Thursday, July 26, 2012

Steam Punk Power Supply

So a while back I talked about building a prop for a local web series Mantecoza. Well it is finally finished, thanks in good part to my father, Kenneth Backer. He helped out tremendously on this build. This was a very interesting project for me, as I normally do replicas or work off of some one else's designs. We were basically given free reign on the design. I just had to incorporate the light fixture that was provided. We also had to finish it in 2 weeks, so ya know, decisions had to be made fast and there was no turning back. Jackie did a quick sketch of our basic idea for the "reactor", but because of the time constraints we ended up not being able to incorporate all of the complexity of her original work. Such is the fate of most concept art.

Once we had our basic ideas it was out to my dad's garage to see what we had laying around to build this thing with. Wood from an old desk: check. PVC pipe so old and heat stressed it was browning: check. Random fittings, valves and switches: check.

Now we were going to need more than that to make this thing look the part, so it was off the the $.99 Only store and thrift shops to find lights and other doodads. Pro Tip: $.99Only is the best place to get LEDs. $1 gets you a battery pack, round circuit board with 7 Leds, mechanical switch and a resistor!? Try pricing that out at Radio Shack.

Always look at the clearance items at Michaels.
The rivets were some scrap-booking sticker.

My dad found this gem at Savers. No idea what it was for, but we cut the guts our, ran 1 AA to the knob switch and attached it to the terminals on the gauge. It actually worked! we were able to control the needle with the knob. I added an on/off switch and some other dummy switches on the final piece.

With the casting from my hardware store silicone fuse mold we began to lay everything out.

We used several different spray paints. A bright hammered finish on the joints, a darker hammered finish on the back board, and a rustic bronze on the pipes them selves. I don't remember the brand or the exact name. Cut us some slack, we were in a hurry. I would also like to note that I hate wood. We used 3 cans of high build filler primer and 1 can of hammered paint on that back board and the grain still came through!

 Did I mention that this needed to light up? And be pretty? I didn't? Well it had to do both, be small, light weight and run on batteries. Well the $.99 Only store provided the light sources, but just plain white lite shinging out of this thing wouldent cut it. Luckly  Jackie had some leftover fantasy film from her Wasp wings. A little heat, armature wire and some glue and we had our prettiness! We also needed tubes coming out of the center of this "pixie warp core". My dad took some PVC fittings and used his oscillating sander to give them a curve that would fit the center of the fixture. With a small screw in the center for support we just 5 minute epoxied them right on

After that it was time for the final assembly and testing.

The thing worked like a champ!

 And one last shot on set.
I want to thank everyone over at Mantecoza for giving my dad and I a chance to work with them. It looks like the series is going to be great, and everyone reading this should shoot over and check out their website and facebook page!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Quora v3 and N01 program

Well our first con with a booth went great! We have pics up on our facebook of all our costumes, but i was really excited that we got to show off our latest Tron costumes. The v3 Quorra has to have been the most complex piece I have done to date, with countless solder joints and wiring. And of course, one of the two joints that came from the factory failed. But besides that set back it was great! Now i needed a costume to go with Jackies, so i decided instead of doing something from the movie, I would create my own Tron style character,N01. Simple El jacket and a helmet with sound responsive El in the grill. Both were a huge hit at the geek prom.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Commission Requests

So not really a post, but more of an FYI. If you would like to commission my wife and I to build you a specific prop or costume please send an email to us with the following information:

1:Your name and contact info

2:Character or Prop name and source material (movie/game/anime etc.) OR concept art/detailed description if you want an original work

3:At least one reference image (the more the better)

4:Date you need it completed by. Most projects we require 4-6 weeks. We still have day jobs you know!  But depending on the circumstance we may be able to work faster, although a rush fee will apply. On the other side of the coin, if you want 10 suits of armor it will take longer.

