Sunday, October 21, 2012

Travis' Beam Katana: Part 2

When we last left off, I had several pieces put together and crafted and... not much looking like a katana.

You can see the sides of the trigger-box I made. I wish I had more shots than just this one because this little box was hell. To get it to that incredibly strange shape of the curved smooth edge of the metal cup, along the flat of the metal piece under it, then along the ridges of the part that should screw into something else was insane. It took many, many hours of carefully carving, recarving, some clay, baking it in the oven, recarving, then more clay and it was just insane. It turned out beautiful though in my opinion - you'll see it better later.

I realized that I had to put a notch in the metal cup or the wires to the trigger couldn't get into the box for the trigger. Little work with a dremel later (and managing not to set anything on fire with all the sparks) I had this notch. Very sharp edged though - I had to use heat shrink rubber to protect the wires so they didn't get cut through over time.

Here where all of the pieces after being painted for a first layer. I found a white-pearl-metallic paint that replicated what I was seeing in the picture of the prop, and I was quite pleased. What sucked was that in the end every piece needed MANY coats of this stuff to get them properly coated and matching each other.

Here is the entire lot of 'stuff' that it took to make the katana. You can see the battery pack (now with longer wires to make it up through the hilt), the rods that go along the outside, and some internal pieces that blocked the original saber from going up or down further than it should.

Here was the hilt being put together - just after all of the electronics were, with incredible difficultly, managed to be put in the small part of the hilt between the bottom of the lower metal cup and the thinnest part in the middle of the hilt. It wasn't easy. It just BARELY fits. Very, very barely.

The top and bottom of the katana - attached, finished, and painted... and here are the whole pictures.

This was after a bit more paint touching up - making sure the paint was as perfect as possible. Specially the red circles around the top of the katana - they were tough! I finally went at them with a paintbrush only a few hairs wide!

As always - I give a wrap up. Honestly? I'm super pleased with this prop. The only small faults I have are that it isn't smooth everywhere as metal should be but considering this is all hand cut, somehow managed together, and painted up as it never should have been?  I think it turned out very well. It can be waved around quite successfully even though it looks very delicate. I mean it isn't going to survive hitting someone, but it can survive a con I'm fairly sure.

The client - who lives close enough to have watched it all come together - is incredibly happy with it. I'll be posting a shot of her with the katana soon - in fact I have two other clients who were kind enough to send me shots of them and their props while they were in full costume! I'll do a little non-tutorial post for them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Travis' Beam Katana: Part 1

First off, I'm not gone from the world of prop making. I started a new job and moved a few hours from where I used to live and am in a smaller place, so my projects will be smaller until I get myself a new place! So now that I'm more settled in, I have something new to show you all.

A close friend of mine asked for a commission of Travis' Beam Katana, Tsubaki form, from the game No More Heroes. Almost instantly I could see this would be an interesting challenge. I have very little experience with electronics, but this has to light up and handle some swinging around. I don't have a lathe, damn, to do that middle part. So I had to improvise. :3

Please excuse my kitten. He's a nosey bugger. So, a very particular light saber became my base prop. They run about $30 dollars and finding the blue ones are annoying. This one was definitely my choice as the 'blade' is exactly what I need. Now let me tell you something. There are about 8000 screws holding that damn hilt together and if you mess up, you are going to pull a connection out. No, seriously. The wiring job on this saber is bullshit. It's such crap that it will just fall apart.
If you get the hilt apart successfully, this is what you'll find. Those green wires went to the sound box but since it wasn't needed, I just got rid of it. You can see the black wire and orange wire going to the battery pack. First issue discovered: no way was this original battery pack going to work. I was going to have to hook in something smaller. Quick trip to my local radio shack found this:

 A quad of triple AAA batteries became the new power pack - awesome. Even so, it just barely fit into a decent sized hilt which is a little thick but will have to do. So like I said, with no lathe, I had to make do. I went to the nearest hardware store and two hours later and a lot of futzing, I had the following pile: (And the hilt is PVC I cut).

Most of it is plumbing or electric pieces. The black caps I found in the hardware section. So I began to piece things together:
This was the first attempt at the hilt. It wasn't perfect and a lot of work needed to be done, but most importantly of all, the whole thing had to be hollow. Wires need to run up into the blade and down into the PVC hilt where the battery pack will sit. The battery pack must be accessible. The button to turn the light saber on must be accessible.

You can see here the plastic piece I used to make the 'holders' on each end of the two bars that run the length of the blade. I used a nail heated on the stove to punch the initial holes then drilled straight through the soft plastic - the fit was perfect. No wiggling.
Here you can see that I rounded the edges of the plastic bit so they'll sit snug against the silver cup it rests against. Also you can see the 'H' I had to build. These are two steel bracers and a piece of the cut rods - there's an H at either end of the rods. I think they're meant to be bracing the rods but instead they are really just annoying - but if you've been following this blog at all you know I try to get pieces as accurate as possible.

