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Level 3-4: Stabilize Weapon

7 Jan

Subject Delta Drill Reference

Greetings Co-Op Campaign fans! Hasn’t this been a crazy busy holiday season? I know we’ve felt more than a little hectic over at the Crazy Gilbert abode but we have an update to share with you and three months to go until C2E2! When you last checked in, we’d made some pretty amazing headway on Subject Delta’s drill and now we’re going to finish that up. Let’s check our work against our reference photo.

Subject Delta's Drill Reference  Subject Delta Drill with Base

We’ve got the blades on the cone of the drill and we’ve recreated that metallic, fan-like section around the wrist and now we need to create some cuffs, bars and hydraulics. So we gathered our materials from our local Home Depot and started an evening of work.

For our version of Subject Delta’s drill, we imagined that the entire silver fan section would rotate when the drill was activated so this drill would need something to connect to the arm that would help keep the weapon stable. (For the record, our drill will not be functional but it’s going to look really darn cool!) For these cuffs we purchased a thin plastic coupler and hub-fit adapter from Home Depot’s plumbing department. These were thin enough to cut through and flexible enough to allow Daniel to slide his arm through it when wearing his bulky jumpsuit. For the first cuff, we wanted to attach it with some constructed hydraulics.

On the reference photo, you can see the hydraulics along the top of the drill; a set of two tubes starting from the metal fan and extending to the first cuff.

Constructed Hydraulic for Drill We cut the lengths of the hydraulics from a dowel rod and then used some of the 2 mm craft foam to case the ends. I cut a single strip of foam, set the dowel rods in place and then hot glued the foam into a ring. We then used screws and cap nuts to attach the hydraulics to the cuff. We used some of the flex tubing left over from Eleanor Lamb’s helmet to cover the dowel rod. You can see it put together here. Next came the tricky step; attaching the hydraulics to the metal section on the drill. Using Daniel’s actual, functioning drill, we ran some holes through the metal and plastic running along the inside and then, with some more screws and cap nuts we attached the dowels to the metal. Because we were drilling through metal, we wore eye protection and took special care to collect any shredded metal shards from our drilling since we’re doing all of our work in our living space. Repeat on the other side and we’ve got one good-looking little number!

Subject Delta's Drill with HydraulicsNext, we needed to make some bars that would link the first cuff to the elbow and then to the upper arm cuff.

Subject Delta Drill ReferenceHere you can see the full length of the drill and bars going up to Subject Delta’s shoulder. For our purposes, we have the bars stopping at a cuff at Daniel’s upper arm. We started with another plastic coupler, then we measured the distance from the coupler to Daniel’s elbow and then from the elbow to the first coupler that was already attached to the drill. This gave us the measurements for the metal bars.

To make the metal bars we decided to use plastic hanger strap. We sandwiched some cardboard between two layers of strap to give it some rigidity and then we drilled through the preexisting holes to mask the cardboard.

Metals Bars for Drill

With a few washers and a screw and cap nut, we attached our first bar to the upper arm coupler. We chose to use a larger washer for the bottom and then a smaller for the top, it’s a little bit more interesting to look at that way, don’t you think?

Top Hinge Subject Delta DrillNext, we created a hinge at the elbow, connecting two bars with washers, a screw and a cap nut. Again, we used a large washer beneath a small washer, this time for consistency.

Drill Elbow Joint

Because of the size of the cuff around the forearm, we had to do the small washer only, but we have a sneaking suspicion that the whole mama-jama is going to distract from this minor inconsistency. What do you think?

Subject Delta's Drill Side View

And here’s the action shot with helmet lights and suit!

Subject Delta Cosplay Pre-PaintI’d say that it’s coming together nicely! Since we aren’t able to make a function drill, and by functioning I mean spinning, we definitely want Daniel to have freedom in his motion. As of now, there’s a small hitch in this. The screws we used to connect the elbow joints are a touch too small. And, because they are too small, the bars won’t straighten out after they’ve been bent.

Drill Wacky Elbow Joint Drill Wacky Joint Result

A quick trip to the hardware store will remedy this problem. Now Subject Delta’s drill joins the ranks of Subject Delta’s helmet and Eleanor Lamb’s helmet as it waits for painting. As for the weather, well there’s about 2 feet of snow outside so we won’t be Shellacking or spray painting any time soon. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a short winter this year! — TCG


Level 3-3: Fit Weapon

17 Dec

Subject Delta's Drill Reference

Greetings readers and fear not, we’ve been working like busy little bees on Subject Delta‘s drill. With the tedious task of  papier-mâché behind us, we’ve started working with some fresh, new materials and we’ve made some excellent headway! For a lovely change in pace, Daniel’s going to start us off as he describes working with plywood to create a handle for the drill.

