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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, December 9, 2014

Making Weapon Props from EVOLVE Part 3: the Lightning Gun

In the upcoming video game EVOLVE, you can play as one of four classes of hunter going after giant monsters (or play as the monster itself).  The classes are "Trapper," "Assault," "Medic," and "Support."  Each class has its own unique skills and equipment.  In my last article in this series I detailed the building of the Harpoon gun carried by a Trapper called Griffin.  When I saw the first trailer for the game, the Harpoon Gun was my favorite weapon.

Once I'd built one weapon for each class of hunter, my favorite one to see in real life was the Lightning Gun carried by an Assault-class hunter named Markov Golushko:

That thing's pretty nifty.

Here's the Lightning Gun render that I started with:
Lightning Gun Reference Image

For details about how it was made into a practical prop, read on...

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Making Weapon Props from EVOLVE Part 2: Harpoon Gun

The harpoon gun is the first of four props I made to promote the upcoming release of the video game EVOLVE.  You can see more information about the game on their website: http://evolvegame.com/.

This beast makes a great first impression.  When I first saw the trailer for the game, this is the one that made me say "I want that."  It's massive and mean-looking and will look great hanging on my wall under the mounted heads of the monsters it's taken down.

In the game it's carried by a hunter named Griffin Hallsey.  Here's a portrait of him:

If you're someone who likes to dress to impress, this is not a bad look.  And while much of his swagger can be attributed to his jaunty hat or stylish vest, the thing that really catches folks' attention is the massive harpoon gun:

Very sexy.

Here's a shot of the harpoon gun all by itself::
Harpoon Gun Reference Image
Still sexy.

Over the course of three and a half weeks, my crew and I turned this in-game digital model into practical prop that could be carried around and shown of at conventions.  Durable enough to be handled by the convention crowd, it was first passed around at PAX Prime in Seattle so folks could pose for photos with their life-size, 2-story tall Goliath monster from the game.  Here's a quick video from the event:

Here's a studio shot of the finished Piece:
Harpoon Gun Studio Pic

For a detailed account of how it was made read on...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Making Weapon Props from EVOLVE Part 1: Introduction

It all started with a phone call...

Back in the last days of July, I was neck deep in a handful of projects and all of them had looming deadlines.  That's when my friend Jason called me from Make: magazine.  The call started simply enough:

"Hey, are you busy?" he asks.

"Always," says I, "what can I do for you?"

"We've got this project..."

The gist of the conversation was that 2K Games was in the middle of a big push to promote their upcoming game EVOLVE, and they had a big booth going around to all of the big conventions and game expos with a lifesize statue of one of the game's giant monsters.  What they needed was a series of weapon props.  Four of them.  One for each class of hunter that can play in the game.  So they'd asked Jason if they knew anybody who could make props for them and he knew just the right guy.

He emailed me a link to this video:

After I'd watched it, I told him I could readily make any of the weapons, costumes, or creatures that appear in the trailer.  They just had to pick what they wanted and let me know when they needed them.

Once they'd made up their mind, it seemed simple enough.  I just had to build these four pieces:
Single Page Reference

No problem, right? 

Then came the real challenges.

In order to meet the deadline I'd have about 25 days to make all four.  Okay.

They had to be durable and lightweight enough to allow convention goers to pose for photos with them.  Tall order, but very achievable.

The staff at 2K was thoroughly immersed in all of the logistics and preparation for the tail end of the convention season and wouldn't have much time to answer any questions I might have along the way.  Every conversation would have to be fast and filled with very detailed questions and answers, but I can handle that.

And the best part?  Twenty days into the already short timeline, I was due to be in Japan filming a car commercial after finishing another project that I already had in progress.  Oh boy!

Long story short: it worked.

My crew and I pulled together and knocked it out of the park.  The whole project was like drinking from a fire hose, but all four pieces were built to millimeter accuracy, painted to match the in-game weapons, and ready for delivery with almost a day to spare:
Evolve Hunter Weapon Lineup in the Workshop 2

Evolve Hunter Weapon Lineup in the Workshop

If you were at PAX Prime in Seattle, you were among the first people to see these props in person:
PAX Prime Display

If you read Make: magazine there was also a spread in the latest issue that showed each of the finished pieces and a brief overview of their construction. Over the next few days, I'll be writing individual blog entries detailing the construction of each of these four pieces.

I'm exceptionally proud of the finished props and I'm looking forward to walking you through the process that I used to turn bits and bytes into real-life stacks of awesomeness.

