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Witch-Finder of Lilburn
2,033 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If the realism of actual steel thumbscrews is out of price or practicality for you, here's a cheap and easy alternative that looks pretty realistic. You might be able to make it faster than I did.

You'll need just a few things that you might already have:

A 1/4 inch threaded bolt, about 3.5 - 4 inches long
two pieces of rod, the same length as the bolt
a wingnut
polymer clay
butterknife or clay tool
acrylic paint (red, yellow, black)

I got the hardware from Ace; they even cut the rod for me. Notice it is not a clean cut - it doesn't matter, it'll be covered. The metal parts cost about $3.

Sculpt and bake the top piece as shown below (if you have a craft knife, you can just make it a plain slab, it's fine, you can carve it after you bake it):

The only thing that really matters at this point is that there is roughly equal distance between the threaded bolt and each rod, and that they are fairly straight. Mine are not terribly straight. Be sure to bake it before sculpting the lower piece; you want the bolt & rods to be firm so you can reliably align the holes.

Sculpt the lower piece. If you have a craft knife, you don't have to make the teeth yet; just a slab with three holes is fine. Then bake it, carve it out, and assemble it to look something like this. Awkward looking at this point but stay with me.

When you are positively certain that you have exactly what you want, and that everything lines up correctly, then make the terminals (feet) on the rods. Blend them in a little but don't sweat it, this is only a rough-hewn chunk of metal we are making after all. Then bake the whole assembly. You will have this:

After baking and allowing it to cool, make sure it still functions. Carve it out a little more if you want. If you enjoy irony, put your favorite religious phrase on it (in Latin of course) or create a pet name for it that the previous owner might have given it, like Il Confessario and carve that into it...it still looks pretty silly but just wait til the first coat of paint hits it.

Mix equal parts of red, yellow, and black paint. Maybe a tad less than equal black, if you want the basecoat more brown. Cover the whole thing with it. You might have to do this in several coats, or at least move the wingnut a couple of times to be sure you get all the threads. Allow that to dry and now we are looking like metal:

But still it's too fresh, not exactly a relic. Mix equal parts of red and yellow again, and darken to taste using the brown you made in the previous step. Dry-brush it on. Suddenly your whole rusty piece looks like the same kind of material and comes alive.

This is not a functional set of thumbscrews, it is intended for display. Probably it would break before causing harm to most witch's thumbs. Nevertheless you should give it at least a mild field test at some point in the process. Observe a smartass get his come-uppance and confess allegiance to the dark one. Notice he can make his legs invisible.

Should-A-Done #1:
I should have engraved some cool phrase or name into it like I suggested above.

Should-A-Done #2:
I should have added some weight to that wingnut, made it wider and less modern looking.

Should-A-Done #3:
I should have added a loop to one of the rods, which I presume was meant for rope or chain or a hook, so that the accused could be suspended? See example.

Should-A-Done #4:
I should have used a wire brush to texture the polymer clay a little before baking it.

Probably it'd be a good idea to coat this with at least one coat of floor wax or some sealant.

Evil, Wicked, Mean, Nasty
2,236 Posts
That's great...I love it. I'd definitely like to add a set of those. I think a wood version would help w/the smart-ass that has to test them - they would inflict the right amount of common sense. Thanks for sharing.

Do you have some way to make the clay dry and harden?
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