It only made sense that after building Thorin’s armor vest for Oneal, as well as the scales that decorated his massive belt, I should also make the belt buckle. It shouldn’t be difficult. Or so I thought.
Because I used polymer clay in building the scale mail, I decided to also use clay in building the buckle. Just make it look like metal, just like the scales.
So, I asked Oneal (from halfway across the planet), to give me the width of his belt, which would be the basis for my design dimensions for the buckle. And this is what I came up with.
Following the design, I formed and cut my metallic silver clay. It was looking good but I had a tough time keeping the clay’s sharp corners. Every time I add something, my fingers nudge what’s already in place and I have to go back and do damage control.
Then I tried to make the clay surface look rough by texturing with a crochet doily. It worked to some extent.
I guess I was too excited to put the whole thing together, including the jewels, that it was only after I had baked the clay that I noticed that the entire thing was off-kilter. The angles were wrong, the depths were wrong, everything was wrong! And crooked! And it was just horrendous! It looked like an Autobot emblem that melted under the sun. I junked it.
Not to be discouraged, I thought of using a different medium. The clay was just too malleable. I needed a medium that keeps its shape. Cork!
I adjusted the design a little bit, incorporated the backing, and used a 45-degree cutter (tool for picture frame matting) to make the sharp-edged shapes in the center of the buckle. It took a bit of practice (and a lot of cork) to perfect the triangular-edge forms.
Next, the jewels. I didn’t like how the clay ones came out -- even after I tried to make them shine with a couple of coats of Mod Podge.
It was time to employ my resin casting skills! I cut the jewel shapes on hard (black) foam, then I pressed each one on a silicone mold. When the mold cured, I poured some resin, which I tried to color with blue food color. The food color didn’t blend well with the resin because there are tiny blue spots in the cast, but it turned blue enough to pass for Thorin's buckle's precious jewels (you won’t see the spots unless you look really close).
My next challenge was to design a way for Oneal to attach the buckle to the belt that he has out there, twelve time zones away. I thought of suggesting superglue (he won’t really have to remove the buckle from the belt, right?). But what if he wants to change the buckle to one that says “Elvis”? So I thought of just screwing an aluminum sheet plate to the back of the cork buckle, with tabs that he can bend and fold around his belt for a perfect fit. (Note that I had to insert/glue onto the cork a set of dowels to screw the plate on.)
Adding a few shades of metallic silver acrylic paint made the cork look very close to the movie version Thorin buckle. Glue the jewels on and… done! Now doesn't that look so much better than my clay *fail* attempt? But hey, you never know until you try.
Yes, I know, it's still not an exact match to the movie version, but I bet if I try a third time, I'll get it just right!