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My Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Top Ten Favorite Movie Props

Welcome to my second installment of “My Top Ten Favorites…” where I discuss my top ten favorite movie props.  This was tough for me to compile as I love props and there were so many I left out to get to only ten.  I had to come up with some guidelines to keep the list short like “no helmets” since I’ll probably do a list of favorite movie costumes and helmets are a main part of costuming.  Also, as much as I love lightsabers from Star Wars, the actual prop is the handle and visual effects are what make the lightsaber work on screen, so no props that need extra help on film.  I pretty much went with what I think looks really cool to me and works well for the purpose in the particular movie.

#10 Mick “Crocodile” Dundee’s Knife

Mick Crocodile Dundee Knife; Crocodile Dundee 1986

“That’s not a knife. This is a knife.” One of my favorite movie quotes where Dundee was talking about his famous knife that he always carries with him. He was being approached by a gang threatening him with a tiny switch blade knife when he spoke this line.

“The Dundee knife was created by an Australian gunsmith named John Bowring. He was approached by the studio that produced Crocodile Dundee film and asked to make an original knife for the Dundee character. Bowring agreed and produced the famous Dundee knife.”  (Survival Knife Mary)

#9 Doc Brown’s DeLorean Time Machine

DeLorean Time Machine from Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990

Yes, a whole car made my favorite prop list.  It probably helped that the DeLorean itself is one of my favorite cars anyway.  But by adding all the “bells and whistles” as a time machine catapults this car as a prop icon I think everyone will love.  The inside of the car with the “flux capacitor” and digital time display is an important memorable detail as well.

#8 LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box

LeMarchand’s Puzzle Box from Hellraiser films 1987-1996

The Hellraiser puzzle box is simple, but can also take on a complex shape when activated opening a gateway for Pinhead and the Cenobites to enter our world.  I love the design and overall look to the cube and still aspire to having one of these in my prop collection one day.

#7 Wolverine’s Claws

Wolverine’s Claws from X-Men and Wolverine spin off movies 2000-2017

A spoiler about Wolverine, perhaps, if I do a list of favorite comic book characters is that he would be #1.  Seeing his claws designed well as a workable esthetic prop on film is exciting for me.  It’s a simple design that I’ve seen used in cosplay a lot but looks real and very cool as the Wolverine’s signature weapon.

#6 Hannibal Lecter’s Prison Mask

Hannibal Lecter’s prison transfer mask from Silence of the Lambs 1991

Another simple design of a prop, but makes a huge statement on film because of the character (and acting performance) that wields the power of it’s use.  Hannibal “the cannibal” Lecter can’t bite anything but his own tongue wearing this.  What sells this mask the most is seeing the whole shot of him wearing the classic straight jacket for an insane person strapped to a dolly, as well, as he’s being transferred.

#5 Ghostbusters Proton Pack

Ghostbuster Proton Backpack from the Ghostbusters films 1984-1989

“Who you gonna call…?”  Such a cool concept piece especially as a whole with the gun and trap that is the perfect design for what it’s supposed to do on film.  And there’s four of them, too!  I loved the Ghostbusters and my favorite parts of the films is when the Ghostbusters show up trying to look tough and important in their jumpsuits and technical gear.  I’d feel important too if I were wearing it all.

#4 Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol

Raiders of the Lost Ark Fertility Idol opening scene from Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981

We get an introduction to exactly how the character of Indiana Jones is going to be like through the entire franchise of Archeology films starring Harrison Ford with this opening scene–and the lengths he’ll go for a priceless artifact, particularly this first one, is incredibly exciting.  I’ll never forget watching this film on the big screen as an eleven year old kid imagining being an archaeologist myself one day.  Of course that didn’t happen, but my love for art, particularly 3D art, is portrayed with my love for prop making.

#3 Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle

Colonial Marines Pulse Rifle from Aliens 1986

I love this movie and I love this gun!  Everything about this rifle is so cool…from the shape, the sound it makes on film, the badass marines who use it, it’s killing force against the aliens, and the digital countdown of ammunition.  I especially love the scene when Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) cocks it with one arm and launches grenades into alien eggs when approaching the Queen alien’s lair.  A close companion to the rifle is the scanner used alongside the rifle to detect movement when locating how close the aliens are.  “Game over, man!”

#2 Ash’s Chainsaw Hand

Ash’s Chainsaw Hand from Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness 1987-1992

“Groovy!”  How ironic that the very chainsaw used to cut off his hand becomes the extension to where his hand used to be.  I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler because the events of this movie and the way Bruce Campbell plays the role of Ash is something NOT to be missed!  The chainsaw is an iconic symbol for the Evil Dead series and rightfully so.  The scene in the shed where Ash constructs his defense with the chainsaw and sawed off shotgun is a filming and editing masterpiece.

#1 T-800 Endo Skull

T-800 Endo Skull from The Terminator 1984

This is definitely a must have in my collection!  So brilliant of a design and concept, and so awesome and cool to look at!  I can totally see and imagine flesh overtop of the chrome to get to the face of Arnold Schwarzenagger as the cybernetic assassin.  I list reasons why this is one of my favorite movies in my blog post on My Top Ten Favorite Movies, but I left out this one reason that the film houses my favorite prop.  “I’ll be back.”

And I’ll be back with more top ten favorites soon on makeup and costuming in film.  Let me know what you think so far with my favorites and comment here what some of your favorite movie props are.

Thanks again for hanging out and keep a look out for more content here with cosplay, prop and costume making.

 

 

 

 

My Top Ten Favorite Movies

Top ten favorite movies:

So I thought it would be cool to do a series of my top ten favorites like my top ten favorite movie props, or my top ten favorite comic book characters, etc…  I’ll start with my top ten favorite movies, which most of these are directly responsible in influencing my passion for makeup, cosplay and prop making.  I know many of you will agree that these films are quite good if you’ve seen them, but I’ll also be revealing my age since several of these films impacted me as a young lad finding my place in the world.  The countdown will start at #10 and work it’s way down to my #1 favorite movie of all time.  One criteria that I went by, when choosing these films, is that I could watch these movies over and over again and never get tired of seeing them repeatedly, which I’ve already done time and time again.

#10 The Dark Crystal

The Dark Crystal 1982; directed by Jim Henson

I could no longer watch the muppets the same after seeing what I believe to be Jim Henson’s greatest masterpiece.  Not only was the puppetry and special effects incredible, but the story line was well written and went along smoothly with the film’s intent.  The gelflings in the movie were almost human or lifelike enough for me, as a kid watching, creeped me out so much that it hypnotized me and I couldn’t look away.  Today when I watch it again and again, the skeksis are clearly the best part of the movie for me.  The sculpting and work that went behind them must have been intense for such an amazing design.  I am still in awe every time I watch it.

#9 Evil Dead 2

Evil Dead 2 1987; directed by Sam Raimi

There are several reasons this movie easily made the cut into my top ten and I’ll get to them in a second, but perhaps what stands out the most as the best part of this movie is simple…Bruce Campbell!  This was my introduction to the genius of Bruce’s acting and humor and even though he was in the first one, Sam must have held him back then, no holds bar on this performance of Ash for Evil Dead 2.  What a terrific treat.  Sam Raimi’s vision on technical film style and camera angles gets my next kudos for this film.  Several new and innovative shots were introduced here and we still see them today thanks to Sam Raimi.  In a time when I was obsessed with horror films I remember after watching this one that I had to get into the industry somehow and I left for Florida soon after to become a makeup artist.

#8 True Romance

True Romance 1993; directed by Tony Scott

Acting is king in this film and the cast is unmatched…just look at them all!  But perhaps the greatest performance, in my opinion, was Gary Oldman’s as Alabama’s pimp.  In fact I remember making the decision that Gary Oldman would be (and still is) my favorite actor after watching True Romance.  This film has everything from humor, elite acting performances, action, and best of all an amazing script.  Here is where I found out about the one and only screenwriter Quentin Tarantino.  Most of you know him from his work on Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, and Kill Bill.  The man is brilliant and interesting dialogue is his specialty.

#7 Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back 1980; directed by Irvin Kershner

There are several Star Wars films that could have easily made the cut since I am a big Star Wars fan, but this is clearly my favorite and can represent the Star Wars saga for me.  I picked The Empire Strikes Back mainly because of my childhood attachment to it.  One of the first biggest Star Wars toys I had, other than the figures, was the T-47 snowspeeder from Hoth.  I had countless hours playing the Hoth battle scene out with my friend who happen to have the large AT-AT introduced in the film as well.  I also started collecting trading cards and I remember trying to find all the cards and stickers in the set.  I’ve watched this movie the most out of all of them and I can say that even today I get excited and find new gems within the movie to admire.  The reveal of Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s true identities propelled the plot exponentially.

#6 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001; directed by Peter Jackson

Where do I begin with this one?  So many reasons why I love it, I can’t just name a few, but I will try for this entry.  Peter Jackson‘s commitment to keep the film as accurate as possible to J.R.R. Tolkien‘s masterful work from The Lord of the Rings trilogy of books helped him recreate the story with visual perfection.  Since the FOTR (fellowship of the ring) was the first one to see in Peter Jackson’s trilogy it would have the most impact in introducing the enormous undertaking of the project.  The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King were just as beautiful as the first.  In fact these three movies were filmed at the same time over a period of three years!  I love watching the making of these films on the DVD’s extras menu almost as much as the films.  Props and SPFX makeup get me giddy here thanks to WETA Workshop.  New Zealand’s beautiful diverse landscape was the perfect choice to film the many different lands in Middle Earth, so set design propels the film even further.  If you’re a fantasy nerd like me and love stories and tales of medieval times J.R.R. Tolkien’s books are brilliant.  But even if you haven’t read the books these films are the ultimate eye candy and will give you the greatest emotional roller coaster ride a movie can offer.

#5 The Terminator

The Terminator 1984; directed by James Cameron

The script to this film is absolutely brilliant, which is why it was able to be so successful and launch several more well made films in the franchise.  When I tell folks why I love this movie I tell them about the story of the first time I saw it.  To keep it short, the highlight of the story is that I had absolutely no idea what it was going to be about because I never seen a trailer for it.  This is why, even today, I try to avoid too much pre-hype of a film and also try to avoid long trailers that give the film away.  Watching this film for the first time and seeing two (what appears to be) hostiles from the future, at the beginning, pursuing an unsuspecting damsel is captivating.  I’m sure most of you have seen this, but if not, I’ll stop there so I don’t spoil it, since not knowing about it wooed me.  I’ll be doing a list soon of my top ten favorite movie props and if you read this, you’ll get a hint of one of my favorite props which is the T-800 endoskull.

#4 The Matrix

The Matrix 1999; directed by Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski

Kung Fu, computers, leather and shades…doesn’t get any better than that…OH, except when you add a mind blowing story to go along with them.  The Matrix has an intense, brain-buster script similar to The Terminator, but, in my opinion, slightly better which is why it falls just one more closer to my favorite film of all time.  Visual effects reins supreme as well for technological reasons.  New techniques in cinematography were invented with multiple cameras and angles and editing that forever immortalized scenes in our heads…if you’ve scene it, you know what I’m talking about.  Pure magic!

