June 29, 2013

Dokuganryu, you have too many swords - pt.1

On 21st June I started working on Masamune's six "dragon claw" swords while I was at mom's place over the Midsummer.

Masamune Date, "Dokuganryu" (One-eyed Dragon)
The first thing I did was a sword pattern on cardboard paper so that I would get all six swords as identical as possible. To my help I used a decoration katana to trace the curve of the blade.

Blade traced
I drew the tsuka (handle) by free hand and then I marked where the blade starts and tsuka ends with a line across and cut the pattern out.

Cut out sword pattern "they see me rollin' they hatin'" style
My stepdad went outside to find some usable wooden planks for me and he cut and trimmed them to a fitting size with a machine. When I got the first ready plank I took it inside, picked up a pencil and tape and taped my sword pattern on it and traced it to the wood. I made sure to avoid the "branch spots" as much as possible when tracing because those are weak points...
Oh, I added a few millimeters width to both sides of the tsuka on all the swords to make it stand out a little bit more; my paper pattern had blade and tsuka same width.

One sword shape traced into wood
Soon enough he was done fixing the planks (yay thanks!) and I had seven sword-to-be's to, well, turn into swords.

Yes, there's one extra just in case I mess up.. and if I don't I'll save it for a future cosplay instead ~
I traced the sword shape to all the wood planks and then took them outside for sawing.. with a jigsaw.

Hello my friend <3
Sawing in progress..
One sword cut out!
The first two swords took some time to saw out but then I figured how to place the plank and stuff and so the remaining ones went much quicker. Of course when I had the three first ones done I had to try Masamune style sword wielding!

It works but it's pretty uncomfortable at this early stage... xD
At this point I got called inside for Midsummer dinner so I took a break and good that, my back was hurting. I returned some time later to saw out the remaining three more that I needed. The seventh extra sword I didn't cut out.

Sword gathering!
(all swords are spruce except the one farthest to the left which is black alder)
That was all the progress I did on the first day. I worked on some other cosplay parts the following days but on 26th June I continued a little. I took one of the swords and with a rasp in hand I started filing the blade shape onto it. After the blade shape was okay I took some rougher grit sand paper and sanded the blade edge nicer.

Blade taking form (rasp use)
The sword in the front has been filed and sanded (blade edge only)
That day I didn't feel like fixing the other swords because I was doing Okita's armor at the same time and it had an earlier deadline (read: Skecon 5-7 July) than Masamune, so yeah. But today on 29th June I went ahead and filed and sanded the remaining 5 swords and gosh do my hands hurt now! Yes, I did it all by hand because I'm dumb and want to do it the way I'm used to. :DD There would have been tools (like a mini/hand-size carpenter's plane and a machine-sander-thing, you know, those that look a bit like an iron and I mean that iron you iron clothes with. lol) which would have made it easier but lolnope, I always do things the hard way and now my sore arms thank me for that. But I can't help it that I prefer to have maximum "hand/touch/feel/whatever precision control" when working with wood, if that even makes sense. But at least I got the job done!

Filed (aka shaped) and roughly sanded blade edges

More progress should get done soon enough and feel free to kick me in the butt if I don't so stay tuned!

June 26, 2013

Samurai style torso armor

On 24th June I started working on the torso armor for Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi's Souji Okita.

Character reference
I decided to go with polystyrene even though I had a not-that-good experience with it earlier. I think I've learned some things about the material along the bad experience as well as the successful one. A bit wiser from earlier tries I thought polystyrene should be suitable for Okita's torso armor. I decided to do the armor similar to kendo armor, this because the backside and shoulders aren't shown anyway and it has pretty much the same shape.

Kendo armor - do
So I picked up my polystyrene sheet roll and started taking some measures and drawing on it. I drew one of the sides free-hand and used baking paper lol as a pattern to trace on and get the other side identical to the first.

I must say cutting polystyrene -at least the width I have- is quite hellish.. especially curves.

Soon finished cutting
After cutting it out I went in front of the mirror and bended it over my body and OH GOD I DON'T EVEN. While the length and width were fine I had completely screwed up the "arm hole"/side curving and the placement of those two rising front.. things-or-whatever-they-are. I wondered why in hell I hadn't checked the fit in front of the mirror before cutting it out..? ._. Needless to say I couldn't use this one so I had to make another. I repeated the procedure with the necessary changes added. When I was done I had this:

Seems much better
I tried this one in front of the mirror and success!

