Welding With Hot Glue. A Sweet Top Hat Technique.

Photo courtesy of Philip Stark (@hellerbarde)

Photo courtesy of Philip Stark (@hellerbarde)

Philip shared a picture with me the other day of his variation of my steampunk top hat pattern. I wanted to share it with you to help spur creative ideas for different things you can do from the base pattern. I really like the simplicity of this hat, he has reduced the number of patches, which would speed up the build time considerably, and be a little less over the top. I absolutely love how he took the hot glue, and instead of trying to cover up, or smooth the seam out, he made it a feature of the piece. Now it looks like a big weld seam, holding the different sections of the hat together. Of course, getting a realistic effect is all about the painting at the end, and Phillip did a fantastic job. In his email to me he said this was his first foray into foam crafting as well as using Rub N buff. Impressive. 

Thanks Philip for sharing with us, and keep on making things. You've got some sweet skills! 

Making the World a Better Place, One Hat at a Time.


"I make foam hat patterns for a living."


When I say this, more often than not, it makes me feel a bit ridiculous, and I often stop and ask myself if this little thing I do, surrounded in bits of foam and glue, actually makes the world a better place. That's why I love it when I get an email from someone, who, in whatever little way, has had their life enriched by my random foam projects. 

The other day, I got one of those emails, and it really touched me, so I asked if I could share it here on my blog. So, many thanks to Gautier and his beautiful wife for allowing me to share their story. Here's the email: 

Hi Chris,
You probably don’t know me, and I don’t know if you read the messages on this e-mail but I want to thank you.
In order to do that, I have to tell you a little bit about me. Not too much though, so bear with me a little bit (edit after writing the mail : That is much... sorry about the length of this email).

A few days ago, March 19th, was my first wedding anniversary.
Two years ago, my then future wife gave me carte blanche for my costume, and if it means the same thing in english as in french, I was permitted to choose entirely my wedding outfit without her having a saying in this.
I was even permitted to keep my outfit as a secret until we meet at the altar.

My dream came true.
I wanted a steampunk-like costume, or my idea of what steampunk is.

My problem was that I’m a very heavy person with a big body and a big head. I had a hard time finding someone to make a costume my size (in my range of price), and I was simply unable to find someone with a hat that I liked in my size.

One day, I found you. I found your video about the foam hat, the tall one. After days of thinking (do I wanna wear a “false” hat at my wedding, will I be able to make it right and beautiful, will it show that it’s made out of foam?) I finally decided to act.
I bought your pattern, and I spent the weekend on it with my mother who helped me.
That was not the easiest task. Your pattern was lacking one size and the biggest size seemed a little off compared with the others. (I think you updated that some months later).
So I drew it, measuring your patterns, comparing the differences between the sizes and making the same thing to make one more size.
I wouldn’t have had the courage and the confidence to do all that if I didn’t see all your videos on all your projects, where you make that seem so easy. Well... it’s not that easy for me, but because of you, I succeeded.

That gave me confidence for my project of costume and I could manage it pretty well in my opinion.

Your were, for me, a big part of my wedding’s success, and I never took the time to thank you. So there it is: Thank you.

The hat was a big success, everyone was amazed by it and mindblown when I proudly told them afterwards I made it myself, with foam.

Thank you again.

Gautier

I just love it so much when people are able to create something they can be proud of, especially in our society of mass produced, throw away goods. 

Thanks again, Gautier for sharing with me, and I wish you and your wife all the best!! 

(and yes, the pattern has been updated to fit larger sizes, so hopefully no one else will need to resize the pattern to fit their heads!) 

 

A Sweet And Easy Way to Make Pivoting Rivets For Foam Armour.

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So, last Halloween my son asked me to make him some knight armour for his costume. Secretly I have been wanting to have an excuse to take the time to make a knight armour pattern, so I figured this was the time. The only tricky bit about making armour is that it needs to look like it is made of hard plates of metal, yet provide enough flexibility to fight an epic battle. Traditional armour often used rivets that were just slightly loose, so that the plates of metal could pivot, giving the wearer some flexibility. I wanted to make mine in the same style, but as I would be making it from EVA foam, I would need to figure out a way to make rivets that would work with such a different material.

