Time for some upgrades! After walking the floor at Salt Lake Gaming Con, despite how much fun it was, I discovered several issues that would need to be resolved before I did it again at Salt Lake Comic Con. Not only was it hot as hell, despite being a very open costume, but I had little to no support on my feet - and the foam slid around a ton.
So, right away I got home and took out the layered foam platforms from inside the feet.
The pile of foam was the perfect height inside the boot, and I could just slip my shoe in and walk around without any straps to hold it in place. Problem was, since I had to cut each piece in order to fit into place inside the boot, and several of the layers couldn't support my ankles very well which, honestly, started to hurt after only a short time. I needed something more stable, more secure, that wouldn't slip around while I walked.
So I went and bought a couple 2x4s. These I measured out using the foam stacks for the height, and the inside of the boot to ensure a good fit.
I used some of my rarely used woodworking skills and chiseled out a chunk of the two bottom boards so that they could nestle in together. This was for not only front/back support, but side to side as well so that I wouldn't tilt. Then I cut the top piece, angling the back corners and the front to the shape of the inside of the boot. After that, it was a simple job of measuring the difference remaining to cut out the support risers. I did two each to ensure a strong support, though if I did it again I'd definitely cut it down to 1 each - just wasn't sure how secure a single one would be.
Once everything was set, I screwed it all together. Did a quick standing test; these things are super sturdy. Much better than before! So, I got a couple cheap slip-on shoes and screwed them down to permanently attach them to the risers. Then I put in a couple foam gel insoles, so that I wasn't walking on screw heads all day.
Again, another test after these were on, and despite them being much heavier than the foam, the support I now had was muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch better. It also was much better about not slipping around, though it still did a little. To combat this I glued on some no-slip drawer liners from the hardware store, and all slipping was eliminated.
Boots done! I may go in and redo them again eventually, since even here I couldn't walk for extended periods simply due to the weight: 10 pounds a foot! Extremely great support, I could pose better, I was much more sturdy when standing, I just still couldn't walk for a long time. Walking sure was faster though!
Now it was finally time for the head. For SLGC, I ran out of time (and really didn't have the funds) to do what I really wanted to do with the head. Now, though, I had the time and materials to really get into it.
It's time to talk about another type of foam: upholstery foam! It's really great stuff, (relatively) readily available, and comes in multiple thicknesses. It's open cell foam, as opposed to the floor mat foam I used for the rest, which means it's lighter and more malleable than the floor mat foam, but comes with its own set of problems.
First, I taped off the crest and eyes where I didn't want any of the spray glue to get on, then started cutting pieces of the upholstery foam out and gluing them down. The spray glue acts similarly to contact cement, where you spray it, wait for it to be tacky without coming off, then attach the two parts. Tons messier than contact cement though!
Once that was done, the Krogan Bandito (TM) was ready for skinning! After a tip from my good friend Brian, I stretched nylon pantyhose over the entire face, which wrinkled and stretched and wonderfully.
The thing about upholstery foam is that, unless you seal it, it'll soak up paint like a sponge. It's best to seal it with something like balloon latex, but that's expensive and I don't have a spray gun that can spray it quite yet. So, I coated the whole face in more PVA glue, then my favorite Plasti Dip.
After that was dry I coated everything in the same ivory color as before, but instead of painting it all the same way as before, I grabbed my airbrush. Starting with a black, I highlighted all the deep wrinkles to add more depth. Then I went over everything with a tan color, following the movement of the face and leaving the highest spots (mostly on the neck) ivory to make a nice blend. Finally, I used a transparent brown to blend the three colors together, especially around the black areas.
As a last bit of detail, to emulate the scales, I stretched a pair of pantyhose from a local costume shop that had a really neat pattern to it and, using a sponge, dabbed on the same dark brown color over the brow, chin, and edges of the neck. When I removed the pantyhose, this left a great scale-like pattern where I had dabbed the brown. Once that was done, I removed the tape and airbrushed some more black around the crest, to take down some of the shine and blend it with the rest of the face a bit better.
Doesn't that just look AWESOME???? I love it, I really do. If you want to get more insight on the process of the head, I go into much more detail in my new eBook! Check it out in the Store. :)
Now that the risers and head were done, time for yet another test! Test as much as you possibly can to make sure things work right, especially after big changes like these.
Looks awesome right? Still missing something though. I needed to add a couple fans to deal with the heat, so I picked up a couple USB fans and portable power banks. Turns out I only needed the one battery, since even on high one battery lasted all day, but it's always good to have a spare. I glued the switch in a spot that was easy for my handlers to access, and used velcro to secure the batteries - though I had to place those under where my chin would be to keep the head balanced.
Then, to finish off the look and really add some good realism, I 3D printed a set of teeth! Krogan are omnivores, did you know? :) These I hot glued into place. Made it a tad harder to see out of, but really added to making Garm look real. Even better, depending on the angle I put the head, made him look either happy to see you, or ready to charge. XD
DONE! For realsies this time. Had a blast at SLCC, though again due to the weight of the risers I couldn't walk around for very long. Was much better than the foam though, so there's that!
