3D Printable Ninja Gaiden Dragon Helm

… also, build blog. And apparently, it’s called a Hachigane

tl;dr: The printable model is at the end of the post.


Photo by GeneralGau's Kitchen

Photo by GeneralGau’s Kitchen. Yes, this is a photo, not a render.


A bit over a year ago, I decided to make a cosplay of Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden fame. This was prompted by friends doing a Dead or Alive 5 group. As a result, this is the NG3/DOA5 version of the character, even though I liked NG1 and 2 much better than 3, and I’m not a huge fan of fighting games. (And also I didn’t finish the costume in time for the group. >_>) Still, I love the costume and character and how the whole thing came together.

Note: NG1 and NG2 have different helm designs than this, so caveat emptor.

The dragon helm was the biggest sticking point for the costume. I had a general idea how to make everything else, but not that.


The standard approach for this kind of prop is a combination of sculpting and casting. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like my sculpting abilities were up to the task of making a symmetrical, detailed helm. Moreover, I’ve never cast anything bigger than a gem.

So, I started thinking about 3d printing. I had no experience with that, either, but I’d worked on a little bit of 3d code in the past (this 3d viewer has an easter egg that includes my initials) so I figured, how hard could it be?

Source Material

Everything hinged on getting my hands on an in-game model. I had zero actual modeling skills, so recreating a helm from scratch would’ve taken forever and not been very good. Fortunately, I tracked down what seems to be an official in-game model of Ryu by someone named “Sidney”. I don’t have a good official source for it (malware everywhere, sigh), so I’ve included a copy along with the printable model (below).

Screenshot 2014-06-01 04.13.41'

This also contained a texture map that would have helped with painting, had I noticed it at the time. For you, future helm builder:


Extracting just the helm from this model wasn’t difficult; all the hard parts came after.

Making a solid object out of a 3d model

3d printers like to print simple, solid objects. That means a volume of space enclosed by a single layer of triangular mesh, with all the normals facing “out”. (The normal indicates which side of a triangle is the visible, “outer” side, and which side is the invisible “inner” side.)

Video games rendering engines don’t care about any of that. They’ll render any set of triangles you care to slap together. When I first extracted the helm model, this is what it looked like:

Screenshot 2014-06-01 04.19.19'

The red here marks triangles that are facing away from the camera. In addition to that, you can see that there are a lot of triangles jutting out of the model, and overlapping, as so:

Closeup showing artifacts jutting out of the model everywhere.

Closeup showing artifacts jutting out of the model everywhere.

I didn’t at that time have any experience with Maya (or any 3d authoring tools), so it took me a while to figure out what was going on here. As far as I can tell, there were actually two layers of triangles at every point of the model – one layer facing out, and another facing in. The two layers sometimes used the same vertices and sometimes different ones. Inside the game engine, only the layer facing the camera would be rendered, so the overlap was essentially invisible. But if the camera happened to clip inside the volume of the helm, it would see metal all around, instead of blackness. To a 3d printer, this was gibberish.

I tried a few automated approaches to cleaning up the model, without success. Finally, I cut the model in half (to reduce the scope of the task), and then manually went through and deleted all the overlapping faces, and every other face that caused problems. After many hours of this (like I said, no experience), I ended up with this:


This was much more tolerable. I then filled in the gaps with new triangles, and checked the model for errors. After a few iterations, I ended up with a nice, clean 3d model:


The off-color patches are where I had to repair the model’s holes, and lost the textures on the triangles (or something).

I uploaded this to Shapeways, which I had determined was the cheapest method for getting a print. This is a website that will print a model for you, and then ship you the result. They have some competitors, chief among them Ponoko, which has more choice, but is pricier for this kind of basic plastic print.

Shapeways quoted me a price of $1000 and change.

This was somewhat higher than I had budgeted for.

Hollowing out the model

Prices on websites like Shapeways are per unit volume of material used, and the plastic is quite strong, so the right approach is to print out hollowed-out models, instead of solid pieces. That way, you’re only paying for a thin shell, your props are lighter, and your costs are proportional to surface area, not volume.

Unfortunately, it’s quite difficult to hollow out something this complex. There are tutorials on the Shapeways site, but they’re hilariously inadequate for anything complex. They all boil down to creating a smaller model along the negative of the normal from your triangles, but this really only works for convex models with right angles or greater, and completely wrecks models with pointy edges and inward corners like the dragon helm.

After bashing my head against Maya for a week, I came across this awesome tutorial for hollowing models:

Amazing tutorial for hollowing models using Meshlab, an open source 3d editor.

It took a bit of experimentation to get this to work on my model (mostly struggling with triangle counts and file formats), but I managed to create a hollow version of my model.

If you look closely, you can see there are two layers, one slightly inside the other.

If you look closely, you can see there are two layers, one slightly inside the other.

After that, the only problem was that Shapeways requires your model to have only one ‘outer’ surface – they can’t print something with a completely enclosed space. This is because their printing process puts down layers of powder, and then melts the points that are part of the model into a solid. This means that at the end, they need to reclaim the excess powder somehow, which means that any internal hollow must have holes leading out to the surface.

It took another couple of days in Maya to create suitable holes in the back of my model (seriously, I’m a modeling newb):

The shaded triangle and quadrilateral are cutouts between the inside and outside of the hollow model.

The shaded triangle and quadrilateral are cutouts between the inside and outside of the hollow model.

The price was now $250. I agonized over this for a couple of weeks, and finally gave in and ordered it.

Version 1

Version 1 arrived within a couple of weeks. This is what it looks like:





Okay, so first off, it’s amazing. It really does look like the item in the game, and holding it in your hand is all sorts of crazy.

However, there are two major problems:

1) The facets on the curved surfaces. This is smoothed out by the game engine with interpolated normals, but of course there’s no such thing in real life, so it shows up fairly obviously.

2) It’s about an inch too big in every dimension, and while I could make that work, it didn’t make me happy, and happiness is important, right?


I decided to model a second version and then consider how much money I had left.

I started back with the un-hollowed-out piece. I first smoothed out all the surfaces (fortunately Maya has built-in utilities for that).

So smooooth

So smooooth

I reduced its size by about 15% in every dimension, and when I hollowed it out, I made the walls about 30% thinner (the plastic is ridiculously strong). I also made the opening in the back much bigger:

Giant rear hole

Giant rear hole

The result was a reduction in price to $120 (remember, it’s charged by volume of material). Chalk up the first $250 to very expensive experience. I ordered it pretty much immediately, and this is what came:

Modeled here by Samurai Kiss

Modeled here by Samurai Kiss

I’m super happy with it. The only thing I’d change is to make it a tiny bit wider, since it’s rather tight against my head. However, that helps keep in in place, and it comes out just fine in photos.


I wish I’d known about that texture file. I ended up looking at photos of the costume online, and winging a lot of the painting.

Base coat (primer + silver spray paint).

Base coat (primer + silver spray paint).

Painted design (hand-painted acrylic).

Painted design (hand-painted acrylic).

Final weathered version (weathering with acrylic paints).

Final weathered version (weathering with acrylic paints).

The Model

I guess why not, right? Here’s the model file, which you can upload to Shapeways, or use your home 3d printer to print.

Use something like Meshlab to scale it to your head, one size does not fit all.

PLEEEEASE credit me. You can link here or even better to my Facebook page. This model represents 40-50 hours of painstaking work, not to mention money spent. I’d also love to see photos of you cosplaying in this.

Enjoy, and good luck with your costume (or prop or display piece).

Download The Model Here

A few photos of my final Hayabusa cosplay

Photo by Otaku Cop with C & C Cosplay Factory as Kasumi.

Photo by Otaku Cop with C & C Cosplay Factory as Kasumi.

Everything is wrong with the plot of Star Trek: Into Darkness

Before I talk about Fanime, I need to vent about Star Trek: Into Darkness. spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers


I’m not convinced any writers were solicited for this movie. The plot isn’t just terrible, it’s irredeemable.

  • Enterprise hiding from hunter-gatherer aliens underwater instead of in orbit. [contributed by George Henry]
  • Volcano threatens entire species instead of just the population of one island
  • Secret dangerous weapons facility is under a major city, instead of middle of nowhere.
  • Pike sets up Kirk to become captain of the Enterprise in a head-shakingly transparent bit of “plot”. Also, guarantees his own death. Is it that hard to think of a different plot device than the first movie?
  • Starfleet protocol in reaction to terrorist attack is to gather everyone important in one undefended room
  • Khan has a ring that can blow up city blocks, but can’t do better than an underpowered rocket helicopter to attack starfleet high command
  • Khan has a transporter that can take him to Kronos, but can’t just transport into starfleet building and kill everyone hand-to-hand (as surely his desire for vengeance demands).
  • Zero defenses around starfleet high command
  • Future rocket helicopter machine gun is weaker than modern helicopter machine gun
  • Superhuman Khan fires into room full of people, only kills one person we know anything about
  • Future medical facilities can’t save a man who’s merely been shot
  • No one bothers transporting the victims out of the fire zone
  • Khan transports to Kronos for no reason other than to serve the plot
  • There’s an uninhabited area of Kronos that everyone apparently knows is a good hideout except for Klingons
  • No one seems to think Khan is setting them up to have the special torpedoes used on him, even though he designed them
  • There are exactly enough special torpedoes to fit Khan’s comrades, or exactly those torpedoes are given to the Enterprise, which also has exactly that number of torpedo tubes, and loads only those torpedoes and none other. If admiral Marcus thinks the torpedoes are real, surely 1-2 are enough to start a war and he should hold the rest in reserve. If he knows their contents, then what exactly is his plan?
  • Spock hides identity of Carol from Kirk, entirely out of character, especially given how suspicious she’s acting, and how she’s possibly an enemy agent.
  • Apparent sabotage of warp drive doesn’t arise suspicions, nor makes Spock mention Carol as a possible enemy agent
  • There are no defenses or sensors around Kronos
  • Patrol of Klingons finds and intercepts tiny shuttle in five minutes, even though no one finds and intercepts the Enterprise in ?days?
  • Several warbirds and dozens of well-trained (check out the rappelling!) Klingons fight Khan. Not one of them bothers to actually fire in his direction
  • Kirk is able to chat with Scotty in real time on a cell phone in a bar, but has to send a message to Starfleet and wait for a response that doesn’t come.
  • ‘Planetoid’ conveniently suitable to human life
  • Transporter can’t distinguish between missile and McCoy. Also, Carol doesn’t chop off McCoy’s hand to save him
  • Super secret construction base near Jupiter has no security against detection, espionage or intrusion
  • Kronos is apparently 5 minutes from Earth at warp speed
  • Admiral Marcus intercepts Enterprise at warp speed, but only when they’re within sight of Earth, presumably 99.9% of the way home.
  • Two Starfleet spaceships battle in Earth orbit (apparently – since the Enterprise falls into Earth soon after). Starfleet doesn’t react in any way. [contributed by George Henry]
  • Kirk broadcasts Marcus’s message to the crew, but doesn’t relay it to Starfleet
  • Giant debris field between Enterprise and Marcus’s ship is completely unrealistic in the context of physics (though, I suppose acceptable in Star Trek physics).
  • McCoy stands within physical striking distance of the superhuman who is surely resistant to stun
  • Khan doesn’t figure out Spock’s trick
  • Khan is basically defeated in one go
  • Gravity goes wonky in the Enterprise for no reason other than to set up shots of wonky gravity
  • Enterprise is falling to Earth in a poor attempt to build dramatic tension. Saved predictably with technobabble. That’s normal for a Star Trek episode, but weak for a movie.
  • Okay, I get it, enough with the role reversal already. It’s not nearly as cute or meaningful as you think.
  • Kirk is obviously going to be saved by superman blood, making his sacrifice emotionally meaningless
  • There are no defenses around Earth against incoming hostile vessels, either at long range or when ships are about to crash into cities
  • Read that again: Neither Kronos nor Earth have any defenses, even though they are only 5 minutes away from one another at warp!
  • Khan knows his crew is alive, but instead of trying to save them, decides to kill himself in a possibly-suicidal run on Starfleet. Shouldn’t he at least be trying to get vengeance against Spock?
  • Spock goes alone against Khan instead of 1) taking a large number of people 2) transporting them in a dragnet around Khan 3) alerting local law enforcement
  • Spock doesn’t bother shooting Khan with stun when he has a clear shot (Khan may be resistant, but it obviously slows him down)
  • The blood of the other 72 supermen is apparently just not good enough to save Kirk
  • Khan apparently needs to be alive for a vial of blood to be drawn from him

