Infiltrator Canisters Part 2


After finishing the mold (of the Infiltrator respirator canister middle section) I cast it in cold cast aluminum. I sanded down the surface to reveal the atomized aluminum powder, using increasingly finer sandpaper.  The final step, after finishing it with 0000 steel wool, was to polish it with a power buffer and rubbing compound to make it shine.

Next up was to make the vacuum formed top and bottom. I made various attempts that either didn't work out or I didn't like. I finally came up with this model, made of two layers of fiberboard, a resin casting, an acrylic sheet "washer" on top, and three machine screws. I tried vacuum forming right over it, but it lacked the detail that I wanted.

The .06" thick black styrene sheet took about three minutes of heating to soften enough for it to sag dramatically downward. I turned off the heater and turned on the vacuum. The pliable styrene immediately was sucked down into the mold, and captured all the detail. Next I cut trimmed of the excess plastic so that it would fit into the casting.


Although I hadn't planned on it, I discovered that after drilling out the portals with a ¼" drill bit, the brass grommets fit right into the holes, giving the whole piece a nice "dual metal" look.

Rather than using my model as a male mold, I decided to convert it into a female mold and that would keep all my detail. Instead of the vacuum pulling the melted styrene plastic down over my model, the vacuum would pull the styrene into my bowl shaped mold. I used the same silicone rubber to make the female mold. The photo shows it sitting inside the steel vacuum frame.

Here is the entire canister mocked up with the top and bottom in place. I will make further refinements in order to improve it, but it gives the general overall look that I was after.

Infiltrator Respirator Canisters

One of my first steampunk designs was the Bad Air Transmutator, shown at right. It had two large canisters which I rotocast in resin. They were slow to make, and rather heavy due to both their size and because they were made of cold cast metal, even though they were hollow.

On the cover of the most recent issue of MicroMark's catalog is a photo of their new mini vacuum forming machine. It intrigued me as an affordable way to get into vacuum forming, a process I have always been drawn to. I found the identical tool on eBay for less money and purchased one. I figured I could build a two-part canister that would be faster to make and considerably lighter in weight.

After experimenting with the vacuum forming, I decided I would need a cast resin ring in the middle. My sketch shows the concept, and looks like a cross between a hamburger and a UFO.  The portals around the middle serve as the air intake.

I drilled out the blackened squares to accept brass grommets, which would form the intake portals of the respirator. I epoxied the grommets in place, six at a time so that they would stay in place.

I began the construction by lasering several rings in fiberboard. The top and bottom are identical, and include a recessed area to receive the vacuum formed parts.

Next I epoxied the top and bottom rings onto the center ring. This completed the model.

In order to cast it in resin I needed to make a two-part silicone rubber mold of the model. The first thing I did was to warm up some Plasticine modeling clay with the microwave oven so that it could easily be shaped.

Next I took a paper popcorn cup and cut off the bottom half. I placed the top half upside down around my clayed up model, and used a hot glue gun to fasten the cup to the mounting board, ensuring that it was water-tight, as the liquid silicone rubber can escape through the tiniest of holes.

After a couple of minutes it was ready to go, so I poured the liquid rubber into the popcorn cup and placed it on a flat surface with a lamp over it to keep it warm.

Tomorrow I will be able to demold it, pull out the clay and pour the second half of the mold.

Then I place the fiberboard model on top of a bed of the clay, and trimmed away the excess with a large knife. While the clay was still warm I packed it into the interior of the model right up to the inner top side. Using a steel modeling tool I made several impressions into the top surface of the clay. This surface will align the two parts of the rubber mold.

I mixed up the silicone rubber in a polyethylene bucket, one part A to ten parts of B by weight. The A side is dark blue, and the B side is white. Mixed together they formed a pale blue, quite viscous liquid. I placed the bucket in my vacuum chamber and turned on the pump, in order to draw the air bubbles out of it.

More Videos Added

Today I added two old videos, both from 2009. One is at Maker Fair in San Jose, which is where I first exhibited my steampunk and plague doctor masks. The second is about the Oxford exhibition, and how that came about. Hard to believe these are almost five years old.

Corax Plague Doctor Half Mask

Introducing Corax, the latest in our line of plague doctor masks. Unlike our other plague doctor masks this version doesn't cover the eyes. It can be worn with goggles, or prescription glasses, or with the eyes left uncovered. Similar to the Pestis mask but with a longer beak.

The mask is made of medium weight veg tan leather and has an adjustable elastic strap. It will fit most adult heads up to 24" around. The edge going over the bridge of the nose has deerskin binding for comfortable wear. There are a series of ventilation holes on the bottom of the beak for easy breathing.

Corax can be purchased at our Etsy store.


Armynel Movie

Looks like one of my plague doctor masks on the big screen. Who is the lady behind the mask? Armynel.. Watch the trailer.

Armynel movie.JPG

Giant Signs in Seoul


Some of my work is in the steampunk art exhibition at the Hangaram Design Museum in Seoul, Korea which opened yesterday and runs for two months. They are using my photo of Dr. Beulenpest on the posters. Isn't that cool?

My friend Art Donovan is co-curating the show. He previously curated the first international steampunk art exhibition which was held at the Museum of the History of Science at Oxford University, Oxford, England in 2009 - 2010.

Photo by Art Donovan

Photo by Art Donovan

Photo by Art Donovan

Photo by Art Donovan

New Blog...A Continuation

This is a continuation of my blog on Blogspot which I've been writing since January 2009. You can read all those old posts with many step-by-step descriptions of how I built my work at

Here is a screenshot of my last post:

New Website!

After some seven years of having a funky website I have rebuilt using Squarespace. What an improvement! Let me know your thoughts.

Best, Tom