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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.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tank Progress Continues...

It's been a busy week, but I've still managed to make a lot of progress on my little Sherman tank.  First off, I had to rip down an ipe plank and make the last sixteen track shoes I needed.  Here I am turning the ends on the lathe:
Turning Track Plates

Once I had all the parts I needed, I lined them up on the table saw and pulled out the jig:
Track Parts Lineup

Then it was time to pre-drill, glue, and screw all of the parts together.  There were 58 outer track plates and 58 inners, so I had to turn down 116 ends, fit them with 116 stainless bushings, then drill 232 holes and drive 232 screws, all while sandwiching a strip of conveyor belting and a thich coat of epoxy in between.  It was a long afternoon:
Making Tracks

In the end, this was the resulting track:
Second Track Built

I also made a lot of progress on the transmission.  I learned a lot along the way.  Among the lessons: I can't weld worth a damn.  Also, the grinder absolves the welder of many sins:
Grinding Transmission Welds

After I'd cleaned up the welds (most of which looked like some kind of moon rocks) I mounted the shafts, gears, and belts:
Transmission Assembled

Now I just need to attach the idler levers, mount the whole assembly under the driver's seat, connect a drive belt to the engine, and run chain to the drive shafts at the forward end of the tank.  Then I'll just need to cut out my drive sprockets, hang the tracks, and start tearing up the back field.

Here's the finalized design for the drive sprockets:

It turns out that a nine-tooth sprocket is the largest I can reasonably fit under the sponsons on either side of the tank.

Stay tuned for further updates on this goofy project...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gingerbread from the Dark Side

This past week my 8-year old nephew was tasked with decorating a gingerbread man in school.  The result? Gingerbread Darth Maul:
Darth Ginger Maul

Impressive... Most impressive.

Notice the double-ended candy cane lightsaber.

Clearly this kid is related to me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

HALO BR55HB Battle Rifle Build

When the whole crowd was dressed out for Halloween, I pulled out my big box of HALO weapon props and found only one assault rifle, a trio of pistols, a pair of submachine guns, and four frag grenades.  Deciding that this would not be enough for the lot of us to wield threateningly we decided to go out unarmed.

Since we will be doing a proper photoshoot soon, I figured I ought to get to work on building some armaments.  Since Lopez did such a good job building my Sniper Rifle, I figured I'd have him crank out the battle rifle as well.

Here's the first half cut out:
BR55 Right Side

This is Mallory, my occasional shop assistant, modelling it for scale reference:
BR55 Mallory

Here's both halves glued together with epoxy:
BR55 halves glued

This is what the unpainted, partly-sanded, epoxy-coated prototype looked like when held by a crazy person:
BR55 Test Fit

With a bit of touch-up and detail work, here's the prototype with the first coat of black primer:
BR55HB Right Side

While Lopez did a great job for the most part, I did have to add some material to widen the foregrip, score a few line details, and drill some fastener holes here and there.  Here's a closeup shot:
BR55HB Details

Separately, I built the barrel out of a few pieces of rod and tube stock and a small chunk of MDF:

I didn't glue the forward end on, but I did tack it in place with some two-sided tape for a few pictures:
BR55 Scale shot

BR55 attitude shot

One pic got some photoshop magic (that totally didn't make up for my lacking full costume):
Deadly Shawn

In the above pics, I'd just tacked on a red dot scope that came with a cheap airsoft gun to serve as a placeholder. Here's what the final scope prototype looked like once I'd built it:
BR55HB Scope

Of course, that's not nearly as cool as the winning shop teacher style I adopted while building it:
Shawn Thorsson turning wood

With the scope built, the last step was to spray on some truck bed liner to add texture to the parts of the main body that needed to not be smooth:
BR55HB Textures

Here's the first half of the mold with the mothermold built up and the clay cleaned off of everything:
BR first mold half

After smearing vaseline over the exposed rubber, I built up the second side with its own silicone jacket:
BR Second jacket half

Meanwhile, I'd made block molds for the scope and barrel assemblies and cranked out a few casts:
BR add-on bits

Once the silicone had cured for the second half of the mold, I made the second half of the mothermold:BR Mother Mold

The mothermold was made using urethane casting resin and reinforcing it with fiberglass mat.  I've spent enough time cutting my hands on the countless little spikes that always seem to pop out when I do this that I've finally learned to smooth the surface using some wax paper.