That’s all that comes immediately to mind. Feel free to contribute your own points of anguish. It’s especially upsetting when the first movie was quite good.

Note that these are just the problems with the plot. The movie also had serious issues with lack of conflict, tension, and not establishing a decent antagonist (despite having Khan!).

Or perhaps the reboot has reversed the odd/even quality polarity.


PS: thanks to L, A and E who watched the movie with me and joined in on the kvetching about it afterward.

Duct Tape Dress Form

Build blog for making a custom dress form out of duct tape, with a PVC stand.

df3 df2


A decent dress form runs $100, and won’t match your body that well. I decided to make my own in the well-established duct tape fashion. My approach is a combination gleaned from various sites/tutorials. I optimized it for a tight fit.

Huge thanks to Samurai Kiss and Kevin for wrapping me.

Making the Form


  • Duct Tape (two large rolls)
  • Two friends (one will do in a pinch) willing to work for ~2 hours
  • A t-shirt to sacrifice
  • Cling wrap (highly advised for extending to neck and hips)
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors (heavy duty)

Supplies for stuffing and making a stand are listed in their own section below.


Wear form-fitting pants and your sacrificial t-shirt. It’s preferable that the shirt not be lose, but it need not be skin-tight.

If you want the form to extend beyond the shirt, use cling wrap. You can hold it up with little pieces of tape.


You’ll be making 3 layers of tape – horizontal, vertical, horizontal. This is going to take a while, so hold still, and try to stick to a single posture. However you tend to stand in cosplay is probably best.


Work in ~2 foot strips. Pick a starting point (we started at the bottom, women will probably want to start just below the breasts).

To place a piece, stick one end to the body. Then hold that in place with one hand, and pull the rest tight and lay it against the body with your other hand. Let the tape conform to the curves of the body, even if that makes it divert up or down. Don’t bend the tape.

Make one complete circle wherever you start. Make sure it’s well-fitted, and then start extending outward in a series of bands, or a spiral.

You want to overlap each circuit by about half an inch, and always make complete circles around the body, otherwise you won’t get a tight fit. If there are gaps due to the way the tape follows your body, that’s fine. Fill them in with smaller pieces of tape.


If you mess up at any point, back up and redo – don’t be afraid to throw out some progress. In the photo above, the square on my chest got thrown out after we got the hang of the spiral method.

Continue until you’re wrapped from the hips to the armpits. Get up under the arms, but try not to move your arms too much, since it’ll change the fit.

Side Note: Boobs

You may have noticed that I don’t have any. Breasts are a problem for two main reasons: it’s difficult to form-fit them, and also their shape will vary from costume to costume depending on the type of bra/support you wear.

I did some googling, and the best approach I’ve seen is to make the dress form without them (i.e. make the dress form, cut out the chest region, fill it in flat), and then add stuffed bras when you’re working to match your current needs. If I ever make a form for Sundari-Chan or Samurai Kiss, we’ll experiment.


At this point, you should have something that looks like a strapless dress. Now add straps. Put lines of tape from the front to the back. Make sure they’re well-fitted. Once you have a pair of straps, expand them sideways, continuing to overlap.


If you’re doing the tops of arms, you’ll want to do that next. Take pieces of tape and wrap them around the bicep, as far out as you plan to extend the arms. Make it fit well, but not too tight. (Keep in mind you’ll have this on for another hour or so. I had circulation issues.) Proceed upward with loops of tape till you get to the armpits. Don’t move your arms any more than necessary to get tape under them.

Now, connect the arm sections to the shoulder sections. Use small pieces of tape here, and be careful to follow the contours of the body. This is tricky, so take your time, and don’t worry if you have to back up and redo sections. You want to make a solid connection all around the joint, but without merging the arm and body.



If you extend to the neck, make sure you have clingwrap around it (or are using a turtleneck), and use small pieces of tape. The easiest approach here is to build up from the main body.


Your first layer should look something like this. Note there we have some folds – try your best to avoid them, but don’t worry too much about it when they happen. You can smooth it out with subsequent layers.

Layers 2 and 3

The second layer is vertical. Use smaller pieces of tape – about 1 foot, and cover the previous layer. Focus on avoiding wrinkles and getting a tight fit. You still need to overlap the pieces by about half an inch.

Click for bonus Dante appearance.

Click for bonus Dante appearance.

You’ll probably be aching at this point. Your helpers will be tired, too. The end is near.

The third and final layer is horizontal. Do everything you did in the first step, but do your best to make everything nice and smooth.


Final Touches

Go over the whole thing and add tape if needed to flatten protrusions and fix mistakes.

Take a belt/ruler/measuring tape, and draw a horizontal line around the waist, and vertical lines down the center of the front and back. These will help with cutting and alignment.



With a sharp, heavy-duty pair of scissors, cut open the back of the form along the vertical line. Be very careful here – you want to cut the duct tape and the shirt, but as little of anything else as you can.


If you made arms, you will also need to cut the arm sections to be able to extricate yourself. Cut them open along the back from the armholes about to the shoulder blades, like so:

Where to cut

Where to cut

Now, very carefully, remove the the duct tape, more or less how you would remove a heavy apron.