Drill Handle TracedNow that we had the main body of the drill constructed, the question was, “How do we make it easy to hold and carry while giving the rest of the drill a sturdy and supportive base?” At first, I thought about using a single dowel rod but it didn’t give us much to attach the rest of the drill to. Then it dawned on me that a plywood base with holes cut out of it to form a handle bar would be perfect. It’s light weight and would give us plenty of surface area to anchor the drill to. Thankfully, Home Depot carries smaller, individual sections of plywood that are perfect for small projects and simple home repairs. We had hoped that they could cut the circle out for us at the store, since we didn’t have anything more than a simple hand saw at home. Unfortunately, they couldn’t and, for a couple that relies on public transportation, renting the tools were completely out of the question so we decided to tough it out.

Makeshift Saw HorseTracing the Drill BaseCutting shapes out of wood can be difficult without the proper tools and a steady work surface. Our end table wound up as the steady work surface in this instance. Sara wasn’t hovering and nervous at all… Using the base of the drill we traced a circle onto the plywood, we laid a towel down and I got to it. Rather than killing myself by trying to cut the shapes free-handed I decided to use the drill to cut some starter holes. I then drilled a continuous series of holes along the lines I wanted to cut; this way my hand saw would have less wood to cut through.

Drilling guide for Base Drill Holes Guide Hand Saw for Drill Base

30 minutes and a blister on my finger later and I had the basic shape cut out. Though the basic shape was there, it was rough around the edges and just a smidgen too large to fit the opening of the cone. Lucky for me, and my blister, my drill bit set came with a couple of handy-dandy sandpaper rolls attachments which I used to smooth out the edges and grind down the excess around the outside edge. Here’s the end result! — Daniel

Finished Drill Base

You might think that the next step would be to attach this lovely new base to the cone, but you would be wrong. Don’t feel bad though, I was wrong in this assumption too. But that’s only because I get stuck thinking about the next step instead of three steps ahead like my super-smart husband. So, here he is again to explain the very strange picture below.

Drill Base AnchorIf you’ll check out our reference photo you’ll see that at the base of the drill there’s a fan-like mechanism with rotating blades backed by what looks like a cheese grater. Rather than attaching the base and then constructing the mechanism, I wanted to build this “cheese grater” part of the drill  and use it as a bridge between the body of the drill and the arm strap system. Sort of like that song; the drill body’s is connected to the wood base, the wood base’s connected to the “cheese grater,” the “cheese grater’s” connected to the fan-like mechanism, the fan-like mechanism’s connected to the arm strap system and so forth.

When it came to attaching the fan-like mechanism section, I first thought about using thin individual strips but then realized that if I used one larger, continual band of material that it could be used to attach the fan-like mechanism to the base. I could then emulate that “cheese grater” look by drilling holes into this band and they would peek through the blades. Since I had left over cone, I decided to use those scraps, hence you see orange “cheese grater.”

The left over cone material was strong and pliable, perfect for securely attaching the fan-like mechanism to the base; but if you’ll notice, it does not contour as perfectly as I would like, leaving a slight gap at the back. This is due to the angled design of the cone.

Thankfully, this  “cheese grater” band will be housed inside the fan-like mechanism section, masking the gap. Plus, this gap section will be on the underside of the drill where no one will see it anyway.

Metal Outside Cone Bending the Metal

I attached the  “cheese grater” band to the drill-base with four wood screw (two on each side) and the drilled the series of holes. I bent the tabs of the fan-like mechanism section to give it that fan-blade look and then fitted it over the “cheese grater” band and attached it with two bolts with cap-nuts. — Daniel

Drill Base Together

And voila, we have the base of our drill. Next we shoved that base into the papier-mâchéd cone and with a couple of wood screws we secured it.

 Subject Delta Drill with Base

But we weren’t done here. No siree! Next, we needed to create a bar and strap system that would connect the drill all the way up Daniel’s arm. But I’m afraid that you’ll have to wait for next week. Be sure to check back next week! – TCG

Level 3-2: Refine Weapon

26 Nov

They say that you make time for what’s really important, but I don’t think those guys that said that had the months of November and December in mind. Those Crazy Gilberts are playing catch up in a major way and here we are, merely days away from Thanksgiving, Daniel’s birthday behind us and a whole boat load of things left to build. Don’t worry though; I remember where we left off and I won’t leave you hanging because I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to know how Subject Delta‘s drill is coming. Aren’t you?

Subject Delta's Drill Pre-CuttingWhen we last left the drill project, we have something that looked a lot like a crude, Christmas tree made out of Legos. Our next step was to trim and glue them together but how would we ensure that the blades would taper at the correct proportions? For a split, foolish second, we considered free forming it; just trusting the scissors and the foam and the universe. But then we came to our senses! Once again, Daniel’s tin foil trick came in handy.

Daniel positioned the foil and then I came in and traced it out. What’s great about using the tin foil is that it’s easy to re-position and bend into shape. It’s a very forgiving and cheap tool.

foil cutting foam guideTraced Line on Drill Blades

Snip, snip and we’re set to move on.