Now a quick word on pricing. We are two people building everything by hand, not a factory in China. Almost all projects will be over $100. Very complicated or time consuming ones can run into the $1000's. I am putting this up here because you would not believe how many people have hit up my wife asking about a Deadpool costume but only wanting to spend $40 on it. And no, there is no set pricing. Everything is based off of material costs, complexity and time, which changes drastically from project to project.  All other terms will be negotiated on an individual basis.  We will try and keep our pages updated with our availability, but we will not take on new commissions if our work load is too heavy.

Thank you!
Garrick Backer
Jackie Backer

Friday, May 11, 2012

Wasp Armor

With the Avengers movie out and everyone excited already for a sequel, my wife wanted to build an Avenger costume. Since the only choice from the fist film was Black Widow, and we have a good friend with a great Widow costume, she picked The Wasp from the comics. This build was split between the two of us. She will have a post up about how the design came about and how she put the suit together. I'm going to show off how I built the armored pieces. Now since we are in a time crunch before PHXCC, sculpting, molding, and casting pieces just wasn't going to happen. Lucky we have EVA foam to make our lives easier. This foam is commonly known as Foamies or Craft Foam but it is also the same material they make some of the anti-fatigue floor mats out of. The best part of working with this foam is that when heated and pressed it will take a shape and keep it, so with that in mind we looked about for something to use to form the breast plate. What we found was an over-sized Easter egg.

 After cutting it down to a appropriate size I used plaster to make solid copies. On a side note, don't try and rush de- molding plaster of paris. You will just end up with a mess.

 After only one failed pour I had my forms!

 To put pressure down evenly on my foam I took a scrap piece of acrylic that has been laying around my shop and used a dremel to cut it in to shape. After gluing my forms down to a board I used my heat gun and my make shift press to get this shape. I still ended up on my hands and knees pressing this into place.

My parents said I could do anything when I grew up. So I gave a floor mat boobs!

After my wonderful wife gave me the shape she wanted it was off to seal this up for painting.  EVA foam is very porous and does not paint well if you don't prep it right. A mix of white glue and water will seal it up. The glue I used is a craft glue called Sobo that you can get at any craft store, but regular Elmer's glue will work as well. I use about a 2 parts glue to 1 part water mix. And by that I mean I totally just eyeballed it. But if I had to guess I would say 2to1 is about right.

Now even though its been sealed I want a primer layer down before I start painting.
This is just one coat of Plasti-Dip out of the spray can. The high gloss shine goes away after it dries.

Now I just recently discovered acrylic spray paint, and I think I'm in love. Super high pigmentation, excellent coverage, flexible, low odor, fast drying time, mixable and blendable. The only draw back is that they average $10 a pop. Oh and you have to shake them for at least 3 minutes or you can ruin the whole can. The Liquitex brand they now carry at Michaels craft stores. They don't have as wide a color selection as the Gold brand (which Arizona Art Supply carries) but you can color match to their regular acrylic paints which might come in handy in the future. The Gold brand Chrome came out more like a bright silver, but chrome in a can never looks like the real deal. The Liquitex transparent yellow was tricky to work with at first but I think I nailed the metallic yellow look that my wife wanted. To top the whole thing off I clear coated it in a gloss acrylic sealer and glued to the suit using fabri-tac. My only failure was the hands. The clear coat wont dry on vinyl and the yellow will flake if it does not have a top coat. But we did get to coin the term "handruff" at free comic book day, so all was not in vain. Check out the other half of this build here oneblackcatsuit/wasp

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hardware Store Silicone Mold Makeing