#3 Manhunter

Manhunter 1986; directed by Michael Mann

Michael Mann is a master at creating the perfect mood and emotion using the soundtrack and composition of any scene.  I loved this movie precisely because of it.  I was a huge fan of Miami Vice TV show growing up and I was thrilled to see Michael Mann was involved with this film.  Here is where we get our first glimpse of Dr. Hannibal Lecter portrayed by Brian Cox.  Even though we remember Anthony Hopkins immediately for this role, Brian, who is just as much a high caliber actor as Anthony, played Hannibal first.  This movie is based off the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  I don’t really know how convincing I can be and do the film justice, but it’s one you just have to trust me on and seeing is believing.  A true Masterpiece!

#2 Gladiator

Gladiator 2000; directed by Ridley Scott

Best “come back kid” revenge story ever!  This movie is sensational!  It has everything from being visually stunning, a captivating story, superior set and even beautiful costuming.  The main character Maximus portrayed by Russell Crowe goes through an amazing journey at every stage of power to near death to being hated and then being loved, which keeps you emotionally attached throughout the entire film.  Each action sequence is set up to be more anticipated and exponentially more exciting than the previous one.  An absolute must see again and again!

…drum roll…

…and the #1 favorite movie of mine is…

#1 Blade Runner

Blade Runner 1982; directed by Ridley Scott

So my top two favorite movies are directed by Ridley Scott.  Coincidence?…I think not.  The man is a genius.  So, if I were to have a list of favorite directors, he’d be number one also.  When I came up with the list and I was thinking of movies to consider in the top ten, Blade Runner and it’s position as number #1 was the only one I knew of right away. The movie is king of all of them and I have talked to a lot of people that agree with me that Blade Runner is their favorite movie also. (At least folks my age).  Even though I’m a visual guy, my favorite part of this movie is the soundtrack by Vangelis.  The soundtrack is a fluid merger of every stunning scene that solidifies the film emotionally.  I still get chills and hold back awesomeness tears every time I watch it.  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick is the novel that the film is based off of.  This film has an elite cast including Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah.  The story takes place in the future (well…the future from 1982) and what is so alluring about it is that it seems like a future I believe could really happen to some extent.

I hope I haven’t given away any spoilers if you haven’t seen any of these and I want to believe I hyped these movies up enough that you want to make an effort to view them for yourself or even see again if they’re already part of your library.

This was a fun list to make and there were several movies I considered to be in the top ten, but didn’t make the cut.  A quick list of these, and not in any particular order are:

  • Aliens 1986; directed by James Cameron
  • Goonies 1985; directed by Richard Donner
  • Labyrinth 1986; directed by Jim Henson
  • Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens 2015; directed by J.J. Abrams
  • Blade Runner 2049 2017; directed by Denis Villeneuve

…just to name a few…

Thanks for takin’ a gander at my opinion in films and please leave a comment on what may be some of your own favorites and/or if you agree with any of these films as a possible contender as your own favorites.

 

 

 

Steampunk Gauntlet on a Budget Tutorial

Finished glove with rub-n-buff colored gears add ons

List of Materials
  1. A pair of welding gloves (preferably used) where you’ll only be using one of them.
  2. Leather dye Drk brown
  3. Faux leather material 1/2 yard
  4. Thin gauge copper sheet that can be cut with scissors
  5. Paper fasteners package
  6. Choice of add ons (gears, gauges, fan blades, etc….)
  7. Rub-n-buff metallic rub on wax
Tools Used
  1. Scissors
  2. Exacto knife
  3. Tape measure
  4. Hot glue gun
  5. Hot glue sticks
Procedure
  1. Used welding glove to be leather dyed

    To keep the project on a strict budget, it helps to have found a pair of welding or thick barbeque gloves that are used already.  If you don’t have a pair, try finding some at a thrift store and/or garage sale.

    Depending on the color the glove is, you may have to dye it a color that will help blend in with a steampunk look.  I used dark brown to mask the blue that I started with.  Follow directions on the dye bottle.  It took three coats for my glove.

  2. Dyed leather glove with accessories to be added

    I was ambitious and thought I would fit everything on the glove you see in the photo, but once I saw it come together, I was able to weed out what I really needed to make it look proper. Sometimes less is more.  Plan out what you want to use ahead of time and it’s okay to have a lot in mind to start with, because you can always decide otherwise.

  3. Sections fabricated separately

    To make this glove look more the part as a mechanical gauntlet, you’ll need to cover it with as much of the copper sheeting and fake rivets (paper fasteners) as possible.  What made this a simple and effective build was making each section separately and then adding them on after.  The simplicity was with not having to go through the thick glove with stitching, cutting, poking, or threading to the inside.

    Measure how big of an individual section you want to address first and either mark the faux leather or cut a pattern and then transfer onto the faux leather the shape to be cut out.  Cut it out of the material.

    Next you’ll want to take the same shape of the copper sheeting, but smaller so the faux leather material has a boarder of 1/8″-1/4″ appearing behind the copper sheeting.  You should have a thin enough gauge copper to be able to use scissors for cutting.

    Center cut shape of copper sheeting over top of the faux leather material and plan, mark and space out where you want the rivets to appear along the boarder of the metal.  It’s not necessary to glue the metal to the material because the rivets (paper fasteners) will go through and fasten together the two shapes together, but you can if you want so the two don’t move before the process is finished.

    With the exacto blade, poke through and cut a small slit through both materials where the center of the rivet will be located. Then take a closed paper fastener and poke the shafts through the slit and then spread the shaft apart tightly against the back of the faux leather side.  Repeat for all planned rivet spots.  Try to plan the direction of where the feet of the paper fasteners will end after opening so they don’t stick out past the boarder of the faux leather material.  If that happens though the fastener’s feet are thin enough to cut out of the way.

  4. Sections added on with hot glue

    Hot glue assembled sections in place, concentrating on the edges.

  5. Begin finger wrap sections and test fit

    The fingers are a little more involved since you’ll be making many sections. Each finger has at least two “rings” or copper wraps between each knuckle.

    The same principle applies where you have a faux leather backing under copper sheeting strip with only 1/8″ boarder.  You’ll need to measure each section of each finger because the length around and distance between each knuckle changes frequently.  I did find, however, I was able to use the same measurements for some of the finger sections.  Most fingers have only two rivets except the thumb, forefinger and pinky because three sides of the finger are exposed, so I put another rivet on the side for visual stimulus.

     

    There should be at least an 1/8″ overlap where the two ends of the “ring” come together where you’ll need to poke the paper fastener through both ends (two layers of faux leather and two layers of copper sheeting).  Once you make the wrap held in place by the paper fasteners, you can slide the “ring” in place on the finger.  It’s good to have it a little loose with a gap between the glove and the wrap because once the finger is in place in the glove the space becomes filled.  I put a dab of hot glue on the underside inside any gap to hold the “ring” in place.

  6. Near completion, stiff enough to stand on its own

    Repeat step 5 until all the digits are filled.

  7. Finished glove with rub-n-buff colored gears add ons

    Add any gears, gauges, or cool steampunk related props to the glove for more esthetic purposes.  I like putting gears next to each other to give the impression that they are actually turning something.  I was able to choose gears that were compatible to my paper fasteners so they actually spin freely.

    I used Rub-N-Buff on anything that wasn’t metallic looking already which matches the steampunk theme.  Follow directions on the package.

 

Happy Crafting!  Let me know if you choose this method and comment below how you did…

Steampunk, Baby…Yeah!

I absolutely love anything steampunk.  I once saw the perfect, quick, definition for steampunk as …a time that never was, but one that we wish we had…

The actual definition from Wikipedia is [Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Although its literary origins are sometimes associated with the cyberpunk genre, steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American “Wild West”, in a future during which steam power has maintained mainstream usage, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power.]

What’s great about steampunk is that your imagination is the only thing limiting you on what you can do for any deco or cosplay accessories relating to this popular genre.  This means endless combinations and countess leather, goggles, gears, brass, copper, fashion and made up time travel device add ons to any project. Fun stuff!

I remember my exact first encounter where I fell in love with the theme and that was at DragonCon 2011 after the realease of the movie Sucker Punch.  I’m sure steampunk has been around since the real industrial revolution, but this movie seamed to unlock the fan base to explode in exposure.  I was at DragonCon 2010 the year before and I can’t think of any instances of steampunk that I could remember.  2011, however, every time I turned around I could easily spot brass and leather immediately.

So in honor of my love for steampunk, I’m dedicating this post to the three costumes I’m designing and making for me, my wife and daughter for MegaCon Orlando 2018.  Here I will be walking you through the design, fabrication and test fitting for our group Cosplay.

So, to start, I have to disclose the absolute driving force to this project besides my love for it, and that is the budget.  I’m trying (for once…ha, ha) to make everything as frugal and cost efficient as possible.  Which means I’ll be making almost everything from scratch and repurposing stuff that I may already have.

Our group cosplay is going to tell a story…I am a steampunk airship mechanic, my wife is just steampunk “bad to the bone,” and my daughter is a life sized windup doll we made because the narrative we’re pushing for is that we can’t have kids of our own.

I always like to start any cosplay with the props that will be used because I believe that is my specialty and is what I have the most control over.  If the prop making goes well then my confidence gets boosted and the rest of the costume making should be successful.  Earlier I wrote a post on prop weapons where I talk about how usually this is where I start a project, so naturally this is where we’ll begin.

As I mentioned earlier, budget comes into play as a dominate motivation and I just happen to have a prop gun that I can repurpose for me and a prop gun, perfect for my wife to use.  The only cost is with little accessories, paint, rub-n-buff, and materials to make a holster for Debbie’s flintlock gun.

My Prop Steampunk Gun

Finished steampunk gun from repurposed prop weapon of two other themes I made from before.

I’ve seen many cool steampunk guns during my researching stages of this cosplay and a lot of them were nerf guns painted to look the part.  I was impressed enough that I had planned on doing the same until I realized I could just take what I already have and modify it.  This gun started as an anime prop I made and molded from the mini series Gungrave. Then I turned it into a Zombie Apocalypse prop gun, and then to what it is now.  See the transformation below. The parts added to make it steampunk I found at a local surplus store called Skycraft where you can get just about anything dealing with electronics, motors, wiring, hardware, LED lighting, etc… I chose mostly small parts that made it cost efficient, especially when I started off with a free gun that I already had.  I used a product called Rub-N-Buff to color the gun the proper metallic steampunk look.  Rub-N-Buff is not a paint, but a metallic wax that you apply with your finger or brush and rub it in and buff to give it the metallic sheen.  You can make just about anything look steampunk with Rub-N-Buff.  The only new paint on the gun is the patina aging effect I gave it to simulate a realistic weathering effect to copper and/or brass.  This is taking a chance because the countless pictures witnessed during referencing, I saw absolutely no aging.  They were all brand new clean looking repainted nerf guns–which was actually still impressive, but I chose the aged look.

Prop gun transformation from Gungrave to Zombie Apocalypse to Steampunk

Turning an existing prop gun into a steampunk gun:

 

Debbie’s Flintlock Holster

I’ll begin here by emphasizing budget again.  I already had a flintlock replica gun in my collection that could be used for Debbie’s accessories.  All that was needed was a way for her to carry it without carrying it in her hand the whole time and that is making a holster.  All I used was faux leather material from Joann’s, 5/8″ push snaps, grommets, and some real leather strapping.  See pics below.

 

Steampunk Gauntlet 

Back to my costume…one of my favorite steampunk accessory invention is the gauntlet. It’s a perfect add on to my cosplay because of my mechanic status.  The gauntlet for my character gives him the ability to protect his hand from hot steam pipes, and offers the added strength as a gauntlet represents more power and strength for the hand that it houses.  See pics and video below on how I made mine on a budget.