Put it down, and put some tape along the back to close the seam. Don’t overdo it – you’ll be taping everything more carefully during the stuffing process.

You may want to stuff something into the chest cavity to keep it from collapsing while you work on stuffing.

Stuffing and Mounting the Form


  • Duct Tape
  • Stuffing (two 32oz bags)
  • Grean cushion foam
  • Scrap pieces of insulation foam, wood or plastic
  • 2x Clothes hangers
  • 1″ PVC pipe (~15 feet)
  • PVC Joints: 2x elbow, 2x T
  • PVC mounting: 2x male screw adapters, 2 metal flanges
  • Mounting board – plywood, 15″x15″, screws
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Saw


To bear the brunt of the load, I used a pair of coat hangers separated by an inch, with cushion foam on top to distribute weight. I used pink insulation foam for spacers, but any hard scraps of wood or plastic would do.


I made this so I could insert it from the bottom of the form without opening it, and then insert the PVC frame into the gap between the hangers. It would also have been fine to put the hangers and the PVC frame together first, and open up he back to insert those.


PVC Frame

The PVC frame is two basic pieces – the main piece that is mostly inside the form, and the legs.


The main piece is two longer vertical pieces and two short horizontal pieces (you’ll have to measure for your size), with elbow joints at the top and T-joints at the bottom.

The bottom pieces are a pair of pipes, cut extra-long so the result will be taller than me. This way, I could adjust the height to match me later.

At the bottom of the pipes are a pair of male screw connectors, and metal flanges. All this stuff is from the plumbing section of Home Depot, and you can mix and match to suit your needs.

Inserting the Skeleton


I started the stuffing process by inserting the hanger, then the PVC backbone. I also put a piece of insulation foam to try to keep the chest rigid. This actually turned out to be unnecessary. In fact, keeping the form spread side-to-side was more difficult, and I may have to revisit it. (The form is skinnier than me sideways, which means it’s fatter than me front-to-back. It’s not a big difference, but not ideal.)




Once the skeleton was in, I began stuffing. This was, for me, the most challenging part of the process. (Bear in mind I wasn’t doing the wrapping.) Take your time, and focus on keeping everything even, including the vertical alignment of the skeleton. I put stuffing down the neck, then switched to stuffing from the bottom. Once the chest cavity was filled, I also stuffed from the arm holes.


When stuffing, it helps to press gently around the outside of the form to feel for cavities (and then try to fill them).



As you stuff, use small pieces of tape to align and close all the cuts. The cuts should be perpendicular to the last layer of tape, so use tape lines to guide alignment.

Closeup of back showing detail of tape on seams

Closeup of back showing detail of tape on seams


I capped off the arms and bottom with green cushion foam. This was cut out by laying the foam against the holes, and sketching the border with a marker. I didn’t attach the caps too strongly so I can revisit the stuffing.


When capping the bottom, make X-shaped incisions to get the skeleton PVC through the foam.

ds11 ds12

You could wrap tape directly to create caps, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as it’s likely to deform the form.

I didn’t bother capping the neck.


Once that was done, I worked on a base. This is just a circle of plywood, cut out to about 15″ diameter. I attached the flanges to it with screws, then the male screw PVC adapters to that, then slipped the legs into that.


Height Adjustment

At this point, I measured myself next to the form, and figured out how much height to take off. I compared the heights of the inflection point of the shoulder, which worked well.


Finished Product

And that’s it. Here are some more photos, showing various details.

The legs are removable, so it can be used as a hanging form.

The legs are removable, so it can be used as a hanging form.

Back view. My posture clearly needs work.

Back view. My posture clearly needs work.

Side view closeup.

Side view closeup.

You can see that it’s not a perfect match for me. The main problem is that the stuffing makes it more circular than I am. This means it’s narrower than I am from hip to hip, but wider than I am from stomach to spine. This shouldn’t affect fit too much (the circumference is still correct), but I may revisit it to add structural supports later).

  • Wall-clock time: 4 days.
  • Work-time: 2 hours wrapping, 3 hours taxidermy
  • Beers consumed: ~2 (working on stuffing)

Oversized Workbench

I was badly in need of a workbench, and my brother owed me help.

We got wood and miscellaneous supplies: ~$100 at Lowe’s.

Ten 2x4x8s, with two 4x4x8s for the legs and a 3/8 4×8 semi-finished plywood for the top.

Also, 2.5″ screws (for connecting 2x4s), 1.25″ screws (for attaching brackets and plywood), and some metal brackets (for attaching the legs).

The desired size of the table is 7.5×2.5′. Some of the design was sketched out on paper, some we worked out as we went along. We got the plywood cut at Lowe’s, and I have a jigsaw for the 2x4s, but the 4x4s had to be done with a hand saw. (Four of those cuts take about half an hour.)

Pile-of-wood stage. My brother in the center with the jigsaw, cutting out one of the long sides of the frame. On the ground next to his feet are the long sides of the lattice (note the notches cut out for the short sides of the frame). Standing next to that are two of the legs.

Plywood top (upside down) with part of the frame. The frame is a set of 2x4s around the perimeter underside of the top. The only thing attached here is the short-edge pieces (with small L-brackets), just so the top stays attached for the duration of the construction. In the end, the plywood will be glued to the frame.

Completed frame, plus a pair of 2x4s on their edges which will form the long sides of the lattice. (The same pieces in the shot with my brother, above.)

The lattice will rest directly on the 4×4 legs. Nothing in this shot is attached except the short-edge frame pieces.

Added cross-sections to the lattice and put it together.

All the structural connections are done with 2.5″ coarse drywall screws. We drilled 3/8″ holes through the outer piece of wood and 3/16″ holes through the inner piece, so that the screw cinches the two tight.

Lattice in place, and attached to the long sides of the frame via 2.5″ screws (7 each) from the inside of the lattice through the frame.

Legs cut out. Also, added some remnant scraps to the lattice where the legs will go to increase the surface area of the connection. Also, attached the ends of the long sides of the lattice to the short ends of the frame.

