Jun 12, 2012, 2:40 PM - Meet: The Spy
After a grueling four months of working on props for other people I decided to take a break and build a few quick props for myself. Of course I ended up going overboard and was pretty sore and feeling kinda crappy by the end. I probably should have been wearing sunblock, sunglasses, and my respirator the whole time. But I got 75% of what I wanted to get done, done, and I debuted the costume at GraniteCon, a local comic convention this past weekend. I hope to finish up the rest after I get the Microcntrollers and PKEs I'm working on finished, and make it to NY comiccon this year with it.
Anyway, this is a build thread, so here's the pics!
I'm going to split this into a few posts since I don't know how many pics I can post at once. First up, is the costume itself:
Here we have the blue spy, and the red spy. I decided to go with the blue spy, since it was easier, and I've seen someone do the red spy much better than I could hope to do. I think that fellow must have either dyed a suit or had one custom made.
Anyway, the suit was the whole catalyst for this costume. When I found this one on ebay, made in the 1970's, I knew it would be perfect: (I was wrong of course, but I'll get to that in a moment.)
Based on that color I figured the balaclava should be fairly light, and I found this satin fabric, like I used for the star on my Captain America shirt:
Of course it was only after I purchased it that it occurred to me that if the fabric couldn't stretch, there was no way I was going to be able to make it fit snugly. Particularly because the neck hole would never fit over my head. So I had to look for alternatives.
I eventually found that alternative in the form of this sports shirt, from Walmart. I first looked at cotton shirts, and tried the fabric stores for some kind of spandex, but I was really hoping for a better looking, thicker, yet breathable material, and that's when it occurred to me to see if I could find some kind of sports garment that would fit the bill. I'd also gotten the suit at this point, and knew I'd need a darker color, but I didn't want something in a navy because that would appear almost black on camera. That's why I took a photo of it:
For $6 at Walmart, I couldn't have hoped for a better fabric. Thicker than spandex, extremely stretchable, breathable, and comfortable as hell to wear. And it was just the right color. Now I just needed to find a matching tie...
I went with the Covington because it looked the most blue on camera, and was a good match for the color of the sports shirt.
Speaking of color... So about that suit. Looks amazing in the Ebay auction right? Too good to be true almost. Well it was. When I got the suit, it was much much darker. It was almost navy blue. And since I had to import it from Europe I'd already gotten half my props done, so there was no turning back now.
But it's not terrible. A bit dark, sure, but it's got nice pinstripes, and is the right sort of style, and I convinced the person who sold it to me to give me a $30 discount, so I didn't pay too much for it. And it works well with the sports shirt and tie being a bit dark. It is so freaking hard to find a blue garment in anything but super bright blue or a dark navy. It's actually weird how consistent fabric colors seem to be. You'd think they'd span all shades of blue.
Anyway, enough about the costume... on to the actual props.
Jun 12, 2012, 3:09 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
That's how it appears in the game, and starting from the thickness of the power cord, I deduced the rest of the dimensions:
It all seemed about right as far as how large it appeared in the game when being held, so I started looking for the parts. I found a suitably sized project box on Digikey, along with the switches, and the knob was purchased from Newark.
I also thought the magnets looked familiar, and lo and behold, they appear to have been based on suction cups used to move glass:
Unfortunately the real deal is both extremely expensive and 8" wide, and I needed a 4" magnet, so I had to make my own.
I started with some PVC parts:
Added the lid from a container of Gelato, and for the brackets, I cut a caster wheel in half:
Through these I fed a bolt, with nuts on either side to make an aluminum tube I cut and slipped over it fit snugly:
You can also see an aluminum bar there for the sapper's handle, but I didn't get to finishing that, and I ended up replacing that bar with a narrower one anyway.
As for the meter on the sapper, I found an electrical panel cover which would do the trick, with some modification:
And I found some electrical conduit parts which I could slip a brass fitting into for the connection on the top of the sapper:
Here you can see the vinyl letters I used for a number of things including masking off the text on the sapper:
And I found this voltmeter, which I could have used to make the knob functional, but decided not to use because it was too small and too costly:
I also looked at several options for the power cord. They were pretty expensive though:
I eventually found a power strip at Walmart for $8 with a yellow cable that did the trick. I cut the cable to length, and then used a razor to split the end of the cable and then cut the wires inside to leave a void, into which I could slip the end of my bolt. I then put a cable clamp over the wire and bolt to hold it in place:
And there you have the mostly finished sapper. This was all I could get done of it in time for the con. The hood and handle weren't done in time unfortunately. And I kinda screwed up the paint job on the white stencil because the paint didn't dry as fast as I thought it would and I was in a rush. I touched it up with a paint marker for now. I may have to redo that at some point. I want to fix the centering of the stencil around the switched as well.
