Monday, November 28, 2016

Revamping my Lekku

Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces

Like I said in my last post, my lekku turned out great but need tweakin'.

Tweak #1: I made them flesh colored so I could easily wear them for troops without painting up. I have a life and kids right now.

I got a zombie paint kit by Custom Body art because it had colors I liked (brown, red, dark grey, green, and black) and used those.

I put some diamonds on them in the grey blue - I have an idea to make a grey/blue/turquoise Jedi in the future. I took the pic too soon. I also put brown dots around the diamonds and I love it!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Quest to Make Latex Covered Foam Lekku - #3 covering them in Latex

Quick Links
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces

Ok, so we had a very wet summer - which means very humid. And it didn't get very warm till July here. It's Wisconsin you know.

And my kids were in summer stuff, so I spent lots of time running them around, which means I finally got around to putting the latex on my lekku in July.

To begin with I looked around a lot and chose to do the following:

1. Not to paint my lekku or my skin.
I know that most of you will use body paint, but I am a mom. And I take my kids to conventions and troops. I just don't have time or the patience right now. So I determined that a skin colored lekku was best for me. Remember the body paint doesn't breathe, you have to airbrush it on, and it doesn't come off easy. So, not for me right now.

If you want to paint your lekku, Pam - the Twi'lek goddess - has great suggestions as to brands. I think she prefers Reel Creations, but Custom Body Art has individual colors. And if you want your lekku to match your body paint, just mix the paint in with the latex. The latex will dry a TOTALLY different color then the paint you mixed. I would suggest testing it on a spare piece of foam and your skin to see if the color comes out ok. Let it dry for 24 hours to see it real color.

2. I decided to buy the nice quality latex used on faces. You don't have to do this. But I found a nice flesh tone bottle on sale and it worked great. I chose Ben Nye and I loved it! I got a 32 oz jug and used about half of it.

3. I hit a snag right away. I found that the first coat just soaked in! I decided to just tray one small area. I had to use so much latex, that was discouraging. I decided this was bad, it might take 6 coats and did some more research before proceeding. Less coats = lighter lekku and less pricey latex used. I found a muppet building forum that gave a great tip for sealing the foam so it wouldn't absorb so much latex. Spray it with industrial spray on adhesive. I used the brand 3M - 77 which is pricey. I sprayed two coats and let it dry between each one. The areas I then tested took a lot less latex. Problem solved!

4. I found a nice spot, put down some towels and got a few buckets to hold up my lekku, and went to work. I used old applesauce lunch cups my son loves. They worked great. And when done I poured the unused latex back into the bottle. The latex would dry in the applesauce cup and could be peeled off. And then I reused the cup. I poured small stream of liquid latex on the foam lekku and used either my fingers or a foam brush to "stipple" it on. Brushing it left streaks. So google the term stipple and go for it. Finger brushing works well too, but takes more time. I found the latex wanted to drip, so put it on then go over it and get all the drips. And if you miss a few, it will look great anyway.  See the drip below? Just smooth it out with your finger.

5. I let mine dry and on hot days, that took only an hour. I could do a few coats a day. But I found I couldn't do all sides of it at once this way. If I had attached it to my stand better, it would have been faster. Mine just didn't work well, the latex dripped too much and I didn't want to waste it that pricey liquid latex. So I coated the top part, let it dry then turned it and coated that. It did take longer. Oh, well.

 6. The latex looked awful after the first coat. I felt like I was still using a ton, and worried I wouldn't have enough to finish. It looked pock-marked with a slightly green tint, my foam was green, and it showed through.

7. Imagine my surprise when the second layer went on so easily, and took so little to put on. It dried so smoothly and look amazing! I only put three layers on areas that needed a bit more (to get rid of the green) and seams. Seams I went over quite a bit. But the rest got two. The areas below had two coats. The lighter parts here are just touch ups to go over areas that seemed too green. (my foam was green remember?)