 

 

Props Cut from CNC Router

I have the great fortune of working at a sign shop, Vital Signs of Orlando Inc, that has a computerized cutting table (CNC router) that can cut almost any shape out of almost any material real fast once it’s programmed in the computer.  I of course asked permission and used scrap material that was going to be thrown away.  I also was making something for myself and not anything I could potentially make money off of.

The few props highlighted here that are cut from this tool are my pipe wrench and Cassidy’s windup key mechanism with gears on her back, for her doll cosplay.  The material used was plastic board called sintra that keeps the props light weight for comfort and easy function.

Pipe Wrench-I knew as an airship mechanic I had to have some sort of tool on me and what better tool for steampunk is an oversized pipe wrench.  Nothing beats the real thing except, if you don’t have one and the real thing would be WAY too heavy!  So I made my own out of sintra and cut it at work using the CNC router table.

 

Windup Key Mechanism-Nothing says life sized doll better than a giant windup key protruding off the back of the subject.  To make the key at least turn manually I used the inner bearings out of a fidget spinner.

 

Here’s a quick video of the CNC router table in action cutting out the windup key:

 

Debbie’s Steampunk Girl Costume

Debbie’s MegaCon Steampunk Girl costume

Here again, I’ll refer to the budget and tell you that what a nice surprise to find my wife happened to have some threads like the undershirt and brown jeans along with boots that could be used perfectly to go with her steampunk girl cosplay.  Instant savings.

I freely confess that there are store bought items, but a major plus is that her goggles and corset were bought from a store closing sale at a Party City where  75%-90%  off everything in the store.

Other new, but reasonable priced items for her were the spats, pocket watches, and skeleton keys (0.50 cents ea).  I did buy some lace material at Joann’s and made her choker and bracelets.

The only store bought items for the steampunk girl costume

Finished Props and Accessories Ready For Test Fitting

 

My Steampunk Airship Mechanic Costume

Enough of the teaser photos, here’s the first test fitting of my cosplay.  I started to cheat a little with the budget and had to get a couple of things of mine on Amazon.  Time was running out and I couldn’t find my shirt, or suspenders at any local thrift store. I also bought my spats as well.

Airship mechanic first test fitting

 

Unforeseen Change of Plans

My original intent was to take these three cosplays to my local comic book convention, MegaCon Orlando, with my family and show them off there.  I had successfully finished the costumes and had tickets for all of us to go on Saturday of the con’s long weekend schedule.  But life sometimes throws you “curveballs” and forces a different direction with plans.  We had a friend of the family pass away suddenly and we wanted to attend the memorial service that was happening the same day.  Some things in life are more important and I didn’t hesitate to support our friends in mourning.

We’ll always have the costumes and I knew I was also going to take many good photos specifically for this blog.

 

Steampunk Family Cosplay Photo Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#1 Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay

Welcome to what is probably going to be the most popular page here on my website where I get to delve into the lives of some of the best Cosplayers I’ve come to know and respect for their craft.

I knew immediately who was going to be my first Cosplayer to be featured because she’s my favorite…and she also happens to be a friend…so yes, my choice is biased, but after you read my Bio here about her, and you see the artist’s work yourself, I think you’ll agree she is worthy of the praise!

I originally approached her with the idea as an interview, but then after seeing that she’s been interviewed before and I pretty much know the answers to all the basic questions, I decided to go for a more exciting angle to this article and introduce you to Damaris how I know and love her.  I’ll of course be incorporating several of the questions one would typically like to know within the write up from time to time.

Fem-Wolverine Cosplay for DragonCon 2011, 2013 and 2017

Like, I know she’s been practicing her craft for ten years now, which happens to be as long as we’ve been friends.  She’s not only an artist as you’ll see through her cosplays, but she also happens to be an artist professionally as a graphic designer and digital illustrator along with being an instructor in the design field.

Even though, I fully believe, she could easily make a living off of being a Cosplay sensation, it’s only a hobby for her.  Her other interests include body building, sky diving, racquet ball, painting, and anything Sci-Fi.

What sets her apart as a great cosplayer is that she can do it all.  She makes much of her own props and costumes and sculpts her body with body building to get into a particular character. True dedication!

If she has a deadline or a serious time crunch she has incorporated help before with getting her part ready like with sewing and electronics, but she is fully involved no-matter-what. I know this first hand because she approached me to help her with her Star Wars Commander Cody Clonetrooper armor she sported at Celebration V.  I had a lot of fun with it and with her as we crunched away in my garage getting it ready for Orlando’s first hosting of Star Wars Celebration in 2010.

Yes, she can do it all, but there are some things that one has to have help with, and that’s with body painting.  Here is a really cool shot of her getting body painted by the incredibly talented Nick Wolfe for her DC Killer Croc.

Quest of the Muscle Nerd Trailer, Killer Croc Cosplay body painting for DragonCon 2017 by Nick Wolfe

The Fun Loving, Lighter Side of Mystique the Comedian

Having fun is “A” #1 for her, which probably is what the secret of her success is as a premier Cosplayer.  Truly, it is one of my favorite qualities that I love about her.  I’ll let the gallery of pictures tell the story to how funny and witty she is:

 

This Great Cosplayer is a Great Cosmaker…Mystique Shares Her Knowledge

No secrets here.  She enjoys sharing how she does her magic with anyone who wants to know.  It’s a way of spreading the passion.  Some of my favorite pictures when I’m browsing through any cosplayer’s gallery of pics are the WIP (work in progress) shots.  Damaris has TONS of them.  In fact, if you’ve read any of my blog posts, chances are you may have seen me use some of her WIP pics already.  I need to convince her to maybe someday have a blog of her own…she has better and a lot more behind the scenes, WIP shots than I do.

 

True Dedication and Authenticity to the Character to be Cosplayed

Lady Bane Cosplay for DragonCon 2014

If you were to ask her which is her favorite Cosplay she’s done thus far she would tell you her Lady Bane that she successfully pulled off for DragonCon 2014 because of all the work she put into it and how well it paid off…like gaining 8lbs of lean muscle.

Because she’s a comic book junkie she’ll get most of her research just by what she’s read and knows exactly where to look for more information to study her desired character to portray.  She’s also addicted to the SyFy Channel, the latest Marvel or DC film that’s released, Star Wars, Star Trek, and the re-imagined series of Battlestar Galactica just to name a few, so she can easily get plenty of character reference to copy in her chosen cosplays.

But it’s her strength and perseverance through uncomfortable situations that a costume may require; like crazy contact lenses, heavy wigs or tight fitting corsets that has a straining effect on the body, which defines her dedication the most.

She does enjoy the body building portion, though…but who wouldn’t with the results she gets and the beautiful physique she has.

 

So without any further delays, my chosen picks that I give to you:

The Best of Mystique’s World of Cosplay Gallery of Photos

DC Comics Cosplays

 

Marvel Comics Cosplays

 

Star Wars Cosplays

 

Original Designs

 

Group Cosplays

 

Collaborated Action Poses

 

Out of Cosplay

Sons are the anchor to a mothers life.

If you were to ask Damaris what her greatest achievement in life is, she would say being a mother to two beautiful twin boys which is a forever, ongoing happy endeavor.  In her own words about Justin and Ethan, “The world did me a favor by giving me two of you. Although you are each unique, you share the same wonderful qualities that only twins share.  Ethan Degen and Justin Degen. Born June 1st, 2006 at 7:24pm and 7:25pm. I got double the blessing and twice the love!”

Twice the hugs, twice the fun, twice the laughs and twice the proud moments.  She needs twice the energy, too, to keep up with two boys…I can see where she gets her juices flowing to pull off three or four different cosplays for past DragonCons.  Maybe, it’s the other way around…she got twin boys because forces knew she could handle the glorious task of raising them in a fast paced modern world we live in today.

#whorescuedwho

Here are some of my favorite pictures and selfies of Damaris Out of Cosplay:

 

Earlier I told you one of her hobbies is painting…check out these samples of her work, including some sketches, I pulled from her collection:

So not only is she a terrific sculptor and 3D artist through her Cosplays…she’s a  great 2D graphic artist and painter as well.  Her background in fine arts she credits to her success with any artistic task she conquers.

There are times at a comic convention, believe it or not, that an Out of Cosplay experience happens more frequently then you’d think.  It’s mostly about the people and friends you hang out with and Damaris feeds off these times the most.

I don’t go to conventions just to show off my craft or to express my fandom with others.. What drives me the most is to be with people that I consider to be family.. like all these faces right here! THAT’s what conventions has done for me.

Our History Together: A Shout Out to The TCF!

DragonCon Colonial Fleet photoshoot.

Damaris and I first met on a forum for Battlestar Galactica fans called the Colonial Fleet Quorum, where we hit it off right away talking about props and her first and still planned attempt at her Borg Queen from Star Trek First Contact motion picture Cosplay she aspires to do someday.  It’s still my favorite makeup FX of all time and hers too.  We saw that we were local and met face to face for the first time at a TCF (The Colonial Fleet) gathering of the first Iron Man movie release in the summer of 2008. Since then, a few Cons, gatherings and 10th floor Marriot parties later, along with a Clonetrooper armor build together has been a complete pleasure being around this fun-loving friend and Queen of Cosplay.

She’s not the only true friend I made at the TCF…a dozen more immediately comes to mind when I think back at all the past events involving  these Frakkers.  I miss you all and I am soon coming back out of the shadows of lost time.

Here is what Damaris feels about The Colonial Fleet:

Today [December 9, 2017] is the 14th year anniversary of one of the GREATEST shows of all times, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA!! This show changed my life as a geek, introduced me to the best group in the FRAKKIN world AKA: The Colonial Fleet, as well as giving me the best hobby: costuming! It also brought me closer to my fandom and I got to experience many wonderful once-in-a-life-time events such as the BSG auctions ran by Propworx. I raise my Top Gun mug to all you frakkers that share the same feelings as I.. So Say We All..
Thank You Ron D Moore for BSG!

…So Say We ALL!

Notoriety and Publication Appearances

DragonCon2017 Co-hosting a panel on body building for costuming

I knew I had to include this section to my write up on her because it tells you just how well received she is in the Cosplay community. I’m going to include only a few of these because there is so many and also when I asked her to list them to me, she couldn’t remember all the different publications that have featured her in the past.

First I need to give you the link to her Facebook Fan Page here because it is definitely an important achievement, it’s her publication.

Next is her Instagram account here. Go and follow her if you have Instagram.  She’ll continue to update you on what she posts next.

Trailer for Quest of the Muscle Nerd where Mystique makes a cameo appearance with her Killer Croc Cosplay for DragonCon 2017.  She was also invited to be a guest co-host for a panel on body building for costuming, and a judge for the competition:  https://www.facebook.com/JayShettyIW/videos/1995740577407064/

Aside from a few calendars she’s appeared in, here is a few publications and links to past interviews:

 

Thanks for the Fun Ride, Mystique, We’re So Looking Forward to More!

Isis (Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay) and Skull Knight (me) at DragonCon 2011

One question I did ask her recently, which I was reluctant to ask because I thought I should have known already was why she picked the alias Mystique for her Cosplay name. The answer was really simple…Mystique is just her favorite X-Man…

I don’t know if she realized this when picking the name, or you as the reader figured out while reading about her, that Mystique is the BEST most PERFECT name for a Cosplayer.  Think about it…Mystique’s mutant power is shape shifting, and a really good cosplayer, as Damaris is, has the ability to change into any character she chooses…Bravo!  I can’t wait for the next adventure with Damaris at Mystique’s world of Cosplay!

