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Level 4-3: Assemble Ranged Weapon

18 Feb

Hola fellow Cosplayers! Daniel here! With only two short months or a little over 8 measly weeks from C2E2, the stress has definitely kicked up ten fold with the announcement of The Crown Championships of Cosplay!

What-the-what!? A major cosplay contest at the event where we plan to unveil our first serious cosplay venture!? With Yaya Han as a judge!? Yaya Han!?!?!?

 Bring it on!!!

With Eleanor Lamb’s syringe built, it was time to take a crack at her secondary weapon – the harpoon. There are actually very few reference photos for the design and look of the harpoon and game play references weren’t much help either. So we had to piece together our best interpretation of it based on the couple of sources we had and other peoples’ takes. You can see a little bit of the harpoon on the left hand in the reference picture.

Eleanor Lamb screen shot

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon MatterialsWe again started by cutting a large PVC tube in half to serve as the base for the harpoon mechanism. Sara sanded down and rounded the edges to make for a more comfortable fit. We then attached a 1 ½ ft. long section of 1” PCV pipe to the top of the base to serve as the ‘gun barrel’ for the harpoon itself.

Body of Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon

We fixed a decorative PCV cap on the front of the barrel and decorative PVC connector (that looks like a loading port) to the back-end of the barrel. We then drilled a hole in the front cap to feed the harpoon through.

All in all, the harpoon was starting to shape up nicely, but I wasn’t convinced that we had it looking like it was ‘functional’ as the syringe. What we needed was a ‘compression-chamber-looking-device’ that would give the appearance that the harpoon had propellant capabilities.

Sara dashed my first idea to pieces, which was to have the harpoon barrel feed into a shorter, squatter section of PVC tubing positioned at the back of the barrel to look like a  mini-propane tank. Her concern was that it would look too bulky and would be a hassle to tote around all day. She was quite right.

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon TriggerI decided that the best solution was not one large chamber positioned at the back, but two, smaller chambers arranged on either side.  I took some of our extra 1/2” wooden dowel rod  and cut two identical ‘tubes’ with a 45 degree angle cut at one end.  I then fixed a tube to each side of the barrel and viola! But how does this thing ‘fire?’ We decided to construct a button mechanism to rear portion of the barrel.

We started by gluing one of our smaller Plastic Insulated Bushings to the top of the barrel. However, the circumference of the bushing was slightly wider than the PVC barrel and hung out to the sides. To correct this I constructed a foam housing to straddle the barrel and wrap around the excess bushing.

Button for Harpoon TriggerWe then used the top cap from an old floor lamp as the actual button itself. It resulted in a rather impressive looking button element!

For an added bit of flair we also added a ‘sight’ to the front end of the barrel to even out the design. Luckily our package of flex tubing came with a nifty little plastic connector that did just the trick!

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon Body

Lastly was the harpoon itself! I started by cutting a 2 ½ ft. section of  ¼” dowel rod. I then sanded down the tip to a rounded point.  Now the hard part – the harpoon blades or barbs as they are sometimes called. Which… in hindsight weren’t so hard after all. See what I did with that ellipses there? I’m so tricky! I started by cutting three ¼” slender parallelograms from 2mm foam. I then notched out three slots in the harpoons shaft using our X-acto knife and hot glued them into place.

Foam Blade Shape

And there you have it – a pretty darn good harpoon if I do say so myself!

After a bit of painting well fix it up with some leather arm straps and we’ll be set!

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon

Here’s an action shot complete with Eleanor Lamb’s helmet, syringe and harpoon to tide you over while we get back to work as there is still so little to do and so much time. Wait… strike that, reverse it. — TCG

Eleanor Lamb Helmet and Weapons


Level 4-2: Tool One Completion

11 Feb

Some people embrace chaos, shaping something artful from the midst of scraps, saw dust and plastic shavings. Other people need organization, a step-by-step plan or a list so that they can track their progress. Isn’t it surprising that it’s taken eight months of work for us to make a list? And, wouldn’t you know it, we’re actually better off that we thought! It turns out that we’re running out of things to do before painting, which feels pretty amazing! So, let’s pick up where we left off and hit the ground running.

