Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hail the Return of the Almighty CUBE

I've previously discussed the arm construction process at length before. That was then, and now I have some more things to discuss the third time around.

Turns out, the 1/4" paper hole punch makes a much smaller hole than the 6.35mm you'd expect. Something around 0.238 in (6.04mm) . For pins, that amount of difference is significant for a tight fit when you're designing around that. I've specially made a 0.225 in (5.7mm) diameter dowel/rolling pin for creating the sockets. After human error, it still gives a good fit. All the pins the almighty CUBE creates are roughly 5.8mm in diameter. Still good, since it also makes them relatively uniform.

I'm considering making a separate cube or a metal version. However, I'd have to ensure that the dimensions of that cube makes the same parts as the older one. This one only accommodates 12mm or longer pins and 4mm to 8mm pins. Really odd range, and only one or two at a time. I'm really concerned about losing this cube, since making another one's annoying.

I've come into possession of a large quantity of building materials today, thanks to my friend. A lot more than I can handle, actually. I've pretty much doubled my stock reserves. How many does that entail? Well, let's see.

Quite a lot, it seems. I may have to start using land cards for fuel/fodder now. If you're wondering, I've separated the cards into four distinct piles: Lands, useful, semi-useful and fodder. Fodder's about 150 cards, which wasn't as much as I expected. These cards will allow me to continue building things like this...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

This Weekend's Project: Playing with a Dremel 300 series

I've bought a Dremel last December, which I made use of making the Team Fortress 2 sentry's main supports. It's been sitting in the case for two months, unused. I've decided to see how well the Dremel can be used to replace the old method of cut-then-laminate with a laminate-then-cut procedure. The reasoning behind the latter method all revolved around one limitation I've had: standardized hole making.

The previous method utilizes regular office hand hole punches of 1/4" and 1/8" diameters. With a drill, I now have access to 1/8" holes and alternatively, 1/16" with a hand modeling drill. The hand punches were limited to two or three layers of Magic: the Gathering cards before being rendered null and ineffective. Not to mention, they hurt like hell to grip and use on three layers of Magic cards. Thereby, I was forced to cut each layer, then glue them to form a rather ragged stack of cards. I was never fond of that, nor the end result that required further sanding to bring up to standards.

Another limitation of the cut-then-glue method was scissors. My 8-10 year old pair of scissors can only cut through 4 layers satisfactorily before that also starts hurting my hands. Fortunately, with the Dremel, I have a variety of implements of destruction to carve out chunks of card.

To test out and devise proper manufacturing methods involving Dremel cutting tools and Magic: the Gathering cards, I hereby present my results, in the rare occurrence that you may find yourself with the odd pairing of tool and material.

I've made a stack of Magic: the Plywood cards, each consisting of four layers of Tenth Edition cards I received as part of Wizards' promotion back in November. (Contrary to popular belief, I do not use land cards. They're more useful than junk commons.) My parts are 16 layers thick overall, with the thinnest section being 4 thick, hence the layer number. Using the template Hotaru is holding, I've etched the pieces onto the ply-card board and trimmed them off. Thicker sections require sanding and gluing two layers together.

Elbow component and Dremel tool accessory 407. Looks like a microphone...

Regarding Dremel use, I found sanding tool #430 to be great for making a radius of 4mm. I used the curve of the sanding tool to form the edges of the parts consisting of the elbow joint. Tool #407 works ok for 12mm diameter curves but needs some finishing with the #430 to get to spec. I found that if you try to sand off a stack 8 layers thick, the edge layers start to peel upwards, creating a non-parallel region that slightly affects performance. I therefore decided it was worth the effort to sand down parts 4 layers thick, double up, then redo the sanding.

It should be noted that the grinding/sanding/cutting process generates massive amounts of Magic: the Card Dust. I've coated my desk with a light layer of this dust as a result of my zealous grinding. Highly suggest doing this in a ventilated room or outside, lest you start breathing in Cloud Faerie fumes. A lot of people speculate that I'm usually on something to think of doing or making these things. I can say that this dust only causes lung cancer, not creative inspiration.

