Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another Belt Pour

R&D on the belt continues. I poured up another belt last night, this time using a slightly different technique, in an effort to produce a bubble free casting.

I brushed in a thin layer of urethane, just to make sure there were no pesky bubbles hanging about. Then I laid in the yellow webbing. Finally, I poured the final layer over the webbing, and crossed my fingers.

Didn't quite work out perfectly. The belt on the top is the new one.

Notice the bubbles around the belt loops? That's underneath the webbing. I guess the urethane didn't quite seep as well as I had hoped, and it didn't kill the air bubbles caught under the webbing. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.

Also note the color difference. The lower one is the one that sat out in the sun for a few hours. I definitaley like the bottom one better, so I'll stick with my sun-bleach.

The good news is that valuable intel was gained from this effort, and I have already put it to use on my next pour, which is curing right now. Should be done later today. With any luck, that will be the final one.

In other news, I've started making the molds for the chest emblem. Recall that I am the proud owner of a made-for-production Superman Returns chest emblem. It is currently under an inch of rubber. Still need to make the back side of the molds, but it's coming along nicely. I hope to have this finished up before the end of the Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bat Heater

In completely unrelated news, I received a really cool new piece in the mail today. It's the "Bat Heater" from the very craptacular movie "Batman & Robin".

Don't get me wrong, I too thought that the movie totally stunk. The prop isn't even that central to the plot, or of interest. What IS really cool about it is the craftsmanship. This piece was made by a collector named "Henry Wayne" who produces some of the best fan-built prop replicas ever. In fact, I do believe he produces THE best stuff ever. I am a huge fan of his work, and make it a policy to pick up one of everything he does.

This piece is no exception to his rule of quality craftsmanship. The metalized parts are cold to the touch, and it just looks fantastic. The electronics really put it over the top too.

Here's a little movie of the piece in action:

Thanks Henry! Another great piece well done.

Belt Color

I've been letting my superman belt relax in the sun for the past day, and I'm really happy with the results. The sun is really flattening out the bright yellow, and turning it into a much more sublime brownish yellow, which is really what I'm after.

Hard to tell from the pic, but here's a comparison of the belt with a little over-drip of the original color urethane. Pretty cool. I'll leave it out for another day to see what happens.

As of right now, I'm very happy with the color. So it's time to pour up a bubble free belt and call that part done.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another Test Belt

I know these picture-free posts are totally boring, but I do want to say that I poured up another belt last night. I tried brushing in the urethane to see if that would eliminate bubbles, and it did. I did end up with one little bubble, and that's enough to ruin it for me.

I'm also not at all satisfied with the color. (Notice a pattern in the recent posts??) Not sure what to do about that. The yellow is too bold, but when I try to darken it with some brown or black, it goes all green. I guess there must be some blue in the black and brown. Oh well.

Today I'm trying to sunbleach the belt, to see if that will knock the yellow down a little bit.

Cape Color Woes

No pictures today, though I do have some of all of the color matching experimentation I've been doing over the past couple of days.

I've been spending literally ALL of my free time (which is not much, I might add) trying to match the color of the outer skin of the cape. Burman Industries was kind enough to ship me my balloon rubber and pigments quickly, and that was great. BUT, it's actually REALLY hard to nail down the proper color. One problem is that latex dries to be a VERY different color than what you mix. My first efforts were trying to mix the wet latex to be the color I want, which wasn't too hard. But it always dried a VERY dark brown. I kept experimenting, and got close a few times. The closest one looked like bright pink bubble gum when wet, but dried to a dark red/brown.

The bummer is that the outer cape is a deep shade of burgandy. Like a red/purple. Every time I start to get close, it just turns brown. I think the blue I'm using to deepen the color has some other color in it, which is effecting the tint.

I've grown very frustrated with this, and after three days, it's time to try something new. I recently discovered that you can use off the shelf "liquitex" brand paints to tint latex. I'm actually very familiar with those paints from my days as an aspiring graphic artist, and I know how they mix. So I'm going to make my way down to the art supply store and pick up a few tubes to experiment with. My hope is that the color I mix with the paints will translate pretty well when I add it to the latex. Latex itself dries a shade of ivory, so I really shouldn't be seeing SIGNIFICANT color changes caused by the latex itself. It's all in how the pigment dries. Well, that's my theory.

I'll keep you posted as I figure it out. My goal was to try to get a finished pull out of the mold before the end of the weekend. The only thing stopping me right now is the color. If I can nail that, I might be able to pull it off. But knowing my luck, I'll run out of rubber.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Color Match

Though this picture doesn't really do much help, I want to point out that it's an almost perfect color match for the inside of the cape. Sadly, it's the wrong type of fabric. Still, it's good reference for me, as I'll be able to take that around to try to get a color match in the right fabric.

I got this at Jo-Annes, by the way.

