Sunday, 5 April 2015

Kampi's Saga: Preparations for the Season Opener

Gosh, I been so terribly busy lately and done so much to write about, yet I haven't had the time to make any entries! Most of what I've been doing since GottaCon is helping administrate Vanguard Training, and crafting and preparations for the 2015 season opener of Medieval Chaos: Night of the Silver Moon. I haven't had the chance until last Friday to get any tabletop gaming in, I've been that busy!

This entry will discuss a couple projects I completed to improve my kit; Kampi's staff and helmet. Next entry I hope to touch upon Kampi's experiences at the Night of the Silver Moon event proper while it's still relatively fresh in my mind.

As I briefly mentioned last month over social media, that I had fashioned my first foam weapon: a staff created to look like an oar (the idea being that Kampi salvaged it from the remains of his shipwreck and bares it as a memorandum for his fellow shipmates that were lost at sea).

I wasn't able to thoroughly document the full construction process we used (we, as in my friend and I who both build a staff), which should be fine since this was our first time and probably shouldn't be taken as the best advice. Having no formal training we used common sense and based our guidelines around the safety requirements for this years' weapons in the Player's Handbook.

Some of the materials used, top to bottom:
Brown duct tape, PVC cement, spray adhesive, 3/4" and 1/2" pipe insulation,
3/4" schedule 40 PVC, pipe connectors and end caps.
I noticed that this year the edge thickness had increased to 2" from 1" from the core, making our staves quite thick; I placed this padding all along the entire length as I wanted it to look thick like a boat oar.

We used PVC Cement to attach the coupling rings and the end caps.
In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have done this; although we were concerned about safely capping our cores, tension should've been enough to keep them in place, and made for future difficulty when we try to stiffen the staves (more on that below).

A big'o'block of foam w/ hot crafting knife.
I trimmed a chunk off and used that for the basis of the 'oar blade'

Once I had fully wrapped the core in insulation foam and secured it with a combination of double-sided carpet tape, spray adhesive, and wrapped the exterior with a spiral of hockey tape, I cut a slot out of the 'oar blade' and using copious amounts of spray adhesive I inserted one end of the staff and wrapped it in masking tape to hold it fast while the adhesive dried.

The final process was wrapping the whole thing in brown duct tape.
For the 'blade' and the 'bottom' I wrapped it once perpendicular and once parallel lengthwise to add extra support, where as the rest of the shaft I taped along the length.
VerdictI had the opportunity to début Kampi's oar during the first session of Vanguard and have used it several times since, including the season opener of MC, which I consider it's final test. I am very pleased with the result. It's stood up to heavy use and abuse with only minor scratches, which are easily fixed with tape.

Improvements: The staff does flex a little too much and might be a tad, as one would say, 'whippy'. This is on account of being unsure if any thing can be placed inside the core to make it more rigid. It has been suggested that one could insert a couple fibreglass rods inside the pipe to stiffen the weapon. Another thing to consider is grey schedule 40 PVC might be slightly more rigid than the white pipe we went with.

It's interesting to note that my 'oar' passed weapon inspection last Saturday, but my friend's staff (which is nearly identical in construction, minus the 'blade') didn't on account of it being too flexible. Also there was some contention about schedule 20 being the standard vs. the schedule 40 (as recommend in the handbook) that we used??? (I wasn't privy to the exact details; I heard this account second hand.) The only thing we can think of is the addition of the 'oar blade' on my staff makes it slightly less flexible; also the materials are the same but we constructed our staves individually so each individual method might also have some baring.

So far building a staff for MC right now seems a bit of a catch-22: a larger diameter core would mean the pipe is a bit more rigid, but the weapon would be absurdly thick because the amount of the minimum edge padding required; conversely, a smaller core makes for a thinner staff, but makes it more 'whippy'. Another friend of mine fashioned his first staff using just fibreglass rods as his core (as suggested to him) but the result was a staff even more flexible than ours! *facepalm*

The one other major project I finally finished before season opener was a leather spectacle-style helmet. Originally, the Missus and I were looking to fashion one out of leather using the pattern for the metal one [here] and sizing it to my head. We got as far as building a mock-up out of card-stock before I met with my friend Doug (a crazy-talented crafter, owner of an amazing set tools and skills, and the proprietor of Aether Anvil; his Etsy store is currently empty, but his facebook page contains many interesting photos and updates), and he suggested I check out a site that sells leather patterns specifically designed for LARP and cosplay called Crystal Anvil.

