A client requested a pirate throne with a feminine touch for a stage performance. I reclaimed a broken antique chair with claw feet and added tentacles, cannons that shot smoke, filigree, a ships wheel, her initials (JVS) and plenty of weathering.
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Step 1: Planning and Materials
The sketch shown above started it all. Initially we were thinking of steam punk lipstick, but it was later replace with more tentacles. The wheel is made of dense pink board foam with plywood backing. The ship wheel handles were hand shaped from solid dowels. The tentacles and cannons are sculpted from EVA foam rubber.
Step 2: The Chair (Paint Tips)
To add to the pirate look, rope wood work was added down the front, filigree to the lower face and round headed nails to the arms.
I applied two coats of white primer, two coats of bright gold and finally a coat of a metallic flake gold. A bronze glaze was then applied to the entire surface and wiped away slightly to give a weathered appearance. Finally a little rough handling and a few rubs with sandpaper exposed varying layers of paint all the way to the wood below.
This is a good spot for painting fundamentals.
- Rough up the surface if possible.
- Always use primer
- Buy good quality spray paint. The $2 savings isn't worth it if you have to spend time painting extra coats.
- Use multiple light coats instead of 1 heavy coat
- Allow each layer to FULLY cure. That means the 24hrs listed on the can. If you don't, you risk spider web crackle patterns all over the surface.
Step 3: The Ship Wheel
- Must be sculpted from foam for weathered detail
- Must be easy to break down and transport
- Must be durable enough to grab on during a dance routine
One of my homemade tools is a yard stick with a nail in one end and holes drilled at 1" increments down the center. This allows for up to 3' perfect circles. I used this to trace out 4 quarter circles which minimized material waste. It was then cut using a jig saw.
To glue the foam I use Gorilla Glue because it is water based. Any spray adhesive will melt this type of foam due to the solvents present. Moisten both surfaces with a wet rag and drizzle a light coat across the whole pieces. Lay the 2nd piece of foam on top and shift it around slightly to create a uniform thin coat. Then repeat gluing the plywood to the top surface. Make sure to put as much weight as possible on the piece as it dries. This forces the expanding glue into the pores of the surfaces rather than pushing them apart.
After 24hrs of drying, you can cut the quarter circle sections out. I use a hot wire cutting tool for the foam. You can buy them on Amazon or make one from the wire out of any blow dryer connected to a car battery trickle charger (2A).
To attach the quarter sections to one another, L stock aluminum was screwed into the plywood on the back. To lengths are required to minimize shifting.
Weathering - I took a Dremel tool with a cutting wheel to gouge and cut grooves into the foam to imitate wear and wood grain. This would later capture a darker glaze I would apply giving depth.
Sanding - You can smooth out the surface with a light grit sandpaper, but be careful not to press to hard or you'll take chunks out of the surface requiring even more sanding.
Fitting - I wanted the wheel to transition into the chair so half the thickness was cut in the shape of the back of the chair. This formed a snug fit and also helped shift the downward force onto the back of the chair. Metal brackets were attached to the vertical uprights of the chair and the plywood backing of the lower section for support.
Painting - I sprayed the entire piece with a Wagner Power Sprayer using latex paint. Again it is critical to use water based solvent free coatings on the foam or it will melt. Once it is sealed, you can then apply spray paint. If you have a good budget you can apply a product by Rosco called Foam Coat that will give it a hard durable shell and avoid chipping. Over the base layer of brown I used multiple browns and golds. Finally I rubbed the whole piece down with a bronze metallic glaze that settled into the weathering to give depth.
Handle Mounts - Next was addition of the handle mounts. I used a wood bit with a spade tip to drill holes around the circumference. The hole size was matched the diameter of the PEX tubing used to join the handles (see pictures). A length of PEX was cut and holes were drilled to allow the gorilla glue to seep through the surface as it expanded and dried, locking them into place.
Handles - 1" wood dowel was purchased from Home Depot. It was cut into 8" lengths and shaped/weathered using a bench grinder. The surface was painted brown, rubbed with a bronze glaze and the base was painted gold. The entire handle was sprayed with a clear sealer after. Each handle had a ~4" hole drilled so that it would slide over the PEX tubing posts glued into the wheel. This allowed fast breakdown and assembly while staying as compact as possible during transport.
Step 4: Tenticles
I wanted to go for a look where the tentacles were coming out of the surface of the stage ready to pull the throne under the surface.
The ingredients for this piece were simple. Foam, contact cement, a heat gun, and paint. I use a foam rubber called Cross-linked Polyethylene Foam which comes in varying thicknesses. I played around with fabric dart style cuts to get curvature and an organic shape. Once they were glued together, I go over every surface with a heat gun to barely melt the surface. The foam is very porous and will soak up paint indefinitely unless it is sealed.
The suckers were made from more polyethylene solid tubing cut in slices. It is very similar to pipe insulation.
NOTE: It is VERY hard to paint the tubing type of foam and not that durable. I recommend using one of the spray rubber products like PlastiDip or LeakStop followed by light coats of primer and final color.
Step 5: Cannons
The cannons were also a somewhat simple design. 8" PVC tubing was sprayed flat black. Rings of foam rubber were glued to the piece to give a gentle taper. A full length of foam was then glued on. End caps and detail rings on the exterior were added. Everything was shot with black leak stop rubber spray to seal it and give a cast metal appearance.
Air dusters were mounted inside with linkages to allow a steam effect to be shot out the end. You can find a link to that design in my other Instructables.
Shelving L brackets were used to attach each cannon to the chair, again for easy assembly/tear-down on stage. Zip ties were also added around the entire diameter, hidden behind the exterior ring detail, to give a very robust mount.
Step 6: Finished Product
...and here you have the final product. The client is an amazing fashion designer and reupholstered the cushion following delivery. An alternate look with waves on the back was included.
I hope you enjoy and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
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