Monday, November 26, 2018

Thor, the Goddess of Thunder Part 6: The Leather Bits

I've previously written about making the Goddess Thor's helmet HERE and HERE, her armor HERE, her hammer HERE, and the fabric parts of her costume HERE.

Now it's time to talk about her belt.  Depending on which render of her you find, her belt changes quite a bit from one image to the next.  I suppose some folks might get frustrated by the lack of standardization, but for me this is just a bit of license to be creative and do what I want.

In any case, the first thing I'd have to do is head out to one of my favorite places to get leather: the Tannery:
Leather Shopping

This is the warehouse at Barta Hide in Petaluma where you can buy off-cuts and scrap leather by the pound or you can get full hides in a variety of colors and thicknesses.  If you can get over the smell, it's awesome.  Pro tip: go on a day when the temperature and humidity are a bit lower.  Your olfactory nerves will thank you.

After picking up a few large, thick pieces of leather that I was happy with, the next step was to remove the existing finish.  For this, I soaked the surface with denatured alcohol, then scrubbed with a rag.  For some of the more tenacious spots, I used acetone:
Stripping Finish off of Leather

After the surface was stripped, the leather was "cased."  This basically means I soaked it in water for a couple of nights.  Here it is after just a couple of hours when the remaining dye started leeching out of the leather:
Soaked Leather Scraps

After leaving it overnight, it looked like so:
Soaked Leather

I also picked up a basic set of leather carving tools:
I got the whole set here: LINK.

The next step was to learn how to use them.

The process begins with a design copied onto tracing paper.  Then you use a stylus to transfer an impression of the design onto the leather.  With that done, you use a swivel knife to cut the lines of the design partway into the leather.

The next step is to use the tools and mallet to dent the surface of the leather wherever you want ot darken it by adding recesses.

There's a lot more to this, but I'm only just learning at this point.  Here's how my first attempt came out on a scrap of leather:

First Attempt at Leather Carving

And here's my second attempt
My second attempt at tooling leather.

Not terrible for a beginner I suppose:
First Two Carved Leather Attempts

Having learned the very basics of leather tooling, I figured I could go ahead and make the Thor belt.  I started by cutting out two different versions:
Belt Blanks

Then I got myself sidetracked thinking of the shiny metallic discs that are mounted on the belts.  I decided that I could get away with some of these little blind spot mirror domes from the local auto parts store:
Mirrors for Belt

With the mount and frame removed, they're just about perfect:
Disassembled Mirror

They also come in different sizes:
Blank Belt with Mirrors

But since I wanted a lip around the edges, I went ahead and sculpted a clay surround, pulled a quick mold, and cast copies in resin:
First Round of Cast Discs

These were given a solid black basecoat before I chromed them:
Discs and Studs

getting back to work on the belt, I stripped off the finish and added all of the rivet details around the edges:
Belt Rivets Begin

Then I riveted on the strap that hangs off of the hip:
Belt Assembled

Since time was running out before her convention debut, I didn't get a chance t carve any detailed pattern into the belt itself.  That'll have to wait for some later luxury free time.  For now, she looks the part:
Test Fit 2

Stay tuned for the final product and better photos.

Friday, November 23, 2018

November 2018 UFO Sightings in the Workshop

I hate to say it, but it's becoming somewhat standard by now.  I've fallen behind on bloggage again and until I get a chance to do a few proper photo shoots to better showcase some of my finished projects, I'm hesitant to write the project blog entries about them.

So once again, the best I can manage is another series of photos of UnFinished Objects from around the workshop.  Here's just a few of the things we've been working on...

First up, there's this growing stack of helmets in progress in the noisy, dusty room where my belt sander and Carvewright CNC machines live:
Helmet Stack in Progress

Then there's a whole series of "Death Snails" I've been working on.  Some of them are almost done being painted, but here's how they look right now:

Dark Dipped Snail

I've decided to start adding a few more simple Warhammer 40k builds to my to-do list, so here's the beginnings of an Eldar Warlock project:
Eldar Longsword

The folks at Fundemonium have asked me to make a few more copies of their "Funbot" maquette.  They're coming together:
Funbot Maquettes

I've also got a few new helmets in the makings that just need to be molded.  Here's the Range Trooper from Solo:

Shiny and Ready to Mold

And once in a while I still find time to tinker with the War Machine Build.  Here's the chest and back piece as it stands right now:

Filing Chest Details

There's also the Locus build:


That's going to be pretty cool.

