Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Urethene Experimentation

Based on a tip from a fellow enthusiast over at The Brotherhood of The Bat (A forum I am a founding father of, mind you!!) I have ordered a sample pack of Vytaflex 40 from

From what I read on the website, it is not only resilient, but takes pigment well. The aforementioned BOTB user also tells me that it's quite opaque once pigmented, which is really my prime concern. Some stuff I ordered from them before was rather translucent, and did not really meet my needs.

Look At The Colors!!

I've been trying to color match the cape. I'll have to give it back eventually, but before I do, I would like to have a really solid record of what the colors are, so that I don't have to just eyeball them when I go to make my own.

To that end, my first stop was Lowes, where I grabbed as many paint samples as I could that were sort of close to the colors on the cape.

Frankly, none of them were very close. They were all off in significant ways. Rather than keep going down that road, I broke down and ordered a pantone color book. It's not the latest version, and it's not the complete set, but I think this will be good for a number of projects. It's a handy little thing to have, well... handy.

The guide should be here in a few days, at which point I'll try to match up the colors. Should be fun.

In the mean time, I'm going to have to start poking around to see how I can get the fabric dyed properly for the inside of the cape.

Belt Webbing Ordered

Small update for this morning. I ordered some yellow, one inch nylon webbing to use as the strap for the Superman Returns belt. I'll still need to buy the clips, but I can get those anywhere locally. I'm sure I probably could have found the webbing locally, but the internet is so much fun!!!

For reference, I purchased the strap from here:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making Progress

Nothing to report on today other than I'm making progress! I've measured up the cape, something I need to do in order to figure out how big a table I need to build to mold it.

Speaking of which, I am reconsidering this approach. Prior to the arrival of the cape, I was under the impression that this thing would be painfully large. From some of the interviews I read, I was thinking it could be a circular shape, with a radius of just under six feet. So I'd need a 12X12' table. I wanted to build a table because I figured there would be no surface in my garage that would be large enough, flat enough, and level enough to accommodate it. Building a table would afford me all of those characteristics, and also give me room to maneuver around it. Something that I would need during the molding process.

But now that I have the cape, I see that it is not that big. Don't get me wrong, it's BIG, but not THAT big. In fact, it fits quite comfortably on my living room floor. I got to thinking that I may be able to simply pick up a nice big piece of plexiglass and just lay it straight on the floor. I'll need to be careful working with RTV and fiberglass inside, on the carpet, but this seems like a much more reasonbale solution than building a table that isn't really necessary.

That's my current plan. Get the plex. I don't know if they make it in sheets big enough for the cape, but even then, building a little table with some 2X4s and a couple sheets of plex will be much easier than what I had previously imagined.

Cape Measurements

No pictures to post today, but today was a very busy day in Superman Returns Cape land. I spent a couple of hours after work measuring, photographing, and basically just familiarizing myself with the cape. I'm still surprised how many little details there are to the cape that you would just never see on screen. I also noticed that there are indeed two seams to the texture pattern that covers the outside. There are three large panels of the diamond pattern used to make the master. Kinda cool. The seam line is very subtle, and you'd NEVER notice it on screen. Heck, I barely noticed it when I was looking at it in person.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cape Has Arrived

Happy day!

Not only did my ninja wheel show up when I got back, but also waiting was the Superman Returns cape.

Long story short, the thing is a thing of beauty. Here's a shot of the full cape:

And here's a close up of the texture:

Many of the details of the capes construction were very surprising. Just little things that you would never see on screen. Also, it's very well engineered. A lot of care and trouble went into making this thing work. I spent today documenting the heck out of it. Took photos of every little detail, and measured everything. Next thing I need to do is prep it for molding.

The good news is that it's not AS big as I had expected. I was expecting it to be a full circle of material, but it is not. So I won't need to build a wildly huge table to accommodate it. That's cool.

Ninja Wheel!!!

Sometimes a nice little prop becomes available that you just have to jump on. Witness the Batman 1989 "Ninja Wheel" prop.

Though not seen in the film, this prop was documented heavily in a couple of the "Making Of" books that came out around the time of the film's release, and always struck me as pretty cool. Though there are plenty of Batman props higher on my list of must-haves, when this became available, I had to have it.

It is extremely well made, and must have been CNC cut. It's all metal, and is nice and light. For me, it's rare that I find a prop that is high quality and meets/beats expectations, but this one did. Big thanks to the craftsman in Germany who put this together.

For context, here's a picture of the prop master from the movie, surrounded by the hand props created for the film. You can see the ninja wheel down in front.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Epic Fail Cape Test

I thought I had already written this update, but it looks like I didn't. Score one for early onset senility, I guess.

I dug the little cape fragments out of the rubber the other day, and lets just say it was not pretty... for the most part. As I suspected, the only fragment that fared well was the one that I put the clay around. The one that was taped down stayed taped, but the rubber stuck to the fabric around the edges. While the rubber did peel away, it left some discoloration, and little chunks of rubber in the material.

