Game Paused – Sort Inventory

23 Jul

Working AwayA wise man once said, “He who wishes to go far must tread carefully.” Now,  just in case you’re trying to Goggle that quote, I’ll come clean; it’s not a real quote. But it does make a good opening for this week’s slightly less exciting post. Subject Delta’s helmet was finally coming together and we were beyond pleased with it. I would sometimes catch Daniel just standing in front of it, running his fingers over the papier-mâché whispering sweet nothings to it like you would to a budding flower, or maybe a baby. We knew that the time had come to move into the next phase which would involve adding layers to and eventually making cuts into our hard-earned helmet. Frankly, we were terrified. The thought of making a single cut that could result in having to scrap it again and start over gives me hives. Which is why we’ve decided to take a little time and plan and test and try out some techniques before doing a darn thing to that beautiful piece of work.

It was strange not having a firm, physical grasp for the next step. I felt like we were hovering in this unspecific we-need-to-do-something-ness that didn’t have any real direction. So we sat down with a piece of paper and a couple of our reference pictures and got to making a list of layers.

  1. Wingnuts
  2. Rivets
  3. 2 mm Craft Foam – for the lining around the harness
  4. 5 mm Craft Foam – for the porthole
  5. Dowel Rod – for the porthole
  6. Push Lights
  7. Rope Light – for the porthole
  8. Grommets – for the air tubes
  9. Handles – for the back of the helmet

It appeared like a little hunting and gathering was in our future. But the first order of business was getting our hands on some spray resin to seal the layers of the helmet and papier-mâché so that it would all appear to be of the same material. Daniel had some experience using it on craft models and was confident that this was the stuff we needed. However, did you know that it’s illegal to purchase spray paint or tinted resin in Chicago city limits? Because we sure didn’t! Turns out that we’re going to have to make a special trip to the suburbs when it comes time to purchase our bronze spray paint to color the helmet. Luckily, what we needed was available to us, it just took a bit of hunting. I’ll let Daniel tell you a little bit more about them. — Sara

Resin Sprays

Some of the products I had in mind, that would serve our purposes, were: Plasti Dip, spray on fiberglass and spray resins. I’ve worked with all of them before on various little projects here and there growing up. The trouble with Plasti Dip is that while it gives you a nice sealed rubber surface it tends to peel. Spray on fiberglass can be very tricky to work with. It’s heavy and messy, especially when sanding as it gets everywhere and is itchy. Spray on resins though, are light and can be applied in multiple layers to create a hard, sealed shell.

What we have pictured are the two options available to us in the spray on resin category.

Contestant #1, pictured on the left, is Minwax Fast-Drying Polyurethane. It is primarily used for woodwork such as flooring, molding and doors. It’s used to seal in the woodwork after staining or painting and it dries to a nice hard shell that can be sanded.

Contestant #2, pictured on the right, is Zinsser Bull’s Eye Shellac. It’s pure shellac in the form of spray. This is used mainly for craft projects to seal in paint or to seal in layers of material such as a scrapbook page. This one also dries into a hard shell but is not as ideal for sanding, which is okay because it usually has a smoother finished surface to begin with. — Daniel

So, with accessories and adhesives and finishing materials in hand, it was time to do some testing.

Round One – Adhesive Battle. FIGHT!

Contact Adhesive vs. Elmer’s Glue All

Prior to starting the work on Subject Delta’s helmet, we did a lot of research on Eva foam. This included reading over blog tutorials and watching YouTube videos and the thing that I came away with was knowing that we had to have a contact adhesive if we wanted to glue together craft foam. Besides, the more toxic something is the stronger it should be, right? — Sara

True, contact adhesives are generally stronger, but from what I’ve experienced, they are also more toxic and more corrosive  in nature. I had a feeling that it would melt the delicate Eva foam and from working with wood glues and Elmer’s glues I knew that they often do the job nicely when all you really need them to do is to stick two objects together long enough to seal them together. — Daniel

Elmers Glue Test Contact Adhesive Test

Winner: Daniel!

Even after following the directions on the tube which included roughing the edges a little and waiting for the glue to become “tacky” before putting the foam and cardboard together, the edges bowed up. This might have been taken as just a lesson to use the adhesive more liberally had the Elmer’s not turned out so easily and beautifully.

Test Set - Unfinished

Round Two – Finishing Battle. FIGHT!

We prepared a set of samples to test the two different finishing sprays on. We were looking to fill in minor blemishes like cracks and creases and we were looking to see what would happen with the porous foam. To prepare the foam, we sealed two samples with the same mixture of Elmer’s Glue-All and water we used to papier-mâché the helmet; this is done to prevent the chemicals of the resin sprays from eating away at it. Starting on the top left and working clockwise we have: sealed foam with seam, sealed foam on papier-mâché, unsealed foam on papier-mâché and unsealed foam with seam.

This is what unsealed foam looks like in the light.

This is what unsealed foam looks like in the light.

This is what the sealed foam looks like in the light.

When working with any sort of product that is sprayed on, always make sure to work outside or somewhere with excellent ventilation. The fumes can get pretty heavy, even when working on such small samples we could see it hanging in the air. We tested the sprays on a set of sealed and unsealed samples, layering on a total six coats. And, completely unintentionally, we were banking on opposite products for the win.

I had worked with brush-on shellac before and had found them effective at creating a nice, hard, sealed shell; but one that was uneven and far from smooth. This gave me some apprehensions going into testing. To be honest though, I hadn’t had a lot of experience with a spray-on polyurethane but from the can’s description of “self-leveling,” I figured I had this round in the bag.  — Daniel

The idea of something creating a hard shell that we could paint sounded like gold, especially since the helmet is supposed to look like it is made out of metal. I could tell as I sprayed it that it was coming out thick and really coating the samples. Honestly, there weren’t a lot of technical reasons behind my rooting for the shellac, it just seemed to be doing what it said on the can. — Sara

Winner: Sara!

Shellac Unsealed Foam Test

Sample 1

Shellac Sealed Foam Test

Sample 2

Both the sealed and the unsealed foam are smooth and the edges, where the foam meets the cardboard and papier-mâché, are sealed nicely into one piece. If you were to slap a coat of paint on either of these it would look like one uniform material. And, based on this test, we may not even have to seal the foam as the unsealed foam in Sample 2 appears a bit smoother than the sealed foam in Sample 1.

Poly Unsealed Foam Test

Sample 3

Poly Sealed Foam Test

Sample 4

These are the polyurethane tests. Sample 3 is unsealed and Sample 4 is sealed. If you’ll look along the bottom of Sample 3, you can see that there are still gaps between the foam and the base and the imperfections from the papier-mâché are still quite clear. In Sample 4, the seam where the foam was glued together is still clearly there as is a definite ridge between the base and the foam.

Even though we feel like we’re inching along at this point, there is value in taking time to properly test out products and techniques that are new. Measure twice, cut once. This is a legitimate saying that we’re taking to heart and, hopefully, it will keep us from sliding backwards. — Sara

Do you have a story about a time you wished that you had “measured twice?” Or maybe when you’ve tested out a new technique – how did it turn out? Why not share it with us in the comment box below?

Thanks for stopping by this week!! — TCG


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