Saturday, June 27, 2009

Insights Into Magic Card Doll Making

On June 15, 2008, I finished making Lia, my second foray into dolls made out of Magic: the Gathering cards. I've never actually detailed what has gone into creating a doll from scratch, but that week I had taken a good set of photographs. To commemorate her first year of service, I show you the process of converting a stack of Magic cards into a doll. I'll also be answering some common questions I've been asked.

For starters:
Why Magic: the Gathering cards?

I had a pile of junk cards I'd never see play. I was previously working with papercraft (paper modeling) and had the idea of seeing if Magic cards could be used as a building medium. I spent a month designing the Hotaru body base and the subsequent techniques that would propel me on this weird path.

How do you prepare the cards?
First, I determined by testing that the thinnest stack of cards I could use to make a solid joint was eight layers. Each card layer is sanded down to remove the finish, then laminated together with Elmer's glue. Cutting Magic cards is easier when they're in thicknesses of 4 or less. Any more and you need some special tools.
Where are the instructions?
Unfortunately, I do not have explicit instructions for my dolls or anything else I build. Scratchbuilding isn't something I can hope to tell you how to replicate exactly. I documented my plans, which are all I have to use. I used these along with my engineering development unit, Hotaru.

Anyways, off to explain the unexplainable.
Figure 1: Chest assembly, Rev. A

This assembly serves as the base for Hotaru and Lia. Aelia uses a new system, Rev C, which is a single tube system than a box with 1/4" holes cut into it. This component was built from the plans linked here and utilizes a layer thickness of 4. The arm support consists of two plates to support a 1/4" pin. The projected load was small, so two thin walls would work.

Figure 2: Fleshing out the chest

The chest has several freehanded cards cut to fit and fill out her chest. The shoulders are still flat on this stage. I use regular printer paper to hold down the Magic cards. Sanding the card down would make securing them easier.
Figure 3: The Waist Section

I fondly call this component the aircraft turbine engine. I used the handy cone frustum maker to build the waist. The component on the thread spool is the joint mechanism, made with two 10mm diameter ball joints. This fits into the aircraft turbine part on the 7UP pencil sharpener can.
Figure 4: Torso Assembly

This stage highlights the initial fit of the torso components. The ball joint rod ends feed into a 16 layer thick section of Magic cards. The waist section near the black binder clip is one of these 16 layer thick sections. Another is in the chest, covered by the lower plating. Here, I've already added shoulders and a few more layers of paper to the chest.

Figure 5: Side view of the torso.

Sixteen layers is a lot of card. I did this before I had a Dremel, so I had to cut each layer at a time. Never doing that again. The background was my cutting mat back in 2008, which was a folded up poster for Earth Day.

Figure 6: The hip.

I needed to make a 1/8" hole in the pelvis for the ball joint rod ends that would serve as her hip. This was done with a hole punch, one sheet at a time. Now, I'd drill a hole with a Dremel.

Figure 7: Pattern templates for arms.

The second time around, I made templates. This layer of card would contain one of three sets of patterns needed to build another doll.

Figure 8: Arm assembly, Rev B

One day later, and we have arms. I must have not done any studying that week. Arms were documented here. Process is unchanged from Rev. A to Rev. B. Change from Rev A to B included increased range of motion using a P shaped shoulder connector than a D shape.

Figure 9, 10, 11: The Upper Assembly.

I've started sculpting out her body at this point. The hollow areas get stuffed with 110lb cardstock cylinders to reinforce the volume. This part isn't in my documentation. I've only provided the skeletals, since the rest gets freehanded at this stage onwards.

Part 2: The Lower Half and Miscellaneous Details

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