This is a piece that has already been done by another prop-maker whom I respect tremendously, Volpin. So, I was very keen on making sure that I took this a different direction than he did and not just copy his work. The in game design is -very- low rez, so switching out the filigree work and forms was easy enough while still keeping the appropriate look. I went with a more organic and dense design on the filigree and changed some of the other details as compared to Volpin’s interpretation.
As you can see, the staff is pretty low-poly, pretty common for MMOs. This leaves plenty of room for artistic interpretation. The staff will be collapsible into three parts, lower staff, mid-staff and staff head.
The design was printed out to size, then affixed to a bit of thin plywood and cut out with a scroll saw. I decided to use half of a clear plastic ornament for the orb base, to have a nice, smooth sphere with little work. This also allows me to pop it out freely while working. Here I also measured the width of the central spine and made perpendicular marks with the measurements.
Next, I carefully cut half circles out of styrene to act as guides to keep the spine perfectly circular. This was a bit tricky, as I also needed to trim off the precise thickness of the base plywood otherwise the final piece would be more of an ellipse.
Here, I have affixed the circles to the staff in the appropriate places.
I also cut two identical guides for the two lower arcs and glued them in place. Then, I cut rough semicircles out of insulation foam to fill up some of the space so that I wouldn’t need to use so much filler later. I also added a spine from the top of the rounded bit to the place where the point rests on the sphere.
Now, the bondo begins. I used a scraper to press and smooth the bondo into the spaces between styrene guides.
Even more bondo, it gets a bit rough as layers are added, but the styrene guides helps keep it manageable.
Here, with the disposable other half of the ornament, wrapped in cling film to prevent bondo from sticking to it and allowing me to remove it for sanding and cleanup as the upper wings get filled and formed.
The spare orb half was marked up with the outline for the upper arcs, then, more bondo! The shape is starting to come together here, and it only needs a little more bondo before I can start sanding it down and making sure that it is symmetrical.
Hit the staff head with the dremel here to knock out some gunky, overly raised bits and start smoothing the arcs. I’ll need to reapply another layer of bondo to the spine and one side of the upper arc, but the form is starting to become clear now. The spine got way too heavy a coat and I had to take about an eighth of an inch off in some places, which is why it suddenly looks lumpy. Lots of refinement to go!
So, I wasn’t pleased with my metal scraper for applying the bondo. It was starting to go on chunky, which would make sanding harder down the road. So, I ripped the head off of a silicone spatula and started using that instead. Best tool ever for bondo application, everything is going on a lot smoother and with a great deal more control. I still need to break out the calipers and start matching the arcs to one another for symmetry.
Got one side of the arcs smoothed into what will be the final form. It’s getting nice and smooth, too bad most of this smoothness will be obscured by filigree work later.
Even more smoothing, the pencil marks are identifying either areas to be built up or holes to patch. After this shot was taken, I decided that the spine was a mess, so I carefully ripped out all of the bondo on the spine and applied the new bondo far more carefully, using the good spatula from the start, and was able to achieve a far smoother starting ground that did not require dremel sanding, only sponge sanding.
Nearly ready to go!
A good coat of grey primer to look for any dents, rough patches or holes that may have been hidden by variations in the bondo color. The piece is now ready for embellishment.
Started the filigree work. Here, I am using black puff paint to draw on the design. I ended up needing to deviate from my filigree design, as I did not account for the 3d curve as I should have.
The straight design elements will all be done in 18th inch half round styrene.
The nearly finished embellishment. In order to mirror the design in some places, I actually made puff paint “decals”. I traced the design I wanted to copy on to some tissue paper, then reversed it (just by flipping the paper over and tracing it on the back), then covered it with some clear tape. I then drew the design in puff paint over the tape, allowed it to fully dry, then was able to carefully pull the “decal” off of the tape and place it onto the staff head where I wanted it.
Finished the embellishments!
Silicone! I used Smooth On’s Rebound 25 silicone. The first layer was un-thickened and smoothed on very carefully to fill all the gaps and prevent air bubbles. Then I used a few drops of Thi-Vex for the next three coats to make the silicone nice and thick to build up the mold wall. This then got a basic plaster cloth mother mold.
The piece was de-molded, and the mold was good! Here, after I cleaned the mold out, I applied some goldfinger casting powder to the filigree and trim areas. I was still unsure at this point if I would be doing this as a cold-cast.
I slush cast the main staff in brown tinted Smooth Cast 300.
After removing excess brown resin carefully from the orb area, I applied silver bullet casting powder to the silicone.
Now, the reinforcing layers and the orb was cast in white.
Here we have the original, the cold cast brown staff cast and a white cast. I decided after de-molding the first brown one that I would not be cold casting the gold, as it turned out there are a couple places that will require some spot puttying, so I’d have to paint those parts anyways, therefore, I will be painting the brown and gold areas, but still using the silver powder to give the orb a cool, pearlescent effect.
The two cast pieces roughly matched up together. I still need to trim both sides, so they aren’t matching up just yet. I really like how the side profile has come out.
I ended up casting another half, as the brown one had a few weak spots I didn’t like. I also got a much closer match to the cold casting on the orb on this one, so both pieces match in color perfectly now.
I filled the bottom caps in bondo, which will provide structure for the bolts when I get to that part. I should have taken photos, but while I was casting, I made sure to create raised resin “barbs” to help lock the bondo in place, the resin was also heavily scored on the inside as well, just to make sure.
I decided to use a leftover bit from an older commission to finish off the staff end. This pieces is a table leg turning, or what was left of it after I cut the part off I needed earlier.
I used Red Mahogany stain on the handle and end, and finished the bottom with some gold enamel before giving the whole piece a good clearcoat.
The end was attached to the bottom section of the staff with a threaded dowel, secured with epoxy.
The staff is collapsible, into three pieces plus the head for easy transport to and from the convention. I drilled out the ends and set a recessed nut in one side of each joint. Then, a threaded dowel went into the opposite end, secured with epoxy.
Here, the two pieces are being held together as they are being epoxied together.
After some spot puttying and sanding of excess epoxy, and some very careful taping of the orb,I hit the head with a few coats of primer to check for more defects, then set on carefully filling the last few gaps and cleaning up around the filigree.
More progress of cleanup.
After everything was smoothed, the head got a few coats of primer, a black undercoat and started getting thin layers of a dark brown acrylic. This will be the basis for the faux wood finish.
Starting on the wood grain! Here are the paints used here, along with my choice brushes.
Progress on the fake wood grain, the trick is to layer.
Slightly closer shot.
After the grain was done, I began gilding the filigree with basic testors gold enamel, first drybrushed on..
Then the highest points were hit with enamel highlights. After this, the tape was removed and the whole shebang was given several protective clearcoats.
I couldn’t help myself, it wanted to be photographed in a natural setting.
The full staff is about 5’8, slightly taller than I am.
I am in love with these casting powders, the pearly effect is just wonderful.
The end of the staff.
Overall I am very pleased with how all of the shapes and forms came out.
The tone and texture of the painted resin turned out very close to the real stained wood.
Here is the piece disassembled for shipping and travel to the convention. Small enough to fit into a suitcase!
Here is the only shot I got of the nuts and screws. The screw end is epoxied into place, so that all of the tension is taken in the bolt instead of stripping away at the wood each time it is unscrewed.
This project was a lot of fun to do, and as always I learned quite a bit from doing it. Mostly I learned that I truly wish I had more shop tools, especially a lathe. I could have shaved a whole month off of production time! Ah well, we make do with what we have.