Sunday, December 4, 2011

Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet (pt.3)

Wow, It's hard to believe it has been over a month since my last post! I'm still working 60 hours a week at my new job, so I have very little time to craft or blog. But on the up-side, the issues with my hands have almost completely subsided. Just a little stiffness in the mornings now. I just finished editing the last of the photographs for the Space Helmet, so let's have an update, shall we.

When last we left off, I had just finished a crap load of sanding and bondo to smooth out the helmet. Once the sanding was finished, I gave it another coat of flat black spray paint (which I use as primer), then I began working on the trim on the breast plate.

I cut out a strip about an inch and a half wide, from chipboard, and glued it to the edge of the breast plate. I used clothespins to clamp it in place while the glue dried so that it conformed to the curves. As usual, the chipboard was sealed with Mod Podge so that it takes the paint better. Then I studded it all the way around with rivet heads cast from resin.

With the main body of the helmet done, it's time to work on some of the steampunk features and additions. Gears and sprockets are too cliché and would serve no rational purpose on a space helmet, so they were out. But hoses, conduits and unidentifiable thingamabobs, those are the stuff of steampunk dreams!

I knew I would need some ventilation, so I searched around the shop for a suitable vent cover. I looked all through my plastic parts bin and found nothing useful. I tried out a couple of plastic bottle caps, but couldn't find anything that looked right. Then, I noticed something that had been sitting on my worktable the whole time. I had always intended on adding some of those cheap l.e.d. touch lights to the front breast plate to serve as headlights. I had one torn apart to get ready to paint the casing when I noticed that the casing itself would make a good vent cover. I cut out a small piece of chromed wire mesh from a drawer divider (used for separating silverware in a kitchen drawer) and fixed it with hot glue to the inside of the plastic casing.

I also found that a particular plastic canister lid from my parts bin (like the ones that come on Pringles cans) fit the bottom of the light casing perfectly. I epoxied the lid to the helmet and used a dremel to carve out a hole in the center for air flow. Using the lid as a base allowed me to be able to remove the vent cover easily. I eventually added two of these vents, one at the top and one at the bottom, but that was still not enough. The portholes still fog up terribly. I am considering, in the future, adding a small electric fan to aid with the ventilation.

The corrugated hose you see on the starboard side is a plastic cable cover that I found at a junk store for $0.10 a foot. It fits perfectly into the pvc male adapter that I screwed into the side of the helmet. This hose will run to the back of the helmet and connect to the tank assembly.

While I'm on the subject of corrugated hose, remember those hoses that I got real cheap and intended to attach to the top of the tanks? Well, here's a little trick I adapted from a technique I read about on Tom Banwell's blog. He used it to mold leather to a corrugated hose, but I thought it would also work for my paint job. I wanted the hose to look like it was copper. I first tried dry brushing the hose with copper acrylic, but the effect was too subtle. I wanted to use a copper spray paint for this, but I needed to mask off the deep recesses so that they would remain black. I wrapped the hose with cord so that the paint wouldn't get into the recesses. Then I spray painted it, and removed the cord. I had to do a little touch-up with acrylic paint, but overall the technique worked well.

Heading back over to the work on the tank assembly; I needed a sort of box to fit between the two tanks. This box would have all sorts of controls and gauges on it and also serve to anchor the bottles together. I started by making a cardboard model for the box. This is something I never used to do, but I find myself creating more and more models for items for which I am uncertain of the design.

I used the model to test fit with the bottles and to finalize the design. When I was happy with both, I cut the box design out of a sheet of wood paneling. The completed box would be stained and sealed and then have all the gauges and stuff added later.

I still used a little cardboard on the parts that wouldn't show. It is more forgiving, and my measuring skills sometimes fail me. Below, is the finished wooden box anchored between the two bottles, which have had their rivets added to the bands. The box was secured to the bottles.., I mean tanks, using glue and two small sheet metal screws.

Here is the first and largest of those gauges that would be attached to the box. It was constructed from the lid of a spray paint can, a piece of cardboard and a gauge face printed out on the computer (my own design). I laid out the gauge face design in Inkscape. I made several designs and tried out each one to see which I liked best for this application. The markings are nonsensical and cryptic. The dial face pictured below was my front runner, but did not make the final cut.

I mounted the gauge to the top of a copper fitting assembly, using a wooden dowel, some wadded up paper (to secure the dowel inside the copper fitting) a washer (to lock the dowel onto the plastic gauge body) and some epoxy.

For the crystal cover, I used the plastic lens and bezel from a $0.99 travel alarm clock I got from a discount store. It was the perfect size. It was attached using E6000 glue.The pointer hand is a brass clock hand picked up for $0.10. It is fixed in position and does not move.

I used some brass tag frames (I don't know what else to call them; label holders, I guess) as the bezels for more gauges on the box face. I cut some acetate to serve as the crystal and printed out the gauge faces. Different clock hands served as the pointers. Below is a test layout for the gauges on the box face. The three brass dots are large thumbtack heads that have stick-on silver numbers added. The brass thingy below them is part of a broken porcelain drawer handle that I salvaged. It made a satisfactory and ornate pointy knob thingy. I attached it with a screw through the wood so that it can turn to point to the different numbered settings. It would have been great if it could have actually activated something, like lights, when it was turned, but sadly it doesn't.

After finallizing the layout, I scribed around the parts to show their placement so that I could drill my holes and whatnot. I had originally intended for the vertical gauge on the left to have a movable slider that would adjust the pointer, but again, sadly it was not to be.

 I did add one more detail in the form of an axillary hose line running from the box to the bottom of one of the tanks. The hose is a piece of plastic sprinkler system tubing, painted copper. For connectors, I used brass hex nuts. In order to help it maintain its shape in that "S" curve, I inserted a piece of wire clothes hanger inside the tubing and bent it to shape. This was harder than I had expected, but it did work. The tubing is attached to the box and bottle with epoxy. Below you can see the entire box and tank assembly.

There's more to come, so stay tuned. I promise that I will post sooner next time. Now that the pics are all cropped and re-sized, it will go much faster.

See Also:
Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet (pt.1) WIP
Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet (pt.2)
Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet (pt.4)
Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet (pt.5)
Steampunk Diving (Space) Helmet Full Costume