Sunday, April 26, 2009

Scrimshaw Whale Tooth

After finishing the whale tooth and putting in on the stand, I realized that the scarab bead didn't look right. It was crudely carved and the color was too bright, and detracted from the tooth itself. So I removed it and to cover up the mark on the base I engraved a small 19th century looking black plate with gold lettering.

For the tooth I molded a sperm whale tooth that I had acquired years ago, then cast it in a polyurethane resin. I then sanded down the resin tooth smooth where the scrimshaw was to go, and engraved two steampunk scenes. This left the real ivory tooth undamaged. One side of the tooth shows a giant squid attacking the airship Gryphon.

And the other side shows a steamy mermaid. Here is the story I wrote to explain the history of the piece:

The old Chinese man loved his opium pipe more than any other thing on earth. Because of his devotion to it he had never married, and had long ago lost contact with his family. He had finally found his place in the world on a whaling ship, working as a cook, which allowed him ample time to enjoy his indulgence. It was here plying the seven seas that he learned the art of scrimshaw, scratching a design into a whale tooth, then rubbing lampblack into the marks to make it legible.

It was while in an opiate stupor that he saw the most amazing sight of his life—a giant squid attacking the airship Gryphon. He alone saw it, and the whalers laughed at his tale, but the old man swore it was true, and set about to record the event in bone. On the flip side of the tooth he copied a tattoo worn by one of the sailors, portraying a mermaid in steamy attire—wearing a corset with a set of goggles on her head, and carrying a raygun in her hand.

The old man lost his life while the ship was docked in Alexandria, stabbed to death in a knife fight while gambling in the seediest part of the city. His few possessions were scattered, and his scrimshawed whale tooth—his most precious belonging after his pipe—ended up in a curio shop. The owner paired it with a small display stand which fit it perfectly. It was a bronze casting which portrayed the Egyptian god Horus and lotus blossoms, mounted on a wooden base. He had a small plaque engraved which reads “The Attack of the Giant Tentacled Sea Monster”.

I have more pictures on my Etsy shop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scrimshaw Tooth Stand

I am just wrapping up my latest project: A whale tooth with steampunk scrimshaw scenes, which sits on an Egyptian themed base featuring the god Horus. I began by planning it all out, and wanting to be able to have the whale tooth display in several different positions, went looking for an Egyptian motif that could accomplish that. When I found a picture of the god Horus with his upraised wings I knew that would work well.

I proceeded to cut the design out of a sheet of plastic, and engraved the outline. The Horus pieces are made up of two layers of 1/8" acrylic glued together.
I then glued the parts together and made a silicone rubber mold. From the mold I cast the finished part out of cold cast bronze. The part in the photo is right out of the mold, with the bottom gate still attached, and the piece unpolished.

I gathered together the other pieces of the display stand: A walnut base, a turquoise colored scarab bead, and a square headed bolt (for that antique look) to hold the bronze casting to the base.

Here is the finished display stand. The bronze casting of Horus has been polished.

In this other view you can see the lotus blossom supports. My next blog will show the scrimshawed whale tooth along with the story behind the project.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Underground: First Comb Attempt

I constructed the helmet comb out of leather and it has some problems, the major one being it is too small once the wet leather shrank.

Although I will have to remake it this picture gives a pretty good idea of how it will look. Of course once the lamp is mounted onto the front it will change again.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Underground Explorer: Building the Lamp Comb

Our underground explorer is certainly going to need a light to see where he's going. Last year at a yard sale I acquired an old physician's head lamp. Nowadays these head lamps have LED's for the light source, but this one has a bulb, and three multi-jointed arms which allow it to crazily point in any direction. Very mad scientist looking. I've decided to mount this lamp on a comb (also called a crest) which is on the top of the helmet.

Today I designed it and cut out the pieces of the comb in ¼" thick plastic, and then glued them all together. Above you can see the individual parts.

