Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Magic Rose

 Turns out I never shared instructions for my rose. After being pressured by a whopping one request, I've decided to share this abomination of red cards with the 3 of you who actually look at my blog. I actually posted this tutorial on a site that shall remain nameless, where it was equally unused and found absolutely useless. Here's aiming for 1 out of 2!

(Open the images in a new window for full view)


If you attempt this, please share your results. I'd like to see how they turn out and what you chose as your "most hated abundant red card".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mobile Suit Biker Sinanju

No new projects involving cards or guns. I did however finally buy something that I always wanted to have in my collection: a Master Grade MSN-06S Sinanju. Just liked the design and the color scheme. It'll make a good addition to my desk, having vacated some slots. Also, it'll finally make use of those Gundam Action Bases I've bought a while back.

No review of the kit here, since there's plenty around. I did end up breaking two parts during construction, and the fuel tank caps ruptured due to thermal expansion during painting with thinner. Had to make some repairs, but they're not noticeable. I haven't gotten around to the decals yet. Waiting for my topcoat to arrive first. In case you're interested, I opted to hand paint all the gold after painting the parts black. No stickers or water slide decals were used, nor will they be used. Going to build this with the default stuff they give me.

I found that the kit was larger than I was expecting, and the scale was a tad under 1:6. I could make Sinanju hold some 1:6 scale weapons to some extent. I did have something lying around that was much better than a 1:6 scale weapon. Something that fit perfectly.

Lego Technic set 8422! Managed to finally get some more use out of it. Color scheme matches somewhat as well. I'm rather fond of this motorcycle's styling and overall design. I could get one of the newer mototcycles, but none of them have the same appeal as this one.

Agile in space, and on the ground.

 I also had the time to buy some more Obitsu stands. Somewhat wobbly for trying to do a wheelie pose.

Unfortunately, Sinanju doesn't quite fit on Fenrir. The color scheme didn't fit anyways. At least now I can have mounted combat. 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

J.Norad Reviews: ZYToys MGL-140

Haven't had any projects in a while worth pursuing. Or ones that were physically feasible. I did miss National Build a Grenade Launcher Day this year. I did liquidate my Demoman, so I no longer have a 6 shot grenade launcher or someone appropriate to showcase it.

I've also had an interest in obtaining a Milkor M32 after browsing some reviews on onesixthwarriors.com about the ZACCA P.A.P. chase model in their 1:6 grenade launcher set. I never managed to get one. Well, I finally got a Milkor MGL after a bit of shopping around for a cheap deal. 

I picked up the MGL-140 in black over all the other variants. My reasons were simple. But in general, it seems to be the least desirable model based on overall pricing and demand. As of writing this, it looks like the shorter versions are higher in demand. My reason was "get the biggest one in black". I don't care for desert color schemes either. I paid $15 shipped for mine, purchased through a moderately reputable black market dealer holed up in the South Asian seas. They MSRP for $12, so don't expect to get one for under that unless you get lucky. You'll be looking at $17 after the usual price gouging.

Straight out of the box, you get a simple plastic tray with the foregrip, scope and grenades packed separately. No hidden surprises like an insert sheet with info or a display peg board.

Every other site probably has an exploded view of the parts. Probably none as half-assed as mine. There's six metal grenades, an adjustable cloth sling, and everything else shown in lovely injection molded plastic.

Features and Flaws
I don't think anyone expected this review to be all sparkles and sunshine. The Vortex brings out the suck in everything. And my MGL has a good quantity of suck. Let's see what magnitude of suck you can expect.

The Stock
I personally encountered an issue on the stock where it swivels up and down. The U shaped fork holding the arm in place was noticeably bent outwards like a V. as a result, it was quite easy to pop out the stock. I'd like a locking pin than two stubs that will wear down with repeated dislocations. Could be an isolated incident, though.

The slider part of the stock slides quite freely. There's not much of an end stop for the slider, so expect it to completely come off as you adjust it. Due to the way the parts are molded, it's not practical to rig a solid end stop like HotToys did for their M-4's for the Modern Firearms Collection. I can feel a little bump inside the stock where the stop mechanism is, but you can overpower it with little resistance. I'll try thickening the material inside the stock to make the fit tighter so it doesn't slide too easily.