The piece that was free floating was a total loss. Rubber seeped all the way under it, and totally impregnated the fabric. Same as the first square, I was able to peel it away, but not without leaving little chunks in the fabric, and a bunch of discoloration.

But the good news is that the clay really worked well. nothing seeped under it, and it didn't leave any residue on the cape.

So that's what I'm going to do. Run a border of clay around the cape, and then go from there.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Another Cape Mold Test

I'm doing some more tests on my cape swatch, trying to determine what kind of risk there will be to the fabric using RTV. I cut my swatch into four little squares. One of them is taped down to the foam core, one is bordered with water based clay, the other is just free floating:

Rubber on top:

Tomorrow, I'll see how it turned out. My expectation is that the clay bordered one is the only one that will survive.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Here She Is!

Here is the completed belt mold. I've cleaned up most of the edges, but there's still a little flash on the inside that needs to be cut out.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how this mold turned out. It looks really clean, and I can't wait to start getting pulls out of it.

Epic Fail!

Though a bit on the downside, this posting is actually very cool, as it points out the importance and possibly the necessity of running tests.

The other day, I squished some silicone putty onto my little swatch of cape material to see if there would be any adverse reaction, and how the silicone may or may not attach itself to the fabric.

Here's how it looked after the putty had a chance to cure:

And sadly, here's how it looked after I pulled it off:

As you can see, it was a failure on both fronts. Literally. On the fabric side, it left a big greasy splotch. On the textured side, the silicone did not completely cure. REALLY good thing I learned this before plopping a full jar of silicone putty onto the actual cape. WHEW!!!!

This particular silicone putty is actually designed to be used with food. Perhaps as a result, it produces an oily surface coating, possibly to avoid messing up the food product you are molding. In retrospect, I should have known this from when I molded the belt, as it too left an oily residue. With the belt, it did not matter, as that was all urethene. But with the fabric, it just leaves a mess. I'm a little confused as to why the silicone did not fully kick on the textured side, as I thought it was made out of an inert material. Guess not. Something in it reacted with the putty, causing it not to cure.

So back to the drawing board on that one, I guess.

The good news though is widespread. I didn't do any damage to the full cape, and I've still got half the swatch to experiment with. I think my next test will be with plain old RTV. I'll just pour a bit over the top of it, and see how it interacts with both sides. I've already done a test on the textured side, and there were no problems. I guess I just need to find out how it will effect the fabric side.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cape Prep

There's a lot of exciting news going on with the Superman costume, though you would never know it based on frequency of blog entries. The long story short is that I've been very focused on one of my OTHER projects, which I am working on in secret at the moment. But more on that eventually.

The mold for the belt is complete and cleaned up, though I don't have a picture to post yet. I will attend to that shortly. I'm still searching for a good source of opaque urethene. If you happen to know of one, please post something here, or shoot me an email.

But right now, I'm working on the cape! A friend of mine has offered to lend me his made-for-production cape, and it should be in my hands shortly. To this end, I've done some prep work.

A while back, I acquired a very tiny swatch of the fabric used to make the cape. I got it on ebay. It was an auction for one of those topps cards where the card is a mount for bit of fabric. Shame that they chopped up costumes, though I cannot say I actually believe they did. More likely would be that they had some leftover fabric that they contributed or sold to the cause. But I digress. So I have a bit of the cape fabric. Here it is.

This is immensely helpful to own, as it allows me to test various substances on it, and make sure it will not hurt the FULL cape. The first thing I did was pour some RTV on it, which did not stick at all. Whew. I have no idea what the outer surface of the cape is, though an online interview with the costuming team from the movie state that it is latex.

What concerns me is the fabric underneath. If I pour rubber on top of the cape, and some seeps under it and into the fabric, will that mess it up?? Messing up the cape is simply not an option. If I am not 100% comfortable that I can mold it without damaging it, I simply will not mold it. That would suck, but it's just not worth the risk.

I hatched a plan to use my silicone putty around the edges of the cape, and then pour liquid RTV over the top of it. That way, I could eliminate the threat of RTV seeping under it and into the fabric. So today, I wanted to test how the silicone putty interacts with the fabric. Here's the stuff I'm using:

It's the same stuff I used to take that quick mold of the belt a couple months ago. I know it works great. The two things I need to test are:
1. does it bond with the fabric too tightly - hopefully no.
2. Will it bond with RTV - hopefully yes.

I mixed up a little tiny bit. I pressed some of it directly into the fabric. I pressed the rest of it around the edge, as I expect I would on the real cape.

Now all I need to do is let that cure for a few hours, and I'll have some results.

In completely unrelated news, I think it's very cool that the found item used to make the communicators in the classic Star Trek series was recently identified and confirmed. Totally nerdy, but very cool. Read all about it here, at

And while you're at it, live long and prosper