After that I went up to the attic to check for any possible close-enough fabrics for the armor's upper pattern. I didn't found anything very similar but I thought this one snake skin-ish fabric was pretty cool for it. It has a nice sheen too and should look pretty sweet with the red spray paint under it. I didn't work on the armor any more for that day after getting the fabric.

Today (26th June) I continued working on the armor. The first thing I did was cut out a test piece of the fabric and take a scrap piece of polystyrene and well, hot glue the fabric on it to test if it would stick and stay.

Sits like a mountain, success!
Then I went ahead and made a pattern of the armor's upper part, where I wanted the fabric to be.

Pattern cut out
Fabric cut out
Next it was time to sand around the edges of the whole armor to get them nicer. After that was done I drilled holes into the armor for the ties because hey, I need to put it on somehow!

Armor after sanding edges and drilling holes into it
Luckily I happened to have almost a full can of red spray paint over from like... uh, 4 years ago when I did my first cosplay - Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach. I had used red spray paint for his sword chain thingy and now I got to use it again for Okita's armor. So with the spray paint at hand I went outside, put up a working table and used a cardboard piece as cover and sprayed.  Many coats of paint later I had this:

I didn't waste much paint on the upper part because it would be covered anyway..
I let it dry for a few hours just in case and took it inside. While inside I noticed the armor had some sort of spray paint dust on it so I wiped it clean with a wet kitchen paper. After that I started working on attaching the fabric to the armor. The hot glue gun was my friend.

After hot gluing the front
Preparations for gluing the back
A part of the backside hot glued
I must say the backside was a bitch to glue. I burned my fingers more times than I remembered to count and I got hot glue strings everywhere and agjdsj. The backside isn't the prettiest but who cares because it will be against my body and unseen anyway... I let the hot glue dry and then I poked holes into those front things that had been covered in fabric.

le hole
With the hot glue dry I took my metallic golden paint and started painting on top of the glue to get the border thing Okita has on his armor.

Paint paint paint paint...
It took forever because I was being super careful and shit. I noticed the paint was pretty awesome because when you painted it on it seemed this dull super light gold sort-of-pankake-dough color but when it dried it started turning into a real gold color, cool!

When the paint had dried I made the edge border around the armor's upper part with hot glue.

Glue glue glue glue...
... and paint paint paint paint some more.
The paint took some time to dry completely so meanwhile I watched some Digimon Adventure to make the waiting time go by faster. I'm watching the first season for nostalgic reasons, ah. <3 And besides as a kid I never saw all episodes anyway...

When the golden paint finally had dried I just had to put on the ties and call it done!

It's not 100% accurate but fair enough, neh? ;) You'll get to see it worn and in action soon enough because I will do an Okita preview before Skecon!

June 25, 2013

Stocking up materials for cosplay week

I went to town on the morning and bought some cosplay materials that I will need during the week - a wooden broomstick and a roll mat.

You'll see soon enough what I will make out of these!
Because I'm sleeping at mom's place over this week I have a golden opportunity to work on my cosplays full-time and well, I really need to take this opportunity seriously because this might be my only chance to work on my cosplays before my crazy July con summer rolls in! So yeah, the coming week I will be busting my ass off working on cosplays so expect a lot of updates on my blog, booyah!

June 24, 2013

A plastic hell

Remember how I back in 6th April started working on Masamune's leg armors? Well, I've been slowly working on them over the last few month and now I figured I'll put all the rest of the progress in a single long follow-up post. Here goes!

Way back on 5th April I continued the leg armor work by drawing a pattern for the knee cap part of the armor. I had to make a few versions before I came up with one that seemed right. The early ones had a dent at the middle but I scrapped that idea on the final version.

The final pattern version
 With the pattern at hand I took the polystyrene and cut out two pieces...

... and then came the heat gun treatment to shape the plastic.

After having shaped the knee parts of the armor I took one of the leg pieces and tried the fit against it. I had to go reshape the knee parts a few times to get them to fit as well as possible and without leaving "empty space" where the bent parts of both pieces met.

Testing the fit
Over 5th April and the two following days I was struggling with trying to find some method to glue the pieces together. I tried several different adhesives that we had available at mom's place on scrap pieces but nothing seemed to work and the despair-&-frustration meter was rising fast.

I tried hot glue, construction adhesive (?), pvc glue, epoxy resin and allround glue... and nothing worked. Fuck. :)
I kind of left it at this point for some days in frustration to try and come up with what to try now. On 23rd April I was feeling like going through hell again trying once more. I thought that if I gave the surface a rough treatment with some sand paper maybe it would maybe make a difference at how well the glues would stick. But of course before trying any glues on the actual armor parts. I had to draw some marks where the glue would sit and thus also where to sand.

