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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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fleet Week Cruise with the Scouts

A couple of weeks back I spent a day out on the Bay with the Petaluma Sea Scouts.  I meant to post pictures and do a brief writeup, but it got lost in the mix of the past few weeks craziness.  So without further ado, here's some pictures.

First off, it was a gorgeous day to be out on the bay.  Here's a shot as the ship was approaching Angel Island:
Fleet Week Cruising

Since we arrived with some time to kill before the air show started, the Skipper decided to take a quick jaunt out through the gate and into the Pacific.  Along the way, we passed this pretty little cutter:
Fleet Week Cruising 3
I've been regularly tempted to have my next suit of sails made in that dark red color (called "tanbark").

Here's a shot of the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge as we left it astern:
Fleet Week Cruising2

Once we were back in the bay, we wedged the ship into the rest of the crowd of boats:
Fleet Week Boat Crowd

Not long after that, the air show started:
Fleet Week Air Show

The best part was the low-level flyovers:
Fleet Week Air Show 015

Then there was formation flying:
Fleet Week Air Show 061

And of course, low-level flyovers in formation:
Fleet Week Air Show 005

Much of the event was sponsored by United Airlines, so at some point in the airshow one of their airliners did a low pass over the bay:Fleet Week Air Show United Flyover
I really was hoping that it would do something more interesting than just flying over, but I guess that wouldn't go over well with the passengers on board:

"Ladies and gentlemen, the Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt light, please return to your seats and hold on tight, we're about to do a barrel roll."

Fleet Week Air Show Blue Angels Arrive

They also did some low-level flyovers:
Fleet Week Air Show Blue Angels Flyover
(Note: I got some good pictures of the crew watching the show and some good pictures of the aircraft flying over.  The above photo is a photoshop amalgamation of two of them.)

Here's one of my better shots of the six plane formation:
Fleet Week Air Show Blue Angels

And here's one of my better shots of the crew sitting on top of the pilothouse watching the show:
Fleet Week Air Show 176

When it was all over, we headed back up the river to Petaluma.  Along the way I spent some time trying to capture a decent picture of the moonset.  Here's the best I came up with:

Not terrible considering the fact that it was shot in nearly no light from the deck of a moving boat.

So that's that.

Stay tuned for further adventures...

Once the passenger jet was out of the area the Navy's Flight Demonstration Squadron, aka the Blue Angels, arrived:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Suddenly My Hobbies Seem Harmless and Inexpensive

I spend a lot of crazy money building and doing a lot of crazy things.  Still, I don't think I'll ever be able to compete with Steve Eves of Maryland.  The man built a 1/10th scale model of a Saturn V rocket.  When he finished it, it was over four stories tall and weighed well over a ton. 

Then he launched it!

Check out the video:

You may have noticed a few things wrong with the rocket.  Primarily, it's only a single stage.  He's fixing that with his follow-on project: a 1/9th scale Saturn 1B rocket.  What's more: there's another maker named Vern Hoag who has also started building the same project.  You can see pictures of both builds at ROCKETS Magazine

Right now it looks lik  Steve is way ahead of the game.  This is a bit of a bummer, because I'd really love to see them both launch at once.  Hooray for rocket races!

I like knowing there are guys like them out there.  It makes me feel like I fit in somewhere.

Now I just need to keep talking myself out of building a V1 buzzbomb...


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Workshop Photo Tour

A while back I started getting a lot of requests from new readers asking me to show a few more pictures of the space where I do most of my tinkering.

If a picture's worth a thousand words, here's a little over 9,000 words about the workshop...

First off, it's usually a total mess:
Workshop Mess
What you're looking at here is the dust and debris piling up as part of my rush to finish all of the Red vs. Blue costumes in time for Halloween.  In the background are a set of shelves that were installed just before I decided to rehabilitate this barn storage space and turn it into a functional workspace.

Unfortunately, the space was already fully occupied with decades worth of project leftovers and broken tools.  I actually uncovered no less than six drill presses in there!  I tried my damnedest to make sure that only useful things made their way back into the shop after I overhauled it, but just about everything on those shelves is useless leftovers from projects nobody will get back to anytime soon.

Also visible in the picture above is the rolling cabinet full of hand tools, an old display cabinet, and Lopez, my Craftsman Carvewright tucked behind the lawn chair.

Here's another angle on the current mess:
Workshop Mess

A few years ago when I rebuilt the workshop, I made it a point to put in extra bench space.  I had this table to work with originally:
Clean ish bench
It was a restaurant kitchen prep table that used to have a nice stainless steel top on it.  Somewhere along the way, the stainless was sacrificed to another project, but the wooden surface is still plenty sturdy.

Under the bench you can see more of my molds from the RvB project.  Along the back wall you can see one of my new benches covered with combat garden gnomes and two of the old (inoperable) drill presses that I couldn't talk my father into getting rid of.

Here's the other length of workbench that I installed in the overhaul.  I also rewired the space to install the fluorescent lighting and an electrical outlet every foot along the back of the workbenches:

I've been doing a lot of molding and casting lately.  After way too much time wasted by running around trying to find all of my resins, dyes, and fillers when I need them, I've finally just put together a mixing station where everything's handy:
Clean ish mixing station

Again, it's getting a lot of use lately, so the bench is all sorts of colorful:
Workshop Drill

Since I tend to lose things that I set in drawers or on benches, I've decided that I need to start hanging more things from the ceiling.  Here's part of my clamp selection:

Here's a shot of my friend Noah helping me make some more castings:
Workshop Noah

So that was three of the four walls in the workshop.  The fourth "wall" is mostly a garage door hung on a track so that I can roll it away and leave one whole wall open for ventilation or to drive/drag larger projects in and out:

I went ahead and installed some narrow shelves on the door itself so I could put up my collection of spraycans.  Unfortunately, the doorway seems to attract a lot of clutter right now, so whenever I need to open it wide I have to spend all kinds of time moving tools and tubs and trashcans out of the way.

So that's the quick walkthrough of the workshop.  Hopefully sometime next month all of the molds will be moved to storage and I can get back to some of my other projects.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Military Vehicle of the Week: 1/4 Scale PT Boat

Yesterday morning I got a phone call from my father telling me that this was about to close on ebay:

It's a PT Boat.  More specifically, it's a 1/4 scale model of a PT boat that was the years-long project of the seller's late friend.  It also comes with a trailer:

It has no engine or running gear of any kind and it would take a few weeks worth of steady work to finish everything up and launch it.  But the real beauty of it, the reason for even considering the purchase, is all of the little details painstakingly reproduced all over it:

I really don't need another boat right now though.

I'm glad someone outbid me on it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fire Fire Fire...

...Almost anyway.

A few nights ago I went down to the boat, sat down to watch a movie on my laptop, and noticed that it seemed to think it wasn't plugged in. 

Upon further investigation, I found that it was plugged in.  The circuit breaker for the outlet was turned on too.  Looking further, it turned out that none of my 110V systems were working.  Going to the dock, I found the shorepower connection was plugged in and the breaker was turned on.

Back on deck, I unplugged the shorepower cable and found this ugly mess:
Shore Power Charred 1

Now when I discovered the problem, that loose bit of metal was still firmly embedded in the female end of the cord.  Not thinking (since I'd just checked that the power was on) I grabbed it to pull it out. 

All things considered, I suppose it was just enough of a jolt to remind me that sometimes I'm an idiot.

Apparently, one of the leads had started to corrode.  As they corrode, the connections get worse, the terminals heat up, and start to become more flexible.  As they flex, the terminals lose their grip and the connections get worse still.  This downward spiral continues until something fails enough to the point where there is no longer a flow of electrons.

Fortunately, the connection was broken before anything burst into flame.  It wou've been unpleasant to go down to the boat and find it'd burned down and sank.

Here's what the receptacle looked like on the boat end:
Shore Power Charred 2

And here's the insides of it once I'd started to dismantle it:
Shore Power Charred 3
Like I said, I'm lucky the boat didn't burn down to the waterline.

Anyhow, a hundred dollars and an hour later I replaced the end of the cord, the receptacle, and swept up the debris:Shore Power Fixed

Now it's just a matter of waiting for the next minor problem.

Stay tuned...

Unseaworthy Vessel of the Week: BMW Z3

Yesterday morning I got down to the marina to see this circus forming up:
Sunken Beamer1
I'd just missed the fire and police department.  By the time I got there, all that was left was one Community Service Officer, two tow trucks, and a scuba diver with his boat.  The diver snaked the tow cable and his air line into the water and a few moments later, they started to drag this shiny BMW Z3 convertible up the boat ramp:
Sunken Beamer2

The owner had stopped at the top of the boat ramp early in the morning to leave a note on the door to the harbormaster's office.  Then he heard a splash, turned around, and noticed his car was gone.


