Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Midas Turns Plastic Into Metal

That would be a strange sort of fairytale ability. Tap and instant copper or brass instead of plastic soda bottles lying about the place. In fact, maybe that could be a new superhero power to make a character out of. The X-Man, Plastimetal. Plastimet-o?

Anyway, I have seen some artists on Deviantart that have some really nice looking Steampunk weapons and various artifacts and the media listed include plastic, cardboard and paint. Unfortunately, when these folks are pressed with questions about just how they managed to make these things look so convincingly like metal plates, bands, rivets, screws and so on they clam up and don't expose any of their “trade secrets.” I for one do not subscribe to the notion that concealing the steps of a process that you use to make an object of art is in keeping with the overall spirit of artistic creation in the first place. I could see if this was the secret recipe for Coke or something like that but when it comes to painting and molding art I think giving away your grocery list of supplies and writing down how you intend on mixing them up in no way replicates your own personal pieces or cheapens them at all. In fact, everyone has their own unique and very personal technique when it comes to expressing themselves creatively.

My own reasons for tapping away at my laptop keyboard to write this very blog in fact center around not only the idea of making my very own cool Steampunk stuff to show off and wear but also to hopefully help someone else out with the process of determining how best to go about it themselves. Therefore, behold the first stage in the latest process for creating metal plates out of everyday plastic. The items below include a translucent (and polka dotted) folder, the clear packaging from an action figure and the round top from a snack container. These each have different properties as far as flexibility, texture and perhaps usefulness when gluing onto some other object.

The plan right now is to measure different areas on the goggles and the gun then decide how best to cut out interesting shapes to glue on then paint to match the rest of the main object. With any luck I'll be able to gradually change the overall look of the base piece that I started out with and transform them into more of my vision of what they should be. I'll post more pics as I go and let you know as much of the process as I possibly can.

Blank Canvas Syndrome

Not the kind of syndrome that will take down an entire nation or anything like that but still devastating nonetheless. This is the type of thing that can also be described as writer's block and it essentially means that with so much in the way of possibility to create in front of you that paralysis sets in. There is a kind of heavy weight on your creative limbs that causes you to slow down drastically and question each of your potential next steps. I think I have come down with a good case of it myself. Good?  Depending on whether the universe needs me to accomplish making plastic guns into some form of art or not I guess owing to your perspective.

If anyone else has experienced this same emotional conundrum then you understand that part of what holds us back in this situation is a sort of combination of a general lack of faith in our own innate abilities as well as a fear of messing up that blank canvas. Let's face it, complete lack of structure in a giant void of pure white has an artistic appeal all its own. Couldn't we imagine being transported into that desert away from any lines or colors and becoming lost in total relaxation from structural reality? The sad thing is though that is all just an excuse. Looking for ways to procrastinate and postpone any chance of failure, perceived or otherwise, is only a mechanism for justifying not even trying in the first place. The ability to envisage multiple possibilities in things we do in our lives can be a double edged sword to say the least.

I think the best cure for me at this point would be to just start creating something, whether I mess up those oddly shaped pieces of plastic and glass canvas or not, and to shake off this dull feeling of inertia. I hope you don't mind my sorting this out online but I believe that is the social norm now anyway. Have a problem, discuss it with the entire world first then seek the advice of your closest friends and family.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Let The Painting Begin

Now the dart gun and my set of goggles have been dissasembled and made ready for the great painting.  This was pretty easy on the goggles since it mostly just meant taking off the elastic head band and then unscrewing the locking rings that hold the lenses in place. 

The gun on the other hand was a little more complicated than that.  I thought it would just be a matter of about eight phillips head screws but it turns out that the orange plastic ends on the barrels were glued in place and it made it impossible to seperate the two halves without breaking something first.  I finally took a metal exacto knife and completely cut the ends off of the barrels and shaved these areas smooth once the pieces were removed.  This was only about 1/8th of an inch of plastic and if need be I can always glue something else on the ends to give a different effect anyway.  There was also a long orange plastic piece that fit into the back of the gun that you had to pull back to get it ready to fire a dart.  I was able to take this apart for painting but with it being bright orange I may have to do a few more coats to get it completely covered.

What is pictured below is the gun with only the first coat of black paint and the goggles have two coats.  I am using Krylon Fusion which is made specifically to stick to plastic.  If you start with regular spray paint first there is a good chance of it not sticking or flaking off over time.  Interestingly though, the flexible part of the goggles that presses against your face is still sticky to the touch even after drying almost 24 hours.  This will most likely mean that I will have to treat the goggles to a couple of coates of clear sealant even before adding any steampunk stuff.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Goggles Have It

Now getting back to the things I need for my steampunk outfit I'll present you with the goggles I'm going to use.  These were purchased at a local flea market for about $2 and they are actually welding goggles with a very dark set of safety lenses that flip up on a central hinge.  The lenses can all be removed and the front black plastic section can actually be seperated from the more pliable green one.  I have read on different sites that you can paint these individually then fit them back together but I'm not convinced that this would be the best approach.  You have to bend the green section quite a lot in order to get the more rigid black part back in and I don't know if the paint could withstand it.  I will start by using a can of Krylon Black Fusion paint which is specifically designed for use on plastics.  This will give a base that other paints can stick since most paint tends to rub off of plastic surfaces pretty easily.  Once that has dried I can look into the best formulas for making the goggles look like old tarnished brass or copper.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Joy of Mold Making

So, I ran across this video on You Tube a few days ago and was struck with inspiration.  You see, it turns out that it's not all that simple to glue metal parts onto plastic pieces like goggles or guns.  That was what led me to think that it might make more sense to use replicas of metal parts, like gears, instead of the real thing.  That's where the instructional video from comes in.  Their video on You Tube shows how to use 71-20 Silicone to create a flexible mold around an actual part and you can then use the mold to make resin copies of the original.  Thus started our trips around the area this weekend to try to find a store that might provide the raw materials for this latest venture.  We ended up going to craft stores, costume shops, hardware stores and even the dreaded, giant mart but to no avail at all.  The closest we could come was a form of resin bonding material that is used with a type of synthetic cloth to repair cars with. 

