Monday, July 27, 2009

Top Hat Prototype

I have finished the first top hat prototype. To get an hourglass profile on the crown I put in four darts.

I thought it would look good and be easy to construct them if I closed the darts with leather lace and grommets, rather than stitching them.

That turned out to be more work than I anticipated, so next time I think I'll just hand stitch them.

Since the hat has a somewhat funky look I'm calling it the Dodger, after the character in Oliver. I am pleased with the lines that it has, both in the crown and the brim. I expect to modify it slightly and offer it for sale at my Etsy shop as a steampunk top hat with attitude.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Odds and Ends

Now that the Defender ensemble is complete I am finishing up the canister straps on the Underground Explorer. This is the last thing I have to do to complete all four pieces going to the Oxford exhibition.

Here is the leather bottom with black wave trim to match the helm. Straps will be attached so that the oxygen canister can be carried on the back or over the shoulders. A final photo shoot with model will follow.

I am also working on a leather top hat. It will be a bit unusual (of course), and here is the first paper prototype to test the patterns. It's a bit too tall, I'm thinking. I've also been planning and sketching my next steampunk helmet and mask. I have one more good idea, and I'm hoping this next one will turn out as nicely as the Defender.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Call for Entries: Steampunk Writing Competition

This is a competition to write the back story that goes with my Defender helm, gas mask and gorget. I am looking for an original and creative tale in a steampunk genre that explains who the owner of these leather articles is, how they are used, and how they came to be. The winning entry will be used to promote the sale of the Defender ensemble, and so should mention its various components.

The name Defender has been a working title only, and will be discarded. Each entry should give the character or helmet/mask ensemble a name.

The photos shown below in the previous blog post (or here ) will provide you with most of the features, but there are a couple that may not be obvious. Around the headlamp—and also around the gorget medallion—is inscribed “Gryphon Interplanetary Aeroship Expedition”. On the helmet neckguard are ten parts upon which is engraved “Gryphon Luminiferous Aether Collection Device”. These should both be mentioned in the story.

I will be accepting entries up through Tuesday, August 11, 2009. I alone will be the judge and will determine the winner, who will be announced by August 15. The winner will receive a prize which consists of a $75US credit at my Etsy store, including shipping.

The story can be up to 700 words long. If you have any questions please post them here on this blog. For your finished entry please email it to tom (at) tombanwell (dot) com. The winning story will be published shortly after the end of the competition on my blog. Thanks to all who enter, and let's have some fun!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Defender: Totally Done

After six weeks of work the Defender helm, mask and gorget are all done.
This will be one of the pieces that I send to the Oxford steampunk exhibition.

The gorget has a small medallion with a gryphon portrait.

This photo shows the front plate with the bas-relief gryphons, the auditory amplifier horn, the sea anemone respirators, and the luminiferous aether collection devices all along the neckguard.

The Defender gas mask has two different eyepieces in preparation for various visual needs.

Here you can see the series of leather scales that make up the helmet crest.

Here is the Defender without the helm. Looks good on a bald pate.

The helmet and gorget can be worn quite stylishly without the mask.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Defender: Gas Mask is Done!

At long last, the Defender gas mask is complete. The helm was finished earlier, leaving only the gorget with a few remaining details to take care of.

Here are the final "sea anemone" respirators in cold cast aluminum. Now that they're done they look a bit like cuttlefish (with a nod to the cephalopod lovers out there).

And here is the completed mask. The eyepiece on the right has a tinted lens; the one on the left (with the camera-like lens) has only a ½" opening. The two eyepieces together effectively hide the identity of the wearer, while allowing him or her to see out moderately well.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Defender: Adding to the Respirators

I previously showed the mask with the partially finished respirators as pictured above. I knew I wanted to add more to them, but hadn't quite decided what yet. I was thinking of a coiling aluminum tube coming out the end and wrapping around the respirator, and I also considered having a thicker tubing connecting the two respirators together, perhaps with an elaborate filter that hung in front of the chest.

This is the Jello™ mold from which I started, and on the right the resin respirator after adding top and bottom and engraving a diamond pattern on it.

Ultimately I decided on going for a sea anemome look, or a cactus flower. I wanted an organic mechanical quality (or was it a mechanically organic quality?) I needed just to make the "flower" top piece. I cut the petals out of acrylic sheet, and molded and cast a sprayer nozzle for the center. On the left are the original acrylic and metal pieces, and on the right in blue are the cast resin parts after modification.

Here are the two resin pieces glued together, ready for molding. This will be cast in the same cold cast aluminum resin that I used for the respirators in the top photo. They will then be screwed onto the top, completing the anemone look.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Defender: The Gorget Dyed and Antiqued

The gorget has been dyed red and violet to match the helm, and then antiqued black. Two straps with buckles have been riveted on (at the right shoulder). Lambskin piping has been added to the top edge.

