Saturday, April 30, 2016

Rushed Project: Makey the Robot

For the past few years now, the folks at Make Magazine have been asking me if I'd be willing to build a wearable mascot suit based on their "Makey the Robot" logo:

This year, they finally gave me the go-ahead to begin work so they can have this guy walking around at the Maker Faire.

The main challenge is, as you can see, the thing isn't at all proportioned like a person.  It's a problem, but I've had worse things to overcome in previous costume projects.

In order to get an idea for how the thing would move and fit, we started by building a cardboard mockup:

Here's a video detailing the scaling process:

After that, it was time to get started cranking out all of the pieces.  Most of them were made out of MDF with expanding foam used to create any necessary contoured edges:

You can see more about that process in this video:

Here's a quick snapshot of some of the pieces shaping up:

The whole thing will be done in no time at all, complete with more photos and video updates.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 13, 2016

February 2016 UFO Sightings in the Workshop

I've been running behind on bloggage again, so if you're waiting on the last three articles detailing the building of the Death Watch Mandalorians, the final articles about finishing the Ironman armor, or the next installment in my series of Possible Demises, I'm sorry.  The wait will continue.

Instead, I'm just going to share a stack of photos of things that, like all of my recent blog entries, haven't been finished yet.  These are just a few of the UnFinished Objects (UFOs) sitting around the shop.  First up...

A bunch of Star Wars stuff.

As you may have guessed from the last few posts, I'm neck-deep in Star Wars builds.  I started by just making a Flametrooper helmet.  That was cool, but then I decided I needed a Captain Phasma helmet.  Then the Lady Shawnon mentioned she'd be willing to wear that complete suit of armor.  It turns out that was all the inspiration I needed to get started working on that.  Here's how it looks right now:

Somewhere along the way, inspired in the way that only sleep deprivation and toxic fume inhalation can achieve, someone mentioned that we could use the same molds to make the TIE Fighter pilot armor too, so we should hurry up and make that helmet as well.  There were a few hiccups along the way, but here's a snapshot of the prototype in progress:
TIE Visor/HUD Fitting Progress

Of course, shortly after starting on that helmet prototype, someone pointed out that the shoulder armor for the TIE Pilot actually isn't quite the same as Captain Phasma or the standard stormtrooper armor.  Instead, it's a bit elongated.  The gauntlets are different as well.

As it turns out, the gauntlets are the same ones worn by the flametroopers.  So now I've got another reason to make the rest of the armor to go with the helmet I've already made.*  The shoulders are the same ones worn by the snowtroopers.  So I'm on my way to making those as well.  To that end, I had my friends at churn out the models for the snowtrooper parts I didn't already have:

Then, since I was feeling like keeping them busy, I also tasked them with modelling the heavy repeating blaster:

I need this.  See, once I've built the codpiece for the snowtrooper, all I'll need is the ankle spats for the standard stormtrooper, then I'll have accidentally made all of the variations of First Order armor in Episode VII just in time for the next movie to come out and really mess up my sleep schedule again...

On a (slightly) more serious note, I'm very near to finishing my book.  You can pre-order it here: LINK.  To illustrate some of the processes that I'm writing about, I've been building all sorts of cool stuff.  Like these big-ass rifles for example:

Here's an early work-in-progress photo of the armor that goes with them:

There are also projects that aren't science-fiction centric, like these wolf dagger stabby things:

So that's all kinds of exciting.

I'm really looking forward to wrapping up the last bits of the book though, because then I can move on to some of my other fascinating projects.  

The next thing I'll break ground on will be the T-60 Power Armor from Fallout 4.  Here's a preview of the digital models:

Somewhere along the way I'll be dusting off my aborted Halloween project from last year, the Deathstroke armor:

And finally, since I need a new project to distract me from my distracting projects, I picked up the first couple of pieces of the motion tracker prop from Aliens:

So there's a lot to look forward to.  Stay tuned...

*The first reason was FLAMETHROWER!


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...