Stay tuned...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Finally! A Real Episode VII Trailer

I'm sure there's really no need for any signal boost, but if you haven't seen this yet, the wait is over:

Now I just need a few new sets of armor...


Monday, November 24, 2014

Combat Garden Gnomes: Gearing Up for the Holidays

I've been having fun making up meme posters for my Combat Garden Gnomes. Here's one:
Combat Gnome MEME6

If you're interested in getting some Combat Garden Gnomes of your own, you can order them at http://thorssoli.etsy.com

If you are planning on having them in hand in time for the holidays, you're running out of time to place your order!

For more (better) meme posters read on...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lifesize ED-209 Build Part 8: IT IS DONE...again.

Earlier this year I made a lifesize replica of ED-209.  It was pretty cool.

I've often stated that I almost never make just one of anything I make.  Since I'd hate to have this project make me a liar, my crew and I have been slowly cranking out a new and improved version.  We've been calling him "2nd ED."  Here he is in all his glory:
2nd ED in Warehouse

Since I parked First ED at the Make Magazine headquarters, it only seemed appropriate to pack up 2nd ED and haul him down for a few quick photos at Make:
2nd ED at Make HQ
The new one is the one in the background.

While I was there, they asked me to shoot a quick video explaining why there were suddenly two:

For more photos and some additional details about the improvements built into 2nd ED, read on...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October UFO Sightings in the Workshop

I've been feeling like I'm not writing nearly enough lately, so it's time to for another round-up of UnFinished Objects currently in progress in the hobby department of the workshop.

First off, in preparation for Star Wars Celebration: Anaheim, I've been making some progress on a set of Sith Acolyte armor from Star Wars: the Old Republic.  Here's a snapshot of the chest prototype:
Sith Acolyte Chest Shiny

And I've been helping my friend Matt put together Death Watch armor from the Clone Wars animated series.  Here's the mold for the collar, chest, and abdomen armor:
Death Watch Armor Chest Mold Cleaned Up

Then there's yet another helmet mold:
Nite Owl Jacket Mold Thickening

I've finally gotten around to making a new Bolt Pistol for another one of my Space Marine builds:
Bolt Pistol Weathering Progress Right

Speaking of 40K stuff, I've pulled out the old prototype for my Space Marines and started modding it into the beginnings of a suit of Grey Knight armor:
Adding the Collar

Speaking of huge stuff, there's still 2nd ED:
2nd ED Legs Progress

Why?  Because I never make just one of anything.

And since I've already detailed the building of ED-209 (click here to read all of that) I suppose the next thing I'll have to do is write up the building of a much smaller robot:
Funbot Face 2

So there's no shortage of interesting things going on in the shop.  Stay tuned for more details as things get wrapped up.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cosplay World.

A while back, I was answered a few interview questions to be published in a book about cosplay.  I didn't really think much of it at the time, but fast forward a few months and Cosplay World is now available for sale:
Cosplay World Cover

The book profiles all sorts of prominent characters in the cosplay hobby.  There are write-ups about the history of cosplay as well as many of the cosplayers, makers, models, and photographers involved in cosplay from all over the world.  Here's a snapshot of my own profile:
Cosplay World Profile

They also included this other spread from MAKE magazine:
Cosplay World Centerfold

I haven't  finished reading the whole thing yet, but I've been enjoying the parts that I've read so far.

You can get yourself a copy HERE.


Fleet Week With the Crew of the Sea Scout Ship Compass Rose

It's been a while since I've posted anything nautical.  Time to fix that.

If you're a San Francisco Bay Area resident, you're probably aware that Fleet Week has just wrapped up out on the bay.  The Petaluma Sea Scouts were invited to attend the commissioning of the USS AMERICA (LHA-6) on Saturday.  Then on Sunday, the SSS Compass Rose steamed out of the Petaluma River and took station off of Alcatraz Island to watch the airshow over the bay on Sunday featuring the Blue Angels.

The crew had a pretty good time:
Petaluma Sea Scouts Aboard USS AMERICA (LHA-6)

For more photos and details, read on...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Ironman Costume Sidetrack: the Mk39 "Gemini" Helmet

A while back I made a pretty nice version of the Mark III Ironman armor.  If you're interested in reading about how it was made, you can check it out HERE.

I had a few things that ended up getting in the way of the build.  Some of them were better than others.  One of them was this:
Mk39 Finished Front Left

This is the Mk39 "Gemini" version of the Ironman helmet.

For details on how it was made and more photos of the finished piece, read on...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Building My Replica of the M739 Squad Automatic Weapon (aka "SAW") from HALO 4

Every once in a while you find yourself haunted by that age-old question, "what if I can't reach something with scissors but I still want to cut it in half?"

Fortunately for you, there's the SAW!

"SAW" stands for "Squad Automatic Weapon."  When I was bouncing around Afghanistan, I managed to talk one of my Canadian counterparts into letting me burn through a few hundred rounds on his SAW at the firing range:
Shawn Thorsson and the SAW
Those were fun times.  When I'd emptied the entire box of ammo, I tried every way I could to talk him into trading that beauty for my M-16, but alas it was not to be.

Since I can't (legally) have one of those to hang on the wall, the next best thing is this version from HALO 4:

It's still pretty imposing and I had to have it.  Since it's not something I can just buy from someone, I had to make it.

Here's the finished result:
H4 SAW Finished
For details on how I made it, read on...

LATE POST: Tokyo Trip with Shawnon

A few months back I was asked to help out with a fascinating project.  I'm not allowed to say what I was doing or who I was working for and the results may never see the light of day, but suffice it to say, it was awesome.   There's nothing keeping me from talking about where we went or what we did on our down time though, so here's the story.

It all started in June when I got a call from my friend _________ who asked me if I could create a _____ based on the ______ series of ______.

"Sure," says I, "I can make anything."

He went on to explain that it would end up being a pretty high profile bunch of _______ and that senior executives from ___________, the owners of the intellectual property, would have to see the _______ and sign off on it before the project could move forward.  We spent some time discussing budgets and deadlines and everything was good to go.

Over the next month there was a lot of back and forth while the details were sorted out.  For a little while it looked like the whole thing wasn't going to happen.  Then someone else was lined up to do the build, then they begged their way out making the _______  parts of it.  That seemed like the easy part to me and somehow I ended up with the ________-making gig.

The fun part was that once my parts were put together, I would have to travel to Japan to make sure everything worked out.  The only drawback?  Shawnon's break in between semesters happened to coincide with the trip.  Fortunately, I would be allowed to take her along.

I won't bore you with the details of the build (which I'm not allowed to post about), but after a very rushed bit of fabrication, Shawnon arrived in town.  Since time was already running short and I had at least five other projects in progress, she went right to work on this one:

I can't stress enough how vital Shawnon was for this project:

After a lot of hours putting together multiple versions of the ___________, we were finally ready to hop on a plane.  Nine or ten hours later, we were in Tokyo:
2014-08-22 16.48.15

The folks from __________ met us at the airport and, after a brief meeting, we were all checked in to our hotel room in the Ginza district of Tokyo.  Here's the view from the hotel room:
Hotel Room View

The view inside the hotel room was better, but Shawnon would murder me pretty thoroughly if those pictures found there way to the internets.

The first day of work was fairly short and we ended up having all evening to explore the area in and around the hotel.  The first thing we did was wander into a toy store:
Ginza Toy Store

On the way, we passed the local Hooters:
Hooters Ginza

Here's a random alley we found on the way to dinner that night:
Random Alley in Ginza

After a bit of wandering, we found our way into the store across the street from the hotel:
Don Ki Ote

This place was a sort of Japanese Wal-Mart.  The interior was aisle after claustrophobic aisle overflowing with every manner of thing a corporate entity could ever try to sell.  Being Japanese, the food section was uniquely intriguing/horrifying:

Octopus on a stick.  Just another thing I'll never know I always wanted:
Dried Octopus on a Stick

We found the cancake sauce, but never did we venture to find any actual cancakes:
Cancake Sauce

After we'd spend a long day in the studio ________ the ________ for the ________, we had another day off to wander the city.  Along the way we found a gorgeous aquarium in front of the SONY shop:
Shawnon and the Little Fish Tank

We also found a pet store that was selling the most adorable little turtles.  This guy was just under two inches long:
Tiny Turtle for Sale

And of course, the beetles:
Pet Beetle 1

Pet Beetle 2

After a long day of sightseeing and shopping we ended up back at the hotel.  Then, after a long night of __________ and _________ where we _________ a lot, I was disappointed to wake up and finally realize that there was no coffee maker in the room.  Instead, they had these adorable little single-use coffee maker packets:
Single Serving Coffee Maker 1

Single Serving Coffee Maker 2

Single Serving Coffee Maker 3

We had a completely computer-controlled toilet seat in the hotel bathroom.  You'd think they'd have installed a robot Barista to make coffee somehow.

