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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Second Sister Costume from Jedi: Fallen Order Part 2: Prototyping and Molding the Other Hard Parts

If you're just tuning in, this is the second entry about building this woman's costume:
In-Game screenshot

That's the Second Sister from the video game Jedi: Fallen Order.  She's one of the Imperial Inquisitors on a mission to hunt down the remaining Jedi sometime between Order 66 and the beginning of A New Hope and she's a bit of a badass.

In case you missed it, my last article about this build covered the prototyping, molding, and casting of her helmet.  You can read it here: LINK.  In that case, I started with the in-game digital models of the character and made a few tweaks to make it wearable for an actual, real-life human being.  With that done, it was time to move on to the other hard parts of the costume.

Just like the helmet, the shoulders, rank bars, and belt buckle were printed from the game model as well.  Here they are after a bit of sanding, smoothing, priming, and lightish red gloss paintjob:
2nd Sister Shoulders, Buckle, and Rank Bars

Molding the rank bars and belt buckles was a simple matter of making a couple of plain block molds in RTV silicone rubber:
Block Molds for buckle and rank bars

The parts were cold cast in aluminum for a convincing metallic surface.  "Cold casting" is a pretty neat way to get a metal finish without any paint involved.  The secret ingredient?  Real metal.  In this case, I'm using atomized aluminum powder which I pick up at Douglas and Sturgess in Richmond, CA.  If you need most anything in the way of art supplies, check out their website at artstuf.com.

I usually start by either dusting the inside of the mold or, in the case of little pieces like these, completely filling the molds with the atomized metal powder:
Dusting the Mold

Then I pour the powder back into the container and tap the mold a few times to remove any loose metal dust:
Emptying the Mold

The next step is to mix up a small batch of resin with as much metal powder as I can add in and still be able to pour it into the mold:
Mixing Resin with Aluminum Powder for Cold Casting

In this case, I'm using Smooth-Cast 300 casting resin and some black urethane pigment (I think it's Smooth-On's "so strong" color, but I'm not sure).  I start by mixing 1 fluid ounce of part A with 1 fluid ounce of part B with a few drops of black pigment, then add about one and a half tablespoons of atomized aluminum and stir thoroughly.  Then the pouring:
Gently Pouring for Cold Casting

The goal is to mix it and pour as quickly as possible to allow the material as much time as possible to settle in the mold.  Any entrained air bubbles will rise to the top which is the backside of the parts, so nobody will see them.  More importantly, the heavier metal powder will have more time to sink to the bottom of the molds where it will be more visible on the front of the parts.

Once the resin has cured, the parts are pulled out of the mold and don't look like anything special at all:
Raw Belt Buckle Pull

Raw Cold Cast Parts

This is because there's still a little bit of resin film on the outside surface covering the metal powder mixed into the parts.  Now it's time to gently buff the surface with some fine steel wool to bring out the metallic shine:
Buffing Belt Buckle with Steel Wool

To facilitate mounting them onto the tunic, the rank bars had single bar ribbon holders from a military surplus store glued to their backside:
2nd Sis Rank Bar Pin Backing

Here's a set of parts all buffed and finished.:
2nd Sis belt buckle and rank bars 
The bracers and shoulder plates were a tiny bit more complicated to make.

For the bracers, I started with a 3D model that was made by another fan on the Second Sister Build Group on Facebook.  She did a pretty amazing job with the initial shape, but after poring over the reference images, I soon found myself making changes to almost every part.  I beefed up the wrist end, changed the profile of the inner arm, and more.  You can see the beginning of the modifications here:
2nd Sister Gauntlet Bodyshop Progress 1

The dark greay parts are the original printed bits.  The light pink/beige bits are the Bondo modifications.  I also opted to join the halves of each of them to make a single part to simplify molding:

After a few rounds of sanding and filling, the bracers were ready for primer:
Primed Bracer Prototype

Primed Bracer Prototype

Once I was happy with the shape and overall smoothness, I gave them both a coat of gloss lightish red paint and let them dry for a couple of days prior to molding.  

Just like I did with the helmet, the bracers were wrapped in plastic before a layer of clay was built up over them and a fiberglass mothermold was laid up:
Mothermold in Progress

Here's the first half of the mothermolds laid up:
First Half of 2nd Sister Gauntlet Mothermolds Laid Up

At the same time, I was already in the process of laying up the mothermolds for the shoulders.  Here's all four parts when the fiberglass mothermolds were laid up:
Shoulder and gauntlet mothermolds for 2nd Sister

Once the mothermolds were trimmed and drilled, it was time to start pouring in the silicone:
Pouring Rubber for 2nd Sister Shoulder Molds

I didn't take nearly enough photos of this process, but if you've been following my blog for a while or even read the article about molding the helmet, you've seen it before.  The shoulders were done in two sections, the inner and outer portions:
2nd Sister Shoulder Mold Rubber Jacket