8. Here is an important tip. In warm weather the latex dries quickly and gummed up a lot while putting on the coats. Take time when the liquid latex gets tacky to get a new brush, a new applesauce cup and to "roll' the drying latex off your hands. I did get gummed-up latex on my lekku and it wasn't pleasant to get off. And buy lots of foam brushes or just use your fingers.

9. Here you can see the transition. I had the first coat where I am pointing, and then the second to the left of it. Obviously you can see the seams on the top part are filled with liquid latex waiting to dry. Those did need more coats. Especially to fill in the gaps I left in the glue.

10. You do need to be outside or in a garage. The amount of latex you use and the fumes aren't the greatest. Mine weren't too bad because I was using facial latex. But I as still glad I was outside.

11. I wish I hadn't put down a towel. The latex dripped on the towel and ruined the towel. It dripped on my cement porch and was easily rubbed off. I wish I used painters plastic underneath rather than a towel.

12. However, the latex is sticky when dried. Dirt and lint and everything stick to it. A dusty garage isn't good for it. Once finished I found a trick - brush it with talcum powder. Wipe off excess and it doesn't stick to itself or anything else so badly. Wait to do this after you paint it.

13. My seams did show quite a bit. While I showed this to people and they all said it was fine, I didn't quite like it. I decided to make a leather wrap to hid it better. But no matter how many coats, those seam do show. See the seams below.

Here are the final results. Notice the latex darkened a bit with "curing" and are now a nice fleshy color. I just have to tan a bit to match them. Boo hoo, I have to go to the tanning booth this winter. That's not torture at all.

What are they like?

-They are lighter than my friend's Pam-bought ones.
-They cost about $59 to make. ($20 foam with coupon at JoAnn's, $32 latex, and $7 for spray glue)
-They are shiny and not dull! (not sure why my friend's seem dull compared to mine - paint used?)
-No need to stuff them; they hold their shape great. I might, and I mean might, use cardboard tubes made from cereal boxes to make tops a bit more rounder.
-The foam gave them a texture like real skin. That was awesome!
-I plan to buy a headdress off etsy for now, but I trooped in them with a leather strip wrapped around them and my head. It looked good and stayed on my head pretty well. But it didn't have ear flaps and wasn't as nice looking as the etsy ones.
- I put my hair into two little buns right where each lek hole is. That works fine right now and I don't need a hair cap. But a hair cap might be nice anyway.
- I can't hear very well. I probably will cut out the ear areas at some point. Once I find a headress I like.
- I didn't have a chin strap.

What I would change?
- They are boring. So I bought some face paint to maybe paint stripes on them, or dots, or diamonds or who knows?
- Seams show, so I made leather coverings. That worked good.
- I tried to sew the headdress on and that was an awful experience! I realized part way through it was't working and took out the stitches. The latex and thread stuck together horribly. I do not recommend sewing a headdress on!
- Not sure how to attach a headdress yet. I know the Pam/compatible ones stay on pretty good with velcro on back and double-stick tape. 
- I made the foam base too loose. (my bad) and had to cut darts into it and re-glue it tighter near the base of my neck. So it has to be hidden now.
- I made my lekku angle out too far apart in the back, well, at least I think so. They don't look like all the ones I see online (maybe because they are all Pam's model). I would place the lekku closer together if I do this again.

And lastly - due to how I made the foam base, it seems to sag down my back a bit. I have decided to sew in a comb onto the top (but not sew all the way through, just through foam). I will put a small ponytail on the top of my head for the comb to catch onto to hold it up a bit.

Or not. It really does look good without those changes.

2019 update- what did I change:
I painted blue dots on lower half of them for fun
I put circle rims from a mason jar lid (wide mouth) in them to hold upper parts of lekku open
I bought a cool headpiece off etsy - love it!
I ditched the leather covering and embraced the seams - who cares?
I got a wig cap that hold my hair in place and it also helps hold the lekku up. 

I love them!

I even added beads to hang off them - so many options.

