Loki Scepter v 2.0 – Step by Step

At long last it’s time to post this bad boy. I decided shortly after the first attempt at this piece that I could create something more accurate and easier to assemble with a bit more prototyping work and better molds. This continues from the process I used to create version 1.0 of the scepter.

04 - m5g3uwkFirstly, some of the issues I had with the first design. The bigges issue in the form was that the angle where the shaft met the head was much too acute and the assembly point there was crappy and not flush. Secondly, the backplate on the head where I hid the battery slot was the wrong shape, has a hard to use mold and, again, needed better assembly posts. The head also had an unnecessary detail which appeared on the spear length, but not the scepter. Finally, I wasn’t happy with the strength of the LED in the gem or the weathering of the gem.
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Loki Scepter Version 2.0 – Complete!

After months of work re-tweaking, I’ve finished the new version of the scepter. I reworked many of the forms and lines and removed some elements that were there in error last time, re-did the assembly method for a better looking, more sturdy assembly with better access to the battery pack and changed the finish for something more durable long-term.
I’m also working very hard on improving my prop photography skills.

I will not be taking any commissions for these at the moment (all commission slots are closed). Once I finish what I currently have on order, I will open commissions again. I’ll make a post as soon as that happens.

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Project Showcase – Loki’s Scepter from The Avengers

This has been a long time coming, but I am pleased to finally show the results of months of work.

LokiScepter-01

This piece measures 39 inches assembled. It disassembles into two pieces for ease of transport. The scepter is rotocast in urethane resin and weighs about 4 pounds.

LokiScepter-02

The gem is cast in clear resin with blue tint and micropearl inclusions. It contains an embedded LED. Battery access is located under the top plate of the head assembly.

LokiScepter-03

The silver toned pieces are created in cold cast aluminum resin. The gold tone is created using gold enamel. The piece was weathered using acrylic and enamel paints.

I’ll be posting part one of the step-by-step log of this piece’s creation, and will be completing the full length spear over the next few weeks.

Ed’s Automail Arm – Step by Step

 

By request, here’s the step by step process of how I made Ed’s Automail. There will be a few gaps in the photos, as I wasn’t doing the best job of chronicling this build. I’ll try my best to fill in the image gaps with adequate words.

Since there was no way to meet with my client and make a mold of his arm, I got several dozen measurements from my client and stitched a plush replica of his arm in muslin. I also made several paper mockups at this stage of major parts and mailed copies to my client to hold to the appropriate areas on his arm and hands and take photos so I could verify fit and scaling before moving to making the pieces in woderflex.

 

To make the end caps for the fingers, I coated a it of PVC pipe the same diameter as my client’s largest finger with bondo and began shaping the cap.

 

The pipe was cut off and the bottom sanded. You can see here how tiny my hands are compared to my client. I have very small hands, so the plush arm/hand double was vital to making this automail. After I sanded the piece carefully, it got several clearcoats and went under silicone. I then cast five copies using black tinted resin with Smooth On’s cast magic powder in Silver Bullet.

 

For certain areas, I wanted to use silver metallic stretch vinyl in order to minimize how much this automail would restrict my client’s movement. Here is the cold cast resin finger cap next to the vinyl, the finish really is very similar.

 

After getting the confirmation that my paper mockups were the correct size, I started the somewhat tedious process of cutting out all of the pieces. Each piece was numbered to keep them straight, I ultimately had to cut out two dozen pieces in Wonderflex and keep straight probably three dozen resin castings, so numbering was vital. Each Wonderflex piece was double thickness, one layer was just going to be way too flimsy. Once cut, the layered were joined with some mild heat from the heat gun. The folks over at The Engineer Guy are my favorite source for Wonderflex.

 

Once the pieces were layered, it was time to form them. I recruited pretty much every wine bottle, storage jar and tin can I could find to get the right curve forms, and even used my own thigh for the upper arm plates, as it turns out it was the perfect size (Shows how tiny I am that my thigh is the same thickness as an average man’s biceps). I used painters tape to keep the wonderflex in place while it cools. Wonderflex is a very useful material because, once you have applied heat, it remains pliable for about two minutes afterwards, meaning when you handle it, it’s no longer scalding hot. This is a huge advantage for anyone who has had to deal with heat forming styrene, which is only pliable while hot, lots of burned fingers!

