Thursday, August 27, 2009

Radio Guy: Steve Erenberg

This is the most amazing online source of steampunkish tools, equipment, masks, etc. All of it is the real deal, and museum quality.

Above is one sample page. At his website you can click on each item to get more info and details. I recommend setting aside some time to explore it all.

If you like steampunk, you'll love this site!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skull Respirator: One Step Backwards

As typically happens in this process of creation, I have had to take a step backwards. I realized I had mismeasured the fit of the mask to the face, and so have recut the 15 layers of acrylic to make the bottom smaller.

That's the old version in front, with the new version in the back.

And here it is with the skull sitting atop it. Next I'll make the pattern for the connecting leather.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Skull Respirator: The Base

With the skull itself nearly done, I have turned to adding a base to it.

Here I have cut out 15 layers of .06" thick acrylic, which blend from the backside of the skull to more of a face shape.

It's hard to really see it in the photos, but this will be part of the skull when it's cast in resin. The acrylic was glued together, and then I smeared Bondo™ auto body filler all over it, let it cure, and sanded it down in order to make a smooth transition between the layers.

The bottom of the base flares at the sides to accommodate the cheeks, and the top is shaped for the nose. This will attach to a strip of leather which will actually touch the face.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Skull Respirator: Chin and Nose

Remember a few weeks ago when I used alginate to reduce a Jello™ mold? I had some of those smaller forms left over, and decided that one of them would make an excellent chin. It reflects the lines of the top skull (also a Jello™ mold), plus it gives a rounded bottom, which I think is preferable to a sharp bony chin.

I just had to saw it in half, and sand it to fit. I was concerned about the overall height of the skull becoming too long, so I decided not to copy the mandible more closely. Besides the chin, I've drilled small ventilation holes in the eyes, and also created the nasal cavity. It gives the look I'm after, plus provides two more ventilation holes so that the wearer can breathe easily.

I've also added a piece of aluminum tubing to help create the cheekbone shape. There will be one on the other side as well, and they will not be part of the casting, but will be added on post-casting. My little robot face is starting to exhibit real character now!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Skull Respirator: Cheekbones

Here I've molded and cast the skull top with the screws. Additionally I've attached the gear teeth and reshaped the cheekbones.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Skull Respirator: Second Casting

The eye goggles have been cast, and separately the skull top. I've placed six white nylon screws around the crown. It's slowly starting to come together.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Skull Respirator: Fabrication

I am using the same Jello™ mold that I used for the anemone canisters to make the top part of the skull. I first cast polyester resin into the aluminum mold which had been sprayed with a mold release. Then I bandsawed the skull in half, and sanded it down somewhat more until the shape looked right sitting atop the existing skull.

After pondering how to make this respirator look less organic and more mechanical I am thinking I need to fabricate the entire skull, and not use any of the original plastic skull.

Above you can see a bunch of acrylic pieces that I've cut out with the laser, ready to assemble. As you might imagine this takes quite a bit of planning and taking measurements from the original skull, to get to this point.

Here are the same parts assembled. I will mold these and cast them in resin to modify. Then I'll add on the gear teeth, and the lower jaw.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And the Winner is.....

Congratulations to Craig Hartel of Dawson Creek, BC, Canada for winning my latest steampunk writing competition about the Defender mask and helm. Defender is no more. It is now called Sentinel.

I received a total of seven entries, most of them very last minute. It was a tough choice between my two favorites, but ultimately I gave the nod to Craig for his excellent job of describing futuristic equipment in a 19th century setting in a concise, straight-forward manner. Below is the story, entitled "A Letter Home".

My dearest Mother,

It is with great pride that I write to you on this day; I have been selected as a member of the elite Sentinel Squadron for the Gryphon Interplanetary Expedition! As a Sentinel, I am one of those responsible for the safety and security of the crew and passengers aboard the mighty Gryphon Aeroship. Now that our mission has begun, I am finally able to tell you more about my duties and about the ominous adventures ahead of us all.

I wish that Father were alive to see me in my full Sentinel regalia; I know that with his scientific mind he would have been very curious about the many features of our protective gear. I can practically hear him asking me a thousand questions; what is the purpose of the Gryphon Luminiferous Aether Collection Devices? Why do you have a Cousteau Mk IV Anemone respirator? What is the purpose of the eye pieces in the mask? My heart is sad that I can only hear those queries with my mind’s ear, Mother. Perhaps you are now wondering yourself what role my equipment plays. Certainly I will tell you, so that you will know that although we have much danger to face, we are well equipped to deal with each challenge as it arises.

You see, mother, the Aether Collectors draw energy directly from the Aether itself. The very darkness of space brings energy to power my mounted head lamp as well as my respirator. The Cousteau Anemone is the very latest in breathing technology; it allows me to leave the protection of the airship proper and venture directly into interplanetary space. At first it was eerie to watch the respirator do its work, as it behaves much like a real sea anemone, waving its tendrils trying to trap food. Our mask pulls oxygen from the particles of aether all around us as we float in space. If we find ourselves in an area low on this vital gas, our gorget is designed to store aether collected by our Sentinel helmet.