Be sure to check out FOAM: An Instructional Guide for Armor and Prop Making for more details on the process on the head! I'll also be making a cool announcement soon regarding foam armor and prop making so be sure to follow me over on Facebook or Twitter to be one of the first to know!
Straight from one gigantic build and into another! I've always wanted to make a Krogan, and being the crazy person that I am I wanted to do one that was full size - at least according to the lore/game logs. You see, Krogan are supposed to be seven to seven and a half feet tall, but their representation in the game - most pointedly cutscenes - were the same size as humans due to programming constraints. I also wanted to do something different from everyone else; all around the internet you can find some really awesome Wrex and Grunt builds, but no other Krogan really.
So while I was going through my wife's playthrough of the trilogy (she gets super sick if she plays so I play while she listens and makes the choices), I actually got up close and personal with Chief Weyrlock Guld. I've always killed him from far away, but somehow he got close enough that I actually got to see his armor. I fell in love with the design, even though the lighting made it look pink (where as the actual color is white). I immediately wanted to make it, and expressed this want to a good friend of mine, Keelah Monster Cosplay. She mentioned that Garm, the leader of the Blood Pack on Omega, had basically the same armor set, and was covered in the group's colors and symbol, and would be much more recognizable.
I was instantly hooked. So, if anything, you guys can totally blame her for this gigantic monstrosity. ;)
Now, this build not only was a test in patience (as was Threshy), but it also taught me a whole new skill. You see, the model I used was literally ripped from the game, and as such it was designed for animation, not as something to be worn as a costume. Because of this, there were lots of overlapping/clipping parts, some parts that didn't need to be there, and other parts that were hidden inside other things that I needed to fill. Me being unfamiliar with how to edit 3D models, I spent an entire weekend learning Blender, a free yet powerful 3D modeling program.
(If anyone is interested in learning this program, I highly recommend starting out with masterXeon1001's Blending Away the Pain beginner course. Very informative, and it's totally free - though donate a few bucks to him for it 'cause it's totally worth it!)
Once I had enough knowledge to do what I needed, I fixed up the file, then sent it over to the ever trustworthy Pepakura Designer program. This one isn't free, but it's super useful in turning a 3D model into a physical pattern. That helped me flatten everything out to something I could cut out and trace to the foam. It also help me lay it out in a way that used as much of a foam sheet as possible to cut down on having to buy tons, and cut down on the amount of parts I had to cut out which lowered the amount of seams on the part.
There were still seams of course, but tons less than I would have had to deal with normally. Much easier to hide a few seams than it is when they're everywhere.
Next came the fun part: cutting! There was a huge pile of paper to cut, just like with Threshy, though thankfully the parts were much larger and there were fewer of them. It still took forever getting them all ready, but it was worth it.
As with Threshy, I ended up cutting all the parts out by hand rather than using the band saw. It's just come to be easier and faster to do it by hand, since I can trace, then immediately cut the part out. I can also change the angle of the cut on the fly, and since half the parts were angled into another part it was just easier overall to cut it all out by hand. That and, since I could regularly sharpen the blade, the edges were a ton smoother than had I done it with the band saw.
I used BARGE Contact Cement on this one as well, to give a much more secure hold than the DAP Weldwood does. I started with the torso section, partly because I wanted to but mostly because it was the biggest, most detailed section and I wanted to get the hardest part done first.
Had my son lie down under the front half, as a bit of a cute tax and to really show the scale of this. Garm was supposed to be the biggest, baddest Krogan ever, nearly killing Archangel, so I opted to make him the full seven and a half feet tall. Already you can see just how tall this thing is going to be.
Got to work on the back next, which is set up in a kind of stair-step section of sorts. It kinda makes me think each section slides upward under the one above it, so that the Krogan inside can get into and out of it. We never actually see it happening, but it's a fun theory all the same. I also made the shoulder bits, which were super simple but really bring out the full look.
Right here you can really start to see the evolution of the mass the Krogan have. Laying down on the floor above it's hard to tell, but as the back parts got attached, the full scope of the thing really started to show. Especially when, as you can see, my entire office chair was able to fit inside.
Of course, you're probably wondering what those empty spots are on the back and sides. Don't worry, we'll get to those. For now though, I wanted to get the entire back section done. The last bits included the lower back, and a tail.
Of course, now that the torso was basically done, I had to thrown it on. You know I had to. XD
Without the legs, I didn't really have the placement right, and had no way to properly determine where to frame it, so I totally have itty bitty legs while it dwarfs me lol. We'll get there! I ended up moving the torso out to the garage to keep Threshy company, since I had no idea whether it would fit through the door if I added the other parts to it.
Once that was safely stored away, I got to work on the extremities. The arms and legs were muuuuuch easier to do than the torso was, but each would pose their own eventual challenges.
You see, I intended to make the hands move and grip things, which meant I only prepared the armored sections of the fingers and left what I would eventually use as the joints open so they could bend. These I planned to cover with cloth or something to hide the mechanisms. I also discovered that I couldn't touch the ground while wearing the boots, which meant I had to make a platform of some kind to stand on. Of course, I planned to do that anyway since I knew I needed to be higher up to keep proportions right, but I've never made an actual platform like that before. Not even for my Giant Robot.
