Sunday, September 26, 2010

J.Norad Transmutes a Furuta 1:6 Scale XM-177 to an M16A2

This week's project was to determine whether a Furuta 1:6 scale XM-177 could be converted to Golgo 13's custom M16A2. I could have bought an M16A2 model and just used that, but that would be too easy. And it wouldn't be as great as it would be a static model. The goal was to overhaul the Furuta model so I could strip down the M16A2 and store it in a briefcase like the other Golgo 13 figures. Never mind that I don't have a briefcase fabricated yet, but we'd need the gun first anyways to determine how to fit the pieces in.

I purchased this XM-177 as part of two Furuta Metal Gun Mania sets, one of which had the G11 rifle. Average cost for each gun is about $3, with shipping (14 guns for about $30). I unfortunately don't have a photo of the gun intact, as I started dismantling the heat guard and ended up at this state. Oddly, the barrel and front sight are made of metal, which ruined my plans. Difficult to glue metal to things, especially by a small point of contact.

 First act of business was to separate the gun into the usable components. Here, I've cut the barrel ring from the heat guard halves and glued them together. The stud holding the heat guard to the frame snapped off after trying to pry off the lightly glued parts. Likewise, the stock came off quick, needing only a 0.5mm deep starting cut around the separation point, and snapping it off by hand. The plastic used for Furuta's guns are quite soft. Good for carving up.

I drilled 1/8" diameter holes in the frame and stock to accept some bamboo sticks to allow the gun to be recombined later. I learned that I could manually twist a drill bit into the plastic than use the Dremel, as the Dremel tended to overbore the holes. The plastic was compliant enough to allow for me to bore a hole by hand. Great, I guess?

Since I couldn't feasibly use the metal front sight, I decided to rebuild everything from the frame outwards by hand. Nothing was usable except for the barrel ring I salvaged from the heatguards. I used a bamboo stick, carved a groove, then put a thick paperclip in the groove to act as the gas return line. This piece will also serve as a structural component to prevent the barrel from rotating, by using the paper clip to act as a key for a keyway system. I used some 110lb cardstock and fabricated two cylinders: one 3.175mm ID, 5mm OD with a 1.5mm wide keyway carved out; and one 5mm ID, 7.49mm OD heat guard cover. The keyway is important, otherwise the heatguard will rotate freely.

 The front sight was nothing special. Chaff cut up Mountains from a previous job, glued with plenty of Loc-Tite glue.

To get the front sight rabbit ears, I used 2 layers of Magic card and glued the V shaped sections over the sight assembly. Perhaps the easiest part of the job.

 The next part was to complete the handguard. The M16A2 has a recessed row of heat dissipating holes with light ribbing around the diameter for gripping. If I was building the M16A1, it'd be a much easier triangular cross section grip with a smooth outer surface. I added a taper to the guard from 7.49mm to 9mm, then carved 2.4mm of material along the top and bottom. To get the heat dissipation details, I poked a set of holes along a strip of 1 Magic card, then lightly drilled the face with a Dremel so that the material wasn't completely drilled out. I did this for both sides to widen the holes better.

Having glued those, I needed the separation line for the two halves of the heatguard. Two layers of Magic cards 1mm thick was used. I cut a groove to help align the piece to the heatguard.

 The XM-177 differs from the M16A2 in several spots. It essentially has the same body as the M16A1. As a comparison, I used my Soldiers of the World M4, which has the same frame/body as the M16A2.

I started off by shaving off all the details on the upper part, namely the sight adjustment screws. 

 The XM-177 has less material on the upper receiver. I fleshed it out by gluing Magic cards to it. I also added the brass deflector that was added on the M16A2, but absent on the M16A1.

Magic: the Gathering cards are like Bondo for model making. Great for filling in small gaps, then you just sand the excess away. Here, I've filled in the spots that are solid on the M16A2 and narrowed the receiver region.

 Here's the M16A2 with all the pain in the ass parts completed. I've added the details to the heat guard by gluing 110lb cardstock in 0.5mm wide strips to the guard, spaced 2mm wide. I've also completed the remodeling of the upper receiver by adding a layer of printer paper to cover all the Magic cards I added as thickener, then added some simple details.

 The scope was a standard tube and cone build. I opted to use a heavy card protector to create the lenses. Not too visible here, but they'll be there! The scope was copied off the DVD cover. I didn't feel like tracking down the exact design it was based off of and replicating it. The scope fits in the groove on the upper receiver like the actual scope, but I have not added a mounting/clamping screw nor made provisions to allow the rear sight to still be used with a hollow sight mount base.

 Current state of the M16A2, all parts attached. I'll need to redo the magazine to make it a straight 20 round magazine. I'll need to build two magazines anyways.

 The M16A2 can be disassembled somewhat. I didn't want to scratchbuild the receiver this time to get the level of detail from the Skynet Golgo 13 doll, where the upper and lower receiver could be dismantled. What I had now was good enough for me. I haven't gone into the painting phase yet, with hopes that I can strip the existing grey paint off the receiver first. Paint thinner doesn't seem to be cutting it yet. If anything, I'll just sand it down and paint it with an unnaturally shiny smooth black finish.

So, if you are really bored, you can in fact, convert a crappy Furuta  XM-177 to a strippable M16A2 rifle. Is it worth it? Only if you don't want to spend $300 to buy a Duke Togo just for the rifle.

Total added cost to the "Golgo 13 for Under $130" Project: $3 (XM-177 rifle).

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Weekend's Project: Golgo 13 Headsculpt

This weekend, I attempted to make a Golgo 13 headsculpt for a Golgo 13 figure. There's already two professionally done ones on the market; one made by Syndicate and one made by Hot Toys. Both cost $200 or more to obtain. So, rather than spend $250-$300 to get one, I'm going to see if it's even possible to make one for under $130! ($13 didn't work, as I already exceeded that price on the body I chose.)

For the body, I defaulted to a Dragon Neo3 Body, since that's all the local store had. I wanted it now and not two weeks from now. That ran me $66. It also gave me a MG Lafette mount and an FG42 rifle.

I had a remaining unused pack of Sculpey III which I recall cost me $3. About 75% of that would be used to make a new head sculpt. Rather than give you the illusion that you can do this easily with progress photos, I'll just summarize the sculpting process. It would have slowed me down more than I'd like by taking progress photos every 20 minutes. The entire process already took me 3 hours.

I started off with a basic featureless head with the nose, face and eyes located. This is perhaps my 11th Sculpey based head, and certainly not my 13th overall, unfortunately, however fitting that would have been. From there, I used only an X-acto knife and a pair of tweezers to finish the sculpt. A proper sculptor would use actual tools, but when you're someone who builds shotguns out of cards, those look like decent tools. Worked for the first 10!

The progress went like this:
  1. Etch the hairline and ear positions for reference
  2. Flesh out the jawline, pad the eyebrows and hair (he has thick sideburns)
  3. Carve reference points for the mouth and eyes
  4. Rhinoplasty fever. I don't know why I did the nose first.
  5. Shaping the face depressions and mouth
  6. Fiddling with the mouth for an absurd amount of time
  7. Eyes. 
  8. Back to the nose and nostrils. Then more mouth work.
  9. Redo eyes because they looked weird.
  10. Ears and eyebrows.
  11. Dropped head on floor and have to redo the nose.
  12. Neck and rear hairline work
  13. Thicken regions of the head to be rounder where needed
  14. Wonder how terrible the head looks when painted
  15. Picking Golgo's nose with a knife, and fiddling with his mouth more
  16. Wonder more how bad this may turn out since it's starting to look like Steven Seagal and Spock mixed together
So, three hours passed and I baked the head for another hour, stopping midway while it was soft to smooth out the head where there was excess material. I safely could carve away without fear of crushing a delicate feature.

Some horrible painting skill later, I finished my very own Duke Togo. I feel his head looks a bit big, since he always has the appearance of a smaller head due to his wide build. Since I have the head finished and 9 bodies to swap him around....

Here's TEAM GOLGO 13! The least chatty group of mercenaries ever.






 Now if I could get a model pack to swap out all the character faces with Duke Togo's for TF2, I might be bothered to play again.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paint and Shotgun Shells

Well, I feel silly. Forgot the TOZ-34 and TP-82 use 12.5x70 mm shotgun rounds. I ended up building a 12 gauge TOZ-34. For future reference, here's a handy chart of shotgun ammunition sizes for making future casings.