Stay tuned for more updates.  I'm hoping to have quite a bit to brag about soon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Cobra Baroness Costume Part 1: the Rushed Build

Growing up in rural Northern California, there were long portions of my childhood where we had either no television or just whatever local stations we could pick up with the rabbit ear antennae.  Fortunately, somewhere on one of those stations I was able to watch the old GI Joe cartoons.

In hindsight, grown-up me has no trouble thinking of each episode as a 30-minute toy commercial.  But that didn't stop 9-year-old me from having one heck of a crush on this lady:

This is the Baroness, aka Anastasia Cisarovna, the intelligence officer for Cobra, an evil terrorist organization, determined to rule the world.  She was one of Cobra Commander's top lieutenants, responsible for all kinds of espionage operations.  But more importantly, her long black hair, black-rimmed glasses, skin-tight black leather outfit, and over-the-top Eastern European accent meant that this ruthless femme fatale was largely responsible for a whole generation of fetishes and fantasies.

Fast forward a couple or three decades and my friend Rachel mentions that she's thinking of dressing up as this character for Halloween.  Since I'd been meaning to make this outfit for the Lady Shawnon for quite some time, this was all it took for me to embark on a rushed build of all of the armor parts, pick up some airsoft weapons and skin-tight catsuits, and churn out two copies of this costume in a hurry.

Here's the nearly finished result:


To see how the parts were made, read on...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ironman Costume Sidetrack: the Godkiller Helmet

A while back, I made a pretty decent MkIII Ironman costume.  In the midst of a series of distractions and various commissioned projects, it took just a shade over ten months to build the whole thing.

Among the many distractions was this particular helmet:

You'll see this photo again.

It's the helmet for the Space Armor MkIII which Tony Stark uses throughout the "Godkiller" story arc in the comics.  I'm not sure what prompted me to make this particular helmet, but once the idea was stuck in my head I couldn't shake it until the thing was made.  I'm sure it'll turn out to be some sort of brain tumor...

Anyhow, for more photos and some details about how it was made, read on.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Wolf Helm of Russ

Forever ago I got a slow start on my rendition of the Wolf Helm of Russ, an ancient artifact of war belonging to the Space Wolves chapter of Space Marines in the tabletop wargame Warhammer 40,000.

There are a lot of different renditions of this helmet.  Here's just a couple:

All of the reference artwork I could find tends to show the helmet with slightly different details, so I decided to take a bit of license with the design and streamline some of the goofier details.  Here's the fully-wearable, life-size end result:
Finished Wolf Helm of Russ

To see how I made it, read on...

Saturday, July 14, 2018

July 2018 UFO Sightings in the Workshop

As usual I find I've got way too many irons in the fire and there's a shortage of time to sit down and blog about it.  That combined with the fact that I tend to only write up full articles about projects once they're done means that I haven't been doing near enough blogging lately.

To make amends, here's a stack of photos of current UnFinished Objects in and around the shop.

First off, I've started tinkering with a lot of Star Wars stuff again.  I've decided to move my Episode 7 flametrooper build a little higher up on the priority list, so the D-93 Incinerator is now a work in progress.  Here's the digital model I'm starting with:
Incinerator Digital Model

Because it's made of so many tiny little parts, it's not very well suited to CNC carving.  Instead, I've had to settle for 3D printing the whole thing.  Here's how it looks right about now:
First Order Incinerator Begins

The barrels and muzzle block are currently printing, so it's only a matter of time before the whole thing will be assembled and prepped for molding.

On the subject of First Order props, I've also printed the "quadnoculars":
First Order Quadnoculars Begin
These are the clunky, huge binoculars that showed up in the visual dictionary for Episode 7 and were on display at the Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland, but so far haven't actually appeared in the films.  Still, I'm making them because I'm about to accidentally reproduce the entire First Order.

The other thing I've just barely started is the Sisters of Battle armor from Warhammer 40k.  I started with the helmet:
Sisters Helmet in Progress
I'll probably make a handful of copies of the costume and most of them don't wear helmets, but I wanted something that would make the armor present well on a mannequin and allow people to wear the costume even if they weren't all pasty and pale like the women in the artwork.

