Aug 202015

This post is part of a meta-series. Click here for a list of all posts in this series.

You’d think after working on this project on-and-off for two years that any new setback would come as yet another dispiriting blow. For once, tonight’s setback is a huge win and even serves to make all of the previous setbacks — especially the CarveWright-related ones — seem like blessings in disguise.

You see, I had the size wrong all along.

I originally scaled the 3D helmet model in Blender to an approximation of my own head. I eyeballed it until the size looked right. Later, I found some actual measurements folks had taken of the molds from the films and checked those against my existing pieces, which seemed to line up correctly. Cool, my estimate had been correct out of the gates! Confident now that I was on the right path, I proceeded through all of the various updates you’ve read about this project. I occasionally spot-checked during the cardboard process to make sure I was still within expected tolerance of those dimensions. When I switched to the CarveWright, I was already set, since the Blender model hadn’t changed and the cardboard cross-sections had been correct in any event. Having now switched to paper, I continued on as before with the existing dimensions.

Before printing everything out on heavy-duty cardstock, I did a test print of just a few portions of the helmet in plain paper to get a feel for the method, check dimensions, sanity check my paper templates, and so on.

Plain paper 'dome' prototype

Lumpy, but promising. Size seemed pretty good when I put it over my head (dopey as I looked doing it…), so I started printing out the cardstock parts. Here’s the same set of templates, printed in cardstock, used to make the plain paper prototype.

The same templates, printed in cardstock, used to make the plain paper prototype

All in all, everything was coming together very nicely.

'Jowl' before... ...and after

More than any other time in the project, I felt like I was making real progress at last.

A face emerges

I got quite far along. Here’s where things stand as of right now.

Progress to date

All along, though, something’s been nagging me. Every time I held up the “face” to my face, every time I eyeballed the dome, it all felt really big. Having never actually handled a stormtrooper helmet of any variety in person before, I figured this was just expectations clashing with reality. But I’d hate to go through the entire process and screw up something as basic as the proper dimensions, so I started measuring things.

And they were too big. The helmet, which I expected to “stand” about 12″ tall, measured closer to 14″. Did I misprint? Scale something wrong in the process? I couldn’t have gotten the model wrong; I’d checked that against the research from that theRPF post…

…hadn’t I?

I jumped into Blender and threw down a 12″×12″×12″ cube…and it was smaller than my model!

What the hell? At what point had I overscaled it? Perhaps at no point. I may have deliberately underscaled the cardboard cutouts when I did them and forgotten about having done so somewhere along the way. Why I would’ve done that instead of scaling the Blender model, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe something to do with render resolution and creating consistently sized cross-sections? In any event, with the exception of those templates, my dimensions have been too big all along. Even if the CarveWright had worked perfectly, I’d’ve had a garbage mold that I’d need to re-carve.

But now…I actually have a testbed. It’s too big, sure, so I won’t be casting from it, but I’m so close to done with it that it’s actually a worthwhile guinea pig to test out other aspects of my approach: resin-and-fiberglass reinforcement, Bondo filling, sanding, and so on. It won’t need the same level of finish as the “real” one will, but it’ll give me free reign to learn and screw up without feeling tremendous loss.

What’s more, I can use everything I’ve learned about the Blender papercraft export plugin thus far along with the experience of having cut out all this stuff once before, to create better, more detailed, and easier-to-assemble templates than I did the first time through.

Catching this now is a huge win compared to catching it at any other point along the way and especially going forward. Color me relieved!

Stair Progress

 Posted by at 12:22  No Responses »
Jun 202011

All1 of the stairs and risers are cut to their proper 30″ width2 now. I spent a good chunk of time on Sunday calculating the angles and drawing the templates for the stringers. It was fun to put high school trig to practical use, and I’d be lying if I weren’t indulging in a little “take that!” thinking toward all of the anti-math/anti-school miscreants I grew up around3.

As a result of the circular saw being, well, circular, I’ve actually got some corners in the risers that still need to be cut. I’ll probably just do that with a hacksaw, since it’s small and most of the cutting was already done by the circular saw. Once that’s done, I’ll lay the cut stringer onto the uncut stringer board and use it as a template. With those cut, it’ll be time to sand and stain everything4.

Once everything is stained, I’ll tear down the old stairs and put up the new stringers. From there, it’ll just be a simple matter of drilling pilot shafts and screwing the steps and risers into the stringers. Depending on how secure the stringers feel, I’ll either put the support struts in before I do the steps and risers, or once everything is assembled.

All told, I’m hoping to have this entire thing complete by next weekend, so I can start working on the vacuform table in earnest. I’ll post pictures of the whole process once it’s complete.

  1. 10 and 10, anyway. I will actually need an additional riser on each end of the stairs if I want to fully close them off. I may not bother, though, since for basement stairs having risers at all is sort of unnecessary []
  2. Well, mostly 30″. I managed to get some variation in them despite repeated measuring and laser guides on my circular saw, but c’est la vie []
  3. To those that I grew up around that were not anti-math/anti-school, I salute you! []
  4. Everything, that is, except the support boards. Those still need to be measured and cut, but those will be very quick, since there are only six total. []