November 27, 2016

The making of Hotaru's tengu geta!

Hello buddies ~

I'm a bit crazy for attempting this, I confess. But as a sort-of-perfectionist when it comes to my own cosplay making I decided that this would at the very least be a wildly interesting challenge to go through, both in making and in wearing the finished product, which, in this case, is a pair of tengu geta! You see, Hotaru is always seen in the manga wearing these 10 cm high Japanese wooden geta shoes – except that his signature footwear only has one ha (teeth) to stand on – yikes!
Needless to say this is gonna be one hell of a trial to actually figure out how to walk with these beasts! I'm gonna need to prepare myself for some serious balance training, huff puff.

Sooooo... are you interested in following my adventures in making some serious suicide shoes? If yes, read ahead and remember build and wear these at your own risk. Hohohoho ~
Warning: this is gonna be a long post. 

Hotaru reference.
When I first thought about cosplaying Hotaru, for several years ago, I was thinking about just making ordinary geta (aka those with two teeth) and painting them red and call it close enough. I was afraid of making tengu geta because of the hazards they'd come with once you slip them into your feet, hahah.
But then at Närcon 2015 I saw a guy cosplaying Hotaru and, once I asked to take a photo of him, I saw him pull out his tengu geta and change into them! :O He was wearing some kind of comfy-looking sneakers or such as walk-around-the-con shoes. I remember that he had to lean on his two friends to get the shoes on (I guess these two were always around him, just in case he'd trip or something) and once he was done he could actually stand with them on without having anyone pressed next to him! Seeing him standing on those crazy shoes without any support made me think "if he can do it, so can I!" and yeah, I did ask him later if it was hard to walk in those skyscrapers and he said that it's actually not that hard to walk in them... but standing still is a whole different story. *badumtssh*

How can he jump around, fight and run with those on??
But yeah, these things ain't easy to move around in; you're constantly worried about tripping over something, losing your balance, falling over someone, getting accidentally bumped in crowds or entering an area with uneven/bumpy ground etc. You really can't move around freely because you have to be 110% aware of your surroundings at all times... or else you'll be effectively face-planting.
I'll be sure to always bring with me a second pair of shoes whenever I bring my Hotaru cosplay to a con because hey, I will need comfier shoes and something that's a bit less risky to move around in. Having "tengu-legs" all day doesn't sound like the most sober idea I'd ever have – these are likely best suited for photoshoot occasions or for the mildly crazy ones out there.

I apologize for the crummy cellphone-quality on most of the photos ahead; I didn't have my SLR camera with me in school during this project.

Okay so, I started this project on early March 2016. Because I'm cheap and stuff I did this during school on my woodwork class... or well, it's not actually called that but woodwork is what a big majority of the students are doing during class so, err, yeah. The class is actually called "redesign" and "furniture renovation". We work in a garage that belongs to the school and there we have a lot of power tools, paints, sand paper and whatever you might need – including free wood. 
I knew that I needed to use some kind of wood that could take my whole body weight and would be durable yet preferably not too heavy or else wearing my shoes would be like walking with anchors strapped to my ankles, lol. I checked first through the "trash box", aka where all the scrap wood pieces were but I didn't find anything suitable in there. I then went to check the actual wood storage and found a thick plank that seemed suitable. I went to ask my teacher and he said that "you should be able to jump with shoes out of that" and so I assumed it was okay to use. xD Problem was that I couldn't find another plank of the same wood, width and thickness so yeah, I had to go with something else. I searched around for quite a while before I laid my eyes on some scrapped wooden bed legs – they had just the right thickness and seemed very sturdy! I went to ask my teacher if said legs belonged to anyone else's project but he said that I could take them, hell yeah!

Got my wood!
For those wondering what woods these are the plank is Scots pine, aka European redwood. Note though that it was painted in some white paint before I took it, hence the pale color. The former bed legs are made out of beech. I reserve the right for any misinformation since I'm just stating what my teacher told me; I'm not a wood expert and I don't know if he is either. 
The Swedish names, for those curious, is 'furu' (the plank) and 'bok' (the legs).

Even though it's officially mentioned that Hotaru's tengu geta only have 10 cm long teeth I decided to screw that and made mine 15 cm instead. Normally I'd always go for accuracy but I honestly thought that 10 cm looked stupidly short and I always thought that his geta looked taller than that in the manga anyway, lol. I'll probably regret this choice once I have to walk in them...

Aaaaand back to the project!
After I had found the pieces that I needed and marked where I needed to cut I went and said hello to the new love of my life... err... the circular saw. I had never used one before and, hot damn, is it a handy asset to have when working with wood! It just takes a few seconds and bam, you're done!

Too bad I can't steal it without anyone noticing....
Pieces cut.
Next up was some rigorous sanding, except on the 'tooth' parts since those are already smooth and all thanks to being a recycled leg piece from a bed. Save time, effort and nature, wohoo! I sanded the body pieces of the shoes until they were smooth like a duck's butt and then I sanded some more. All the previous white paint that was on them came off.

Everything sanded and the placement for the 'teeth' are marked.
Now came a brainstorming session with my teacher about how to proceed and if it would even be possible to walk with these things strapped to my feet. He googled 'tengu geta' and pointed out how other examples had a slanted shape on the underside, likely to provide stabilization and support for the 'tooth'. Don't quote me on that though, it's just a guess.

Example photo from Google.
Now I can say that I've seen tengu geta without those triangular slanted shapes on the underside (mainly homemade pairs) but I'm fairly certain having them makes these monsters easier to walk on. I thought long and hard if I should add them or not; not adding them would be more character accurate but adding them would likely lessen the risk of me faceplanting everywhere and so, the question stood, should I go for accuracy or for convenience and safety? Which one weighed more?
It was a really hard decision to make but I decided on adding them in the end, mainly because I really don't have the best balance to begin with and I don't want to kiss the floor at cons, unintentionally. 
Off I go to find something usable in the scrap wood box!

Another bed leg to the rescue! :'DD No but really, this one had one side already in a slanted shape that had been glued on – a perfect starting point for an occasionally lazy cosplayer like me, lol. Thank you beds for sacrificing yourselves for a good cause. 
I had really good luck because each of these scrap legs were 18 cm long (the leg part, not counting the fastener top) and my geta needed two 9 cm long pieces per underside, bingo! So of course I decided to just cut one in half and use the more slanted half for the front half and the less slanted for the back half. I hope my explanations are not too bad. What I was less lucky with was that these pieces are not as wide as my geta's main body but yeah, I thought I could deal with it because it's not a ridiculously noticeable difference and, well, it won't be seen all that much anyway; I just want something to support the 'teeth' and balance out the weight a little, without having to put a shitlot of time into making it.

At first I had thought that I'd just saw off the piece that I wanted but then one of the assistant teachers looked at the bed leg and saw that the glue fastening had started giving way; he said we could likely just split them open with a knife in the seam and a couple hits with a hammer – said and done!

Slanted pieces separated. One is glued.
As you can see on the photo above one of the pieces cracked because it didn't come off cleanly. Luckily it didn't break in two, so we just glued it and put some pressure clamps on. The knife pictured is the one we used, in case anyone wonders.

Next up I moved to work on the main body again. I decided that I wanted the teeth platforms to have some extra support to hold on to so I decided to make a groove in the underside of the shoe's body to sink them into. It was really important that the groove was as close to the tooth's width as possible so that it would be snug and not wobble around. Every millimeter was important and I had to be really really careful. But instead of carving out the grooves by hand (which would be quite some work and take time) I had a genius flash and turned my gaze to the circular saw, once again.

I'm a clever little shit!
I basically adjusted the circular saw so that it wouldn't go all the way down and then I did a lot of sawing in lines back and forth, millimeter by millimeter, until I got a nice groove formed. Fast and efficient!
When I was done with that I took a chisel and smoothed out the roughness caused by the sawing.

One groove done.
Shoe to the left is smoothed, shoe to the right is raw.
Next I took one of those metallic compasses (?) and marked out the holes and the center of them on the teeth, mainly so that it would be easier for the drill to locate them. I used a 51 mm hole saw on a drill to do the holes, it's pictured on the photo below together with the compass.

