Sunday, August 30, 2009

J.Norad's Tutorial for Making a 1:6 scale Shotgun

Time to bust out those junk Centaur Veterans, Rock Jockeys, and Mudholes! It's gun making time! Today's agenda: I'm going to try to show you how to make a shotgun out of 110lb cardstock, bamboo sticks and Magic: the Gathering cards. Refer to this guide if you want to work with Magic cards as building material. This is going to use a few techniques most paper model makers might find handy, but it's mostly going to be knifing, bonesawing and Dremel-ing.

First, we need a stock image.This is the shotgun from Team Fortress 2. Simple model, compared to other things I've built. I'm going to show you how to get from this deceptively simple image to a solid model. For your convenience, this full size image is the exact size of the finished model.

Once you've obtained an image of your weapon in question, preferably a side view, you now need to formulate a plan.

From the above image, we can find three main components:
  1. The grip/receiver assembly : This is largely an extruded object: the part we need to make looks exactly like this from the side view, but pulled out so it's thicker. Think of what a cube is compared to a square. You'll be making it like a block shaped like this section.
  2. The Barrel: This is going to be one of the easiest, yet annoying parts to make. It's just a hollow tube, followed by a shorter, hollow tube, connected with some small rectangular spacers. Not to mention, some bracket thing on the front.
  3. The Pump: You're going to hate this part with a passion. Especially if you have the tooling capability of an Amish man with a metal allergy. Look no farther, ye of little machinery.
Once you've formulated what parts you need to make, it's time to draft some plans!
I've taken care of the hard work of figuring out how to measure things with a ruler for you. All dimensions specified are in millimeters, and are basic: meaning no tolerances attached to the dimensions. On the top right, that's my original plans for the shotgun. If you haven't caught on by now, I'm going to make the pump move. Static models are boring!

For part 1: the grip/receiver, you simply need to trace that section onto paper, cut that out, then trace it onto some 4-card stacks until you have 4 parts. This will be approximately 5mm wide, which is the width of our shotgun.

You can simply glue these four pieces together now and sand down the edges flush. Advanced methods involve notching two 5mmx3.175 notches to receive a 3.175mm diameter bamboo stick, as indicated in the lower image:

For the barrel tubes, you'll need to use this reference on making tubes, or this Excel file for making tubes and cones out of paper. That is, if you want to precisely make 4.5mm outer diameter/3.175mm inner diameter tubes. I like my tubes to be as close as possible to the desired dimensions. Cut them to length, and make some 1mm spacer blocks to hold the two tubes together.

Now for the hard part: the pump. This part involves the lower half of the schematic. The lower left covers the dimensions in third angle projection. The lower right covers the concept and upper assembly to hold the pump in place.

If you draw the leftmost figure in the above image to the specified dimensions in 110lb cardstock,then roll around a 5mm diameter rod, you'll get the shape of the shotgun pump. the dimensions were calculated using my cone frustum calculator. It uses the same principles listed in the tube making reference, but with some fun tricks. If you roll up a triangular sheet, you'll form a cone. If you roll up a sheet that has a lot of triangular sections like the one I drew up, you'll form a shape that looks like the shotgun pump, if revolved around the magazine tube axis.

After you've made this solid, you'll need to use your cutting tool of choice to cut out a V shaped notch on one side of the pump. This is shown in the bottom right of the schematic. I'd suggest cutting 2mm wide and flaring out to 5mm. Next, you'll need to cut out that U shaped rectangular piece shown below and fold it to form a U shaped trough.
This will form the upper part of the pump and also serves to hold the pump together from the top. I suggest using two layers of Magic card for this part. For those of you who added the notches into the handle, you can stick some bamboo sticks in there to hold the barrel to the receiver together.

Now all you need to do is add details. The trigger is made from a 3mm wide strip of Magic card, three layers thick. I simply curved the part to fit the drawing and glued it in place with some Loc-tite for extra quick adhesion. To smooth out the pump, I sanded mine down until it was relatively flush. I then used the cone maker formulas to create some cover parts to wrap around the pump sections. This took care of the major surface irregularities.

All you need to do now is add the little details, which should be easy compared to the pump. For the side ejector port on the left, simply cut out a 12mm x 3mm rectangle on the side as depicted on this screenshot:
Screencaps are great for video game model replicas. I took several in the course of making every item from Team Fortress 2. Use these to figure out what details you need to add. If you do a part analysis, they should be easy to make once you figure out of you need a block, tube or a strip of material to make it. when you're done with your model, coat it with some paint primer and finish it off with some nice paint. Then assemble your model, since it's easier to paint parts that move before assembly.

