May 242014

Greetings! Just a brief check-in here with some announcements about our summer lineup of programming for you all. As Chaos has taken a summer position away from the rest of us core Vanguarders, a few changes will be made to accommodate this temporary parting of ways.


The following regular series will be on hiatus until August:


[list type=”cross”]


  • Movie Night Podcast series
  • Chaos’ regular build posts



May 152014

So since our hat block turned out to be a complete failure, I still needed a hat to mount the ears from the fosshape tutorial onto. Since I’ve made mini top hats before, I decided to adapt the process to make a full-sized top hat.

This is going to be pretty brief, so check out the gallery below:

It’s not the sturdiest hat in the world, but it’ll do!

hat pinnable

May 132014

Hey, have you guys heard about Parade The Circle? The Cleveland Zeppelin Union is totally going to be at Parade the Circle! If you’re coming here because you’ve been linked to this tutorial by the CZU and you haven’t been in touch with anyone but you want to attend, go to that event page right this minute and contact them, young man or lady! Time is running short!

The theme we’re planning to do involves wind-up toys, so we got together for a work session this past weekend to make wind-up keys we can attach to our backs so we’ll all match more or less while still being able to put together our own unique costumes. To that end, I’ve put together a tutorial for those who couldn’t attend the work session, and I thought I’d share it here in public so other people might get ideas on how easy and cheap it can be to put something like this together 🙂

Please forgive the image quality, I only had a cellphone to take pictures with.

Let’s start with your basic materials:


Any cardboard will do, but this tutorial is going to use the simplest option: a box, already made and about the right size.


These clackers cost about 60 cents at a party store. You hold them by the plastic stem and spin them to make clacking noises.

Not shown: Paint, tape or glue or both, and a belt.


Step 1: Compose your structure

If you’re not starting with a kleenex box, you’ll want to get your base into some kind of box shape. Most of us also decided to cut a keyhole in the box for decoration, but that’s not strictly necessary. You also want to attach the clacker to the box in such a way that the handle sticks out so you can attach things to it. This is the simplest way to achieve that given our tutorial materials:


…but other designs got more sophisticated with it.

Step 2: Paint the box

If your base material is plastic, you’ll want to use Krylon Fusion or another plastic-bonding paint as a base layer. For cardboard, almost anything works.


I did have some trouble with the textured paint I tried to use, so I did a base coat of black and then re-applied the textured paint.


Nice and rusty-looking

Step 3: Make a Key

This is your basic wind-up key shape:

But it’s steampunk, so feel free to go wild! Here’s a pretty straightforward one made of cardboard and a cardboard tube:

IMG_20140510_154317097You can see how tape was used to attach it to the clacker, but what you can’t see is the layers of cardboard stuffed in tube for stability and to help it grip the clacker firmly enough so that turning the key would turn the clacker’s stick, making the noise. That’s going to be the trickiest part.

Of course you want to paint that too:


Step 4: Assemble!

modellingSome of us talked about attaching to belts, while others were going to experiment with backpacks or harness systems. It’s up to you what will work with your costume best. You could even glue on some fabric and stitch it to your costume I suppose!

Here’s a gallery of some variants we came up with, to spark some ideas:

May 122014

Hey Everybody, I’m Chaos and I am a terrible Hatter.

Well, alright, I’m not a terrible hatter. I’d have to probably have made a hat to count as one to begin with. This is all probably very confusing, so I’ll start over from the beginning.

As you all probably saw a couple of weeks ago, there was a new costume that got shown off at the Steampunk Symposium in Cincinnati, Ohio. By the way, if you’re in Ohio and can make it, it’s a blast. Lots of nice people and great steampunk music. Anyway, one of the bigger pieces that we were working on for the Laika costume was the huge hat.

Well to Met You

See? Big Hat.

So, the first thing I realized when we started was that we needed a big hat. Well, Yami realized we needed a big hat for the wig and I added on that we needed it larger for the bits that went inside. (Yes, the ears are supposed to move. More on that in another post) Going online, we found there weren’t a lot of designs for hats that we could use. A lot of them were just way too small for what we wanted. Yami decided to find some tutorials online so we could just make a hat. I found out that this is actually VERY difficult, especially when you start off making a hat block.

