Costume Musings

Worbla’s Mesh Art Comparison and Breakdown

With the announcement of Worbla’s Mesh Art, there were a lot of questions about how it compared to Wonderflex. I spent the last week doing some tests to see for myself, and show anyone curious where the value in using Mesh Art over Wonderflex might be, depending on your project.

(Personally, this was a fun experiment, as many years ago I was one of the first cosplayers to use Wonderflex, long before there was a smooth option. So part of this writeup will also be talking about differences I have found between the ‘old’ Wonderflex, if you use it before the smooth version, and the current ‘smooth’ line.)

Initial breakdown:

Complex Curves:
Mesh Art takes better complex curves than Wonderflex. Wonderflex will take a complex curve, but it just does not stretch enough, and so more extreme curves need to be darted.
(Interestingly I found that smooth Wonderflex takes curves less well than the older product.)
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(Above: you can see how Mesh Art takes a smoother, fuller complex curve. This is without any additional smoothing or ‘smushing’ of the overlap or darts.)

Strength/Torsion:
Wonderflex and Worbla’s Mesh Art are very very close in strength. I find that, with extreme effort I could tear Worbla’s Mesh Art, but it does not warp. Wonderflex is more difficult to tear, but warps in extreme. This is with a D ring, single layered plastic heated and cooled, and twisted back and forth.
In comparison, Finest Art and Black Art both tore, though Finest Art did take more effort to tear.
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Strength/Pull:
Mesh Art and Wonderflex both will take a great deal of ‘pull’ weight. I could not year either with a direct pull, though Wonderflex did warp slightly, it was very minor.


Strength on Curves:

Difficult to photograph, as I don’t have easily quantifiable weights or tools, but have a short video and some books. Basically? Mesh Art is noticeably stronger, even after stretched over a curve.
weight

Wonderflex also stayed indented and had to be pushed back into shape from the books, and was slightly warped from doing so. Mesh Art did not, even after the larger stack.
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Mesh Art vs Wonderflex test

A video posted by Amanda (@elementalsight) on

Tearing Note:
Wonderflex and Mesh Art are similar to duct tape – when cold and unused (before heating/shaping) they can be torn easily along one of the grids, but not along the other. Once heated and cooled, the activated plastic is much stronger!

Adhesive Qualities:
When I used the oldest Wonderflex, I found the adhesive to be very strong and leave residue all over my hands. Wonderflex Smooth does not leave that residue, which is great! But I found it also doesn’t have quite the same adhesive tackiness. Mesh Art is stickier/tackier.
That said, I didn’t find either was better than the other. Mesh art holds slightly stronger – I was able to pry Wonderflex up from Finest Art and from Black Art, but only at the edge and not all the way. It also took all my strength to do so.
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Sculpting/Scraps:
The mesh in Wonderflex really does make it difficult to engrave detail, recycle scraps, or make ‘noodle’ details. It’s possible, but I would personally never use it for details except in a real pinch. The ‘smooth’ side tears when sculpting into, and the mesh does not want to indent.
Mesh Art can be sculpted and detailed the same as Finest Art, and scraps can be smoothly recycled.
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‘Noodles’ for Mesh Art and Wonderflex:
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Above: Mesh Art will take organic curves much easier than Wonderflex, though not as well as Finest Art or Black Art.

Originally, I tested Mesh Art’s ability to flex against the other Worbla plastics.
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Above: showing how far I could bend Black Art, Finest Art, and Mesh Art.

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Above: While Wonderflex does not snap on curves, it does ‘crease’ and hold the crease. Mesh Art I found would return to its original shape.

Surface Finish:
Both products have a smooth side. Wonderflex has a slightly more pronounced texture when stretched.
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Above: Wonderflex painted without primer.
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Above: Mesh Art painted without primer.

Overworking Finish:
If you overwork your plastic, you probably know it can end up very rough. These pieces were pushed as far as I could take them. Wonderflex gains a much more pronounced texture when overworked and warps easier.
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Above: Left, Wonderflex. Right, Mesh Art.

Overheating Finish:
Just to see how well each handles heat, I overheated Mesh Art and Wonderflex. One of the most interesting things I found was that Mesh Art can be slightly smoothed down again after overheating with a wet finger.
overheat
Above: Top, Wonderflex. Bottom, Mesh Art. Far right side of Mesh Art is slightly smoother – was smoothed with a wet finger while warm.

Smoothing Edges:
One thing I really like about Mesh Art is how easy it is to smooth edges. As shown in the sculpting scraps, you can really make edges disappear by heating and smoothing – working with a wet finger for edges, and over a smooth work surface for ‘noodles’ or rolls, helps.
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Above: Mesh Art noodle, left edge allowed to keep seam, seam smoothed to the right.
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Above: Worbla Mesh on the right, Wonderflex on the left. Wonderflex still has a small noticeable ‘edge’ where the overlap has been added, Mesh Art the overlap can be smoothed completely.

Other Notes:
Mesh Art retains heat longer than Wonderflex, giving you more working time. It also is just hotter on the fingers – more like Worbla’s Black Art! So keep that in mind when working to either let it cool a bit, use gloves, or keep a bowl of water handy for work.

Work Surface:
Because Mesh Art IS so sticky, you really really want to work over a surface that is either a silicone sheet, or a piece of parchment or freezer paper. Wax paper and aluminum foil can still stick (and I nearly ruined a $100 cutting board as the sculpted mesh ‘leaf’ stuck so well it had to be cut away in chunks.

Final Thoughts

If you need a thermoplastic only for flat reinforcement (straps for armor) or minor curves, Wonderflex still does the same work it has always done – it’s an excellent, strong non-toxic thermoplastic.
If you need a strong non-toxic thermoplastic that will take complex curves very well, and has the added benefits of allowing scrap recycling, surface detail sculpting, more strength or resistance to warping, a longer working time and a far smoother surface when overworked, overheated or just fully stretched, consider Mesh Art as a replacement to Wonderflex or a complement to your usual Worbla Armor and Props.

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Now Available: Heat Resistant Gloves

We’ve now added stock of our Heat Resistant Gloves!

Gloves avail

We currently carry sizes from Small to Extra Large. Because of the coating on these gloves, think of the fit more like a leather glove than a knit, and size up not down if you are between sizes.
Measure around the palm of your dominant hand (or whichever hand you know is larger). The measurement around your palm is your glove size.
Glovesize copy
We currently carry:
Size 7 Small (7 Inches)
Size 8 Medium (8 Inches)
Size 9 Large (9 Inches)
Size 10 Extra Large (10 Inches)

You can see more information about our gloves here, but for those just looking for a list of plastics we have tested these gloves with:
Worbla’s Finest Art
Worbla’s Black Art
Worbla’s TranspArt
Fosshape Thick and Thin
Sintra
Styrene
Foam

These gloves have been tested and work well with vacuformed plastics/pulls, and while they are not waterproof they can be worn with latex gloves to handle hot water dyeing.

They are NOT recommended for Wonderflex and Friendly Plastic, as both materials just stick to the gloves themselves when heated.

We have not tested these gloves with other thermoplastics, and suggest always testing with new materials to ensure the adhesive qualities are not too strong.


You can find our gloves here
! They ship free with Worbla Purchases!

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Foam Rolls now available!

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Have you been frustrated working with small sheets of craft foam when making large items with Worbla?

We are now offering rolls of foam, sized 36″ by 60″ for your big armour projects!

Available in Black, White and Red: Find them Here!

 

 

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Introducing Sintra!

Introducing another cool thermoplastic, Sintra! It’s a foamed styrene plastic sheet that comes in a variety of thicknesses. It’s traditionally used for commercial signs, but costumers have discovered that it’s also great for making props and armour!

Volpin Props created this gun and used Sintra for the curved purple plates.

How to use Sintra

Like other thermoplastics, we recommend making a mockup out of cardboard or craft foam.

Sintra can be beveled or layered, and with heat it can be stretched or bent. It becomes flexible at 200-275 F and is best heated in boiling water or in an oven; a heat gun can be used for spot heating of certain areas. When heated, like many plastics, Sintra gives off toxic fumes – so please make sure you use adequate ventilation and don’t boil it in a pot that will be used for food.

IceTyrant from the RPF forums documented his Dark Knight build here.

 

For cutting Sintra, you need to use a sharp knife or box cutter, or a saw. To use a knife, score your cutting lines, and then bend gently to crease the back side; then turn over and score the other side carefully. You can then carefully snap along your scoring lines. The hard plastic coating can shatter if you don’t score the cutting lines adequately, or if you use a shearing cutter like scissors.

Sintra pieces can be fused using superglue, and smoothed with sandpaper. You can also use additional sculpting materials such as epoxy putty or Bondo to add details and further smooth angles.

IceTyrant’s Sintra Iron Man helmet, covered in Milliput and sanded. Build info on RPF’s forums here.

To paint, use plastic paints such as Krylon Fusion.

FOA Cosplay made this amazing World of Warcraft Paladin with Sintra.

 

How does it compare to other thermoplastics?

Sintra is thicker than the other thermoplastics we offer, so it can be great for quick buildup of dimension, and like our other styrene sheets, it has a smooth surface that doesn’t need much finishing. It is best for flat layering, beveled angling or for gentle curves; it doesn’t handle complex or compound curves as well as Worbla or Wonderflex and can wrinkle if bent/stretched excessively when heated.

Sintra cannot be vacuuformed; for vacuuforming we recommend the flat/solid styrene.

 

Here are some great tutorials to get you inspired!

http://www.foayasha.com/foacosplay/tutorials/001_Sint01.html

http://www.therpf.com/f24/wip-iron-variant-cosplay-super-pic-heavy-sintra-182204/

http://www.adafruit.com/blog/2014/04/04/using-sintra-to-make-a-death-scythe-from-soul-eater/

https://www.facebook.com/jiajiacosplay/posts/152551688215152

http://volpinprops.blogspot.ca/2012/02/clares-armor-claymore.html

http://deepdivecosplay.com/Construct/sintra.html
Where to buy?

