Archive for the ‘Models’ Category

Model Build: That time I accidentally became an award winning model maker!

June 10, 2020

The story of how I came about building RAM, a mecha-figure from the Net Warriors series of Hobby Craft models, is more interesting than the model itself. I refer to the whole episode as “That time I accidentally became an award winning model builder”. If you think me winning a model building contest is surprising I can tell you that no one was more surprised than myself, so let me explain.

The story begins sometime in the mid 90’s when I first started attending science fiction conventions. While I have always been a genre fan, I almost had to be dragged by friends to my first convention, Con*cept in Montreal, as I was not entirely convinced I would enjoy the experience. Suffice it to say that I not only found my milieu but was surprised to see that the convention touched upon many other aspects of fandom than the fiction itself, SF oriented plastic models being one of them. I was immediately taken by the variety and quality of the many models on display. I noted that people could vote for their favorite models, but did not think much of it at the time. But seeing more models the following year, I vowed that I would build one myself to participate in the fun. This pledge was one that went unfulfilled for a number of years, just one of those things that just seem to fall by the wayside as time goes on.

That changed the day I stumbled upon a trove of cheaply priced robot model kits in a department store where I picked up this RAM kit and three others. Now I suspected that these would not be the best quality models, but given my limited experience this was actually exactly what I needed as I knew I would not be able to do justice with the build anyhow. I considered it a trial-and-error, practice project. However, with the intent to bring it to the next convention, I set out to build that model to the very best of my abilities.

The build was straight forward and for the painting, all Testors enamels, I created two variants of blue and green mixtures to mimic the box art. This was also my first attempt at ‘weathering’ although at the time I didn’t I barely knew about washes or dry-brushing. I wanted more than just a stand alone model so I made a simple wood base with some quarter round ‘Corderon” moulding which I lightly varnished. On this, I created a crude plaster ‘Island” with a single embedded rock and some sand for texture. I remember being concerned on how the unstable model would stand up, and forming grooves for the feet before the plaster set. I can’t recall exactly what I used to keep the feet clean of the plaster, but I think I just used sections of a plastic bags wrapped around the feet to mold the contours before the plaster dried. Once dry, I lightly painted some brown and green into the base. The only real ‘mod’ to the model – my first ‘mod’ to any model ever – was to add a tiny aim sight wire loop at the end of the rifle. The end result, shown here, was not bad, but hardly anything special.

With the model completed I just waited for the convention to begin, and right after the weekend registration sign up, proceeded directly to the model display room so that I could plunk it down on a table after filling out a simple form. Aside from admiring all the other model entrants occasionally the rest of the weekend, I pretty much forgot about it with the exception of hoping to remember to pick it up at the end of the convention.

 

My surprise came on Sunday afternoon when I did go to retrieve it. There was a woman there, not one of the volunteers running the convention as far as I knew, and as I went to pick my model up she asked me my name and then exclaimed to me “You won a prize.” Certain that a mistake had been made, she explained that I won third prize in the “Robot” category. The evident look of shock on my face made her add “There were four Robots, and yours came in third in the voting.” which she said with an understanding smile. I even got a prize, a brand new paperback novel of Star Trek Voyager #14: Marooned along with the award itself which consisted of a plastic laminated paper with a minuscule trailing white ribbon sticking out.

The prize novel is very fitting as I was never an ST Voyager fan so it was indicative of my merit. The book however does offer one clue in that it was printed in 1997, so I at least know that the event was held on or after that year.

I never bothered looking up what the organization was that handed out the award, and have been curious ever since. Aside from the “Model Contest: Third Place” designation all the award has is a stylized logo for SFMBA, and “Science Fiction Model Builders’ Association”. Looking up the club online today brings scant information. The best I could do was find a Fancyclopedia entry stating that it was a Toronto club, and another discussion thread saying that it was an Ottawa club. If anyone knows more on the history of the SFMBA please let me know.

I’m also curious about the entire model set of this Net Warriors series of Hobby Craft models. After a nearly twenty-five years hiatus, I am currently building a second kit from the series that I bought that day, one called CO-RUPT. And someday I’ll get around to building the others I have, E-MALE and SIR-FUR.

And that was how I became an ‘award winning’ model builder. Hey, at least there was one other model robot there that day that got less votes than mine, right?