The only thing left to do to complete the gorget is to add the hardware. After all, it is steampunk, and requires some mechanical parts!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Steampunk Exhibition at Oxford

I am very honored to have been asked to participate in the first ever steampunk exhibition to be held at a museum. It will be at the University of Oxford in the UK and runs from 13 October 2009 to 21 February 2010.

On display will be my steampunk works Pachydermos, Underground Explorer, Defender and Gas Mask.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Defender: Helm is Complete!

My color scheme for the Defender has been black and silver from the beginning, and now I can reveal why I chose silver. It was all based on this wonderul silver colored horn which is now mounted on the left side of the helm, to assist the wearer in detecting sounds. An auditory amplifier.

The black color was chosen because the last two major pieces I created were both brown, and I wanted some greater variety. The helm is now complete (except for the satin liner which will finish off the interior). I do still have more to do on both the mask and the gorget.

Steampunk Writing Competition coming soon.....

Once the Defender is complete and photos have been posted, I will be announcing the details of another steampunk writing competition. This time the prize will be bigger, the story longer, and without the kind of restrictions I had last time. Tell your friends, and keep watching, as I will be announcing it here before the end of July.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Defender: The Gorget

The Defender helm and mask go well together, but they need a third piece to complete the ensemble: The gorget, which goes around the neck and protects the throat. When I went online to look at photos of historical gorgets, I came across several patterns.

So rather than drafting my own from scratch, I started with one of them and altered it. Pictured above is the paper pattern that I ended up approving.

After adding a decorative edge to match the helm, I cut and sewed together the leather pieces as seen above. The holes are to accommodate an applique piece which will get riveted on.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Tutorial: Making a Quick Tentacle

Now that there is a challenge on the Etsy Steam Team to make a specimen bottle with something creepy inside, I’ve been thinking about how to make a tentacle. Propnomicon published a great tutorial on on his blog about making one with plastic wrap, fiberfill and latex, from which I learned a lot. I wanted to make some with suckers on them, so I thought of how I could accomplish that using materials I was familiar with. I did a quick down-and-dirty test last evening, and the result was good enough that I thought I’d share it without even attempting to improve it.

All you need is plasticene (modeling clay), various sizes of small plastic tubes, and some latex rubber (available at craft stores). I began by scooping out a channel in the clay in the shape of the tentacle, with one end larger and narrowing to the other. I then took the tubes and carefully poked shallow indentations along the surface of the channel to make the suckers, the larger tube at the larger end getting increasingly smaller as I reached the smaller end. I was working with three different diameters in my tubes. Metal tubes are too narrow, which is why I suggest using plastic or rubber tubes.

Now I had my mold, or negative tentacle. Next I brushed a coating of latex rubber into it, carefully blowing any bubbles so that the liquid rubber would sink down into the indentations. I then brushed in a liberal coat of rubber so that I couldn’t see the individual suckers anymore. I let it dry overnight, and voilà, a quickie tentacle! Okay, it’s only half a tentacle, but in a specimen bottle I think it will look good.

Above is pictured the finished latex tentacle as it came right out of the mold. The photo of the clay shows it after I demolded the tentacle, so the clay is somewhat distorted. The latex rubber leaves a beautiful feathered edge. It can be colored by simply adding a little latex acrylic paint to the liquid latex rubber before brushing it on. Of course the tentacle can be trimmed with scissors, and if the original mold in the clay were done more carefully I think a really spectacular tentacle would be fairly easy to make.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Defender: Mask with Respirators

I have finally gotten the Defender mask antiqued black, and have the eyepieces in place. I also have the pair of respirators mostly done.

Every day it gets a little closer to being complete. I look forward to putting the mask and helmet together for a photo.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Shrinking with Alginate

One possible approach to creating the respirator is to base it on one of these Jello™ molds. They have a nice overall shape, but are too large for what I need for the Defender mask. To shrink them down in size, I am using alginate, which is basically ground up seaweed that absorbs water and turns into a gel. Most people are familiar with alginate as the material that dentists use to make an impressison of your teeth. It is skin friendly, and doesn't heat up when it gels.

Another use for alginate is for shrinking 3D objects. When left undisturbed, the soft, gelled alginate will slowly lose its water to evaporation, leaving behind a dry, hard, smaller form. These two alginate castings took four days to completely dry.

The middle piece is after two days of drying. The smaller one is after four days. For the middle one I molded the alginate while it was still soft and moist, with silicone rubber.

Usually you will get some distortion as the alginate shrinks, so there are limits to how well this technique works. As a rule the more spherical the object, the more uniform the shrinkage, whereas long and thin objects will typically bend as they dry. The face on the left is a life-casting, and the one on the right an alginate reduction. You could mold the reduced alginate and do the process all over again in order to shrink it further.