Remember: if you managed to get as far as a rough form, you've done pretty well. A static model was perhaps what my capabilities were limited to a year ago. If you managed to pull off this model and get the pump working, or even understand the schematics, you've done quite a good job. You deserve a medal, if they weren't all gone.

Friday, August 28, 2009

J.Norad's Guide to Building Stuff With Magic: The Gathering Cards

Time to gather all my development notes and techniques all into one post.

First a primer:
Magic: the Gathering is a convenient, abundant work material in some cases, despite the steep initial material costs. A card costs anywhere from $0.26 from a booster pack to $0.13 from a tournament pack. Found in many a gaming shop and teenager's closet, you can secure large quantities of "chaff" cards for little cost. I shall be dealing with non-foil cards, as I have yet to find a use for the foil "premium" cards.

If the idea of cutting up common and uncommon rarity cards scares you, lands are cheap and practically free from most shops and post-tournament gaming. I use anything that I deem "unplayable" or in gross excess, except lands, which I find useful. I particularly have a hatred for Centaur Veteran, from Torment.

Preparing the Cards:
Magic: the Gathering has a nice sheen/varnish to each card. It is slightly waterproof and resistant to some paints and glues. You'll need some sand paper, about the 80 grit range, to get rid of the coating. Once the card has some white showing, you've sanded enough. You may in some cases leave the surface on one side unsanded to take advantage of the smooth surface. Two unsanded surfaces have a drastically lower friction and wear rate than two sanded surfaces in planar shear. I take advantage of this property when making hinge and pin joints with Magic cards.

Elmer's glue is sufficient for working with Magic cards. Loc-tite can be used for emergency "quick drying" jobs or plastinating sections of Magic cards. That involves applying a thin layer of Loc-tite and letting it dry, forming a hard layer of glue on the surface. This is useful for increasing part thicknesses for joints. If you use Elmer's glue to form boards, they will require 2-4 days of drying time to fully stiffen. While they dry, they are relatively bendable and easy to cut.

I've experimentally determined a few ideal card thicknesses for use in construction. A minimum of 4 (four) cards is needed for a rigid structure of small size. For larger components like doll joints, 8 (eight) layers is recommended. Four layers conveniently is the thickness where you can still manage to cut the stack of cards with regular scissors. If you wish to cut cards with a tool, I would suggest cutting four layers at a time, gluing the stacks together, then work on the part as one solid piece for sanding/finishing purposes.

Material Properties- Thicknesses
A Magic card is approximately 0.012 inches thick, or 0.27mm. Depending on how well you apply glue (a thin coat spread evenly is recommended: excess will cause warping when drying), the thickness of the glue is negligible. With the sanded cards, I like to glue four cards together to form Magic: the Plywood. I keep a stack of these boards around for quick access. I do most of my work in increments of four cards for simplicity. Less variance in stock materials.

I have a chart to assist in gauging how much material I need to use for making a solid object.

With this, I can quickly gauge how many times I need to trace a part out before I achieve the required thickness. Keep in mind: Magic cards are not incompressible, nor are they static in thickness. You can easily thicken the edge of a 4-card board with aggressive Dremel sanding by up to 0.5mm. Significant, considering it's 1.2mm to start with. This occurs by delaminating the card's individual layers with frayed edges. This is why you should Dremel AFTER gluing laminates together.

Tooling and Cards
Now you have some 4-card boards, you're ready to make stuff. Treat these boards like wood. Really bad wood. Do not inhale the dust generated from cutting. The dust is a fine particulate.

For making holes, hole punches work for 2-3 layers deep before you encounter significant resistance. This allows you to make 1/4" and 1/8" holes with ease and precision. For other holes, you'll need a drill. Start off with a manual 1/16" drill to make a pilot hole. Don't bother making a hole in a material deeper than a couple millimeters by hand, otherwise it won't be perpendicular to the plane. A pilot hole is key to prevent edge fraying. With a Dremel, use your desired drill size and drill halfway through the material using the pilot hole as a guide, and repeat for the other side. Going straight through causes the other side to flare up like a volcano.

Material Properties: Stiffness
You may find yourself making something longer than the card is. In this case, put the necessary length of cards together and alternate the break between cards with a solid card, like a brick layer. Except, in this case, you want to alternate where the breaks are so they're not all stacked near each other. This weakens the structure significantly. Refer to the figure below for proper stacking.