Holes made more pronounced, in preparation for sawing.
Holes cut out with the hole saw.
The hole saw got really warm while in use, to the point it actually burned the wood and reeked of smoke hence why the holes look blackish on the edges. It started to smell burnt, it was kinda scary. :S The drill even shut itself down to cool down when I was half-way done, oops. I need to mention though that beech is an amazing wood, it doesn't crack nor splinter at all!

Next I marked out the placements for the hanao, aka the thongs. I then fetched some rope of the thickness I'd want to use and picked out some leftover fabric from school; the fabric is actually a former couch cover pillow thingy and thus it was perfect for my project because I wouldn't need to buy any cotton filling for the hanao!
I drilled the holes and realized that the fabric rope I first had set my eyes on sadly won't be durable enough. Luckily a trip to a mixed store afterwards provided me with a white synthetic rope that was cheap, had a nice thickness, a lot of meters and was durable too!

I noticed at some point that, for some reason, the holes on the ha weren't on the same spot, even though they should have been – good thing for me was that I had saved a reserve bed leg, just in case, and now it came to use. I shortened it to the right length, drilled the hole in it and then I had a much more identical second "tooth"! It also fit better into the groove when I did a test-run, aka the new one didn't wobble around as much.

Summer vacation came and went and I didn't progress on these shoes for months because duh, no school. :'D The project continued again on 30th August and the first thing I did was to refresh my memory of what I had been planning for these shoes. I remembered where I had left off and continued by gluing each tooth to the main body of the shoes. I used normal wood glue and pressure clamps.

Tengu geta glued and put to dry.
I left the glue to dry for a couple days, aka until my next lesson. The next time I came to work on my shoes the glue had dried completely and I took them out of the pressure clamps. But upon taking off the clamps I noticed that one of them had pressed an ugly mark onto the main body of one of the shoes; I didn't notice before but one of the pressing "plates" on the clamp, that you screw onto your item to hold it in place, had an uneven surface. Luckily it was not a big deal because I would have to go through and use filler to even out cracks and shit anyway.
But before I started with the whole filler mission I decided to make each tooth extra sturdy and thus I went ahead and drilled some screws into them – don't want to take any risks with the glue failing me after some time of use! Okay so I basically just marked out the spots for each screw (two per geta), drilled the holes, used a thicker drill to "carve" out space for the screw head and lastly I, of course, drilled the screws into the geta. I placed the holes about 2 cm into the body from each side. Each screw was about 4-5 cm long.

Screws drilled in place.
Notice the pressure marks from the clamp as well.
After the screws were drilled in I found some wood filler that I thought I could test. I didn't quite like how it behaved (I think it might have been semi-dry because the person who used it before me didn't close it properly after use) and so I gave up on it and went with normal filler instead. I carefully went through the whole shoes to even out any cracks, splinters and unevenness. Once that was done my class had ended and I left my tengu geta to dry upright on a shelf.

The wood filler that I tried using. It sucked. :(
During next class my shoes had dried and I continued by sanding down the excess filler until I got my geta as smooth as possible. After that I wiped them dry of the sanding/filler dust with a towel and then I went to purchase some spray primer, because it's a lot faster and easier than using ordinary primer in paint form.

Before priming my project I took a good look at the current progress. I remembered the existence of those slanted pieces that I made out of the bed legs and messed around with them, to try to simulate if they would actually do as much of a difference in balance and sturdiness as I had thought. I got more and more sceptical because after doing some simulations it seemed like they didn't actually do much at all to increase the safety of me standing on these murder shoes; I started to think that maybe they don't give the desired effect because it's not from the same block of wood as the main body. So yeah, after some thinking I decided to forgo these slanted pieces (after all the work I put into them) because they didn't really seem to do as much of a difference as I had hoped and yeah, if they don't do their work then I'd rather be more accurate to the character and go without.

Comparison with one shoe with the slants and the other without.
So yeah, I left the "stability pieces" out of my project and continued with priming my shoes. I let them dry and added another coating. The drying time took long enough that my class ended before I could get to start with the actual painting job.

Primed geta.
Next time was painting time! I had previously decided on using the same metallic red vax paste that I used for painting Hotaru's sword a while ago. I wanted them to match and the color (and the vax paint itself) is awesome and super quick to use! So yeah, this paint is really chunky and you apply it by using a soft piece of fabric or a sponge – I use a torn piece of an old bed sheet. I spent a lot of hours painting my shoes, did two layers and was very careful to avoid as much "color-stealing fingerprints" as possible because yeah, I need to seal this thing after it has dried or it will continue to smudge off ever so slowly when I touch it. :D It got kinda hard in the end to not accidentally touch some spot when you were painting another – the only area that didn't matter was the actual part of the shoe that will touch the ground when I wear these.

Painting in progress.
Once the shoes had dried I returned to seal them with a clear gloss varnish. When I was done spraying them I carefully put the shoes upright to dry on a shelf in the garage; I should have realized that this was not the safest space to put them on because the shelf itself is vintage, narrow and wobbly – I remember thinking before I left that I'll move them to a safer place once I could touch them on the next lesson. But of course, once the next time came about I of course forgot about that tiny little detail. So yeah, when I came to check on the varnish I noticed that the paint still left fingerprints and thus a second coating was needed. I opened the drawer under the shelf (the shelf was separate and on top of the drawer, fyi) to look for my varnish can, which was not there, and then I closed the drawer without thinking and – BAM! Of course the impact from closing the drawer (it doesn't go in smoothly) made the whole shelf shake and my shoes fell down. One shoe survived without taking any damage but the other one hit one of its front edges against a wooden chair and the tip of the edge got worn down and lost its point. Fuck my life. :)) I was really annoyed with myself because I could so easily have avoided this unnecessary and stupid mishap (I even reminded myself before I left last time >_>) and now I had to partially redo the painting job. Its during this kind of times, when you ruin things for yourself when you're almost done, that you want to highfive yourself in the face... with a frying pan.
So yeah, I had to backtrack, try to repair the edge and then repaint the area surrounding the damage and then go back to seal the whole shit again. Oh well, I needed to do a second coat of varnish anyway but yeah, fucking up the the nice edge really sucked donkey balls. I could so easily just have moved them away before closing the damn box.

Once I was done with the painting it was time to actually make the shoes wearable, aka create the hanao. What I did was that I took the previously mentioned synthetic rope and the couch cover fabric thingy that I took from school. I don't know the proper name for the piece but it's fabric with cotton layers/filling added to it, to make it extra soft and thick. So yeah, I had cut out some strips of the fabric and of the rope that would become the hanao. I just simply handsewed the fabric onto the rope, like the photo below shows. The fabric was folded in half and the edges were folded in too. It's important that the rope stays inside the fabric during all times because if it accidentally goes out then it's gonna be a bitch to reinsert once the "fabric tube" is closed.

Sewing the hanao.
This is not any accurate way to do it and no, I did actually not zigzag the edges because I had no sewing machine available; luckily the fabric doesn't seem to fray too easily. What I did though was that I folded in the edges before sewing them closed – should keep them from unravelling too much.
Once I was done with sewing I tied these thongs to my shoes. I didn't do any proper tying because I have no idea how the Japanese actually do it so yeah, just did a lot of basic knots over and over again until I ran out of rope.

Now what was left was to, preferably, find some sort of textured and durable rubber that I could attach to the bottom of the shoes to make them safer to walk on, especially indoors. I've realized from an earlier convention experience that wearing wooden shoes indoors with a plastic floor is like being on an ice-skating rink – in other words, a combo that will lead to injuries. Tengu geta has a higher percentage to lead to injuries anyway lol, who am I fooling?
Okay, so my first thought was to buy one of those car rubber mats and cut out pieces of it and hot glue them on. My second idea was to buy some really cheap second-hand shoes and cut out the bottom and use that but yeah, when I went scouting for suitable shoes it turned out to be harder than I thought. The thing is that I preferably wanted something transparent and so, one day when I passed by Ikea, I suddenly remembered that I had scrap pieces of a colorless anti-slip plastic cover thingy lying around somewhere; I'm sorry but I don't know the proper name for it. ^^" It's a thin transparent rubbery plastic film on a roll with nubs on it. I originally used it to put some inside my cupboard boxes so that all my cooking tools, spice boxes etc would stay in place; also used it for protection and for ease of cleaning. The reason I remembered its existence when I was close to Ikea is because that's where I bought it, for your information.

