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Monday, March 22, 2021

Hamilton - King George Crown 2.0

He said "you'll be back" and he was right.

My King George crown has been done for about two years now, and even right after I finished it I thought about the inevitable version 2.0. I've been staring at the crown for all that time but never had the motivation to jump back into it. I'd kind of moved on, both to other parts of the King George costume and just other projects entirely. But with the show being released in film format last summer, I got the bug again and started finally making steps towards version 2.0 with some specific upgrades and changes: template size, gold surface, and rhinestone details.

The main problem with the original template for the horizontal fleur-de-lis and cross band was the length. It was too long for the 24" sign I used as the base material, so the cross in the back had to be cut from a separate piece and glued in which was a little unsightly. The finished length was also longer than the band on the base hat which was about 23", creating a gap between the crown piece and the hat and widening the profile. It made the whole thing a little bobble-headed and oversized on me.

So for 2.0, I remade the template in a few different sizes. I liked the size of the individual fleur-de-lis and crosses themselves so I wanted to just shorten the length of the piece rather than completely scale it down. The only place to do that was in the gaps between the fleur-de-lis and crosses, and on the last template I basically removed that whole gap.

The finished length was almost exactly 24" and it didn't disrupt how the fleur-de-lis and crosses sit next to each other (they weren't squished too close together) so it worked perfectly.

The other, and even more problematic, big issue was the gold finish. I went through so many paints on the first version before finally settling on the Montana Gold chrome. It looked pretty dang good, even though I botched the primer and didn't get as clean a finish as I could have. But it didn't take long for the finish to corrode with fingerprints and what I can only describe as oxidization. That's because I didn't seal it, which at the time was a trade-off for not dulling down the bright finish. It's been frustrating to see the paint darken and dull, but I was able to make peace with it after deciding that first crown was a prototype and knowing I'd do an improved remake. But I don't want to use paint again, at least not spray paint, so that puts me back at square one for the gold again.

One of the first gold tests I did way back on the first crown was an adhesive vinyl/mylar sort of stuff.

At the time time I scrapped it because I couldn't get it to behave how I wanted on the curved strips: it lays nice on the outside of the curve, but on the underside the edges buckled and wouldn't stay adhered even with notches cut. But I'd loved how amazingly reflective it is. This time I played with it a little more and figured out some ways around the earlier problems, and decided that was what I'd use for the second crown.

Good color, amazing surface, pretty resilient stuff considering I've had the same sheet of it for at least six years (if not longer) and it hardly has a blemish. (The scratches and dimples on this test piece are from not cleaning the plastic surface before applying it and intentionally scratching it to see just how resilient it is.)

But then I started really comparing it to the finish on the stage-used crown instead of just hyperfixating on "ooh, shiny!" and I realized the stage crown has more of a soft finish.

Still super gold, still smooth. But it's not like a mirror. So now I'm rethinking the surface again, which continues to be the biggest challenge to this whole prop. Next step will probably be getting samples of some adhesive vinyls that are a softer, kind of brushed gold instead of mirrored to see how I like that finish. I'm also thinking about finding someone who can cut the pieces out of brass for me.

The other and most superficial upgrade is all the little bits and bobs on the crown, namely rhinestones and metal filigree stampings. What I used the first time worked really well, but there was room for improvement. I bought all the rhinestones in silver settings rather than gold, figuring they wouldn't show or I could just paint them along with the rest of the crown, but gold settings would be better (especially now that I'm not doing any real painting). Some rhinestones ended up a little too small based on my size estimates, and others I realized after more research were the wrong shape. I also wanted to add some of the filigrees that I'd skipped the first time.

-5mm red cabochons and 18mm clear cabochons on the top cross -> flat-back rhinestones. The rhinestones aren't necessarily more accurate, but they match the faceted design of all the other stones so the continuity looks more aesthetically pleasing to me.
-4mm round clear individual rhinestones on the ball -> 6mm rhinestone sparse chain. The larger rhinestones better match the proportions, and the sparse chain includes the gaps between stones.
-4mm round clear rhinestones on the gold squares -> 4mm and 5mm on the squares that have oval gems, and just 5mm on the plain squares. The 4mm rhinestones kind of got lost next to everything else and the finished result looked a little more subtle than is accurate, so the 5mm will be more sparkly and ostentatious. 5mm doesn't quite fit on the edges around the oval gems, so those will stay 4mm.

-Add the setting under the 13x18 red oval rhinestones on the vertical strips. Don't know why I skipped these.
-Large cluster of 3mm and 4mm rhinestones around the 8mm clear rhinestones on the fleur-de-lis -> just three 4mm rhinestones on each side of the 8mm trio.

-6x12 navette clear rhinestones on the crosses -> 5x10 clear rectangle rhinestones. The rectangle shape looks more accurate and has a slightly larger profile so again, more sparkly and ostentatious.
-18mm round clear rhinestones in center of crosses -> 18mm square rhinestones. The square is more accurate.
-Add the rectangular filigrees to the edges of the crosses. I don't know why I skipped them last time.
-Use larger clovers and add the flat-back gold pearls around the 18mm rhinestones in the cross centers. Just more accurate. I have two options: the filigree clover which is larger and open (just wire-work, not a solid piece) or the plain setting which is solid and smaller. The solid setting is more accurate and will be easier to glue neatly, but the wire filigree has cleaner edges.

-Add extra square filigrees at the top of each vertical strip. I skipped them before because I thought the curve of the strip would be too extreme to get the filigrees to lay flat enough. This time I'm just going to make it work.
-3mm round clear rhinestones -> all removed or replaced with 4mm. Some of the 3mm were ultimately unnecessary, and the others were too small to be appropriately noticeable.

There are also some other incidental changes to materials and construction. Getting rid of basically all painting meant the ball at the top has to be shiny gold already, so I'm switching to a gold Christmas ornament for that. I'll also be adding patches of black fur to the white fur trim instead of coloring the fur.

Since I've done this once before and was pretty pleased with the result despite mostly having no idea what I was doing, I'm pretty confident in this second version.

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