SO YOU WANT TO WORK WITH FIBERGLASS.


First, let me try to talk you out of it.


It's dangerous, icky, sticky, disgusting stuff, and is hazardous to your health if you don't protect yourself. You absolutely must wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area. No costume is worth risking your health over. Follow all safety procedures given in the instructions of the kits you will use.

Still with me? Okay, let's get started.


MATERIALS: ARMING YOURSELF FOR BATTLE


This is a general list of things you'll need to start with the fiberglass... note, no power-tools here. You CAN do this!


*Fiberglass Resin (This comes in many different size cans; for a small prop, the little can should suffice, but for anything serious ie armor, you'll need the big can. Hardener is included, but you can buy extra if you need it.)
*Fiberglass Mat (A little goes a long way.)
*Paintbrushes (for applying the resin to the mat. Buy a super-cheap one, because they're a b*tch to clean and you'll probably just want to throw it away.)
*Bucket/Bin/Paint Tray (we re-use a disposable paint tray to mix the resin in, lined with aluminum foil. We're also very cheap. Like I said, you won't want to clean.)
*Drop Cloth
*Gloves (something strong, and disposable. This is an irritant you're working with!)
*Turpentine (for clean-up)


PREP WORK: DON'T MIX THAT CRAP 'TIL YOU'RE READY


You cannot "sculpt" with fiberglass. It will be gooey and sticky and basically unmoldable when you first prepare it. Then once it dries, it's spiky, sharp, and pretty lethal. So you need a base to put it on.

This will depend a lot on what you're making. We generally use paper-mache. The Silky shoulder armor was made from paper-mache'd balloons, which we carved the armholes into. The Tifa elbow-guard was also a paper-mache'd curve-shape. The Pepper harp was carved out of a styrofoam block, then covered in paper-mache to reinforce it. It's worked for us so far, so we recommend it. Paper-mache is infinitely cleaner and simpler than what you're about to do, so remember that happy feeling.

The smoother your surface is, the smoother the fiberglass will lay. Little nooks and creases are hard to do, so don't be crazy with the detail. Detail should be added later.


MIXING THE RESIN: BREATHE THROUGH THE MOUTH


Pour a small amount of resin into your paint tray. It's a percentage system, so if you use a quarter of the resin, use a quarter of the hardener. Mix it around a bit to get the consistency even, then GO! You don't have much time before it becomes unspreadable, so only mix a little your first time. Later, you'll be going through resin cans like water, but for now start slow.

Take a strip of the mat (bigger strips for big surface areas, but little squares will fit into tight spots better) and coat it in resin. It'll soak right in and turn quasi-transparent, sort of sickly snot-like yellow. It will stick like hell to you and your fingers and your cat and just about everything except where you want it to go. Keep poking at it, hold it down (this is why you're wearing gloves!) and applying more strips of matting.

Even when the resin becomes thick and globulous on your paintbrush, you can keep using it to wet the matting for a while. Once it's dead, make up another batch as necessary. One or two layers is sufficient for most things; it keeps it light, but it's still very sturdy. By the third batch of resin, your paintbrush will probably be fiberglassed beyond saving, into a large bristle-less instrument of death. Let it go, man, let it go.


DRYING AND CLEAN UP: A FANTASY


A newly fiberglassed piece will be very tacky for a while. The fiberglass mat is still sort of transparent; if you're working over paper-mache, you should be able to see the newspaper print underneath. Ahh, the price we pay for a sturdy, smooth prop.

You're probably light-headed from the disgusting fumes, your gloves are stuck to each other, and you have a horrible itch on your nose that you can't scratch. Well, you're in luck, because the sticky part is over with. Find a safe, dry spot to set your newly-fiberglassed toy, and relax. Throw away whatever had your resin mix in it, cap any open bottles, take off the gloves, go wash up. Turpentine is probably your only option if the resin lands somewhere it shouldn't.

Drying time varies greatly depending on heat, thickness, and how much hardener you used. Go check on it after twenty minutes or so... it should be coming along nicely by that point. The bottle says up to two hours to dry, so don't get too anxious.


SANDING, TOUCH-UPS: AHH, MY EYES


Okay, the fiberglass work is done, but it's lumpy, and the edges are jagged and pointy. Time to start sanding. Be SURE you're wearing a mask, as this is NOT something you want lodged in your lungs! Getting it smooth is quite a task, so a mini power-sander is a big help. (We use a "Mouse" by Black & Decker. Silky would never have gotten finished without it.) It doesn't have to be perfect, however, just *close* to perfect. Body filler ("Bondo") is infinitely easier to work with than fiberglass, and you'll use it next to cover up divets and imperfections. But that's for the next tutorial.



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