All the hard work crafting the Hobbit-themed costumes come down to this: the Manila premiere screenings (Dec 9 & 10, 2013) of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I present the attires and costume elements that passed through my production worktables. [Click on the images for higher resolution.]
Lord Elrond's full costume worn by my son, Dante.
These next photos were taken at the advance screening for the New Zealand Embassy in Manila.
Here are the costumes that incorporate my contributions: Thorin's scalemail armor, belt buckle, and toecaps; Fili's leather vest; and Kili's accent (collar/vambrace/baldric) scales.
My bragging rights:
December 11, 2013
September 26, 2013
This project was totally spontaneous. It cropped up when Mike saw a Freddy Krueger rubber mask at the CVS store and decided to wear it for Halloween. When he tried it on at home, he put on his cowboy hat to complete the look. I said that if he really wants to complete the look, he needs to wear a striped sweater and the Freddy Krueger glove! Thus, the project was born.
I scavenged through our closet for what I could retrofit into the Krueger sweater. Nothing. Then I remembered that we had set aside some garments for donation to the Salvation Army, and that’s where I found two old long-sleeved shirts -- one brownish, one dark-reddish. Jackpot! This project is looking very promising.
Now for the glove. I knew that Mike had leather work gloves that were perfect for the prop. I asked him if he could give up the right glove for the project (it will be totally appropriated for the costume so he will need to get new gloves to have a viable pair). He had no choice, actually. Hah!
Next was research. I had to look for actual photos of the Krueger glove because all I remember is there are four sharp knives protruding from the fingertips. Luckily, someone had already done this project (in fact, a lot of people have already done this!) and generously posted a pattern that could be printed on regular bond paper. Very helpful – thank you!
At this point I had to make a decision. Will I follow the pattern and use copper and aluminum sheets as well as actual knives? I figured that since a ton of awesome folks have already recreated this prop using authentic materials, I prefer to do my own thing with non-lethal substitutes. My substitute of choice was Worbla thermoplastic sheets.
The Worbla is easy to cut and can be formed and manipulated using heat (hot water, steam, oven, heat gun, hot iron, flat iron). The material becomes soft, like clay, and hardens at it cools. When cool it's hard as, well, hard plastic. This was my first time to work with it so this was a learning process for me.
I started with the knives. Two layers gave the knife form the necessary heft. But the thermoplastic material made them not rigid enough to easily pierce through flesh, nor sharp enough to cut through anything. As long as they ended up looking like knives, they’re fine by me.
Then I cut the rest of the patterns and copied them onto the Worbla sheets.
Using a heat gun and a metal pipe, I formed the finger plates one by one. I used the back of a ballpeen hammer for rounding the fingertips, and a hot iron with a pointed tip to make the holes for the rivets.
I attached temporary rivets to check the alignment of the finger segments. So far, so good.
The next step was to attach the knives to the fingertip sections. I was surprised at how easy it was to “glue” them together. The Worbla sheet is integrated with a kind of adhesive, making it very simple to connect pieces to one another.
To make the attachment points of the knives and the fingertip sections look like the original metalwork, I had to add scrap pieces along the joints to resemble solder marks. It’s interesting that using Worbla, you won’t need any soldering, but because the glove has to look like the movie prop, I had to simulate the solder joints.
Then there are the loops across the curved segments to keep the contraption in place and give the user the ability to control the angle of the knives. Just heat the tips of the strips and press them into place.
Painting is next. Some silver here, some bronze there, some dark smudges here and there. Done!
I had to run to Michaels for another pack of rivets because I had used up all the small ones for my Lord Elrond costume.
Included in the assembly is punching holes through the back of the hand of Mike’s work glove to coincide with the holes on the main plate (following the printed pattern). The rivets on the back of the hand went through the finger appliance, the main plate, and the leather glove.
As a finishing touch, I added a few more dark smudges on the Worbla pieces as well as the leather glove.
Last step: I asked Mike to do a final fitting, and yes, it works!
We’re just about ready for Halloween! Next up, the Freddy Krueger sweater.
