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. -.-