One of the two cups that cup the bottom and top of the blade. These are some sort of plumbing piece cut with bolt cutters and bent inward. Now my first problem came up that 1) the spaces that stuck up had to be big enough to look right with the plastic pieces I bought and 2) look the right size with the trigger piece I would be making. Thus I think I ended up one short - 4 instead of 5 - but I'm pleased with the sizing.
These are the two bars with their plastic end caps and H spaces. I'm quiet pleased with it. You can see how they sit against the Cups in the next pic:
I have to clean up some of the glue on the H bracket, and you can see the Hilt... more of it in the next shot.
Here you can see the whole hilt built up. The entire thing is hollow and has inner support from how it links together. There is also a whole hidden bit inside that cups the bottom of the plastic saber so it sits at the right depth. The screw-piece in the middle (the thinnest part) had to be shortened some from its original length. Try to imagine everything painted the same color instead of looking so different!
Here is just the beginning of the trigger for the blade. Let me tell you something - I spent three hours between three different stores trying to find something that matched that gold button in the middle. See, here's the issue. There is a very specific triggering mechanism attached to all the wiring for the blade. The gold button you see is designed to hit that trigger perfectly. It's also about the right size and shape to match the trigger in the picture but a little bigger - oh well. So I had to find something to be the casing for it. In the end - I had to build it myself. I'm still in the process - a lot of time hand carving this wood to be the right shape to 1) curve 2) fit the button 3) fit against the metal underneath it.
And the last picture for now, the top of the katana. It's a recycled umbrella tip. Now someone's going to say the picture at the beginning of this is really pointy so the tip here isn't right. No, it's not. The problem is simple - it has to be con safe. If it was metal and had that super pointy tip, con safety would never let it slide. If it's anything but metal, it could snap or break if any weight gets put on the tip. So I spoke with my client and we agreed this would work best.

So there's all the work so far. There's still a lot to do. The casing for the trigger has to finished being made and the button has to sit right. All the wiring has to be gone over to make sure its going to hold up. Wiring has to be run through the hilt and glued into place. Have to cut a hole in the bottom cup and soften the metal edges so the wires can run through it and not be cut over time. Get the trigger installed fully. The hilt has to be glued/sodered/melded/etc together so it's one solid piece with the wiring as it should be - the battery pack will sit in the bottom of the hilt on the end cap. The plastic bits on the rod have to be secured to the upper cup first, make sure it's all balanced right on the top of the saber, then glue the top of the saber into place inside the upper cup and finally, get the bottom plastic bit glued onto the metal cup.

Oh yea, nothing much. -.-

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fortune's Railgun: Part 2

Thus began one of the longest times I have ever spent carving out a prop, ever.

This next one is the gun completely carved out and wearing its first layer of gesso. The hours spent carving to this point aren't even on my radar anymore, but it was a lot over quite a period of time. Over all, the hardest part was keeping the 'layers' of the gun working and making sure it would hold up as it was. Since the gun was made smaller than the actual gun would have been, some things I had to fiddle with to make them work and look good.

Here was my first work with the scope. It is a piece of foam that I went through with a wide drill bit until a piece of PVC pipe fit into it perfectly. This would give a perfect, clean look through the scope as well as giving it internal support.

Also, you can see the piece of metal I eventually had to cut to work as the rest for the scope.

This is the first layer of a resin called "Crystal Sheen" I decided to try for this gun. Light, protective, though not as protective as resin with fiberglass cloth beneath it! It was very thick, and at times hard to work with, but no more than any other kind of resin. I 100% approve of Crystal Sheen, which you can only get online. The 1 to 1 ratio of it was quite nice.

The somewhat hilarious trigger, designed to take abuse from someone holding it with their finger wrapped around the trigger. I screwed it in only when the resin was done in that area so that it would have a very firm base.

The very first layer of paint. I chose to do the first layer as pure silver, then realized it definitely needed to be a darker color of silver, thus began the infinitely hilarious amounts of time I spent hunting down proper silver paint, mixing it with black, and painting.

As you can see, the second (third?fourth? by this point?) layer of paint came out darker.

Then began layering the paint. I wanted to give it more depth, and give it the proper look the gun actually had, so I used darker layers of paint in certain areas to do just that. It matched the look of the gun I had working with the 3D model, so I was determined to make it work. (Definitely looks better and less strange after weathering!)

Here was the final gun. There were some issues on timing of when this was to be sent I won't get into, but as always, I will give a wrap up discussion on the gun.

I am pleased with my attempt to 'weather' the gun. I wanted to make the paint job look like this has been a gun that has been around a while, suffered through a lot. A gun with a perfect paint job, without the look of weathering, just looked... kind of dull, actually. Like something was wrong with it. Hard to explain, maybe, but I hope my thought is coming through. XD

I realized I somehow didn't take a picture of the scope when it was 100% complete. You can't see it from the final angle, but there are actually pieces of orange plastic carefully mounted in the front and back of the barrel of the scope so you get the real feel of looking through a scope! (Let me tell you, it was a hysterical attempt trying to find that bright orange plastic. I finally located a weird bottle of orange cleaner at Wal-Mart that I cut up, leaked everywhere on the way home, made everything smell like orange-disgusting...! Still have it though! :3)

What I am unhappy with was my inability to get certain parts of it 100% flat. I wish I could have my awesome client ship it back, give me a month or two with it, as now I'm sure I know how to fix that problem. Other than that, which still makes me frown, I'm quite pleased with it. (I also would have loved to install glass over the computer-y parts, but that was extra time and money.)

My client was pleased, and I am as well.