Foam Drill Blades CutFor our next couples activity; hot gluing! One of us would lay down a line of hot glue while the other would follow and smoosh the foam together to make our blade shape. Since my hands are so teeny and delicate, Daniel got the job of smooshing our foam together. Then, we went in and added layers of glue to the base of the blades, adding some more strength to their structure. We also used the tip of the gun to smooth out the seams between the strips of foam to give it a more uniform look.

Subject Delta's Drill  Foam Blade


Subject Delta's Drill Foam Front View Subject Delta's Drill Foam Blades Side View

Now all that’s left is the small, hardly time-consuming papier-mâché step. And by hardly time-consuming I mean horrifically time-consuming. Not only did Daniel insist on medium size strips of news paper strips cut to the curvature of each blade, but he also took hundreds of tiny, thin strips of newspaper to line each edge of blade. In case there’s any doubt of Daniel’s dedication to this project, take a look at this.

Scale of  Papier-mâché Drill Blades  Papier-mâché Along Drill Blades

Allow me to quote myself, “It finally happened. 11/10/2013, 10:04 PM. Daniel is sick of paper-mâché.” – Sara; Facebook.

Daniel looked over at me, his fingers coated in glue, his back aching from hunching over the drill and he said, “Whatever we build in the future is gonna depend on how much paper-mâché it needs.”

Subject Delta's Drill Blades Paper Mache

But was it worth it? Take a look at this and tell us what you think.

Subject Delta's Drill Blades Finished

The holiday season is rushing in, ready or not, and bringing with it new gaming consoles, games, gatherings with friends and families, meals and treats that require time in the kitchen and the days are certainly not getting any longer. I was thinking today about how I would possibly find time to play a new game I got over the weekend and a this question came to me; how do cosplayers find the time to consume the things that they wind up cosplaying? How do you, our fellow cosplayers, find the time to invest in new fandoms, or get to know new favorite characters that you’d love to pay homage to, how do you balance everything?

Seriously though, any tips on time management and motivation are greatly appreciated! — TCG

Level 3-1: Acquire and Assemble Weapon

12 Nov

Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb Helmets

While it’s not quite as epic as we would have liked, here’s your picture of our hard-won Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb helmets!

As fun as this stay in the land of Bioshocking helmets has been, we’re more than pleased to leave it for a while. The weather has changed here in Chicago and the weather conditions are no longer conducive to Shellacking in our nasty back alley. That and the painting will have to wait until Spring. Yes, you heard it folks this post is going to be about something other than port holes and cap nuts and tubing. This post is about our hero’s signature, gut-grinding weapon of choice; Subject Delta’s drill.

Subject Delta Drill Reference - Action Figure

This beefy bit of machinery dished out all sorts of grisly ends to many a Splicer down in Rapture and now it’s our job to bring it to life! While this picture give you a great impression of what it should look like when it’s finished, Daniel really likes this reference photo we found so we’ll be putting a little TCG style to use while working from this particular reference.

Subject Delta's Drill Reference

As we prepared to begin work on the drill we batted around a lot of ideas. Daniel’s original thought was a run of the mill traffic cone but I was worried that it would be too heavy to lug around all day with one arm. So then we thought of a floral arrangement cones but we couldn’t find any that were big enough. I even thought about making it out of thin cardboard, but Daniel kept going back to that darn cone. He almost swiped one right off the street. But that would be gross, so instead he bought one at Home Depot and he won me over. This would be our base.

Traffic Cone

What would the drill be without a tip? We glued a little Styrofoam cone to the top of the cone and then, like most of our low-budget cosplay, our next step was papier-mâché. We wanted to cover the plastic of the cone in a layer of papier-mâché so that the blades would have a solid anchor. We knocked that out together in under an hour, then we sealed the Styrofoam with some Elmer’s glue and then we had our drill’s base situated and ready to go.

Styrofoam on Cone Cone with Paper Mache

Drill with Weatherseal

Next, we needed to mark the route of the blades that spiral the length of the drill. To help us map it, we took some yarn and wrapped it around the cone so that we could trace it. Then we applied Daniel’s new favorite material; rubber weatherseal. It wrapped smoothly and seamlessly around the cone and the adhesive bottom worked like a charm. Again, in no time at all, we were finished and ready to start the real task; attaching the blades.

This might shock you, but we had differing ideas about the best way to do this. In fact, we had several arguments verging on the edge of nasty fights about it. But, in the end, Daniel’s idea prevailed and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Since it was his grand design, I’ll let him tell you about it.

For the drill blade, Sara came up with this great idea of sandwiching bendable, shape-able wire, like pipe cleaner wire, between two strips of craft foam and gluing the strips together to make stiff but bendable strips of foam. I liked this idea. But then it dawned on me that, while this would be a great idea for circular bands like a bracelet, it still wouldn’t allow flat foam to contour to the circular, spiral path of the cone without bowing and bulging at the edges. We tossed around  a few different ideas until we settled on a sort of foam tent.