The next time we had some time off, we ended up in the Akihabara district:
Akihabara 1

Akihabara is also referred to as the "electronics district."  Apparently it's geek central:
Akihabara 2

This is where you go to find all of your anime and video game collectible stuffs:
Akihabara 3

It's also the hub where you find all of the "maid cafes" where you can pay top dollar to have your dinner served by underage girls dressed in maid costumes:
Out and About in Akihabara

We ended up stopping in a few toy stores and at least three bar/restaurant type places before we'd had enough for the night:
Downtown in Ginza

The view was better in the hotel room anyway:
The Lady Shawnon in Tokyo

The next time we had an actual day off, we ended up going to Tokyo Disneyland.  The folks at the front desk of the hotel said it was just a quick trip on the train.  Which is no big deal...

...once you figure out the map:
Train Map
The red arrow means "you are here."  Being "here" is a lot like being lost.

Still, after a bit of translation assistance from a very helpful passer-by, we manage to buy a ticket with the right combination of hieroglyphics on it and we were on our way.  We managed to transfer trains in the right place and ended up winning the day:
Train Station

The stroll from the train station to the actual park was overwhelmingly Disney:
Side Gate


Bronze Dumbo

The main entrance is significantly more grand than the original Disneyland in Anaheim:



The castle is also a lot more impressive:
Castle Framed

The main features and the layout of the park are very much akin to Disneyland in California.  Since we've been there quite a few times, we tried to focus mostly on the things that made it unique.  Here's Shawnon in front of some of the countless paper lanterns that were hanging in the gardens in front of the castle:
Portrait of the Lady

I'm a huge fan of the castle:

We actually spent much of our day in and around this building:
The Lady Shawnon

The Lady Shawnon looked great:

By contrast, I mostly just looked goofy:
New Buddies

Since we were in Cinderella's castle, Shawnon had to try on the glass slipper:
Glass Slipper Fitting

Me too:
Glass Slipper Doesn't Fit Me
The local's loved that.

We also strolled through Toon Town:
Disney Fountain

And took a ride on Star Tours:
Empire of the Rising Sun

Finally, because it was another uniquely local thing, we got ourselves some soy flavored popcorn:
Soy Popcorn

By that time it had gotten pretty late:
Disneyland Castle

And it was time to catch the train back to the hotel:
Disneyland Hotel

The next day we were back in the _______ to ________ more ________.  I was wearing one of my T&A Workshop t-shirts.  Occasionally I've had someone caution me that my shop logo might cause someone to get offended somehow.  I don't see why.  Especially after I met this guy in a much more interesting shirt:
On Set T-Shirts

On Set

The next time we had a day off, we hopped back on the train and made the trip over to Takeshita Dori:
Shawn and Shawnon

This is a crowded little walking street riddled with every kind of shop and eatery you could possibly want to find:
Takeshita Dori

Along the way, I spotted my favorite bit of "Engrish" on a t-shirt:
Kevin and a Girl Wearing an Engrish Tshirt

We also strolled past a local shrine that we forgot to go back and check out more thoroughly:
Tokyo Shrine

Just before lunch we wandered into a shop called Toysapiens, the flagship store for Hot Toys, a high-end collectibles company.  It was a lot of fun:
Nice to Meet You

I opted not to buy the full-scale Kenner action figure stormtrooper:
Not So Nice to Meet You

And unfortunately, these guys wouldn't fit in our luggage:
The Droids I Was Looking For

But I still picked up more toys than I should have:
Toy Sapiens

But not quite as much as I wanted to:
Longing Looks

Shawnon picked up quite a few things too:
Hot Toys Flagship Store

That night, our hosts took us out for dinner, drinks, and karaoke.  Shawnon had asked about trying sukiyaki, so that ended up being the first stop:

The meal consisted of several courses:
Salad Course at Sukiyaki Restaurant

The main course was all sorts of savory things which we cooked right there in the middle of the table:
Sukiyaki Restaurant

The last step was to dip the cooked goodness into a raw egg before eating it:
Shawnon and Sukiyaki
Good stuff.

After a bit more drinking, we all wandered over to a local club and got a private karaoke room where we could sing and drink to our hearts' content.  After hours of carrying on, Shawnon and I went back at the hotel for one more night of _______ and ________ while she _________ and I ________ against the window with the Tokyo skyline twinkling all around.  It was a fitting end to a wonderful trip.

The next thing we knew, we back on a plane and leaving the Land of the Rising Sun behind in favor of a return to our daily grind.  Everything worked out to be a huge success and I owe almost all of it to Shawnon I could never have pulled it all together without her.

Still, I have a strange way of finding my way back to Japan for all sorts of reasons, so I'm certain I will return.

Stay tuned...