 

Here is where I start having gaps in photos, as I got to the point where each piece was at a different stage in the process. Here we see the upper arm plates heat formed and hit with 2-3 coats of primer, which was then sanded. Wonderflex has a slightly pebbled surface on the presentation side, but a few coats of sandable primer usually handles the texture. Another trick for smoothing the surface is to use the back of a spoon  to burnish the surface while the Wonderflex is still pliable from heating.

 

You can also see the elbow piece and some of the cold cast resin pieces. They’ll be used to fill out all of the screws, studs, pivots, knuckle covers and any other little circle bit needed to embellish the finished piece. The elbow piece is also wonderflex, but has had additional buildup with Bondo to create the rounded  form.

 

I also ordered some colored plastic tubing and heat shielding to add in the armpit area to replicate thewiring and tubing. The large screw top there is actually a cast from the mold for my gold circles for my Lightning’s coat, with the notch scored in with the dremel.

 

Here I started assembling the hand plate and started working the finger sections. These are just stretch vinyl cylinders, since if I had cast these in resin or used Wonderflex, my client wouldn’t have been able to fully bend his fingers.

 

A glove will hold all of the pieces in place and hide the client’s skin. It’s sewn in basic black spandex. The paint I used for the silver is Valspar’s metallic silver. It’s not a chrome-like finish, but is far more durable than most of the high quality silver glosses I use, which I felt was very important since this piece would rub on itself and bits of the costume all day. Another advantage is that this paint has a much more forgiving humidity and temperature tolerance, which was an absolute lifesaver in southeast Georgia in June and July!

 

For the large forearm plate, I needed to thicken the wonderflex substantially. So, I cut a lower layer in wonderflex, then cut filler layers with the three dents cut out in EVA foam. This was easy to cut, lightweight and could hold up to the heat-forming of the wonderflex. The blue strips all-over the board are the notches I cut out. I then layers another layer of wonderflex over the base and foam, then pressed in the trenches so that the top layer of wonderflex bonded with the base layer, rounded the edges and flattened the outer form. This is the plate in an early form, after this would come a lot of extra filling and sanding.

 

The piece starting to come together! As you can see, some places required extra puttying and sanding, but on the whole the wonderflex didn’t require too much extra work.

 

Here’s a shot of the plate as I was puttying and sanding it, the pink is bondo, while the grey is Krylon sand-able primer. To get into the trenches I used a combination of sanding sponges, emery boards and standard sandpaper.

 

The hand was finished up with a sewn vinyl half glove. The T-shaped fastener is EVA foam covered in stretch vinyl, and I attached it with heavy duty thread sewing the T to the half glove. The stitches and knots are hidden nicely under the little resin studs. I also attached the finished arm plate to a strip of stretch vinyl for the underside of the forearm. The whole forearm closes with velcro hidden under the plate.

 

Here you can see the full arm underside, and the elbow attachment. The elbow also has a strip of stretch vinyl which will give more comfort when my client bends his elbow. The upper arm was also finished with a sewn vinyl cover.

 

The complete hand, the only hard parts are on the fingertips, back of the hand and the resin disk on the side of the thumb. This will give my client maximum use of his hand. I also took these final photos before realizing I had forgotten to add the studs to the arm plate, Whoops!! I made sure the studs were attached before it went to the client however.

 

For the shoulder area, I connected the major pivot points with a few real studs, then added all of the extra studs using my resin replicas. I also epoxied in the tubing and heat shielding. The spandex glove pulls all the way up over the shoulder and has a strap that wraps across the chest to keep everything in place.

 

This was a really interesting piece to work on. It used several materials I rarely get to use, but have always loved working with. I can’t guarantee it’ll help with your alchemy or survive a disagreement with your teacher, but at least you should look cool with it. Hopefully this rather messy write-up will help others hoping to tackle the project. I gotta say I have even more respect for Winry after making this!

Commission status and more client photos!