I have no power tool that’ll cut 4x4s, so was forced to hand-saw the legs. Worse, I wasn’t sure of the ideal height, so guessed on the long side, expecting the possibility of having to subsequently cut them shorter.

Legs attached with metal brackets. This is the weakest part of the construction, but should be fine since all the force is exerted down through the legs, not against the brackets.

This is the best shot to clarify the construction. There are four basic parts to it:

  • The legs are just straight-cut 4x4s – originally at 36″; later cut down to 30″.
  • The lattice rests directly on top of the legs. The lattice is strongly connected internally, but connected to the legs just with some brackets to keep it from shifting side-to-side. The lattice is made up of 2x4s on their edges.
  • The table top rests directly on top of the lattice. This means that the table overall is 30″ (legs) + 3.5″ (2x4s) + 3/8 (plywood) = ~34″ high.
  • The frame reinforces the plywood. It’s composed of 2x4s around its perimeter on the underside. The short edges of the frame rest on the lattice (there are notches cut out for them). The long edges of the frame are attached with long screws to the long edges of the lattice.
  • It’s worth noting that the main goals of the construction is to make the table strong without any screws where they would interfere with working (e.g. there are no screws going through the top surface).

    Nowhere near done, but turned it right side up to answer:
    1) Is it movable by one person? (Yes, with some effort)
    2) Is it the right height? (No, as expected. Experimented putting some tools on the surface, and decided that it needed to be 6″ shorter.)
    3) Is there a need for another set of legs (or one more leg) at the center? (No. The lattice is really quite stable.)

    Back to construction – rear cross brace.

    Side cross braces.

    Bottom shelf. This is using the remnant of the 4×8′ plywood sheet, I just had to cut it down on the sides to fit between the legs.

    Shelf mostly attached. This might seem upside down, but that’s deliberate. The shelf hangs off the back and side 2x4s so that they serve as edges for the shelf. That way, I won’t have things constantly falling off the back of the shelf.

    The plywood is attached via a large number of 1.25″ screws. In this case, I didn’t bother drilling holes for them, so it was easy to put in a lot. (~20)

    Front 2×4 brace. In hindsight, I should’ve made it the full length of the workbench, like the rear 2×4, but this should be sufficient. I’ll go back and fix it up if the shelf starts sagging.

    I considered adding diagonal cross-braces at this point, but the table is very steady as is.

    Shortening the legs (1 of 4 done).

    Knot right in the middle of one of the cuts. Good times.

    Legs even, bench right-side up and basically done. It’s quite stable, and rather heavy.

    All that’s left is gluing the top to the frame and sanding the edges to prevent splinters.

    I don’t have enough clamps to do the whole thing in one go, so I removed one side of the L-brackets at a time (remember, they’re the only thing holding the top to the frame) to lift the top to get in some glue and clamp.

    Gluing the sides and back. Since this has to include the side edges, was forced to improvise heavy items. Would have gotten more clamps, but it was July 4th, and I don’t have the kind of patience it takes to wait a full day. Also, went over the rough edges with a rasp.

    Done and in place.

    Wall-clock time: 2 weeks.
    Work-time: ~15 man-hours.
    Beers consumed: ~6 (Beck’s Dark, Dos Equis, Sam Lager).

    Two nights of work with my brother (getting the materials, making out the plans, cutting the legs and the frame and the start of the lattice), about a full weekend day putting the rest together, and a couple of short sessions gluing/clamping at 24-hour intervals.

    (This post originally written here.)

    Sailor Pluto’s “Time Key” Staff Cosplay



    This is a cosplay build/reminiscence for the Garnet Rod, also known as the Time Key: the key-shaped staff wielded by Sailor Pluto. It was the first cosplay thing I’ve made, so it’s quite primitive. Nevertheless, I’m happy with how it turned out, and I think it looks very authentic to the anime. I didn’t take many photos of the progress, so I’ll reconstruct the build as best I can.


    My wife started cosplaying in 2004, and her first cosplay was to be of Sailor Pluto. I offered to make the staff for her. At the time, we lived in a small apartment without many tools, but some friends of ours did a lot of cosplay, so I abused their hospitality and used some of their equipment. I built the staff over the course of a couple of months, coming over to the friends’ place on some weekends, working in our apartment at other times.


    I printed an image of the staff full size, to my wife’s scale, on a bunch of sheets of paper taped together. I used an inconsistent scale – the height of the staff and its thickness are scaled to my wife’s height and width relative to the height and width of Sailor Pluto, respectively, rather than matching the same scale. I think this maintains a realistic approximation of the overall character design.



    The body of the staff is made of segments of 3/4″ and 1″ dowels, with 1/4″ steel rods to connect and strengthen. The balls are 1.5″ and 2″ diameter wooden balls I got at Michael’s, the key bits are 1/4″ plywood. The carved capital between the body and head is a piece of 4×4, and the curved head is a 1″ piece of oak (which was a pain to carve, believe me). The yellow spheres are marbles, and the red sphere is a christmas ornament.


    For tools, I used our friends’ dremel, power sander and hand saws. I also bought a vise and attached it to a ramshackle wooden platform so I could take it around with me. Aside from that, all I used was a hand power drill.

    The Build


    There are four dowels put together end-to-end, connected with the steel rods. The first step was to cut the dowels to length.

    There’s one main long dowel, and then three short ones at the end, alternating between 3/4″ and 1″ to match the staff’s design. I sanded the very lowest one to taper it.

    Dowel placement:

    Note that the dowels go through the 1.5″ balls. The next step was to drill out those balls, with 3/4″ holes. This was pretty tough, and I broke about half the balls I tried to drill. Fortunately, they came in a fairly large bag.

    Next, I drilled holes for the two steel rods. One went through the bottom set of dowels, the other through the top dowel, into the intermediate piece, and then up through the head of the key. The bottom rod goes through the bottom ball and juts out a little, so that when you rest the staff on the ground, it rests on metal.

    Steel placement:

    Drilling holes for the steel rods was the toughest task. I clamped the pieces in the vise, and took my time drilling and readjusting the alignment. For pieces that had to be drilled all the way through, I drilled separately from the two ends. Despite this, the holes weren’t perfectly aligned, but I tried to match angles when putting the thing together so the errors offset one another.

    Once this was done, I drilled out the last (2″) ball to fit the rod and a bit of the last dowel through it, and attached the four pieces of dowel together. If I recall correctly, I used epoxy.

    One more task for the body was to drill notches adjacent to each ball. To get a reasonably even pattern, I clamped the dremel in the vise, and then rotated the dowel against the blade.

    Key Jigs

    I cut the key jigs out of 1/4″ plywood, and attached them by dremeling out notches in the staff, then gluing the key bits with epoxy. This was pretty uneventful, aside from one moment when I drove a saw through my hand and used up all the earlier mentioned friends’ gauze. The epoxy has held admirably over the years. (And I had scars for a while, but can no longer find them.)

    One of the few photos I have of progress:

    Staff body at the bottom, printed out schematic at upper left, head of the staff left of top center.


    The carved part at the top of the staff was a pain. I made it out of a 4×4 piece of pine which I first sanded down to a tapered piece, then dremeled out to carve the grooved shape. It took forever, and the result isn’t terribly even, but it’s okay. I also drilled a hole all the way through this piece for the steel core.


    The head of the staff is a single piece of oak, hand-sawed, then sanded and dremeled to coerce it into the right shape. Quite tough work.

    Attaching the capital and head

    I attached the capital and head the same way as the bottom sections – steel rod through the center, glued together with epoxy.

    Another random progress shot: trimming the steel rod to match the size of the head piece.


    The red gem was easy — it’s just a christmas ornament painted on the inside. The technique was well known even at the time, and works nicely.

    The yellow gems were a pain. First, it’s not easy to find plain-colored marbles. I eventually got some translucent-beige ones you see in the above photo. Fitting and attaching the small 1/4″ one was no problem.

    However, attaching the 1/2″ large ones proved problematic. I tried a variety of glues (epoxy, superglue, etc.), but the marbles are heavy for their size, and the surface (even sanded down) doesn’t take glue well. They’d stick, but every time my wife would smack the staff against the ground (even lightly), the marbles would scatter everywhere. The third time this happened, I decided something tougher was needed.

    To attach the marbles better, I decided to drill holes in them and use heavy guage wire (nails with the heads snipped off) to connect them. This meant I needed opaque marbles. I tracked down some yellow ones, but could only find the 1/2″ size, not the 1/4″, so now they don’t match. :/ If anyone finds a 1/4″ matching yellow marble, do please let me know.

    Drilling was very tough. Even with a glass drill bit, I had trouble making headway, and a bunch of marbles cracked and split. Still, I was able to get it done.

    Nail placement:

    Gluing this together with epoxy worked out quite well, and none of the marbles have popped off since then.


    The final step was to paint. (Actually, it was a couple of steps earlier, but logically the last step.) I used a nice blue metallic acrylic paint from Michael’s. Nothing fancy, and when you look close, you can see wood grain. From a distance, however, it looks perfect.




    Dog Cosplay of Amaterasu from Okami



    Photo by ~morgoththeone.


    Build blog for the costume for the wolf goddess Amaterasu from Okami, built for and cosplayed by my Samoyed dog Dante. Originally posted at my more general blog.

    Before I proceed, a few notes for anyone who wants to cosplay their dog:

    • Only do this if the dog will enjoy it.

      • Photo by ~cheebang
      • Dante is exceptionally sociable. Many dogs are not, and may react adversely to being the center of attention. Some might get aggressive.
      • Dante doesn’t care about things being on him, perhaps because he’s bred to be a sled dog. Many dogs don’t like to be encumbered. You can desensitize a dog to wearing things, but don’t just shove a costume on a dog that’s freaked out by it.
      • Watch your dog’s body language in any unusual situation. Make sure they’re happy.
    • Keep the health of your dog in mind.

        Photo by ~octomobiki
      • Don’t leave a costume on for long. This can cause overheating and can tangle fur or cause it to become ingrown.
      • If it’s hot, provide water regularly, if it’s cold, don’t stay out for long, etc.
      • Don’t expose a dog to unusual stimuli for long. This will cause anxiety, even if it’s fun.
      • Don’t apply anything toxic to a dog. (We used food-coloring markers.)
    • Be careful and use common sense.
    • I do not recommend trying this with a cat.


    We have a Samoyed by the name of Dante. This is a breed that looks like small, fluffy, white wolf. We also occasionally cosplay. It was inevitable that we would come up with the idea of combining the two.

    While planning our Otakon 2011 trip at the start of June, my wife semi-jokingly suggested bringing Dante. To our surprise, our roommates at the con were ecstatic at the idea. Since this was better for him than leaving him in a boarding place for five days, it was decided.

    I then figured it would be a great time to do a costume for him. The Amaterasu costume was perfect. Not too complicated, not too heavy, and popular enough to be quite recognizeable.

    Overall plan

    I decided to do the wings, shield, flames, and paint. I did not do the clouds around the tail and paws. I couldn’t figure out a way to do either of those well without encumbring Dante’s movement or causing him discomfort. Given his general fluffiness, I thought that would be fine.

    To attach everything, I decided to make a harness, and then anchor the costume parts to that. This way, it would be easy to put things on and take them off.


    This is a balance between comfort and stability. I attached it to his neck, front legs, and stomach. The straps that attach to the legs hook to the main part with buckles, so they can be put on separately.

    I then made a little saddle, using fur left over from my wife’s in-progress Felicia costume. It turned out that of all our fur remnants, that one matched Dante ridiculously well, to the point where several people asked how we managed to ‘shave’ him that well for the wings. The saddle is made out of fur just so if people catch glimpses of it, they can’t really tell it’s separate from him.

