Tuesday, May 24, 2011

From Duct Tape Double to Spartan Warrior

If you attended the Bay Area Maker Faire this year, hopefully you noticed one of my armored Spartans from HALO3 standing on top of the booth. 

Since I couldn't count on any of my friends to spend 72 hours standing still on top of an 8-foot tall box without bitching about it, I needed to come up with a mannequin.  Since mannequins are pricey (and usually strike inappropriately effeminate poses) I had to make my own.

Rather than spending days sculpting the perfect heroic male form to fit in my armor, I talked my friend Alex into coming by so I could use him as a model for building a duct tape double.

It turns out talking him into it only took a four-line phone call:

ME: Hey man, are you busy tonight?
ALEX: No, you wanna do something?
ME: I was hoping you could stop by the shop so I could wrap you in duct tape and cut all of your clothes off.
ALEX: Sounds good, I'll be there.
All too easy...

After find an appropriate victim, the process of creating the mannequin is quite simple.  To begin with, have your model wear clothes that they won't mind destroying.  Here's Alex in an embarassingly Google-able photo of clothes he never wanted anyone to see him wearing again:
Alex Before

The next step is to mummify them with six or seven rolls of duct tape:
Alex During
When it gets to the point where the model can no longer move, you've built up enough thickness.  Try to resist the compulsion to knock them over or draw lewd pictures on them.

Now it's time to cut all of his clothes off (including the duct tape).  Remind your model to wear appropriate undergarments unless you want this already awkwardly intimate experience to bring your relationship even closer. 

Free of the duct tape cocoon, Alex was able to put his normal clothes back on.  Then and it was time to close up the seams on the duct tape duplicate:
Alex After

With the seams re-sealed stuff the double with newspaper:
Duct Tape Dummy

At this point you've got yourself a pretty exact semi-rigid copy of the model that you can use for making whatever you need in the way of costumes and whatnot.  This application is great if you need a quick and inexpensive dressmaking dummy.  Up to this point, the whole process only took us about two hours.
But I wasn't building this thing for dressmaking.  In order to go from "semi-rigid" to "durable-enough-to-leave-unattended-in-a-crowded-pavilion" I decided to reinforce it by adding a layer of fiberglass mat and cloth everywhere:
Butt Glassing
Yes.  Everywhere.

Because of the potential for being overcome by noxious fumes while working with polyester resin, it's important to work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and use adequate safety gear.  Miners used to use canaries to indicate when the atmosphere turns poisonous.  When the canary keels over dead, it's time to evacuate.

Being not indigenous to my area, canaries are expensive.  I use chickens instead:
Glassing the Stunt Double

No chickens were harmed in the making of this statue:
Glassed Mannequin dressing

When dressing the statue, I used all of my reject castings.  These were the leftovers I had laying around where there were obvious flaws in the surface or thin, weak spots in the casts.  Until now I wasn't sure why I'd been keeping these around.  Now at last they had a reason to be.

While I was cranking away on a few other projects, I had my friend Matt screw all of the parts onto the fiberglass body with plain drywall screws. 

Here's Matt drilling it in the butt:
Butt drilling

At the end of the day, here's Alex's stunt double with everything but hands and a face:
Spartan Built

Here's the whole thing dressed up with a coat of red primer:
Spartan Dressing

As you can see from the picture above, in addition to the drywall screws I also used expanding foam to glue the armor parts onto the statue and stabilize them a bit more.

When the whole thing was nearly painted, I built a framework to help it stand up.  I had to because it had no feet.  With the wood and pipe stand fabricated, I inserted it into the legs of the statue, flipped the whole thing over, and filled the legs with more expanding foam.  Here's Mallory, my occasional workshop assistant, watching the foam overflow from one of the ankles:
Foam Filling Legs

Once the foam had cured, the statue was returned to its full, upright and locked position where all of the black details were picked out and a bit of weathering was added.  At this point, he'd really come to life:
Shawn and Smart Alex

To finish him out, he needed a weapon:
Spartan Done

The last thing was to mount him on the roof of the booth:

Spartan on the Roof



  1. Reply Diude, anyway good blog but reply

  2. Hey, this is just what I needed! I was about to buy my own mannequin for the ODST I wore to the Maker's Fair, but stumbling upon this was perfect! Thanks so much for the post!

  3. read my comments then reply