July 28, 2011

Subject Delta Part 4: Complete Suit

The last month has been a mad dash to get this thing finished. Luckily things started to come together pretty well and the final product came out better that I could imagine.

We’ll start with the glove armor. The back hand and knuckle guards were sculpted from balsa and molded so I could use fiberglass pieces. The Delta was made by layering tape and then applying bondo. When the tape was removed I had a perfect engraved symbol.

Master Positive for Glove Plates

The approach that worked for the finger tips was to stuff an identical glove with masking tape and apply resin directly to the glove, thus making the fabric part of the composite material. Bondo was then added to smooth the surface out and washers added to the tips. The fingers were cut off and tape removed, which gave me fingers that fit perfectly on my gloved hand!




The plasmid irises were made using layers of cardboard cut into small circle and arranged inside a PVC fitting. Again, molds were made so I am actually wearing resin copies.

Formation of the Iris

The boots were the piece I was dreading the most, as if they were crappily made I would have a hard time walking. I started by getting a pair of boots that actually fit and built up a foam structure around them. The boots are zip tied to a piece of plywood sandwiched between the foam to keep them on my feet. The foam was paper mached to help hold everything together. The outer cover was made using poster board and duck cloth as well as grommets for the shoe laces. Fiber glass caps were made for the toe guards. The soles of the shoes are cut up car floor mats glued to the bottom with goop.

Foam Build Up of Boots

Wrapping Fabric Around Boot

Full Boots

The belt weights were made by carving 3 blocks with different types of damage and making molds. 15 copies were cast and weathered, and attach to the main belt with zip ties.

Casted Weights

Painted Weights

Using lessons I learned building the portal gun, I made two boards for the Adam and Eve tanks with the appropriate super bright LEDs. The front lights on the helmet are actual bulbs to provide a soft yellow glow rather than the clean light from an LED. A 4” fan was installed in the right tank to blow air into the helmet. In total there are 20 AA batteries in the helmet allowing it to run for 8 hours.

Adam and Eve Tanks

Helmet Lights on

With construction complete, Dave and I began weathering everything with acrylic paints and mineral spirits. The jump suit also received an ample amount of spray paint.

Dive Suit

David Meating the Drill

After a week of weathering it was time to put the full suit on for the first time. This is the result of over 8 months of work:

Proof I am inside the suit












And some movies of walking and the drill in action:

I am very pleased the look of the suit. Personally I have never made shoes, or moving props, or anything like this before so it is a major accomplishment for me and defiantly a bit of a self-esteem boost. We ran into a major issue through which I down played for a long time, heat exhaustion. For this shoot I had the helmet fan on and the two front ice packs in the cold vest. At the time I was planning to make the gasket for under the helmet which would not have fit with the back two in. I was already sweating even before I put the suit on as the weather in Huntsville has regularly been over 90 degrees this week, and the shop is not air conditioned. The padding didn’t help anything either. After about 20 min the heat finally hit me like a brick, and we had to get me out of the suit. The air conditioning at the convention will help by actually putting cool, dry air into the helmet, but padding will be removed and much of the Rothco jumpsuit will be removed. Additionally, I will be wearing the full cold vest with all four packs as well as some cold bandanas. We are planning another photo-shoot on Saturday so we’ll see how much the improvements help then.

If you want to see the suit in person, you will need check out the Friday Night Costume Contest on September 2, at Dragon*Con and cheer us on. Due to the thermal issues and mobility restrictions I will not be walking around the convention in this suit as we did with the ODST or the RCGB. Those suits are much, much more comfortable than this thing.

Thank you everybody who has been following the build. This was a personal attempt to push the limit of my abilities and win or lose at D*Con this was a huge success. Your comments on facebook and the forums keep us working to impress you all.

And finally a big thanks to my partner in crime David. There is no way on earth this ever would have happened without his help. Last year when we finished the ODST he said that that project proved that we could build just about anything, and I think all our projects this year have demonstrated that point. Check back soon for updates on our Daft Punk Suits and we hope to see you all at D*Con!

