Chad and the Orange County Cosplay Scene
For as long as he can remember, Chad Van Wye has been bringing unique designs to life through his craftwork. As a child, he picked up fabrication skills by working with his father. Along the way, he learned about working with fiberglass, performing carpentry work and, to add a polished touch, painting. Because of these skills, he became the notable creator he is today. Those skills came in handy when Chad got to college. It was at that point when he began to grow his business, Hoku Props, which focuses on the Orange County cosplay community. The company, where Chad is also the primary special effects artist, designs and produces prop armor and prop weapons. In 2016, Chad was invited to compete in a cosplay contest at TwitchCon against other Orange County cosplay creators. The grand prize: $15,000 and a beautiful trophy.
For one particular reason, the opportunity felt like it was meant to be.
A Life-Altering Accident
A few years ago, Chad was involved in a shop accident where a piece of equipment he was working with failed. He lost his left eye as a result. Rather than allowing the setback to hinder the growth of his business, Chad took it as an opportunity to reevaluate and refine his technique. Slowly relying less and less on hand fabrication, he began to embrace computer-aided design, 3D modeling, and CNC. Now, Chad is a revered member of the Orange County cosplay community and a respected fabricator.
The move to computer-based fabrication would serve him well in building his costume for TwitchCon. He decided he would go as Reinhardt, a character from the video game Overwatch. Specifically, Chad opted for Reinhardt in the alternate “Lionhardt” skin, which made for a complex costume. Even more, it would have to be built on a massive scale, covering his body with golden armor as he traveled on stilts. With no helmet, though, he would have a unique advantage in striking the exact look of the white-haired, grandfatherly tank hero. Something rarely seen in the Orange County cosplay community.
Reinhardt was also missing his left eye.
Completing the Costume
As Chad adapted to computer-based design and fabrication after the accident, he started to explore his options for adding a CNC router to his workshop. After hearing about the positive experiences an Orange County cosplay friend had had with a Laguna CNC router, he decided to follow up. Chad reached out to Laguna Tools and was surprised by the team’s enthusiasm in welcoming him to come view the machines in person. Living less than an hour away from Laguna Tools’ headquarters in Irvine, Calif., he made the trip to view a live demonstration, learn more about the machines and determine if there was a router that had all of the capabilities necessary to meet his needs.
Impressed by what he saw, Chad purchased the Laguna Swift 4′ x 4′. Eventually, the machine would play a major part in creating his Reinhardt costume. Building the costume took roughly three months — an astonishingly short period of time given the sophistication. As a result, the final product had Chad towering over amazed bystanders and other Orange County cosplay creators. His armor glistened with a perfectly symmetrical suit of golden armor with a meticulously crafted lion’s head highlighted on the chest. For the final touch, he used an LED eye prosthetic to complete the look.
There was no question what the winning costume would be. By the end of TwitchCon, Chad was $15,000 richer.
Giving Back to Others
When discussing the contest he conquered at TwitchCon, it’s not the money or trophy that makes Chad the proudest. Instead, he reflects on what he describes as a “heart-warming, wonderful experienc,” shared with other Orange County cosplay creators, both young and old. According to Chad, the accuracy, stability, rigidity and cutting ability of his Laguna CNC router is far superior to any other machine he’s operated. That has allowed him to teach and inspire others to take on new, comprehensive projects that yield stunning results. Chad doesn’t believe his costume could have been completed as quickly, nor with the same amount of detail, without his Laguna router. To this day, he recommends Laguna Tools to anyone who asks him where to find a reliable, quality CNC machine.
It will only be a matter of time before this lionized craftsman encounters — and tackles — the next major project that’s calling his name.