Part Two: The Hounskull of Hell

Last modified:
Sunday, December 15, 2002 5:57 PM


11/17/02- I worked hard all day on this, just to throw you off balance by providing two website updates in rapid succession. Of course, I can't keep up that pace since tomorrow's a work day and I'll need to watch some more Doctor Who videos. As you can now see, in the previous installment I didn't leave you with a picture of an armoured condom, but in fact, four bascinets stacked on top of one another. Which is not to say that an armoured condom is a less desirable thing to make; however, I think that a few more segments might be necessary, just to cover the full range of circumstances. That would be just the thing to do battle with a chastity belt.

This is one of those bascinets fitted with a Hounskull/Pignose visor. A little bit of Internet research will tell you that this is a 14th century doo-dad which coordinates with a fashion ensemble classified as "transitional armour". Transitional because it's from the time when they were just figuring out that plate armour looked spiffier than those bland full maile suits. Someone wearing a helmet like this might also be wearing a breastplate over a chainmail tunic and a padded jacket under that. The guys with the full metal suits got all the chicks, so naturally the transitional dudes went extinct.

This is ready for electroforming, although I look at it and think how much easier it would be just to paint the damn thing. That would simplify everything since I wouldn't have to worry about the extra thickness the pieces will gain and how that will affect the fit... in addition to the other stuff I normally moan and groan about. You're probably wondering how I can consider this ready for electroforming when the holes and pins for mounting an aventail are missing? Well, since I'm considering electroforming this, accuracy isn't an overwhelming consideration-- a fully decorated aventail can be glued on, after the fact. Clever, huh? Same with the visor's hinge pins. One bit of obsessive accuracy that I'm damn proud of are the rivets: Pin heads were just too big, so I drilled a hole, threaded it with a styrene rod, heated the end, pulled it flush, and snipped off the end. Just like they used to do, except using thicker diameter styrene.

Here's the kicker-- I'm not sure that this is something that I really want to make into a figure. After all, it's Historical and in the playground of Fantasy, that can be kinda like a straitjacket. I did want to do this though, since I've always liked the look of the Hounskull bascinet. It fulfills some kind of model-making Jones that creeps up every now & then. I suppose I could bastardize it with horns & such, but I've got three more bascinets to play around with. Now that shows some forward thinking, huh?


11/19/02- I don't take very many interim pictures because it's not a natural thing to do while working on a project. Even with a camera connected 24/7, stopping to set up the photos and save files is an extra step that usually gets overlooked. However, this time I've got pieces at intermediate stages in the electroforming process and a couple steaks on the grill in smoke flavoring mode... It's an opportunity to show you what I'd intended to show in Part One: The ugly results of raw electroforming.

Despite the fact that these look horribly pitted, I consider this a highly successful session since the pieces turned out without too many large granular patches in difficult-to-fix areas (just the back quarter of the bascinet, on the left). I'm particularly happy that this didn't happen with the visor since that's the piece with the most detail and prep work. There is, however, a noticible striated pattern across the pieces which doesn't appear to be caused by anything underneath the coating. It's not the brush strokes of the conductive paint since they're oriented vertically, not diagonally. It's probably caused by the orientation of the invisible electrical fields in the electrolyte. The anodes were placed opposite each other and the work distributed between them, with an air pump agitating the solution.

As I said in Part One, the silver conductive paint can be thinned, but that doesn't make the paint that much more cooperative. I attemped to blow the paint through my airbrush at about 40 psi, but the silver granules clumped too fast, creating a cleaning nightmare for my airbrush: It's now in need of a complete overhaul. The coating that I managed to blow on the piece was even but too thin to have adequate conductivity, so I reverted to brush painting.

Nope, this is not good ol' friendly acrylic paint. Even thinned, you get one or two brush strokes to get it right; subsequent strokes just make the brush pattern more pronounced and produce clumped gunk on the surface. Fortunately, light brush marks aren't a big deal. The deposition of copper tends to obscure them by building up an even more irregular surface layer (in my experience, again stating that I am a novice). This is leveled out through tedious polishing to get that mirror-like shine. That's where the whining part comes from. For what it's worth, this jives with the fact that ordering 1:1 armour with a polished finish adds something in the neighborhood of 30% to the cost of the armour. That's a bunch of money, considering that regular satin-finished armour is good 'nuff for most people. Unfortunately, unpolished electroformed stuff requires a lotta work just to get it presentable.

