Wheatley is my current project (at least at the time of writing this post). I've been working on him since April. I'll post the progress so far, then edit as I keep going.
I had plans to cosplay as Edward Elric this year at Dragon*con. Building the arm seemed like fun and I always enjoy seeing good Edward costumes. Then Portal 2 came out. And I played it. And everything changed. The decision that I had to build Wheatley was pretty instant and Edward was tossed out. I wasn't the only one to overhaul cosplay plans thanks to that game. My good friend scrapped her cosplay plans in favor of GLaDOS, while her husband is going to be dressed up as Cave Johnson. I'm super excited.
Currently my plans are to dress up as Chell and carry Wheatley instead of the gun. Another friend generously volunteered to make Chell's Portal 2 jumpsuit for me, since I'm sewing-incapable and won't have enough time to get it sorted out after getting Wheatley done. I will be making the boots though, which I'll make another post for if those manage to work out.
Anyway. Wheatley. I decided I wanted a Wheatley prop that actually does things, so I'm building this guy as a puppet, making use of the very convenient hole in his back.
I started out with lots of idea sketches on how to get this to work. Some ideas were good, others not so much. But that's how it goes!
First I started out with a block of florist's foam which I glued into a cube, then cut and sanded into a ball; a process that's a lot harder than I figured it'd be.
As you can see there, I drew on the details. Then I used my dremel to carve them out.
This was followed up by coating the ball in Wonderflex.
This stuff is fantastic. I have a feeling it's going to become a staple of my cosplay projects from now on. For those not familiar, it's a plastic-like substance that comes in a rolled sheet. You heat it up with a heat gun and it becomes soft. You mold it into whatever shape you want, then let it cool and it becomes rock hard. Amazing stuff.
Wonderflex was followed up with Apoxie Sculpt, which I globbed on, shaped, let cure, then carved with the dremel.
As you can see there, I was trying to achieve hard edges and add detail. This was a learning process. A really pathetic learning process, honestly. I had no idea what I was doing at all. I sanded and redid all the apoxie on Wheatley over and over again. Each time I got a better handle on what I was doing and understanding how this stuff works, but it took a lot longer than it probably should have.
Once I'd done about half of the apoxie work I moved on to cutting Wheatley in half and hollowing him out.
The inside was then carefully coated in Wonderflex so the two halves could still fit back together.
After he was hollowed and pieced back together, I worked on the raised area that frames the hole on his front. I'm not sure how many times I sanded it off and remade it, but it was a lot. My shakey hands and lack of appropriate tools kept conspiring against me to make the frame rough, imperfect and uneven. Here's one of those attempts:
It was too large and too rough. The picture doesn't show quite how bad it was. The worst problem was that the circle wasn't perfect. Not a big problem when you're just looking at it like that, but once his circular eyeplate was occupying that space, it was going to be a serious issue.
I did a lot of brainstorming trying to figure out a way to make a perfect circle. I started searching "plastic hoop" on eBay one night and dozens of embroidery hoop listings popped up. They come in a wide range of sizes, including the one I needed.
The back hole didn't need the perfect raised edge that the front hole needed, but I put a second embroidery hoop in there just for the sake of the perfect circle. The side holes don't have hoops so they aren't completely perfect, but I'm less worried about them.
While working on the hoops, I was also making progress on the eye plate. It wasn't completely finished, but at least you could tell what it was.
I also started work on the handles. I ordered a sheet of thick ABS plastic for the side pieces.
Much like Wolf's badges, I decided to recreate high res versions of certain Wheatley parts in Photoshop. His eye, Aperture logo and sticker were remade in the highest quality I could manage.
Honestly the quality is a little too high. They're 300dpi and some of the detail was lost when they were printed. I'm still satisfied with how they turned out, though.
Once I had Wheatley's shell, eye plate and eyelids squared away, I coated them in high build primer, as per Volpin's Portal gun method.
It worked out really well. That stuff is super handy. There were a couple rough spots, but since I'm building damaged Wheatley it's not a problem.
Last week Wheatley saw some light coats of white paint. Over the weekend I added details with Model Magic acrylic.
The next day I mussed up his pristine finish with a long weathering session using both Model Magic acrylic and watered down Basic acrylic.
Did my best to match most of the damage on the Wheatley model. It's not spot-on, but I think it should work well enough.
And that's where we are now! I'll be editing this post with updates, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: Monday, July 25, 2011
Bit more progress to share!
I finally added the details to Wheatley's faceplate. Got the sticker, decal and dots put on. I also added some more weathering because I needed to adjust the heights of the three scratches on the left. The additional weathering turned out darker than I liked so recently I darkened a few other things on the faceplate to distract from that. This picture doesn't show that additional darkening.
Work on the handles has finally turned in my favor.
I've been struggling with getting the proper curved center section for months. Curving the various kinds of plastic I've been using wasn't the problem, but joining those curved pieces securely to the straight pieces was proving impossible. Long sticks like that just provide too much torque for any glue to contend with. In the end I made use of thin pipe which is unfortunately a bit thicker than Wheatley's handles should be, but allowed me a hollow space to stuff with Apoxie sculpt at the joined sections, which made a very secure hold.
For attaching the black side pieces to Wheatley, I had the idea at work one day while staring at my Eve figure, whose arms and head are held on with magnets, that attaching the handles to Wheatley with magnets would be the best solution for making them positionable and removable whenever I need to open Wheatley up. You can see the magnets in the progress pic above.
Unfortunately they're not completely accurate to Wheatley's design, thanks to a lack of planning on my part back when I cleared those channels, but they should be close enough.
My current focus is his eye, which bit by bit is coming together.
You can actually still see the details on it when it's lit up, but convincing my little point-and-shoot to show that was just impossible.
And that's it for now! More updates when I make more progress. =)
UPDATE: Monday, August 8, 2011
Sadly all of the plans for Wheatley's eye didn't work out as anticipated. I wanted his eye light to be able to move inside the eye plate, but the bike brake cable design I'd worked out just couldn't cut it in such a cramped space. In the end I just glued the eye right into the rig.
This is the puppeting rig. Though his eye light doesn't move any more, it still allows full movement of the eyeplate and eyelids.
A lot of fussing and bad language later and the eye rig has been painted and installed. At long last Wheatley has a face!
All that left were the electronic bits. I spent most of the day yesterday constructing Wheatley's controls and what I've decided to call his brain. The sound module holding his quotes is from the wonderful Replica Props.
The audio buttons alone account for a ton of wires. Ten buttons and pos/neg to each means before you even start counting things like amp, speaker, audio chip and his LEDs, there's 20 wires snaking around in there taking up space. Unfortunately the space they're taking up is the spot I'd chosen for his speaker. Said speaker should be arriving this evening (I had to order a new one.. the first one was too big) so I'll be doing some fussing tonight to make it all fit.
That means that the next update should be of the finished product! Hoorjay!!
UPDATE: Monday, August 10, 2011
Done! At long last!! Had a fun little photo shoot last night. Here are the end results!
I also shot a video of his puppet rig at work. The movement's a little rough and he was being kind of squeaky, so I may shoot a better video later.