Friday, September 14, 2007

Problems with an enclosed and inaccessible structure

Appears that I can't maintain enough friction on the ball joints. Since repair involves me disassembling the entire structure to get access to the ball, it's near impossible. The legs are still operational, but posing is now limited to non-acrobatic non-aerial poses. I still have the old legs as backup, but that involves removing a small part of the hips (the ball and socket pin part) to allow them to be reused.

I also erred on the paint mix, so her legs are slightly off shade. I'll have to correct that later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Redesigned hip structure with partial assembly steps

It's been only two or so months of service, and sad to say, the hip structure I designed started to show structural wear. Originally a ball joint approximation with hinge structures, it wasn't user friendly in design, and required a lot of proper manipulation to pose properly. This was due to the lack of proper ball joint design.

There are a few issues with ball joints made of paper/wood derivatives:

1) Making a uniform sphere. The best thing you can get is an approximation of a sphere by rolling a length of paper around a shaft, with some trapezoidal cross sections. For this exercise, I needed small spheres, otherwise, the housing would exceed the desired dimensions. The older unit used a 20mm diameter circular plate to flesh out the hinge area. I decided to use an 8mm diameter sphere, created by wrapping an 18cm long x 8cm tall strip of 110lb cardstock trimmed to taper down from 8mm to 2mm wide around a wooden bamboo skewer for structural support.

Two spheres were made, and placed on the ends of a 32mm long bamboo skewer. The spheres are force fit and removable, for later disassembly and maintenance.

2) Making the housing. The housing needs to be strong enough to support the outward force of the sphere, restrain the sphere in all directions except for rotation, allow for movement, while keeping enough friction to allow for posing the leg without need of external supports. It also must not occupy too much volume. For this, I'll need a strong material. The first housing consists of two 15mm x 87mm Macetail Hystrodon card sections rolled around an 8mm diameter cylinder as a guide. These strips were pre-sanded to allow for maximum adhesion, rolled, and form an outer diameter of 12mm. The bottom housing was done in the same manner with an Abjure. One 4mm wide by 7mm long cut was made down one housing, while the other was cut to fit around the other, making a crude T-Section pipe.

These are the end results of the housing manufacture process.

The design ultimately ends up with an 8.3mm sphere fit inside a 8mm inner diameter tube. The housing will bulge outwards a bit due to the force fit, but this will be corrected by adding the rest of the assembly, namely the end caps.

The next element to build is the lower leg attachment assembly.
This piece was rolled around a 36mm long bamboo skewer to form a stepped rod. this was inserted into the housing bottom, and the rest of the Macetail Hystrodon and Abjure card scraps (about 30mm x 87mm) were rolled along the thinner end to form the pin housing.

The next step is to thicken the legs. Random pink cardstock was used to flesh out the legs as needed, and the 110lb white cardstock was used to cover the upper part of the knee assembly.

The red bag like objects are made of rolled cardstock tubes glued around a straight 110lb cardstock cylinder over the thigh assembly. The top part has the end caps in place, made of a Malicious Advice. It is composed of a 5 walled box with a slit cut through the center.
This piece has a 14x4mm slit in the middle to allow for 90 degree movement, and was placed on the end of the housing. I've trimmed the box to fit better in the space allotted, so the actual dimensions needed are unknown. After the end cap was placed, it was glued and secured with layers of cardstock to hold it in place. Then the process of fleshing out the leg was freehanded with simple primitives covered by a tube of 110lb cardstock. The end result was sanded and painted.
The legs actually look better since it's smoother, shows less mechanical elements (the screw access holes for tightening), and hides nearly all of the elements that make it work.Here is a finished shot of the legs in action. These hopefully will last longer than the original legs.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

More Head development

It would be unfair to not credit the creator of the model which Hotaru and Lucy are built upon. The paper modeling master at the now defunct Mizuirogakuen site produced several exquisite models which I built over the past year. Rather than build a new head sculpt from the ground up, i simply took the template for one of his model's heads and adapted it as a blank sculpt. Unfortunately, there were only two suitable candidates:

The Shinku head sculpt, without the extra bits, makes a good base. And the other candidate is Ruri Hoshino, from Martian Successor Nadesico. This one also worked well if you remove the extra hair bits too. I opted for this one as the default template was bigger.
The boxed in components are the necessary parts. I scaled the page to 96% or so to fit the doll. After acquiring the template, I simply placed a Magic the Gathering card underneath the sections and used a stylus to transfer the template. You can use carbon paper if you like, but it's messier. For this, you will need to omit the tabs on every part.

The process of fabricating a head takes a good half a day to complete, for reasons about to be explained. I'll document the exact process used.

1) Transfer the template onto a Magic the Gathering card. Centaur Veteran tends to be a common choice for me to use.

2) I like to use small pieces of masking tape to hold the parts together as I assemble the head. Using small strips of printer paper, I cover all the crevices from the inside. This leaves a smoother outer finish for better appearance. A Magic the Gathering card is stiff, and needs ample time to dry. Two layers is ok, but one layer is sufficient.

Make sure you cut a hole at the bottom of the triangular piece for the neck, if you plan on mounting it on a doll with a ball bearing support neck.

The best way to do it is to build the purple part separately, cut it in half (with the cut going along the join seam), and assemble it to the lower half ofthe face/neck region.
It should look like this. This one was formerly a Glory Seeker.

3) You should sand the outer face smooth, to remove any defects and protrusions caused by shoddy handiwork. My newer method involves taking an array of thin printer paper strips and covering the outer side (the back face in the case of the photo), going perpendicular to the join seams, trying to overlap as little as possible. After that dries, I like to sand the overlaps smooth.

4) Trace over another set of the parts, but this time on printer paper. Use pencil or something light if possible, as it will show up during the painting process. Glue those over the exterior surface now covered by strips of paper. You will now have something close to this:
(Yours will likely look like crap. Don't worry, it happens to all of us. This is my second one, which I never used again. Hotaru is my third attempt, and Lucy is the fifth.)

4) Use this time to draw facial features. Good luck. Drawing on a curve sucks. Be prepared to draw lightly and erase often.

5) If you are satisfied with the appearance, and have sanded the head smooth as you like, you should add the ears now. You can paint now as well.

6) Now, you have the back of the head to complete. You should have a small, quarter sphere piece for the top of the head that may or may not fit. Mine never do, so I solve that problem by enlarging the shell. Make a third purple part template, with cardstock. Assemble that fully.

Place the quarter sphere on the head, then fit the cardstock shell onto that, to complete the sphere. I'll document the hair making process and more of step 6 in the future.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Suigintou Cosplay: full version

This cosplay set features a few new elements worth showcasing. First off, the costume is more complete with white wig and headband like accessory on her head. Notably, the biggest improvement is the new face.

Now, you might have (not) noticed that the newer head has adjustable eyes to allow it to track you from different viewing angles. (Go look again, if you don't believe me. I'll wait for you.) However, that is true, as I've hollowed out eye holes and provided a new eye system that also allows for eyelids to be adjustable too. But the beauty of this system is that the eye tracking is actually an optical illusion. Yes, for all the shots, the eyes were not adjusted at all between shots.

What's happening is that due to the nature of the facial structure, the eye sits farther back than it should. When the eyes are set to look straight on, the pupils are surrounded by the white part of the eyes. As you move around, the lip that exists around the eye obscures the white part, making the pupil look like it has been adjusted to your direction. When combined with both eyes, you get an illusion that it is actually following your movements as you look at it.

Back view of the hair

For the interested party: here is an idea of how the system works.
The left side shows the possible eye colors to use. Right now, a purple set is inside the setup.

This is the inside of the head. The orange/red ring is a structural component to allow the head to not sink too far downwards on the neck. The black strip is what holds the eyes to the eyeholes securely. It allows for movement and simple adjustments.Here is a shot of the eyes in place.

Default scheme
With eyelids added With eyes positioned off center to allow for more extreme sideways glancing

This 2nd generation dynamic head design effectively replaces the original "Hotaru" face template. The 2nd generation head will now be referred to as "Lucy", and will be used for all future demonstrations.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some random cosplay fun

This weekend's task yielded several nice results. I can now produce puffy sleeved dresses, socks, boots, ribbons and gothic lolita dresses. Hooray. However, the most important development was how to get better results on wearing down the thick black construction paper without creating severe defect prone wear from crumpling and folding. The old method involved crumpling carefully, unfolding, then rolling it along a thin bamboo stick to weaken it further. The success rate was around 80%, with not so desirable wear lines showing up as a result. It did produce soft paper that worked well for frequently folded aspects like shoulder and elbow parts of clothing but with a high rate of failure.

The newer method skips the crumpling and goes straight to the rolling. It takes 4-5 passes with the bamboo stick, with the occasional alternating direction to wear down the fibers in all directions. You get a nice, semi-weakened paper that can easily be worn further for more flexible applications or left alone for more decorative, static elements. I fold over the weakened paper and use my fingers to rub the area near the fold against itself to get it to become softer. Still not desirable, but it saves me from having to crumple a large pointy sheet.
The large bottom flaps are done with the newer method, leaving a smoother appearance. The top used the old method, and some wrinkled parts are visible. The boots are also done with the older crumpled paper method, but can certainly be done with the newer one.
Dress isn't too stiff that it's unposeable. Still needs some work to get it to allow the full range of movement the doll's joints have.
The reference model used to construct the dress. One of the more difficult Mizuirogakuen models. Provided enough information from constructing it to adapt to the dress.
"I'm bigger than you are!"
There's not a lot of interesting poses you can have with a dress like this, and I figured a gun wouldn't fit too well. (Variety or lack thereof was needed for this set, I figured)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

M60E3 and boots!