We’d just about done as much work on Eleanor Lamb‘s syringe as we could before painting but we were still missing the panel that runs along the side. This is an Eleanor Lamb action figure and it’s one of the best views that we can get of the side of her syringe. Eleanor Lamb Syringe Reference

Just as Daniel spent hours obsessing over the details of Subject Delta’s drill, I spent hours obsessing over this single piece of the syringe. It would be easy to just slap a thin piece of cardboard on there, or maybe a piece of foam, but I hated how flimsy it looked. As you can see, it’s a very prominent piece of the syringe so it had to look just right. To start, I made a sketch using the measured dimensions from the syringe that we’d built.

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Sketch

We found a couple of outdoor faucet handles that we planned to use, those are the circles on my little sketch. I also planned to use some rubber weather seal to suggest a tube running beneath the metal sheets which you can see as the shaded lines. I liked the look of this, so I proceeded to cut the shape out in cardboard first and then in foam. I wanted to cover the cardboard in the foam to give the structure more substance.

Syringe Panel Shapes Syringe Panel Glued

I then added a thin foam lining to the plate. I wanted it to look like two flat sheets of metal had been pressed and sealed together. But it still looked and felt too flimsy to me. I spent a good long time staring at it, but no ideas came to me. I thought, maybe if I can determine what it’s function is, I’ll find a solution to my “builder’s block.” Regardless of what it’s actual intended use, we determined that our panel, on our syringe, was housing and protection for the series of tubes that extend  and retracted the syringe needle. Now I knew for sure that what I had built was too thin; that there was no way it could house what I imagined but I went ahead and laid out the handles and tubing before I put everything together.

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe LayoutThose two black, grate-like things are from the boots that Daniel bought for Subject Delta. He was working on his boots at the same time I was working on this darn panel and thought these would make the panel a bit more visual interest. The imaginary tubes would need some sort of ventilation with all the extending and retracting going on; so I added  the grates to my little lay out. But even with all the cool looking details, I still hated it. It was too thin; too flimsy. It looked like an after thought or a sloppy detail that was tacked on because it was in the original character design and I was struggling to justify it. There it was; yellow, ugly and mocking me while Daniel reminded me for the tenth time that I needed to finish this and that there was so much more to do.

I tried to cut a back piece out of foam that I could wrap over the cardboard. This would give me a rounded edge that might satisfy my image of pressed and sealed metal. This didn’t work because the shape was too wacky, also the width of the cardboard was too thin for me to manipulate the foam in the way I wanted.

Next, I tried to sandwich the cardboard between two sheets of foam and then glue the foam together. Then, I thought, I could cut out the desired shape from the glued together foam and curve the edges with the metal tip of the hot glue gun. Did it work? No.

Again, Daniel asked how much longer I was going to stare at the panel and I didn’t have an answer for him. It was taunting me, begging me to just cut my losses, grit my teeth and go with the sub-par panel. Like the stubborn, Crazy Gilbert that I am, I kept staring at it and finally I landed on a solution.

I used two sheets 5 mm craft foam. For the top sheet, I cut out a little hole which I lined in 2 mm craft foam. This is where the little metal grate-like pieces would go. I glued the two sheets together using Elmer’s glue and then went to work on the trim.

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Plate CutoutI nixed my idea of having a raised trim and instead opted for some rubber weather seal along the outside edge. Since my panel itself was thicker, I didn’t feel the need to imply that two sheets had been pressed and sealed together.

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Panel with Edge

I already felt better about the state of this panel and we hadn’t even added the bells and whistles yet! Next I added the rubber weather seal. Since the panel was thicker, the seal didn’t look too out-of-place. I wanted it to look like the tubes ran down into the handles so I cut the edges of the seal at an angle that I could then hot glue into the surface.

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Panel with TubeThen, Daniel drilled the handles through the foam into the body of the syringe which gave us our finished syringe!

