Sunday, August 30, 2015

Year of the Dragon

I had so much fun making the Hawkman helmet in 2011 that I wanted to make something bigger the next year. My concept was the Chinese zodiac Year of the Dragon.

Body Construction 
I started with some foam-wrapped heavy-duty wire and decently thick craft wire and made the skeleton. To add thickness, I surrounded the wire with soda cans stuffed with paper and added a foam ball as a placeholder for the head.

Testing for size and wearability:

It wasn't as thick as I wanted it to be, so I added packing peanuts and sheets of packing foam. This is where I should have worked out how to attach it to myself, but I didn't until later and it was a bit more difficult than it should have been. Note to self.

Legs are made from cardboard boxes, paper, and duct tape. More on those later. The tail flourish was drawn paper, cut out of a yellow plastic binder, and glued to a shape that became the end of the tail.

With the basic structure in place, I started adding scales from the tail so the layering would look right.

Fun fact: fake fingernails look a lot like scales when overlapped and glued.

Fake fingernails weren't practical for the entire body, so I used tape. I folded a length of duct tape over on itself, placed that along one edge of some wide blue electrical tape, traced a rounded edge to make a scalloped pattern, and cut it out.

My template was a dime at the tail, and scaled up through larger coins as the body became thicker. Vinyl (electrical) tape was great because it's very forgiving. If I put it down wrong once or twice or six times, it was easy to peel up and re-stick.

Fold tape, trace coins, cut scalloped edge, attach to body, repeat for hours and hours.

Back Legs
The basic shape is there from taking a cardboard box, flattening it into a large single sheet of cardboard, rolling it into a tapered tube, and slicing where the joints should be. Then I stuffed the open areas with crumpled paper and duct taped it into place.

The toes are taped at the ankle and held apart by a small foam spacer.

I smoothed out the shape of the knee with cardboard strips and wrapped it all in duct tape, jammed some wire for a center toe into the foam spacer, then wrapped everything in packing foam and tape until I was satisfied with the shape and size.

The claws are triangles of cardboard covered in black duct tape, the knee joints are paper triangles  covered in tape and attached at the inside of each joint. This was a lot easier than trying to get the right number of coin-sized scales to go around a bend that sharp.

Shortly after this picture, I ended up wrapping some tape-covered wire around the top of both back legs and under the belly to keep them from rotating around at an awkward angle while I was wearing it.

Harness System
Another wearing test.

The belt is a regular belt, just looped around the wire keeping the back legs in place, buckled at my natural waist. The shoulder strap is something I found for holding school books or something. It's perfect - an adjustable loop at one end and a velcro strap meant to stick to itself at the other. This enabled me to wrap it around the dragon's torso behind me, sling over my shoulder, tuck under the belt, and velcro to itself to stay in place. It almost looks like I'm wearing a seatbelt.

Not that you can tell from this photo, but take my word for it.

Front Legs
The front legs followed the same process as the back legs.

I started with the mouth. I started with a folded cardboard shape and taped on some rolled-up foam sheet pieces, creating the basic nose shape with cardboard strips. Then I realized the cardboard had the right idea but needed more flexibility, so I cut the bottom half out, replaced it wire, and taped the whole shape to the foam head placeholder. The bottom jaw outline was wire wrapped in foam sheets attached directly to the placeholder head, now functioning as a skull.

Tape time! Red vinyl tape inside the mouth, blue outside. The teeth are doubled-over white duct tape, cut in a sawtooth pattern. 

The brow ridge basic shape is half a foam egg and wire, wrapped in a foam sheet strip, to make a comma shape. Then covered in yellow tape-covered-paper triangles and taped to the head. A foam egg cut in half became the eyes.

Antlers, jaw frills, and whiskers.

Spine Scales
This is the same basic process as the eyebrows and joints, with different triangle dimensions. Triangles traced on paper, covered in tape, cut into individual shapes, folded lengthwise and taped together, then taped to the body where the spine would be.

When I put it on, I realized the head had a tendency to droop over time, so I taped a bottle cap under the chin and wrapped a drumstick in black tape.

You Might Be Wondering...

What were the materials? I'm going to estimate 12 rolls of duct and vinyl tape, two packages of foam sheets, 4 rolls of 3-5mm craft wire, 3 pieces of large foam-covered wire, a package of styrofoam eggs, a styrofoam sphere, fake fingernails, lots of hot glue sticks, a belt, and a velcro strap over the shoulder.

How much did the materials cost?
I got nearly everything but the foam eggs at the ¥100 store, and I already had the belt. I think I spent about ¥2800, or $35 USD.

How much does it weigh?
About 5.5 lbs, or 2.5 kg.

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