Before gluing it on.
So I just cut out some fitting pieces and hot glued them on. Of course I put the textured side outwards. I don't know what my hot glue was doing but it didn't seem to want to heat up properly (might be that the electricity is restricted in the garage, idk) and so I fear that these won't hold for very long. Oh well, in case that happens they're super easy to just glue back on at home.

Glued in place and started to trim the corners.
After I had glued the transparent sheets onto the shoes I trimmed the corners and whatever else that was a bit too big. Now to hope that the glue holds... Good thing though is that I have a fair amount left of the plastic thingy so even if I would somehow lose these original ones at a con or something I can easily replace them.

Finished tengu geta for Hotaru.
With that done my tengu geta are finished for now! I might still need to resize the hanao because I fear I might have made them a bit too long but yeah, I can't tell yet if that's gonna be a problem or not since I haven't tried wearing these monster shoes yet. But oh well, in any case I'm happy to finally be done with these shoes because it means that my SDK Hotaru cosplay is now complete!

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment if you have any questions etc ~
Shiro Samurai out.

November 24, 2016

Lens review: I.Fairy Tofi Gray

Hello everyone!

For today's post I'll be doing a circle lens review. ^^ I'm gonna show you the I.Fairy Tofi Gray lenses, wopee! I normally don't really prioritize gray lenses (gray is kind of a dull color if you ask me, lol) but these seemed so fancy that I wanted to give them a try! Also, I was expecting these to be really good as cosplay lenses.

Roll out the review!

Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 16.2 mm
Water content: 55%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)

Okay so, I.Fairy lenses – these will be big. I.Fairy lenses are always big so be prepared for that if you ever get any! But yeah, the Tofi series has a really distinct and recognizable pattern; I'm not sure what exactly to call it but it reminds me slightly of some sort of flower petals, I don't know. Whatever it is it looks nice and I like how the inner center has a darker gradient – makes the lenses have more depth to them.

The color is like a medium to light gray, really pretty and with excellent color coverage. The lens has a lot of pigment but where the lens meets the pupil hole there's an obvious clashing effect because it doesn't fade or blend into my eyes, even though I have light blue-gray eyes. Then again, most opaque lenses don't fade towards the center anyway so it's not like I was expecting these to have a natural blending effect, lol. Just wanted to mention it since I know that some circle lens wearers are bothered by an obvious "this is where the lens ends and you can clearly see my true eye color in a ring around the center". :) But then again, I don't think that anyone who buys these lenses expect them to look realistic anyway.

One lens in. Notice size difference.
I had some slight issues getting these lenses into my eye and they felt a bit itchy after insertion – I waited it out and afterwards it was fine. These don't blur my vision or anything but they started to feel dry already after 30 minutes! D: Then again, I've had especially dry eyes lately so that might have played a part, along with the fact that these lenses would have expired in next January if I hadn't opened them. So yeah, even though I couldn't stand these for much longer than 1,5 hours I think the approaching expiry date and my sensitive eyes might have played a big part in the comfort issues – I don't think these would be as drying for others. My eyes felt really dry after I took the lenses off, by the way.

Lens photos below!
All photos taken by me during a November afternoon with a clear sky and with the sun low on the horizon, sunset. There's no color filters or such on the close-up photos and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.

Apartment room light. Only natural light.
Bathroom light.
Flash photo.
Facing a window in the corridor. (not sun side)
Yellow light in the corridor.
Weak yellow light in the staircase.
Facing an orange-ish lamp in the staircase, window behind me.
Outdoors, back against sun. Facing the wall.
Outdoors, facing the setting sun.
In terms of color and design these lenses are really likable – I can definitely see these being used for cosplay, especially. The bold color and the black limbal ring make these peepers look animated. I just wish I had been luckier with the comfort because they dry so fast for me that they're barely wearable. :/ Then again, as I said previously I'm pretty sure this would have been a non-issue if I had opened them earlier and not waited until there's only a couple months left. So yeah, please take my comfort grade with a grain of salt.

Distance photo!

Short summary:

Color: 9/10
A really nice medium light gray color. Shows up amazingly.
Design: 9/10
Pretty and unique design that makes my eyes look 'anime'. Reminds me slightly of flower petals.
Opacity: 9/10
Excellent color coverage.
Enlargement: 8/10
I.Fairy lenses are always big, what did you expect?
Comfort: 2/10
Felt itchy upon insertion and dry out really fast. Can't wear them much longer than 1,5 hours.
Naturalness: 3/10
Not really natural. The color is too opaque and bold and the lenses certainly don't have a realistic print.

