Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why I Like Steampunk

Steampunk began as a literary movement in the 1980's, with inspiration from 19th century fantasy writers. I've read Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but not a single 20th century author writing in the genre. Individuals who were inspired by the literature wanted to dress up and role play these characters. Whereas I enjoy costuming and dressing up for that special occasion, role playing itself holds no appeal to me. While the steampunk movement encourages individuals to create their own costumes and props, there is still interest in well made items that are available for purchase. And that's where I fit in. I love making things that I consider beautiful, and that are a little bit edgy, and I offer many of them up for sale. I have no interest in safe art.

U.S. Shako with Cowhide

Rus Viking Helm

Just before I discovered steampunk a year and a half ago, I was constructing leather military helmets, both 19th century inspired and fantasy Viking helms (yes, I know that they didn't really have horns). Creating these brought me much pleasure, but there was little interest from the outside world.

Steampunk Gas Mask

Once I learned about steampunk I made a leather gas mask (shown above), and respirator, and I converted my 1840's U.S. army dragoon helmet into a steampunked version.

U.S. Dragoon Helmet with Horsehair

Dragoon after Steampunkification

Monday, December 28, 2009

Rhino Gas Mask: Adding the Trim

Today I added leather trim around the eyepieces and the intake port. I also finished putting in all the rivets. I am leaning heavily toward going with the rhino look, by making the nasal exhaust vent "hornish" looking. That way it will pair nicely with Pachydermos.

Rhino Gas Mask: The Prototype

Every mask needs a name, and I am calling this one (at least for now) the Rhino, due to its obvious nasal projection.

Here is the first prototype in leather. The paper prototype showed me a lot about the pattern, but paper doesn't bend or stretch or compress the way that vegetable tanned leather does, so until I build it in leather I don't really know what it's going to do.

There are several things I'm going to change on the pattern. The surround needs to be enlarged as I didn't take into consideration the thickness of the leather (I'm using a heavier 5-6 oz weight). I placed a seam above the eyes which doesn't need to be there, so I'll eliminate that. And I've got some rivets that are too close to the eyes which need to be moved. Otherwise it looks quite promising!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Gas Mask: First Steps

All of my commmissions are complete, so I have time to make something new. While at my local army surplus store I found this new German-made gas mask, and thought it would make a good pattern for a leather steampunk version.

The eyepieces, intake and exhaust vents will all be fabricated from scratch to fit the openings in the leather.

After thinking about where to put the seams I covered half the mask in the curiously named masking tape. Then I marked the lines with a red felt marker.

This mask will be mostly riveted together (something new for me), and I've marked every half inch on the seam lines with a black marker to indicate where each rivet will go. Using an X-acto™ blade I cut the tape off of the rubber mask and laid it down on a piece of heavy cardboard.

To check my pattern before going any further I've cut it out of card stock, and taped it together. The edges and rivet holes should all line up at this point, and I have a few corrections to make (marked in red). Next step will be to add a seam allowance.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

After The Fall: Seven Gas Masks Complete

The seven gas masks and respirators that I've been making for the indy film After The Fall are now all finished, as pictured below.

I changed the canisters on Packrat's mask to reflect his workplace, the sewer. Each canister consists of a bronze filter within a protective cage.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Booth at Maker Fair Video

Thanks to Paul for pointing out this YouTube video posted by photograchar.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cow Gas Mask: Step Three

This is the third and final installment of making a cow gas mask.

I've added the leather surround, and temporarily inserted the eyepieces for final shaping.

I designed the snout to accentuate the cow's mouth, so it would be readily identifiable.

Brass hardware has been added, and the mask antiqued to make it look old.

The final mask with cold cast resin parts, displayed on the fiberglass cow. Moo-o-o-o!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cow Gas Mask: Step Two

Here I have cut the duct tape pattern pieces apart with an Xacto knife, and I'm peeling them off one by one. The wooden disc leaves a hole for the eyepiece and its lens will go.

I transfer the duct tape patterns onto a piece of heavy cardstock, which after some fine-tuning become my final patterns.

Starting with the snout, I cut the leather pieces along with the stitching holes, case them in water and handstitch them together. While still damp I fit them onto the foam model to ensure a good fit.

Here the mask is mostly together. The darker leather is where I got it wet in order to stitch on the eye trim. Still more to come.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cow Gas Mask: Step One

I was commissioned by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to construct a leather steampunk gas mask for a fiberglass cow, as part of an upcoming exhibition on global warming. Here is how I went about making it.

This was my initial drawing as submitted to the aquarium.

And here it is somewhat altered after receiving their comments on the design. This drawing was approved.

They sent me this foam copy of the cow's head, from which I could make the pattern. The ears and horns are indicated by the red plastic cups, so I could figure out where to put the straps.

