Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Skyrim: Iron Shield

Not too long ago, I was commissioned by a New York based film maker to produce a prop for a fan film titled "Skyrim: The Shadow Cult."  They're currently in filming right now so you can see their progress and hopefully some of my work on their fan page:

Its been far too long since I've completely a full write up on any of my work, so here we go! The build log for the Skyrim Iron shield.  

The Iron Shield is a piece of heavy armor and part of the Iron Armor set found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

After following VolpinProps' build of the Whiterun shield last year, I had a difficult time improving on his build method.  Basically, the Iron Shield is the same wood buckler with some decorative iron banding on the surface.  If you follow Harrison's work and have a strange sense of deja vu, its because I've employed a lot of the techniques he developed for this project. Danke sir.

Every good project starts with a plan - Blueprints, 3d model, hastily doodled napkin sketch, etc.  For my process, I'm still 50:50 on what software package I prefer to do my pre-production work in.  CorelDraw is a fantastic vector drawing system, but for a design that was so heavy on symmetry and radial alignment I decided to draw this piece in Rhino.  The rendering of the blueprints may look a lot nicer in Corel/Illustrator, but in terms of accuracy Rhino can't be beat. 

So with the plans plotted and materials sourced, it was time to get cracking on the fabrication of the shield.  I would have preferred to use EPS foam (the blue/pink stuff you can find any your local hardware store), but the terribly nice fellow at Home Depot cut me a fantastic deal on an opened package of styrofoam.  

There's a shield hiding in here somewhere....

I don't own a large compass so I had to get a little creative with my circle drawing.  Here I measured out a piece of scrap sintra to half the diameter of my shield, then screwed it into the centerpoint to keep it from sliding around.  

And on the Sintra outter band

The wood paneling on the front/back of the shield proved to be the most time consuming part of the build.  Instead of drawing out each groove and gnarl in the wood, I included just the basic segments in my blueprints and free-handed the rest using a tool I like to call a "Scrimmel."  The Scrimmel is a great little DIY engraving platform that consists of a dremel zip-tied to a Scroll Saw.  Shim your work with a few sheets of Sintra to adjust the height and you have a setup that provides consistent cuts and very nice flowing lines.  

Two panels down.  Three to go. 
To laminate the wood paneling onto the shield I used a 5-minute epoxy and "clamped" each piece down with all of the heavy things that were within arms reach in the shop.  

For the center iron piece I scribed out a piece of styrofoam and the hard coated it with Apoxie Sculpt.  Add a few cuts and gouges as it cures and you're good to go.

This is where my progress photos become a little disjointed.  In this next shot I have stained the wood and epoxied on the outer Sintra ring.  In addition to the ring, I filleted the inner edge with Apoxie clay to give me something to cut into when I go about weathering/denting up the iron bands.  

Since the majority of this shield is styrofoam sandwiched between two 1/8th inch sheets of wood paneling, I needed  something stronger to mount the handle and arm strap to.  For this I counter sunk two T-nuts into the front surface of the shield and hid the holes with apoxie sculpt.  This gives the bolt a much larger surface area on which to spread the force, and makes it less likely to rip right through the shield the first time you go to bash a dragur's face in.  

And now we wrap things up with an inordinate amount of dremel work.  In a similar fashion to the Dragon Priest mask, I used the "dremel hammer" approach to simulate a wrought iron look on the shield surface.  Its very time consuming and wears your arm out like you wouldn't believe but the results are well worth the effort.  

I've been dying to use this theme song with my work. 

Next we assemble the iron cross braces and give them the same Apoxie and dremel treatment as the center ring and outer band.  When the dough is still fresh and soft you can use isopropyl alcohol to smooth and feather out the edges.  As it cures and hardens you can begin to sharpen the details and refine shapes using standard clay sculpting tools. 

After getting the cross braces and the outer rim assembled and weathered, I gave the wood paneling some additional attention with a box cutter.  I tried to randomize the cuts and weathering to simulate the wear and tear this shield might see out in the medieval forests of Skyrim.   After getting stabby with various blades and files, I gave the wood a final, most lovely looking coat of Mahogany stain.  

For the iron studs in-between the cross braces I simply skinned eight Sintra pucks with Apoxie sculpt, and used a sanding drum on the dremel to get that hammered iron look.  They were then bonded to the shield with 5-minute epoxy.  

To paint them, I used several layers of acrylic washes over a standard metallic grey paint.  Once I was happy with the color/finish, I sealed the paintjob with a clear acrylic topcoat then applied some final weathering by dry-brushing silver liquid leaf over the high points.  For the overall feel of the paintjob, I pushed toward a "cooler" palette, and applied several passes with blues and stormy grays.  

The last little bit to do involved weathering and finishing touch ups.  Several dark washes over the entire surface give it a grimy/real-world feel, and shading around the wood paneling makes the iron studs pop a little more .  

Nearly wrapped up. 

Then it was just a matter of attaching the handle/strap and giving the shield a protective clear coat.  I'm assuming the clear coat wasn't completely matted out when I took these outdoor shots since most of them turned out very glossy and reflective.  

It shows the wood graining wonderfully but talk about washed out!

So there we are!  It was a fairly straight forward build, and we didn't have any wrenches thrown into the engine.  I'm very excited to see how this piece looks on film in the fan-series.  A big thank you to Cathy from   God Save the Queen Fashions for the leather strapping.  If you have any questions, comments, concerns, deep-thoughts, or jaded opinions, feel free to leave a reply below!

Thanks for reading!

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