Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Tank: Dusting Off an Old Project

I just went back through my old posts and realized that I've never posted about my tank project since I've started this blog.  Since I plan on getting it up and running once I'm done with all things Halloween, I figured I might as well run down everything I've done so far.  Here you go...

Years ago I began building a miniature Sherman tank. I found plans to make a child-sized (1/5th scale) version of the Sherman at the Gizmologist's Lair. On the website, you can also buy plans to build one for yourself. I don't know why, but this project struck me as something I absolutely needed. That was in early 2003.
Once I managed to get my ex-girlfriend (aka, the Psycho Hose-Beast) out of the house I suddenly had more spare time and money than I'd have ever imagined. That was June of 2004. I set to work immediately resizing the Gizmologist's plans to build a Sherman tank big enough for me to run it by myself.

Initial design constraints were fairly simple: it had to be able to fit one person of my size, it had to have a footprint of no more than 4 by 8 feet (to fit in a pickup truck), and it had to be able to shoot things.  Shoot things at things, that is.

A quick trip to the Home Depot and construction began. Within one weekend, I had the hull generally assembled:

Over the next few months I managed to layer the hull completely in fiberglass, build most of the suspension components, and test fit the whole thing:

I managed to get a quick coat of paint on it, but then it was time to get out of the Navy, sell my house in Rhode Island, and move to beautiful Petaluma, California. After two months spent building a woodshop and rearranging all sorts of random junk, I was able to get back to the tank:

Pictured above is my third attempt at building a turret. The other two I tried to rough together by eye and I was never happy with them. This one was actually designed in CAD:
The white pipe sticking out of the turret in the photo above was actually the barrel for the version two prototype gun.

Prototype version one was too big to be practical in a tank of this size:

In case you were wondering, both guns work. The first one was fired using paintballs shotgun style. It would fire 25 at a time. The second one was fired using a t-shirt that made a really nasty welt.

After re-starting the project in California I haven't made too much progress that's noticeable from the outside. I've mounted the drive shafts in the front end and built a bracket to mount a differential:

I've since scrapped the differential in favor of an improved transmission idea that will actually allow pirouette turns.  More on that after I've built it.
Now I'm shopping for other components. I'm also designing various components that will need to be custom fabricated. The first is my drive sprocket assembly:
I was planning on building a set of tracks that would be essentially a simplification of the Sherman's T-48 style tracks:

Somewhere along the way I test fit a mockup of my drive sprocket:
This seems pretty straightforward, but it turns out that I'm going to have to redesign the suspension arms to make more clearance for the track connectors between the road wheels and the hull.
Most of the exterior work on this project since moving West has happened on the turret. Mostly this was revising the hatch coaming to make it flush with the turret top. Then I cut a new hatch and added a spotlight:
So this is about how it looks now:
Here's the hatch for the turret:

The entire thing will hinge open so the driver can get in and out.  While inside though, the driver can open a smaller hatch built into the main hatch so that he can poke his head out.
Here's another test fit of the second prototype cannon:

Once I'd given up on making the tracks with the same functionality as the real-life Sherman tracks, I decided the best method was to duplicate the tracks made by Dave Manson, builder of an amazing 2/5th scale sherman in Perth, Australia.

To begin, I cut out oodles of blocks of ipe (a hardwood commonly used for decking because of it's resistance to rot) and turned the ends down on the lathe:

I made a lot of them.  Here's all of the blocks for one track with a few to spare:

Then I epoxied stainless steel sleeves onto the turned ends to give the drive sprocket something to wear against:

Then I built a jig and fastened the track plates to a length of conveyor belting with screws and more epoxy.  On the inside surface I used rectangles of 1/4" plywood to give the screws something more to hold onto and to clamp the conveyor belting in place:

Once I'd gotten that one track built, I rolled the tank into storage while I went off to Afghanistan and there it has sat ever since.  But now that my friend Matt has started building his Panzer, I really need to dust this thing off and get cranking on it again. 

I've already stacked up an engine and all of the gears and pulleys I need to build the transmission.  I've drawn out the drive sprocket in CAD and I'll be getting the software that allows me to upload the drawings to Lopez the carving robot and have him cut them out of Delrin (which I already have on hand too).  So really, this thing should come together pretty quick after Halloween.

So that's about where I'm at with the tank project, in case you were interested.

More to come...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Past Project: Predator Costume

Since Halloween's coming up, I've decided to do writeups about some of my old costume projects.  First up: the Predator.

For Halloween 2005 I decided to go as the creature from the Predator movies.  I built this costume in my woodshop over about two months worth of nights and weekends.  If you'd like to do the same, follow these simple steps.

To begin, build a body double. You'll need a set of easily cut, disposable clothes and about 5 rolls of duct tape. Have an assistant wrap you in duct tape until it feels like you can't move anymore. Ideally, you'll look something like this:
Then cut off the duct tape and the clothes it's attached to, get dressed, and tape the seams of your duct tape mannequin. Stuff the duct tape skin with newspaper or something similarly lightweight. Then dress it with the bodysuits that will become the foundation of your musclesuit. Now it's time to start sculpting the muscle masses out of upholstery foam:
When you've built your musculature enough for it to be convincing, it's time to coat it with liquid latex. It took me five coats to get a skin like this:

In hindsight, I should have made the arms separate from the torso. This would have allowed for a greater freedom of movement and the armor could've been designed to hide the seams. Oh well.

Once the latex skin has dried thorougly, it's time to paint. First I painted just the lightest and darkest parts (black and a mixture of flesh, white, and yellow colors) and then blended them in with some brown shading:

The next step is where you'll end up with carpal tunnel syndrome. To really bring this character to life I started adding the spots:

And then a clearcoat to make it look wet:

The same process was used to make the legs for the musclesuit.

