Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sometimes It's the Little Things

Saw this today.  Had to smile...


Now back to my regularly scheduled bloggage.

Predator: the Musical

From the same group that brought us Terminator 2: the Opera and Conan: the Musical. Apparently this will be their last Schwarzenegger musical, so enjoy it for all it's worth.


I Must Go Down to the Sea Again...

It's time.


I'm still able to pay all of my bills, but money's finally gotten to the point where I actually have to worry about it. That means it's definitely time to get back out to sea for a bit.


Oddly enough, I have been trying to get out for some time now. Unfortunately, the shipping industry reacts to market influences just after the manufacturing industry. If nobody's making things, nobody's shipping things. If nobody's shipping things, no ships are moving. If no ships are moving, no navigators are needed. If no navigators are needed, I'm going to be sitting on the beach for a while yet.


In the meantime, I've been picking up a few watches here and there aboard ships in port. As the Port Relief Officer, my job is to come down and cover the cargo watches so that those officers who are working on board can get a much-needed night off.


To get these gigs I have to appear in person at the union hall at noon for the job call.  Then, if I'm lucky enough to get something, I have to be back on board the ship that night to stand the watch.  The following day I have to go back to the hall to get paid, so if everything goes the way it usually does, I end up cranking out a 36-hour sleepless day.


Despite all of the nuisance, it's nice to be doing something professional on a ship again.  I even look professional:
Aboard SS Maui


That picture was taken aboard the MV Horizon Falcon, a Horizon Lines containership.  Here's a file photo of her from a better angle:


After finishing that gig at 0800, I had to make my way to Santa Rosa by 0915 to take care of some Navy business before going back to the Heart of Gold and promptly losing consciousness.


My next gig was aboard the SS Maui, a Matson Navigation Company containership.  So excited was I at the prospect of standing another watch that I ended up arriving at the pier early.  Three days early in fact.  That's what I get for not reading the dispatch before driving to Oakland to get lost in the freezing cold, pouring rain, and pitch dark.  Oops.

When I went back I still got there early in order to learn my way around before taking responsibility for the ship's safety.  I was glad I did too, because she's a somewhat odd old ship.  Here's a file photo of her:



The odd part about this ship in particular is the split superstructure configuration with the pilothouse and quarters forward and the engineroom and support spaces aft.  In more modern ships, these are all combined together at the stern.  Fortunately, the inport cargo watches give me a chance to get familiar with whatever wierdness these ships have before I find myself out at sea on one of them.  I also get to see the sun come up:
Oakland Harbor Sunrise


I've been pretty consistent in picking up the midnight to 8am shift, so after the job call I've had hours free to catch up on other projects while waiting for midnight to roll around:
Prepwork for Chaplain Helmet


Wednesday night I stood watch aboard the MV Mokihana, a combination container/Roll-On Roll-Off ship (aka car carrier).  She was originally built purely as a containership and was later retrofitted with a garage section aft.  Here's a picture of this oddly hermaphroditic ship:



The garage section back aft has parking spaces for over 1,300 vehicles.  Here's a shot showing some of the eleven levels inside:
Mokihana Garage


It's huge. Like me:
Aboard MV Mokihana


Cargo operations shut down at 4am, so I got to spend the next four hours waiting for the sunrise:
Oakland Harbor Sunrise 2

I also got to see the APL Thailand pull in:
APL Thailand Arriving

With all of the running around and sleep deprivation, I'm definitely geared back up to go out to sea again.

Fingers crossed I'll find a ship soon.

(In case you were wondering, the letters "SS" before a ship's name stand for "Steam Ship" while "MV" is "Motor Vessel" and "SV" is "Sailing Vessel")

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Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine Chaplain Helmet Part One

Back in what seems like forever ago, I sculpted out a lifesized Mk7 Space Marine helmet from Warhammer 40k.  After making a mold, I cast and painted two of them.  Out of all the various things I've painted up over the years, they ended up being the two that I'm most proud of:
Finished. 007
(sooner or later I'll even take the time to get some decent photos of them)


What I really like about the Warhammer universe is that all of the characters are infinitely customizable.  The helmets I made are just one of dozens of styles that show up among the Space Marines.  One of my favorites though has always been the skull-shaped visage of the Chaplains.  Since there's also wide variation among Space Marine Chaplain helmets, it means I still have plenty of creative license to sculpt it however I like.  This has been on my to-do list for quite some time.


