Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: the Year in Review

This one's been one helluva ride.  The year started off slow with me tinkering on a handful of projects and generally going nowhere in life.  I suppose there are those who would call it "comfortable," but for me it feels more like "stagnant."

Somewhere in January I was invited to take a tour of Rancho Obi-Wan, where Steve Sansweet has on display his record-setting collection of Star Wars memorabilia:



Life started to pick up speed sometime in February when I was invited to bring a handful of characters to the Petaluma Hobby Expo. This meant that I got to scramble to put together a few suits of Imperial Guard armor to escort my Space Marines around at the event:
Sentry Duty

I also decided that I had to make one more much more elaborate suit of Space Marine armor:
Chillin

Between late February and early March, I ended up making a couple more Halo Spartans:


About the same week that they were finished up, I met up with my sister and a few of her friends for dinner.  One of her friends brought along a stunningly gorgeous leggy blonde woman who I'd never met before.  She was the kind of beautiful that made me instantly sad because, in my mind, there was no way we'd ever have anything in common.  Her name was Shawnon.  In just under six weeks, she was leaving the country to study veterinary medicine overseas.

Somehow we struck up a conversation and it turns out that she's a huge video game and science fiction nerd who makes a lot of her own very high quality costume replicas.  I'm not sure how I managed it, but somehow I got her to go out with me on some really geeky dates.  Here we are at Facebook headquarters:



When she mentioned she'd like to help out in the workshop from time to time, I was dubious.  When she actually showed up and did it, I knew I was in love:


Shortly after that, I was asked to give a quick presentation to a local group called "Young Makers."  This was an opportunity to show some teenagers what's possible with a little bit of determination and effort.  Here's one of the many pics from my talk:


Shortly after that, Shawnon flew off to a tropical island to start learning how to fix broken dogs and cats.  That's when I finally began my much-delayed preparations for my third annual appearance at the Bay Area Maker Faire:


Unlike last year, I really didn't have anything new to show off.  My various projects still got plenty of attention:


And all of them got plenty of chance to shine:


One week later I was underway with the Sea Scout Ship Compass Rose on the way to the Ancient Mariners Regatta:


Once again I served as the chief judge for flotilla drill, which means I spent a whole weekend watching high school kids perform precision rowing:
Compass Rose and Sea Fox During Flotilla Drill

June saw me serving as a presenter for the first Quartermaster Award ceremony that the Petaluma Sea Scouts have had in over fifteen years.  Quartermaster is the Sea Scouts' equivalent to the Boy Scouts rank of Eagle Scout, but it's much more rare for anyone to actually attain it.  Monica, the recipient, has quite a lot to be proud of:


I spent the second half of June doing my annual training with the Naval Reserve.  It was two weeks worth of tedious office chores for the most part, but I did get a little bit of down time.  I spent it as far down as I could manage:


While all of this was going on, my Combat Garden Gnome sales continued to grow.  I'd been increasing production steadily and even hired additional help in order to keep up with the demand:


Over the course of the year I also sculpted three new poses.  The first was the Bayonet Attack Gnome:


Then the Mortar Launcher Gnome:


And the Radio Gnome:


By the time August rolled around, things were going great with Shawnon.  I went ahead and booked a flight out to St. Kitts to spend a few weeks vacationing with her during one of her breaks:


We managed to get out and about all over the little island:




and make new friends:


When I got back to the States, I knuckled down and got to work on a couple of projects I'd been making progress on all summer.  First, I finished the installation of some signs that I'd made custom for "Fundemonium" a local toy store:


In all, I ended up making ten of them:




While that was going on, I also made the upper half of a practical robot costume for a short film entitled "GA6E."  Here I am on location getting the actor suited up:


The plan was to have me make the head and put the actor in a skintight suit so they could add the rest of the robot in postproduction.  Apparently I managed to make it fast enough to get them to re-evaluate and decide to go with a complete practical suit instead.  It was a mad scramble right up to the last second, then I handed the top half of the suit off to Fonco Creative Services so they could make the legs and paint the whole thing.  The day before shooting began, I stopped in at Fonco to see how it had shaped up and ended up pulling an all-nighter helping the crew finish up the last bits of fabrication and painting.  In the end GA6E looked pretty good:


It looks real because it is real.