So, taking my new skills with Blender and my newly acquired 3D printer (gifted to me by a family member who saw I was taking interest in 3D printing), I started designing finger joints.
In the first picture, at the top, you can see the first attempt which failed. It required that I drill into each piece to make the holes, since I was still having trouble with prints failing and didn't want the holes to misprint. I scrapped the idea and just made them with the holes, also printing a rounded piece they could slot into so that I could secure the foam to it - as well as have something to put the wire I'd be using to pull the joints. I used chicago screws on the joints, and attached screws to the top with springs to pull the joints back into place.
Here's a video I made to demo the process:
I ended up scrapping that, since I was short on time and it was a bit expensive to get all the parts for each finger (and too long to wait for my local hardware store to restock). We'll get to what I eventually used a little later. Meanwhile, I worked out what I would be using for the platforms in the boots, and made the giant tube things for the torso.
Yep, I decided to stand on 8 layers of the thicker foam, since it's there and I have a ton of it. I plan to upgrade it to something more secure, like metal pipes and wood which the massive Warhammer Space Marine guys use. For now though, this would work. I stacked each piece and shaped them by hand, so that they could slide right in and sit in place. I also only glued the bottom two layers together, and glued those to the walls of the boot, so that I'd be able to remove them later once I was able to make the more sturdy platform.
I totally nailed leg day. XD With those layers of foam inside I was able to test out walking, which worked like a dream. It's filled up enough inside that I can slip my foot in - while wearing my regular everyday tennis shoes - and step down, and my shoe stays in thanks to the wonders of friction. Again, worked as I would need, but eventually I'll secure a shoe in properly with the platforms.
And, thanks to having everything to the right sizing, I could finally install the frame inside the torso!
Those of you that have been with me for at least the last three-ish years will probably recognize that part of this frame is the same as what I used for the Giant Robot. My old camping frame backpack is really putting in work after all these years! I was going to use it to help puppet Threshy as well, but read Part 1 to find out why that ended up not working. Instead, it sat at the absolute perfect height inside the torso! I added in pieces of PVC pipe as a simple support frame, to hold the rest to the frame backpack and to keep the bulky shape of the torso from getting squished in.
Then I went to the hardware store again, and grabbed some insulation tubing used for pipes so that I could fill in the openings in the back and a few spots in the arms.
All in the details! :D After I got those all attached, it was time for the first real walk test!
Here's video of the test in action:
Really happy with the proportions of this; they turned out right on the friggin money. :D
Since that worked out how I wanted, I grabbed some more of the tubing and got back to work on the hands. I glued in the foam to the finger armor bits and cut a V in the back right where I wanted the joint to bend. I ended up cutting a small strip of foam to glue the thumb on, rather than dealing with getting it to move as well. I also cut a section of tube in half and glued it to the back of each boot, just to add a little more detail.
Since the boots were done, I decided to start painting them so that they could dry while I worked on the next, most difficult part of all: the head. I went through ten full cans of Plasti Dip on Threshy, and at nearly 7 bucks a can I wasn't going to do that again with Garm. Instead, a friend of mine who moved in with us handed me a big bottle of white PVA glue since he didn't have a need for it, which turned out to be the lifesaver I totally needed. I had to hand brush it, but that ended up working out just fine.
After I brushed that on, I got a quart can of red interior/exterior latex paint and hand brushed it on too, again mostly for cost reasons. One quart at $12 as opposed to eight or ten more spray cans at $3-5 apiece.
While that dried, I went and worked on the head. The head is more organic than the rest of the build, but thankfully I had already learned a ton after building Threshy that things worked out pretty well. I originally wanted to make the mouth move while I spoke, but ended up leaving it as is. Most of the difficulty ended up being in the forehead crest though, with all the spikes and hard edges.
Lots of extreme angles, mixed with smooth sides, mixed with smooth but bent sides needing hill and valley cuts underneath, but the monstrosity of foam I call the head really came together well. Thanks to the way the part pattern came out, I didn't need to heat any of it to shape, and it held its look together just fine.
The head ended up being bigger than it should be, but it's not so big that it looks like a bobble head and it still fits the overly massive look of a full size Krogan. That and I really didn't want to do all of that again, but with even smaller pieces. The head is also not technically finished either - I still intend to make a moving mouth and add all the wrinkle details with a few tricks I learned recently thanks to Ted Haines and the Stan Winston School.
Used even more of the foam tubing to finish attaching the arm pieces, and glued in another PVC pipe inside the wrists so that I could hold them up and move them around.
Did another test of the torso, to make sure the arms looked right and to get a shot of it with the head. Skipped leg day this time though. XD
Started up on the paint on all the finished pieces, and while I got those going I worked on how the heck to get the head to stay on mine. Had to throw some supports to hold up the torso, since the balance is terrible and all I had for it to sit on was my stool.
