Last week, I showed the beginning stages of a French 75mm field gun I was building for this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park. You can see the construction of most of the structure in that post. Today I’ll continue with the addition of detail, painting and finishing touches.
I sculpted a new sight rest for the front of the barrel out of a solid piece of foam because the MDF pieces I was using kept breaking apart and falling off. I coated it with several layers of Rosco Foam Coat.
I took the cannon outside to start adding Bondo (polyester resin auto body filler) to the rough spots. I also primed all the metal bits with a spray metal primer and all the PVC and acrylic parts with Krylon Fusion paint (I chose a yellow color at random). My goal was to do all the toxic bits in one go, since moving the cannon outside was quite an ordeal, even for four people. Besides hoisting it up to the garage door, it involves maneuvering it through the set of The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures. I did a few coats of Bondo on the really rough parts, sanding it smooth in between applications.
The action of the play required a seat on the back of the cannon for one of the soldiers. This is not present on real cannons (and is, in fact, one of the last places you would want to sit), so I extrapolated from the research what one might look like.
I also began applying fake bolt heads (cut out of wood) and fake rivet heads (large upholstery tacks) to match the research. I believe model makers refer to these as “greebles”; adding them helps break up plain surface areas with a realistic texture.
The first coat of primer went down before I was completely finished adding all the little details. I did this because I could work on the little details while the primer dried and I needed to lay a couple of coats of paint down to get the effect I wanted. It also made it easier to see the areas I still needed to fill and sand.
I applied the paint in fairly thick coats, sort of “sponging” it in with the brush rather than brushing it on. One of our artisans, David Schneider, did this for a cast iron projector in Timon of Athens a few months back, so I decided to “borrow” this technique from him. It helps tie all the various materials and pieces together to make it look like large chunks of cast metal.
One of the last items to add were these hand crank wheels on the sides. I had tried finding them, and even considered making them, but the time constraints were just too great, so I ended up ordering some new ones from McMaster Carr. At the beginning of this project, I had even considered making them practical, so they could actually raise and lower the barrel, but that ended up being far too ambitious. I settled on allowing them to spin in place.
For the final coat of paint, I took the dark grey I was using as a base coat, mixed a slight touch of green tint into it, and added some silver mica powder to give it a bit of metallic iridescence. It should look pretty cool under the stage lights.
So at this point, the cannon is “finished” and ready to head to Central Park for tech rehearsals this week. Of course, it may go through some changes, as the designers may wish to alter the color or add markings and other details, or the director may need alterations to facilitate some bits of acting business. Otherwise though, it’s ready to go!