So occasionally I will have a budget of pretty darn close to $0 to do a build. I am working on a prop for a steam punk web series called Mantecoza ( )and I needed to make 4 copies of this oversized fuse. In a perfect world I would just run down to my local supply store Ball Consulting
 and pick up some platinum Polytek mold making silicone or order some from Smooth-On. But we don't live in a perfect world, and I don't have the extra cash to spend on materials right now. So I started Google-ing different ways to make molds, and ran across people using hardware store %100 silicone caulk. Now everybody seems to have there own recipe, some thinning it with naphtha or adding acrylic paint and glycerin, but that would mean more money and time. So I used what I had: clay, %100 silicone caulk, soapy water, and Bondo fiberglass resin jelly. (Ok so I cheated a bit. I also used some mold release. Its the only non-hardware purchase you need to make for this to work, and if you are going to be casting in your new cheap-ass mold you will need it anyways. Pics with the can to follow, also a good video on this is here: After getting the fuse set half way down in the clay, and using the domed head of a bolt to make registration keys I was ready to start applying the caulk. I laid down a bead all the way around the base where the fuse met the clay. After getting my fingers good and wet I patted down the caulk. That seems to work better than trying to spread it out. I then laid 3 beads going along the length of the fuse and patted them down as well. The fist layer is the most important, so I tried not to trap any air between the silicone and the fuse. The internet also taught me that this kind of silicone cures by moisture, so the water isn't going to harm anything. It also taught me that if you lay down to thick of a layer that the outside will skin over and the caulk will not cure all the way through. So for this mold I did 3 layers on each side, letting each layer cure overnight. Now 6 days to do a mold might seem like a long time, but lets remember that I just bought 2 tubes of Ace brand 50 year %100 silicone caulk for FIVE DOLLARS. Cheap is not going to be fast, but it is going to be cheap.  A mold this size took a little over one tube to do.
After getting one side done, I sprayed mold release over the silicone and clay and did a jacket of Bondo fiberglass resin jelly. Its like regular Bondo but it has fiberglass fibers in it already. I don't really like the stuff, and doing a regular fiberglass and resin jacket would be lighter and stronger, but I've had half a can sitting around my shop for over a year and it seemed like a good time to use it. I cut a piece of mattboard and Bondo-ed it to the back as well so when I flip the mold over and remove the clay it will stand on its own. You could use cardboard as well.

As you can see the mold came apart nicely! I was pretty surprised actually. With my luck I figured that not only was it not going to work, but it would ruin my original as well. A quick test cast proved what I had hoped, that you can get a decent looking cast from this method. Now let me take a moment here to say that this IN NO WAY is better than buying professional mold making silicone. But if you have a tight budget  and don't mind having to do some clean up on your cast pieces, this way works.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The results are in! Experiments in water putty part 2.

So two months in and I have already broke my resolution....but I have had a crazy month! Birthdays and moving stuff and getting stuff have eaten up my time. But on to the topic at hand!As a glaze or small spot filler the water putty is useless. It just chips off,but when used in thicker amounts, more like bondo,it has performed very well. They were not kidding when they said it was rock hard though, and next time I will make my application smoother so i have less sanding to do. Now the only thing left to try with this stuff is to see how it works with fiberglass mat. And as a fun announcement I will be splitting a booth with my artist friend Meredith at phoenix comic con this year, so please come by and see us!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Experiments! With water putty part 1.

As some of you may know, resin, bondo, fiberglass, spot putty, silicone, urethane, etc is not cheap. Like a lot of us I don't just have money to throw around. I am always looking for inexpensive substitutes, and I think I may have found one. Not saying that this is breaking news, this product has been around a while. But it is news to me, and I am here to share it with you. A while back my father got me a great book, "The Prop Builder's Molding & Casting Handbook" by Thurston James.

 If you are at all interested in how to do the kind of things I do in this blog, this book is a great place to start.  Some of the references are a bit dated, and its more geared for theatrical prop making,but it still is a wealth of knowledge.  It has a whole chapter dedicated to working with hardware store products, which is where I came across Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty.  Its a water based wood filler that does not shrink, and can be sanded, cut, drilled and when dry has many of the same characteristics of wood. The book details how to use it for casting, but I wanted to try it as a spot putty and for reinforcement. I worked 2 batches, one the pancake batter thickness that the book described best for casting and the other the peanut butter thick paste the instructions on the can told me to do.  Now I am doing something that I would never tell anyone else to do, testing an unknown product on works in progress. But what the hell, I  like to live a little.

I got to work on things late tonight so all I got done was prep and application. The book says that the putty can set in as little as a half an hour, but my shop is pretty chilly right now, and that's making it take longer. All of these will get some more progress posts in the coming days. Thursday is my birthday! Doesn't really apply to the post but I am excited anyways. You should be too!