Dr. Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators Ray Gun Contest

When Weta designers Greg Broadmore and David Tremont debuted their Dr. Grordbort line of fantasy Ray guns I knew someday I had to have one. The hand made metal, wood and resin guns appealed to my inner child in a way I had not felt for a long time. Luckily for me my chance to own one came a few months ago when The Replica Prop Forum partnered with Weta to host a ray gun building contest. 

Tasked by Lord Cockswain and his Colonial Expeditionary Force to modify one of Dr. Grordbort's Righteous Bisons to give it a little more "oomph..to have a chance of repelling the barbaric Venusian hordes," two hundred of the Righteous Bisons shipped out to RPF members across the globe, fifty of which were finished in time and entered into the contest. The rules were simple. Take a "nude" Righteous Bison and "modify, customize and "upgrade" it in any way as long as it still fit within the Dr. Grordbort universe. The only catch was that it retain a bovine related name.

So without further ado I present my entry "Boomin' Bessie, the Amplified Aural Annihilator."


IKEA Hack - Expedit Door Panels

The IKEA Expedit cabinet is a great piece of kit. It sturdy enough to hold a ton of heavy items and cheap enough to be utilized by those on a tight budget. We use ours to hold everything from dog food to diapers, toys to tools.  While the cabinet looks great when used for displaying trinkets or photographs, it becomes quite cluttered when used as a storage unit. To deal with that issue I wanted to design panels that could either be hinged or attached with magnets to mitigate the mess. While IKEA does sell inserts, their high price put purchasing 16 of them way out of our budget.  Given that I had the tools and most of the materials already in my possession, attempting this IKEA hack turned out to be a fun and economical project.



Looking for methods of displaying sharp and fragile props, I turned to my time as a model maker, when I would build dioramas to display the model aircraft I built.  Shadowboxing was a natural extension of this hobby.  In building a realistic environment for the props, I am able to craft a story that tells a little of the history of the prop. For instance, the Chronicles of Riddick knife was used on a gritty, lava covered planet, it made sense to recreate a portion of the planet surface to display the very sharp knife.  


Shop Reopening

A year ago the roof of the shop started to leak.  Wind, rain and moss finally worked through the ancient wood shingles and allowed buckets of water to rush in and damage the work bench, power tools and projects.  A year of downtime ensued, where I had limited access as the shop dried out and a new roof installed. 

Last week my father-in-law and I put the finishing touches on the roof, installing some support rafters and removing the bracing that was holding up the old rotting ceiling.  Now I'm finally able to use the shop again!


Small House - Stairs

Designed as a focal point to bring people into the foyer and up to the second floor, the stairs for the small house project are designed to be built out of four pieces of steel plate.  

The two stair sections are cut on a large waterjet and then bent into shape.  The landings are cut from the same steel plate and welded to the stair sections.  Ideally the stairs would only be attached at two points on the upper and lower slabs but additional wall mounts or a structural glass railing may be needed to prevent the stairs from twisting.  In this case, the attachment points would be integrated into the design before the pieces are cut on the waterjet.  The stair would be left in its raw metal state to weather with the building or coated with a blackening agent.  


Small House - Floor Plans and Elevations

More progress on the small house.  A few variations on the ground floor plans, some elevations, sections and basic renders.  Nothing too fancy today. 



Small Lot, Small House

This project is for a small, skinny lot on the San Francisco peninsula.  Oriented east/west, the lot has large north/south exposure.  I wanted to take advantage of the best possible lighting conditions for the site, but the narrow footprint would not allow for a desirable orientation.  Extruding a single 1000 sqft mass upward created another 1000 sqft but left the building with the smallest masses facing east/west and the large ones facing north/south.  By rotating the upper mass I was able to capture more sunlight.  To utilize sunlight, the living, cooking and dining spaces are upstairs, while the sleeping and utility spaces are downstairs.  A double height void containing the stairs connects the two masses and serves as a focal point to bring people through the lower foyer and up to the second floor.

Today's post includes concept sketches and diagrams, floor plan variations and current progress on the 3D model.



On Hiatus

Started a new job a few weeks ago. (yeah!) I'll be back to the blog when things get routine... Stay tuned.



SciFi Blaster 02

This work in progress started out as a light gun.  After stripping out the interior of unnecessary parts I came back through and added electronics to add a level of realism to the project.  The barrel uses a blinkM programmable light, which allows me to set both the color of the LED and the pattern that it flashes when the trigger is pulled.  I also added a toggle switch to act as a safety switch, flipping it turns the gun on and lights the green LED on the side, flipping it the opposite way arms the gun, lights the red LED along with the green and enables the trigger light. On the outside I've added a scope, flash hider, maglite, and a laser scope. Right now it has been painted with black paint to make it all one uniform color as I add details and work to hide seams and screw holes.  I hope to finish this soon!

Chronicles of Riddick Ulack Knife

One of my favorite props, the Ulaks from The Chronicles of Riddick Movie and The Assault on Dark Athena video game were fairly easy to build.  The X-ACTO Ergo and a fantasy knife called the Swing Blade are the two main components in the build.  The handle of the Ergo knife was heavily modified on the inside to fit around the handle of the Swing Blade knife.  Once bolted together the seams were filled with bondo and painted.  The knife was detailed with multiple layers of flat black paint, coated in Plasti-Dip for a rubberized texture and finally weathered with pastel chalk.  The blade itself was weathered with acrylic "mud and blood," and rough spots were created with steel wool to facilitate the growth of a bit of rust.  

The knife was very sharp so it needed some sort of display.  In the movie, the knife was used on the volcano planet Crematoria, so I designed the display to emulate the surface of the planet.  Pillows of hardened lava were created with expanding foam on a steel backing. I added an image from the DVD cover as a name plate and attached the knife to the steel backing with magnets.  


Landing the Space Shuttle

Spent thirty minutes today shooting landings in the space shuttle... a perk of having an in at NASA I guess!  

The vertical motion simulator at NASA Ames is used for testing and simulation. With an interchangeable cab, the VMS can suit many different simulation and training needs;  moon landers, the space shuttle, helicopters, and standard aircraft cabs can be switched out as needed for the various engineering and training tasks that NASA carries out on a day to day basis.  Most recently the VMS was outfitted with the space shuttle cab for use in astronaut training, which was completed a few weeks ago.  

As the cab is ready to be switched out for another test in a week or so, I was given the chance to come in and fly the cab in a series of demos that illustrated its capabilities.  Set up as a landing simulation, I was able to bring the space shuttle in under various conditions including cloud cover, high cross winds, a night landing, and one with a wheel blow out.  The cab is outfitted with actual space shuttle control sticks and other various parts that are needed for the landing simulations, the VMS, being a full motion simulator, can giver accurate feedback to the pilots and provide a compelling simulation for someone like me, who will never get the chance to fly the real thing. After the jump you'll find a few pics and two videos, one of my first landing, the second of what the cab looks like from the outside as it is underway.  Thanks to the techs and engineers at NASA who made this possible.  You can check out more on the VMS here


Succumb Lightsabers

A few years post the creation of Lumen Ex Consilium, I was contacted by a film maker in Austin, Texas who was putting together a Star Wars fan film in the genera of Steampunk.  Two hilts were needed in a relatively short period of time.  Using a similar design language as before, I built the hilts around custom parts cut on a laser cutter and off the shelf brass tubing and rod.  The crystal chamber emitter and various small parts all came from my spare parts boxes.  Current progress and a trailer for the film can be found here.

WIP - Malcolm Reynolds Pistol from Firefly

This work-in-progress is from a TV show that was killed too early; Joss Whedon's Firefly blended sci-fi with the old west in a spaceships and horses post civil war galaxy.  One of the main protagonists in the series, Malcolm Reynolds carried a war issued blaster made to look like something from our own civil war.  I started building a replica of the pistol by measuring and drawing blue prints off of screen captured images of the prop. A foam core mockup was made to test proportions and once those felt correct I started to build the pistol out of pieces of brass and aluminum, shaping them with a dermal tool, files, and a hack saw.  Two years into the project I was offered the opportunity to purchase a raw resin cast of a pistol from the screen used molds, which after painting and weathering was adequate enough for me to use in a display.  With this copy in hand I set out to make my metal project more accurate, at this time it is still a work in progress.


Chachapoyan Goddess of Fertility Idol

The Fertility Idol from the opening scenes of Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of the most iconic props of the twentieth century.  After liberating the solid gold Chachapoyan Goddess of Fertility Idol from a temple deep in the jungles of Peru, Indy was forced to give it up to the rouge archeologist Belloq.  The mythology of the idol has it traveling to Marrakech, where Indy eventually picks it up from an antiquities dealer and brings it back to the states.

In reality the prop was built out of resin and fiberglass and gold plated.  Built in two versions, a hero and a stunt version, the original prop now resides in the archives at Lucasfilm.  The two versions were slightly different; the hero containing glass eyes that could be moved via radio control and the second a solid stunt version that could withstand abuse.   


Sci-Fi Blaster

This was my first blaster project, constructed in 2002.  Built with the same mentality as Han Solo's blaster from Star Wars, which was built upon a German Mauser C96 pistol from WWI; I chose to base this one on an American Colt Model 1911.  I began by taking apart a 1911 bb gun to harvest parts from the interior to used as detailing on the exterior, a scope, digital number display (similar to the one used for the pulse rifles in Aliens), and various parts form my parts bin completed the project.   A coat of flat black paint and a custom leg holster completed the project.