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.

Mar 072014

It seemed so perfect.

When I found the idea on facebook, reblogged from Pinterest, I was excited. A simple little craft I could do, with cheap ingredients, something simple but fun I could knock out in an afternoon and have another post for this month. It was foolproof: some glue and paint and I’d have myself some fake sea-glass bottles.

But then, of course, I’m used to winging it, scrounging for replacement supplies to do something on the cheap instead of following instructions. In this case, I hit the dollar store and replaced just about everything: cheap plastic travel bottles instead of glass, off-brand glue, and tiny pots of paint (having mis-remembered the instructions saying paint rather than food coloring).

Tools of the Trade

On a side note, aren’t those little notebooks cute? I grabbed them just for kicks.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the lack of wide, spongey brush. All I had to work with was that tiny paintbrush.

Just a Dab'll do Ya

I had to use a cut-down plastic cup to mix in, that’s how underprepared I was

I tried mixing the paint and glue in varying consistencies, but nothing seemed to work. The tiny paintbrush left streaks, and the mixture just wasn’t going on right: too gloppy or too runny, never just right.

Layered Green

Dab by DabEcto-PlasmThat’s when I re-read the instructions and realized my mistake. Oh well, I had plenty of glue. I grabbed the only food coloring we had in the house — red — and got to work again on bottle number two:

Thinned Red Vamp Blood

As you can see, it’s not much better, though it’s a lot closer. The finished, failed product:

Day AfterWill I try again? Maybe. The sponge brush might make a difference on plastic, but then again, the plastic could have been part of the problem, as it didn’t seem to be adhering well. It was just a whim anyway, not an important piece of the project. Today’s lesson, as many of my lessons this year seem to be, is that it’s okay to fail at something.  Things will turn out alright 🙂

Con build status: I knew trying to do two ambitious builds for April’s Symposium was iffy when I planned it back in June, and now that it’s March I feel semi-confident that I can have one of the two done if I abandon the other until summer. But this one build is going to be so dope ya’ll. So dope.

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:

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

Originally from

Originally from

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?

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.