I’m in the process of building my new costume for Fan Expo (perhaps the subject of a future post!), and one thing I have to do is build a set of shoulder pauldrons.
After coming across these amazing things from Azmal on DeviantArt I was briefly tempted to try hammering bronze.
Until I remembered that I have wrist that are so bad that sometimes lifting a basket causes problems. But seriously go check out the rest of his work, it’s so beautiful!
After a brief detour into that flight of fantasy I went back to looking at methods I could actually use. I’ve come across a few, but one thing I kept coming back to was Wonderflex. Some people swear by it, some say it’s too expensive, but this heat mouldable thermoplastic is certainly a staple of the cosplaying community. I have never worked with it, or any even remotely resembling it other than fun foam, so it was a hard sell when it is quite pricy. A less than 2 square foot piece of this stuff will run you over twenty bucks.
What sets wonderflex apart from some of the other methods:
- Its ability to bend in multiple directions. This is a failing of many other plastics that, similar to cardboard, can only really have a bend in one direction.
- You can remould it if you don’t get your bend quite right.
- Easily cut with scissors
So I was ecstatic when I came across Wonderflex World – Request a Sample. Somewhat skeptical of my chances of getting it due to my being located in Canada, I filled out the form and hoped for the best. Alas, I did not take note of when I submitted it, but it wasn’t long before I got an envelope in my mailbox with these samples!
Despite it being one of the hottest days on record, I broke out my trusty heat gun and tested it a bit.
As a bonus, they also included a sample of two weights of Flosshape, 300 and 600, so I get to review those as well!
First. The wonderflex.
Originally wonderflex had the grid pattern you see on the strip on both sides, but most I have seen for sale now have one side smoothed. Many people will use a coating of some kind anyway to get it perfectly smooth.
It did cut quite easily, and I imagine doing more intricate designs wouldn’t be a problem. I only cut a small strip off for my initial tests, and holding one end took the heat gun to the other. As you know (or can likely guess), heat guns get quite hot. So luckily it doesn’t take long to make the wonderflex pliable, and I could (carefully) shape it with my own fingers. They do recommend you wear gloves, and I agree that would be the best idea if only to avoid finger prints and to keep firm pressure on bends.
I decided to do the worst case bend I could in the small strip, a U bend with a kink in the middle.
I did find it to be a bit more flexible than I would have liked, hard to keep an exact bend in. But I think that has more to do with the size of the piece I was using. It was very easy to work with, and really does hold up to repeated heatings well. And it clearly lives up to its reputation of having a lot of freedom of bending, insofar as the laws of physics will allow. I think that a larger piece would have more stability, plus you can layer other sheets of things (even more wonderflex) over it to give it added durability.
My verdict? It lives up to the hype, that’s for sure. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and lets you achieve bends that many other methods would find impossible. The only major downside is the price of this stuff. It holds the bend well, although has some flexibility that may cause issues with some paint jobs. However it also is unlikely to snap, so it’s a trade off. Depending on the type of curve you put in this may not be an issue, but as a flat sheet it can be rolled up, so that gives you a clue as to how much it can bend.
Will I use it? I’m still on the fence. It is very very nice, so it’s just a case of deciding if it is worth the price. The durability factor is what is swaying me, as I want this costume to last a long time.
Bonus review time! Fosshape!
Now this stuff is REALLY easy to work with. It hold it shape stiffly, with just a bit of give. The main use I’ve seen for this stuff is making things like top hats, but as with any material in the world of cosplay there’s an infinite number of uses.
Advantages of fosshape:
- Can be sewn. Before heating it’s nearly identical to thick felt and can be used as such.
- Dye it any color of the rainbow, just like other fabric. Or paint it like you would any other stiff, rough material.
- Holds its shape very well.
It does have its share of downsides too. You can’t reshape it once it’s set, it shrinks somewhat when heated, and requires a higher temperature. It’d be excellent for large props I think, although it’s also pricy in its own right.
Obviously the thinner fosshape 300 could achieve much tighter curves, and held them very nicely.
Please excuse the bad colouring, had to really mess with the contrast to show off the tight U-bend! As you can see it bends as you expect felt to do, but holds it! This is hard enough to poke people with, with only slight give. It hasn’t been completely hardened either, since I was using my bare hands and a heat gun. It is recommended you use a steamer so you activate all the fibers outside and in, which will give you a lot of strength.
The thicker fosshape 600 couldn’t do the U-bend because of the size of piece I cut off, so I went with testing it’s hold.
Pinching the two ends it will give maybe a few mm, less than a quarter inch. And again, I only used the heat gun!
I really enjoyed working with fosshape, and was really tempted to use it for my costume. However the fuss of trying to make it into a metallic smooth surface would offset any ease of use, especially for my smaller pieces. I wish I had found this stuff last year when I was trying to do my necklace for AndrAIa! Would have saved more than a few headaches.
Verdict: Made of awesome. I want an excuse to use more of this stuff!
Major thanks to Wonderflex World, request your own samples and find out if it will work for you!
Bonus sneak peak: 50 fleece/felt cat ears!
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