Friday, September 30, 2011

R2: Back on The Wagon

Yup, I'm back in R2 building mode. My goal is to see just how deep into the build I can get before the Batmobile shell arrives. I forgot how frickin' expensive R2 building can be!!

The good news is that I've already gotten a TON of parts, and I believe that the main investment is already done. Also, from my first build I picked up a ton of tools and materials that will still be available and useful. For example, my air compressor, spray gun, paints, drill press, tap/die kit, drill bits, etc. The list goes on and on.

The big news today is that the internet rules. I was starting to poke around online to find a place that sells the rockler bearing (that's the thing that R2's head sits on so that it will spin) when all of a sudden a friend of mine on Facebook, John, started an R2 parts list with links to places to purchase them. Boom. Rockler was on there. I snagged one. 80 bucks.

For this second droid, I'm going pretty budget, but not total shoe string. In a quick conversation with John, I discovered that MOST of the parts on his are scratch built. Which is amazing for a number of reasons. First is that I would never have guessed, as all of his droid parts look amazing. Second, well, I can't think of a second reason. but it's amazing! But that's way too much work for me. I'd rather spend a few extra bucks just to buy a piece of resin, and then just clean it up. Much less work.

Fortunately, I have a TON of resin parts already, many of which I can start working on to get them cleaned up. I'll post pics soon. Anyhow, pretty exciting times. I'm tempted to also keep my R2 blog updated on, if only for redundancy's sake. I kind of want to have it all in one location.

Batman & Robin Suction Cup Climber

Yes, I thought the movie sucked too, but I did like the designs of the props, despite how impractical they were. I mean, where would this fit on a utility belt anyway?

I picked this kit up a number of years ago, figuring it would make a good companion to my Icons Robin Throwing Bird from the same movie. It's a pretty rare kit, and since I purchased this one, I have not seen another one come up for sale. That said, the kit was pretty rough.

It was a very straightforward dump mold for the body, and the grip part was fairly beaten up, though the overall seam registration was pretty solid. The rubber was probably not degassed, resulting in pock marks all over the surface of the piece.

This was a very straightforward build, and was mostly just sanding and putty work. The hard part was figuring out how to get the grip to attach to the body. I ended up going with a couple of wood screws that go in from underneath. That was the fun part, and I mean that sincerely. I like solving problems like that one, as it lets me use my imagination and tools.

Here's the kit as it hit the work bench.

Grand total, from start to finish was six days. That was not six days straight of work. Don't get me wrong. Regular readers will know how much I dislike puttying and sanding, which means that I would work on this for an hour, then step away from it for a day. Still, for a kit that sat in a box for like five years, six days isn't that bad.

The paint job is decent. The original one was chromed, and then candy'd over with the red. It's a beautiful looking piece, the screen used one. obviously, I wasn't going to put that much effort or expense into this kit, so I settled on just zapping it with some DupliColor metallic silver.

Not a bad addition for the pile of Batman props I've been amassing over the years. It's a little obscure, but turned out nicely.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Just Ordered MattMobile Tires

I've been kind of dragging my feet on spending any more money on the car until the shell arrives, but with it destined to show up soon, I figured it was time to bite a few bullets and get things rolling. Today, I purchased the front and rear tires. 1,080.00 bucks! Shipped to my door!!

For reference, here are the tires I ordered:

Rear Tires.
Mickey Thompson #672-6560
Mickey Thompson Sportsman PRO Tire
31'' x 16.5'' - 15''LT

Front tires
Mickey Thompson #672-6546
Mickey Thompson Sportsman PRO Tire
28'' x 10.5'' - 15''LT

I am being a copy cat off my fellow builder Tim, who gave me these specs and the links. Opinion on tires varies widely from one builder to the next, so we shall see how these ultimately fit.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Star Trek Voyager Compression Rifle Is Finished.

