Saturday, December 18, 2010

Clock Radio Building

Pretty much every miniature gamer I know has a few pieces of styrofoam packaging inserts stowed away in their closet, saving them for some future scenery project.  I don't know what it is about styrofoam packing inserts, but the make great buildings!  However, the problem with the white-styrofoam is that it is really fragile, and can't be painted or sealed with any kind of aerosol spray, so they always have a short life span.  Last year, I received a new clock radio for Christmas, and it came with a packing insert made out of a strange, brown, paper-mache material -- THIS kind of stuff.  The shape and texture of the insert looked interesting, like a very weathered sandstone or adobe.  What's more, it was fairly sturdy, so I decided I'd try an experiment and see how it worked as a building.  Unfortunately, I didn't  get any photos of the insert before I started the project, so you'll just have to imagine what it looked like beforehand -- I promise I'll take some in-progress photos next time!

Anyway, this building is supposed to be a power station, sort of like a gas station for Landspeeders. The insert had a lip around the bottom, which I trimmed off with a hobby knife.  There were also some holes and such, which I filled with putty.  Once I had the basic shape ready, I sprayed it all with a sand-texture spray (the stuff the use on outdoor furniture), but the results were underwhelming.  On top of the already-rough texture of the insert, you could hardly see the fine sand texture, so I need not have bothered.  After this dried, I added a bunch of mechanical components from my bits box.  This included parts from the "Platformer" power station and pumping station sets, plasticard, a door from a Galoob Action Fleet playset, and the tops of some toy missiles.  The roof of the building had a big hole, so I cut a big piece of plasticard and glued this in, to make a place for models to stand.  The junk pile around the back was, well, a bunch of junk.  I'm planning on putting a ladder on the back as well, once I find something suitable.  Then, the whole thing was glued down to a piece of 1/8 inch tempered hardboard for the base.  Then the whole thing was painted and the base was flocked in the usual manner.

Christmas is coming, and I'll on the lookout for some more interesting packing materials hiding in the boxes!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two More Landspeeders!

OK, here's a couple more of the landspeeders that I've just finished off.

The White/Yellow landspeeder is the Sorosub V-35 'L-Kamino'.  It's based on the same toy as the "Lars Family Landspeeder" (posted earlier on the blog), but I've made a few modifications to give it a different feel.  Just like our cars come in different models (convertibles, hatchbacks, etc), I tried to make this a slightly different model of speeder, with a glamorous bubble canopy, larger side-mounted engines, and cargo room in the rear.  I removed the plastic canopy from the original model and filled in the gap on the top where the hinge was, and replaced the canopy with a clear-plastic bubble that I cut from a 'Woodland Scenics" Fir Tree 5-pack -- the packaging was a clear plastic clamshell and the top of each 'tree compartment' was the perfect size, once trimmed with some scissors.  The side engines are from the Micro-Machines Action Fleet "Gain Speeder", they were originally its guns that fired little toy rockets.  I think they look better as engine pods, with some little circular bits glued to the front and back.  The driver was s spare from one of the many WotC "Flash Speeders" that I dismantled to get their round bases, I cut off his head and replaced it with the head of a Wizkids 'Ghostfinder" miniature from their defunct Horrorclix game.  No model is safe in my collection!  It was then painted and dirtied up with weathering powders for that grungy "used universe" feel of Star Wars, particularly the vehicles you see on Tatooine.  I'm pleased with the way this one turned out, especially the wacky little 'El-Camino' style cargo area in the back!  (Thanks for the idea, Lyle!)

The Magenta landspeeder is based on a little keyring of "Anakin Skywalker's Airspeeder" from Attack of the Clones.  According to the Wookiepedia, it is a "Narglatch Airtech XJ-6 Airspeeder."  The keyring was part of the "Force Links" series of collectibles produced by Tiger Electronics around the time that the Clones movie came out, and I was able to pick up a couple very cheaply as they did not seem to be popular, probably due to their hideous yellow/orange/green color scheme!  Unfortunately, they were a little too small, probably 1/72 scale, so I needed to make the them look a little bigger to fit in with the rest.  Basically, I extended the rear engines with plasticard and putty by about 1/3 inch, added larger head-rests, and added some sort of frontal steering or propulsion fins alongside the engines.  These were inspired by the fins at the front of the Speeder Bikes, I figure that since landspeeders are using the same technology, they might have similar components.  These were just cut out of some simple plasticard shapes, and I added some thin plasticard rods to make them look like they are firmly attached.  With all these add-ons, the model finally looked the proper scale, albeit as a compact sports-car type vehicle.  The last bit was to give it a suitably racy paint job so that it will stand out from the crowd.  My wife really likes this one, and has claimed it as her speeder in the upcoming races!  (The other 'keyring speeder' is currently parked in the garage at Spaceport Speeders with a blown coolant regulator -- the repair parts are being shipped in from Mos Espa, but it's gonna be a while!)

