Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Superman Returns Cape Progress and Breakthrough

Much is afoot with the Superman Returns cape recently. The other day I reviewed a bunch of my old blog posts on the topic, and was reminded of a lot of things I had forgotten.

I am once again revisiting the fabric. I'm sad to say that if you snooze, you lose. This proved to be true recently in my case. A year or so ago, I found some great fabric in the fashion district which was 65" wide. I purchased enough for a couple of capes. I went back the other day to buy more, and they are all sold out. Should have gotten the whole bolt.

I still have other options. One is a VERY nicely colored heavy weight jersey knit. I currently have enough for two capes. In my older blog posts, I was lamenting the fact that I couldn't seem to get the center crease out of it. I even took it to the dry cleaner to have them press it out. I don't know why I didn't think of it then, but all it needed was a good wash in the washing machine. I did this just today with this length, and voila, the crease is gone. In this pic, the fabric is draped across my dinner table drying.

But I digress. Let's get back to the workshop and talk about the cape mold. As you will recall, I am using a latex from the Motion Picture FX company to do my cape layups.

The other night, after reading some stuff online, I decided to experiment with my spray gun, to see if the latex I am using can be sprayed, and better yet if it will stick to the mold properly. I figured this would save me a ton of time and hassle if it works.

Sure enough, my spray gun is indeed able to spray the stuff. It's not perfect, and I will probably purchase a cup gun shortly, but the idea is sound. Next step was to see how it would work on a silicone mold.

As you can see below, it worked AMAZINGLY!

The latex went on nice and thin, extremely smooth, evenly, AND it didn't pull up from the silicone at all. I was thrilled!

I put the fan on it and let it dry for a few minutes. I peeled up the corner to see how it looked. Absolutely perfect.

Here's a close up. The punchline is that it captured every tiny detail. No bubbles. Zero bubbles. It feels like it's christmas time!

Also, for reference, please note the color difference between the wet latex and how it looks after it's dry. When it's wet, it looks bright pink. When dry, it's dark red. And that is MADDENING! It's essentially impossible to mix the color of latex on sight, as it changes so drastically once it dries. This has proven to be a pain in my rear for many years now. But read on, dear reader, for there is good news ahead.

And now I had a new purpose in life. I was also out of latex, so it was time to get more. I made my way to the Motion Picture FX Company up in the valley. They have a really great store! If you're ever in the area, be sure to check them out.

While I was there, I picked up some more urethane pigments that I'm going to experiment. I'm certain you'll be able to find the results on this blog eventually.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, I started to do some experimentation with attaching fabric to the cape. Sadly, it didn't go too well, but it gave me an excuse and an opportunity to experiment with different techniques and materials.

Here you can see the two different fabrics that DIDN'T go down too well, along with a few scraps that I was using to test different spray adhesives.

After this round of tests, I have completely abandoned the spray adhesive approach. Though it could be made to work, it is highly error prone. Long story short, if you get a little drop of spray onto the cape, it ruins the latex. And it's impossible to not get drops. So that's out.

I also did another pour up of the chest emblem. I was once again experimenting with pigments, and also with a different shore hardness. This time I used PMC-770, which ultimately proved to be to soft. I definitely think PMC-780 is the right material to use on the chest emblem and the belt.

The last topic for this post is regarding pigment for the latex. You may recall from my last blog post that I was revisiting some paint I acquired while in Ohio a few years ago. Montpelier Velvet Red. I walked to Home Depot only to learn that they cannot match the paint, which meant it was off to Lowes. A super friendly dude in the paint department was able to grant my wishes, which was for not only a pint of the red, but also a pint of JUST the pigments that they use to turn the white Valspar primer into the Velvet Red. Thank you, anonymous stranger at Lowes. You are the man.

I took the paints back to the workshop and mixed up a little batch, just taking a guess at the percentages of paint to pigment to latex. I did a tiny layup in a mold and OH MY GOD the color is beautiful!!!!!! I do believe I have solved the problem of getting the color I want for the cape's outer shell, and I am extremely happy. I have to give a quick shout out to David at UD Replicas, who originally provided me with the idea of mixing latex paints directly into the latex rubber. It took a while to get it right, and a bit of ingenuity of my own, but I really think I've finally got that part locked down.

So yes, it's bean a very productive week, with a lot of great breakthroughs. The main problem I have right now is that I don't have a fool proof method for attaching a giant sheet of fabric to the back of the outer shell of the cape. I'm trying to come up with some kind of rig that will help me do it, and I have a few ideas. I think one of the next things on my plate is dying the cape fabric with the correct ombre that I'm looking for. More on that soon.

As always, thanks so much for reading! I hope you enjoy witnessing my progress as much as I do making it.

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