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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, November 29, 2011

Isaac Clarke Meets His Makers

After pictures of my Isaac Clarke costume from Dead Space 2 started making their way around the internets, it turns out my work was eventually noticed by some of the crew at Visceral Games, the studio responsible for creating the original concept that it was based on.

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Ian Milham, Art Director for the Dead Space series, inviting me to come down and visit the development team in Redwood City so I could show off the suit. I drove down there on a Friday and after a quick tour of the campus I went out to the car, stepped into the RIG, and headed upstairs to meet the folks behind the game. Here’s a shot of me and Ian:
Ian and Isaac

Here I am in front of some of the promotional posters:
Isaac Clarke Hallway

And the money shot:
Isaac Clarke Poster Pose

The best part about walking around at Electronic Arts dressed as Isaac Clarke was noticing how few people actually reacted to the costume. It must be fun to work in a place where science fiction characters just wander around all the time. In any case, it was great to get a chance to shake hands with most of the folks who invented the character that I based the build off of.

It wasn't until I was 20 minutes away on my way home that I finally thought of asking any of them to sign my helmet.  Blast!

While I was there, I also got a chance to compare my build to some very high resolution renders of the costume in the game. Given that I was working from screenshots captured from Youtube videos, I’m still pretty proud of how it came together.  But there are a few parts where there’s room for improvement. I’m also thinking I have to put together a few props to carry around. Now that I’ve finished the build and I’m back to having a bit of time for gaming, I’m really in love with the look of the Pulse Rifle.

In the meantime, the RIG will be waiting in the box:
Isaac Clarke Boxed

Stay tuned for more madness…

Heart of Gold Repair Update

The last time I wrote about the ongoing drama surrounding the rigging repairs on board my boat following my disagreement with a drawbridge, I stated that "with any luck I'll have the boat back sometime this month."

That was early October.  I have no luck.  Clearly.

Over the following six weeks or so, I've had two separate occasions to go down to Alameda and look over the work in progress.  I found lots of work and very little progress.  Mostly the boat was just sitting idle like so:
HofG Rigging Repair

Bear in mind that in 2009 it took me about a month to replace all of the standing rigging on both of my masts by myself using a pair of pliers and a bosun's chair.  Most of that time was spent waiting for the rigging shop to cut and swage new wires for me.

For some reason it's taken Svendsen's Boat Works over twice as long to re-rig only one of my two masts even though the rigging shop is on the premises, they've got a crew and a crane to help them, and they had three months to get ready for the job.  I'm not really thrilled about this.

Still, after five and a half months of waiting for the insurance claim, the mast manufacturer, the riggers, and a massive pile of mismanagement and delays, the whole thing is done.  I found out it was finished when I was writing a plaintive email asking how things were progressing.  The reply: "The riggers say it's ready anytime you want it. We just need to wash it." 

Almost a week later I finally had a chance to head down to Alameda and do some last-minute fine-tuning.  At first glance, I was thinking that the boatyard really needs to fire whoever they've got washing boats down there.  Upon further inspection, it was pretty clear they just didn't bother.  Instead, the deck was littered with clevis pins and other detritus from the rigging work.  Five months of dust had been cemented to the deck and hull from the recent rain.  The Heart of Gold looked almost as bad as she did after I spent fourteen months away at sea and off to war in 2008/2009.

After a quick turn around the deck picking things up, I decided to hoist the sails and make sure the new running rigging was in good order.  The main sail and mizzen went up easily enough, but when I tried to unfurl the jib, the brand new roller furler bound up.  Only halfway unfurled, the sail was stuck in place.  When I went forward to see what was the matter, I found the furling line wrapped up outside the housing and spent a few minutes wrestling it back into place so I could re-furl the sail.

Here's a shot of how it was set up:
HofG Jib Roller Furler

To avoid binding up, the line is supposed to run through the opening on the right where the cage is designed to lead it onto the drum instead of allowing the line to get caught up under the rotating disk at the top.  It's a bit tough to spot in this picture, but cast into the cage above the opening is an arrow with the word "LINE" imprinted on it.  This makes it perfectly obvious to the most casual observer that this was put together wrong.

Other problems were less of an issue.  The new turnbuckles are stainless steel instead of bronze.  They're pretty, but they don't look quite right next to the few old ones that are still on board:
HofG Rigging Repairs

My main complaint with Svendsen's is that everything took such a long damned time.  I expected some major delays on account of waiting for the insurance company to pay out and for LeFiell to take a break from making missile bodies and jet engines so they could manufacture my new mast (which is gorgeous by the way).  But once the mast arrived at the yard I really expected the whole project to come together in a week or two. 

Instead it took over two and a half months.  When I'd ask about the delays, I was given every excuse you can think of including a backlog of small racing boats that apparently took precedence over taking care of me after all the waiting. 

What really irks me is that they didn't even bother to call and let me know it was done.  I don't know what kind of profit margin they've got going there, but it seems to me that there should be some sense of urgency when someone's waiting for you to finish tens of thousands of dollars worth of work.  Just saying.