I need to find myself some 2.08mm diameter rods to convert to 1:6 scale 12.5x70 mm rounds. Closest thing is the straw to a compressed air can, which is slightly oversized by 10 thousandths. Gundam runners are now only applicable for 12 gauge.

On that note, I finished painting the TOZ-34. Built twelve 12 gauge shotgun shells to go with my re-chambered shotgun. Was debating rebuilding the Pancor from a while back. If I do, I now have shells for it. At least that uses 12 gauge.

Nothing particularly new here, except that the paint doesn't entirely suck this time. Can't figure out how to do an orange wood color. Stained wood it shall be! Forgot to account for the shell rim thickness, so I had to modify the dimensions a little to get the locking motion to properly engage. The rims were causing some interference between the barrel end and the stock.

I properly painted the shells this time and added some depth to the gold paint application to account for the metal casing that Dragon conveniently leaves just to the rim. Now I'm dead set on not buying 1:6 shotgun shells since now I have to deal with bore sizes.

Other Developments

There's a couple items in development right now. I should organize the completed, pending and queued projects in a post so there's actually some organization to this mess of a blog. One of the items I'm attempting is another flower out of Magic: the Gathering cards. The rose turned out well. I figured it's time to try another type of flower. Bad idea.

Here is my test build of a lotus. Didn't turn out too well. Needs some work. Learned that this one has more issues with color coordination than the rose, since the rose has one side of the cards dominate, giving the color a more pronounced effect. With the lotus, the card back and fronts compete to the point where it looks like a dying mass of brown. Didn't help that I used a lot of land cards to get me some neutral red color, which failed.

If you're wondering "Why a lotus?", you haven't been playing Magic. I figured that I should attempt to build one of the iconic artifacts from the game, and something that also doesn't look out of place by itself. Flowers, I can easily pitch away to people. Chairs and golems don't work that well. I also received a generous donation of lots chaff that included 19x Vampire's Bites that I thought would look OK if all mashed together into one lotus.


 In testing out the lotus build, I did end up with some interesting effects. Here's the outer layer of petals that ended up rather neat, using Portal 1 mountains.

It's certain that I'm never going to use land cards for anything aside from structural components ever again. You can't get a good color palette from the lands as you do from  non-land pre-Mirrodin/8th edition card frames. Brown's also a very unflattering color for a flower.

Monday, September 06, 2010

J.Norad Reviews: Furuta 1:6 scale G11 Rifle

I've been fairly satisfied with the quality of models ZACCA has issued in the blind boxed 1:6 scale gun models. Today, I bring you the opposite side of the spectrum: Furuta's Metal Gun Mania: Assault Rifle Series' secret chase model, the Gewehr 11. It's not the prettiest gun out there, nor is it something that a collector would go, "My collection is missing a G11". It's also a very lackluster secret chase model compared to what ZACCA offered in their series (the M60E1, the FIM-92, the XM-177 with M203, and the M32 MGL, all of which were superior to the listed offerings on the boxes). Why? First, let's take a look at the model.

The item comes with a small collector's card with a photo of the real gun, so you know exactly how bad your model looks in comparison. Luckily, the G11 is all black. There's not even any paint applications for the safety/selector switch. The "S" is black, and not even painted. There's actually no paint at all on this model, an issue that I'll bring up later.

The Good (Lord this model blows)
The only way I can describe seeing this model come out of the packaging is "poor". Actually, "lackluster" and "subpar" work too. It feels like I paid $3 to receive a model kit put together by an apathetic child with no access to tools. Or hands. Or vision.

This model suffers from numerous problems, other than the blatant problem of being the most uninteresting model of the set. I've circled the problematic areas on the upper region of the model. The biggest problem is that the model was molded in two halves, and there must have been production problems in the molding process. There are several instances where excess plastic remained and needed to be trimmed. There were a few small spots where glue beaded on the surface near the mold halves. There's a large spot where a blind man let glue run all over the model.

The Bottom Half

You didn't think that the upper side was all that was wrong with the model, did you? Furuta is an equal opportunity half-asser!

Something went wrong with the mold design in the grip, or the plastic deformed significantly during the molding process. There was a 1mm wide gap between both mold halves in the grip bottom. There's also some glue residue and plastic too, but that's overshadowed by the assembly problem. Luckily, I deduced by the poor quality of the overall product that the glue itself must have been lackluster. And I was right.

