Sunday, May 22, 2011

This Week's Project:: Conduit and Cards

With the head completed, I can judge how much mass I'll be dealing with for the head. The neck is identical in concept to those wooden art horse models that you may have seen: three cables threaded through multiple cutaway sections. It allows for the neck to bend in all sorts of fun directions while resembling a a knife rack. I opted to go with this design over any others since there's not much else that works and looks any better. Also, it works, period.

I split the neck into 20 minor sections composed of 5mm thick sections, and one large 30mm long section. From my understanding, the three bones near the head don't have much movement and the head will likely block the movement when angled down, so there's no point adding articulation that won't be utilized. I originally thought of making the sections 10mm thick, but it would look terrible and have poor movement.

Each section is composed of four cards thickness, so they're stiff enough for shape but not entirely rigid as an eight card thick layer. They taper from 30mm wide x 55mm long to 38mm wide x 80mm long. Approximately 10 stacks were used, so 40 cards total. The neck pivot required its own special assembly, which took 3 stacks, or 12 cards.

In order to get the neck to retain a pose, I selected some conduit that I happened to have lying around. Why do I have conduit lying around, you ask? Who doesn't have conduit lying around, I say! It's one of the fundamental building tools for paper modeling, next to sheet metal and and epoxy. Anyone who says otherwise still uses glue sticks and 100% post consumer content paper to make model La Pietàs. I originally chose three bundles, but that proved difficult to bend. The top and bottom rows need to slide within the 3.175mm diameter holes I made, and the conduit was just enough to not allow for smooth movement. For now, I made the center wire a conduit bundle, and opted for a twisted pair of two regular 20 gauge electrical wires for the top and bottom. I'll probably add a third after some more testing.

 The head-neck assembly will be done with a hinge, secured by a nut and bolt. I needed to make an assembly to interface with the hollow head, so I made a partial bucket shaped thing and glued it to the hinge top. Not much to say about my lack of planning here, except that it worked out fine. 

The head adapter fits inside the hollow head. I had to modify the head to allow for the adapter to fit in properly. That meant reducing material in the front of the neck and about 10mm from the back, shaped to adapt to the curvature of the adapter and neck. There's some part of the adapter still showing, but that will be trimmed to fit. 

 Here's the inside of the head. Looks a bit more professional than sanded Hand of Emrakuls bonded together with printer paper.

To attach the neck to the body, I used another 4 card stack to make a mounting plate. Right now, I jammed in the conduit end and it's being held in place by that alone. I'll need to make some stabilizer structures to keep it from wobbling. I'll also need a more permanent and sturdy means of providing neck articulation for the top and bottom wires. For now, the neck can do some decent poses, but can't do a straight extend. The weight tends to make it curve.

 Total costs so far: 124 cards on the neck assembly + 122 cards on the head and body= 246 cards. It's looking unlikely that I'll hit the under 300 mark with the remaining parts left. Then again, a smaller scale horse still costs more than the equivalent of 300 commons. If I increase my budget to 400 cards, it'll be about $100 at the rate of $0.25 a common (or $40 at $0.10 a common), which is still better than what they'd fetch if I tried to sell someone a stack of Kurgadons or Ingenious Thiefs.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Have Chunks of Hands of Emrakul Everywhere

 I'm finally at a stage where I can put a meaningful post on progress. Work has been started on the horse's head, since there's no point building something with the body of a horse and the head that resembles a pile of mutilated Centaur Veterans.After some load testing on a mock up neck mechanism, I decided that the best option is to reduce as much weight as possible and go for a hollow head. A solid one would be too massive to support using wire bundles. Since I plan on having the skin be the backing of Magic: the Gathering cards, I'll need to make it without carving out details. Papercraft to the rescue!

 I could be progressive and use modern methods like drawing a terrible rendition of a horse using Sketchup and importing it into Pepakura, then turning it into a paper model. That method's not very fun. I'll go at it the more archaic way that uses simultaneously less and more effort.We'll be making the head using a casting!

Starting off with a base of LEGO bricks, I form the rough shape of the head, so I don't have to expend extra resources shaping a mock up horse head.