I dyed the resin red because I just happened to have some red pigment handy and I couldn't resist.  Besides, everyone knows that red cars go faster, so maybe red molds will make resin cure faster...

One of the minor challenges for molding this piece was the pair of rails at the forward end of the rifle.  Since there's a gap between them, I had to make the mold with a plug to keep them separate.  Here's the gap left behind when I'd cleaned the clay out:
BR Mold Void
It's not too pretty, but there was a reason for making the edges so bumpy and uneven.  I poured more silicone into the gap and all of those bumps will serve to make sure the parts fit together correctly when it's time to pour castings:
BR Mold Plug

Here's all of the various parts of the molds that I've made to build copies of the rifle:
BR55HB Molds

Here you can see the trigger guard in place.  I decided to use an aluminum insert since this thin part would be too easy to break if it were cast in resin:
BR55HB Trigger Guard Insert

At long last, I'm pleased to present a casting of the BR55HB Battle Rifle, hot outta the mold:
BR55HB Demolding

Here's some sort of maniac holding my first two casts:
BR55HB Dual Wield

Detail shot of the trigger guard cast in place:
BR55HB Trigger Guard

Here's some of the detail bits added in:
BR55HB Detail Bits Added

Comparison shot of the prototype and the first two casts:
BR55HB Castings

I rushed through assembling the first cast so I could see what it would look like in black primer.  It did not disappoint:
BR55HB Primed

Here's a shot of me holding it for scale:
BR55HB Port Arms

And here's a shot of the "first person shooter" view:
BR55HB First Person

Now it's time to paint this baby up to pop out all of the details so I can take some sexier pictures of it.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranking Away on the Tank Again

To spurn myself into making progress on the little Sherman, I pushed it back into the workshop and solemnly swore that the next time it left the room would be when I drove it out. 

It turns out I know me pretty well and having this beast in my way was just the motivation I needed to get it done and moved.  So far this week I've finished assembly on thirty-two of the fifty-eight track plates I need in order to build my second track.

Then I hoisted the turret up and out of the way so I could get to work on the drive train:
Tank Opened Up

Sometime in the past two or three years, a shipmate in the naval reserve turned me on to Dave Manson's Youtube channel where he's been detailing all of his scaled tank projects down in Australia. He's made some amazing finished tanks, but the main thing he figured out that I was stuck on was the transmission:

The man is a genius!  With a few minor adjustments, his transmission idea would be an exact fit for my own Sherman.

Not long after seeing the video, I ended up ordering almost all of the bits and pieces to make the transmission.  On several occasions I've gone ahead and mocked up a housing to help me decide how it will all come together.  Each time I ended up just jumbling all of the parts back into a box, setting it back inside the hull and letting it rust just a bit more.  On Monday I caught my father in a welding mood and we spent a few minutes sticking the steel frame together:

Transmission Welding

Here's how it looks right now:
Tank Transmission at 90 Percent

This whole assembly will fit under the driver's seat.  Now all I need is to get all of the belts to connect the split shafts in front to the counter-rotating shafts in back, and an input pulley to attach one of the counter-rotating shafts to the engine.  I'll be adding one more vertical post so I can put in one more pillow block bearing to steady the shaft that the engine input will be attached to.

I'm working out the exact shape of the engine mounting plate.  When I've got it cut, I'll be bolting the 7hp Honda engine into the engine compartment.  Then I can start plumbing in the exhaust and fuel systems.

Stay tuned for more progress.  I'm hoping to have pictures of my niece driving this beast around during her Christmas visit.  That, and I really want this thing out of the way so I can walk around in the workshop again.  The list of new projects is getting longer again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sniper Rifle Update: the Molds are Done!

As previously discussed in this post and this post, I started building the sniper rifle from HALO 3 a while ago.
Once I had the prototype ready, I sent it off to another maker who agreed to go through the very expensive and time-consuming moldmaking process in exchange for keeping a few of the castings out of the mold.  After a few bumps along the way, he's finally got the molds done for the main body and the barrel (I'm doing all of the little parts myself).

Here's the picture he posted of the first casting out of the mold:
First Sniper Cast right side

He mentioned that he had an issue with air bubbles in a few places.  The worst of them was at the buttstock on the left side as you can see here:
First Sniper Cast left side

The "little parts" include the bipod legs, magazine, lower handle, recoil suppressor, and scope assembly.  These were all basically just box molds.  Here's some of my molds and the first few castings:
Small bit casts

I really can't wait to get a hold of the molds and start putting together a finished copy of this beast.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Review: Pop Sculpture

Over Thanksgiving weekend I read through a book titled Pop Sculpture: How to Create Action Figures and Collectible Statues.  I've been sculpting and casting all manner of things for a few years now and was still amazed at the wealth of knowledge contained in this book.

If you're thinking of making your own action figures and the like, this book is a must read.  Not only was it thoroughly informative, but it was also highly entertaining from beginning to end.

Pop Sculpture: How to Create Action Figures and Collectible Statues

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Last week my cousin Tiffany hit me up to sit and be her guinea pig for an assignment in her theater make-up lab class at Santa Rosa Junior College.  The assignment: gender transformation.

Unfortunately, she ran a bit late that morning and was missing half of her kit as well as the wig she'd picked out.  Then it turned out that the hat she brought was way too small for me.  Given all of the handicaps, I think she still did a decent job.

Of course, I have looked better:

After the photoshoot, I eagerly scrubbed off as much of the drag queen as I could before Tiffany took me on a tour of the set shop where they were tuning up all of the set pieces for this weekend's production of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."  It looks like it will be a fun show.

You can get more information about it at their website: http://www.santarosa.edu/theatrearts/index.html


Tron Lightcycle by Parker Brothers Choppers

As I mentioned the other day, this outfit down in Florida is making seven of these. Here's the first one going though its initial road tests a couple of weeks ago.

You can see more videos of the lightcycle, including some in-progress footage on their Youtube channel.
I still want to see it lit up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Red vs. Blue Caboose Helmet Begins

A few folks pointed out that my lineup of Red vs. Blue costumes were inaccurate because Caboose (the taller blue guy) was wearing the correct MkVI helmet and he was supposed to be wearing the wrong Mk5 helmet.  They were right.

In all of my searching, the best looking version of the H3 Mk5 helmet that I can find is still the model made by 405th user "flyingsquirl" for building with the Pepakura software.  While I was in Afghanistan, I actually ended up building this particular model.  Unfortunately, I made it way too big and ended up giving it to the driver assigned to my office, a Canadian Army Master Corporal who put some TLC into it and ended up wearing it out and about* while he was still in-country:

I built a smaller version as well, but then I decided that the proportions were still off and I didn't want to mess with the paper helmets anymore. 

Fast forward almost two years and fortunately, through a ridiculously convoluted process of file conversion, I am now able to cut that model into slices that Lopez the Robot Whittler could cut out for me.  Here's the four slices that make up the top of the helmet cut out in MDF with a coating of epoxy to harden and seal them:Caboose Helmet Begins

Here's the other slices for the sides of the helmet attached:
Caboose Helmet Sides

As you can see, I made a significant mistake while slicing the model and ended up with some big gaps at the chin and a foreshortened nose.  Fortunately, it still fits:
Caboose Helmet Test Fit

The next step will be a lengthy process of filling the gaps and building up the nose with some Bondo.  Then sanding, filling, smoothing, and shaping before I finish cutting out the faceshield area and adding all of the little details to the back of the head.

Stay tuned.  I'm sure I'll write updates about this build on a rare and intermittent basis...

*This photo was not retouched at all. That goofy bastard actually went walking around in the mountains of Afghanistan wearing a paper helmet that I made.