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Jack’s Compass

 photo JackSparrow3_zpsdc9b2e49.jpg

“True enough, this compass does not point north….it points to the thing you want most in this world.” – Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack’s compass is one of the most iconic props featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  In “Curse of the Black Pearl” the compass leads Jack and his crew across the Caribbean to the dreaded Isla de Muerta and to his precious ship, the Black Pearl.  In “Dead Man’s Chest” Jack can’t seem to make the compass work on his own and has to con others into using it so he can find the heart of Davy Jones.  And in “At World’s End” the compass is constantly changing hands from one character to another as the double-crosses and triple-crosses pile up.

While looking for a replica of the compass for my costume I have found everything from elaborate wooden replicas priced over $200, to cheap plastic toys that barely look like the original at all.  Forgotten Seas Trading Co.  offers a fantastic resin version of the compass that uses earth magnets to make the dial spin (hide one in your palm glove to make it point in whatever direction you desire).  It’s a version I certainly wouldn’t mind having at some point since a wooden replica might be a bit fragile, and if I got up to some crazy Captain Jack high jinks I’d hate for an expensive compass to get damaged.

But probably the most common compass that a lot of Jack Sparrows out there carry is a modified version of the Disney Store compass.  These have become a bit of a rarity, though, and as such are usually a bit pricey when they show up on eBay.  It wasn’t my first choice (naturally I’d prefer a wooden replica or the Forgotten Seas version), but when I found one on eBay that wasn’t outrageously priced I thought, “why not?”

The compass arrived looking every bit like the children’s toy it is, packaged with a vinyl replica of Sao Feng’s map, an eye patch, a pint-sized plastic skull ring, and a plastic clip-on hoop earring.  But what makes this particular compass such a favorite among Captain Jack cosplayers is that it’s a fairly accurate size and has a free spinning dial.

Of course the dial face is all wrong, as is the latch and the lack of a ring to attach a leather cord to for tying it onto your belt, but that’s why this compass is a modifying project and not a ready-to-use prop.

One of my Jack Sparrow pals over on the message boards and facebook offered to do the mod, so I sent the compass his way to be decked out and made to look more authentic.  First, he used a dremel to replicate the nicks and dings and make it look a bit beat up.  Then he gave it a new coat of paint and replaced the dial using a more accurate one from an image he printed off the internet.  Next, he replaced the flimsy plastic latch on the front with a metal one.  And lastly, he added a brass ring to the back and a leather cord, and the compass was complete.

Once the compass was returned to me I finished it up by giving it a bit more age and weathering using acrylic paint and a sponge.  And thus, the finish product looks something like this:

Is it a perfect replica of Jack’s compass?  Of course not.  But for an inexpensive plastic toy from the Disney Store I’d say it came out looking pretty darn great!  Eventually I hope to own a more accurate version of Jack’s compass, but for now this one looks really good and will work just fine.

One vendor’s site that I’ve browsed many, many times is called Swag Arts where Tia Jill offers up some fantastic replicas of Jack’s Piece ‘O Eight and other various beads and coins for his wig, as well as some other awesome trinkets for Jack’s gear.  I’ve recently been lucky enough to grab a couple of her items while they were in stock, and I’ll be discussing them in an upcoming post, but for now I just want to mention one small item I purchased from the site a few months ago.  Tia Jill had been going through a big move and most of her items were out of stock, but since I was on the site with a few extra doubloons to spend I ordered some kohl eye makeup because it was available.  Sure, any old black eye pencil could probably be used to achieve the same effect, but I like buying things within the Jack Sparrow costuming community whenever possible.  I’ve only played with the makeup once since it arrived, and (although I clearly need a lesson or two in applying eye makeup) it seems to work really well.  It was the middle of the night and I was bored, so I put on a silly Rastafarian beanie with dreads and my Jack Sparrow bandanna and snapped a selfie.

The checklist of things I need in order to finish my Captain Jack outfit is getting ever shorter, but the things still left on that list are also some of the biggest and most expensive parts of the costume.  Some things I can substitute with bits of my Captain McAnen costume for the time being, like the shirt, pants, and waistcoat.  But there is one item I need above all others in order to pull off even a passable Jack Sparrow look:  the wig.  Luckily I know exactly where I’m going to get it, and it’s going to be my Christmas present to myself this year.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been bumbling around mimicking everyone’s favorite wobbly-legged pirate for over 10 years, but it looks like 2014 will be the year I finally look the parts as well.  So until next time, here’s wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Who is That Masked Man?

Okay, so this post has nothing to do with Jack Sparrow, but Jack isn’t the only character I plan to cosplay as.  While a lot of my fellow Jack Sparrows out there are gearing up to be Johnny Depp’s Tonto from “The Lone Ranger” this Halloween, I’ve decided to go a different route.  I’m going to be the Lone Ranger himself.

That’s the plan anyway.  Halloween is fast approaching, but money is coming in rather slowly.  On the plus side, I’m off to a great start and already have what are probably the most important pieces for the costume anyway.  Worst case scenario I figure I can rent the rest from a costume shop or throw something together to get by if the costume isn’t 100% completed by the time All Hallows’ Eve rolls around.

So why the Lone Ranger instead of Tonto?  Obviously Depp’s Comanche warrior costume is a lot of fun, and Tonto fits right in with the kind of oddball characters I like to play on stage.  Sure I’m a little heavy and pale to dress up like an Indian at the moment, but I’d need to slim down to be the Lone Ranger or Jack Sparrow, too, so that’s really not a factor.  You see, as cool as Depp’s Tonto is, and as much fun as it would be to put his costume together, I’m doing a Lone Ranger costume because I’ve been a fan of the Lone Ranger for as long as I can remember.

As a little kid back in the 80’s I used to watch reruns of The Lone Ranger on television, and I could often be found running around outside sporting a white hat, black domino mask, and a two-gun rig, shooting imaginary bad guys with my cap guns and riding a white stick horse.  I had Lone Ranger action figures, and would build Old West towns out of Lincoln Logs for the Lone Ranger and Tonto to visit.  I even had Lone Ranger decorations for my fourth birthday party!

 photo TheLoneRangerGlen_zps735b4827.jpg(“How cool was my childhood?”)

 The Lone Ranger was one of my favorite characters when I was a kid, right up there with Han Solo, Rambo, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  So when I heard Gore Verbinski would be directing a big screen version of The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer I was thrilled.  I couldn’t wait to see their take on this classic hero, even if he had already become a bit cheesy by the time I first saw the reruns on cable TV all those years ago.  The Lone Ranger needed to remain a white hat good guy, to be sure, but things like “Hi-Yo Silver! Away!” and the William Tell Overture would seem quite campy by today’s standards if not handled in just the right way.

On the eve of the movie’s official release date our local multiplex had an advanced screening and I was there, ready to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto up on the big screen.  It was the most fun I’ve had at the movies so far this year.  Sure the critics hated it, but it seems like most of them had made up their minds about it long before it even came out.  They complained that Depp’s Tonto was just another flamboyant Jack Sparrow type performance and that him playing an Indian was somehow racist.  They complained about the film’s budget and its shifts in tone.  The movie was never going to please them, but for me it was a blast.

Unfortunately it hasn’t done well theatrically either, having only made around $200 million worldwide on a $250 million dollar budget.  In studio terms that’s a flop, but it has little to do with the film’s entertainment value.  Every audience I saw it with (and I saw it 4 times) had an absolute blast with the movie, laughing at the comedic antics of Depp and Hammer and sitting on the edges of their seats during the action sequences.  The movie is by no means perfect, but it’s a shame that it hasn’t done better at the box office.  It’s likely we’ll never see “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” unless somehow the movie fares better in the overseas market and/or does a ton of business on blu-ray and DVD.  It really is a fun movie, so hopefully it will find a wider fan base down the road as more people discover it on video and TV.  I can certainly understand some of the reasons why the movie wasn’t a bigger hit, but since this blog is about costumes and not movie reviews I won’t go further into it here.        