Pile of Craft Foam for DrillFoil Measuring TrickIn preparation for the build I spent the better part of an evening cutting a rather impressive pile of 1 1/2″ wide by 3″ long foam strips. I then used my trusty strip-of-foil-method to figure out the exact shape of the curve on the cone and cut a handy-dandy template. The template could then be used to quickly trace and make more mini foam blades.

Sara set to cutting out the curved sections of the strips using said handy-dandy template while I set to hot gluing the strips of foam we already had; one on top and one on bottom of the rubber weatherseal.

Making Subject Delta's Drill Blades

Unfortunately, I forgot to mention to Sara that the template I made was for the curve only and not the height of the blades we needed. The example on the left is how she cut them, the example on the left was how they should be cut. The result was a was quite a few skinny, wasted strips; around 24 to be precise.

Blade Template Mix Up

After a bit of grumpy finger-pointing we each accepted our share of the blame and moved on. Luckily, we had plenty of strips to spare.

As good as my handy-dandy template was, it wouldn’t work for the entire length of the cone. So Sara cut  new templates as the moved up to the skinnier parts and eventually all the way to the top of the cone. This resulted in a big range of shapes and sizes for us to use. As I went, I would trim the edges of the foam before I glued them so that they would lay flat side by side. It was tedious but the results were rewarding.  — Daniel

Foam Blades in Pieces Piecing Foam Together

Once we finished this step, we had ourselves a very lovely, albeit crude, Christmas tree, cone, thingy.

Subject Delta's Drill Pre-Cutting

Of course, we’re still talking about baby steps here. There’s still a long way to go and C2E2 is looming ever closer. Just because it happens “next year’ doesn’t mean we have a whole year to go! We’re trying to build and maintain that momentum but will it carry us through the holiday season? — TCG

Level 1-6: Save Customization?

27 Aug

Shelac alley

It’s all in the details and boy do we have an eye for them; back-breaking, eye twitching detail. Daniel ran by Home Depot the next day, after our 6 hour rivet-fest, and picked up another set of cap nuts and we got back to work. This time we took a standing break with every section of rivets we finished and soon they were all in place and looking awesome! It was amazing what a little hardware will do to bulk something up!

Now on to the final details and then we could put on a final layer of Shellac and we’d be all set to paint!

First up: the weight hooks. If you’ll look at the reference photo, you’ll see that big grey ring near his belt. That’s no belt buckle; that’s a weight and it needs to be anchored to the helmet. I wasn’t sure what we were going to use for this but luckily Daniel is one sharp cookie. We needed a galvanized wire rope clip. We traced the shape of the rope clip onto the helmet and then guesstimated the placement of the screws.

weight hook hardware weight hook trace

Daniel drilled the holes and we were set to go! Looking hefty, right?

helmet hardwear

Next: the handles on the back of the helmet. Here’s another reference photo for you to take a gander at the back of Subject Delta’s helmet.  We took this particular detail as an opportunity to draw the eye lower on our the helmet; to detract from how tall and cylindrical it was. Rather than staying true to the reference, we opted to place the handles a touch lower on the helmet. We bought a couple of basic cabinet handles but the screws were a touch too big. Daniel had to purchase some shorter screws to compensate. Just look at that difference!

handle w screws

Next, it was finally time to commit to the placement of the push lights. And since Daniel did the bulk of the work on this step, I’ll hand it off to him! — Sara

Subject Delta’s helmet lights; Sara and I have discussed them at length. If you’ll notice, they don’t just stick straight out of the helmet, they come off the helmet at a downward-slanting-angle. Sara was convinced that we would have to somehow build a tube or extension on the helmet in which to set the lights. My concern with this  was that it would prevent access the battery pane on the back of the light. We want to be able to change out the batteries, you know?

working on lightsMy idea was that we could simply angle the lights themselves in the open sockets we had carved out so that the bottom of the push light was flush with the helmet and the top would stick out just enough so that we could hot glue it into place from behind along the lower half. This way we would get a slightly more subtle version of that downward-slanting-angle we were going for and still be able to reach the batteries. The shape of the push light casing would give us the look Sara was after. After the lights were glued into place I went along the outside of the push lights (along the upper edge) — first with super glue and then with hot glue — to first attach and then seal the edge of the light to the helmet. So that after painting it would look like it were one piece or at least slightly welded. Surprisingly, the Xacto knife came in handy here. I was able to use it as a miniature trowel to shovel and smooth the glue into place. I also used the tip of the hot glue gun to melt and smooth out any excess glue with the heated metal tip. — Daniel

Rivet PositioningWignut DrillThe last step: the wing nuts. Daniel insisted that we actually screw them through the foam along the harness. We took the wing nuts and spaced them appropriately along the harness of Subject Delta’s helmet. Luckily the rivets made our spacing a piece of cake. Daniel chose screws with a rounded head so that they wouldn’t dig into his shoulders as he’s trouncing around in costume.

We marked the center of each wingnut and then Daniel went back and drilled through the layers of foam. Then it was just a matter of fixing them in place with the screws and we were set to Shellac.

