Tag Archives: Papier-mâché

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 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

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

Level 1-2: Press Start to Replay?

16 Jul

It was a long and frustrating weekend.

Subject Delta Helmet Reference

That being said, we started with a couple of fantastic finds that got us really stoked: the jumpsuit and the boots for Subject Delta. We were going to buy me some new clothes and just happened by this store called Uniforms To You and Daniel said, let’s go take a look and I was feeling particularly adventurous because I was about to get some new clothing so I said why not. And here’s what we found.. on sale.

Subject Delta's Boots Subject Delta's Jumpsuit

The boots were normally $45 and we got them for $30. They are designed to go over another pair of shoes so they fit perfectly over Daniel’s Chucks so he’s going to be able to wear some comfy shoes and, let’s face it, those buckles look awesome; slap a little bronze paint over those buckles and we’re almost ready to go! I even had him walk around, first with an affected walk, trying to emulate Subject Delta’s movements, and then I asked him to try to walk normally. Those suckers gave him a character perfect walk without him even trying! Anything to make his time in the get up easier, right?

The suit was normally around $150 and we got it for $73!! Holy crap right?! It adds all the bulk we want so he’s not going to have to mess with any sort of padding to help making him look larger than life. He was surprised how breathable it was, but then it is actually meant to be worked in so I guess that’s just a plus of finding something functional over a straight up costume piece. What great luck!

Since we were so close to making Subject Delta’s helmet the first time around, we just knew that we could whip it up on a dedicated Saturday. The plan was to make the frame in the morning,  papier-mâché in the evening and have our helmet completed and ready to go by dinner time. Easy as pie. Right?

Have you ever actually made a pie?

We cut our strips of card board again as well as a million strips of duct tape in advance. Daniel put on the coveralls and the newly stripped construction helmet, gave me a kiss and a word of encouragement and then we went to work. We decided that he should stand so that his sitting posture wouldn’t affect the shape of the frame. We had an actual tape measure as well as chalk so I could mark his suit up – I felt like a pro with my tape measure around my neck , bobbing and weaving around my subject. What we didn’t take into account was the humidity and how this practical suit would absorb his sweat. Duct tape may be darn close to perfect in any situation, but it will not stay stuck to a damp cloth surface nor will it stay stuck to the surface of another strip of duct tape.

3 1/2 hours into the session and Daniel’s feet hurt, his back hurt, he was hot and I was freaking out because nothing was staying stuck. I would have to go back and try to push the tape and cardboard back together each time I stepped away to grab another piece of tape. He needed me to hurry and nothing, I repeat, nothing was sticking. NOTHING. I’ve never been so frustrated. At one point he said to me, “Just hurry up and finish, I have to sit down.” To which I snapped, “I’m trying!”

He finally got to sit and he pulled the helmet off and I watched, angrily, as 4 hours of work  sloughed to pieces in his hands. I was disgusted and Daniel was in pain and we were both disgusted.

failed Subject Delta helmet

We ate a very sad lunch, watched a movie. And then we took another stab at it. Bad decision. I had a full on melt down during which Daniel said “Maybe we should be doing this right now.” To which I said, “I’m really sorry,” and retreated to the bedroom to read some comics and wallow in my shame.

The next day Daniel didn’t mention the helmet. After breakfast I looked at him and said, “I need to get that helmet done today.” He asked if I was sure, and I was. We went and purchased some plastic packing tape. It’s sole purpose is to stick to card board right?!

This time he sat and we didn’t talk a lot. It was all business. It took us 3 1/2 hours. Would you like to see how it turned out?

Subject Delta Helmet Success Profile Subject Delta Helmet Success Front

Looks pretty awesome with that jump suit huh? And later that night, Daniel papier-mâchéd.  — Sara

Shortly after we completed work on the new and improved frame, our friend Wyatt stopped by. So we took a couple-hours break in which we watched the second half of Despicable Me and grilled some red hots to snack on with potato salad. Yum!

Fed and rested we were itching to begin the papier-mâché on this new frame to see if we truly did as well as we thought. We cut up yet another Red Eye into 1″ wide strips, mixed our glue and set to work. Sara and I started off alternating. She would lay a strip while I held the helmet steady and then I would lay a strip while she held it for me. After only a couple of turns in this way, I asked Sara if she would mind letting me take the reins since I was unable to help with the frame. She was hesitant, maybe a little grumpy at first but I told her that she’d done all the building and that I really wanted to contribute. So she lounged on the couch and watched TV while I worked, giving me a bird’s-eye-view bit of direction here and there and when I asked for her thoughts on a particular section.

With the first helmet we layered the papier-mâché onto the frame a little too heavily and ‘painted it on’ with too much glue.  The result was that the paper clung to the frame creating subtle valleys and crests and amplifying mistakes.  My focus this time around was to let the paper do the work; to lay it on the frame in a way that it would follow the natural contour of the helmet and, where needed, bridge the gaps over any defects. As I started I was using longer strips about 6″ long, but the further up the helmet I worked, the shorter I found the strips needed to in order to follow the various shapes of the helmet without creating folds or crinkles. I went from 6″ longs strips on the harness to 3″ and 4″ strips around the transition from the harness to the shoulder/neck junction, to 1″ and 2″ strips around the brim of the helmet and finally 1/2″ patches to conform to the rounded crest. As I worked I also made sure to alternate between horizontal and vertical placements where needed. The more I applied the more we could see just how amazing and improved the overall shape was!

