Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making Toothless and a Turtle

Halloween is coming up and this year, I decided to start early with the costumes for the kids.  I wanted to do something that the kids wanted.  Little did I know, my oldest was still in love with How to Train your Dragon.

She said she wanted to be Toothless.  And my younger daughter wanted to be a turtle.
There are different levels of costumes for Toothless out there and turtles.  I wanted to do something that they would be excited about and also learn a little bit about making.
So Toothless and the Turtle it was.
The first thing I thought I would work on was the wings.  But the wings, for me, needed to be able to expand and contract, articulate a bit.  So, I looked up some ideas and found an articulating wing design on Instructables.  I found this one  by a user named Rachel and proceeded to hack away at it.
The main issue I had was that I did not have a frame for a backpack for a seven year old.  The other issue was, Toothless has legs and arms so the costume couldn't attach the arms to the wings or else I'd have to make fake legs for Toothless.

So first, I sketched out some dimensions and played with some LEGO's to get the articulation going.  Then, instead of a frame, I used a pice of 4mm plywood as the back.  This of course doesn't allow the wings to flap but we wanted them to just open and close.
So I got out the bandsaw and a marker and started drawing shapes and measuring hole spacings.
Soon, I came up with these.
My daughter with her dragon wings at different extensions.
Toothless however, had ribs going down the middle.  So I needed to figure out how to do that.
It took pieces of plastic rod and hot glued wire connectors on the ends of them, and then just bolted them on to the top bolt of the wing rib.

On this picture, you will notice that I have placed bicycle brake wires in the center to pull down and actuate the wings.  See the video below for them opening and closing.

The only issue is that the wings are rather heavy and difficult for my 7 year old to squeeze the brake handle.  I hope to fix this with a linear actuator if I get it in time.

So I continued with covering the wings with a spandex like fabric.
They definitely look like bat wings here.  I covered the front side and mounted backpack straps with a piece of contoured foam I cut on my bandsaw so it would fit my daughters back.

It loses a bit of the coolness when you cover the structure so I may just paint the frame black and not cover it.  We'll see what my daughter says.

The Head
When I started to think about the head I had the plan to sculpt it out of clay, cast it in some kind of resin, and then paint it up.  that would give some great details but then, it became clear that wasn't going to happen just because of the timing and the lack of materials I had on hand.
So I decided to just sculpt the thing from foam. So again with the bandsaw, I cut away pieces that didn't look like the dragon and made the head.
The process was done with scissors, razor blades, and hot glue and it turned out okay I think.
I of course, wanted my daughter to see through the eyes so I cut through the foam and came up with the idea to create some eyes using vacuum forming.
I took a styrofoam egg, cut it in half and saw that that fit okay.  So I proceeded to make a vacuum forming machine with some extra wood I had lying around.
Unfortunately, I was so excited to get the vacuum forming done I forgot to cover the  pieces of styrofoam with aluminum foil so the styrofoam fused to the plastic.  :(
Next time, I make them out of plaster and cast them.
A second round of work and the first set of eyes came out.  I got some testers paint and tried to match the colors of the eyes as much as possible.

For the mouth I got a piece of cardboard, attached it to another piece of foam and covered it with fabric.  The teeth were cut out of foam and hot glued on to the colored cardboard.  
The ears were two pieces of fabric sewn together by my wife then pulled over the top, nice and snug.  
Something was missing though and I realized it was the scales of toothless.  So my daughter and I proceeded to paint on the scales with some latex paint to give it some texture.
So the final step for the head will be to add two blue LED's inside with an activation switch in a glove that my daughter will hold.  Some more stuff coming up too.

The mouth is attached on the bottom with a fabric hinge and articulates with the chin of of the user.
The Turtle Shell
My youngest daughter wanted something simpler, to be a turtle.  So I proceeded to make her a turtle shell out of foam.  Using a razor blade and some scissors, I cut out different shapes on the foam.

This was then covered with a sparkly green fabric my daughter had chosen, and glued down.

I put hot glue in the grooves and pressed the fabric into it.

So far, so good.  We'll see if I get all my parts before Halloween so I can finish this thing.  :)

Thanks for reading!