We had already sprayed a layer of Shellac before we applied the detail foam and cap nuts but now it was time to really set everything. We sealed the foam with Elmer’s glue and then took our helmet out into the dingy back alley of our apartment building where no one would be bothered by the fumes. Daniel concocted some caps to put over the push lights so they wouldn’t get gummed up by the Shellac. He’s so innovative! light caps

And then, with everything assembled and everything Shellacked it was time to take some pictures!

Daniel and his Helmet Helmet side view

And now, we will leave you with an action shot, complete with mood lighting!

action shot

The major construction on Subject Delta’s helmet has been completed and, I don’t know about you, but I could use a break from this particular piece of cosplay. Check in next week to see where we end up working next!

See you next week! — TCG

Level 1-6: Customize Helmet

20 Aug

We’re down to the nitty-gritties! So they say. Last week’s epic progress had me motivated and I was determined to steam-roll our work this weekend. As we set up to work on Saturday I said to Daniel, “I want to have Subject Delta finished up to the point of painting and I want to have Eleanor’s helmet and harness built by Sunday.” And at one point during the work session Daniel said, “I like your drive today Mrs. Gilbert.” I was ready for some major progress. Can you remember a time when you made a list of things to do and severely underestimated how long it would take you to do something? I know I sure can, because that’s exactly what happened this week.

I’ve heard lots of people over the past few weeks talking about the painstaking work cosplay is, how the details can be truly time-consuming and it wasn’t until we set to work on the foam details and the rivets that I fully understood what they meant. We started with the details on Subject Delta’s camera unit. The shape of the helmet as it blends into the camera is just plain awkward and it took us a little while to figure out how to get a template. Here comes some of that Gilbert ingenuity I hope you’ve come to expect. Daniel grabbed some tin foil and rolled into a wire-thin piece which he then bent along the curve of the helmet.Foil Wire on Helmet He then took that wire shape and traced it onto some 5mm craft foam and we cut out a first try.Tracing the Foil

The first try was still off, leaving pretty large gaps between the foam and the actual helmet so Daniel made a few adjustments, looking from the helmet to our new sketches and trying to fill in the gaps. It worked out really nicely!

Camera Detail On

Remember how I told you last week to avoid using scissors on the thick foam? You should still avoid cutting with scissors but you can still shape with them! Daniel had achieved that lovely curve along the edge of the styrofoam by rubbing the styrofoam together and we hated to waste it so Daniel did a little trimming and somehow the cosplay gods smiled on us and the foam perfectly curves into the camera.

camera detail complete

You might be wondering about that blue strip running on either side of the camera lens. If we take another look at our reference photo you’ll see the carved out lines that run down the front of the helmet and sweep around to the back of the helmet. Since we don’t actually have the means to carve something out of the helmet, we decided to make some raised strips which we will paint a darker color. We’re gonna try to trick you! But this was the first of our tedious tasks. I needed to cut 1/8″ strips out of the 2mm foam and we didn’t actually have a ruler that was long enough to span the whole length of the sheet of foam. That’s right kids, I was marking with a pencil along the length of the foam 1/8″ at regular intervals. I had to cut 6 strips. And then we discovered that the thin foam was drawing the eye to the height of the helmet as it split the plain between the lights and the porthole. We thought that if we used thicker strips, it might help to make the helmet look more squat. Of course this meant that I needed to cut 1/4″ strips out of the foam. And today was the day that Daniel’s beloved Elmer’s Glue All failed. The adhesive element seemed to have given out because we had diluted it with water for the  papier-mâché, so we resorted to hot glue, which worked well enough but now we had those annoying hot glue strings that feel like spider webs when they’re stuck to your fingers. I’m also going to add that we’re doing all of this work sitting on our hard wood floor.

After 3 hours of work, we had the foam strips attached and the foam details attached to the camera unit.

Next, the rivets. We decided to go with Cap Nuts that we picked up at Home Depot. The package we bought had 50 pieces which we thought would be enough, but sadly, I only counted for the rivets running down the front of the seam. I didn’t count the rivets that run along the entire length of the harness. But our drive hadn’t faltered yet and we wanted to go until we couldn’t go anymore! Here’s our process:

Step One: Line up our guide piece and place the rivet on the helmet.

rivets measuringWe put some of those 1/8″ strips to use and cut a guide for ourselves. We wanted to make sure that the rivets were the same distance apart. Daniel held onto the rivet with some needle nose pliers and I unfocused and re-focused my eyes to make sure that they were the same distance from the foam lining as the previous rivets. I would give Daniel direction like, a fraction closer to me, no closer to you and he would try to make the minute changes. This proved difficult due to the slick Shellac shell; the rivets kept sliding around. I would then mark one edge with a pen so that Daniel would know where to place the rivet after we’d applied glue.

Step 2: Apply the hot glue.

rivet glue

Daniel held the rivet and I filled it with hot glue.

