Friday, September 16, 2011

Very Exciting Urethane News

After a couple of years of experimentation (though not consistently!) I think I've really had a breakthrough on the Superman Returns cape front.

If you'll recall, the big problem I've really run into is finding a suitable material to use for the outer skin of the cape. The part that is textured with a micro-diamond pattern.

I've tried a dozen or so different materials, ranging from various mixes and viscosities of latex rubber, to a bunch of different brands and shore hardnesses of urethane. It's extremely frustrating. Each one of the materials I try has its advantages and disadvantages, but none are able to produce the results I want. I came really close with a certain brand of latex rubber and a mixture of pigments, but it proved to be a bit transparent (necessitating multiple coats), extremely time consuming and error prone, and worst of all, when exposed to sunlight it would turn white and powdery.

At San Diego Comic Con this year, I sat down for dinner with the very talented David Pea of Universal Designs, (the company that brings us leather motorcycle gear that happens to be identical to some of the most awesome movie costumes ever!!) where he shared with me some of his hard earned wisdom. He suggested a few different materials and a number of techniques that I should explore. I recently did some experimentation with leather spray that did not turn out as I hoped, but it led me down a previously unexplored path.

The summary is this. I picked up a kit of Smooth-On Brush-on 50 Urethane, thinned it with mineral spirits (as per the websites suggestion) and sprayed it into my molds with an airbrush. I experimented with both a silicone mold and a rigid (BJB 1630) mold. Here are some close up photos of the results.

It may not be entirely clear from the photos, but the end result is that the urethane coated the molds VERY evenly, and did not lift up or pull back from either substrate. This is amazing to me!!!!!

What remains is to test the opacity of this spray. I need to pigment a batch, do a couple layers of spray, and see how much light passes through. I really feel VERY encouraged by my latest developments, and this is really exciting for me. The urethane goes on VERY thin when sprayed on like this, which is just great. Yes, it will mean I have to do a number of coats, but that's really no problem. The fact that it currently appears to satisfy all of my requirements is enough to offset any labor expense I may incur as a result.

Part of me doesn't want to get too excited, as I have experienced so much failure with this project over the years. Still, with results like this, it's hard not to get excited

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