For the head, I got a hard hat with the intention of adding PVC pipes to it. After multiple attempts to secure them with epoxy, E6000, BARGE, and a number of other things, eventually I went back to the tried and true foam that I should've used in the first place.
And now, back to the paint. After sealing everything with white glue and painting on the main red, I grabbed a cherry red spray can I still had and gave everything a random super light powder dusting. Then I grabbed a mahogany and did another similar pass, as randomly as I could. After that, I did an even lighter dusting of what was left of the metallic black from my Terminus build, which really gave it the perfect weathered look that I wanted.
Once that was all done, I grabbed the brush again and hand painted the main black sections. If I had bigger rolls of craft foam I would have given it a two layer detail, painting the black on first then the red on the upper layers, but I didn't have any. Instead, the black ended up looking like an awesome tribal paint which I think fit the look just fine.
I made the eyes out of a mold of the same half spheres I got for Threshy's eyes, which thankfully ended up being the exact size I needed. They're casted with Smooth Cast 300, which I lightly sanded so the primer could stick to it. I did three layers of primer, and three layers of yellow.
I also threw primer all over the head, after sealing it with the PVA glue as well. Time for another full test!
And another test video to check the movement and sight:
Something was missing though, so I finished up the pauldrons the same way - adding that little touch that would make Garm stand out from the rest: the Blood Pack symbol! I also went and got the fabric I would need to fill the open areas and sell the illusion properly.
Yes guys, I totally used fabric. :D
Oh, you thought I actually knew how to sew? XD Nah, don't even own a sewing machine. The last time I sewed anything was in 7th grade. I actually attached the cloth with hot glue, enough to cover the open spots but still leave me room to move and get in/out of it.
While this was going on, I finished up the paint on the head. I sprayed on the same ivory color I used on Threshy all over the face, then sprayed the maroon onto the crest. I let some spots overlap, since some of the bony bits meld into the flesh, and I thought that would help with the organic look. Then I dusted on a few different browns, just like with the claws on Threshy, letting some of the darker browns dust up onto the crest. I had to do this a few times, because my hand would either slip and angle it wrong, or it would press a tad too hard and ruin the look. Thankfully having to redo it gave the whole thing a rougher, grainier texture and feel, which really made it all come together.
Finished up the eyes as well, with a dragon/lizard look to the iris. I also gave it a light blackwash and speckling with acrylics, to make it more than just a simple yellow ball with a black line on it. I was out of time and money to do all the detailing I wanted to on the face, so I tried painting on the wrinkles and spots, but was failing miserably. My super awesomely amazing wifey came to my rescue though, and made it look tons better!
I designed some Krogan sized rivets in Blender and 3D printed out a whole ton of them. I probably could have done the same with a dowel, cutting slices out on the band saw and drilling a hole in the middle, but I had the filament (and the printer needed calibrating anyway). I added a ton of these to the armor to give it one last pop, and filled in all the rest of the open spots on the arms. I also 3D printed some rings that I tied to the fingers with fishing wire, to give them some movement.
Demo of the fingers:
Aaaaaaaaand done! Garm, Krogan Battlemaster and leader of the Omega Blood Pack, is ready to find Archangel and destroy him. Once that threat is gone, nothing will stand in his way of taking down Aria! RRawrgh!!!
This build was a lot of fun, definitely easier than Threshy but still with its own challenges. I still have upgrades I'd like to do on him, but as he stands now he's already a huge success. He was a big hit at Salt Lake Gaming Con, everybody loved him, and he won me my first actual placed award as Best Master Overall! Really happy with him, other than the fact that I need about a dozen fans inside so that I can wear him for longer than an hour at a time lol. Here's the final test pics, with a few videos at the bottom of the test and of Garm in action!
When last we left our intrepid heroes.......
In the last blog post, I detailed how I made Threshy's head. In this post I'll be going over the claws, and if it isn't as long as the last part I'll go over the paint as well.
Speaking of claws, let's get back to Row 4 shall we?
The entirety of the last three sheets of Row 4 were the small claws, which made things really easy to keep organized. Because of this, both the upper and lower sections of the claws came together quickly.
As with the pics in Part 1, a lot of the updates and photos happened late at night and the lighting in that room is terrible, especially for photos. Still though, once those were done I started on the more difficult middle sections.
Bit of a jump around in progress here - this update happened on my wife's birthday, the day in which I promised that her present from me was getting Threshy out of her living room and into his proper home, the garage. A good friend of mine let me use his jigsaw, and I got right to work on the cart.
Didn't quite have enough time to finish it up, but got enough done that I could do the rest at home with my circular saw. Meantime, got Threshy outside safely! Also picked up a metric buttload of paint for later.
With that done, and the party over, it was time to get back to work. Time crunch!
You'll notice the claw isn't on it just yet. I planned to do them all at once since I needed to layer the foam, cut them out with the bandsaw, then hand shape them on the belt sander. Opted to do that all last, in one big go since I didn't have a ton of time during the day to work.
Pulled out the circular saw, and sharpened up my chisels, then got the cart all done!