 After twisting the frame around, I sheared off what little glue was used and separated the gun's front half from the body (by accident), and tried to separate the two halves. That didn't work. I found that the grip gap wasn't due to lack of glue. There seemed to be some interference between the two halves that prevented them from fitting together. I shaved some material off between the gap, which was easy due to how far I could separate the two halves. I tried to glue it back together, but I don't think it mattered whether I'd glue it back or not. A lot of the frame was damaged by me prying it apart with a watch screwdriver.

This is the best I got in reassembling the G11. I can't fix the regions I shaved off the glue and plastic. All I ended up doing was closing the gap between the handle.

The paint

Now...about that paint (or lack thereof). I obtained the full set of Furuta Metal Gun Mania models (all 14), and none of the magazines had the bullets in the magazines painted. There was a bit of extra plastic from the magazine's parting line from the molding process that I had to trim. This was true for half the magazines. The G11 comes with three magazines which required some trimming.

None of these magazines had paint when I obtained them. They looked terrible. I used Testor's gold and copper paint to paint the bullets. Even with my crappy paint skill, I managed to increase the appearance by a large margin with the painted bullets.

Product Summary

Furuta reinforces the idea of "you get what you pay for". I paid about $2-3 a gun, shipped. I don't think that is a price worth paying at all for any of the models when you have alternative options. Only the secret chase models are exclusive to Furuta, and they're both mediocre and need rework to look decent. Whatever you do, PASS on the opportunity to obtain any Furuta 1:6 scale guns. Save your money and buy a better made model, unless you're a glutton for re-working on someone else's mistakes.

I may review the remaining Furuta models all at once, since they're generally all mediocre and not worth a post for each gun. They're almost not even worth a post. The G11 takes exception for how bad it was compared to all the others.

Now, for the miscellaneous statistics!

Price Paid: $2-3 shipped (average cost)
Price worth: I'd rather build it myself with sculpey, drywall and a large wooden cooking spoon.
Defective pieces: 2
Pieces that snapped off during disassembly: 1
Ratio of glue to plastic used to assemble this model: 1/5,000
Ratio of glue used to assemble the model to glue that spilled around the outside of the model: 1/1
Collectibility: 2/10 (who the hell wants a G11?)
Build Quality: 1/10 (I swear their molding machine is damaged)
Reasons to buy this model: 0
Overall Ranking: Above Soldiers of the World, but below Ultimate Soldier

Saturday, September 04, 2010

This Week's Project : 1:6 Scale ТОЗ-34/TOZ-34 Hunting Shotgun

 This weekend's project comes from the pile of inactive projects I have lying around due to insufficient tech to advance. The list results from ambitious project ideas that have been stopped by one or two major problems that prevent finalization of construction. Oddly, the one stopping this week's project was something fairly simple: a hinge mechanism.

After moving off to other games, I ended up playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Shadow of Chernobyl with the 2009 Complete mod. Bad idea. Mostly because it ended up crippling the AI and giving me the most lopsided and overpowered weapon in the game's programming: the Hunting Rifle, otherwise known as the ТОЗ-34 double barreled shotgun. So I had fond memories of using my Russian beatstick to take down mutant dogs, SPETZNAZ and other hostilities using a variety of buckshot, slugs and the occasional flechette. Thing is just absurd with slugs.

Anyways, to properly give tribute to my trusty pal that stood by my side for 90% of the game (the 2009 Complete mod gives you this shotgun fairly early in the starting zone), I had to recreate it in 1:6 scale. To understand what the gun is like, here's a Russian tech spec for the gun. The hinge mechanism is composed of a ring and guide rails, so there's no traditional hinge pin type joint. The issue is that the center of rotation isn't somewhere convenient, as it becomes located near the bottom surface of the barrel assembly, where there isn't enough material to support a pin. A fairly simple problem and one that prevented it from going anywhere for about 3 months. I decided to do an approximation that put the pivot somewhere close to the original but used a traditional pin to hold it together. I used some tricks to hide the hinge so you can't tell offhand how it's done.

