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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.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

LATE POST- Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Chaplain Helmet Part 2: Painting

I had this post mostly written/edited last week and have only just now gotten around to posting it a bit.  Enjoy.

For those of you just joining, I've been working on some helmets inspired by the Space Marines from the tabletop wargame called Warhammer 40,000. When last I wrote about this project, I had a fresh casting just out of the mold that looked like so:
Chaplain cast

With the helpful assistance of two different types of primer, three different kinds of white paint, some chrome paint, a bottle of mustard (yes, mustard like you put on your sandwich), a little bit of gentle love from an airbush, and a few little details added in, it looked like so:
Chaplain Helmet Finished

There's a metric butt-ton of pictures and a detailed description of the painting process after the jump.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

LCDR Thorsson, Arriving

It took a bit of trouble getting me here, but I'm now on board the USS BLUE RIDGE (LCC-19), flagship of the US Seventh Fleet.
The fiasco started with the process of getting my orders approved in order for me to travel to Japan.  I won't bore you with the details other than to say that it looks like nobody bothered to tell the folks that buy plane tickets for Navy travellers that there was a crisis, so they didn't have anyone extra around for the weekend and there were a lot of us that got delayed in the jumble.

Once I actually got myself aboard the plane, everything came together pretty well.  I had a layover in Tokyo's Narita International Airport and I've never seen it so empty.  From there I connected to Naha Field in Okinawa.  From the looks of it, almost everyone on the plane was US military.  When we landed in Okinawa, a Navy bus met us and ferried us out to Kadena Air Base where they put us up for the night in the Bachelor Officers Quarters.

The next morning we piled our gear into the back of a truck and headed out to the pier.  I'm still trying to figure out how to upload pictures while I'm out at sea, otherwise I'd share the first snapshot I got of the ship at the pier.

Once on board, we were all give our berthing assignments and whatnot.  I'm sharing a stateroom with three other officers.  That stateroom shares a head and shower with the stateroom next door.  All things considered, they're pretty good living quarters for a Navy ship.

Not long after I'd arrived on board I managed to find Rich Servance, who's been one of my best friends in the world since freshman year of college.  While I've known for some time where I was going to be stationed, I've been keeping it quiet specifically to keep him from finding out about it and prompting another chapter in the Saga of the Ten Pound Bag of Pennies.  I've also come across three guys who I served with during my first sea tour aboard the USS CUSHING (DD-985).

The following morning, the ship left the pier and I started my involvement in Operation Tomodachi, the Humatarian Aid/Disaster Relief (HADR in military parlance) mission persuant to the earthquake and tsunami of mid-March.  Right now the US Navy has 19 ships, 140 aircraft, and 18,282 personnel involved in the mission.  The biggest concern, of course, is avoiding radioactive contamination while delivering aid supplies to those in need in the stricken area.  While we're doing that, we're also working to re-open Japanese ports which were cluttered with debris after the disaster, helping to deliver freshwater via barges to the stricken Fukushima nuclear reactors, and working with the Japanese government to provide emergency supplies and equipment to isolated communities that were cut off by the tsunami damage.

For my part, I'm one of three folks covering the Maritime watch in the Fleet Command Center.  We'll be rotating through (eight hours each per day) keeping track of the surface ships involved in the disaster relief operation.  Despite how that might sound, it's not all that interesting.  At the fleet command level nothing happens very fast.

So far, the biggest challenge for me has been getting re-acquainted with the various codes and acronyms that are daily language for naval officers, but not much use for merchant seamen.  Other than that, it's been surprisingly easy to re-integrate myself to active duty.

So that's the short version of what's been going on.  Again, I'll be posting when I can with what details I can.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

HALO Marines

A while back, I was contacted by another maker asking if I'd be willing to trade one of my Sniper Rifles from Halo 3 for a few sets of his vac-formed marine armor.  For those of you who don't know, the UNSC Marines are the other troopers that you see all over the place in the HALO games.  They look like so:

Looking at how well his armor came out, I agreed to the trade.  But there was one problem: he doesn't make helmets.  While not all of the Marines in the games wear helmets, I decided that I would need helmets.

Undaunted, I surfed my way over to the halo costuming wiki, downloaded the HD Marine helmet Pepakura file, and a few short hours and half a bottle of wine later I had the Pepakura build knocked out.

The next day, I went ahead and coated the outside of the helmet with a thin layer of polyester resin (aka hardware store fiberglass resin):
Marine Helmet Pepakura and Resin

Once the polyester resin had cured on the outside, sealing up all of the small holes where things might leak out, I went ahead and reinforced the inside with some black casting resin:
Marine Helmet Reinforced

I added the black pigment to make it easier to see where I hadn't managed to slush the resin on the inside of the helmet.

(NOTE: you could just as easily go ahead and lay fiberglass mat and resin on the inside instead of the casting resin if you wanted to just use the pep model as a wearable prop.)

