Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I've got a nice thin coat of resin throughout the entire inside shell. Good and tacky for the next part of the procedure. The reinforcement. Something to give it a bit more rigidity.

If it was just the paper, it'd be just floppy. And if it was just the resin coating, it would be brittle. It'd crack and things would break off, it'd be a mess. You need something to bind it all together. Like all composite materials like carbon fibre and fiberglass, the process usually includes some sort of fabric for the resin to permeate into and bond. The fabric would give it both strength and flexibility.

The Fabric:
 This fabric is from the fabric store. Just a simple sheer material at $7 for a square yard. Plenty for this project. Just pick something with strength, has plenty of holes, and thin enough that can bend over small shapes.

Obstacle! It's a minor one. I fitted the helmet over my head and noticed the neck opening is a tad tight. Not like I was claustrophobic or anything. Just wanted a bit more room. So, with a pair of scissors, just trimmed it off a bit. 

TIP: At this stage, the paper and thin layer of resin was still easy to cut through. This is really the only time to make these adjustments. After I put the fabric in, scissors won't cut it. Only a dremel too would work then. So, plan accordingly!

Pre-cut the fabric into small manageable pieces. Make enough for one good batch of resin. Actually, make MORE than you need. It would be difficult to stop in the middle of the resin process just to cut more fabric.

The Resin Process:

System Three is a resin that was rated for indoor application. Most are super toxic that MUST be used outdoors or with great ventilation. The fumes are really REALLY bad for you. Like cancer bad. Don't risk it. Just not worth it.

Prepare the area. I used a large sheet of cardboard. WEAR DISPOSABLE GLOVES! Stuff is sticky. And won't wash out with simple soap and water.

1) Thoroughly mix the resin and hardener in a plastic (disposable) cup. (2 part resin + 1 part hardener) Try to limit the bubbles when stirring.
2) With the brush, layer a thin coat of resin on the area you are going to apply. About the size of the fabric you have.
3) Lay on fabric
4) Lay on another thin coat of resin over the fabric. Making sure it's thoroughly soaked. Especially all the edges.

TIP: Don't mix too much resin at a time. Only mix enough to work on for a half and hour. If you lay too much fabric at one time, it might get heavy and start to sag. Better to work one layer at a time. And in one area. Too much resin.. would just pool down.. making a huge mess. And possibly sticking your work onto the cardboard! Ruining everything. (Trust me, I speak from experience here!) You'd be better off spreading the work across a few days. Working in small sections at a time.

TIP: Keep a towel nearby. Wipe stray drops the moment it lands.

TIP: Don't OVER soak. Too little resin, the fabric would come off and you'll lose strength. Too much resin, and it'll become brittle and crack.. and you'll lose strength. Find and learn that balance.

Overlap each piece a little. This would give it the strength and flexibility. Try not to go past the edges. It'll be more work for you later if you do. And that would involve a dremel tool. 

Hang it up to dry. Make sure the shape is correct. Not skewed to one side. At this point I have no idea if it's the correct width. I may need to make adjustments later.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Misc Details

Wasn't looking forward to this part of the pep build. These are cylindrical shapes on the head that are the machine guns and vents/exhausts.
 Just look at this print! Notice the tip of the x-acto knife?... THAT'S how thin this ring shape is! Every thing else is the tabs for gluing!! WTF Crazy.

Made it! Folded and glued.

Other random bits that extrude from the helmet. Looking the machine guns...I'm not really liking the outcome of it. I might fabricate it from something else. Who knows.. I might just use REAL cameras in there!

Some electrical bits. Micro switches, wires, 9v battery clips, and a couple of micro fans.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Toughen up!

This is what I'll be using for the laminating resin.
 System THREE mirror coat epoxy resin. It's an A + B mix. (One pint of A and 1/2 a pint of B costed me roughly $30) Where it's a 1:2 ratio. I've used many other different brands and types of resins. Where you it's calculated by volume. The MEKP hardener is added in 1:40. That's a really hard ratio to mix! It's like a small cup of resin to a few drops of hardener. I never know if I get it right. With the System THREE, it's SO much easier to see. The "mirror" just means it's super clear. Dries like glass. Great for top coats too.

The brushes are from Dollarama. 6pk for a buck. Love it when it's disposable. Cause it has to be. You can't reuse the brush after one use.

The measuring cups are from Industrial Paint and Plastics. Same place where I picked up the resin.

 Once i mixed up the ratio into a plastic cup, I stirred quickly. Trying not to create too many bubbles. Bubbles causes weak points in the resin.