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Assembled Even though it’s not entirely accurate to say that it’s finished, we’ve done as much as we can do until we Shellac and paint. After painting we’ll be adding a strap to the back side to help anchor the beast to my arm. So there are more details to come as soon as this Polar Vortex decides to move on along!

Until next time; here’s an action shot to tide you over! — TCG

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe Pre-Painting

Level 4-1: Craft New Tools

23 Jan

Remember all those cosplay blogs where seasoned cosplayers would give tips and tricks and advice? Do you also remember how, in every advice filled count down of the most important things, there’s always the strong suggestion that you not wait until the last-minute. According to these gurus of costuming, if you wait until the last-minute the stress you experience will surely out weigh the joy of the process. Keeping this advice in mind, you plan on taking on your newest cosplay endeavor with plenty of time; say perhaps 10 months? Certainly 10 months is enough to leave one with enough breathing room to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his months of labor right?


It’s true. We’re down to a measly three months before it’s show time and this, beloved readers, is why our posts have become less regular. The evenings at the Crazy Gilbert household have become flurries of building mixed with sleeping and the occasional playing of video games because, let’s face it, Last of Us is just worth a couple of hours a week and you all know it. For the past two weeks, we’ve had a decision to make each evening, take time to scrawl out a post or get in as much work as possible. Even as we speak there’s stitching that needs to be done so this will be a quick post with lots o’ pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Since finishing Subject Delta’s drill, we decided to move our focus over to Eleanor Lamb and her arm toting weaponry. Our first focus: the syringe. Check out the reference picture.

Eleanor Lamb with Helmet Concept Art

Pretty wicked huh?

We started with some PVC  pipe and a dowel rod. Since we’ve been doing more building on week nights, we have to be more conscientious of our neighbors. We’re Crazy Gilberts not Rude Gilberts. So we needed something to muffle the sound of our hand saw. This was Daniel’s solution. Note; those are pillows that I brought to the marriage.

Daniel destroying Pillow

This is Daniel sawing a PVC pipe in half for the base of our syringe. Once it was sawed in half, I took some sand paper to it and rounded the edges so it wouldn’t dig into my arm or wrist. The hardest part of this step in the process was not having the proper tools. A jigsaw would have saved time, spared Daniel’s arm and salvaged my throw pillows!

Next, we took some PVC socket caps along with some more pipe and started on the body of the syringe. We drilled holes into the center of a large and a small socket cape and started piecing our syringe together.

PVC Pieces of Eleanor Lamb Syringe

The nice thing about PVC is that all the tubes have corresponding caps so most sizes will have a cap that will fit! Next came the needle. We took a dowel rod and Daniel sawed the end off at an angle. He then took his drill and a teeny, tiny drill bit and drilled a bevel into the dowel rod. Bevel is a fancy word for hole. We then rounded the edge with sand paper so no one freaks out about a sharpened prop weapon at C2E2.

Needle for Eleanor Lamb's SyringeWith the three pieces in hand, we needed to glue them together. Since we were working with PVC, we took advantage of an adhesive made specifically for PVC; Oatey PVC Cement. We decided to go with a two pack of primer and cement.

Apoxy glue

Glue PVC Together Glue PCV Step One

This stuff had a serious odor and we finally got some use out of the masks we bought for Shellacking. We also opened the windows and turned the fans on and it was still a very heavy scent. Since the weather nor the apartment complex we live in offered any better ventilation options, we made sure to work quickly and seal up the bottles promptly.

Look at what we have here!

Body of Eleanor Lamb's Syringe

That hole you see in the side of the main tube is for this nifty little doo-dad that caught Daniel’s eye at Home Depot. A 90 degree conductor of the non-metallic variety! And wouldn’t you know it, my clear plastic tube fit into it perfectly. And, when screwed into the side of the main tube, it makes a really amazing looking ADAM tube.

Eleanor Lamb Syringe without Plate

For the handle, we used a plain Jane Handy Hook which Daniel hammered flat and then screwed into the base of the main PVC tube.

