Jayne Who (Jayne Cobb/Doctor Who mashup) Costume with Supersized Sonic Screwdriver

Jayne Who Costume

Jayne Cobb wearing Blue Sun T-shirt I had pretty much all I needed to cosplay Jayne Cobb, except I was missing his cunning hat (not shown in the pic of Jayne at right, but iconic nonetheless). The T-shirt I was planning to use was this "Blue Box" design, which is a rather brilliant (in my opinion) mashup of Firefly's Blue Sun design (seen in pic of Jayne at right) with Doctor Who, and I think it looks almost perfect for Jayne if you don't look too closely :-)

But then I thought, my T-shirt is a mashup with Doctor Who, so why don't I mash up my cosplay as well? I could wear the fez I wore with my Doctor Who costume instead of the normal Jayne hat.

So, I tried it out at Florida Supercon in July 2016:

Sherry R cosplaying Jayne Cobb-Doctor Who mashup I'm pretty pleased with the result, although I do think I probably should have included the bangs from my Doctor Who.

I know it's a pretty obscure mashup, so I was excited when one guy at the Con came up to me, all enthusiastic because he recognized what I was doing. It made my day! He also helped me with some ideas on possible enhancements in case I decide to do it again. He suggested I think about my motivation, which is of course the "play" part in cosplay. I figured I'd want to go back in time to make sure Firefly doesn't get cancelled. Then he suggested I think about how I would do that, and I figured because of the time-travel aspect, I'd need a sonic screwdriver. However, Jayne likes the BIG guns, so the Jayne part of me would want it to be large. But since I figure my chosen task would be difficult, large would make sense...

Supersized Sonic Screwdriver

Examples of different sonic screwdrivers So, I started to get enthusiastic about making a supersized sonic screwdriver (which I would, of course, call "Vera"). I figured I could just get some good size cylindrical thing and paint it appropriately, and maybe put one of those flat, round tap-lights on the end. I looked at stuff I had around the house that I might use for the cylindrical part. I considered a pool noodle, but thought it was really too narrow. Then I found a heavy cardboard tube that I think was used as a mailer for something... it seemed almost perfect.

Then I had to do some research to see what the paint job was going to look like, and I discovered that sonic screwdrivers were much more complex than I had been thinking (some examples in pic at right). Since the Doctor part of my cosplay was from the 11th Doctor, I had planned to use his sonic (the second two in the pic) as my model, but realized that would be WAY more work than I was wanting to do. So I went looking for one that was closer to a simple cylinder and the previous one, from the 9th/10th Doctor, looked like it would work OK (see photo below)... although it would require somewhat more than just a paint job.

Primary reference picture of sonic screwdriver prop

Picture of Jayne Cobb with Vera My first step was to take measurements of the sections of the above pic, scale them up to the width of my cardboard tube, and mark them on the tube. When I did that, the total length came out rather shorter than I had expected, and I thought the thing was going to look short and stumpy if it was scaled up exactly. This would be the first of several times I'd have to consider possible problems associated with scaling up. I tried to think about what how it would work, logically, if someone were actually building a real, large, sonic screwdriver type of device. In this case, I figured it would need to be something that could be held comfortably in the hands, and that being slightly, if disproportionately, longer would work better for that. Also, I wanted it to be somewhat suggestive of Jayne Cobb's gun Vera, as seen in the picture at right.

As I was taking the measurements, I noticed there were basically 3 cylinder widths happening. I figured I'd use the cardboard tube I had for the widest one, and the pool noodle might work for the smallest one (the notches), but I still needed to find something for the in-between width. Looking around at stuff I had around the house, I found a plastic water bottle of the type made for carrying on a bicycle, with a notch already in it to fit the bicycle's holder. It fit almost perfectly inside the cardboard tube, and I had 2 of them, so I wouldn't even need to use the pool noodle. For the black bottom piece of the sonic, I found I could form the shape using the top part of a regular water bottle.

So, the plan was to assemble the basic forms, then use papier mache' to smooth out the rough areas and give a consistent surface for each section before painting. I knew it was going to make the whole process easier if I built it as several sub-assemblies before doing the final assembly. So below shows the basic forms for the 3 main sub-assemblies (the bottom section (the end cap), the middle section, and the top section), and how they go together. The red parts are from the bike water bottles; the brownish parts are the cardboard.

Supersized sonic initial sub-assemblies   Supersized sonic sub-assemblies, showing assemblage

Top Sub-Assembly

The top sub-assembly required a bit of an extra build. I noticed when I cut the openings in the cardboard tube for this section that it looked awfully empty. Looking closer at my reference picture I realized there was some kind of smaller cylinder inside. For the supersize version, I was able to use a toilet paper tube, held in place with the end caps from the original mailing tube. That would be its own sub-assembly in the top sub-assembly.