*TIP: Prepare your workspace! Even though this brand of resin is 'indoor' use, it should be ventilated anyways! Better safe than sorry. Stuff is toxic. Cover up your workspace properly. Any drippage of the resin will be next to impossible to get out later. It would bond to anything! Gloves is a must too.

With an old coat hanger, I hung up the piece to dry. It should be hard for the next layer in about 8 to 10 hours.

Friday, 20 January 2012

More Assemblage

Front half of the helmet and face assembled. It looks like there's enough room for my head. I still think it's going to be a close fit. Considering the face will need to retract up into the helmet area.

Decided to cut out the vent holes on each side. I can put some cool detail in there. Haven't decided on what though. The vents can actually serve as real ventilation too. I know from experience, these masks get stuffy fast. Any fresh air would be welcomed. I'm planning on having battery operated fans inside this time! That should improve airflow more.

Finished the helmet. Mock placement. I'm liking how things fit so far. Moving forward to the details!

An old prototype inside

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Helmet Assembly

This is NOT my usual workspace for craft projects. But, I'm working double duty here as I got to finish another project on the computer. Sorry, it's a mess, I know.

It was actually nice to work in front of the computer at this stage of the build. With access to Maya and Pepakura, I was able to make small adjustments on the fly. Since the medium is just paper, it's cheap for mistakes now. Might as well, tweak it out as much as I could.

Still find it super cool to create something in the computer and then print it out minutes later. Can't wait till I get my hands on a 3D printer someday!!

"Helmet" Assembly:
Progress so far...
"Helmet" shell 60% done. It was exciting to get the bulk of the shape finally realized. At this point, I get a good idea how big it would fit on my head. And looking at it here.. it might be a tad small! It's going to be a close fit. I'm going to go forward and keep my fingers crossed. Hope this decision won't bite me in the ass later.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


Glue I used is your typical cyanoacrylate. (Aka Super Glue or Krazy Glue) Found some tubes for a $1 each!!! Yea for Dollarama again! (Name brands doesn't really mean anything here.. only difference is price!) I loaded up on a few. I think a project this size will take around 4 or 5 tubes.

Be prepared to work fast. That's why the pre-scoring helps tons here. A quick test fit would be smart too. To make sure you know which side the tab should go.

And expect to get glue all over your fingers and workspace.  No matter how careful you are with it, it will get messy. Nature of those silly little metal tubes. I always over-squeeze.. and it'll shoot a glob all over. Never fails.

This one particular shape have and will give me problems. Notice how all the polygons converge all into one tiny point? That's bad modelling in Maya. Blame it on inexperience. Blame it on bad design. Blame it on laziness. Whatever.. I just suck at modelling. Folding those thin triangles will be a pain later. No worries.. I'll get er done.

"Goatee" Assembly:
 "Goatee" (red part sticking out of the chin) is assembled. Here I'm leaving a hole unglued. It's so I can pour resin into it. A process that would harden up the paper. (I'll explain this process more later)

Face Assembly:
Inside of face

Unreinforced face assembled. My daughter testing it out.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Pepa... PRINT!

Ok, now that I've got all the shapes unfolded and laid out as best I could. It's time to turn these pixels into reality! Exciting.

The paper. To be more accurate... 110lbs. card stock from Staples (cost me $13 for 250 sheets) It's plenty for this project. This weight should be tested on your printer first. You never know if the thickness would jam the printer or not.

57 printed pages! 
(I was running out of ink on my printer so I printed these pages at 50% transparency to save ink)

I did not print the horns. The 4 antennae looking things (2 white ones and 2 yellow ones) jutting out from the forehead. Not going to make them out of paper. Going a different route with them... plastic! I wanted something more durable. I foresee these things being banged around and broken off easily. So, I'm going to make them out of something a bit more durable. Something that can take a bit more beating. Then I'll have to come up with a way that it could 'break off' and attached again without trouble. I had imagine walking through a doorway. Since I'll have extremely limited vision, I would break the horns off right away. I'm thinking .. velcro or magnets. But, we'll see when I get to them later.

Once you're ready for the cutting board, grab the hobby knife with a fresh blade. Don't use those utility knives with break-away blades. They suck.. and are actually dangerous for this. You need precision cuts. Big handle will make your life easier. You're gonna be cutting a LOT. Bigger handle would easier on the fatigue. Similar with a rubber grip. Don't forget a good cutting matte! Don't use cardboard underneath. They cause a mess and ruin your precision cuts. You can get cheap healing cutting mattes for $2 at Dollarama or Daiso. (Internet high-5s for us cheap-Os!)