 

 

 

 

Skull Knight from Berserk Manga, Armor Build, Full Tutorial

Skull Knight full costume, fiberglass

I’ve seen some other cosplay attempts at Skull Knight and they were okay, but I’ll tell you right away here that the secret to the success of this armor build and what sells it is the form or tight fitting of the skull helmet on the head.  The others were too large because their helmets were designed to put on over the head, so it had to be large, like a motorcycle helmet so it gave a bobble head effect.  I made my helmet hinge at the top with the natural seam down the side where SK’s (Skull Knight’s) rivets show up giving a slim skull effect like the pages of the manga.

 

This post is a complete tutorial on building a full armor costume for the Berserk manga series by Kentarō Miura.  It is different than my other tutorials where, here, I tell you how I did it instead of instructing you what you should do.  I freely confess that this is the more difficult, time consuming, and more expensive way of going about it.  So I know most of you wanting to build your own may not go about it this way.  The way I chose to build it is how a production company would go about it, maybe, and gives it a higher quality with durability and control of detail.

The costume was conceived out of the Life sized bust I and @berserkstatues of skullknight.net collaborated on and produced as a collectible statue.  One of the recipients of the bust commissioned me to make the full armor costume build for him to cosplay in.  Fortunately for me I had the privilege to test fit it and cosplay myself at a few cons to get the kinks out.  Fun Times!

Skull Knight Bust from Berserk Manga

Reference from the pages of Berserk manga of Skull Knight

So I’m going to start this tutorial from the skull down since that’s how it began. I’ll update my Instagram account with posts promoting each section as I complete it. If you clicked on a link that took you here and I’m not finished, follow me if you have an Instagram profile and you’ll get updates as I complete each section. I’ll also be sharing on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Skull Helmet

Skull Knight from Berserk manga WIP clay sculpture

As a trained special effects makeup artist and prop maker I immediately knew that I was going to sculpt the skull and most of the armor out of clay first and then make molds to give me maximum control of detail and function.  Again, I know this is not the efficient and least expensive way that most cosplayers would taught about, but it is the way I know best as a professional.

I began by studying the manga and receiving a small scaled statue from Derek of @berserkstatues for reference material and made measurement conversions to life size.

To begin sculpting, I mounted a realistic looking skull prop, as an armature, on a board and began wrapping clay on it keeping some of the shape intact to help me keep defining the skull.  However, it took a lot of clay to get the scaled measurement that the armature skull detailing only helped at the beginning.  Plus, SK has defining character features, like his brow, that’s separate from a real skull.

Another recognizable aspect to SK is the spikes on his forehead, which I used a different type of clay, known as Roma #3, that is more rigid and holds detail better.  I had to wrap the clay around stiff gauged aluminum wire to maintain the spike shape and stab it into place on the clay forehead.

Once I received approval from Derek I then proceeded to the molding stage of the helmet.  I wanted to begin molding right away so I could then cast a rigid piece from the mold to use for fitting and sculpting the spiked collar, because I know I would have damaged a clay sculpture otherwise.

I carefully removed each of the nine spikes from his forehead and made a two part poor mold. (see pic below)

For the skull helmet, I decided to use my case molding skills as I believed it was the best method of molding this type of plug (original sculpture to be molded). If I haven’t done it yet, I fully intend to do another tutorial on case molding alone soon.  See pictures below for the case molding method.

 

Once the mold was finished and I removed the sculpture from the new mold, I was able to cast a rigid (fiberglass) piece to have for the spiked collar build.  A hard piece was important to keep from damaging a clay, delicate, sculpture had I used it.

I want to take a little time giving the formula I used for casting fiberglass pieces from molds.

  • First skim coat inside empty mold, 1 part polyester body filler (bondo) mixed with 1 part polyester high building sandable primer, catalyzed together with each respectable hardener.  Allow to cure until gloss sheen is replaced with a dull matte surface.
  • A putty with a pudding like consistency made of polyester fiberglass resin mixed with cabosil/aerosol micro-balloons.  WHERE A MASK WHEN MIXING!  The putty after mixing and adding methyl ethyl ketone peroxide for hardening is brushed in to smooth out the hard lined detailing of the mold to inhibit air bubbles when laying down fiberglass matte.
  • Polyester fiberglass resin catalyzed with the same methyl ethyl ketone peroxide above wetting fiberglass matte sheets and forcing it to lay over top of the inside of the mold with no air between layers.

The reason I like to use my mix of bondo/polyester primer first instead of the popular gel coat method is because once I “pop” a fresh piece from the mold  I can sand smooth any imperfections from the casting or even my sculpture if I didn’t get all my fingerprints out of the clay sculpt before molding.

Spiked Collar

I chose to sculpt the collar and spikes out of foam because most of the surface is symmetrical, smooth and the shapes could easily be captured more efficiently with foam.  See my blog post on sculpting to see the benefits and tools used for working with foam.

Even though I was able to achieve quick results with the foam, I was immediately slowed down by having to fiberglass and bondo over the foam to get the smooth, hard shell needed for molding.  Anyone who has bondoed before knows how much sanding has to be done…this took forever, it seems, bet well worth it to get the desired outcome. The spikes were to be silicone poor molded, where the collar, I chose to do a hard fiberglass mold. I only molded one of the spikes, since they are all the same.

Skull Knight life sized bust fiberglass sculpture, pre-mold, pre-paint

 

 

Introducing Trent the Mannequin

I’d like to introduce you to Trent, a main contributor to the project.  He’s slim and strong and never complains about anything, even when he’s been “taken apart at the seams…”

Trent the mannequin from Barr Display supply for Skull Knight build

Having a mannequin to build off of is probably the first thing I thought of using to be able to create this costume fully.  It was important because I could work on other parts of the costume independently from other sections while some armor parts were occupying areas of the mannequin that were being molded.  It was also nice to have someway of assembling the costume onto a subject seeing how it would look and function all together.

3D reference for sculpting armor. Art of War’s 1/10 scale Skull Knight statue

Before I show my progress on the armor any further I thought I’d give you a shot of the new reference I used for scale, shape and style for the costume.  I can’t believe the client trusted me with this VERY rare Japanese Toys R Us Exclusive. The statue was never sold directly through Art of War, which goes to show the dedication to the success of the project.

Breastplate Merger With Spiked Collar

 

Clay can get extremely heavy when building up it’s thickness for any sculpture, particularly whole body armor, so I began bulking up the mannequin armature with plastic wrap and duct tape to reduce the amount of clay I had to use.  Clay can also be quite difficult to remove as it leaves behind a smooth layer as you would try to scrape it off, especially during a hot Florida summer as the clay becomes softer and more sticky.  So a pleasant surprise I had by using plastic and duct tape first insured a clean mannequin when complete.

As you can see from the pictures above, I included the fiberglass collar as part of the breastplate and back shoulder armor to eventually be molded as one unit.  The stomach and back scale armor is part of the solid unit, but after casting it all as one out of the mold, you’ll see how I separated it all as a movable unit.

Brush molding with silicone was my choice of capturing the sculpture.  See pics below.

 

I casted the part out of fiberglass using my formula from above.

What’s nice about armor builds that may require aging and/or hammered metal look is that the surface doesn’t always need to be perfectly smooth.  Sculpting out of clay can leave fingerprints and imperfect surfaces and tool marks during the sculpting process.  This was my plight and I was able to sand a lot of it off after casting, but I purposefully left some visible for that weathered look which helped me with the paint job as well.

 

Arms and Legs Armor

Again, having a mannequin to work off of was a great advantage for me.  I was able to disassemble him and work on different parts of the costume as other parts occupied his main body.  The mannequin’s arms, for example, were small enough that I could work with the sculptures and molds on a table top for ease and comfort.

As I completed a clay sculpture section of the arms, like the forearm gauntlet, or the boot armor of the legs, I would immediately mold them and cast a solid fiberglass piece before going on to the next section of the appendage.  This was to avoid taking the chance of damaging the finished clay sculpture, had I kept going with clay all the way up.  Another words I took it one step at a time.  See various stages of the sculpting and casting below in pics.

 

Even though most sections of the armor build started off in the clay stage, I sometimes went with a different material for the original sculpture like I did for the beginning of the spiked collar build.  Another section I chose to use something other than clay first is the gauntlets for SK’s arms.  White EPS foam gave me a quick shaping, but then I foiled and fiberglassed and then bondoed the surface hard and smooth for molding.

EPS foam beginning sculpture of Skull Knight gauntlet build

The knee guards were fabricated by using generic knee guards I found at a thrift shop in the tool section. Once I had a mold for the spike coming off the back of SK’s boot, I used multiple castings of that spike for the knee guards. A mold of the completed knee guard was then made for fiberglass reproduction.

 

Sword And Shield Fabrication

Once again I took the 1/10 scaled measurements of the statue and converted it to 1:1 scale for the sword and shield in this case. Zero clay work for these parts, but after fabricating each piece I made a mold, of course, for both of them.  I had success with making only half or one side of Guts’ Dragon slayer sword and molding it so I was able to cast two parts and put them together, therefore, I repeated the same concept with Skull Knight’s sword. The hilt for the sword and the build up down the thickness of the shaft of the sword was a foam base fiberglassed and finished with bondo.  The thorns on the hilt was added with Apoxy Sculpt.  See pics below.

The shield started out as EPS foam.  Once I had the right shape and size, I glued aluminum foil with spray adhesive over the foam to protect it from the resin melting it away during the fiberglass process. After the fiberglass fully cured and hardened, I bondoed and sprayed high building polyester primer over the finished sanded bondo and sanded, sanded and sanded even more to get it perfectly smooth.  The thorny rose emblem on the center of the shield was added with Apoxy Sculpt.  The shield mold was a fiberglass hard mold instead of silicone.  I just had to wax the heck out of it and made sure there wasn’t any “locks” in the sculpture.

 

 

Fitting The Armor

I took my experience of making a complete Star Wars clonetrooper suit and applied it here with SK’s armor.  Much of the same concepts, materials and applications were used to make Skull Knight a successful cosplay.  Below is a simplified drawing of the strapping system used on both the clonetrooper and Skull Knight.

Strapping system for Skull Knight costume. Identical to Star Wars clonetrooper

The blue straps represent 1″ non-roll elastic (black).  The black straps are 1″ black webbing.  Red and yellow is for 1.5 ” heavy stretch elastic (black).  The belt made of the black 1″ webbing material is fitted with a parachute buckle and the end straps have the female portion of 5/8″ metal snaps where the male snap sections are epoxied to the cooresponding inside surface of the armor where the strap connects.  The stomach and back scale armor is worn being held up by suspenders made out of the 1″ non-roll elastic.

The spiked collar and the connected rib cage not represented her is just a slip-on over the head, resting on the shoulders with foam for comfort to inhibit the weight.

Other materials used to facilitate functional costume fabrication were as follows: super glue, Velcro, epoxie glue, cushion foam for padding, hot glue, rivets, grommets,string laces, and leather belts.

Another very important part of selling this costume is with the very first thing the cosplayer will put on before any of the armor and that is a full BLACK one piece lycra spandex bodysuit with hood and jaw cover so that any exposed body part not covered by armor appears black and unnoticed.

But first before the armor gets fitted on a real body, Trent the mannequin gets the honors of putting on the suit of armor for the first time.

 

Let The Painting Begin!