I found it interesting how I had to think ahead and plan the building process. I knew I could make some things easier for myself if I did them in the right order. For example, with this top section, I knew I couldn't build the inner tube sub-assembly first and then insert it into the outer tube because the end caps that held the toilet paper tube had to go in from opposite ends. And I knew the positioning of the red section of the top sub-assembly would affect the positioning of the inner tube sub-assembly. I also knew it would be easier to paint the inner tube sub-assembly before it got put inside the outer tube. Similarly, it would be easier to paint the inside part of the outer tube without the inner tube being in the way. There was a funky detail in the notch area that meant the mache' above and below the notch could, and probably should, be done separately. But, I had to keep in mind that the top metal part of the sonic needed to continue from the top sub-assembly to the middle sub-assembly, which meant I needed to glue those 2 sections together before I did the below-the-notch mache'. Also, in general, larger pieces would be more awkward to handle, so it would be preferable to mache' and paint in smaller sections when possible. All this meant I had to do the top sub-assembly in the following order (pic at right shows work on all 3 sub-assemblies, somewhere in the middle of the process):

    Supersized sonic sub-assemblies, in process
  1. Glue pieces of pool noodle to the end caps of the inner tube assembly (these would help hold the inner tube in the proper position within the outer tube). Then paint the 3 pieces of the inner tube assembly. (I didn't feel a need to papier-mache' the inner build, since its texture was already smooth and consistent.)
  2. Mache' the inside and outside of the top cardboard outer tube piece, but don't go all the way to the bottom. (Keep the red plastic part of the top assembly separate for now.) Paint the inside. (This step could be done concurrent with the above, since they're separate pieces.)
  3. Insert the bottom end cap of the inner tube assembly into the outer tube, followed by the red piece of the top assembly. Check the positioning of the pieces and glue in place.
  4. Insert the inner tube and the other end cap into the outer tube assembly and glue in place.
  5. Finish the mache' of the section above the notch.
  6. Once the middle sub-assembly is complete, insert the top assembly into it and glue in place.
  7. Do the mache' below the notch, and paint.

Middle Sub-Assembly

Variants of 10th Doctor's sonic screwdrivers The middle sub-assembly wasn't as complex as the top one. The bottom part is all "metal"; just a matter of paint (since it was already one smooth piece of the same material, there was not even a need to mache' it). The top little bit was, logically, part of the top sub-assembly and would be worked with that. The middle plastic-looking section was the interesting part.

Looking at my reference pic, I noticed the middle part was painted to look textured. I'd have to figure out how to get that kind of effect when I got to the painting, but first I needed to figure out if I should make it really textured or just look that way. Researching more on the Internet, I found this pic (at left) showing variations of this sonic, as used by the 9th, 10th, and even the 11th Doctor (for a while). Interesting to see the color variation, but still not clear whether the texture was real. In the absence of a clear answer, I decided that this area is where you'd hold the thing, so logically it should be textured to provide a better grip.

I figured if I used textured paper towels instead of my usual kraft paper for the papier mache', it ought to produce a more textured result. I discovered that the paper towels I was using were pretty flimsy, and would start to fall apart when I soaked them in water, which is my normal first step when I do mache'. So I skipped that step and went straight to the dipping them in glue. Once I made that adjustment to my mache' technique, it did seem to work. I also needed to build a little stand out of coat-hanger wire to hold the piece off the surface as I was working on it. As I applied the mache', I noticed it was actually creating an interesting sort of marbleized look as well as texture, and considered maybe I wouldn't need to paint it at all.

After I finished the normal 2 layers of mache', the surface still felt, well, flimsy. I decided to add some strength by painting on an extra layer of the wood glue that I'd been using for the mache'. (I later found out that some puppeteers add a last layer of glue like that all the time, for protection, but I'd never done it that way before.) After that glue layer dried, it not only felt better but also looked really good! The wood glue is kind of yellowish, so the result resembled the rightmost 2 sonics in the pic above left. I decided that was it; I didn't need to paint it.

Bottom Sub-Assembly

The bottom sub-assembly was the easiest. Compared to the pic of the sub-assemblies up above, there was a little bit more prep that needed to be done to give it a better shape for the mache'. But once that was done and the mache' was finished, it was just a matter of painting it. I used primer first, hoping to make it smoother, and it worked great. I was pleasantly surprised that it only took 1 coat of the black paint to cover the white primer.

Details and Final Assembly

There are some details of the build that weren't part of the main sub-assemblies.

So, I put WAY more time than I was expecting into doing this, but it was interesting and fun. Here's a pic of the result, first pic below. The second pic is my original primary reference pic, shown again here for comparison.

Supersized sonic (finished)   Reference pic of original prop sonic screwdriver

It was several months after I'd finished the sonic before I got a chance to use it in my cosplay, at Supercon in July 2017:

Sherry R cosplaying Jayne Cobb-Doctor Who mashup with supersize sonic

(A few other minor changes compared to first time as Jayne Who: wearing the bangs for the Who part, new gloves, and the leather wristband that I made for my original River Song costume.)

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