Threshy now has a sweet ride! It's a simple set-up, and not the greatest, but I needed to be able to push him around Atlanta in full costume if travels called for it, and I needed to be able to take it all down so everything could fit in my van for the trip. Here's a test shot with the first claw:
Since I also need to be able to remove the claws for transport, I started work on the inner frame. I also started covering Threshy's head with Mod Podge, and then Epsilon, all to hopefully strengthen the seams and give him a slightly harder shell on the carapace.
Once that was all dry, I put on three full layers of Plasti Dip. I would have gone straight to primer, but there were sections of foam I left uncovered (in particular the part someone stands in) to keep its flexibility, and I also wanted to make sure if I missed any foam areas they would be covered well enough for the paint to not seep through.
That and I know how Plasti Dip works for me, and since I don't have a lot of time I went with what I know.
In the midst of all this (since I can paint, then go inside and cut/glue while it dries), I got going on the other middle claw section, and had a startling thought:
Green Lantern's..... Maw? That's literally the first thought I had when I put the middle bit together like this. Got that put together, assembled the second claw, then threw them on Threshy to see how they look.
That's the end of Row 4 finally, and it's lookin' good so far! Next I threw on the primer, a darker brown I would also be using for the base skin color.
I also got more work done on the inner frame, and realized that I should have made that first.
Since it was raining that day, I had opted to go out, measure, come back in, cut, then assemble it and toss it inside Threshy. I also had planned to use the backpack frame I used way back when for my Giant Robot contraption, to help hold Threshy up while walking. Too thin, unfortunately. I had to remove it, extend the upper beams, then everything fit better.
This frame still had its issues, but it was much easier to carry Threshy around this way than without anything at all. Once that was done, I got to work on painting the skin areas.
It's a little hard to tell here, but I went for a mottled skin effect with the spray paints. Hard to do well, especially for someone like me who isn't very skilled at that sort of thing (especially with spray cans), but I think it turned out pretty well. I started with that primer base, then dusted areas with various lighter browns. Not entirely, some areas more than others, and some more lightly speckled than dusted in an attempt to make it more flesh-like.
Then, I masked around the edges of the carapace, and went to town again.
I didn't tape off a lot, because I wasn't worried at all about overspray. It was easy enough to cover that back up using the same methods I applied earlier. Since the carapace is more bone-like, I started with an ivory as a base, then to age and weather it I covered most of that with a khaki brown, and highlighted some areas with a dark brown on top. Then I went over the whole skin area again, with the lighter browns, and ever so slightly pressed down on the spray tip, making it only spurt out droplets.
You can see it best in the second pic, and I think it made it a touch more realistic. Again, not the prettiest job, but I'm learning!
Now on to the large claws, which are basically the exact same as the small ones but with only 2 sections and a much larger pointy. The upper section was simple, if huge, and both sides came together quickly.
The lower section was a bit more complicated, but made easier than the smaller version again because of its size.
Can we say Krogan scythe? XD
In that last shot the claw isn't really attached, it's just resting on the frame bit and being held up by the PVC pipe I'll be adding to it later. The next day after this was done, my wife was home all day, so I decided to push out all the pointy bits and get them done and ready.
Started up the Epsilon on the small claws now that they are fully assembled, and added some dowels to the large one to hold the pointy end in shape. Much floppier than I expected, unfortunately, so the dowels added strength and shaped the claw in the direction I wanted. I hindsight I should have used clear acrylic dowels to look more invisible, but again time constraints and with all the painting and sunlight it really wouldn't have looked much better.
These large claws are as big as Threshy. It's insane. I put the pipes into the three claws, then put them in place for a shot.
I ended up securing the pipes inside with Great Stuff expanding foam, so they didn't twist around. Still needed more support to sit still though, so I starting thinking about fishing wire.
In the midst of all this, Threshy wasn't looking quite right. Something important was missing, and unless I got it done it was going to bug me forever. So I painted in the fake eyes.
There. NOW I could focus on the claws without being distracted. Back to the second large claw!
I stopped by my local acrylics dealer as well, to pick up a wonderful bit of awesomeness to add, which finished off the head completely.
Go for the eyes, Boo! Go for the eyes!! RrraaaAAGHGHH!!!! I used a transparent blue spray paint by Testors, which worked swimmingly for these half-round spheres. Still lets light in, and looks amazing! Really sets off the full effect.
Finished off the other large claw with its support dowels, then got to Epsilon'ing everything.
And with that, Threshy was completely assembled and there would be nothing else I had to cut out. Time for paint!
Unfortunately the pipe connection on this one twisted while drying, so I had to cut that off and fix it. No biggie though.
For those wanting a nice, in-depth step by step on the painting on these, I decided to take a shot of each step on the last claw.
1 - First, three layers of Plasti Dip, followed by the primer base coat.
2 - Once that dried, a single coat of the Ivory, being a bit lenient in coverage (about 95-99%)
3 - Immediately after finishing with the Ivory, spray on the khaki layer. This helped the blending, and once again no need to cover the entire area. Quick, light sprays preferred, keeping the coverage uneven.
4 - Once again, immediately after finishing the khaki layer, spot-spray a darker brown with much less area coverage. This gives it a fuller effect, and really makes the coloring pop. Add blood spray as needed.
At this point, Threshy was 99% done. I still had to work out the large claws, both with the need to continue being removable for transport but have enough support to stay up without twisting around in movement.
I ended up taking off the angle brackets, which gave two results. Not only did it end up looking better, but it put the base of the claws closer to the head and looked much better. I also tied fishing wire between the claws, which wasn't strong enough and stretched out too badly to be used, but stayed together long enough for a final shot.
This result was thanks to a good friend from the group coming by to help me get this last bit figured out, who held up one claw while I tied them together. Unfortunately, as I said, it didn't stay fixed long, so I ended up going with his suggestion of just buying some rope to use. The rope worked just long enough to get Threshy through the parade, which was good enough for me. :D
At the parade, Threshy got connected to his body for the first time ever, and was a big hit during the event. I wish he had survived longer, but thanks to the eight people inside who puppeted him it worked out wonderfully for how long he *did* last. The BioWare devs that were there and got to see him really loved it, and I got Mark Meer (voice of BroShep, the Hanar, the Vorcha, and prancing around in his very awesome Vorcha costume) to sign one of the large claws!
The claw he signed is now in its rightful place, displayed as a hunting trophy above my television.
Big thanks to Laura at Rebel Among the Stars Studios for coming up with the idea for a Chinese Parade Dragon Thresher Maw, Lexi at Keelah Monster Cosplay for making the body (and his name), the N7 Elite for funding the materials, and HUGE thanks to the handlers (Ryan, Alonzo, Chase, Kate, Matthew, Jesse, Heather, and Robert)! If it weren't for the handlers Threshy never would have even marched, and they did an awesome job of it.
Unfortunately, due to how he held up during the parade and the large problems the claws ended up being (as well as some damage sustained later due to my brother's negligence) I have basically retired Threshy at the moment. I intend to remake him later, both to hide all the large amount of seams but to also, hopefully, incorporate more moving parts and a much more sturdy frame. Threshy 2.0 will happen, hopefully sooner rather than later!
Here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for. If you followed along on my Facebook page, you saw firsthand how intensive this build was, and if you followed along on the RPF thread I made you got some insight into the build. Now, though, it's time to do the write-up here, where you can finally see the inner workings of my honest-to-goodness lack of sanity.
This write-up will be in multiple parts, due to its length.
2015 was the first year I attended DragonCon, and I wanted to make something epic for it so that I wasn't just wearing my Terminus armor (so that I wouldn't die in it in the Atlanta heat). At the same time, the N7 Elite Costuming Group, after seeing the amazing Zakuba foam dragon head, wanted to do a Thresher Maw like that in a Chinese dragon style. I opted to take up the challenge, since I've been wanting to do a giant build ever since I had to take apart the Giant Robot, but since the convention was two months away, and I didn't trust my freehanding skills enough with that little of time, I managed to find a 3D file and adapt it for foam pep.
Recently I discovered that you can adjust the dimensions of the printout in Pepakura Designer, which made layout so much easier. I was able to make the dimensions the same size as the foam, then cram all the pieces in as tight as they could get, readjust the dimensions to letter paper, print it out, and tape/cut in such a way that not only saved foam, but saved paper. It still ended up being 264 sheets of paper, with a grand total of 70 sheets of floor mat foam after accounting for all the doubled-up parts.
For those wondering, that translates into 18 packs of foam. And over a ream of paper.
Since my wife works during the day, and I have to watch our son, I was forced to work inside the whole time, rather than out in the garage with all my power tools. He's still too young to take care of himself, unfortunately. This meant, of course, that instead of using the band saw to cut out all the pieces, I had to cut each and every piece out by hand, with an xacto knife.
As I cut and traced, I kept track of the parts with a simple numbering system: what number the sheet of foam was in the row, and the part number on that sheet. 1-1, 3-10, that sort of thing. To keep track of the mirrored pieces, a simple dot was added to each number: 1-1*, 3-10*, etc. This greatly helped keep track of pieces, especially if one ended up not being connected until later.
Another thing that helped was tracing the entire row, rather than doing one page, cutting, assembling, then moving on to the next. Had I done it that way all I would have had was a mess of pieces that wouldn't fit together until the next sheet was done.
Once the first row was traced, it was time to start the upper carapace!
You'll see me use a lot of the tricks for foam here that I detailed in the Terminus armor write-up and many others. Angled cuts make sharper corners, under cuts save seams and add detail. The first few parts I initially thought were the eyes of the Thresher Maw - really great lesson in natural survival traits. The small flat-rate box in the last pic should give you a good idea of the scale of Threshy - absolutely massive.
Bit by bit the parts come together, some needing heat forming, others bending the foam naturally. As I went I was able to hook areas together, though as you can see storage immediately became a problem.
And, of course, as the first row continued, a lot of the parts couldn't quite go together yet, since several other parts needed to be done first so they had a place to hook onto.
From what *could* go together though, Threshy's head was beginning to form quite nicely. Here you see the end of Row 1, of 5. 14 foam sheets down, 56 to go.
