Saturday, July 21, 2012

Steamy Project Reveal!

Instead of my usual Saturday Steam round up I thought I'd show you guys something I've been working on since mid-May - though admittedly I've taken a lot of breaks.

This is one of those projects that I haven't mentioned before because I was afraid I'd fail miserably, and if there's one thing I hate, it's failing miserably with an audience. There have been a lot of bumps and set backs along the way, but I've finally reached a point where I'm reasonably confident the end result won't be a complete laughing stock. (Er, fingers crossed and all that.)

Normally I'd show you the end result right away, but this time I'm going to make you wait for it. Humor me; this little baby has been a labor of love - and I've risked more than my fair share of digits with the Dremel tool for it.

So imagine with me, if you will, what one can do...with this:
Hi, Lily!

That's a $30 Vader helmet & mask combo I purchased online.

Now I'm going to TRY and keep the chatter from here on out to a minimum, and just let the pictures do the talking now. We'll see how long that lasts. 

[Note: This was terrifying. And melted plastic is VERY HOT and tends to fly. Safety glasses are a must.]

(You'll see why in a minute. Patience.)

At this point I tried a primer that I wasn't happy with, so I ended up sanding it all off again. (Urg.) That's why the mask looks so grungy here:

I used puffy paint for the "rivets." Not sure I'd recommend it, though, since I'm not 100% happy with the end result. Still, from a distance I suppose it looks Ok.

This is another primer coat. As you can see, the spray spattered a bit and gave the mask a nice texture - as it turned out, a happy accident.

After the primer I base-coated the mask in matte black, and then applied a silver metallic glaze with a dry brush technique:

Comparison shot of the the silver dry-brush vs the matte black base coat. (The underside of the mask is done in both shots.)

Completed silver dry-brush.

Completed gold dry-brush. (Subtle, but it warmed it up a little.)

This was my first-ever experiment with dry-brushing, by the way, and I LOVE it. So many possibilities for props & costumes!

Metal copper trim.

(I wish I could tell you what these trim pieces are, but the truth is I found them in a bin at SkyCraft Surplus, our local tinkerer's paradise, and have no idea what they're for. If you know, please tell me in the comments!)

[UPDATE: per Darus in the comments, the trim is RF Shield Gasket. "It's used in cases for computers and other electronics that need tight electrical shielding. It goes along the edge where a cover meets the rest of the case. All those little points make electrical contact making sure the whole perimeter is electrically sealed." Hey, I learned something! Thanks, Darus!]

My mask literally has a button nose. :)

(John cut out the center portion with a Dremel [the one part he insisted on taking over for, since the piece was so small], and then I painted it copper.)

John fitting our first LED strip. (Which sadly didn't work.)

Our second LED strip had to be longer because the lights were wired in threes, requiring us to cut into the tusks and make a bit of a mess. Yuck.

To disguise the butchered tusks, I took one of these thin metal gears*...

 ...cut it in half, and then bent each half into a cone. Then I fit the cones over the tusks and blacked out LEDs:

(*these are the gears Sharyn made for me on her embossing/cutting machine. Thanks again, Sharon!)

They're both fragile and deadly, since those points are needle-sharp.

Here I put those tiny pin holes I drilled to good use; that's black vinyl I'm hand-stitching in place.

Top view.

Once I was finished stitching, I flipped the vinyl over and glued it down inside the mask, giving me this lovely padded, finished edge:

Next I made an elastic head strap:

It splits so the strap can go both over my head and behind my ears.

Aaaand....I think it might be done!

And now, the money shot:



It took a little experimenting to get the voltage right, since at full strength the lights tend to blind anyone I'm looking at. They're currently powered by three button cell batteries, which will be tucked inside the cheek.

And that's just the mask.

Sometime in the next month I'll show you the goggles, helmet, jacket, belt plate, accessories, and the rest of the costume. Or maybe I'll just do a grand reveal after Star Wars Celebration. At this point we're about three quarters of the way done with everything, but of course that last 25% is a doozie!

