Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TF2 Level 3 Sentry Gun Paper Model Reference Dump

Behold the glory that is my handiwork. I present the unpainted Team Fortress 2 Level 3 Sentry Gun paper model. It's not papercraft, since that involves a simpler method of cutting and gluing tabs and whatnot to form the object. I've taken liberties of utilizing unorthodox methods and materials to achieve this.

I do, however, have the eight sheets of plans and diagrams I used to construct this. Here they are, presented in no special order. These eight sheets, along with a few images of the sentry gun, are all I used to build this. No CAD or game model rips involved.

Page 1 (References the construction of the rear, angled leg struts)
Page 2 (References the parts borrowed from the two source sentry models)
Page 3 (Calculations of strut length, angle of attachment, and angle of orientation)
Page 4 (Minigun assembly)
Page 5 (Preliminary draft of part dimensions)
Page 6 (Turret design and support shaft)
Page 7 (Ammo housing and support struts)
Page 8 (Preliminary draft for front and rear leg; rocket cross section) (EDIT: corrected bad link)

There's a few parts that I have not documented since they were made on the fly. The front leg struts to the center shaft, wires, electrical plate, and miscellaneous decorative fasteners are unknown. These can be provided on request.

I'll be documenting individual components in detail over the course of the next few weeks, highlighting various construction decisions used. Many of the applications here can be useful for future project reference.

Monday, December 29, 2008

This (last) Week(end)'s Project: Building a Sentry Gun

It has been about 5-6 days after starting construction of the Team Fortress 2 Level 3 Sentry Gun. I've consumed a total of 38 Magic: the Gathering cards (which I've finished all the structural aspects with) and about 10-20 sheets of 110lb Cardstock (I've lost count). I've also used about 17 bamboo skewers. I have reached 8 pages of documentation covering the design and construction of various components. This paper model outclasses the minigun "Sasha" in terms of complexity and weight and outnumbers it in unique components needed for construction. I dare say, it uses more Magic: the Gathering cards to construct than Lia.

This stage currently is missing the following details:

Electrical wires
End caps for holding the rotating minigun barrel assemblies to the housings
Middle redundant feet supports
Rockets (x4)
Ammunition feed belts
Misc decorative fasteners and bolt heads

I'll elaborate on the finer details of the construction after I finish this task. So far, in order to properly assemble the sentry support, I had to glue down parts now. Unfortunately, if I do that now, painting would be difficult to do due to the crevices and small clearances. Therefore, my original plan of leaving it unpainted to show off the materials used in the construction fizzled. Right now, there's a blue wire holding the front legs/support column to the frame. There's a very logical reason for this: the design I've based this off of isn't feasible in real life.

The center support column is composed of a cross shaped piping piece, with two ends feeding into the frame. These parts also conveniently form the pivot for the front legs, which are attached to the middle post by the lower struts. There's nothing holding them to the curved frame, so when weight is applied to the post, it creates a moment on a non fully constrained support, causing slip. Think of a board resting on wall. Apply a load to the top, and the bottom will slide out, causing the ladder to fall. I'll do a proper over-analysis of the sentry design later as well, once the zeal of completing this monstrosity ends.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

This Week's Project: Buildin' A Sentry!

So far, there have been two papercraft Team Fortress 2 sentry gun models. However, both are level 1 sentries. highwaychile.net's model can be found floating around other sites. raven-age.org's can be found here.

EDIT: highwaychile.net's model is no longer available. -J.Norad

I'll be using both as a reference for the support structure for my level 3 sentry gun model. In theory, it's merely an addition to the pre-existing models, so it'll be easy, no?

I personally liked highwaychile's version more, but both are quite lacking in the extra legs department. For reference, I'm making them in 1:6 scale to the best of my ability, and the other two can be used at 1:6 scale if scaled to 119% of the original size.

For this attempt, I'll be using my staple, the Magic: the Gathering card. I'm attempting some new methods this time that I'd like to comment on. Typically, I've been cutting and gluing each layer one at a time for the sole reason of not being able to cut through eight layers of cards glued together with the consistency of a thin wood board. However, I now have a Dremel rotary cutting tool.