Step 3: Place the rivet.

rivet set glueWe did this for 4 hours. I repeat; 4 hours of sitting on the hard wood floor staring at tiny rivets. We finished up a 6 hour work day and we hadn’t completed the rivets on Subject Delta’s Helmet but we still felt accomplished, sore and extremely tired. We had worked very hard and stayed very focused and we were still ready and raring to work the next day, after a well-earned night’s sleep of course.

Is there more to share? Of course! But one thing we don’t want to share with you is builder’s fatigue. Would you believe that the first draft of this post was over 1600 words? Neither could we! Which is why we trimmed it down just a touch.

The next post will finish up our marathon weekend and possibly bring even more awesomeness in picture form.

Check back next week for the Bioshocking conclusion of Level 1 – Subject Delta’s Helmet!

Level 1-5: Upgrade Accessories

13 Aug

When we last left Those Crazy Gilberts…
helmet cutting

The port-hole of Subject Delta‘s helmet had just popped out. I, Sara, put my book down and locked eyes with Daniel. There was a manic energy there. He had done it, but what exactly had he done? We shared a collective exhale and then turned our eyes down to our papier-mâché baby. Had we done irreversible damage or had we rocked it?

porhole cut outThere it was. A huge gaping hole looking up at us from Daniel’s lap. I studied it. Daniel studied it. We looked at each other, wide eyed and silent. I grabbed the port-hole we’d made out of craft foam and dowel rods and I laid it over the hole. What do you think? Did we rock it?

porthole with porthole cover cutI’d say we rocked it alright! Next, we glued two layers of the 2 mm craft foam along the edges of the harness with Daniel’s trusty Elmer’s glue. And then, it was time to take care of the two holes for the lights on the front of Subject Delta’s helmet. Again, we searched for ways to delay having to make the big cuts.

If you look at the reference photo, you’ll see that not only did we need to cut holes for the air tubes but there’s a third hole near the top of the helmet as well. However, we needed to drill through the actual construction helmet for this top hole. Since Daniel did the drilling, I’ll let him tell you a little bit about the process. — Sara

holes cut with drill

As nerve racking as it was to cut through the papier-mâché and cardboard skeleton of the helmet it was even more nerve racking to drill holes in the helmet, especially for the port up near the top where we had to drill through the construction helmet base.  I was afraid that I would use the drill at too high a speed and it would somehow get snagged and shred the helmet irreparably. But first, we had to figure out where the ports would go. We decided to start with the placement of the top port first as it was able to stand alone in it’s positioning. However, we found that when we went to position the air hose ports that we had a slight alighnment issue. Due to the slight imperfections of the helmet’s surface the angles were different on either side of the port-hole. We had to make sure to position the ports at the same angle (just slightly asymmetrical is spacing) so that the air tubes would come off the helmet at the same angle on both sides. We trusted that this would give us a constant look rather than making sure they were equidistant from the port-hole. — Daniel

We had put off the light ports long enough, but our nerves kept us cautious. We’d come to accept the fact that our proportions were not going to mimic the references exactly but we didn’t want to position the lights so high on the helmet that the eye would go directly to the tubular shape or our helmet rather than the squatness of the shoulders and harness. We had learned a lesson from the air hose portals; angle and proportioning are more important that symmetry. We sat on the couch positioning card board cut outs of our lights again and again on the helmet. I can always tell when we’re attempting a very stressful step when we start snipping at each other. My directions of “slightly left,””a little up,” and “a fraction more left” were starting to wear on Daniel’s nerves; we were having trouble seeing something three dimensional.

light hole pre-cutWe finally had to bite the bullet, trust ourselves and go for it. Daniel did the cutting again, using an X-acto knife just like he did with the port-hole. And once again, we had a helmet with gaping holes looking up at us. We couldn’t tell how well we’d done until we put the lights in. Oh! We haven’t talked about the lights yet have we? Even though I know you’re all dying to know how the helmet turned out, let’s take a side trip to the lights.

We bought a couple of basic push lights but we needed a way to make them yellow since it’s darn near impossible to find them pre-colored. We found a site that said they had them only to find out, after we had placed an order, that they were out of stock and were not planning on restocking. Yes this was frustrating but we knew that this meant we had to be more creative!

I remembered making stained glass with paint and a frame as a kid; where you’d fill in a stencil type mold with thick paint that would dry in the shape of the frame and I thought, as we perused Michaels why not give it a try! (This was originally meant to be a a part of the port-hole.)

porthole liquid fill

Martha Stewart Crafts Liquid Fill. We cut a port-hole sized ring and globbed this stuff into it. We let it dry and our hopes were really high. Here’s a really epic picture of Subject Delta’s helmet with the gel.

helmet with yellowSadly, it was too opaque and Daniel couldn’t see through it. But we didn’t let it go to waste. Another plus to using this stuff is that it’s clingy and it lets light through… so we put it on our push lights!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for; how did the helmet turn out?

helmet with light and portholeI know. Right?

