Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Prepping For A Cape Pull

Before I produce my first pull from the mold, I need to clean it up. I also need to figure out exactly how much latex I need to mix up for one layer. What I do not want to happen is to get 3/4 of the way through a lay up only to run out of latex. I could NEVER match a color from a previous batch, hence my dilemma.

So these pictures illustrate these two purposes being executed. I'm covering the mold with a layer of latex to figure out how much I need, and to clean it. The latex picks up every little piece of dirt and dust out of the mold when it comes up.

Here's the mold about half way done.

And here I'm practically finished.

I left a little section around the neck area so I would have some room to experiment further with colors and compounds.

While at Lowe's the other day, I picked up this little roller:

At first, I was VERY excited by the results I was getting. The latex was going down pretty smoothly, and not pulling up much. I was actually starting to think that I would end up using a roller for the project instead of a brush.

But after a few more tests, I realized that the brush kicks up too much of a texture. Way too much. So I'm going back to my foam brush.

However, I'm once again on the fence about which latext to use. I've gotten some good results recently with the Slip Casting rubber, which is much thicker than the balloon casting. So I'm back on the fence about that.

See? THIS is why my projects take so long to finish! I noodle them to death until they are "perfect". So it goes.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

We Have A Winner!

After months of experimentation, a few hundred bucks spent on materials, and a lot of pain mixing colors, I think I've FINALLY nailed down the cape.

Hard to tell from this photo,but the colors of both the inner and outer skin are looking really REALLY good. There's a black streak in it where I didn't mix things up properly, but since it's just a test, I'm not worried. I'm really happy with the deep shade of red I got. Almost like plum. Very cool looking. No brown to it at all, like I was getting with the Burman pigments.

But yeah, everything else really came together. Next step is to mix up a big batch of the right color, and go to town on the thing. Great news all around for this project!!

Color Match Looking Good!

Woke up this morning and did another layer of freshly pigmented latex on the cape mold, and I must confess, it's looking pretty darn good. MUCH closer than anything I was getting with the burman products. Stoked!

I've got a couple more tests to run, and then I'm going to move ahead and mix up a big batch of the stuff with the new paint from Michael's... and go to town on the thing. I would say there's a good chance I'll have my first complete pull out of the mold by the end of the week.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Something Good From Michael's??

I hate Michael's. It's like the worst store in the world. I would say nine out of ten times I go there, they do NOT have what I want. I don't ask for much. Just a few popsicle sticks, some foam core, and some water soluble paint.

But it looks like I may have broken the curse. Not only did they have what I was looking for, but it looks like I may actually have the latex pigment problem licked.

Here's the stuff I picked up. I got red, black, blue, and purple.

And here's a little demonstration of the hell I'm in. See that bright, solid red block up on top? That's the dry latex. See that pink/purple looking mess below it? That's the wet stuff. That pink/purple, when dry, turns into that red. So you can see how hard it is to get the color right. It's all just shot in the dark mixing.

The great news about these new pigments is that they mix predictably. If you mix black with red, you get dark red. Not brown. That's where things fell apart with the Burman stuff, and it looks like I'm going to get the results I want with this new stuff. Just need to get the color as close as possible.

In an earlier batch, I got it almost DEAD ON, so I know it's possible. I'm just doing one final test to get a better feel for the proportions necessary.

In other news, a swatch of broadcloth arrived today from www.fabric.com. It's decent. The color is decent, and the weave is slightly imperfect, just the way I wanted it. The drawback is that the stuff is very thin and lightweight. Not sure if it's what I'm looking for. Still, good to know that the broadcloth is the stuff with the slightly uneven weave. That may come in handy in the future.

Giving Up On Burman Pigments

I just can't seem to get the color matched, not even close. When I try to darken the red, it just turns brown. No good.

I'm going to look into some other water based paints, like Tempera, to see if they will work. I read some stuff online that says any type of water based paint should work with latex, so I will give it a try. Not sure if that is true, but I'm at the end of my rope with the Burman pigments.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

All I Need Now Are Tears

Tonight was the first time I shed blood for this project! I was moving the cape mold around a bit, and was silly enough to take my leather gloves off for a few minutes. Next thing you know, there's blood everywhere. And by "everywhere", I mean all over the tip of my ring finger.