 

Model build: Aurora Godzilla

March 19, 2020

Every boy growing up in the seventies built plastic models at some point or another – now a lost art of sorts – and I was no exception. Aside from the usual selection of cars and planes, for a science fiction and horror geek like myself the coveted models were the Aurora series of monsters. The first one of those that managed to get my grubby little hands on was either the Creature from the Black Lagoon or the ‘Glow in the Dark’ Godzilla. (I can’t be sure exactly which but I know these were my first two.)

With nostalgia and ‘rarity’ of these models today, prices for original, unbuilt kits have been in the stratosphere for years. Thankfully, licensed re-issues by companies like Polar Lights and Playing Mantis have made some of them accessible in recent years. My luck in acquiring one of those was even better about 15 years ago when I stumbled upon a pile of Aurora 2000 re-issue Godzilla kits for an incredible measly $5. I knew even then that it would be ‘a while’ before I got to build it, but finally managed to get to it these last few months, sparing a few minutes here and there.

Unboxing the kit revealed bright green molded parts with two extras (upper right arm and “Godzilla” placard) and none missing.

Unboxing kit

Now as much as I love these kits in their “out of the box’” design, they do have a number of shortcomings that become noticeably visible when looking at the model from anything but a front view. Forgivable for a young builder but I knew I wanted a number of modifications to suit my tastes. For better or worse, here are the details of my long awaited Godzilla build, or re-build to be more precise.

While pretty decent in terms of body and scenery this kit has a few unfortunate design aspects when it comes to the head in particular. The eyes are bad enough but even worse is the V shaped head top. Looking nothing like any of the dozens of Godzilla film variants, I knew that I would tackle that first, and luckily this was an easy fix with a few layers of putty, then ‘raking’ over the last layer to try to get some of the lizard skin texture back.  I forgot to take a good ‘before’ profile photo to provide comparison with my finished head so you’ll just have to trust me that it looks a lot better.

Next up was the mouth which did not have an upper palate. This was remedied with a cutout plastic that roughly followed the counters along the inner ‘teeth’ line held place with some foam backing until it was secured with epoxy to which I was even able to give some texture before it completely dried. Another easy fix really.

Palate buildup

The one thing that immediately becomes noticeable as you change from anything other than a front view is that a number of the background damaged buildings are hollow without even any roof, much less floors in between. While some like the rightmost buckled steeple-top look great as is, others are mere unfilled, open ended ‘boxes’. Worse, those that had openings in the middle also had lower building sections that were empty clear to the base. To remedy these deficiencies I used temporary foam cubes to glue in appropriately sized plastic rectangles, slightly recessed to create exposed floors. Then, to add even a bit more realism, I added a few walls on those. Now I realized that the walls I added did not conform to the relative size (I’m not that good) but it certainly looked better than before.

Buildings

For Godzy himself I decided to putty and texture the areas where the arms and legs join the torso since the sharp angles did not make anatomical sense. The hardest part was trying to match the texture of the rest of the body, which was not uniform to begin with.

Front and back views (completed)

When it came to painting I was faced with one of the more controversial aspects in the Godzillaverse. Is Godzilla grey or green? Portrayals vary in licensed materials and even in some of the films. While the licensed creations tend to be green variants, most of the films stick to the drab grey and so I opted for that, although I confess I’m still mulling that decision. With a grey primer giving me a nice base a few darker washes seemed to suffice. Had I been a bit more experienced I would have added selective shading, but I’m not there yet.

Side views (completed)

The buildings presented some unexpected challenges in paint selection. I wanted to use common building colors but that makes the diorama rather dull especially with Godzilla being a grey behemoth already. Aside from the usual washes and dry brushing I added flames and embers and smoke blackened a few areas. I coated the ‘fire’ hotspots with some Pledge to add some gloss. Thankfully the last addition, the “Godzilla” placard display allowed me to give the final build a bit of much needed vibrancy.

In the end, I think I was partially successful in what I aimed to make but happy enough with the results. Still a bunch of areas I could improve on, but learned a few things along the way and had fun building it.

Hope you liked it and I am looking forward to comments and critique (I can not only take it, but need it) to improve my still limited model building skills.

