Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hei's Daggers - Darker Than Black: Part 3

After all of those painful setbacks with the daggers, I was actually going into this part with a heavy and concerned heart. After using a product with the Smooth-On company before, I decided to give them a call and see what they suggested. They suggested their OOMOO 25 product, and so would I.

It's a really, really simple mixture. Take container A, add matching amount from container B, pour into mold. I built a mold out of some cheap thin wood I had lying around and hot glue, proving you can make a basic mold from anything. I put my dagger I built from the foam board/clay and poured this mixture over it. Low and behold, I ended up with the mold above.

Tis floppy, no? It picks up every little detail and texture, even the wood it was poured into! Its durable stuff.

Now, the problem came that their casting resin? Is 150 dollars a gallon. Mind you, I didn't charge my client nearly enough money to buy their resin. So, it got me thinking. I spent my lunch break hunting down some more fiberglass resin since Lowes decided to stop carrying it, and I lugged home a gallon of it for 35 bucks. Mind you, I didn't have any sort of releasing agent or anything for this. Now, after the problem with 'resin dissolves foam', I decided to do a wee test batch. I took a piece of the mold and cut it off, cut that piece in two, then submerged half of one piece into a cap full of resin and slathered a bunch of resin on the other piece.

Much to my joy, the resin didn't eat the mold material at all! Even MORE of a surprise, when I gave a light tug on the piece I had half-submerged? It slipped right out! No damage to mold or resin.... PERFECT.

So, I mixed up a match of resin, realized quickly after pouring it I made way too much, and hoped.

Very quick note: I discovered that for some reason or another, the resin will stay where you pour it. Meaning if you pour it thick in the tips, instead of evening out like, say, water... it'll stay real thick at the tips. Oh well, lesson learned... the instructions for fiberglass resin says to add 'a few drops' to it - screw that. I always had 'a hefty squirt' to it. It dries faster and, if you screwed up and didn't add enough hardener, you won't accidently have half-dry-but-unable-to-finish-drying resin like I had once.  >.>

One hour later...

I had this beauty. It slipped RIGHT out of the mold without any problems or damage to mold or dagger. It is PERFECT. It took to every detail like a charm. The dagger is going to need some facetime with Mr. Belt Sander and Mr. Dremel though, but I call it a huge success.

How thick it ended up being - thicker than required but that's what a belt sander is for.

Detail shots. You can see how the angles turned out beautifully.

I actually poured a second one right after this. I will have to play with the pouring to get an even thickness, but produce four or forty of these will be no problem. I need to do two more tonight, hit the under sides with the belt sander to get an even thickness, glue them together, then belt sander+dremel v. 2.0 to get the daggers even and flat all around. Then its gesso, painting, aging, and... SHIPPING! On schedule for Sept. 1st delivery date.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hei's Daggers - Darker Than Black: Part 2

It probably seems like I forgot about this prop, but I haven't. Actually, it turned into a complete nightmare. First, if you remember, I laid out the pattern on cardboard. Then, I cut it out.

Either I need a new knife or this particular cardboard was crap - it was so hard to cut evenly. But, it gave me and my client a perspective on the 3D design of it.

After some consultation on the length and width and such, we cropped it down to this.

So my original plan was to make it out of foam, sand it, then put a layer of clear resin over the foam to be able to make it into a mold for, well, molding.

While this started out as a success, and I was very pleased with my brand new jigsaw, there quickly became a problem I had never had before making props - it snapped, clean in half. I think I stared for a solid minute at the broken blade before I sighed and realized this wasn't going to work. Due to the double-bladed design of the daggers, I couldn't get in along the edges properly without the foam snapping. So, I ended up trying something new.

Don't laugh! I used this when I was in college. It's called foam board - two layers of thick paper with foam between them. First was the trick of finding this stuff in a new location since I didn't have a huge art supplies store (actually I had two) in Philly. Once I found it - surprisingly on sale which got me a lot for five bucks - I laid out my design on it. Now, building that cardboard cut out before? Came into amazing amounts of help. The foamboard version turned out nicer and was easier to cut.

Now there's a trick to it. To use foamboard like this, I had to layer it. You can see it in the picture above. The other problem was that this has very slight angles on the edges for the blade, which is quite thin, so I couldn't build on it. After some pondering, I carefully cut 1/8th of an inch from the edge into the paper and removed the first layer, then sanded the foam beneath to give me a sloped edge!

Now, all of this was very rough, not smooth, and clearly doesn't have the beveled edges the dagger should. So, that process began with an old friend of mine - Sculpy Clay!

Here's the final. I used my heat gun I have for paint stripping+wonderflex melting and baked the clay right onto the dagger as I was going. It's a nice, smooth look - not perfect, but I'll have to do some sanding on the resin when its molded. This is one half of the dagger - they're symmeterical, so I'll make four copies and glue two halves together. I am pleased how this is coming out after some serious agony about what was going on with it. I give a huge thank you to J-F, who is another builder and my good friend, who gave me some encouragement to keep going after the foam-snapping incident. (And after the clay-gourd 'frankengourd' incident, too.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gaara's Gourd - Naruto: Shippuden (Part 2)

Two important things in one picture. First is the gourd itself - here it is in its completed resin state. The entire gourd has two layers of resin soaked fiberglass cloth on it. It is nigh-on indestructable in this state as I can well testify to, it can survive anything I've accidently done to it so far!

The small green ball on top of the gourd is actually a replica in a sense. It is also a plastic-rubber ball wrapped in fiberglass and resin, albeit only one layer. It was to do a very important test.

I had to make sure that the resin had not chemically bonded to the plastic-rubber ball inside, as was my fear, and that only two layers would survive losing its internal base.

One knife stab later, we had proof that indeed the gourd would survive the ball popping. So, the two interior balls were popped and carefully removed along with most of the clay that had been supporting the two balls together.

Here is the gourd after it has not only been popped (you can see through it slightly) but sanded as well. Sanding took probably a good two hours with an electric sander, sand paper, and a dremel.

After some experience with the spray paint I chose to do the sand-texture and final color, I knew that painting the gourd before hand would be a huge time and money saver. So I went to my local hardware store and for 9 bucks picked up a hand-picked can of colored paint. I would go with a darker/more orange color next time, but it turned out good enough!

Unfortunately, I missed a picture here so I will explain. The first painting is never the final one. Painting brings out every single defect in the resin surface - a hole here, a missed drop here, a rough spot there. So some plaster was required to fill in the rough spots. Tiny holes were filled in, gaps between places where the resin ran, edges that weren't quite smooth. Then, a final layer of paint was put on to cover the plaster and that is what you see above.

Here, in my very messy cosplay room, you can see the final spray painting job on the v.2 gourd as compared to the v.1 gourd. With the layer undercoat, the gourd turned out slightly less orange in color, plus I did a spritz of a secondary textured sand color to give it some black flecks in it.

And here, the final picture of the completed gourd. It has the large cork in the top, the MWM symbols painted on (there are four of them) and the white wrappings + temporary harness wrapped around its middle.

All in all, pleased with the project. Have some ways to save money now, and a definite on just how quickly I can make one. There's no way to save time on how long it took - I did it in record time and other than problems with the weather there was nothing I could have done to take less time. Next time a darker/orange underpaint will be used to enhance the color.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gaara's Gourd - Naruto: Shippuden

This project is one special to my heart. I created the first Gourd back in 08 when I had almost no idea what I was doing, simply giving something new a shot when I was in a cosplay funk. It became a difficult, aching project that both worked beautifully... and was a failure... in the same shot. It looks absolutely perfect, and I'm pleased for that, but it is very large and heavy - and impossible to carry on my back. So, I always wanted to redo the whole project.

So here I am, two years later, with a similar but different attempt at the same project - this time, keeping careful track of time and money spent.

My apologies that the pictures all end up on their side. Here's the first attempt at getting things started. It was 5 dollars for the two large bouncy balls. Between them is a 1/4 of a $20 dollar box of model magic that'll form the neck of the gourd. On the bottom isn't a base, just a large bowl I use for resin work.

This is the neck between the two balls, the top ball, and the ring of clay that'll be the opening of the gourd with its comically large cork inserted. Yep, it's a real cork that huge!

The very first batch of resin work. That'll be that lovely brown-yellow stain on the green ball. I started with the neck between them as it needs the most support and will keep me from cursing every time the two balls fall apart. I was glad to quickly remember some of my resin-ing skills from two years ago. I also learned that I needed at least two layers of cloth/resin to make the ball hard enough you could no longer press inwards/the ball was squishy.

Beside it is the original gourd. You can see the size difference in the two like this. They're actually just about the same height!

Addition of more resin - the gourd is upside down to let the newly formed clay base dry. You can also see the fiberglass cloth that I didn't have enough resin to lay down but was already stuck to the gourd - that'd be the white along the side.

One weekend's worth of fiberglass+resin. The bottom ball is pretty much done - I'll be double checking it tonight for any 'weak' (squishy) spots and laying over patches if needed. 50% of the top ball has its first layer of resin+fiberglass and 25% has two layers (closer to the neck) so I'll be doing that next.

This gourd is far, far lighter than the original gourd even with the clay and balls still in it. Keep an eye out for further developments!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hei's Daggers - Darker Than Black: Part 1

Using two (1, 2) reference pictures I discovered, I came across the achingly familiar problem with cosplay prop design: no two stills are ever alike. The proportions change, the shape changes, the design changes, the color changes, everything changes depending on the creator's flight of fancy and level of detail needed for the scene. So as usual, it came down to eyeballing things. In this case, I realized that the daggers must be slightly longer than the character's arm from inner elbow to his fingertips. Having gotten that length from my client's arm, I had something to work with.

The basic proportions, have some almost painful work, ended up being roughly that the blade was 3/4 again as long as the hilt+guard. So Hilt+Guard = 7.5in, Blade = 12.5 for a 20 inch dagger. The proportions were not fun to do and took me a few hours to manage. Oh who am I kidding, I love figuring out the math. What I do not like doing is trying to measure things from an image on my screen. I also went about measuring the broadsword I have in my closet to find out the width of a comfortable hilt as well as the proportion of the blade to the hilt. You can tell from the pictures that the hilt is thinner than the blades, but thicker than the gap between them, and the guard is wider than the blades. I am pleased with the way the design ended up coming out.

Next up is cutting out the design from the cardboard (got client approval for the design late last night) and tracing it out onto foam. Then begins the part of prop design that always ends with aching hands and sore wrists... cutting and sanding.