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Things wot I have been doing (lots of pics) - Tactical Ninja

Oct. 3rd, 2012

08:42 am - Things wot I have been doing (lots of pics)

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You know how I've been working on a dorky project for the last few weeks? Well, I finished it last night and now I have to admit what it is, and you will realise just how much of a dork I am.

"We already knew that Tats."

Okay okay, it's the Enchanter's Staff Tier 7 (Dragonbone) from Dragon Age: Origins. It's the one Wynne comes equipped with if you pick her up later in the game, or will cost you 4 gold 64 to buy from the dodgy merchant in Denerim. It's nothing special as staffs go but I thought it was pretty, and dark red goes with everything, right? Besides, everyone else makes the Staff of Parthalan or the Staff of Violation – I’ve never seen an Enchanter’s Staff outside the game.




Here's the front view. Don't laugh at my mage's silly hat.



miryai, this is my typical crowd control spec. There are only 2 straight damage spells there, the rest are either immobilising (winter's grasp, paralysis) or AoE (mind blast, tempest, cone of cold, sleep, mass paralysis, horror). A self-heal, a companion heal, and a hex, with staff focus for more damage since I was using most of my mana keeping the mobs frozen. This game has made me a kiting expert.

Anyway, the staff. First, take your dowelling rod and spend about the time it takes for Hot Tub Time Machine to play whittling the end down.



Add some 12 gauge mild steel wire to holes drilled in the top and sides.



Loosely shape the wire to the desired shape and use masking tape to hold it in place.



Remember that the dragons are holding a ball in their mouths. Quickly come up with a method of making a ball without buying a crystal one because a) heavy and b) too expensive for a toy. Polystyrene balls painted orange ftw!



When that's dry, finalise the shape of the dragon necks with masking tape to hold all the wire in place. The wire ends are forming 'teeth' that go into the polystyrene to hold the ball in place. It would have been much easier to do the heads and the ball separately and then put the ball in, but I couldn't work out how to do that seamlessly.



The next step was adding a bit of string for where the tails would go, mostly for a guide as to where to put the paper mache.



This next bit took a week, as I painstakingly built up layers of acrylic resin on the ball to make it look more like a crystal. Starting with a layer of orange, then using gradually less pigment and a tiny amount of titanium dioxide to refract the light and make the layers appear deeper than they are. I'm relatively happy with how it came out but OMG SLOW. It takes 24 hours to dry between coats, in which I couldn't move the staff because setting resin has the constistency of treacle and I had to prop it so the drips would accumulate in non-obvious places. And there are 9 coats. Nuff said. Luckily I was able to do a bit of paper mache-ing on the staff itself while I waited.



Then it was full on paper mache time. First the inside of the mouths. I knew I wasn't going to be able to paint in there once it was finished so I bought some red paper and used that.



Next step - loads of paper strips and glue in that technique most of us, including me, haven't used since primary school. Also, eyes. The original doesn't have eyes as such but since I'd already used some artistic license to add more detail to the heads, I figure in for a penny, in for a pound, right. And I'd found these beads that had the perfect horizontal 'pupils', like horses' ones. It was Dr Wheel's idea to colour behind them black before putting them in.



And then with the plaster mache. This stuff comes in bags of about 2kg, and it's a mix of powderised paper, glue and plaster. You add water then quickly sculpt stuff with it, because after 30 minutes it's starting to set and gets really hard to work with. But it sets rock hard and doesn't crack and it solved the problem where the wire/paper setup was quite wobbly, which is not what you want when you're waving your staff around trying to impress people.



As you can see, the plaster mache is kind of lumpy. There was a lot of sanding. This process took about a week as well - add a layer, sand it back, add some more, etc etc till I was happy with the shape. The thing got a whole lot heavier too. Finally, it was good enough but there needed to be some extra smoothing, so I used air-dry modelling clay to fill in the larger holes. It needed to have a bit of texture because it's supposed to be bone, right? And bone is not smooth. But there's texture, then there's craters. So I used the clay.



Next, gesso, to fill in more rough spots and to create a good even base for application of paint.



ERHMAGERD ERHANGE!



WTF Tats? I thought you said dragonbone was dark red? It is. The orange is a trick I learned from a painter years ago. If you cover your canvas in orange before you start, it gives the whole painting more warmth and depth, even after you cover that layer up with other paint. But I also had a particular technique in mind for colouring this. Next layer is burnt sienna mixed with vermilion.



It's applied, allowed to dry a little, and then dabbed/wiped with a paper towel to let the orange underneath show through a bit. It's definitely red, but not really dark enough, eh? So the next layer is burnt umber mixed with vermilion:



Now we're talking. This is pretty close to the colour I was after. Now to just fill in the tricky corners and add some metallic copper highlights and Voila!



Full length shot. This thing is about the same height as the YoT. Sorry about the crap photography.



More head detail…



And finally, for authenticity, here’s a shot of me ‘wearing’ it with a silly hat and trying to look like a disgruntled mage.