Edges marked...
... and sanded.
On the same day my stepdad had been cool and bought some kind of glue that claimed it would stick to polystyrene.

Equipped with a glue that gave me hope I decided to tackle the damn plastic again, but this time trying the glue on the actual armor parts and not just scrap pieces as before. So with a helping hand from stepdad we glued the knee caps to the armor pieces at the marked lines and secured them to dry over the night.

You better be stuck together when I return... *glare*
About 24 hours later on the next day (24th April) I returned to check if the glue had done what it claimed it could and low and behold, the pieces didn't separate even after I tried to bend and put some pressure on them!

I could have been happy at this point.. but colored by the reminder of earlier gluing failures and some justified iffyness I decided to be extra-super-duper safe and reinforce the part that attaches the knee cap to the leg armor with some rivets. So on 26th April I marked where to drill the armors.

Holes marked with a pencil. There's 4 holes.
After drilling.
Actually my stepdad did this next part for me, namely inserting the rivets with a hand riveting tool.

Hand riveting tool
First we tried a rivet on scrap pieces just to check that it worked, which it did. Then we put rivets on the actual armor.

Front with rivets (surface paint cracked a bit)
I quickly realized the backside of the rivets would probably get really uncomfortable because they stick out and well, having them pressing against my legs all day in cosplay can't be a very pleasant experience. Stepdad then showed it was possible to cut off parts of the backside of the rivets if you were careful not to hit that thing in the center. He went ahead and trimmed the rivet backsides before I even knew of it some hours later while I was in my former room (this was while I still lived at mom's place) doing something else; he did it without me knowing. xD

A "trimmed" rivet backside
A few days later, on 29th April, I noticed that the paint didn't stick that well to the polystyrene. It was possible to peel it off with your nails or something semi-sharp.

Oh crap...
Again I thought that if I sanded the surface the paint would stick on better. I used some sanding paper with a very high number, super fine grit.

Preparations - sanding papers, armors and a chunk of finnfoam to wrap sanding paper around
Front leg armors front sanded
Back leg armors front sanded
I left them in this sorry state for some time because I moved away from mom's place into my own apartment and thus couldn't work on my Masamune cosplay as often as before. But on 12th May I returned to work a few hours!

Because of the earlier sanding there was dust of the spray spread over the armor surfaces and so, to clean it, I had to use white spirit.

I just used some tissue paper, put some white spirit on it and wiped the surfaces clean of dust. After that I let them dry for around 2 hours outside and then returned to recoat the fronts of all the armor pieces.

Newly sprayed coat of paint on top front sides
I left them to dry over the night because I had to leave for my apartment. It took me until 8th June before I got another chance to work on these again and when I returned mom had told me some things that sounded weird and bad. "The color is flaking everywhere." I had heard and I wasn't sure what she meant until I got there and saw the armor pieces. The fronts which I had treated and recoated earlier were as fine as ever but the backsides -which I had left completely untreated after sanding the surfaces- had pooed black flakes basically everywhere and even the slightest touch let lose a dark cloud of them!

Maximum flaking. Fuck. :)
I tried softly rubbing my finger against the flaking surface and...

... almost all of the (sanded) spray coat fell right off!
And on all the untreated back sides to boot!
Nothing to do but to let lose a few curse words mentally and give the back the same white spirit and recoat treatment I had given the front sides quite long ago.

On 24th June I decided to try them on and crossed my fingers but somehow I had a feeling it wouldn't go well. Guess if I was right? :DD
Before starting I cut out lengths of white cotton ribbon and sat down on the floor and started tying the armors on one of my legs. I started with the backside armor and at first everything seemed alright but when I started with the front armor I noticed things started screwing up. First of the armors wouldn't stay where intended and they would constantly turn to either the right or left and, secondly, the lower ties would slide down if I moved and sometimes if I didn't -.- and thus the armor would "pop out". I guess it slides down because the surface is kinda... plasticy/slippery (there's no grip) and because feet get narrower closer to the ankle. Frustrating to say the least.

Testing. Notice backside armor has "popped out" from the lower tie..
I also noticed that the backside armor had flaked some paint off in strips at the high tension bending point, the middle.

The front armor didn't flake though. I'm pretty annoyed because this means I likely have to come up with something else for the armor and I'm running short on time. I can probably still use the front piece but I would have to replace the backside armors with something with a rougher/uneven/non-slippery surface so that they won't slide around and shit. I guess I will try mutilating a roll mat...