Last modified: Sunday, December 16, 2001 1:20 PM


Damn... the remote censors are acting up again.


The armada of walkers arrived at the battlefield to mop up the last remnants of the poorly equipped rebels. All that stood between them and the demise of the rebellion was this grassy stretch of land, littered with...

"What's that?", the commander barked impatiently. "Zoom in!"

"Sir... the rebels! They... they've placed upturned rakes and hoes all over the battlefield! There must be thousands of them!", the spotter replied.

The commander squinted and scratched his chin. "Those crafty bastards... Damn! All units retreat. We'll get them when they aren't so well prepared. This isn't over yet!"



(Just in case you haven't seen enough pictures of this yet...)

11/23/01-- Now the project enters a different phase-- detailing. Actually, this has been going on to some degree during the course of the project, but with the main structure completed, that's what's left to focus on (besides the feet). The project should culminate with painting, but I've grown to like the white color scheme so the look might not change all that much.

Thinking about this figure's place in the universe is a necessary ingredient in deciding how to proceed: You don't want to add a lot of real specific detail when you don't know what it's for. I've already mentioned what I think about the concept of a man within a bipedal robot... I wasn't any more enthused after reading some of the fictional "history" behind the SF3D line. A conventional missile could waste one of these suckers in a second, no matter what kind of magical composite material the shell is supposed to be made of. The payoff for all those defense bucks spent on an armored grunt would be...? The only reasonable justification for such a suit would be for operating in an inhospitable environment like space or underwater, where a larger vehicle or man-powered environmental suit couldn't do the job, and the job required some kind of direct human intervention. That points to the need for the suit to be a general purpose frame, capable of being reconfigured for different types of jobs. This broadens the mission of the figure to include some peacenik things like rescue operations and teaching the rock people of Mingus 7 how to hurl Dino chips.

Accordingly, I've added a few generic attachment points to the chest. These have that "welded-on" look, taken directly from the SF3D line. (I'd already done that with the top cover, envisioning that these could be used to lower the built-in electronics/computer/sensor stuff onto the body pod, before sealing the operator in.) In some of the pics so far, there's been an undefined "snout" at this location. That was originally done to break up the "ping-pong ballish" look, but I didn't like the idea of permanently attaching this undefined piece of whatever there. Since then, the whatever has been fitted with a gattling gun like front end for a Rambo mode, and an alternate piece has been made which has a flexible arm protruding from it for either a manipulator or an optical end piece. It looks awfully funky though. There are other potential mountable units though-- a spotlight array, a sample container, robo breasts...uh... whatever!

In looking over my heap of kewl parts-with-potential, I have to keep fighting the urge to gob some piece on just because it looks neat. At this point, the figure has a kind of clean-lines aesthetic which would be ruined by adding excessive detail to the exterior.


11/25/01-- The trouble with working on detailing is that it's incremental and not very dramatic. Yet, it takes a lot of time to think of things to do and search for the parts (not necessarily in that order).

Some "kitbash" parts should be familiar: That's Cotswold's WWII German flight helmet, which happened to look "right" for this figure, given the SF3D roots. (It's gonna need some kind of treatment to make it look less like a molded piece of rubber though.) I'm being really wishy-washy about whether this should just go ahead and be the absurdly militarized, bristling with big guns hunk 'o plastic that it wants to be, or treat it in a more restrained and logical fashion. Certainly, the big guns direction is more fun.

You also might recognize Michael Chan's dandruff-covered SDF jumpsuit. It has the virtue of being one-piece and not very bulky which makes it less likely to get hung up while inserting the figure in the frame. As you might expect, the figure isn't wearing boots-- that would make it totally impossible to fit through the frame's legs. In fact, the figure's heels needed to be trimmed considerably to navigate the insertion. They're pointed at the extreme angle and stay that way in the frame's feet-- which is why the feet are quite tall. (Actually it works out in a weird kinda way, since the figure's feet do actually rest on a slanted set of parts, and aren't just dangling there.)

The "mouthpiece" also comes from Michael Chan, although originally it was his earpiece (ewwwww...ear wax!). This just ended up that way, since as I was trying to slide the throat mikes over his head, I noticed that they seemed appropriate as a kind of cortical sensor/transmitter on his temples, possibly for controlling the frame or for receiving a radar-ish image (hey, this is sci-fi!!!). Plus, they made the flight helmet fit better. The comm line plugs into the panel on his right.

Finally, from Michael Chan's MP5 comes the mini flashlight (right of head). This is affixed to a long drive spring with a wire in the center (for positioning) and is detachable (held in place by a rubber sleeve). This was envisioned as a cockpit light which could serve double duty as a survival kit element. The other survival kit stuff (except MC's handheld radio) hasn't been developed yet, and it's supposed to fit in the space that's left on the frame in back of the seat.