Planet of the Apes Icarus spaceship papercraft

January 29, 2015

Back in 2002 papercraft designer and fan Jan Rukr  (or Rükr to be precise) designed a model of the iconic Icarus spaceship that crash landed on the 1968 Planet of the Apes movie with Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his crewmates. The spaceship, one of the most recognizable in classic Science Fiction fandom, has often been the subject of much debate, ranging to how it really looked (after all, the movie only showed the upper nose section with a part obviously submerged)  and even the name since it was never specifically called out in any of the original films.

I’ve always been as fascinated by the ship as I have been for the classic Planet of the Apes saga as a whole. There have been (and continue to be) pricier models and dioramas available for purchase, but none of the more traditional plastic model making companies ever created any mass production kit.

When I came across Jan’s papercraft design I decided I would build it some day, and here I am more than a decade later where I finally had the time to actually do it.

Here are the results and a bit of information on the build itself. Before going to far, I should point out that the actual model looks a lot better than the pictures do justice.   I  took these pics with my cheap Canon PowerShot camera and without any decent lighting.

IMG_1839

I printed the model on 67lb paper which is what I’ve always used for the few papercraft I’ve built. Very sturdy and easier to work with than the standard ‘printer’ 20-24lb paper. It is a bit trickier to shape but at the same time holds bends and folds better. Just be sure to score all edges.

IMG_1840

The build is pretty straight forward and easy to understand even without any detailed step by step instructions (the model only provides a single numbered overlay view as an aid).  It is however tricky to get everything just right and there is a lot of bending and shaping for the elliptical main fuselage. The really hard part are the two side jutting canards being both the smallest pieces and the one place where the folds have to be exact. Aside from a few underflaps that there a bit too big or needlessly overlapping one another, I only made one other minor change. The model called for gluing the main ship onto a patterned bottom piece that would then be glued to the ocean base. I had no trouble foregoing the bottom and just glued the ship directly onto the ocean base without any problem.

 

IMG_1841-3

I’ve added a Hasbro 6 inch ‘Ape-o-naut’ alongside the model to give an idea of the dimensions but the exact measurements in inches are W:10 1/2  x  D:8 1/4  x H: 4.

It took me quite a while to build it but part of the reason was I really took my time trying my best to make it perfect. I painstakingly cut out the pieces on a good cutting board with a sharp Olfa blade. All gluing was with toothpick application making sure not to over glue. I did some minor sanding along edges (again the canards) and did a few touch ups with black pencil, colored pencils and a marker. I think it could use a few more touch ups to improve it, but it isn’t bad as is.

As a PotA fan, I’m just delighted to finally have a decent Icarus to add to my Apes display.

One a final note I should add that Jan has done many other designs of this and more ‘stylized’ versions of the concept. There are even two different color variants of this exact model. Check around and you’ll find this and other designs of his.

Model Build: Weird-Oh “Daddy O.”

November 25, 2012

As a kid, I built quite a few plastic models and like most kids did some pretty scary paint jobs on them. I even tried oil based paint in the interior of an “Invaders” TV series flying saucer, an act I now consider criminal. Another freaky job I remember was using gold paint to spruce up an Aurora King Kong. Not pretty. While some of my models came out pretty good, I never achieved something that could really be called a display piece.

Go forward a few decades and I still have the itch and now the patience to try to put together a model that I can proud of. I’ve got about a dozen stashed away in my closet that I’ve been sitting on and finally had time to get to one for a try.

One of the main things that I have always wanted to try my hand at was airbrushing. Years ago I picked up one of those really cheap $10-$20 plastic airbrushes that comes with a compressed air can, ready to go. Now I know this was not going to be the best quality wise, but I wanted to give it a try anyhow just to see what I could do with it. In anticipation of getting a REAL airbrush (more on that in another post) I also found a cheap ‘bladder’ type airbrush compressor since I did not even want to bother with cans.

The Weird-Oh “Daddy O.”

So now all I had to do was select a good model to try the ‘economical’ airbrush and see what it could do. When a local hobby shop had a stack of “Weird-Ohs” going for a mere $5, I knew that I had found my trial model. The Weird-Ohs (originally called “Weird-ohs Car-icky-tures”,) are a series of classic goofy looking characters put out by the Hawk modelling company in the sixties, but have since been bought out or licensed by a number of other model companies over the years. The latest incarnation was put out in 1993 by Testors and it is from that set that my Weird-Oh comes from. The store I bought it from had a few Weird-Ohs to chose from, but the one I picked up was the Daddy O.