I’d like to share with you one of my favorite tricks when I go to surface armor builds before painting.  It replaces the use of primer and leaves a good hammered/weathered effect to the costume.  The product is called rubberized undercoating for automotive use.

My first step before painting any weathered armor effect.

It sprays on black with a bumpy texture and dries quickly so it doesn’t run or drip.  The adhesion is incredible and paint sticks to it as well as a good primer.  The texture is that of a hammered metal look and helps with the dry brushing step in the paint job.

 

A total of only four colors was used to achieve the finished costume (with the exception of a few more colors for the sword and shield).

  • Modern Masters Iridescent Silver (opaque formula) – First coat sprayed on over entire armor.
  • Acrylic latex Burnt Sienna and Black with a touch of the Iridescent Silver mixed with 65% water – A brushed on dark “wash” in sections immediately wiped off with cotton rag for dark recess accent appearance.
  • Acrylic latex White mixed with the Iridescent Silver – Dry brush technique accenting high points and hard line detail.

 

 

Skull Knight armor painted and test fitted

Cape And Kilt

I found a terrific drapery material at Joann Fabrics that was light and had a good texture that matched the SK model I used for reference.  It was important that I ripped and fringed the bottom of each the cape and the kilt to give it a worn, aged look.  I had to tear it and not cut, because cutting with the scissors is too obviously square cut and clean.

Both the kilt and cape were cut to size and female snaps were installed several inches apart at the top inside of the fabric and the male receiving snaps were superglued at the corresponding points inside the armor for installation.  I used thin black liquid leather dye to darken the drape fabric.

Fitting The Costume On A Person

A VERY important step when getting ready to fit the armor on a person with this particular costume, made of fiberglass, is making sure it’s clean and devoid of any sharp burrs of glass and fiberglass dust.  OUCH and ITCHY!

The Cosplayer sporting this armor has to have a handler with them.  The legs and arms are easy enough by themselves, but the collar and rib cage with attatched shoulder spiked armor has to be carefully slipped over the head.  The opening of the rib cage/spiked collar armor is large enough for the person to have put the helmet on first, but if he so chooses to wait until after slipping on the chest and shoulders, the helmet will need to be put on by the handler.  Arm reach is limited with everything on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculpting 101: Choosing What To Use For Your Masterpiece

Berserker, Guts’ Armor clay sculpture

This post is an introduction to different media you can choose from to make your project.  I highlight mostly what I’ve used in the past and I’ll tell you now that there are many more different ways to “make an omelet” so I can’t say I’ve given you all the materials you can choose from.  I believe these ways are still the most popular so you will probably already have an understanding about what I’m talking about in each section.  The order of appearance down the list doesn’t reflect importance of use either.  You may also have an idea already what you want to use.

Modeling Clay

Oil based modeling clay is my preference for projects with great detail and jobs that will require molding for producing a rugged final piece.  Clay is easy to work with and you can quickly change shapes and texture with a push of your thumb.  A stiffer clay is designed for holding refined detail, where a softer clay for ease of making big shapes.  I usually go with the medium clay that has some properties of both.

If you are making a large sculpt, such as a helmet or a slender project with protrusions, an armature or structure is needed to wrap the clay around for stability.  Stability is not really needed for the large i.e. helmet sculpt, but taking up a lot of space on the inside of the mass will save on using a lot of clay.

Taking up space inside mass of large sculpt to save on clay and keep sculpt lighter in weight.

Wire armature for structure and stability.

I mentioned oil based here in the beginning because you can walk away from the sculpture for days at a time without worrying about the clay drying out or cracking like in water based clay.  My clay of choice that I use most often is Chavant NSP (non- sulfur-plasteline) medium. 

Tools needed:
  • Hands and fingers–80% of what you use on clay will be what you do with your bare hands.
  • Clay sculpting tool kit
  • Rolling pin
  • Rubber mallet
  • Various stiff sponges and rubber coarse stamps for pressing in texture detail
  • 90% isopropyl alcohol and stiff small brush for smoothing out finished sculpture

 

Super Sculpey

Various LOTR 1/8 scale trolls, last one on the right WIP Super Sculpey armor.

I’ve always known Super Sculpey to be a form of clay for statues and smaller scaled projects.  It’s advantage is after you’re done with your sculpture you bake it and it becomes hard which can be considered a finished project after painting.  It comes in several colors and if you get the beige and are sculpting a human form its color remains an almost near perfect shade of flesh after baking properly.  It also has different densities for detail sculptures.  Once baked hard you can also sand drill and tool it for further workability.

An armature applies here as well for a stable work piece.  Keep in mind you’ll be baking it so what you use has to handle the heat.  I’ve twisted aluminum foil together, with some wire, real tight as a type of armature and it works well to conduct the heat on the inside for real thick areas of Super Sculpey.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
  • Clay softener for Super Sculpey and small, stiff brush to smooth final details.

Aves Apoxie Sculpt

 

Aves Apoxie Sculpt is almost like duct tape with it’s many uses.  It is a two part equal mix that becomes harder to rock hard after 24 hours.  I haven’t done an entire sculpture in it yet, but I know some artists who prefer it to be the soul material for their piece.  I love it for it’s strength and workability after it hardens.  Ways that it can be used for varies from sculpting, bonding pieces together, filling in voids or holes, and even stopping leaks as it was originally designed as a plumber’s paste for water pipes.  It, like Super Sculpey above, can be sanded, carved, filed, and drilled after it becomes hard.

As you work with the material after mixing (follow directions how to mix on the containers) you’ll notice it will start to get warm from the chemical reaction, and it will feel  more and more stiff at different stages of the reaction. You’ll find you’re own preference of workability as time goes by.  It will hold detail a lot better as it gets closer and closer to becoming hard.  Simple water is used to smooth the surface.  I always have a cup of water with me while working with the stuff and continually wet my hands to prevent the material from sticking to my skin.  The Aves company recommends wearing gloves, but I personally can’t work with it wearing them.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools will be used here as in the modeling clay section above
  • Water is used for smoothing substrate
  • Sand paper and files for after it becomes hard

EPS Foam

 

EPS (expandable poly styrene) or Styrofoam is another favorite of mine–except for the huge mess it leaves after carving.  If you have an extra large project to make, EPS foam is perfect because of how light and versatile it is to work with.  It can also be quite challenging as well.  You will be summoned to hone in a different set of sculpting skills than clay as with foam you’re taking material away or removing to get your shape.  Clay mostly requires you to add on and shape multiple building-up layers.  Imagine you’re Michelangelo chiseling away marble or stone from a huge slab to get a shape you see on the inside.

With foam you can cut, chop, saw, slice, chainsaw, file, sand, and even control melt/burn to achieve your desired output.  If you burn or cut foam with a hotwire or hot iron WEAR A MASK OR VENTILATOR!  The fumes are hazardous to breath in.  The advantage of being able to burn your cuts is that there is no foam bead mess.  It just melts to itself cleanly.

You’ll notice some of the pics for EPS foam above shows some examples with aluminum foil wrapping and sealing the finished foam form.  This is to protect the foam from the fiberglass resin that I coated it with to make a hard shell for molding purposes.  Foam has a few chemical enemies that immediately melt and pit the surface of the foam upon contact.

Tools needed:
  • Hand saw and/or keyhole saw
  • Utility knife, old kitchen knife, exacto blade
  • Depending on size or scope of project an electric chainsaw
  • Rasps, horse brush
  • Sandpaper coarse (40 grit) for shaping, fine (180 grit) for smooth finishing
  • Hotwire for burn cuts
  • Hot iron for large burn cuts or “hogging” out large sections

Urethane Foam

 

Urethane foam has a remarkable property that allows you to capture incredible sharp detail into your sculpture.  The cells are much closer together than in EPS foam and the beads and/or structure of the foam is finer.  This makes for easier cutting and tooling the surface.

What I love most about this type of foam is that I can polyester resin coat my finished sculpture right on top of the foam without having a protective layer as you would for Styrofoam.  Having a tough “candy coating” shell helps protect the foam sculpture for the next step in the process.  For my cylon head, I then bondoed some of the line detail back in and then sprayed it with a high building polyester sandable primer to finish him off before molding.  Here he is getting ready for the molding process after a high gloss paint job:

Smooth “candy coated” shell over urethane sculpture before molding.

Tools needed:
  • Much of the same tools are needed as with EPS Foam
  • Dust mask required because of the tiny foam dust is hazardous to breath in

 

Eva Foam and Floor Mat Foam

Floor mat foam material for Tavion Cosplay by Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay

If you’re a serious cosplayer, you should know all about EVA foam.  It’s the most popular choice for comfort because it’s so light and soft to wear–not to mention it’s incredible properties with flexibility to take any shape over body parts and holding details cut into it.  I’ve seen some wonderful armor builds that would fool almost anybody to believe it’s real armor.

One tip I learned that I found important is know your cut.  Another words cut out templates out of card stock or cardboard first and test fit on a form or yourself somehow and then transfer the correct shape onto the foam before cutting.  You’ll save time, money and head aches.

Hot glue is my choice of glue for connecting the foam to itself, plastic, and strapping.  However, a real cool affect I’ve used for armor builds is hammering large snaps to connect layers of armor together where the exposed snap looks like armor rivets.

Floor mat foam is a similar form of EVA foam and can be treated the same way for your builds.  The picture provided here for Eva and floor mat foam is from my friend Damaris Degen of Mystique’s World of Cosplay on her build for her Star Wars Tavion Cosplay.  I suggest following her because she’s fantastic, and keeps no secrets how she does her magic.

Tools needed:
  • All sharp cutting hand tools–scissors, utility knife, breakaway blade knives
  • Cutting board or hard smooth surface, straight edge guides
  • Hot glue gun with hot glue sticks
  • Heat gun for shaping foam around contours (i.e. body parts…be careful, extremely HOT or do on a mannequin)
  • Rulers, tape measures, tailor tape measure
  • Body forms or mannequin

PVC Pipe, Shapes and Board (Sintra)

I have the greatest success with PVC shapes and boards for jobs that need a quick turnaround or projects that show me faster results and progress.  There are so many pre-fabricated shapes available in PVC such as all the different diameter pipes, plastic planters and bowls (which I used on my Life Size Nutcracker), and various thickness of PVC boards or sintra that is easy to cut.

I must confess that after starting to work at Vital Signs of Orlando, Inc I now have the advantage of a CNC router table for exact cut shapes out of sintra board, such as the clock arms and gears above pic.

Computer controlled cutting table

Tools needed:  

  • Hand saw, hack saw
  • PVC Cement for gluing pipes and/or layers of board together

 

Wood

I’m assuming that the first material ever used for 3D art was probably wood.  I’m also assuming most people, if you’re my age, had wood shop in middle/high school and got to make a bird house.  Everyone, I’m sure, has had some kind of experience with wood in their lifetime.  I like working with wood because there are so many tools made or invented just to deal with certain aspects of it by either cutting, filing, carving, drilling, gluing, screwing, and even staining and painting.

Wood is incredibly easy to manage with experience and has so many uses.  It is also readily accessible from many local sources such as Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware stores.

Looking at the gallery of photos above can give you an idea of how I have used wood before including using branches of a tree on my log reindeer.

I’ve learned a fascinating new technique since working at a sign shop which is sandblasting.  Here, the face of a cedar board gets sandblasted to get a desired woodgrain and custom signage.  Anything on the board that is to remain the surface of the original board gets a rubberized, tough, masking material that causes the sand to bounce off and not penetrate the surface of the board.  Anything not masked off gets pushed back and the beautiful woodgrain is exposed.  See sign pics above.

Compressor, sand, tanks, air hose, gloves, hood, and sand

Tools needed:

  • Manual hand or power saws (circular saw, jig-saw, chop saw, reciprocating saw, etc..)
  • Drills and drill bits, hole saws for use with drills and paddle bits
  • Files, chisels and sandpaper
  • Bar clamps and large vice-clamps
  • Wood glue
  • Planer
  • Wood lathe for spinning wooden dowel rods and filing specific shapes (i.e. baseball bat)
  • See above picture for sandblasting

Metal

Metal can be cumbersome because of it’s weight and difficulty in cutting, shaping and bringing together by welding if you don’t have the experience or the right tools.  But, nothing beats the real thing and I’m betting most replication in cosplaying armor and weapons or faux finishing is trying to copy metal’s appearance.

Some metals however can be easier to work with like aluminum and copper because they are lighter and softer.  Aluminum is my choice of metal that I have most experience with, which happens to be the choice of metal I use most often in my job as a sign fabricator.

The choice of metal for the fandom culture probably isn’t wise as a cosplay piece for safety reasons.  I can’t imagine wielding a real sword, at a Con, being Guts from Berserk manga as monstrous as his prop is.  But a real metal sword hanging on a wall with all your other collectibles and props is paramount.

Tools needed:
  • Metal cutting saw blades on power saws
  • Cutting torches (oxy-acetylene, plasma)
  • Wheel grinders
  • Welder-stick, mig, tig
  • Safety gear for heat and light (gloves, dark cutting shades and welding helmet)

 

Again, I haven’t shared everyway or everything you can use to build your projects from and if there is anything you believe important I left out with even talking about the materials highlighted here, please feel free to comment below and I will incorporate your ideas here.  Thanks for hanging out here for a while and good luck on your next project!  I’d love to see what some of you all are making and using to create your Masterpiece!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Making of a “Die Hard” Star Wars Fan

Hasbro Vader, Battle Droid Blaster Rifle, Dark Horse Comic collection, badge, scrapbook, misc…

Star Wars is KING!  Okay, so I know I’ve upset half the readers already.  I don’t necessarily believe that.  I’m a Battlestar Galactica guy as you can see from my previous blog posts.  However, I want to introduce you to a good friend of mine, Tim,  who believes Star Wars rules and after hearing him and the way he talks about theories, news, and obscure facts, I get excited and almost jump on the Star Wars train myself.

This is a blog post about, as the title says, the making of a “die hard” Star Wars fan. You’ll read and experience how he became a fan and how long his passion has been constant, maybe even grown with the excitement of the many installments and how vast the Star Wars Universe has grown as well.  I have hand picked much of the merchandise and collectibles shown in the images here, which is only about half of what he owns and shares with his boys.  I know there are a lot of serious collectors out there that may not be to impressed with what is shown here, but Tim is the kind of collector that doesn’t keep things on display in it’s original packaging anymore (he used to), but each piece in his collection has a specific memory and even a story that he connects to his life somehow.

 

So how big of a fan is he really?…you might ask.  Well, he never misses every Thursday nights installments of The Jedi Council on YouTube.  At his wedding he had the groomsmen march up the aisle first to the opening epilogue theme music right after In a galaxy far, far away…  He named his youngest Luke, and those who know him may debate if Luke is the biblical name, since he’s a man of faith, or the Star Wars Luke because of his zeal of the subject.  I’m gonna play it safe and say it’s a little bit of both.  He organized for me and several of our friends pre-sale tickets to the first showing of the last three films which was a day before their official release dates.  Now me, being a regular Con goer, just knew I had to make sure he would get the experience of a Star Wars Celebration adventure which was an experience he will never forget and also a new tradition he will never miss.  I know he can’t wait to take his boys with him next time. For one of his boys 5th birthday party he had an authentic life size working R2-D2 from the R2 builders Club rolling around the party with a 501st imperial officer and a non 501st, but well made, Sandtrooper cosplayer hanging out too.

R2-D2, R2 builders club

Is that red eye or light saber reflection in Tim’s eyes?

So how did it all get started?   In Tim’s words…”I became a fan when my dad took me and my brother to see ESB at the theatre as a young kid when it first came out.  At some point after that I watched ANH on television with commercials and then the regular format.  They re-released ESB to get us pumped up for “Revenge” of the Jedi later to be called Return of the Jedi.  So I went back to watch ep.5 again in the theater and then ROTJ.  I’ve watched these so many times I have lost count.  I’ve watched all six first episodes back to back all the way through in one day.  I’ve also watched all six all the way through with the commentary.  I kept going back to the theatres to see the digital re-mastered and new scenes for  4,5, and 6 right before they released the prequel trilogy (which ep 1,2, and 3 I didn’t enjoy as much).  3D was a must see for me also not long before Disney bought Lucasfilm.  Since ROTJ I’ve gone to all the films’ opening nights.  I’ve seen all of The Clone Wars cartoon and Rebels animation thus far.  I’m giddy with great anticipation for Solo: A Star Wars Story and ep.9.”

You can get a feel for Tim’s passion and a little more history of the foundation and connection he has to Star Wars in this video we shot together as I went through and picked out some of the non conventional merchandise not usually seen or talked about with other fans I’ve come across.

If you watched the video in it’s entirety you would have heard some of the questions I asked him like, …”Out of all the things in your collection, what would be your favorite?”  He surprised me with something that is new in his collection that his boys wrapped up for him for Christmas last year.  It was the sun shade for his car that features the cockpit scene in Episode IV with Han, Chewie, Luke and Obi wan. (…”that’s no moon…”).  He told an emotional story about losing his dad recently and seeing one of the exact same sun shades on the day his father passed and before he received his. Not telling anyone he liked it or even saw it–made it an amazing  coincidence, or some might say a sign, when he opened his on Christmas morning two days later.

Windshield sun shade from ep. 4 Millennium Falcon cockpit.

If I were to pick any favorite pieces from his collection after seeing and hearing about all of it I would have to say any of the toys that made sounds like the At-At, Millennium Falcoln, or Blasters.  Those sound effects and recorded dialogues took me immediately back to when I was a kid growing up and  the memories I had enjoying countless hours playing with these same toys and watching the movies.  Mine is the classic story of losing all my toys because my mom sold them at yard sale without my consent.

I found a fun questionnaire on Tumblr @thedisneyunderword that I’ve asked Tim to fill out for me and you can have fun coming up with your own answers as well.

1. Favourite Star Wars movie? (Episode 1-R1).  Tim: Episode V
2. Favourite Star Wars era?  Tim: Rebellion era
3 Favourite Star Wars trilogy? (Originals, Prequels, Sequels).  Tim: Originals
4. Jedi or Sith?  Tim: Jedi
5. Empire or Rebellion?  Tim: Rebellion
6. Bounty Hunter or Clone/Strom/First order Trooper?  Tim: Bounty Hunter
7. Rebels or Clone wars?  Tim:  Rebels
8. Favourite Star Wars book?  Tim: Heir to the Empire
9. Favourite Star Wars Comic?  Tim: Darth Vader #1
10. Favourite Star Wars game?  Tim: Star Wars Trivial Pursuit
11. Top 5 favourite female Jedi?  Tim: Mara Jade, Ashoka, Rey
12. Top 5 favourite male Jedi?  Tim: Luke, obi-wan, yoda, Kanan, Ezra
13. Top 5 favourite Bounty Hunters?  Tim: Boba, 4 LOM, ig88, bossk, cad bane
14. Top 5 favourite Sith?  Tim: Vader, palpatine, plagueis
15. Top 5 favourite Droids?  Tim: R2, 3po, k2so, bb8
16. Top 5 favourite Troopers?  Tim: Ct-7567, cc-3636, cc-5576-39, cc-2224
17. Top 5 favourite Senators?  Tim: Bail, the asogian
18. Top 5 favourite Republic/Rebellion ships.  Tim: x wing, y wing, b wing, a wing, cr70 corvette
19. Top 5 favourite Separatist/Imperial ships.  Tim: Shuttle from vi, Tie advanced X1, tie fighter, Devastator star destroyer
20. Top 5 favourite planets?  Tim: Hoth, bespin, kamino, takodana
21. Where would you live in the Star Wars universe?  Tim: Takodana
22. Who would you be in the Star Wars universe?  Tim: Episode VI Luke
23. What ship would you own?  Tim: the Falcon from IV
24. What Droid would you own?  Tim: R2
25. Would you have a team, or would you work alone?  Tim: Team
26. If you where a Jedi, would you be a Knight or a Master?  Tim: Master
27. If you where a Jedi Master, would you have a Padawan?  Tim: Yes
28. If you where a Sith, would you be the Master or Apprentice?  Tim: Master
29. If you where a Sith Lord, would you have an Apprentice?  Tim: No
30. Married, in a relationship, or single?  Tim: Married (as a Jedi Master)
31. Top 5 favourite species?  Tim: Human, snivvian, arcana, duros, kaminoan, bith, ithorians, gamorrean, sullustan, rodian, jawa, sand people/Tusken raiders
32. What species would you be?  Tim: Human
33. What species is your type?  Tim: Human, togruta
34. Who would your best friend be?  Tim: Han
35. Would you customise your ship?  Tim: No
36. Would you customise your Droid?  Tim: No
37. What colour skin/eyes would you have?  Tim: Brown/blue
38. If male, beard or no beard?  Tim: No beard
39. 1 lightsaber, 2 lightsabers, double lightsaber, or 2 double lightsabers?  Tim: 1
40. What colour would your lightsaber(s) be?  Tim: Kentucky Blue
41. If you’re a Bounty Hunter, what armour would you have?  Tim:  Mandalorian
42. Would you customise your armour?  Tim: Yes
43. What colour scheme would your armour/robes be?  Tim: Blend of KY Blue and black, charcoal, and grey
44. If you where a Droid, what Droid would you be?  Tim: K2so
45. What colour would your droid self be?  Tim: Charcoal
46. Pod racing or ship racing?  Tim: Ship
47. Space battle or ground battle??  Tim: Space
48. Would you have survived order 66?  Tim: Yes
49. Where would you go after order 66?  Tim: Jakku
50. What would you do after order 66?  Tim: Connect with rebel cells
51. Do you have any Star Wars Pop Vinyls?  Tim: No
52. Do you have any Star Wars collections?  Tim: Yes
53. Do you have any Star Wars art?  Tim: Yes
54. Do you create any Star Wars art?  Tim: No
55. Do you like/read any Legends/non canon stuff?  Tim: Not anymore
56. Top 5 favourite Legends character?  Tim: Was thrawn but now he is canon

57. Who is your Star Wars role model?  Tim: Obi-Wan
58. Top 5 saddest Star Wars deaths?  Tim:  Boba, Luke, solo, yoda, obi wan, anakin in vi
59. If you could bring any Star Wars character back to life who would it be?  Tim: Boba
60. If you found out the Star Wars universe was real, would you move there or stay here?  Tim: Stay
61. On a scale of 1-10 (1 being very little, 10 being an absolute know it all) how well do you know the Star Wars universe?  Tim: 7

Okay, I believe Tim is being humble or modest with that last question…I would rank him an 8 or 9 easy with the knowledge of the Star Wars Universe.  My knowledge is a dismal 5, which means I get the thrill of learning about this incredible story line.  So get ready Tim for a lot of questions from me.