There they have a Norse Guard Helm Pattern for $3.99; I purchased it feeling that using a professionally made pattern would be much better than trying to make something from scratch and possibly create something ugly/unusable and wasting leather. I' wasn't a huge fan of the eyepiece, but Doug suggested we cut something I'd prefer out of aluminium using his CNC cutter.

I printed the pattern out on label sheets (as I discovered to my chagrin my printer won't print on cardstock; this turned out to be major downfall as we will see ahead), arraigned the sheets with a slight overlap together as a large poster, cut out the pattern pieces, and stuck them to the suede side of my leather, which I then cut them out individually.

The next thing that was to be done was punch all the rivet holes, and clean the edges with a beveller. Once that was complete, I met with Doug for the final steps: dying, assembly, waxing. 

On a hunch, Doug suggested I assemble the helmet first, and after hammering all the rivets it became apparent to both of us that this helmet was way too large

I have a rather small head, so it looked absurd on me (it kinda looked like a bishop's mitre. Battle Pope!), but even to larger people like Doug it was too big. The pattern had somehow printed too large; it is mentioned in the pattern that it's spec is for a 25.5" head-size with padding, and one could scale up or down to achieve the preferred size, but annoyingly nowhere does it explain how one would go about scaling the pattern. We originally thought I must've messed up somehow when I printed the pattern, but when Doug imported the PDF file into his the CAD program he uses for the CNC when designing the eyepiece, the ratio was incorrect. 

Additionally the ruling marks on the edges of the pattern don't equate to inches (something I noticed when laying out the prints); they're pretty much arbitrary numbers at his point. I hadn't printed it wrong, the pattern itself was wrong; this was something I would have discovered if my printer allowed me to make a mock-up out of cardstock! Learn from my mistake and be wary of any sizing inconsistencies in the patterns from Crystal Anvil.

Disheartened, the following day we decided to complete the other steps and see if the helmet might look a bit better at the end. We dyed it black, then manufactured the metal eyepiece, oxidized it, and riveted it on before we waxed the whole thing.

At home I warmed the waxed leather further and worked down the rumpled edges of the leather to a more uniform roundness, the gave it a protective coat of mink oil. After all that it looked much more tolerable.

On a positive note, instead of using loads of foam to fill out the helmet so it'd fit on my head, I realized that Kampi's hat easily fits inside it, meaning I can simultaneously pad the helmet and store my hat when I wear it. Plus the hat's fur trim looks pretty decent from the back. All I added was a couple bicycle helmet pads in the front and back to provide a bit of padding and for something for the hat to gain purchase upon, and a line of weather stripping under the nasal portion of the eyepiece in case it just pushed into my face.

Verdict: I wore this helmet for about half of the season opener (the combative parts), and despite the look I'm pretty content with it. It was nice to have an extra hitpoint in-game, and the actual protection it gave me increased my confidence. I even received a few complements on it so it must not look that bad.

Eventually, I plan to sell it to someone whom it fits better and Doug and I will scale the pattern to the correct dimensions for my head, cut new pieces quickly with his laser cutter, and make a new correctly-sized helm for Kampi. Maybe I'll even take the time to tool/burn patterns into the leather and/or add a few more metal plates. Until, then this'll do.

I have a many more projects on the go that I didn't get finished in time for MC: still working on the embroidery for Kampi's hat, a replacement hood wrap, and a tunic and cloak for my Ankhadian Ranger kit, now that I'm a member.

Additionally, based upon my well-received performance during a Post-Apocalyptic Paintball-LARP Beta we attended last month (where I played a medic), I've been selected to be the groups healer (medico); so I'm slowly constructing a medieval fantasy 'first aid kit' that's based around the 'four humours'. It's just a matter of acquiring/building the props/phys reps and figuring out the RP fluff and the game mechanics.

Hopefully you'll be hearing about these soon.