Wednesday, October 28, 2009

XFiles and Alias

A couple of years ago, I was very interested in various credentials that were used by characters on TV shows. I also had a lot of free time to plink around in Adobe Illustrator, and as a result of some good reference materials, I made ID cards and wallets for both Sidney Bristow from the show "Alias" and the Cigarette Smoking Man from "The X-Files". The wallets were made by hand, and I was never entirely happy with them. But the wallet cards were really nice.

Just the other day, I was talking on the phone with a good pal of mine John D who is pursing another run of Blade Runner wallets, and he mentioned an online resource he uses for his wallets. I went to their website and poked around, only to find that they make credential holders that look EXACTLY like the ones I tried to replicate for CSM and Sidney!

I was very excited about this, so I came home and compared my screen caps and reference materials to what they offered on this site, and sure enough, they look really darn good.

Here's a link to the company that makes them:

And here is the reseller that I purchased them from:

If you go into the "Double ID Cases" section, you can find the models I ordered. For CSM, I ordered 503 - Duty Leather Book Style Double ID Case, and for Sidney I picked up 508 - Thin Line Book Style Double ID Case. I'm really confident about the size on the Sidney one, though the CSM one is just an estimate based on some dims I got online. It may not be totally right, but it will look really good.

My personal feeling on the CSM wallet is that it was custom made, just like all of the wallets for the XFiles. Nothing to substantiate that claim, just intuition. The Alias wallet looks like an off the shelf piece, and this one matches really well.

When I get the wallets, I will re-print the cards, snap some pics, and post them here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pigment Discovery

As regular readers will know, I've been struggling with getting a truly opaque red for the chest emblem. I spent a little time on google today, and found pretty much exactly what I was hoping would exist. It's a white pigment whose sole purpose in life is to make your urethane opaque. Check this out...

looks like this website was redesigned, and the URL has changed. TO make matters easy for the future, I'll just post a link to the home page:


Dispersion Color

I'm going to order some, just to experiment with. It even refers to So-Strong pigments BY NAME and how they often don't give true opacity. I'm thinking this might be the silver bullet. Woohoo!!!

I placed an order for a four ounce kit of the white stuff, and while I was there I stocked up on PMC780, and also picked up a trial kit of PMC790, which will be a little more rigid. Who knows, I might find use for it eventually.

Here's the home page. Looks like a pretty decent outfit. They resell a lot of really good products there. Good resource.

Urethane Problem: Solved!

I still don't know why I didn't try this sooner, but I suppose it's better late than never. The secret to pouring up perfect, bubble free urethane belts is none other than our old pal from our resin slinging days: Baby Powder.

Yup, the type of stuff you get at Target. When you powder up a mold prior to pouring in, a force called "Capilary Action" comes into play. This magical force draws the liquid into the tiny nooks and crannies. It works amazingly well. My fear was that by powdering the mold up, I would somehow taint the pigment. When you powder a resin mold, it's not an issue, as the expectation is that you will paint the thing coming out of the mold. Not the case with this project.

Anyhow, on to the victory pics:

Here's a close up of the buckle. I challenge you to find a flaw in this pull:

And just for good measure, I trimmed out the flash so you can see how the finished product would look. It's still a little sloppy, but you get the idea.

For my next trick, I powdered up the mold for the chest emblem backplate. Booya. It came out PERFECTLY. I don't know how well you can see the micro-S pattern in this photo, but take my word for it, there is not a single imperfection in the casting.

Now that I have the technique down pat, it's really just a matter of mixing up a color that is to my liking. More experimentation. But the good news is that no matter what color they come out to be, they will be flawless, bubble free castings. Here's some shots of the next one out of the mold

Overall, I am very pleased. This has been a very productive week, and I've answered a lot of questions. I am getting VERY close to having a repeatable process for producing good quality belts, which is what I'm after.

I am just about out of silicone rubber, so I'll need to order some more from Sil-Pak so that I can finish up the chest emblem mold. I really feel like I'm on the right track now.

There's really only two components to lock down from here. I may try for a harder shore strength urethane, as the 80 I'm using still seems a little soft. I also really need to nail down a REALLY opaque red tint for the chest emblem. I can make due with what I have, but it's not quite perfect.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Urethane Fun.

Mixed news on the Urethane front, though most of it is not positive. I'll start with the good news.

It looks like my technique for adding the straps AFTER The belt has cured is working out well. The stuff bonds to itself really well.

I got my first pull out of the chest emblem mold only to learn that it is chock full of bubbles. Not cool at all.

And my latest pull from the belt mold also had some bubbles in it. So the popsicle stick technique did not work either.

