First, taxidermy eyes can be obtained via mail from taxidermy supply outlets or they may possibly be found at local taxidermy shops or through craft stores. I get mine through the mail from an outlet by the name of Van Dyke's. Taxidermy eyes come in a variety of sizes. They are sized according to their diameter in millimeters. You can get them with a variety of pupil shapes from round pupils to cat's pupils to slit pupils (like snakes). Many are also available with veined pupils and scleral bands (the white around the edge of an eye). They range in price from $0.80 to over $10.00 a pair depending upon size and the level of detail you are looking for (eg. veins vs no veins). I generally purchase mine in the size range from 5 - 11mm with veined pupils and these cost me between $3 - $4 per pair. I will make a note that some glass eyes are made flatter than others. I once ordered a pair of alligator eyes (really cool orange with black cat's eye slits) to use in some raptors. I was surprised to discover the gator eyes were flat! If you are not sure then ask the people you are ordering the eyes from to check if the eyes are hemispherical or flat. As a general rule mammal eyes and most reptile eyes are hemispherical but be cautious when ordering fish eyes. Fish can have flat or rounded eyes.
The first thing to do after deciding to use taxidermy eyes is to determine what kind you would like. Having prior knowledge of your paint scheme is a good idea since you can match your eyes to fit the color scheme of your critter. You will need to measure the eyes in the kit across the widest point to determine what size you will require. Remember to do this in millimeters. Next, spend some time in some animal reference books to help you select your favorite eyes. I generally page through the taxidermy catalog and look at the eyes offered. Now that you've chosen your eyes you can begin to modify your kit.
For vinyl figures you will need to carefully trim out the old eye with a sharp hobby knife (I always use a fresh blade). Very carefully hollow out an eye socket on the inside of the head and test fit your glass eye. This takes lots of patience and carefull trimming. Once you have a satisfactory eye socket you should prime the area around the eyelids and eyesocket. After the primer has dried you should then paint a dark color (black, dark brown, dark greens) around the eyelid and spray with a sealer. After the paint and sealer has dried you can then insert your eye from the inside of the head and tack it into place with a small amount of superglue. After the glue has dried I encase the entire back of the eye in putty. I then take scraps of vinyl and glue them across the back of the eye to act as an additional brace.
For resin kits you will need to use a dremel tool to create a hole where the original eye used to sit. You should stop and check the fit of your glass eyes from time to time to see if they sit at the correct depth. After test fitting your eyes use a good epoxy to glue the eye into place. After the glue has set you can use milliput to sculpt out the eyelids and other details you may have had to remove with the dremel tool.
To mask off the eyes before painting I use a Latex Mold Builder compound. Wait for the latex compound to dry and then paint your kit. You can then peel off the latex compound with a sharp point.
Those are the methods I have used to install glass eyes. A few general notes are:
I hope this article will be of use to those of you who are preparing to install taxidermy eyes.
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