Back in July Stuart (redspecial) bridged the subject of the 7th Doctor's question-mark pullover, offering the opportunity for me to gain one thanks to the knitting skills of a member of his family who regular does comission work. I jumped at the chance, as although I would love to get one of the pullovers from the group run, the length of time one of those runs appeared to take from start to finish had jaded me to that option.
So over the course of the following three months, work commenced on the pullover and this Wednesday, a packaged was waiting for me when I got home from work:
Some stats for the pullover:
* As viewable in the photo, the question marks only cover the front. While this makes it less screen-accurate, it's only a detail that's missed if I ever intended to take my jacket off, and most people who aren't dedicated Whovians wouldn't know that the pattern went all the way around McCoy's actual pullover.
* The pattern is a modified Fair Isle design, which according to the knitter featured a photo of Peter Davison and his signature (after a quick Google search, it may have been of him during his All Creatures Great and Small days).
* As mentioned, the pullover took the better part of three months to create from start-to-finish, and priced at £65, which I think is very good value for money for a custom piece of clothing without a accessible design to work from.
The pullover is comfortable and should work really well with the rest of the ensemble when the time comes to don it again. Even though the DIY one I made will always have a strong sentimental value, there's no beating a properly knitted 7th Doctor pullover, especially one which won't rub off on the jacket.
Between the umbrella and the pullover I now have the two major custom pieces of the costume, I'm still looking into options for the coat, but I now have the two elements that help bring the costume elements together.
I want that Pull-Over...
But before Who props I need my GB's done. ^^;
I need to re-order a 4th scarf first though.
I just got off the bus from a 3hr trip. And realized it was pretty cold out.
In the winter I bring my scarf me everywhere, its super warm and being 20ft, I can keep everywhere warm.
So I take it out of my bag. and this guy runs up to me.
I WILL BUY THAT OFF YOU RIGHT NOW, How much?
I reply. Sorry not for sale...
He say's. 50 DOLLARS!
"No sorry, I love it too much."
"I take it you know what this scarf is from? I can tell you where I bought it if you'd like..."
No, I want it now. Okay 200. Do I need to go higher? I will.
"Okay, okay, you win. But give me 150$ for it, that's what I paid.
So I made a fan happy today. With no regrets. He was speechless, and smiling, and cuddling it.
Made me happy.
Now I need to order another scarf. ^^;
The first major step toward the new umbrella, getting the real deal... or at least as close as can be achieved.
I sent Chris at ClassicWhoProps a email, as of his site's last update, he now possesses two original umbrella props from the show, and after a bit of enquiry, he was able to reveal that the make of one of them was T.FOX & Co.LTD, an English company. A bit more searching, and eBay produced some results for a "Fox Paragon" umbrella, the "Paragon" relating to both a particular design utilised by Fox's umbrellas around 1852, and a manufacturer company of the same name who collaborated with FOX & Co's then owner, Samuel Dixon.
Having chased down a potential design, I scoured eBay until I won a close-looking model... which arrived today.
Already, it appears to be a close match in design to the umbrella the 7th Doctor carried in Paradise Towers:
Other matching details include the colour of the central metal tube, the design of the tips of the ribs, the loop of fabric used to restrain the material of the umbrella and the end/ferrule. To compare these elements with one of the screen-used umbrellas, please check out Chris's page covering props from the 7th Doctor's era: Link
I believe that as production went along, the Paradise Towers umbrella was modified to become the more familiar question mark handled-umbrella, which is the plan for the umbrella I've purchased.
The umbrella is in need of some TLC, the material could use a clean (and possibly even a dye session, as the fabric has faded somewhat). The fabric loop has sadly been ripped, with the metal ring that would fit over the button long since lost.
Despite these minor issues, I feel this umbrella will lend itself well to the cause, and once finished will allow me to retire my trusty, but broken older 7th Doctor umbrella. So, for those wishing to produce a more accurate replica, or for those wishing to set their 7th Doctor costume at the time of Paradise Towers, this is almost certainly the model of umbrella to go for, if you have a bit of cash to spend and you're able to locate one.
That's all for now.
I'd purchased this umbrella with the specific intention of converting it into a brand new, more accurate replica of the 7th Doctor's signature prop. I can finally show off the work I've managed to achieve so far, but first, I think I owe you guys an explanation as to why there's been no work until less than two weeks before London Film and Comic Con, the event I'd intended to have it finished for...
My existing umbrella's final event (although it's retirement had been postponed several times) was intended to be Collectormania 17, on the final weekend of May, where I'd be meeting Alex Kingston and having my photo taken with her (a great event and experience with her, but that's a story for another time). Unfortunately the buses to Milton Keynes at 5:00pm on a Sunday are one every two hours, and not wishing to wait in Milton Keynes for more than a hour and a half, I located a coach that would be able to take me to Bicester where I could then catch the train home.
