Secret Saturday: When You Can’t Find Them, Make Them – Clay and Casting

I’m chugging along on my Zelda cosplay, and while I’ve had a couple hiccups overall I’m pretty happy with how it’s looking.  My current goal is to be finished with everything but the prop by the time the weekend is over.

The biggest hangups have come from the non-fabric pieces.  The character wears two wide, domed green bangle bracelets with a design carved into them, the dress and brown belt have blue jewels on them, and there is a second belt of gold discs with raised centers.  I had a plan for each of them, but Plan A quickly turned to Plan B which turned into Plan C which turned into “what the heck do I do now?!”

First, the jewels.  I needed square based pyramids that were transparent blue, one with a two inch base about three-quarters of an inch high, and the second to have a one inch base and come about one quarter inch high.  Despite swearing up and down I had seen such a thing before, I couldn’t find anything remotely close.

I decided my best option at that point would be to cast them myself out of clear resin tinted with blue dye.  I found the materials, but couldn’t find a mold.  You’d think we’d have reached a point in the age of the internet where you can literally find anything you can think of, but it seems to not be the case.  So, to make a resin cast I needed to make my own mold, which also meant making my own master.

I bought some clay, and despite having zero precision abilities with my fingers, managed to make a halfway decent master.  I bought some silicone, made a mold box out of a cut-up yogurt container, and cast my clay master.  Lesson learned: silicone is very unforgiving.  Absolutely every imperfection showed up magnificently, even some I didn’t know were there.  Still, it was better than nothing.

I mixed up a small amount of clear resin, dropped a little blue dye in there, and cast my first piece.  Second lesson: despite how light the dye may look in the resin, it will end up being much darker.  Granted, I was expecting the piece to be too light and was just afraid to add more dye (adding too much can affect how it hardens) so it ended up being just about right.  I can still see the imperfections from the original, but it’s only on one segment so it’s difficult to see if I orient the jewel so that part faces down.  To make the small jewel I simply mixed up a smaller batch of resin and poured it in to only partially fill the mold.  Genius right?

The next problem was that the imperfections in the clay and therefore the mold led to the resin cast not being clear; it took on a sort of cloudy appearance.  Online tutorials recommended taking a Dremel with a buffing wheel to it, but that actually seemed to do more damage than good.  On a whim I tried spray painting it with a clear coat and BOOM instant clear look.  It was kind of awesome.

After that it was time to tackle the gold belt.  My super awesome plan was to simply find wooden discs and wooden domes of the right radius, glue them on top of each other, and paint.  Easy right?  Except I couldn’t find the right sized discs (they were either not the right radius or way too thick) and then I couldn’t find the right sized domes. We eventually found the discs on Ebay, albeit in a quantity about twice of what I needed, but they also already had holes drilled in them for connecting them.

To handle the discs, I opted again for casting.  This time though I got a little more creative and tried out a trick I had read about while trying to learn how to cast the jewels.  I found that the disposable artist paint trays had the right sized well in them, so I cast the domes using a clever combination of a tray, hot glue, and a freezer. Yep, if you don’t need your piece to be clear you can cast with hot glue.  I just blew your mind didn’t I?

The domes aren’t perfect, but considering the overall look of the belt is supposed to be well-worn metal, I think that adds to the look.  I have some gold jump rings, as well as a gold bracelet toggle clasp to finish the whole thing.  Once I’m done making domes (holding down the hot glue gun trigger for that long hurts my delicate fingers, so I can only do about 3 at a time), I’ll slap those on the wooden pieces, spray paint a coat of primer, then some gold, then clear coat the pieces before assembling.

The bracelets are probably the piece that are the most surprising.  I expected to easily be able to find green bracelets, which I would simply paint the design on.  Then I said I’d take any old color.  Then I said I’d just do wooden blanks.  Then I kind of walked around in circles shaking my fist at the sky going “why can’t I find any round bangle bracelets?!”  I again had to opt for starting from scratch and started them out of clay.  I found a cardboard Christmas ornament with the right sized ring, punched out the back, cut it to fit my wrist, and used that as a base for the clay.  Lesson three: polymer clay expands a bit when you bake it.

I don’t feel like remaking the bracelets, so I’m going to just add a ring of clay to the inside (you can rebake pieces without damaging them) to make them stay on my arms.  I have wood carving tools that I’m using to try to carve the design, and once it’s all settled I’ll paint them my lovely green color.

Hopefully I’ll have some sweet pictures for you in two weeks of the whole finished thing when we head to our show!

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Posted on October 5, 2013, in Life and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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