Both of them were mounted on plastic bases torn off WotC "Flash Speeder" miniatures.

Looks like we have 10 completed speeders now, I need to do is get some suitably hazardous rocks and terrain built, and we'll be ready to race!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mushroom Buildings!

OK, so they are not really mushroom buildings, but they are made from mushroom containers...

For me, one of the most fun elements of building scenery is finding common, everyday items that can be turned into scenery and models.  This is one of those instances.

I was grocery shopping with my wife a few weeks back, and while perusing the 'fresh produce' isle I happened across a container of mushrooms.   I was struck by the unusual shape of their little plastic container, which when turned upside down reminded me of a building or bunker with structural supports along the walls.  So I purchased the mushrooms, and several salads later I was ready to turn their container into a Star Wars Tatooine-style building!

The problem with these containers is that they are made of very lightweight plastic, which would not hold up well to the abuses of most gamers, myself included.  However, since these are just vaccu-formed shapes, they can be easily used as molds for something more durable, like plaster.  I cut a slightly smaller shape out of styrofoam, so that the building would be lighter, put the shape into the container leaving about half an inch between the shape and the interior walls of the container, and then poured the plaster in.  The styrofoam floats on top the wet plaster, so I weighted the top down with some heavy books (wrapped in plastic, of course) and left it to dry.  An hour later the mold is done, and viola -- instant shape!  While the basic shape was still fresh from the mold, I cut the windows into the side (plaster is very easy to cut with a scalpel for a few hours after it comes out of the mold.)

(This photo shows the blue foam suspended in the plaster, for lightness.)
Next, I put a dome onto the top (half of a plastic Christmas ornament), and added an archway and door (I made made mine from putty, plasticard, and parts from my bits box, but there are LOTS of manufacturers who make similar sci-fi doors which would work great -- Armorcast, Scotia-Grendel, and Antenocitis Workshop all make some).  Once all these were put onto the basic shape, I filled in any gaps with some filler putty, and then textured the entire building with Herb Gundt's famous "Sandstorm Technique".  The chimney was a little part out of my bits box.  The whole thing was then mounted onto a piece of particle board and then painted and weathered.  Easy!

This was such an easy project, a welcome break after the long ordeal of Spaceport Speeders!  I've since discovered several other similar shapes at the same grocery store, all in the mushroom section (a slightly bigger container for the 'stuffing mushrooms', and a thinner, longer container that had the 'organic mushrooms'.  I'll be making a few more similar buildings with these in the future, once I get a little free time.  I've included a photo of some of the different shapes.

(some of the different shapes I found...)

Oh yeah, the grocery store is called Meijer, I think it is a chain all across the midwest.

Here are a couple more shots of different angles:

Front View

Rear view.
Overhead view.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spaceport Speeders

OK, it has been a loooong time since I've updated this blog.  I've not been slacking off, things just get really busy during the summer convention season, so I took a little break from the blog.  But I'm back, with lots of photos of a new project.

Most of my posts this far have been about a Star Wars Landspeeder Race I've been planning for some time.  Most of the Speeders are now done, so lately I've been getting some terrain ready to set the scene.  I expect the Landspeeder race to be a knock-down, drag-out affair, with lots of crashes and damages to the entrants, so we're going to need a 'repair shop'.  I present, "Spaceport Speeders!"  Right off the bat, I should send out a big thanks to Herb Gundt for lots of expert advice and support... thanks Herb!  This thing would probably look like a mess of popsicle sticks and and upside down paper cups if it were not for his help!  And a big thanks also to my wife Debs, for putting up with the eternal mess on the kitchen table!   ;)

Unfortunately, I did not take photos of this in-progress, there was just way too much going on, so I'll just briefly recount what wend into making it.  It's on a 1/8" thick tempered hardboard base, and the buildings are made from various found objects.  The big tech building is a plastic Kneenex dispenser I found at Goodwill for about $2, topped with half of a plastic sphere.  It has lots of tech-stuff added from my bits box, as well as a few pieces cut off of a Star Wars micro-machine toy set.  The garage was made from wood and half of a card shipping tube for the top.  The rear power shed was a little flower planter, and I added the door and top bits from the bits box.  The textured surface was made utilizing Herb Gundt's famous 'sandstorm technique,' then painted and weathered with Doc O'Brians Weathering Powders from Mico-Mark.  Hmm, what else -- the crane was from a micro-machine 'Pod Racer' toy set, and I added lots of details from the bits box and plastic tubing, so it wouldn't look like a toy.  I added lots of fun little details, you might be able to see some of them in the close-up images, like a little droid attendant in the window, landspeeder schematics and pin-up space babes stuck to the interior walls of the garage, and lots of tools and parts lying around the work yard.  Oh yeah, the sign says "Spaceport Speeders" in Aurebesh, the Star Wars 'galactic common' language, and there are fonts available for free online.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to light the interior of the garage until it was glued down, so now I'm on the hunt for a tiny, flat, and inexpensive battery-operated light that I can just glue to the ceiling behind the arch.  Anyone have any ideas?

