ChaosRed

Oct 102014
 

So, I’m sure a couple of people have noticed there are a few more Steampunk Characters that Yami and I are showing up as.

A Boy and His Automaton

Aren’t they cute?

This is Laika Leonne, the partially organic assistant automaton, and Isaac Gautreaux, her creator. The ears are more of a feature as well as a need to not leave ‘unused parts’ from construction. Issac created her to help with his research as well as doing a bit of a ‘magical curiosities’ display that help fund his trips.

As far as his personality, Isaac is rather jovial. Sure, he isn’t the most credited in the field of preternatural species or their applications to Biology, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying life to the fullest. And who says that the ‘fullest’ means how long people normally stick around? There’s plenty of stories about immortal monsters and maybe, with a little luck and study, the good times never have to end.

 

“There’s a lot of the world to see and good times to be had. And in intend to see it all. As surely as a man can beat a bad night of cards with a good hand, he can beat death with a bit of luck, smarts, and the right ‘cards’.” -Isaac Gautreaux 

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.

DSCN0763

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.

Finished!

Finished!

 

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.

Dec 252013
 

Hey, everyone! This is Chaos on behalf of the entire Radiant Vanguard group saying Happy Holidays to one and all. There’s no posts today, but we’ll return next week. For now, I hope everyone’s enjoying the holidays with those close to you.

Dec 132013
 

Hey, this is Chaos. I had a post this week, but it apparently got deleted at some point between two weeks ago and last Wednsday. That along with moving and finals has put me in a rather bad mood, so I figured I’d share my feelings using a song by a steampunk-esq band that I learned about at the last Steampunk Symposium. Hope you enjoy.

Dec 042013
 

Hey everyone. Chaos here, and I wanted to welcome everyone to the new site layout. Hopefully if you’re new here you’ll take this chance to look through some of the older posts and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

*crickets chirp*

Alright, great. Now that you’re caught up I’ll go ahead and introduce myself for those that didn’t look at the backlogs and are just going ahead with this. I’m the prop builder of the group, in so much that they let me paint over nerf guns and make interesting things that may or may not light up and make sound. I modify pieces or items we can find to fit characters (mostly weapons at this point) and in some cases I’ve even created bits from scratch. I kinda fell into the job since I’m going to school for an Engineering Master’s degree and I really can’t make costumes, but it’s actually been a lot of fun.

Bob- Gun and Holster

The gun was modded personally, but the holster was purchased.

I’ve done a few posts on what I think about when coming up with pieces for character costumes, but this is actually something that I ran into when going over my next project. I was talking with Yami about some of the ideas I had and she mentioned that it wouldn’t really work because if someone WAS wearing said prop as a real thing, it would be really hot and probably burn whoever was wearing it. I countered that Steampunk is somewhat fantastical so I didn’t see what the problem was, but she insisted that it didn’t make sense. We eventually settled on another design for the prop that worked with something less problematic, but it got me thinking. How much do the props we wear in Steampunk have to worry about real-world physics?

Not a clue what's it's for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

Not a clue what’s it’s for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

There’s some merit in not worrying about how props would actually work in the real world. There are a lot of props that you see at Steampunk conventions wouldn’t really work by the strictest sense of science, but they have enough grounding in them that you can see how they work with just that dash of outlandish that makes them interesting. Personally, I’ve always liked science fiction and the more outlandish the design, the more interesting I find it. I always find my mind wondering how such a device would work. Could you make something that actually functioned like that, and what sorts of science would have to be changed just for that one piece to work. It could just be my years of being facinated with sci-fi and robots and ray guns and all that stuff that makes me worry more about ‘what would look interesting’ rather than ‘what makes sense for the characters and setting’. Not that you can just ignore setting or characterization if you’re trying to make a coherent world.

Lucasbuild1

This is Lucas Warren. He’s my steampunk character and is something of an amoral businessman. He’s high class and does everything he can to keep it that way. Lucas knows all the right parties to attend, the right people to impress, and the good business sense to press an advantage when he has one. He has his prejudices, but they’re mostly to those he would find useless to his goals. If you provide him with an advantage, he has little qualms with what else you do. If you become a hinderance, he will not hesitate to cut you off and cast you aside. If you have something he requires, he will find every way to relieve you of it, and it will all be done with business deals and subordinates.

Lucas is a very particular character with a set of goals, characterizations, traits, and themes and while I’d love to give him something like a steampunk crossbow or some sort of mechanical display that hangs from his hat, I wouldn’t because it doesn’t fit his character. I think it would be cool, but it would just clash with everything that the character presents. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some interesting additions to the props later (mostly once I get a bit more time) but anything he has needs to fit his character and theme. You have to strike a balance between ‘what looks interesting’ and ‘what fits the character’. It helps with making pieces that ‘fit’ a character rather than making a prop and trying to jam a character around it.