Anyway, I did consider doing a Tonto costume at one point, but after thinking about it for a while I decided my time and money on a costume that intricate would be better spent finishing the Jack Sparrow costume I’ve already started.  However, after watching the movie a couple times I thought it would be fun to return to those “days of yesteryear” from my childhood and become the Lone Ranger once again.

First up, I snagged the officially licensed “Texas Rangers” badge prop replica by NECA at Hot Topic.  It was on a discount rack marked down half-price and with a bunch of other items for “Buy One, Get One for $1”,  So I bought two and sold the extra one on eBay.  I turned a small profit and effectively made the one I kept a freebie.  The badge, while not 100% screen accurate, is a pretty awesome prop made of a light metal (probably an alloy of some sort) and will work nicely for my costume.

One decision I made early on was not to aim for the same level of screen accuracy I’m striving for with my Jack Sparrow costume.  This will be more of an interpretation of the Lone Ranger’s movie costume using the best items I can find without breaking the bank, and although I want to get as close to the screen costume as possible I’m not worried about making it 100% authentic.  Since his outfit is fairly basic compared to something like Jack Sparrow or Tonto I’m going more for the overall silhouette than for the minute details.  You could almost call this my “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” costume, allowing me some wiggle room and justifying any discrepancies between my gear and the screen used outfit.

Next, I did some searching over on eBay and found a nice leather mask from a seller in the UK.  NECA makes a version of the mask, but I was fairly adamant that I wanted mine to be made of real leather and the NECA mask isn’t.  For the movie a cast was made of Armie Hammer’s face, and a thin plastic mask was molded to fit him perfectly so that it would easily stay in place.  Then it was covered with leather.  Eventually I may try to find a well fitted plastic face mask I can use to do something similar, but for now I’ve wet molded the leather mask I purchased to fit my face and it seems to have worked pretty well.

(Leather Mask – New)

I did have to do a bit of trimming to get the shape of the mask just right because initially it looked a little more like a Zorro or Dread Pirate Roberts mask to me.  I wanted to be able to see more of my nose and give the brow more of a rounded look, and luckily trimming it was pretty easy.  I may also try to weather the mask a bit later on, but for now I’m quite happy with it.

(Leather Mask -Modified)

The other key piece I knew I needed was a white cowboy hat.  Having been a rodeo cowboy back in my younger days I wore a lot of hats and used to be a bit of a hat snob, only buying the best felt hats I could find.  Since this hat would be for a costume I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on it, but I also didn’t want a cheap costume hat that would get torn up easily either.  The hat used in the movie is a Stetson, so I started looking from there.  In the past I always wore Resistol hats, and it turns out Resistol and Stetson are both made in the same factory these days, so that helped broaden my search.  I also looked at other brands I remembered from back in my rodeo days like Bailey, Beaver Brand, and Milano.  I knew I’d have to reblock the crown since most cowboy hats come pre-bashed with a cattleman style crease these days, so I wanted a decent felt to work with without spending a ton of money on it.  After looking at different hats online I narrowed it down to either a Resistol Pageant hat or a Bailey Spur hat.  Both are made of wool, although I think it is likely alpaca wool rather than sheep’s wool.  Since these hats run from about $94-$125 new, I searched eBay on a regular basis to see if I could catch a nice used one at a good price.

  (Resistol Pageant Hat – New)

Years ago I actually bought a white felt Resistol hat.  It was from their George Strait line, and I wore it as a bit of an homage to the old white hat good guys of classic westerns like Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger.  Unfortunately I sold it on eBay a couple of years ago, not knowing a Lone Ranger film was on the way.  I’d be more bummed about it, but my head’s grown a bit over the years so it likely would have been too snug now anyway.  Oh well.

Anyway, late one night on a whim I decided to check out craigslist just to see if someone in the area might have a used white cowboy hat for sale.  I wasn’t holding out much hope, after all I was looking for a pearly white felt hat in my size.  But lo and behold a Resistol Pageant hat turned up, never worn and still in the original box, and the seller was only asking $70 for it!  I didn’t really need to spend $70 right then, but I didn’t want to miss a deal like that either.  I spent most of the next day debating on whether to call and ask about it or not, and finally decided “what the heck” and gave the guy a ring.  He still had it, so I asked if he’d take $60 for it.  He agreed, and off I went to claim my new hat.  He wasn’t kidding when he said he’d never gotten around to wearing it, it still had the original crease that hats like it come with straight out of the box.  He’d bought it because it was on sale and he thought it would be fun to have, but never found any excuse to wear it and was tired of it taking up space in his closet.  It would take a bit of work to get the original shape out and put the new bash in, but I wasn’t about to pass up such a good deal.

(My hat, reblocked to look like the movie hat.)

The first thing I had to do was pop out the cattleman crease from the crown so it could be reshaped.  I took it to a western wear store where they had a hat dome and used it to reopened the crown.  The guy at the store did a little bit of the creasing for me, but it still needed a lot of work done to it when I got home.  Creasing cowboy hats is nothing new to me, so I heated up the tea kettle and got to work steaming and shaping it.  Using photos of Armie Hammer in costume and of a Stetson Seneca (which has the same basic teardrop crown shape as the movie hat) I set to work reblocking the crown.  Once I had it looking right I went to work on the brim.  In the movie the Lone Rangers hat brim is quite wide across the front, the sides turned up without much curl or a hard crease.  The front of the brim is also turned up just a bit.  It took some playing around, but after about an hour the hat was looking pretty close to the original.

One thing about working with cheaper felt hats, it can take a bit more effort to get them to really hold their shape, so every day for about a week I messed with it a bit more, spraying it with a light mist of water from a spray bottle and molding the felt to the shape I wanted.  After all, The Lone Ranger’s hat needs a lived in look, it shouldn’t look like it just came new off the shelf.  The hardest part was getting the dent bashes in the side of the crown, but after working with it a little every day I finally got it just the way I wanted it.

The hatband is different than the one on the movie hat, it’s made of the same felt as the hat with a silver-toned buckle on the side, whereas the movie hat has a classic ribbon band, but that’s a minor detail.  All-in-all I’m really pleased with the the way it turned out.  Would I have liked for the felt to be a little higher quality?  Sure.  But I really couldn’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on a beaver felt hat just to beat it up to make it look like the hat from the movie.

I’ve already found a great coat and vest for the costume and am watching eBay to see if I can snag them at a good price, too. They’re both from a company called WahMaker that produces Old West and Victorian Era clothing, and the style of both the coat and vest is called the Vigilante.  The great thing about them is they can also be used for other costumes I hope to eventually put together, such as a Van Helsing costume based on the one I wore in “Dracula: The Musical?”, and a Robert Downey Jr. style Sherlock Holmes costume.  The Lone Ranger’s shirt in the movie is a bib style shirt commonly worn in the old west, but with a slightly more modern collar.  For the costume I think any white dress shirt will do fine for now since it’ll mostly be hidden by the vest and coat anyway.  His pants are a dark brown with black pinstripes,  and so far I’ve found a few options on some websites that sell Old West-style clothing that would work pretty well.  As for his red checkered neck scarf, I should be able to find some material at Jo-Ann’s or Hobby Lobby that I can make one out of fairly easily.  The other thing I’ve been watching for on eBay is an old pair of black pointed-toe cowboy boots.  If I’m patient and keep an eye out for them I should be able to snag a decent used pair for around $25-$50.

Over the course of the movie the Lone Ranger wears two gun belts.  The first is a brown gun belt with one right-hand draw holster, and his gun is a long barreled colt revolver with wooden hand grips.  He wears this belt through most of the movie, and it would likely be the less expensive option for my costume since I would only need the one gun.  The second gun belt he wears during the movie’s climactic action sequence, and it is a black belt with two holsters in which he carries two Colt Peacemakers with 5.5″ barrels and ivory grips.  There’s a company called Denix that makes great replica pistols, but they don’t currently offer any with smooth ivory handles, so if I go this route I’ll most likely modify the wood grips with spray paint to simulate an ivory look.

