Foreword: This is the completed build log of the project, I'll attempt to annotate references to "yesterday" and "a few days later" with the actual dates that the stages of the project took place on, but there will be some I won't have a date record for.
A little history: Going on three years now, I've been a member of a Ghostbusters costuming group known as the "U.K. Ghostbusters", two of the members of which have also been very active in the Doctor Who costuming community. Last june, a friend of mine named Carl tagged me as the 7th Doctor in one of the photos he'd posted on facebook. I'd made it known to him that the 7th Doctor was my favourite, and following seeing the photo, I began to muse on the idea of what I'd need to go through in order to recreate the costume, and it's signature elements.
Primarily, there are two main items that the whole ensemble hangs upon in order to succeed... the Doctor's Question Mark umbrella, and his question mark motif vest:
I quickly decided that if I wasn't able to either recreate or attain one of the two elements, then the plan would be cancelled.
My musings turned to the umbrella (to which this topic will be dedicated due to it being the prop replica section). Having had some experience in building props a few different ideas came to mind in producing the custom handle, there was the option of carving it from wood, another which involved making it from clay or a similar material... and then there was the brilliant option of molding it from acrylic, as detailed in the following tutorial:
-View the rest of it here
So over the course of July 2010, I gathered a metre's worth of 25mm diameter acrylic rod, a wooden-shafted umbrella, a grinder (in place of a belt sander) and the paints and miscellaneous materials that would go into assembling the finished product.
Contrary to popular belief, finding a simple black umbrella is more complicated then it first appears. I found plenty of mostly-black umbrellas, but plenty had some form of obvious branding on them, which ruled them out as workable possibilities... eventually I narrowed down the list of potentials on offer down to two, the first being sold for about £5.99 at Robert Dyas, and the second at a "cheapo" shop for £4.99. I opted for the 4.99 one as it seemed better quality than the more expensive one, and it had a wooden handle (more easy to remove than a plastic one).
The handle was quickly removed, and it became apparant that removing the handle would only be part of the modification I'd have to make to the shaft, due to the section holding the handle being a part of the shaft, rather than a separate piece I could remove.
With the mounting section removed and the surface sanded, it was good to go with the drilling which would eventually attach the elements of the handle.
As the first day's work drew to a close, I took the opportunity to test the paint and clear lacquer I'd perchased from my local Halfords. The paint I selected was Ford Radiant Red, not too dark, nor too light... although as McCoy's umbrella appears to have shifted shades as the series progressed... and I suspect there may've been no fewer than three umbrellas, finding the exact shade would be a challenge that wouldn't be worth the effort involved (I dare say that my making such a remark, I could have led to some alienation here).
A few days later and I had the dowel caps I'd be using as the dots of the question mark, and the clear 1" diameter acrylic I'd ordered from a supplier on eBay (I'm happy to provide the user name if anyone wishes to know). The dowel caps came from a Homebase curtain rod set, which at about £18 is the most expensive element of the umbrella so far. The acrylic totalled about £17.
(It should be noted that since I first wrote this build log last year, I've now come into possession of a set of "doll's head caps" which are significantly cheaper, and more plentiful then the curtain rod option)
Thanks to a small indent on the inside of the cap, I had a guide for drilling and after a few minutes, I had my pilot hole and then, the full-sized hole for the mounting rod for the handle elements.
In addition to that, the length of acrylic was cut for the handle (although in hindsight, it was cut a half inch too short to the measurement DrWhoJr recommended)
A further couple of days later, and I was prepared to start building the jig to mold the handle, equipped with a hole saw from B&Q (which is sadly slightly smaller than desired) and 50p's worth of fibreboard from Homebase, which was undoubtedly the bargain of the day.
With a bit of fiddling, the hold saw was installed in my Dad's pillar-mounted drill, and the central part of the jig was cut.
As the day drew into evening, the last task was to paint the tip of the umbrella. Masking off the fabric of the umbrella, and the very end of the tip (as I'd decided to leave it unpainted to avoid it being scraped off through use) I set about priming it, and spraying it so that it could dry overnight.
Once dry and with the masking tape removed, the finished paint job was excellent (I know, tooting my own horn), and the edge between the unmasked section and the edge of the paint was a nice and crisp. Sadly, when applying the clear lacquer, it appeared to thin the paint slightly, and it dripped down in spots, forcing me to spray the entire tip to cover up the mess.
Despite this minor setback, it didn't dampen my spirits when approaching the task of rounding off the ends of the acrylic.
Unable to find a suitable belt sander, my Dad suggested I instead use a grinder. The grinder performed the job adequately, even with the absense of a appropriately-sized hole saw piece to rotate the acrylic (forcing me to have to turn it by hand, rather than by using my cordless drill).
(An additional note, that since writing this log, I now own an appropriate hole saw piece)
Despite this, the end result turned out pretty well, even if it isn't quite as perfectly rounded as the real thing.
With the rod ready for the next stage, my attention turned to finishing off the jig. The two stops had been cut and glued together, and the first of the two had been drilled and installed onto the jig board, alongside the central part of the jig itself. The only remaining bit of work was to carve out the second stop so that it would feature a carved radius to fit the lower curve of the questionmark.
With the job sped-up by some new sandpaper from Robert Dyas, the position was finalised and the mounting holes drilled.
With the jig completed, my attention turned to a few of the smaller elements, before I could put the acrylic through the oven stage. The smaller elements included expanding the drill site in the umbrella to accomodate the threaded rod I'll be using to attach the handle elements to the umbrella shaft.
Another element that was worked on, was the spacer that'll be placed between the upper portion of the question mark, and the question mark dot.
With it primed, I progressed by sliding the question mark dot onto the metal rod so that it could be primed and then painted.
If all goes to plan, this'll be how it'll be placed on the finished product:
And that marked the last bit of work of yesterday (July 18th).
Today's work wouldn't be able to progress until I had some grease paper, which after a short visit to Beaconsfield (by way of Amersham in order to check the charity shops in both towns for potential 7th Doctor costume parts) was attained, I returned home with my Mum ready to perform one of the most significant (and most likely and easy to mess up) stages of the build, molding the handle.
Following DrWhoJr's video tutorial, and recommendations he'd given via PM, the handle was placed inside the oven, and I followed this slightly modified version of his his rescipe (converted for use in a British oven):
Start at Gas Mark 1 and leave for ten minutes.
After ten minutes, turn up to Gas Mark 2, and five minutes after turning to GM2, rotated the acrylic to avoid flattening.
Five minutes after rotating, the oven was turned up to Gas Mark 3, after five minutes of GM3, the acrylic was rotated and the oven turned up to Gas Mark 4.
Five minutes of Gas Mark 4 and another turning of the rod, and I attempt to see if I could mold it around the jig.
Although the acrylic was pliable, it wasn't quite warm enough and was already starting to set before I'd even gotten it near the lower of the two stops. Placing it back in the oven for between five-to-ten minutes at Gas Mark 5 heated it up nicely, and the second time it was removed it was pliable enough to fit around the whole jig without issue. After being left to cool and rest in place for about a hour, I had the following result:
A slight bit of dismantling of the jig later, and the acrylic was free:
A further bit of drilling, and the handle could be screwed onto the threaded rod I'd purchased:
Leaving me with the last job of the evening: adding some Halford body filler to the acrylic to fill in the holes gouged by the grinder: