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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Genestealer Build Update 13: Prepping the Chest for Molding and a Few Other Bits and Bobs

First off, let me apologize for the lack of updates.  We got pretty swamped for a couple of weeks with one quick project I'll be posting about soon and another big project I may never get to post about at all.  These things happen.

On the plus side, I've suddenly been given a major incentive to focus on the genestealer build, so this thing should start showing a lot of progress in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, our friend Gene did a fine job of keeping the dust off of this little patch of work bench where he was waiting:Benchtop Dust Collector

Realizing that clutter had become the enemy of progress in a big way, we cleared off the bench he was sitting on:
Empty Bench for a Minute
This always helps me feel like I'm about to get some stuff done.

Despite all of the other priorities, I was able to add another thick coat of epoxy to the newly reshaped chest:
Final Epoxy Coating Curing

A few days later my friend Ian stopped by looking to stave off some boredom and do some tinkering, so I set him to work adding cardboard margins to the edges of the part:
Ian Adding Cardboard Margins

This is the first step on the way to making the eventual fiberglass mold for this piece.  Unfortunately, we didn't get around to adding the clay that goes on next:
Upper Chest Ready for Clay Margins
We'll get to that this week.

We ran out of time that day because Ian had to get home, but first we needed to lifecast some hands which we'll use as sculpting bases for the four hands the creature needs.  Ian's hands are slightly bigger than mine, so we molded his in the "live long and prosper" pose to be used as the three-fingered upper hands, while mine were molded fully-splayed for use as the five-fingered lower hands.

The end result was a pretty handsy critter:
Handsy Genestealer

Since I'm really wanting to see this beasty start walking around, I figured I should get a jump on this piece:Shorts Render 1

So I started printing up the pieces.  The first recognizable part that came out was the tail:
Tail Parts Printed

And now I'm just about done assembling the whole thing.  It's not small:
Assembling Sculpting Armature for Rubber Midsection

So now I'm going to have to start rushing through some skin sculpting and molding so I can start pulling rubber parts.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Genestealer Build Update 12: Shorts and Thighs Modeled

Last week was mostly about playing catchup now that we're back in the shop. Jeff was still hard at work on the 3D modeling for this project though, so he was able to fine-tune the models for the lower half of the creature so they would better fit the scan of me in the stilts. Since Jeff is leaner than me, if we can get me into the suit, the same parts will definitely be big enough for him to wear them too.

So he got the digital sculpt done for the lower section of the torso:
Shorts Side

The plan is to turn these into a pair of rubber shorts with the tail built in.  So once he sent me the model, I made a few changes to turn them into a sculpting armature that we can use as the base for a clay sculpt to cast in silicone later.  This mostly just meant lengthening the upper end of the waist and the bottom of the legs as well as removing the little spine nubs from the back and tail:
Shorts Render 1
I opted to leave the bulge on the front.  Might as well make this creature look happy.

They're gonna be really sexy when it comes time to put them on:
Ridiculous Digital Shorts Test Fit

Then again, the whole thing will go through a series of ridiculous iterations on the way to getting fully-dressed:
Ridiculous Digital Test Fit

So now I'm in the process of printing the sculpting armature for the shorts and splitting up the thigh pieces so I can carve forming bucks on the CNC machines.  Meanwhile, Jeff is fine tuning the sculpt for the lower legs and feet.  So we're on track to get this guy looking like so:    Genestealer Legs Shaping Up

Meanwhile, the arm parts have been getting occasional attention on their way to being completely trimmed and prepped for paint:
GS Arms Trimming and Sanding

The head sculpt still needs to get finished.  At least he looks like he's having a good time while he waits: 
HUuurgh!

Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Genestealer Build Update 11: New Stilts and Tuning up the Chest for Molding

When I last posted anything significant about this goofy little build, I had it sitting on the bench looking like so:Genestealer Arms Test Fit Back Right

Meanwhile, Jeff had the digital model looking like so:Jeffeffe's Genestealer Beefy Legs

So it's been time to get at least some kind of start on the lower half of the body.  The problem is, Jeff's been doing the digital sculpt based on a wild guess about the proportions and sizing things thicker to be on the safe side  So the legs are pretty chonky.  