Ultimatly, it comes down to the goal of a prop. I think that if it’s something that’s supposed to go with a character, you need to keep the prop within the bounds of what the character would carry around. If you’re making a prop to just go ‘hey, that’s an interesting idea’ then I’d say the sky is the limit. Let your imagination run wild and see what sort of contraptions you could make.

I’d like to welcome anyone to give me their take on the topic. Do you think that props have to be bound to a specific set of rules or can they be completely unbound from any one interpretation of Steampunk? Do you think it can be both? Do you want to just share some ideas you might have on props you are/would like to make? Go ahead and leave a comment with your ideas and here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed my little introduction to my side of the group.

Oct 012013
 

So….canes.

I really thought by the time I started this, I’d have something to say about canes that didn’t come off as weird. I blame my inability to take topics seriously for long periods of time. Makes you wonder why I’m the one playing the amoral business man and not something more whimsical. Mostly my build…that and I like the character.

Speaking of the character, Lucas is the type that is worried most about his public perception. This is different than his image in that not everything that he wants the public to perceive is true. He would have them believe the gentlemanly, sportsmanlike, smiling face that they see at high profile galas and balls was the real him, while making sure his competitors knew he was a shrewd businessman with a particularly good public face. To this end, he keeps himself up to date on the latest trends and fashions, including cane fashion.

When we were first coming up with Lucas’s costume, I didn’t really think about a cane. In my mind, Lucas would think that canes were a show of weakness. How could you be a man unto yourself if you couldn’t stand under your own power? Then I really started running out of ideas for props for the character, and I started looking into things I could do with a cane prop, so I started thinking of a way to incorporate one without taking away from the character concept.

Here’s the deal, though. Usually when I think ‘cane’ all I get for a mental image is a long piece of wood with stuff on the part you hold sometimes. I know that’s not all that goes into a cane, but it seems like a minor thing from a purely design standpoint. Not only would I need to get around the ‘painted hunk of wood’ idea, but I’d have to make it something practical. Something that gave the feel of ‘I understand that this is a fashion accessory, but that doesn’t mean it should be useless.’ What I really needed was an idea.

So, like any good researcher, I immediately started looking at everyone else’s ideas. I also rapidly came to the conclusion that canes all look like supervillians would use them. Take this one for instance:

From Dark Knight Armory

Points for being able to store your alcohol in it, but the skull’s not what I’m looking for. Actually, there are quite a few canes that store alcohol. I get the novelty, but you’d think most people would just have hip flasks. What was I talking about again? Right! Canes for Lucas. He wouldn’t be caught dead with something as gaudy as a skull cane and even less so if it was used to hold alcohol. Not that he doesn’t drink, just that he wouldn’t need to carry his alcohol around with him like that. Maybe something with a bit more utility than that?

Image from Squidoo.com

I’ll admit, I mostly like this for a captain on a ship or an adventurer. Someone that would get some use out of both a cane and a spyglass and might have their hands occupied, and while it’s practical in some aspects, it’s nothing that Lucas would use. He has people to drive his airships and deal with unsavory characters for him. Although, he wouldn’t want to be defenseless…maybe something like this would be more his pace:

Image from Medievalcollectables.com

This cane actually has moving bits! You can pull the hammer back and pull the trigger and it’s just REALLY cool…and while I’d love to make something like that, it’s still not quite right. It lacks a level of subtle for the character to carry around. Though I may end up using it for another character that I’ll be making props for later. Now, I’m sure everyone is probably asking me “Well, why not a sword cane?” Well, for one, it would look like a regular cane at a convention since they’d have to be peace-bonded. Second…well, it just doesn’t seem quite right. Sure, sword-fighting was thought to be an elegant combat sport for those with a quick mind and quicker reflexes but it lacks the sort of style I’d want the character to have. So maybe I leave that idea alone and start looking at simpler designs again. Less is sometimes more after all:

Image from borispalatnik.com

Now this…this could work. While it lacks the utility of cane-with-thing-inside designs, I like the overall simplistic design along with the animal head looks pretty classy. I might actually get this as a backup cane in case something with the prop I want to make goes south. The animal head is still a little…blatantly evil-looking, but I don’t think I can get around that with canes. I mean, some of the coolest designs look like this:

Image from Medievalcollectibles.com

That’s right, it’s a metallic dragon head staff. Unfortunately, that has the same ‘evil’ problem. I mean, it looks like the person walking around with that will either summon demons at the drop of a hat or wants to show you his latest slow-moving death trap and while Lucas isn’t exactly nice he would put himself above that sort of thing. While nice, this design’s still going too far.