I had a lot of fun working on this post with him and seen that he enjoyed it as well.  This will probably be an ever changing and growing post and topic because Tim already wants to introduce me to another fan and acquaintance of his that has an impressive display.  He’s already sent me some teaser pics so check back here often with updates.  Until then, May The Force Be With You!

Tim and James

Tim and I with his favorite piece in his collection…Sun shade ep. 4

 

Light It UP! Upgrade your Costumes and Props With LEDs

LEDs for lighting the eyes on Skull Knight.

I love how cosplaying is getting more and more popular.  There hasn’t been a better time to be a fan of the comic/sci-fi/anime world then now.  I remember a time before the term “cosplay” was coined and one would have been considered a nerd or geek for going to a Star Trek convention in full uniform.  Now it’s all celebrated and very mainstream which could have some disadvantages, but the fun and excitement will always supersede.

So with the great competition–there’s no better way to succeed than to “Light It Up!”  If you’re costume calls for electronics–DO IT!  It’s somewhat simple and incredibly effective and will definitely turn heads.  We’ll also talk about how lights and electrical effects turns up the WOW factor for your collectible props display as well.

I’d like to start off featuring my favorite ensemble in my collection which is my Battlestar Galactica flight suit and Viper helmet, which both happen to have cool lighting effects.  The suit was made by Geoff Gay of Midwick Armory. He does an amazing job by using the same material the BSG production used on the show which makes his suits screen accurate.  The electronics for the suit is the O2 (oxygen sensor) on the left lower arm sleeve of the suit.  It’s a circuit board with 5 LEDs that can change color from green to red.  These circuit boards are made and provided to Geoff by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions. They have a 3 stage pressure switch run by a 9V battery.

Viper Suit O2 Sensor LEDs by Dana Gassar of Anovos Productions

The Viper helmet, which is made by me, is a fiberglass reproduction from a mold and is painted with automotive paint and has a custom PETG plastic vacuum formed lens.  The helmet features two separate lighting systems, one inside the helmet and the two on the lower outside.  Both systems are turned on by the same switch, but have their own power source.  The two LEDs on the outside are run by a 9V battery and the inside forehead lights are run by it’s own 9V battery.  The internal forehead lights were purchased at Autozone.  Auto parts stores like Autozone and PEP Boys are a great source for all kinds of lights and electronics.

 

Next is the full armor Skull Knight costume I made which has a lighting effect with LEDs in the eyes.  I managed to strategically place the lighting so not to hinder the vision of the cosplayer inside.  Here I am at DragonCon 2011 where you can see the glowing effect in the eyes. This is a daylight shot, so you can imagine if the lights in the Marriot (where this pic was taken) were dimmed.

Isis (Damaris Degen of Mystiques World of Cosplay) and Skull Knight at DragonCon 2011

Lighting doesn’t have to be the sole enhancer to your outfit.  Sound effects is a good  way to surprise onlookers to get their attention.  I am always in awe when someone in  stormtrooper armor adds the voice box to their helmet, so when they talk it sounds just like the movie.

Before we get to lighting up props, there is one more quick electrical thing I’ve done before, which I highly recommend when wearing a helmet for an extended period of time, is putting in little fans or a cooling system.  It may not be noticeable for the crowds, but it will keep you marching on.

Miniature electronic fans for internal cooling.

Here is where we venture off into the world of props to give them a boost with lights in your collection.  The props I made that will be highlighted here are my 1:1 scale Cylon bust display with it’s sweeping red eye effect, 1:1 scale Guts Berserker armor helmet and decorative base from Berserk manga, and the 1:1 scale bust of Skull Knight from Berserk manga as well.

The Battlestar Galactica Cylon’s LED circuit board was made and provided to me by George from Timeslip Creations.  It’s run by 2 AA batteries and I had to convert it to run the switch down onto the base rather than the board.  I just used alligator clips connected to wire to run down the inside of the neck to a toggle switch at the back of the round base.

 

I put window tinting on a sheet of white copy paper and cut out the shape and stuck it to the back of the plexi glass lens to dissipate the lights so you don’t see the harsh definition of each LED.  It created a smooth sweeping effect.  My first attempt of the eye sweep before asking George to make the boards for me was I bought the Custom Dynamics Night Rider scanner lights.  It was an okay start and it looked cool, but it was way to fast and it looked like the Cylon was on steroids.

Knight Rider scanner bar. Too fast for Cylon.

Lieutenant Margaret “Racetrack” Edmondson played by Leah Cairns photo-op MegaCon 2008

The Berserk prop entry of the Berserker Armor and Skull Knight bust was a carefully well thought out collaboration with a friend I’ve come to know through these projects.  His name is Derek and I talked about him a little on the Home page.  He is the moderator of the Berserk merchandise at skullnight.net forum.  We turned the project into multiple runs (about 30) for fans of the manga to purchase.  Derek was the driving force and designer of these pieces including what to do with the lighting.

For Guts Berserker helmet I used the same style of lights I used on the inside of the viper helmet for the “Z” shaped eyes.  For the base I found a nice little gem of a small circuit board with red LEDs that had seven different action settings.

Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs and pulsating circuit board LEDs on base

Guts Berserker Armor Bust Display with red LEDs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skull Knight was a little more complicated with the small space I had to work with inside the skull and I had to cover any gaps or voids in the helmet skull so the light would only penetrate through the eyes.  I just hot glued black jersey material from behind, inside the head where the light shined through.  The switch for Skull Knight to turn on the lights is located right behind the inside back of the chin so I didn’t have to run any wires down to the base.  All the electronics are localized in the skull.

 

 

So if either you have an awe inspiring costuming impression or a prop room display that you and your guests want to hang out in all day it will be because of the extra effort you put in by adding lighting and electronics.  This can be a great tribute to the fandom culture by representing what you are mimicking with complete accuracy and detail.

Thanks for hanging out here for a little while and I intend on doing complete tutorials on hooking up LEDs to batteries, resistors and switches in the near future so keep a look out here for updates.

ENJOY planning your next adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Size Nutcracker

Life size nutcracker using plastic pots, planters, and PVC pipe.

Life Size Nutcracker on a Budget Using Plastic Pots, Planters, and PVC Pipe

Materials Used:

I used links so that you can get a visual representation of what I’m talking about and not necessarily for purchasing recommendations.  You may already have several of the items and tools listed below.

  1. (3) 4 in. X 2 ft. PVC for the legs and feet.
  2. (2) 3 in. X 2 ft. PVC for the arms.
  3. (2) 3 in. cap PVC for the shoulders.
  4. (1) 10 in. round valve box for pelvis/lower body.
  5. (1) 13.25 in. X 14 in. classic planter for the upper body.
  6. (1) 14 in. X 5.5 in. planter for neck.
  7. (1) 9.055-in x 8.622-in Planter for the Fez hat.
  8. (1) 12 in. x 10.95 in. Black Plastic Planter for the head.
  9. (1) 0.99-in x 14.98-in x 1.25-ft) Radius Edge Spruce Board for base.
  10. (1) 2-in X 3-in x 8-ft; Actual: 1.5-in x 2.5-in x 7.9375-ft) wood stud for inside of left bent arm.
  11. (1) 2 X 4 X 8′ treated stud for inside the two legs.
  12. (1) 1-in x 4-in x 6-ft; Actual: 0.75-in x 3.5-in x 6-ft) Pine Board for arm mounting.
  13. (3) 5/16 in. X 6 in. threaded rod for arm and left hand mounting.
  14. (4) Styrofoam Ball  4 in. for feet and for hands.
  15. 3.125 in. X 36 in. X .09 in. (thick) plexi glass for belt.
  16. (1) can of Valspar 12 oz gloss lovely bluff color spray paint for face and hands.
  17. (1) can of Valspar Plastic Black gloss for boots and belt and fez.
  18. (1) can of Rustoleum Hunter Green gloss for pants and under shirt.
  19. (1) can of Rustoleum Sunrise Red gloss spray paint 12 oz. for coat.
  20. Assorted acrylic paint colors for hand brushed face.
  21. Modern Masters Iridescent Gold for gold brushed on detail.
  22. Modern Masters Pewter for silver brushed on detail.
  23. (1) Table Leg (Actual: 1.375-in x 28-in) for scepter below the hand.
  24. (1) 1-3/4 in. Lrg craft finial for top of scepter.
  25. (1) Pine End Table Leg for scepter above hand.
  26. (1) 5/16 x 9 Aluminum/Steel Hook And Eye Turnbuckle inside of hand for mounting scepter .
  27. (1) pair plush leg warmers white for hair and beard.
  28. (1/2 yard) of gold 3 in. fringe for shoulder ranks detail
  29. (24in.) Metallic Twisted Cord for top of Fez detail.
  30. (4) tassels/chair ties 27 in. for Fez detail.
  31. (1) 1 3/4 in. wood ball knob for top of Fez.
  32. (1 roll) 7/8 in. X 9 ft. gold ribbon for chest detail.
  33. (30 in.) 1.5 in. wide red felt ribbon for lower Fez detail.
  34. (1) pack assorted rhinestones 7-18 mm clear, gold, primary
  35. 1.25 in. drywall screws.
  36. 3 in. drywall screws.
  37. (1) tube DAP ALEX Plus 10.1-oz White Paintable Latex Caulk for seam work.
  38. Lightweight spackle for seam work.
  39. Duct tape (because what project is ever made without it?!)
  40. Masking tape and paper for shielding off different colored areas of paint.
Tools Used:
  1. Cordless drill
  2. Circular saw for cutting wood
  3. Mitre box and hand saw for cutting left arm 3″ PVC at a 45 degree angle
  4. Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  5. PVC cement
  6. Super glue gel formula
  7. Tape measure
  8. Utility knife
  9. Putty knife or bondo spreaders for spreading spackle
  10. 220 grit sandpaper for sanding spackle
  11. Assorted drill bits 5/16″, 1/8″, 3/8″
  12. counter sink bit
  13. Safety glasses
Procedure:

Basic nutcracker parts laid out

  1. Screw bottom of main upper body planter to top lid of valve box with the 1.25 in. screws. Use at least 4 screws. Set aside for later.

     

  2. Cut one of the 2′ X 3″ PVC pipes in half with the mitre box at a 45 degree angle.

    You’ll need to repeat the same 45 degree angle cut for the 2 X 3 wood to go inside the arm for structural support and  for mounting hand and then arm to body later. The wood must also be cut the same length each section of the PVC arm is as well. Make the lower part of the arm’s wood a little shorter, though, so the foam ball hand can tuck inside the PVC for another step later.

    Slide the piece of wood inside what will be the upper arm PVC, drill and counter sink at least three 1/8 inch holes along the middle back of the arm so you can screw the wood inside the PVC snug tight using the 1.25″ drywall screws. The counter sinking will allow the screws to sink inside the wall of the PVC so you can hide the screw heads later with caulk and spackle before painting to make them disappear.  Using the PVC cement, you can then glue one of the 3 in. PVC caps to the upper arm after the wood is set to the top flat part of the arm. (see pic above).

    Now you can repeat the same with the lower part of the arm making sure the angle of the wood matches the angle of the PVC so when you get ready to put the two arm parts together, the bend of the arm looks right.  Once the wood is mounted in each part of the arm you can use the super glue to stick the two parts together along the 45 degree angles making a perfect 90 degree bend of the arm. The super glue is only a way to help hold the arm together because you want to use a 3 in. screw countersunk at the elbow to screw the two pieces of wood together that are inside the arm now.  Make sure you pre-drill through one of the pieces of wood so the wood won’t split. You’re doing this somewhat blind because the wood is inside, but you know exactly where it’s at. Set arm aside for later.

