About Me

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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 31, 2015

Famous Again

The other day Wired.com sent a video team out to the workshop to interview me and see my mess.  Here's the result:

Sadly, we ran out of time before we could get footage of the rest of the huge stack of costumes we had lined up and ready to go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Gearing up with Dad

Every time I start thinking that my crazy projects are getting out of hand, I take a look at what my father is working on and it makes me feel better.

Case in point, the other day I stopped by the folks' house.  Dad's car trailer was parked out front with this thing on it:

Dad's Gears

If you don't recognize it, you're not wrong.  This is the reduction gear that used to drive the pivoting railroad bridge next to the Petaluma Marina.  You can see it in action here:

That bridge had been in place since 1903.  So for the better part of 112 years, these massive steel gears have done the job of swinging the bridge into place so trains could cross the river and then back out of the way so waterborne traffic could get past.

This year, there's been a lot of construction and improvements on those tracks in order to make way for the new SMART train.  This is a long-overdue commuter train that will carry passengers from as far south as the Larkspur Ferry terminal to as far north as Cloverdale.  

Since there will be a lot more traffice on the SMART train, the powers that be have decided to retire the old swing bridge in favor of a secondhand drawbridge that was relocated from somewhere in Texas.  The new bridge is this shiny green work-in-progress:
Railroad Bridge at Haystacks Landing

So while the construction crew has been slowly dismantling the old bridge, Dad has been watching the proceedings from his office next door.  When he saw the gears being pulled out he wandered over and asked the crew what they planned to do with them.

It turns out that they were slated to go to the scrapyard.

Dad decided that he had some other use for them.  He didn't know what, but something better than the scrapyard.  So he ran home, hitched up the trailer, and went back to pick up the whole kit and kaboodle.

After much deliberation, he decided to park the whole rig next to one of the barns.  After a bit of rearranging the other stuff tucked away under the tree, he parked an A-frame on the spot, then backed the trailer under it:
Dad's Gears

After a bit of wrestling it around with the help of a chain fall, the gears had found a new home:
Dad's Gears

Of course, a lot of folks might wonder why someone would want such a thing parked in their garden, so I suggested a use that dad decided was good enough:

It works.

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015 Rip City Riders Car Show (AKA "Shopping for Cars I Can't Have")

For those of you who don't know, in addition to making props and costumes and my one weekend a month in the Navy Reserve, I spend a bunch of time volunteering as an adult leader with the local Sea Scout ship.  Sea Scouts, for the uninitiated, are essentially the nautical branch of the Boy Scouts of America.  A co-ed program that teaches young adults all about teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and all sorts of valuable things while aboard ship.  It's a great program.

It's also an expensive program with a lot of high-maintenance equipment involved.  In order to cover the cost of running the ship and keeping everything in safe working order (without having to resort to constant bake sales and whatnot) the unit does much of its fundraising by running the parking concession at the local fair.  We've gotten pretty good at it over the years and our problem-free management of the lot means that the kids get invited to run things every time there's a special event at the local fairgrounds.  

A couple of weekends ago, the Rip City Riders motorcycle club hosted their annual car show at the Petaluma Fairgrounds.  After a quick rush to get everything set up, we had all of the entrances to the lot manned and started selling parking spaces for the day.  Before too long it was pretty clear that the situation was well in hand, being taken care of by stony-faced professionals like these:

Since it seemed like everybody had things under control, I took a few minutes to walk through the car show to see if there was anything on display that I couldn't possibly live without.  There were all sorts of interesting vehicles on display with seemingly no real rhyme or reason.  One of the first things that really caught my eye was this MG:

It was also pretty cool to see a replica of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard:
General Lee

Further down the row of 70's muscle cars that didn't do anything for me was this mechanical monstrosity:

It was a bit much.  I figure if you're just looking for attention, this guy's got the right idea:

If shiny is more appealing, this Studebaker was pretty cool:

I really loved the bodywork on this guy:

It seems like every car show I go to has at least a few of these:

I don't really see a lot of these gassers around anymore, but this one was fun:

I really love the color choice on this Vette:

My uncle used to have one of these kicking around in his shop for at least a couple of years, so I have always had a soft spot for it:
'59 Caddy

There were a few other less, interesting things to see in the show, so after walking around a bit I was almost ready to commit and say that my favorite would probably have been this one:
Brushed Metal

Except somebody showed up with a tank:
M41 Walker Bulldog

Tank always wins.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

October UFO Sightings in the Workshop

It's that time again.