And since we’re in the habit of giving you a mildly awesome picture at the end of each post, it’s only right to let you know that we refer to these as “action shots.” So here’s a nearly finished Action Shot of Eleanor Lamb’s syringe!!

Eleanor Lamb's Syringe progress

Next post we’ll finish up the syringe and get started on the harpoon. We’ve made a working list and we’re working our way down it but, man oh man, is it going to be a tight finish. Wish us luck! — TCG

Level 2-6: Regroup to Progress

5 Nov

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet and Harness

Now for the second half of our Saturday night Work-a-Thon and beyond! While Daniel was working away on Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet, I was busy with the harness. Even though it’s not the flashy, hardware speckled spectacle that Subject Delta’s harness was, Eleanor’s harness posed its own set of difficult intricacies.

All that I needed to do was attach a foam liner along the outer edge which might seem like a simple task until you take into account the imperfections in the proportions of the frame. Sure, building these on ourselves made for a snug, customized look, but like most bodies our are asymmetrical. In other words, we’re crooked and crooked is difficult to line in ruler straight strips of foam. The front was no problem but the back, oh boy, the back is where I ran into some hangups.

Eleanor Lamb harness and helmet 2 backThis is a decent angle for you to really see the hump on the back of the harness which, at a glance, doesn’t seem like it should be too much trouble. Until I laid a strip of foam along the edge, I didn’t think it would be too bad either. Foam Lining on Eleanor Lamb's harness

Until I discovered that I would have to “Frankenstein” the strips of foam together with little cuts and hot glue. It took about four different pieces of foam in an 8 inch section and then three strips on the other side. It was a hassle but it was satisfying!

Foam Lining on Eleanor Lamb's harness

While this may be hard to believe, in all the months that we’ve been working on this project, this was the first where we both needed the glue gun at the same time. And instead of going out to buy a second glue gun, like normal people, we decided to share it. And by share it, I mean sliding it back and forth to one between opposite ends of the wooden board we were using as a single work surface. I’m sure it was both amusing and adorable. We’ve been told we’re adorable.

The fruits of our night’s labor looked something like this:

Eleanor Lamb's helmet Crooked Harness

Notice anything askew? Aside from my looking like I have a brown mustache, that harness is incredibly crooked. At first, we wondered if this was because of the way I was standing but, sadly, the bright yellow lining made clear our mistake but we had to wait until the next day to fix it.

Bright and early the next morning, before I even brushed my teeth, I was up and working. Daniel went to go get breakfast but, before he left, I had him take a couple of reference pictures. Turns out the source of the problem was a big freaking gap between my left shoulder and the harness. Looks like I might have had some major tension in that shoulder while Daniel was building the frame.

Crooked Harness Front ViewCrooked Harness Side View

So I whipped out the old glue gun, cut some strips of 5 mm craft foam and made some foam pads. The difference was amazing!

Harness Corrected Front Harness Corrected Side View

And with that little hitch out of our way, we were just a short sprint away from completing the harness. But while I stretch in preparation for the 10 yard dash, Daniel’s going to tell you about his new favorite product.

Rubber Weather SealRubber Weatherseal!!! It’s made for doors and windows but, man, is it my new favorite material to work with. It comes in a variety of shapes, has its own built-in adhesive strip and is made of durable, flexible rubber. How can you not love it already?

I came across this little gem while perusing the aisles of Home Depot in search of something to use for the seam work on Eleanor Lamb’s helmet. We sketched out the shape of the seams using one of our black markers, cut the pieces to fit, peeled off the self-adhesive backing and laid them in place.

Easiest step we’ve had to date!

This stuff was also really easy to cut a piece together into nice, crisp corners. It also bends quite nicely to allow for smooth curves. Great stuff!!! Can’t wait to find other uses for it as we proceed with this and other cosplay projects. It’s easy to work with, yields great results and makes what would other wise be a painstaking detail process a snap. And look at those results. — Daniel

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet Back View

And we’re always thankful for an affordable product that saves us time! You can also see that we added the little port holes to the back. Just like Subject Delta’s helmet we used plastic insulating bushing rings, found from the plumbing section at Home Depot. They come in all sizes which lend a bit of consistency as we moved from size to size between the two of our helmets.