  3. Mounting the leg parts to the base.

    Cut (2) 24 in. pieces of treated wood from the 8 ft. 2 X 4 treated lumber you bought to be the inside of each leg. Pick a location closer to the back of the round base where the legs will sit and trace the ends of the boards (about 6 in. apart) and pre-drill three holes inside each traced mark that will fit inside the board when screwed on.  Flip the round base over and countersink the holes so the screw heads will be inside the wood and the base will lay flat without the screw heads making the board uneven on the ground. Now you can screw the 2 ft. boards to the base using a total of (6) 3 in. screws between the two–three ea..  Slip the 4 in. PVC over the boards.

     

  4. Foot and Body Installation.

    With the third 2 ft. long by 4 in. round piece of PVC I had you get will need to be cut in half length wise so it is shaped like a long “u”. You’ll only need (2) 6 in. pieces for each foot, but cut as much as you can of the PVC length wise because it’s easier to make that kind of cut as a whole piece so you can clamp it down for ease and safety. The foot pieces go right in front of the legs on the round base and you’ll need to notch the top of the foot so it will fit closer to the legs. I just caulked them down and filled the gaps between the leg and the foot so when dry, the caulk makes a strong seal.

    One of the 4 in. styrafoam balls will need to be cut in half and then one of the halves be cut in half again for the ends of the feet. Glue them in place with the caulk.

    With the excess from the treated 2 X 4 you used for the legs you’ll need to cut the length of what the bottom of the inside of the valve box from the body you assembled in step one.  Screw the board bridging the tops of the two legs to the wood inside the legs with 3 in. screws making sure it’s centered.

    Now you can mount the body to the legs.  You may need to cut or round off the square corners of the bridged board because the valve box is round on the inside.  Screw from the outside of the valve box into the wood on the inside at least two screws per side.

  5. Putting in structure for arm mounting.

    The first part of this step will be cutting the ridge or lip off of the top of the body planter.  You’ll see by comparing the pic here to the picture on the first step which still has the ridge on the top.  You can do this by using a sharp utility knife.  Be Careful! (JPs FX Creations is not responsible for any accidents you acquire by attempting this project). It’s not that difficult with the nature of the pot’s thin plastic properties.

    Next, using the 1 X 4 X 6′ piece of wood cut a section to fit inside the top of the body which will help hold the shape of the planter and will be accepting the hardware for each arm to be mounted.  A slight angle needs to be notched at the ends of the board to fit snug with the tapering of the planter.  Use two 1.25 in screws per side for holding in place.

  6. Mounting the arms to the body.

    If you haven’t already done it; glue the 3 in. PVC cap on the remaining uncut 3 in. PVC pipe with the PVC cement.  Next you will need to drill a 5/16 inch hole all the way through (both sides of) the cap and PVC pipe at the top or shoulder to be used for mounting the arm to the body.  My holes were near the bottom of the cap. You will then need to thread one of the 5/16 threaded rod through the holes so three inches is sticking out from the inside or arm pit area.  Because you drilled exactly 5/16 in. hole and the rod is 5/16 in. it may be difficult to twist into the holes,  I just put my rod inside the end of the drill and was able to screw it in faster.  Repeat the same process for the other arm.

    Now locate where the arms will fit best and make a corresponding mark where you will drill another 5/16 in. hole through the body into the 1 X 4 piece of wood mounted on the inside.  Drill the hole at least 3 in. deep.  If you want the arms to rotate, ream the holes in the wood a little or use the next size drill bit up (11/32).

  7. Mounting the planter to be the neck area of the nutcracker.

    For this step you’ll be working with the  14 in. X 5.5 in. pan type planter for the neck upside down. You need to repeat the same process of removing the pots lip or upper ridge with the utility knife as you did with the body planter’s top ridge.  Cut the bottom flat portion out completely so you have a large hole that you can reach inside with your arm.  (see pic above)  You’ll then need to make a vertical cut all the way down the height of the planter so you can adjust its size by overlapping the cut edges.  Change the size so it will fit snug inside the upper body and wedge it in between the wood and plastic of the body planter. To help keep the shape of the neck after overlapping to fit reach inside the neck hole and use duct tape along the overlapping edges seam.  You will also need to duct tape the inside bottom of the neck to the inside of the upper body where they come together.  No screws necessary.  You can see a hint of the duct taping job I did on the picture above.

  8. Raw nutcracker in his Christmas home spot.

    Now let’s get his head and hat on.  With the 12 in. x 10.95 in. plastic planter for the head, and after you cut the lip or top ridge off, flip it upside down and place it on the top of the neck planter that was put in place with the last step you completed. It will cover up a lot of the neck piece. Make sure it’s centered and pick four spots at the edge that you will be screwing it to the neck.  Make sure two of those screw spots will be close to the back and will be hidden by the hair later.  Countersink so the screws will be hidden a little into the pot’s plastic.  It won’t be as much as countersinking into the wood because the planter is not as thick.  It will just help with a later step in hiding the seams with caulk and spackle.  Screw the head in place.  Now take the last planter that is designated for the Fez and flip it upside down as well.  You won’t need to cut the lip off of this one since it’s so small.  Take a look at the picture below for step nine and notice the placement of the hat on the head.  Note how the fez is high on the head and pushed back giving a big void behind the head.  This is so the face will appear bigger and there will be a place to stuff the hair up into the hat.  Screw in place the best you can wherever the fez is close to the head.  you don’t need to worry about countersinking because the screws on the fez hat will be covered by ribbon.

  9. Almost ready for paint! Nose, belt and scepter installation.

    Nose-You should still have at least one quarter of the round foam you cut out for the toes. Slice a 3/4 in. section off so it’s flat on both sides. Pick the center of where there will be a face on the head of the nutcracker and trace out with a pencil where it will go.  You will probably need to sand the back of the nose slightly where it fits against the curve of the head planter so the nose will have a tighter fit.   I poked a couple of nails into the foam and drilled tiny holes for the nails on the corresponding position on the face so when glued with caulk the nose wouldn’t sag while drying.  Let enough of the caulk ooze out the side and smear with your finger or spreader to give a tight seal.

    Belt-We will be using the 3.125 in. X 36 in. X .09 in. (thick) plexi glass for the belt.  I actually bought a piece of 36 in. X 24 in. piece of plexi at Hobby Lobby.  There was no UPC symbol or part number on the receipt, so that’s the best source I can give you.  You can almost use anything similar to get the desired effect.  The best way to cut this thin of material is with a straight edge and an exacto knife.  You just have to score it and not go all the way through and snap it apart.  With the 3 or 3.125 in wide by 36 in. piece, wrap it around the nutcracker covering the seam between the lower body (valve box) and the upper body planter. 36 in. is about 4 in. larger than the body, but that’s good because you will need that to overlap in the back to secure the belt as one piece.  Glue with the super glue the 4 in. overlapped section to itself.  Do not secure it to the body yet. Next you will be screwing the belt to the upper body planter only if you want to have him rotate a quarter twist.  Pre-drill two 1/8 in. holes at the top back of the belt preferably  through the overlapped area where you just glued.  You need to pre-drill the belt because it will crack or shatter if you don’t.  Using the 1.25 in. screws, fasten the belt to the upper body planter.

    Scepter-Start by drilling a hole as thick as the 5/16 X 9 in. turnbuckle body through the center of one of the 4 in. styrofoam balls all the way through.  Remove the hook and eye from the turnbuckle so the middle body is the only thing you’ll use and shove it in the hole you just created in the foam ball. It may be slightly shorter than the ball, but the threads of the finial and the chair leg will reach in to the threads of the turnbuckle body and will tighten nicely.  Don’t put them on the hand yet till it’s installed completely on the arm.  It will be lighter and easier just dealing with the ball without all the extra weight. You’ll be using the 3rd piece of 5/16 in threaded rod for the next step.  Drill a slightly smaller hole than 5/16 into the ball hand perpendicular to the turnbuckle.  Only drill half way through the ball-you’ll hit the turnbuckle anyway so you won’t be able to go all the way through.  Screw in the threaded rod into the hole on the ball.  Making the hole a little smaller will give a tight hold on the threaded rod since the foam will compress around the rod.  Now drill a slightly larger hole into the wood inside the left arm bend in the center, at the wrist, long enough for the threaded rod to go in. You can inject a little caulk in the hole. This will hold the hand in place.  For an extra added hold counter sink some holes at the end of the wrist outside the PVC close to where the ball enters the arm.  Screw in at an angle towards the ball (slowly so the threads of the screw will bite into the foam) with the 1.25 in. screws.  See picture below for visual instructions.

    T.b. represents the orange turnbuckle. T.r. represents the 5/16 in. threaded rod. The brown inside the lower arm is the wood, and the purple dots are the screws.

    Once the hand is in place, you can screw in the finial to the top of the foam ball hand and then screw on the chair leg to the bottom.

  10. Let The Painting Begin!

    Okay, almost ready to paint.  There is still an important step that has to be addressed before any paint goes on him which is dealing with all the seams,  screw heads, and any holes that you acquired during fabrication.

    Using the caulk, inject it into any large gap, seam and/or countersunk surface and smooth the caulk out with your finger or spreader.  The caulk will shrink a little when it dries and then you’ll need to spread lightweight spackle over those same areas.  Allow the spackle to dry completely and then sand the surface with 220 grit sand paper.

    I gave a list of the colors I used to paint my nutcracker, but you, of course, have the liberty to paint him however you choose.  Pick a paint that is specifically designed to stick to plastic well.  The PVC arms and legs should probably be primed first because I had an issue with the tape pulling some of the paint off.  I have access to a compressor and an airbrush, so I airbrushed rosy red cheeks on the face before hand painting the face.  Modern Masters gold was brushed on and not sprayed on his shoulders and belt buckle.

  11. Putting on the details.

    Now that the painting is done and fully dried the details can be applied to finish your masterpiece. Most of it will be fixed on using hot glue, so if you’re not familiar with how to us a hot glue gun try learning really quick.  Be careful, THE TIP AND GLUE COMING OUT IS EXTREMELY HOT!

    Anything that wraps around, like the ribbon and rope for the Fez, or the fringe for the shoulder ranks need to be pre-measured before cutting. Once cut, glue in place.  For the twisted gold rope at the top of the hat, I wrapped the gold tassels around it first before gluing on permanently.  See above picture for placement of other add ons like the rhinestones.  Of course, like the paint, you can do what ever you want to make it your own.  Have fun.

    The absolute last step is the hair and beard which is made from the white leg warmers listed above.  It only takes one of the two in the pair from the package so if you’re ambitious you have hair for another nutcracker some day.  You’ll need to cut the warmer in half up from the opening to have one long complete hair layer to wrap around and tuck under the back of the Fez/hat opening.  It will be a little too long and go past what you need, so this is where you get the beard material from.  My beard on my nutcracker is approximately 4 in. wide by 7 in. long. Cut the beard out and hot glue under the painted mouth of the face and body.  Cut the excess hair to fit around and inside with a proper look and glue in strategic places to keep the hair on the head but with a little flow or “body”.

 

 

Once you finish your nutcracker, contact me and send me some pics.  I’d be happy to post them here in my blog.  Happy Crafting!