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Here's where the magic happens. I'll be posting about all of my experiences and experiments (both failed and successful ones), introducing you to my costumes, sharing fun stories, linking tutorials and useful products, and who knows what else!


Filtering by Tag: comission

Not quite a Sharkzooka, but still pretty rad

Michael MacWolff

So my first experience with LEDs in my props turned out pretty fantastically with the Fishbones rocket launcher from League of Legends. To be quite honest, it's pretty hard to top that, but one of my more recent commissions was pretty intensive and awesome too. I was contacted by a client of mine who I'd made a shield & sword set from Majora's Mask, and she asked if I could make a Clank for her brother. As in the little robot sidekick from Rachet & Clank. I certainly was not going to pass up the opportunity so continue expanding my horizons with this project, despite it being a rather daunting one.

He doesn't look so complicated... right?

He doesn't look so complicated... right?

My first thought was, this shouldn't be that hard, I've built all kinds of wierd stuff before. Well, that was before I realized that in order to be very effective with him, I'd need to make him posable, as in all of his joints needed to actually work. On top of that, his legs would have to fold up into his body so he could be worn around like a backpack. And the last fun thing: in order to be properly proportional to this Clank, he'd have to be about 3ft tall. Oi.

 I had a perfectly good idea how to make most of him right off the bat, carboard and foamcore would be just fine for the body, foam with paper clay over it would work well for the legs, and I could use craft foam for the raised planes. The real trick would be getting the joints to actually move. I had only a vague concept of how that would work and what bit & pieces needed to go together in order to achieve that. So, my first stop after picking up some paint & foamcore: the thrift store.

And I came home with these things.

I know, you think I'm crazy, right? Well that's probably true, but they did actually come in handy for constructing some of Clank's joints. The wierd little alien's legs moved in and out, which I could steal their mechanism to use in his ankles, and their spherical-ish shape worked out quite well for that. That Torx thing I ended up using for the shoulders, since I knew I'd need something that could support the weight of the arms and stay in place, while still being able to turn.

Say goodbye to our little toys, and hello to some useful materials with which to make our little robot move. Now unfortunately, I couldn't find any other joints to harvest, but after seeing how they worked, I felt somewhat (or really not very) confident that I could make some joints of my own for the knees and the elbows.

I started with a few different sizes of pvc, some nuts & bolts, rubber washers, and a whole lot of E6000. God only knows how I successfully constructed some functional joints, I might be able to recreate them again if I needed to, but I doubt I could really explain what I was doing... so you can just look at some pictures instead of listening to me ramble unsuccessfully.

The feet were done with my usual floral foam + lightweight putty method, and the raised parts are craft foam. All in all, probably the simplest part of the whole construction.

Add the legs & a box and his bottom half is done!

With the bottom half done, the next step was the arms. Those bits from our Torx toy, plus some dowel rods and giant washers made for some interesting limbs.

The hands were actually fairly simple; they're made from a few layers of foamcore board with some screws for the knuckles and one of those safety eyes you usually use on plushies for the large round part in the middle of his hands. The fingers are just 2 layers of black craft foam with some heavy gauge wire stuck in the middle so you can pose them.

Put it all together with the body, and we have a torso!

And... waiting for things to dry... and there's only so many ways you can keep things level...

And... waiting for things to dry... and there's only so many ways you can keep things level...

So as you can see, nothing within arm's reach is safe when I'm crafting! I'll grab anything that's the right size.. it's a good thing I don't have any pets at the moment, I feel like that could go badly.

Well, you know what's next! It time for a head, and it was, of course, constructed using our favorite project from kindergarten... paper mache-ing a balloon then popping the balloon! I seriously haven't done that in forever and it was downright theraputic.

Apologies if that photo gives you nightmares...

Also, fun fact: that piece of cardboard tubing that I used for his neck, it's the same tube that made up most of Fishbones! I seriously never throw away anything in this house. It's kind of a problem.

Well, now that we have most of the pieces put together, it's time for the final construction and painting! I was moving pretty quickly as I was running short on time to finish this guy and so I did a vary bad job of taking any progress photos of the painting process, but here he is!

As for the bits I didn't discuss... his eyes are two halves of one of those acryllic balls you can get from craft stores. They were very convenient for this cause I didn't have to do much to them since they were already in two pieces, I just sanded the inside of them to diffuse the green light from the LEDS. His antenna is a little metal tube I pulled off of a clock (thank you steampunk interests!) and a big plastic marble at the top that I sprayed red. His jaw is a piece of thick foam that I sprayed silver, with those same giant washers from his arm joints to attach them.