My idea on this was to buy the silicone and eventually the resin from a local store so I could avoid the shipping costs involved with ordering online.  But, the best laid plans and all that.  Take a look at the video that started all of this and see if it gives you any sparks of inspiration and in the mean time I'll try to put together the best list of online sellers.  These silicone molds can be used for a lot of different things including making candles and even sugar replicas that go on really ornate cakes.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Steampunk Gloves Video

This is a how to video that was posted on You Tube by the Threadbanger site.  The audio isn't great and I am not really sure that I'm going to go with gloves in this style.  Still, all the info you can collect will eventually help you out down the road.  You might even be able to apply this to some other item in your outfit.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Steampunk Oddball

Just for fun.  This is a pic I found online one day that looks an aweful lot like a dog that a good friend of mine used to have when we were kids.  The dog's name was Oddball and she was so ugly she was just darned cute.  I had never thought about putting goggles on Oddball but this puppy's owner did and I have to say it is a great look.  I have no idea where I got this from so I can't credit the image.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Hat Follow Up

It turns out that if you do a search on Amazon for top hats you get some pretty interesting results.  Related searches are Black Top Hats, Bowler Hats and Mini Top Hats.  The prices range quite a bit from $2.40 for a white satin top hat up to $75.00 for a Jaxon Victorian top hat.  So this would be another avenue to try when starting on your own hat finding excursion for your steampunk outfit.  This is what the search looked like tonight:

*Please note that I do not own, nor claim ownership of Amazon, Amazon search results nor any of the listed hattery items pictured above.  All implications of such ownership are due primarily to the fevered imagination of the reader(s)

Foam Dart Guns Are Alright By Me

So, this is proof that my partner, James, is just amazing. After lunch today he brings me his find from the local Dollar General store, a brand new Ultra Shot Extreme Foam Dart Blaster. I guess the operative question here would be "why care about a foam dart gun?" The reason is because it can be a great starting point for creating a unique steampunk weapon. Maybe something that hurls bolt of energetic plasma at targets or maybe emits deadly beams of Radiant Matter. Either way, the gun was only three dollars so very little initial investment there.

The next step for this project will be to disassemble the gun for painting and start changing the overall color to copper for a distinct look. I already have some various pieces that I can add for different effects like gauges or piping. I'll keep track of the steps so I can show the entire process and maybe even work out some ideas that I haven't tried before as far as painting techniques go. I'll update again on this as soon as I have some of the steps down.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nothing Like A New Hat

In order to start your steampunk look you have to begin collecting the right items to modify whether they be goggles, weapons or articles of clothing.  I started in earnest with one of the most basic things, a top hat.  This goes in line with what I envision when I think about making a steampunk outfit.  A basic black top hat can be modified with a leather hat band that has gears or some type of metal/mechanical pieces added to give it a sort of petrochanicle look.  I have decided to opt for a modified set of goggles to be worn around my top hat to give it the steampunk look I'm going for.

The best advice I can give anyone who might be trying to make their own outfit for whatever occasion is to try to invest the least money initially as possible.  This is usually easier said than done but trying to stick to thrift stores, yard sales or even postings on Craig's List can help you save a lot of cash that you can better spend on things that may not be able to be found second hand.  Paints and some types of hardware that may be needed to help with your project will normally have to be bought new so I try to save as much as I can on everything else.

I purchased my top hat almost one year ago right after the Halloween season was over with from a specialty store, Spirit, that is only open during that time of year.  My brother and his wife had just moved out of state and their old townhouse was just around the block from the costume store that was having huge markdowns since the season was over with.  The polyester hat that I bought is not necessarily the highest quality head gear you can find but it looks good and I'm not worried much about experimenting with it since I don't have a lot of money tied up in it in the first place.  For right now it is simply a black hat but once I start adding more stuff to it there should be a distinct look achieved.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Journey Begins

I am starting this blog to post information, thoughts and a few tips about my take on the steampunk movement.  I really can't say that I have been into steampunk since it started but I have always had an interest in it and I think it has influenced quite a few of my tastes in an unconscious way.  The novels back in the eighties by authors such as James Blaylock, K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers were the first to put this genre into its own classification but I think the overall ideas existed long before then.  Masters such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells and Mary Shelly seemed to have bent time and reality with machinations built out of cooper and brass.  To this day I feel as though they were the real instigators of this sort of a longing for simplistic devices that could change entire worlds. 

Now, I don't as of yet belong to any groups or organizations that espouse steampunk ideas and values but there are a lot of sites and blogs out there that seem to cover all aspects of the subject.  What I'm going to try to do with my blog is to explore my own creations and adventures through making steampunk items, what I collect for the projects and where I get the raw materials from.  I don't intend on taking any credit for inventing any of the techniques that I will employ and I will try to give credit to the people and organizations that I borrow from.  I'll also try to post some of my own photos and artwork as I'm gathering thoughts my very random thoughts and ideas.

Thanks for stepping around the corner to watch the airship as it lifts into the mist and takes me on my journey through steam.