The Scope
The scope is great. Great if you never want to move it to an angle other than horizontal. There's basic detail on the scope; no fake amber lenses or see-through light pipe. Just a solid block, but that's fine. The optic is loose, and there's no ideal way of making it hold mid position without making some frictional modification to the hinge. The scope base is molded from two pieces with a shared mounting pin, resulting in a pin that isn't snug due to an undersize. The scope fell off enough times during  photos that I've thickened the pin with some super glue so it stays on better. Suggest checking your scope mount and making this the first priority modification.

One of the details I liked was the elevation numbers printed onto the side of the sight. From a distance, you'd think it's just a bunch of white lines. It's tough to get a good photo with a crappy camera, but you can see it. The numbers are a bit crisper than my photo shows it to be. 

The Chamber and Grenades
The revolver chamber comes marked with the current grenade position on all six chambers in crisp detail. Mine seems to be molded not quite perfectly cylindrical. It has binding spots in certain areas when spun. The cylinder isn't loose enough to do Russian Roulette. As a plus, it stays in place where you want it for photos. If you push the chamber into the front frame, it fits snug so you can hold the MGL by the chamber and not have the rest of it slide away. I don't recommend modifying the chamber to spin freely because of this benefit.

While on the subject of the revolver chamber, I should cover the grenades. They're metal with a fairly thick coat of paint. Part of the grenade tends to hang on a lip in each chamber, so they don't all immediately slide out when you tilt it downwards. Great if you don't like fishing out 1:6 scale grenades in the grass in your backyard. The firing cap is painted on and not molded, so if you do wear that part down for some reason, be prepared to repaint that. Over time, the grenade rims will chip paint.

The Frame
The frame is a two piece construction, held together by a swivel pin joint. This is perhaps where most of these models will break over time. It's a mere 0.06" diameter plastic pin holding it together. Normally, this would be fine, but from handling the model and opening it a few times, I noticed that it's a fairly stressed component. When you open the grenade launcher to swivel it out, the revolver chamber has a pin that normally locks into a little detente in the rear frame. You need to either slide the rear frame back until the revolver chamber pin disengages, or bend the frame outwards like most people will do. Bending the pin repeatedly will eventually stress the plastic and cause it to snap. A suggested modification would be to drill out a hole in the pin, and reinforce it with a metal rod (or in my case, a paper clip). This will provide stiffness and keep it from snapping off prematurely.

Overall Impressions
You may be asking "Should I buy one?

You have no choice if you want an MGL, honestly. You have the illusion of choice between the six variants ZYToys has to offer. That's about it. You're not going to find the ZACCA M32 for a price under $30. You either want one or you don't. Now, if someone would build an RG-6 in 1:6 scale...

My suggestion is to buy the one you like the most, hope QC wasn't asleep/busy whipping the slave labor, and be mindful of the weak points. I don't see any reason to buy the whole set. You don't need all six MGL variants unless you're a ham fisted giant who breaks things by merely touching them.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Horse Bridle and Wear Tests

I've spent the past two weeks letting people examine the horse in person. So far, it's holding up well. No visible signs of damage to the hull, and minimal wear. Only issue so far is a sheared wire attachment support in the neck which was quickly repaired. Survived some handling by some children. Only problems presented so far is the potential for solar radiation discoloring the hide. I'll need a phase-out plan for the horse when it reaches that stage. Until then, I've taken precaution to limit the amount of sunlight exposure on the horse.

One of the current ideas is to add horse armor, or at the minimum, a saddle and stirrups. However, I did end up needing to make a bridle for the horse. After examination of how a bridle was constructed, I had a small problem: my horse has no mouth to put the mouthpiece in. X-acto knife to the rescue!

 First, some reinforcement parts were added to the mouth, which also helped define the mouth region. Afterwards, I added a slot along the mouth line, about 1mm thick, to allow for a paper clip to slide through. The cut surfaces were coated with loc-tite glue to help control material wear and to seal the edges to the effects of water. Of course, this does render my original horse head template semi obsolete as it does not account for a mouth slot.

