Monday, January 26, 2009

Construction Techniques: Belt Buckles Out of Paper Clips

Sometimes, you need something now and can't be bothered buying something to gut and harvest for parts. Today, I'll highlight making belt buckles out of regular paper clips. First, you'll need the following items:

  • Any paper clip (This was done with regular uncoated non-hex clip paper clips)
  • Jeweler's needle nose pliers (rounded tips for bending coils and stuff)
  • Small regular pliers (flattened gripping surfaces)
  • Lots of determination and a steady hand
First, you'll need to straighten out the paper clip. Don't worry about accuracy, as long as it's bent straight. Try to minimize cold working the paper clip (bending it back and forth). The more you bend the paper clip, the weaker the clip will get as you will easily get to the state of fatiguing the metal.

The above image shows roughly the belt buckle shape. You want to take your jeweler's pliers to do the bending, by holding the region where you want the bend to be with the tips, then bending the paper clip around it. You want to form a shape that looks like a window, as illustrated by the top drawing. It should look like a window, or a blocky "8". To cut off the excess material, you simply need to score or notch where you want it to break off, then simply cold work that region. The notch will grow as you cold work it, eventually leading to a fracture.

The trick to getting the buckle to work is to bend the two halves at an angle, illustrated by the bottom part of the drawing shown above. With the buckle bent this way, the belt strap or whatnot will have to overcome more friction to become undone. This will allow you to put belts around curved objects without needing the little pin and notches used to hold a belt in place.

Here's a demonstration of the paper clip belts in use on the Kris Mage.

I've used paper clips to do the loops on the dress where I fed the ribbon through. Below that, there are two belt buckles that hold pretty well by themselves. You'll need to sew or attach your belt to the middle section to complete your belt.

I'll be experimenting with more belt buckles as I upgrade my TF2 dolls with better belt materials. Cardboard isn't cutting it, nor are they up to standards.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Fear me! I am the Fire Mage! FIIIIIIIRRRRE! BUUURN!

Well, here's to a week or two of boredom. I've made myself a Kris Mage, one of the many cards that influenced some of my artistic endeavors over time. I've always loved the detail on her outfit.

Anyways, time to show what a bored engineer can do with practically no experience sewing outfits or doing embroidery! And since I'm out of knives, we'll have to play with fire.

I could have easily used Lia since her hair better matches, but I like Hotaru better. It's the sad truth.

Every cultural ransacking starts with a little red book.

I shall engulf thee with the might of my fiery wrath!

Taste the fury of crimson flame!

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Long Overdue Medic Update

When you do something for the first time, usually it tends to suck. Most of the people who look at the stuff I make tend to not have the capability to do what I can do, and I think they are afraid to point out the flaws for two main reasons:

1) They can't challenge the result, fearing the dreaded, childish reply of "let's see YOU do better".

2) They don't know what to compare it to.

Personally, I welcome criticism, as I tend to not see some flaws right away, and like to know others actually see what I see as "obvious problems". Positive feedback doesn't do a lot of good when you're trying to improve. Anyways, to get back on point, the first Team Fortress 2 doll I created was the Medic. I've made a total of 6 head sculpts in my entire life out of clay before this:
  • My BC Calculus teacher, done with kneaded eraser (done during the class period)
  • My AP Physics teacher, also done with kneaded eraser (also done during the class period)
  • Two characters from the TV series "South Park" in grade school
  • Two characters from the Japanese anime "Dragonball Z" out of some really weird clay during grade school
Considering I've had about four years in between "attempts", I can't really say how much I've improved after each time. Not to mention, I spent about maybe less than an hour on each attempt. Well, the Medic head sculpt was my 7th head sculpt, and took about a good three hours.

Man, it looked terrible to me after I noticed what I did wrong. I've wanted to redo the head now that I have a better idea on doing these sculpts and what I did wrong. Let's look at the old head, and the new and improved replacement Medic head!

First off, the replacement one gets the glasses since he's now the "official" head I'll be using. It'll help for you to validate point #2 I made previously about not being able to compare it with the reference later. As you can tell, the new head is smaller, as I made the first one at roughly 120% the size. We have a reduced nose, more of a scowl, less beady eyes, and thicker eyebrows.

What the second one really improves on is the little details. The hair isn't flat anymore, but has a little curl as it should be. There's more pronounced cheekbones and facial lines. The main goal for me was to scale the head down to the right size; all these other changes resulted from reanalyzing the source material. Speaking of such, sculpting a head requires more than the basic three views needed for an engineering drawing. It needs quite a lot of views, actually.

