. I’m partial to starting on the right side (as you face the skull). Don’t worry about getting the plaster into the nasal cavity or eye sockets, just skim right over those.
Once the first half is dry, smear a bit of vaseline over the center split point and then apply plaster to the second half of your skull, overlapping slightly along the split (the vaseline keeps the plaster from sticking together).
Allow this to dry fully and then remove from your latex mold.
To get your original molding skull out of your latex mold (and all subsequent plaster skulls), simply roll the edge of your latex down over the back of your skull and peel it off. As you roll it forward, it will turn inside out. Pop your skull out and then simply turn the mold right side back in. Congratulations, you now have a latex and plaster mold of a skull.
Let’s make our hellfire pit!
For this you will need
- cool water
- Mixing tub
- Mixing tool (I use an old spatula)
- Your latex skull mold
- Your mother mold
- binder clips
- bungee cord
- can of Sterno
Place your latex mold inside your mother mold and secure the two sides of your mother mold together using your bungee cord. I also like to clip the edges of my latex mold to the edges of my mother mold to help keep it from drooping.
To start, you want a cup or so of liquid plaster. Mix your plaster according to the manufacturer’s directions. Be aware that the temperature of your water, as well as the ambient temperature of the space you’re working in, will greatly affect your curing time. Cool water and cool temperatures will slow down your cure. Hot water and hot temperatures will speed them up. Adjust accordingly.
Pour your mixed liquid plaster into your skull. Because we are going to be turning this skull into a hellfire pit, we need it to be hollow, which means we need to do a technique called ‘rotational casting.’ Rotational casting is just a fancy way of saying you need to turn your mold over and over and over while the plaster hardens so that it creates a shell inside your mold.
Rotational casting is just a fancy way of saying you need to turn your mold over and over and over while the plaster hardens so that it creates a shell inside your mold. In the series of photos below, you can see the first cup of plaster I mixed has been poured into my mold and I am rotating it in a clockwise rotation, making sure to fully coat the sides and top of my mold.
As you rotate your mold and the plaster thickens, it will eventually turn to a sludge and stop sliding along the inside of your mold. I like to turn it so the puddle settles into the front of the skull, building up the teeth, nasal and orbital cavities first.
Add at least two more layers of plaster, a cup at a time, and continue rotationally casting your mold. While it’s important to get a good layer all around the edges of your mold, don’t worry too much about building up a thick layer at the crown of your skull.
Once your three layers have fully hardened (I like to wait about 20 minutes after the last layer has set), release your mother mold and peel off your latex.
Congratulations, you have your first plaster skull!
Move immediately onto the next steps while your skull is still damp and soft. If you wait too long, you’ll still be able to do the rest of the project, but it’ll be a whole lot harder and a whole lot messier as your plaster will be fully cured and much tougher to cut through.
Now, I’m a little particular about how I like my skulls…specifically, I’m not a huge fan of the lower jaw. Don’t ask me why, just always been that way, which is why when I poured this skull, I intentionally left the lower jaw thin and brittle. Because the plaster is still damp, and therefore soft, it’s simple to snap that extra material off.
Test your skull out for balance and make sure it’s steady. If it’s not, a few quick swipes over a rough surface like a cement sidewalk or a bit of sandpaper will sand down the bottom until it sits flush.
Take your Sterno can and place it on top of your balanced skull. Using a sharp nail, trace a circle around the can into your still damp skull.
Using any relatively sharp tool you can find (screwdriver, butter knife, pocket knife, etc.) start scooping out the hole where your Sterno can will sit. It might take a bit of time, depending on how thick the parts of your skull are, but eventually, you should be able to break through to the hollow center of your skull.
Periodically put your Sterno can into the hole you’re carving as your carving to check for size and adjust as needed.
As you can see with my Sterno can, it has a small collar around the top of it that includes four small flanges to keep the can from dropping through the center of my skull. The Sterno can I’m using is specifically made for cooking S’mores and came with that collar. If you are going to use your hellfire pit purely for decoration and don’t care what sort of Sterno can you’re using and yours doesn’t have that flanged wire collar, I would recommend adding a similar collar using a few twists of medium gauge wire.
Place your finished skull somewhere warm and allow to dry for at least 24-48 hours.
Now it’s time to move onto decorating.
I like to give my skulls a wash of brown acrylic followed by a wipedown with a wet rag. This leaves the skull grungy and distressed looking. Ultimately, how you decorate your skull is up to you. Have fun with it! There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Allow your skull another 24-48 hours to dry.
Now that is a good looking skull!
Ahh, all done and ready to light!
Doesn’t that look awesome?!
As I said above, my Sterno can is specifically made for S’mores, so of course, the first thing I’m doing with my hellfire pit is…well…making S’mores.
So, let’s make some damned S’mores!
Mmmm…those were almost as good as the ones I make in Hell over actual hellfire…
To help keep your hellfire pit burning for many years to come, consider giving it a coat or two of clear sealer to help protect it. As it is plaster it will eventually break down and degrade if left in a damp environment without a sealer.
So there you have it, your own hellfire pit. Because it’s small, it’s the perfect size for the middle of a table. Just make sure you practice good fire safety. These cans can get hot, so be careful as you handle them. The plaster will act as an insulator meaning the sides of your skull will remain cool to the touch even with the can lit, but still be careful. Make sure you have plenty of clearance above the can and never light it in an enclosed space.
Okay, safety lecture’s done. Grab a can of S’more Sterno, pile on the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers, and have yourself a hell of a night.
Like what you see? Want to see more? Help me keep making my disgusting creations by visiting my Patreon page.
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