For scale, here's my new workshop assistant Rachel trying on the sculpt in progress:
Sororitas Helmet Test Fit

The other 40k project that I've been tinkering with again is my replica of the Wolf Helm of Russ.  Here's how it looks right now:
Wolf Helm Test Fit

It's a little stuffy inside, but I'm liking it:
Wolf Helm Fit Success

I've also built a custom display stand for that one:
Wolf Helm on Stand

On the subject of nearly done things, there's also the Fallout T-60 power armor I've been working on off and on for the past year or two.  So far I've managed to take the (nearly ready) costume out for two location photoshoots.  Here's a teaser photo from the first shoot:
T-60 Evening Stroll
As you can see, the rigging still needed a few tweaks.

Here's a shot from last weekend:
Fallout 4 T-60 photo by Hep Svadja
So it's coming right along.

But as soon as I finish that project, there have to be at least four or five to work on in its place.  So I've started tinkering with more Halo props again.  Namely, I've decided to start making the helmet for Locus from Red vs. Blue.  Here's the assembled prototype:
Locus Helmet Camera Arrangement Test

Once the nose piece is installed, it'll be impossible to see out of this helmet.  So I'm using a pair of video goggles inside the helmet to allow visibility:
Locus Helmet Goggles Test 5

The video feed comes from a tiny camera mounted in the helmet's mouth:
Locus Helmet Camera Position

The resolution isn't great, but it'll keep me from walking into walls while I'm in costume.

As long as I'm screwing around, I've also picked up a kit to build a Patrol Trooper helmet:
Patrol Trooper Helmet Fine Smoothing

If you don't recognize that guy, don't worry.  He's one of the new variants of Imperial stormtrooper that showed up for all of five seconds in the Solo movie.

And last, but certainly not least, I've been collaborating with my friend Jon to bring the War Machine armor from Ironman 2 to life.  Jon just pulled a set of legs out of the mold a little while ago:
War Machine Legs

Meanwhile, I've been making slow progress on the chest and back:
WM Chest Test Fit with Helmet

So that's getting closer to done too.

I'm sure there's more stuff in the works that I'm not thinking of at the moment, but stay tuned and there will be more.  This is a big year for finishing projects for me.

Monday, June 4, 2018

I Read the Comments

On rare occasions, after something I’ve done gets noticed and some media outlet posts a bit of video or an article about me or my projects, I get a chance to see someone else’s take on what I’m doing with all of my time.  Then, even though I know I shouldn’t and it’ll almost always sour my mood, I do the one thing I never should.

I read the comments.

Usually, they’re pretty positive.  But then, almost always, there’s the trolls.  The smug web-dwellers that seem consumed with a need to talk about how pointless my endeavors are, how frivolous or meaningless my latest achievement is, or just make blatant assumptions about who I am or what my motives are, then proceed to talk down to me from there.  I'll never fully understand what drives people to think their time is well-spent by shoveling crap on top of someone else’s efforts, but it always manages to get under my skin just a little.

Today a friend of mine pointed out that those folks who usually have the harshest critique about something others create tend to have done the least with their own lives.  He tells me that the hot air spewing from the nobodies who claim they're certain they could have or would have done better is hardly my concern. 

On an intellectual level I know that their vitriol is a manifestation of their own festering doubts and insecurities.  A malignant side-effect of what they haven't done with their own time.  A re-branding of their concern that they're utterly wasting their short lives.  They go about their mundane day to day doing nothing challenging, bringing nothing of any particular interest to the rest of the world. They live in fear that the shaky timbers of their fragile ego might any second be beaten down by the roaring waves of reality.  Their only hope; to discourage the doers to the point of inaction so that mediocrity becomes just the way of things rather than their own personal failure.

I welcome criticism.  It’s always valuable to have an objective viewpoint that can point out the details that I may have overlooked or a distant third-party who is unhindered by the limited view from my particular trench and can offer the occasional insight that must come from outside.  This is the kind of feedback that drives us to learn and improve, and in so doing thrive.

But these are not critics.  These people are faceless shadows in the night calling you into a dark alley. Their words, occasionally even disguised as wisdom, are traps.  They are every bit as lost as any one of us.  But unlike those of us who create, who dare to fail, they’re too cowardly to try.  Too afraid to admit their potential for fallibility.

These comments are the death-thumps of sad little pigeons slamming into life’s windows.  Pitiful, ignorable noises of hapless creatures flailing and failing to understand a limited attempt to show them something.  

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling down after getting unnecessarily negative feedback, just remember they're most likely just upset that you’ve reminded them just how little they do.  How little they are.  How ridiculous they look.

If you’re about to post a nasty comment to make yourself feel better about what you’re not doing, realize that the only difference between a dream and a goal is a solid plan and the only difference between a goal and an achievement is solid effort...