Not really a big deal, but that means I have now put blood and sweat into this project. Next up, tears! Not likely though.

But on with the show.

Tonight I start in again with the cape. I peeled off some of the leftover rubber from last time around, and MAN does it look good. It really captures the diamond texture nicely. I cannot wait to see this thing finished!

I'm using Burman Foam products tonight, namely their Ballon Rubber. It's very viscous, and is easy to brush into all the little nooks of the diamonds. If it was any thicker, like their slip casting rubber, I'm not sure I would get the same results. Fortunately, I have some of that too in case I want to experiment.

Here's the cape mold, all set up in its new home. Ready for some action.

And here we go again with the endless iterations of color matching, trying to get it to match the tiny swatches I have. I'm not going to go nuts on it this time, but I do want to get it as close as I can without going insane. I think I'll limit myself to say, ten rounds of color manipulation, and then I'll just go with what I have.

And now for something completely different. I was watching a DVD of Remmington Steele, one of my favorite shows as a youngster, and noticed this:

To the untrained eye, this will seem very unspectacular. Perhaps to the trained eye it will appear that way also. What's cool about this picture is it shows our man Steele picking up a camera accessory that was made famous by a little movie I like to call "Star Wars". And not that new garbage that came out a few years ago. I'm talking about the original. Before people called it "A New Hope". Back when it was just "Star Wars". Anyhow, that graflex flash tube is what they used as Luke's lightsaber. Pretty nifty, huh? Kind of one of those "When worlds collide" moments. I guess.

First Fabric Arrives - It's A Winner!

Got my first fabric shipment in the mail today, and I must confess that I am VERY pleased. This is the Christmas Red stuff I ordered from Hancock Fabrics. Here is the post where I link to the site.

This stuff is 118" wide, so there's PLENTY of extra room. I like that. The color is very nice. It's a TINY bit more orange than my reference swatch, but only a tiny bit. It's a very bold red, and that's really what I was going for. Again, I like to think that nobody will be walking around with color swatches to compare the inside of my cape to, so I think I'll be safe if it's a little different.

The weave is also pretty good, though not quite as heavy as I would have preferred. Don't get me wrong, this is a great fabric, and I feel lucky that I nailed it so closely on the first try. That is ultra cool. But for those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, you know what a nut-job perfectionist I can be.

Another Smooth-On order.

I have ordered some more urethane today. I've lost all of my notes I took on the previous stuff I have experimented with, so I'm sort of starting from ground zero. I thought I had documented it all on my blog, but I guess the search feature doesn't work as well as I had hoped. Or I forgot to blog about it.

Today I ordered small kits of the following products:

PMC-780 DRY - Trial Size
Vytaflex 60 - Trial Size
ReoFlex 60 - Trial Size

The first I am familiar with. While it doesn't quite pigment the way I had hoped, I have a very opaque yellow pigment that gets me the results I want. All of the R&D on the belt is done. I just need to produce one that doesn't have flaws. Easier said than done.

I have yet to experiment with the new urethane I got from Berman Foam. It arrived the other day, along with the latex I need to pour up a cape. Or "Brush up" a cape, I suppose.

Either way, it's been very busy over here, and I must confess I have not found much time to keep working on things. Everything is ready to go, just need to find the time.

And now that I've got that really cool Begins belt distracting me further, it makes life that much harder.

Once I get the urethane order, I will put together a post with brief descriptions of pros/cons of each of the types I have played with. Not sure if that will help anyone else, but it will certainly make for good reference for me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Begins Belt - Sanding the Lil' Bits

I noticed something interesting about myself tonight. Don't get me wrong, there's PLENTY of things that are interesting about me, but this one kind of caught me off guard.

I was reminded of the fact that I am better at doing repetitive, menial tasks when I am really tired. It must have been about 1:30 AM when I started working on the belt tonight, and the next task queued up was sanding the backs of the link pieces, and sanding the little faux metal pieces that get attached to the brackets. There's lots of them, and it takes a couple of mintues to get each one done.

Under normal conditions, I would probably do about five of them, then get frustrated over how slowly things were going, and I would step away to do something else. But tonight, I was like a tedium machine! I just kept going, and plowed through the entire stack.