During the end action sequence the Lone Ranger uses a black bullwhip and is wearing a pair of black gauntlet style gloves, but those are things that are not necessary to achieve the basic look of the character.  A pair of spurs could be a cool addition, though, and there’s a chance I might still have a pair packed away somewhere from back in my cowboy days.  Other than that the only other thing I can really think of to add to the costume would be some dummy bullets to wear in the gun belt, and those are easy to come by online.  I’ve even found some “silver” ones!

As for my Captain Jack Sparrow gear, that journey is still far from over, and my excursion into Lone Ranger territory is only a small side-trip to put something simple together for Halloween.  I’ve acquired a few more Jack Sparrow pieces since my last post, and will share them with you here very soon.

Now if only I could get someone to give me a white horse I could call Silver.  That would be awesome!

(“Hi-Yo Silver! Away!”)

   


Jack’s Stolen Ring

LeftHand

My quest to acquire the perfect stolen ring wasn’t as long and crazy as my quest for the perfect skull ring, but I’m also not entirely sure it’s over just yet.   Jack’s stolen ring is probably my second favorite of his rings after the skull ring, and one that I’d feel comfortable wearing on a regular basis (the dragon ring ranks pretty high up there, too).  Like all of the pieces for my costume, I wanted to find the stolen ring that was “just right” rather than go with a stand-in ring until something better came along.  After looking at lots of photos I decided the Skinny Dog ring once sold at the Disney theme parks was the way to go, and I patiently waited for one in the right size to turn up on eBay.  Eventually one did just that, and since the price was right I went ahead and made the purchase.

(Disneyland Stolen Ring)

StolenRing

This was quite a nice ring, good color and a decent stone, but one thing I noticed right away when it arrived was that it was a bit on the small side.  Not in terms of my finger size, but in the overall shape of the ring.  It was a ring that would look fine with the costume, but not one I’d really want to wear around just for the hell of it.  Still, I was satisfied that I’d found the best ring available and tucked it away with my Master Replicas button ring to be worn when I was in full Captain Jack get up.

As so often seems to be the case with these things the story didn’t end there.  Just a couple months after acquiring the Disneyland ring a new stolen ring turned up on eBay that seemed to blow the other right out of the water.  ACME Brand, famous for their Jack Sparrow hats, baldrics, and buckles (as well as the skull ring I currently own) released a new version of the stolen ring.  Now here was a fine ring indeed, made of solid brass and sporting the proper “huge” look I was after.  So up on eBay my Disneyland ring went, and I was soon the proud honor of the ACME Brand stolen ring!

(ACME Brand Stolen Ring)

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The stone on the ACME ring is made of resin and has a much darker look than the bright purple rhinestone look of the Disneyland ring.  It almost looks black in the above picture, but don’t let the photo fool you.  The stone has a nice purple tint with reds and blues that really pop in the right light.  It seemed I had finally stumbled across the best stolen ring on the market.

In all reality I likely did stumbled across the best stolen ring on the market.  Unfortunately it, too, is not without its shortcomings.  The biggest downside to the ring is its brass construction.  Sure, that makes it big and sturdy, but on the down side brass is a metal that will quickly turn dull and leave your finger green.  This may not be a big deal if you only use the ring when dressing up as Jack Sparrow, but it doesn’t make for a ring you’d want to wear all the time just for the heck of it.  The high polish brass does give the ring the right “gold” look out of the box, but wear it for a few hours and the oils in your skin turn it a dull gun metal gray color.  Interestingly ACME even acknowledges this in their eBay listing by saying “Now made of solid Brass and buffed to a brilliant finish which will patina nicely after you wear it out several times.”  The problem with this is of course that real gold doesn’t tarnish, and Jack’s ring is meant to be made of gold.  Too be fair a quick rinse in some dish soap will bring the brass back to a shiny finish again, but don’t expect it to last long if you plan on wearing the ring for more than a few moments at a time.  Both the photo above and the photo below were taken after I’d worn the ring a couple of times and washed it in the kitchen sink.  I had worn it one day while working on my haunted house back in October, and after sweating with it on all day it had practically turned black.  When I washed it before taking the photos I used a scrubbing pad on it, and that left some scratches on the surface of the brass that can be seen below.

 ACMEStolenRing2_zpsa1eaa64a.jpg

So while ACME has in fact produced the best stolen ring out there in terms of look and size (although the stone could be a bid more elongated, but that’s a minor point), it isn’t one that works well as a piece of daily jewelry.  To be fair the oils in everyone’s skin are not all the same, some people are more acidic than others and some more alkali, so there are people out there who might wear the ring and never have a problem at all.  Unfortunately I’m not one of them, and the ring tarnished pretty rapidly on me every time I put it on.  Still, I wasn’t ready to write this ring off as a loss quite yet, and a possible solution seemed to be just around the corner.

The first thing I attempted to slow the tarnishing process down was to apply a thin layer of clear nail polish to the ring.  This is a trick I’ve often heard to use with costume jewelry to keep it from turning your skin green.  While it did work to some degree the ring would still patina to a gun metal gray color if I wore it for any real length of time.

But then one day a friend of mine posted a message on a local swap & barter page on Facebook that seemed to be the perfect solution.  They had started doing gold plating, and could gold plate just about any metal surface!  They even posted a photo of a lever-action Winchester-style rifle of which they had gold plated the barrel!  I quickly got in contact with him and told him about my ring to see if he could help me out.

About a week later I had the ring back, now with a 24 karat gold plated finish, and it looked better than ever!

 photo ACMEStolenRing-Gilded1_zps63290187.jpg

There was one minor side effect after having the ring gold plated, though.  The resin stone had lost its luster and now had a rather dull finish that made it look less like a stone and more like the hard plastic that it really is.  But not to worry.  My friend had shown the ring to a jeweler friend of his and the jeweler promised he could polish the stone right up for me for a couple bucks.  So first chance I got I took the ring to the jeweler and left it for him to polish.

The jeweler was a jolly fellow, and I couldn’t wait to see the ring once he was finished.  He said polishing it up would be easy enough, and I even talked to him about possibly replacing the stone in my emerald skull ring.  (The ACME skull ring comes with a glass stone which looks pretty good, but I had accidentally nicked it up a bit while building the haunted house).  Unfortunately, polishing the stone on my ring was so easy in fact that it didn’t seem to be much of a priority for the jeweler.  I’d stop in every few days to see if he’d gotten around to it, and finally after about a month I finally had it back.  Luckily it only cost me $5, and too be honest I liked the guy well enough that I didn’t really mind the wait.  After all, I wasn’t in any kind of real hurry.  In the end I still look forward to doing future business with him and will likely have the stone in my emerald skull ring switched out sometime in the near future.

So now I had my stolen ring back, and with a nice shiny polished stone and a proper golden look!

 photo ACMEStolenRing-Gilded2_zps1b24f372.jpg

I’d like to say the story ends there, but I’d be lying.  Naturally I wanted to sport my new shiny ring and show it off, so I wore it a few times.  As it turns out, the gold plating didn’t completely eradicate the problem of tarnishing, and the ring still turned a dull color and turned my finger green.  So to be completely honest I’m now at a bit of a loss.  Is the gold plating rubbing off, or is the patina from the brass just coming through the gold plating to the surface?

 photo ACMEStolenRing-Tarnished_zps08124950.jpg

The great irony in all this is that when it comes to Jack Sparrow’s costume (as with most period style costumes) the way to get the desired look of the character isn’t to have your costume look pristine and new but rather to beat the hell out of it, weather and age it until it looks old and lived in.  And yet the stolen ring is one of the few items I feel should look shiny and new because it is supposed to be made of gold with an amethyst stone; both things that shouldn’t really tarnish or age.