In order to make the legs look a little leaner, we'd need to get a scan of our actual body shapes, including the stilts we'd be wearing in order to fit the parts better.

The stilts started with a lifecast of our feet standing on our tippy toes.  Those lifecasts were then wrapped in a 1/4" thick layer of clay like so:
Clayed up Legs

The clay was smoothed out and coated with a PVA mold release, then given a coat of black gelcoat:
Gelcoated Legses

Once the gelcoat had set up, I used copious amounts of bondo glass build a pad onto the bottom of the feet with a length of 1" steel square tubing bonded into place:
Strut Graft in Place

The whole assembly was then layered over with four layers of 3/4 ounce fiberglass mat:
Glassing in Progress

Once the glass had cured, I cut each leg into two parts and pried them off of the lifecasts:
Fiberglass Stilt Bodies Trimmed

For the initial trial run, I laid in a layer of 1/4" foam and strapped them onto my legs:
Strapping on the Stilts

We'll refine the strapping arrangement sooner than later, but for now, duct tape does the job:
Initial Practice in the Stilts

Stalking around on the smooth concrete floor with nothing for traction except for the hard, sharp edge on the tip of the steel tubing proved to be a bit precarious.  So I headed outside to walk around on the gravel driveway:
Venturing Outside

That worked just fine until I got to the edge, stepped on the softer ground, and stabbed my left foot all the way into the earth, nearly losing my balance and doing all kinds of damage that would've been tough to explain in the emergency room.

So we'll get back to the stilts later.

The other big stride was on the chest prototype.  I decided I'd like to have a bit more structure to mount the head and upper arms onto, so I didn't want to make the whole chest a separate part.  Instead, the lowest "rib" and the underarm part of the shell will be removable to get the thing on and off without dislocating the wearer's shoulders.  So I split it thusly:
Chest Split 1

The upper portion will be molded without this lower piece, so I went ahead and taped everything in place where it would end up once it's finally assembled:
Chest Split 2

The overlapping areas of the back section were wrapped inside and out with masking tape which was coated in a release agent.  Then I smeared over the gap with some bondo glass:
Ribcage Mating Surfaces

I did the same thing at the joint between the upper and lower arm holes:
Making the Mating Surfaces 

This process was repeated for all four of these seams:   20240409_171303

Now, with the tape removed, the seams overlap in such a way that friction and tension are enough to keep the pieces from falling apart:
Chest Split and Realigned

With that done, the back was popped off of the chest piece so we can smooth it out prior to molding:
Chest hooks

This entire evolution was done with this poor, tragic, neglected dog underfoot:
Shop Doog Resting

Back to the stilts, earlier this week Jeff stopped by so we could get a 3D scan of one of us with the stilts on.  Since I'm a bit thicker than he is, if the parts are big enough to fit me, they'll probably fit him just fine.  So I was elected to be scanned.  So I had to get into something form-fitting and get back into the stilts.  

This time I was smart enough to put a tennis ball on the tip of each foot for traction and grab a pair of forearm stilts to help me keep myself upright until I get more comfortable with these new feet:
Stiltwalking with Crutches for Learning

The first attempt at scanning ran into some problems with the dark area of the stilts, so we misted on a coat of flat white paint to make them easier for the scanner to pick up:
Lightening the Stilts for 3D Scanning

Then we cleared out some space in the office and got to scanning:
Stilt Scanning

this time we got all of the nooks and crannies:
Stilt Scanning

After the scanning was done, Jeff got to work smoothing out the seams on the arm parts:
Seam Cleanup

Later that evening, he sent me the scan data.  It's glorious:
Stilts Scan

So here's what the current digital model looks like:
Stilts Test Fit

Now Jeff can begin refining the waist/hip/tail section so we can print out another sculpting armature and get started on making the rubber bit happen:
Genestealer Waist and Hip Beginnings

Meanwhile, the head sculpt is collecting dust on the bench and slowly being surrounded by little distractions:
Collecting Dust

Next week I'll be focused on another project, but once that's done I'll be shifting focus back to this guy.  That head needs finishing and soon.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Starship Troopers Mobile Infantry Armor Part One: Masters, Molds, and Casting

Ever since the movie debuted, I've had the Starship Troopers Mobile Infantry costume on my cosplay bucket list.  When the production-used props and costumes went up for auction I didn't get wind of it until well after all of the bidding was over and there was no way I could get any for myself.  

Then, b
ack in 2019, my Southern California based friend J.P. Pollio lent me his screen-used set of Starship Troopers armor so I could use it as a template to make replicas of my own.  The plan was to build a whole squad of Mobile Infantry troopers in time for San Diego Comic Con that year.


Of course, we were also making our Sisters of Battle squad and that build ended up overtaking everything else in the world while I was screaming toward the deadline.

So the Starship Troopers gear stayed in the box and when I asked J.P. if he wanted it back when we were all in San Diego, even though I hadn't gotten around to making my copies.  He said he wasn't worried about it.  We'd just go ahead and do a squad cosplay next year.

Then, in the beginning of the next year, the world came to a sudden, screeching halt.  With the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing, big, crowded events like San Diego Comic Con, already a notorious haven for the spread of viruses of all kinds, were cancelled or postponed in the interest of public health.  It would be two years before the full-scale event would happen in person again.  In that time, since nobody was going out in costume to any events, the box of screen-used armor sat on the shelf and was largely forgotten.

Then, in 2023, J.P. asked if I could hand it off to him when we met up at Wondercon in Anaheim.  "No problem," says I, "I'll go load it into the car now."  Then I loaded it into the car.

We caught up several times over the course of that event and each time I say him I said, "let's go grab your box," and he'd say something like, "we'll get to it."

Then we didn't get to it.  I was halfway through the six-hour drive home when it occurred to me that his box was still in the car.

So this year, about a month before Wondercon, J.P. asks if I can bring it back again.  This time, since I wasn't too too busy, I'd have time to make my own masters based on exacting measurements of the original parts and still be able to get him back his stuff.

I started by making a copy of the lower back plate out of 1/2" MDF with some 1/4" MDF details layered on top:

Backplate progress

Each of the little raised blocks was cut using the jigsaw and/or scrollsaw, then beveled on the disc sander or whittled to the right angle by hand in the case of the sides with inside corners.

Fully assembled and glued together, the lower back looked like so:
Backplate progress

To minimize the time spent sanding and filling the edges, the bevels were soaked with a tiny bit of thin CA glue in order to seal them up:
Backplate progress

Here's a comparison shot showing my MDF master alongside the screen-used back plate:
Backplate progress

Here I am being all smug and self-satisfied about it:
Smug Satisfaction

The edges were blended in a bit more using some glazing and spot putty:
Backplate progress

After a couple of rounds of putty and sanding, I was pretty happy with it:
Backplate progress

It would go on to receive two or three coats of grey primer:
Backplate progress

At this point, I was thrilled with the progress.  Geri the Husky* was not impressed:
20240216_191134

The waist section was a tiny bit more complicated to make.  I still started with the overall shape in 1/2" MDF, but then I also added a layer of 1/8" foamed PVC to get the recesses I needed before adding the raised details in 1/4" MDF:
Waist Section Progress

Here it is after the first coat of primer:
Waist Primed

And alongside the screen-used pieces:
Comparison Shot 2

The collar, or shoulder piece was done in the same manner.  It was made more difficult by the fact that I didn't want to undo the seam at the left shoulder, so I had to do a bit of creative stretching and bending it to determine the exact shape of the overall outline:
Chest armor masters begin

Here's Rachel doing the last round of filling and sanding to smooth out the fully-build shoulder/chest section:
Rachel Prepping MI Collar Armor Master

With all three parts in primer, things were looking pretty good:
SST Armor Masters Primed

Then they'd get a couple of coats of shiny lightish read paint:
Gloss Coat for the Mobile Infantry Armor Masters

And there they were left to dry for a couple of days to ensure the paint wouldn't affect the mold rubber at all.  Shiny:
Shiny and Pink