After about 2 hours of sculpting and scrutinizing the initial layer was complete. It was time to call it quits for the night and clean up; but the finished product for the day left us feeling accomplished and very hopeful.

Subject Delta helmet mache2 Subject Delta helmet extended mache1

Sara, still feeling the sting from the previous day, freaked out about the right side of the harness. I thought it was good enough. We argued back and forth about whether or not it was even possible to put extensions on the harness, I was stressed that we would ruin the amazing work we’d already done. But she bent me to her will, like she did those cardboard strips and look how it turned out in the picture on the left.

17 hours in and this is what we’ve got.

Subject Delta helmet Success

Not too shabby. — Daniel

We hope you enjoyed our new format and the progress pictures! Have you ever had what felt like a crushing defeat when working on a cosplay of your own? Why not share your phoenix story with us in the comments section below?

See you next Tuesday! — TCG

Level 1-2 : Upgrade Helmet

9 Jul

Subject Delta Helmet

Now that we had a skeleton, a darn good looking skeleton, we needed to fill it in. Daniel’s first idea was to use chicken wire around the cardboard frame in order to get the shape and stability. That idea didn’t last long. The thought of wrestling with pointy wires with a pair of pliers didn’t seem very appealing when we realized that neither of us knew when we’d had our last tetanus shots.

Papier-mâché won the day.

With papier-mâché, the tools and ingredients were easy to come by, didn’t cost a lot and, when applied in enough layers, would give us all the shape and stability we would need. The skill level needed to work with papier-mâché is perfect for beginners and the feeling of peeling dried Elmer’s glue off the fingers is just plain awesome. Don’t pretend that you didn’t “accidentally” get glue on your fingers when you were a kid just so you could try to peel it off in one long piece.

We mixed 8 oz. of Elmer’s Glue-All with 4 oz. of water in a plastic bowl. Depending on how sticky the glue you want to use is, you might need a touch more water. We were working with a 2 : 1 ratio. Don’t feel like you have to be super precise with your measurements here; two bottles of Elmer’s glue is 8 oz. so we just dumped them in the bowl and then filled one of the empty bottles with water. Don’t worry about being exact; it’s just glue.

We cut several Red Eyes into strips. You can use plain-Jane newspapers if you want, but the Blackhawks were in the process of winning the Stanley Cup and our daily free newspaper, the Red Eye, was filled with stories of their victories so we thought it would be fitting to cover our helmet in their awesomeness. Go Hawks!

We then grabbed a couple of foam brushes and went to work.

Daniel: The shape of Subject Delta’s helmet is so unique. We had to always keep the shape in mind and be conscious of where the cylindrical shape of the helmet would meet the arch of the shoulders. It was like trying to papier-mâché two different shapes together but make them look like one solid piece.

We started at the base on the front and the back with thick, shorter horizontal strips and worked our way up. Then, when had to switch to longer, thinner vertical strips and work around the curve of the head.

Working together, at the same time made the process move along very quickly but it made the need for communication even greater. We had to take many breaks where we would step back and map out our next path.Even though the cardboard skeleton gave us a fantastic foundation, we had to be careful to fill in the holes and maintain shape. Take, for instance, the back of the frame.

Reinforced Helmet - Back

There’s not a lot of spaces to help support wet newspaper strips between the middle support bar and those side bars that connected the helmet to the shoulder piece. We found ourselves really wishing that we’d added more support strips just for the purpose of stringing strips of papier-mâché together.

We spent an hour and a half on this step of the process. With the frame filled in, it was beginning to look more and more like Subject Delta and we were getting more and more excited until we were finished.

Daniel got really quiet and then went to the kitchen. He came back with a skewer, which was the only thing we had on hand that was long enough to saw through the layers of cardboard and papier-mâché, and cut out a rough eye hole. Here’s what it looked like.

Front of Helmet

Front of Helmet

Back of Helmet

Back of Helmet

How disappointing. But we thought, maybe it will look better if Daniel puts it on..

1st paper mache3

The shape of the construction helmet was still too pronounced and it gave the helmet a pointed top. There is also a very prominent ring above the eye hole where the helmet meets the first cardboard ring. We also didn’t take into account that, as we mached, the curve would get filled in and be less prominent; we needed to have extended the shoulder pieces further out to account for that. You’ll also see that the front of the breast-plate looks more squared off than it should. Certainly nothing like our reference:

Subject Delta Helmet Reference

Well. Back to the drawing board. At least we have nine whole months to get it right.

Sara: I think it was because we only worked an hour and a half on this step but I wasn’t too upset at all. It definitely sucked but at least we could see where we needed to make changes.  It should be no problem at all to whip up another frame and get it mached and ready to go!

Daniel: As I was cutting the finished frame away from the helmet, I tried not to think too much about it or I would get angry. I knew that it wouldn’t work, that we could do better so I had to get it over with. I knew that the longer I stared at how poorly it came together, the angrier I would be.

Sara: I had no idea you were so upset.

Daniel: I was very upset.

How do you deal when you’ve been working on a process which requires multiple steps only to find out after all your hard work that you need to start over? Why not share in our comments section below?

7 and 1/2 hours in, and we were having to start again from scratch.

Regardless of how upset he was, he posed for this picture, which we will leave you with until next week.

Oh well. Maybe next time!

Oh well. Maybe next time!