Here's the face all printed and cut.
Notice the curl on the pages? That's because they went through my printer. No biggie.

The lines printed by Pepakura are pretty easy to understand. There are only 3 types of lines to look out for.

1) Solid lines = CUT
2) Dotted lines = Mountain fold
3) Broken up dotted lines = Valley fold

Here is a typical Pepakura shape. Lines and dotted lines with numbers everywhere. Every number has a corresponding number to merge the edges. With a tab to use to glue them together.

*TIP: Pepakura prints the tabs really big. Too big for my taste. Whenever I see a tab to cut.. I just cut them shorter. It makes it a bit easier to work with later. Less surface area to glue too. The big tabs can get in the way sometimes, going past a few shapes.

*TIP: I use my knife to score ALL the dotted lines. Just a little pressure, making sure not to cut all the way through. The score would make it easier for me to fold later. It also gives me a nice crisp straight fold.

*TIP: If you're rich, I'd recommend getting a Silhouette Cameo cutting printer! It'll save you LOADS of time cutting all the pieces manually. Man, wish I was rich.
The face all scored and folded. Ready for glue!

Software Build

The approach is to build this in computer first. Incorporate all the design elements. Give and take details away without wasting time (and material) in the real world. I used Maya. With help from a friend, armed with some great tips, I was able to build the head from scratch. Took me a few days to tweak it to final stages.

*TIP: Do not overbuild! Remember, the more polygons there is at this stage, the more cuts and folds you will have to deal with later.

My intentions with this Maya model afterwards was to be exported into Pepakura. (Pepakura is a software program for unfolding a 3d object into printable parts) Very easy to learn. It's a free downloadable program you can get from tamasoft.co.jp

I also had to learn how to model in Maya. (I hate modelling. No good at it) But, for this project, I'd go through the basics just to get my head done. Like I said before, this is a learning experience. I treat ALL my projects like this. If I don't know how to do it, just learn it. Resources are abundant. Especially these days with the internet. Never fear the roadblocks. Challenge them!

When building this model in Maya, I had to incorporate one key feature. The face must retract up into the helmet! I don't want to always be limited to the small eye holes in the mask. I can get more peripheral vision AND more air to breath when the face mask is in the up position. Well, that's the idea anyways.  So, I made a 'bracket' that is attached to the face with a point to pivot. I'll explain this with a pic later.

Once the Maya model is done. I broke it up into smaller pieces: "mohawk", "horns", "face", "sideburns", "helmet", and "goatee". This made it a bit more manageable in Pepakura. I can then focus and treat each piece as smaller projects. I exported each piece as an OBJ format so Pepakura can read.

Here is the entire head imported into Pepakura. Just for fun. Looking at the unfolded pages on the right.. you can see why I decided to break it down into smaller pieces.

Here is the face piece. And the "L" shape brackets are what I was referring to as the rig I made to allow the face to pivot and rotate up into the helmet. That might still sound confusing. Hopefully it'll be clearer when this gets made. hehe
You can see on the right side of the screen shows the face unfolded. Each of those rectangles represents a standard 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. This face will take 7 sheets of paper to make.

I had experience with Pepakura before as I had made 3 heads before (One was my halloween costume 2 years ago)

For the scaling in Pepakura. I used my mockup (from my previous post) and gave a rough guesstimate as to how big the head should be. I guessed 20" across (including the horns). With that number, I set in Pepakura (508mm = 20") Simply repeated the same process with all the other imported pieces.

*TIP: When unfolding in Pepakura. The default unfold just plain sucks. I find it super inefficient. I always redo all the fold/unfold/cuts/lines manually. Not only to fit them onto the pages better. (To save paper) But, more importantly to make sure there aren't any impossibly hard cut or fold lines. Trying to avoid those long thin folds. (Keep that in mind when building the model in Maya too)

Here's the "helmet" piece.

*TIP: Upon the import of the OBJs into Pepakura, one of the dialog boxes would ask you if you want to "flip". I'd choose flip. That way all the lines and numbers are printed on the INSIDE of the model. Leaving the outside nice and clean of visual clutter. I know it's not a big deal for this particular build, because I'm going to paint over it anyways.