My experiences have mixed results. Using a Dremel's circular cutting disc on a laminated stack of cards causes two severe health hazards. It first off, burns part of the card, creating some smoke and fumes. Second, paper is made from wood, and well, cutting wood makes a lot of sawdust. I ended up with a nice cloud of brown powder everywhere. Cutting the cards works best on the max setting, otherwise, the cutting disc grabs onto the material and starts slowing down.

Finer details were also problematic. I don't have the luxury of having the 1/4" drill accessory, so I had to improvise using the 1/8" drill bit, an X-acto knife, and a lot of stabbing. However, after about eight hours of apathy, here's the results.

Eight layers of Magic cards creates a thickness of roughly 3mm, a fact that I will exploit in designing and constructing individual elements. More progress pictures as they come, and eventually the diagrams for each part will follow.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

This Weekend's Project: Building a Gundam Airmaster

This weekend was spent exploring the world of GUNDAM models. I selected the GUNDAM Airmaster for the experiment due to the interesting premise of an alternate aircraft mode. Some basic facts:

Model made by BanDai in 1996, High Grade (which means not made of crap, but still worth a decent week of fun)
1/100 scale (which means 18 cm tall)
Cost: $24.99 at local toy shop (base, no paints or panel markers)
Uses rubber parts in the joint construction to assist posability
Snap together, no glue required
No paint required, comes with stickers (which are the coward's way out!)

Before I delve into my first experience making a GUNDAM model (by now, you might wonder why GUNDAM is all in caps. It's apparently an acronym that differs from each GUNDAM series and refers to the mechanical unit's military designation. Great Ubiquitous Narcoleptic Despot Achieving Mechanicalization. Geriatric Underwear Nicking Delinquents Assaulting Minors. You can take your pick.), I'll show the final result.

Well, "Final" is a tentative term, as I somewhat half-assed it so I could play with it. I'll redo and improve it later. The kit is designed for minimal after-assembly decoration (paint and the forbidden stickers, more on that in a second), with different colored plastics removing the need of painting individual parts the correct color. Perfect, as I paint like a drunken child with ADD. The only significant thing you need to do is decorate all the panel lines: all the black lines all over the model that you see/can't see. You can use specially designed GUNDAM markers to draw the lines, or you can do what I did and wash all the parts with thinned black enamel and let it seep into the cracks and wash off the excess. However, not doing that properly (like I did) leaves you with a dirty/weathered look or looking like a dirty 1980's toy. Not that it's a bad thing.

Now, about the stickers... I hate stickers. They look tacky, they're too shiny compared to the rest of the model, and I can never place them right. I'll always hate how they're slightly off, and they'll always peel off over time, making them terrible means of adding detail to something. Plus, they're not waterproof. I practically ignored the sticker sheet and decided to paint the details instead. You also can't access the panel lines using stickers, making your model look even more half-assed.

For scale, here's Hotaru with the Airmaster. There's a lot of moving parts on this model, but it unfortunately leaves the Airmaster top heavy. The knees are insufficient in preventing him from falling backwards, and his hips are not compatible with BanDai's GUNDAM Action Bases. I can't display the Mech or Aircraft mode in any dynamic action poses. Speaking of the Aircraft mode, this is the Airmaster's Aerial mode.

As you can see, I'm using a laboratory beaker as a display stand. Nothing I can really do about it. Aside from a few design flaws, it's a nice aircraft. The Airmaster's golden chest vents act as air scoops. I presume propulsion is from the rocket thrusters in his feet, and not from these random air vents angled upwards on his back. The legs get angled oddly in aircraft mode, which doesn't help the non-aerodynamic flow of the GUNDAM's boxy arms and stuff hanging off the side. Overall, the red trim helps make the model look a bit nicer.

For $24.99, it's an ok model. My friend tells me that more recent models come with endoskeletons for support, instead of using these rubber "polycaps" as they call it. It would greatly make this model from "ok" to "great" if the joints could hold better. It would be even better if there was a way to display it in aircraft mode at all.

If you ever come across this model, kindly do yourself a favor and pick something more recent. 1996 wasn't a kind year to the Airmaster. It certainly hasn't gotten better over time.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Random link for Dec 9, 2008

Came across this today: Bookmarking it here for reference, and thought it would be nice to share.


It's a site where completely cloth dolls can be made by sewing, with proper instructions. Plans for the parts are available for download. I figure it may prove valuable for future remodeling endeavors, with pre-made components that I can modify and use for Hotaru's body.

I should also mention, it's a fairly decent place to get links to proper sewing tips. Been a year so far, and I've offered next to zero sewing tips despite sewing a lot.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Desk Vignettes #6: You did WHAT?

SOLDIER: Hmmm. Where is my rocket launcher?
SOLDIER: Hey, female non combatant! Do you know where my rocket launcher is?SOLDIER: It's about this big and makes little maggots cry and cower in fear!
HOTARU: Oh that thing? It looked so old and outdated, I traded it to someone.

HOTARU: I got you this Null Ray Cannon in exchange for your old weapon. I hear it's quite effective against electrical based objects.
SOLDIER: Null Ray Cannon? What manner of trickery is this?
SOLDIER: Hm, it will be a mighty weapon against enemy emplacements! But will it work on little maggot scum? And most importantly, who has my rocket launcher now?

SKYWARP: Fear me earthling! I command the power of one of your most feared earth weapons!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Buying a Model F-15 Eagle

Perhaps one of those purchases I'll regret making later due to the sheer size of the thing, but my Masterpiece Skywarp Transformers figure has arrived. I fondly like to call it my Masterpiece F-15 Eagle fighter jet model, as I'll never want to transform this thing ever again. I bought it using the live.com cashback deal with eBay's "Buy it Now" option using paypal, netting me 30% off the $99 price tag. If you're late to the game, do a live.com search for something generic and click on the ebay ad, then sink your wallet into oblivion.

I've only ever built one model airplane, an F-18 Fighting Hornet, and my painting skills were subpar back then. I had nightmarish problems applying decals, and parts not gluing on right. Rather than build a model kit that has limited moving parts, I decided it would be better spending a bit more on a highly detailed model that happens to transform into a robot that likes to destroy things. Most of the details are already added to the model, so less work for me. I stashed the sticker sheet into the box and threw that into the closet, as using the stickers would make me feel bad. Not "ruins the resale value" bad, but more of a fear of a similar experience with stickers being misapplied.

Anyways, the box is huge. The model jet is about 32cm long. as to what scale that is, I have no idea.

It took me an hour to decipher the drawings the creators passed off as "instructions". This toy/model was not a user friendly designed product. There are many small parts that my "fat" fingers couldn't manipulate, necessitating the assistance of some illegal immigrant children to do it for me. However, I didn't have any spare illegal immigrant children, so a screwdriver had to suffice. The instructions being in Japanese with vague pictures didn't help. I was afraid half the time of snapping a part off clean. However, I did manage to complete Skywarp's transformation and discovered a fun little feature.

Masterpiece Skywarp can hold 1:6 scale guns! Screw the Null Ray cannons, Skywarp has Glock 20s, which are superior than laser cannons. Remember: shields and Jedi can block slow moving lasers. When you're the minion of a mighty robot army, you can't be bothered with shields and Mark Hamils blocking your victory.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hotaru reviews: HK-MP5 from Medicom Toy's Grenz Schutz Gruppe-9

Well, I've sorted out Hotaru's hair. I used the tip of a hot glue gun to curl the hair in the right direction so it behaves. I've also learned that whatever synthetic her hair is made of, it can be straightened by applying said hot glue gun to the strands. I was afraid it would burn and leave a cloud of smoke, but it has a higher ignition temperature than the gun can provide.

Now that I handled the hair, time to put her back into work. Hotaru today got an early present: a Heckler and Koch Machinenpistole-5, otherwise known as an MP5. This model comes from Medicom Toy's GSG-9 counter terrorist unit figure. I bought the gun loose, without the baggage of another body to decapitate.