It was out of the water fairly quick, but it will still end up being counted as a total loss:
Sunken Beamer3

It's a shame too.  This is one of the models I was considering as a replacement for my own car.  I suppose I could have this one for cheap, but I'm not ready to put up with the litany of little problems that will plague this car even after it's been stripped, cleaned, dried, and reassembled.

Lately it seems someone parks a car underwater at my marina about once a year.  The last time it was a van with a boat trailer.  The owner was launching his boat singlehanded, holding a bow line from the boat with his left hand through the driver's side window.  When the boat started to drift off, he jumped out to tie off the bow line and his van and trailer rolled down the ramp and disappeared underwater.

People amaze me sometimes.

Temporary Neighbors in the Marina

Normally the Petaluma Marina is a pretty quiet place: Marina Egret

So it's usually pretty interesting when I go down to my boat and find something new.  The other day, I arrived at my dock to find these lovely ladies:
Visiting Scow Schooner Alma
On the left is the scow schooner Alma, a nineteenth-century workboat typical of those that would haul cargo up and down the Petaluma river over a hundred years ago.  She is now owned and operated by the National Parks Service and is homeported in San Francisco.

On the far side of the dock is a traditional Chinese junk.  Next to the Alma it looks like not much.  But once the first batch of elementary school kids had laid aboard Alma and she got underway, the second batch went aboard the junk and started hoisting sail:
Visiting Junk

Both vessels spent a couple of days at the marina, offering tours and educational trips for local schoolkids.  Then they went up the river to the turning basin for the weekend where they were open to the public to come and look around.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HALO Project Update: NEW BOOTS!

The last time I posted anything about my HALO costume, it looked about like so:
Reach Launch 039

Any normal, sane person would've looked at that picture and called the costume finished.  Since noone could ever accuse me of complete sanity, I managed to find all sorts of things that bothered me about the way that it looked and more things that bothered me about the way that it felt. 

Among other things, the left boot spent the whole night trying to saw through my Achilles tendon.  The wound has since healed, but the cause still needed attention.

I started by creating a new boot prototype.  It was made from an amalgamation of cast parts from my old boot molds, corrugated hose sections, clay, foam, and so on.
Here's how they looked not long before the moldmaking process started:

My friend Chris stopped by and I set him to work building the parting line and drip catcher for one of the boots while I did the other:
Boots by Chris

Once they were ready, it was time to start pouring rubber:

With the rubber mold built up, the next step was the construction of a rigid mothermold:

Since the castings would be made of flexible foam, I figured I could get away with a rigid resin mold for the soles. Here's what they looked like once I'd build them with glass reinforced resin:

Once they'd cured, I went ahead and pulled them:
Sole Mold 1

Unfortunately, something had gone wrong in the curing process for the resin and I had a lot of little holes I had to fill:
Sole Mold 2

Then I applied a mold release to the sole molds and made a quick throwaway casting to make sure the molds would work:
Boot Casts throwaway

Satisfied that the molds were functional, I went ahead and placed the donor shoe inside the mold:
Boot Mold Prepped
The idea is to have a functional shoe cast inside the foam boot casting.  To keep the inner shoe from collapsing as the foam expands, I stuffed it full of tight-packed newspaper.

Once it was ready to go, I poured foam around the inner shoe so that it would expand to fill area around the uppers.  Then I poured an additional measure of foam over the bottoms of the inner shoe soles and clamped the rigid sole mold in place:
Boot Mold Clamped

Then I used a 2oz. syringe to inject more foam around the top edge of the boot mold and sat back to watch it grow:
Boot Mold Poured
The foam has a two-hour cure time, but I let this pair sit overnight before rushing back to the workshop, pulling the castings, putting them on with a pair of raw shin castings, and strutting around the workshop for a while:
Boots Made Worn

I'm pretty happy with how they came out, but there are still a couple of voids where the foam didn't penetrate and cover things all the way:
Boots Made Worn3
Still, they look the part:
Boots Made Worn 4
They're much more wearable than the last pair I made:Boots Made Worn Kneel

What's best about them is that, being made of foam, they won't make the "clop clop clop" hoof noises that rigid cast boot covers make.

Woohoo ninja boots!