Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Building My Blackjack Dealer Halloween Costume (Part 1 of 2)

Unlike most previous years, I actually had an idea for a Halloween costume this time around, with enough time to actually follow through on it. [If you want to skip the build and go straight to the finished costume, well, I pity you.]

The Inspiration
A few weeks ago, listening to Zydeco music at an Oktoberfest celebration in Reston (note there are several things not quite right with that statement), I got to idly thinking about Texas Hold'em (I don't play Texas Hold'em -- I was probably being thankful that the fad is dying out), when I had a flash of inspiration: "Poker table Texas Hold em costume." (Oct. 11, 9:40pm -- I texted myself so I wouldn't forget.)

The idea was informed by (alright, stolen wholesale from)'s Rob Cockerham's American Idol Judges Costume -- I'd been revisiting the site looking for costume ideas, since he usually manages to put together some great ones, and I wanted to make something wearable.

The Preparation
The very next day, I started gathering materials. In a fortuitous coincidence, Michael's had sheets of green felt and fabric paint on sale. (I also bought some foam core board, though I didn't end up using it.) Then, I went to Home Depot, and got some 1/2" PVC pipe, plywood and hardware.

Only after starting my shopping, did I decide I needed to plan out my concept. For design inspiration, I did some searching for poker and card table images:


The red vest photo figured in pretty heavily -- I actually own a red vest I never wear (it makes me look like an Ace Hardware employee), but it was colorful and wide enough to cover a harness.

I also switched from poker to blackjack, since I know the rules better and it's less involved to play (this was going to be a functional costume).

IMG_0266I followed up with very precise technical drawings.

I'd started with a donut-half platform, but after looking at the photos, switched to the easier half-circle, supported on a triangular frame:

IMG_0267Then, following Rob Cockerham's lead, I sketched out the PVC harness. Originally, I thought I could bend the PVC arms underneath the platform to support it, but I couldn't see that working too well with the frame, so I'd connect the PVC to the back of the frame using pipe straps:

The Build
IMG_0180Over the next few days, I started building the frame and platform. One of the good things about having so much clutter around is having building materials and tools on hand. I built the frame out of some spare 1"x3" boards (left over from making bed slats):

IMG_0179 Then, I used my Rotozip to cut the plywood in an arc (first drawing a circle with a pencil on a string).

I'd originally used a 2'x4' sheet of 3/8" MDF, but switched to 3/16" plywood to save weight.

It was my first time using the Rotozip as a plunge cutter (I've used it with the flex shaft as a big Dremel tool), and it was pretty easy to control.

IMG_0181After that, I bent the PVC. I'd bought a heat gun and welding gloves just for the occasion:

IMG_0178The bending went a lot smoother than I'd expected. Granted, it wasn't perfect and you can see a few scorch marks, but it didn't kink and it was close enough for a first try:

IMG_0269After that was just assembly. I didn't feel like hammering, so I just used wood screws to finish the triangle frame and mount the plywood to it (using a stud finder) -- I did a rough miter box cut to get the angles (This photo is from this week, when I decided to paint some of the exposed parts of the frame. Also, you can see the PVC harness is a little crooked):

The Embellishment
IMG_0183I glued and cut the felt directly to the plywood without any problems.

One thing that I had been concerned about was how to build a cushioned bumper -- I'd been going around to hardware and auto supply stores looking for vinyl to make cushions, with no luck.

But then I remembered I had some extra foam pipe insulation sleeves -- they're long tubes, split down the middle. You wrap them around hot water pipes -- they even have self-adhesive strips, so they were perfect for the job.

In an inspired moment, I also remembered I had some electroluminescent wire (it's battery-powered and glows -- I'm always trying to find a reason to use it), which I stapled (carefully) along the edge of the new rail -- it's an eye-catching touch, especially in a darker room.

The most annoying part was masking and painting the card outlines. I used the fabric paint I'd bought, but my first try using the glow in the dark paint looked pretty bad in the light. I ended up mixing in some white paint, though it still glows a little bit.

The first cards were easy, but for the second cards (which touched the first cards), I ended up taping off the outside edge, then using a shiny business card to mask the inside edge. It worked well enough.

IMG_0182I wanted to do a sunken chip tray, but I would have had to cut into the board and frame, so I ended up using some shoe molding (also laying around) to build a frame. (I'd bought a 300-chip poker set at Target for 20 bucks -- the flimsy plastic chip tray lifted right out of the case, and I built the frame around it.)

I couldn't find my black paint, so I spray painted it navy blue (close enough) and glued it to the felt.

So, that was the build. Stay tuned for Part 2, to see how it all worked out. While you're waiting, here are the materials and tools used:

One 2'x4' sheet of 3/16" plywood [tabletop]
Four 1'x3' boards (max length 3.5') [frame]
On hand
One 1/2" PVC pipe, 8' [harness]
Two 1/2" PVC end caps (for neatness)$0.49 each
Pack of 20 1/2" 2-hole pipe straps [I used six]
Two 1-1/2" Angle brackets [frame]
$.51 each
Assorted wood screws [all over]
On hand
One 8' 1/2" pipe sleeve [bumper rail]
On hand
Six sheets of 12"x18" felt [playing surface]
$0.33 each
Fabric paint [playing surface]
$0.99 each
Shoe molding [chip tray]
On hand
300 chip poker set [duh, though you can get by with less]
8' battery powered EL wire from IKEA [optional]
On hand

Tools Used
Heat gun ($24.99), leather welding gloves ($9.99), Rotozip cutting tool, hacksaw (to cut the PVC pipe), cordless drill driver, stud finder, measuring tape, cross cut saw, miter box, 4-way file, staple gun, wood glue, spray paint, masking tape.


sparkx said...

Oh me God, I wanna go make one, now x

Unknown said...

Wow this blackjack table is extremely well made. Where did you find the creativity and the idea to make this? I wonder if you could increase the mobility by adding cabinet hinges in the middle so you could fold it. I am sure you have everything cover just by looking at the final product. Thanks for sharing!