Once I'd built up enough thickness for the helmet to have some strength, it was time to start the bondo work.
Fairing Marine Helmet
Since it's a pretty simple helmet, it only took a couple of passes to get it all smoothed out:

Then I sprayed on a coat of primer to make sure it looked right:
Near Done Right Quarter

Staring at the reference images too much, I noticed a handful of details that I hadn't already incorporated, such as the little rectangles on the ears and the area under the brim that stands proud by about 1/8th of an inch:

With the primer appropriately smoothed out, I sprayed on a layer of truck bed liner to the areas that would end up painted black:
Marine Helmet Texture

Ear Cap Details

Then it was time to start the moldmaking.  Step one was building a mold wall and brushing on a print coat of AM128 moldmaking silicone from Aeromarine Products to pick up all of the surface detail:

Marine Helmet jacket mold start
With the first coat cured, it was time to build up some thickness with brushable silicone instead of the plurple pourable stuff:
Marine Helmet Jacket Mold Contd

Then a fiberglass mothermold:
Marine Helmet Mothermold Left

Once the first half of the mothermold was cured, it was time to flip the whole thing over, pull off the mold wall, apply a generous coat of mold release agent to the silicone, and repeat.  Here's the completed mold:
Marine Helmet Mold and Master Bits
Tragically, the prototype helmet (left) did not survive the mold removal process.

Finally, here's the first rotocast copy:
Marine Helmet Test Fit 2

Marine Helmet Test Fit 1
When I get back from my nuclear adventure in East Asia, I'll get a handful of them painted up.

Stay tuned...


Friday, March 18, 2011

Now For Something Completely Different

Things are about to get a bit more interesting in my life.

For those of you who don't already know, I'm a Lieutenant Commander with the Naval Reserve.  This aftenoon I got a call telling me I'm being recalled to active duty for a little while in support of Operation Tomodachi*, the humanitarian aid effort in Japan.

The whole thing was very short-fused, so I'll be on a plane in no time at all.

As I did with my Afganistan adventure, I'll be posting as often as I can with stories, pictures, and whatever other information I'm allowed to post, so stay tuned.

*Tomodachi is Japanese for "friend."


The Heart of Gold's First Photoshoot

The other day Mallory, my intermittent workshop assistant, asked if I could make my boat available for her to do a photoshoot for her portfolio.  Not having any other plans for the boat just then, I agreed.

I also stuck around to help out.  The whole thing started just after dark and I'm eager to see the images the actual photographer and his assistant managed to get.  I took a handful of snapshots in the meantime, so here's the best one I got:
Mallory Boat Pose

She cleans up pretty nice. 

Mallory, that is.*  Especially considering the way she usually looks when she's hanging out with me:
Mallory Workshop

I'm counting on getting a few of the bigger, better images from the pro with the big camera when he's done sorting and processing them.  Stay tuned and I'll post them when I get them.

*The boat too, really.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Father's Latest Acquisition: The Wierdest Jeep You've Ever Seen

The other day I stopped by Dad's workshop and found this thing:
Forward Control Jeep01

"What is it," you ask?  Well, sometime in the mid-1950's, Jeep designers, possibly under the influence of CIA-sponsored LSD experiments, decided that the fun and functional Jeeps that we'd all come to know and love were inadequate for hauling cargo.  Determined to solve this problem, they rearranged the little 4-wheel drive vehicle into a cabover pickup, putting the driver and passenger on either side of the engine.  This freed up a bit more space to put things in the bed and they called it a "forward control Jeep"

Here's a couple more pictures:
Forward Control Jeep02

Forward Control Jeep04

They only made them for a few years because the design didn't really catch on. Apparently consumers didn't like the fact that, when you hit the brakes going downhill without a load in the bed, the whole thing was likely to tip forward and stand on its nose (or even flip over completely). Even the installation of massive iron weights under the rear bumper wasn't enough to make them popular.

This one will need a lot of work:
Forward Control Jeep03

But I think it's just wierd enough to make me want one. Count on me borrowing this thing for all of my hauling needs around town whenever he gets it up and running.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to give him ideas for a winning paintjob. Any suggestions?


Forgive me, Readers, for I Have Sinned...

...It's been nearly a month since I wrote anything about my goofy projects in the workshop. 

The problem is: everything's just "in progress" and I prefer to write up projects from start to finish.  Still, just to keep your interest, here's some of the irons I've got in the fire right now...

First off, I've been painting my Warhammer 40K Space Marine chaplain helmet:
Chaplain Weathered Test Fit

I'm also building some UNSC Marine costumes from Halo 3. For now I've made a helmet prototype:
Marine Helmet Texture

It's halfway through moldmaking right now:
Marine Helmet Mothermold Left

I'm also making tiny progress on my M90A Shotgun from Halo 3:
Shotgun Scale

As long as I happen to be building damned near everything the Humans ever used in HALO, I'm also working on a pair of ODST costumes.  The other day I finished assembling the backpack for one of them:
ODST Backpack Mostly Assembled

In other video game costuming news, I've started sculpting the helmet for Isaac Clarke's engineering suit from Dead Space 2:
Isaac Clarke Faceshield Placeholder 2

I'm also making progress on my Caboose helmet, doing prep work on a batch of Kneeling Rifleman Garden Gnomes, painting up a raw cast of a clonetrooper helmet from Star Wars Episode III, making a few new products for my Etsy Shop, occasionally checking in on my father's Frankenbarn project, doing preliminary design work on my display for the Maker Faire, and hopefully next week I'll have drive sprockets on my tank.

It's all sorts of interesting stuff, but for now none of it is done enough to write about.  Stay tuned...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Maker Faire is Coming

Last night my friend Matt and I attended the town hall meeting for the Bay Area Maker Faire at TechShop San Francisco.  Even though the Maker Faire itself won't be until May 21st and 22nd, the place was packed:
Maker Faire Town Hall Meeting

Still, it was a great chance to meet some of the folks involved in organizing this great event.  I'll be putting together an exhibit showcasing some of my costuming projects and techniques, as well as having some of my friends stroll the location in suits of armor and whatnot.  I'll be one of 700 or so makers with every kind of project you can think of in attendance, so if you'll be anywhere near San Mateo, California that weekend to stop by and check us out. 

If you're interested, I wrote up a brief blog entry after I went as a visitor last year.  CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Unseaworthy Vessel of the Week: Snowmobiles

This picture is not photoshopped: File:SnowmobileSkippingCloseupAugust2009WatercrossAtUnion.jpg

The water is many feet deep, and the snowmobile pictured is not being towed and has not been modified in any significant way.

What you're looking at is "Snowmobile Skipping," also known as "Watercross."  This is a sport where riders drive snowmobiles on water, counting on their wide tracks to give them enough speed to drive them across the water before they can sink.

Invented during the drug-fueled haze of the 1970s, the First Annual World Championship Snowmobile Watercross was held in July 1977 in Grantsburg, Wisconsin (where there's clearly not much else going on) and sounds more like a drunken dare between some snowmobilers wondering if they could hit the water of Memory Lake fast enough to make it the 300 feet to the island in the middle.

Since that fateful day, the event has grown by leaps and bounds.  Now, some 33 years later, tens of riders compete in the various classes ranging from the beginners' Stock Drags to the top Pro-Open Ovals Class. 

I'd love to try cutting an oval on the water in a snowmobile.  Then figure eights.

Riders are required to wear helmets and lifejackets and the snowmobiles are fitted with tethered buoys so they can be located in the likely event of a sinking.  Otherwise, they tend to strip as much gear as they can from their vehicles in order to save weight.  This usually includes removing the seat:

If you've got a snowmobile lying around that you don't like, it turns out there's a formula to the madness.  For the typical snowmobile you need to hit the water with a speed of 5mph for every 150 pounds of vehicle-rider-silliness and keep the throttle wide open for as long as you intend to avoid swimming.

Don't blame me when you drown.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Impractical Military Vehicle of the Week: the Convair XFY "Pogo"

The year was 1951 and those sneaky Russkies were going to attack any minute.  In order to keep ships safe at sea, the US Navy decided they needed to have fighter planes that could be close at hand whether there was an aircraft carrier nearby or not.  The solution: the Convair XFY "Pogo":

It doesn't look like much of anything unusual until you realize that that picture's sideways.  Here's one of them parked on the tarmac:

That's right.  It was a vertical take-off and landing fighter plane that landed on its tail so it could be stored under a little teepee on the deck of even the smallest warship.  It had delta wings and three-bladed contra-rotating propellers powered by a 5,500 hp Allison YT40-A-16 turboprop engine.

The idea was to have a high-performance fighter aircraft capable of operating from small warships. They could take off on short notice by cranking up the throttle and rising straight into the air.  Then the pilot would level out and head off to engage the enemy fighters. 

I suppose the plan was for this funny little plane to then get blown out of the sky because there was almost nobody in the world who could land the damned thing.  On the way down, the pilot had to look over his shoulder while carefully working the controls while approaching the pitching and rolling deck of a small warship at sea.

In the end the prototype was deemed to be plenty fast and maneuverable, but it had problems slowing down and stopping due to inadequate control surfaces and air brakes.  The Navy also decided it didn't have enough single-use fighter pilots.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random SF Bay Cruise aboard the SSS Compass Rose

The weather forecast called for snow.  So when the weekly Wednesday night meeting discussion turned to planning for the weekend, naturally the kids in the crew of the Sea Scout Ship Compass Rose wanted to take the boat out and bounce around the bay.

The plan: get underway on Friday evening and make it up as we go.  How did it go?  Story and pictures after the jump...

Quick! Somebody Get Me One of These!

A while back, the geniuses at ThinkGeek.com started selling Jedi bathrobes.  They were cool and all, but they didn't really move me enough to stop me from just wandering around dripping and nude after a shower.  But this week they've granted the same sort of love to Trekkies in the form of Kirk and Spock bathrobes:
What's really great about it is that I can just imagine Captain Kirk in a 23rd-Century version of the Playboy Mansion, sipping Romulan ale by the Grotto, surrounded by green centerfolds and wearing this bathrobe. 

It's just the right kind of swanky/geeky to make me retire my Hugh Hefner smoking jacket.

If you're feeling magnanimous and think I should have this thing, you can get it here: http://www.thinkgeek.com/brain/gimme.cgi?wid=81d8c1af7

I promise I'll post pictures...