Chandler Archbell



not your average jaw surgery

February - May 2015


In the summer of 2010 I underwent a surgery that changed my life.  An operation whose intent was to repair a misaligned jaw that left me prone to chewing problems and migraines left me instead with permanent nerve damage that rendered areas of my face completely numb. This mask tells the story of this surgery and my life thereafter.



The mask consists of three layers: the inner face, mid face, and outer face. The outermost layer is the reconstructed jaw itself. It clearly shows the breaks and how it has been reconstructed. The middle layer shows the nerves that were prone to permanent damage during the surgery. Finally, the inner layer consists of the bandage that I wore after my surgery. The ordering of each layer poses an interesting paradox, where the most sensitive part is exposed on the outer layer and the protection is pushed to the inside. Each layer becomes connected by a series of large bolts, which represent the titanium screws holding the reconstructed jaw together.



In order to get an accurate model of my face, I was 3D-scanned using a 7-axis robot which took photographs of my face from specific points of view. The series of photographs were then imported into Autodesk’s 123D Catch software, which exported a 3D mesh model of my face.


After importing the mesh from 123D Catch to Rhinoceros 3D modeling software, I edited it and resized it to create an accurate model of my face.  I also imported a model of a jaw, which I fixed to fit around my face.  Finally, I began to reconstruct the jaw in Rhino to accurately reflect the surgical procedure.



From each piece of the jawbone, I created negatives from which I could mill molds on the CNC router. Each mold consists of two parts that would be put together to act as a sort of injection mold. For the test molds, however, I cast each piece separately using concrete and then glued the pieces together. 



The final molds for the jaw were milled out of MDF due to its durability and low cost. In order to seal the mold to prevent any liquid resin from sticking or soaking into it, it was coated with two coats of Paste Finishing Wax followed by two coats of Smooth-On One Step Release Agent and Sealer. As the resin dries, it shrinks. Therefore, extra channels were milled out so that empty cavities can be filled as the resin hardens.


The final step to preparing the jaw pieces after releasing them from the mold is to sand them smooth.  This involved using a die-grinder followed by a rotating sanding bit.  Due to this process, the final jaw pieces have a smooth, sandblasted texture.


To make the bandage for the inner mask, a mold of my face was first milled out on the CNC router.  Onto this I applied plaster cloth to create the bandage layer.  Once this dried, the rest of the bandage was completed around the back of my head.  The hardened plaster shell will be used as the foundation to which the jaw pieces are fastened and suspended.