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…

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!