Notice the faces is grey on the outside as opposed to the white on the inside. This is because I flipped the model.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Concept and Design

Going through the million iterations of Gundam, I've realized I just want a simple, recognizable Gundam. Not looking for anything fancy. Not too simple like the 70's classic version:
Not too complex like the ones that you can't even tell what you're looking at:
Seriously, where does the body stop and the head begin?!?

Looking for the Goldilocks of the Gundams...

Pretty much the basic model with a few extra touches to spice things up. Think we have a winner! Strike has the simplicity I want and Freedom has the detail touches. (Minus those crazy wings. Not a fan of those either). Guess, I'll have to customize my own Gundam for this project. That's ok.. part of the fun. 

I'm treating this project as a big .. like really BIG, Gundam model build. With the exception of buying the kit, I would have to scratch build the head first. Going to custom build the parts/details I want later, then paint it... just like a model build... but on a bigger scale! It's going to draw upon every ounce of skill I have. From scratch build fabrication with any material, to wiring and electronics, to rigging, to the finishing process/painting. Keeping in mind this is a wearable costume. So comfort will have to be a primary concern.

Right out of the starting blocks, I hit my first roadblock. Scale would be a problem with this project. Gundam scales are off-wack! There is no human being on this earth with those proportions. For a visual reference, here's a proper human proportion:
REAL humans are usually 7.5 to 8 heads tall. Meaning if you cut your head off, duplicate it 8 times, then stack them on top of one another... that's how tall you would be. Or cut that last head in half to make it 7.5 heads, that would be ok too.

But, in the world of Gundam, it's a bit different. Actually, in the world of anime, it's different.
This Gundam is roughly 9 3/4 heads tall! Thems crazy proportions. The cute model next to him looks like she has freakishly big head now. What also doesn't help is the short torso and lengthy legs that any supermodel would be jealous of. The feet.. you kidding me? Compensate much?

So, what does this observation mean? I means I won't be building a standardly proportionate Gundam costume to fit me. If I did, I would be wearing stilts and be 10 feet tall. Nope, not doing that.

My solution would be to throw proportions out the door and go for a chibi look. *

*From Wiki:

Chibi (ちび or チビ?) is a Japanese slang word meaning "short person" or "small child". The word has gained currency amongst fans of manga and anime. Its meaning is of someone or some animal that is small. It can be translated as "little", but is not used the same way as chiisana [小さな] (tiny, small, little in Japanese) but rather cute. A prototypical example of the former usage in the original Japanese which brought the term to the attention of Western fans is Chibiusa, a pet name for the diminutivedaughter of Sailor Moon formed from Chibi Usagi ("Little Rabbit").[1]

In English-speaking anime and manga fandom (otaku), the term chibi has mostly been conflated with the 'super deformed' style of drawing characters with oversized heads or it can be used to describe child versions of characters.

Chibi style is usually used in depicting scenes which are cute and/or humorous, and it is extremely rare for it to be used for an entire anime series. It is quite popular in manga, however.

Something along these lines. I can see myself inside this. Without much compromise in range of motion.

This means I can do whatever I want. Might as well make it look funny. I'll try for the "funny but cool" look. It's gonna be a fun challenge! I love challenges.

Here's my mockup:
Tee hee. Love it. Gonna start!

*TIP: Use a LOT of photo reference. Use the internet! It's fun! I had downloaded HUNDREDS of random pics from a gazillion websites. I'd even take a pic that had an uninteresting gundam.. but had one tiny cool feature that I'd think I may use.. i'd download it. Store it in the reference library. It might be an inspiration for something else later. You'll never know.

PROJECT: Gundam Strike UMPG 1:12 scale

Gundam Strike Freedom UMPG 1:12 scale.
(UMPG = Ultra Mega Perfect Grade! hehe)
(1:12 scale = to fit my head as a Halloween costume)

This is a project of mine that started roughly 10 years ago. Had always wanted to do this one. A dream project if you will. A full WORKING Gundam costume! Very ambitious, I know. Had a lot of things planned with it. Things that are way out of my realm of expertise or know-how, but it won't really stop me from trying. This is an exercise after all, and I'm going to experiment with everything as I go. Fabricating EVERYTHING.. seeing as I can't just go to the store and buy it. I'll definitely learn a few things along the way.

My bar is high. I won't compromise (much) on the integrity of the design. It'll be both faithful to the design AND be fully mechanically/electronically functional! Maybe you can help me.. and give pointers too.

A full costume? Hmmm.. maybe not a FULL costume, like from head to toe.. this blog won't go that far. Well, maybe it will.. who knows.

Follow me and see....