Next, we applied a second layer of the 2 mm craft foam to the edges of the harness, a bit of that magic weatherseal, a couple of those wire rope clips, seven wing nuts and the harness was all set! This was a very quick step since most of these materials and processes were used on Subject Delta’s helmet.

Eleanor Lamb's Harness front view

The next to last step concerns the little panels you see running along the top of Eleanor Lamb’s helmet between the main porthole and the “little hat,” as we’ve taken to calling it. We decided to make these out of 2 mm craft foam strips that would be glued to the helmet and tucked beneath the flex tubing that runs between the porthole and the little hat.

helmet ridge stripsDaniel cut, positioned and then trimmed with the X-acto knife each individual strip. He then glued them into place being careful of the spacing not only between each strip but between the two rows as well.

Ridges on Helmet FinishedWith most of the details now in place, I cut a couple of rings out of 5 mm craft foam, Daniel slapped some wood glue between the layers and voila – we’ve got ourselves a bonafide Eleanor Lamb helmet!

We attempted several selfies so that you guys could get an epically awesome picture of the two for us in our helmets but none of them met our high standard of Bioshocking awesomeness. So we’ll get that together for you all to enjoy in the next post.

Until then, any Chicago readers picked up their C2E2 tickets yet? The count down on their site makes this very, very real. Whoa!! — TGC

Level 2-5: Split Up to Cover More Ground

28 Oct

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and boy, have we missed all of you! We’ve been cooking up something big and it just didn’t seem right to give you little teasers when our end goal was just within finger’s reach. We’ve been collecting more materials from Home Depot and cutting more tiny little foam pieces. We’ve been working separately and together; trying to accommodate each other’s evenings all the while making progress. We’re really proud to give you this picture.

Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb's Helmets

But fear not! We’re not going to stop at simply showing you a picture. No! We’ll fill you in on exactly how we got here. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on all the fun!

If you’ll think back two weeks ago, we’d left Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet at the papier-mâché phase. The helmet and the harness were each connected to their own wooden circle base but before we could join them, we needed to divide and conquer. With a horror movie remake marathon on TV, Daniel and I settled in for a work filled Saturday night.

Daniel works on Helmet Sara Works on Harness

First things first; the porthole. We bought a closet flange spacer ring for the actual porthole and a sealing ring to use for the inner ring but, when we set everything out, we found that it would be easier to use the ring as a stencil and cut the whole thing out of craft foam.

Porthole with Ring Stencil Porthole Center Cutout

Then it was just a matter of hot gluing the foam into the spacer ring and we had our completed port-hole. As Daniel traced the shape of the porthole onto the papier-mâché sphere I asked him if he was having flashbacks to the last helmet he punctured and he said that it’s easier the second time. And sure enough it was. He didn’t even ask me to mute the TV as he worked. What a steady hand one helmet’s worth of confidence can give you!

Porthole over Cut Eleanor Lamb's Helmet

Now to screw the porthole into the actual helmet. Our first attempt was off. Seems we need different lengths of screws to get a flat item onto the surface of a round item; duh! Luckily we had a few longer screws left over from the handles that wound up on the back of Subject Delta’s helmet. Just a few screws and we had ourselves a lovely looking porthole for Eleanor Lamb’s helmet.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet with PortholeYou’ll notice the little black knob up Daniel’s left arm, his left, your right. That is a bit of flexible PVC pipe coupling we found at Home Depot. If you’ll check out the reference photo again you’ll notice what looks like a knob on the top of her helmet and the coupling was already close to the shape we needed. We trimmed some off the top and bottom, paired it with another PVC ring and we were just about ready to put it on the helmet.

