Sunday, July 8, 2012

Plastic Stageplay Helmets

The nearest town to where I live, Ronneby, was routed in 1564 by the Swedish king Erik XIV; an event noted in the history books as "The Bloodbath of Ronneby". It's a fitting moniker, since most of the population was actually killed. My home province of Blekinge wasn't Swedish at this point in history, it was Danish, and the Swedes and the Danes were embroiled in a 7-year conflict. The Swedish king hired Finnish and German mercenaries to capture Ronneby, which they did in just one day.
Every year some theatre group stage an outdoor show recounting the bloody events, and this year's production wanted to add as much historical detail as possible. Some years back, a rusty morion helmet was dug up in Ronneby. Obviously someone of the mercenaries had worn it. The play director, Johan Westermark, wanted two morions to be worn in the play, but he didn't want any pristine steel reproductions. I was asked to produce two slightly beat-up morions in plastic, so they'd look right AND wouldn't be heavy to wear.

I did one helmet sculpture in Chavant clay, based on the rusty morion found in Ronneby.

It took about a full day to create a silicone mould for the sculpture, adding layer upon layer of DragonSkin FX Pro silicone. I used a thickening agent for all layers but the first one. I added a two-part support shell for the silicone mould by using thick plaster bandages. After peeling off the cured silicone mould, I could let it rest in the plaster bandage "cradle" when casting the plastic.

I used a plastic called SmoothCast 65, which is sold by SmoothOn. It's quite sturdy and bends rather than breaks. It cures bright white, but I added black pigments to create a greyish metallic look.

After cleaning up the plaster casts I painted them with a high-gloss chrome spray paint. Over that I covered the helmet with an airbrush varnish, which created a more worn, satin look. The chin straps were just second hand shop-bought belts. The studs were also plastic, and created by casting Friendly Plastic thermoplastic into a silicone mould I made from a coat button. Roundhead fasteners were pressed into the curing plastic studs, and then threaded through the helmet to keep the studs in place. 

If I had enough money I'd love to try and create my own fantasy armour, but it'll take a lot of clay and a lot of silicone and plastic. Dracula's crimson armour from the prologue of "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was made this way. I've worn real armour and I know how heavy and cumbersome it is. It also takes forever to get in and out of it. The thing is, I have an idea for a video project requiring armour that doesn't look like anything out there, and I'm racking my brain trying to figure out a quick, cheap way of building it. More about that later, I'm sure.


Jeff Lafferty said...

Nice job as always. Helmet looks great and I love the two puppets from the last post!

Richard Svensson said...

Thanks, Jeff :)

Greg Stacy . said...

For chainmail, you can do what the Monty Python guys did, and just spray pain knitted fabric silver. For cheap armor, have you ever heard of making armor out of craft foam? here's a tutorial: