How can I get a custom alligator trophy made?
November 5, 2012 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Where can I get a (bronze?) cast of a squeaky alligator toy made and mounted?

I'm a college student, and it's the last semester teaching for one of my professors. He's a really incredible guy- he's actually been lecturing unpaid (!) for the last 17 years (!!) just for the sheer joy of teaching electromagnetics. As someone else put it, "he's who you think of when you think of a university lecturer". We're all sad to be his last class.

He has a little squeaky alligator toy that he brings to class every day: this (source) is almost exactly it. (Here is another similar item with a larger photo- although the alligator I'm talking about is smaller, maybe 8" long from nose to tail.) Somebody has to squeak the alligator at the end of lecture so that he stops talking, since we don't have bells and he'll keep talking forever otherwise.

I'd really love to give him a great farewell gift as a class, and I thought it'd be fun to get an alligator trophy made for him. Ideally, I'd get a version of that alligator cast and mounted on a little base, maybe with something engraved on the front of the base. But I don't really know how to do this. Who should I talk to? Do trophy shops do this sort of thing? How much will it cost?

Some other bits:
- It's a class of 15-20 people. I assume people would be willing to chip in normal college student amounts, $10-15ish, so it would be great if this cost under $200. If it's slightly more I can make up the difference, but I gotta eat too.
- The original alligator is in his office, and I could probably get in and steal it over the weekend for casting or some such, as long as the process was non-destructive. If that's not possible, maybe I could find another alligator to purchase somewhere, although it's fairly old so that's not a sure bet.
- The last lecture is Dec. 5 or so, so this needs to be done this month.
posted by aaronbeekay to Grab Bag (6 answers total)
It's typical to get baby shoes bronzed, some quick googling suggests that the same places that do that will also bronze other items. See for example here and here. Cost seems fine for your group, the timeframe/turnaround might be your biggest obstacle. Maybe google "bronzed baby shoes" plus your location to see if you can find a local place that could do a rush order?
posted by msbubbaclees at 9:15 AM on November 5, 2012

What a thoughtful idea, but I would advise against stealing/borrowing it and risk it getting lost or damaged. Mold making almost always involves coating the object with some kind of release to keep it from sticking to the mold material; who knows if it would react badly with the paint or the material itself, or how well it would wash off.

As an alternate idea: It seems that the alligator itself might be as meaningful to him as it is to the class... what about getting a nice display case like this and putting an engraved dedication plaque on it?
posted by usonian at 9:17 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Never, never, never, never do anything to the real thing. (Specifically, do not attempt to make a plaster cast of your wife's favorite stuffed plush hippo. Just don't.)

The easiest way to do this would be to make a lost wax version of this and cast it. If you can carefully "borrow" the original (which would not be a very nice thing to do unless you know for sure that it is okay), you can get an art student to very carefully carve a wax version of this based on sight. NOT TOUCHING IT. Then they can cast that version pretty easily. You could also, assuming (again) that it is 150% safe -- e.g. I wouldn't go with anything involving heat or some sort of material that could get into porous areas -- maybe make a plaster mold of the original, and then make a wax cast into THAT and get a close match that you can make alterations to.

I would imagine it wouldn't be the world's most complicated thing, as I used to do it in art metal class in high school. But I can't remember what the deal with bronze was... I think that was one of the standard metals, not too hard to work with temperature-wise or whatever, but pewter was easier.

posted by Madamina at 10:09 AM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

p.s. we got divorced
posted by Madamina at 10:11 AM on November 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

There's several programs that let you photograph an object and turn it into a 3D model, Autodesk makes a free one for the iPhone. Then it can be printed on a 3D printer, where you can change the scale, and use various materials.
posted by anon4now at 12:02 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you can't afford getting a copy cast in metal, maybe try this gold leafing tutorial on a similar toy? You could probably find an old trophy at a thrift store and replace whatever is on top with the gold-leafed toy. Amazon looks like it's got a pretty good selection of rubber alligators.
posted by MsMolly at 12:52 PM on November 7, 2012

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