Check out all the Delta Related Pictures Here

July 25, 2011

How2: Smooth-On's Mold Star 16 FAST Rubber

So this next How2 video tutorial is a guide to using Smooth-On's new rubber, Mold Star 16 FAST, a quick-set version of their Mold Star 15 SLOW rubber. With a 6-minute pot life (that is, 6 minutes of ideal working time after mixing) and boasting a 30-minute cure time, I jumped at the chance to try this stuff out. We're finishing up our Dragon*Con projects right now, and there isn't really anything else that needs to be molded, so I bought some really just to play around with. However! When I originally molded up the belt buckle to my soon-to-be-posted Monarch's Henchman project, the Rebound 25 rubber didn't cure right over a majority of the surface area. I could produce usable castings, but I had to work them a little with some glazing putty. Not a big deal, but it's giving me a good opportunity to remold the part as an applicable demonstration piece.

I had a feeling that it was more of the model's fault than the Rebound's when it came to the curing issue, so I scrubbed down the part with some Simple Green (a degreasing cleanser) and did a small material test to see if the part would be usable for the How2 video tutorial I would later make. This served two purposes: 1) obviously it allowed me to see if the part would prevent the new rubber from curing, and 2) it would allow me to get some hands-on experience with the new rubber so I could learn about it prior to filming the video. I'll just go ahead and say that scrubbing the part down did clean it up and the rubber did cure. It's not as exciting as it is enabling. LOL. Anyways, below are my initial thoughts on the rubber, and I'll be directly comparing it to Smooth-On's Rebound 25 silicone rubber.

Both Mold Star 16 and Rebound 25 are platinum cure silicone rubbers. So if you're used to using Rebound 25, you'll find that it is compatible with nearly all the same casting materials. Note: If you want to use Thi-Vex thickener with it, don't bother - it is NOT compatible with Mold Star 16. The term "platinum cure" refers to it being an addition type of curing process as opposed to a "tin cure" process, which is a condensation curing process. Note: If you are familiar with Smooth-On's Oomoo product, that is a tin cure rubber. The first thing I noticed as I opened the bottles is that this rubber is a lot less viscous that Rebound 25. The viscosity is stamped right there on the material data sheet, but having endured the agonizingly slow process of scooping and mixing Rebound 25 for so long, the viscosity of the Mold Star 16 is surprising and relieving. You would be better off pouring each component into your mixing cups with MS16. I would compare it to the consistency of warmed chocolate syrup, where as the consistency of Rebound 25 would best be compared to cold honey. As such, it's also a lot quicker to mix up - it has to be, considering the 6-minute pot life. Another plus to the low viscosity is that any trapped air bubbles are released to the surface of the rubber a lot faster and with a lot less effort.

Regarding the 6-minute pot life, I have to say that, while the 30-minute curing time is very tempting for use on larger models like helmets and armor, such a short working time really does limit it to smaller items like detail pieces, or smaller, smooth items that wouldn't require extensive brushing over. As such, I would really only recommend this rubber for block molds, so don't bother asking about any other applications because we're not going to recommend any (we don't want you wasting time, money, or rubber on our account!). Regarding the 30-minute pot life, in my material test I found that short curing time to be more of an estimate than a calculated time stamp. My test cured in approximately 35-40 minutes, though I admit I lost track of time when I found I needed to make dinner. So don't undercut your time here. Go at least 30 minutes, but get in the habit of shooting for 45 minutes just to be safe. Despite the added 50% curing time, that's still hours shorter than Rebound 25.

Tear resistance-wise, it's comparable to Rebound 25. I'm sure there are minute differences and the numbers are sure to be different on the material data sheet, but it felt like it'd tear at about the same elongation that Rebound would. It's certainly a softer shore hardness than Rebound, though, and you can cut chunks of it out with your fingernails a lot easier than you can with Rebound. So be careful when demolding the stuff if your model is complex. As a whole block of rubber, it's respectfully durable, but if you try tearing off a small chunk on purpose, you'll work at it a lot less than you would on Rebound.

Our How2 video tutorial shows the mixing process and application of Mold Star 16 FAST in a simple block mold. As stated before, the part being molded is a Monarch's Henchman belt buckle (if you're unfamiliar with the Monarch and his Henchman, go watch The Venture Bros.). At the time I've written this, I have yet to film the thing, so fair warning: it may be scripted. EDIT: It was not.

