Since I still had some amazingly detailed digital models for the rest of the suit, I decided it was time to go ahead and build it.
Here's a "during" shot from that last post:
Of course, there's been an awful lot of progress since then:
If you'd like to see more progress pics as well as a description of the process involved in making the rest of the armor, read on...
Jarvis is an amazing machine. The pieces he builds are a bit on the brittle side, they come out nice and smooth and ready to mold after just a bit of cleanup and prep work. Unfortunately, most of the Ironman parts are too big to fit into Jarvis' build envelope. I suppose I could've just gone ahead and break the models into smaller pieces, but the printing material would've cost more than I could ever afford for a hobby project like this.
This is a job for Lopez the Robot Whittler.
Lopez is actually a Craftsman Carvewright woodworking machine. Most people don't tend to notice him sitting in the corner of the workshop or, if they do, they assume he's a simple planer. If you've been following my blog for any length of time, you'll recognize him as the low-end, 3-axis, commercially available CNC machine that he is. As of this writing, you can get your own on Amazon for about $1,600. Seriously, click here if you want one.
As originally designed, the craftsman Carvewright is intended to carve out relief panels for custom cabinetry or the like. Ever since the very first project I used him for, I've been forcing Lopez to work above and beyond his design specs. This project is no different.
Since you've got to start somehwere, I decided that the first piece I was going to make was the toe of the boot. Using the STL Importer upgrade for the Carvewright's proprietary designer software, I sliced the somewhat complex model of the toe into pieces that could be cut on a 3-axis machine. Then I uploaded the design into Lopez, fed him a piece of 3/4" MDF (because it's cheap and readily available) and a couple hours later he'd made this:
Once I'd popped the parts out, the next step was to reassemble the slices:
The gloss that you're looking at is a coating of epoxy that I decided would be the fastest way to seal up the very porous surface of the MDF. It also made the surface very tough and difficult to sand and smooth in later stages. Sadly, I didn't think to quit using it until way too far into this build. Instead I wasted quite a bit of time and money building up an epoxy skin only to go back and grind through it again, loading up countless sheets of sandpaper along the way.
I suppose these things happen.
As the build progressed and I got smarter, I settled for sealing the MDF with a much more sanding-friendly series of primer coats. Here's the rest of the boot:
For no reason at all, I decided that the next piece to build would be the pelvis section. Probably just so I could make "iron jockstrap" jokes. Who knows. In any case, here's the first half of the pelvis section all whittled out:
Carving a piece this large took somewhere around twelve to fourteen hours of run time for Lopez. I should point out that this is much longer than this machine really seems designed to be continuously operated. Over the course of this project, I can't even begin to count the number of times the machine broke down. It turns out Lopez doesn't respond very well to vibration and dust. This is odd because, being a woodworking tool, he basically does nothing but vibrate and make dust.
Anyway, having learned my lesson (finally), this time I decided to go ahead and spray the parts with primer before I'd even removed it from the waste portion of the MDF:
Once the second half was carved, I went ahead and assembled half of it and did a quick test fit:
Then assembled the whole thing:
Hooray for Iron Crotch:
If you've spent an unhealthy amount of time
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "I guess it looks okay, but I don't remember Ironman having that many seams in his pelvic region." You're thinking right too. Now it's time for the bodyshop phase.
Using filler primer, Bondo, and spot putty, I went over every inch of each piece. Filling, sanding, filling, sanding, priming, sanding, filling, sanding, comparing it to screen shots from the film, and repeating. Here's a shot of the iron diaper somewhere in the middle of the process:
After more refinement, here it is in a coat of primer:
Once I was happy that I'd smoothed everything out, I gave it a couple of gloss coats of my standard prototype color:
As always, at this point the color doesn't matter. Only the shape. No I am not making a pink suit of Ironman armor (even though that would be kinda cool).
While it may seem that I was exceedingly fixated on Ironman's groin, I can assure you that this was not the case. While I was doing the handwork on this piece, I'd actually developed a pretty decent workflow for the entire project. So while I was gluing together the pelvis, Lopez was whittling out the chest parts:
The chest ended up being six separate carves. Each one of them took Lopez between ten and fifteen hours. Still, sculpting the whole thing by hand would've taken me quite a bit longer. Even when you factor in the time I spent re-assembling all of the slices:
And test fitting:
And smoothing, filling, sanding, priming, etc:
I should point out that while Lopez the Whittler was carving out the large parts, I still had Jarvis the 3D printer cranking out all of the smaller pieces as well. These include all of the control flaps for the back:
I also had Jarvis grow the shoulder parts:
Though they made a lot more sense after I'd cleaned off all of the support material:
Among the countless little widgets and whatnots, I also had Jarvis grow the flaps that fit in and near the ankles:
Along the way, my workshop suddenly started to be overwhelmed with Ironman parts:
I tried to come up with creative places to store them, but they were very much in the way:
Still, somewhere along the way I had enough pieces polished up that I was finally ready to start making molds. For no reason in particular, I started with the abdomen plate. Here it is mounted to a board with a series of registration pegs glued around it an a mold wall set up outside of them:
Once all that was set up, it was time to start making the silicone rubber jacket mold. Here's my friend Jason pouring on the first batch of silicone:
Once the jacket was built up, it looked like so:
After the rubber had cured, the registration keys were picked out, leaving holes that the resin could fill during the building of the mothermold:
Once the mothermold was set up, the next step was to remove the prototype and lay up a copy inside the mold. For a quick rough-draft version of the suit, I did my initial castings in urethane resin reinforced with fiberglass mat:
Here's the first copy out of the mold:
While some of the details vary, the rest of the parts were molded in much the same manner:
Since my workshop is essentially a hundred-year-old barn, every once in a while I'd have to deal with some suicidal insect ending his life in freshly-poured goo:
But on the whole, things went well while I made a lot of molds. How many? I haven't counted yeat. But when every horizontal surface in the workshop was covered in Ironman molds, I brought in more horizontal surfaces and covered them too:
Most of the pieces were very simple one-sided molds, but the parts for the arms and legs were a tiny bit more complicated to mold. For example, here are the shins once the first coat of rubber was poured on:
Here they are once the jacket mold was completely built up:
The tricky part was the mothermold. The thighs and arm parts had mothermolds that were made in two halves while the shins used three-part mothermolds:
Someone will inevitably ask, but I still have no idea how much silicone I used in the course of this project.
While the molding and casting was underway, I still had Lopez carving out even more parts, such as the iron buttplates:
Witness a quarter of an iron moon:
After a few months of sanding, filling, sanding, priming, sanding, priming, sanding, painting, molding, casting, trimming, re-working, and casting, and trimming, I finally had my friend Trevor (aka "the walking mannequin," aka my stunt double) come over and try on some of the parts:
For some reason, this step really made me feel great about this project:
By now I'm very nearly done with this costume and there's a lot more to it, but I'm trying to break it up into smaller, more easily digested articles. Next I'll be writing about the making of the soft parts. Eventually I'll write up the electronics, making the boots practical, painting and weathering, and strapping the whole thing together.
So if you're interested in seeing me wearing an iron corset, stay tuned...