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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.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

HALO Inspired Vacformed First Aid Kit Case

It happens every so often.  No matter how careful I am, no matter how slowly and thoughtfully I work, I find myself bleeding in the workshop from time to time.  I understand that once in a while the Project Gods demand blood sacrifices to ensure successful completion of whatever I'm working on.  Still, hemorrhaging bodily fluids have a tendency to mar my careful paint jobs if not taken care of in a timely fashion.

I do keep a first aid kit in my workshop.  It's nice and new and sterile.  It was also stored on the top shelf in a rolling cabinet.  That cabinet tends to be one of the first things lost under the pile of works in progress when I really get rolling on numerous projects. 

So far life-threatening injuries have been pretty rare in the workshop.  But when and if something truly awful does happen, I don't want my dying words to be "just go get the first aid kit...  It's in the beige cabinet in the corner, behind the carving machine...  Under the stack of armor plates...  No the other armor plates...  Under the bag from the fabric store...  By the shipping boxes...  Behind the MDF scraps...  Aaaagh!"

I'm really hoping I have a chance to come up with something a bit more poetic.

So the other day (which was a Wednesday in this case) I was suffering from some time alone with my macabre imagination and decided that I needed my first aid kit to be more visible and readily accessible.  Maybe even have a couple of them hanging on the wall(s) in the workshop so that, in the heat of the moment, a panic-stricken person within inches of death can see their salvation shining back at them and know that everything will be okay.

But where have I seen such a thing?  I'll tell you where.  In video games:
Health Pack reference

This is a health pack from HALO.  Something like this hanging on the wall makes it plainly obvious to the most casual observer that there's a first aid kit ready at hand.  Since I seem bent on building everything that humans use in the HALO games, why not a first-aid kit too?  

The first thing I did was gather up oodles and gobs of reference images.  It turns out that aside from the logo on the outside of the box, the health pack hasn't changed very much throughout the various games in the HALO franchise.  I also had to decide on a size.  In order to make it fit my vacforming table and not take up too much wall space, I made it just under a foot tall.  Then I spat out this quick CAD drawing to give myself something to work with:
Health Pack

In case you're wondering, I use TURBOCAD.  It's surprisingly capable and inexpensive.

Back in the workshop, I transferred that CAD drawing to a piece of MDF I had laying around:
Health Pack 1
As you can see, I made changes to my own design right away.  It makes me wonder why I even bothered with the drawing in the first place.

The next step was to cut out the rough shape on the band saw:
Health Pack 2

Then I used the flapwheel grinder to taper the ends down:
Health Pack 3

After that, I added a couple more layers behind it and used Bondo auto body filler to smooth out some of the areas that needed it and add the sloped areas to the side recesses:

The last step was a bit of touch-up with some spot putty (the green parts):
Health Pack 8

Finally, I sprayed it with a few coats of white primer in order to make sure it was actually smooth:
Health Pack 9

With the face done, the next step was to make the back side.  This was just a plain block with the same outline as the rest of the kit:
Health Pack 10

When I made the first pull from this forming buck, I wasn't happy with it at all.  There were undercuts and problems all over the place and I decided to scrap the whole thing and go back to the drawing board.  Or back to TURBOCAD rather.  The first step was to turn my simple 2D drawing into a usable 3D model:

I'm slow with 3D modelling, so that took a couple hours and half a bottle of wine.  I then exported it as a .stl file that Lopez (my Craftsman Carvewright) could carve out for me.  Here's the end result:

Once I'd glued the pieces together and done a bit of cleanup, I laid them out on the forming table:
Health Pack Forming Bucks

The three pieces above are, from left to right, the back/bottom, the front/top, and the inner liner for the bottom.  This will become clearer as I put it together.

Then my friend Matt and I cooked up a sheet of white styrene plastic (because it's cheap and it's white) and pulled a copy of the whole thing:
Health Pack Matt

On our second try, the parts came out nice and clean with no webbing or thin spots:
Health Pack Smooth Pull

I had Matt cut out some stickers on his vinyl cutting machine.  After cutting out the parts and stacking them together, I did a quick test for healing powers:
Health Pack Makes Everything Better 2

It didn't really work yet.

After a bit more cleanup on the edges of the forms, I finally had a pull that I was happy with:
HALO Health Pack Third Pull

Final assembly was a matter of trimming the edges, adding a bit of trim to the outside pieces, gluing in some nylon webbing to work as hinges, and adding the vinyl sticker to the front:
 HALO First Aid Kit built

The latch was cobbled together from scraps of foam PVC sheet and four neodymium magnets:
HALO First Aid Kit latch

The finished result is pretty presentable:
HALO First Aid Kit display
(even if I did put the sticker on crooked)

Since I had a working case, all that remained was actually filling it with potential lifesaving stuffs (strapped in with elastic to keep it tidy):
HALO First Aid Kit innards

I'm disappointed that the inside isn't very science-fiction looking.  I've paid a lot of attention while playing the games and you never actually see the insides of these things.  I'm going to go out on a limb and imagine it probably looks more like this:
HALO First Aid Kit open

I may make a non-functioning prop version later with a simulated EKG and defibrillator and an array of hypo-syringes and blinking lights, but it's a pretty low priority right now.

For now I've got a sharp-looking first aid kit which hangs on the outside of my tool cabinet with the aid of some heavy-duty velcro:
HALO First Aid Kit Mounted on cabinet

Seeing it there reminds me that I can rest at ease knowing that my frantic pointing in the midst of arterial bleeding or a sucking chest wound* might help some frightened assistant actually do me some good.

Of course, the generally cluttered state of the workshop might still be my undoing:
HALO First Aid Kit Mounted

Barring any serious injury, I've got a few more ridiculously goofy projects I'm about to finish, so stay tuned for more...

*Don't all chest wounds kinda suck?


  1. That's just too cool! I sure wouldn't mind having one of those hanging on my wall. Great job!

  2. So the real question is are you going to sell the cases for people to fill on thier own? :)

    1. Agreed....I have a spot on my wall begging for a medkit.

    2. I second that question :D Great work!!

  3. The last room is like a window into a fictional Sci-Fi military machine shop: Mass Effect and Halo rifles and pistols hanging, Clone, stormtrooper and Spartan helmets, and assorted armor. Awesome.

    1. Yeah. I really need a wall to display all of my stuff. Maybe someday I'll have an office again.

  4. "sucking chest wound" is one that sucks air in when you inhale, as you've punctured lung or lining, and I would guess that really sucks....

  5. That is a totally epic effort! I'd eager that's the first Halo health pack ever made in real life... and perhaps from a game too? What's you next project? P.S. I am very jealous of your amazing man shed /cave of wonder! JJ

  6. ... so the work really gets done by the bright pink gnome assistants in the lower right?

    Amazing work and workshop!

  7. Because both first aid kits have medicine, they should be located someplace where young children cannot reach the contents. It is important to have the contents fit the needs of each family. If there are infants, toddlers and adults in the family, then the items should fit the needs of all three. For example, small bandages are good for small children, with larger ones for adults.

    1. If small children have access to that health pack, they've got bigger problems than whether the contents are appropriate or not.

  8. I'm really impressed with the idea. So cool!

    First aid

  9. Great post full of useful tips! they should be located someplace where young children cannot reach the contents. It is important to have the contents fit the needs of each family. If there are infants, toddlers and adults in the family, then the items should fit the needs of all three.

    first aid at work

  10. Nice blog and the details about it really interesting.
    I liked your blog.


  11. Very exclusive blog about medical. Quite interesting and nice topic chosen for the post Nice Post keep it up.