So the other day I was tinkering in circles in the workshop, making small bits of progress on about a dozen things at once, and I stumbled across the mold again.  Gathering up some supplies (most of which were scattered across the floor) I went ahead and rotocast another copy.  Once it was out of the mold, it got a bit of tender loving care from a hacksaw and some basic smoothing and patching with bondo and sheet PVC.


After a bit of work, it looked like so:
Space Marine Chaplain Base


Several hours (and one 24-ounce can of Rockstar project fuel) later, I had the face roughed out:
Space Marine Chaplain Sculpt Progress 2


Somehow it didn't look angry enough.  Mostly I think it was the death's head grin:
Space Marine Chaplain Sculpt Progress 4


The prominent mouth and super-square jaw also gave it a decidedly simian look:
Space Marine Chaplain Sculpt Progress 5


Since I wanted it to look more ominous and less monkeyish, it needed more work.  After a bit more refinement, it looked like so:
Space Marine Chaplain Sculpt Progress 8


The teeth at this point are just roughed in as a placeholder, but finally it was looking appropriately hateful:
Space Marine Chaplain Sculpt Progress 7


Day three of sculpting found it looking like so:
Chaplain Sculpt Finished 4


With selective lighting it looked even better:
Chaplain Sculpt Finished 5


Chaplain Sculpt Finished 6


With the sculpt finished, it was time to start making a mold. In this case, I started by building up some thickness with brushable silicone around the bottom edge of the helmet in order to fill any undercuts that the print coat would've dripped off of:
Chaplain Mold Begins


Chaplain Mold Progress


Here's a shot of the rubber jacket mold just before I built the fiberglass mothermold:
Helmet Molds in Progress


The pink frosted blob on the left is the jacket mold for my HALO3 Mk5 helmet. The plurple nubs sticking out of both of them are to keep everything aligned when I assemble the mothermold around the empty mold.


After building a clay dam, I laid up the first half of the fiberglass mothermold:
Chaplain Mothermold Right Side

Once the first half had cured, I cleaned off the clay, smeared the bare edge of the flange with Vaseline, and then laid up the second half.  Here's a shot of the two mothermolds side by side:
Mothermolds Finished


After some cleanup and prep work, I pulled the whole thing apart and removed the original sculpt from the rubber jacket.  Then I reassembled the entire ordeal without the original inside and rotocast a copy.

In case you're unfamiliar with the technique called "rotocasting" I'll explain it briefly.  Most of my castings are made of urethane casting resin.  This is a two-part material that, when mixed, hardens into a rigid plastic with properties similar to PVC pipe.  "Rotocasting" is basically just pouring in enough liquid resin to coat the inside of the mold, then rolling it around inside to build up a hollow shell.  Repeat as necessary until the shell has enough layers to be as strong as you need and then wait for it to cure.

Back to this specific project: the nice part about sculpting on top of one of my Mk7 helmets is that I wouldn't have to make a new mold for the eye lenses.  The only appropriate color I could think of: RED.


Here's the first cast with the lenses in place:
Chaplain cast


Stay tuned for the final chapter in this particular adventure: detailing and painting!


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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tiny Tank Update: TRACKS!

There comes a few times in the course of my silly projects where something tiny and insignificant looks like a much bigger deal than it actually is.  Yesterday my friend Matt came over and we spent some time tinkering with the tank.  We pulled the rotten muffler off of the engine, tinkered with the transmission a bit, and spent a lot of time discussing changes to the drive train. 

At the end of the day, we'd re-designed the axle for the idler wheels at the rear of the tank, built it, and installed the first track:Port Track Test Fit

The problem with progress like this is that you end up taking a step back to see how it looks and get stuck staring at it for a while.

We didn't get much else done after this picture was taken.

Now I need to draw up the CAD drawings for the drive sprockets at the front end so I can replace my MDF stand-in with a proper sprocket and then see about making it go.  I've just finished drawing up the finalized design for the drive sprockets, so now I need someone to cut these out for me:
Hopefully I'll have this baby up and running this month.  Fingers crossed...

