Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kotetsu's Wild Tiger mask!

Hey Hey Blargaroos!
This month's post is my recreation of Kotetsu's Wild Tiger mask that he wears under his armor and out in public.
I, and many others, anticipated this to be a rather simple build, and if it was anyone other than myself making this mask, it probably would have been. But if there's anything to be said for me, it's that I'm a bit of a different duck, and if there was an easy way to do things, not only do I avoid it, I go thirty miles in the other direction.

I started out simple enough. Using a mold of my head that i had kicking about, i made a plaster cast, and then sculpted out the basic shape of the mask with some air dry clay.

after some sanding i gave it a like coat of primer, and started to fix up some of the more minor areas. 

My favorite photo so far
then came a nice coat of paint. what was supposed to be a mat black came out looking rediculously shiny and smooth. all in all it came out very well.

Then i got tired of looking at my ugly mug, and thought i'd dribble a bunch of rebound 25 all over it to make a mold. what most would consider the most difficult part of the build was over. all that's left is casting and painting. I thought, easy peasy, right? how wrong i was.

resin cast on the left, dragon skin on the right
after casting a straight resin version to see how well the mold worked, i started in with the smooth-on product, Dragon Skin 20. Although it's very similar to other silicone based product that i have worked with, i have never actually worked with this stuff before and was interested in how well it would preform. i wanted the mask to be flexible allow for the wearer to express emotion and not have to worry about the mask digging into their face. all in all, i was very pleased with the first attempt, not perfect, but proof of concept at least. 

I instantly began on a second version of the dragon skin mask. the cast turned out really quite well. so i began painting, with a silicone based paint, again provided by smooth on, called Psyco Paint. this stuff is really quite remarkable. It stretches and flexes with the dragon skin doesn't crack or fleck off like most paints. i love the how the colors turned out, and it can be painted or air brushed on. The paint has a super nice sheen to it, but that will disappear with any kind of dust or smudges, even when its fully dry. if there was a way to keep that sheen. i would be absolutely in love with this stuff. 

as anon pointed out, the edges were a bit sloppy, both in the paint job and around the inside edges of the mask. admittedly, i was really anxious to finish this project, and i did begin to rush things. So i attempted to clean up the edges with a small pair of scissors and a razor blade, and this is where things started to fall apart for this project. because i used varying thicknesses for the layers of silicone when i made the mask, the razor blade would dig in unexpectedly taking chunks out of the sides of mask, ruining it entirely. after going through several copies of the mask, and playing around with multiple different layering possibilities, i began to loose hope and sanity.
All ruined masks.
after stepping back from the project, for a bit, and working with some other things i had a few ideas on what would be best to attack this project. the first major change was changing up the content of the dragon skin i would use. after whipping up some really quick scars and stuff for halloween, i found that adding slacker into the dragon skin mix made the dragon skin far more flexible and more receptive to movement while maintaining shape. the next major change was that i originally started making the masks as one solid colour, and then painting the mask with psyco paint to match. Instead i poured (or rather brushed on) the mask in two different colours matching the corresponding area. This cut painting time down immensely, not to mention saved me from the frustration of trying to paint the masks while trying keeping things smooth. Although the airbrush worked good at keeping the paint smooth, it meant that coats were rather thin and opaque, requiring a lot of coats to get a nice solid color. by doing it this way, i cut the amount of coats of paint down drastically. the real trick was trying to ensure the paint was smooth, which sounds trickier than it sounds when using silicone based paint. In the end, it finally looked something like this.

After having so many troubles with this project, i honestly don't think i'll be doing any silicone masks for a while, despite having many grand plans for the future projects. 

Thanks for tuning in blargaroos! Sorry for missing last month. I'll try and make up by having two done this month.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Team Fortress 2: the Sandman

this was a relatively simple build, but not with out its challenges. Like any project i first needed to find a decent reference photo. thankfully there are a ton on the internet, and that the bat it's self is simple and didn't require extravagant blueprints to create. in the end i didn't make any actual blueprints, but rather just printed out the picture above, and scaled it to be about 2 feet long.

Because i was planning on taking this to conventions, for safety reasons, i decided that it would be best to make the majority of it out of foam rather than wood. starting from bottom up, i cut a wooden dowel to the length of the grip and the tapered area of the bat. then adding foam rings at varying widths, i made a rough taper down the the grip like so.
from here i added one more ring for the end but on the batt and covered the tapered area in expanding foam to fill in the gaps on the neck of the batt. after the foam had hardened, i put this segment onto the wood lathe and carved/sanded it into the shape i wanted. 

the top half of the bat was then build with a strip of EVA (or closed cell) foam that was heated, shaped and glued into the shape of a barrel. this was then glued onto the neck/ grip of the batt. despite the foam being 1 cm thick (which doesn't sound like much but is surprisingly thick) the tube of foam was still flimsier than i liked, so i filled the tube with more expanding foam and then capped the end, which provided the batt with just the right amount of heft and stiffness that i was looking for. with both ends attached together, the bat really started to take shape.
the next step was to give the whole thing a smoother, and rounder look to it, so i  covered the entire bat in a 1/4 inch laver of EVA foam. although this did smooth out a lot of the edges, it changed the angle of the taper, as well as the shape of the grip. so i ended sanding and cutting the grip section out so that the wood was exposed. i also took the time to carve the infamous crack into the top of the batt. Unfortunately that due to my eagerness to get this project done, i rushed some of the sanding, which caused warping and divots to appear in the neck of the batt. to fix this i coated the neck of the batt in a layer of smooth cast 321 casting resin, then applied some bondo once the resin was dry. this gave the whole thing the  nice and smooth effect that i was looking for.
 at this point i wasn't sure which route would be the best way to go for getting the colour right. Because the batt had foam, bondo and wood all exposed, i wasn't sure if my painting abilities could get the nice and smooth unified look that i was hoping for. so instead of painting it, i went out and bought some brown cloth that was pretty close to the colour i was looking for, and sewed it onto the batt, ensuring that it was nice and tight, with as few wrinkles as possible. this caused two things to occur. it definitely gave the batt a flush unified look, but also resulted in me attempting to sew by hand, leaving one long and very ugly seam down the back side of the batt, as well as causing the butt of the batt to become slightly misshapen, as you can see here
Because this was a somewhat of a commission for my girlfriend, i was pressed for time and was unable to correct these issues, so i moved on to the next step of the which was adding the logo. again, going back to my reference photo, i printed out the logo to scale, cut the lettering and outer ring out of the picture, and stenciled in the logo using some fabric marker. although  this was not my original intention on adding the logo to the batt, but it gave the desired effect in the end so i was relatively satisfied.
with obvious defects aside, i was really happy with how the batt turned out in the end. i do intend on redoing this project in the near future as other possibilities and ideas open up to me. with the plans i currently have, i should be able to correct the current mistakes while still allowing the bat to be convention friendly, but we will have to see how things plays out in the next couple of months before i can make and real promises.

One very pleasant surprise was that the cloth added on feature that i did not expect. instead of having a sheen and making the logo hard to read, as paint would have, light was simply absorbed into the material making the batt great for photo opportunities. here you can see my lovely michele wielding her weapon  at animethon 2011

anyways, that's all i have for today! thanks for tuning in!