The plan seemed to be going well, as I arrived at Bicester within a half hour, and I approached the station building... and that's where I befell a triptych of badluck. As the ticket office neared, a train going my way arrived, leading me to rush over to the ticket machine, and in my haste, pay too much for a ticket I didn't need. Purchasing the (incorrect) ticket in record time, I began to make my way over to the staircase to get the the platform on the opposite side of the tracks... only for my train to pull away. I decided to proceed over to the far platform so I could wait for the next train, and due to a couple of passengers walking up the staircase and taking up space, I wasn't able to fully see where I was walking and, thinking I was putting my foot down on a step, I actually misjudged my footing and went down on my right ankle badly, spraining it.
I wasn't able to walk or put any weight on the foot for the better part of two weeks, which led to all of my prop projects screeching to a halt. Things have since resumed and finally, I've made some progress with the umbrella. There were a number of things I'd wished to improve over the original, such as the curves on the ends of the questionmark, as well as how the dot slid over the tips of the ribs and the paint application on the wooden section of the end/ferrule.
On the two screen-used props featured on ClassicDoctorWhoProps, the dot of the questionmark has been used to keep the ribs of the umbrella closed in addition to the fabric loop. Sadly this wasn't easy to achieve with the thick wooden tips on the cheap umbrella I'd purchased for the previous build, but the Fox Paragon is a much more superior design, featuring thinner, metal tips, which are substantially easier to work with. I'd previously used the end cap of a curtain rail for the dot on my previous umbrella build, but this time I'd been pointed toward a more suitable alternative by my friend Mark, a "doll head knob". The doll head knob features the same flattened base as the dot pictured above, and they've also been partially drilled, giving me a starting place to drill the hole through the top of the knob so it can be fitted onto the umbrella shaft. Also pictured is a length of plastic that I intend to use as the spacer between the dot and the upper section of the questionmark. More on that later.
The first step was modifying the knob so that it would fit onto the umbrella shaft. A hole equal to the one on the base of the knob was drilled through from the underside through the top (the pictured example is actually of my first attempt, and is larger than it should be, but it was worth illustrating the stage despite the mistake.
Once I was satisfied with the location and size of the hole, I selected a 16mm flat bit and excavated enough material so that I could slide the plastic I'd be using for the spacer between the dot and upper portion of the questionmark in place:
The next step from there was modifying the dot to accomodate the tips of the ribs. I marked out eight points to drill the dot so that the tips could be slid into the dot:
In place, like so:
The fit is quite, even more so then my first attempt, it'll actually take a bit of a tug to free the ribs of the umbrella if I wished to actually use it as an umbrella (and heck, Sylvester only once used his as an umbrella!).
Already, there is a great deal of improvement over the old umbrella. The new dot is going to make likes look more trim and tidy, and I won't have the ribs clashing with the dot.
The spacer I'm planning to use is actually the plastic core of the till receipts we have at work. When the paper's used up, we end up with just the plastic core that we throw away... but having noticed some came in a very dark grey, I felt this would be a perfect choice, meaning I could avoid any paint being scraped due to movement of the dot and spacer. Obviously for those following this topic for their own build, you'll have to utilise something a little bit different, but hopefully you'll find something similar.
That's it for now. The next stage is going to be working on the new handle, and possibly mounting it to the umbrella
Turning my attention to the newest handle I'd be making (this would mark the 4th questionmark handle I'll have made to date) I resumed work on the time consuming process of grinding the ends of the acrylic into a dome. I'd already made a fair-sized dent in curving the end of the rod some time ago, and so it was simply a case of carrying on where I'd left off... or so I thought.
I don't know if it was because I was out of practice, or that my Dad having used the grinder during the previous week that'd changed something, but in trying to sculpt the curve the grinder rendered it far lumpier and uneven than previously experienced... to such an effect that I thought the rod was now going to have to go on the backburner and I'd have to start over.
It's then I recalled something that Oblivion at the RPF had remarked on. In making his own replica of the umbrella, he'd used a heat gun to warm up and then mold the ends of the rod into a dome. Wishing to try the method out, I took the "spoiled" rod and blasted it (whilst rotating it) for a couple of minutes...
And I think the results really do speak for themselves. On the left, a ground rod, on the right, a heat blasted one.
Impressed with the result, I worked on curving the opposite end (which was completely flat) and fine tuning the end that had already been heated. Eventually I got the curves to a point where I was pleased with them, and I then ran some sanding paper over the acrylic to sand down the bubbles that'd grown in the surface.
That evening, the handle was ready enough to put into the oven, and once cool, I applied some body filler to smooth out some of the rougher sections, such as the bubble crevasses and the odd gouges that'd been created by some of my tools.
I'll definitely be using the heating method from now on, where it once took a couple of days to finish curving both ends of the rod, it took less than a hour with the heat gun, and in addition to the speed of things, I feel the gradient of the curve is much better than on the acrylic that'd been curved using the grinder.
With the body filler having been allowed to set overnight, it was sanded down and then washed to remove the dust (so that I could then discern which bits were smooth enough, and which still needed to be sanded further).
