Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pigment Search and Discussion

I got involved in an online discussion today about pigments, and it got me doing a little more research on the topic. I found a really interesting thread on a discussion forum on the topic.

Check it out.

I have also added a few links to my Superman Returns project links page.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Interesting Materials Tests/Thinking Outside The Bun

I have a couple of interesting things to write about tonight, both of which I am very happy with. First up, I have some results from my urethane test on the rigid pull of the cape mold. Here's a pic:

Long story short, it turned out really great. The opacity is very nice, and the thickness is good. It's probably a hair thicker than I would have preferred, but it's darn nice. This will be fabric backed for the final piece, and that will give it some much needed strenght. Disregard the color. I was shooting more for opacity than the proper color.

Bottom line, I am pleased with this, and I think this technique will work for the boots.

Second is something really interesting. I am sort of at a point with a few of these tests where I am really going "alternative" when it comes to my techniques. At the end of the day, what I am trying to do is find a way to quickly and easily get a good pull out of the cape mold. Silicone repels pretty much everything, which makes laying one up problematic. Ideally, I would have a stone mold, which would work wonderfully with latex. But I don't. I could make one, but it would be expensive and heavy. And hard to handle. Nobody likes that. So I have been scratching my head trying to come up with alternative ways to get this mold to work.

And I had a VERY crazy idea today. I sprayed some primer into the mold, then brushed latex on top of that!

A couple of things to note. The primer goes on VERY thin and very evenly, so I'm not too worried about losing detail. Even if I lose SOME of the crispness of the diamond pattern, it will be so minimal that I will be comfortable with it, especially if it makes the entire process work.

The latex brushed on VERY smoothly, and did not pull up at all! It also went on VERY thin, and was pretty opaque. I think there's a chance that with two coats, I will be good to go. I didn't use any KILZ on this blend either.

The real trick will be discovering how easy or difficult it is to get the paint off the latex once I pull it up. My fondest wish is that a quick dip in some warm water will make it just flake off, but we shall see. IF that is the case, I think I pretty much have a slam dunk technique for pouring up a cape. It'll be a little stinky, but it will be VERY easy, won't take much latex, and should go quickly.

A BIG OLD fingers crossed on this one.

Urethane and Silicone

I sent an email to my pal ResinMonkey today in search of a urethane that will not pull away from silicone. My experimentation lately has yielded some really good results, but not quite perfect. I'd like to see if there's a way to pull this off flawlessly. RM had a couple suggestions.

"Have you tried bjb F32 or 42?"

I'm going to!

Lasers & Leather

I have received emails from two more laser etching houses today, and have followed up with both of them. Looks like they require some material to cut on, so I am thinking I will go and find some.

I did a search for a local Tandy retailer, and it turns out there is one just a few blocks away. I think my plan will be to wait for the first company to send out the samples, and see how they are. If they are perfect, I will simply order from them. However, it might be worth getting some samples cut from these other places, just to see how they compare. I suppose I could hit the tandy store and see how much it's going to cost me to get some scrap. If it's just a few bucks, I may as well just go for it.

Laser Etched Samples

My new best friends over at M&K Engraving emailed me pictures of the laser etching tests they ran for me yesterday.

First they needed to confirm what I wanted the output to look like, so they ran a test of my design, and of it inverted.

And then they ran a few different tests at different etch depths.

They are mailing these samples out to me asap, so I should have them on hand for visual inspection before the week is out. Assuming one of the depths is right for my needs, and I don't need to modify the drawings in order to get it to output right, I may very well be able to bring this part to a close VERY quickly.

Huge thanks to M&K Engraving for not only being REALLY thorough, but also responding to all of my emails really quickly, and turning around my samples within one day. Now THAT is customer service, ladies and gentlemen.

I'm going to add M&K to my list of project links.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

VERY Interesting Cape Materials Test

I have not really been experimenting much lately with the cape material, as it has been on the back burner compared to the boots.

So it came as a TOTAL surprise to me tonight when I got the BEST results I've ever gotten from a mix of latex.

Here's a couple of patches of brushed on latex. The part in the right hand corner was treated with talk, the other part is untreated.

What is interesting here is not only that this is ONE coat of latex, but most of all how it does not lift up ANYWHERE. This has historically been my biggest problem when "pouring up" the outer skin of the cape, as the latex tends to be repelled by the silicone. This does not seem to be the case with the current batch.

For the record, I spiked my latex rubber with this stuff:

It not only helps with the opacity, but apparently it also effects the brushing properties of the stuff. Who knew?

For the record, I am using "MPFX Slipcast Latex" from the Motion Picture FX Company. The stuff is MUCH thicker than what I was getting from Burman. From what MPFX tells me, this is because they do not cut their latex with ammonia in order to get more volume for their buck. I am now officially a desciple of MPFX!

I'm going to let that latex dry over night, but it's looking REALLY good right now. Opacity is spot on. I might even be able to get away with one coat of the stuff before it is ready for the fabric backing. That would be amazing, as this will really help with the weight. Even if I only needed two coats to get good opacity, that would be a tremendous improvement over what was going on before.

Overall, a VERY productive day here in the bat cave.

Materials Tests on the 1630

Tonight I mixed up a small batch of urethane to do some tests on my new rigid mold.

One part I treated with mold release, one part I treated with baby powder, and another part is left untreated.

I had some leftovers, so I also did some tests on the cape mold. I added some mineral spirits to the urethane to thin it out, just to see if that would have any effect.

Though not fully cured as of this writing, ALL Of the urethane samples ended up "pulling back" from the materials. Be it 1630 or silicone. This is not good news. BUT what is good news is that regular latex rubber worked AMAZINGLY well on the 1630. Flawless. Makes me think that the way to go is to pull a rigid mold of the cape. That will be a lot of work, and a bunch of expense, BUT it will significantly speed up the process of making a cape, and will make for better results that are less error prone. There's good motivation to make a rigid master, though it will LITERALLY cost me a few hundred bucks in materials. And also be entirely unweildy. We shall see.

But based on my experiments, I am thinking that I may do the boots in Latex instead of urethane as I had original suggested. I wonder how stone would work?

1630 Positive

This came off the cape mold today. I hope to use this section to develop some panels to use for the boots.

Next step is to do some tests with differen materials to see how they adhere, behave, etc.

I guess you cannot really tell much from the photo, but this is a decent sized segment of the cape. All of the little micro diamonds are in there. So when I pour material onto it, I will end up with a postive that looks just like the mold of the cape. And THAT is what the material on the boots looks like. I guess you would call it a "female diamond pattern".

Smallville Season 10

I have just heard that during San Diego Comicon, they rolled a preview reel for Smallville's final season, and it looks as if the Superman Returns suit will play into it. I have not seen it myself, so I cannot confirm it, but if that's true... I suppose I should get cracking on the suit. Again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Boot Fabric

I got a kickstart on my Superman Returns boots again this week, with all the new pics from ComiCon coming in. Though most are nothing new, some have revealed a couple little details that are interesting.

Recall that my overall strategy is to make panels from urethane that LOOK like leather, and then cut them to size and basically glue them onto existing boots. Then I will sculpt a sole to go around it.

To that end, I busted out the good old 1630 this evening in order to make a mold of the cape fabric. It turns out that on the back half of the boot is a pattern that is basically the INVERSE of the cape pattern. So making a negative mold will produce a positive that matches the design I want. Follow??

I discovered a while ago that mixing 1630 can be a real pain, as you need to get it done quite thoroughly. I found these great little drill bits at Lowe's that are just perfect for the task.

I laid down a coat of baby powder into the mold, then mixed up a couple small batches of the stuff and basically just poured it in. Smells like a leaky BP oil line in my home office now!!!

I will probably do another coat of 1630, and that might just be enough. I may also back it with one pass of fiberglass just for extra strength. I am still not really sure how thick I will need to make it, but I suppose thicker can't hurt.

That's what she said.

More Laser Etching Inquiries.

In order to keep the ball rolling on the laser etching, I sent out inquiries to five or six companies that I found online. Hopefully, one of them will be able to take on the task of etching the Micro-S patterns into some leather for me.

In other news, at ComiCon this year, the Propstore of London has on display a full Superman Returns costume, which is just plain ultra cool. A few friends have taken some photos of the boots, which have made for excellent additions to my photo reference library. Thanks guys!

RMS Results.

I have been sitting on this for a while, but just never got around to posting about it.

This is the sample that I recieved from RMS Laser a couple of weeks ago.

The purpose of this test was to determine which "depth" of etching would best serve my needs. I guess the laser has different settings that result in different amounts of material being zapped out.

The bummer here is that there was a miscommunication. As you can see, the laser traced out the OUTLINES of the shapes in my drawing. What I wanted was for the laser to remove the INSIDES of the shapes. So as of today, I still dont' have a really good fell for how this process will turn out.

BUT, I do think I'm on the right track. I am currently looking for another laser cutter to tacklet his job for me. Looks like RMS has gotten a backlog of customers, and dont' have the opportunity to work on my awesomely cool (but small) orders :)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Knight Rider Watch

File under "Wanted One Of These Since I Was A Kid". Yeah, it's a bit of 80's cheese, but man oh man when I first saw this on TV I thought it was just about the coolest thing since sliced bread. Back when cell phones were just a dream, and David Hasslehoff was cool, this communicator watch was all the rage.

Well, in MY mind it was all the rage.

I picked this up from a Knight Rider enthusiast who spent MANY years and dollars researching the piece and perfecting it into the item you see before you.

I will be honest with you. My collecting habits have changed a lot over the years, and I would even go so far as to say that my tastes have "matured" in some ways. There was a time when I would buy something simply because it was cool, even if it belonged to a property that I had no real interest in. Sometimes, a person would build something that just looked neat, and I had to have it. Over the years, I noticed that I was stacking up a lot of stuff that just didn't float my boat, so I re-focused my interest on properties that really held a place in my heart, like The Fifth Element, or Superman Returns. Star Wars, Trek, etc. This freed me up to really focus on pieces that I considered "important".

The reason I tell this story is because this watch squarely falls into the category of my "Immature" collecting days. Knight Rider is CERTAINLY not a property that I am attached to, even though I loved it as a kid.

So at this point, you may be wondering why the heck I even got the thing.

And THAT, dear readers, is what I want to talk about. What REALLY excites me about this piece is the precision of the execution, the attention to detail, and the journey that the builder went through to bring this piece to the collector market.

To be clear, the execution is just flawless. From what I understand, the builder researched what was used to build the original, and acquired one. Then he built up a 3d model of it, and had it mass produced. Same for the band. Along the way, improvements and refinements were made, though accuracy was always the key concern. If you've read my blog before, you know how passionate I am about details, construction, and perfection. These are the parts of the hobby that I find really interesting, along with research and dedication to a project. So when I saw how tenaciously this builder had stuck with the project, and had achieved such phenomenal results, I just HAD to have it.

So while it's a little kitchie (did I even spell that right??), and definitely embarassingly 80's, it has two things going for it that make it a compelling piece for me: it is BEAUTIFULLY executed, AND it's something that I wanted when I was a kid.


I have since gotten permission from the maker of this watch to post some information and pictures that were generated by him. Check it out:


Great time, research, and expense went into this project to create a replica Comlink that any fan would be proud to own today. Work on this project spanned nearly five years!

Since the original company no longer existed, original, mint, un-used AM Radio Watches had to be located so that all details could be duplicated. Several watches were obtained from private collections at great expense. After an exhaustive and lengthy search, a manufacturer was found that was willing to tackle this monumental project.

Being fans ourselves, we knew every detail had to be duplicated so that the Comlink watch would appear exactly as it looked on the show. To go a step further, it was decided to make it even nicer than the original props without changing the look.


The prop watches used on the show had a printed label placed over the real lens of the watch to give it a more technological/futuristic look. After examining screencaps of the prop Comlink, it was determined that while it looked OK for 80s TV, that method was sloppy by today’s standards. So, the face art, which was duplicated exactly and cleaned up was screen printed underneath the lens, just as all sport/LCD watch faces are done today. This gives the face a more professional and realistic look. Also, with the artwork underneath the lens, it can’t be scratched or peeled off.


Since the design of the watch band on the Comlink was very specific to the original watch, and can be seen very clearly in screencaps, a stock, off the shelf watch band could not be used. So, the manufacturer made measurements, and did CAD designs of the original band to create molds to duplicate the black, rubberized, plastic watch band exactly.


Even though the original watches used to make the Comlinks were AM Radio Watches, that feature was never used on the show. So, to eliminate an expense in production, it was decided to delete the AM Radio portion of the watch. However, the case/body of the watch was
duplicated using exact measurements and CAD designs to replicate perfectly all appearances of it still looking like the original Radio Watch. Even down to the tuning dial on the front and the hole for the headphone jack on the left side. (This headphone jack is non-functional.)


A big improvement made over the original watch was to the back panel. Removing the back panel allows access to the inside of the watch for changing the battery. The back panel on the original watch was made of fragile plastic. The major problem with the back panel being made of plastic was the screw holes at the four corners of the panel. When replacing the panel, it was very easy to over tighten the screws
and break off the corners of the back panel. So, to bring this watch into the 21st century, the decision was made to create the back panel from stainless steel. This gives the panel added strength and durability so that the screw holes will hold up. An added bonus was that the stainless steel could be engraved with the KNIGHT INDUSTRIES logo, model number, and battery replacement number.


Features of this watch, besides being made to look exactly like the prop Comlink, are the exact time digit display of the original watch. This means the digits in the time display line up just like the ones seen on the show. As an added bonus, by pressing the top, right button, you can display the current month and day.


This Comlink project was created by fans, for fans. Making sure that all details were replicated to exacting standards. While many would want this beautiful watch as a KNIGHT RIDER collectible, it is made to be durable enough to wear everyday. Even though fans of KNIGHT RIDER will recognize it as the Comlink, everyone else will think it’s just an average sport watch. The highly functional look of this watch still holds up into the 21st century.

Don't let this highly sought after collectible get away!

Smallville Boots Ordered

I'm putting together a Clark Kent costume, and finally got some of the missing details and pieces. Today I ordered the boots he wears in the first six or seven seasons. Found them on amazon at a decent price:

Red Back Crazy Horse Boots

You know, for a farm boy, that kid sure does wear some top of the line gear!

Here's an older post where I show the Clark Kent watch I acquired for the same costume.