...and the only thing holding you back is you.

A Couple of Videos from the 2018 Bay Area Maker Faire

Every time I go to the Bay Area Maker Faire, it seems like there's at least a few different times where someone sticks a camera and a microphone in front of me and asks what I'm doing there. This year was no exception. Here's a couple of videos that I've found so far.

For starters, Caleb Kraft from Make: was livestreaming a walking tour of the Faire. You can see it cued up to start with my segment here:


Then Norm and the guys from stopped by to take a look at the newly-finished Fallout power armor:   

I'm sure there will be more as time goes by.  Not everyone gets their posts online in a timely manner like I do. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

2018 Bay Area Maker Faire

After a grueling couple of weeks trying to finish more projects than any sane person should ever try to fit into that time, everything was loaded into trucks and trailers and we left Petaluma, southbound for San Mateo and the 2018 Bay Area Maker Faire.

We arrived fairly late on setup day and immediately set about building the display booth:
Booth Building

As that was coming together, we were also installing ED-209 in his parking space for the weekend:
ED Assembly

Even after four years or so, he's still looking pretty good:
ED Looking Good

Freddy busied himself with building a frame to hang the Grey Knight Terminator costume on:
Grey Knight Stacking

While I climbed aloft to add a few more things to the top of the booth:
Sign Install

Before too long, the display racks were filled with all of the weapon props we brought:
Gun Rack

Gun Rack 2

The rusty steel T-60 was set up as a bust display:
T-60 Bust

So was my blue HALO Spartan armor from way back:
Display Corner

And "Big Sexy," my Dark Angels Space Marine Sergeant costume:
Big Sexy

Right in the middle of the display was a stack of my books available for sale:
Book Sales
You can get a copy here (LINK) if you haven't got it already.

With that, the whole display was together and ready to go:


First visitors, the San Mateo Police Department:
SMPD Chainsword

SMPD Bolt Pistol

About that time, the whole crew was lined up and ready to go:
Part of the Crew

The floodgates opened, attendees poured in, and for the rest of the weekend, my view looked about like so:
Crowd at the Booth

Folks stopped by to get signed copies of my book, other makers came to ask how to make the things we make, and countless small children and adults alike queued up to try on helmets and pose for pictures.  It was an all-around success.  Mostly it looked like this:

At some point we got a couple of my Warhammer costumes dressed and walking around:
40k Portrait

We also got Freddy into his T-60 Power Armor:
Rigging Freddy into T-60

It came out pretty good:
Two Big New Things

The Grey Knight, sadly, spent the weekend in statue mode:
Grey Knight Full-Length

But he still looked pretty good:
Grey Knight Angry

The same goes for my rusty, bare steel T-60:
T-60 Hero Shot

T-60 Texture

But while I was stationed in the booth and my crew answered questions, a few of my costumes managed to get out and about.  First was Thor, the Goddess of Thunder, worn by the lovely Lady Shawnon:
Thor at the Maker Faire

Thor on Dragon Bike

Goddess of Thunder

Thor in Gloom

Thor vs. Balloon Cthulhu

Thor and Fans

Then one of my First Order TIE Fighter Pilots did the rounds worn by my cousin Drake.  Here he is driving a giant cupcake:
FOTI Driving Cupcake 1

And holding his own in a dance-off:
FOTI Dance-Off

Before shooting down some very threatening bubbles:
FOTI Bubble Attack

He made it a point to drive everything he could get his hands on:
TIE Pilot on Bike Contraption

FOTI Train Engineer

FOTI Solar Car

FOTI and DeLorean Hovercraft

FOTI and Dragon Bike

And met a few fans along the way:

FOTI and Wee Trooper

He looked like he was having a good time, but somehow he still failed to trigger the Smile Detector:
FOTI Smile Detector 2

Finally, we got Madison, one of my newer crewmembers, into the Lady Shawnon's Bo Katan costume so she could get out and see the Faire in character. First she found some other Star Wars nerds:
Madi and Jawa

Land Speeder Commandeer

Then she found all kinds of other interesting things out and about:
Make: Bo Katan

Madi and Baymax

Sweeping Mando

Somewhere along the way, the Freddy donned his T-60 and Rachel put on her vault suit so they could wander a bit:
Wasteland Walk

T-60 Fist Bump

Jailed Power Armor

So taken for all in all, this year's Maker Faire was a success and we can look forward to doing it all again next year.
Booth Crew

Stay tuned...