(pic 1) The right side panel (ignore the ugly wall) was drilled for styrene tube sections, backfitted with prints from a Tamiya motorcycle decal sheet, and covered with clear acetate circles. Cutting and shaping those suckers was tedious, and they fit midway in the tubes by pressure fit (I did have to use Micro Kristal Klear on the center one though). The knobs are castings from the BBI F-15 cockpit (as you can see, a wise investment). The comm cord is attached by a couple pins in the plug which fit into holes drilled into a rubber insert, placed on the inside of the panel. The rectangular cutout would have probably been sufficient to hold the plug in place, but this just seemed like a kewl way to do it.

(pic 2) This is the inside of the coverplate, so far. These are mainly pieces from the Lanard 3-3/4" space figures, detailed with extra levers, buttons and a pilot light. The blue thing looks kewl and was a part that I didn't use from the Tamiya police motorcycle. The hole at the bottom is where the stranded metal cable in the cockpit plugs in (to activate the "electronics", y'know?) The view panel is a scratched up printed hologram worn on the chest of an old line of figures whose name escapes me. One of the difficulties here is finding parts which look interesting, yet have a low profile for clearance with the figure. Conceptually, this panel is supposed to be a radar-ish surface, to justify the lack of a strategically placed main camera. By that logic, I could probably place a mesh on the interior to "pretend" the function and fill up some of the plain-ness.

(pic 3) The backpack Lanard piece which makes the light go (batteries & switch), in the process of being dressed up. At the bottom are the wire wrapped with wire which carry the DC to the interior. The tank on the side came from the cannibalized robot kit, and the fragile homemade contraption along the top is made from styrene, genuine aluminum cooling fins and a split drip irrigation nozzle. The footprint of the backpack is rather small compared to that of some of the impressive backside detailing of some SF3D kits. I figuratively painted myself into a corner by the requirement of needing clearance for access to the power button on the Lanard backpack. In hindsight, the switch could have easily been spliced and relocated elsewhere on the figure. Unfortunately, with the backpack welded on, this wouldn't be a trivial matter now. I have been thinking of forming a wide housing panel to partially cover the top side (enclose the cooling fins? Smaaaart...). This would help break up the ping pong ballish look, and give it the additional visual interest of an external, screwed on panel.

(pics 4 & 5) I found a good use for the rubber hoses from 21C's big hunk 'o rubber rebreather unit. Unfortunately, they weren't quite long enough, so I extended them about a half inch with plain rubber wire insulation. You can't see that part, which is the idea-- the hoses needed to be long enough to fit and move freely within the leg housing, so that they wouldn't impede the leg articulation, and so they wouldn't fall out. They aren't glued to the legs, which makes the legs removeable. (Judging from the positioning of the hoses, maybe I should change the article's subtitle to "OPERATOR MUST EAT BEANS BEFORE ENTERING VEHICLE"?)

I'm still trying to do something about those funky feet. As you can see, they're half as tall as they used to be and look more like cloven hooves. The feet actually do work-- the figure stands solidly with a little forward or backward lean. That's because there is no ankle joint; the knees and hips don't really extend very far anyway (using a Dragon figure for this was probably overkill) and stability can be adjusted by rotating the roundish foot and knee. The bottom plate acts as a heel, preventing the figure from falling backwards but its small side profile keeps the foot from looking like it's facing backwards.

I tried to do something interesting with the foot so that it wasn't just a foot-- the bottom plate is hinged at the toe, and the nozzle is connected to the rod that's hinged on the interior (part of the foot's original ankle and side-to-side swivel mechanism). When the figure's off the ground, the nozzle can be directed according to that hinge, against the independently positionable bottom plate "control surface". The front of the foot has a small nozzle too. In tandem with the heavy hoses and the oversized calf section, I'd hoped to hint that this provided some sort of maneuvering ability either underwater or in space. Postulating compressed air works for me, but if you want to postulate an anti-matter engine, then the suit might be capable of interstellar travel at faster than the speed of light. It's all just sci-fi, y'know?


11/27/01-- One of the downsides of these incremental updates is the redundant pics of stuff as it's being developed and revised. Sorry!

(pic 1) The coverplate after adding the "sensor" mesh. Dresses it up a lot and covers mucho area with a low-profile texture detail. Conforming materials to the inside of a curved surface ain't easy, especially if you want to avoid cuts or creases. An old-style woven screen wire mesh might be easier than this modern plastic coated screen stuff, but this stuff looks neat. I'd always assumed the stuff was plastic, but I heated up a small area and discovered that it became real flexible for a moment and then turned rigid-- it didn't melt. Cool. So I put a larger section in the oven and before long the house was filled with smoke! Not cool.

(pic 2) The back area with the quickie heat-formed housing panel. Since this didn't have a bolt-down lip, I experimented with making bolt-down tabs-- they looked uh...shitty. The alternative was to carve out bolt-down channels and fill them to make it look like the piece is actually more substantial than it actually is. Looks much better. The radiator fins had to be moved, so they replaced the battery cover (otherwise, it would project out too far and look weird). It's glued in place with Pliobond, which is good for tacking stuff down semi-permanently. Unfortunately, if you lay the figure down on its backside, the fins would get mashed (just like real condenser fins), so I drove a rigid pin through the center. It doesn't do much to protect them from side-to-side rolls, but keeps them from being squashed. Maybe I shoulda used plastic instead?

(pic 3) The Buster Browns in white. With toes. Since the stolen parts might be immediately recognizable (I didn't realize that Gundams were being sold in TRU), I attempted to change 'em a little bit. The squared sharp edges were rounded out, but the side venting detail is still pretty distinctive. I think that it's a good idea to go with consistent themes in a project like this. Since most of the paneled surfaces are rounded without sharp detail, a sharp edged surface with a lot of detail looks grafted on. That's okay for stuff like the back detail which is supposed to look external and grafted on.

(pic 4) Looks like wire, huh? Almost. I'm showing you this just to give you an idea of how nuts you have to be to do this kind of stuff. This is a 17 inch rubber cord which has been laboriously wrapped with 28 gauge wire. A rigid rod is no big deal, but have you ever tried to wrap a pliable cord with wire? I don't know a fast way of doing this, and it sure does make your fingertips sore! Not a fun or quick job. And you thought customizing was glamorous?

I thought I was so clever when I "discovered" this technique, but after reading several of the SF3D model reviews, I discovered that it's an old modeler's trick. It just shows you that problem-solving tends to drive people towards obvious solutions, and that most stuff would probably get invented anyway, regardless of who got the credit for being first.

I watched a construction vehicle demolish a small building today--it was pretty awesome and seemed relevant to the robot thing. This was one of those huge jobbers with tank treads and jaws at the end of the hydraulic arm. The arm would thrust into the building and yank out jawfuls of tin, steel, brick, and toss it to the side. Side-to-side whacks brought down brick walls. It looked alive, like a huge metallic beast! I was in awe over the fluidic way it operated, moving forward on the treads, turning, all while the arm was moving and the jaws were doing their thing. It's one of those things that I'd never stopped to really observe before.


11/30/01-- The grungy retro look of the SF3D world is what makes it interesting, but not necessarily logical or realistic. There are, after all, different ways of looking at "realism". When I first saw the crude welding detail that some modelers had applied to their 1/20th SF3D kits, I though, "Kewl! What a great idea!" We've all seen it and know what it looks like, but it's surprisingly difficult to find examples of crude welding these days. Although some stuff is still being manufactured like that, most consumer goods in developed countries are considerably more polished these days. When it came time to replicate this effect, I realized that I had only a vague idea of how it really looked. I suspected that I'd gone overboard and exaggerated the effect, so I took some "research" photos to help zero in on some realistic funky weld patterns.

This project is drifting closer to the end of phase 2-- I'm mainly fiddling with stuff like adding hoses, little meaningless detail, figuring out how I can blend/hide some of the construction work, and thinking about the construction of strap-on megablaster accessories. They've gotta fit onto mounting brackets, but you can't put those on until you know what the weapon systems are gonna be. It's a fun final dance. As I procrastinate in this way, I realize that this project is similar to, but quite different from a typical modeling project. With models, you have to plan how you're going to assemble the thing so it can be painted effectively. With this project, that concern is in the back of my mind, but prior to that I have to create and scavenge the parts for assembly without really knowing the complete picture-- the design develops through that process. This makes it difficult to plan for painting. It's also difficult to know when you're done putting it together so you can begin painting. There's always just one more thing you wanna do...

I suspect that it's an avoidance thing for me: I'm not all that keen on painting since I'm not that good at it and have soooo much to learn. Painting is a big deal...easily, half the project. As is, or with a meager painting effort, the project would look okay as a toy. Most of my stuff is like that. However, painting can transform the toy into a realistic model. It's truly a separate and specialized artform, and it's easy to see the difference between a competent but pedestrian effort and one done by a Master.

See what I mean? This freakin' ROCKS!!! This portion of a pic was "borrowed" from a Japanese site, "How to Enjoy Maschinen Krieger" (Fireball section). This is one of the finest and most credible examples of weathering and realism I've ever seen, and it makes it virtually impossible to be satisfied with the unpainted toy look. Check out this site for some really excellent painting & masterful scratch-building work. This is the level of artistry to aim for, and if you get 1/4 of the way there, that ain't too shabby!

Another spectacular effect is the simulation of the irregular look of cast metal, like some of the WWII tank turrets. The difference between that and a smooth-walled model with a competently painted camo pattern is the difference between night and day.

Soooo... I've got a bunch of reading and experimenting ahead and more stuff to learn... that is, once I decide that I'm finished with the construction phase!



SF3D/Ma.K.    PART 1 | 3 | 4