July 2, 2011

Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device (Portal Gun)

For those of you unfamiliar with the games, Portal is a unique first-person puzzle game made by Valve, the same people who made Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2, and Half Life. Rather than being a “murder simulator” like many other games out there, Portal requires the player to solve a series of puzzles using the Apature Science Handheld Portal Device which creates a worm hole connecting two surfaces while conserving velocity and momentum. It has been a huge cultural hit, inspiring several internet memes, Half-Life mods, and merchandise. It also has made one particular prop builder in Atlanta, Volpin Props, insanely famous in the prop building and video game community when he made a replica of the gun for his wife.

Volpin’s Portal Gun

Typically, I try not to work on projects that someone already set the standard for, but I am a big fan of the Portal games and decided I really wanted to have my own Portal gun to play around with. I started of making the center barrel using 3” and 4” PVC and some plastic left over from other projects. The rear section of the gun is made from two 4” PVC couplers.

Prototype barrel.

Barrel with coupler support.

Final barrel with Back Ring

For the shells, I started of making a rough skeleton with cardboard and hot glue, and then filled in the area with expanding foam filler. Using the cardboard as a guide I carved the foam into the desired shape. While working on Delta I learned that the resin will cause the expanding foam to sag and pit, so I covered the foam with a layer of paper mache before I glassed the shells. After fiberglass the shells were shaped with bondo and a lot of sanding. For the back shell I used a thread to draw the groove line and used a dremmel to carve it as well as the indicator light port. The nubs for the hoses were cast from a block mold and blended into the shell with bondo.

After Carving Foam

Fiber Glass Added. You can see the paper mache underneath.

Shaping with Bondo

Filling in Small Gaps

Adding the Indicator Slot and Grove

Front Shell

Originally I wanted to have someone lathe the nozzle piece but decided to make it myself. Starting with a piece of 2.5” diameter PVC, I made a center balsa ring similar to how I did the tanks of Delta. The angles sections were made by using MDF rings and then filling the angle with bondo. Not bad for not having a circle cutter either.



The center tube assembly was made using an acrylic rod and polycarbonate tube from McMaster with a custom made centering piece. The assembly is centered in the barrel with foam strip.


When it came time to make the claws, I had two options. I could either make them 100% accurate which would have put me closer to par with the actual gun but would have been somewhat fragile, or I could make them similar but more robust in case they were bumped during the convention. I decided to go with the later with the intent I can revise the claws after the convention. Plywood pivot points were added to the shell and barrel with hot glue, and then the base of the claw was shaped from plywood.



The front branch of each claw is made from two pieces of plastic connected to a resin tip. Everything is bolted together with #8 rod and lock nuts. The claws can unscrew from the pivot point for maintenance and transport. For the diffuser I used a casting from a mailing tube and a piece of Plexiglas sanded with 400 grit paper to fog the plastic and hide the electronics. Once the lights are on you really can’t look directly into the barrel anyway.


The decals were designed by David and printed on Testor’s clear decal paper. We like to hide our logo in plain sight on our work, so we decided to change the barcode wording from “Aperture 04” to “2StoryProps DC11” and integrated our logo into one of the Aperture Science logos. The gun is painted with Krylon Gloss White and Black spray paint and Clear coat, and then was buffed with Turtle Wax.


Lighting was accomplished with blue and amber LEDs. The gun has two switches in the back. One switch turns the gun on and off, and the other is a single pole dual throw (SPDT) switch that changes the gun between colors. Using this instead of a three way switch ensures I never have a long pause when switching between colors.

Bottom switch turns the gun on and off. The top one toggles between orange and blue

All 24 LEDS soldered to boards and ready to be installed.

After eight straight hours of soldering, I now have my very own Portal Gun!







I am extremely happy with this build. I am planning to carry it around for some of D*Con while wearing and Aperture Science Lab Coat. Now that it’s done, I can focus on finishing Subject Delta. Be sure to keep up with our new facebook page to get updates about Delta, Daft Punk, and David’s new project as we hit the home stretch to D*Con 2011!