And here is the assembled comb bolted to the top of the plastic astronaut's helmet. I will be covering the comb in molded leather, and the lamp will attach to the front vertical surface.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Space Helmet to Underground Explorer

The poll is over, and Underground Explorer won with exactly 50% of the vote. So I must prepare our courageous traveler for whatever conditions might await. Darkness of course, and probably heat, maybe pressure, foul air, unknown creatures, etc. Thanks to everyone who voted.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Space Helmet: Trim, Straps, Etc.

I've done a lot of little things since the last post. The black trim is riveted onto the collar, the resin respirators have been cast, painted and mounted. I put trim around the nose area with a buried wire that has been shaped to fit better. I've attached the two side buckles holding the snout straps. I've added a snap fastener to the front of the collar to hold it in place. And I've antiqued the entire helmet, darkening it up and giving it more character. I am very happy with how it's turning out, and now await the result of the poll to see which accessories I will be adding.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pattern Drafting 101

The Spaceman Helmet
Above are several views of the collar that I wanted for the spaceman helmet. For the helmet itself I had the toy helmet to tape and pull a pattern from, but how do I come up with a pattern for the collar?

The illustrations above show the theory of attaching two flat pieces of leather together to form a three dimensional object. The silver objects are tubes which represent the helmet (or the crown of a hat). The gold objects represent the collar (or brim of a hat).
If we cut the collar in a donut shape with the inside hole having the same diameter as the tube, when attached the collar will be horizontal. If we cut the collar in a rectangle, when attached the collar will be vertical, ie. continue the lines of the tube.
Since the shape we want is somewhere in between these two extremes, we need to cut the collar in a large curve, as illustrated in the bottom drawing.

However, we don't want a collar that is uniformly angled down. Looking back at the first set of drawings we see that over the shoulders the angle needs to be closer to horizontal than vertical, whereas over the chest and back the angle needs to be closer to vertical than horizontal.
This final drawing shows the compromise made. Since the seams fall at the front and the back of the helmet wearer, the center of the pattern will be over the shoulders. And so, the middle is quite rounded (to make it more horizontal), while the two pattern ends are almost straight (to make them more vertical).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Space Helmet: Attaching the Collar

I have just cut out and sewn on the collar. Next I will cut out the collar trim to match the eye opening trim.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Space Helmet poll

Please take the poll. What story best suits the helmet as it looks so far. A space explorer as in "From the Earth to the Moon"; an underground explorer as in "Journey to the Center of the Earth"; a deep sea diver as in "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"; or an emergency rescuer, as might be needed in a steampunk dystopia?

Your answers will help determine how I finish the helmet and the accompanying story. Thanks for participating! If you can't see the photograph of the helmet lower on the page you can see it here: helmet photograph.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Space Helmet: The Eyehole Trim

I'm pretty much making up the design of this piece as I go along. When I found the helmet at the yard sale, I knew I wanted to copy the basic shape in leather, but beyond that I had no plans. Once I had stitched the leather pieces together and removed them from the helmet, I knew that I would have to reinforce all raw edges to keep it from being too floppy.

So today—besides antiquing the helmet and snout, and adding the required snaps—I made a trim piece to go around the eye opening. I gussied it up a bit to make it interesting, adding some cut outs, dyed it black and riveted it onto the helm. Sure enough, it reduces the flop factor.

When I add on the collar it should significantly help the helmet hold its shape.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Space Helmet: Designing the mouth/nosepiece

When I tried on the plastic child's astronaut helmet, I could barely squeeze my head into it, and it touched my nose, so I decided early on to make a removable "snout" to give room for the nose, and to allow the wearer access to the mouth and nose without having to remove the helmet. Today I worked on designing that piece, working with green paper to figure out the patterns.

Once I was satisfied with the pattern I cut it out in leather, wet it and sewed it together with waxed thread. The snout will have two matching cold cast respirators on either side (where the two holes are), and one small something on the front. I have mostly built the respirator model out of acrylic sheet, and will mold it in rubber and cast it in resin.
The snout attaches to the helmet with four snaps on each corner, plus a buckle on each side (notice the protruding rivet where the buckle will attach on a short strap).

Next up will be making a visor which will completely cover the eye opening, and a collar to hold the helmet up off of the head, and to help keep its shape.