Frank Frazetta has been a huge influence in my artistic career going back to well before I was a freelance illustrator. It only seems fitting that with my current skill set I bring one of his masterpieces to life. Frank was know for creating a lot of amazing pictures depicting Conan or damsels in distress but Death Dealer was one of his original concept creations. There were 4 actual books as well as numerous comics that told of the tragic and bloody history of the Death Dealer ( Gath of Baal ) or the prisoner of the horned helmet.
In this instructable I will show the process of hand sculpting the helmet and fabricating the axe from scratch as well as how to make a custom chainmail skirt out of simple PVC pipe.
Before we begin let me say some of the products that are used in prop building can be bad for you :(
So be safe!!! Always wear eye protection, wear gloves, and use a respirator when needed.
Lets get started!!!!
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Step 1: Reference and Materials
So like I said I have been admiring Frazetta's art since I was very young, first seeing his works on the old Conan book covers. Way back then I knew his style and implied form was something special. 6 years ago I went to Wizard World Chicago and got the unique opportunity to see 22 of his original painting on display...it...was...amazing!
I had wanted to visit the Frazetta museum for years but hadn't ever gotten around to it and didn't think I would ever have a chance to see these works up close. The highlight to the room was Death Dealer. I absolutely loved this painting and even owned a 1970's print but to see it in person was emotional. I knew then that I had to make this character real and now is the time.
I have been doing research on and off for years saving pictures of every sketch, statue, or painting I could find trying to complete this character. The biggest issues surrounding Death Dealer is that you never see the front of the helmet and that every time Frank painted him he looked a little different. The saving grace to all of this is a statue created by Randy Bowen in the 90s. Frank supplied Bowen with a sketch of what he thought the helm would look like if not obscured by the shadows. I have been basing my reference off of those sketches as well as Bowen's sculpture to bring Death Dealer's helm to life.
Because of my love for Frazetta's work and my dedication to prop building I extremely excited to take this on. This project means more to me than any other I have built to date. I hope you all enjoy the process and thank you for taking this journey with me.
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Respirator - https://amzn.to/2S8CrEC
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Black Fabric - Local craft store
Step 2: Applying the Monster Clay
So first things first melt down some Monster Clay and start applying it to my CFX head form. In the beginning I try not to use to many tools I am just blocking out the basic shapes and building up forms.
When I sculpt I usually turn my work around or upside down to see it from different vantage points. This makes sure that I am not favoring my right side to much which tends to happen. I press string into the clay to define the center of the sculpt and use calipers to try and make everything as even as possible.
Step 3: Refining the Base Structure
The initial shape of the helmet has been blocked out. From here it's all about refining the contours and planning the ornamental details. Using calipers I start to define the cheeks, the slats that run down the length of the lower jaw, and the details at the top of the helmet.
Step 4: More Clay
Bulking up the lower face plate and figuring out where the horns will go. Little bit of Dragon Age in the background
Step 5: Smoothing Out Monster Clay
I always have questions about smoothing out monster clay. After I have gone in with a small loop tool I use mineral spirits and a stiff brush to smooth everything down. For this helmet I am going to make a junk mold so that I can have a resin cast to further refine / sand and remold for the final product.
Step 6: Adding Details
Drawing heavily off of all of Frank's Death Dealer paintings I decide to go with the circular details on the front and back of the helmet but also implementing the ornamental crown details from Frank's first DD painting. The rivets are acrylic half spheres and the concave circlets are large grommet tops.
Step 7: Making the Horns
The horns were made by creating a wire armature and wrapping it with aluminum foil. Supersculpy was roughly built up and hardened to give me a solid base to work on. The final details and striation were achieved with Monster Clay. I kept the horn symmetrical so I can use one mold for both horns.
Step 8: Back and Sides of the Helmet
Even though the back and sides aren't seen in the original pictures I still have to sculpt them using some artistic licensing. Once again Acrylic half spheres are used to simulate rivets.
Step 9: Junk Mold
Brushing Smooth-On Rebound 25 to create the jacket for my Death Dealer junk mold. Again I am doing this extra step for the helmet so that I can have a resin version to hand sand and make perfect.
Step 10: Mother Mold
Jacket is complete so I'm starting on the mother mold. I cut playing card up and tape them together to make a dividing wall between the two halves. Then I layer sheet fiberglass with resin to make a support shell.
The horn is covered with Plasti Paste as it's mother mold support shell.
Step 11: First Junk Cast
First junk cast is made out of Smooth on 65D it's time to trim away the flashing and get the horns installed.
I used a hole saw to cut out where the horns will attach to the sides of the helmet. I decided to go with the horn placement from DD painting #1 and #3 (revised) and I couldn't be happier with how it is turning out!
Step 12: Progress
I wanted to get a few glamour shots of the helmet in its current state before I start the sanding process.
Step 13: Top Spike
Working on the top spike by sanding a piece of 1" dowel that I will cover with clay and mold/cast for the final version.
Step 14: Resin Cast Top Spike
Top spike was sculpted out of monster clay then resin cast using Smooth-On's Smooth Cast 65D. It will be sanded smooth on my belt sander.
Step 15: Prime and Sand...
Now comes the greatest prop making game in the world Prime, Sand, Fill, Prime, Sand.........etc
I'm using Krylon Rust Red primer this allows me to see where I've sanded and it will eventually give me a gloss finish when buffed.
