Monday, 21 March 2016

The Nausicaa Project: Saddling Up

My blog post today is going to be about how I made the saddle for Kai. It's probably the most complicated accessory he has, and took a week to make from the scale drawings to the final covering in leather. 

Once again I've been using several references from the manga and the movie, but this one was key to the overall aesthetic I wanted:

I started off by going back to my original scale drawing of Kai and adding a sketch of the saddle, to get a sense of the size and proportions.

Then I made some more specific sketches, working out the sizes and shapes from all angles.

Once I had finalised these, I transferred them to tracing paper and cut them out to transfer the shapes onto plastazote.

The idea was to carve the saddle 'tree' out of plastazote, which is the hard central part of the saddle (most commonly made out of wood on a horse's saddle in full scale). It's a lightweight material which carves easily with a scalpel, and can be sanded and filed. I initially tried breaking up the elements of the saddle tree, but decided after this experiment that it might be easier to carve it as one solid block. It was useful just for getting a sense of the shape and size on Kai himself.

I then decided to make a quick wire outline model of the saddle, to get a more solid idea of the size, before carving the final tree.

It was still easier at times to build up pieces, so I had to fill in some gaps with milliput. 

The piping added to the saddle tree is to create the decorative ridges you can see the artwork. The two flaps on either side of the tree are made from felt.

The lower flaps were then added, also made of felt. At this stage the main shape of the saddle was finished and ready to be covered!

The leather I used was from a coat I bought in a charity shop and cut up. It was already thin but not thin enough, so I tried to skiver the back with a scalpel. This got messy and I kept on stabbing holes through the material, but then a miracle happened - I discovered I was able to peel back the top layer, a paper-thin sheet of leather...perfect for covering such a complex shape on this scale.

As you can see, the leather was so thin that it picked up every tiny detail. This is just glued down with UHU glue.

I removed the side panels to covered them, same principles involved in covering the curved shapes. Just gluing small sections at a time and pressing it well to make sure there were no bubbles in the surface.

At this point I just needed to cover the base. It was lovely to see it at this stage, starting to look like a real life tiny saddle.

I discovered near the end of the covering process that a layer of nylon (my favourite material ever) stretched over the plastazote helped to smooth out any imperfections that might show up in the super-thin leather. So I covered the whole base of the saddle in a layer of white nylon first. It's also very thin, so didn't make the shape bulkier, just smoother!

Sitting it on my hand like this, I was thinking that it would be nice to make it a little wooden saddle stand...with all of the free time of have!

I'm really happy with the final saddle, and it fits Kai's back beautifully! It just needs some finishing touches now like stirrups for Nausicaa to put her feet in and straps to hold it onto Kai's body.

Thanks for reading, and check back in a week for my next instalment!

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