Here's a close up of the links that are now all nice and clean on their back sides:

And here are the little metal buggers I was speaking about:

Not a spectacular load of work for tonight, but about an hours worth of effort. Oh, I also sanded down the back of the "gear" that goes into the center of the buckle tonight. It will need a little fine tuning, as it doesn't quite drop smoothly into the buckle, but that's not a problem.

That's all for tonight, and that brings the blog up to date for this build.

Begins Belt Sprue Removal

I decided to make my first order of business on this build to remove all the sprues from the kit. Take a look at this first pic. You can see a couple of giant ones coming out of the back of each piece.

First step was to take some handy dandy wire snips, and just go to town. I went through all of the pieces and snipped off all the sprues I could get ahold of. There were a couple that were too thick to be handled with these.

I then went in with my dremel tool and sanded down the remaining stumps. I used a cutoff wheel to attack the thicker sprues. It didn't really take much time at all to get the entire kit de-sprued.

I also did some overall levelling on the backs of some of the pieces. Probably not necessary, but I wanted to make sure the back side was relatively flat. It ultimately will not matter, as that side will be facing inward. Even better, it will be covered with neoprene, so that was probably double overkill.

Batman Begins Utility Belt - Begins

I picked up a really nice kit of the utility belt that Batman wears in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Cannot say for sure if there are any differences in the belt between movies.

This was all scratch built by a fan, who did a really bang up job. This was all done on a CNC machine in his basement, I think. These parts are resin, cast directly off his masters.

I think the thing that impressed me most about the kit was not that it was made so well, but the fact that the builder learned how to run a CNC and how to do 3D modelling just for this project. Reminded me of all the stuff I had to learn to build my R2. Not sure why, but I think that's cool.

Anyhow, the kit arrived in a box the other day. I took a few pictures of the pieces right as they came out of the shipping box. Note that none of the pieces are painted. The molds were powder coated before the resin was poured in, and they come out looking just like this. There are advantages and drawbacks to this technique, but overall, I am impressed.

I like the way the buckle and the gear that goes inside it are two different pieces. That will make painting a snap, and I think the overall finished product will look better because of it.

I'm actually bloggin' on this a little late, and I am already a few days into the build. Slow going, as I've still got that pesky day job to take my time away from fun stuff.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Post About Nothing

In finally keeping with the overall ethos of blogging, this post contains absolutely nothing of value. No new information, no pictures. No deep thoughts. Just me, telling the world stuff that they have no interest in hearing.

Ain't bloggin' great? I think it's marginally better than twitter, though the kids sure do seem into that. Not quite sure why it's so captivating, but then, I said the same thing about Facebook before I set up my page. STILL not sure why that is captivating, but it's slightly more captivating than it was to me before I signed up. Cuz now, it's all about me.

The post office must be building up quite a delivery for me. I think I've got four or five different fabrics coming my way, a couple gallons of latex, some urethane, and some pigments. They'll probably all show up at the same time, and I'll be overwhelmed, and therefore incapacitated. That's how it always goes.

Very excited about putting together a cape. I've actually sort of given up on getting an exact color match for the outer skin. I think I spent way too much time agonizing over it. The truth is that in general, people at costume parties and events don't carry around swatches of screen used costumes, waiting to compare them to fan made ones, and thereby shame them into leaving the event. So realistically, there won't be ANYONE to question the color accuracy of my efforts. With that notion firmly in mind, I'm just going to do my best to get a nice, deep red for the outer skin. If I don't get it abso-perfect, I will survive. I will also have myself a nice cape. Cost/benefit.

Anyhow, that's all I've got for this sunday night. I'm watching the new Street Fighter movie, which is really quite awful, but it's fun to see Bangkok, which is a place I haven't been in many years. Neat to see a few familiar sights, and it makes me want to get back there all the more. I also totally want to hit up Hong Kong. Not sure when I'll have the chance, but it's on my list.

Friday, June 19, 2009


No, not the watch makers that were popular in the 80's! I found another interesting fabric today, and the company that sells it is kind enough to offer swatches. This way, I don't have to order 4 yards in order to find out that it's not quite what I'm looking for.

