Cosplay, if anything, is a learning experience. For a neophyte like me, this is doubly true.
After several hours of getting ridiculously messy with the paperclay and paper mache, I discovered that this was ultimately not the medium I wanted to use for the Sentry Visor. It felt like changing my major in the middle of junior year all over again. Luckily, the materials didn't set me back too much. The cardboard was stolen from Ikea and the Paperclay cost me less than $20. I learned that I just don't have enough experience in sculpting to mold details as small as the sentry visor's. I was left with this:
The right represents one method while the left represents another. The right side shows what happens when I try to layer the cardboard and then form the clay around it. It left me with a very lumpy shape and was very difficult to sand. The piece on the left was much easier to sand, but the pieces didn't share the same curve and thus didn't lay flat. Overall, nothing was as geometric or smooth as I wanted, so I moved onto plan B, something I was very hesitant to jump into due to my bias.
I ordered a pile of this stuff and set to work experimenting with different methods of cutting, sanding, etc. I learned quickly that I was going to need a heat gun, so I picked one up at Home Depot for about $20.
With this baby finally in my possession, I continued messing around with my sample foam. I decided fairly quickly that while yes, the thickness of foam I'd chosen for the armor was perfect, it was hardly that for the sentry visor. I'd have to shop around for lighter craft foam, but that didn't stop me from playing with it. My exacto knife performed admirably, but carving through half an inch of foam took its toll. The details, however, were another matter. I found that by cutting narrow, parallel lines, the foam between the cuts merely peeled away once I applied light pressure.
So I stuck that method in my back pocket for later. Meanwhile, the heavy and medium grade sanding blocks I'd picked up weren't quite doing the trick, leading me to believe that this was a job for a dremel. I moved on, eager to play with my heat gun. I learned another important lesson: don't heat your foam AFTER you've applied your details. They warp and get bigger.
For those of you looking to get your own heat gun and play with it, take a lesson from me, one of the derpiest cosplayers ever: heat guns are serious business. In case the name didn't paint a clear enough picture for you, these things get unbelievably hot, even at their lowest setting. Don't point it at yourself, your friends, loved ones, pets, or things in your home that are prone to burning. Anyway, moving on...
Lastly, I cut into the carbon fiber film I'd been holding onto and took a heat gun to it. While I'm still not sure if it's something I want to apply to the sentry visor, I found that heating and molding it was dreamily easy. Definitely something I'll continue to work with in the future.
Not sure what I'll do with these paperclay pieces. I'd love to keep working with paperclay in the future, but for larger props and blunt accessories until I get a little more comfortable with finer details. The next step is acquiring the new foam and start again. While working on my other cosplays. Hurray. In the mean time, you better be listening to Relay to Relay Radio, the best freaking Mass Effect fancast on the Citadel. Shameless plug? I think not. We have fake alien news.