This is a post to explain the status of my commissions in the coming months. I am currently all booked up until August or September for custom commissions. My time will be taken up making gear for Megaman, Edward Elric, Felix Faust, Rosalina and Adam Warlock costumes; quite an eclectic mix, no?

However! I do still have some spare time in my schedule I can devote to filling some additional orders, so long as they require no sculpting, patternmaking and initial fabrication. This means that I can create anything that I already have molds for; jewelry, pauldrons, knives and staves! I have put together a list of what pieces I still have molds in good condition to make, with prices for the simpler things. For the larger pieces, just contact me with all of your particulars and I’ll get you a quote. For certain items, like Lightning’s Pauldron, I would be willing to sell resin kits. You’d get the raw resin casts from me and do the sanding, painting and assembling yourself. This is a good deal for folks with the time and skill to spare to do the finishing work and who’d like to save some money.

Here’s the list!

Quick turnaround pieces (2-3weeks maximum work time):

Final Fantasy 13

Snow’s NORA necklace: $45.00 Image
Snow and Serah’s Engagement Necklace: $45.00 Image
Serah’s Earrings: $15.00 Image
Lightning’s Necklace: $20.00 Image
Lightning’s Coat Hardware: $85.00 Image Image 2(One D buckle, One large slide buckle, four slide buckles, three three point buckles, four square fasteners, four silver “grommets”, six gold disks) I can create just parts of the set as well, contact me for individual prices.
Lightning’s Bullet Holders: $20.00/pair Image

Final Fantasy 6
Terra’s Earrings and Necklace: $50.00 Image

Gems

I can also cast colored, foil backed clear gems, including special effects such as opalescence, pearlescence, embedded items and create custom clay settings. Examples Here and Here

Moderate turnaround pieces (2-3 weeks turnaround):
Contact me for prices, as options affect the price.
Lightning’s Pauldron Image
Lightning’s Survival Knife Image
Snow’s Badge/Amband Image
Light Staff from FFXI Image Image

I already have a large stock of small parts, including many necklaces needing only a few days to assemble and complete, a large stockpile of jacket hardware and several cast resin gems which can be sold as-is or foil backed:

Just shoot me an E-mail at joy (at)joysutton.com or use the commissions form!

 

I also have the pleasure of postinga photo of a really lovely client from France with one of my Survival Knives!

This amazing costumer can be found at her site, HERE, or at her facebook site HERE.

Take care out there, and expect to see a new video documenting a really fantastic process I’ve started using soon!

Light Staff from Final Fantasy 11 – Step by step

Design

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.

In-Game Model

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!

 

New Scraper!

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.

 

Smoooth~

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.

 

Another angle.

 

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..

 

More drybrushing…

 

Then the highest points were hit with enamel highlights. After this, the tape was removed and the whole shebang was given several protective clearcoats.

 

Finished!

All assembled and cleaned up!

 

 

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.

 


A small bonus piece, My client wanted a quick replacement for the badge on his hat, his older version was just a scrap of felt.

 

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.

More props and jewelry in action! And some WIPs!

I have some amazing photos of one of my favorite clients in her Lightning costume! She is sporting one of my pauldrons, bullet holsters, belt buckles, coat grommets and gold circle details. Her Snow is also sporting one of my NORA necklaces! Their group is quite fabulous, and you should definitely check out the rest of their set.

 

There are quite a few more shots of this amazing group HERE.

And the photographer’s work can be found HERE and HERE, and hey, a fellow prop maker!

 

And now, what has been keeping me busy:

Growing close to completion on this baby here, and I couldn’t be happier with the way it’s looking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here, from a super fun commission, I’ll leave it to you guys to figure out what it is for now!

Snow’s Armband, the Light Staff and changes coming

So, after several hiccups, Snow’s Armband/Badge has been complete!

The Badge and holster is cast in resin, with cast magic goldfinger and silver bullet powders, with black enamel paint. The white text reads “Paladin” in the game’s script, while the lower black strip says “Plautus” is the same script. The Paladin coat is purchased from Plautus’s Workshop in the game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The armband is sewn in heather gray jersey, with double interfacing, orange piping, eyelets, woven cord and metal cord caps.

 

Next, we have a WIP from the workbench, the Light Staff from Final Fantasy XI!

