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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, March 28, 2020

New Combat Garden Gnomes Ready to Deploy

What makes the grass grow?  Blood, blood, blood!

For the first time in quite a while, I've actually had the time to sit down and focus on sculpting for a minute.  The result, a new variant of Combat Garden Gnome.  This version is charging headlong into battle with his bayonet fixed:
Bayonet Charging Garden Gnome

Bayonet Charging Garden Gnome

As with all of my Combat Garden gnomes, the original was hand-sculpted by me in oil-based clay and then molded to reproduce him in urethane resin.  I'm especially proud of his angry little face:

Once the first cast was out of the mold, it was painted with high-gloss exterior paints and deployed in my mother's garden.  There he will stay, facing all-comers in the endless battle for lawn dominance:
Bayonet Charging Garden Gnome

Meanwhile, work continues on the rest of the castings:

If you'd like one for your very own, you can order them here: LINK

If you're feeling artistic and want to paint one yourself, you can order the unpainted version here: LINK

I've got a couple more sketches in the pipeline, so stay tuned for more Combat Garden Gnomes.


Samus Aran Helmet from Metroid

A while back I was lamenting the fact that I need more colors in my portfolio of finished projects.  I've done a lot of bare metal-looking things, lots of black and white and military greens.  There's been a few shades of grey and for some reason a lot of blue, but ever since the HALOween project a few years back, there hasn't been a lot of bright colors.  Then even when I am doing something bright, it usually gets weathering added to take down a lot of the shine.

So I needed something a bit different.  If only to prove to myself that I can still do shiny and clean-looking stuff.

Enter this lady:
Samus Aran - Metroid Prime Comic Pose Render Pack by Varia31
This is Samus Aran from Nintendo's Metroid games.  Not only is she completely decked in bright colors from head to toe, she's almost never shown with even the slightest scratch on her armor.

That'll do.

Since I was taking this project on a whim, I figured just making the helmet would be enough to satisfy this weird new desire to make something shiny.  I started by contacting my friends at Do3D.com to get a hold of their printable Samus helmet.

They really do great work:
Do3D Samus Model

So I split up the model into smaller pieces that I could print with leftover bits of filament on the ends of all of my nearly empty spools.  After a couple of days, it looked about like so:
Printed Prototype Samus Helmet Rough Assembly

With the parts lightly sanded and glued together, all that was left was a bit of filler work on some of the areas where I messed up the alignment a bit:
Helmet Filler Progress

The final coat of primer let me know I had everything smooth and proper:
Samus Helmet Prototype Primed Front

Then everything got a nice glossy coat of my standard lightish-red prototype color.  Here's Doctor Girlfriend trying it on for size:
Samus Helmet Test Fit

The last step was to heat form a piece of acrylic for the faceshield:
Faceshield Fitted
Of course, at this point, the color didn't matter.  It was more important to get the shape right.  With that in mind, we just used a scrap of whatever was laying around.

That done, the whole thing was molded.  The mold itself was a two-piece rubber jacket mold with a two-piece fiberglass mothermold.

Heres the beginning of the parting wall being built up: Parting Wall Begins

Once the clay wall was dimpled with registration keys, a drip lip was built up around the edge and the silicone print coat was poured on: Print Coat 1

After building up a few layers of thickened silicone, I had about half an inch of rubber over the front half of the helmet.  This was covered with registration keys and another thin layer of silicone to smooth it out:
Mold Jacket 1

That cured and I laid up the first half of the fiberglass mothermold.  Then I flipped it over, removed the clay wall, and molded the second half.  Here it is somewhere in the middle of the process right before the second half of the mothermold was made:
Samus Helmet mothermold ready for 2nd half

This is the complete mold ready for rotocasting:
Samus Helmet mothermold complete

It's also conveniently sized to fit nicely on top of a 5-gallon bucket:
Samus Helmet mold ready

The main body of the helmet was rotocast in four layers of urethane casting resin.  The third layer had a small amount of microballoon filler mixed in to give it more body.  This makes the shell a bit thicker without adding any significant weight.  The final, innermost layer was made with Smooth-Cast Onyx to make the finished product less likely to warp if it gets too warm.  With a bit of trimming around the neck and face holes, the first two kits looked pretty good:
Samus Helmet first casts

Because I'm impatient, I decided it was a good idea to do a quick and dirty rattlecan paint job on one of the first two kits.  Here it is with a fluorescent green tinted acrylic faceshield:
Test paint job.