Jun 12, 2012, 3:31 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Nice work! That prop is spot on! Well done.
Jun 12, 2012, 3:41 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
The disguise kit:
The disguise kit proved the hardest to make, particularly because I'd set the bar so high for what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to actually function... In other words, to be able to close, and have blinking lights. When I got the cigarette case, I knew I had my work cut out for me:
Each side was only 1/4" deep, which meant I would have to use a watch battery to power it. And I would have to use the thinnest wood and plexiglass I could find.
Cutting the wood was a nightmare, because I was certain it was going to split, but somehow I managed to get through the whole thing without breaking it. You can't see it in this photo, but the lenses also have holes cut out beneath them, and there's all the holes for the screws as well, each one threatening to destroy all my hard work:
And as you can see I was also able to make the bezel and other aluminum pieces. Those went very easily... until I tried to solder the bezel together. Then I discovered no matter how much you try to coax it, solder will not adhere to aluminum. So, I had to resort to superglue.
To allow room for the lenses when the case was closed, I had to tape the cigarettes in place at the top of the case. I imagine in a real spy device of this era, the cigarettes woudn't be real anyway... They'd be batteries in disguise. :-)
And here is the finished case. The red and yellow LEDs blink, though the yellow ones are fairly dim because I didn't realize the blinking LEDs were pretty dim to begin with and also needed 5v. The datasheet wasn't too clear on how they functioned, and the watch battery only supplies 3v.
You'll notice a couple extra screws on there and that the screen is a bit smaller than the one in game. I could have superglued the top down, but I prefer to be able to disassemble my props. I also couldn't be sure the superglue would hold. And I originally planned to use a mich thicker smoked plastic for the screen, and the bracket that the top is attached to would have been in the way of that, so the screen could only go down that far anyway. The nice thing about this setup though is I can just flip the front panel open and change the battery, and the spring holds it in place the rest of the time.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention the letters. Those aren't vinyl letters like the rest I used. I couldn't get them in such a small size. They're not waterslide decals either. Those are actually a type of rub on decal for model trains and cars. So they went on fairly easy, and I didn't need to varnish over them afrer.
Speaking of varnish, I also forgot to mention the wood. I used actual wood stain on it, and then because I already had it on hand, I applied a gloss coat of acrylic spray paint on top.
Jun 12, 2012, 4:06 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
The pistol and knife:
The spy uses a number of pistols and knives in the game, and accuracy of these wasn't terribly important to me, but I wanted something somewhat close, and found a really great 44 magnum on Amazon. Fires little rubber bullets with quite a bit of force. The handle was also screwed on, so I was able to remove it and paint it white. It looked like wood originally.
The knife is a replica of a real knife, used for martial arts training. I had to paint the blade silver, since it was black rubber, but it looked more like a spy knife than any others I could find that were reasonably priced. The alternatives were really cheap plastic trick daggers and rubber army knives. Not a lot of good cheap toy knives out there it seems.
I also forgot to mention the gloves. At first, I thought the spy used fancy leather gloves. Some fan art has him depicted as wearing these. But in the game, you don't see much texture, and the gloves are always skin tight. You can see seams in the above image of course, but there's no leather glove that fits that tight. Leather gloves would be wrinkly, get caught on the pistol's trigger, and look silly when holding a cigarette.
It then occured to me that they might be rubber or latex. And after a bit of searching I found out Home Depot sold some black nitrile gloves that looked pretty good on their website. But when I got to the store they were really thin and crappy. So I went online and looked around some more, and found these 6 mil black rubber gloves used for tatooing:
I bought these, and they turned out to be perfect. They don't wrinkle much, they look snazzy, and they don't get in the way. My hands do sweat a hell of a lot in them unfortunately, but pruny fingers are a small price to pay to be a snappy dresser. And I've got a hundred of them so I can use them for painting and stuff and toss em out when I'm done with them. The other nice thing about them is it totally makes sense for the spy to use this type of glove if his job is murdering people all day. I'm not sure how he gets all the blood out of his suit though. :-)
Jun 12, 2012, 4:27 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
This is the intel briefcase used in the game's capture the flag mode. I decided it was an appropriate prop for the spy to carry, and it serves a dual purpose as a carrier for all the rest of my props.