You can find our Sintra category here, and each size has its own page: 2mm, 3mm, 6mm.

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Thermoplastics panel at Costume-Con 32

We are happy to invite all to our Thermoplastics panel at Costume-Con 32.

It will be held on Saturday April 26 at 12PM.

panel

We will talk about Wonderflex, Worbla, Fosshape, Kobracast and Friendly Plastic.

Free product samples will be available.

See you there!

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Most Frequently Asked Questions

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Who’s building with Worbla? Instagram of the day.

beckanoel

Mass Effect Armor with Worbla

See more of beckanoel’s work at:

www.facebook.com/beckedcosplay

 BUY WORBLA

 

 

 

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Who’s building with Worbla? Instagram of the day.

askardi

Sisters of Battle Armor – Warhammer

 

BUY WORBLA

 

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Cosplaying Hobbits

With the recent release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, there has been an increase in questions about the finer details of transforming oneself into a hobbit….

…so with that in mind, here are some notes about the wig and makeup aspects of dressing up as a hobbit, that can take your hobbit appearance from good to great!

Hobbits

Hobbits

You’ve probably already got the basics of dressing like a hobbit down, (earth toned clothing, including yellows and greens which are a favorite of hobbits, heavy natural fibers, comfortable, vests, cloaks, knee length trousers, suspenders,  and so on), but what are the finer details that will transform your final look into a movie quality hobbit?

Wigs

Unless you are blessed with thick locks of naturally curly hair, you might want to consider investing in a wig. Unless you are trying to emulate a specific hobbit, any natural hair colour should suffice. Wigs such as the Tina , or a trimmed up New Michael  would be good for boys. For girls the Curly Dolly  is an example of a nice basic wig choice.

Ears

“Ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish” as Tolkin wrote in a letter to his editor. There are several ways to approach how to achieve the look of hobbit ears you would like.

When buying a pre-made ear tip prosthetic you have to keep in mind the size and shape of your own face. Keeping an ear proportional to the size of your own head is highly recommended, this someone with a larger head might need slightly larger ears. If you have a wider face you might want ears that protrude more at the sides, and so on.

Frodo ear

A view of Frodo’s ear.

A really good choice for hobbit makeups in the premade foam ears, for example the  Alien Ears which are smaller than elf ears and come unpainted and can be painted flesh tone to match your skin colour. I paint mine with grease/cream  flesh tone makeups such as those made by Ben Nye and Mehon, and then protect the colour with a castor sealer.

There are also a variety of pre-painted elf  and fantasy ears and of course the officially licences Lord of the Rings eartips which I am less of a fan of because they are hard and made of vinyl.

All of the ears listed above can be affixed to you own ears using either Spirit Gum or Prosthetic Adhesive.

An alternative to using foam, latex, or vinyl ears, is to sculpt on your own with molding wax which you can buy in a cup, stick, or block.

Feet

If you look at the photo at the top of this article you will notice that the Hobbits have furry, (or at least hairy), foot tops. This effect can easily be reproduced by painting the top of your foot with clear  liquid latex and then applying crepe hair. Crepe hair comes in a variety of colours so it will be easy to match the colour of your hair, (or you wig if you choose to wear one). Crepe hair can also be combines to make subtler shades of colour.

Not feeling crafty? There are official Lord of the Rings licensed “hobbit feet” shoes available as too.

Good luck with your hobbit costuming. I’d love to see photos of your results.

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Fabric Rotary Cutters

 

Rotary Cutter

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter is a fast way to cut accurate straight lines when used in conjunction with a rotary pad and rotary rulers.

Rotary cutting can be intimidating to the uninitiated but with a few instructions and tips it can be both safe and easy. Rotary cutting is a true time saver and makes such clean and accurate cuts that once you learn how to do it you’ll never look back!

A rotary cutter in its purist form is simply a circular blade, mounted on a handle. The blade stands proud from the handle when ready for cutting, and retracts when not in use. It accurately and quickly cuts both fabric and paper.

It is imperative to use a rotary cutting mat when cutting with a rotary cutter. This helps the cutter make clean cuts and protects the blade. A ruler is also recommended.

It is very important when cutting with a rotary cutter to keep your hand on the ruler but away from the edge as you don’t want the cutting tool to accidentally cut you! The blade is basically a round razor blade so it is VERY sharp.

You can cut thru multiple layers of fabric or a combination of fabric and paper which is very handy!

 

Using a Rotary Cutter – Advantages
replacement blades for rotary cutter

replacement blades for rotary cutters

1 – It can be used left or right handed
2 – You can cut forward AND backwards
3 – Cuts decorative shapes with slightly more control than scissors

4 – Can easily cut through a number of layers of fabric
5 – You can buy a guide arm that can be set for seam allowances

But of course, the rotary cutter is by no means perfect!

Using a Rotary Cutter – Disadvantages

1 – You MUST use a cutting mat
2 – The blades are VERY sharp and can cause injury
3 – Some blades DO NOT retract automatically
4 – It’s hard to ‘nip‘ into those smaller areas.

If blades eventually dull, you do not have to throw out the unit. Replacement blades can be purchased inexpensively.

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