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First Gneeling Gnome is Painted

Here's the first one of these little bastards in all his glory:
Gneeling Gnome AK47


He's an angry little guy:
Gneeling Gnome M-16 Angry


Here he is next to a soda can for scale:
Gneeling Gnome M-16


I'm waiting on a new shipment of casting resin right now. As soon as it arrives I'll be cranking these guys out and listing them in my Etsy shop.


Stay tuned...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Possible Demises 41 to 43

Over the past couple of years I've posted forty different photoshopped images of ways I might conceivably die.  You can see them here: Clicky!

 Since then, I've made more.  Enjoy.



Death42



I'm sure before too long I'll come up with more ways to cease to be.  Stay tuned...


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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Machine of Death

I've just finished reading through Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die and if you're interested in reading a series of intellectual but macabre short stories, this book is for you.  In short, they're all stories from a time when a machine's been invented that tells you how (but not when) you will die.  It's actually quite fascinating.

Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die

I've also nearly finished reading Blackout by Connie Willis.  A story about a group of time travelling historians lost in London during the Blitz.  It's worth reading, so I can't tell you how it ends.  Also because I haven't finished it yet.

Blackout

Red vs. Blue Caboose Helmet continued.

Work continues on Private Michael J. Caboose's helmet from Red vs. Blue: The Recollection.  A while back I posted about the beginning of this helmet build.  I've been tinkering with it off and on since then, so I figured it was time for an update.


As I mentioned last time, I'd made a bit of a mistake when sectioning up the 3D model so Lopez the Robot Whittler could cut it out.  The end result was that the chin area was flattened down quite a bit.  The solution, as is often the case, was Bondo. Here's a shot of the early stages of filling and fairing the whole helmet:
Mk5 Bondo Progress 2


From this angle, you can get a better idea of how much material I had to add to the nose:
Mk5 Bondo Progress


After several hours of filing and sanding and filling and sanding, I decided to spray on a coat of black primer to get an idea of how things were going:
MK5 Primed Quarter View


Things looked pretty good (not that you can tell from the picture) but it still needed a bit of smoothing out.  I spent another afternoon sanding and filing and filling and sanding before I decided I was generally happy with the overall shape.  Then I cut the cheek vents out and sprayed on a crappy coat of blue paint just to see how it was all coming along:
Caboose Helmet test paint 1
Aside from a few bumps and dents along the back of the dome, I was pretty happy with it.  At this point it was still tough to spot the actual problems with the different sheens on the different areas of the helmet.  It would need a much better paint job before the small bits of unevenness are readily apparent.

I also had to do a little bit more symmetry work on the cheek vents:
Caboose Helmet test paint 2

Here's a shot with better lighting:
Caboose Helmet test paint 3

Once I had sorted out all of the dents and bumps, I re-primed the black areas with black primer:
Caboose Helmet test paint 4

With the general shape figured out, the next step was adding in all of the minor details to the back of the neck area.  For this I used thin sheet styrene cut to the right shapes and glued on:

Mk5 Helmet Progress

Somewhere about this time I fell prey to my usual tendency to spend too much time poring over reference images and noticed that the cheek boxes weren't long enough and I'd have to add a bit of material to the back end of them to make them correct:
Mk5 Helmet Progress Side

Here's a shot of the beginning of the gooping process:
Caboose Chin Box Bondo

I also decided to turn the cheek vents so they faced forward a bit more.  Rather than grinding down the forward ends and adding material to the back ends, I decided on cutting the vents out and repositioning them:
Mk5 Progress Quarter View


Once I'd smoothed everything out and primed it again, the next step was the installation of a visor.  The initial impulse was to use a gold-tinted motorcycle helmet faceshield I had laying around.  It looked decent, but it wasn't perfect:
Caboose Helm Motorcycle Visor

Once I had everything looking the way it should, the next step was to spray the black parts with textured paint to blend everything together and make it look and feel like a different material from the rest of the helmet.  I achieved the final look on the back portion with two coats of "Hammered Effect" and two coats of truck bed coating.  The brim got only the truck bed coating.

I also cobbled together a stand-in visor out of scraps of styrene I had laying around.  Then I painted it gold:
Caboose Helmet Prototype finished

In the end, it fits:
Caboose Helmet Prototype finished 2


Next I'll move on to mold making.

Stay tuned...