Operation Qan[T]: Part 5

Home stretch – just under 48 hours remain before the big day. Unfortunately due to scheduling circumstances as of this post we really only have one work day left – the Friday before the Expo.

I can’t remember if we’ve ever actually gotten stressed in the past during the final few days of the build or if we always just carried on all the way to the bitter end with our usual gung-ho attitude. Unfortunately this time more things are breaking and we’re running into several roadblocks thanks in large part to the more complex nature of this suit, so it’s safe to say things are becoming more tense as the stakes go up and time runs out.

These clear parts are really kicking our asses. The material itself was too expensive (recall $40 for the sheet), it’s a royal nightmare to cut out, and basically impossible to paint properly given our limited resources.

I mentioned last time that we had a buddy with an airbrush who was kind enough to paint all the clear green for us – and that he did. Unfortunately, his airbrush setup isn’t quite cut out for gigantic things like our sword pieces; the thinner spray pattern means that while we could technically get clear green, we also got some nasty and very prominent stroke lines, as seen here with the main GN Sword blade.

We’ll forever be indebted to our friend for going out of his way to give these parts a shot, but the results just wouldn’t cut it for the suit.

We explored many options, from buying our own wide-angle spray gun to possibly using a clear green film, though at the end of the day it came back full circle to what we knew how to do best:

It was sheer luck that my buddy found these cans of Krylon clear green at our local craft store. Tamiya didn’t offer one, despite having selections of clear orange, red, and blue. We figured it would offer a wider spray and more coverage than an airbrush meant for fine modeling.

We quickly found that it wasn’t an easy process. The paint needs to go on really thin to avoid having dark and light spots as the airbrushed pieces did, which means the process takes forever to build up to a nice solid clear green.

It’s still not perfect, but we’d take this slight unevenness over the brush streaks of the airbrush any day.

A weird feature of the clear paint was that it went on foggy and was barely transparent once you laid enough layers on. Thankfully we found that we could “glass” the finish by heating it up with the heat gun and letting it cure for longer.

The old airbrushed piece on the left and our new rattle can version on the right. Neither of them look very presentable when held up to the light, but at this point we’re just looking for marginal benefits in the finishes.

Of course, to redo all the older airbrushed pieces with our newfound rattle can of clear green, we needed to take the old paint off. Rubbing alcohol and Windex spray didn’t work, despite the paint being acrylic, so we popped open an extremely flammable canister of lacquer thinner.

I don’t know why I was so impressed that the thinner wiped the acrylic clean immediately; the stuff is supposed to be used on much more durable paints, so it really should’ve been no surprise that water-based acrylic paints wouldn’t stand a chance.

Mostly clean and ready to be sprayed down with rattle can clear green.

Meanwhile I was so desperate to get the eyes working somehow that we actually brought Barbatos’ old helm over to gut the acrylic sheet out, which had the one-way clear green metallic film still attached.

My hope was to salvage the acrylic sheet, since it was paper-thin and work best for our tight helmet tolerances this year. We don’t have any left from last year, and as far as we could tell there were no places nearby that we could source this stuff from locally; ordering online would take too long to deliver.

Pulled the metallic film off of the clear acrylic hoping to reapply a fresh one, since the one from last year was wrinkling from constant use. Unfortunately I played myself; there’s no way to get this acrylic clean now because the old film’s adhesive has kind of fused to the surface.

So after failing to find more of this ultra-thin acrylic in stores, I resorted to looking around the house for large planes of clear plastic packaging that I could gut to make the shape. I got lucky and found an old box of hood pins that would’ve served perfectly, but unfortunately the box was pretty beat up and worn, so the plastic wasn’t clear anymore. Remember we need this stuff to be pretty crystal-clear for my partner to see out of it.

So the next plan was to go out and look for something really cheap that happened to have sheets of clear plastic as packaging, and by a stroke of luck we actually came across something that also would prove to be useful for the rest of the build.

This Anti-Skid safety tape would be useful under the smooth wooden feet to keep my partner from slipping during ‘con, and the packaging that wraps around the tape happens to be clear and smooth, which I can cut out and use for the eyes.

The whole reason we need paper-thin clear plastic for the eyes is because there’s so little clearance between the eye inserts and my partner’s actual face that the same acrylic we used for the other clear parts on the suit would be too thick to work. We already grinded the helmet and facemask/eyemask down until they were near paper-thin; I’m already worried about them being so thin they’ll rip during the convention.

Thankfully we still have a giant roll of the one-way metallic green film that we used on the Barbatos’ eyes last year.

I tried for the longest time to make the film work with a strip of the clear packaging plastic as we did last year, though when that failed because the film kept leaving creases and bubbles, I resorted to using it on two smaller strips instead, one for each eye. I remember this stuff being much easier to work with last year, for some reason this year it was near-impossible to get it smooth.

Of course a crucial element during this final stretch is to keep getting the color on the armor. Now that the white is all laid it’s a simple matter to mask things and get the secondary colors on there.

I’m so glad most of the Quanta is actually white.

We have limited gunmetal paint, and we want some of the exposed inner frame parts like the chest condenser bezel to be gunmetal, so my work-around to conserve paint was to paint these parts in dark gray Plasti Dip first.

A light coat of gunmetal is then added and voila. The dark Plasti Dip coat underneath is a similar shade, so we don’t have to use as much paint to get the metallic effect, in contrast to attempting to get a solid gunmetal coat on a base coat of white.

It would be a huge and inefficient waste of masking tape to use nothing but that to mask these pieces for painting, so to cover the large areas that we don’t want to risk getting paint on, the usual saran wrap was used.

I regret my gratitude at most of the Quanta being white. We thought we could get away with only one can of blue until we got to the legs and one arm that has the giant armor guard over it.

The feet look super good with color this year, probably because they’re actually accurately sized and not super huge as they always have been.

It looks more like Optimus Prime colors rather than Gundam colors.

We had to strategically plan our painting time and attempt to ration as much of it as possible for when the sun was actually out. Paint both dries faster in hotter temperatures and generally leaves a better finish than when it’s dark and cold outside.

I was actually surprised when I realized that the head had so little color on it besides the white. I initially thought at least one set of the v-fins would be yellow or something, but nope they’re both white.

It’s so cool to finally see color on the suit. We kind of screwed up with the colors though, and we do this every year: it’s blue, red, and yellow, but always the wrong shade of each. These super-saturated pigments make it look more like a LEGO Gundam than the 00 Qan[T] we were going for. Barbatos’ blue was too light last year, and this year the blue is a tad too dark. We need a more faded blue and red, and a brighter yellow.

At the end of the day it’s still blue, white, red, and yellow though. It’s all still Gundam colors, even in the wrong shade.

These redone clear green blades actually took quite a while to finish, since my partner was adhering to a pretty meticulous work regimen when painting them with the clear green rattle can.

All the shield bits are now done; just waiting on the actual hand-held sword blade now.

I’m pretty sure he spent an hour or more going at this thing with coat after coat after coat, probably due to the sheer length and width of the piece that’s unlike any of the other sword bits.

Heating the paint up got us close to a glass-like finish, though on some parts of certain blades it didn’t end up consistent. It’s about as good as clear green pieces are going to get with our power though.

Testing the chest condenser fitment now that the bezel is done being painted. We do plan to light this part up, though probably not just by straight-up sticking a lightbulb in my partner’s chest.

The green glow afforded by the clear pieces when light passes through them is so cool. He’s about to Hulk out.

Even though we’re master builders by now (ha), tragedies still befall us. My partner here was heating this sword bit up because it became slightly warped and bent; he planned to heat it and bend it back into a straight line.

But as he’s attempting the reform, tragedy strikes. This is exactly the worse-case scenario that we wanted to avoid at all costs.

There’s really no way to resuscitate this perfectly – that snap will forever be a part of the piece, though that doesn’t mean we can’t glue it back together. It should be okay once we sandwich the foam sword bit holders to the actual blade, but no amount of paint will hide that line.

So given the struggles I had with the clear acrylic and metallic green film for the eyes earlier, we decided to resort to a more traditional cosplay method – the good ‘ol one-way colored sunglasses.

We were worried the lenses wouldn’t fit in our eyemask, but after popping them out of their original frame they fit perfectly and look freaking sick. The eye on the left is with our original clear plastic/metallic film; the one on the right is with a sunglasses lens stuck in. There’s no contest, and the slight fringes of blue around the green just make it cooler.

Despite all my efforts there was nearly no way to get the metallic film smooth on the clear plastic, so the subtle air bubbles and wrinkles all add up to some warped vision when you’re trying to look out the lens, as seen here.

The sunglasses lenses, in contrast, look weird and colored red because, well, sunglasses, but of course they’re crystal clear.

I mentioned last time that we got some fine lime green mesh to lay over the eye lenses in order to help with lighting the eyes up. My partner did some more thorough shopping around today and came back with even better mesh – it was sparkly green.

Laid over the sunglasses lenses and it’s the coolest thing ever. We’re doing this from now on for our suit eyes.

But we can’t forget the mesh’s real purpose – if you place LEDs slightly in front of it, it’ll catch and diffuse the light, spreading it more evenly across the face of the lenses.

I’m only mocking it up here with the LED strings we have leftover from last year that didn’t make the final cut because they looked terrible with our Barbatos helmet. We’ll be soldering and making our own custom LED setup later.

We’ve also always thrown around the idea of a removable facemask – and we’ve done it before – but last year the face and helmet were all one unit, so my partner had to remove the entire thing every time he needed to clear the fog on his lenses or get a breath of fresh air.

This time we thought we could make it work with some magnet magic, so instead of having four magnets (two in the head and two on the mask) I glued two zinc plates into the sides of the head.

The mask itself then had two small magnets glued onto the area right next to the eyes, making for a quick pull-off slip-on feature.

I want to throw in the clear green pieces to complete the helm so badly, but we have yet to work out an idea for what will go under them.

Partner is scribing in some last-minute details on the shield.

Hands are a bit of an afterthought, given that they’re not very complicated. Same routine as last year – my partner hot glues the pieces onto the glove as he wears it. I’ve heard whisperings of it being an unpleasant experience.

Shield bit pieces all painted, which means we can start mounting them with the clear green parts.

My partner’s first attempt at mounting everything together turned out a bit off; it wasn’t all pressed down evenly, so I offered to give it a shot and glued sections at a time with hot glue, then forced dried them quickly with the compressed air can. Turns out this was a misplay; the rapid cooling from the condensed air ended up cracking and chipping the clear green paint. Disaster after disaster befalls these clear parts.

Because we can’t really paint that bare area with the spray can, we just took a glomp of bottled clear acrylic paint and threw it on there. It doesn’t look great (at all) but we’re hoping later on our buddy with the airbrush will be able to rectify this issue for us.

Concerning the earlier tragedy with the shield bit that my partner angrily snapped in half – he tried super glue but when that failed him he resorted to the good ‘ol tried and true hot glue.

Not a pretty result, but a large part of it is due to the crazy glue fogging the edges and spreading to the rest of the blade.

I’d say we’re on schedule, but I guess we can’t be ahead or behind of it when we never had one. The last day will hopefully be the most productive; now that the main suit is all but complete, it’s just a matter of filling in the small details and getting the last few gimmicks together.

 

Read on the rest of the build:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 6

 

 

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