Thursday, September 8, 2016

Don't Try This! - Dremel Lathe

***Don't try this at home! It was done on a lark, and is potentially dangerous! This post is intended as a look at the wacky stuff we try in the name of cosplay!***

Assembling my own Rey staff was absolutely the right call for me and my cosplay. Good internet versions are upwards of $150 and still need to assembled with a wood or PVC core, and weight and scale was important to me.

 Also, the fun of assembling PVC pipe fittings into a staff on the floor of a Home Depot was a fun group activity. (as well as the  $100 savings...) The store associate had a lot of fun helping me select PVC couplings.

Of all the things in the fittings collection, I could make all but four parts of the staff. The parts I call 'fins' required some craft foam and hot glue, while the little angled bits are worbla formed around shot glasses, and stuffed with craft foam rounds.

Then, there's that bit in the middle, which became the bane of my crafting existence.  I cheated it for CTCon with a styrofoam craft ball and a paracord wrap, and it did the job. No one who hasn't made this staff even knows this part exists (other than the folks on the internet who think it bears a resemblance to a lightsaber, and therefore a key to Rey's parentage)

Action shot! That bit I'm holding forward is the temporary fix.
The biggest challenge of the part is that it is both continuous, and shaped in 3D. It's exactly the sort of thing a 3D printer could do. Or a lathe.

You know what's not made to do this? A Dremel.

Guess which one I used?

Yeah... it seemed clever at the time
That's my Dremel 7700, a length of scrap PVC the same size as the end of the staff (I used 1/2" for the ends, 3/4" for the center part), and a cylinder of floral foam.

The original plan was to hold the pipe and brandish the Dremel like an electric knife at a Thanksgiving turkey. That might have worked, if not for my entirely lacking art skills.

I tried to envision the universe where this actually worked out like I planned, as I sat on my living room floor, holding both of these things in my hand.

And then I shoved the PVC pipe on the end of the Dremel sanding end.

Why? I don't know. (Real answer? Because it fit perfectly, and I couldn't pull them apart without disassembling the Dremel tip)

The new plan was -- use the Dremel like a lathe, carve the foam with the heavy cardboard template I'd made in hopes of keeping the hand carving even. The cardboard-drag was too much for the Dremel motor on low. (I kept in on low to avoid displacing the PVC pipe)
So... I got a blunt dinner knife, and started carving.

Before and After
Cardboard Template Result
Dinner Knife Result

I have no long history of wood-turning, but as far as 'ideas that go exactly the way you thought they would,' this was a home run. I used the butter knife to trim out the extra bulk around the middle, and coated the whole thing in layers of mod podge.

Safety glasses are NECESSARY for this project. If I'd known how much debris would go flying, I would have worn a mask too. All of this is also probably a million different violations of the Dremel manuel. Be safe people -- don't try this at home!

Is it perfect? No, it's still too big, and where I cut out the extra bulk could have been sanded instead of scraped out, and it might not have left such an obvious mark.

But, as far as I'm concerned, it's pretty darn good enough for a part no one but someone who has made the staff will ever notice, and cost me $2.99 in floral foam and an afternoon vacuuming the whole house.