Last modified: Friday, January 18, 2002 6:06 PM


01/01/02-- ANOTHER STINKIN' SAFS PROJECT? Sorry. The new year doesn't really mean new beginnings... 'tis the linear nature of time. It's actually just the next day.

This title is kinda cruel but hints at my intention to transform this disappointing eBay purchase into something that I'll be proud to own. (Hopefully.) Besides, it's pink and pigs are pink. After the initial shock of seeing this for the first time wore off and realizing that it was a recast version of the original SAFS from the eighties, I trimmed away the horrible excess vinyl and constructed it as shown (sorry for the recycled photo). Pretty dorky, huh?

As much as I hate the practice of recasting, I figure that Nitto has wisely abandoned this funky original version of the SAFS. So this doesn't compete with their more recent, much improved and now hard-to-find release. Plus, the recast doesn't try to undersell Nitto's asking price-- as an auction piece it goes for whatever people are willing to pay for it. If you aren't aware of the differences between the two, you're liable to pay much more than you'll later feel it's worth and get punished for your sins (as I did). Nitto originally overpriced it too-- as a vinyl toy, it should probably have been priced at maybe $20-$30 max back then. An original Nitto kit purchased as a collectible today (where funkiness is irrelevant) would obviously be worth much more. As a recast version of a primitive kit, it's probably worth no more than $50 today, based on your eagerness to transform it from its sorry state. My intention is to use it functionally, as a customizing platform. I see it as a hollow chunk of vinyl crudely shaped into the form of a SF3D style robot. This saves me the major hassle of having to create it out of nothing. Therefore, this could be considered a currently available source for 1:6 SAFS customizing material; the more recent and authentic Nitto version is much harder to come by, and you'd be much more hesitant to do any wild customizing with it. It's up to you whether you want to go through the eBay hassle and pay the price though.

Conversion Potential: The first thing I did was spray paint a piece of scrap with Krylon UF Black. I let it dry, and then tried to scrape it off. Kewl. That means that there's some hope of transforming this into something other than Barbie SAFS.

It surprisingly liberating to be working on a funky piece of plastic that you've mentally written off. Because you're not worried about defacing anything or screwing up, you can cut parts off with wild abandon. Or drive screws into it without worrying how that deviates from the canonic SAFS. I've also learned a few things from having done this kind of thing before (surprise!), so it's easy to dive right in.

Despite the funky appearance and my initial disappointment, I quickly learned that this kit has real potential for conversion. After cutting out the padded deck, I discovered that although the suit is smaller than the real SAFS I just worked on, the interior has at least as much room for a figure-- maybe even more. The side indentations aren't nearly as deep. Unfortunately, the arms have a huge blob-ish retaining molding which consumes all that extra space. Not a big deal. I realized that the arm articulation would have to be constructed differently anyway, and I devised a lower profile mounting for a pair of SAJOE arms. This was easy to do and worked out beautifully. I cut slots in thick styrene rectangles and fitted the arm pins into them-- the rubber gaskets unique to SAJOE's arm construction held the arms in place firmly, with free but tight articulation. I was planning on gluing them on the outside but inside attachment looked better, didn't give up too much articulation range and didn't use up very much interior space. However, it was necessary to lengthen the arms for the coverings.

Having built two of these articulated hardsuits, I've learned a few practical considerations about leg articulation. One of these is that fussing over coordination of articulation is wasted energy. The legs aren't ever going to have much in the way of wide ranging articulation anyway, so lining up an interior figure's hinges is more trouble than it's worth. The best you can hope for is "baggy"-- that there's enough room within the legs for the suit to do its thing regardless of what the inner figure is doing. The main consideration is balancing the suit. For this, hinging at the hips is desirable to get rid of that stooped-over look. This can work in concert with some knee and ankle articulation. A second practical consideration is that inward and outward leg articulation at the hips is a red herring. Vinyl and brass have enough "give" to simulate that axis of articulation, and the figure's weight keeps things in place. Brass can be bent to the slight bit of bow-leggedness that's required to make the figure balance and minimize the knock-kneed look (I hadn't fixed that yet in the bottom pic). I still haven't decided whether I'll put knee hinges in or worked out particulars of how the ankles might be hinged with a rotation axis.

One interesting feature of this suit is that the cross-section of the hip and torso shell are round instead of square as with the current SAFS. This means that the suit can rotate at the hips. It also means that if you keep that rotation, it's an easy way to insert the figure into the suit. It's considerably easier to separate and join the sections since they're not flared to fit the interior as with the current SAFS.

Attaching the top hatch remains the big bugaboo, as it was with the current SAFS. One of the big problems is that the fit is so bad-- at least with mine, the hatch is larger than the area it's supposed to fit in. I don't see this as a project-killing problem since I'd intended to change the outward appearance of the suit anyway. I didn't see much point in doing this one as a regulation SAFS-- it's too small anyway-- and diverging from that will allow me explore other options like making a clear canopy.


01/05/02-- I thought that desaturating the pic would remove the distraction of the oddball colors-- it's bad enough with the rough work of my bastardizing additions! Yes, this is ugly... but at some point you've gotta dive in and actually get the thing dirty-- regardless of how it may turn out.

It's not exactly a clear canopy and I still haven't decided whether to make it fully opaque. Being able to see inside without opening the hatch makes for a more interesting display, but it sacrifices the more imposing and alien look of the SAFS and its variations (Raccoon, Fireball, Prowler, SnakeEye...). According to the official backstory, the indirect viewing design of the SAFS made it superior to designs with more vulnerable direct viewing (even if they tripped over boulders, stepped on small furry creatures, and ran into walls). On the other hand, it would be boring if they all looked the same... and that's gotta count for something!