The feet were made the same way only they were built on top of a pair of cheap high-heel boots that I destroyed for the purpose. These were mounted to a couple of pieces of 3/4" plywood which would become the soles of the creature's feet:

And built up they looked like this:

The claws were made from Sculpey brand polymer clay, and the armor plate was made using Sintra brand PVC sheet. The rest of the armor plates were made the same way.

Essentially, Sintra is cut to shape and bent using a heat gun to soften it. Once the desired shape is made, the edges are sculpted using an epoxy putty. When the putty has cured, the parts are primed, painted, and weathered. Then they look like this:

I also needed hands. These were a custom sculpt over a lifecast of a friend's hands. Once I had finished the sculpt I made a mold and cast them in latex. I would've preferred to have them start in the same pose, but my hand model took direction poorly:

The hands were painted in the same way as the musclesuit and feet.

At this point I was starting to run out of time, so I found another similarly deranged person online and bought a raw latex cast of a head sculpt he had made. When I received the head, it looked like this:

When I had finished adding dreadlocks (pre-caulking foam filler rod), quills, teeth and paint, it looked about like this:

At this point I had also been working on the gauntlets. I stripped the working parts out of an LED belt buckle for the computer readout on the left side. For the right side, I ground some aluminum stock into a pair of blades. You can't see it, but there's a notch in one of them so I can use it as a bottle opener. I also have them mounted on a track so that I can extend them with a flick of the wrist and retract them via a spring mechanism. The gauntlets open in clamshell fashion with a pin that keeps them closed when worn:

The only thing that was left at this point was the fishnets, the leather work and the loincloth. The leather was bought at a local saddle shop. They cut me about four feet worth of 1-inch strap for a very modest price. The loincloth was a piece of faux suede that a friend of mine hemmed to make it look a little more substantial. The fishnets proved to be a bit more difficult than I'd anticipated. It turns out that what I was looking for wasn't fishnet, but "industrial net" with bigger holes. The biggest holes are found in "fence net." Now you know as much as I do about women's hosiery.

For the Predator I managed to order an industrial net catsuit (one size fits all, with "convenience crotch") that only barely fit over the massive biceps and shoulders of the assembled costume. With the addition of a few little bones and teeth, the whole assembled costume looked about like this:

It added at least six inches to my height and managed to impress just about everyone that saw it. The only drawback was that with all of the foam and rubber built into it, it was about as cozy as a two inch thick wetsuit. Suffice it to say that I was a bit warm. The shoes were a bit uncomfortable, so I couldn't walk for very long distances. The only other part that was uncomfortable was the contacts:

If for some sick reason you'd like to do this to yourself, the following websites will be helpful:

The Hunter's Lair: http://www.thehunterslair.com


Thursday, September 23, 2010

It's a Duck

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but I've been procrastinating instead of editing video:

Watch the video before scrolling down.

After shooting the video, I headed over to my father's office to take a picture of his duck recharging:
RC Duck

Dad picked this thing up at a swap meet a while ago and has been having too much fun with it down at the marina ever since.  It has a voicebox that quacks when you turn the rudder all the way to the left.   That's all well and good, but I'm trying to goad him into installing a water pump for squirtgun attacks and an air horn for shock value.  Then it needs is a microphone and speaker system so you can make it talk.  Then a smoke screen, and dive planes, and machine guns, and...

New Favorite Artist: Brett Dickens, Mechanical Sculptor

Earlier today I stumbled across this video showcasing some of this Austrialian's amazing work:

You can see more on his Youtube channel.

Calvin Klein in Downtown Petaluma...

...along with Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

So there I was, walking along Petaluma Boulevard, when I came across this:
BTTF car

I don't know all of the details to look for on Doctor Brown's DeLorean time machine, but it really seems like they nailed it:
side view

The interior was fully decked out as well.  I couldn't get a good shot of it with the glare on the windshield, but if you look carefully you can see the flux capacitor strobing away between the seats inside:

It turns out you can rent the car if you go to their website at www.bttf.com and they usually tour it around raising funds for Parkinson's Disease research.  You can read more about that at www.teamfox.org

I won't bother renting it though.  I didn't find any guarantee that it would go back in time after getting up to 88mph.

I'd also like to point out that, for the movie to be right, we have to be driving flying cars in five years.

Friday, September 17, 2010

More Pictures from the HALO: Reach Launch

My sister finally got around to uploading her pictures from the other night. Here's some winners from her flickr photostream.

First up, here I am as we arrived in her truck:
(I commented at some point that if we'd gotten into a collision, the suit of armor would've probably killed me.  Irony they call that)
She managed to capture a lot of shots of the crowd reaction:

And more of the folks who posed with me:


And some different angles of me and AJ at the supermarket:




Then there was this other shot at the newsstand:

Still, a pretty good time all the way around:

Stay tuned for the construction of the rest of the suits.  I need to make a couple of blue ones, a teal one, a red one, a lightish red one, a gold one, a black one, a yellow one, and a maroon one at the very least.  Then I'll have to consider a plurple one as well...

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I've finally gotten to the point where I'm ready to unload a few of these guys:
Combat Garden Gnomes 041

They come with your choice of either the AK-47 or the M16A2 and should add a comically threatening aspect to any home garden:
Combat Garden Gnomes 016

Check them out on eBay by clicking here!

If you check out my other items, you'll also find a link to some unpainted ones if you want to save some cash and paint them yourself. 

Stay tuned for updates on Combat Garden Gnome version 2.0!