Row 2 begins with a new ink toner, and the rest of the pages printed out and organized.
I was trying to get through at least the first couple of rows of foam as quickly as possible, since I needed to get the measurements of the back done for my partner in crime, Keelah Monster Cosplay. She was doing the fabric tail portion, to once again go along with the Chinese parade dragon theme, and DragonCon was nearing closer and closer.
Thankfully, the second row came together extremely quickly, but was a literal pain in the ass to attach to the rest.
There were a few close calls, where parts wanted to go one way but needed to go another. I was literally on my own, with no one else able to help - and no frame to hold it in place yet, since the garage at this point was completely full. Eventually though I got it all together. Look at how massive this thing is!
Over the next week and a half, my parents needed help moving from this house into their new house. We stayed here to rent the place from them, and even though them moving took up a lot of precious build time, it opened up more space in the garage to work in. I did have time to put some "smaller" parts together and attach them, which really started to flesh out Threshy and start adding those details that we love to hate.
Threshy was so massive at this point I literally had to steal my son's crib/playpen during the day just to hold the mass of foam up so I could work. When things finally got back to normal (ish), I got the large claw holes done in record time.
For being much smaller and technically more manageable than the entire back half at this point, it sure was harder getting those attached. Thankfully I got them together, then my wife came in and took some better pictures for me, with me wearing it.
And thus ends Row 2. Well, sort of, and for the same reason we're moving on to the middle of Row 4: the last two sheets of 2, all of 3, and the first 3 of row 4 are all the claws and I wanted to do them last. At this point I still held out hope of having enough time to add some articulation to the claws, so I was saving those until the body was done up enough for a proper frame.
Speaking of frames, I made a frame/cart I could both store Threshy on but also cart him around if I needed to. Never been to Atlanta, wasn't sure what to expect really.
Well, I started to anyway. Needed to know how high up Threshy would need to sit without being smashed into the bottom half of the cart first. So, back I went to building!
Once again, new discoveries with this build. Had I not attempted it, I never would have learned about those tiny stalks you see in the third picture - those are the *actual* eyes, not the glowing blue things on top of the carapace. I'd never seen them before, mostly because I was too busy dodging plasma acid spit and massive claws in the Mako and not paying as much attention to the finer details of a thresher maw. Still though, learning!
The next day I made absolutely massive progress, as Bill Doran over at Punished Props was doing a 16 hour livestream build of his Destiny armor. I stayed on the whole time while they worked, which gave me enough motivation to not only finish Row 4, but 5 as well!
This put me a few days, possibly a week ahead of schedule, which is perfect - I don't think it would have been done in time otherwise. Regardless, it's time for the most difficult part of all:
First I put together the front two bits, the face and the neck scarf thing. I thought it would be easiest, and would make assembly easier when attaching everything to the big carapace.
To be fair, it probably would have been just as hard either way, though admittedly this wasn't nearly as hard as the back half of the carapace or the large claw hole things.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Threshy the Thresher Maw. Threshy, please don't eat the nice people.
Now that he's all together, I could finally get a proper measurement of him. He's just under 8 feet long from the tip of the upper tendrils to the back point of the carapace, and just a smidge over 5 feet wide at each end of the claw holes.
Because this post is so long and intensive, this marks the end of Part 1. Part 2 is coming soon, and due to the length there may even be a Part 3. Stay tuned!
Here we go again! For those of you that don't remember, a while before this build I had made a Titan helmet out of foam. Well, the people I made it for wanted another one, but this time opted for a full-on resin cast one. Since their deadline was kind of tight, and my sculpting/3D modeling skills are terrible at best, I opted to try out an experiment: molding and casting from floor mat foam.
Initial build went basically identically to the last one, with some minor differences. I used a thinner foam for the cheek bits, so it went together more smoothly and wasn't nearly as bulky looking. Also didn't attach the buckle bits, since they didn't want them and, since much of what you can do with Destiny armors, I wanted it at least a little chance to customize. They also didn't want the cheek bits, but as this was to be a kit I wanted to give future orders from people to have those able to be attached or not as well. I left them on for now, though, since I needed to make sure they would be able to fit with minor work.
Once that was done, rather than start sealing up the seams like the last one, I opted coat the whole of it in Smooth-On's Epsilon.
Epsilon is a great product, and was made specifically so that companies could create a foam form (like, say, a pillow), cover it in the Epsilon, then make a mold of the now solidified piece and cast copies. Other resins eat at the foam or bubble up, but Epsilon was designed to keep the foam underneath safe without affecting the shape. It does make a hard shell, but you don't need to worry about losing your piece.
It's also self-leveling, though you'll still need to sand down some of the rougher spots and drips. Afterward, you can treat it as any other mold master: start slinging the Bondo!
I stuck the Bondo onto the low spots on the helmet, filled in holes, then sanded my arms off (as is wont to happen when prop making). Once that was as even as I could get it, I cut the cheeks off and did it all over again. After that, I painted the helmet in black primer, let it fully set, then started the process all over again. The paint helps give it a bit of contrast, helping your eyes see something they may not otherwise have been able to. Once that was done, I sprayed a red primer, to contrast the black and help me see it even better.
