Full Speed, A Head!

 Posted by at 18:49  No Responses »
Jan 102017

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Hey, remember this project? This project that I haven’t much talked about in the last, oh, nine months or so? Guess what! I just finished assembling the high-detail paper model for the base mold!

Full-resolution paper model mold base, front 3/4 Full-resolution paper model mold base, rear 3/4

I did indeed switch to using hot glue after my last update, to excellent effect. Rather than applying it via a hot glue gun, I instead used the glue gun to keep the glue in a liquid state and spot-applied it with toothpicks. This worked out really well, with one giant downside that I didn’t recognize until the damage had been done: leaving hot glue to just sit there with heat on it results in some of it vaporizing. My office, where I’ve been assembling this, is not well-ventilated. As a result, once I realized why I had started coughing and feeling miserable, I shelved the project for a bit. Also, finishing Embers and running a D&D game for some friends took over my life for a little while, but Embers is now out1 and I’m finally getting a handle on balancing my prep work for the D&D game, which means time to work on this has materialized once more!

Full-resolution paper model mold base, front 3/4 No doubt spurred into action by seeing Rogue One, I dove head-first back to work. This time, I kept a fan running at all times and wore a simple dust mask, which prevented most of the fumes from getting anywhere near me. I also purchased the fellow pictured here on clearance at Target to keep me company while I worked.

Everything has come together exceedingly well, as far as I’m concerned. I hit on the idea of creating small little cardboard cross-section supports, hearkening back to my original design approach to this whole project. I noticed some structural deformation happening to the cardstock due to the growing weight of the model. Given that forestalling this kind of warping with the resin and fiberglass step is the next part of the plan, I didn’t want to go into that step with an already-warped model!

Cross section printout glued to flat cardboard
Cardboard cross-section supports on the face Cardboard cross-section supports on the scalp and brim

I looked over the major distortion points and created simple planes intersecting the helmet model in Blender, then printed these out with the paper model plugin the same way I had everything else so far. I rummaged around in the basement for a cardboard box of the approximate right dimensions and sturdiness and then got to work slicing these up and gluing them into place. I used a green marker to identify the vertex attachment points on the physical model that corresponded with the origin locations for the planes on the 3D model. Turned out as well as I hoped!

Here’s the completed helmet beside its prototype ancestors. The massive size of the original prototype doesn’t really come across in this picture due to perspective, but it dwarfs both the small sizing prototype and the full-resolution model.

Full-resolution paper model alongside low-resolution prototypes.

With ventilation now prominent in my mind and knowing that my next step involves resin and fiberglass, I need to resolve the workspace air quality issue. It’s the middle of winter, so working outside just isn’t an option. Fortunately, I have a solution that’s been waiting for me to realize it exists for over seven years: the small, unused, vaguely creepy basement side room beneath the sun room. I can’t realistically ventilate the entire house-length basement to the degree I’d need to for working with resin, but that little room is its own space with its own window. Getting enough airflow to keep it well-circulated is easily within reach of a hardware store ventilation fan and some dryer vent tubing to direct the fan’s airflow out the window.

Making those modifications to this proto-workshop is my next step. I’ve also started formulating concrete plans for the vacuform table I want to build to manufacture the rest of the armor, which I’ll try to post more about in the coming days and weeks.

  1. And the next book’s word count is increasing day by day, don’t worry! []

The Sizing Prototype

 Posted by at 21:31  No Responses »
Oct 152015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

Satisfied with my revised model and with scale issues now addressed, I decided to make one more prototype before printing out a high-resolution paper model that will go on to form the basis of my helmet mold. This one would be very low resolution, its only purpose to validate that it was big enough for my head and that my proportions were vaguely correct.

The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype The smaller sizing prototype next to the first prototype

As it turned out, this actually went a little too small, due in part to compensating for the size correction in the 3D model, but not the printout. Fortunately, it means the next round should be bang-on. I also acquired some fiberglass mat and resin with which to reinforce the paper model prior to slathering it with Bondo, which is heavy. I don’t want the paper to deform under the weight, so the fiberglass-and-resin step aims to give it enough rigidity to prevent that. The original large prototype is shiny in these pictures because it’s been given an initial outer coat of resin. The fiberglass will go inside for structural strength.

I, uh, also couldn’t resist checking the sizing prototype’s fit…

Imperial Derptrooper

Halloween Redux

 Posted by at 12:11  3 Responses »
Oct 152009

I’m excited about Halloween.

Cody and I have decided to pair as Dr. Horrible (her) and Captain Hammer (me).  They’re simple costumes, so they don’t really fulfill that deep-seated need to construct something  epic.  However, they’re fun costumes that we can achieve with the time we have.  Most of the attendees at the party we’re attending should recognize the outfits, which is a bonus.

So, that’s good news.

From a more long-term point of view, I did some reading up and I severely underestimated the utility of papier-mâché.  I’ve been imagining a future filled with hot ABS plastic and noxious fiberglass-resin fumes because those seemed the only ways to get good, smooth, solid costume pieces. I’ve always thought of papier-mâché as crude and flimsy.  In the form I used, it was.  But that’s because I was only exploring part of it.  Check out this guy.

It makes a lot of sense, if one pauses to think about it. At its most basic, papier-mâché is the same thing as fiberglass: fibers suspended in a glue.  Paper is a lot stronger than one might give it credit for, too.  Sure, we can rip paper by pulling nearby sections in opposite directions, but have you ever tried to tug on it from two opposite ends?  It’ll give, but not without effort and usually local to the area where you’re pulling, not in the middle where the highest stress is.  Paper’s strong stuff.  Add glue to the mix and you’ve got a decent material—if you execute it correctly.

What’s more, the “strip” form is only one of the two ways to use papier-mâché.  The other, using pulped paper, ends up as a clay-like material that can be molded and shaped however you want.  Way more versatile.  Layer something up with several layers of strips, work in detail with the clay form, and then waterseal it with lacquer of some kind and you’ve got a pretty formidable piece of hardware that’ll stand up to a good amount of weathering.

Get some fine-grained sandpaper to smooth it down, and you might, might have something on par with ABS plastic or fiberglass—as far as costuming goes, anyway—and at a fraction of the cost and risk (glass fibers can do terrible things to your lungs; where’s the risk in water, paper, and flour?).

Suffice it to say I plan to test out this hypothesis at the earliest opportunity.  If it works, hoo boy.  I shall become a costume making machine.

Oct 132009

I love and hate Halloween.

One of my ambitions in life is to get to a point where I can make awesome costumes. Darth Vader, a stormtrooper, Iron Man, and Night Owl (with Cody as Silk Spectre) are all on my list. Halloween gives me a great excuse to make these costumes without the expense of having to go to a con to show them off.

Now that Cody and I have a house, I have a place where I could actually make some of these. Unfortunately, we’re not quite settled-in enough yet to start doing that.

This is why I hate Halloween. Every year, I get excited about making costumes. Every year, I end up with a costume I’m disappointed in—if I end up with a costume at all. The last Halloween costume I was somewhat proud of was my Kosh costume—10 years ago (which reminds me, I should put Kosh on the costume list and take a crack at doing it with fiberglass instead of paper-mâché).

Perhaps some day, I’ll start making good on these unfulfilled ambitions. I can only hope that I can provide my kids with awesome costumes so that they never have to feel this perpetual disappointment.

So, yeah. Halloween is not the most uplifting time of year for me.