What I came up with was really simple, and super cheap, using 1/4 inch clear plastic tubing that you can get at any hardware store. And the end result looks really good. Almost like a real rivet. Sweet. I made a little video you can watch here that goes through the process pretty quickly. 

I have some thoughts to add that I didn't squeeze in to the tutorial, and here they are: 

  • The type of foam you use is really important. The main thing that's going to be a problem is if the rivet pops through the hole in the foam, like when you blow out a flip flop. To prevent this, make sure you have a relatively dense sheet of foam, and that it is about 5mm thick minimum.
  • Punch the hole in the foam a much smaller diameter than the tubing, so that it is a bit difficult to feed the tubing through the hole, but that will give a much stronger joint.
  • Make the flange on the tubing as large as you can without it going all crazy on you:) That's a bit of trial and error, but the larger it is, the less chance of pulling out.
  • Hold the tubing in place until it is cool. If you take it away from whatever is giving it the flange, it will try to go back to it's original state, and loose the shape you are giving it. 
  • When you cut off the tubing for the second side of the rivet, cut it really close to the foam. This ensures that your two pieces will be held together reasonably tightly and will not flop around on a loose rivet. 

There's not much to it, but it sure is a handy little thing to know. 

Have fun making!

 

 

 

 

How I Made A Steampunk Coat Rack From Pipe Fittings

Our back entry has been in need of some extra hanging space for a while, so I decided to make a fun little coat rack. It's got a little bit of a steampunky/ industrial vibe going on. 

First thing was a trip to the hardware store. Here's a list of the pipe fittings I used to make my coatrack. Obviously you can mix and match to make whatever design you like. I bought these at Home Depot. 

I used:

  • 2x Black Iron Floor Flange- 1/2inch @ $4.02 ea
  • 2x Black Iron Tee- 1/2inch @ $1.13 ea
  • 8x Black Iron 90 degree Elbow- 1/2inch @ $1.22 ea
  • 4x Black Iron Plug- 1/2inch @ $1.16 ea
  • 6x Black Steel Pipe Nipple- 1/2 inch x 2inch (these are the longer pipes) @ $.80 ea
  • 4x Black Steel Pipe Nipple- 1/2inch x 1inch (shorter pipes) @ $.76 ea

Total Cost for the pipe fittings: $ 32.54 CDN

I won't go over what I showed in the video, but I will add some thoughts I had about this project. FIrst of all, the rust thing. I washed the packing grease off the fittings with water, which obviously can lead to the fittings rusting quite quickly. Another option would be to remove the grease with paint thinner or something like that. If you did that, you would need to do it outside with gloves though, and I wasn't into that whole chemical thing. The main reason to get that grease off is so that the clear laquer will stick when you spray it on, and that will then protect the metal from further rusting. 

I sprayed the rack after I assembled all the parts, which works O.K., but after a couple of months of use, I took it apart and did notice a small amount of rust in the threads that never got covered in lacquer. I guess you could spray all pieces individually first if you were concerned about that.

Make sure you have the pipe fittings how you want them before tightening them up, or you are going to have a tough time getting them apart if you want to change anything. I had to use some vice grips and a pie wrench to get some of the pieces apart, and I hadn't even tightened them that much. 

And that's about it. A pretty simple project. Have fun.

 

 

 

Another Good Reason To Live in Canada

Just wanted to let you know how awesome this pattern is! We purchased it and used the it to make 4 helmets and shields for a winter canoe race in Kenora , Ontario we just participated in. They were a big hit with the crowd and stood up well to the elements and rigor of a race. I think they helped us channel our inner Vikings because we WON! Thanks soooo much!

I noticed this comment on Youtube the other day, and I couldn't help but be intrigued. Kenora is not that far from where I live and I couldn't imagine there being any non frozen bodies of water to go canoe racing in the middle of winter. So I asked for more details, and this is what I learned about winter canoe races….

They use a fan boat to brake up the ice. The race consists of a short sprint sliding your canoe along the ice, then when you reach the open water, hopping into the canoe and paddling out about 2 kilometers to a marker and back. Finally, back out of the water and ontothe ice for a sprint to the finish line. The trick is not to fall in the ice cold water! 

So, there you have it, the next time it is cold and snowy outside, and you are looking for something to do, grab a canoe and some mates and head out onto a frozen lake.    

Just don't fall in.  

Big thanks to Adrianne for sending these pics in to me, it turns out she is not only a winter viking canoe racer, but also creates some really amazing recycled glass art. If you like one of a kind awesome things created by skilled hands, you should go and check out her Etsy shop. Here are a couple examples of her work. Sweet.

Halloween Goodies

Well, there it is, the most popular day to dress up in a super sweet costume has come and gone. It's been a busy one for my little pattern selling business, so that has been great. I always love when people share the creations they have made from my patterns, and so I thought I would post some of them here so you can feast on their creativity and talent!! 

Not sure if I would want to be this steampunk plague doctor's patient…

Not sure if I would want to be this steampunk plague doctor's patient…

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Space Helmet.

Space Helmet.

This is one of my favourites by Austyn, using my diver's helmet pattern. What a great combo with the jellyfish. They had lights inside the jellyfish as well for extra cool nighttime jellyfish action.

This is one of my favourites by Austyn, using my diver's helmet pattern. What a great combo with the jellyfish. They had lights inside the jellyfish as well for extra cool nighttime jellyfish action.

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Roland took the Dive Helmet a step further and became a zombie diver. He also had green glowsticks inside the helmet for that under the sea vibe.

Roland took the Dive Helmet a step further and became a zombie diver. He also had green glowsticks inside the helmet for that under the sea vibe.

Sweet mini top hat.

Sweet mini top hat.

Viking It Up

So, after making the Viking helmet pattern, my son decided he wanted to be a Viking for halloween. And what are the first things an 8 year old boy needs. Weapons. Sam designed and made a large part of the battle-axe for his costume, and I made him a shield. To be honest, I was pretty impressed with the result. The high density foam makes a great axe, it has enough weight to feel hefty, but since it's made of foam, it's not going to be doing a lot of damage. We did still however need to implement a new family rule: No battle axes in the kitchen. I guess it's probably a common household rule, we just hadn't had a lot of battle axes around the house. 

The shield was a pretty easy project, with only one pattern piece needed, and I think it looks great as well. I have put the patterns for the shield and Axe up on Gumroad here, and they are FREE! Woohoo. 

Here are the two tutorial videos that accompany the patterns. Have fun!

Super Sweet Xwing Pilot Helmet!

How good is this Dad! He contacted me to say thanks for my space helmet pattern, which he masterfully adapted into a Star Wars X wing pilot helmet for his 18 month old son. Apparently he cries every time he needs to take it off. Love it!! 


LampLife. Making An Old Lamp Into a Steampunk Masterpiece.

A while back I found a pretty beat up lampshade by the side of the road, and I knew I needed to do something with it. Here's what I came up with.  

Here is a quick and easy tutorial to make a funky lamp shade that will look something like this.

One caveat: remember that paper is flammable, so make sure your lightbulb is far enough away from the shade and is not going to make the shade too hot and burn down your house or something nasty like that! 

You will need:

  • an old lamp shade
  • white glue (sometimes called PVA glue)
  • measuring cup
  • plastic tub
  • brown kraft paper
  • oil based wood stain
  • Mod Podge
  • paintbrush
  • rubber gloves
  • rag
  • 5 minute 2 part epoxy

Step 1: Clean up your lampshade so there are no frilly bits that are going to get in the way

Step 2: Mix 2 parts water to 1 part white glue, and put it in a plastic tub. I started off with 100ml of glue and 200 ml of water, but I had to make a second batch to be able to finish the job.

Step 3: Tear your brown paper into roundish shapes, about the size of your hand or smaller. Make a big pile of the torn paper.

Step 4: Crumple up the paper and then soak it in the glue for about a minute. This is the part you will need to experiment with in order to get the look you want. I ended up scrunching the paper, then unscrunching it a bit, then put it in the glue with 5 or six other pieces. As I took the paper out of the glue I would give it a squeeze to get rid of some of the extra glue. 

Step 5: Place the paper on the lampshade. Fairly straightforward, except where the paper goes around a corner. I found it best to have the narrowest bit of the paper circle going over the edge, and sometimes if it was still to wide to get it flat, I would rip the paper just up to the point where it went over the edge. It definitely helps to save your smaller bits for going over the edge. 

Step 6: Let it dry.

Step 7: Stain (optional) If you would like a bit darker colour with a bit more texture, use an interior oil based stain, rub it on in a thin coat, and let it completely dry. Don't forget to wear gloves and have a good supply of fresh air:)

Step 8: Give it a coat of Mod Podge to seal it and give it a nice sheen. I used one coat of gloss Mod Podge, but I would also like to try it with a semi gloss.

Step 9: Cut some strips of cardboard that are long enough to run vertically down the length of the shade, with a bit extra to fold under the top and bottom edges.

Step 10: Mix 2 part epoxy together and make little dots along the strip of cardboard using a match head. If you used 5 minute epoxy, it should be hard in about 30 minutes.

Step 11: Paint the strips black. I needed a couple of coats to get nice coverage. 

Step 12: Use Rub N Buff to give it a nice antique brass look. I used antique gold Rub N' Buff, Putting a small amount on a scrap bit of cardboard and then using a gloved finger to apply just a very small amount at a time to the strips. If you have never used Rub N' Buff before, I highly recommend experimenting a bit before you go for it on your strips.

Step 13: Use hot glue to attach the strips to the lampshade. Looking good!

One thing I realised when I went to stain it was that I should have been more vigilant about drips of glue running down the sides of the lamp shade. The stain didn't take as well where those drips had been. You can see it in the gallery pics. 

 

I hope you have fun with this little project, I came across this technique as a cheap way to make some cool looking flooring. I actually did a small floor with this technique, and it really looked great! 

 

We All Love A Little Top Hat

So, I just released a new video on how to make a mini top hat from craft foam. Way back when I made my first top hat video, I tried using a scaled down version of that pattern to create a mini top hat. The result was rather ……. disappointing. The brim was way too thick and it was all out of proportion. I gave up on it for the time being.

Anyways, a little while ago, one of my viewers requested I make a corseted mini top hat, so I decided to give it another go, and this time it turned out great. 

The thing I like about this pattern, is that it is different from the many DIY mini top hats, as most of them are made as a straight cylinder, which is easy to make, but not super sexy. I love the curved lines that you are able to get on a traditional felt top hat, and so, tried to achieve this feel using plates of foam. 

So, here it is, hope you enjoy it!


Leukaemia update

In September I wrote a post about my son being diagnosed with leukaemia, and since then, I haven't updated this blog at all, so for those of you who are wondering about him, in short, he is officially in remission, but still has about 3 years of chemotherapy and treatment ahead of him to give the best chance of the cancer never coming back. So, it is a big journey for our family, we are confident that we will come out the other end stronger and more full of life than ever! 

If you would like more detail about our journey with leukaemia, we have a blog about it here

 

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Getting Crazy With Some Foam Goggles

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I have a new project for anyone who appreciates messing about with foam, glue and paint. Believe it or not, I made a pair of "brass" goggles entirely from craft foam! To be honest, I was quite impressed at the end of it with the durability as well as the look of the goggles. And another bonus feature is that they are so light you could wear them all day and not even know they are there! Course you might get the odd look from the occasional passerby to help you remember how awesome you are!

Here's a little video showing how the magic happens.........

 

 

The Best Laid PLans

Life sometimes changes without your consent, and when it does, it happens pretty fast. 

Four days ago I was feeling pretty happy with myself for making a funny youtube video, and happily planning a nice little weekend camping trip with some friends.  

Today as I type this, I sit beside the bed of my 6 year old son in the oncology(cancer) ward in the children's hospital in Brisbane. He has been diagnosed with leukaemia, not the result we were expecting when we took him in to the local doctor complaining about a sore leg. Turns out that sore leg was his bone marrow churning out leukaemia cells, building up pressure inside the bone. 