So where do I go from here?  The way I see it I really have two options:

Option #1: My friend who gold plated the ring told me to bring it back and he would redo it if for some reason it didn’t take or if the tarnish came back.  Also, the jeweler who polished the stone told me he had plenty of amethyst on hand and that he could easily make a real amethyst cabochon to set in the ring.  Obviously a real stone would look better than the resin stone, but would the gold plating take better the second time around?  I’ve read that when gold plating on brass you should have a plate of nickel first as a barrier, so that may be the solution, but at what point will I have spent far more on this ring than it’s worth?

Option #2:  In speaking with the jeweler he seems like he would be down for making me some cool rings for my Captain McAnen character, so I’d be willing to bet he’d be up for making me a new stolen ring from scratch.  I’d still go for gold plating, as a solid gold ring would cost a small fortune, but if he made the ring from scratch he could start with a metal that the gold plating would easily adhere to.  And as mentioned above he has already said that making me a cabochon stone out of real amethyst would be easy enough.  A great plus to this option would be that I could show him photos of the screen used rings and have him match the size as closely as possible, elongating the top of the ring and using a longer oval stone.  As I’m writing this I’m thinking this will likely be my best course of action, so I will probably go to the jewelry store and talk to him about price very soon.  Who knows, if it comes out well enough it may even be something other Jack’s would be interested in ordering if he’d be down for making more.

At this point I think I should state that while I have been critical of the ACME stolen ring throughout this blog post I am in no way displeased with ACME Brand at all.  They offer some truly amazing products that I hope to order in the very near future, and for the money their stolen ring is easily the best one out there at the moment.  If I didn’t think so I wouldn’t have ordered it in the first place.  That said, I do think there is some room for improvement, and it’s possible that a better version might be just around the corner.  And if a better version does come along it wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were ACME Brand who makes it!  I’ll happily be one of the first ones to buy it if they do.       

(Wrist Wrap – Unweathered)

WristWrap WristWrap.jpg

I’ve already discussed my wrist wrap from Yordreem Creations in a previous post, but I wanted to take a quick moment to give an update on it here.  Much like the rings it is an item I’ve happily worn for the past several months on a daily basis, and it has weathered quite nicely.  One thing I did do was soak it in some brown Rit dye to tone down the yellow and pink colors of the yarn.

(Wrist Wrap – Weathered)

 WristWrapweathered_zps5bcce448.jpg

The Yordreem wrist wrap is definitely one of those “close enough” items, and it looks better than others I’ve seen on eBay.  But that said I may have found an even better one, and I hope to order it very soon.  I was steered in the right direction by a fellow Jack Sparrow on Facebook, but more on that in a future post.

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I have one other quick item to share with you that isn’t necessarily a part of Jack Sparrow’s garb, but it is never-the-less another iconic prop from the Pirates of the Caribbean films: Davy Jones Key.

Much like the Headpiece to the Staff of Ra in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the key of Davy Jones plays a crucial part in the plot to 2006’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”  Everyone in the movie wants it because they need it to open the chest which contains the still beating heart of Davy Jones.  Several scenes in the film revolve around the key and it’s location (one of my personal favorites being  the scene in which Will Turner sneaks into the cabin of a sleeping Davy Jones and has to steal the key away from one of Jones’ face tentacles!).

The key was made by the now defunct Master Replicas, who also produced replicas of the Aztec gold coins from “Curse of the Black Pearl,” and that wonderful chest which the key itself unlocks.  The chests now sell on eBay for upwards of $400-$500, but who knows, maybe someday I’ll even get my hands on one of them.

(Master Replicas Davy Jones Key)

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As always, my Jack Sparrow costuming adventures are still far from over, so there are plenty more blog posts on the way.  I’m also venturing off into a couple of other fun costuming projects that I may discuss here, or I may even start a separate blog where I showcase them.  Either way there are definitely some fun new things coming up over the next few months.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I acquired a brand new laptop computer, and now that I’ve finally gotten the hang of Windows 8 I’ve dipped in and purchased the video editing software I’ve been wanting for months.  That means videos for the blog are finally just over the horizon!  I’ll be shooting them on my smart phone for now (I mean, why not?  it shoots 1080 video!), but a new video camera is something I hope to obtain in the near future as well.  There’s gonna be a bit of a learning curve for the editing software because it’s about 8 generations newer and better than my previous software ( I had Vegas Movie Studio 4.0 and the new software is Movie Studio 12!), but I have the utmost faith that I will figure it all out just as soon as I have the time.

Speaking of which, free time is something I’m going to have less of now, but in exchange I’m going to have more money because I’ve recently reentered the world of the working!  Yep, I gave in and got a “regular” job again, which is actually pretty big news, but I’m super excited about it and am looking forward to adding to my Jack Sparrow costume at a much faster rate than before.  The new job is working at the front desk of a hotel, but it’s awesome because I’m working with friends I’ve known for years and I’m only working there 4 days a week, which leaves me plenty of time to continue selling stuff on eBay and doing the other odd jobs I was doing before.  Things are really coming back together for me this year and continuing to look up, so I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Having the new job will afford me the ability to get back on track with things I’ve had to put on hold, and of course will make assembling my costume all the more easy.

I also recently joined a 24-hour gym which is going to make getting back in shape much easier (if I can just stop eating so many cheeseburgers), so I’ll likely be posting some videos and blogs about my progress with that as well.

All in all it looks like 2013 might just be the year I finally make my dreams of becoming Jack Sparrow a reality, and in perfect time, too, as we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the movie that started it all: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

It’s a pirate’s life for me!


Jack’s Anna Maria Belt and Leather Palm Glove

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First up, my new Anna Maria belt, made by the awesome Captain McCool.  You can check out his Etsy store at www.etsy.com/shop/CastawayTradingCo.  McCool previously made my sun belt that was featured in an earlier post.  For the Anna Maria belt, he used leather he acquired from overstock used to make leather goods for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.  The belt is a dark tan color and is 2 1/4″ wide.  It doesn’t actually fit the Anna Maria buckle (which is made for a 3″ wide belt), but that is how Captain Jack wore his, too, as can be seen in the photo above.  For “On Stranger Tides” the buckle was actually modified to fit the belt, but the look I’m going for is “Dead Man’s Chest”/”At World’s End”, so here the belt and buckle are appropriate.

AnnaMariaBelt

  The belt also has a brown smudge on its tip and a patch in the back where the belt has been split.  It’s possible that the original belt didn’t fit Johnny Depp quite right and the patch was added to make the belt a bit longer, but it may have also just been for looks.  Either way, it’s one of those small touches that adds to the overall look of the costume.

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The patch is meant to be from a separate piece of leather so it has no stitching, and for my belt Captain McCool made it a bit darker than the rest of the belt so that it really looks thrown together.

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One thing I did after the fact was switch out the leather lacing that was used to hold the patch in place because I felt the original lacing was a bit too light in color.  Of course the lacing I used is too dark, but it’s what I had lying around, so I may end up changing it out again later on.

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The belt turned out great and I am absolutely pleased.  Captain McCool is a great guy who does some awesome work, and I look forward to doing more business with him in the future.  I highly recommend checking out his Etsy store, The Castaway Trading Co., because he offers up some fantastic nautically themed items over there.

Several months ago I acquired a chicken foot to dangle from my Anna Maria buckle (as can be seen in one of the photos above and also in a previous post), and fairly recently I got hold of the other trinkets that Jack has dangling from his belts.  It’s these little touches that really make the costume come to life, and I’ll have plenty of photos of them in my next post (don’t worry, it’ll be up very soon, I promise).  I’ll also be discussing some distressing techniques you can use to give your leather goods a great weathered look.  But for now I want to show off one more awesome item that my pal Captain McCool sent my way: Jack’s leather palm glove.