Once the second half was cured, the rubber was peeled apart and the prototype was removed:
Demolding 2nd Sister Shoulder PRototype

Here's a shot of the first half of one of the bracers' mothermolds being placed:
Trimmed Mothermold in Position

After placing the second half and sealing up the edges with hot glue, the void was filled with silicone and left overnight to cure.  The next morning I removed the hot glue and gently pried the two halves of the mothermold apart:
Rubber Cured and Flange Drilled

Here's the rubber jacket after removing one of the mothermold halves:
Separating Mothermold

After a little love with a knife, the thin flashing edges were removed:
Cured Rubber Jacket out of the Mothermold

Next, I dug up one of these nasty, hook-shaped knives to split the mold jacket:
Hook-Shaped Blade for Jeweler's Cut

In order to ensure that the cut will close securely during casting, I used a "jeweler's cut."  This method is designed to make the seam line as straight as possible along the part while making the cut itself as uneven and wavy as possible like so:
Starting Jeweler's Cut on 2nd Sister Gauntlet Rubber Jacket

As the cut progresses along the length of the prototype, I use a surgical retractor to keep the rubber pulled to the sides and hold some tension while I'm cutting:
Jeweler's Cut on 2nd Sister Gauntlet Rubber Jacket

Here you can see the demolded prototype after it was removed from the neatly cut rubber jacket:
2nd Sister Gauntlet Prototype Demolded

This was done for the left and right bracer molds and then they were reassembled in the mothermolds, bolted together, and ready for casting:
2nd Sister Gauntlet Molds Ready

With that done, the shoulders were solid cast in greay tinted urethane resin and the bracers were rotocast in two layers of Smooth-cast 300 backed with a layer of Smooth-cast Onyx for rigidity.  With that done, all of the hard parts of the costume were maked:
Raw Set of 2nd Sister Casts

Tune in next time when I'll detail the trimming, prepping, painting, assembly, and wiring up lights for the finished parts.

It turns out they need finishing.  So far they don't quite look the part yet:
Awkward Test Fitting

Progress continues...

Monday, September 21, 2020

Second Sister Costume from Jedi: Fallen Order Part 1: Prototyping and Molding the Helmet

I tend to be pretty late to the show when it comes to video games.  I didn't pick up any of the Halo games until Reach came out and the first Fallout game I played was Fallout 4.  It's not that I don't love gaming, it's just that simpler games don't really interest me and I don't tend to have enough time to really dedicate my time to playing through anything with a good narrative.  That said, I'd been hearing so many good things about Jedi: Fallen Order that it didn't take me long to pick up a copy for the PS4.  Now I pretty much suck at playing video games, so I'm still only about halfway through the story.  Specifically, I'm stuck on the part where we meet this lady for the second time:
In-Game screenshot

That's the Second Sister, one of the Imperial Inquisitors on a mission to hunt down the remaining Jedi sometime between Order 66 and the beginning of A New Hope.

Because I suck at gaming, she's been repeatedly kicking my butt in a lightsaber duel that is likely going to take me days to figure out.  But that hasn't stopped me from wanting to bring this character to life.  Originally was just going to shop around for a nice, smooth 3D model so I could print the helmet and call it done, but I never came across one that I was happy with.  Instead, I decided to start with the in-game 3D model which someone was good enough to rip and post online.  Here it is imported into Netfabb:
2nd sister in-game model 001

At first glance, the model is a bit of a mess.  That's because it includes everything.  Soft parts, body parts.  Even her hair, eyes, and teeth are mixed in there.  After deleting the geometry I didn't need, here's what the hard parts looked like:
Game Files

Much better.

Here are the hard parts imported into Armorsmith for a digital test fit on a slightly taller than average female figure:
Game Files scaled

If you've never heard of Armorsmith, it's a tremendously helpful tool to do virtual test fitting of your costumes before you commit a bunch of time to making something the wrong size.  You can get more information and check out the software here: https://www.thearmoredgarage.com/

I usually have at least a dozen random costume and prop projects running simultaneously.  While I am always pretty gung ho about them when I start, sometimes I lose steam and things find their way to the backburner or get filed away in storage until I get back to them "someday."  Since I know this about me, I've gotten into the habit of starting armored character projects with the helmet.  That way, if that's all I end up getting done at least I've got a piece that will look cool hanging on the wall.*

Taking a couple of slices out of the helmet model, I printed a quick and dirty size tester.  Here's Dr. Girlfriend trying it on:

It fit her 21.5" head with room to spare, but it was a bit snug on my 23.5" head:

Satisfied that this was a good size for her (and potentially an adequate size for me) I went ahead and printed all of the helmet parts:

At a glance, it looked good:

But it turned out to be really snug in the cheek area:

Looking back at a full-color render of the in-game model, it was even worse for the on-screen character:
Cheek Mesh Problem