Okay, I think there’s enough examples that I know what I’d like to do. Ideally, I’d want to make some sort of weapon cane, but for it to be subtle, I’d probably have to make that myself from scratch. In the short run, I think I’ll go with a simpler design with metal finish for the head. It still looks classy without being too plain and if I can find a design that meshes well with the character.  For those of you interested in seeing some more examples as well as tutorials for making your own canes, please look at the links below:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Walking-Cane-Steampunk-Fashion/ (This one is pretty cool looking and seems easy to make)

http://thesteamemporium.com/maets-gallery/artifacts-wearable/canes-walking-sticks (lots of different cane head styles. Definitely going to try some of them later)

http://www.fashionablecanes.com/Gadget_Walking_Canes.html (I really used to think it was just swords that people put in canes)

I’ll be keeping you guys informed on what I actually build based on the stuff I was looking through, as well as if I come up with anything original (Which I really hope I do. I had one idea but it’d require some materials and tools I don’t have access to yet. All the more reason to get new things, right? 🙂 ) but for now, I’ll leave it here. If you have any of your own ideas or just wanna talk about canes as props, please go ahead and comment below. I promise we don’t bite in any way that leaves lasting marks.

Sep 102013
 

Hey, this is Chaos.

 

So, in case you didn’t know, I’m actually in school to get a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering. Yeah, I know right? It shocks me sometimes too. Anyway, part of what I’m doing for that is independent research. Basically I take time out of my normal classes to work on research projects for other professors so I can get more experience. I’d really like to get into a Ph. D program and since you do a LOT of research for that, it helps.

So why am I bringing this up? Well, I’m going to be presenting some research at a conference in a few days, so I won’t be able to do the next Chaos Theory till the following Tuesday. So instead, we’re gonna talk about Vacuum Tubes as props.

Look at that variety!

Look at that variety!

See, these little things are great! You can use them as accents to a prop or if you’re alright with a little electrical wiring, you can have lights that light up on props, clothing, or anything else you can use them for. Some of the uses I’ve seen are mostly decorative, like these necklaces: http://artbywendy38.blogspot.com/2013/01/vacuum-tube-steampunk-necklaces.html

There’s also some fun little things you can do, like this below:

Originally from techbob.com

Originally from techbob.com

And that’s just for a flash drive! I’d actually love one of these things…granted I’d also like the Steampunk Laptop (Just type that into Google, you’ll know when you see it 🙂 ) but I was more looking into props. In fact, I’m planning on using something like these for special ‘stun’ tips for a crossbow build. It won’t actually fire, but I like the idea of a scientist filling tubes with a sort of knock-out gas while having them have a short electrical charge to try and take out particularly sturdy opposition. I’m still deciding on if I should go with the bandellier look with one fully constructed arrow for posing or if I should go with maybe 5 arrows. Any thoughts?

Sep 032013
 

Hello and welcome to Chaos Theory. It’s a little segment I’ll be doing from time to time about steam punk and the interesting things behind it. Today I’ll be talking about the Steam Engine. I’ll also be as scientifically accurate as I can be…hopefully. At least I’ll try to stay on topic. So let’s start this how all good scientific talks start….with slides!

*click*

*click*

This is a steam engine. It uses the princi- …What, that isn’t the first one? But I thought that I sho- Fine, hold on. Sorry about that. Apparently there’s a discrepency.

*click*

*click*

Alright, THIS is-

Oh what is it NOW! I put up the-

…it’s HOW old?!

From WHERE?! Huh.

Ok, I’ll start there.  Sorry, folks. Looks like I’ll have to go back a bit further.

*click*

*click*

(looks around expectantly)

Alright, I think we’re good now. This is an aeolipile. It’s said to be the earliest model of a steam ‘engine’ in so much that it uses steam to do mechanical work. It was designed in 1st century Roman Egypt by the Hero of Alexandria. He’s pretty famous for some of his other designs, like a wind-powered organ and the first vending machine.  “But Chaos, wasn’t the steam engine not widely used until many centuries later?” you say. Well…yes. You see, the aeolipile might be the first steam engine, but it wasn’t really able to do much work. I don’t mean that it didn’t move, but that the amount of force it was able to generate wasn’t really able to do much. Basically it was a proof of concept and a cool looking toy. It wouldn’t be until 1680 before cylinders were even added.

*click*

*click*

The next design they had were more steam pumps than engines. They used boiling water with release valves to move a pump down and the resulting vacuum from the cooling steam to pull the pump back up. It was actually a very ingenious design that used techniques from earlier models to improve the efficiency of the engine. This was the design used until the 18th century, where the need for smaller, high pressure engines for factories become higher.