Be kind, I forgot to take my eye make-up at that troop.

Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 1 - Stand and Pattern
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 2 - Making Tails
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 3 - Covering Them in Latex
Latex Covered Foam Lekku Guide Page 4 - Custom Ear Pieces

Thursday, July 7, 2016

FemTK - Legacy Era Female Stormtrooper - Approval and changes made

So the good news - I got approved and I trooped in for the first time June 25th. So nice to hang out in my armor and be with the guys.

Sadly, you don't get much attention as a Bridge Crew member. And as a trooper I got lots. Not as much as Vader, but hey, its a start.

So, the process.

Submit a ton of pics, and wait.

I submitted the standard four, and then four with arms raised so they could see sides better. I also included one of the shoulder bells so they could see I had the required strap.

But they insisted on seeing extra rivets and such that I did not put in. I followed another person's build and they didn't have these. Probably because they won't hold as well. But its in the CRL, points 4 and 5 on corset. So I put them in temporarily to pass.

First, they asked to see male snap plates on left side of corset. These would be hidden by chest armor and belt. I quickly made some and put them on with double stick tape. I did have to remove the velcro in one spot, but just put a new piece on after I was done. Again, the original builder probably used snap plates where the newer builds use handier velcro.

Another requirement was to have rivets holding the front and back of the corset together on the right side. Whereas, I used three-inch elastic. And the rivets wouldn't be as flexible so I wasn't going to change that. I simply put rivets in the outside. A little complicated since I had already glued in the elastic.

Above is the rivets, front and back and the tools.

Below, finished result. And I sent in these detailed photos for them to see.

My rivets went in all crooked due to how I had to hammer them in. They look awful! and are non-functional. I would recommend just drilling a hole, put one side of rivet in, take picture. Turn, put other side of rivet in, take picture and send those in without actually putting in the rivet. I have to remove mine and am still gearing up for the process. I don't want to crack the plastic and may just live with it.

Now, I got a stern warning to fix my legs so they show less black, but I really am trying to lose a few more pounds. Sadly, I have a knee injury and scar tissue there bulges a bit. My right leg just won't go up any higher. Left leg is fine. So I might be shimming mine, or just losing weight. But for now, I look awesome!

Some trooping advice:
buy Under Armor Heat Gear black undersuits - they really do work better. I didn't need a fan.
practice touching your toes a lot, it helps you get your calves off by yourself.
Plan to buy the cold gear ones for winter troops
I am switching my white shoulder strapping for black. Already got the black velcro and will do that. The white plastic shoulder straps don't hide it very well.
Carry super glue and pins, my velcro on my shoulder bells heated up in the sun and came off. I think I will sew them in for extra support. The velcro glue doesn't handle heat well. Since I am switching to black, no biggie. 
My ammo box lid kept getting flipped up. I will have to see how to keep it down.

But the kit is comfortable and moves well. I can walk fast, go up stairs and almost sit in it. Loved it!

My hubby is the Rebel Pilot.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

FemTK - Legacy Era Female Stormtrooper Build #8 - Helmet

Master List of Linked Build Pages:
#1 Getting Started -sorting armor and getting supplies
#2 The Corset and Butt Plate
#3 Torso and Shoulder Pieces
#4 Upper Arm Pieces and Shoulder Bells
#5 Lower Arm Pieces and Hands
#6 Leg Pieces
#7 Belt and Ammo Boxesand detonator
#8 Helmet

The costume is approvable without the Helmet if you are Jes Gistang. But if not, you must order the smaller helmet from KW Designs.

With that being said, I've included a bunch of photos of my Anovos Helmet that show you how it goes together.

What the kit contains: 
Front plate
Back plate
Automotive Trim, short and long pieces
Left Ear Piece (2)
Right Ear Piece (2)
Nuts and Bolts for assembly
Mesh square
Green glass for visor
White plumbing pieces for Aerators
Business Card

Just to show you in case you haven't handled a bucket before (slang for helmet) here are some pics of an assembled Anovos Stunt TK helmet for reference.

