Saturday, May 8, 2021

Finishing Touches

 This, for me, was the hardest part. 

I worked so hard to make the armor *just so* and it was incredibly beautiful to look at. I was so proud of how it turned out.

A big part of me wanted them to stay pristine and beautiful. But Skeeter is supposed to be my War Mare, so we needed to do some battle wearing. Jay is the expert here, after painting his Boba Fett rifle, so I acquiesced to his experience and let him lead the way.

It was actually pretty simple. He sprayed a thin coat of black paint on the armor, then I wiped it down with a paper towel soaked in 90% isopropyl alcohol. With his artistic eye, he could see which areas needed a light sanding as well.

As much as I loved the pristine armor, this final step really added depth and made it look far more realistic. It's still a trip to pick up a piece of armor and have it weight mere ounces instead of what i looks like it should weigh.

I met my deadline of completing the barding, but didn't get a chance to try it on Skeeter until a few days later, in the beginning of April.

There are some adjustments to be made. First, I didn't take into account that the breast collar would need to bend (yes, Mom, I did recall you saying that after I attached everything as it was laying flat), so the center piece's attachment points needed to be moved.

Easy enough. I just took a marker and marked where I needed to move the velcro dots to and made the change that evening.

I did get it to kind of hold up for half a second for another picture, so we can see what it'll look like when correct.

I'm kind of lukewarm about the leg guards after putting them on her. Not sure if I like them or not. I'll still put the straps on and see whether or not I like them as the time comes closer.

Meh. I think I like the thought better than the execution.

The one item I was looking really forward to trying on was the chanfron, but the dots and the bridle weren't playing nicely together. The best I could eventually do was mark where I needed to glue the dots. I think the adhesive on the dots just didn't want to stick to the biothane and it kept popping off. I took the chanfron and the bridle into the house and used tacky glue to attach the dots. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten back out there to stick it back on her face. I decided against having the chanfron sit flush on her face, because she hates a sweaty face, which means I'll still have to rig a strap or two to attach the chanfron to the browband, but that should be fairly easy.

After we were done playing dress up, I let her inspect her barding. She was not impressed, though she wore it very well.

Now it's time to get started on my armor, and that's far more intimidating. 

Friday, May 7, 2021

Leg guards

After I finished her chanfron, I decided I liked the pattern so well that I used the same type of layout for her leg guards. While Antiope's horse didn't have leg guards, I kinda felt like Skeeter needed them. I really felt like she needed them after I realized how much I loved her face guard.

Skeets has been a rock star with me doing weird things to her. As with everything else, I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants and trying stuff just to see if it would work. I'd intended to make a proper pattern for her leg guards by covering her lower legs with plastic wrap, then using painter's tape over it to draw the pattern on, then cut it off, take it inside and make the pattern from there.

My head was spinning trying to keep all of the steps in order and wondering if she'd stand nicely for all of that. In the middle of the night, it dawned on me that I could just try to use one of the pre-cut sheets of foam I had and wrap it around her leg. Much, much better idea. I took one of the sheets, wrapped it around her leg and decided it was going to be perfect. Or, perfect enough.

The next obstacle I had to overcome was how to shape them to her. The videos I've watched showed heating the foam, wrapping around the limb, and securing it to cool. I didn't want to wrap hot foam around Skeeter's leg, so I looked around the house until I found something I thought would work.

Turns out a spray can of Lysol was just about the right size. I heated up the foam and wrapped it around the Lysol until it cooled. My first attempt didn't go so well; I'm guessing that I didn't heat the foam enough. My second attempt was slightly better, but then the painter's tape didn't want to stick to the warm foam. Back to the drawing board. As I was looking around for something to wrap around the foam, I remembered I had a roll of vet wrap. Yay! Problem solved!

Because the foam I used was rather flimsy, I knew it wouldn't hold it's shape if I tried to glue on the leather if it hadn't been pre-formed. A quick stop on YouTube showed me I could boil the leather for a few minutes, then wrap it around the can to hold it's shape. Since the vet wrap finally worked on the base of the leg guards, I did the same for the leather as it dried. It worked beautifully!

While the leather dried, I patterned and cut the armor layers. 

Once I was satisfied with them, I painted them. While the paint was drying, I glued the leather to the bases. Turns out that I didn't quite get my bases rolled square, so each one has one edge that higher than the other. Rather than messing with them again, I decided that I'd just use the higher side to determine which leg it would go on. The higher side would go on the outside of the leg for more protection. You might call it lazy to not start over, I call it, well, lazy.

The lopsidedness is not visible in the picture, but it exists.

With the layers painted and dried, I set about riveting them together. I thought it would make it easier to glue them onto the base as one unit.

It was a good thought to rivet them all together first. It was wrong, and I'm very thankful Jay was home to give me an extra set of hands, but it was a good thought. Sometimes I just have to learn the hard way. With minimal (for me) cussing, we were able to wrap the layers around the base. You know that vet wrap that came in so handy earlier? Yeah, that stuff? I stupidly threw it away after I glued the leather to the base. So back to the painter's tape we went.

