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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Friday, March 1, 2024

Genestealer Update 7: Carapace Molding Completed and a New Approach for the Stilts

I have to admit, I haven't done much on this project since my last update.  I've been distracted with working on some other projects and have mostly been off site and working out of the shop, but I did manage to finish laying up the mold sections for this side of the carapace:First Side Molded

Then I cleaned off the clay parting wall that ran down the length of the spine:
20240222_204331

And repeated the layup for the mold sections on the right hand side:
final Genestealer carapace mold sections gelcoated

Once I was done with the layup and all of the sections had cured, it was time to demold the whole thing.  I'm happy to say that here, in this moment of truth, the mold separated with no real strain and nothing had to break to take it apart:
first Genestealer carapace mold section removed
It turns out I'm getting pretty good at this.

So in short order, I had all of the mold sections removed:
Genestealer carapace molds separated

The master now serves no further purpose, but I'm still hesitant to throw it away.  So for now it clings to the side of my rolling trashcan until I finally acknowledge that it's gotta go:
Genestealer carapace master demolded
Maybe I'll turn it into an ornamental birdbath or something.  But probably not.

The next step was to trim the the mold sections to get rid of the fuzzy edges, then smooth the edges out on the belt sander to eliminate any little loose splinters of fiberglass that I don't want to find later with my hands.  Then the parts were taken outside so I could scrub off all of the clay and mold release and various other bits of schmoo that they'd picked up along the way.

That done, they're now just leaned up against a handy bucket to dry until I get a minute (or a couple of hours) to polish them in preparation for laying up my first copy:
Genestealer carapace mold sections cleaned

Once I have the first carapace out of the molds, I'll finalize the shape of the chest piece so I can be sure they two parts will connect to each other with a perfect snap fit to make it easy to get the piece on and off without having to add any extra hardware or other fasteners.  That's the goal anyway.

In other news, I've decided that the digitigrade stilts I'd already made were going to be way too bulky to fit under the somewhat svelte leg armor of the genestealer.  Fortunately, I'd already been working on a much simpler version of digitigrade feet for my friend Rachel.  

Unfortunately, each pair has to be custom-made to fit only one wearer.  The process starts with slathering the lower legs with lotion:
Slicking Down the Legs

Then standing in a purpose-built box full of lifecasting alginate:
Just Chillin

For a while:
Standing in the Foots Molding Box

Once the alginate has set, the feet have to be pulled out.  Hilarity ensues:

Then, because the alginate shrinks as it dries out, the cavity left behind by the legs has to be filled with resin as quickly as possible in order to prevent distortion.  So, with no time to stop and put my shoes on, I rushed to mix the resin:Quick!  Mix Resin

And fill the molds:
Quick!  Pour Resin!

Then, just like that, I've got new legs:
I Got New Legs, Lieutenant Dan!

Namaste:
20240224_211646

We did the same thing to Jeff:
Lifecasting Jeff's Feets

So now I have a variety of legs:
FEETS!
In an economy where everything costs an arm and a leg, it's basically like I'm printing money...

Ahem.

So anyway, these will be wrapped in a layer of clay to give us an offset to allow for padding later.  Then they'll be wrapped in fiberglass and a steel strut will be glassed onto the bottom of the foot:
Feet Struts Attached

Once they are trimmed and cut properly they'll be fitted with straps, padded, and then they're ready to go.  Here's Rachel learning to walk in the pair we made for her:
20240116_213655

20240116_213736

She say's they're not particularly uncomfortable, so once she learns how to balance with these new extra-long feet and her ankles braced in place, she'll be good to go.

I'll be sure to post a video clip of Jeff falling over once he tries his on.

Meanwhile, this guy still sits on the bench in the middle of the room:
Grampa Genestealer

I can't help but feel like he's taunting me...

Stay tuned for next week when I dust off the CNC machines and finally get started on the arm parts.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Genestealer Build Update 6: Face Sculpting Begins

When we last looked at this project, the armature for the head was printed, hardcoated, and layered over with a 1/8" thick skin of Chavant NSP oil-based clay.  It looked about like so:
Rainy Day Needs More Sculpting

The first problem was the big, empty, soulless eye sockets.  So I found some hollow acrylic Christmas ornaments (you can order them here: LINK), painted them red on the inside, and glued them in place:
Eyeball inserts

Later, when we mold the final sculpt, the eyes, nostrils, and mouth area will provide contact points that will hold the core of the mold in place.  This is a key plot point that should be remembered for later.

With the eyes in place, all that I had left to do was flesh out all of the details and texture the skin to look like an actual critter, and make sure there was adequate thickness before molding and casting in rubber.

The trick is, while I've been familiar with genestealers in one way or another ever since I was about thirteen years old,* I didn't have the clearest picture of some of the minor details in my head.  I needed to have some references on hand to guide my hand while I was sculpting my little beastie here.  

So I scoured an internet to find some images and made a "mood board" to work off of.  Genestealers have seen some subtle changes over the years, so I ended up with pics of the miniatures, artwork from the various codexes and rulebooks over the years, and screen captures from some video games.  I'll incorporate aspects of all of these into the sculpture as I work:
Mood Board

So with the mood board and the beginning of the sculpture set up on the bench, all I needed was to grab my tools and get to work:
Workstation Ready

Speaking of tools, here's me:
Jackass Ready

I didn't make a hell of a lot of progress in the one afternoon I set aside for this last week, but with just a bit of smoothing and the simple addition of eyelids, this guy started developing a personality:
HUUURMAGEHRD!

He's already looking a little sinister, or judgmental, or maybe a bit stoned:
Hey, man!  You got any weed?

But anyway, that's the current state of the head sculpture:
Work in Progress

Meanwhile, I've been molding the carapace.  This started with hot gluing cardboard around the margins and building up clay walls on the sides:   GS Carapace Placed on Rolling Workstand

Then a generous coat of PVA mold release** before applying gelcoat:
GS Carapace Right Edge Gelcoated

After laying up the fiberglass for the sides, I got started on the ends.  Here's the forward end marked out once I'd determined placement for the parting line:
20240214_204551

Then the clay parting wall built up and covered with PVA mold release:
End Section with Mold Release

Then gelcoat:
20240216_000545

Here I am laying up the fiberglass on the front end:
20240216_135017

I spent most of this time working upside down while my assistant Rachel laid up the glass on the much more complex contours of the back end section.  That part looked like this before gelcoat and fiberglass were applied:
20240215_234812

Once the end pieces had cured solid, we could now place the whole thing upright and rest the weight on the mold sections instead of the shell.

I decided to start with the left side first and built up a clay parting wall lengthwise down the middle:
The right side we'll get to later

Then split the left side into four segments to eliminate any chance of the mold locking down onto the master:
Third Left Carapace Segment with PVA Mold Release

So last night I gelcoated the first two segments of the left side:
First Set of Back Segments Gelcoated
Once I finish laying up fiberglass on these two sections, I'll remove the parting walls between them, apply more PVA mold release, then gelcoat and glass the remaining two segments.

Then I can repeat this process for the four parts of the other side of the mold.

It sounds like a major pain in the ass, but that's only because it's a major pain in the ass.  If this were a paying project and I had the budget for it, I'd be making a silicone rubber mold jacket with a two-piece fiberglass mothermold and the part would come out seamless and have no flashing to clean off.  But since this is a low-budget hobby project I'm spending less money and a bit more time to make it this way.


*Trust me, that's a very long time.

**PVA stands for "PolyVinyl Alcohol."  You didn't actually need to know this, but now you do.  You're welcome.  I've now used up a couple of little synapses that will sit and rot in a corner of your brain for the rest of you life instead of doing something useful for you. 


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Genestealer Build Update 5: Prepping the Carapace for Molding

I'm a bit late with this update on the Genestealer build.  Last week's stormy weather and a couple of days sick in bed hit me with a one-two punch combination that completely knocked out my productivity.

This week will be different.

Regardless, last week Jeff stopped by and did a bit more cleanup sanding and polishing on the carapace and we sprayed on one more coat of greay primer.  After that had dried, I slathered on another coat of XTC-3D epoxy resin:
Second Hardcoat in Progress

The goal here is to make the whole thing shiny and smooth in order to make it easier to mold:
Hardcoating Genestealer Carapace Again

Then I set it on a stand so that the epoxy coat could cure:
Second Epoxy Hardcoat Curing on Genestealer Carapace

Shiny:
Second Hardcoat Curing on Genestealer Carapace

If I was really thinking I would've taken the time to flip the thing over a few times during the remaining pot life and early in the cure time in order to keep the resin from pooling or building up runs anywhere.  I wasn't thinking, so what I ended up with was a handful of drips like the one on the back of this spine bit:
It may be hard to see, but that little nipply bit in the middle of the frame shouldn't be there.

Or these more noticeable ones on the edge of one of the recessed openings:
Drips!

The worst of them were the run and drips hanging off the very bottom edge of the whole thing:
Goddammned DRIPS!

So the next day I went after the drips and runs with a knife, some files, and progressively finer sandpaper.  I ended with 600-grit:
Edge Polishing

This, of course, made it not shiny:
Polishing GS Carapace Bottom Edge

So I gave the whole thing a few layers of wax and buffed the gloss back onto it.  Then I glued some cardboard flaps onto all of the edges and built up some clay margins around the edges in preparation for molding:
GS Carapace Mold Margin Progress

Next thing I'm going to do is build a parting line along the top edge of the whole thing in preparation for molding:
GS Carapace Mold Margins

It's starting to look like the mold for the carapace is going to be made in 12 parts.  Possibly 14.  This will be a bit annoying during the molding phase, but it'll have the benefit of making it easier to store the mold when we're not using it.  For now, it looks like so:
GS Back Mold Margins Added

Meanwhile, the head armature was sitting where I had left it the previous week:
Epoxy Coated Head Curing

Rather than subject it to a lengthy period of static endurance testing,* we went ahead and started adding a layer of oil-based clay around 1/8" thick:
Jeff Begins Claying Up Genestealer Head Armature

Here it is with a complete clay layer in place (as well as some glass eyes that were laying in the sculpting toolbox for no reason at all):
HEEEEEEEEYYYYYYYY!

There will end up being more clay built up as the skin gets detailed and textured, but this first layer will give us a minimum thickness of rubber for when we mold it and cast the final pieces:
Popeye the Genestealer

So now here I am, staring at the beginning of a fun sculpting project:
Face-Off

The fun sculpting project is also staring at me.

Stay tuned for further updates.  I'm starting to think of ways I can improve upon the stilt plan and I'll be carving out the arm parts as soon as possible.  That, and the ridiculously complex molding of the carapace in fiberglass.


*"Static Endurance Testing" is when you put something on a shelf and forget about it for a long period of time.