It’s 6’6” long and weighs about 4kg. It doesn’t shoot lightning but if you swing it hard enough I reckon that head end would hurt your average hurlock…


That was fun. Now I need to work out how to make it stick to someone’s back. In games they’re held on by magical magnetism, but in this world we need straps. I’m thinking some sort of hook top and bottom might work. And then what? I have no idea. Remember I said it'd cost 4 gold 64 to buy? Well the materials were ~$50 to make this, but if I were to charge the same rate for my time making it as I get at work, that'd put it around $1200 - and that's without added lighting bolts. Hmm..

I want to make some other staffs as well, and someone who shall remain nameless reckons it needs more LEDs so you never know, that might happen too. I also want to make Freedom’s Call (not flashy but cool because it would actually work as a stave and also close to my heart because it’s Anders’ first one) and Cold Blooded because I think it’d be fun to make.

There may end up being a staff rack in our hallway along with the stockwhip and Dr Wheel’s PhD. *cough*

PS since the dragon heads aren't exactly the same but are unique and special snowflakes, I think they need names. Part of me wants to call them Nigel and Colin but that's not very magical staff-y, is it?

Comments:

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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
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THE BONES OF A REAL DRAGON are what it needs.

Plz hunt me one kthxbye.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:22 pm (UTC)
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I could make some out of kevlar and spectra.
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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
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I'm told that dragons also like virgins, nugs and boy dragons. And from what I've seen looting dragon caches, I suspect that old rusty armour, shiny baubles and bits of frayed rope may also work.

So really, there's no excuse.
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From:bekitty
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:10 pm (UTC)
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That looks AWESOME. And I don't even play videogames! :)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Dr Wheel says I should wear it to go get fish and chips. I am not so sure.
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From:bekitty
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
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It'd certainly guarantee you fast service. :)

I reckon that you should also wear it into Graphic and/or EB Games, just for lulz.

Edited at 2012-10-02 09:55 pm (UTC)
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From:rivet
Date:October 2nd, 2012 09:49 pm (UTC)
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It's very impressive :)
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From:dreadbeard
Date:October 2nd, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
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Cool.
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From:pombagira
Date:October 2nd, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
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wow that is awsometastic!! yay staff of dragons !!

whee magic!
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:October 2nd, 2012 11:27 pm (UTC)
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that's a pretty awesome project! i always wonder about in game weapons and how they might look in reality. how cool... :-D
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From:tatjna
Date:October 2nd, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC)
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While I was researching ways of making this, I came across this site where a woman makes all sorts of cosplay costumes. She uses expanding foam to make those giant swords, and now I want to have a go at that too! ;-)
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From:dragonvyxn
Date:October 3rd, 2012 12:05 am (UTC)
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her work is awesome... so detailed!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 3rd, 2012 01:40 am (UTC)
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This is true. I'm not a huge fan of her style - she tends to go for the WoW-cartoony look - but her execution is brilliant and gives me the envies.
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From:labelleizzy
Date:October 3rd, 2012 12:56 am (UTC)
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*delighted applause*

oh, that's VERY NICE!! Goodness me, thank you so much for the detailed photodocumentation!

Now I'm all inspired and stuff!
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From:tatjna
Date:October 3rd, 2012 12:58 am (UTC)
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I appreciated the photodocumentation of others so much when trying to work out how to do this, I couldn't not do it.

It was lots of fun making something I've never made before and had no clue how to do when I started!
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From:grist
Date:October 3rd, 2012 01:04 am (UTC)
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Very nice. :)

I may have just been to Mulford Plastics in Petone and ordered some clear acrylic tube. >.>
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From:tatjna
Date:October 3rd, 2012 01:39 am (UTC)
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Mwuahahahahaa! I am a fan of this plan. ;-)
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From:bewarethefish
Date:October 3rd, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
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Dorky projects ahoy! That is really impressive.
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From:meathiel
Date:October 3rd, 2012 08:19 am (UTC)
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Oh wow ... that's amazing!

So that was what all the waiting for paint to dry was about ... ;-)
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From:miryai
Date:October 3rd, 2012 08:26 am (UTC)
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Holy moley, that is awesome!! Have to admit, when I saw the bright orange staff I was a little.... :| but it looks absolutely awesome now!!! I'm very impressed with your paper mache and styrofoam ball painting skills!!

Btw - your mage looks almost exactly like my mage! I went ice and blood magic with my mage, so there's a lot of crowd control there... but relied entirely on Wynne as my healer. :)

Now, are you going to cosplay your mage (or Wynne?!)?? :)
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From:tatjna
Date:October 3rd, 2012 09:20 am (UTC)
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Tough choice - cosplay my mage and wear a silly hat or Wynne and wear a silly robe? O.o

Dr Wheel wants me to cosplay Morrigan - I remain unconvinced. ;-)

I think I'd be ok playing my Hawke, because at least she had some decent outfits.
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From:kehleyr
Date:October 3rd, 2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
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Oh man that's beyond cool!
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From:decemberthirty
Date:October 3rd, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
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Wow! I am not at all a gamer, and I know nothing about the background for this, but I'm totally impressed by this project! A ton of work, and an amazing end result.
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:October 3rd, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
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Totally followed you from your dragon_age post. I apologize for my Mass Effect icon, but I figure we share the Bioware game adoration and you will excuse the fact I don't have a DA icon.