    The main purpose of the saddle is to cushion his back so the shield and flames don’t rest directly on his spine, so it’s two pieces on either side of the center.


    I first cut the wings out of foamie to get the shape right. I then took comparatively thick wire and bent it to follow the shape, and stapled it to the foamie (medieval, I know). This formed the base of the wings.

    I then took the aforementioned Felicia fabric and cut out a pair of pieces for each wing, larger than the foamie cutout. I stitched them together halfway, inserted the foamie, then hand-sewed them shut the rest of the way. (I tried using the machine, and broke two needles on the wire. There’s just too much fur.)

    At first, I was going to attach the wings to the leg parts of the harness, but after trying that, it became obious that this would be way too loose. Instead, I made the wings the leg parts of the harsess. So, they have a loop through which Dante’s front paws go, and the top buckles to the main body of the harness. These are hand-sewn on.

    Finally, I did the swirling/cloud designs. I wanted to do this with thread, but that turned out impractical with the thickness of the two layers of fur + foamie. I ended up doing it with a sharpie, and am not entirely happy with the result, since when the fur moves, the lines get messy. I regret not stitching lines before putting the wings together, and am pondering redoing it.


    I made the base of the shield out of pink insulation foam, on the general premise that lighter is better in this case. I cut the circle out with a small hand saw and sanded it on my table belt sander, then with sandpaper by hand.

    I drew out the design based on a model (the only halfway decent reference I could find), then cut it out of 1/4″ foamie and glued it on with superglue. I primered the shield with spray primer before and after the application of the design (before to protect from glue, after to get ready for painting).

    Amateur Hour

    Around this point, I thought it would be a good idea to paint the back of the shield white, to make it blend in with Dante’s fur. So I sprayed it with flat white paint. This is one of those things that demonstrates just how amateur a cosplayer I am (several people have laughed at this). The spraypaint ate through the insulation foam, almost all the way to the front. :/ I painted over it with acrylic paint…


    I decided early on to make the flames out of a foamie-wire-foamie sandwich (using 1/8″ foamie), so I could shape it in 3D. I went back and forth on what to use as a base. I started with a foamcore torus, but eventually switched to a foam disk. The wire is just embedded as deep into the disk as possible. The foam sandwich is sealed with superglue. The flames are cut out best as possible.

    Somewhere around here, I painted the shield with green acrylic paint, and tried the whole thing on the dog. None of this is attached, but Dante was particularly tired out that day (we’d just come back from a dog park), so he was willing to hold still to verify everything was fine:

    Painting the flames was a ton of fun. It turns out to be way easier than drawing a harness schematic.

    I then glued the shield on. (Some paint touchup still to be done.)

    Attaching the Divine Instrument

    Finally, I needed to attach the harness and the divine instrument (shield + flames). I decided that magnets would be best, so I could snap the instrument on and off quickly as the situation dictated. I get magnets from kjmagnetis.com. I believe these are RC22CS-Ps.

    I attached the magnets to the shield, then covered them with extra bits of foamie to fix them firmly in place and painted over those. (Yes, still using superglue.)

    I then attached corresponding magnets to the saddle.

    Face Paint

    That just leaves the face paint. I looked it up, and there were two safe methods: food coloring and dye specifically tailored for dogs. I found food coloring markers that came in a variety of colors, so I ordered those.

    Painting his muzzle was easy, because the fur is short. As the fur gets longer, though, it’s harder to draw clean lines. For the first outing, I just did his face, not his sides. The coloring smudges a lot when it’s wet, so be careful, but it’s pretty solid once dry.


    And that’s it. It’s remarkably easy to put on – takes 5-10 minutes to do the face paint (and I’ve only done it once) and then 5 minutes to put on the costume, which is:

    1) Put on collar and leash
    2) Put on harness (two buckles – one around neck, one around stomach)
    3) Slide wings over paws and attach to harness (two buckles – one on each wing)
    4) Snap the divine instrument onto the harness (magnetic)

    Photo by ~cheebang

    Wall-clock time: 2 months
    Build-time: ~19 hours
    Cost: ~$50
    Beers consumed: ~2.

    For more photos take a look at my Amaterasu deviantart gallery and photos of this cosplay in others’ albums.

    For other photos of Dante, friend him on facebook: facebook.com/dante.kogan.

    Muppety ‘Susano’ Wig and Beard


    Tutorial for the wig/beard worn by Susano from Okami. Unlike normal wigs, this one is made out of costume beards, and is “Super Muppety” (my wife’s words). It’s really simple to make, and suits the character perfectly.


    I used 5 cheap halloween costume beards like this one, some Foamie, and black thread to sew pieces together.


    I made the wig in five parts: the mustache-beard, the winglets on the sides of the head, the eyebrows, and the hair on the back of the head. In all cases, I used pieces of costume beards, sometimes having to be creative to get the right shapes/sizes.

    The mustache-beard was easy – I took one of the beards, trimmed it (with help from Pocky Princess Darcy), and sewed the mouth hole shut to make one piece. I left the elastic on this one – it’s part of what holds the assembly on my head.

    The winglets each required two pieces back-to-back, with a piece of Foamie between them to guide the shape. I hand-sewed the pieces together.

    The eyebrows are cut out in a weird McDonald’s shape. I use a small piece of double-sided sticky tape in the middle to keep them in place.

    The hair on the back of the head is just a solid cut-out piece of costume beard. I kept the elastic on this one also (actually, because of how I had to carve things, I had to move an elastic to it from one of the other pieces).

    After I had all the pieces, I fitted them against my head and adjusted sizing, then hand-sewed them together with black thread. The elastic from the back piece goes under the front piece, and the elastic from the front piece goes under the back piece. I also did some zig-zag type sewing in places to try to prevent unraveling.

    And that’s it. Putting it on is a bit of a pain because it’s all loosely connected, but once it’s on, it’s reasonably comfortable, and I was surprised at how little of it ended up in my mouth.

