I've decided to start in with a more intelligent naming convention for these posts. Stuff like "Superman Returns Belt - Part MXIIV" gets tedious pretty fast. So I'm switching to a more intuitive name for each post. Clearly, dear reader, you should have figured out by now that this post is going to be all about getting everything set to pour rubber.
But first, it's time for something completely different.
In a separate production pipeline are the boots for this costume. Though I'm not making them, I'm doing whatever I can to help make sure they turn out great. This initially started with providing reference material. When the movie hit theaters, a couple of complete suits went on tour around the country. A few of my online pals were kind enough to document the heck out of the suit. Many of the photos taken revealed a ton of detail on the boots. All good.
I collected all of these photos, and when the time came to get the boots made, I passed on all the relevant reference to the company that is going to make the boots, Incredible Costumes. Just like their namesake, they do indeed make incredible stuff. They do phenomenal work, and I highly recommend them. They did a real bang up job on my Christopher Reeve era costume boots, so I naturally turned to them to build the Returns boots.
One of the complicated parts of the boots is the leather that is used on part of the inner boot. It is stamped with the same micro s pattern that is found on the chest emblem. Good news is, I own a chest emblem. Using a scanner and adobe illustrator, I was able to create a digital version of that S pattern, and send it down to the folks at Incredible Costumes. They then used that pattern to make a die, which they have just sent me some photos of. They also sent a photo of the first test press of the die into some sample leather. Take a look:
Pretty snazzy, huh? Here's a link to the website of the company that is making the boots for me. They do not have this item listed for sale, as this is the first pair they are making.
But let's get back to the belt, shall we? When we last saw our belt, it was all polished and ready to be molded. In this entry, I build the box that will be used to house the belt during the molding process. Nice!
I always use foam core to build my boxes when molding. Unless you happen to have a pre-built box on hand that fits the item you are going to mold, I recommend foam core. Or Foam Board, as some people call it. You can pick it up at any good art supply store. Though I absolutely HATE Michaels with a passion, they do tend to carry the stuff. Ugh.
Anyhow, I start by laying the belt down on a sheet of foam core, and tracing the general shape. I do this so that I can build the box without having to have the belt lying on the board. You never know when a random goo of hot glue might go flying and land somewhere you don't want it to. ESPECIALLY on your master. Yikes.
The belt has a pretty low profile. No more than a half an inch anywhere. So this won't be a very deep mold. The next step is to cut strips of foam core that will be used as the actual walls of the mold. Depending on how deep your pour will need to be, you need to make sure your walls will accomodate you. I use a big old t-square and a box knife to cut my strips. As long as one side is flat, you're golden.
In the mean time, I prepared these little squares of styrene. These will be placed into the mold box, at the end of the belt. I'm including these so that there are holes in the mold where I can lay some webbing when it comes time to pour up a urethene positive. That way, the web belt, which will be used to secure the thing to a person, will lay flush with the belt itself. Just a minor concern, and probably not necessary, but it seemed like the right thing to do.
I tried something that ultimately didn't work out, but I'll show it to you anyway. The idea was to glue thin strips of styrene to the back of the buckle, covering the openings. That way, rubber wouldn't pour through them, making it so that I would have to cut the belt out of the mold. Ultimately, the styrene and glue was a little too much, and made the belt sit unevenly. This proved problematic when it came time to glue the right hand strap back onto the belt. So I scrapped the idea. This just means that I'll have a little bit of razor blade work to do once the rubber has cured.
Skipping ahead, as there's no real magic here, you can see the finished box. I used a hot glue gun to run a bead of glue along the outside endge where the walls hit the base. I made shallow cuts into the foam core where I wanted it to bend a little. You can see where I also made rounded edges out of scored foam core. Pretty nice!
I then glued into place the little styrene squares I had cut out earlier.
And here it is, all finished and ready to pour rubber into.
If you're wondering what those cans of paint and rubber are doing around the edges, I put those on the base to make sure it was sitting flat. It's difficult to find a sheet of foam core that is perfectly flat, especially after it's been sitting around your garage for a while. So the weight on the corners ensures it's sitting flat. I am doing the entire project on top of a framed poster. Again, just to ensure flatness. I figure a nice flat piece of glass is about as flat as I'll need to get.
I had planned on pouring rubber tonight, but I just got a little too tired. And I know that when I get tired, I get sloppy and make mistakes. The last thing I want to do is screw this up so close to the end, so I took a step back and called it a night.
With any luck, I'll have the rubber poured this weekend, and the mold will be ready to start producing belts by next week. Should be good!!