Friday, December 31, 2010

Sister Benedron clay sculpt

So I've been kinda working on a costume for hopefully this up-and-comming Blizzcon, it's Sister Benedron.  I know the name doesn't really ring a bell but she is in Avatar regalia, and she looks like this:

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fiberglass: A beginner's guide, the how-to APPLY (pt 2)

 --------------------------PART 2 --------------------------

Ok so now you know the basics and it's on to how to actually do it!  Now that we have all of our supplies we need to set up our work-space and get started!  Don't forget your gloves :)

Step 1:  Prepare base form
  You need a base form made out of something that your fiberglass can stick to.  Unfortunately you can't make it out of anything in the foam family. Why?   Resin melts foam and could let off a toxic gas eek!  So no foam.  So what do you use?  I've used:
  • card stock, for angular objects  
  • plaster wrap cloths, for body parts such as legs, arms etc
  • paper mach, for organic shapes
  •  Any combo from above + random objects that are the shape I need.  (ex. powerade bottle caps for jut out light holders from Samus's suit)

Now we need to determine if we want to leave the base form in or rip it out.  If you leave it in your skin won't be touching the fiberglass but it might get a little tighter than when you originally made it and be heavier.  If you rip the base out after the fiberglass has been formed then you get it lighter, but the inside of the fiberglass my be rough.  So you will have to line it or have something between you and the fiberglass.  If you rip it out make sure that you will be able to get it out.  I know that sounds like common sense but if you have your base out of wood, because your good with woodworking or something of the like, make sure you can get it out by either putting something in-between your base and fiberglass (plastic cling wrap) because you have to be able to rip it out, anything porous, like wood, will have the resin seep into the pores making it near impossible to get it out.

Step 2: Preparing your mat
  When you open up your package of mat it will be folded up in one big long sheet.  That's no good, so we are going to take those scissors and cut strips.  Now the size of your strips depends on the shape.  You can generally have larger square pieces, to be safe no bigger than 5 x 5.  On complex curves I cut skinny rectangles that are a little longer than they are thick. I suggest before you even begin mixing cut an adequate amount of strips.  Think of this as adult paper mache, you don't want to have to go back and cut more mat half way through a batch of resin!  Now put your freshly cut pieces to the side, away from your project and away from where any spare resin my fling onto.

Step 3: Mixing your resin
  In the cap of your fiberglass resin will be a little clear container that says fiberglass hardener.  I know it looks small but trust me it's enough for the whole thing.  Now on your container it will tell you how many drops of hardener per ounce of resin.  The first couple of times you do this measure it out. You don't want it to have too much or too little hardener because it will mess with the curing process.  After measuring for many, many, many batches I was able to start eye-balling it.  If it was for an important piece I still measure it.  Just to be absolutely sure!  First thing you want to pour in is your resin and then your hardener.  Mix it up very good, and you are ready to begin.

Step 4: Applying the mat to your base
  Depending on the temperature, hotter being faster and colder being slower, the amount of work time before it has gelled, or become unworkable, varies.  I would safely say somewhere between 3-5 minutes.  Now you don't want to mix up too much fiberglass resin and risk wasting it!  Remember, you can always make more batches!  So first you take a piece of your mat and hold it up against your base.  Now with your other hand get a glob of the mixed resin and start putting it on your mat.  The goal is to 'soak' your mat in resin, I don't mean actually put your mat into the container with the resin, I mean that is the 'look' we are going for.  Now it is just like paper mache, you take you next piece and layer some part of your second piece over your first piece, I don't mean right on top of, just make sure it is on top of the first piece somewhere. Soak that piece as well and keep going until either 1 of 3 things happen:
1.  Your resin begins to gel.  It will become very thick much like hot taffy, basically it stops being brush-able.
2.  You run out of fiberglass mat.  It happens to the best of us, just take note whether you just didn't cut up enough fiberglass mat or if you ran out.  It's always nice to know how much you use.
3.  You're done. Yay!

Also, to know when you have applied enough mat to be done with your piece depends on how much stress will be on it.  Safe to say no less than 2 but no more than 5.  Patch-work not counting.
  I know that sounds silly but it's true.  When you are applying the resin, sometimes you will notice little air pockets or bubbles. These bubbles will have to be ground down and filled later and compromise the strength of your piece.  So to get rid of them as you go, just 'stab' the bubble with your brush, to get that mat to stick to the resin.  You can also add just a little bit more resin to the tip of your brush to help the stubborn bubbles go away.   If you just can't get it out, you will be able to grind them down and fill them later.  I know it's more work that you didn't want to do, but it's better than having to start the whole piece over...

That's all for part 2!  Now you know how to successfully apply the mat to your base!  In the next part I will discuss how to get it ready for paint!

Fiberglass: A beginner's guide, "I'm scared..." (pt1)

 --------------------------PART 1 --------------------------

   Ok, so I get the question often whether or not I am scared to work with fiberglass.  The answer: I was when I first started.  Starting to craft with stuff that can burn your skin or eyes can be very scary when you read all that crazy stuff on the back of the bottle, but now 3 projects in with the stuff and I wouldn't stop using it for anything!  Why you ask?  Because it works!  It's sturdy, lightweight and easy to paint!  Heck, this stuff is used to repair boats!  Also an important reminder.  It is rather difficult to fiberglass small, detailed pieces.  So ask yourself if you really need to fiberglass in the first place.  There are other ways of strengthening your piece.  But things that have small engraved details probably wouldn't be the best thing for fiberglass (unless you plan on doing the details in  paint).
  But enough of this jibber-jabber here is how you begin with fiberglass!

Step 0:  Safety Info:  This is obviously important for various reasons.  Please DO NOT skip this part!  First fiberglass gives off quite an odor, so you need to either work outside or a very well ventilated area.  I suggest outside.   Also, you need gloves for this, please don't try to handle, cut, or really do anything with the mat without gloves on!   You will read why further down.  Also, do not leave your fiberglass resin outside when it gets hot, it may negatively affect your resin or worse.  Do not let children around the mat or resin, mat is an irritant and resin can be toxic. 

Step 1: Knowing the materials
   There are 3 very big basic supplies: 1) fiberglass resin 2) fiberglass mat 3)GLOVES (you will thank me later)

1) Fiberglass resin:  There are a couple different types out there the two big ones are just regular fiberglass resin either made my Bondo or Elmer's (believe it or not) and some other generic brands but those are the two biggies.
I've worked with both and didn't notice much of a difference between viscosity or strength so I am sure any will do.  They also come in regular or gel, now I have not had a chance to use the gel, but then again I've never had a project that needed the gel over the regular.  You can find resin at many different places such as: Wal-mart (auto section), Home Depot, Lowe's (generally with the adhesives in the paint section), or most automotive stores.

2)  Fiberglass mat:  Believe it or not, this is a big decision.  Primarily because there are two different types of fiberglass mat:
Kitty hair
Woven Roven
   First you need to decide what your project needs, a little bit of flex or very-sturdy-hardly-any-give.  And let me emphasize the little bit of flex, there is a minuscule difference when it comes to the flex.  If you were to do two of the same prop one out of kitty hair and the other one out of woven roven, if you lined up (just in the same direction, not like tiling just all in the same direction, you would get a little bit of flex along the 'grain' lines.  The kitty hair one wouldn't flex as much.  Now before you proclaim your fiberglass mat love all to woven roven, I say that personally I like the kitty hair.  It's messier but I like that extra feeling of sturdiness.  On my samus costume I made my bottom calf pieces with kitty hair.
To get my foot into this thing it was a tight slip in, but getting out was another story.  My handler had to push inward right above the green lines with some force to get my ankle free.  Now I would be a little scared doing that with woven roven pieces.  So choose your mat accordingly!

3)  Gloves:  Ok now most people say, "well duh!  That stuff is sticky!  I don't wanna get it on my hands!"  You're right, you don't want it on your hands....or your clothes; or just any part of your skin!  The resin starts to exo-therm when it starts to set (aka, it gets hot!)  so you don't want it on your skin.  And do you want to know why they call it fiberglass  it's that is what the mat is, fibered glass.  So you don't want that stuff in your skin; trust me, I learn the gloves lesson the hard way!  Now if you happen to get some on your arm, don't panic, it's ok.  First off, don't rub it that makes it worse.  Go and wash the area off, gently in COLD water after you gently buffed that area of your skin, then come back in with some soap.  See all better now, nothing to worry about!  Just remember when you are picking up the fiberglass to go a couple aisles over and pick you up some latex gloves : )

Some other materials you will need:
  Plastic Containers: to mix your resin and resin hardener (comes with the resin).  You can either buy them or use emptied and cleaned out sour cream containers; or any other plastic food container.  Generally want it to be bigger than a butter container, ideally the size of the large sour cream containers.  Obviously can't put food in there after you have put fiberglass resin in.  However the canisters can be reused for more resin.  After the resin has FULLY cured.
  Chip brushes: I tend to use the 1/4 chip brushes, all up to personal preference.  Artist brushes DEFINITELY not recommended, and after you use the brush for one batch of fiberglass it is done.  Trash.  Can't be saved.
  Plastic Tarp:  Or a cut up trash bag.   Basically something to shield the fiberglass from whatever surface you are working on.  If you like your floor, then it wouldn't hurt to put one down there either.
  Scissors:  Ones that aren't sticky from anything like duct tape, and ones that will be dedicated to fiberglass.  Don't want to spread those fibers anywhere or contaminate anything! 

These are the basic things you will need in order to do fiberglass.  Depending on the project, it can either be either reasonable or expensive.  Either way, the outcome is fantastic, you get a light, very strong piece.  In the next part I will start explaining the process of how to apply your fiberglass!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trying to get up and running

So this is more meant as filler because I can't really start posting until I get my computer up and running again. In between moving from good ol' Texas all the way to Missouri. Wow. Long drive ahead...