The gun is decently sculpted, and features a retractable buttstock, tactical flashlight, adjustable sling, and three magazines.
Two magazines can be clipped together with a special bracket. Here's where the disappointments come. The bracket holds the magazines securely only near the ends, so there's a bit of slip. Despite being the same part, each magazine differs in how the top bullet was molded: one had a nigh distinguishable bullet/borderline tab while the other two had visible bullet shaped protrusions. The bullets themselves were painted with what looks like a roller: golden paint covered most of the top. The side of one or two magazines had residual red chunks of paint flecks.
Here, Hotaru is illustrating the selective fire option. Strangely, Medicom put a nice detailed decal of the selective fire system's "Safe", "semi-auto" and "full auto" modes, but neglected to put the indicator for what mode the switch is set to.

However, here's the unexpected party piece. The detachable scope is actually translucent the entire way through. Great opportunites to use in photoshoots, with a proper backlight. The joy of the scope gets killed by the fact that the scope covers are poorly designed/molded. There's little other than friction holding them in place. The mold maker decided that tiny pins were too much effort to add, thereby making the scope covers impossible to stay on when open. The front piece came off twice while shooting these pics, and it was in the closed position when it did.

Wow, her hair makes her head look big. Unintentionally going for the Rukia from Bleach look right now. Anyways, the MP5 overall is a nice model to have. The build quality definitely shows how cheaply made the actual parent figure was (about $20-30). If you for some reason come across the Medicom Toy verison depicted here, be prepared to keep the scope somewhere safe where the parts can't be lost. The buttstock is removable, but be warned, the rails for the stock warp easily. It may not fit as well when you put it back together. If you paid what I paid ($2.25), it's not a bad model. However, it's not worth buying the figure for $30.

Accuracy: 8/10
Build Quality: 5/10
Paint Job: N/A
Moving parts: Stock only, no cocking lever. Magazines and scope detachable.
Overall: 7/10

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Weekend's Project: A New Wig

The goal is to progressively evolve Hotaru's structure to greater levels, beyond her humble origins of a Magic: the Gathering construct. I've been fond of her current hairstyle due to the subtle green tint used in the chemical fabrication of her black paper hair. I've yet to find a similar substance so far, thus making me hesitant in outright replacing/redoing it. However, her strands are fragile and tend to suffer from bends that lead to strands breaking. Not to mention, her hair isn't really dynamic.

So far, my first subject, Lia, had mixed results from the transition from construction paper hair to synthetics. A bit too much applied and lots of unsecured strands. Unfortunately, I didn't really keep that in mind the second time around, especially the too much hair part. Anyways, onward with the experiment!

I bought a cheap Halloween wig from Target for $10 for the purpose of making wigs out of the strands. Much more cost efficient than cannibalizing a Barbie in terms of dollars per volume. Most Halloween wigs cost $20, so I wasn't expecting anything great from this one. We'll see what fits in that "One size fits most" disclaimer on the box.

I won't digress into the details (especially since I didn't take progress pics), but I used the tried and true method of hot glue gun and fingerfulls of strands. I'll need to remember to cut back on the volume used. Too much material results in a poofy hairdo. I've actually resorted to using a twist tie to hold back the excess volume of hair. I was expecting half the strands to come loose over time, but that plan failed. I'll have to do some pruning/pulling later to get it under control.

This is the painted Pancor Jackhammer, with my new favorite color: Gunmetal Grey. The shotgun shells Hotaru is holding came from the European Shotgun set by Dragon.

I'll get some more colorful twist ties to make things look better til I control her hair.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Flightless game + Shotguns = Thanksgiving

Ever since the colonial days, future Americans have been shooting large flightless birds with really big guns. What else says Thanksgiving than paying homage to our legacy of blasting large animals with shotguns?

I've noticed that in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park, if you wore a brimmed hat, statistically you had a 66% chance of holding an exotic shotgun.

Robert Muldoon. Franchi SPAS 12 shotgun. Hat.

Alan Grant. SPAS 12. Unfortunately lost his hat by this scene.

So, what better person to use to demonstrate the spirit of Thanksgiving than the Sniper?

TF2 Sniper. Franchi SPAS 12 Shotgun. Hat. CHECK!

This 1:6 scale shotgun comes from Dragon Models Limited's European Shotgun set, which I purchased for $7 at www.modelwarehouse.biz. A nice set of solid plastic with a moving pump. The SPAS 12 is one of those "looks cool, so let's use it in video games/movies" deals, which makes getting a model fairly easy. Great for picking off vicious Velociraptors. But, what if you were being overrun by lots of fast moving flightless creatures? Nothing says American like lots of firepower in large copious amounts.

This is the Pancor Jackhammer. A prototype automatic shotgun that, like the SPAS 12, is one of those "looks cool/futuristic, so let's use it in videogames" guns. Unfortunately, this gun doesn't have a 1:6 scale model out there to buy, so naturally, I had to make one.

Here's my prototype Pancor Jackhammer. 132mm long, faithfully recreated in 110lb cardstock and a few scrap Magic: the Gathering cards I needed to junk. I based the actual model off the Mk3A1 version than the US patent office submission, as the former looked better. No one's going to care, since only 2 of these shotguns actually exist in the world.

I started off with the pictures from a russian gun site, as they provided a nice side and front profile. Good reference pictures are necessary for any model you plan on making. This model was simple, as most of the parts are cylinders and blocks. For the blocky handle, I decided to laminate 10 layers of cardstock than use two sheets of Magic cards supported by a hollow tube between. It worked well due to the thin nature of the grip. The top rail was made by sandwiching two Magic cards over 7 layers of cardstock, and then punching out the holes with a 1/4" hole punch.

Here, you can see the back of the Pancor's stock. There are little grooves on the stock, made by thin strips of Magic card. At a small scale, the thickness of paper can create interesting details by itself. Magic cards are about twice as thick as 110lb cardstock, so any raised details can be achieved just by layering a card.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nov 19 is "IIlegal Arms Smuggling Day"

A year ago or so I played Call of Duty 2, a video game set in WWII. I remember the day I found two spectacular in game weapons: the Maschinenpistole 44 (Sturmgewehr 44) assault rifle and the Gewehr 43 semi-automatic rifle. In real life, the Gewehr 43 jammed and was pretty bad, and the MP44 was pretty rare. However, in the glorified world devoid of gravitational drop on bullet trajectory and profuse bleeding killing you, these two were kings. They'd normally give you either a pistol or some sub-machine gun along with a rifle you may or may not fancy. They'd be usually bolt action rifles with long reload times, or sub-machine guns with low ammo capacities.

Anyways, I found myself holding the G43 and loving how unrealistically effective it was. Ten shots of semi-auto glory with easily aimed iron sights. Mowing down German troops with precision shots. It was magnificent. After a while, the MP44 popped into my hands by accident, while rummaging through piles of fallen soldier weaponry. "What's this? This looks different." It was much more powerful and was 30 rounds of full on auto fire, better than the MP40s and my clumsy aim with the Thompson.

For those of you not wishing to read the backstory behind my fondess for virtual firearms set in an idealized world, start reading here. I set upon making a 1:6 scale prop (model would imply I tried to also recreate the details, which I clearly didn't do) of the Gewehr 43 and MP44 a while ago. I was never satisfied with the results, but hey, when you're cheap with no income, simple copies of things you can't have work. However, I now have the luxury of 1:6 scale arms smugglers who handily have a supply of nostalgic facsimiles of firearms. The first time I managed to replace my inferior hand made copy with professionally made plastic ones, I decided to compare how "off" my model was in terms of size. Mind you, I made my models by using one side view of the subject in question and scaling it to 1:6 scale.