Material Properties: Bend Radius
A 4-card board can be bent to some degree to form a curved surface. For smaller bend radii, you'll need to roll the card around a dowel first to prevent cracking. You can achieve small cylinders with Magic cards, but anything smaller than 1/4" is difficult. Magic cards are not recommended for tube making, unless the surface finish must be smooth as possible.

This post will be edited as necessary.

Monday, August 24, 2009

HELL YEAH! It's August 24!

It's August 24! You know what that means! It's National "Build A Grenade Launcher Day!"

I've managed to conveniently time this post a bit too well...

Anyways, I've been working on an upgraded Team Fortress 2 Demoman grenade launcher. Needless to say, I've put myself into a bind now. I'm sure all of you are expecting everything I make to either have moving parts or be somehow awesome in another way. Of course, moving parts are always awesome. (Does that make an awesome thing with moving parts, doubly awesome?) Today's a two-fold post: showing off my new toy and showing what a year of doing this results with.

There's some site with a build it yourself model grenade launcher that is certainly less resource and labor intensive than mine, but Magic: the Gathering has always required a bit of resource and time commitment. Of course, theirs isn't as fun as mine is now.

First off, a comparison of what happened last year on "Build A Grenade Launcher Day" (top) and this year's fruitful efforts (bottom). You may first notice the disparity in scale. The first one was made by rudimentary methods and non-existent standards. I'm not even sure how I made that, actually. I sure half-assed it. With the new "G-43 Standard" in effect, I have the capability to scale any weapon based on several key characteristics. In this case, it's the stock-to-trigger distance.

Now for the juicy parts: the schematics. I've elected to improve on the previous grenade launcher by making this model have moving components, much like the Force-a-Nature has with the break action mechanism. Sadly, after this model, I'll be out of Team Fortress 2 weapons that have complex actions that are buildable on 1:6 scale. At least I think I will be. All the major components can be built from the above schematic. The stock thickness is 5mm, constructed in my case of 16 layers of Magic: the Plywood.

This is the break action mechanism. It uses a small slide lever with a "J" shaped paperclip lever arm to lock the front in place. Moving the switch forwards slides the "J" upwards and into a box shaped recess in the top, locking it into place. Moving the lever back lowers the "J" out of the recess, allowing the front to break open.

Here is the template I used for constructing my grenade launcher stock. I've kept a bit of paper around the part where the pin slides in order to keep track of the part itself. Assuming you're brave enough to build this using my methods and schematics, you'll need to cut off the trapezoidal part and make room for the pin to slide up and down.

Here's the completed model, with obligatory card for scale. Love those ZACCA display boards.

The revolver chamber is removable, and spins freely. A bamboo stick serves as the shaft, and a separate bushing holds the chamber into place. Unfortunately, I have no grenades, and the chamber is not completely hollow, meaning that you can see through all six chambers. For simplicity and the fact that no tool ideally makes 8mm diameter holes easily aside from a drill, I chose to not make them. Interesting note: the barrel is a larger diameter than the grenades, according to the game model, and it is not in line with the revolver chamber.

After a year's worth of developing techniques, I've managed to upgrade from crappy static models made of boxes to solid models machined with tools. The level of progress is quite pleasing, I must say. Of course, now I'm going to be hard pressed to top this level next year. I guess it's time to give in and make something less impressive...

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Soldier Reviews 1:6 Scale ZACCA M-72A2

At ease maggots! J.Norad deserted his post here to go to associate in the girly activity called "shopping". Meanwhile, he left me here to defend the post solo, but that's O.K. since I'm a hard blooded killing machine! J.Norad left me this M-72A2 Light Antitank Weapon issued by ZACCA, series 1. It is an outstanding weapon, worthy enough of being held and used by yours truely.

Unfortunately, this LAW comes pre-extended and has less moving parts than the bodies of my dead enemies. If you're looking for a M-72 LAW with full moving parts, extending rear, closable cover and actual missile, you should look elsewhere. ZACCA isn't the best for stuff with moving parts, unless they're falling off. That's movement, isn't it? Fortunately, this fine specimen doesn't have any issues with loose components. Nothing has fallen off so far, and the parts all fit snugly. J.Norad mentioned to me that a company called "Hot Toys" makes a 1:6 scale M-72 that has collapsible sights and the whole she-bang! Not bad from a company whose name suggests some purveyor of gentlemen's literature. Soldiers get lonely in the trenches sometimes, but , AHEM, that's not the point here. What was I going on about? Ah yes. How to use the thing!