PVC Coupling Pre-Cutting PVC Coupling pieces

PVC Pipes on Helmet

Daniel drilled yet another hole into the helmet, just big enough for the bottom piece of PVC. Then we sealed the top and bottom with hot glue. Next, we added a bottom layer of foam and we were ready for the fun part; the ribbed tubing that runs around the front and top port-holes. We used some flex tubing and, after a fun little game of tug-o-war, it was ready to stretch out and loop over the helmet. Daniel secured it with heaps of hot glue and this is what we ended up with; a handy-dandy way to cover up those pesky screws.

Tubing Around the Porthole

Believe or not; that’s only Daniel’s part of the work from that Saturday night! There’s much more to come! See you next time — TCG

Oh. Did I mention that C2E2 tickets go on sale this week? Color me excited!

Level 2-4: Modify Helmet

15 Oct

Eleanor Lamb with Helmet Concept Art

Daniel has spent the last two weeks with his back hunched over Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet and harness, his fingers pruned and coated in glue and little bits of news paper. He’s been papier-mâché-ing like a mad man! He finished up layers three, four, five and six on the helmet and he finally achieved a globular, less egg-like shape. He has determined through trial and error that paper from The Onion is less sturdy than paper from our local Red Eye, in case you’re thinking of starting a papier-mâché habit in the area.

The harness didn’t take nearly as many layers due to Daniel’s superior craftsmanship. The shape might also have been a contributing factor. After a few layers, we ended up with this.

Eleanor Lamb harness

Not too shabby if I do say so myself. However, if we check out the reference picture you’ll see that we need a more rounded edge. So I cut some rounded strips of card board, along with a couple of very thin strips that tapered into the top of the harness near the shoulder. While this may not sound like a large variation, here’s a side by side comparison of the before and after.

On the left you’ll see the whole structure looking blockish on the front and square on the shoulders. On the right, you’ll see what it looks like with the additions to the front and the shoulders.

Harness and helmet 1 Harness and Helmet 2

Here’s the back view.

We added some foam rings between the wooden rings to give it some extra height.

Eleanor Lamb harness and helmet 1 back Eleanor Lamb harness and helmet 2 back

I’d say it’s coming together nicely, wouldn’t you?

Eleanor Lamb harness and helmet

Next time we’ll have lots of little things to share as compile all the details of the helmet and begin work on some of the many props. — TCG

Level 2-3: Upgrade Player 2

2 Oct

Remember when I asked all of you to knock on some wood because Daniel kept saying that Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet and harness would be easy to build? Thank you to all of you that did because it must have been enough to keep Murphy from moving in or even squatting in the yard. We have some amazing pictures to show you but not a lot to describe because we’ve been there and done that and you’ve all been there and done that with us!

The last time you saw Eleanor Lamb’s helmet, I was reinforcing the frame in preparation for papier-mâché. Daniel had expressed some concern about applying papier-mâché to the plastic ball. He was worried that when we popped the ball would take the papier-mâché with it. His solution was to case it in Saran Wrap before beginning the tedious task of papier-mâché.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet with Wrap Eleanor Lamb's Helmet Paper Mache StartEleanor Lamb's Helmet Paper Mache

Daniel applied two layers of papier-mâché and before we knew it, the time had come to pop the plastic ball. Of course we did wait until the papier-mâché had a chance to dry and set but I’ll never forget the way Daniel came around the couch with the helmet in his hands like a cake with candles and announced it was time to pop the ball!

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet Popping Ball

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet without Ball

Good bye ball.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet

Hello wearable helmet!

Next, it was time to make the harness. I’m sure you all remember the nightmare that was building Subject Delta’s helmet. And while I anguished over the building and the taping and the cardboard strip cutting, I couldn’t sympathize with Daniel having to sit and stand still for upwards of four hours until it was my turn to be the model. Daniel worked for maybe two and a half hours on me but I was achy and grumpy and my legs kept sticking to the wooden stool we were using for me to perch on. In short, I was a wiggly model. I’m sure it was like trying to cut the hair of a toddler. But, to quote Daniel, we learned a lot from Subject Delta’s helmet, and it benefited this stage immensely.