Here I have covered the head in duct tape, and marked the individual pattern pieces to cut off and transfer to leather. I've also indicated what type of stitching I'll be doing on each piece. More to come.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tinkerbots Robots & Rayguns

My favorite assemblage artist is without a doubt Dan Jones, who works under the name Tinkerbots. Creating both robots and rayguns, Dan has the rare ability to bring together disparate found objects, and turn them into a seamless piece of art. Here are just a few of this prolific artist's fabulous work.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cow Gas Mask

The air has been particularly bad lately. Smog and pollution fill the skies. So you sneak out around midnight, hoping that the night air might be a little cleaner. Then you come face to face with this fellow.

This is no doubt the strangest commission I have ever received. For an upcoming exhibition. Details will come later.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How To Age a Pressure Gauge

Below is a close up of the pressure gauge which resides on the end of the hose on Packrat's mask, from the upcoming movie After The Fall. Below I have listed the three steps I used to transform a brand new shiny gauge to the grungy one shown.

1. Sand the nickel coating off of the edges of the copper ring that surrounds the glass.
2. Cover the entire gauge liberally with a brown wood stain, wiping off most of it.
3. Spritz a little yellow brown aniline dye onto the glass cover.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Skull Respirator: Completed

The good news is that the skull respirator is done. The bad news is that the skull faces sharply downward, so that only a small child would see it from the right angle.

Other than that one flaw I am pretty happy with it. However, that flaw looms large enough that I have decided to not pair the respirator with a fire fighter helmet (as the Death Defier) as I had planned.

I would prefer to put my time and energy into a brand new project, rather than continuing to work on a flawed one. You can see in the photo above the last parts that I added to the skull, which are aluminum tubing and steel springs, forming the cheekbone and jaw.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Skull Respirator: Color & Straps

Since I last posted about the skull respirator I've cut out the straps and dyed everything antique blue.

I've sewn on black lambskin piping, and antiqued the hardware to a dull silver to match the resin skull. Here it is mocked up. I still have more parts to add to the skull itself before it is complete.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Is This? The Answer.

Can you identify the yellow and brown material I'm using in this respirator?

The Answer:

Thanks to everyone who participated. It was kind of a trick question. The name of my blog is Leather and Resin Projects, so of course, this material is one of those. It is in fact leather.

This is one of the masks that I'm making for the film After The Fall, and this section is supposed to be a herringbone twill fabric. I decided the simplest way to accomplish that was to paint the leather parts yellow, and laser engrave the twill pattern (which turns the leather brown). I was pleased with how much it does look like fabric—thus my post and question—to see how easy it was to identify.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pachy Trunk Hose Covering

This piece is part of the gas mask worn by Packrat, in the upcoming film After The Fall.

It consists of a piece of vacuum cleaner tubing covered in leather. I've chosen lambskin as it is my favorite garment weight leather, and will conform easily to the corrugations on the hose. I've marked out a rectangle on the grain side of the leather.

I'm making it with the flesh (suede) side out, so I've stitched it the normal way on a regular home sewing machine.

Here I've turned the leather right side out, and soaked it in warm water so that it will stretch slightly, which makes the leather darker.

Here it is half way pulled on. The damp lambskin pulls easily over the tubing. Once dry it will shrink back to its original size, making a snug fit.

The sleeve is completely on now, and even though still damp, you can easily see the corrugations through it. The pressure gauge (which is part of the finished mask) has been inserted to test the fit.

While still in this damp, plastic state, I wrap waxed thread down the length of the hose to emphasize the corrugations. I start by taking two spools of thread and tying their ends together. Then, beginning at the top, I wrap it around the tubing, pulling the thread into the grooves. With the back seam facing me, I cross each row over the seam and proceed working down one corrugation at a time.

Here is a close-up of the finished front of the trunk hose.

And here is a detail of the back, showing the crossing threads over the leather seam.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Brass Buckles Redux

Here is my latest and best technique for aging brass. I thought that putting the buckles into a rock tumbler might be a good way to remove the lacquer and soften the look. It's slower than sandblasting (see previous post), but less harsh and more uniform.

I went to Amazon and bought this three pound capacity rock tumbler by Thumlers. It came with polishing grits, but I judged them to be too fine for what I was wanting to accomplish. I just tossed in some sand and some rocks along with the buckles, added water, and tumbled it for 20 hours. It worked beautifully.

To make the buckles look a bit beat up, I took a ball peen hammer to them (on a steel plate), giving them flat spots and dents and dings.

Next, to darken the soft gold color, and to add a little green patina, I gave the buckles a vinegar bath which just speeds up their natural oxidation. I dunked them three times, allowing them to dry in between. Each time they developed more color.

And here is the result. On the left is the original buckle as I bought it from Tandy's Leather. Next is after tumbling. The third one is after hammering. And on the right is the final look, after the vinegar bath.

Here, side by side, I present the buckle transformation showing the before and after.