Although the news was shocking and destabilising, we have been so blessed by the community of people we have around us for support. People have poured out both emotional and tangible support in so many ways, we have been overwhelmed. 

So, I guess this post is really just to let you know that if you are trying to contact me for a jewelry order or something else, it may take me quite a bit of extra time to be in touch with you.  

Thanks for your understanding, 

Chris

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DIY Steampunk Top Hat and Pattern

I have finally finished my video tutorial on how to make a steampunk top hat! You can buy the pattern in my shop if you like it. 

This hat is a revision of my cardboard steampunk top hat, being that the cardboard hat was too uncomfortable to wear for any length of time and fit only a very specific head shape.  

I decided to try foam as the material of choice for this project- light, flexible, water resistant, and cheap. The basic construction is made from a camping or exercise mat, with the overlapping plates being readily available craft foam.  

The thing I like about this construction is that once you have the pattern,  it only takes about 10 minutes to cut the three parts and glue them all together to form the basic top hat, from there you can choose how you want to cover it or dress it up etc.  

I made one that fit my son and he wore it all day long, at home and out at the park, which I think is the best comfortability test, as he is not prone to leave his hat on longer than necessary! 

If anyone makes this top hat, email me pictures and I'll post them for others to see! 

 

Steamfest Australia 2013

It was a moment of utter jubilation, followed by sad realisation as I emerged from my cave of a workshop, scrambled up the long train of steps to my computer enabled office, logged onto the world wide web and noticed that Steamfest Australia was only a mere fortnight away! And, following in short succession, the un- enjoyable realisation that I already had plans for that weekend. Plans that were, shall we say, as solid as that long flight of concrete steps I was still breathing heavily from sprinting up. Drat! 

Alas, but I should think it will be a fun affair, so if you find yourself with a spare day on August the 3rd or 4th, I suggest you consider a day out with the family to see the sights of this steampunk wonderland.  

 

A little lovin for my shop

Ok, I just have to put this up in writing so I will force myself to do it. Tomorrow I am going to update my online shop.

Yep, you would think that might be a bit of a priority for me with wanting to sell jewellery and all, but somehow it tends to fall into the background as I get busy with other orders and such. So, as of tomorrow, I promise to keep it up to date with jewellery you can actually buy (I think right now almost everything shows as sold out).

So,  

Tomorrow it all begins. 

I promise. 

Goggles to go

After repeating over and over again, "they're not for sale" to people wanting to buy my brass goggles, I finally got around to making a pair for sale. That's right everyone who wanted them, for $240 they are yours!

I took my original design, which was beautiful but slightly uncomfortable and did a bit of a redesign. I made them a bit lighter and not so deep and now I think you could wear then for an evening and still be happy at the end of it. I also improved the leatherwork by getting a few leather tools, and learning how to use them (Thanks You Tube).

So, maybe the next time you go to your brass goggles drawer, and can't find a pair to go with your new ensemble, give me a call and I'll set you up with the best!

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Squarespace- the best 8 bucks I spent this week

I have a new website!

You are looking at it right now, and I am a happy man.

I finally bit the bullet, and dropped some of my hard earned cash on a website/blogging platform that is going to make my life a whole lot easier this year (fingers crossed)

Until now i have been using a Wordpress site. Free, customizable, awesome, why would i ever want to change?

Here's why I did it.

I never seemed to find the time to do those pesky security update thingys.
Squarespace takes care of all of that silliness.

I really wanted a website that showed some of my images full screen width.
Happily, the main page of the "Frontrow" template has a full screen slideshow.- nice- no more bars on the side of my images.

Uploading photos is ridiculously easy. Just drag and drop. And Squarespace will resize them depending on what size screen they are being viewed on.

Sometimes fewer options is better.
I think it took me weeks to put up my Wordpress site, because I kept trying to change stuff, but the Squarespace templates look great, and I was able to get my site looking reasonably good in a day. It all just seems to make sense without knowing any of that code stuff.

So I reckon if 8 bucks a month is going to get me to post more often, with less hassles, it is worth it.

Now we'll see if I actually do.........

On a related note, it was my brother in law and computer guru who put me onto Squarespace. If you are keen to try it out, click through his website, it'll help him out a bit.