This piece is also being constantly updated in one of my imgur galleries, so please watch how it shapes up Over Here!

 

Now, for news. I hinted at this a month or so ago, but the site will be getting a name and domain change soon. I do this in an effort to differentiate my own personal web presence from this business. Jay and I will be working on the changes, which will include a site upgrade and some other ways to keep up with our work, so keep an eye out for the new site!

 

Heavenly Axis Staff – Step by Step

A bit behind on posting the step by step on this piece. This was a rush order, so I didn’t get as many photos as I would have liked to, but I will do my best to fill in the gaps with words.

Design

The staff design from the game, some changes were made to allow it to actually fold up and allow for durability.

I first heat formed some PVC pipe for the basic handle curves. I decided that using the tension from two slip elbow pvc joints would be the best bet to make the handle collapse as it does in the game.

The head was carved in several layers of insulation foam. After this I also cut out the mouth. This was then gessoed and got a layer of bondo.

The first of many layers of bondo over heat formed wonderflex for the flower petals. There are also stacked layers of wonderflex towards the end to smooth the transition from handle to cap.

As you can see, it requires quite a lot of sanding once it cures. Over the course of this project I did find a few tricks for getting it even smoother during application.

First sanding, somewhat rough, but another layer of bondo would be covering this. I also took the time to confirm my color selection with my client.

More and more bondo and wonderflex. At this point, the head has received a layer of bondo, then a layer of wonderflex over it.

The pivot point, I ended up needing to switch one of the elbows to increase the distance between the flower petals.

The beans/mitama details were first sculpted in plastalina, this is the sculpt about halfway through.

The plastalina prototype was molded in silicone and I started casting hollow resin versions.

The antlers are insulation foam and paper mache around a double galvanized steel wire base. This was then covered in wonderflex and a few layers of bondo. The lower halves in this shot have this treatment, while the upper parts are the raw foam carvings.

Even more bondo! Never have I sanded so much.

Close up of the head and antlers. After this I decided to give the head yet another coat of bondo. Here is a bit of a gap in photograhs. After this, the last few mitamas were cast and smoothed out a bit, the handle, head and joints in the antlers got more bondo and I did the final sanding. After that, the pieces were primed and painted.

Nearly done, touchups, clearcoat and a few details to go. This is the staff folded up. I adore these bright colors.

I did all of these gradients by hand with a paintbrush. Unfortunately my studio lacks an airbrush.

I didn’t take any photographs of doing the head cap where the antlers attach. It’s a solid resin cap, with galvanized steel rods helping to anchor it solidly into the head. I achieved this by stabbing some galvanized steel wires into the head with about an inch protruding for additional anchors, then made a paper “mold” in the shape I wanted and added a rectangle of insulation foam where I wanted the channel for the antlers to go. Resin was poured into this, and once cured I simply removed the paper and foam and sanded it to the final form. Unfortunately, the first time I did this, I accidentally placed the steel wires right where I needed to drill the screws to hold in the antler loops, so I had to take a hammer to the headcap to start over. I can say with absolute certainly that this method made that headcap -very- sturdy! Took me a half an hour, pliers, a hammer and a power drill to get the thing off. The second time I was much more careful where those anchor wires went. I also used the paper mold technique to make the diamond shaped gem at the top.

Another head shot. The spheres are just birch balls, painted and drilled.

The beads and big gem laid out. The gem is actually a cast left over from another commission for Serah’s Tear.

A full shot of the extended staff, now time to add a half a dozen coats of protective clearcoat. I used Pledge Tile and Vinyl Floor Finish as my clearcoat, this is the product that was once known as Future Floor Wax, it’s very durable and high shine, and it smells nice too, a nice change from all the fumes I have to deal with.

Beads and gem now properly strung, with a hidden knot, all with burnt and bandaged fingers on my dominant hand! The things I’ll do to fish out the last snow crab claw from the boiling pot.

Completed staff – Folded

The complete piece, folded up. The handle rotates, and the antlers come out of slots in the headpiece and can be anchored either up or down with screws in the back.

Completed staff – Extended

The complete piece, extended. The staff is just under four feet long and weighs less than four pounds.