Mounted Mantis Skin

Finally have finished version of the frame and skin for an eventual mantis show.  The process has been surprisingly difficult and times quite cost prohibitive.  The hardest part was finding someone willing to wet mount two sheets of plexi together but Michael at Paragon Frames in San Francisco eventually agreed to do it after six or so no's from other places.

So it's mounted between two sheets, 1/4 and 1/2 in sheets if I recall correctly.  I had him experimented with using Optium from tru-view but it wouldn't glue doesn't polish well at all.  It's a shame, Optium is an amazing glazing medium.  The top layer should be a UV grade plexi so the piece should be protected from fading as a result of ambient (it yet to be seen what long time usage of the LEDs will do).  The first two skins I also had mounted a layer of black plexi but due to corner issues I ended up painting this one instead of adding the third layer of plexi and then modifying the frame design to better hold the mounted skin place by putting in a slight recession into the back plate.

The next obstacle was the frame.  Some how that was done is covered here in an instructable I wrote for submitting the Autodesk AIR  The main difference now is printing the back plate with the recession to hold the mounted skin and extending down the inner lip some to compensate.  I also chromed the inside of the frame but it didn't really add much to the light output.  The finish was achieved by several hours of sanding and then careful misting with acetone.  I ended up doing the finish twice because the first version of the patina was far too bright.

The next difficulty will be designing a more discrete or visually meaningful control box.  More on that later.

The skin is from this girl.  It was her last shed.

The nightmare of mounting skins

I finally got around to documenting the two skins I've had somewhat successfully mounted.  The process has been long draw out and trying.  I originally wanted to mount them between sheets of museum glass (which that glass just even more amazing, tru-view updated their design and it's awesome) but I have been unable to find anyone willing to try.  I know what needs to be done to do it.  Frustratingly I have clear idea of the process and know someone with the tools but have been unable to go give it try.  As result I've been looking into other options.

My coworkers at the frameshop I work at recommended a company here in SF called Paragon Frame that specializes in custom acrylic display cases.  Having explored similar services paragon seems reasonably priced and willing to try to do it.  Other places have flat out refused.  While acrylic is far from my ideal it has worked with some limitations.  Air bubbles are unavoidable in the process and vary widely in appearance.  Of further issue is that the skins themselves are surprisingly fragile.  Of the 3 attempted 2 have been successful.  The failure essentially disintegrated upon the application of the gel bonding the plexi together.

Of a benefit though is the price and diversity of the plexi available.  Rather than having to stack many sheets of museum glass to get the desired depth I can use a thicker base piece with framing grade UV plex as the top piece.  Museum grade plexi is awfully tempting price prohibitive at this point and who knows how it would react with the glue.   Similarly it comes in a diversity of colors.  I've had the two successful ones mounted onto black plexi as well.  It does give a kind of depth-less look but bubbles are too problematic to be reliable, especially in the corners (the white glare you see in the corners of the images) so in future ones I intend to just float them over the black plexi.  Honestly this isn't ideal either, getting everything clean and polished before sealing it from dust will be nightmare but that's a game for next batch that will be done.

I'll be making a how-to on the frame design soon on instructables for another go at the Autodesk residency if you're interested in seeing the internals of the frames.  They're 3D printed custom frames with LED lights attached on the inside.