This image compiles as many relevant shots of the head as I needed to complete the head sculpt. Side, front, top, along with some angled shots. The problem with sculpting the head for me was the fact that I can't easily see the flaws til after I paint the head. The shadows become more pronounced, and I can see what parts were done badly (eyes, nose, and those ridiculously pain do to ears...). Maybe the 11th time around, I'll figure out how to resolve that issue. Until then, I'll have to figure out where to store these extra heads. The wine glass on my desk is very crowded.
We're going to need a bigger glass.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

This Weekend's Project: Boots

I've had to revisit some past projects in order to proceed with a new one. This one is a boot, particularly one with a higher heel and cloth composition. This continues my trend of converting away from pure paper derivatives and to more practical means and materials.

I had to dig out the old shoe pattern I used a year and a half ago to dress Hotaru up. The pattern consists of a 34x12mm rectangular object with rounds to better represent a shoe. There's small 2mm dia cylinders stuffed to give the sole its shape.

In this picture, I've already completed construction of the two soles. The top is the side view of the newer one, with 4mm dia cylinders to boost the height of the boot. You can see the round curve that comprises the bottom of the sole sandwiching the cylinders to the top.

For the next part, I had to sew some "socks". Sewing socks consists of me wrapping cloth around the leg, then sewing together the ends to form a tube. Crude, but it works. This part gets hot glued to the Magic: the Gathering boot sole, since no other adhesive works for fabric except fabric glue that I don't have. The left image shows a layer of 110lb cardstock wrapped around the side to cover up the understructure. This uses hot glue since I wanted a fast cure time and the thin layers would be painful to make sure the glue adhered well. The bottom parts are 10mm long bamboo sticks made conical to function as the heels. These will be glued with Loc-Tite super glue, since hot glue isn't good for shear loads.

Here is the finished construction of the boot in use. I will paint them red or some color other than white. I'm leaning towards enamels for a better "water proof" coat, in the event that it may suffer some minor moisture. The boot will NOT survive water, and will likely mush up the soles if submerged for a few minutes. I could theoretically submit one prototype to life testing to find out....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Construction Techniques: Sentry gun ammo belts

In order to create the curved belts used for the TF2 sentry gun, I opted for a relatively simpler design of an actual flexible belt than making a solid 3D curve. I love geometry and math, but I'm not going to waste a week making a one use part that is completely unforgiving on mistakes. So, therefore, it's time to demonstrate how to make a flexible linked belt!

First off, I figured my overall length of belt would be roughly 28 cm. I chose a thickness of 4mm, width of 25mm, and a belt spacing of 6mm between links. The first thing I did was saw a lot of 25mm long sections of bamboo sticks, which were promptly glued together and wrapped in a layer of regular printer paper. These can be seen below, on the top right. I therefore had to make 28 links times 2 belts, times two rods per link. Lot of sawing.

The top left of the above image shows a pile of rectangular hollow boxes. These will be used to hide the flexible components of the belt. Each of these boxes are 26mm long, and about 8mm wide. I used 110lb cardstock for these, since strength is a factor for the outer sections.
The large grid sheet featured in the middle of the above image features eight rows of 6mm spaced boxes. These will be used to align all the parts together so there's less guessing and measuring involved later.

Here, you can see the progress of putting the parts together. From the bottom, going up, there's the gridded strips, the links being glued according to the boxes, then another layer of strips going on top to make a ladder.

The last thing to do is slip the 28 covers over the gaps in the belt. Before doing so, I posed the belt into a roughly final position. This involves pinching the belt supports together so they start to curve. It's harder to bend the belt into odd curves later when the belt covers are all on. After that, all that's left is to slide each part onto the belt and position them. A bit of glue is needed to hold them in place, but you also want movement too. I glued one edge of the rectangular box to the belt itself, so the other is free to move.

Here's a finished shot of the belts. There's realistically no practical reason why you would need to make these for another project, since there are few things that need covered ammo belt feeds. However, I hope that by recording my processes, you find some inspiration in solving odd problems with something interesting.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Source Material Design Directions for the Team Fortress 2 Sentry Gun

I've been mulling over the past week or so wondering what was Valve thinking when they were designing the sentry gun model. The stand isn't really proper, there's redundant supports, and the ammo feed housing is ill supported by a thin network of struts. However, I've come across something that probably was part of the source inspiration behind the design of the sentry gun.

The Maxim MG-08. The significant difference between the stylized counterpart on the top and the real world World War I sled mount is the fact that the real one doesn't fall over. There's a lot more mass, and locking grooves for positioning the foreward legs. Apparently, the design of the Maxim MG-08 mount is to serve as a sled for pulling it along, which explains the curved form on the front, and the near negligible legs on the back. Quite amusing that the Engineer chose an antiquated German machine gun stand for such a sophisticated mechanism.