Eleanor Lamb with Helmet Concept Art

Daniel taped the outline of the harness directly to me and then screwed one of our wooden circles into place.

Eleanor Lamb's Harness ring

This allowed us to really get the angle in place before trying to construct the rest of it. The only difficult section was the hump on the back of the harness. In case you can’t tell from my photos, I’m really small so there isn’t a whole lot of length to my back and shoulders for him to work with.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet frame Eleanor Lamb's Helmet frame Eleanor Lamb's Helmet frame

But within a couple of hours of measuring, cutting and duct taping we had a completely constructed harness that looked a little something like this!

Eleanor Lamb's harness frame Eleanor Lamb's Harness front

Eleanor Lamb's harness back

Easy-peasy! The next step will be more papier-mâché and then, maybe if you wish real hard, we’ll be able to start working on something other than helmets and harnesses! — TCG

Level 2-2: Solo Mission – Strengthen Helmet

17 Sep

Eleanor Lamb with Helmet Concept Art

This week, we’re doing things a little differently in order to accommodate our crazy schedules. We’ll be posting separately so you won’t have to go without a complete weekly dose of Those Crazy Gilberts! Last week, we were staring at the incomplete shell of Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet, wondering what the best course of action would be.

Eleanor Lamb helmet cardboard cut out

The prospect of spending hours of work on the process of tracing and cutting and gluing wedges of cardboard into the frame was hardly appealing; there had to be another way. Finally, Daniel suggested that we lace more strips of cardboard through the vertical frame horizontally. This would give the helmet more stability once we popped the ball. Then, he said, we could line it in cling wrap to keep the  papier-mâché from adhering to the ball. Then we should be able to pop the ball and pull it out of the frame.

And so, I got to cutting even more cardboard strips. I can say with certainty that I’ve mentioned how much I hate cutting cardboard strips at this point. But it needed to be done, and thankfully we only needed three 41″ strips.

I put out our most complete cardboard box and went to measure and cut. But I then realized that, when we cut the cardboard box, we hadn’t cut along the inner seam. Since we needed such long strips, we would need a piece of cardboard without seams so Daniel had to go all the way down from our third floor apartment to get me a brand new cardboard box. This might seem like something that should be obvious but, if I can save someone else  a few steps; so be it! The lesson here is: when cutting open your cardboard boxes, always cut along the seam where the cardboard has been glued together. That way you have four full panels of continuous, glorious cardboard.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet Cardboard Frame

Next, I got to weaving. I took the strips of cardboard and slipped them between the frame and the ball and then glued the seam together with hot glue as we’d done to the top star steam. In no time at all, I had a reinforced frame for Eleanor Lamb’s helmet.

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet Cardboard Frame

Our next step on the helmet is to papier-mâché and then go to town in the same way we did Subject Delta’s helmet.

Later this week you’ll be hearing from Daniel and then, next week we’ll be back on track! — Sara

Player 2: Press Start to Join

10 Sep

Frame for Eleanor Lamb Helmet

I don’t know about you all, but I could use a break from Subject Delta’s helmet. This week, we began work on Eleanor Lamb‘s helmet. Daniel kept saying that this shape was going to be a whole lot easier to execute and I kept telling him to stop saying that! But he doesn’t listen to me so everyone knock on some wood!

Eleanor Lamb's Helmet basic shape

First of all, we needed to get something to help us build the shape of her helmet and something to anchor it to; a bouncy-ball and a flat wooden ring. You’ll also notice a metal strainer in the picture. Coincidence? I think not! After we taped the ball onto the base we needed something to stabilize it while we worked and, wouldn’t you know it, that ball fits perfectly in our kitchen strainer. Don’t worry; it was clean.

Next, I went back to cutting cardboard strips. Have I mentioned how sick I am of cardboard strips? This time around was easier because we had the appropriate tools. I used a box cutter this time instead of the X-Acto Knife.  While the box cutter is anything but elegant, it gets the job done. It was easier to cut the long strips more quickly and the less time I have to spend cutting and bending cardboard strips, the better!