And, as I'm sure you've gathered by now, this mask is for me. John decided my female steampunk Vader character needed a name, so I'm calling her "Lady Vadore." Or "Lady V'dor." Or maybe just "Lady Vador," but I doubt anyone would know to pronounce it "vah-DORE" that way. (Which do you think, guys?)

Well, I hope you liked this little sneak peek at my first big cosplay project! And as always, if you see something steamy you'd like to share, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. 

Happy Saturday, everyone!


  1. OMG OMG OMG!!! I just LOVE it!! I love everything about it!
    And I can't wait to see the whole thing put together!
    Lady V'dor gets my vote.

  2. Splendid! You are very clever, and patient with your makings... I always want them done Right Now, so I end up spoiling things!

  3. OMG, that is several million grades of awesomesauce there.

    Can't wait to see the end result!!

  4. Shiny! You. Are a. Goddess. I bow before your crafty geekiness ::bow bow bow::

    And those strips? Don't quote me on it, but they look kinda like strips of carpet tacks to me - are they sharp?

    And forgive my ignorance (I've been vacationing on planet "family crisis after crisis" this summer) but, how long do I have to wait until the SW shindig? Because if it's more than 20.4 seconds, I might go crazy waiting to see the rest of your outfit!!! ;-)

  5. This is going to be epically awesome! Great work and I'm in awe of your Dremel skills, as I would have cut off my fingers at the first try.

  6. I think "Lady Vadore" will get the pronunciation across correctly for most, since it looks like French and French tends to like the stress to fall on the last syllable of words.

  7. This is fantastic! I really love all of the tiny details you put in.

    Maybe Anna Kin for your character name?

  8. Awesome! Great job!
    As for the name, I like "Lady V'dor". I would think folks would be able to figure out the pronunciation and it looks "spacy" for some reason. ;)

  9. Um, wow. As always, completely blown away by your complete and utter win of all things crafty. I bow in your presence, because that. is. amazing.

  10. This is AMAZING!! I can't wait to see everything all put together!

  11. Oooooo-- steamy goodness.
    So, I'm reading in great anticipation, enjoying your writing as always. Reading, scrolling, came to the Dart Vader helmet. Standard. Nice. Like it. Scroll one. CAT!! IN BOX!! ROTFL!!!! What a pleasant surprise. And the cat looks like they are posing -- too funny. Cats crack me up - my cat would totally love that box.
    Anyway....... finished scrolling and reading to the end. Wowsers! Really awesome work, Jen. (And John). Thanks for sharing, and I can't wait to see the rest of what you are doing/will do!

  12. This is FANTASTIC! You should put it up on the 501st boards, they'd go absolutely crazy! Take lots of pictures at Celebration VI (I need to live vicariously through someone other than the guys on Rebel Legion) ;) Can't wait to see the finished product!

  13. Holy Mother. I can not explain the amount of wanting I have right now. That is awesome. You are awesome. I am blown away... And I just saw Dark Knight Rises, so that's hard to do right now!

    When is the event?

    Thank you for inspiring.

  14. Whaaaaaaaat...! That. Is. Awesome.

  15. I definitely pronounced it va-DORE! This is wicked cool. I love how you allowed it to evolve and even used the "mistakes" as opportunities for creativity, a lesson I learned from my dad. Look forward to seeing more to come.

  16. Shelley in So. ILJuly 21, 2012 at 10:48 AM

    Your inventiveness in creating this is awe inspiring! Can't wait to see the rest!

  17. Seconding Lady Vadore--French, and all that. Your painting really makes the mask look like cast iron! Fabulous job!

  18. Freaking awesome, Jen (and John).

    I'd vote for Vadore, or maybe Vadoré (va-dor-ray). It looks fancy because there's an accent, and indicates it's not pronounced quite the same as Vader.

    Can't wait to see the rest!

  19. Wow! That is A-MAZ-ING! I can't wait to see the rest of the outift!
    OIh, and just for the record, if you want it pronounced vah-DORE, I would suggest spelling it Vadore. Just a thought...