Once the sanding was finished, I drilled a pilot hole and then enlarged that to fit the threaded rod. I then proceeded to drill the base of the handle with the 16mm flat bit so that the spacer could be slid into the base of the handle, a process that wasn't without a significant complication:
I still had the fragment of acrylic, and I'd considered gluing it back in place... however I found that I'd have to modify it a little with my Dremel in order to get it to fit in position with the spacer in place, and despite spending a short while on carefully dremeling away the acrylic as carefully as possible, the results were less than satisfactory. To that end, I opted to try recreate the fractured section with the body filler, and I think the results were successful:
Happy with the work I'd achieved, I primed and painted the handle and dot before putting them to bed to dry overnight, and this morning I had this to show for my efforts:
This time I'd opted to go for a shorter spacer, more closely matching the two umbrellas as seen on ClassicDoctorWhoProps.com. with the paint dry, I started test fitting the elements with the umbrella in order to work out how much threaded rod I'd need between the top of the umbrella shaft, and where the opening mechanism was located:
Happy with the test assembly, I cut the threaded rod to length. I then set the handle parts aside and turned my attention to the next stage I'd have to go through before I could fix them into position. Dying the canopy material.
During the course of it's life (this umbrella could easily be over half a century old), the fabric of the canopy had become faded on the outside, stained by rust from the ribs on the inside, and become partially frayed on one of the eight segments. To address the first two issues, I'd purchased a pack of Dylon black satin dye from my local haberdashery to try restore some of the original colour and to hide some of the internal marks.
Following the instructions on the packet, the umbrella was submerged inside a poster tube with the dye/water solution, and stirred for nearly a hour...
...where it was then then eventually removed and placed outside to dry. Sadly the dye didn't work out as well as I'd hoped, but the canopy does appear to be darker, and hopefully when folded up, the marks will be less obvious.
With the fabric dry, I masked off the metal ferrule and covered the fabric so that the wooden end and open cap could be primed and then painted in Ford Radient Red.
Once the paint had dried, I removed the masking tape and newspaper so I could do a second test fitting, which allowed me to clear out the channel drilled into the handle to allow me to mount it onto the threaded rod, and to compare it against my previous umbrella build:
Although unfinished, the new build is definitely better, and looks closer to the screen used prop.
Additionally, it's here that we can observe the differing sizes and dimensions of the replica handle when compared to the screen used one. The fanmade handle is too long, and 5cm or so could be taken off of the length to make it more accurate. The diameter of the inside edge also appears to be a few centimeters smaller... and it could mean that instead of getting three-and-a-bit handles from the metre's worth of acrylic rod I ordered, I could potentially get four whole handles and a bit of acrylic left over.
The dot on the other hand looks to be the right size in proportion to the thickness of the handle, and appears pretty close in size when compared to the screen used prop.
I just wish I could get a hour to study one of the genuine ones so we'd have some definitive measurements to work from.
The final bits of work to sort out are replacing the button loop so that the canopy fabric is held tight against the shaft, restitch some of the canopy, and apply some clear lacquer to the red painted sections. All being well, the umbrella will be finished and ready for LFCC this Saturday!
The preceeding year had been certainly provided a lot of info into the wear and tear a prop like this is subject to following 12 months of conventions, fortunately it's not as high maintenance as some of the extremely elaborate costumes that are on display, although that is not to say that the wear and tear the umbrella suffered weren't considerate: the greatest when the wooden shaft split, and the threaded rod for the handle slid out, leading to paint damage on the "dot".
As things stand I believe the handle faired better (it only suffered from paint chipping when it fell onto the staircase at the train station) because it didn't have the layer of finishing under the paint which the first dot did. Fortunately the doll head knobs were left unfinished, so I'm confident this problem won't arise, especially as the spacer and the rips of the ribs won't be rubbing against the paint finish.
The previous 365 days had also given me the opportunity to rethink another element of the build, painting the Ferrule/End/Open Cap. Having failed to leave a section unpainted, I had double the determination not to repeat the same mistake, and I was thankful that with the masking tape, I was able have a nice crisp edge between the painted and unpainted sections after applying the clear lacquer:
This build also allowed me to restore the umbrella a little. Although I wasn't very successful with dyeing the canopy back to it's original black, with the help of my Mum (who is the superior needleworker) we were able to restore the loop that keeps the ribs against the shaft when the umbrella is closed, featuring a rubber grommit, and the original button:
The lessons have helped lead to a neater, more accurate replica of the 7th Doctor's umbrella. Although the cheaper wooden alternatives are plentiful, I do honestly think it's worth the added expense of getting a genuine umbrella, if the chance comes up.
Still, even with the second umbrella now complete there are still areas in which there's room for improvement. I still need to see if there's a better way of mounting the handle to the metal shaft. Although I'd like to avoid drilling it if I could help it, it's not a method I've completely rulled out.
Additionally, due to being unsuccessful with getting measurements of one of the screen-used umbrellas, I'm going to look into whether I can make some estimated guesses on the handle dimensions, assuming my Fox Paragon's measurements are close, if not identical to the screen-used prop's. For that I will be intending to stick with the 35mm acrylic rod as detailed in Cedric's build, as I believe that's pretty close in size to the real deal.
That concludes the third and final installment of Updating the Umbrella.
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