In less than a week, I finished a kit that has been sitting on the shelf for more than 7 years. Wow. I guess it goes to show that when you focus, and don't get TOO nutty about details and perfection, you can actually get some work done.

A few thoughts on the overall build. First, I'm pretty happy with the results. Not extremely happy, but satisfied. As mentioned a while back, I was very inspired by John Palmeri's rapid builds of two phaser rifles for DragonCon. They looked GREAT in person, though when asked, John seemed pretty ashamed of the results. This sort of reinforced in my mind what I have known for a long time, which is that it is always the creator that sees the flaws, seldom the audience. It was with that thought that I really plowed ahead with this build and knocked it out quickly.

Having not built up a kit this large in a long time, a lot of lessons were learned that were previously forgotten. For example, whenever I start a new project, I think I will always get new cans of paint. A lot of this rifle was painted using two cans of old plasti-kote that I had sitting around. Yes, it was the right paint code, but because the cans were mostly empty, the paint coming out tended to splatter more than spray. This made for an uneven overall coat, and I'm not too thrilled with it. The scope, however, turned out really great, as this was done with a fresh can of paint. Interesting stuff.

I also broke some new ground in securing parts of props together. This kit featured a couple of load bearing handles that needed to REALLY be secure on the rifle. I used wood screws throughout the build, often cutting off the head so that the threaded part of the screw could fit into the other half of the rifle. I thought this was pretty ingenious!

Having seen a number of screen used props first hand, I would say that this build up is more tidy than those, but not as clean as some other builds that I have over-indulged in. I guess it's just a matter of preference, though I think I am indeed convinced that I'd rather have the thing finished, than still in a box. It's a pretty satisfying feeling to get a project like this finished.

So that's it for this project. Now I just need to find a place to keep it! It's pretty big! Time to find the next kit to build.

Compression Rifle, Final Progress Pics Before Reveal

At the time of this writing, the Star Trek Voyager Compression Rifle is actually finished, though I still have a set of progress photos to post. They are contained herein. Mostly, this is just final little details that went into the build up.

For example, there's a little tab on the rear handle, something that looks like it might be a trigger. That needed to be painted silver. For the sake of time, it looks like on the screen used props they accomplished this with a brush. I decided to spray paint it. It took a pretty intricate mask to get it to work out right.

Here's the final outcome. It looks like there's silver down that thin channel in the middle, but that's a reflection.

I put the final touches on the scope assembly. There was a lot of dremel work involved here to get that pointy thing on the front to sit properly. There's also another tab looking thing on one side that took some doing to get it to fit properly. The paint job on the scope turned out really nicely too.

There are a set of rectangles on the inner sides of the forks that needed painting. This also took a pretty intricate mask to get right.

Here is how it turned out.

After this, there were a few little black details that I hand painted. For example, this part on the main power cell.

Then it's just a matter of final assembly. I spent A LOT of time with the dremel getting the power cell to sit properly in the rear of the rifle. That was probably the most time consuming single part of the build.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Compression Rifle Project

With only two days left to go on this project, things are really heating up. This post features photos that were taken a few days ago, but they're still relevant.

The main push this day was to fabricate and install a new bar that runs horizontally between grips.

I already built the rail, and now it was really time to attach it. Glue wasn't going to be enough, so I decided to use two wood screws on each end to fully secure it. I started by counter sinking some holes on each end of the rail.

Here's the countersunk holes.

And in place.

Here's a couple of pics of the rail fitted into place, with and without the screws.

Keep in mind that before screwing it in, I did a glob of epoxy under each side.

Here's the rifle with the first coat of primer laid down.

And lastly, a little sanding to totally smooth out the putty and the counter sunk screws.

Now it's time to paint the body. My approach is to get the entire thing in one blast. I don't want to do one side, let it dry, then flip it over. That sucks. My plan is to suspend it from the ceiling so I can paint it from all sides at once. To do this, I drill a hole through the body, through which I will run some wire and hang it up. The location of the hole is great, as it will be covered by two pieces that are glued on in final assembly.

