I get a lot of people asking questions about how I make the many things I make. Either that or commenting on how they could never do the things that I do. So lately I've decided to share my knowledge and write up descriptions of different ways I build things. The posts labeled "Propbuilding 101" will detail techniques ranging from those that require specialized skills to those that require specialized tools.
The first method I'll describe requires very little of either. All you need is a computer with a printer, some materials readily available at your local hardware store, hobby store, and office supply center, and some patience. Using a shareware program called Pepakura and techniques pioneered by the members of the 405th.com HALO costuming forum, I'll walk you through the creation of this Warhammer 40,000 Terminator helmet prop:
Believe it or not, the helmet in the picture above is made from PAPER. If you'd like to know how, read on...
Dawn. The morning sun peeks over the top of the distant, gently rolling hills to the East. The dew glistens in the golden light of early day. In the growing light, the silence is only broken by the occasional chirping bird.
The ball goes up. A shrill whistle. The distant thump of a field gun. The dogs of war unleashed, gnomes charge across the plain, shouting their ferocious battle cry amidst the din of staccato machine gun fire punctuated by mortar explosions and the massive "CRUMP" of an artillery shell. As the cacophony of combat reaches it's crescendo, one voice can be heard above it all, bellowing, "FOLLOW ME!"
Until now, my combat garden gnomes have been warriors without a leader. Gnome officer candidate school takes time, but I've finally come up with this guy:
A fearless leader at the forefront of any fight, I've sculpted him looking back over his shoulder and urging his troops forward. I'm especially proud of the facial expression:
I'll be starting on the molds for this guy today and then I'll be offering up painted and unpainted copies in my etsy shop: http://etsy.com/shop/thorssoli
It happens every so often. No matter how careful I am, no matter how slowly and thoughtfully I work, I find myself bleeding in the workshop from time to time. I understand that once in a while the Project Gods demand blood sacrifices to ensure successful completion of whatever I'm working on. Still, hemorrhaging bodily fluids have a tendency to mar my careful paint jobs if not taken care of in a timely fashion.
I do keep a first aid kit in my workshop. It's nice and new and sterile. It was also stored on the top shelf in a rolling cabinet. That cabinet tends to be one of the first things lost under the pile of works in progress when I really get rolling on numerous projects.
So far life-threatening injuries have been pretty rare in the workshop. But when and if something truly awful does happen, I don't want my dying words to be "just go get the first aid kit... It's in the beige cabinet in the corner, behind the carving machine... Under the stack of armor plates... No the other armor plates... Under the bag from the fabric store... By the shipping boxes... Behind the MDF scraps... Aaaagh!"
I'm really hoping I have a chance to come up with something a bit more poetic.
So the other day (which was a Wednesday in this case) I was suffering from some time alone with my macabre imagination and decided that I needed my first aid kit to be more visible and readily accessible. Maybe even have a couple of them hanging on the wall(s) in the workshop so that, in the heat of the moment, a panic-stricken person within inches of death can see their salvation shining back at them and know that everything will be okay.
But where have I seen such a thing? I'll tell you where. In video games:
This is a health pack from HALO. Something like this hanging on the wall makes it plainly obvious to the most casual observer that there's a first aid kit ready at hand. Since I seem bent on building everything that humans use in the HALO games, why not a first-aid kit too?
The first thing I did was gather up oodles and gobs of reference images. It turns out that aside from the logo on the outside of the box, the health pack hasn't changed very much throughout the various games in the HALO franchise. I also had to decide on a size. In order to make it fit my vacforming table and not take up too much wall space, I made it just under a foot tall. Then I spat out this quick CAD drawing to give myself something to work with:
In case you're wondering, I use TURBOCAD. It's surprisingly capable and inexpensive.
Back in the workshop, I transferred that CAD drawing to a piece of MDF I had laying around:
As you can see, I made changes to my own design right away. It makes me wonder why I even bothered with the drawing in the first place.
The next step was to cut out the rough shape on the band saw:
Then I used the flapwheel grinder to taper the ends down:
After that, I added a couple more layers behind it and used Bondo auto body filler to smooth out some of the areas that needed it and add the sloped areas to the side recesses:
The last step was a bit of touch-up with some spot putty (the green parts):
Finally, I sprayed it with a few coats of white primer in order to make sure it was actually smooth:
With the face done, the next step was to make the back side. This was just a plain block with the same outline as the rest of the kit:
When I made the first pull from this forming buck, I wasn't happy with it at all. There were undercuts and problems all over the place and I decided to scrap the whole thing and go back to the drawing board. Or back to TURBOCADrather. The first step was to turn my simple 2D drawing into a usable 3D model:
I'm slow with 3D modelling, so that took a couple hours and half a bottle of wine. I then exported it as a .stl file that Lopez (my Craftsman Carvewright) could carve out for me. Here's the end result:
Once I'd glued the pieces together and done a bit of cleanup, I laid them out on the forming table:
The three pieces above are, from left to right, the back/bottom, the front/top, and the inner liner for the bottom. This will become clearer as I put it together.