  20. I love how that mask looks! And I'd have to vote for Lady V'Dor; it just works with the feel of the mask, to me.

  21. You put Martha Stewart to shame. This creativity and impeccable crafting...oh need to be the spokeswoman for a national crafting brand! lol Amazing, amazing, amazing!

  22. Looks SUPER, Jenn! :o)
    Will you be able to breathe in it all right?

  23. OMG I am dying here. I want one!!! Love!!! It looks fabulous. I can't wait to see the whole thing. Hurry and finish so you can share!

  24. I LOVE it.

    Also, I like either Lady Vadore or Anna Kin that Ava suggested. :D

  25. This is perfect!! Every time I see one of your DIY projects I'm tempted to DIY something myself but I always end up browsing your blog instead. Heh.

  26. O.M.G. that is truly phenomenal. I can not wait to see the whole thing.

  27. You are so freaking amazing Jen!! Honestly this is awesome. I was bouncing up and down when I showed my husband. You are a craft/re-purposing/artsy Goddess! Can't wait to see the rest of it.

  28. I vote for Lady V'dor!

    And I am utterly amazed by and envious of your talent (and patience).

  29. Words fail me. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I guess, but that sounds a bit out of genre ;)

    I prefer Vadore. For some reason, V'dor sounds more Star Trek than Star Wars. Gotta be careful with them streams, you know.

  30. I am in awe of your craftiness. Lady V'dor will be(kissing fingertips) "magnifique"!

  31. Holy Frack! That is AH-mazing!

  32. You are fantastically talented! And how wonderful that your sweet husband helps you create the vision you have for your costume. What a wonderful thing to do together, looking forward to the BIG reveal! I just know its going to be breath taking!

  33. Holy bejeezus. Can't frikkin wait to see the rest. Oh.Em.Gee. I wanna see it all put together before I put my .02 for a name tho. If you get all girly with it maybe Lady V'dore...(veh-door-ay?) >:>

  34. Wow, that looks fantastic! I can't wait to see more/the end result :D

    I like Lady Vadore best.

  35. I vote for Lady V'adore. It's a great combo of the other two, and is a play on the french phrase "j'adore". Then John can walk around saying "J'adore Lady V'adore."

    (Ok, maybe the last bit is a little too corny, but I like the rhyme!)

  36. This just oozes the awesome.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of Dry Brushing!! It's one of my very most favourite techniques...

    Now, to share one of my very most favourite paints to dry brush with:

    Liquitex Interference

    Unfortunately, Dick Blick doesn't have anything to show what an awesome product this is.

    You dry-brush over a darker colored base and the liquitex pulls and enhances the appropriate pigment (based on the colour of interference you use) up and gives it a beautiful metallic sheen. If you paint it over a lighter colour you get a pearly finish. It's stupid crazy spanky.

    You can see the blue interference as it was used by 9-year-olds on parts of the underwater robot they built this spring. Blue Interference over black ABS.

    See you at Dragon*Con!

  37. @ eniko - you raise a fair point about the breathing. Ha! I've worn the mask for 10 minutes at a time around the house, and it's fairly ok, but given the heat & activity level at a con we're thinking we'll need to enlarge the vent holes - just haven't done it yet.

  38. Love it!!! And Vadore is how Vader is pronounced in the dubbed French version of SW!

  39. This looks AH. MAZE. ING. I LOVE IT!!!!

  40. Beautiful work. I can't wait to see the rest.

    That copper trim material is RF Shield Gasket. Do a Google images search on that term and you'll see it.

    It's used in cases for computers and other electronics that need tight electrical shielding. It goes along the edge where a cover meets the rest of the case. All those little points make electrical contact making sure the whole perimeter is electrically sealed.

  41. If I had TARDIS, I would go back in time and make it so that we lived somewhere within driving distance of each other. Not so close as to make you jealous of MY skills. ROFL-can't breath! But near enough to see your work in person and to share muffins and coffee a few times a month. Just saying'. :0)

  42. Oh my goodness -- I can't wait to see the finished project. Your attention to detail in this transformation is exquisite!!!