On the plus side, the bowsprit is a bit shinier:
HofG Bowsprit and Furler Repair

Now that the boatyard was finally done with the rigging, it was up to me to get the boat home.  The last time I did any work on board, I was concentrating on getting the engine up and running after it's brief submergence back in June.  I hate working in the engine room because it's a bit cramped:
HofG Engine Room Working

Still, with some help from my friend Matt, I was able to fire it up and test it running both ahead and astern.  Everything worked reasonably well, but the raw water pump wasn't pumping any water.  Looking closer, I noticed that the belt was loose and the pump wasn't turning at all.  The fix was a simple matter of replacing one of the two fan belts in the filthy, rusty hole:
HofG Engine Belts

After that, the wet exhaust started puking out more seawater than I'd ever seen. 

With the cooling system up and running, it was a simple matter of scrubbing things down and making ready to get underway the next morning.  I'd been without my boat for far too long to keep waiting.

Stay tuned for bloggage on that little adventure.  It started off as a pleasant day of sailing and slowly turned into a tale of darkness and gloom with impending disaster around every turn.  In case you're worried, I did survive.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear America, You Missed a Few

Rogue Turkeys

What you're looking at are just four of the forty or fifty wild turkeys that have been waddling around in the street and blocking traffic for months now as I drive out to my workshop.  So far I've been content to sit and wait while conscientious drivers ahead of me stop for however long it takes these moron birds to cross the street in their own good time.  Meanwhile, I idle away thinking of my time wasted.  I've found solace in the knowledge that November is coming and they're about to get what's coming to them. 

Then, the morning after Thanksgiving, I was shocked to see that there's just as many of them still gobble gobbling around the neighborhood.  If they're a protected species for some reason, the protection is no longer needed.  Clearly it has worked.

If anyone would like a turkey for Christmas, I'm willing to trade for ammunition...


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Need Cash to Pay for my Projects Again

So I'm selling another batch of my Combat Garden Gnomes.  Here's a crappy cellphone pic showing them all lined up on the table:

You can buy them (and see better pictures of them) in my Etsy shop: http://etsy.com/shop/thorssoli.  Get them while they're hot.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

HALO: Helljumper Update

Those of you following along at home will remember that a while back I was asked to make some props and costumes for a fan-made HALO short film titled HALO: Helljumper.

The other day, they released a new poster:

More impressive, they've also finally released a full theatrical trailer:

I was pretty excited to see the finished product before. Now I'm on the edge of my seat. The pilot is scheduled to drop in January of next year. Meanwhile, I'm just tickled to see my name in the credits and on the poster. You can follow the production on their website or on facebook.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Helmet Display Stands

I spend a lot of time on my replica helmets.  The paintjobs usually involve several layers of finishes in various shades and sheens even before I start on the weathering process where I'll add half a dozen more colors and who knows how many hours of labor.

Then I set them on a shelf or pile them in a box or hang them from the rafters in my workshop until some nebulous future date when I'll have a suitable area to display them.  While I'm not any closer to having a wall or a shelf or a desk to display my work, I have decided I need a way to cut down on the beating that the paintjobs suffer just from sitting on the shelf.  The solution: display stands.

For many collectors, a cheap vertical paper towel holder from the local retailer is good enough.  But living in the earthquake-heavy zone of Northern California (aka, "God's Etch-a-Sketch") means I need something more stable.  Clearly this is another opportunity to flex some skills and use some tech.

First, using the image import function, I've had Lopez the Robot Whittler carve me out a variety of appropriate versions of the bases.  Here's the seal of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars:
Helmet Base Imperial Cog

Here's the Seal of the Galactic Republic that preceded it:
Helmet Base Republic Cog

This is the Mythosaur skull logo from Boba Fett's shoulder armor:
Mando Helmet Stand Base

Once I had a variety of appropriate icons to fit my collection, I poured silicone block molds so I could cast resin copies of them.  Here you can see the plurple silicone mold and a couple of the castings:
Helmet Stand Parts

The addition of a 14" long piece of PVC pipe makes it functional:
Helmet Stand empty

A casting of the custom-machined plug for the top finishes the assembly:
Mando Helmet Stand Assembled

Here's a test fitting with a clonetrooper helmet from Episode III:
Helmet Stand in use

And another with my Jango Fett helmet:
Mando Helmet Stand Test Fit

It's worth noting that I spent a bit of trial and error and a few feet of pipe before determining that 14 inches is the magic height for these.  Taller and you've got too much of the pipe showing.  Shorter and you're back to just setting the helmet on the shelf.  Once I had that worked out, it was time to make many and paint them up.

Here's the Mando' version painted:
Helmet Stand Mando

Here's how the rest look finished:
Helmet Stand Lineup

If you had a sharp enough eye to notice the difference in color for the two on the far left, you win one free internet:
Helmet Stands Galactic Republic Cog Logo

The right one was painted while the one on the left was made with cold cast aluminum, painted black, then sanded to reveal the aluminum underneath.  Next to the aluminum one, they all look somewhat cheap.  One of these days I'll be writing an article about cold casting, but for now it's easy to find plenty of information about it on Google.

You also may have noticed the UNSC logo under the Halo Spartan helmet in the new lightish red color:
Helmet Stand UNSC

I didn't mold it yet because I've decided to redo this one and make the logo a bit smaller.  Either that or just make a circle with the logo on the front half of the base.  More on that whenever I get to it.

For now, these are not too shabby.