I found a suitable briefcase on ebay. Normally $300-$400, I got a slightly dented and scratched Haliburton for $75.
Choosing the right paint color was difficult:
I ended up having to purchase some paint online, because the only paint of the right color locally was either $12 latex spraypaint that didn't work well with Acrylic paints, or Krylon in tiny cans that I would have needed like six of to get full coverage. So I went for the same Montana Gold paints I used for my Captain America build. I like how the paints look a lot, but the nozzles sure seem to spatter a lot.
Anyway, after removing some dents and stickers and crap, and a ton of metalwork with my Dremel's cutoff wheel and grinding stone with aluminum getting absolutely everywhere, I finally managed to cut a hole in the thing:
I then went to work on some styrene to make the front plate. It looks so easy just sitting there all finished. But me, and my entire porch were absolutely covered in tiny styrene shavings by the time I was done. What a freaking nightmare.
After paint, which also was a paint in the ass since I had to mask off all the chrome bits, I sanded the whole thing down with 0000 steel wool to remove the fuzzy texture that crops up in some places when using these flat paints:
And here you see the finished product. Masking the white lines on the case and panel was also a huge pain in the ass. As was painting the nuts and washers for the giant tumbler lock. (The paint kept getting scratched and didn't want to cover well.) And applying the vinyl decals to them on all sides was also a pain. As was figuring out how to mount them. (A dowel, held in place by copper pipe brackets.) The lenses were also hard to get, but I found some at a reasonable price on McMaster-Carr. The switches were from Digikey. I wanted to make the lenses light up, but I didn't have time to finish that. I also didn't have time to apply the vinyl "Top Secret" letting across the front.
And here you can see all the props inside it:
What is the yellow belt for, you ask? You might wish you hadn't!
I had a mason jar in there filled with some mango peach sports drink that I watered down. Looked the part. There'll be some video of that later. :-)
Jun 12, 2012, 4:35 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
And last but not least...
THE CAMERA BEARD:
Made of the finest felt and fleece, and sewn together with synthetic polyester thread, this camera beard is fully functional, featuring an HD GoPro video camera cradled within a custom plastic housing securely attached to the beard, and held in place with industrial strength velcro. Also featured is a concealed yet convenient hole into which one's cigarette may be placed:
There will be camera beard video forthcoming. :-)
Jun 12, 2012, 4:39 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Finally, here's a pic of me in the getup, photoshopped slightly to fix my mask which was off-kilter:
Oh, and a funny thing about the beard. Even though the camera is ridiculously obvious, and had a blinking light on it, few people realized they were actually being recorded.
Jun 13, 2012, 1:09 AM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Diggin' the intel case. I made by own bottle of Jarate (...Watered down Mountain Dew, in my case) which I brought to a party to pretend-lob at a friend I knew would be there as the Spy.
Slightly off topic, but is that a bottle of Crystal Head Vodka, signed by Dan Aykroyd by your camera beard?
Jun 13, 2012, 5:05 AM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Jun 13, 2012, 5:35 AM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Very nice, I like it ! It's really a classy suit, and honestly in plain light like this, the blue isn't far off. But if you store it in front of a window it should get a bit lighter in time, or there may me some chemical mixture to dye it lighter, but there would be a chance to damage the suit. I don't think it's worth risking, as it already looks really good.
Great job with the props too ! I'd love to a pic with other characters, should be awesome !
Jun 13, 2012, 5:43 AM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Well the suit is actually a shade darker than it appears in that photo of me. I overexposed it a bit so it would look better against the bright backdrop. There's no way it'll ever get to be anywhere near the color pictured in that auction. And I don't plan to dye it, it would be much too easy to screw up.
Jun 13, 2012, 9:07 AM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Nice signed Crystal Head Vodka. I've been meaning to pick one of those up but Mr. Ackroyd hasn't been close enough yet.
Jun 13, 2012, 12:13 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Very impressive man! I love the intel briefcase and electro-sapper.
With regards to the spraypaint, My own preference (and of almost everyone I know) is Spanish Montana (mtn) and Mtn 94 isn't as pressurised as German Montana Gold, Mtn caps tend to be better as well. I very rarely get sputter from Mtn and it gives the same thick fast drying coat. You should be able to find it in Art shops.
Jun 13, 2012, 12:37 PM - Re: Meet: The Spy
Thanks for the info on the paint. Maybe I'll check out 94 for my next project. Can't get those sorts of paints around here though, I gotta order them online.
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