Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

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Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  BnBGobo99 on Sat Mar 30, 2013 1:54 pm

My unit will be getting a new 1st Sgt in a few weeks; and the current one is, by far, the best one I've worked with, so I'd like to make him something nice for the Squadron to give him when he leaves:

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It's a '1' because he's the 1st Sergeant (responsible for the morale, welfare and health of the Airmen as well as the legal arm to the Commander for enlisted matters). Since he hasn't gone through the 1st Sgt Academy, I can't give him anything with the typical "diamond" that the 1st Sergeants normally wear--so the '1' was a workaround to acknowledge his status as a 1st Sgt.

We're looking at using a vinyl concrete and sand mixture, and I've been looking around craft shops for suitable letters without luck. We might just end up dremeling the larger letters and using a plaque in place of the smaller ones.

So... my wife thinks it looks like a headstone at a grave site and that I should make something else. This guy's a pretty "rough and tough"-style guy, so I think he might like the concrete (being tough and heavy itself). To keep the top-heaviness of it down, we'll be sinking an empty box in the neck to prevent it from tipping over and also keep the weight down a little bit.

What are your thoughts? Any suggestions? (btw, his names not Smitty, just a nickname)


[For the 3D aspect: Rendered in Cycles at 300... cycles. I used the source image as a emitted light, as well as the [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] HDR image mixed with a lightly yellow light for the world texture. I just eyeballed the alignment and lens mm size, it's not perfect, but maybe 80% there.

It was then brought into GIMP for some color changes, fake shadowing, and such. One thing I've learned to make things blend in with digital photographs a bit better is to Gaussian blur the render, then do an "unsharp mask" to de-blur it. Next, toss in some HSV noise, then lower the brightness and up the contrast on the render just a slight bit. Finally, blur the edges just a little bit, then brush over them with the sharpen tool. Again, it's not perfect this way, but it brings you 80% there.]
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Yodaman921 on Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:20 pm

I think it looks pretty neat. The concrete may actually have a really cool effect for it.

Although I will say your wife may be right in that it looks a bit like a tombstone... here's an image from Spongebob:
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  BnBGobo99 on Sun Mar 31, 2013 2:43 pm

And the name is Smitty, too... how oddly creepy. Question
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Radialronnie on Mon Apr 01, 2013 5:46 pm

BnBGobo99 wrote: To keep the top-heaviness of it down, we'll be sinking an empty box in the neck to prevent it from tipping over and also keep the weight down a little bit.
That's a pretty good idea. I assume the vinyl concrete won't really need any reinforcing with something like an armature, right?

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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  BnBGobo99 on Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:45 pm

Initially, I was thinking of doing a chicken wire mesh as the rebar-ish armature... but this is all new to me (concrete, modeling, chicken wire, etc)... I'm afraid to overcomplicate it by doing too many unfamiliar things all at once. pale

Here is my progress so far:
I bought some green floral foam and carved it with some wood-carving tools. It worked quite well! Easy to carve with a fairly smooth surface compared to standard white styrofoam.
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[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

I also tried out wood carving, something I've never done before. Here's my attempt at four different beveling styles:
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Carving in wood, at least this type of wood, was pretty easy and fun actually. I might give something more complex a try later one.

Our two options are to coat a carved out '1', or cast a '1' out of a negative mold. This is my attempt at coating, it didn't work out too well--but I was happy that the letters, they showed better than I thought they would. This is about 8" tall, our final version will be about 14" hopefully (if we can find foam blocks that tall).
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The white block next to the '1' is a casting attempt from a square-ish void cut out of white styrofoam. The styrofoam stuck to the mix something bad, leaving a horrible surface on the resulting object. So for casting--white styrofoam is a no-go.

That small block didn't go to waste though... I tried to see how easy doing some engraving would be into it:
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I did my Church's logo (or my attempt at one) using a safety-pin as my carving tool.

Here's another view to show the size of the letters:
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This worked out quite well, I thought. I should be able to use an iron or embossing heater (basically a really hot hair dryer) to transfer a laser-jet print out of the letters onto the surface of the object and use that as a guide to trace the letters. With the logo above, I just eye-balled it... which is why the letters are all spaced and angled wrong.

So, we'll be using green foam to make a negative mold, then filling it with a ceramic cement mix, and finally using a Dremel rotary tool to do the letters. Since we can remove the mold without breaking it, I also bought some concrete mix so we can cast a version in concrete too.

I'm hoping to have it all done by next Friday... more pictures in the coming days!
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Radialronnie on Thu Apr 04, 2013 4:02 pm

Green foam is a fantastically carveable material (I would know, my Mom's blocks always had... uhm... bits and things carved into them Embarassed )
I wondering how much weight those can hold, though I'm sure that won't be an issue at this scale. Good luck!