The Mold

I had a couple of requests to show the entire mold, and how it fits inside my garage. As you can see, there's not a lot of working room.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New Swatches On The Way

I'm scrambling around my pad to find the cape swatch of the real deal so that I can color match, but I'm coming up empty. So in order to keep things rolling, I went ahead and purchased a set of swatches off ebay.

The set was about 100 bucks, which is a little more than I wanted to pay, but hey... I'm in a pinch here.

The good news is that the set includes the blue costume, and the red trunks. I don't really need the Lois Lane swatch, but whatever. I never did get a good color match on the trunks, so that swatch will be very helpful.

Overall, it's a good purchase for the project, so I'm cool with spending the scratch.

First Cape Fabric Test

Seldom are my expectations and hopes met. Even less often are they exceeded. Well, dear readers, today is one of those rare days when the latter has taken place!!

Yup, this morning I finished up a test of the cape fabric, and I'm overwhelmed at how well it turned out. Take a look for yourself.

Here is the textured surface of the cape:

And here's a shot showing the fabric underneath.

Naturally, the colors aren't quite right, but that wasn't the purpose of this test. The purpose was to test methodology. And it worked like a charm. I was worried that the latex would not get deep enough into the mold to fill in all the little diamond shapes, but it did just fine. There are a few little bubbles here and there, but they are few and far between. Very acceptible level of quality control.

I'll still need to work on the color, but the opacity is just perfect. It's right where I want it to be. It's also very flexible, and extremely light. I'm feeling pretty confident that I've chosen the right materials for this part of the task, and that's pretty exciting to me. I'm going to do a little more experimenting with the lay up process, to make sure I'm doing it as best as I possibly can. But even if I just went with things as they are, I'm feeling pretty confident about the results.

The next step is to nail down the color of the latex, and to find the fabric that I will use for the inside. I'll have to dye that too, though I'm not overly worried about that. I think it would take far more time and energy than I have to match the color exactly, so I'm just going to shoot for a nice vibrant red. I'll take a similar route with the outer shell. I don't know if I can get it exactly, but I think I can get it pretty close. CERTAINLY close enough so that the casual observer won't be able to bust me on color.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fiberglassing Is Done.

Man, talk about "not with a bang but a whimper"!! I today finished the very last little segment of fiberglass work on the cape mold, so it is all good to go. Just need to let it cure overnight, and then I will flip it over and start in with some latex tests.

I actually ran out of epoxy resin today, so I had to finish up two little patches with epoxy resin. PEEEE-YOOO does that stuff smell bad. I can smell it on my t-shirt right now. I wore a respirator during the lay up, so hopefully I won't die an early death. But you never know with that stuff. It's nasty. I had thought of getting some more epoxy resin, but I didn't want to introduce another 3 day delay into the project, or lay out another hundred bucks for a kit. So it's done.

In other news, I did some tests with the latex products I ordered from Burman. I brushed some onto a rubber mold I had sitting around, just to see how it handled. One brand, the kind that was a little thicker, lifted off the rubber like crazy. It just would not stay down. The other, thinner one handled much better. I let it dry overnight, and I have to confess, the balloon latex turned out really nice. Color was a little pale, but I'll just have to double up on the pigment. Very opaque, and very light. So I'm actually feeling very optimistic about the cape right now. I guess my only worry is getting a good color match. I have no hopes of nailing it perfectly, but I think I can get it pretty close.

Once the fiberglass cures, I'm going to do a series of tests to make sure I've got my system of brushing in the latex right. Not sure if I will use a brush, a sponge, a roller, or whatever. That'll be what I'm experimenting on.

In mostly unrelated, yet equally as nerdy news, I picked up this on ebay the other day :

It's the same model of watch that Clark wears on Smallville. Nice! Nice and Nerdy, that's for sure. They're very common on ebay, and can be found for under fifty bucks if you get a used one. Just be sure to get the braided strap. It's the Swiss Army watch #24221. Be sure to get the one that says "Swiss Army" on the face, not the one that says "Victorinox" as that is not accurate. You want the older one.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cape Mold Progress

I am behind on posting, and this picture is out of date. But here it is anyway:

When I took this photo, I was about half way done laying down the first layer of fiberglass over the rubber mold.

At the time of this writing, I am about half way done putting down the SECOND layer of fiberglass. And that's all I'm going to do, by the way. It's not entirely rigid, but it's rigid enough.

Timing of this has all been pretty wacky, as my fiberglass supplies did not show up until VERY late. I suppose it all comes out in the wash, as Burman Foam dropped the ball on shipping me THEIR supplies, so it's not like I have a pipeline constraint or anything. I would have loved for this to go faster, but at the end of the day, it's still getting done.

I've given myself a hard stop of the end of the month to get the fabric run. If I don't get it done by then, it simply won't get done. More details on that morbid-sounding conclusion later.