The time where I realize that I've neglected to write anything new and worthwhile for my blog and have to resort to listing the latest roundup of UnFinished Objects currently being worked on in the shop.  The last couple of months have had me travelling and working on super secret projects with non-disclosure agreements, so all that's left is the hobby stuff I've been tinkering with in my increasingly rare spare time.

Here's a few of my favorites...

A while back I got a wild hair and decided that I needed to have the new flamethrower stormtrooper helmet from the upcoming Star Wars movie.  The paint work is almost finished, then I'll be writing up a detailed article about the building of this guy:
Flametrooper Base Colors

The nice part about the flametrooper helmet is that it is the base shape that ends up being used for the Snowtrooper helmet as well.  It just needs an added plate on the face and a big dome for the top and back.  So I'm making those too: Snowtrooper Prototypes in Progress

It also turns out to be the base shape for the new and improved TIE pilots' helmets.  I was trying to talk myself out of making them as well, but I seem to have failed.  I should have pics of that to show off soonish.

Since I'm on a roll with Episode VII Star Wars stuff, I decided I need to dress up the Lady Shawnon as Captain Phasma, the chrome-clad leader of the First Order stormtroopers.  So far I've made the helmet and I'm in the process of refining the chroming process.  For now, I've got this rough-draft copy painted up with a quick spraycan finish:
Phasma Lens Selfie

Since I can't leave well enough alone, I've also designed the smoking exhaust system for my Death Watch Mandalorian jetpack:
Finished Jetpack

I'll be writing up that project as soon as I actually get it installed in the pack and shoot some video and/or photos.
That's a lot of Star Wars stuff all of a sudden.  Suffice it to say, I'm very excited about the new film coming out.  But a long time before that happens there will be Halloween.

This year Halloween falls on a Saturday and I'll actually be getting out and going places for a change.  Usually I'm swamped with work and end up being too busy to do anything for myself, but this year I've actually carved out a bit of time to work on my own project.  

So I've decided to go as Deathstroke from the Arkham series of Batman video games.  I've got a good start on the mask:
The bulk of the suit will likely be made of EVA foam.  More as a demonstration of how it's done than anything else.  

While that may seem like a lot going on all at once, I've also been building a smaller format vacforming machine:
Smaller Forming Machine in Progress

I really love my big 24"x48" machine, but it tends to cause problems on the many occasions when I just need to form some small piece of something and I have to use up a huge sheet of plastic.  Having the smaller machine means only melting the little bits I need.

It's a build I've been meaning to take on for years, but I've finally been spurred into action because I'm writing a book and needed to be able to show a step-by-step description of building a forming table.

Yes, a book.  A book that will be published.  Here's a pic of the very preliminary cover:

In fact, you can pre-order it now.  Here's a link: http://amzn.to/1PyJu4p


More to come.  Stay tuned...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hello, America! The 2015 Cross-Country Road Trip

A wise man once told me that the main difference between an ordeal and an adventure is your attitude.

When the Lady Shawnon told me she would be doing her clinical year at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Cornell University, I was really proud of her.  When she said she'd need help moving all of her stuff there, that's when I got even more excited.

As it turns out, for me, this is what an adventure looks like:
Road Trip Map

That's the route we took to get her, her car, and most of her stuff installed in upstate New York.

If you'd like to see photos from the trip and all of the fun along the way, read on...