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Finished!

Post  BnBGobo99 on Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:19 pm

Hey everybody, it's been a long road with this project but I'm finally finished!

Once I decided that plaster is the way to go, I bought a Dremel rotary tool and detailing bits to help me carve the letters, smooth the edges, and do all the beveling needed.

Setting the Dremel aside for now, I took an electric wand [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] and cut the '1' shape out through three sheets of 1"-thick foam. When using a wand to cut foam, you have to let the tool move at its own pace--if you try to force it, you'll make uneven cuts and break the tool (which I've done before--this particular model is not the toughest, but it's all I have at my local store).

I then stacked the foam and poured my mix into it. I beat my hands around the mold to shake the bubbles out, but my mix was (too) thick that I didn't have much problem with the bubbles. I think most of the air was forced out between the foam layers, so that worked. After pouring it I placed weights on the mold to keep it still and prevent leaking. I then left it still for two days.
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After breaking the mold:
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I then cleaned up the edges and smoothed them out. I printed out the text and using carbon paper traced them onto the plaster. The carbon paper turned out to be unnecessary, since the tracing dug a slight groove into the plaster that made it easy to see the outline.
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Using a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.], I carved in all the letters. I ended up not using the Dremel for the letters after all, since the dash removal tool worked just fine. I found it best to use a soft touch and do multiple rounds, rather than try to push harder and risk going over the lines.
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The Dremel tool did help cutting off much of the excess. I then used wood carving tools, a metal ruler, and a crafting scalpel to finish it all off. Plaster is an amazingly easy to carve, yet solid material. I ran the ruler's edge up and down the length of the '1' to level out the sides, which worked rather well.
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Now came time for painting!

The first thing I did was do two coats of sealant to make the material take the paint better and prevent too much absorption. I've never dealt with plaster before this, so I wasn't sure if that was going to be a big issue or not--but better safe than sorry. I then covered the letters in corn starch so the paint wouldn't get inside.
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I applied three acrylic colors (tan, white, and gray), using sea sponges. The first coat was a hearty 50/50 white/tan mix. I then medium-firmly dabbed 80/20 gray/white, then a final softly-dabbed coat of the tan mix. I then blew the corn starch off and bam!
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The bottom letters turned out nice--although I think I dug the "First Sergeant" in too deep.
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And here is the detail on the larger letters. After digging in the outline, I did a sweeping motion to dig in the center, giving it a nice texture.
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We'll be giving it to him on Friday--so I'll let you know how that goes.

~~~

More images of the Blender portion:

I first typed the number '1' using a font (can't remember which one), extruded and beveled using the text tool options, then converted it to a curve so I can make some modifications (I pulled out the top lip and heightened the base). Next, I converted it and the other texts to meshes and did Boolean operations on the other texts to get the final mesh.
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Once I decided which environment to place it in, I did a bit of alignment and such. (This was actually my second environment, the first didn't turn out too swell.)
[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]

I then took three different concrete textures off CGTextures.com to make my own. The final texture looks very similar to the stock #11, but I wanted some of the divots along with a touch of the roughness the other two had.
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My first environment was my desk, but I didn't like how orange it was--and color correcting it only brought out the dark divots in the render--and I found a better image and abandoned any rerender/GIMP-adjustment efforts in favor of a new environment.
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So I went with the second environment which you can see in the Blender screenshot above and in the first post.

I hope y'all enjoyed it, and thanks for reading along! I also posted a cradle-to-grave thread on my WordPress blog: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Xraygunner on Sun Apr 28, 2013 7:16 pm

I love reading through stuff like this. Great post... hope it is well received! Nice work as always. bounce
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Radialronnie on Sat May 04, 2013 1:15 am

I enjoy these too! You never know when you'll do something similar and these Making-Ofs would come in handy. Thanks for sharing!

I made a leather pouch for my phone a little bit ago, but I haven't done much else creative lately.

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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  BnBGobo99 on Sat May 04, 2013 9:31 pm

Thanks guys! Smile

Our First Sgt wasn't feeling well part-way into the picnic, so he left early. I'll be leaving the gift with the Commander's assistant and they'll give it to him sometime later. I'll be leaving for a class, so I won't be around for the presentation--if there is one. It's the end of my involvement! Not how I pictured it, but at least he'll get the gift in the end.
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  Xraygunner on Sun May 05, 2013 9:06 pm

Ahhh! Valiant effort anyway!
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Re: Going Away Gift (1st Sgt)

Post  zyzzy on Sun May 05, 2013 10:31 pm

that is a very impressive piece of work.

and thanks for all the details...i may want to try something like that myself sometime.



(just curious, did Coke pay you anything for the "product placement"?) Very Happy
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