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Here at Cosplay Supplies we’re always looking for new products we think might be helpful for the community. Sometimes we do private testing, sometimes we just dive in and carry something – and sometimes we need your input!
Which brings us to: Varaform!
Varaform is a thermoplastic that comes in 2 main forms – a light mesh and a heavy mesh. (There’s also a thin gauze sheet we’re not looking at for now.)
Varaform is used in the medical community as an alternative to plaster bandages for casts, and it’s been used for stage costuming for years to create large, lightweight costume pieces, especially under-structures for mascots and monsters.
(Psssst: I have it on good authority Varaform is being used on the new Dark Crystal costumes!)
It activates at 160°F (71° C) and can be activated with warm water or a heat gun. It’s self adhesive, can be reheated endlessly, and incredibly lightweight: Varaform light is about 1/2 the weight of Black Worbla, and Varaform Heavy is about 2/3 the weight of Black Worbla.
What do we think it would be good for?
Mascot builders. Seriously – imagine being able to shape a head over a clay or foam base and then remove all that insulating foam? It gives you more space to cool and circulate air and removes a lot of the weight.
Wings: When you need to build lightweight wings, and straight foam and wire alone won’t be enough, or when every ounce of weight counts, we think this material may be a huge help.
Vickybunnyangel used Varaform for these Star Guardian Soraka wings. The wings are covered in felt and feathers to hide the Varaform understructure. The wings weigh 2lbs on their own (which includes magnets), and are attached magnetically to a backboard made from Worbla’s Mesh Art, foam, and 1″ diameter rare earth magnets.
Horns: If they have to be big and quick! Casting your own horns does give you some of the best results, but if you don’t have time for curing, you can build an under structure quickly that can be wrapped in fabric Maleficent style or quick coated with an air-dry clay.
Build a base from tape and paper, wrap in cellophane.
Cover in strips of Varaform. Let cool, remove form.
Make a skullcap by wrapping your head in plastic and then having a friend help cast your head with Varaform strips. Don’t wear makeup on project day and hide face with something silly. Attach horns with strips of Varaform.
Wrap with straps of stretch faux leather. Glue lightly at overlap. Larger pieces used to cover the skullcap.
Time: 3hours total. Weight 13oz (0.8lb).
Ability to headbang: Yes.
If you need a more organic horn, you can skip the fabric step and instead cover with an apoxie clay or air dry clay. We used Smooth-On’s Free Form Air which was a learning experience. It dries quicker than we expected and is more toxic than other clay we have used, so the skullcap was not quite finished smooth.
Time: 4.5 hours, not including cure time or paint drying. Weight: 1.6lb (27oz)
(Note: Yes, the horns are lopsided. This is the result of building fast, not careful. At least the clay method did help even it out 😛 )
One thing to note about the clay method is that you want to make sure you don’t push the clay through the mesh too far or it will shrink your headpiece. This happened with these horns and while I could fix it with some dremmel sanding, Free Form Air requires a proper respirator to sand and we don’t have one on hand at the office.
Wigs and Hats: Similar to the horns idea, but if you needed to make a large wig, we’re thinking Varaform could be very useful for building the base to sculpt wigs onto for the ultimate in lightweight structure that won’t just be insulating and top-heavy. Varaform might also work well in areas where buckram or foam would be used in large headpieces to avoid relying on wire to provide stability. Gallery below is some examples of things we think Varaform might work well in.
Differences between Light and Heavy:
The wings and Horns were made with mostly Varaform Light, with the Heavy being used along the spine of the wing and for some reinforcement of the skullcap of the horns. I do think we could have used Light for both without issue, but for large things such as mascot heads or complex shapes where you don’t want a lot of overlapping areas, the Heavy might be the better choice, as the light will need more overlap to achieve the same strength as Heavy.
What we’re not sure about:
While we think this has potential, that doesn’t mean it’s without some disadvantages. We can think the pros outweigh the cons, but what we really need to know if you folks do. So, some considerations:
While it’s flexible, It’s about as brittle as Worbla. if someone were to crash into you/sit on your costume, it could break.
The Varaform Heavy mesh is harder to cut: if you have difficulties cutting hard plastics, you might need a friend or a lot of breaks if you’re cutting through a lot of this.
Varaform is messy. The adhesive is a bit reminiscent of white glue and plaster of Paris combined: it leaves a white powder over your work surface and hands, and needs to be cleaned up with water. Clean up is easy, but it’s a consideration to make.
Scraps are less recyclable than Worbla: because it’s a mesh, the scraps can be used to patch areas and smooth joins, but can’t be as easily repurposed as Worbla can be.
It needs to be worked over a form. Varaform is really really floppy when activated – you aren’t going to be able to shape this easily by hand for any complex shape. It’s going to require a form, whether that’s made from packing tape and paper, foam, clay, your body, or something else.
Price: Varaform is sold to us by the roll, and is roughly 40in/100cm tall. We’re estimating price (including shipping) to be around:
Varaform Light 40inx60in = $70
Varaform Heavy 40inx60in = $90
We’ll be offering smaller cuts as well, the Varaform Light should be close to Worbla’s Finest Art in pricing with Heavy around 30% more.
So what we would like to know is your honest opinion:
You can find our questionnaire here! Fill it out and you’ll be entered to win a medium sheet of Worbla – your choice of type! Draw will be held October 2nd!