Next, we busted out the hot glue gun. The plan was to tuck the cardboard strips between the ball and the wooden ring and then glue the cardboard to the ring. Daniel was very insistent about this process while I, on the other hand, was afraid that we would puncture the ball with the edges of the cardboard. Oddly enough I wasn’t nearly as concerned about the hot, metal, plastic-melting tip of the glue gun that we would later aim at our only ball.

We positioned the first strip, me wincing as Daniel pushed on the ball and wedged the cardboard indelicately into place, and I moved in with the hot glue gun. But I had to stop. Because of the legs on the front of the glue gun I couldn’t get the tip close enough without having to blindly shove the glue gun into the seam. So we conducted the rarely attempted hot glue gun leg surgery. Now we could operate with full visibility.

Eleanor Lamb's helmet frameThis was nerve-wracking work; Daniel watching as I put the glue into the seam. Sometimes we stressed each other out by trying to direct the other. This became another exercise in communicating about something more than the task at hand, we had to take care to let the other know when our tone of voice was a hindrance instead of a help.

During the planning phase, I had wanted to use single strips of cardboard, reaching from one side of the ball over to the opposite but Daniel came up with a plan to give us a strong focal point at the top of the helmet and make those pesky cardboard strips more manageable. I have to admit, this is pretty cool and the pictures that go with it are also pretty cool. — Sara

If there’s one thing I learned from the construction process on my helmet; it’s that the skeleton is the most important aspect of the helmet! Get the foundation correct and the rest will fall into place all the more smoothly. Sara had the right idea with ‘continual strips’, but I convinced her that we only needed half strips. It was my belief that the other strips could be cut and made to meet the first strip in the middle. Sara would lay a strip of hot glue and I would smooth it with my finger, fusing the two pieces together. It turned into an awesome star shape!

Eleanor Lamb's helmet top frame

The result was better than expected and, once papier-mâchéd,  will give us a dome with a much smoother and much more consistent surface. And, since Sara doesn’t get a helmet to help with the pressure at the top of the structure, we wanted to reinforce it with a cardboard circle.

Eleanor Lamb Helmet frame

We bent it and worked it so that it was good and flexible and then glued it on.  We had a pretty complete frame but I was afraid if we papier-mâchéd directly onto the plastic of the ball, we would run into problems when we went to cut our potholes. — Daniel

My solution was this. Trace the shapes of the negative space between the cardboard strips, trace the stencil onto the card board and cut it out. Then I should have been able to glue the wedges of cardboard in between the strips and then we’d have a solid ball of cardboard that was safe to papier-mâché and cut. So I had Daniel rig up that light and I started working on the first section with printer paper.

Eleanor Lamb's helmet tracing Eleanor Lamb Helmet card board tracing Eleanor Lamb helmet cardboard cut out

Let’s analyze this step by step. Firstly, I should have used tracing paper instead of printer paper. Although I thought I had solved the translucency problem by back lighting the ball. Secondly, remember how I said that we had bought a cheap X-Acto Knife instead of splurging on a really good quality one? Well, that cheep, bendy X-Acto Knife cut the shape I needed but it cut at an angle so when I went to fit it in between the cardboard strips I had to trim it. This trimming resulted in our third point; all that space between the wedge and the cardboard strips for the hot glue to seep through and pop our only balloon.

At this point I stopped and did some math. There were 13 sections on the ball and each would require two stencils; a top and bottom. These two stencils would not be identical from section to section so each would have to be drafted and drawn. That’s 26 stencils for those of you counting. Now, if they worked perfectly I could probably whip them out in about 5 minutes a piece which would put me at 130 minutes or a little over two hours of work. But this calculation is based on everything being perfect the first try which, based on the first try documented in the pictures above, wasn’t going to happen.

Daniel and I stared at each other as we weighed our options. Would it be worth the time and possible frustration to proceed? Or should we take some other course of action? The only problem with taking alternate action was that neither of us knew what that would be.

Check back with us next week. Hopefully we’ll have this figured out by then! — TCG