Presenting today's work: boots. They're technically modified socks... I developed a sock like outer covering that fits over her feet and lower legs and into the shoe. Cheating, but it sure gets around the design difficulty of full on boots that require fasteners or actual cloth. Aren't workarounds great?Well, the other, older item Hotaru's playing with is the M60E3. It needs some paint. And ammo. Haven't bothered making an ammo belt or box to go along with it yet. Might not ever.
Oh yes, did I also mention the tie? Tying ties was bad enough when I had to do it myself (and for other people too, on that note), but tying a stiff 1/6 scale tie isn't fun. Flops around too much. As you can also see in this picture, her "boots" allow a good degree of freedom.

Damn, the tie is really stiff. At least it makes her look good. Maybe I should redo this shot with her in a schoolgirl outfit with frilly skirt and a bag...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Vroom Vroom

Yakumo on a bike. A LEGO 8422 Technic motorbike, to be exact. Seems to be a bit small for 1/6 scale people though. Maybe better for 1/7 scale. Strangely, the wheel wells haven't oxidized, considering the amount of light exposed to them these past 3-4 years on my desk.

No new developments, only thing of note is the lack of black and silver paint. Perfect for this:
I'm a sucker for movable parts. Revolving barrel and break action with a manual catch. Awesome. All it needed was a moving hammer and trigger and I'd be fiddling with this all day. Too bad it doesn't. I impulsively built this the past two days after listening to a friend go on about the Broken Butterfly in Resident Evil 4. I figure, it's got to be fun playing with a break action revolver, so here we go. Perhaps one of the best wastes of time this month.

Monday, August 13, 2007

2007 Wizard World Comic Convention/ shopping trip

Well, my first comic convention. It was full of obese white men hawking comics and other toys from the era of my childhood for exorbitant prices. Not to mention, scary looking girls dressed in what I can assume is not a cosplay of a goth girl. I spent about six hours literally walking through lanes of memories long past: tons of Transformers toys, some Crash Dummies toys (which I was slightly compelled to buy), a Nicholas D Wolfwood action figure (which I passed up), and Monsieur Bome's Full Metal Panic! figure set which I spent months wanting but ultimately decided it wasn't worth the desk space it would ultimately consume. So much for impulse purchases. However, the best item I came across that I bought was this:
YES! 1/6 scale weapons, so I don't have to make them! Go Japanese injection molded miniatures! I bought two, and these random weapon packs had a total of 18 different detailed scale weapons to get. I looked on the back, and saw the silhouette of an M60 machine gun and an MP5SD6. "AWESOME!" I thought. "M60! I want that!" Well, $8 later, I got two of the most cookie cutter guns you could've gotten: an AK-47 and an XM177. Wow. Hardly as exciting as the Steyr AUG, the MP5 series or the weird mystery gun I couldn't identify that I could have gotten. Oh well. Still nice though. They fit perfectly with Hotaru's poorly made hands, and had some nice surprises.
(The new arsenal of toys! Left to right: Gewehr 43, MP44/StG44, AK-74, FAMAS, XM177, AK-47)
The XM177 was ok. It sported some recesses on the foregrip that I assume can be fitted with some non-existent accessories. The magazine came out, which was nice. The best surprise was the extendable stock. However, the excessive fake wear effects made it look really nice, although a new looking one would have been just as fine.
This was perhaps the best of the two, perhaps best of them all. The AK-47 with fixed stock and taped banana clips had the best wear effects done on it. Down to the worn wood and scraped magazines, it was superb. Naturally, the magazines are removable.
"Look at me! I'm like an African child soldier!"

I actually would have been very pissed if I ended up with two M16 rifle variants. So unexciting. Anyways, the other piece of loot worth showcasing:
This peculiar figure got my attention (along with the $25 price tag, which helped me not be poor after the convention) because of the interchangeable parts. It's just like Hotaru, but mass produced! Unfortunately, I'll never get to review and play with it, because this one's going to remain in the box. I probably should have bought a second one to fiddle with, despite my lack of love towards Haruhi.

Now, onto the non-weapon aspects I haven't had time to showcase.

From the obviously bootleg backdrop, I have taken a photo of Hotaru's new outfit and non-violent accessory (perhaps non-violent is incorrect, as I've given the umbrella a sharp pointy spike). She now has a spiffy sun hat and a matching dress.
It's rather heavy to hold, and might require some joint stiffening to properly hold.

The understructure was made of electrical wire and provides a great party piece:It closes too! Not too impressive, since paper martini umbrellas are smaller, and kick this one's ass by a lot. But, hey, buying a lot of 1/10 scale umbrellas wholesale isn't too great, and no one makes 1/6 scale ones. That takes care of this post's worth of updates. More to come when they do.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Miscellaneous post

Nothing critical in developments today. Made a Sturmgewehr 44 at 1/6 scale for entertainment purposes, so Hotaru can have a full sized (I guess full sized relative to her) version of my favorite Call of Duty 2 weapon.

The suit is looking better the more I look at it. Anyways...

In other news, today was excellent. I now have a proper chair to sit in after 7 years of using a stool. Also, Paris Hilton has been disinherited. Joy.