Daniel couldn’t wait to put it on so we’ll close this week’s update with a classic action shot!

Check back next week – we’re making headway!!! — TCG

action shot with light and porthole

Level 1-4: Final Save Point — Continue?

6 Aug

Camera - on helmet

Good news everyone; we got our supplies! We were waiting on pins and needles for the 5 mm thick craft foam to arrive so that we could begin work on the porthole. While the prospect of making sudden progress was exciting, we were both dreading the moment when we would cut the Subject Delta’s helmet and either make it or break it, so to speak.

In keeping with our practice of making prototypes before gluing or cutting, we set out to make a prototype of the porthole. For our first attempt, I did a free-handed sketch using grid on construction paper.

porthole hand drawnWhile Daniel was mightily impressed by my free-hand ovals, they weren’t as perfect as we wanted them to be. But they did not go to waste; no! We used them to figure out the rough dimensions that we needed and then plugged into Microsoft Paint. porthole computer

Much more exact, don’t you think? Based on these two templates, we cut our port-hole out of the 5 mm craft foam we had ordered from Hobby Lobby. It was surprisingly easy to cut through with the X-acto knife. However, we found that we needed to cut the entire shape out in one fell swoop rather than starting and stopping in order to adjust the foam; that’s a good way to get frayed edges buddy! I also wouldn’t recommend using scissors, you’ll wind up with lots of scraggly edges with this thicker foam.

Once we had the ovals cut from the foam, we needed to find a way to attach the bars that run across Subject Delta’s porthole. Daniel cut the dowel rods into the sizes we needed with his handy-dandy mini hacksaw and we laid it all out . We even added the rivets so we could begin to imagine it all together; also, we wanted to see if we’d left enough space for them.

porthole 1st try with back

The next hurdle was this; how do we hide the dowel rods? Do we cut them off so that they will sit, nestled nicely inside our foam ovals? No. We sandwich them in between. I’ll let Daniel tell you how we solved this problem with a little creativity and resourcefulness.  — Sara

We practiced with cutting small divots into the 5 mm foam with the X-acto knife, but it wasn’t quite as easy as cutting into the Styrofoam; or as snowy. It was impossible in fact, to get the shape we wanted without tearing it up. So we had the great idea of melting it. What I really wish we had for the job was a wood burning tool, but alas, all we owned was a low-grade hot glue gun. We tried it out, using the heated metal tip. It melted the foam somewhat but not as adequately as I had hope. So I used the only other long, flat, metal device we had. Kids, don’t try this at home. I used the gas stove and a shish kabob skewer to MacGyver myself a melting tool. I turned the stove element on high, held the skewer over the flames until it got hot, but not too hot, and slowly pressed it into the foam until I created the desired divots in both sides of the two porthole pieces. Although the melting foam did not produce a large amount of smoke, it did produce fumes, so make sure you do this in a ventilated area; I just turned on fan over the stove in the kitchen. When I finished I had the perfect slots to insert the dowels into so that we could glue the two pieces together, sandwiching the dowel rods in between. — Daniel

porthole melted eva porthole with dowel

Once we had ironed the kinks out, the moment of truth had arrived. We had to cut the porthole. Tension was high, I kept shaking out my hands and Daniel kept taking these anxious deep breaths and swooshing it all out of his lungs. We spent a long time taping cut outs of our porthole and the lights; we wanted to make sure that we compensated for the shape of the helmet with the placement and scale of our accessories. We finally settled on a placement and Daniel took our papier-mâché baby into his lap with X-acto knife in hand. I sat back. The room was silent and the air was thick with nerves and the taste of fear. I picked up my book to distract myself. Daniel put the tip of the knife to the helmet and his fingers tightened, “You’re not going to watch and support me?” he asked looking up at me. I knew that he was just stalling.

“I don’t want to distract you,” I said. “And I’m so nervous!” He took another deep breath and his eyes focused on the helmet. I raised my book, pretending not to watch. He took a final shallow breath and held it as he applied pressure and the X-acto knife popped through the paper mache. He finally exhaled. It was done. — Sara

helmet cutting

The first cut had been made. There was no turning back now. I began cutting into the helmet following the line we had traced with our template. I cut slowly and methodically, in short sawing strokes so as not to tear or bend anything. Things were going smoothly until I hit the first of the underlying skeletal crossbars. I stopped and threw a quick, concerned glance at Sara who looked up from her book only briefly with a look of ‘you got this, but don’t expect me to help.’ I continued on for what seemed like a full hour and then I was back around to where I started. I made a couple of final saws and then the section ‘popped’ out of the helmet with a soft crack and there was now a big, gaping hole in our hard-earned masterpiece. — Daniel

Did all of our forward planning pay off? Would all of our blood, sweat and tears be paid back in full? Or will Sara have to strangle Daniel with a pliable piece of cardboard from the helmets frame because they have to start all over again?