That bit of pallid, sickly skin tone is her cheekbone sticking out through the geometry of the helmet.  So I had to make it a tiny bit bigger.  I also changed the angle of the cheek vent area to make the cheek indents a bit shallower.  The larger modified model is almost indistinguishable from the original test:

When Dr. Girlfriend tried it on, it still looked good:

So I got to work smoothing it out.  Step one was rough sanding the whole thing to knock the corners off of the low-poly print:

Then a layer of Bondo and some more sanding:

At the end of the day it looked like so:

The next day I printed the shoulders, belt buckle, ears, and rank bars:

I also printed the inner skirt section:

In order to fit a wider variety of sizes, I decided to widen the neck opening a bit:

Here's the helmet after the second bodyshop session:

In order to get someone's head in through the tiny neck hole, I've decided to mold and cast the jaw separately so it can be removable.  To ensure the two parts mate up properly, I covered the end of the jaw in masking tape and a thin coat of vaseline.  Then piled up some Bondo on the edge of the inner skirt and pressed the jaw into place.  When the Bondo had mostly cured, I roughed out the shape with a knife:


To make the jaw thinner (and more importanly, lighter) I ground out most of the inner geometry with sanding drum on my Dremel:

Then did a quick and dirty job of fairing it out with some more Bondo and 60-grit sandpaper:

At the end of the third bodyshop session, I gave the helmet dome a coat of gray primer to see where I stand:

Helmet Body Primed

Jaw Interior Finalized

Happy that it was smooth enough to proceed, I went ahead and gave it my customary gloss coat of lightish red paint:
Shiny Prototype Done 1

Shiny Prototype Done 2

Shiny Prototype Done 4


I started by mounting the helmet to some cardboard scraps:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Then wrapped it in plastic wrap:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

The surface was covered with a 3/8" layer of oil-based clay with ridges here and there to act as registration keys and allow bubbles to escape.  A small cup was positioned at the highest point to form a funnel:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Then I added a mold flange:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

And laid up the first half of the fiberglass mothermold:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

Once the first half was cured, I removed the clay parting wall and prepped the other side for layup:
Main Helmet Moldmaking

By the end of the day, I was pretty exhausted but I'd just finished the second side of the mothermold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Once the glass had cured, I drilled a series of bolt holes along the flange:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Then, using a pair of regular screwdrivers and exceptional, masculine brawn, I separated the two halves of the mothermold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

With the mothermold set aside I removed the clay, taking care not to disturb the cardboard glued to the bottom of the helmet:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Then I clayed up the lower end of the helmet and added registration dimples all the way around:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

With the helmet thus ready for a rubber jacket, I used hot glue to reseal the mothermold in place,
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

In order to ensure expensive liquid silicone wouldn't drool out and end up all over the place, I used probably too much hot glue on all of the edges:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

Once I was convinced it was all sealed, I mixed and poured in the silicone. This creates a rubber jacket with a nice uniform thickness and no wasted rubber, but there are tons of things that can go wrong in the process.
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Progress

In this case, nothing went wrong and the first portion of the mold was complete.  So it was on to making the next part of the mold.  I started by removing the cardboard that had been attached to the bottom of the helmet and cleaning up the surface of the mothermold.  Then attached a new cardboard skirt to the inner edge with hot glue:
Helmet Mold Bottom Cleaned
NOTE: the binder clips are there to temporarily hold the parts together while the hot glue cools.  Otherwise I've got to stand there like an idiot and hold them with my fingers (which get scorched in the process).

Once that was done, I added more clay to form the shape of the lower section of the rubber jacket.  Once again, a small cup was positioned at the highest point to form a funnel:
Helmet Inner Jacket Formed

As before, this was fiberglassed over, then the clay was removed and the resulting void was filled with silicone rubber.  Then it was time to demold and remove the prototype:
2nd Sister Mothermold Removal

Here's the finished upper section of the mold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Upper Portion Cleaned Out

And the uglier but just as effective lower section of the mold:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Lower Portion

Here's the whole assembly bolted together and ready to use:
2nd Sister Helmet Mold Ready

The mold for the jaw section was handled in pretty much the same way.  Here are the parts once they were all separated:
Jaw Mold Trimmed and Cleaned

Casting the jaw was a simple matter of injecting resin into the sprue on one side until it drooled out of the vent on the other side:
Jaw Poured

This is the first set of cast parts out of the mold:
First cast is successful.

After trimming the flashing and cleaning up the edges, the eye slit was cut out and she was really starting to take shape:
Trimmed helmet front quarter

Trimmed Helmet Up Right

But I'll write more about the finishing of the helmet in the next post about this build.

I was still excited about the build and not really ready to get back to the game and having this lady hand me my own ass a few dozen more times, so I continued making parts.  Tune in next time for the fascinating saga of prototyping and molding the other hard parts.

*I'm still living on a boat with no place to display any of my finished works.  Given the number of helmets I've completed at this point, whenever I move into a house again it's going to have to have one hell of a wall.