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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Aging a Brass Buckle

The film director has requested that all gas mask hardware be aged. Here is my technique for aging a solid brass buckle. Before on the left; after on the right.

1) Sandblast the buckle to remove the lacquer that is keeping it shiny.
2) Hammer it with a ball peen hammer so it looks well worn.
3) Antique it with dark stain.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

After The Fall: Eye Trim

Here is a close up view of the eyepiece trim being stitched on. As you can see after the holes are all punched the trim piece of leather is folded over the raw edge of the eye opening. This gives it a nice finished look.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween is Over

All right, not really, but our crazy Halloween season is just about. Besides my wife's and my regular business of resin casting, we have been selling leather masks on Etsy, and these last three months have been inordinately busy. And while I'm grateful for the income, I am so ready to slow down and and take it easy. You may have noticed my lack of posts lately, which is totally due to my having very little time to work on new projects.

My skull respirator, for instance, has been almost complete for about two months, but is still unfinished. I expect to proceed with it soon. I have decided to pair it with a blue fire helmet that I made long ago, but never made a plate for (the decorative piece on the front).

For the red Firemaster helmet I made the plate out of leather that was embossed and gold leafed.

For the blue fire helmet I plan on making it out of cold cast aluminum, the same material I used for the Sentinel plate, shown above.

The helmet and respirator together will be the official gear of an elite cadre of firefighters: The Death Defiers. Their motto is "Death to fires!" This is of course a play on words, as the two sound almost identical when spoken. My plan for the plate is a smaller, flatter version of the skull on the respirator (shown above), surrounded by the name on top and the slogan underneath. I am excited about seeing it done.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

After The Fall: Packrat's Mask Begun

The mask worn by the character Packrat in the movie After The Fall is based on my Pachydermos gas mask.

Above are the three major pattern pieces: The surround, the face and the trunk.

Here are all of the leather parts, after I've stitched together the three parts shown above. The other pieces are straps, trim and buckle attachments.

Here is a side view of what I have at this point. The trunk piece is unusual in that it is folded back upon itself several times, to simulate the trunk of an elephant.

Here is an inside peek, showing the folded leather and all the hand stitching. Once I have antiqued the parts brown it will look a whole lot better.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Am I Really the World's Loopiest Artist?

The Oxford Times published an article in today's paper about the Steampunk Exhibition at the local university. The first paragraph reads:

A wonderful, crazy, new art form has hit Oxford. ‘Steampunk’ is the subject of a (very) special exhibition, running at the Museum of the History of Science, featuring 18 of what must be the world’s loopiest artist/craftspeople.

Hmmm, that's me they're talking about! I'd be insulted if it weren't so darned funny. Further into the article it states:

Tom Banwell is a self-taught leather craftsman and avid childhood hat collector from the improbable-sounding name of Rough and Ready, California. His helmets, accurately described by Art Donovan as “gorgeous and frightening at the same time”, are an example of the macabre element. Their components hint at some disturbing physiognomies beneath the masks: what kind of vaguely human creature, for instance, would need the help of stainless steel tubing resembling a jelly-mould crossed with a sea anemone in order to breathe?

I'd say that's me in a nut shell: Gorgeous and frightening. Heh heh! Gotta love this stuff!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Upcoming Steampunk Indy Film

I just landed my first film gig. I've been commissioned to make five custom leather and resin gas masks for an indy film company Cyber-Scan Films. Due to be filmed next year, After The Fall is a post apocalyptic cyber-punk sci-fi action thriller, written and directed by Randolph Scott. Needless to say I'm very much looking forward to working on this and putting my leather steampunk craziness to good use!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Oxford Steampunk Exhibit: My Masks

I was unable to attend the opening of the University of Oxford's Steampunk Exhibition due to a very busy work schedule, but I did find these pictures of my helmets online, taken by Chaffro.

For photos of other works of art at the exhibit check out the Flickr group Oxford Steampunk Art Exhibit.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lizard Miter

Here is today's hat design.

A Lizard Miter.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steampunk Posters for Sale

Shameless plug: I am now offering several of my steampunk gas masks and helmets for sale in poster form through Zazzle.

Shown here are two of those that are available. They come in three sizes: 11" x 14", 15" x 19", and 23" x 29". The middle size costs a measly $31.40.

Check out my Zazzle Store to see all that are available. I will be adding more as time allows. If you have a favorite picture you'd like to see in poster form please let me know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Skull Respirator: Attaching the Leather

The skull and the leather, they go together!

I dyed the leather strip black, and stitched the ends together. Here I have slipped the leather temporarily into place just to see how it'll look.

Next I'll add piping around the perimeter of the leather, and then create the attachment straps. I hadn't realized until now how much the skull is looking downwards.

Bra to Gas Mask Transformer

This year's Ig Nobles winners have been announced, and Dr. Elena Bodnar has won for her bra that converts into a pair of gas masks — one for the wearer, the other for a friend. It sounds silly, but Bodnar, a Ukraine native who now lives in Chicago, started her medical career studying the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster.

If people had had cheap, readily available gas masks in the first hours after the disaster, she said, they may have avoided breathing in iodine-131, which causes radiation sickness.

The bra-turned-gas masks could have also been useful during the 2001 terrorist attacks, and for women caught outside during the dust storms that recently enveloped Sydney, she said.

"You have to be prepared all the time, at any place, at any moment, and practically every woman wears a bra," she said, noting that a bra cup, no matter what size, is the perfect shape to fit over the human mouth and nose.

Her patented devices also look pretty, no different from a conventional bra, she added.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Skull Respirator: Finished Casting Stained

I have molded the fabricated skull, and have cast it hollow in cold cast aluminum so that it will fit over the nose and mouth.

Here is the casting after the preliminary polishing, along with the strap cut out of leather.

On the left is the same casting pictured above, and on the right is another one that has been stained black/brown. Once it is dry I will polish it and it will look like pewter.