Like all good Soldiers, we don't have time for reading. If you're too busy reading, you're too busy being DEAD. That's why it's a good thing that this M-72A2 has a picture showing you numb-nuts how to hold and fire the LAW. Unlike last time, those Japanese at ZACCA finally learned how to write the proper language of the world, English! I bet they knew I was going to be using one of these, so they buckered up and learned to write English, lest I come for them like I did for the Nazis in WWII. Never mind that my amazing killing spree was a bit late, but I showed them who was boss anyways.

I heard that BLU had more secret weapons built since the last time I went patrolling. They may have fooled me once by disguising their weapon as a toy car last time, but that trick won't fool me again. The intel I received that their weapon was codenamed "Mirage". Something about a robotic version of a Spy. Told me that it was capable of being better than the Spy, able to hide and make projections of itself. Such cowardly antics will not work against me, for I am the master of combat!

Well, I'll be. Looks like the intel was right all along. A BLU robot spy.

Fortunately, this weapon unlike last week, is capable of being utilized to the fullest in the hands of even maggots like you. Unfortunately the cameraman didn't get to live long enough to photograph a shot of me beating the living crap out of that BLU robot. But I can offer you the following tip if you want to be as great of a Soldier as I am. If you want to buy this M-72, it will set you back just $5 MSRP, but inflation and shipping charges can easily inflate that to around $10-12. I would suggest that if you want the best one out there, be prepared to pay $30-40 for it alone. I saw photos of the Hot Toys version from J.Norad's intel files, and I can say it looks very impressive and is superior in every way with extra markings and the removable missile. But I don't know how many of you pansies are going to need to buy that exact LAW in the highest detail possible, so if you're on a budget, the ZACCA one is not a bad buy.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

J.Norad Reviews 1:6 scale ZACCA M202A1

Welcome back to the 4th installment of the ZACCA rockets'n'grenades-fest. Today, we have one of the lesser known rocket launchers, the M202A1. This grenade launcher is particularly fitting for the TF2 soldier due to the fact that it fires four rockets, much like the Soldier's rocket launcher. A bit of interest of this weapon is that it's also a flamethrower, by firing incendiary rockets. It seems to be rear loaded with a clip of four rockets at a time. Pretty awesome sounding weapon, eh?

This rocket is by far the worst rocket from series 1 I've reviewed.

First, let's look at the blatant problems.

The Japanese don't speak English for a reason.

Oh boy. I'm pretty stuck up when it comes to proper grammar and spelling. This thing infuriates me so much by existing.


ZACCA is known for their model detail. Apparently, that's "physical" detail and not their decals. How hard can it be to copy letters off a stock image? Seems like the Japanese can't copy these odd blocky pictograms and squiggles correctly. What's with the "protectne"? Protecting Acne? Pyrotechnic?

The weapon is unusable.

There's a reason why I don't have more than one photograph of the Soldier using the M202A1. It's an absolute nightmare to pose any figure with it properly. First off, you absolutely need to glue the parts together if you must use this for actual posing. As a display model, it's not an issue. The front and rear covers come off fairly easily. Normally this is a problem, but the rear cover is the main culprit in making this grenade launcher terrible. It obstructs your figure's arm from being able to hold the firing handle with his right hand, and limits the ability of your figure to hold the foregrip with the left.

Why is that a problem? Why can't you have your figure hold the M202A1 with one hand?

The model is virtually a giant box of plastic. The handles are thin and unless your figure has spring loaded hands, it will fall out of his hand quickly. You'll have problems trying to pose your figures with this. Only figures I can possibly make this work with is the Scout/Shia Lebeouf and the girls.

The upsides

This is perhaps the only model out there of the M202A1 in 1:6 scale. In terms of workmanship, it's fairly good. There's no cheaply done weathering or odd paint schemes/problems on it this time. If you can ignore the bad decals, it's a good model. Maybe some of you with good painting skills can touch up that problem and make it tolerable. Or alternatively, add wear that conveniently obscures the typos. For $5, it's reasonable to not expect too much from it.

Anyways, as is the tradition with these reviews, time to feature more "Let's attack blue things with rockets".

The Soldier looks to find out where BLU is hiding the intel for their new secret weapon.

We must scour every possible hiding place for the new weapon. They may have put it in places where you'd never think. Like in...HERE!

Negatory! They have not hidden the intelligence inside this blue vehicle.

I do recall them saying that the new weapon was located around here somewhere.


I do believe I have found the weapon. Yes, I HAVE found the weapon. Or has the weapon found me?