First, the schematic! (A very poor one)

 This is all you're going to get. It's not a very complex model in theory, but I had some additional plans. For this model, in addition to the expected break action and lever lock mechanism, I wanted to go one step further and add a working shell extractor mechanism similar to the one on the actual shotgun. For that, I needed some extra shotgun shells, since the Force-a-Nature and Sledge's Shotgun are tying up the remaining shells I had. Hence, the endeavor to build my own shotgun shells last post.

The barrel is hollow, and to make one strong enough to withstand minor bending and light play, I chose to use one layer of Magic: the Gathering cards wrapped around a 2mm diameter compressed air straw, surrounded by printer paper for a final outer diameter of 4mm. Process is fairly simple, I'm sure you know how to roll a paper around a tube. I had to make two of these for the upper and lower barrels. I had to sand them down flat where they'd join for extra contact and to minimize the overall height of the assembly.

 The stock is the standard 4-card lamination combined to form 16 cards' thickness worth of material. Nothing exciting here. Had to remove a chunk off the template to account for the latch mechanism, but that's about it.

The latch mechanism is the same from the Force-a-Nature shotgun: Z shaped lever pivoting around a tube embedded into the stock, then sliding to engage a 1mm wide notch.

This is the hinge piece. The top notch is for the hidden hinge mechanism, which will be composed of a paper clip bent to a "U" shape with a inner width of 3mm. The bottom notch was something I didn't use in the final assembly. The middle piece shows the notch that will be used to engage the latch mechanism.

Here's the hinge mechanism. The "U" shaped paper clip glued to the stock will ride on top of the groove in the hinge piece, rotating around that point. The barrel will sit on top of that block, securing the pin in place. The structure is fairly narrow compared to the rest of the gun, so I can hide the hinge with the rest of the gun's structural components. This does make the hinge integral and irreparable if something goes wrong, but it's a low risk. So much for that holdup that I described. This next part should have been my excuse for the holdup, but I accomplished it in an hour or so.

The way the barrels are situated, there's a groove where they meet due to the curvatures. Normally, I'd fill in this material to get them flat, forming an oval shaped cross section. I decided to use a paper clip to fill in the gap, and use it to slide a small piece of material along the barrel axis to function as the shell ejector. The actual TOZ-34 has this mechanism, and uses these prongs to engage part of the main body to pull the ejector outwards. This piece was easy to replicate, due to how things were going.

I did have to cut away a piece of the barrel assembly after gluing them together, since the ejector was an afterthought that was born from convenience. Not hard since I was removing soft printer paper and not a durable Magic card. I had to replace the missing section with a similarly shaped piece of printer paper, with the same curvatures. Gluing the two paper clips to the sides was easy with the resultant grooves.

 Here's the mechanism in place. It consists of two paper clip guide rails using the barrel grooves as the guide. It slides in and out fairly well, with some fine tuning of the dimensions required to get a smooth consistent operation.

 The mechanism doesn't extend very far in the real shotgun, and doesn't need to go far for this gun. I won't be getting any fancy things going like having the shells fly out of the barrels when I break it open.

This is the engagement mechanism. It consists of another set of paper clips on the edge of the blue regions to engage the extractor tips on the sides of the barrel. Chose paper clips since it'll take longer to wear out, despite being much easier to shear off after repeated use. Nothing a lot of glue can't fix.

After adding the rest of the bodywork onto the gun, here's the near completed gun. 

 There's a few small details on the latch. Mostly a raised portion at the end for easier manipulation, and what I presume is the safety switch selector.

 Here's the gun with a coat of primer on it. These Obitsu stands are great for displaying new projects.

 With the right amount of friction, I can get the ejector to move and engage the rims of my poorly machined shells, and pull them out slightly. I'm happy with the end result.

This shows the level of movement the lever can be displaced. Unfortunately, there isn't a detent for the closed position to hold the lever in place. I think it should be fine. 

And that is the TOZ-34, a fine addition to my wall of increasing firearms. I'm thinking of not painting this model since everything I paint turns to crap. I'm best at building the prototype and getting it functional, but I'm absolute rubbish at painting. Rather than ruin a well executed model, I'll leave it in the prototype primer color for now until I get some motivation.

I've learned to appreciate the level of detail a toy manufacturer can get into a model after attempting to get the shell ejector mechanism working. This model would be costly and fragile if it weren't for the metal components, and even then, it has a lot of delicate features that aren't good for a frequently handled item. Best as a showpiece.