The bridle was built with the following (use at your own risk):

You'll need some paper clips or wire, and some needle nose pliers to form the mouthpiece. It'll also require an array of belt buckles, last covered in a previous post

Strap width is whatever you find handy. I ended up with 4-5mm thick ribbon to use. The original plan was to use fake leather from salvaged wallets, but the length was too short. I ended up using the same method from Aelia's armor straps and laminating two strips of brown ribbon together using fabric glue. Fabric glue holds fairly well compared to hot glue, and there's low potential of delamination due to high temperature. The result is a low cost and fairly stiff set of straps, adjustable for all your equestrian needs. Some sewing was required to hold the straps in the right directions. I wasn't going to trust glue to do the whole job.

For the low price of $2 for brown ribbon and $4 for glue, it's not a bad result. Especially considering it's adjustable and doesn't look horribly off, and I know very little about the actual construction. Looks acceptable to the untrained eye and that's all that matters for me.

Now with some reins, we can properly ride the horse! The horse has always been meant for Aelia to use. She's gotten few presents the past two years, and now she gets the biggest of them all, despite never having a horse in Valkyrie Profile. I always liked the idea of a mounted lancer, especially after playing Mount and Blade: Warband. Now I can terrorize the countryside and impale at leisure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finishing A Horse

Nearly three months after initiating building the first components for the horse, and nearly five months after deciding to build this, I've reached the end. Last time on the Vortex'o'suck, I had finished the entirety of the horse's neck, with means to conceal the largest gaps resulting from neck articulation. All the pre-planning and well-documented work ended there. Now it's time to throw that all away and free-hand everything. Why? Because I have no plan from here on out!

With the neck mechanism built, I can figure out the envelope for the chest cavity to conceal the sections. This involved cutting away the chest cavity and replacing the scaffolding with some nice solid walls. Most of the thin strips of cardstock will remain to keep the structure, but thin areas like the chest were removed entirely. They have served their purpose.

Using an old technique of "build a pinata", by gluing strips of paper until a hollow shell is formed, I completed the chest cavity that houses the neck assembly and hides the gaps. This technique will be used for the rest of the horse from here on out, and was the single cause for the delay in completing the horse, since it's an unexact method and tedious to do. 

 The upper assembly required a new cover. I peeled the previously built scaffolding away and formed a new cover. I opted for a double layer of card to ensure structural stiffness and to conceal join seams on the other side by hiding them between two layers.

 Here is the new cover, with the old scaffolding in place over it. The fore legs have been fleshed out with 110lb cardstock internally, and a single layer of magic card over it.

Building all the leg cover plates was annoying. I could wrap the entire body around with a layer of card like I did with the camel, but there were some sections that it wasn't feasible with due to the hinges. So, I decided to go with sets of mirrored cover plates to reduce the number of unique parts and to allow for somewhat easy assembly.
Once the wireframe support was constructed, more pinata building was in order. The opening on the side of the rear leg was added to account for the supports holding the rear legs in place. The rear leg assembly itself was a balance of form and function, as I could either go for a structural column between the legs, or remove it entirely and let the legs complete the shape themselves.

Some trimming later, and I built a dividing column for the rear legs. Some pillars were added to maintain strength, even though there should be zero interaction in the direction of the plates during normal operation. Figured it's a better option to do this now than deal with depressions in the card face later.

 With the rear structure completed and the front skin done, it was time to make the rest of the body. First off, I ended up breaking my personal rule of not using lands for construction. You can see the outer shell made of some swamps. They came in some free intro packs and I was actually dwindling on chaff cards. Not like anyone's going to care if I use some Tenth Edition swamps. People already assume I'm using lands anyways. I need to save the most horrible of cards for other projects. The skin was reinforced in some areas with two or three layers of card. Damage was a concern, and repair would be difficult. I am keeping the templates for all the free-handed sections in the event I need to redo sections, but I'm hoping I won't need to. 

 After assembling the last remaining parts of the horse, I added a tail (which I had never made provisions for in the first place) by putting two twisted strands of black electrical wire flanked by some black wig hair. I probably need more hair. The wire's there so I can attempt to put the tail in dynamic poses, which so far doesn't work.