And I just need to find a box suitable to store this darned thing in!

That's about it, just a few more pieces to go, and we're ready to race!

Here are direct links to all the images:

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Rodian Runabout (In Progress)

Here's the Rodian Runabout, the latest of my custom landspeeders.  This one was a complicated model, and it has given me quite a few headaches.

It is based on an old 1:43 diecast toy car called a Bertone Runabout, a funky little sports-car from the 1970's.  The toy had a neat retro vibe, which I felt fit in nicely with the design aesthetic of the original Star Wars film.  You can see a picture of one of these toys HERE.  So, a couple years ago I bought a beat-up used car for about $3 on ebay, and my headaches began.

The first thing I did was to take the whole thing apart.  This guy wasn't held together with easily-removable screws like the Batmobile toys I used for some of the other speeders.  This meant drilling out the 2 rivets used to hold the thing together with a large bit power drill.  Once apart, I trimmed off the bits of scrap metal around the holes, and gave the metal parts of the car a bath in PineSol.  After a few days, the paint was ready to come off with the help of a brass brush.

The rest of these photos are of the model before it was painted -- you can see where I had to fill in the body with brown or green epoxy putty.  The front wheels had to have their fenders ground out, and then the holes were filled and filed smooth.

The engine pods are from my bits-box (they were actually the internal engines from the Bat-submersible toy -- let nothing go to waste!)  They were secured into place with a flat piece of brass, then I filled in around it with putty.  At last, the model was taking shape!


The glass canopy of the Speeder was made by making a solid form, which was used in a vaccu-former to make the clear plastic dome.  This took a few tries to get right.  A big thanks to my pal Brian and his vaccu-former for making this part possible!  The 'Buck Rogers' style bubble-canopy is really my favorite part of the speeder, and it will keep the sand of Tatooine out of our driver's eyes!


Did I mention that this one caused me some headaches?  It crossed the line from being 'fun' to 'frustrating', and I very nearly threw it into the trash a few times.

I showed the finished model to the good folks at Armorcast, and they offered to try to cast the thing in resin.  It was something of a problem for them to cast, though, as it was not really designed for production.  Kudos to Armocast... the model shown in the first 3 photos is a casting of the original!  This last process actually went pretty smoothly, and I ended up with a few extras for the other racers in our gaming group to paint.  I may revisit this speeder at some point in the future to make it easier to produce -- probably replacing the engine pods with something much simpler, like those on Luke's speeder.

I'm still not quite happy with the finished figure, it still needs a Rodian crew (in progress), and further painting and weathering.  But I've decided to set it aside for a while for my sanity!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mon Calamari Ferrari

OK, here is a new one -- the Mon Calamari Ferrari!  I wanted a speeder that looked like it was designed for operating over water rather than land, as the Mon Cals come from a water-world.  This is how it was done:

This landspeeder is converted from a Corgi Batman 'Batsubmersible' 1:43 scale diecast toy that came out a few years ago.  You can see a picture of one HERE.  I took it apart and removed the glass domes to allow for spots for the Mon Cal crew to sit. The 'dorsal fin' was cut down considerably, as the toy's fin was rather huge and silly.  Cutting the fin down was hard work, it was the hardest plastic I have ever tried to cut, almost like metal.  At least I know it will be durable!  It had pop-out pods on the side, I glued these permanently in, to keep it looking sleek and organic.

The crew miniatures are converted slightly; they were originally Mon Calamary Mercenaries, from the 'Rebel Storm' set.  I gave them new head positions, racing suits, and new paint jobs -- then glued into the open ports. Last, the whole thing was mounted on a spare base from a Flash Speeder, for compatibility with the rest of the Speeders. I kept the original paint job (for the most part), only having to repaint the rear engines and the dorsal fin (because I cut it down.)

I like this one quite a bit -- it looks suitably aquatic, which fits the Mon Calamari background, and even has some of the smooth, organic aesthetic of the movie ship designs.