Not a perfect process, as I didn't want to sand the whole way through the Epsilon and, as I was slowly learning, about the same amount of time versus cost compared to making a helmet mold master in the "conventional" manner. Once that was done though, it was time for some silicone! I used bondo to fill in all the open spots on the mouth and the cheeks, then got to work.
I also picked up some fiberglass resin and some sheets of fiberglass. More on that later. For the mold, I went with Rebound 25, a brush-able mold perfect for helmets. I used an empty can of Bondo to hold the helmet steady and up off the bench, and went to town.
I learned a ton in this step. Firstly, even for a sticky, brush on silicone, this stuff drips like there's no tomorrow. I swear, half of what I put on for the first two or three thin coats ended up on the bench or the floor. Easy clean up, but for a guy like me without a ton of money, it felt like I was dripping dollar bills. Once I got the registration keys on (made by pouring some of the silicone into spare cups), I also learned that I wasn't waiting quite long enough as I watched them slowly slide off. I eventually got those to stay.
Lasty, I learned about the thickening agent Thi-Vex. It thickens the silicone enough so that the big thick coat(s) at the end don't drip off like the earlier coats do. Because I had used all of my Rebound to cover the dripping helmet, I had to order another pack of it - this time with the Thi-Vex - in order to cover the still-thin mold and strengthen it. With that done, finally I could move on to the really annoying bit.
Researching this process from other prop makers, like Punished Props, WM Armory, and Volpin Props, is a huge help in this entire process. Specifically though, I had only fiberglassed a few things before when I attempted the T-45d power armor from Fallout, and I wanted to make sure I got this right. So, rather than just slapping the fiberglass sheet down and pouring the resin all over it, I spent a few hours cutting a bunch of two to three inch squares. This made handling it - and applying it - a ton easier.
Due to the shape, I opted to make the fiberglass mothermold in 3 parts: two sides and the back. Originally I was going to do two, but realized that 3 made it easier to remove the silicone from the mold without as much risk of tearing it or smashing the casting inside. Using one of many helpful tips online, I used an empty soda can box, cut up into smaller pieces, for the mohawk that would be screwed together. If I had enough time I would have preferred to cut one out of wood or MDF, which would have been stronger, but alas I did not and had to do this on a tighter budget. It still worked though.
In hindsight, I should have taken better care to do it on the cheek bits, but that's a tale for another day. All in all, did it succeed?
It did indeed! And I have to say, after having only done small molds in the past, it was really cool looking into my first large mold. On top of that, the master survived the process!
The first casting was a lesson or three on its own as well. Slush casting was a literal pain in the arms and back, which I felt for a few days since I'm an out-of-shape weakling. Also, when I reassembled everything, I didn't take proper care to line up a couple of the registrations.
As you can see, because of the misaligned registrations, the first casting came out extremely warped. The smaller molds worked great - though the cheek bits had very small holes (my own dumb fault) so the resin leaked around the silicone and mucked up the mothermold. After a few castings, the cheek molds became basically useless, and I need to redo them.
Thankfully, with a bit of carefully applied heat, I was mostly able to clean up the warped bits.
Hard to believe that's the same casting. Anyway, learning from my mistake, I properly aligned the registrations and tried again.
Muuuuuuuch better. Oh - and one more thing, before we get on to the final finishing process. For the first two helmets, I used Smooth-Cast 300. For the mass-production line, I tried out Smooth-Cast 65, which is a bit more durable from what I had researched. While casting, I found it tons easier to slush than the 300, as it stuck to the walls better and cured faster (which also meant less pain on the arms).
I also discovered that, unlike the 300, it doesn't stick to itself if you try to add a new batch to an already fully-cured one.
Falls right apart, so, word to the wise.
Anyway, the one I finished for the client went similarly to painting up my other builds, just with a few added steps you don't normally need with the foam. It was also easier, since I didn't have to worry about putting on the cheek or buckle attachments.
There were still a few spots that needed smoothing (my still as of yet untrained eye missed them apparently), so back to the bondo/sand/bondo/sand I went. Once that was smoothed out, I cut out the spot for the visor to go in. This was nerve wracking, since I didn't want to break it, though it held up just fine. Of course, then I realized I hadn't done the visor yet, so I used another casting as a base and slowly heat formed a piece of red acrylic over it. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a vacuum former......
Did a light sanding over everything, then started with a gloss black as a base. This helps the metallic colors to pop a bit better. After that came a new metallic blue from Rustoleum. Once all that set, I taped everything up and painted the outer visor a silver, and other areas a gunmetal grey. This was followed up with a nice red.
After all that was done, I added the final details with red and yellow. Not the greatest color match-up, I know, but since they wanted a Red Bull color scheme, I think I did a pretty good job. Once the clear coat on that was fully set and dry, I epoxied in the visor (now cut to size) and did a quick pass for weathering.
Done and done!
This was a learning experience every step of the way, and I hope you learned something too. Enjoy!
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