My next attempt will be to use baby powder in the mold. This is usually the default maneuver, but I have assumed that baby powder will not work well with pigmented stuff. Idea is that it will ruin the surface pigment. I am not sure, but that's where I'm going next.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere!

All of my tests are certainly getting me somewhere, though I'm at a point where I wish the stuff would just behave the way I had hoped it would. No sweat though, as each failure is a lesson learned.

Here is the completed two part mold for the chest backplate. I probably used way more rubber than I needed, but who cares.

I did my first pour into the chest emblem backplate mold. I just did it open faced. I'm really doing this is a "clean out" pass, to remove any junk from the mold, and to figure out any nuances of the mold that I'll need to account for when I go to make my final pour.

I did another experiment on the belt mold. This time, after I poured in the urethane, I went in after it with a popsicle stick and ran it into every little corner I could find. The theory is that this would push out any air bubbles.

After it had cured for a few hours, I mixed up a smaller batch of urethane and soaked a few lenghts of webbing, then attached it on top of the belt. This will probably turn out to be my new process for making the belts.

And look, here's a whole stack of belts! Seen on top of it is the made for production chest emblem back plate, just to give you an idea of color comparison.

I think I will also need to put some time into thinking about what I want the final pieces to look like, color wise. At the end of the day, what they looked like in person is not how they appeared on screen. There was a lot of color timing done to the final print, and I'll need to decide what I want to do. I don't think I'll ever be able to match the actual colors perfectly, so I suppose it's a moot point anyhow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pouring Up Some More Test Belts

I have a few things running simultaneously right now, but I'll try to give the full update. First up is the progress on the two part mold of the back plate of the chest emblem. I poured another layer tonight, which basically makes this thing done. Just need to let it fully cure, then I should be able to start running parts out of it.

The rest of this post focuses on what I am doing with the belt mold. Overall, I am very happy with the mold. it's nice and clean. However, there are some challenges that come with it, and I'm trying to debug my pouring method so that I can predictably and repeatably get pristine pulls out of it.

I did a test yesterday that was focused on figuring out if one of the urethanes I have selected would be opaque enough for my likings. I did a couple tests with a couple different types of urethanes, along with a few different pigments. Just for testing.

You can see from that pic that there are a few different colors going on in there. Here is a closeup of the buckle:

Overall, it came out pretty clean, but I did learn some valuable lessons from this pull. First up, I'm not completely satisfied with the pigmentation on any of the urethanes I tried. The belt is just not opaque enough. Even worse, the shore strength is not right. I need to bump it up. These belts were poured at 60, which is just too soft and squishy. I need to drive it up to 80. So that was a good lesson.

So that's what I learned from this multi color belt. Not opaque enough, not rigid enough.

For the next test, I switched to a shore 75 urethane, one that I have used sucessfully in the past. I also stuck with a pigment that I knew would give me the opacity I wanted, but the cost is that it's a VERY bold yellow. Also, because the tint is not part of the "So-Strong" line that I am using elsewhere, it is a bit harder to control the way the tint behaves. If I want to soften it up a bit, by adding black, for example, it tends to turn green. Go figure.

But this test was all about pouring techniques. The goal was to try one technique and see how it pans out. The basic deal is that I poured the urethane into ONE corner of the mold, and let it seep out over the entire mold. I then laid in the straps. Here's the results:

Another problem I have noticed is that the straps tend to sink down to the bottom of the mold while the urethane is curing, and the end result is that you can see the ends of the straps through the belt. Not cool.

So I'm going to change the way I do the straps. From now on, I will do one pour to fill up the mold, and then add the straps in on a second pour. I will mix up some urethane, dip the tip of the strap into it, and then just set it down on top of the cured urethane. This will be cool, as it will also allow me to add some reinforcement to the thinner parts of the belt, like where the belt loops go.

Here is the bright yellow belt all trimmed up. If I leave it out in the sun for a few hours, it will REALLY knock down the boldness of the yellow.

Here's the last pour I did for the night. Two things I did differently this time. I left out the straps, and I used a spray in mold release. Still did the pour from one corner technique. I'm curious to see how the mold release effects it, if at all.

I forgot to outline what the real goal here is. I want a bubble free casting. Every csting I have done so far has one or two bubbles in it. Not cool. To the casual observer, I'm sure they would be invisible. But I want it to be perfect.

More of this, more of that.

I have a bit of a disjointed update today, as I'm sort of all over the place.

I'm STILL experimenting with urethane, and have not found one yet that I am happy with. I did a little test with a product I picked up from Burman. F-60. It takes pigment decently, but it's not as solid as I had hoped.

Here's a sample blob I poured. The color is nice, but it's not solid enough.

I have also concluded that shore 60 is too soft. I'm going to stick with 80 for all of the Superman stuff.