Not too shabby:
Test paint job.

Then I decided it'd be better to do more:
Stack of Helmets Trimmed

I set up four helmets for paint.  This way I'd have some to mess around with in case there were any issues with the finish.  Each one started with black primer, then a plain silver basecoat:
Samus helmet Painting progress
The silver was Ford's "classic silver" if memory serves.

Once the silver basecoats had dried, they each got four coats of "Wild Cherry Red" candycoat from House of Kolor:
Samus helmet Painting progress

Samus helmet Painting progress

Candy coats can be kind of a nightmare to work with.  They're usually applied over a metallic to create a finish system that exhibits a deep, colored sparkle that can't really be matched with typical automotive paints.  Then they get a clearcoat to maximize shine and protect them from the elements.  This is what makes them part of a “three stage” or “tricoat” system.  You can also add other effects to the candy "intercoat," the second stage of the finish system to give them even more shimmery or pearlescent qualities.  For now, I was just experimenting with getting the candy color laid down in a uniform thickness to make the color and depth as consistent as possible.

I'd like to say that I nailed it on the first try, but in truth it took me a couple of rounds before I was completely satisfied with the finish.  These things have a way of highlighting even the slightest flaw in the prep work, so if there's even a tiny scratch or faint sanding swirl, it positively glows in the dark once you lay down a candy coat on top of it.

Case in point, this cast of the helmet looks pretty good:
Samus Helmet Progress 006

Then when you look closer, you can see a couple of specks of something that were embedded in the candycoat:
Samus Helmet Progress 007

But after of wet-sanding and repainting a few times, I finally had a few candycoated helmets that didn't make me want to scream.  This one wasn't one of them:

Hei Hei Aran

Once the clearcoat was sprayed on, the candy really came to life:

The cheek hoses were picked out in black with the raised elements hand painted with a metallic aluminum enamel:
Visors Fitted

The visor was formed out of 1/8" thick transparent fluorescent green acrylic, then glued in place.  Then I installed some LEDs around the edge to light up the wearer's face inside:
Samus Helmet Progress 003

It looked a bit silly on me:

Samus Helmet Progress 000

Of course, it's not supposed to look great on me.  Here's the Lady Shawnon test fitting it:
Samus Helmet Progress 001

Much better-looking than me:
Helmet Finishing Progress 000

So there it is:
Samus Helmet Done

Finally here it is on display: 20200323_204455

So shiny.  So red.  It has a place of honor on the recently-finished projects wall:

Display Rack Clutter

Now it's only a matter of time until I cave in and start building the rest of the armor.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Bloggage Catchup

Dear Readers,

It's been a good, long while since I've taken the time to sit down and write up a blog post.  I hate to say it, but with the lack of comments my posts tend to get and the seeming shortage of traffic that's going on, it's hard to stay motivated to generate content.

Still, I figure I'll give it all another go now that the shelter-in-place quarantine is going on.  It seems likely that y'all have a bit of free time and might need something or other to read to help pass the time while this global COVID-19 pandemic has us all staying home and slowing things down a bit.

Some of my nearly complete project write-ups include building replicas of the Morita Assault Rifle from Starship Troopers, Samus Aran's helmet from the classic Metroid video games, the beginning of Armorsmith's costume from the hit Disney Plus series the Mandalorian, and lifesize Mouser bots from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I've also been thinking about diversifying my writing a bit.  I worry that my last few posts have become somewhat rote with a string of "I started with this and then did this, and then this, and then this, and then it was done."  I suppose it's not as entertaining as it used to be.  I've also not taken any time to write about anything else going on in my life such as my retirement from the Naval Reserve last year, the Lady Shawnon moving back home from Nevada, our growing collection of saltwater aquariums, the new cat(s) hanging out in the workshop, and more.

With that in mind, what would you like to see more of?  
How-to's and tutorials?  Gross descriptions of boat maintenance projects?  Sea stories from my time in the Navy and the Merchant Marine?  Dog, cat, chicken, and fish pictures?  Scantily-clad young women with science fiction weapons?  I figure there are parts of my unusual life experience that might be interesting for at least a few people, but since they're normal for me it doesn't occur to me that it might be worth writing about.  Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading,