May 14, 2017

MH4U Eldaora's Taus Hunting Horn cosplay prop [part 1]

Hello geeks and fellow hunters!

I've wanted to do a Monster Hunter costume for years now (I'm a huge fan of the games!) but I've been hesitant to start because of the difficulty level of the designs. I finally got the push that I much needed when a major school project came up and I wanted to make something big and impressive for it. I thought that I could start by making a weapon from the games and save the armor for later.
After going through a lot of weapon candidates from Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate, I decided on making a Hunting Horn. It's one of my main weapons in several of the installments, one that I use a fair lot and enjoy playing with, especially in multiplayer hunts. So yeah, once I had decided on that I wanted to try my hands at making a Hunting Horn I only had to figure out which one – there's a lot to choose from! I soon came to the conclusion that the Eldaora's Taus (aka Rusted Kushala Daora one) would be a fun challenge to make and it looks really pretty too!
Also, I want to mention that this is my first time making a cosplay prop of this caliber and difficulty and also my first time using PU-foam for a bigger project; I've only used expanding foam previously for small stuff like a spearhead etc. There will be a lot of learning involved.

Note: this project is split into several parts because otherwise it would turn into a kilometer post; I need to document my progress carefully (many photos etc) since it's a school project. Some photos in this post are taken with my SLR camera, while others are taken using my crummy cellphone camera. This is why the photo quality varies, sorry about it. 

Let's do this!

I couldn't find any references of said Hunting Horn, the Eldaora's Taus, on the internet so I had to start my own game and take some photos of it myself. My camera had a really hard time trying to capture the colors accurately from the screen, but the photos above are as close as I could get.
Around the end of last year (November something) I started this project. The first step was finding a wooden pole that I could use for the base. I found one in my school's garage that had a broken tip, most likely it had been a broom before and the broom part had broken off. It didn't matter to me that the top was broken because it would be covered inside the bulk of the weapon anyway – aka the "horse head". I know it's not really a horse with the horns and all but yeah, during the early stages of my work some other students and my teacher asked me what I was making and, well, it's so much easier to just say "oversized hobby horse" instead of starting to explain that I'm making a huge-ass monster slaying cosplay prop to people that don't even know what cosplay is...

I needed to make a base for the general shape of the head part. I asked Sacchan for help with cutting out two identical horse-shaped heads out of thick cardboard that I had saved over the years. I hoard things that I think might be useful for cosplay purposes later on. I then taped them together but made sure to tape the whole thing in a V-shape to give it a bit more dimension and depth.

Cardboard base cut-out on wooden pole.
I realized afterwards that the ears were misplaced and thus useless but luckily it doesn't really affect anything because the whole thing was to be covered in expanding foam (PU-foam) and then carved into shape anyway. I couldn't have placed the ears right anyway because my cardboard is only 2D while the prop is 3D, if that makes sense...

I started adding foam to the build. I had to take turns spraying each side to try to get them as even as possible, which proved to be hard since the foam expands so much. This part of the process is really slow and it's better to be patient and careful than try to foam many different spots at the same time
– I did this mistake and ended up being unable to find a position that I could put/balance my work to dry (too many fresh spots on both sides of the horse head) that would keep all the newly foamed areas from shifting positions because of gravity. So yeah, I could only watch as the foam either fell off or moved significantly and thus I wasted half a big can of PU-foam. Needless to say I was really mad at myself and wanted to throw the whole thing out of the window...

First layer of PU-foam.
3 big cans of foam later... #epämääräinenmöykky
You might notice on the photo above that there's something white on the pole – it's filler that I tried experimenting with to see if I could thicken the upcoming shaft for the Hunting Horn. Turned out that it's really annoying to work with but it does stick to the wood after some careful application. I did realize halfway through that it's too tedious and time-consuming, especially considering how little thickness it adds and how much I need, and so I stopped putting filler and waited for a better idea to show up. 

Started test carving the head.
I started carving with a mora knife to get an idea of if I had enough foam or not. Turned out that some spots needed more and I had to use a fourth can of foam. I also had to use some foam to cover up carving mistakes...

This (school) project stood still for some months meanwhile I changed schools, which meant that I couldn't work in the garage anymore and had to take my project elsewhere – which meant that the only possible other place was to take it to mom's car garage, or well, that little work room in the back of it. I also had to figure out some things regarding my school change and what teacher would be my supervisor for this project. Luckily my new art teacher was also willing to take up this project as well! The reason I opted to ask the art teacher out of all possible teachers I could have asked is simply because this is a creative project duh and I thought that an art teacher would understand it the best and be able to help me with any issues along the way, material choices if I got stuck etc. My supervising teacher was awesome enough to lend me a full roll of chicken wire and tools for working with it when I said that I'd need to use some to make the base support for the horns and some other parts later, score!

This is the "stand-by" state that it was in for months.
On 8th April I went to mom's to celebrate Easter with my family. On the same go I took with me my creation, along with a shitlot of primer sprays, spray paints and whatever else I had lying around in my apartment that I might need for this project. I mean, I got a car ride to mom's so of course I'd bring with me all the stuff that I might potentially need to finish this MonHun prop!

A couple days later I continued to shape the other side of the "horse head". I had a hard time carving it because of pains so I didn't progress a lot on that day. At least stepdad had given me another tool option instead of the ordinary mora knife – a really handy saw! I don't know what it's proper name is in English but it was a godsend.

My carving tool options. (middle one is just the knife sheath)
The head's general shape is starting to look like something...
I returned to work on this project after approximately a month, on the Mother's Day weekend in Finland (aka this weekend). I continued by carving out the head in more detail and to slim it down. It was important to get the head as ready as possible so that I could measure it and make the horns and ears separately at school the next week. It's too cumbersome to move this large prop around and, to be honest, it might not fit into a car once the horns are attached... 

Head slimmed down and details added.
I didn't notice it at first but I accidentally measured the eye placement wrong (I only used eye measure, pun not intended) and so one eye was higher up than the other. Good thing it's only foam so I could easily cover up the faulty eye hole with more foam and carve it out again in the right spot.

Once the head was more or less finished (for now) I continued to make the mane/hair/whatever-you-want-to-call-it. This was a bit tricky because there's quite some depth going on and I needed to plan it and think in "layers" before I started sawing off big chunks randomly. I started by carving out the upper bulk of the mane on one side and then carefully mapped it out in my head where the lower one would be.

Started shaping the mane... or whatever you want to call it.
Once one side was in good shape I turned around and made the other side. Too bad I only managed to make the upper mane bulk on the remaining side before I noticed that there's not enough foam – the mistake earlier (when I put too much foam and it slided etc) had made it so that the sides were not of the same thickness. Good thing I had a spare can of PU-foam lying around, waiting to be used – I knew that I would need it. Ennakoi, tiedät kyllä miksi. :D

Put the prop on the garage floor, plastic underneath for protection.
Added PU-foam to the lower mane half.
I left it on the floor to dry. I must say that I'm actually a bit surprised by how well it's turning out so far, despite the errors along the way. Can't wait to get more progress done!
I will need to come back later to carve out the lower mane on the side that I foamed and then add some more foam to the tip, to get it similar to the side that I already made. Wow, now that sounded clumsy. Once that's done I can move on to foam the backside of the head, to make it big enough to carve out the back mane – but I'll get to that later.

Next up I'll continue with carving the lower remaining bulk of the mane, as well as go and start progress on the horns and ears. Keep your eyes peeled for the second part!

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