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Plaster Hands

Those wiggling, groping appendages at the end of your arms seem to have a life of their own, and the sight of other people's hands causes you to break out in a sweat. On Halloween, consider taking your fear in hand and making five-fingered candleholders and tabletop decorations. These are made of plaster and get a ghoulish gray cast from a brush with black gouache.

Source: Martha Stewart


We used a food-grade alginate, a water-based skin-safe molding powder, to cast hand molds. (Don't put your hands in the plaster of Paris; it can cause burns.)


  • Alginate powder (Pictured: Alginate, $31.42 for 3 lb., by Alja-Safe, from

  • 2 1/2-quart plastic container

  • Plaster of Paris powder (Pictured: Plaster of Paris, $7.49 for 4 lb., by DAP,

  • Craft knife

  • Masking tape

  • 3/4- to 1-inch drill bit and Surform planer, if needed

  • Paintbrush

  • Black gouache


  1. Stir alginate with water in a 1-to-1 ratio, nearly filling the 2-quart container.

  2. Position hand how you would like it to be cast (if you want the sculpture to function as a candleholder, hold a candle in your hand, keeping it straight; then carefully remove candle), and insert hand into alginate mixture. Hold still 3 to 5 minutes, until the mold is set.

  3. Pull hand out (this won’t affect the mold). Mix plaster of Paris according to package directions, and pour into mold to fill. Let set for several hours.

  4. Remove entire mold from container. Use craft knife to cut the mold in half neatly, and remove plaster hand. Set aside to dry completely (this may take a few days). You can reuse the same mold several times over the course of a day or so. Just reassemble the pieces, securing with masking tape, then put it back into the container. Stop using the mold once it dries out.

  5. If making a candleholder, you may need to widen the opening between fingers and thumb a bit with a drill bit, to accommodate the candle. If necessary, use Surform planer to smooth the surface.

  6. Brush with gouache for a gray pallor; let dry, and arrange on a table.

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