Urethane Test Results

Much progress on the urethane front, all of it good.

Here's the stuff coming out of the scale mold. Recall that the first layer was airbrushed in, then I used a chip brush to glob in a second layer.

Very good results! I wish I had added pigment to that layer I airbrushed in, but that's cool. The goal was to simply see if the stuff could be airbrushed, which indeed it can. I'm really happy with the results. I think the mermaid tail project is going to turn out really nicely, if I can continue to get results like this. It's also very cool that I can airbrush the stuff, as that means I can do different coats in different colors, creating a really cool effect without painting it.

Here is how the diamond pattern looks. Same thing as above, the first layer was airbrushed, the second was chip brushed in. Again, very satisfactory result. The real take-away from this round is that in order to use a rigid mold, you need to put down a coat of mold release. It did not at all effect the quality of the pull. I'm pretty stoked about this. It basically means that this urethane can be used successfully on both rigid molds and flexible ones.

With those test behind me, and a few lessons learned, I moved on to the next round. This time, I added some So-Strong pigment to the urethane, and used a chip brush to put it into the mold. I also backed it with some fabric. I'll post the results of this round once I have them.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Compression Rifle Progress Continues

The Star Trek Voyager compression rifle is really coming along nicely, despite the fact that I didn't really touch it this weekend. The main assembly has been completed. I guess I would say the difficult work has been done. The one key piece that remains to be put in place is the strip of material that runs horizontally between the front and rear grips. The kit came with a piece of thick styrene with beveled edges, but it was wrong in a few ways. too thick, too wide, and too short. Other than that, it's perfect! The part about it being too short is really my fault. I placed the grips slightly too far apart. No big deal though.

Long story short, I'm fabricating my own strip. I didn't have any stock on hand that was the right thickness, so I had to glue together two pieces of styrene. I used some clamps I picked up a while back to hold them together while the glue dried.

Once dry, I'll trim it to size, then hold it in place with some glue and a wood screw or two.

The main body is really nice. Here's how it looks.

You can see where I'm working on some of the finer details with red putty. I use the really strong white stuff by Evercoat when doing bigger parts, or stuff that is in high touch areas. But if it's just surface blemishes, or little tiny things, I go with the red stuff.

I'm very pleased with how well the epoxy and wood screws are holding the front and rear handles on. I applied some non-trivial pressure to them sideways today, and they did not budge. Good stuff. I guess my techniques work!

I'm not going to really dork around much more with the main body. Yes, there are a ton of places where I could spend the next five years puttying the thing all to heck, but I'm just not going to do it. I'm still aiming to have this finished by Friday of this week. Today is Tuesday, mind you.

Brush On Urethane Tests Continue

It's been a very busy and distracting time recently, and the urethane tests have sort of gone to the back burner. But I got back on it this morning, and did some more work.

This time, I actually brushed in the urethane, since I've already established that spraying works pretty well. Brushing the stuff in will let me clean out my molds easily, and will also give me some information about brushing.

My first instinct is that the brushed in stuff isn't going to level out. It's too high viscosity to self level. That's not really a bad thing or a good thing, it's just interesting to note. I've also experimented with some so-strong pigments this round. Ultimately, I'm hoping that an inbound pigment will give me what I need for the cape, but we shall see. I'll save that for another day

Here's a snap of all the different surfaces and treatments I'm testing.

Here's a closeup of some urethane I brushed directly onto a silicone mold. Notice that it does not lift-off or peel back at all. This is really very encouraging, and makes me extremely happy. I really feel like I'm on the right path with this product.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Voyager Compression Rifle Build Begins

I'm going to try an experiment. I was very impressed by my friend John Palmeri's VERY quick build up of two phaser rifles for DragonCon, and it has inspired me to see if I can do something similar. To that end, I dug out one of my Star Trek: Voyager compression rifle kits and got started on it.