The lenses of my mask have been designed to aid me in seeing organic heat signatures from potential enemies of the Gryphon. As you can appreciate, space is very dark, so having an eyepiece to detect thermal sources is a great advantage.

It is a wonderfully-crafted and well-designed system, Mother. You need not worry about me; I have been extensively trained and I have at my disposal a litany of modern equipment to serve and protect my needs.

I am afraid, Mother dearest, that duty calls me away from this letter. I hope that it reaches you in good health and spirit, and that you will think of me every day as I think of you. As we are soon to reach interplanetary space, this will be the last correspondence I will have with you until our return. Please take good care of yourself and give my love to the twins, Charles and Priscilla.

I love you all.

Your devoted son,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Skull Respirator: First Casting

Once the silicone rubber mold was cured I cast the skull in a gray urethane resin.

Next I took the original plastic jaw and reshaped it so it would fit around the gear teeth.

Next I will fabricate the top of the skull, and figure out how best to punkify this skull so that it looks more mechanical.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Underground Explorer Photos

Photos have been recently uncovered of our intrepid hero—the underground explorer—at the beginning of a harrowing journey into the bowels of the earth.

Properly outfitted, our hero naturally returned to much public admiration and acclaim. I have no idea if the raygun was actually utilized.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

More New Photos

Here are a couple more new photos from this weekend's photo shoot.

The Firemaster helmet and respirator

The Underground Explorer with canister and straps

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pachydermos Photo

I have been shooting new photos today for the upcoming Oxford show and I thought this one of Pachydermos is particulary good at revealing its elephantine characteristics.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Skull Respirator: Molding the Skull

Here the skull has been glued down to a board and I've put plasticene in the eye and nasal cavities, plus all around underneath where the rubber might flow and lock onto the skull.

This is the skull with a paper cup around it, hot glued to the board, in order to keep the silicone rubber from leaking out. The rubber is a viscous blue liquid that is starting to fill the cup.

My plan is to cast this mold in resin, then add hardware to it and modify it so that it looks steampunk. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, how I accomplish that is a bit vague at this point.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Only Five Days left for Writing Competition!

There's still time to enter my steampunk writing competition. But not much time! Create a story about this helmet and gas mask and you might win a prize ($75 value).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Skull Respirator: Concept Sketch

I've been asked for a concept sketch, which is a reasonable request. The way I work is with a kernal of an idea, and not a lot of detail. I start with something—in this case the plastic skull—and work from there. I only need to see the next step to take in order to proceed. After each addition or alteration I spend some time studying what I have so far, and develop the next idea based on that.

In this early sketch I've laid out the basics of my initial idea. This is likely to change as I go along, and I hope to end up with more of a mechanical look than is represented here. The lower right sketch shows a side view of the respirator

Here is a sketch I did today just for this blog, to show my latest thinking. I don't need or use sketches much for a project like this. The Underground Explorer started with a child's plastic astronaut helmet, and only a vague idea of what to do with it. The Defender was similarly constructed, starting with the Darth Vader helmet. I create organically and watch the project unfold, which I find much more enjoyable than someone handing me drawings and saying, "Make it look like this". And you, dear reader, get to watch it unfold with me.

Skull Respirator: Teeth and Crown

After designing the gear that will become the teeth, and also the "crown" which will sit on top of the flattened off skull, I cut them out of acrylic sheet.

The two layers of teeth and three layers of crown will be aligned with brass pins. The acrylic is clear with a tan paper backing that I've left in place.

I've mixed up two-part epoxy gel, and glued the acrylic pieces together. The epoxy comes with one part clear and one part blue, which when mixed together turns clear.

Here I've epoxied the teeth and crown into place on the skull.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Skull Respirator: A New Project

I've decided to make a new respirator (I'm defining a respirator as a device that covers the mouth and nose, as opposed to a gas mask which covers the mouth, nose and eyes). Top hats and respirators go nicely together in a steampunk world, and heretofore I've only made the one pictured below, plus the Defender's anemone respirator, both of which have two canisters. I wanted to try something different—a respirator with just a single central canister.

As I contemplated just what that canister might look like, it occurred to me that I had a small skull that was about the right size and shape. I found this partial plastic skull several years ago at a yard sale, without knowing just what I would do with it. This seems to be the right project for it.

To make it look steampunk I will need to punkify it. I want to join the natural with the mechanical, combined into a single integrated unit. I am planning on casting the skull canister in a faux pewter (cold cast aluminum), and attach it to a leather mouth and nosepiece, with leather straps.

Human teeth are laid out roughly in an arc, a shape which allows me to replace these plastic "human" teeth with gear teeth. While I rarely utilize the symbol of the gear in my work—due to its ubiquitous appearance and overuse in so many things that are called steampunk—I do think it is appropriate in this instance. In the photo above I have removed the lower jaw, flattened the back of the skull, and sanded off the upper teeth in preparation for fabricating and installing the gear teeth.