So, anyone who has seen me, especially bearded, can tell I am a natural born Perrin from The Wheel of Time. Okay, maybe not natural, but I’m sure not Rand or Mat, so I’ll take what I’ve got. There has always been one major problem to me doing a Perrin Aybara costume, though. I don’t have golden eyes, nor can I tolerate anything in my eyes, thus discounting contacts. So for the last several years, as I’ve attended Dragon*Con and JordanCon, I’ve had a burning desire to dress up, but couldn’t.
Then, something hit me, like a divine message from the Light. If I can’t have golden eyes, how else could I represent golden eyes? Glasses! Or, to be more to the point, goggles! And from this idea, I decided that I would create Steampunk Perrin. Now, the costume for the most part was fairly easy to do. I have a seamstress friend who made my coat, breeches, vest, and cravat, and I bought the boots, belt, hat, dress-shirt and goggles. But these alone, even with my spiffy Serpent-and-Wheel buttons for the vest, would not sell Perrin. No. A steampunk needs his gadget, and Perrin needs his hammer. And thus I decided to embark on my first ever prop-making experience. And I documented it, so you can both use my techniques and give me pointers!
Exhibit A: the materials I gathered.
I had a decent idea of what I wanted to do with the hammer. First, I wanted to be as true to the real book version from Towers of Midnight as I could, so I read that scene a couple times to make sure I had the idea down. Perrin’s hammer is described has having a three foot haft, and the lump of metal he turned into the head was about the size of his fist (and I imagine “real” Perrin has some massive paws). The head also had a wedge on the back, like a tool. After that, I needed to add something steampunky to it, so I got the showerhead’s hose and some extra round bits of Styrofoam. I used a toothpick to push out a hole in the round bits of foam so I could slip them over the PVC pipe. They would be the pommel, the middle part that marked the end of the “grip” and the start of the steampunk bit, and the base of the head.
I then made the head, tracing out the general design I wanted to use. Since I used dry green foam—the kind you use for a floral arrangement—it was really soft and easy to cut. I used the back of a steak knife. Dull, but straight and rigid.
I then used some gorilla glue to bind the pieces together, pommel, haft-piece, and head-and-base. Yes, I used Wheel of Time books to provide the weight/pressure. Why not?
While those dried, I went about making a spiral out of the shower-hose and wire hanger. And I must remark, cutting through the hose (it was twice as long as I needed) with a pair of kitchen scissors isn’t easy.
When the foam pieces were solidly dry, I went about applying a coating to them. I did not want it to easily appear that this hammer was made of foam. Thus, I looked around online for how to make foam not look like foam, and I came across this forum for tabletop gaming and how to make terrain pieces. In that, they suggested mixing white glue and sand to provide a coating. Well, sounded good to me!
As an FYI, it was pure guess and check work on how much sand to use and how thick to make the glue layer. The sand to glue mixture was not hard to figure out, really, but as a word to the wise, you only need a thin layer of glue on the foam, or else it will never dry.
Once the glue was dry, I broke out the metallic spray paint. This stuff I found claimed to actually come off with a burnished, uneven look, which was perfect for what I was after. So, I wrapped the PVC haft in duct tape, put the middle-piece on, and started spray painting everything!
By now, you can see what I was planning with that shower hose, eh? My idea was that since Perrin is a Thor analog, his hammer should shoot lightning! Although, some people just thought “steam-powered hammer, why not?” Both work, I suppose. Anyway, here is the nearly finished version.
And here is the version with the wolf painted on it and some other accent painting done. The gold paint I got didn’t show up too well against the brassy spray paint, but the red and black were quite nice, I think. You can’t see it in these pictures, but I also put some black paint to cover up where the shower hose entered the hammer head, since I gorilla glued that some, too. Ended up having a bit of a welded look, which was neat.
So, I went to Dragon*Con, I dressed up as Steam-Perrin for the parade. My one comment: riding boots ain’t walking boots. I still can’t entirely feel my big toes a week later from all the bruising and beating they took in those. Next year, gel inserts, and I won’t wear the costume all day long either.
Sadly, the hammer did not survive the con. As cool as it looked, it was just too fragile. Paint on the haft had a habit of coming off on my hand, and the green foam couldn’t even tolerate mild bumps that well. When the hose came lose, I knew it was time to play Taps.
So, what have I learned? Well, I need something stronger than white glue and sand to cover the head, even if only to be between the foam and the glue layer. The green foam is probably still the best for molding the head like I wanted it, but perhaps some resin or Bondo to coat it for strength. Also, I need to figure out some sort of sealer for the paint on the haft so it doesn’t want to just keep peeling off on me. Alternatively, I guess I could wrap the haft in some leather, but I kind of liked the black “metallic” haft. Maybe I am just lazy, though.
So, thoughts? Critiques? Suggestions? I did this whole thing in half a day, and as I said, it was my first ever prop making experience. I eagerly look forward to making the Mark II for JordanCon, and, with any hope, I will have inspired some others to do Steampunk Wheel of Time characters too. I know a Steampunk Min and Steampunk Egwene are in the works, at least. After all, why should X-Men and Ghostbusters get all the fun?
Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and ridiculous fan of his new coat. He also writes an illustrated, serialized steampunk novel series, “The Tijervyn Chronicles”, that you can read for free on his website, along with several other short stories and his blog on writing. He also has twitter and facebook, of which he tends to make decent use.