Then my friend Matt and I cooked up a sheet of white styrene plastic (because it's cheap and it's white) and pulled a copy of the whole thing:
On our second try, the parts came out nice and clean with no webbing or thin spots:
I had Matt cut out some stickers on his vinyl cutting machine. After cutting out the parts and stacking them together, I did a quick test for healing powers:
It didn't really work yet.
After a bit more cleanup on the edges of the forms, I finally had a pull that I was happy with:
Final assembly was a matter of trimming the edges, adding a bit of trim to the outside pieces, gluing in some nylon webbing to work as hinges, and adding the vinyl sticker to the front:
The latch was cobbled together from scraps of foam PVC sheet and four neodymium magnets:
The finished result is pretty presentable: (even if I did put the sticker on crooked)
Since I had a working case, all that remained was actually filling it with potential lifesaving stuffs (strapped in with elastic to keep it tidy):
I'm disappointed that the inside isn't very science-fiction looking. I've paid a lot of attention while playing the games and you never actually see the insides of these things. I'm going to go out on a limb and imagine it probably looks more like this:
I may make a non-functioning prop version later with a simulated EKG and defibrillator and an array of hypo-syringes and blinking lights, but it's a pretty low priority right now.
For now I've got a sharp-looking first aid kit which hangs on the outside of my tool cabinet with the aid of some heavy-duty velcro:
Seeing it there reminds me that I can rest at ease knowing that my frantic pointing in the midst of arterial bleeding or a sucking chest wound* might help some frightened assistant actually do me some good.
Of course, the generally cluttered state of the workshop might still be my undoing:
Barring any serious injury, I've got a few more ridiculously goofy projects I'm about to finish, so stay tuned for more...
The Ninja Garden Gnome is a master of sabotage, infiltration, and martial arts. A shadow in the darkness, he moves like the wind. The ninja garden gnome is as elusive as a raindrop in the ocean. You will never see the ninja garden gnome. You will never hear the ninja garden gnome. At best, you can only suspect that the ninja garden gnome is there.
When you place your order, you will receive no tracking number. There is no way to track the ninja garden gnome. No box will ever arrive. There will be nothing to unwrap. Packaging leaves traces. There will be no trace of the ninja garden gnome.
Once the ninja garden gnome arrives, you still will not see him. Even the most alert sentry and the most advanced surveillance systems are unable to detect the ninja garden gnome. You will not find the ninja garden gnome sleeping. The ninja garden gnome does not sleep. He waits.
Shown in the photo is a typical garden with a ninja garden gnome. Look all you want, you will not see him.
Back in August of 2009 I bought a Canon point-and-shoot digital camera. Specifically, it was a Canon PowerShot SD1400IS. I liked it. It was orange.
Unfortunately, I carry my point-and-shoot everywhere. If I'm driving, it's in a cup holder, when I'm in the workshop it's in my chest pocket, and when I'm sailing, it's sitting in the cockpit next to me. It gets hot and cold and surrounded by lint, dust, and humidity. If I don't drop, melt, crush, or magnetize a new camera in the space of a year, I count myself lucky.
The latest one survived all of that for sixteen months. Sure, it started to get little spots in the images from internal dust contamination, but it still worked so it was no big deal. It couldn't focus when I zoomed in, but that just meant standing closer to my subjects so it was no big deal. In fact, I've ignored the past several months worth of problems that were no big deal right up until about two weeks ago.
That was when I found myself reaching through a fence to take a picture of a chicken standing on top of a sheep (yes, really) and ended up dropping my beleaguered, veteran camera lens-first into a pile of donkey shit. Such is life for my point-and-shoot cameras.
Since then, it's never been quite the same. Somehow I managed to gum up the workings of the lens to the point where it would no longer open or close. At long last, I had to accept that the camera had died. So it goes.
To help stave off my grief, I ordered a new Canon point-and-shoot digital camera. Specifically, it's a Canon PowerShot A2200 HD. I like it. It's red.
It arrived yesterday and it wasn't until today that I finally got a chance to test it out. I was visiting with my dad in his new shop and while we were discussing his cab-over truck project, I noticed a little spider crawling across the peeling paint next to the door. It was only about an inch long, but I figured it would be a good test of my camera's ability to take a quick, detailed snapshot:
Test complete. I'm thrilled with my new carrying around camera. Now I can get to messing it up.
The garden gnomes started by giving each other dirty looks. Then there were angry words, thrown stones, and the occasional late-night assault. Then, before you know it, they're firing explosive ordnance at each other. When the time for carnage inevitably comes, there's no better choice than the Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot, hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher. Known more famously as the RPG-7.
In the hands of an untrained guerilla, the RPG-7 can have deadly effect. Wielded by the seemingly-harmless garden gnome, it becomes downright devastating:
The low-cost ruggedness, reliabile simplicity, and thorough effectiveness of the RPG-7 has made it the most widely used rocket-propelled grenade launcher in the world. Dozens of nations use the weapon, and it is manufactured in numerous variants. Especially popular with irregular and guerrilla forces, it's been used for over fifty years in almost all conflicts across all continents from Vietnam to Afghanistan.