 Adding all the skin and remaining sections used up a total of 69 cards. With the previous sum of 246 cards, I'm slightly over the original budget with 315 cards. Still not bad. Is it worth building a 1:6 scale horse out of cards? Totally not. I'd recommend buying an artist's reference model if you want it as a reference, and I'd recommend buying a professional made one for $99-300 that isn't made of flammables and cellulose. Although neither of those lets you have silly poses with 1:6 scale figures.

If you're interested in the plans for the horse, drop a comment or send a message. Otherwise, I won't bother posting them. They need some clean up anyways.

Monday, July 04, 2011

This Weekend's Project: 1:6 Scale Violin

This weekend's side project is severely lacking in the explosives department.

Tried my hand at #2 in Stringed Instruments Series, a Violin. The guitar was a fast project, and quite fun to do. This project however, was anything but quick, and mildly annoying to develop.

A quick search for violins yielded a blurry resized image of professional violin plans. The image was about the size I needed, and mildly blurry that I could still read it. After some resizing and quick drafting of some plans, I formed the basis of my violin body, in the same way I built the guitar.

This looks nice and simple, with tape holding the frame to the template, but the image lies! Taping a 5mm wide strip of Magic card and trying to get those pointed parts right was painful. Took a lot of time to get the laminations to stay in place while the rest of the frame dried.
Making the two faces was interesting as well. A violin has a contoured front and back, whereas the guitar I could slap on a solid face and call it a day. I took the contour map, made a model of it, then used it to form the pattern for my violin. Both sides differed in curvature, so I got to do this twice. Went through a good amount of cards trying to get the shape right.

After forming the sheet for the face, it was a good time to start cutting out the F-holes. Cutting them after being fully assembled would prevent me from cleaning up the other side of the holes. Unfortunately, the size of a violin prevents me from strategically placing the card back in interesting ways on the sides. What you see now will be obscured by clutter and will look less interesting.


Building the neck was much more difficult than the guitar. Here's a side view of how the inside was constructed. A hollow curve for the scroll, and lots of cobbled together laminations for the neck support. Peg holes were made using a 1/16" bit on a hand drill, same as with the guitar.

The main issue was trying to get the scroll shape, while keeping the side profile as a single card.I chose the more elegant route than the quick and dirty route of rolling up paper or shaving down the face to achieve the effect. It's a barely noticeable effect, especially at a distance, but I like knowing that it's there.

Stringing the violin was the same as the guitar. Stick white sewing thread into holes, stretch, wrap around pegs, repeat multiple times. I toyed with the idea of making the pegs capable of tightening the strings, then decided that was the stupidest idea ever. I jammed some knots into the pegbox and retained them with paper clips, then called it a night.

I have never played the violin. I can only guess that the chin rest is there to prevent your facial acne from creating a circular spot on the violin from contacting it for hours. Decided to try to make it removable for the sake of being able to. Worked out fine by using a bent paper clip anchored to a 4-card stack. The chin rest gets held in place as well by the spike I rammed into the tailpiece to hold it in place. I figured since there's some metal thing holding it in a real violin, I can jam one in mine to prevent mine from flying off after a slight nudge.

The bow used a large paper clip to provide support. I had underestimated the size of a violin bow. I always thought they'd be shorter than the violin. Seems like some are longer than the violin themselves. I opted for a 4/4 size violin and bow, so it's quite monstrous. The bow just uses paper to thicken the paper clip, and to provide an attachment point for the two bits that hold the string. Gluing them directly to a metal paper clip would have been ineffective and utterly silly. I ended up painting it with gloss black enamel and spraying it with a coat of clear gloss coat. Will that hold up against rough use? No idea!

I ended up using about six cards worth of material for this project, but ate up about 4 cards in development. Most of the parts were leftovers from the horse. This project helped deal with the pile of small scrap cards sitting on my desk, which is always nice as large projects yield a lot of semi-usable scrap.

Friday, June 24, 2011

More Horse Progress

There's slow progress for the horse. Just haven't had much of an incentive to get it going farther than it currently is.

In order to determine how the neck sections will be concealed, I started developing the frame for the horse's body and skin. Since it's going to be hollow, I've experimented with a more lightweight means of making the skin than the old method of piling on 110lb cardstock tubes until the shape gets fleshed out. The method involves making use of the tube framework that holds the body together, and adding depth gauges all along key points, then connecting them together with two thickness strips of 110lb cardstock. The resulting model looks like a wireframe outline of the desired shape, and presumably uses less material. It's a lot more fragile, but that's where the depth gauges come in to support the skin. The MtG skin should be thick enough to support itself once curved and glued.