Yesterday I finished building the box up around the chest emblem back plate.

And then poured rubber on it.

I'm going to need to do another pour to get the thickness I want, but it's almost there. Then I will start running some urethane into it. yay!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Another Belt Test

I have a couple of little things to report on today. First up, I am doing some more test with urethene. I found a product called VytaFlex from Smooth-On that I'm told cures pretty opaque, milky white. That is good! I'm also told it takes pigments well. So I pulled out my 2 pound kit and got to work.

Here you can see the mold, with a little bit of pigmented VytaFlex poured in. This is only a test, so I didn't fill the entire mold. What I want to find out is how well the pigment takes to the urethene, and how it feels when it comes out. I want to make sure it's the right hardness.

So far I'm not overwhelmed by the opacity of the VytaFlex, but I will see if it changes once it cures. I don't expect it to, as that is not the normal behavior of this type of stuff, but this is a product I am unfamiliar with, so who knows. I also didn't really go in too hard with the pigments, so maybe some more, with some mixed in colors would help.

The belt at the top of the picture is my previous attempt. While the color is a BIT off, the opacity is really great.

Also in interesting news, I've been doing some thinking about the cape. I have to say, I'm not overly pleased with the latex. There are a number of problems that have cropped up lately. First of all, there are all kinds of little knobbies in the latex. These are probably the result of chunks that dried in the brush, and were then transferred to the surface of the cape. I picked up a pair of cuticle trimmers from Target, and I'm using those to pick them off one by one.

It's a time consuming process that is not really all that much fun, and is pretty problematic. I would say one out of ten times, I snip too deep, and end up cutting out a tiny hole in the cape. I then have to patch that, let it dry, etc. So big pain in the rear.

The other thing is that the latex is getting foggy! It's acquired what looks like a white, dusty coating to it. Not sure if this is the result of the latex aging, or if it's something in the air, or moisture, or some other thing. Either way, it is not cool. So far, I can only confirm that it is effecting the inner surface. But if it turns out that the OUTER surface will also acquire that dusty finish over a couple of months, then I am back to square one on the cape.


The reason I bring this up is because I think I may have found another solution. When I was pouring up my belt, I noticed that VytaFlex pours VERY smooth, and does NOT pull up from rubber. My previous experiments with urethene against rubber were not good, as it tended to pull up from it. Not good. So what I'm thinking is that there is a chance that VytaFlex could solve a lot of my problems. IF it cures opaque, and IF it's going to behave well with the mold, I may end up doing the cape in Urethene instead of Latex rubber. It would save A LOT of labor, as getting the latex into the cape is pretty difficult, and takes a number of coats.

I guess I'm pretty encouraged right now. Even if VytaFlex does NOT cure opaque, I'm thinking I could probably find a pigment out there that would work with it. The yellow stuff I used on previous belts is VERY opaque, and I'm sure I can round something similar up.

That's the report for now. The urethene cures in 24 hours. I will have a report on the details tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cape Fabric Test Fail

I've gotten a little bit of momentum going lately, and I thought I would take advantage of it. I'm still not completely convinced that my construction methodology for the cape is sound, as there are some bugs to work out.

I came up with the idea of using contact cement to secure the outer skin to the inner fabric. Seemed like a good idea at the time. I got down to Home Depot and picked up a pot of the stuff.

Not wanting to do a test directly on the cape, in case something went wrong, I poured up a little sample of latex and set the fan onto it to dry.

OH, also, while at Home Depot, I picked up another little storage container thingie for my tools. It was getting a little crowded in there. The on the left is the new one.

I also picked up at HD a particle board shelf. I need a flat and rigid surface to set my molds on while they are curing. This is better than putting the mold onto the floor, as it allows me to adjust the surface if it is not level. Normally, the floor is pretty level, but that doesn't mean the mold was poured on a level floor.

As of right now, the punchline is that the contact cement ate right through the latex and dissolved it. It blistered up in some places, and flat out ate through others. So that's sort of a bummer, and it means that this plan is out. I'll just have to stick with the original plan of using latex to stick the two halves together. Who knows... it just might work.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cape Fabric Hunt

I've enlisted the help of a good friend and dedicated hobbyist, Gino Sabatino in my quest to find some decent material for the inside of the cape. Gino has spent a lot of time hunting down (and finding!) equally rare materials for other projects, so I thought it would make sense to run this one by him.

I've sent scans of both the cape material and the briefs material over to Gino in the hopes that he can leverage his fashion industry contacts to find something that is a closer match than what I have found so far.

I also recently had some contact from Sebastian, the guy in Argentina who is making my boots. He tells me that we are still on track for a december delivery.