Well, there's the results. I was fairly accurate, within about 90% accuracy in terms of proportions for the MP44, featured left. However, my attempt at a G43 rifle sucked hard. Too short and really bad looking in general. Oh well. I've gotten better now anyways and could probably do better if I tried. I'll keep the MP44 around as a reminder of how far I've progressed, but man, that G43 needs to go...

About the toys themselves: The guns were manufactured by Dragon Models LTD. For those wishing to purchase them, here's the site. Each set (MP44: Item no. 71029 and G43: Item no. 71030) comes with a scoped and unscoped version, two ammunition pouches for your 1:6 scale figures and removable magazines. The G43 came with a clip of ammo along with the magazines, despite there being no moving parts to insert it into.
This is the scoped version of the Gewehr 43. The fake wood grain looks a bit too pronounced, making it look more fake than necessary. Unfortunately, it doesn't have any moving parts. Not a bad model, but some moving parts make the difference between "fun" and "sweet".

Here is the MP44, with the "Vampir" night scope and what I presume is a giant flashlight. On a side note, I attempted to pry off the scope since it looked so obscenely large. I was successful due to the low glue strength holding it on, but immediately glued it back on since it doesn't really do me any good. I expected the cocking lever to move, and sheared it off trying to do so. Had to glue that back on. (Man, I am expecting way too much from these things)

The highlight of the model is that the flashlight accessory isn't a solid lump of plastic, but a hollow tube with a piece of transparent plastic for the lens. The downside of the model was the paint application. There are stripes running down the side of the wooden stock, probably residual lubricant/excess paint from the roller or something. It doesn't look intentional, nor does it make the wood look like wood.

In all, I'm satisfied for the reduced price I paid for these (buying them on e-bay is silly: they cost twice as much there than from where I bought them), but was expecting too much. I'd wish I could recommend these, but I am not completely satisfied with the build quality and paint application. If you want a cheap set of these two guns, it's not a bad deal.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday's Project: A WWII U.S. Entrenching Tool

Meant to build this over the weekend, but I decided to make a revolver instead. The U.S. Military Entrenchment Tool, better known to us as a "shovel", is one of my favorite melee weapons in Team Fortress 2. It's so silly, is wielded by one of the slowest classes, and plain old embarassing to see people get taken out by it.

The shovel was made from 110lb cardstock, a bamboo stick and one Magic: the Gathering card.

The shovel folds up from a bludgeoner's length to a slightly inconvenient length for "concealed carry". Why a shovel needs to be folded for transport is beyond me. It's still a big shovel but now with a wobbly head. Guess soldiers back then needed to have their shovels with them at all times in a convenient bag. But it's the modern era without wars, so why does Hotaru need a shovel?

Some time during your life, you may have intruders in your home, rummaging through your things. If you happen to come home when they're still there, you may need to fend off the invaders with whatever you have handy. And sometimes, the closest thing to use is your trusty shovel.

Here, we can see the shovel's effectiveness. The head has been extended fully, allowing the more massive head to be near the end of the moment arm. Other effective dispatching techniques involve the "Roman Shovel Jab" and "Divine Shovel Swing From the Heavens" and "Pound the Victim on the Head Repeatedly but Ineffectively with Light Taps". And most of all, as you can see by the surprised Sniper and Spy, no one expects to be beaten to death by the silent and not so swift shovel.

And as an added bonus, your entrenchment tool can be used for its primary purpose to dispose of the subjects/evidence.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Meet the Heavy... and Sasha

Amidst all the fun and joy of destroying my hands and lungs making the minigun in one week, I didn't get any pics of the Heavy with the newly painted minigun. I now appreciate keeping this translucent runner I saved from these GUNDAM stands to use as a posing support. Speaking of which, I don't recall ever saying how awesome these things are.

First off, here's the product in question: an "Action Base" made by Ban Dai for displaying GUNDAMs in fun poses. ($9 at my local toy shop, probably $5 online) Why buy these if I have no GUNDAMs? For the ability to do things like this!

What a random sidetrack. Now back to the main purpose of today. Enjoy the Heavy Weapons Guy and his glory.

"We make good team!"
"All of you are babies!"
"Cry some more!"