Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Normal" is Just Shorthand for People You Don't Know Anything About

So I'm out of town for a little while visiting the Lady Shawnon over the holidays.  But since I'm a busybody and I'm perpetually running behind on everything, I've still found ways of tinkering on various costume projects while I'm away.

The other day I ended up going for a walk to get some fresh air as well as a bunch of supplies.

Among the stops I had to make were the fabric store and the hardware store.  Since I try to plan my errand-running routes as efficiently as possible, these were both on my way back home. 

The fabric store was first.  I picked out a few different things, but most importantly I grabbed one yard of each of their most believably realistic fake animal furs.

When I went to the checkout counter, the nice lady who rang me up apologized for the fact that they were out of the larger size of shopping bags (this being the Christmas season) and would instead have to put my huge pile of fur into a large, clear trash bag so I could carry it home.  Since I would be on foot and it was likely to start raining before I finished the walk, I figured any bag at all was a good idea.

Then I went to the hardware store.

Picking out the handful of items I needed was only a matter of minutes.  Then, as is often my habit, I wandered around the store for a while to see if there was anything on the shelves that would seem like a solution to any of a number of problems simmering on the backburner of my to-do list.

The staff at this particular store was exceedingly helpful.  In fact, I was asked "can I help you?" so often that it started getting annoying.  Eventually I realized that this wasn't the "I'm asking because we have great service" version of "can I help you?" so much as the "would you please leave my store because I don't want you here" version of "can I help you?"

Somewhere along the way I also noticed that people were giving me occasional dirty looks.  Things were getting weird.  Had I left my fly unzipped?  A quick, discreet check verified that it wasn't the problem.  Was I wearing a t-shirt with something on it that was considered offensive by the locals?  No, I glanced down at a plain black sweater.  Did I match the description of some locally notorious sex offender?  I had no way to know.

Feeling unwelcome, I made my way to the cash register.  The girl behind the counter was courteous but curt and things still felt a bit strained.  Then, after rushing to get me out the door, she finally asks me, "What's in the bag?"

"It's a bunch of fake fur for a costume project," says I, "why?"

"Oh my God," replies she, "the manager said there was some guy wandering around the store carrying a bag of dead animals.  Looks like he was wrong."

I guess I can see where he got that idea:

Apparently it's not unheard of for folks to bring roadkill into the hardware store.

If nothing else, the reactions I got from a handful of strangers made me appreciate the suppliers and local shops that I normally deal with.  Every time I walk into the local shops back home, the folks on staff tend to ask what I'm working on and no matter what my answer is, it's never too weird.  Whenever my the representatives from my various supply companies stop by the workshop to discuss new products, the conversation is always fascinating, off-the-wall, and nobody ever bats an eye.  

That said, I kinda miss the little bits of shock value that used to come with the normal goings-on in my projects.  I think I need to start making things weirder.  Or weirder things.  Either way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Building Captain Phasma Part 1: the Helmet

Alright, so I have a problem.  I told myself I wasn't going to make anything from Episode VII until I'd actually seen it.  Then I made the Flametrooper helmet.  I'm pretty happy with it.

But it turns out I can't just leave well enough alone.  Mixed in with all of the other awesomeness in the trailers was this beauty:

A chrome stormtrooper?  I'm listening...

 Folks who've known me for any length of time know that I used to drive a little car that was chrome.  Not the whole thing, mind you, just the outside.  So when images of the chrome stormtrooper started popping up online, I started getting flooded with messages from folks asking me when I'd be starting this project.  Clearly it was right up my alley.

Still, I resisted.

Some time later there was a photoshoot which showed off a lot of the neat new things from the upcoming movie.  The best part was that they actors names were listed next to each of the characters.  This is when I found out that the chrome stormtrooper was named Captain Phasma and was being played by none other than Gwendolyn Christie.  If you don't know who she is, she's the actress who's best known for playing Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones:

So not only is this a chrome stormtrooper, she's woman.  A tall blonde woman.  And they didn't do anything silly to make the armor look sexy or feminine.  No nonsense, just the same gear that the rest of the troopers wear in a different color to make it clear that she's in charge.

Now I was hooked.

After that, all it took was having the Lady Shawnon offhandedly mention "I'd wear that." and I was off to the races.

So far the helmet is done: 
Finished Phasma Helm Front Left

For details about how it was made, read on...

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Force Awakens Flametrooper Helmet Replica

It turns out there's a whole new Star Wars movie coming out.

I promised I wouldn't get myself excited enough to build any of the stuff from the film until after I'd actually seen it.  Then I saw this guy:

That's a stormtrooper.  He has a flamethrower.  This is who I want to be when I grow up.

Since the State of California has very specific restrictions on the ownership of flamethrowers,* and the action figure just isn't quite enough, I'm going to have to settle for just dressing like this guy.  As luck would have it, the Lopez twins (my Carvewright CNC machines) were sitting idle in the shop.  So I hit up my friends at and had them crank out a quick 3D model for me:

After the Lopez twins were done chewing it up and spitting it out, I molded it, cast it, and painted up a rough-draft version like so:
flametrooper Rough Draft 1

For more (better) photos, the final draft version, and a step-by-step explanation of how it was made, read on...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Famous Again

The other day sent a video team out to the workshop to interview me and see my mess.  Here's the result:

Sadly, we ran out of time before we could get footage of the rest of the huge stack of costumes we had lined up and ready to go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Gearing up with Dad

Every time I start thinking that my crazy projects are getting out of hand, I take a look at what my father is working on and it makes me feel better.

Case in point, the other day I stopped by the folks' house.  Dad's car trailer was parked out front with this thing on it:

Dad's Gears

If you don't recognize it, you're not wrong.  This is the reduction gear that used to drive the pivoting railroad bridge next to the Petaluma Marina.  You can see it in action here:

That bridge had been in place since 1903.  So for the better part of 112 years, these massive steel gears have done the job of swinging the bridge into place so trains could cross the river and then back out of the way so waterborne traffic could get past.

This year, there's been a lot of construction and improvements on those tracks in order to make way for the new SMART train.  This is a long-overdue commuter train that will carry passengers from as far south as the Larkspur Ferry terminal to as far north as Cloverdale.  

Since there will be a lot more traffice on the SMART train, the powers that be have decided to retire the old swing bridge in favor of a secondhand drawbridge that was relocated from somewhere in Texas.  The new bridge is this shiny green work-in-progress:
Railroad Bridge at Haystacks Landing

So while the construction crew has been slowly dismantling the old bridge, Dad has been watching the proceedings from his office next door.  When he saw the gears being pulled out he wandered over and asked the crew what they planned to do with them.

It turns out that they were slated to go to the scrapyard.

Dad decided that he had some other use for them.  He didn't know what, but something better than the scrapyard.  So he ran home, hitched up the trailer, and went back to pick up the whole kit and kaboodle.

After much deliberation, he decided to park the whole rig next to one of the barns.  After a bit of rearranging the other stuff tucked away under the tree, he parked an A-frame on the spot, then backed the trailer under it:
Dad's Gears

After a bit of wrestling it around with the help of a chain fall, the gears had found a new home:
Dad's Gears

Of course, a lot of folks might wonder why someone would want such a thing parked in their garden, so I suggested a use that dad decided was good enough:

It works.