8. The Infinity Gauntlet Shadow Box
I'm a HUGE Marvel fan –not just in that I like the movies and I bought a couple of t-shirts way-- I mean since childhood I've watched cartoons, read comics, bought action figures, seen the obscure not-so-good 70's film versions of Captain America, Spider-Man, and the rightfully forgotten Fantastic Four all before internet and the term "cinematic universe" was even a thing...'cause I'm low-key hipster like that. I have faithfully watched since 2008 as this new saga of interwoven films replicated the comics in the same enmeshed way that I've longed to see as a kid. It’s a good time to be a nerd.
Black Panther was released in 2018 and I had my ticket for the premiere showing. The Marvel Fan event came with a souvenir cup, popcorn container and a beautiful commemorative coin. The following premieres would come with coins of their own and soon I had amassed the collection. However, having them just lie on a desk does not show off how grand or special these coins were to me. Collections are meant to be exhibited because they are storied pieces.
I needed something worthy of the epic adventure I'd gone on over the past decade. While brainstorming a solution I thought of my father's military service. At some point in the mid 90's it became really popular for squadrons to give out coins as tokens of gratitude, service or in commemorations of big events. I remember seeing officers with grand displays showing off their collections. I wanted to do the same but I knew nothing I could find online or made at a framing shop would be grand enough to fit my needs.
Out of options it’s time to make custom shit!
I started by drawing up my plan on an old school drafting board. (I could have done this on a computer but I particularly wanted to show my students that the drafting assignments I was giving them weren't useless.)
I cut four strips of plexiglass on a table saw. Two were bound with tape and marked to show the cut outs the coins would sit uniformly. The remaining two are the window pieces that will hold the coins in place.
This long strip of pine will become my frame after getting the width correct. I used the table saw to cut a groove 1/4" deep and 3/8" wide down its entire length.
Here I marked off some of the 45 degree angles I would need to cut to square the frame.
I set my miter saw up to make 45-degree cuts. This should be as simple as cutting on the lines.
Despite my best effort and planning (see the notebook paper), I still managed to screw up my cuts. Two things happened...
1) I didn't account for the groove. So when I placed the pieces together the grooves on the long sides faced outward...no bueno!
2) I ended up short on one side. Luckily, I had more material than I initially needed and it ended up being just enough.
With the pieces correctly cut and beveled with a 45-degree angle at 5/8" for the outside edge. I fixed them together with wood glue and all the 90-degree angle clamps I could get my hands on...four!
This was the first time I've ever worked with plexiglass. I had quite a lot to learn. I started by cutting out the coin slots with a Forster bit on the drill press into the two sheets of plexiglass. The smell was... fun 😝.
In researching techniques for using plexiglass, I learned that when joining two pieces together you do not use glue. Instead, you apply a small amount of acrylic solvent which melts the plexiglass allowing the two pieces to fuse together. I did just that with the two centerpieces holding my coins.
Apparently, car polish is used to buff out blemishes and scratches in plexiglass. I have mixed reviews of its effectiveness but it was fun to try.
BUT best of all was that a blow torch is the perfect tool to anneal and bevel rough edges. The reality is I don't need a reason to use a blow torch but when I have one watch out!!!!! 🤪(I LOVE BLOW TORCHES!!!🔥🔥)
The project is finally taking shape. All of the major construction is finished.
Me looking very proud (and handsome) as I take a selfie (with my broken phone screen...I sat on it 🤦🏾♂️....don't ask😔). This is the first time that the project didn't look like parts and actually started looking like a thing.
After the initial fitting of all the parts, I was pretty happy except one thing that was buggin' me... The plexiglass was sliding to the left and right. Just enough that the ends were never exposed, but so much so that the plexiglass felt like it was swimming in the frame. It was not the snug, secure fit I wanted.
After some math, I realized I could use some 1/8th inch thick balsa wood square rods that fit seamlessly into the grooves. I marked, cut, and glued them to both sides of the frame. Using scrap to help clamp the drying pieces in place.
Initially, I thought the frame would be closed by screws (Notice the two holes I used to plan out the space.) that would be hidden on the bottom of the box... but I be thinking🤔and honestly, I would rather have easy access to the coins. Solution: make the lid magnetic?!...cuz magnets are cool!
I had several neodymium magnets from a broken hands-free car mount and traced their placement -- now made possible by the newly added balsa strips -- on to the sloped edge. (it's funny how things just work out for me...)
Holding the frame in place with a vice I used a Forstner bit in a cordless drill to make a place for the magnets to sit flush with the 45-degree angle.
Using the metal plate that came with the hand-free device I cut two small squares to attach the lid to the embedded magnets in the frame.
Everything fits snugs now, we could stop and have a very acceptable shadow box. But it wouldn't be worthy of holding the final six commemorative coins of the Infinity Saga. Only a gantlet can hold this much awesome. Now I have to take it to the next level...
I had so much success with a <previous stool project > I decided to inlay crayons for my gauntlet
I made a stencil out of the paper and traced the 6 gem shapes onto the lid and sides.
I really dug this plunge router attachment for the Dremel rotary tool. I love its versatility. It has so many functions and attachments, this tool can do just about anything.
Here are my routed placeholders for my infinity stones. I was careful not to go too deep or I'd risk routing a hole through the groove for the plexiglass.
I didn't want a flat color, Infinity Stones have depth and marvel😁. They needed to look powerful. I figured the best way to achieve such wonder was to use many light, dark and metallic shades.
Here is an example of the Soul Stone's chromatic makeup. Some shades nearer to red others brighter and to make it pop a mix of gold and silver -- sparkle sparkle!
Estimating the amount of solid crayon shavings you need for a melt is hard to do. sometime you think you have too much and you don't have enough to cover your inlay--sometimes the opposite... I chose what I thought was over kill.
Nothing left to it but to melt down the crayon with a heat gun. a tedious process involving distance and temperature and the force of the air. No one wants to blow melted crayons everywhere.
I agonized over what shade of gold to paint my gauntlet. Vintage Gold, Champagne Mist, and Pure Gold all felt wrong. They were all either too yellow or too pale.
But then I found hammered gold, a texture gold paint, and fell in love. A gantlet needs to be forged, heated, hammered, and shaped by the dwarves on Nidavellir and this paint gave me all of that.
I masked off my melted crayon with tape and sprayed away.
Meanwhile, the piece of plexiglass needs some color, regular paint would be too opaque. I remembered being in a craft store once and seeing stained glass spray paint. At the time I thought it was cool but didn't have a use for it... but now I did.
I figured a “Mad Titan” purple was appropriate for the occasion and to my surprise, it was on sale...SCORE! (I have to say sometimes I feel inevitable!)
With the paint dry, I could remove the tape and add my two-part epoxy. Just look at the results! The stones...they twankle! ✨
Everything about this came out great! In the end, I did not mind the imperfections in the plexiglass because it looks like the coins were being snapped! I LOVE IT!
A coworker, knowing my penchant for the picayune, dubbed my finished work the Petty Stones and I have never heard a more accurate title. SO BEHOLD THE MIGHT, POWER AND SHADY MAJESTY OF THE PETTY GAUNTLET!!!
Look at how amazed I am at my own work! Seriously, I amaze myself sometimes. So many new or newly acquired skills on this one project. I can't help but love this build 3000! Best of all my collection now has a home and both the coins and the case have a story to tell! Something so unique has no choice but to grab people's curiosity...I guess that must be the Intrigue Stone. >SNAP!<