100% awesome staff! It's fabulous! Wow!

I happen to be mid-way through my Tali helmet version 2.0 and so I'm into prop-making these days too (most of my costuming has been sewn before now) and there are a lot of details in your build that I'm curious about.

What kind of acrylic resin is it that you used? It comes in colours? I went looking for some at the big box craft store and an art supply store and couldn't find any, but wasn't sure if I maybe didn't have the right magic words to say to the clerks to find it.

Are those simple acrylic paints? This came out so well. It's perfect.

Today I'm actually smoothing out my helmet and getting ready to paint it. I used Bondo (it's automotive body filler, they use it fill in dents on cars, I think it's a polyester-based epoxy) to fill in the big pits and dents, and then you sand that down. Then I'm planning a layer of "Primer Filler" (which I think is pretty much thin Bondo in a spray can) than you can sand down a bit further before painting. They might be an option to modelling clay for smoothing out the finish (though Bondo is probably way more toxic :/ )

In games they’re held on by magical magnetism

I haven't used them myself, but this actually made me think of those Rare Earth / super-strong magnets. I have heard of people using them for holding costume pieces on. Place two camoflaged magnets at the top and bottom of the staff, and hide two corresponding ones under the layer of your clothes? Or even simply a couple patches of velcro?

Long comment! Mostly just wanted to say how fantastic I think your staff is :-)

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From:tatjna
Date:October 3rd, 2012 09:46 pm (UTC)
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Hehe, I'm a Mass Effect fan too, but not quite to the same extent and my tastes in prop-making seem to lean more to medieval than futuristic. ;-) I don't have a ME icon *sadface* must fix that.

To the questions!

1. The stuff I used is known as doming resin, it's a two-pot acrylic that mixes quite thick and is normally used for badge-making. This stuff. It's clear but I coloured it with a dye pigment and added a tiny (like, half a match-head) amount of titanium dioxide for the refractive effect. Apparently Gedeo make resins in colours. I actually bought the doming resin at a hardware shop and it was about $5 cheaper there than at the art shop.

2. Yep, student acrylics. I'm finishing it with matt picture varnish (2-3 coats) just so it can handle the knocks without chipping.

Magnets! I was joking when I said that but I guess if they were strong enough it might work.. hmm..

Also, I'm keen to try working with fibreglass and bog resin (what we call that car stuff) because I reckon I could get better, smoother shapes that way. Also, I've heard expanding foam can be good for weapon making.

Meanwhile, now I'm curious as hell about your Tali helmet - what are you using for the facemask part? Do you have a blog? Can I friend you on this one?

*bouncebouncebounce* excited about meeting other people who do this stuff...
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:October 3rd, 2012 10:10 pm (UTC)
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Friended :-)

My blog is mostly costume and convention stuff. I still have to do a write-up on Tali, but there's at least pictures here:
laughingmagpie.livejournal.com/151484.html (this has all the costumes I made at DragonCon this year and it's really picture intensive)
and
http://laughingmagpie.livejournal.com/149809.html (just Tali, but before I got the helmet version 1.0 - it was a commission and I'm working on making my own - hopefully smaller and cleaner-looking version)
and
http://laughingmagpie.livejournal.com/148850.html (in progress, stuff on the fabric painting mostly)

The facemask part on the new helmet is a sheet of clear PETG plastic, very shoddily thermoformed by yours truly with a heat gun over a wig head, layers of tinfoil, tape and felt, and then dyed purple. I discovered you can dye plastics, which is cool! You use RIT or iDyePoly and keep the water temperature hot but not hot enough to warp your plastic (about 140F).
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From:thatgirljj
Date:October 4th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
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Excellent! I <3 everything you do. (As usual, of course.)
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From:danjite
Date:October 5th, 2012 08:54 am (UTC)
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Me is impressed me is.
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From:ext_2114969
Date:August 15th, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC)

Doweling Rod

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I feel lucky that I found someone with the same project and was able to finish it. I'm trying to determine the size of the doweling rod. What height and width was your doweling rod?
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From:tatjna
Date:August 15th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC)

Re: Doweling Rod

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I had a look this morning and the dowelling I used was 35 mm (sorry, don't know that in inches). But I reckon other sizes would work, I have another staff that uses 38mm and one that uses 45 although that's getting a bit thick. I think your best bet is to get one that fits well in your hand and go from there.

The ones I use come in 2m lengths, and I just cut the end off to make it as long as I want - for the Enchanter's Staff the dowelling itself only comes up to about half way between my elbow and shoulder, and after that it's all wire and mache goop.

Hope this helps, and I'd love to see your project - I really enjoy looking at other folks' creative endeavours! ;-)
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:August 16th, 2013 11:15 pm (UTC)

Re: Doweling Rod

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Yay! I got the right one. My friend is helping me with the paper mache and other stuff. Thanks for the luck I'll have pictures on my blog later.
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From:tatjna
Date:August 17th, 2013 03:06 am (UTC)

Re: Doweling Rod

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I'm looking forward to seeing them. Although.. where is your blog? On g+?
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