    Obviously it helps a great deal if (as I do) you shave your head, but a fake-bald-head-wig should work just fine, too.

    Okami Cosplay Comic: Susano and Amaterasu



    A few months ago, I was in an Okami photoshoot with my dog and nsomniacartist, photographed by enchantedcupcake. The photos were awesome, and occasionally fairly popular.

    While going through a bunch of them, it occurred to me that I could put together a very-short-story type of thing out of some of the shots, so here it is.

    Note that the photos weren’t taken with this (or any) story in mind – we were just playing around trying to get good shots.

    Resin “Darker Than Black” Mask


    Tutorial for the mask worn by Hei (BK201) from Darker Than Black, made out of Bondo resin. It’s tougher and smoother than paper-mache, and takes hours to make rather than days (not counting painting time). However (or ‘Plus’), it involves working with toxic materials.


    For Fanime 2011, I made Hei’s costume and dagger. I also made a mask out of foamie, using heat to shape it. It was a dismal failure. Since I had no new costume plans for Fanime 2012, I decided to remake the mask.

    There are copious tutorials for making such a mask out of paper-mache (this one seems fine). But that takes several days due to drying times. I didn’t have several days, so I decided to follow more or less those instructions, but with Bondo.


    Building material:
    bondo (with hardener)
    putty knife (a small flexible one to spread bondo with)
    stirrer sticks (something to mix Bondo)
    scrap paper (somewhere to mix Bondo)
    disposable scoop (something to scoop Bondo out of its container)
    latex gloves (don’t touch Bondo when it’s liquid!)
    respirator (don’t breathe Bondo when it’s liquid!)
    a place to work (a garage will do)

    Everything else:
    party baloon
    measuring tape
    sandpaper (preferably also a power sander)
    paints (spray and/or acrylic, your choice)
    sharpie (for drawing on the balloon)
    dremel (to cut out the eyes)
    hand file with triangular cross section (to shape the corners of the eyes)

    Note! In the comments, Monterey Jack points out that Bondo heats up when setting, and can pop your balloon. If one balloon doesn’t work, it may be worth trying a different type.



    Measure your head with the measuring tape. Inflate the party balloon to more or less that diameter. Draw out the approximate outline of the mask on the balloon with a sharpie.

    Base layer

    Don your gloves and respirator and crack open the Bondo. You’ll need someplace to mix (I use scrap construction paper) and something to mix with (I use wooden stirrers). Mix a small amount of putty and hardener, as big as a golf ball. Follow directions on the can for the ratio.

    Slather the Bondo mixture onto the balloon using the putty knife, going an inch or so beyond your mask outline. Don’t worry about the result being even. You have about five minutes to work with each batch after you start mixing. As soon as the Bondo mix starts beeing cottage-cheesy, STOP. Throw the rest of that batch away, and mix a new one. You’ll probably have to mix 2-3 batches to cover the mask area.

    You should end up with something like this:

    (When I did this, I rather wondered if the Bondo would eat through the balloon, like it does with insulation foam. It did not.)

    You’ll want to prop the balloon up so that it doesn’t roll Bondo-side down. I used some scrap wood, but whatever you have handy will do.

    Wait 30 minutes for the Bondo to fully harden.

    Structural layer

    Apply a second coat. Slather the Bondo on liberally, especially near the edges of the mask-to-be. Wait another 30 minutes.


    Pop the balloon (fun!):

    Peel the balloon off the mask (it should come off easily).


    Make the first sanding pass. If you have a power sander, use it. A table belt sander with 80 grit or rougher works great. Hand-sand if you must, but it’s going to suck. With a belt sander, this should take you ten minutes. By hand… maybe an hour.

    Aim for around 2/3 of the surface to be smooth. If you try to keep sanding after that, you’ll weaken the mask, or even sand holes in it. The result should have a smooth outer surface, and some rough valleys.

    While you’re at it, sand the mask closer to the right shape and size (but leave some room for adjustment). Sand, don’t try to cut. Note that the sharpie should have conveniently transferred off the balloon onto the Bondo:

    Smooth layer

    Apply another coat, but only put Bondo down on the rough patches, and use the putty knife to smooth things flat. This coat is for smoothness, so take your time, and really make sure you get bondo into all those gaps. Wait for it to harden.

    Finish sand

    Sand again with 80 grit. You should end up with a nice smooth surface. If it’s necessary, repeat the above step for a fourth coat. (I didn’t feel the need.)

    Hand sand with 100 grit or finer to get a nice smooth finish. The remaining discolorations are from inconsistent Bondo batch mixes, not from roughness.

    The mask is now built, and should’ve only taken 2-3 hours including drying time.


    Draw and cut out the eyes with the Dremel. Use a cutting bit to make a center incision, then use a sanding bit to shape the eyes. Use the triangular file to get the corners of the eyes. Also, sand the mask shape to exactly where you want it to be.


    Paint. I used spray primer and flat white paint, and then acrylic paint for the lightning bolt and mouth. This step took me a long time (I’m no good with a paintbrush and had to reprimer and start over several times.)


    Add anchors to be able to wear the mask. I used two magnets on the back, which attach to a band that goes around my head under my wig. If you’re going to do that, glue before you paint, otherwise the glue will bond to the paint, and the magnets will come off with the paint. (As I learned the hard way, and you can see in the photo here.)

    Sample photos

    What could be done better?

    A balloon is not a perfect representation of the shape of the mask. Really, you want something that curves more around the vertical axis than around the horizontal. Maybe the back of a mannequin head? You can tell that the mask extends a bit far to the sides of my face because of that. On the other hand, the anime is wildly inconsistent (and physically impossible, of course), and this shape is a reasonable approximation.

    I’m not perfectly happy with my painting job, either, but this is about my fifth attempt, and I’m not about to reprimer/paint again.

    Branching off

    I’m branching this blog off practicalevil.com. This one will be about cosplay-type stuff; mostly build blogs. I’ll move the relevant ones from the old site here anon.

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