  43. The Star Wars geek in my is screaming for joy! I never really cared for Steampunk until you started this blog. After seeing all the things you've made and showcased, I have to say, I really like it!

  44. Oh my god, that is so awesome! As usual, I am in awe of your craft brilliance!

  45. How about Lady Anne Vadore. BTW are you also going to have a light saber? Cause I would reallylike to see one of those Steampunked.

    While I'm at it, I was on my way to the gym and saw something that looked like brown draped vacuum cleaner standing next to a guy. And then it moved. My first thought was "OMG it's a Jawa!"

  46. Mother. Of. Darth. That's so insanely awesome!

    My first ... well ... brush with dry-brushing was a ceramics painting class when I was 13 or so. I was going to paint an Abe Lincoln bust in just standard lifelike colors, but my teacher stopped me and showed me how to paint it black, then dry-brush it with copper. Gigantor 3D penny!


  48. You could always throw an 'h' in there... Lady Vadohr... or an i... Lady Vadoir...

  49. Love what you've done here! Since you weren't happy with the puffy paint, I'd like to point you in the direction of another product: beads in a bottle. tulip makes it and you will find it with the tshirt paint @ your favorite craft store starting with J. Dimensional paint that is self rounding. Love your faux techniques! I think you'd benefit from a cricut too for all of your projects. but that's another post.

  50. This is amazing! The level of detail in every little bit is what really makes it so wonderful.

    I like "Lady V'dor" personally.

  51. When I grow up I want to be just as cool as you. I love looking through your site because it inspires me to try things I never thought I would be good at. You are amazing. I know I don't comment much but I thought you would like to know.

  52. ah! one more thing... I keep going back to look...

    the funky trim stuff is called Fingerstock. ;)

  53. I have been a fan of your blog for quite some time, but this, this tops everything.
    So, I'm sharing this on my facebook and I'm featuring this on my Steampunk blog anniversary item tomorrow and, yes, grabbing anyone I know who might be interested COME AND SEE THIS!

    I don't usually do caps. This time they are entirely warranted.

  54. Wow, FABULOUS!! The craft queen strikes again! Very anxious to see the whole costume. I was hoping for the last shot to be you just wearing the mask so we could see how it looks on, but I guess we'll just have to wait with bated breath for the final reveal.

    Btw, I vote for Lady Vadore.

  55. Well, ditto ditto all the previous comments on your patience, caftiness, and steampunk style! Also, I have a name suggestion: Lady Va Dore or maybe Lady Va Dorr. Kinda Dutchy, and I think intuitive to pronounce they way you want.
    Also, thought you might like to know your blog has increased my appreciation of Steampunk.
    Cheers! d'har

  56. You should be Lady Ellie Vador! (elevator?! Get it!)

  57. Awesome project, but I have to confess I thought at first that was a stuffed cat in the box (stuffed animal plushie that is, not taxidermied) and I thought, "how is she doing something steampunk with a darth vader helmet and a stuffed cat?" But then I realized it was a real cat. XD

  58. First off, incredibly awesome project. I can't wait to see the rest as it gets finished. As to the name, I would suggest Mal'ary'ush - Lady Vader in reference to Leia during the Timothy Zahn Star Wars books Heir to the Empire. :)

  59. Wow, I'm blown away at just the bottom HALF of the mask... cannot wait to see the whole costume. It's already way more kick-ass than any Lady Vader I could have ever imagined. You're going to be the star wherever you debut this!

    I'm not craft-inclined but just enjoy seeing all the amazing things you make. Perhaps I'll try something out based on your techniques one day, but thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your creativity with everyone. I've been following Cake Wrecks for a long time and Epbot since its beginning. Thank you for keeping me laughing and entertained for so long, both you and John. All the best to you!

  60. Freaking. Awesome. I love how well designed Vader's mask is in general. Whoever came up with that look really nailed it.