For those that don’t know. A hat block is what you make a hat around. It’s usually made out of a sturdy material in the shape that you want to make your hat into. We decided we were going to make a felt hat, as felt is easy to work with and we found some good tutorials on how to do it. If you wanna take a look at them, they are:

We also got assistance from the 1:6 warrior message boards on different ways you can make hat blocks before we decided on our method.

Speaking of method, we decided to go with using Styrofoam and wood filler to make our hat block.

Nice big foam cylinders

Nice big foam cylinders

Our first problem was that we really didn’t have a good way of cutting down the two cylinders for the size hat we wanted. It needed to be big, but not quite as big as the cylinders we had. Which meant we needed to find some way of drawing the circle we wanted on top of it and cutting it down. This proved to be a lot tougher than we thought. The trick with tying string to a thumbtack had the problem of the string not being the exact length we needed and having a hard time making a perfect circle. So then we moved to trying to print out a guide circle to trace.

Should be easy, right?

Should be easy, right?

Of course, both guide circles had the wrong radius when we printed. Yami is still not sure why, but I believe that her image editing software is posessed and was mocking us. Eventually, we managed to make a series of small marks in a circle by measuring from the center outwards at several points and then just making a dotted line to cut around. This worked pretty well and then we just needed to glue the cut-down cylinders together to make a hat block. Easy as pie. Next, we started covering the glued Styrofoam in wood filler.


The tutorials mentioned using a putty knife to just smooth. When I was making the box, I ended up using a paint brush. DO NOT DO THIS! That took a large amount of time and I’m sure it would have ended up a lot smoother. Also check to see how much wood filler you’re using, because you can run into the situation I had where I needed to go out and buy more.

At this point I ran out of wood filler.

At this point I ran out of wood filler.

Having gotten more wood filler, I start on the bottom. You should also check that the wood filler you get is the same color.

Having gotten more wood filler, I start on the bottom. You should also check that the wood filler you get is the same color.




So far so good! Had a few setbacks, but we were confident this would work. The next step was painting over the entire thing with a sealant so that it’ll be better perserved. Also, the reason why we didn’t just paint sealant onto the Styrofoam was because it’ll dissolve it and that makes for a very poor hat box.

Now here’s where things actually went bad. We needed to now work with the felt. And how do you get the felt to mold to the hat block? Why, you boil a lot of hot water and dunk it in.

Watch out.

Watch out!

You’re only supposed to put it in there for a short time, but the stuff still gets REALLY hot. Then, you take the still-hot felt and stretch it over the hat block.

We covered ours in plastic wrap to help protect it.

We covered ours in plastic wrap to help protect it.

So….Ideally, we would stretch it over the block real tight and pin it. That would make the felt take on that shape and we’d just have to add a brim once it was set. And that’s not what happened at all. We pulled the felt tight and used several different methods, but all the results were the same.

Method 1: The Side Pull

Method 1: The Side Pull


Method 2: Twist Pull

Method 2: Twist Pull

We even tried bracing it against the table and I put all my weight on it, but that was a bit embarassing to see. Anyway, after all was said and done, the felt looked like this.

Looks promising, right?

Looks promising, right?

WRONG! Collapses the instant it's not on the hat block.

WRONG! Collapses the instant it’s not on the hat block.

Now, it’s more likely that we simply messed up. We tried this for several hours in an evening and every time the felt would just not stay. Later on, we looked into other possibilities and found that it could have been the felt itself. See, when we got the felt, we got it from Wal-Mart and apparently synthetic felt doesn’t stiffen and take on shapes like what we were trying to do. So maybe this all could have worked, but so many things happened in making it that we, ultimately, had to go with another idea so the costume would be ready for the convention. That and I wanted to set the block on fire, so another attempt was not in the cards at the time.

And that’s our adventures into making our own hat. It was…interesting, and I may try it again, but to anyone that makes hats for a living, I salute you. It is not an easy feat.