Let me preface by saying that I'm a lazy bum, so I didn't sculpt this dingus from scratch. Much respect to MK, Oz, and Mr. Savage. I took this as a sculptural restoration project to bring out what was lost in those wacky plaster birds that are floating around. You're no doubt familiar with the object in question and its flaws.
I did a clay pour of the plaster bird in Monster Clay (which really excels at pours), then proceeded to match it up to the screenshots from the movie.
I shaved and smoothed the feathers, fixed the scoring on the wing feathers, which had been over exaggerated, and reshaped much of the head. This shot is mid-progress.
Eventually I molded it, and cast it in Smooth On's Onyx resin (the fast setting version). But the big problem I had is that you could no longer see the detail, so it didn't look like the Falcon in the movie.
But I had another idea.
The original lead Maltese Falcon went up for auction about 20 years ago. The first thing that struck me about the promotional images (after the color) is that you can tell it's the bird seen in this shot in the movie because the eyebrow is dented in the same way. I assumed that somehow the gold color had been exposed over the years since shooting. But, as I looked closer at the tonal variations in the screenshot, I saw that the lighter areas corresponded to the gold areas on the auction bird, specifically around the neck. I became reasonably confident that this gold/brown coloration was more or less how the bird appeared on set.
It makes sense, too. Even though the script specifies a "black bird," the art department wouldn't make a jet black prop. It wouldn't show up well on camera. Funny, because it's the same problem I had with my black bird.
So I cast another copy. This time, I wanted to do a bronze bird. I can't tell what material the lead bird is covered with, but bronze seemed like a nice approximation, based on the other images from the auction.
I went with a cold cast bronze process, rather than paint, because I wanted an extra element of authenticity. I polished it and did a black/brown acrylic rub out. I may have been a bit heavy handed with the paint, but it's easy to remove later because it's just sitting on top of the metal.
Here's the progression of plaster bird, clay bird, black bird, and bronze bird.
Not perfect, but it's mine.
Lots more pictures and explanation on my blog, if you're interested: http://chickenhaunt.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-stuff-that-dreams-are-made-of.html
A couple lessons learned that folks may find useful:
The Smooth Cast Onyx Fast is really hot and really fast. It says it has the same work time as 65D, but it doesn't. I was working in batches about 4 fl oz, and this stuff was steaming in the mold.
I'm aware of two methods of cold casting. First is to mix metal powder into the first layer of resin, then buff away the some of the resin to expose the metal particles. The second is to dust the surface of the mold with metal powder, and back it with resin. You can also do both in the same casting. I tested both methods with the Smooth Cast Onyx and felt I got the most out of the second. You get a thicker layer of pure metal, rather than flakes mixed in the resin. Plus, when you mix the powder in this resin, it gets too thick to slush. I'm pretty sure the bronze sped up the cure of the onyx when mixed in, too