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Halloween Guide and Ideas

HALLOWEEN PROPS & SPECIAL FX


THE PHANTASM SENTINEL
article by
Jordan Avon

Phantasm SphereFirst of all, you need to acquire the type of spherical Christmas ornament that I typically use for these creations. They are hemispherical (the two halves snap together) chromed plastic ornaments, produced by a company called Westrim, in Chatsworth Ca., and are only sold through Arts & Crafts outlets like the Michael's chain of stores, or Beverly's Crafts (another chain). They are usually only ordered into these stores near November, near the Yuletide season, so one has to be patient in obtaining them. The product name they are sold under is "Crystal Keepsakes", and come in silver, gold, and other tones.

Once you have obtained your sphere ornament (we will assume it is the silver one, for our purposes here), you will also need to acquire some strips of what is called "friendly plastic". These are pieces of a rubbery plastic, that is plated on one side, and are typically about 1 1/4" wide, and around 3 1/2 -> 4" long. You will need two of these per sphere. In addition, you will need an Xacto knife, an intense heat source, such as a butane piezo torch (a lighter will work, but it's tougher to use), a can of chrome spray enamel, a large size silver wood screw, a pair of wire cutters, a pair of pliers, a medium-sized sewing needle, a scribe or large nail, and some model glue. So, to sum up, the materials needed are:

  • (1) Westrim "Crystal Keepsakes" chromed plastic Christmas ornament
  • (2) pieces of "friendly plastic", with silver chrome on one side, available through most craft stores.
  • (1) Xacto knife, which you will use in making your "incisions" to the plastic sphere.
  • (1) piezo torch, or other means of heating your Xacto blade (and other tools) to a red-hot state.
  • (1) can of silver chrome spray enamel
  • (1) large silver wood screw (about 3/4" long)
  • (1) Scribe or large nail
  • (1) A medium size sewing needle
  • (1) Pair of wire cutters
  • (1) Pair of pliers
  • (1) Tube of Testor's or equivalent model glue

After you have your materials together, first remove the ornament hanging tabs from each sphere half, by snipping them off with a sturdy pair of wire cutters. Make sure the cutter's blades are lying parallel to the base of the tab, for a nice clean removal.

Now take one sphere half, and face the convex portion toward you with one hand, and with the other hand, Xacto-scratch two small lines, about two inches apart, where the blade "incisions" will go. This is fairly easy, as your own face's reflection will be visible in the sphere half, making it easier to estimate where the marks should go.

Make these marks no longer than you intend the base of your blades to be (the stem of each blade, not the forked part). Also, make a small "X" scratch between, and slightly below the center, of where the blades will be mounted, as that is where your "drill bit" screw will be emerging later.

After your scoring of the sphere is finished, put the sphere aside, and move on to the making of the blades. To do this, take one piece of the "friendly plastic", and on the chromed side, draw with pen the shape of the entire Sentinel blade, making sure that the stem part is no wider that the lines you made on your sphere. Try to make the stem part a little longer than what you normally see in the films, as you must make sure you have enough stem reaching into the sphere to hold them securely, when you mount them later.

Cut out the blade with scissors, and then place the blade you just cut out on top of the other strip of "friendly plastic". Use a pen to trace the shape of the other blade, and then use scissors to cut out the other blade. Place both blade pieces, with chrome side down, on a piece of newspaper, and evenly spray them (the un-chromed sides of the blades) with the silver chrome enamel paint.

The idea here is not to match the chrome of the other side, because spray enamel chrome paint simply can't do that, but to at least come fairly close, and make sure the spray-painted sides of the blades are facing inside, with the original "friendly plastic" chrome sides on the more visible outside, when you finally mount them on the sphere.

Now take your Xacto blade, and heat it to a red-hot state, and quickly use the heated blade to open up the areas you scratched earlier, to accommodate the stem of the blades you made.

Take care, as you only want the slits large enough to just barely fit the blade stems...if they are made too large, they will not hold the blades properly, and they will droop downward. Move the hot blade sideways slightly, to widen the slit to just barely fit the blade stem into it.

You will likely have to re-heat your blade several times, as the metal and plastic cools quickly.

Don't worry if there is a little excess "welling" of plastic around the edges of your slits, as this can be snapped off fairly easily with fingernails, and touched up with a little of the chrome paint with a small paint brush later on. Now, using your scribe or large nail, heat it using the same technique as used with the Xacto blade. If your scribe or nail is long (about 6 or 7 inches) you may be able to hold the tool directly, as you did with the Xacto blade, but if you are in doubt, use pliers or similar to hold the scribe before you heat and use it. Using this heated tool, melt a hole just big enough to fit the shaft of your chosen silver wood screw through, at the location you scratched earlier, between and below where the blades will be mounted. If your hole is too small, heat the scribe again, and move it evenly around the edge of the hole, to gently enlarge it to the size you need.

While you are making these openings, test fit each blade and the screw, but never force it, as these ornaments are very fragile, and easy to crack if handled improperly. One more hole can be made (if you desire to hang the sphere), by heating the medium sized sewing needle (holding with pliers is definitely advised here!), to a red-hot state, and melt a small hole near, but not on the edge, and slightly behind, where the two halves snap together. Don't put the hole on the seam, as the plastic will warp, and you may not be able to snap the halves together. This will allow you to knot a piece of fishing line, and push it up through this hole, to hang your sphere.

Now, you are ready for final assembly. Position your blades in through the slits in your sphere, allowing about 1/8" to come inside. Seal with model glue the area around the stem (inside the sphere only, no glue outside) of both blades, making sure they are protruding evenly with one another. Now position your silver wood screw, pushing it out through its own hole, all the way to the screw head. Seal the edge of the screw head (if needed) with glue, although this is not always needed, if the fit is snug enough through the hole. Let this half of the sphere sit overnight, for the glue to dry. The next day, gently snap the two halves together, and you have your own Phantasm Silver Sentinel replica!

Thanks to Jordan Avon of the Sphere Factory for providing us with these great instructions that show how to build a replica of the classic silver "Sentinel" sphere from the Phantasm films.
 

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