The canopy is clear plastic packaging from some dust masks. It happened to fit generally in the area, and I thought it gave it an interesting profile with an opportunity for some fun interior detail work. To rigidize it, I covered the interior with putty. I've been reluctant to use that in similar projects that I cared more about; as I've mentioned, putty is slightly flexible in thin layers, but prone to crack with excessive flexing. However, this is a more experimental project and in this application-- the canopy, and to build up the areas where the add-ons meets the body --it seems to work okay. I don't think it would be a good idea to heat the vinyl anymore though, and dropping the canopy is probably not a good idea.

The canopy was cut at the rear third and the back section is glued to the body. A sliding hinge similar to the one on my first SAFS should go there, allowing the canopy to be opened to the back. As you can imagine, I'm real eager to dive right into that.

The other junk was added to further deviate from the standard SAFS design. The specific features are inspired by various pics of work done by Japanese customizers. (For some reason, English-speaking folks with SF3D/MaK web sites generally don't seem to be as daring or innovative. And I hope that observation motivates some of 'em to get off their duffs! ;^) I guess I deserve the blame for that hunchback dome though: I thought it looked interesting. In geekish world-creation mentality, this could be imagined as housing the "Microwave Communications Array System" (MCAS) or "Electro-Vibratory Sensual Arousal Device" (EVSAD). The actual working components would be covered with invisible paint since they're Top Secret. I'm thinking of adding an "I.R. Seeker Optical Unit" from the Raccoon variant to the front and I figure I've gotta use the Intoy's Vulcan Minigun somewhere on this-- probably at the periscope tower. The general concept is for this to be a "Command and Control" type of suit, complete with a hot tub and wet bar.

And while we're waiting... It's too late to show you the before pic of the single-piece, minimally detailed and stiffly-posed hand, but here's the after pic, with 14 hinges in the fingers (2 with rotation). And I wonder why projects seem to drag out forever? It's worth mentioning that such modifications fall into the realm of "modeling masturbation"-- the hands are so articulated that they really can't hold anything. I wasn't about to waste that many .090 screws, washers and nuts on 'em. Along those lines, it's also worth mentioning that the accursed material that they make SAJOE arms out of have this one small problem... although the hinges seem to be tight, they drift ever so slightly under a load (which offers an explanation as to why figures shelf dive in the middle of the night). That made it difficult to photograph the hand since my pics require a two-second exposure. Just when I was learning to let go of my hatred of that @#$%!!! PVC...


01/08/02-- My skin is black, but I'm pink inside. I tried reading through one of my three-part articles and nearly fell asleep. So don't read this stuff if you've got a note spear nearby. That's your last warning, okay?

I monkeyed around with the weapons mix for quite a while-- At first, the shoulder had a huge tube thing which had missile launch tube apertures, and the Intoys Minigun barrel was inserted into the left arm (I think the stock laser muzzle looks kinda funky). Blech. Too many things which look like gatling guns. Next, I replaced the missile launch tubes with a smooth surfaced piece, with the idea that it would be some kind of "molecular disruptor". (You know... that thing everyone keeps in their hall closet?) Blech. Finally, I did what I'd planned on doing in the first place: The stripped-down Intoys Minigun is mounted on the shoulder. A little radar dish-like thing was added because I thought it looked neato. The whole thing needs to be worked on for details-- maybe panel coverings, definitely some wires and perhaps some machinery to make it look like the elevation mount is motorized. The left arm now ends with a robotic pincer manipulator which came with my Robby The Robot kit. It looks okay, but I may change it.

I hinged the canopy the same way I did the Nitto SAFS-- I had to cut two short slits in the back to get it to balance for the open display position. I've seen that done on some piece of machinery before, so I know it's not simply a matter of my poor design. Or if it is, I'm not in that boat alone. The recast kit didn't come with an inner hatch detail piece, so I cast a few details from the Fireball hatch interior and transferred them-- this was to help imply the "official-ness" of my bastard abomination. The original flat clear viewport was cut out and replaced with a thick curved section from an Easter egg thing. It's much thicker and has fewer distortions than the original. It's currently just press-fitted in there. That's handy for painting, but I need to work on a rim so it looks okay in the open cockpit position.

The little gizmo off-center in the front is my approximation of the Raccoon's IR thingie that I mentioned before. It's a wierd contraption made out of styrene and putty. It's articulated for side-to-side swiveling (I assumed that's what it's supposed to do), and I've got a clear plastic panel to mount on the front. It's stuck on with Kwik-Tac (Qwik-Tak?) because I'm not sure if it looks good or just weird.

As you can see, I've already done the cast-iron texture. That stuff is great! I realized that I could get by with far less finishing to blend the putty additions. The UF black primer was quickly sprayed on so I could post these pics tonight, and because I was getting impatient to see how it looked. So much more to do, so little time! Now that work is back into full swing, it's a heckuva lot more difficult to work on stuff. For efficiency, I occasionally have to work with the cat sitting in my lap, keeping his wandering tail out of trouble as he tries to dislodge my Optivisors. But I hate it when I'm sculpting away and have to stop to extract a freakin' cat hair from the putty!


sf3d mak 1:6 doll

We will make an example of these peasants. Search every house and raze any which harbor wire coathangers. Burn them to the ground!