Now, why did I bore you with all those facts about steam engines? Well, where do you think Steampunk started? It was the idea that, after the industrial revolution, these sorts of engines remained the standard and were improved far beyond what they normally were. In fact, Steampunk didn’t really ‘happen’ until the 1980’s. I realize that movies like Metropolis and early tv shows like Wild, Wild West helped pave the way, but the term didn’t appear until after their creation.

Original version. Personally, I like the later version done in the Astro Boy style, but that's for another time.

Original version. Personally, I like the later version done in the Astro Boy style, but that’s for another time.

Now, the big question I had when I first started looking into Steampunk was ‘Why?’ Why would someone imagine a world where the steam engine was the dominate technology instead of petrol? Why have a world of glass tubes and electricity rather than the world of gravity wells, teleporters, and all the trappings of science fiction as I had grown to know it. Well, my theory is…that some people just thought it would be interesting. I mean, that’s the reason far future science fiction is what it is now. People looked at what we had and said “Wow, I wonder what they’ll do in the future?” People like Jules Vern and William Gibson looked at the past and said “I wonder what would have happened if THAT stuck around?” It’s really just a different way of looking at things. It’s a creativity that I respect and only wish I had a fraction of. Well…that and I like seeing how people bend and stretch current figures and technology to fit with the aesthetic.

Well, I hope I didn’t bore anyone to tears with my information. I hope even more that some of you found it entertaining. Now, if you think I glossed over anything important, want to add your own theory, or just wanna discuss a bit with others just comment below. Now that we’ve done the steam engine, hopefully you come back next time for another major inspiration for Steampunk. We’ll be seeing how all of this ‘ticks’ inside with Clockwork.

Aug 272013
 

Hey everybody following the group. I wanted to take a little time to throw something out while I’m working on the next prop.

 

Also classes started and I’m trying to learn a new language and things are a little nuts. That said, I wanted to talk about aesthetic. Yeah, I know, engineer talking about something that doesn’t have to do with function. I’m kinda bad in that regard. Just ask Yami about anything where we try to decorate.

To start off with, I want everyone to go ahead and listen to this:

 

If this isn’t new to you, then either you’ve tried to shop for props online or you’ve seen Yami post about it. Now, it’s not saying that it’s bad to HAVE gears on things. In fact, one of the bigger prop builds I’ll be starting in a couple of weeks might have some visible gears in places. But the thing about THAT is that it’s going to be a mostly mechanical prop and the gears kinda give it a look akin to some pocket watches. You can see that back of them and watch all the little pieces move and appreciate the work that must have gone into making it.

Look at all the little gears!

Look at all the little gears!

And that’s what I mean by aesthetic. I want to give off a particular idea and I pick things that’ll help it along. While costumes are the foundation on which a character or persona is built, the props are the extra touches that make them more original and unique. Anyone can wear a top hat, but it takes a special sort of character to have moving bits on it for a theme. Hmm….maybe that should be it’s own post. Tell you what, anyone reading this, tell me a couple of themes you’d like to see props for and I’ll make, find, and describe what I can about it and maybe help people along! If it gets good enough, it might become it’s own segment I’ll do bi-weekly.

Thanks for watching and look out next time when I put on some brainy specs and talk about science!

Not shown: Fight with steampunk Cyberking. Seriously, that was a thing. Go look it up.

 

Aug 252013
 

Hey guys and gals. Chaos here.

 

Now, I know this is usually where Yami does her costuming segment, but she’s been a bit under the weather, so you get a double douse of me this week. I’m sure you’re all excited.

Alright, so not exactly excited, but at least I’ll give ya something interesting and helpful. I’m going to talk about Men’s costumes. More accurately, I’m going to talk about how comfortable the ‘Dress’ clothing for Men’s Steampunk costumes can be a pain or completely comfortable all depending on getting properly measured.

 

So, I recently got married to the love of my life…which is something I’d do again in a heartbeat. Granted, I would have hired a wedding planner to deal with a LOT of the details, but I’d do it again. The one thing that stood out to me was getting fitted for a tuxedo. Now, prior to this, I was generally of the impression that there’s a degree of discomfort tied to almost all dress clothing. They’re always stiff in the shoulders and generally not something you’d wear longer than you have to, which was what I was expecting when I tried on my tux on the day of the wedding. To my surprise…it fit fine. I could move pretty well, and there wasn’t the usual stiff points that I had been expecting and outside of the shoes (Which I swear were made of special sore-causing plastic) it was really comfortable.

So let that be a lesson to you. You CAN wear Steampunk men’s wear and still be comfortable…though you may want to look out for being outside for long periods of time in the summer depending on where you are. Those outfits were not meant to breath very well.

This is Chaos, wishing you all well and hoping you have fun.