(later) I was thinking that I might have overstated the amount of time polishing takes ("15 minutes to an hour"). After all, it's such an engrossing task and I'd never bothered to time it... Well, I'll let you decide: The first picture is 35 minutes worth of polishing with the Dremel running at full tilt. Half of the visor (the half with the blue reflection) has been polished to a wavy shine (some etch marks remain), and the other half hasn't been touched... well, it's been touched, which is why it's kinda black.

The second picture is after another 70 minutes of polishing. This took care of most of it; the only thing left to do are polish in the trim area, along the edges and around the rivets.

105 minutes is a long time to run a Dremel -- it's hard on the tool and it's a testament to the tool's toughness, considering the total number of hours that I've run it like this. Naturally, the flex shaft has to be kept oiled so that it doesn't overheat. I've run it like that before and it does make operating it less fun. (ha ha) Oh boy, I can't wait to polish the other pieces...


11/21/02- Actually, you can spend much longer polishing a piece, depending on complications and the level of finish you want. I spent four hours hand-sanding the breastplate before polishing; then realized that it would need to go back in the bath for additional electroforming. Live & learn. Pain & suffering. Goo goo ga joob.

I now realize that I ran the visor and bascinet electroforming bath a little too "hot" on the amperes. It was a dumb mistake, mistaking the 2-amps calibration for 1-amp... duhhhh. (And I thought I was running the bath slightly on the cold side.) This is what created the problems of the excessive granularity and the linear striations across the pieces. However, it did build up the layers pretty quickly, which is a wishful thing when you're working during the limited hours of a weekday. But it's definitely not a good practice since overamped copper is extremely brittle and creates all that mess. Chipping off a granule often takes a chunk with it, leaving bare plastic underneath. It's discouraging to have to go through the process again to repair damage, and to know that those areas will be starting from scratch, with a thinner layer of plating. Another mistake was that I hadn't let the layers build up enough. Somehow, I limped through the visor polishing session. Luckily, that piece didn't require as much cleanup and I had set my standards of acceptable finish fairly low.

The bascinet was trouble from the git-go. The first problem was that I had missed a spot while painting it with the conductive paint; the spot was actually painted very thin-- it's hard to see silver on white styrene. Consequently, the spot didn't electroform. Okay, some touch-up paint, and back it went into the bath. The spot plated this time and I left it in for what I considered to be a fair amount of time. Then off to polishing session #1. Because of the amount of gunk that had built up, I used an abrasive buff to speed up the removal in the worst areas-- That worked okay. On to polishing. As I got deeper into the polishing, I realized that the layers were actually quite thin in areas-- particularly in the retouched spot. Also, to clean up pitting, you need to polish/grind down quite deep-- as deep as the deepest pit. Just like regular sanding, with the added caution that you can't sand too deep because it's only a thin layer. Another complication is that polishing creates heat-- enough heat to soften plastic. And a thin electroformed layer will deform to match the distortion you create in the plastic... Then the plastic hardens in the distorted shape. So yes, you can screw things up royally if the electroformed layer isn't thick enough. Before I got myself into deep doodoo, I stopped polishing and put the piece bath in the electroforming bath for an extended, overnight session. (I'd be paranoid to do this with any detailled part because you can't monitor the buildup while you sleep.)

The upshot is that the layer should be thick enough for you to be able to grind/polish down to the deepest imperfection, without causing structural weakness. Because the bascinet had a much thicker layer to work with, I was able to polish it down to a finer finish than the visor, without the wavy surface distortions evident in some parts of the visor. Admittedly, it's hard to see in photos-- it's kinda hard to read mirror-polished surfaces in photos since you can't see the effects of movement and some reflections tend to look like blemishes -- but when you're working on this stuff in real-time through magnifiers, you notice. (and daa-yammmmmn, my neck hurts!)


12/15/02- (A Stealth Update) No, this project ain't dead yet...



Part 1   Part 3