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On his right hand Jack wears a leather palm glove that loops around his two middle fingers and thumb and then ties around his wrist.  It’s a neat little piece that allows Jack to keep a a good grip on his sword during those sweat inducing sword fights under the hot Caribbean sun.  I was thrilled when my Anna Maria belt arrived to find a terrific bonus item thrown in, Captain McCool had made me a brilliant leather palm glove to go with my outfit!

McCool and I had gotten to know each other a bit, first on the message boards and then on facebook, after I ordered my sun belt from him, and when I ordered the Anna Maria belt in June he was going through a move and had quite a few things going on.  He told me it would be a while before he could get to the belt, but I assured him I was in no hurry.  I, too, had a custom order to make a spooky cemetery sign that I couldn’t get to right away because I had recently broken my shoulder, so I completely understood.  Finally in late September things settled down a bit for both of us; I was able to complete the sign I needed to make, and McCool was able to put the finishing touches on the belt.  To make up for the longer-than-expected time it had taken us to complete these projects I threw in a couple of vampire stake keychains (I’ll explain shortly) and McCool tossed in the palm glove.

PalmGlove

Part of what I love about the Jack Sparrow costuming community is that its members are always quick to help each other out.  I see guys trading spare items with each other all the time on the message boards, posting tutorials about items they’ve made, and letting everyone know where they can get the best products.  If you haven’t done so already, you’ll definitely want to check out the forums at Keep to the Code and The Brethren Court.  Also be sure to check out Jack Sparrow Costuming, a fantastic wiki meant to help point people in the right direction as they work to put their Jack Sparrow costumes together.  Whether you are setting out to throw together a quick, inexpensive version of the gear, or you’re going for 100% screen accuracy you can get some excellent tips by visiting these sites, and probably make a few new friends along the way.

My own Jack Sparrow costuming adventure certainly would have been much more arduous without the terrific info I’ve acquired from these sites.  It was on these message boards that I met and became friends with Captain McCool and many other great Jack Sparrow costuming enthusiasts.  I hope to eventually meet and maybe sit down and have a beer (or rum, rum’s good) with some of thesm.  No doubt we’ll all have plenty of great tales to tell.

But I digress.  The palm glove McCool sent me is great, and I’ve since sent a couple of pirate keychains and a snake vertebrae for his Captain Jack costume his way as a way of saying thanks and to return the favor.  One of my favorite things about the glove is that it has leather straps for you to wrap around your wrist to tie it on.  Some palm gloves I’ve seen have a sort of “cuff” that is laced together with a bit of string, but Jack’s glove in the movie clearly has leather ties as can be seen in the photo below.

  Since Jack’s wrist wrap goes over the palm glove it really isn’t a big deal how it ties on,  I just like the little detail of having the straps dangle down from the wrist.  The palm glove used in “On Stranger Tides” may be different (I’ve noticed that the thumb strap is different), but for the “Dead Man’s Chest” look the straps are perfect.  I had to make a few minor adjustments to the glove to get the fit just right, but it’s yet another item I can now check off my list.

  So earlier I mentioned a custom ordered sign and some keychains I made.  Well, it just so happens I’ve been selling some handmade items on eBay for a couple years now and several months ago I started an Etsy store as well.

  In 2010 I played the role of Dr. Van Helsing in a stage production of “Dracula: The Musical?” (yes, that question mark is supposed to be there; it’s a comedy), and I decided to make a couple of wooden stakes as part of the costume.  I got a little carried away with designs, and by the time the show opened I had made 8 stakes, even though my costume had a holster to hold 3 and the script only referenced a stake once.  Before each performance I would have a different cast member pick which stakes I would use that night on stage.  My costume also included a lot of little glass vials hanging around my neck and on my belt full of all sorts of oddities, and I had a little story for each one.  (Yep, my approach to acting isn’t too dissimilar to the way Johnny Depp approaches his roles).

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  At some point I had the brilliant thought that there were probably people out there who would buy vampire stakes like the ones I had made, so I made a few more and put them up on eBay.  Sure enough, they all sold.  By the end of 2011 I had probably sold close to 100 of them, both ones I listed and quite a few custom orders.  I had also made some mini stakes as keychains that I gave to the cast and crew, so I put a few of those on eBay and they sold really well, too.  Next I made some wizard wands to see how they would do.  Occasionally one sells, but they haven’t been no where near as big a hit as my wooden vampire stakes have been.

  I’d contemplated making wooden mallets of some kind for a while for those vampire slayers out there who want to do in their vampires old school Van Helsing style, but hadn’t attempted to make one until last year when a customer requested one.  That gave me an idea, so pretty soon I was selling sets that include a mallet and 3 matching stakes.  These have become another big hit.    ThePriest-VampireHunterSet.jpg ThePriest-VampireHunterSet

  As for the cemetery sign, that was another request from the same customer who bought the first mallet.  It was for a Halloween display she was putting together, and I was more than happy to take on the project.  I think it turned out pretty darn well.

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  Anyway, feel free to check out my Etsy store, www.etsy.com/shop/CaptainMcAnen, and if you find something you like you can enter Coupon Code “BECOMINGJACKSPARROW” (all one word) at checkout to receive 10% off your purchase.  I also happily accept custom orders, so if you have something specific in mind let me know and I will fix you up.  It is by selling these products that I have been able to afford the pieces of my Jack Sparrow outfit so far, so any purchases you make will help keep my Jack Sparrow costuming adventure going and this blog up and running.  The 10% Coupon Code is a small way for me to say thank you to all of you for following my blog and making this experience so much fun.  I really appreciate your support!

  There’s still plenty more to come, so keep following the blog because I’ve got plenty more items to acquire before I’m done, as well as tutorials and videos making their way to the blog this year as well.  And you’ll definitely want to stick around because there might just be some contests and giveaways coming up in the very near future, too.

  Also, feel free to leave comments and let me know about your own costuming adventures.  Until next time, “Drink up me hearties, yo-ho!!!”


Belts and Bandanas

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     In “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” Jack Sparrow wears two belts, the sun belt and the Anna Maria belt.  The sun belt is similar to the one worn in “Curse of the Black Pearl” but with a slightly different buckle, and the “tail” of the belt is much shorter where it hangs down after being looped.  It is also a darker brown than the belt worn in the first movie.  The Anna Maria belt features the same buckle worn by the character of Anna Maria in “Curse of the Black Pearl” (hence the name), and is a lighter brown color and slightly wider than the sun belt.  It doesn’t really fit the Anna Maria buckle, but apparently Johnny Depp liked it so much he opted to wear both belts in the movie anyway.

  Before venturing off on my quest to create a Jack Sparrow costume I had created a character of my own, Captain McAnen, and put together a costume for him.  In Spring of 2011 I had my first belt made for the character.  It is a light brown belt, 2″ wide with fancy tooling around the edges and a rustic square buckle.  I ordered the belt from leatherlore.com, and I also received a matching baldric.

(My first belt for Captain McAnen)

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  My only complaint about this particular belt is that it is quite a bit longer than I would have preferred, and to cut it shorter would ruin the tooling at the tip.  Still, it is a pretty awesome belt with a cool weathered look and feel and makes for a great costume piece.

  While goofing around one day last Fall I threw on my Captain McAnen costume with a Rastafarian dreadlock wig and my Jack Sparrow bandana and started bumbling around like Captain Jack Sparrow.  In the photo below you can see what I mean about the length of my Captain McAnen belt.  You can also see that I’ve got a long way to go before I have anything close to an authentic Jack Sparrow costume, but we all have to start somewhere.