Building the body requires the legs to be somewhat fleshed out as well. Tubes have been glued over the screws to provide access points. They're all outside the horse this time instead of the cosmetically better looking underside/inner side of the horse. I'll probably be tightening them often, so it's probably for the best. The screw assemblies compose of a countersink bolt, spring washer, two washers and a nut. The nut is held in place inside the center of the tubes by strips 2.5 Magic cards thick, 2mm wide, forming a hexagonal housing to prevent nut rotation. These will be later plugged with a 110lb cardstock core so the nut doesn't travel axially, fully restricting the degrees of freedom. If this wasn't added, tightening the bolts would be tedious and difficult since there's nothing to hold the nuts in place.

Since I've opted for the neck to bend downwards, I need to conceal the gaps that result. Rather than make a giant rotating joint that resembles a LEGO horse, I chose to go a more difficult route.

With the neck region and movement limits defined, I could figure out how much gap I needed to cover. At full upright, the neck has a large exposed gap at the bottom and a small gap at the top. The system has a static upper region, and a dynamic lower region.

At mid position, the edge of the upper triangular shaped cover piece lines up with the edge of the neck opening. The lower cover sinks inwards into the chest cavity, assisted by a set of hinges.

The neck further bends downwards 22 degrees to allow the head to reach the ground to do grazing poses. This does cause another gap in the upper region of the neck, which needs to be addressed. The lower cover dips downwards and inwards to provide clearance for the neck assembly. The purpose for this mechanism is to allow for a curved and molded shape to fill in the gap. Due to the nature of how I designed the neck base to bend in two sections with hard stops to prevent overtravel, a static section was not feasible. I needed something that would move to allow for clearance of the second neck joint that connected the accordion structure to the body.

The neck assembly, removed for detail, shows the general layout. A notched portion inside the lower cover prevents the cover from falling out the gap when the neck is fully upright. It acts as a hard stop around one of the structural tubes inside the body.

Here, the two hinges required to create the movement needed for the lower cover are visible. The hinge base also serves to strengthen the neck base against buckling. Also visible are the wire assemblies that hold the neck sections in place and limit rotation. The yellow wire section has less stiffness than the middle and lower portions. The assembly was too stiff with all three supports being made of stranded wire.

 So right now, the horse has a semi-finalized neck and the rough outline for the body. Remaining tasks involve stiffening the rear legs and fleshing out the rest of the body. I'll also need to adjust the center of mass, as it's currently front heavy due to all the neck structures.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

J.Norad Reviews: 1:6 scale Dragon Browning M2 Model Kit

Went to Brickworld 2011. Ended up browsing the local shops after lunch and I picked up this: a 2008 Dragon 1:6 scale Browning M2 Heavy Machine Gun model kit. I wanted to add this to the collection for some time (an M2, not particularly this one), and here was my chance. Not quite the best decision I've made regarding model kits, unfortunately.

I've seen one review of this model kit floating around. Not too surprising since not a lot of people review model kits, especially model kits of infantry weaponry. However, I've gone through the joy horror of building this kit to tell you how it really is.

Phase 1: Misinformation
I picked this up at the cost of under $19 at a hobby shop, all ready to get me a heavy machine gun. I opened up the box and beheld the presence of a foul and unholy mass of injection molded plastic and metal. Yes, there's metal. Is it awesome metal, as in "metal barrel and other assorted parts to enhance the flavor and detail"? Hell no! It's the "purely decorative but essential to make the kit annoying to build properly" type. We'll get to that in a bit. First, let's look at the biggest problems with this kit: the instructions.

 Here's the first sheet. Top gives you an overview of the model, same as the box cover. Middle covers the runners and what each part is, in case you cut them all loose and have no idea what they're called afterwards. The bottom covers a painting color guide, which luckily is composed of 5 colors, and only two are essential to the gun. Take note at the grey section on runner set A. That designates parts that are not used in this model. My first question is, "why do you even include parts on the runners if this model doesn't use them?" Second, "what set does this get packaged with that uses these parts?" And lastly, "why the hell are these spare parts not duplicates of essential but potentially fragile parts?"