Tune in next week for the Bioshocking conclusion to: The Cutting of the Subject Delta’s Helmet


Level 1-3: Equip Accessories

30 Jul

Styrofoam Work

Since the wave of trials and tests and decisions made last week, we’ve hit another slow spot. We knew when we started that Subject Delta‘s helmet was going to be painfully intricate and we’d even anticipated taking extra time to prevent having to re-do all our hard work. What we didn’t plan on was extra shipping time for supplies. Both Daniel and myself had the whole weekend set aside and I was essentially frothing at the mouth to start putting some details on our frame, but all of this hinged on our receiving our supplies on Friday. In case you haven’t already pieced it together, we did not receive our supplies on Friday.


And so, we busied ourselves with something that we could do with out our 5 mm thick craft foam, the camera.

Subject Delta's Camera

This camera sits atop Subject Delta’s helmet and we wanted to make sure that it didn’t wind up looking too much like a fish fin or a mo-hawk. We also wanted to make sure that it didn’t add too much height to our already dangerously thin helmet. Since Daniel is neither broad nor beefy, the challenge has been to make this helmet appropriate for Daniel’s stature, rather than trying to force him into a fictitious character’s body, so we wanted to be very careful of the height versus the width of the helmet. We toyed with the idea of adding extra panels to the frame to help fill out the cylindrical helmet to the shoulder harness  to help it look more squat but after much fretting and wringing of hands we decided to embrace our artistic interpretation and, to steal from an acting teacher of mine, discover what Daniel would look like if he were to become Subject Delta.

We wandered through Michaels for a while and finally decided on a styrofoam block for the camera. We looked and looked and looked for something to serve as the camera’s lens but nothing looked right. things were getting tense. We had been at Michaels for about an hour, after we had both worked full days at work and nothing I was suggesting was working for Daniel and we were starting to get snippy. It was on this outing that we decided that any future shopping trips had to be done on the weekends, lest we murder each other. It’s hard to stay polite when you’re tired and nothing is working out. So we left with a single block of styrofoam. For this session’s work, I was busy cutting strips of 2 mm craft foam for the raised trim along Subject Delta’s helmet while Daniel got to carving.  — Sara

Camera - using the sawI love to carve styrofoam!!! I don’t know why, I just do! It’s like destroying and creating and making snow all at the same time. I sat down with our 2″ X 4″ X 12″ styrofoam block and got to crafting. We started by holding the block up to the helmet an tracing the crest of the helmet along one side of the block with a sharpie to get a good idea of how we needed to carve the styrofoam so that it could straddle the helmet just right. I used our trusty X-acto knife to carve out the initial section and sat it on the helmet, carved out a little more, sat it on the helmet again then carved out a little more and sat it on the helmet again. You get the idea; tedious but necessary. It was looking pretty good but needed something else. The hard hat we got has a bit of raised detailing on the top so I carved out a gorge into the curved section so that it would fit more snugly down over the helmet.

Camera - cardboard stencilOnce we got the general curve right I used a little fine-toothed hand saw to lop off the front and back at the desired lengths and then sawed some of the top to get the height. I sawed an angle slopping off the back of the camera to transition into the back of the helmet, but something was still off.  The front of the camera unit did not seem to adhere to the contour of the helmet, so rather that trying to figure out what shape to cut to bridge the gap we lay the styrofoam piece we had on its side and, with some cardboard, we traced the shape including the missing piece. Long story short; we didn’t end up with a usable piece, but we did end up with a great template for our next try. And the moral of the story? Always buy extra pieces. — Daniel

Camera - with lenseThe second time around we just traced the template onto the styrofoam and Daniel got to sawing. When he finished we had a pretty awesome looking camera. And that lens? That’s an empty Ben Nye makeup container. We had an empty red makeup container that Daniel cleaned out. Best of all? It was free! Hooray for college makeup class! But as I looked at the reference pictures, it seemed to me that the edges needed to be rounded.

While we were at Michaels, I picked up a flyer titled, “Tips & Techniques for Crafting with Styrofoam.” On it, I learned that styrofoam works like sandpaper on other pieces of styrofoam. I had no idea! Neither did Daniel. I had to convince him to give it a try. He doubted that we would be able to get a smooth rounded look because the styrofoam was too delicate for sanding but once I read the flyer to him and gave him a demo he got to sanding and will you just look at these results?

camera - post sandingAnd we know how much you all love the Daniel action shot!

Camera - on helmet

We’d like to apologize for the tardiness of this week’s update, but we feel like we have a great excuse. Those supplies that we were waiting on arrived yesterday and we’ve been building after work both yesterday and today. We’re going to have some really really exciting updates to make in the coming weeks, be sure to check it out!

As always, thank you so much for reading! We’ve moved the e-mail subscription button over to the right side of the page in case you’ve been meaning to subscribe and get too busy to scroll past all those past posts. And so, we leave you with an adorable picture of our cat, Electra. Daniel made her a pair of bat wings out of craft foam and she modeled them so nicely! — TCG

Electra Bat Kitty

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