    (The humble beginnings of my transition from Captain McAnen into Captain Jack Sparrow)IMG_1275

  As with any long-term costuming project you start with one thing and then begin making little changes and adding new pieces.  I found a seller on eBay called Treasure Cast Inc. that makes awesome pewter products like buckles, buttons and pendants, and I ordered a set of Celtic knot buttons from them for my waistcoat.  I also ordered the buckle for my baldric from them.  Their buckles are loosely inspired by Jack Sparrow’s buckles but have a unique look of their own, and I really liked their sea shell buckle.  It is similar to Jack’s baldric buckle from “Curse of the Black Pearl” but different enough that I thought it would make a great addition to my ever evolving Captain McAnen costume.  I ordered the buckle and then had Blackbeard’s Landing (blackbeardscreations.com) make me a dark brown belt to go with it.  Blackbeard had previously made my second baldric (seen in the photo above) and does fantastic custom leather work.  I wanted to make sure the belt wasn’t as long as my Leather Lore belt, but I also wanted to make sure it would still fit as I lost weight.  To accommodate my ever changing waistline we came up with the idea of incorporating extra holes into the design of the belt, so the holes actually run the whole length of the belt rather than just having 7 holes for size adjustment like most belts do.  After it arrived I took a strip of leather lacing and ran it through the extra holes to give the belt an even more unique look.

(My second Captain McAnen belt)

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  Now that McAnen was properly geared up it was time to started putting together my Jack Sparrow garb.  I found awesome reproductions of Jack’s buckles (see previous posts) and needed belts to go with them.  The first belt I had made was for the sun buckle.  I had befriended a fellow Captain Jack enthusiast known as Captain McCool over on the message boards at keeptothecode.com and brethrencourt.net and he told me he would be more than happy to make the belts for me.  He runs an awesome shop over on Etsy.com called The Castaway Trading Co. that offers all sorts of fantastic piratical goodies.  As soon as I had the money I ordered the belt from him and it turned out great!  I can’t wait to have him make the Anna Maria belt for me because I have no doubt it will be equally awesome.

(My Jack Sparrow sun belt – new)

SunBelt

  When putting together a period costume, be it a pirate, a wild west cowboy, or a knight from the Middle Ages, what really sells it and makes it look authentic is the aging.  Take for example the costumes in a movie like “Pirates of the Caribbean”; they don’t look brand new and off the rack but rather they look beat up, worn out, and faded.  There is an art to the way costumes in movies are weathered and aged, and it is what makes them look realistic and believable.  While putting together both my Captain McAnen costume and now my Jack Sparrow costume I’ve weathered each item slightly to make sure it looks used and authentic.  It can seem crazy to beat the hell out of an item you’ve paid good money for, but the overall effect is well worth it.

   My new sun belt is a great example.  When it arrived it was a obviously a brand new item.  Some costume enthusiasts prefer to break in their items naturally and let them age over time, but others like me like to speed up the process so that the costume looks worn and lived in even if it has just come out of the box.  For the belt I used rubbing alcohol on cotton balls to dull the finish of the belt and take off some of the excess leather dye.  Next I took some fine grit sandpaper and went over it ever so lightly to take off a bit more of the finish and scuff it up a bit, then went back over it using the alcohol and cotton balls again to smooth out the dye.  Jack’s belt would have seen plenty of sunlight and salt water, so I wanted to give the belt a somewhat faded look.  Finally I rubbed the belt down with a wash cloth to take off anymore excess dye that the alcohol had pulled out, then gave it a coat of Pecard’s leather dressing to seal it.  Jack’s belt is even more weathered than mine, but what I’ve done is kick start the aging process, and any future weathering will come from regular wear and tear.

(My Jack Sparrow sun belt – weathered)

SunBeltweathered

  I’m very pleased with the result.   Now I just need to add the “manky pelts” and my sun belt will be complete.  I’d like to thank Captain McCool for making such a terrific addition to my costume.  Hopefully I’ll be able to have him make the Anna Maria belt very soon.

When I set out on my Jack Sparrow costuming adventure at the first of the year I made it my goal to purchase one item per month, and so far I’m right on target with six items as the month of June gets underway.

JackBandana

     In all four movies Jack wears a red paisley bandana tied around his head.  The bandana is much more faded in “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” than it is in “Curse of the Black Pearl”, and it is that faded look from the sequels that I am going for.  Recently I purchased a new bandana from Mango Fever on eBay as a sort of bonus item.  I haven’t yet decided what I want to do with the new bandana, whether I want to fade it out and use it or save it and weather it later on should I choose to put together an “On Stranger Tides” version of the costume somewhere down the road, but I’m including a photo of it here to show what these bandanas look like brand new.

(Jack Sparrow bandana – new)

      JackSparrowBandananew

  I purchased my first Jack Sparrow bandana from Mango Fever back in 2008 and it is the one I’ll be using for the DMC/AWE costume I’m putting together now.  To get the desired color I’ve ran it through a few bleach baths, and it has been washed several times over the past few years.  At one point a couple of years ago my teenage sister borrowed it for a school project and it got washed with my original Captain McAnen shirt, turning the shirt pink!  The bandana looks fantastic, but I’m thinking about soaking it in some water with just a tiny drop of brown dye at some point to give it a slightly dingier look.  That may also help tone down the blue in the flowers a little bit as well.

(Jack Sparrow bandana – weathered)

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For my Captain McAnen costume I ordered bandanas from another eBay seller, Full Moon Loom.  The first one was a purple paisley bandana that I bleached out with Rit Color Remover.  In fact it pulled out so much color that the bandana was light grey when I pulled it out of the washing machine!  Luckily the paisley pattern remained, and I was able to achieve the purple color I wanted with Rit Dye.  For an alternative look for the costume I purchased another bandana, this time in green but with the same pattern.  Again I used Rit Color Remover, but this time kept some of the original color in rather than turning it completely grey, then redyed it with green Rit Dye.  I think they both turned out great.

(Captain McAnen’s bandanas)

Bandanas

  Later on I decided I would try to make another bandana, this time using one of the Jack Sparrow bandanas from Mango Fever, because I thought the Rit Color Remover would take out some of the blue from the flowers as well.  Instead it just turned the bandana pink and washed out a lot of the paisley pattern, but the flowers remained just as blue.  In the end I gave it a wash in purple dye and it came out a nice magenta color (see the above photo).  I probably won’t use this bandana for either the McAnen or Jack Sparrow costumes, but it makes for a nice spare should I recruit other pirates for parties and events.  My buddy “Scurvy” Steve donned it for some photos we had taken last November.

(Captain McAnen and Scurvy Steve ready for action!)

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  I’ve still got a long way to go before my Captain Jack Sparrow costume is anywhere close to being complete, but I’m off to a good start and really happy with the items I’ve acquired so far.

(Johnny Depp getting into character)


Jack’s Sword and a Chicken’s Foot

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No Jack Sparrow outfit would be complete without Jack’s sword.  It might not be sharp, and Commodore Norrington may have expected it to be made out of wood, but Jack’s trusty blade has gotten him out of his fair share of sticky situations.

In 2003 after “Curse of the Black Pearl” came out I purchased one of my first piratey items: a French boarding cutlass.  Granted it wasn’t a real sword in the truest sense of the word, this was the kind you stumble upon at a decorum shop and isn’t meant to be used for any real combat.  The blade wasn’t carbon steel or even stainless steel for that matter, it was an alloy and not very sturdy.  The blade wobbled a bit in the handle, and after a bit of horse play the blade broke off at the hilt.  At least I had it for a year or two before I destroyed it.

(This is what my first cutlass looked like)

  In 2007 I was working at Halloween Express and came across a plastic toy version of Jack’s sword that was actually about the right size and looked pretty good.  Using my employ discount, I snagged one up because I figured it would be much safer for rough housing than  the real thing.  The next year I went back and bought 3 more so that me and friends could have epic sword fights.