Geri the Husky* was still unimpressed:
Geri Hiding from a Motorcycle

Since there was no way to make the MDF parts wearable, would have to make a mold and cast them in something else.  The first step in moldmaking was to mount each piece onto a flat board and build a cardboard wall around the part, leaving about an inch of margin all the way around the edges:
Mobile Infantry Armor Molding

All three pieces were set up this way:
Mobile Infantry Armor Molding

Then it was just a matter of mixing up a metric butt-ton of silicone rubber and pouring the molds:
Pouring Silicone for Mobile Infantry Armor

The table was shimmed to make it all sit perfectly level while the rubber cured overnight:
Mobile Infantry Armor Molding

The following morning, I removed the rubber molds from the parts:
MI Armor Molds Peeling off of Masters

The parts themselves were cast in Flex Foam-it 15 "Tuff Stuff" from Smooth-On.  I like this material because it is self skinning, so I wouldn't have to put a layer of rubber into the molds like they did when they made the original props for the film.  

I figured I'd have to paint the final cast parts to get the exact right color, but in order to make any scuffs or scratches in the paint a bit less noticeable, I also tinted the foam by adding a bit of UV black, green, and brown to part B before mixing in part A: 
Adding Colorant to Foam

To ensure adequate mixing and give it additional aeration to encourage expansion a bit, I mix the foam with a mechanical mixer for a solid 20 seconds making sure to scrape the sides of the container with the mixer to blend in any residue of part A or part B clinging to the sides:
Mixing Foam

Then it's on to pouring the foam into the mold:
Pouring Foam 1

In order to make sure there are no visible voids at the edges, I start by pouring along the edges first:
Pouring Foam 2

Then I finish by pouring whatever's left in the bucket over the open field in the middle of the mold:
Pouring Foam 3

As long as I've mixed the right amount of foam, it will expand to fill the whole mold, but if there's going to be any parts that are missing a bit of thickness, it'll be better to have them somewhere in the middle where nobody can see them.

As the foam begins to expand, I lay a piece of stretch knit fabric over the top:
Laying in Fabric Reinforcement 1

This is basically T-shirt fabric that I'm using to reinforce the rubber:
Laying in Fabric Reinforcement 2

This particular foam that I'm using is pretty durable stuff, but since the strap brackets will be riveted on later, I need to give the rivets and washers something a big more substantial to grab onto.  

Once the fabric is laid in place and wrinkle free, I cover it with wax paper:
Covering with Wax Paper

This is my last chance to make sure there are no wrinkles in the backing fabric:
Checking For Straightness


The wax paper ensures that any foam that gets forced through the weave of the fabric as it's expanding won't glue itself to the board that I lay on top for back pressure:
MDF Board for Back Pressure

To keep the foam from overflowing the edges of the mold as it expands and help it lock into the fibers of the fabric, I place sandbags on top of the board:
Adding Sandbags for Additional Pressure

Lots of sandbags:
Lots of Sandbags

After about 90 minutes, the foam has cured and the part can be de-molded:
Chest demolding

My coloration isn't a perfect match for the screen-used part, but I'm pretty happy with it:
20240326_192009

Of course, when I throw it on the pile of castings, I can see how variable my coloration method is:
Chest demolding

Besides, the parts will end up being painted anyway.

Unable to stay patient, I decided to trim the edges of the parts and do a quick test fitting using gaff tape as a stand-in for the strapping:
First flexfoam casts

I definitely feel like I'm on the right track:
First flexfoam casts

Geri the Husky* is still not impressed:
Bored Geri

In my next post about this project I'll detail the assembly of the cast parts and all of their strapping and rigging.  The current goal is to have at least a few of these guys walking around together at San Diego Comic Con this year.

Also, for those of you wondering, J.P. has been reunited with his screen-used armor and spent Sunday at Wondercon in Anaheim sporting it with pride.

Stay tuned...

*Geri (pronounced a lot like "Gary" with a Norse accent) was one of Odin's two wolves.  The other one was named Freki.  I'm not sure which one was the female, but sooner or later I'll have the other half of the set.