Thanks for viewing, I hope you found this review helpful!

November 22, 2016

Lens review: I.Fairy Ruby Red

Hello everyone!

I'll show you peeps the beautiful I.Fairy Ruby Red circle lenses, also sometimes known as Vassen Ruby Red. ^^ I originally bought these to use for when I cosplay Chikage Kazama (Hakuouki) but I have yet to cosplay him and, sadly, the expiry date is closing in on these and thus I had to open them. I always viewed the I.Fairy Ruby series as a cosplay lens and now let's see if you agree!

Base curve: 8.6 mm
Diameter: 16.2 mm
Water content: 55%
Life span: 1 year (I recommend 6 months)

These lenses have a rather simple design featuring a black limbal ring with some longer and shorter streaks reaching towards the pupil. The design of the I.Fairy Ruby series is like a middleground between anime/fantasy and semi-natural – these red lenses could work for cosplay purposes as well as for some creepy cute lolita outfits etc. I'd say that because of the design the Ruby series is a pretty versatile lens.

The first time I wore these lenses was at a con. I had no problems inserting them and they were comfortable right off the bat. Too bad they started to feel dry already after the first hour had passed and, while I can't know exactly becaus I didn't check the clock, I couldn't wear these longer than for something between 2-4 hours. The same thing happened the second time I wore these as well, really comfortable once inserted but start to feel dry after 1 hour. 
I'm not sure if I just got an Monday example or if the fast drying is because these lenses would have expired in their vials in January next year, had I not opened them.

One lens in. Notice the size difference.
You can see that these lenses are big. Not humongously big but I.Fairy type of big, if you know what I mean. The thick black limbal ring also adds to the illusion of the eyes being bigger and it also makes the lenses look 'anime'. The size doesn't hinder my vision in any way.

The color is definitely a red that shows up well, slightly more on the deep/dark side but still not a dark shade in itself. In some lights I have noticed that it takes on a pinkish tint though but, then again, that could vary depending on what your natural eye color is – mine is a light blue-gray. 
The lenses have a nice color coverage. These are especially suitable for cosplayers because the color is very noticeable from a distance and it photographs well.

Lens photos ahead!
All photos taken by me during a November afternoon with a clear sky and approaching sunset. There's no color filters or such on the close-up photos and that's so that the colors would be as true to real life as possible.

Apartment room light, only natural light (window).
Bathroom light.
Flash photo.
Facing a window in the corridor. (not sun side)
Yellow light in the corridor.
Weak yellow light in the staircase.
Facing a weak orange-ish lamp in the staircase, with a window at my side.
Outdoors, back against the sun. (aka facing the wall)
Outdoors, facing the sun.
What more can I say? It's a pretty red multi-purpose lens and I would recommend trying these if you are in need of red lenses. Just be aware that I.Fairy always have big lenses and if you have small eyes it might not look the best on you, of course depending on the person.
As far as naturalness goes I wouldn't call these natural but they are surprisingly okay for being an unnatural color; they don't look scary for being a red lens and that's quite a feat. With that said I still wouldn't wear these as an everyday lens (then again, if you like to stand out then go for it!) but they do work for j-fashion and such, especially those with darker themes since red eyes often add to the look. Goths and rockers might enjoy these lenses too, hehe.

Distance photo!

Want to see the I.Fairy Ruby lenses but in different colors?
I've reviewed some more pairs here: Brown, Green

Short summary:

Color: 8/10
A good, clear and deep red that shows up well.
Design: 8/10
The design itself is fairly basic but it makes it versatile!
Opacity: 8/10
These do change my eye color yet doesn't look too fake.
Enlargement: 8/10
Big, just like I.Fairy lenses always are.
Comfort: 4/10
These are comfortable at first and don't hinder my vision in any way. They do start to feel dry already after 1 hour though. I can wear these for anything between 2-4 hours.
Naturalness: 2/10
Despite being a big red lens these don't look scary or super weird. Still not natural though, for obvious reasons.

Thanks for viewing, I hope you found this review helpful!