(Toy Jack Sparrow sword by Disguise)

  In 2008 I was gearing up for Halloween and the Texas Renaissance Festival and figured it was time to hunt for another real sword.  This time I had done a bit of research and had a much better idea of what I was looking for.  Most swords you find are meant for display only, but if you search long enough you can find some decent battle ready swords at a reasonable price.  A lot of swords have ornate handles in shiny brass with decorative knuckle guards, but I was looking for something a bit more plain.  I’m also left handed so I needed a sword that had a symmetric guard rather than one meant to protect the knuckles of a right hand.  Through a lot of Google searching I stumbled upon the Pirate Captain’s hanger sword made by Windlass Steelcrafts.  Made to resemble Jack Sparrow’s sword, the hanger (the term used for this type of sword, similar to a cutlass), featured a carbon steel blade and leather wrapped wooden handle.  When it arrived it was clear that this was a much sturdier weapon than the French boarding cutlass I had destroyed a couple of years before and could hold up to a bit of stage combat.

(Pirate Captain’s Hanger by Windlass Steelcrafts)

  This sword served me well for a couple of years and has held up to quite a lot of abuse.  The two things I didn’t like about it, though, were it felt a bit clumsy in the hand due to its rather slender handle, and the blade was a bit too shiny for a rough and rugged pirate costume.  Eventually I painted the blade with a bit of black paint and left it out in the weather for several days, and that dulled it nicely for a more weathered look.  In 2011 I carved a wooden hand grip and replaced the leather one and now the sword feels much more comfortable and less clumsy in the hand.  It’s a good sword, and for my character Captain McAnen it was fine, but it just isn’t Jack’s sword.

(This is how it looks after dulling the blade and changing the hand grip)

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(A closer view of the hand grip)

  The problem with only having one sword is that you can’t really sword fight with anyone.  I’m not saying I want to have an all out duel to the death, but let’s face it, it’s fun to hear the sound of two swords clanking together.  So before too long I was searching for yet another sword.

  In 2010 I was surfing the internet when I came across exactly the sort of sword I was looking for, the Revolutionary War Hanger by CAS Hanwei.  This beauty featured an “aged” blade and a hilt that more closely resembled the sword used by Jack Sparrow.  Just by the look of it I knew I had to have one, but I really wanted to handle one first and that isn’t really something you get to do when ordering things on the internet.  Luckily I came across one for sale at the Texas Renaissance Festival and was able to hold it and get a better look at it.  Yep, I definitely wanted it, so a few weeks later I ordered one online.

(My Hanwei Revolutionary War Hanger)

  The blade on this thing has a lot of curve to it and is sturdy as hell.  This sword truly feels like the real deal and could no doubt do some damage.  I never sharpen my swords because I’m a big kid at heart, and when you get right down to it and don’t want to hurt myself or anyone else.  But this thing is a monster and in duels against the Windlass Pirate Captain Hanger this sucker always leaves nicks in the other’s blade while taking very little damage of it’s own.  I couldn’t be happier with this sword and it is always my blade of choice when dressing up as Captain McAnen.

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(En Garde)

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  For those events where I might not be able to carry a real sword with me I took a page out of the book of other Jack Sparrow impersonators and modified a Disguise toy sword to use as a stand in.  Using spray paint, I colored matched it to the real sword and I’m quite happy with the result.  It has already fooled several people.

(Modified toy sword)

(Top to bottom: Unmodified toy sword, modified toy sword, Hanwei hanger)

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  When I bought the Hanwei sword I figured it would also serve as my Jack Sparrow cutlass once I finally got around to putting together the costume.  At the time, and really even now, it is about the closest sword you can find to the one used by Captain Jack without spending a small fortune.  But it’s not a perfect match: the blade it too long, too wide, and is far more curved than Jack’s, and the handle’s shape is not exactly right.  The scabbard is also completely different, although one of my favorite things about this scabbard is that because of the metal fittings you actually get a nice “shing” sound when you draw the sword.  Still, most people wouldn’t notice the difference between this sword and Jack’s, it’s really only something people like me who scrutinize all the tiny details pay any attention to.

  Then, back in December, Indy Magnoli over at http://www.brethrencourt.net/ posted a thread announcing that he was planning to have a run of Jack Sparrow swords made for those of us who were interested.  Originally it was only going to be a limited run of 50, but there was enough interest that he went with a run of 100.  I was familiar with Indy’s work, having first seen things he had made for his Indiana Jones costume back in the days when I was putting together an Indy costume of my own.  He eventually started Magnoli Clothiers http://www.magnoliclothiers.com/ where he offers tailor made apparel based on costumes from hit movies.  The sword would be a commission piece, but he and others had studied the swords specs and over the next few months had the factory put together several prototypes until they got the design just right.  I put my name down on the interest list even though I wasn’t initially sure if I’d be able to make the money to pay for it in time.  Luckily he was offering these at a price comparable to that of the swords I mentioned above, so this was probably the best chance to get an accurate Jack Sparrow sword anywhere without shelling out $500 or more.  Master Replicas had made a stainless steel display version a few years ago that several guys use for their costumes, but the hilt is actually 10% smaller than the real deal, and they have been out of production for a long time so they now fetch a hefty price on eBay.

  I worked to make the money in time, then waited patiently for the swords to start shipping out.  Finally I got an email last Friday (May 18th) saying mine had shipped.  Three days later the DHL truck pulled up and I had my Jack Sparrow sword in my hands.

(The Indy Magnoli Jack Sparrow sword, straight out of the package)

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JacksSword2

  The sword is not flawless, but it is a great match for Jack’s sword at a very reasonable price.  The hand grip is made of wood just like the original (not leather wrapped) and the blade has an awesome aged look to it.  The guard has some cosmetic imperfections, but this isn’t much of a problem when you consider the sword is meant to be old and beat up.   I took some aged bronze colored Rustoleum spray paint and sprayed it on some newspaper, then applied it to the hilt with a sponge brush to give the hilt a more rustic weathered look.

The scabbard was black when it arrived (“Curse of the Black Pearl” style) but I took some rubbing alcohol to it to remove some of the excess dye and got it to a more brown color (like “Dead Man’s Chest”).  One of the things me and others on the message boards have noticed is that the dye was applied very thick and is “breaking” off in places, meaning it was most likely an excess coat of dye applied to leather that had already been treated.  I may eventually have a different scabbard made by someone else, but this one will do fine for now.

(After the modifications)

JacksSword4

JacksSword5

  The sword has a nice weight and feel to it, and is well balanced so it feels right in your hand.  The main concern I have is that even though it is has a carbon steel blade the pommel nut looks like it might be welded in place which means if the blade becomes lose it cannot be tightened.  I’ve raised this concern on the message boards and hope to have a response soon  as this makes me hesitant to use it for staged combat.  But overall I am very pleased with the sword and it makes for a nice addition to my ever evolving Jack Sparrow costume.

JacksChickenFoot

  Jack’s costume features many little points of interest (such as all the coins and beads in his hair), and he has several things dangling from his belts.  One of them is a chicken foot hanging from his Anna Maria buckle.  In voodoo culture chicken feet are used as talismans to ward off evil spirits, and in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean with skeleton pirates and fish people it makes sense that Jack would try to have all the added protection he can get.  After all, he was quite attached to the jar of dirt he received from Tia Dalma to keep him safe against Davy Jones.  But star Johnny Depp says that in his opinion the chicken foot could just as easily come from a chicken Jack ate somewhere along the way.  Whatever the explanation, the chicken foot is a fun little touch to the costume and could make for some interesting conversations.

  I recently acquired a chicken foot for my costume from Tyrannical Piratical Treasures on eBay. http://stores.ebay.com/tyrannicalpiraticaltreasures  They have some awesome Jack Sparrow items and I look forward to doing business with them again in the future.  The claw I received was exactly as described and photographed in the auction and it looks great.  It’s been dried and well preserved, then stained to give it the right look.