    You could spell your name Lady Va Dore, kunda like Cruella De Vil. Or Lady V'Dore. And V'Dor is nice too.

  61. nooooooo waaaaaay!!!
    I clicked as to what you were doing half way through the pictures and i was like "OOOOOOOOHHH!"
    awesome hun, really good!

  62. LOVE IT!! Lady Vadore for the WIN!!!!

  63. See Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, page 320. Lady Vader is the name the Noghri have for Leia. It's "Mal'ary'ush" in the Noghri language, although I have no idea how to proncounce that. :)

  64. My Make-r hubby says add resistors if you want your LEDs to be less bright. But you have to solder them -- perfect reason to practice! Or try dropping down to two batteries. Looks great!
    -e in ca

  65. Sorry, I got distract BY LILY THE LOVELY...nice modification of the helmet. Can we have more Lily pictures?


    That is SO awesome!!

    (re: the name. I'd say it as if it was Italian, where the trailing e is pronounced, "Vah-door-ay")

  67. 100% awesome! I want to try dry brushing some nickel or copper onto our black frames - hopefully I can get a good finish as well!

  68. *bowing* I'm not worthy!

    You are amazing. I cannot wait to see the rest.

    I vote Lady Vadore.


  69. Oh holy wow, that looks amazing! Can't wait to see the rest! Vah-dore is definitely perfect. :)

  70. The mask looks so awesome, I can't wait to see how the rest looks!

    Also, don't you just love how cats like to insert themselves into whatever you're doing?

  71. Are you going to wear it at Celebration? It looks great! Can't wait to see the finished product.

    Oh and I loved the Skycraft mention. :) My dad took me once or twice as a kid. He's great with electronics, while I am definitely not! But I never thought to raid it for craft/costuming projects.

  72. Featured you here

    I'd love to be able to post links on my Steampunk blog as this project develops, if that's ok?

  73. @ Rhissanna - Of course! And thanks!

  74. Hey Jen, I can't wait to see the finished steampunkyness! I was stumbling on the web and came across a collection on LoveIt that I thought you might like. His name is Brett Gilbert and I love most of the stuff in his collection, steampunk R2D2 and C3PO, need I say more. Plus he has links to the originators for everything. Here's the link I hope it works. Enjoy!

  75. This is just so freaking cool. I have no other words. Speechless.

  76. As always, your crafty ways blow my mind. ~Lori

  77. Hi (grrr) accidently deleted my really nice, complimentary, comment.
    But to concise it down - do you have a good source you're willing to share for gears? The ones I've found on ebay are just too costly. Thank you very much!

  78. @ Cynthia - I don't have any great sources to recommend for gears, no. The ones I used on this costume are a thin metal foil cut with a die, and they were a gift from my friend & reader Sharyn. (She has the machine for them - is it a Cricut? Something like that, anyway.) The Tim Holtz gears aren't bad (you can find them at JoAnns), but they're so common you see them everywhere now. And most of the watch gears you can buy in bulk on ebay are so tiny there's not much you can do with them.

    I did see a new brand of jewelry-sized gears at Michael's last week, which were refreshingly different, so you might try there!

  79. Just awesome, the rustic finish is outstanding.

  80. For future note, you could have rewired that led strip. I'm guessing it either has a set resistor for every three leds, or runs directly off a 9v battery or something.

    In either case, simply remove the outer two leds, and change the outer two resistors. Anyone here will be able to help get you the right information. It's tres easy.

  81. I am floored...I stumbled across this looking for a few finishing ideas...I have been making a variation of same thing, altho not near as crazy awesome.
    :D he hee. Your mask is incredible...

  82. That is so great. An 18th century Darth Vader. I think there's a film there somewhere. Can't be any worse than the later Star Wars Films!
    Anna@Boha Glass

  83. How much would you charge to replicate this exact same mask for me!!?! I love it!!

    1. Aw, I'm flattered, but this is just a personal project; I don't take any commissions. Glad you like it, though!


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