Monday, October 10, 2016


There's probably a handful of you out in the world thinking to yourself, "Self, remember back when Shawn Thorsson used to blog all the time.  That was neat.  I wonder what happened to that guy."

Well, I'll tell you.

I wrote a book, gaddamnit!!

It looks like this:

So if you've been missing my postings, you can get all caught up on snark and how-to's when you order yourself a copy here: LINK

Supplies are running out, so don't delay!

Now I can bet back to catching up on bloggage.  So if you've been wanting to see me finish writing about the Death Watch, Captain Phasma, and even the Ironman costume project that I never finished writing about, stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

August 2016 UFO Sightings in the Workshop

I've just finished wrapping up a couple or three major projects and I've been cleaning up and reorganizing the workshop bit by bit.  As usual, along the way I find all manner of works-in-progress that have been getting me excited about making even more stuff.  So here's just a few of the UnFinished Objects floating around lately...

The next big thing I'll be working on is the T-60 Power Armor from Fallout 4.  I've mostly been tinkering with the digital side of the build, but here's a really rough start on the helmet prototype:
Smoothing Helmet Prototype

I've also decided to make some much-needed improvements to the workshop itself.  This includes putting in a proper stud wall with insulation and everything along one side:
Soon There'll be Doors
Once I get the siding on, it'll be like a whole new building.

On the subject of smaller projects, I've got a good start on this little leg:
Leg and Foot Smoothing

That's the beginning of a mouser bot from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
Mouser Mockup
Because I need one.

In other news, progress continues on the Star Wars Episode VII Flametrooper:
Bulky Parts are Bulky

I'll have parts that are wearable soon, but for now the prototoypes still look cool:

I've also pulled a set of white parts out of my Episode VII stormtrooper molds:
White Armor Test Fit
I still need to mold the ankles, then I'll have that full set of armor.

Finally, just to make sure I don't just burn out on Star Wars costumes, I've picked up one of these:

And I'm expecting it'll start to make sense shortly...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Shopping is a Problem for Me

Monday morning I needed a stapler.  So on my way in to the workshop, I stopped at a local office supply store to grab one.  The place was called "Staples," so I figure there's a good chance they'll carry staplers.  Easy, right?

The problem is, on the rare occasion when I decide I need a stapler, for some reason I tell myself I'm going to get myself a red Swingline stapler.*  I'm not sure why, but that's exactly what I want.

Not a Bostich stapler, a Swingline stapler because it doesn't bind up as much, and I have the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's...

So I walk into the store and, despite finding dozens of viable stapling options, none of them are red Swingline staplers.  Desperate to bind some pages together, I had to settle for a plain, black stapler like some kind of peasant.  Clearly the world is not on my side.

Fortunately, I live in the 21st century.  In my world, everything that can be had can be delivered with free two-day shipping.

So I go to Amazon and wouldn't you know it, there's actually multiple options when it comes to red Swingline staplers.  I picked this one: LINK.  That's the classic Swingline model 747.  Sadly, it doesn't also happen to be an airplane, but its all-metal construction means I can use it bludgeon things when I'm not stapling things.  Awesome.

Of course, since I was already shopping online, I also had to pick up some ABS filament for the 3D printers and an anatomically correct replica of a human skull because I'm an adult and you can't tell me what to do.  Then I found a 10-pound box of hot glue sticks which I need for reasons.  I decided not to buy the 17-pound box, because that would just be silly.

I managed to push myself away from the internet before I ordered myself a really weird-looking set of new coveralls.  But sooner or later...

*Little-known fact: The folks at Swingline had discontinued their red stapler a few years before the movie Office Space came out.  Milton's iconic red Swingline was actually a regular stapler that had been repainted by the film's prop department.  After the movie came out, Swingline was inundated with folks asking for red staplers, so they decided to start offering the color again.  It's been their best seller ever since.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hood Ornament for the New Ghostbusters Ecto-1

This little project started with an early morning phone call.  I was looking forward to a rare morning of sleeping in and my phone rang at about 6:15 in the morning.  I didn't recognize the number, but answered it anyway to find out what godless heathen was inconsiderate enough to call me at this horrible early hour.

It was my good friend Peter Rubin.

"Shawn!" says he, "are you busy lately?"

"I'm always busy," says I, "but you don't often call, so what can I do for you?"

"I'm in Boston right now," he replied.  "I'm working on a movie."

"That's kinda what you do."

"This one's called 'Ghostbusters.'"

"I've heard about that one."

"I thought you might have."

Cut to the night before.  It turns out that Peter was working as a concept artist for the film and happened to be talking with the director, the art director, and the picture car coordinator (the guy who was responsible for building the Ecto-1 for the movie) the night before.  They were discussing various elements of the completed cars when someone mentioned that it'd be a lot cooler if it had a hood ornament.

That got everybody excited.  A few minutes with a sketchbook and Peter had roughed out a design.  They loved it, but since they needed the cars to be complete in time for promotional photography and initial filming within a week, getting it done in time was a tall order.  That's when Peter mentioned that he knew a guy who tends to do really well with insane deadlines.

That's where I came in.

The film industry moves fast. Within 24 hours of the first call, the project was greenlit and Peter sent me his completed 3D model of the hood ornament:

Once the final scale was determined, I had it printed out on two different 3D printers.  I didn't want to run the risk that the print would fail and have to start over.  As it turns out, both prints came out great.  Here's one of them after an initial sanding:

Then it got a quick pass with some spot putty to fill in the build lines:

And more sanding:

A quick coat of primer made it clear that everything was smooth and ready to go:

To give it a tiny bit more shine, I gave it my standard coat of glossy light red paint:

I actually went through the entire process on both copies:

Then I mounted them for molding:

And built up a mold box:

Still paranoid about anything that could set the build timeline back, I dumped a ton of hot glue onto all of the seams in order to ensure that they were watertight:

Then I mixed up a batch of silicone and poured the mold:

Since my friend Rio was in the shop that night, I asked him to to ahead and pour the rubber for the other mold:

I had him use a completely new bucket of rubber so there'd be a better chance of one of the molds working if it turned out that I had some silicone that had gone bad.

Once they were poured, both molds were covered and left overnight to cure:

The next day, I used a basic jeweler's cut to remove the prototypes from the molds:

I cast the first copy in Smooth-Cast Onyx:

Using both molds, I cast more copies in Smooth-Cast 300:

By the time I was done, I ended up making an even dozen castings, then filling in a few minor surface flaws with spot putty:

Then I sanded them smooth:

Here they are with a fresh coat of primer:

Then they got a coat of gloss black:

The first coat of chrome was less than awesome:

After a bit of buffing, it looked a bit better:

Since I didn't have time to send them out for proper chrome plating, I had to settle for my old standby, Spaz Stix Mirror Chrome:

Once they'd dried, the next step was to ship them overnight to the production offices on the East Coast.  Then it was only a matter of time before someone walking past one of the filming locations posted this picture on Instatwit or something:

Then there was more:

Before too long, there were all sorts of sightings in and around New York:

Since you don't want to hold up production on account of a car breaking down, it turns out they made two of them:

While I've made a few props for movies in the past, it was nice to think that this one might get some prominent screen time:

I wasn't 100% certain it would be noticeable in the film though, until this trailer came out:

There it is, plain as day about 31 seconds in:


It also ended up being pretty visible in an episode of Jay Leno's Garage.  You can see a preview HERE.

EDIT:  Before anyone else asks, no I do not have the molds or the 3D files for this piece anymore.  Sooner or later the good people at SONY Pictures may release a licensed replica.  In the meantime, you absolutely can not get one of these from me.  Please don't ask.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Rushed Project: Makey the Robot Part 3, The Done Thing

Somewhere around the thirteenth actual day worth of work on this project, the folks from Make Media stopped by and brought along the poor bastard who was going to be wearing this thing at the Maker Faire.  Here's a video introducing him and showing the initial walk-through and test fitting:

At that point, we still needed to make the other leg, arm, and shoulder, but at least it looked like the whole thing was going to work.

The remaining parts came out pretty good, but everything still needed a little cleanup on the corners and edges.  Once everything was trimmed, sanded, filled, and smooth, the whole thing got a shiny, red paintjob:

Of course, as luck would have it, this was just a couple of days before the delivery date and those two days happened to coincide with one of my naval reserve drill weekends.  So while I was spending my daylight hours keeping the world safe for democracy in a classroom in Alameda, the Lady Shawnon took care of masking off the main body and spraying on the white paint in the recessed areas:

Along the way I had Lopez the Robot Whittler (my Carvewright CNC machine) cut out a pair of giant letter M's to go into the circles on the front and back.  They were both painted red to match everything else:

When I got done with drill for the day, I made a mad dash back to the workshop and got started assembling the main body, head, and arms:

The head and shoulders were each attached to the body with a lazy susan bearing (like this one: LINK) to allow them to swivel.  The inside of the body was reinforced with plywood everywhere these parts were screwed on.  To make sure the tips of the screws wouldn't stab the wearer, I went ahead and ground them flat with a flapwheel grinder:

Which looked kinda cool from the outside:

At that point, the assembly was complete:

The only thing missing was the white mesh in the eye holes.  For that, I had Loki the scrawny tall kid reach in and glue them in place:


The last thing that needed to happen was a quick and dirty functionality test.  Here I am strapping myself into one of the legs:

I was just about able to dress myself without help.  The only challenge was tightening the foot straps.  Having a second pair of hands made it a bit easier:

Once the legs were on, it was a simple matter of grabbing the main body and lifting it up and into place:

Then it was time to take him for a stroll:

I was pretty well exhausted at this point, so I only gave it a few minutes of walking around before I was happy that it was at least going to work.  Then I hopped on a plane across the country to attend the Lady Shawnon's graduation and had to rely on my folks to drop the whole thing off at the Maker Faire on their way to visit my sister down the road.

A few days later, I started seeing photos from the Maker Faire pop up on social media.  All of the on-location photos were shamelessly stolen from the (LINK):

Makey was a big hit with the ladies:

Kids seemed to like him too:

I was worried that the poor bastard inside would succumb to heat stroke or have trouble moving around, but he seemed to be managing somehow:

By the end of the weekend, he managed to get around quite a bit:

And then there's this one:

I don't know what he got up to, but I hope he had fun along the way.

The funniest thing, this is still the only bit of design reference and all of the math that went into this build.

Special thanks to Matt, Cary, Trevor, Loki, Gordon, Tyler, Anthony, the Lady Shawnon, and of course my folks for helping me get this thing together in just a shade over two weeks worth of shop time.

More insane projects in the works as always.  Stay tuned...