Hair Punching Edith Kramer – Appointment at the hairdresser’s

In preparation for this stage, I began experimenting with hair punching in the earlier stages of the project while I was still sculpting. This is because most of the research I could find regarding this, focused on hair punching silicon, not wax. Due to this, I had to experiment and adapt much of the advice I was given.

Things I had to consider:

  1. Type of hair
  2. Needle size
  3. Punching process
  4. Hair styling

Type of hair

As I was working with half-scale with this model, I wanted to try to imitate hair at half-scale also. The diameter of human hair can be from 17 to 181 millionths of a meter, and can be affected by many factors including genetics, age and even weather. In elderly individuals, ‘hair strands become smaller and have less pigment… eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair.’ It will also become less dense, revealing more of the scalp.

I wanted to imitate this on half-scale, therefore started looking into using types of wool instead of hair. I experimented with merino and mohair wool – see below for tests on beeswax. While the right scale, these were too fragile to use on my model as hair on the scalp but will have the correct effect when used as eyebrows.

Consequently, I looked to full-scale hair to see whether I do not have to actually use half-scale hair to fit the realistic benchmark of my model. I contacted a graduating SFX Make-up student at AUB for advice on recommendations and brands, as I did not know where to look for good quality hair. She recommended looking at three different types of hair used commonly in SFX Make-up:

  1. Real human hair – most realistic but expensive
  2. Yak hair – very realistic but also quite expensive
  3. Synthetic hair – needs more research to find good quality hair but on the cheaper side


I mentioned I have a certain budget for this project, therefore would prefer to find a good quality synthetic hair instead, for which she advised using the company Coscraft. I ended up using the silver and platinum white straight wefts from their website.

‘You… want to create a mixture of hair colors to create a more natural look’

Debreceni, T., 2013, pg. 338

One notable experimentation stage at this point, was due to the synthetic look of the hair. Straight out of the packet, this hair had a very high sheen and was very rigid, which made me worry it would not look realistic on the head of Edith Kramer. I noted earlier on how in his models, Ron Mueck pays attention to every single detail, including how parts of the model interact with gravity, ensuring things like hair or clothes fall the right way down the body. This hair did not seem to follow this pattern.

Therefore, I attempted to manipulate the rigidity of the hair by washing a small sample of it in conditioner, another sample I scraped the surface of the strands, and lastly I applied slight heat to a third sample. Out of all these tests, the heat was the only one that made a difference by curling the hair slightly which gave the appearance of fragility.

Virgin hair sample.
Hair sample after heat treatment.

However, after hair punching and styling the hair I realised that this was not necessary. The hair interacted with the colour and translucency of the wax to trick the eye to perceive the hair as more realistic than it was straight out of the packet.

Needle size

I have tried both traditional hair punching needles, and specialist/felting needles. Out of these, I eventually chose to make my own by clipping off the top of a size 12 sewing needle, which created a little hook that grabs the individual hairs to punch into the surface of a material. I used a scalpel holder to make the process more comfortable (I originally placed the needle into a push pin which I can’t imagine using for the whole 4 days of hair punching I ended up doing!).

The specialist/felting needles would have saved me time but created large holes into the surface of the wax. They also needed frequent cleaning as wax residue kept getting stuck in the little forward facing hooks.

I used 16 of these needles for the whole head.
Felting needles proved too thick to work.
The holder for my needles.

Punching Process

The main issue I encountered throughout this process, was protecting the surface quality of the wax. I had to hold the head in a particular way, which in my tests, caused the surface to rub off after a while due to the heat of my palms. I placed the head into a box of soft material and covered the surface with some clingfilm to prevent loss of quality.

Testing and practising hair punching on a spare head.

It was also a struggle at first to understand the way the hair follicles are angled on Edith Kramer’s head, but the three guides above I made after research and some references ensured I reached a good outcome. I aim to punch the eyebrows in after I paint her.

Half-way through the punching process.

Hair Styling

Lastly, to reach the desired effect, hair must be styled after it is hair punched. The main areas that needed working for this model, were the length and thickness of the hair. I have followed the tutorials of professional hairdressers to ensure my realistic benchmark. First cutting the hair, and later gradually thinning it down to reflect the age of the individual I am making.

Edith Kramer had a very signature braid at the back of her head. I aim to thin out the hair enough to achieve this look. Lastly, I aim to add ½ scale hair pins as she wears in most of her photographs. See below for some photographs of Edith Kramer getting her hair styled. The last photograph shows the thickness of the braid before the thinning process.