 After some quick work piling on kneaded eraser, I end up with half a horse's head. Just a half, since it's symmetrical and I can mirror the pattern for the other half.

We bust out the stripchart thermal paper and form a mold. Why stripchart thermal paper? I have rolls of it from work and no stripchart to use them in. The step is just like making a papier-mâché mask: layer strips of paper and glue it together over the object in question with reckless abandon to actual sculpting skill. The shape still needs to be close to the original sculpt, otherwise the next step is worthless. The goal is to make a thin shell of the original. 

With the shell removed off the kneaded eraser sculpt, you'll have the negative to cut and flatten to form a template. The trick is to understand how paper behaves and where the folds would likely happen. It's like peeling an orange and keeping the peel in one part. Useless for the majority of you, since you won't be making castings with playing cards. This technique is going to be the core of all the horse's construction from here on out. The resulting template gets tested out on cardstock before the final build with actual cards.

Behold, a horse's head, made out of Hand of Emrakuls. There's still slivers of them near the base. Took me five of them and a Predator's Strike to form a head, or a converted mana cost of 47! They were quite playable in retrospect, but I hate Timmy creatures.

I'm mildly happy with the results. I achieved the goal of forming a hollow horse's head. Just need to form a mount for the rest of the structure. Total costs incurred so far: 122 (6 cards used on the head) Now for some fun with a hollow horse's head, non-Godfather style.

I am Heavy Weapons Horse!

Heavy Weapons Horse is hungry!

I'm almost finished with the neck mechanism. Hopefully, by the weekend, I'll have attached the head to the neck. Or I may end up stabbing horses in Mount and Blade.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

This Month's Project: Horse Legs

 Been about a two months since I decided to build a horse. After much time of not trying, I made some progress. I've finished drafting up plans for the legs and am happy with the overall status. No point posting plans since you will never want to build these. I also still have no plans for the neck and head so far.

The leg system is largely unchanged from other endeavors: 16 card thick hinge pieces with screws.I should be using larger fasteners, but I still have a good stockpile of parts remaining. Only difference is the overall larger size of each component, and less modular nature. What you see here is a sense of how many cards were destroyed to build the horse's legs. Quite a bit this time. A set of forelegs and hind legs used 22 sheets of 4 card stacks, for a total of 88 cards. Already close to my original arbitrary goal of 300 cards. I ruined one part due to drawing errors, adding eight more cards to development costs. Sixteen cards were used to build the templates, with four being scrapped. That brings up the total expenditure (including the four used in development two months ago) to 116 cards used. In case there's any doubters that I am not using basic lands, and am, in fact, using crap commons, here's some of the templates used to build the legs:

 Good old crappy Ice Age. Seems that I accumulated a stack of oddly glossier Ice Age cards. I never liked them due to their odd finish that ruined and came off easier than the regular coat and used them for templates. Turns out that they were sort of uncommon in print run, but nothing worth celebrating about. A glossy Pyknite is still useless.

I spent some time figuring out the leg range of motion for each part using various photos and references. I'm probably off by a good margin, but I have the general movement mapped out. If you're interested, you're better off buying a book on horse anatomy (which I didn't), or studying one properly (which I didn't). My measurements aren't the most reliable. 

The most important parts of the project are the legs, neck, head and, for a lack of a better term, chassis. Everything else will be freehanded like the camel, and skinned with a coat of card, hopefully. Right now, it's going to be a horse made of scaffolding. 

This is where the horse currently stands. The joints can be tightened enough to allow me to do this, and hopefully retain this pose with additional weight from the rest of the horse's body. As a test of joint strength, I added some test mass to the neck region to give a good estimate on what to expect. What better to simulate the mass of 60 more magic cards than someone made of about 60 Magic cards?

Hotaru proved that the hinges need a lot of tightening. I could stack the Heavy on the front and provide a more rigorous test. I had some difficulty keeping the rear legs angled correctly with just Hotaru, and it will be trickier once there's more mass to work with. I'll have to readjust the center of mass once I develop the head, much like the camel. 

It'll probably be a while before I figure out the neck and head components. Until now, it's a glorified barricade horse. I now have a good idea of how crazy of a size this thing is going to be, fully built.