Saturday, July 27, 2013

Part 2 of The Making of the Mercury Space Suit Helmet

After a nice bit of work with the production of Moonfleet for Sky, I'm getting a chance to finish this post!
I popped the others out of the mould and naturally they needed a little cleaning up and some filling and sanding. And painting with filler/primer and sanding and painting with primer.

Also to be done were the pivots for the visors. I did them up on the lathe with a slight dome for a nice reflection. Also those little PVC bushes.

I did up the neck rings on my CNC router. Here is a picture of it just cut. Many times doing things by hand is quicker than cncing but in this case it would have been a nightmare. This is 2mm aluminium.

Then the acrylic dome arrived from the UK. I managed to get two helmets from one dome. The visor was by far the trickiest part of the helmet.
The problem was a chicken and egg syndrome. I couldn't make up the components untill I had a pivot point on the helmet to align them to but I couldn't mark the pivot points without making up the visor. So I assembled a visor and taped all the parts together. Did a temporary mark and gradually assenbled the parts constantly rechecking the fit and position. I'm sure all this would be very easy with CAD...

 Then a paint job. The paint needed 3 coats. It was very transparent unfortunatly. Also two coats of clear gloss.I let that dry over night.

 Then it was just a case of making up a few more gubbins and perminantly assembling all the bits and fixing them off, some with nuts and some body filler.
I was very happy with the end result, so was my client!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Making of the Mercury Space Suit Helmet

 You can click on any image for a slideshow
Client: Bill Fallover

I was delighted when Bill asked me to look after this part of the job. Museum work is so much more relaxing than film due to longer times available to work with. This allowed me the oppertunity to really enjoy working with the details of the helmet.

It all began with trying to figure out exactly what size the helmet was. I worked from a photo of the full space suit and figured out from an average hight of a male what the seal ring diameter would be. From that worked out the dome diameter.
I picked up a globe of the right size from a local toyshop. This needed a bit of modification which I did with
carbody filler and styrene sheet
Anybody who has ever used carbody filler will tell you how much time is spent sanding in order to get a good finish.
The photo shown below is after 7 or 8 filling and sanding sessions, and a full day. I work with wet and dry paper on this 80grit and 220grit both on long flat sanding sticks. Moving all over the shape in differend directions.

I took an abrasive cutoff disk in the flexshaft to cut the hole for the visor. The reason is that it does not apply too much cutting force to the shape, which may cause it to crack. Which would mean more filling and sanding!
After some more detailing and some coats of filler primer... and sanding, the form is ready to be moulded.

For fear of getting the shape stuck in the mould I decided a 4 piece mould was a good idea. Hard from hard casting can be tricky. Any undercutting and you doomed!
This is a good point to mention the release agent I used here. I applied two coats of beeswax polish,
drying and polishing between coats, and then a spray of Smooth-on Universal mould release spray. It was
excelent. It's a method I strongly advise for polyester from polyester releaseing.
So, you can see the little clay wall I stuck on for the first split line. I cast silicone keys for this kind
of occasion. You can see the six of them there.


Then on with the gelcoat. And after it begins to cure the normal resin and glassfibre mat go on.You should not wait too long to put your fibreglass over the gelcoat as it may distort when it fully cures, so as soon as it has gelledgo for the mat!
Incedntally, I got this resin from GRS in Co. Cork. Wonderful people to deal with. (

I went diagonally opposite for the second part of the mould. This allowed the two final parts to be done in one go!
When the mould was all done I cleaned it up with a grinding disk on an angle ginder.
Here's a tip:
put a bit of a dark colour spray on the seam before next section on the mould is applied. This makes the seam easy to spot
when you go to crack it appart.

Here is me with PPE on. In reality I hate resin/fibreglass, it is smelly, toxic and irritating, dusty and sticky
and irreplacable...unfortunatly.

I popped the mould off the model without any issues.

I re assembled and released with beeswax and spray as mentioned above and cast my first blank.
And the next day two more!

I'll discribe the rest of the job in part 2.
In the meantime why not visit my website if you haven't been there.
If you have a project in mind that you need a modelmaker for, I would be more than happy to have a chat about your ideas. Just drop me an email or give me a call. My details are on the contact page.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ross O'Carrol Kelly

This is just a quick post of a couple of pictures of a head I made for my brother Alan. He illustrates the famous Ross O' Carrol Kelly book series. The head is made of paper mache, lovely to work with but very slow to dry in the Irish winter!

It was a great hit during Alan exhibition "The Ort of Ross" in the Powerscout Townhouse in December 2012.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Finished LowLow advert

Here is the finished advert:

I wish there had been time to put some texture on the cake. But thse are the compromises that come with lack of time.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

LowLow Bun Costume

This is the making of the LowLow bun. I started on Thursday morning and delivered Sunday afternoon!

Client: Sweetmedia / Kevin Downey
Below is the inital frame of ply. Keeping in mind from the start that weight needed to be at a minimum. I decided the costume wound hang from the performers shoulders, so the ply loops just needed to impart the shape not have any more strenght.

 The top of the bun was made in PU insulation foam. Fast to work, light and easy to find locally. Its very toxic to work with, unfortunatly. Very dusty and difficult to dispose of.

Below is the former being wrapped for the first layer. This was just  to give a cone shape to stick the "paper cup" to.

This is Vanessa Donoso Lopez, my hard working assistant!

The icing was tricky. I did a little test here to see if it would be possible to make it in one piece and curl it into te nice spiral seen on the top on these little cakes. Though the shape in section was fab, the foam didn't have enough give to allow the curve to be formed. Back to the drawing board...

 Here is Vanessa again, working on the hundreds and thousands. You can see them drying in the backgrond.
 Hundreds and thousands applied...
 And a final touch up, Sunday morning.

With a job of this short time scale there are always compromises. Now, in retrospect I would do some things in another way. Even at the time certain choices had to be made, which may not have been my first choice asthetically but were nessasary just to get the job done on time.
At this rate, issues like paint drying times take up a huge portion of the available hours. And as a construction of this nature is a series of events, it is not always possible to do parts in parallel. One must follow the other.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Butterman Kerrygold Cow

Brief: Build a light weight cow model to be used as a close-up element on an actors shoulders.

Designer: Paki Smith.

This was a challanging job on a few levels. The first issue is weight. Any complex shape needs a structure to maintain its shape (and survive the production!)

But this cow would be on the shoulders of an actor for 2 days so even sculpting in foam would be too heavy. Also, the cow needed articulation in its leg joints to give a bit of realistic movement.

So I decided we should go for a bent ply structure for the rib cage and rope joints for the hips and small hinges for the knee and ankle.

Below is a picture of the ply frame.
We made sold MDF hoofs for a little weight at the end of the legs, hopefully to ad some bounce to the limbs.
After attaching the final shapes to the leg "bones" we  wrapped it all in upolstery foam. With carful application major muscle groups can be roughed out and hints of the anatomy take shape.
The covering: though looking very good, real cow hide was far to ridged to be usable. We went with synthetic fur on a woven backing which allowed a little stretch and play.

After some shaving and painting she was ready for her big scene!

The final advert is below:

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