After a couple of sanding passes the helmet is considerably smoother. However I am not taking out all of the imperfections because I still want this helmet to have that hand forged look.
Step 16: Filling the Horns
To keep the weight down I rotocast them in the mold with some 65D and back filled them with smooth-on expanding foam. This made the final casts very light but extremely rigid.
Step 17: Wet Sanding
Applied the final coat of primer and wet sanded the entire surface. After this cured I buffed the surface with a microfiber towel to give it an extremely smooth glossy finish. This helmet is now ready for the final mold to be created.
Step 18: Final Mold Prep
Final mold prep is a go! I'm using monster clay to create the neck trench for the helmet that way when I rotocast the resin it won't splash out.
Step 19: Mold and Cast Final Version
Just like before a jacket and mother mold are created on the final version fo the helmet. The mold is then rotocast with Smooth-on 65D to created the final cast.
Using my dremel and the hole saw I prep the helmet by cutting away all of the flashing and carving out the eyes and holes for the horns. The horns and top spike are also cast and test for fit.
Step 20: Painting
I start off by using Krylon Self Etching primer. After that dries I use a Rustoleum Hammered Metal silver as a base coat.
To weather the helmet I broke out my Iwata airbrush and used some transparent black to hit all of the recessed areas.
Step 21: Painting the Highlights and Horns
The paint job is complete!! Highlights were achieved using Liquitex heavy body acrylics and Rubb N Buff. The horns are dry brushed using Liquitex Heavy Body Parchment over a Mars Black base coat.
Because of Frank's influence on me as an artist this is one of the most meaningful creations I have built to date. I can't wait to bring the rest of this character to life.
The axe is next!!!
Step 22: Starting the Axe Handle
When I started to visually break down the axe I noticed how difficult the handle was going to be because of the slight curve and tapered thickness. To get the correct curve I cut the handle out of a piece of oak 2x4 with a band saw. Then spent quite a bit of time sanding down the profile on my belt and osculating sander to make it round. Notice there is a taper from the top to the bottom of the handle as depicted in Franks first DD painting.
After the axe handle was near completion I drew out the head and cap on some scrap paper to get the scale correct. Then transferred those to Bristol board these will be my master templates.
Step 23: Pomel
I finally got to open a mini lathe that I had purchased over a year ago! It was a little intimidating at first but after a few test pieces I decided to jump in and sculpt out the bottom cap. The cap was carved out of scrap 4x4 that I had lying around.
Step 24: Axe Head
Next, I completed the top cylindrical head of the axe using the mini lathe. I had to carve them in two separate pieces because the lathe couldn't take one big block of wood.
Step 25: Axe Blade
The blade pattern was traced onto MDF, cut out, and sanded to shape using my belt sander. These pics show the axe pieces together but not attached. They still need final sanding and shaping. But it's starting to look like Death Dealer's Axe!!!
Step 26: Primed and Ready for Molding
After the blade was shaped I attached it to the head of the axe. To make sure it wouldn't snap off before molding I decided to use a wood dowel to pin it in place.
After the blade section was attached I sprayed it with wood with filler primer and sanded it smooth. Once I felt it was as smooth as the filler primer would allow I sprayed on an additional layer of red rust Krylon primer and wet sanded it until it was like glass. These pieces will be molded and resin cast just like the helmet.
Step 27: Axe Mold
Walled up the axe head to begin the silicone jacket. Once the 2 parts had fully cured I covered the mold with fiberglass and resin so that it would keep it's shape.
Step 28: The Axe Head Is Resin Cast
I cut pour spouts into the fiberglass and filled it with Smooth-On Smooth Cast 300. I inserted a threaded rod into the head of the axe so that it could be taken apart for shipping to conventions
Step 29: Staining the Wood
Started the staining process and I want this pretty dark so I know it will take several passes. Also I attached the spiked cap to the handle with a wood dowel and epoxy.
Step 30: Assembly Is Complete
I painted the metal using the same Rustoleum Hammered Meatal that I used on the helmet.
Assembly is complete!!! now it just needs some blood and gore
Step 31: The Skirt
The chainmail skirt was tricky for me because I wanted something that was light but looked heavy. I decided to use a technique similar to how Weta that made the stunt LOTR armor.
I cut PVC pipes into rings and braided it just like real 4in1 chainmail. You can see the entire build process in my video here
Step 32: Additional Accessories
Here are the additional accessories made for the complete costume. I will admit these aren't near as detailed as the helmet and axe but still and big part in the overall look of the final piece.
The belt and shin armor was made using EVA foam so they would be both light and durable. The bones on the chest piece were resin cast from hand sculpted molds and the cloth was templeted and sewn together. Of course he has to look as though he has been through lots of battles so everything was hand weathered using various powders and liquitex Heavy Body acrylics.
Step 33: Complete Costume
Here is the costume completely assembled and worn by my good friend Ethan of Thousand Faces Cosplay
Step 34: Glamour Shot
Final shot of my completed Death Dealer! I went back into the helmet and added some red LEDs for eyes.
This was taken by my buddy Wes https://www.facebook.com/theportraitdudecosplay/ at C2E2
I hope you enjoyed this build and please follow me for further awesome creations!
The construction videos are now on YouTube www.youtube.com/sksprops
You can also follow my work at: www.sksprops.com
Instagram @SKSProps and Twitter @SKSProps
First Prize in the
Book Character Costume Challenge