Regarding drilling holes, Being a laminate material, the drill pushing through tends to start deforming and pushing the last layer than cutting through due to the lack of support. For this reason, I used the following process to facilitate hole making:
  1. Drill a pilot hole using the 1/16" hand drill
  2. Use 1/8" tool at low speed and tap both sides of the material. This will eliminate the tearing that occurs at the end if you go straight through with the drill.
  3. Go halfway through with the Dremel until you break through at the center. This also helps reduce the errors created from bad hand positioning, such as non-perpendicularity.
The holes will be slightly larger than 1/8" due to hand movements. Luckily, the joint system allows for this with the undersized bolts and washers.

While on the subject of zealously hacking off chunks of paper, I've done some minor remodeling to Hotaru's face. I've made her nose taller. She's always been looking a bit unusual, due to her head being a very early model. The nose or lack of a proper one, has bothered me for a while. She looks a bit older and more respectable now, hopefully.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

This (Last) Weekend(day)'s Project: Meltina (Mystina)

About those buttons I mentioned last time...

I was working on a Mystina outfit for Miranda. Despite her not having the right hair color or me having the right shade of light purple (or "Light urple" for you Celebrity jeopardy fans), I went for it. Who's this Mystina character you speak of and why is she also called "Meltina", you ask.

Valkyrie Profile, Tri-Ace, 1999. Perhaps now one of the most interesting cases of "supply and demand" for a video game. No demand when it came out, and therefore not a lot of supply now when the demand rose. This game was notable for the amount of voice acting and cut scenes, and notorious for even the tiniest of scratches on the CD rendering the game worthless. Sealed copies can be swindled for $130 at your local gaming pawn shop, while the re-release can be had for a modest $30 or so.

Anyways, Mystina is one of the mages you can recruit in the game. Meltina is her Japanese name, which sounds really weird regardless of which language you're native to. Sounds like she has something to do with converting solid states of mass to a liquid form. My search for a blue mage costume went sour after flipping through several Magic: the Gathering card visual spoilers, and I decided to mess with this fabric I picked up cheap. No idea what it is, but it's silky, uncontrollable, and a pain to stencil patterns onto without it rolling/stretching out.

Yep. Brunette and with maroon shirt. It actually looks like the colors her in-game sprite has in the Playstation version in combat. I'm not going to go for full accuracy, since I have no idea how to make the frilly doily looking things on her sleeves and collar. Best I can do is this quasi-silk shirt thing. Might as well now highlight the main purpose of the previous post: the irregular buttons.
Blue triangular buttons. I didn't want to cheapen her costume with velcro, because that's the way of dollar bin costuming (Yes, I used Velcro for the TF2 characters, but I went for in-game appearance than functionality. They don't seem to have any visible means of fastening their clothes together.). It would diminish her uniqueness more, as she's not a unique head sculpt by any means, and velcro would make her clothing reminiscent of Barbie and the rest of the sluttier knock-offs that have surfaced.

There's not a lot I can do with her costume, aside from give her something that doesn't scream "slut dressed in vinyl with an uzi". Her lack of willing-dismemberment forces me to actually start manufacturing buttons and such to overcome the barrier of using velcro to secure everything. You can't tell due to her shirt covering it up, but she's using the belt buckle technique I used on the Kris Mage.

I'll have to get around to making boots for her and "completing" her outfit fully. Problem is that I have no idea how to make decent small boots...yet.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

This Weekend's Project: Button Making

Sometimes, you need to sew on some buttons. Hopefully, you won't need to sew on doll buttons for 1:6 scale clothes. When you do, you have to end up buying these for 5 for $1.30 at a clothing/fabric store.