For reference, here's a picture of a screen used rifle that was auctioned off a while back.

Here's the kit I will be building up. This kit was sold by a company named "Masterpiece Models," which is no longer in business. They made some really nice kits, which were cast off legit masters. Their prices were fair, but I don't think they did as well as they had hoped.

So far, I've done a little sanding, and primered a few pieces. I also picked up a bunch of paint for it yesterday. Ideally, I'd like to get this rifle done by next Friday. (today is Friday, by the way)

Very Exciting Urethane News

After a couple of years of experimentation (though not consistently!) I think I've really had a breakthrough on the Superman Returns cape front.

If you'll recall, the big problem I've really run into is finding a suitable material to use for the outer skin of the cape. The part that is textured with a micro-diamond pattern.

I've tried a dozen or so different materials, ranging from various mixes and viscosities of latex rubber, to a bunch of different brands and shore hardnesses of urethane. It's extremely frustrating. Each one of the materials I try has its advantages and disadvantages, but none are able to produce the results I want. I came really close with a certain brand of latex rubber and a mixture of pigments, but it proved to be a bit transparent (necessitating multiple coats), extremely time consuming and error prone, and worst of all, when exposed to sunlight it would turn white and powdery.

At San Diego Comic Con this year, I sat down for dinner with the very talented David Pea of Universal Designs, (the company that brings us leather motorcycle gear that happens to be identical to some of the most awesome movie costumes ever!!) where he shared with me some of his hard earned wisdom. He suggested a few different materials and a number of techniques that I should explore. I recently did some experimentation with leather spray that did not turn out as I hoped, but it led me down a previously unexplored path.

The summary is this. I picked up a kit of Smooth-On Brush-on 50 Urethane, thinned it with mineral spirits (as per the websites suggestion) and sprayed it into my molds with an airbrush. I experimented with both a silicone mold and a rigid (BJB 1630) mold. Here are some close up photos of the results.

It may not be entirely clear from the photos, but the end result is that the urethane coated the molds VERY evenly, and did not lift up or pull back from either substrate. This is amazing to me!!!!!

What remains is to test the opacity of this spray. I need to pigment a batch, do a couple layers of spray, and see how much light passes through. I really feel VERY encouraged by my latest developments, and this is really exciting for me. The urethane goes on VERY thin when sprayed on like this, which is just great. Yes, it will mean I have to do a number of coats, but that's really no problem. The fact that it currently appears to satisfy all of my requirements is enough to offset any labor expense I may incur as a result.

Part of me doesn't want to get too excited, as I have experienced so much failure with this project over the years. Still, with results like this, it's hard not to get excited

Thursday, September 15, 2011

DVD Shelves

Just in case you thought the only things I work on are prop/costume/car related, think again!

I'm no carpenter, but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention. Here are some shelves I recently built in my new house to hold my DVD collection:

They're not entirely finished here, as you can see that I haven't built the support brackets for the top shelves, but you get the idea. This was actually a pretty challenging project, as my chop saw is a total piece of junk and can't saw straight on any plane. Still, the shelves turned out great, and work just perfectly.

SidKit Blade Runner Concept C.O.P. Gun

This is the next kit that is on the project workbench. It's a neat little kit put out by a gent in Italy who used to go by the name "SidKit" before his passing. I don't know how many of these kits made it into circulation, but I believe this is quite rare.

This piece was never produced for the film, but sketches exist that show its design. This was originally intended to be the blaster that Leon uses to blow away Holden during his interview at the Tyrell building.

Here's the kit as it came out of the bag.

I did some initial clean up, and decided to divert a tiny bit from the build instructions. After all, this was never seen on screen, so I see it as open to interpretation. The main change I'm making is that I'll be blending the butt-cap into the grip. I kicked around the idea of replacing the pyramid grip, as one side goes in the wrong direction, but I think that might over complicate things. Who knows.

