Monday, December 28, 2009

South Eastern SteamPunk Meet Up #1

Hay, I found pictures!
I took these back in the summer at the meet up at Ex Libris's place. I meant to post them then, and well... I'm posting them now! I took some others, but for whatever reasons (mostly them just being snapshots of dubious quality) these are the ones I felt like sharing. I've got a group shot, random folks, a good batch of the Huntsville crew, and I even show up in a few myself.

Most of us fit in the garage, but not everyone fit in the frame:

Local wacky people:

Hunstville wacky people: The Captain...

....the Damsel...

...and the distress! ;)

A fire fight ensues!


Task-specific explosives are examined and compared; Insurance policies are damned.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I call her Eunice

This here's the big one... I call her Eunice, after my cantankerous old grandmother.

Its a modded Nerf Vulcan, but I think I've gone a bit beyond the typical repaint -- and dear god, did this project involve a lot of masking! The metallic color of the main gun parts was "air mixed" onto the gun, meaning I held a can of spray paint in each hand, one of them a purple metallic and the other copper, and sprayed them both at the gun at the same time, varying the color as I went.

Aside from the standard internal Nerf mods (removal of all air-flow restrictors) I simplified the lines of the gun. I wanted the gun to look more like a real machine gun and less like some kinda techno-space-blaster-thing. This basically meant grinding off most of the raised little techno-gobbins with a motor tool and filling in the recessed mechano-crap with putty. Like, 5 or 6 sticks of epoxy putty.

I had to do all the grinding, puttying, and sanding to get smooth surfaces to mount the fake wood-grain on. The smooth, dark wood grain on the gun itself is the same contact-paper died with acrylic inks that I've used on previous toy mods...

...while the lighter rougher-looking wood is a thick vinyl car-wrap sticker. I used off-cuts from a project we did for the National Guard at work, so good luck finding something similar. But I wanted the tripod and ammo box to look more beat up and disposable than the gun itself, which is oiled and cared for. I added a little support bar to the tripod, too.

The grips got my now-standard fake leather treatment of textured spray paint, dry brushed acrylic paint, and inks.

I really kinda like the chipped up paint look I got on the "enameled" parts of the tripod and ammo box. Continuing with the logic that the gun is cared for but the extras are not, I wanted to paint it to look really beat up. I also wanted to pick a color that would like militaristic, but not remind you immediately of any particular military -- paint it olive dab, and it looks like the US Army, paint it dark gray and it looks like the Whermact, paint it tan and it looks too modern. In the end, I went with a color called "Confederate Gray," which works just fine, since I kind of do a CS thing on some of my military toys anyway.

To get the chipped paint effect, I use a technique model makers call a "salt mask." Basically, what you do is mask off the area that you want to look like rough paint, and paint it silver (I used "nickel" paint, but whatever you want the base metal color to be). Then, using water to make it stick, cover the high-wear spots with salt. I used rough sea salt, but the grain of the salt will determine the size of the paint chips. The water will dissolve it somewhat, you really just have to play with it. After the salt is completely dry, you spray on the "enamel" color (meaning, whatever color you want that part to look like it was once painted) right over the salt and the model section. When the paint is totally, completely dry you just scrub off the salt with an old rag. Most will fall right off, showing you lovely craggy metal beneath; scrubbing off the last bits will give you a nice pattern of smaller surface scratches and generally distress the paint. When you're happy with it, wash off the last of the salt, let it dry again, and spray on a clear coat. After all that abuse, it isn't the strongest coat of paint in the world and will really need that protection.

I added a few other little bits, like this cool looking fake power meter, made from broken watch guts, set into a cap from one of the tubes of putty, backed with a printed-out gauge face plate, and filled with epoxy:

And she's even got a compass and a level in the back:

She still fires, but only with a stock, unpainted ammo belt. I painted one of the ammo belts, so I could look cool and everything, but the paint-on-paint doesn't slide freely enough to keep from jamming. So I keep an un-modded belt handy for field expeditions, and a painted belt for dress inspections.

I must say, Eunice was a big hit at DragonCon this year:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PEM Bombs

The newly discovered technology of the pulsating electronic magnet, or PEM, has offered us another tool to use in the control and containment of otherwise rogue automaton and other mechanical and electrical devices -- an issue of growing importance as these contraptions are employed an an ever increasing rate.

Simply pull the pin and toss the device (called a "PEM bomb" by the boys in the field) at the offending mechanical nightmare and marvel as a harmless flash of light (and an invisible pule of magnetic electricity) render the machine instantly as docile and lifeless as an unloved Erector set.

I made these up from some huge old vacuum tubes and sheet brass. Here's the prototype while I worked out the shapes:

And note the clever use of a re-purposed mouse pad to keep them from breaking. These can be worn on the hip without fear of glass shards.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Leather Holsters

Over the summer I started playing around with making holsters and such from raw leather. These were the first ones I made (after the holster that goes with the Duck Hunt gun).

My process is as simple and intuitive as can be. I make a prototype loosly shaped like the gun in paper, and transfer that to the leather with plenty of room to spare. Then I rivet the whole thing together -- I just don't like to sew.

Once I've got the basic holster fitting properly (there's lots of fiddling and adjusting going on while I set the rivets, making that stage as tight as I can) its time for the water soaking. I wrap the gun up in plastic to keep it dry, and set it aside. Then I dunk the holster completely in water for a few seconds and flick off the excess.

I had a lot of fun with this shot gun rig, coming up with the straps for a low thigh holster that also fits my shoulder holsters for the over-the-back carry.

Then I put the gun back in the holster, and work all the folds and creases with my thumbs and fingers. While it sits on the counter drying all afternoon, I go by every now and again and work the folds a bit more. As it dries and shrinks slightly it really starts to take the guns shape. Then when its all dry I go back and glue the edges tight with shoe glue.

After I'd made some for the guns, I figured I needed in-costumes for my every-day items, like a cell phone, multi-tool, and .mp3 player.

After I'd gotten a few simple holsters under my belt, I decided to try something nutty. I had this old pair of combat boots laying around with a few big holes in them, and my wife had mentioned wanting some spats, so...

There are a few buckles secured with snaps to get them on and off. The fit is pretty much set to her feet, though strangely I can wear them myself as an elbow brace (interesting, as I've shattered one elbow and dislocated the other over the years...) I even gave her a little loop to hold her pipe wrench!

I like this leather working thing, and aim to do more of it. I'll probably have to learn how to sew at some point....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Steamy Travel Trunk

I came up on an ugly, beat up old foot locker at a thrift store for $5. It was fugly... blue and purple fake leather... but it had promise. After buffing off all the crud from the metal fittings, and recoating the old ugly fake leather with new less ugly fake leather, I printed up a bunch of old hotel luggage tags and travel stickers and the like. A quick dip in some milk a run through the toaster oven aged them nicely.

I definitely tried to select exotic and steamy locations for the stickers. One of my favorites is an old one from back when Atlanta was called Terminus. I also found a lot with zeppelins and the like, even a luggage tag from the Hindenberg. And some of them aren't quite real, like the Miskatonic stuff.

I put a coating of new fake wood on the inside, but other than that I haven't detailed it. Eventually, I want to do up the inside with all the sort of things a soldier might have in his foot locker at the front: letters from home, pictures of the sweet heart left behind, propaganda to prevent identification with the undead enemy, that sort of thing.

It was quick, easy, and amused me, plus I needed something to put all my guns in to take them to the con. This sure does the trick.

New Guns!

OK, new guns!
Well, they were new guns back in August, but I never got around to posting them...

So, I came up with a new, totally top secret way to put a nice fake wood pattern on repainted plastic toys. I like it, and I kinda just took it and ran with it... so here's the heat the wife and I were packin' at DragonCon:

We'll go ahead and start with the Lady's pistol. Now, there's a joke behind this. Lots of girls tote around little stuffed dragons and the like at cons, but that's just not oddball enough for Celeste so she got her self a duck. I took one look at it, and knew what gun she needed to carry:

I made the holster, too, with scrap leather and pop rivets. This was the first one I made (I'm going to post some more holsters shortly) and I had a lot of fun working with leather.

So here's the gun in close-up. Regrettably, it no longer works, but it broke a long time ago. Its a pretty simple mod, just painted brass, with the fake wood on the frame and some fake leather (I do that with textured spray paint and lots of ink and dry brushing) on the grips. The label text is a dry-rub transfer.

Here's the side arm I had slung on my hip (holster to come, in that other post I was talking about).

Its a small Nerf gun, with lots of extra junk plastic hacked off and lame details smoothed over with putty. The leather grips use the same texture spray/ink/dry-brush trick. I've since removed the metal ring from the back. The gun still shoots little foam darts, 'cause that's what makes Nerf guns fun!

This one isn't steampunk at all, but I did it at the same time, and its a gun, so there. Its really just a paint job, all I did to the original resin cast model was fill in the casting gaps and sand it smooth. The only neat trick I pulled was to air-mix the paint, spraying with two different colors of spray paint, one in each hand, at the same time.

For the same reason John Chriton called his "Wynona," I call mine, "Milla." ;D