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Hair of the Dragon and XTC 3-D

One of the things I struggle with is getting good pro-pictures of my work. Part of it is me being me; the other, is me not being accustomed to seeking out photographers. I tend to just show up and if I encounter fans or photogs, great. If not, I took some pics with my mobile before I left home so it’s all good, right? Apparently, not. My friend Talynn Kel turned me on to Hair of the Dragon (HotD) as an opportunity to get some good shots. It’s a really cool event, with lots of DragonCon’s pro photogs all setup in one studio; you pay a fee and can shoot with anyone present. Bonus: Talynn and I had never done a shoot together AND she  had a SITH rig, too!

Check out the full event photo gallery!

Project Plan

As is generally my preference, I chose to cosplay an original character in the Star Wars universe, rather than a specific one, to allow myself more creative license.The cloth-only costume I wore to Mardi Gras was the beginning efforts on what I hope to finish as a full Sith Inquisitor cosplay.

I’d recently taken a class at the Engineer Guy and wanted to make a piece using Wonderflex. I got a free roll with my class fee, plus I still had some from my first not-so-great attempt at using the product. The class gave me more confidence and I’d also had a chance to ask about XTC 3D. The product was originally marketed for smoothing 3D prints, but cosplayers are using it to harden foam and other materials.  My instructor assured me, it would be great for smoothing Wonderflex for finishing. I decided to expand on and modify the class template to create a set of greaves, gauntlets and pauldrons. I’d mod my original cloak and tunic to facilitate the added arm armor.

 

What Actually Happened/Lessons Learned

  • I took the arms out of both the tunic and cloak with the intention making them detachable. I’m still not sure how I will do that, although zippers and snaps seem to be the better options. I machine-hemmed the edges for this event.
  • I fastened the revebraces (upper arm armor) with a combination of a strap around my bicep and a clip at the shoulder. In hindsight, I  should have made some kind of cross-shoulder harness to support the top tab as the shoulder seams of my tunic didn’t provide the stability I had hoped for. It worked, but I did have to hitch it up a few times.
  • A little bit of XTC 3D goes a long way! The product can be mixed by volume and cures accordingly. To maintain a longer pot life, I poured my mixed and tinted product into a pie pan. While working , additional layers can be applied after the first is partially cured (approximately 60 – 90 minutes). I used two thin coats, applied 90 minutes apart using a sponge brush. Total time to full cure was about 3.5 hours.
  • I didn’t sand my finish, but probably should have. It was still much smoother than the raw Wonderflex texture. Despite being self-leveling some of the pieces could have used some sanding, either due to pooling or defects/imperfections in the underlying construction.
  • Vambraces/gauntlets got black elastic, but probably would have stayed on without. Once set, the sandwiched Wonderflex is fairly stiff and I managed to get a good shape/fit.
  •  I’ll need to add a bit of foam to the inside of the pieces to make them a bit more comfortable. It wasn’t misery, but there was some rubbing.
  • I used rubber bands to hold the form of the still warm pieces against my improvised buck. This turned out not to be a great idea as it left indentations on the material. I tried to re-heat and smooth with only limited success. For later pieces, I used strips of foam with the rubber bands on top.

 

Pro Tips

  • While sandwiching the Wonderflex and foam cores, rest a non-stick cookie sheet or pizza pan on a dish towel, to use as your work surface. You’ll get more uniform heating of the material and keep everything warm a little longer.
  • Wonderflex has two sides, one smooth and the other with the scrim showing. Both will become sticky, but two smooth sides tend to adhere best. If you decide to work with the smooth side ‘out’, you’ll need to heat a little more and make sure that your seams are pressed together tightly to ensure good adhesion.
  • Pressing the seams with a plastic or silicone tool, like a knife, brush handle or spatula, will create tighter bonds between edges.
  • I heat a sheet of Wonderflex to the point that it is tacky, apply my foam core and then lay another sheet of Wonderflex on top, which I then heat and press into my base; flipping and continuing to heat both sides (on low) as I press the edges together.
  • Warm Wonderflex is much easier to trim than when cool. With that said, to conserve material, I mark and cut my pattern pieces cold, then heat bind them together and trim the excess with scissors. Kamui Cosplay has a great tutorial!
  • Add dye/pigment to clear resins to aid you in identifying areas that need more coverage or where the product is pooling. Many resins will bind up if put in contact with water, so food coloring is usually insufficient. Instead, most craft stores sale single colors for a few bucks or you can purchase a full kit. You only need a drop or two (I use a toothpick) to color a whole cup of resin, so your investment will likely last you several years.

 

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