Wednesday 27 October 2010

Centaur Nears Completion

Here's a new set of pictures of the completion of the centaur body!

As I posted last time, I'd resolved to make a new body out of foam. The first time around I didn't have quite enough foam, so I thickened it with alternating slices of a thinner sheet of foam I used to pad the harness.

The problem was that the surface along the torso was all irregular, and carving wasn't very easy with the different foam densities. I'd made a whole new skeleton, so why not make a whole new foam torso?

As before, I stacked the foam segments on the spine, but this time I glue-gunned them into place.

Next I carved the out the legs. I used the skeleton as a template to make sure they were the right size, then started rounding them out from there using a carving knife. The carving knife was a great tool, although the foam blunts it after a couple of minutes' cutting, so I kept a sharpener handy.

The next step was to insert the skeleton. Following some advice on a puppetry blog, I made slits, then plucked out a tube-like chamber, wide enough to house the plastic leg bones.

Then, reattaching the hip bolts, we get the assembled rear legs.

A few more screws to reattach the hips to the aluminum spine.

To carve the torso, I kept a small plastic toy horse at hand (maybe you can spot him in the background). Nevertheless, I made two errors - one, not starting out with enough foam to make the round stomach, and secondly, I made the whole thing too long. I hadn't accounted for the length of the ass - the haunches protrude well beyond the foam skeleton.

Overall the net effect, particularly striking once Morgan was suited up it it, was a ridiculously long horse body, making Morgan look minuscule compared to the school bus sized body she was dragging around. At this point, though, I had no objectivity and couldn't really see it, but my wife Danielle was pretty insistent it looked silly.

A couple of inches off the spine, and it looked much better. The next thing to do was to turn it upside-down, and hot-glue on a thick slab to be carved into the stomach. This was really tricky as it was hard to plane the undersurface into something flat enough to glue onto - hot melt isn't very strong, so the final form involves two duct-tape 'belts' for strength.

Then I carved out two channels in which to mount the leg-string guides.

A quick test with Morgan. You can see in this picture that I've carved away the fronts of the thighs. I had planned to do this all along and mount them with bead-filled bags. After getting a shape I was happy with, I was very reluctant to do this step, but it was necessary as the foam was far too rigid for Morgan to be able to bend it - all the leg action was constrained to the lower joint. In the end, though, exhaustion set in and I never did fill the missing space with anything.

Next step, the skin. I haven't sewn in 23 years, not since grade 8 home economics. I was a little scared, then more gravely worried when the sewing machine started spewing out little spider-like knots of thread. But with some expert guidance (I had threaded the machine incorrectly, throwing the thread tension way off), I was on my way.

First step, some pants for Morgan. I was sewing heavy spandex, so my pattern could be dead simple; I didn't even bring the leg segments to a point to come together in the crotch, but fortunately the material is stretchy enough to accommodate despite this.

I had experimented to see how stretchy it was - about 180% stretch on one axis, maybe 130% on the other, and left what I thought would be enough room for the pelvis padding I'd carved (not shown) to make Morgan's hips look more like the chest and shoulders of a horse. But I underestimated how tight that would feel - much bunching and itching and butt crack sticking out, and so the fake muscles are on the shelf for now, seeing if I have time to make some brown, looser overshorts to hold them.


Next step, remedial drapery. I wanted the skin on the horse to be tight, so following some advice from mum I just draped the fabric over it, and cut out likely-looking pieces, pinned them, then did some more.

This worked out very well, although I'd choose completely different seam placement were I to do this again. Morgan's dress will drape over the torso; the key area to make smooth is the rump. One seam up the middle, and darts wherever else necessary.

The inner thighs were the hardest part. A washable marker was my friend here (chalk pencils barely work on spandex) to label which pieces need to be sewn together. When it's off the foam body, the skin is just a floppy confusing mass of shiny fabric, it can be surprisingly hard to keep straight what needs to be sewn to what.

A marathon stretch at the sewing machine (about 6 hours) and the legs and body was finally done.

This step made me laugh - trying to 'dress' something this large was like trying to dress a sleeping person. It felt like it needed a name at this point! Some sports socks were very helpful in smoothing the passage over the very grippy foam, but the hips were a major pain.

Ta da! This is the horse with a temporary tail - we've got some blonde wigs we're going to use instead. Sorry for the visual clutter in this shot, my living/dining room was buried in bits of foam and tools, there was hardly anywhere to move.