And now for the magical part. He needed to fold up so he could be worn around like a backpack. Well, on the bottom of his boxy body there are two doors with industrial velcro, and on the top of that little box his legs are attached to is the other half of the velcro. When he's standing, you can attach the legs to the outside of the doors, but when you want them to fold inside, you just pull them off, open the doors, and slide the legs all the way up. There's another platform with velcro on the inside that holds them in place!

I swear it took me more time to come up with how to make that work, but functionally speaking, it works better than most of the joints I constructed for him, go figure!

This little guy was certainly a learning experience, but I had a lot of fun figuring him out and putting him together. And I actually got to meet the Rachet cosplayer at Colossalcon which was pretty cool too!

Many Emblems Gently Flaming

Michael MacWolff

Yes, I'm back to talk to you about more Fire Emblem stuff because... well, why the heck  not? As you probably gathered form my last entry I'm minorly..............ok, majorly obsessed with these games (though not to the point where I've played the old ones released only in japan, I should get on that), and recently I've had the fortune of having several of my prop commissions actually be Fire Emblem weapons. They're all from Awakening too, which is not at all surprising considering that it's the most recent game and certainly the most popular.

Interestingly enough my first prop commission was also a Fire Emblem item, though it was from the Tellius series since Awakening wasn't out yet. I made a lovely little Lehran's Medallion for someone. I went into it thinking "this is going to be easy" and as soon as I looked closer at the reference artwork I quickly realized the error in my thought process. Every time I'd seen it in the game it just looked like a disc with some carvings on it... but not so much.

In order to get the proper shape for the interior of the medallion I needed cereal boxes, paper straws, some modeling clay (which you can't see in the photo) and those wierd teardrop stickers. Then the outside was a masking tape roll that I cut in half... which was a royal pain in my ass.

There was also come craft foam, brads, and a couple of little metal rings that went into creating the final shaping.

The end result turned out really nicely but it was much  more of a beast of a project than I was expecting.

Thankfully for my three recent FE props, I had much more experience under my belt so I could much more easily and quickly come up with a creation strategy for each one. Also, they're all bigger and more fun to play with because they're all weapons. Yay shiny instruments of death!

The first was a Lightning Axe I made for my friend Josh. He was a friend I made specifically because of Fire Emblem cosplay so I suppose it's only appropriate that he's up first. As with many of the larger props I've been making recently, the axe head is a floral foam base with lightweight filler putty coating the outside.

I like using this method for stuff because shaping the foam is pretty easy with a knife, and if you accidentally do something wrong or cut out a chunk you weren't supposed to, you can just glue it back in and smooth it over with the putty. Good as new! It does take a long time to sand the whole thing, but hey, you've gotta do what you've gotta do. It's also nice and lightweight, which is good for props you're carrying around all day and makes shipping a lot more reasonable too :-)

The rest is pretty simple: pvc handle with a cap fixture embedded in the axe head so you can remove the handle for easy storage & transportation. The knobby bits on the handle are made of paper clay, which works well for that sort of detail because it's strong enough to stand on its own and can be sanded when you gloop on too much.

A few hours of painting later and you have one lovely axe.

A note about painting for all you lovely folks out there: Spray on your metallics! It will save you a lot of time. Additionally, when you have multiple overlapping metallics, like I do with this axe, you should always paint a base coat of regular acryllic that's a similar color to your metallic. This will save you a good bit of time and aggravation later, because it'll take fewer top coats of your metallic paint to get it looking good and any spots that you may have missed won't be very noticable.

Anywho, there's Libra's axe! So let's move on to weapon # 2... which is somewhat less of a weapon and somewhat more of a healing tool. It's Brady's staff!

Once again, we started with a foam base, which thankfully they make wreath foam so I already had the base circle! Thank god because it would've not been nearly as properly round. More carving and frosting with putty!

The smaller details are all done with paper clay, as is my standard. Although, since it's all kind of a layered look with the details, they didn't stick very well so I had to glue a lot of them back on when they dried. Alas.

The nice thing with that pole, it's actually a flagpole and therefore it unscrews in the middle!

P.S. That shade of gold is probably my favorite color ever for prop stuff, and it makes me really angry that all of the brands that have this color or something similar have discontinued it. Come on, guys!

Well, now that it's painted, all we have left is the little leathery wrap for the handle and BOOM. Done. This is also where the benefit of having worked at Joann's comes into play because I rotated out the faux leather bias tape that I used for this detail and therefore got to snatch all of it up when it went on clearance! It's the small victories that count :-D


I can't wait to see photos from Acen this weekend with an actual Brady wielding this thing, I'm sure it's going to be awesome.