This time, I didn't wrap them around the Lysol can, I just trusted the formed base and leather would help it hold it shape, which it did for the most part.

I think the lopsidedness is a bit more apparent here, but you have to look for it. I had to do some trimming with the craft knife on the sides, because I didn't cut the layers quite as long as I should have, but I was trying to use up left-over foam. Since what I had to trim off is on the back side, no one will notice and I don't want them to wrap completely around her lower leg anyway.

Next, now that all of the barding is made, we have to battle wear it. I'm not going to lie - I like the look of pristine armor, but that isn't the point, so I'm going to take a deep breath and have Jay help me with the next step.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Back to the Drawing Board

I love Skeeter's chanfron so much that I decided I didn't like the breast collar I'd originally done. I wanted the breast collar to echo the chanfron, so I scrapped all of the work I'd done previously and started over.

I needed my inspirational pencil to get started.

It took some measuring and math to decide what I needed to cut, but I finally got it figured.

It was incredibly tedious work, but I finally cut out enough pieces to form both sides of the breast collar and laid them out. I had a super helper by the name of Pongo, who decided he had to inspect my work.

Sometimes I'm a little slow to pick things up. I'd been fighting with light-weight foam pieces flying about when I was heat sealing and painting them. Finally, on my last bit of Skeets' costume, I realized I could just hold them down with painter's tape. Better late than never, I guess.

I put the painter's tape sticky-side up on the counter and pressed the foam onto it before hitting the pieces with the heat gun. Because the lightweight foam likes to curl up when it's hot, I weighed them down with some heavy books until they cooled, then they went to the painting box. Again, just a bit of painter's tape on the back side to hold them in place. I'm not a dumb person, but I am rather slow sometimes. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to just tape stuff down from the beginning. Sigh.

I also had discussed how I was going to attach the armor to the actual breast collar with the Bionic Cowgirl. My fear was that if I used the stockinette as originally planned, that it would twist as her shoulders rubbed it while moving. We decided to put the layers on a base that had been cut to fit the collar, then use velcro dots to attach them. Leather can be pretty forgiving, so once I'm done with this costume, I'll pull the dots off and condition the heck out of the leather beneath the dots.

When I originally laid out the collar, you'll see that I had the middle piece that joined the two sides together underneath. I had Jay come look at it, and he suggested putting the middle piece on top, so that any irregularities would be hidden. I married a smart man. I also asked him to do a crest or something for the middle piece to dress it up. Basically, I handed over the design portion to him, and I just put it together.

With each piece of the puzzle done, all I had to do was glue the painted and riveted pieces to the base.

I couldn't wait for the finished product, and had to take a picture.

When all was said and done, I used the velcro dots to attach the side pieces to the leather, and then a few more to attach the center piece to the side pieces.

I am so loving how well this is all coming together, and I hope I can do my own armor justice.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Chanfron completion

 (Alternatively, as complete as I'm willing to share until the photoshoot. Unless I change my mind.)

The black biothane bridle and reins I ordered from Chick's Saddlery arrived within a week and I couldn't wait to get it on Skeets. I considered borrowing or buying a new snaffle and scissor clips for the reins so I wouldn't have to swap back and forth. Then I decided to just make the swap; she can ride in her black costume set up between now and July.

That mare of mine. She can be such a turd, but she can also be so patient. I'd adjusted the cheekpieces longer than I thought she'd need so that I wouldn't be yanking on her mouth if I'd made them too short. I slipped the bit in her mouth and pulled the crown over her ears while I held the bit steady. I realized then that I'd adjusted the cheek pieces way, way too long and when I slipped the crown up over her head I'd also slipped the brow band behind her ears.

Y'all, have you ever felt your horse roll their eyes at you?

It only took a few minutes to get her bridle adjusted properly and she stood like a champ the whole time. I'm not thrilled with the throat latch, but it could be because I have the headstall over her halter. Or, it could be that it's a stupid throat latch and I'll just have to deal with it.

I couldn't quite figure out how I was going to mold the chanfron to fit her face. I had a vague idea of making markings where it needed to bend and trying to remember how much it needed to bend. I was willing to give it a go. But then my brilliant husband just said, "why don't you use some of the wire we bought to form her wings?"

I'm glad I've got him to come up with simple solutions. I cut a couple of pieces of wire, taped it to the chanfron, and put the whole thing on Skeets' face to bend the wire to fit.

I didn't attach the chanfron to her bridle at all, just bent the wires until they held it on her face. She was a rock star. Just between us, I think she likes playing dress up.

Once I had it fitted to her, I took it in the house and hit it with the heat gun. Since I didn't want the nose portion to bend, I was careful to only heat the top part. 

I'd used 2mm foam to cut out the layers of armor, taped those to the wire and base, and heated them up to form them as well. Having used the wire to mold the base made it easy to use it again to mold the layers.

You can see that not everything lines up correctly, but I have a craft knife that'll fix that right up. :) I swerved away from the original reference picture when it came to putting it together. I figured (I don't know for a fact, so this might just be GunDiva lore) that armor would be layered over leather because the metal would rub the horses raw. With that piece of GunDiva lore in my head, I decided to add a piece of leather instead of going full metal.

Hobby Lobby had a roll of crafting leather that I picked up for about $20. I cut it out, smeared it and the base with tacky glue and stuck it on.

My original template out of the white foam didn't have side pieces long enough to reach the cheek pieces of the bridle, so I extended my base and covered the side pieces with leather as well.

I played around with the idea of simulating rivets by indenting the foam and painting them on, then I remembered I own stuff to do rivets from my scrapbooking days, so I dug out my old punch and bought some more rivets from Hobby Lobby and went about linking the layered pieces together before gluing them to the base.

Even though I'd formed the 2mm foam to the base, as soon as I painted it, it flattened out. It turned out not to be a problem, as it is still flexible enough to bend around the base. When I move onto doing her leg guards, I won't bother molding the 2mm for those. I know I can just glue them on and they'll take on the shape of the base.

The (mostly) finished project makes me all sorts of giddy. When I started this project, I wasn't sure how I was going to do it, but I'm so excited about it now!

Looks heavy, doesn't it? It weighs in a 1.5 ounces!

There are a few finishing touches that need to be done: Jay is going to help me weather the armor to give it a battle worn look, and I'm going to add velcro dots to the bridle attachment points. The black bridle I purchased will be primarily her "costume" bridle, so I don't mind permanently attaching velcro dots to it. Having those dots will make it easier for us to switch back and forth between a Skeeter-sus and a War Horse.

My goal is to have all of her armor complete by the end of this month, and I can spend April working on her Skeeter-sus wings. May will be time for me to start my own costumes, which will take a while.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Chanfron, Part 2

I ordered a roll of packing foam to make Skeeter's Pegasus wings, but when it arrived, it wasn't quite right so I set it aside thinking I could use it for something else.

It sat in the mud room for a week or so, and I was getting itchy to work on Skeets' chanfron, but didn't have a piece of foam big enough. Then I remembered the roll I had set aside. Perfect!

I pulled it out, cut off a hunk, and then cut out the pattern. 

Because I'm impatient and I wanted to see if I came even remotely close to getting the pattern to fit her, I headed out to the pen on Monday (Feb 23) with the template tucked into my coat. Even though it was cold and windy, she was pretty happy to be pulled from the pen. She was less happy when I attempted to slip her bridle on. She allowed one ear, and then said nope to the other ear. That's a super rare thing for her, so I took the bridle off and gave her some scratches. When I put it on the second time, she was her normal self. I think she's a bit like me in that she doesn't like to immediately go to work. She wants a little 'settle in' time, which is fair. It was rude of me to pull her from the pen, then just stick the bit in her mouth without so much as a hello scratch.

I let her sniff the template and rubbed her face with it, then slipped it up her face into position. I tried to use painter's tape to attach it to her bridle, but with the wind her forelock kept getting stuck, so I just ran the painter's tape onto her forehead. Silly girl just let me do it, too.

I was worried that it was going to come too low on her brow, but it looks like it's going to clear her eyes nicely. I needed to extend the side pieces another couple of inches so I can attach it to the cheek pieces of the bridle. Otherwise, though, I'm very excited about how close I got to a good fit just from using her bridle and reference pictures.

I decided, after looking at the pictures, that her current bridle is a bit to 'blingy' for her costume. At one point, she had a black bridle that Mom and Bill gave her, but she broke it a couple of years ago. After talking to Mom, I hopped online to see if I could find a cheap black headstall to use for her costume. Chick's Saddlery had a plain black synthetic headstall and reins for a very reasonable price, so I placed an order. 

Yesterday, I made time to sit down and really work on her chanfron. There was a lot of brain twisting to wrap my head around how I was going to make the patterns for the layered pieces of armor, but it finally started coming together in my mind.

Even though I have the giant piece of foam that I made the template from, it's low-density foam and pretty floppy, so I glued two pieces of my 6mm high-density foam together to make a piece big enough for the base of her chanfron.

I drew out each layered piece on a piece of folded-over paper and cut them out to see if what I was envisioning would work.

I extended the side pieces on the base and hope that they'll be long enough to reach the cheek pieces of the bridle. If not, I have materials to make a strap long enough to reach. I screwed up when I glued this, though, and didn't let the glue dry long enough before I stuck the pieces together and they ended up coming apart.

It actually worked out for the better because I realized that one side didn't quite match the other, so it gave me a chance to re-draw my outline and 'fix' the bad side. It also made it easier to cut out each side instead of working with one big piece of foam. When I went to re-glue the pieces together, I (not-so)patiently waited a full ten minutes of dry time before I stuck them together.

While the base piece's glue was curing, I laid out the pattern pieces on a 11"x14" piece of 2mm foam and got to cutting.

I'm pleased with they way it's turning out so far. I'm kind of at a stand-still until her new bridle comes. I need to shape the base piece to her head, but can't do that until I have a bridle to attach it to. Once the base piece is shaped to her face, then I can move forward with priming and painting all the pieces and then I can assemble it. I'm incredibly excited to get this on her for a preview.

There will still be some cutting and fine-tuning that needs to be done once it's assembled, but I think it's going to look awesome.