Unfortunately, they only sell 5mm diameter buttons of this color. What if you need something that's not... a clear plastic circle?

Being the general nature of how things are made here, you can guess what we're gonna use! Magic! The button thickness is roughly 4 layers thick. Five or six layers can also work, but I don't need the extra thickness. If you wish to try to waterproof these, you can consider covering them in a layer of Loc-tite glue or varnish/epoxy. If you were smarter, you would have some spare plastic lying around to make these with. The only plastic I have handy is a lot of CD jewel cases and some VHS tapes. Not quite ideal to work with.

For the shape, you're gonna need to work on your X-acto skills. Or find a nice hole punch that is the right size. Conveniently, a 1/4" hole punch is about the same diameter for these buttons, but they might be a bit large. I'm making triangular shaped buttons, so I'm going to have to use lots of imprecise cutting and eyeballing. I could have measured these out, but that's too late.

The holes for the buttons can be drilled out with a 1/8" drill bit. Magic cards don't have a lot of strength to them against drilling, so go slow. Or if you used a real stock material like PLASTIC, you'll be fine using a hand drill. Dremel users will want to make the holes first before cutting their final shape. Nothing like drilling a hole and suddenly finding out that the buttonhole is bleeding. Space your button holes 1mm apart.

Ideally at this point, I'd have something to show for my task. I'll highlight the results in the next post, even though the result will be very small.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Figure Comparison: Hotaru versus BBI

Out of pure interest in how Hotaru measures up against other 1:6 scale figures, I bought a somewhat random figure, which by the coat markings lead me to believe it's made by BBI. She arrived about 2 months late, giving me plenty of time to mull over her new name which I instantly decided on impulse when she actually arrived. I've named her Miranda after a thug character in Troika Games' Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magicks Obscura, because her head sculpt has silver eyeliner that reminds me of tears, leading me to the name Miranda Tears in Tarant's "The Boil", the slum area of the city. What a weird way to name a figure, eh? Then again, Hotaru was named after her hair... I could have easily started naming them after popular Japanese Pop icons, but that would make less sense.

Anyways... I set to work comparing her attributes and structure to Hotaru.
The first thing you'll notice is either the nipples, or the difference in height. After you've finished staring at the nipples and other bits, I'll continue with the comparison. Hotaru has limited leg movement, and greater range of motion for the arms. I kept the leg ROM more human-like (you try doing the BBI pose) for Hotaru. I've also noticed that the BBI figure has girthy thighs. Not quite epic Chun-Li levels, but still significantly big.

As for the other details, I've checked for compatibility of my constructed garments with Miranda, and they actually work. I'm quite surprised about that, expecting some bad fits and incompatible clothing forcing me to specially tailor things to one or the other. Some other things you'll notice is the hand difference. Hotaru's hands are much smaller than Miranda's. I'm ok with girls with manly sized hands if it means they can wield bludgeoning tools of death as easily as I can. I can't actually remove her gun grip hands and put on the kung-fu fireball deflection palm hands she comes with, without fear of snapping off the pegs that hold them in place. This is where I appreciate the bendable wire supported hands Hotaru has: they may come out easily, but she can do any hand gesture with one set of hands.

"NYEH NYEH! I'm taller than YOU are!"

Did I mention Miranda's really short? Hotaru has heeled boots right now, adding 9mm of height to her. Hotaru towers over her even without the assistance. I based Hotaru's height based on standard human drawing practices of using the head as a unit of measure. Her torso and arms came out fine, but she got longer legs somehow out of it. I'm not complaining: I rather like the longer legs.

Another thing that I should mention is that Miranda can't hold any dynamic poses involving her back/torso. She cheats on the construction, using spring loaded joints to maintain her form. While stable, she can't do any forward leans and only can do mild back arching. Side movement is more of a wish than a reality.

So far, Miranda has convinced me that I like my constructs better than what BBI can produce. Sculpting is great, but what good is that if it can't hold a fun pose?