But the Weird-Ohs legacy grew from it’s model plastic model roots into something of a cult phenomena. The franchise concept was so popular that Weird-Ohs were popping up everywhere and on anything. Toys, games, cards, stickers, you name it. Oscar winning makeup artist Dick Smith even put out a do it yourself makeup book under the Famous Monsters magazine banner that featured instructions on how to turn yourself into a Weird-Oh. There was once even a TV show based on these figures which I believe coincided with the 1993 model set release.

As you can see the Daddy O. is a business attired goofy looking dude in a coffin shaped car. While this came with some paint (and even a glue tube) I decided that as another experiment I was going to be using mostly dollar store acrylic craft paints with the only the use of Testor’s enamel for the gold coffin handles.

The instruction page is nothing but an oversimplified double sided page with figures and arrows that leave a lot to the imagination. But the box art was more than enough to get most of it right but there were a few things that had to be measured out myself and improvised.

Before starting the build I looked at the kit closely for any particulars I would have to pay attention too. I could immediately see that the wheels, both front and back had some lettering that I would have to try to get exposed by painting accordingly. The rear wheels had indented “Badyear” lettering and the front wheels had “firerock” extrusions. There were no decals supplied but the kit had a post with three direction signposts (“This a way”, “That a way”, and “All the way”) that I was going to have to improvise to do the lettering.

Onto the build! I started out with the coffin body that I decided was going to be my first airbrush tryout. I did a bit of research into mix formulas with acrylics and tried a few paint/water ratio mixtures. No matter what I tried it came out much too thick out of the airbrush, or not at all. Luckily these were easy to wipe away quickly so I could try again. I then opted for a 50/50 paint/future solution that barely worked. It was still too splotchy for me, but by this point I just wanted to get on with it. With the coffin body decent enough, all the rest of the painting was going to be by brush.

Putty and alignment marks

Starting to build the character body and arms was simple enough, but I did notice that some areas needed putty. One of the tricky parts was trying to determine the exact positions of the arms. The arm positions on the model does not have any pins or indents so you’ve got a wide range of angles to chose from. But I knew that the left arm must clear the coffin top and would eventually have to hold the steering wheel (which itself has no definitive position), and the right arm will hold a briefcase that has to be above the base. So I had to try to lay these pieces with enough of a clearance that I would not be creating a problem later. I did a few trial measurements (notice the marks in the picture) and hoped that I was OK.

One the puttying was done I started painting the face and body. The only thing I was undecided upon was what kind of eye definition I would paint on. The box art showed just simple ‘dot’ eyes but I wanted to go with the wild, bloody vein eye look that I felt went better with the zany character motif. My first attempt had thick red veins that looked terrible, but a few fresh coats of white gave me a new canvass and I kept my second attempt which was done with a much finer brush.

Painting most other parts was simple enough, adding only black washes to the cloud dust fumes and the engine. The hood ornament is a funnel in which I had to add some black ‘oil’ including a drip. In order to have the recessed ‘badyear’ on the rear tires I first painted the area white making sure it got into the recessed grooves and I then lightly brushed on the black doing my best to keep it out of the recesses. Again, it was not perfect but I was happy with the results after my second try.

Font check

With the car and body fully assembled, the last task was to figure out how to get the writing on the signposts. My attempt at just manually lettering the signage with a permanent marker was obviously a failure once I saw that the marker ink flowed freely to a much larger area than that in which the ink was placed. I then decided to just print out a whole sheet of the three slogans I needed in various quirky fonts and font sizes. By holding up the sheet to a light source with the sign behind it I could see which font size fit best with a suitable font. I then just cut out the required slogans and glued them onto the plastic with plain white glue.

After gluing the body to the coffin base the trick part to completing the car was getting the steering wheel in the grasp of the hand while trying to center it on the car body. As there are no reference points to glue it, I did my best to place it using tweezers. After that it was just putting together the wheel frame and other adornments on the car itself. Once that was done the car was glued to the base in the elevated position and then scattering the miscellaneous broken car parts on the base. The final piece was the signpost.

Voila! A decent model if I say so myself.

Finished!

Another view.