And to continue with that trend, the last of my trio of weapons (and this one is much more dangerous than the healing staff) was also constructed for Acen this weekend, for the wonderful and talented Mochici Cosplay! This time, I got to make a Brave Sword for Lon'qu, and I'm sure he will wreck some Plegians with it!

This one started with a wood base using a thin craft board. I usually use craft boards for my swords because they're sturdy, fairly lightweight, and the proper thickness for making a sword! Not to mention, I've gotten pretty good with my jigsaw!

The central details on the blade could have easily been done in wood, but cutting out all of the small spaces with a jigsaw was going to be rather difficult, and if I screwed up, it would have been rather difficult to fix. So instead, I decided to use foamcore board (my new favorite prop-making material) as it's a lot easier to cut, and is a lot cheaper to remake things if I mess something up!

After the foamcore part of the blade was glued in, the last bit of construction was using paper clay to build up the hilt of the sword... which of course I'm a dummy and didn't take a picture of that step. So let's just skip ahead to the part where we paint! Remember that important rule: Paint your metallics first!

The last step, much like with the staff, is to add the wrap to the hilt. A little bit of drying time with the glue and it's all ready to go!

And of course, being the good little crafter and FE fan, I naturally had to test out my newly forged sword so it's PLAY TIME!

Needless to say, I am super pleased with how all of these things turned out and I can't wait to see some photos of them with their proper costumes. Perhaps I can manage to post some of those soon.

Thanks again for tuning in, my loves!

Two Week Prop Challenge: Part 2

Michael MacWolff

The much anticipated conclusion is finally here, now that Tekko has come & gone and the magnanimous sharkzooka has been successfully finished and given to a good home.

When last we saw our dear Fishbones, the construction had been completed, but the whole thing was black and therefore not terribly interesting.

So in the past I've tended to paint a lot of my props pretty flat, which does sometimes work out alright, but I decided it was time to introduce some more dynamic painting to my props!
It all relies on the idea of using gradients to accentuate the shapes. You can find plenty of tutorials on pinterest and other places. I used the prop and armor painting tutorial on Kamui Cosplay. As you may remember from my wings post a couple of weeks ago, I used her cosplay lighting book to great success (I also used this new-found knowledge on this particular prop as you'll see later. She has a number of other tutorial books so I got her painting one and I'm very happy with what I learned.
It all starts with a dark base ans layering in the lighter color a little bit at a time so you get a smooth gradient. You can see it here with both the red in the eyes and the blue of the head.

As you can see from the picture above, it really makes the shapes and layers stand out.
Once the painting was done, the last few details had to be added: the leather strap around the middle, the eyes, and the lighting. Now the lighting was a bit tricky to figure out the best method. The red inside the barrel was simple, but the eyes looked weird with just the lights behind the translucent plastic. So what I did was put the lights to the front of the eyes pointing back to the tapered end, put a layer of aluminum foil behind it to reflect the light forward and out of the eyes. The last step was covering the whole top of the mouth with a piece of black foam to protect the lighting elements and make it so you can't see all the random pieces inside the mouth. Sorry about my total failure at taking any useful photos of the last few steps... I was moving as fast as possible to get this done in time for the convention!

It's coming to get youuuuuu!

It's coming to get youuuuuu!

Now that the beast was done, the best part was yet to come!

Tekko was a blast on its own, but delivering this baby was definitely a highlight. As soon as she saw it, Jinx flipped out! I always enjoy hearing back from people I've made stuff for, whether it's cosplay pieces, life counters, ties, or any of the other random stuff I make. It's really the excitement of the people I' making things for that gives me the most joy when it comes to crafting for folks, and the response I got to Fishbones was fantastic. I think this photo I took of Jinx and her new rocket launcher pretty much sums up the emotions that were going on at the time.

I'm pretty sure I was making the same face from the other side of the camera.

I'm pretty sure I was making the same face from the other side of the camera.

In true Jinx fashion, she started having hilarious conversations with Fshbones.

In true Jinx fashion, she started having hilarious conversations with Fshbones.

While I was a bit sad to see it go, the ecstatic reaction I got was definitely worth the parting sorrow. There's no real contest, this is definitely the coolest thing I've constructed to date! But hey, that just means there will be more fun challenges in my future!

I'll be posting the post-Tekko review in a day or two once I've sorted through my photos, and hopefully get some pictures from my dear friend with whom I spent the weekend as he's got most of the new photos of us on his camera.

Until next time, lovelies!