I'm taking a bit of a different direction this time, and looking into a fabric called "Broadcloth", which is made from wool. Wiki has a good entry on it. Oddly enough, I found out about broadcloth in a very interesting way. As you know, I do not really know much about fabrics. I know what muslin is and what it looks like. I guess I know what denim is and what it looks like. But that's about it. Oh, maybe herringbone too. But other than that, I'm pretty much a total novice when it comes to fabrics. An interview I read a long time ago (which is linked to SOMEWHERE in this blog) talks about the wool they used for the lining of the cape. Today I was poking around trying to find that interview again, just so I could read it again to have the info fresh in my head.

I did a google search for "Superman Returns Cape Fabric" and oddly enough found a link to superherohype forums that mention THIS BLOG!! Check it out...


Anyhow, I thought that was kind of funny. In reading over that thread, someone mentioned broadcloth as a fabric that was used. I've never heard that term used before, but it sort of fits with what was said in the interview, as this type of cloth is a wool weave. (Frankly, I don't even know the diff between wool and cotton. I thought they were the same???) Anyhow, it got me thinking that I should source some broadcloth, just in case that's a little closer to the material used in the actual cape.

So I hit up google, and very quickly found this fabric:


It's red, it's really wide, it's broadcloth!

And now the story comes full circle. I have ordered a swatch of this broadcloth, and will give it the once over when it arrives. Not sure about the color, but maybe if broadcloth is the right fabric, I'll have a new direction to go. Price-wise, it's totally reasonable, which is really good. Also really nice to see that they sell it in 108" wide bolts. I only need 63", but better to have more than less. Also, I just noticed that they also sell this fabric in white. So if the Red is not close enough to the original, I can always go the dye route. This is definitely turning into another exciting possibility.

Well, that's all I've got for this post. Busy day here. Lots accomplished on the fabric front over the past couple of days, though I wont' really know for sure how productive it has been until the fabric I've ordered starts rolling in.

More Fabric Ordered

I'm kind of on a bender now. I really want to get a cape together soon. And I really don't want to futz around with dye. Seems like a lot of trouble. So I'm continuiing to hunt for wide bolt fabric. Today I found some more.

Christmas Red Fabric

Not sure if this will be the right color, and I don't think I can really judge from the color that shows up on the monitor. I think for now, I'll be happy to simply have a vibrant red. Even if it's not an exact match. Nobody will ever know anyhow.

I ordered four yards. I think it's OK to order extra material, as I can always use more than one cape. I'm sure I can find a good home for any excess capeage I might end up with.

Oh, and this is my 100th post to my project workbench blog. yay!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fabric and Dye

Been sort of languishing lately, as work has been taking up a lot of my time. Also been playing a lot of guitar lately. Trying to get back into "performance shape" so I can do a few coffee shop gigs locally. Cuz I don't have enough on my plate as it is. I even got a new guitar recently. Check it out...

But that, my dear reader, is neither here nor there.

I ordered some Rit dye tonight. I've been kind of floundering around on this fabric business. I'm really not very familiar with types of cotton, weight, or anything like that, so it's all just a shot in the dark. I checked a few stores for the right kind of red, and didn't find it. BUT, just tonight I checked out the Rit home page, which can be found here, and discovered they offer a Scarlet which looks really good. So I ordered a few bottles. I'll experiment with that on my muslin that I ordered a while back.

I also did a little poking around and found some cotton interlock that is JUST about the right size. This is the stuff that t-shirts are made of. While it's not quite the right type of material, some of my tests revealed that it worked pretty well. Seeing as how I also found it in red makes it a bit more attractive. Not sure how it will work, or if it will be the right size, but I'm willing to spend a few bucks to give it a try.Here's some of the stuff I ordered. NO idea if the color is even close, but what the heck.

The burman latex order should be here in a couple more days, so I may be in a position to take another shot at cranking out a cape this weekend

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More Supplies Ordered

Nothing really to show today, just wanted to offer proof that things are continuing. I've placed an order with Burman Foam for a bunch more liquid latex for the cape, and also tried out some new urethane, BJB F60. Never worked with that stuff before, but it came highly recommended.

Should be out here in a few days, at which time I'll try to put together another test pour of the belt.

OH, just yesterday I headed over to Michaels (my least favorite store in the entire universe, by the way) and got some foam core. I need to finish molding those pieces of the chest emblem!

This weekend has been a real wash, as I feel totally destroyed from my first two sessions with my new personal trainer. Yup, trying to work on myself too, along with these infernal costume pieces.