After some amazing on-location filming for GA6E, I got back to the workshop and dove into the final assembly and finish work for the Ironman suit I'd been working on.  Here's a shot of all of the separately cast parts:


At some point I counted the pieces and came up with something like 150 separately cast parts.  Each of those pieces had to be prototyped, prepped, molded, cast, trimmed, primed, painted, and clearcoated:



I had the whole thing assembled about a week and a half before Halloween:


After a pretty low-key Halloween and Thanksgiving, things took a bit of a downturn.  My dog Kira, who I've had ever since she was twelve weeks old, suddenly lost the use of her hind legs.  After a very difficult week of hoping that steroid treatments might be able to have some effect, I finally had to have her put down.  She was a pretty cool dog:
Kira Fountain

Kira Stone

A week later, Shawnon came home for her holiday break and we set to running around getting her all caught up on family and friends time.  Along the way we stole a Christmas tree, drove all over Sonoma County and down to Los Angeles.  We ended the year at Disneyland:


So it's been quite a rollercoaster of a year. The highs keep getting higher and the lows keep getting lower, but I'm very much excited about the things I've got to look forward to in 2014:














I hope you have a happy new year in 2014.  Stay tuned for more and more fascinating things to come...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ironman Costume Part 4: the Gloves

This is the fourth installment in my Ironman replica building series so far.  Here's links to the first three:

Part 1: Rapid Prototyping the Helmet
Part 2: the Hard Parts
Part 3: the Soft Parts

On a build like this, with all of the parts designed to look like metal, getting the joints to look right while still being functional gets a bit tricky.  The problems compound when you get to the hands.

Here's the finished hands I made:


To see how they were made, read on...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Combat Garden Gnome Radioman is Ready to Ship Out!

Somewhere in the wilds of a suburban garden plot right now there's a platoon of garden gnomes pinned down by suppressing fire from a hedgerow.  In the past they'd have to hunker down and wait until the opposing forces ran out of ammo or hope some friendly unit happened to be within yelling distance. 

That was before they enlisted the help of the Combat Garden Gnome Radioman:
Combat Garden Gnome Radioman

At first glance he's mostly harmless. He doesn't even have a weapon, just the comically oversized A/N PRC-25 Portable Radio set:
Combat Garden Gnome Radioman Back

But that's before he calls in an aerial bombardment and churns the very earth beneath your feet into a broiling hell that Dante could never have imagined.
Radio Kaboom

The Radioman is carefully chosen. He has to be someone with experience and steady nerves who won't get rattled under fire. He has to be able to read maps, too. If something happens to the commanding officer, the Radioman is essentially in command of the unit, calling in fire support, medevacs, and reinforcements. It's also an exceptionally dangerous job, since the conspicuous radio antenna says to the enemy "Shoot ME first!"

Here's a closeup of the details on top of his radio pack:
Radio Gnome Pack Details

The A/N PRC-25 (called the "prick 25" by GIs) is a compact, lightweight, tactical, VHF solid-state portable radio set. Over its service life more than 130,000 sets were produced. Although mainly designed for manpack use, the PRC-25 can be mounted in vehicles or aircraft as well. It can survive a 50-foot drop from a helicopter onto a steel plank runway or up to an hour submerged in six feet of water and still function reliably. It was the most widely used piece of communication equipment in Vietnam and no suburban lawn is truly secure without one.

I've got a handful of these guys listed in the Etsy shop.  You can order your own by clicking HERE.
Radio Gnome Scale Reference

More projects in the works as always.  Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss any updates.