The answer to these questions is "they're actually used in this model kit, but the instructions writer decided to troll the kit builders who actually bother to look at the sheet". Because, who reads the instructions anyways? Certainly not the 4-13 year olds who buy this model, since this package certainly says that it's for 14 years+ only. We all know that getting a 14 year old to read a book is not particularly easy, so they added a visual instruction sheet with numbers on it. That's what the back side is for!
Phase 2: Deception
Side 2 of the instructions is where Dragon likes to whip out the middle finger and also take the time to poke you in the eye. I don't know if they fixed this for subsequent releases, but there's numerous errors with the instructions. I've handily corrected them in red. Notably, I've labeled where the "unused" pieces actually go on the model. Part A19 corresponds to the swivel tripod lever handle. Optional parts A29 and A30 turn out to form the "integral" leg clamp assembly for the right side of the tripod. Of course, you could have figured that out without the drawing by looking at the spot at the end of the leg and then at the runners. The handle isn't integral, but it's actually depicted on the cover photo, if you notice.

Per the numbers, you're supposed to be issued three B17s which correspond to the gun's firing mechanism assembly, and are supposed to glue them into the tripod legs. Great! I always wanted my tripod to shoot holes into the ground so I can have an easier time digging them into the ground. In a pinch, they will also serve to provide a last point of defense for the tripod carrying guy, so he can at least get some shots off. Dragon thought of everything.

Lastly, the instructions conflict with the product photo. The tripod feet per the instructions have the feet one way, and the photo has them the other. Which is correct? The product photo, apparently. I checked with what the actual M3 bipod looks like and it matches the photo, with the spades pointing all the same direction.

Phase 3: Lack of Information
At this point, you can argue that I'm being nit picky and deliberately bashing a decently designed kit for the sake of your entertainment. Now here's the point where Dragon takes their other hand and gives you the finger, and also jams it into your other eye. The METAL PARTS. Nowhere on the kit does it say that you need to have needle nose pliers for this kit. YES you need them. Why? Because the metal parts can't be assembled onto the other parts otherwise. And they're tedious.

The metal parts are all confined to the ammo box lid and a carrying handle on the barrel. The barrel requires you to clamp the loops tight otherwise they'll come off. Not too bad. Next part are the lid handle hinges. You'll need to pry them apart to fit them around the lid loops, then close them while the strap is in the hinges. I have decent dexterity and I had issues keeping the parts aligned while I clamped the loops closed.

 Last is this little gem here.
 The ammo box locking plate. It's a metal plate with a metal C that goes through it. They come separated and must be assembled together as shown above. Keep in mind the C hinge piece comes bent as a C and not straight. In order to get the part through the holes in the plate, you must unbend the part, thread it through and re-bend it. It's like unbending a paperclip and trying to bend it back so it looks the same. Doesn't happen, unless you're good. Mine still came out semi crooked.

My last point of the model kit is the plastic itself. You clearly need to paint this. The tolerances are tight without painting. A bit of sanding is needed to get the tripod legs to even slide. It felt like the model I got was late down the line where the mold had gotten sloppy. The ammo insert in the ammo box is wider than the ammo box inside, and requires trimming. The halves of some parts (legs, receiver, part of the barrel shroud) didn't meet up flat. As a side effect, the barrel came out crooked when assembled as is. Noticeably crooked.


Griping aside, the model's not bad. You just need to know what you're getting into. There's a lot of moving parts. Some of the movement can be nullified by bad handiwork or too thick of a paint job, however. I honestly don't think it's worth buying the kit if your skill isn't great and all you want is an M2. However, I don't think they sell the M2 pre assembled, at least not anywhere convenient. There's a limited number of M2's from other manufacturers, and none are common. So if you're in the market for one, you're forced to go the Dragon route if you're unable to find pre-built ones. If you're absolutely rubbish at painting like I am, you'll hate this option.

 On a last note: the ammo links are too rigid. You can sort of bend them. They'll snap and disintegrate though. You'll be limiting it to just dioramas and not much else.