September 6, 2013
Another Thorin Oakenshield costume accessory I determined I could also do was his boot caps. Fortunately, there’s a good image of them available online.
Because I would again be making these accessories for Oneal, who’s several thousand miles away, I asked him to take comprehensive measurements of his boots to where the caps would attach. He was quick to illustrate his numbers.
Based on Oneal’s measurements, I came up with a paper pattern of what I figured would be the best way to execute the angular forms of the toe tips. There would be a two-section top panel, and a four-section side-to-side panel with tabs to glue the top panel on.
The caps would be made out of a type of cardboard called chipboard – the kind used as backing for sketch pads. I’ll cut the dwarven designs from craft foam, glue them onto the chipboard, and paint the caps to look just like in the movie. It was relatively straightforward.
I added a tiny strip of foam along the outer edges and gave the chipboard a base paint of light brown. Then I superglued the cutouts in place.
This is how the caps looked on my husband’s biker boots (two sizes bigger than Oneal’s) before the painting phase.
I used a combination of gold, silver, bronze, and black acrylic paints to give the caps the semi-metallic weathered look.
Not bad. I’m a little uncomfortable though, at how the caps look a little too shiny compared to the movie version. I told Oneal to maybe add another layer of matte brown and some more weathering (maybe beat them up some) to make them not look like they came from Lord Elrond.
September 4, 2013
It only made sense that after building Thorin’s armor vest for Oneal, as well as the scales that decorated his massive belt, I should also make the belt buckle. It shouldn’t be difficult. Or so I thought.
Because I used polymer clay in building the scale mail, I decided to also use clay in building the buckle. Just make it look like metal, just like the scales.
So, I asked Oneal (from halfway across the planet), to give me the width of his belt, which would be the basis for my design dimensions for the buckle. And this is what I came up with.
Following the design, I formed and cut my metallic silver clay. It was looking good but I had a tough time keeping the clay’s sharp corners. Every time I add something, my fingers nudge what’s already in place and I have to go back and do damage control.
Then I tried to make the clay surface look rough by texturing with a crochet doily. It worked to some extent.
I guess I was too excited to put the whole thing together, including the jewels, that it was only after I had baked the clay that I noticed that the entire thing was off-kilter. The angles were wrong, the depths were wrong, everything was wrong! And crooked! And it was just horrendous! It looked like an Autobot emblem that melted under the sun. I junked it.
Not to be discouraged, I thought of using a different medium. The clay was just too malleable. I needed a medium that keeps its shape. Cork!
I adjusted the design a little bit, incorporated the backing, and used a 45-degree cutter (tool for picture frame matting) to make the sharp-edged shapes in the center of the buckle. It took a bit of practice (and a lot of cork) to perfect the triangular-edge forms.
Next, the jewels. I didn’t like how the clay ones came out -- even after I tried to make them shine with a couple of coats of Mod Podge.
It was time to employ my resin casting skills! I cut the jewel shapes on hard (black) foam, then I pressed each one on a silicone mold. When the mold cured, I poured some resin, which I tried to color with blue food color. The food color didn’t blend well with the resin because there are tiny blue spots in the cast, but it turned blue enough to pass for Thorin's buckle's precious jewels (you won’t see the spots unless you look really close).
My next challenge was to design a way for Oneal to attach the buckle to the belt that he has out there, twelve time zones away. I thought of suggesting superglue (he won’t really have to remove the buckle from the belt, right?). But what if he wants to change the buckle to one that says “Elvis”? So I thought of just screwing an aluminum sheet plate to the back of the cork buckle, with tabs that he can bend and fold around his belt for a perfect fit. (Note that I had to insert/glue onto the cork a set of dowels to screw the plate on.)
Adding a few shades of metallic silver acrylic paint made the cork look very close to the movie version Thorin buckle. Glue the jewels on and… done! Now doesn't that look so much better than my clay *fail* attempt? But hey, you never know until you try.
Yes, I know, it's still not an exact match to the movie version, but I bet if I try a third time, I'll get it just right!