 (Chicken Foot Talisman, straight out of the package)

ChickenFootTalisman

  To make it more screen accurate I cut about an inch off of the leg and switched the cord out for a leather one.  Then all I had to do was tie it on to the Anna Maria buckle.  One thing I didn’t notice until I was modifying it is that my chicken foot is a left claw, whereas Jack’s is a right.  Like many other Jack wannabes I’m trying to make my costume as screen accurate as possible, but this is one of those places where I think inaccuracy actually works to give my costume its own personal touch.  It’s likely that no one will ever notice but me, and I consider it a subtle little nod to the fact that, unlike Jack, I’m actually left-handed.

ChickenFootTalisman2

  The chicken’s foot is one of those little touches that isn’t crucial for a Jack Sparrow costume (after all, he didn’t have it in “Curse of the Black Pearl”), but I’m a huge fan of those little details that make costumes come to life.  When I played Van Helsing in “Dracula: the Musical?” I added all sorts of little bits and bobs to my costume and made up stories for each of them.  I think it adds to the character, brings them to life,  and suggests an existence outside of the play or movie they appear in.  It’s not important to the plot, but its fun to sit and think “why does he have that?”.

  The other fun thing about these smaller items is that it gives you something to add to your costume while you’re saving up the money for the bigger items.  It keeps the hobby alive, gives you something to hunt for, and that is a huge part of what makes costuming so much fun.  To some the chicken foot might be an icky little item, but to me it is another added piece of treasure in my quest to become Captain Jack Sparrow.


Jack’s Emerald Skull Ring

JackSparrowSkullRing

     When “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” came out in 2003 there were two things of Jack’s that I wanted most; his leather tricorn hat and his emerald skull ring.  Jack only wears the one ring in the film (he wears three more rings in the sequels), and it is a ring that actually belongs to Johnny Depp himself.

  Johnny had purchased the ring at an antique store back in the late 1980’s and wore it for his first Rolling Stone magazine cover shoot.  The silver ring features four skulls and a green stone that Johnny admits is not a stone of value.  When filming begin on “Curse of the Black Pearl” Johnny decided the ring would be perfect for Captain Jack and wore it for the movie.

(Johnny Depp on the cover of Rolling Stone, 1991)

     I’ve always had a fascination with rings and have owned many different ones over the years.  Most of them have been fairly plain rings that I’ve picked up on vacations and at various festivals.  I’ve lost some, given some away, and had a few stolen.  The ring I’ve been wearing the longest is my high school class ring which I wear on the ring finger of my left hand.  Next to it on my middle finger I wear a plain silver band.  In 2010 I played Dr. Van Helsing in a production of “Dracula: The Musical?” (yes, with a question mark: it’s a comedy.) and in coming up with the look of the character I decided it would be cool if he had a unique ring.  I found a sterling silver skull ring at Spencer’s gifts that had a cool Gothic look to it and that became Van Helsing’s ring.

(My class ring and Van Helsing ring)

ClassRingVanHelsingRing

In 2006 with the release of “Dead Man’s Chest” it looked like I might finally get the chance to sport Jack’s ring.  Master Replicas started making copies of all of Jack’s rings as well as limited editions of his sword, pistol, and compass.  I had a couple of MR’s Star Wars lightsabers that were of excellent quality so I jumped at the chance to order their Jack Sparrow skull ring.  When it arrived I must say I was far from impressed.  For starters the ring only fit my pinkie (Jack wears his on his index finger) and the stone looked ridiculous.  It was obviously plastic and way too tall.  This wasn’t a quality replicas but a toy, and for $15 I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  The ring came on a leather cord to be worn as a necklace so I gave it to my kid sister who later gave it to one of her friends.  It seemed my one chance to own Jack’s ring had been a bust.

(Master Replica’s skull ring)

  Then, in 2008, I made a discovery while surfing eBay that gave me hope once again.  Apparently Disneyland had started selling replicas of Jack’s rings in their theme parks and several people were buying them and offering them on eBay.  These rings were designed by a company called Skinny Dog (who would go on to make rings for “On Stranger Tides”) and actually offered in different sizes.  As soon as I found a size 12 I jumped on it.  The design wasn’t perfect, the skulls were a bit long and the ring was a bit too chrome looking, but the stone looked much better and it actually fit my index finger.  Since it came from a shop near the ride the bottom of the band had Pirates of the Caribbean written on it.  I was content with it until I made a new discovery a few months later.

(The Disneyland skull ring) 

JackSparrowRing1

  A company called The Noble Collection, probably best known for their Harry Potter replicas, acquired a license from Disney to produce Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise.  They offered versions of Jack’s rings that were actually made of sterling silver, and the design of their skull ring, while still not completely accurate, looked better than the ring I had.  Being sterling silver meant that it didn’t have that chrome look of the Disneyland ring, so I saved up my doubloons, gave the Disneyland ring to a girl I was doing a play with, and ordered my 3rd Jack Sparrow skull ring.  This one I was incredibly happy with and wore it every day for over a year.  Unfortunately I lost it at my 10 year high school reunion.

(The Noble Collection skull ring)

NCSkullRing

  Other events in my life soon took center stage and replacing the ring didn’t seem all that important.  But after a year and a half without it I decided in April 2011 that the time had come to buy a new one.  I didn’t really have the money for another Noble Collection ring, but I found a Disneyland ring fairly cheap on eBay so I placed my bid and figured it would do.  Once it arrived I quickly remembered why I had replaced it the first time around.  I wore it for about a month, and as soon as I had the money I bought a new Noble Collection ring and sold the Disneyland ring on eBay.

  At last, I had the ring I had lost a couple of years earlier and my hand felt complete again.  Soon after, the Noble Collection’s license with Disney expired and the rings were no longer available so I was happy I ordered when I did.  If I had waited another month or two they would have all been gone.

  Out of habit I still  occasionally searched for “Jack Sparrow Ring” on eBay just to see what was out there.  After all, I figured I might someday put a Jack Sparrow costume together and need Jack’s other rings.  Mostly it was just tons of the cheap Master Replicas rings that people had bought in bulk when MR went out of business and the occasional Disneyland ring.  But one day in November 2011 my search turned up something I wouldn’t have dreamed in a million years I would ever find: the Holy Grail of Jack Sparrow rings!

  A guy who had been making replicas of Jack’s gear for years had stumbled across a ring at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market.  It looked exactly like Johnny’s original ring, only it had a CZ stone instead of an emerald green stone.  There had been many replicas of Jack’s ring made over the years since “Dead Man’s Chest” (hell, I’d owned 5 of them already), and even Richard himself, the owner of Acme Brand replicas who found this particular ring had made his own version of the skull ring in the past.  But this particular ring was far more accurate than any of the replicas out there, and the fact that it bore the wrong kind of stone to be a knock off of Jack’s was a tell tale sign.  This ring had been made from the same original mold as the ring Johnny bought back in the late 1980’s.  Richard bought the ring and had his jeweler make a mold from it, and from their they cast reproductions and crowned them with emerald green glass stones.  He then offered them up on his eBay store, and that is where I stumbled upon it. http://myworld.ebay.com/*acme*brand/?_trksid=p4340.l2559

  The emerald stone is not exactly like the one in Johnny’s ring, but there isn’t a closer replica anywhere out there.  At first I was going to keep my Noble Collection ring too, but Acme’s ring was so perfect that it was easy to let the other go, and I put it up on eBay and made my money back.  My Acme ring is one of my most prized possessions and I wear it every day.  It only took 5 years and 6 rings, but I finally have the perfect Jack Sparrow ring.

(My Acme Brand Jack Sparrow emerald skull ring)

100_1121

     Eventually I will own replicas of Jack’s other rings to go with my costume (I recently bought a Master Replicas version of the Spanish button ring that I covered in my previous post), but I doubt any of them will be as cool as this one.  Along with the hat it is one of the two items I’ve wanted since all the way back when “Curse of the Black Pearl” first came out, and if all goes well I’ll have an Acme Brand Jack Sparrow hat before the end of the year.  Sure, I already had a bandana, but for me this ring is where my Jack Sparrow costuming adventure really began.

 (The real deal)

JacksSkullRing

And the adventure continues…..