Here's the initial clean up and putty of the grip.

And here's the first coat of primer.

There's still a lot of work to be done on this, and it's really just in the initial phases. There will definitely be some challenges to this built, but I think it will make for a nice final product.

Dead End Batarang Is Done

I posted some progress pics of this a week or so ago, and it's now done. This one came together very quickly, and I'm fairly pleased with the results. As with the other builds I've been cranking out lately, it is not super-perfect, but is pretty good. I'm trying really hard to stay away from the traps I usually fall into when it comes to making props, which is noodling away at the thing indefinitely. So much so that I lose interest in the prop. This one definitely has a few boogers in it, but the overall presentation is sound, I believe.

I did some very light weathering on it. Once I had finished the paint job, I hit it with some low grit sand paper around the edges, just enough to scratch some of the dark gray paint off to reveal the silver underneath. It gives it the appearance of having been thrown a few times. It's not terribly artistic, but I think it adds a little bit of flavor to it. I really do need to practice my weathering techniques a bit more. Perhaps on my next project, I will do just that.

MattMobile Manuals Arrive

These two beauties showed up the other day. They are the technical/service manuals for the Caprice. They are INCREDIBLY detailed, and should be of great assistance in the future. Good stuff.

Star Trek Enterprise Klingon Disruptor

I dug this piece out of storage about a week ago, and it came together VERY quickly. As with some of of my other recent build ups, I'm suppressing my typical attention to detail lunacy in favor of getting things finished. So far, this has turned out really great, though it is lacking in a few areas that I would normally have spent much more time on.

Long story short, I would typically have spent more time cleaning up the seams and making it perfect. But I'm just trying to plow through it and get it done. The paint turned out pretty well, though the red is not the right color. I'll do some weathering, and I think that will really change the look of it, but overall I'm quite happy with it, especially the results I got from my detailed masking job.

Here is how the kit started life. Just one big chunk of raw resin.

The seam line was pretty clean on this, but it did require some clean up. I knocked it all out in one evening. I could easily have spent another few hours on it, getting it just perfect, but instead I opted to get it done :)

I had a pot metal emitter to go with the kit, which I trimmed up and polished with a wire brush by hand. I probably could have given it some more love to get it even more shiny, but that seemed contradictory to the Klingon design aesthetic. Yeah, I just said that.

After cleaning the seam up, I sawed off the resin emitter, and covered it with a couple of coats of primer. I took a hard look at the parts that needed to be masked and painted, and came up with a strategy. I would paint the silver parts first, the red part second, and the black parts last. I first hit the gun with silver. I wasn't really too concerned with the coverage, though it would have been overkill to paint the entire gun silver.

Once the silver was painted and had been given a chance to dry, I masked off all the parts that needed to remain silver, and then sprayed on the red. Note that I did NOT yet mask off any black parts.

The trick I've really learned about painting props with masking is this: go light! When you lay masking tape down, there are often little gaps in between the tape and the prop, especially where tap overlaps. If you blast a heavy coat of paint down, it will find ways to seep into those cracks, often onto the prop. But, when you lay down a few really light coats, this tends not to happen. And I mean really light coats. It doesn't even have to be completely covered, but can instead just be a misting. Do a few of those, letting it dry in between, and your problems are over. This technique worked VERY successfully on this build.

Once the red was done, I pulled off all the masking tape, and started in on the black areas. The first thing I did was the ribbed area by the emitter.

And then I masked off the body of the gun so that I could paint the handle.

You can see the red overspray pretty clearly in this pic, revealing how my work process goes.

And that's really about it. I have some gold areas to paint, but I don't have any gold paint on hand. I guess I need to go get some. Then I need to decide how to weather it. I've found reference for two different weathering styles, as different prop shops made guns for the show. There's the HMS version, which looks like this:

And the ISS version, which looks like this:

I'm not sure which one to do, though I will probably shoot for something in between.