I have a pretty good Helmet Youtube Video that included how its assembled with tips garnered from sneaking around the Anovos Build Facebook group.

Things to note:

Ear pieces curve toward the back at the bottom, painted stripes also curve to the back. You are only supposed to have either 11 or 13 stripes.

The trapezoid areas are painted or are decals

The ear pieces are bolted to other piece near the ear and at bottom. Automotive trim (black) goes around neck opening and hides seams. The screws are painted white. Ear bars are grey, the brown has black trim too. And if I could show you the teeth, 8 openings are cut out with mesh behind them.

Above is a right side view. Now, lets be clear. Your helmet has its OWN criteria. So read the CRL and make sure its done right. For example, the tear area on Legacy Trooper is white; but you get the idea.

Here you need to see any part of the lip on the helmet that points down needs to be trimmed off or the black trim will point down instead of toward your neck.

Here I have removed a bit of trim so you can see that edge goes straight toward your neck. Also the Anovos helmet mounts the green plastic inside and has a helmet strapping system of sorts. Inside comfort will be up to you. I plan to get some foam pads. And maybe a fan.

So lets begin!


Dremel and attachments
Testors black and Grey 1138 paints
Alcohol or hand sanitizer - for removing paint
Lexan scissors, curved and straight
Fine grit sand paper
Metal Ruler
Paint brushes
Exacto knife
Painter Tape
Shorter Nuts and Bolts (see sizes below in image)
Nuts and Bolts for Aerators (get the same size as ears - see below)
1/4 inch thick sheet of white craft foam or Foamies (JoAnn's)
CA glue
Hot Glue Gun, low heat
Decals from or plan on painting them yourself
White Nail Polish
Spare piece of clear plastic from packaging
Black mesh for inside teeth area (patio screening kind from HomeDepot)

Other things you may want:
Fan for inside helmet
Foam pad (motorcycle helmet pads) for inside helmet
Voice box things

1. Sort and understand all your pieces

The helmet is actually pretty easy. Kevin has included lines where you should begin to trim. On the face, you trim the opening and bottom. Try to keep the brow straight.

 Right away I sorted my ear pieces into lefts and rights and labeled them. (see how to below)

And in the beginning I thought this mesh went inside behind the teeth but found out it will be cut to fit inside the Aerators.

The Aerators will be painted black and mounted on the front round depressions of the helmet. You can glue them on or drill a hole in them and use short screws/bolts.

As a note: one screw will go through the front plate and back plate. The other two screws go through ear pieces, and the front and back.

The ear pieces must have side piece curve to the back. Note that there is a trim line.

Take a minute and label them right and left.

2. Buy yourself some shorter screws
The screws included will gouge you in the cheek when you wear the helmet. I just took them down to the hardware store and got shorter ones.

Here is the image for exact description - I have no idea what all the numbers mean. One is length and another is diameter? Anyway...

You need 4 of the 6-32 x 1/2 (two for putting front and back plates together, and two for aerators)
You will also need 28 of the 6-32 x 3/4 for ear pieces and belt (2 on each helmet side, and 11 pairs for belt, and two for detonator is you mount it)

You will need matching bolts for all of them and washers. And I would get extra bolts. They roll off the table, and on detonator I used doubles to make sure it wouldn't come off.

Washers were cheaper by the bag/box.

Make sure you have a drill bit 9/64 or larger. The 9/64 made a hole just big enough for this size screw, if you want one that slips in easier then go a bit larger.

Keep your original screws if you want. I didn't use mine.

3. Trim and sand front and back pieces.

I used Lexan scissors, both curved and straight to trim. They are so handy! Then I sanded using my Dremel kit. Lastly I went over each piece with a fine-grit piece of sandpaper to give it a super-smooth feel.

So trim along the lines for the face plate, 

And along the bottom, but do that carefully. I over trimmed mine and it made my bottom of my helmet a bit wonky. Wonky is ok though.

And now trimming the back plate.

And straighten the brow. I held my metal ruler and made the edge as straight as possible. Don't want my brow looking droopy.

Again trim carefully along the bottom.

4. Trim and put on brow trim, and fit them together

You can now trim and fit on the black trim. I would not glue it on at this point.

Measure the length with a sewing tape measure or a piece of paper. You can also fit it to the helmet and eyeball it. (If you are feeling particularly lazy or cannot find your sewing tape measure)

I just started putting it on and when I got to the end, I marked it with a pencil, opened up the trim (easier to make sure the trim will be cut straight if you open and flatten it)

And cut it with my Lexan Scissors.

And it fits fine. Now you can put them together and begin to see how they fit. I positioned mine so the brow looked the way I wanted it, used painters tape and taped it into place on the inside.

Now Kevin has marked guides for where the screws should go, but each piece is unique and I wouldn't trust them. Tape it into place. 

Make sure all lines line up. So the brow should look good, and these side flares should line up.

As a note: See below where I over trimmed my bottom, that will be fixed later. And maybe it wasn't me, but the way it formed. Anyway, don't worry about it till the end. I hadn't drilled my holes yet but wanted to point that out.

Painters tape it all together, inside and out. Then drill your holes. I would start by only drilling the one that goes through the two pieces. Save the ear cover holes for later.

If taped together you can drill them at the same time.

Buff or sand hole with buffing tool on dremel.

I just used it by hand to make the openings smooth.

See, the screws are way too long - go buy new ones!

These are the tools used to put in the screws, one is a wrench of some sort. Monkey? Adjustable?
And a flat head screwdriver.

5. Trimming Teeth and Eyes
Take it apart, and cut out the eyes. I used a regular Exacto Knife.

Small cuts to make it just the way I wanted. I found that when I put in the eye glass pieces that I needed to trim them in more because they were too close to my eyes. So be prepared to trim more if needed.

Trim out four "teeth" or openings on each side. Only four or it won't pass approval for 501st.

And sand or buff it all when finished. I did a combination of both.

6. Ear pieces

I used Lexan scissors, both curved and straight to trim. Then I sanded using my Dremel kit. Lastly I went over each piece with a fine-grit piece of sandpaper to give it a super-smooth feel.

Drill top holes out of them. For this piece use the guides.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have waited to drill the bottom screw because I found it didn't match up! 

So don't be like me - wait to drill this bottom one till later.

When you put the screw in you will notice that is sits up high and stick out, so to speak.
You will need to hollow out the hole to let it sit flush with the ear piece.

Just go over it a bit with the buffer.

And it will take off enough so the screw sits flush.

And now your screw sits just right.

Fit your ear piece to each side. Use pencil or something to mark the holes, and drill the two ear holes for your helmet. Repeat for other side.

Notice above that they pretty much fit the angles. So I won't trimming another ear piece. Also the gaps will be closed when I tighten screws and you won't see the back piece in the gap, as the picture shows.

I also had to trim my black automotive trim so the ears would sit flush.

Now, note below that the back piece was over trimmed. Not sure why or how, but it can be fixed so the automotive trim goes on nicely. Also the screw won't go through both pieces to hold it steady. I will probably be adjusting that. (I wish I hadn't drilled that bottom hole remember!)

7. Painting helmet
Now its time to paint your helmet. You can take it apart, again, or not. I chose not to. I found painters tape really helps you to draw straight lines. So put some on the frown and other areas.

The teeth are black, and so is the bottom section. I painted the bottom all the way in, because that is where the seam will be on the automotive trim and you don't want white showing through. Just in case...

Paint your ear panels grey with no black stripes or trim. If you are not using decals, now is the time to paint the trapezoids on front and back of helmet. Other people said they used painters tape to get straight lines when they painted theirs. I put stickers on, and I did that last.

Paint your aerators black inside and out. I wish I had drilled my holes first and then painted, but that is the way it went. Paint tops, let dry, upend and paint bottoms.

Take your white nail polish or white testors paint and paint your screws on the ear pieces white.

See how sharp they look!

8. Assembling and Installing Aerators

First start by drilling holes in your plumbing things if you haven't done so.

Cut your mesh in half.

I took a scrap piece of clear plastic, cut a circle just a bit smaller than the opening and used that to put inside the mesh to bend it.

Worked great.

Cut the ends off, remove the plastic circle and it's ready to go.

Do not glue it in! Set it aside for later.

There is a tiny dot - which didn't show up in picture, that you use as a guide to drill a hole in the circular depression.

Notice that your screw will show up, so paint it black.

Much nicer, screw the aerator base into your helmet.

Lastly, use a hot glue gun to glue the mesh in. I suggest having an open safety pin nearby to be able to adjust the mesh.

Re-paint anything that scratched off.

9. Installing Automotive Trim
Installing the black trim isn't hard, but its smudges and if you ran into ear piece irregularities like I did, it won't go on.

The short version is that you have to jerry-rig it, as my mom says. 

First cut off areas to make a flowing line, of sorts. The trim won't go over the ear piece edge that stuck out above.

If you waited to drill the bottom hole, you can now drill it about 1/4 inch from the edge.

I also found that my ear needed trimming along the edge to make it sit tighter.

I found that I could drill a new hole but it still wouldn't go through all pieces. I did my best :)

I did find one ear piece had a big gap in the back. I didn't like that.

I could fill in with caulk, but I chose to put a strip of white foam.

It looks so much better! and I can caulk if I feel like it.

A close-up of the new screw area.

Get your automotive trim, open it and bend it a few times to reduce stiffness. Start near the black painted part, and push helmet into trim gap.

I used clamps to hold them as I went along. It helps.

Cut a wedge in the trim to git over your screws.

Work your way around until its done, cut end and check out how good it looks.

The last step is to lift up edges and put a little CA glue every few inches or so. Or use double-stick tape, you have options!

10. Installing Decals if you purchased them
I purchased decals from - they were very nice to work with.

The pointed ended ones go on the front sides

And the others go on the back.

Clean your surface so they stick properly.

Peel, line up, and stick. I found out that mine stuck out beyond my trim and looked funny.

I cheated and trimmed the corner off.

Remember the stripes curve toward the back and you have to have 11.

And it looks so awesome!

11. Installing Mesh on Teeth and Green Lenses 
You have to purchase your own mesh by the roll at a hardware store.

Use a sheet of paper to make a pattern and cut your mesh to fit over you teeth area.

Glue it on with CA glue or hot glue.

I traced the eye-hole, cut lenses to be over sized by 1/4 inch, and cut them with my lexan scissors. Curved and straight.

I then hot-glued them in. I think I will research other methods, I have seen screws used, and a long single piece, but for now it works.

The lenses almost touch my eyes! So I cut popped them out and cut the inside eye-socket depth down. But I will be using padding to keep the helmet off my eyes. Maybe some foam around the nose and forehead.

12. Foam Squares
Put in some foam squares over the screws, so you don't cut your face!

I just cut two squares, put CA Glue on the corners and covered up the screw ends.

And other than installing your pads (search helmet pads on amazon) and maybe a fan, you're done!

I would recommend a stand, the clear paper towel stand (with a tennis ball for the top) at Target look cool. And if you join the facebook group Anovos Stormtrooper Builders - there is a guy who prints decals for them.

Master List of Linked Build Pages:
#1 Getting Started -sorting armor and getting supplies
#2 The Corset and Butt Plate
#3 Torso and Shoulder Pieces
#4 Upper Arm Pieces and Shoulder Bells
#5 Lower Arm Pieces and Hands
#6 Leg Pieces
#7 Belt and Ammo Boxesand detonator
#8 Helmet