Pivot #3

 Posted by at 21:19  No Responses »
Aug 112015

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

After struggling to get the CarveWright CNC carving machine to cooperate on-and-off over the last year or so, I’m ready to declare defeat on this approach. Every time I think I’ve got “the” problem solved, a new one crops up. First, I had the colorspace issues. Fixed that. Then, I had issues stemming from materials (MDF), so I swapped out for wood. Then I had issues with accuracy, that seemed to stem from the heightmap again. Wasn’t that. These accuracy issues continued to plague. I disassembled the machine, cleaned it, greased it, aligned it, calibrated it, and repeated the whole process numerous times. Once I thought I had it licked, I engaged in an ambitious many-hour carve to get all the pieces finally done…only to discover massive disparity between what I expected and what the final pieces measured, none of which seemed due to the data going in. I sought out advice on the CarveWright user forums, got some new ideas — perhaps I needed to calibrate the machine per board, for each carve in order to achieve the accuracy I sought, for example. But before I could test any of this, new issues appeared — now, boards wouldn’t even measure, complaining that there was a sensor roller error…when he board left the sensor roller because it had fed past it!

That was toward the end of April. The last straw came tonight, when I mustered up the courage to finally see about resolving these issues and test out this per-board calibration hypothesis. I couldn’t get the sensor roller to stop throwing errors, telling the machine to ignore the errors caused different errors to appear, and then — when taking apart the sandpaper belts that feed the board through the machine, I saw that the belts had started to “roll under” themselves again, which was an issue I fixed months ago. It was too much. There are parts I can look into replacing — newer, better; rubber belts instead of sandpaper, for instances — but that costs a great deal of money on top of the money already spent to acquire the machine in the first place (dramatically discounted though it was). I set out to prove that one could make a good-quality stormtrooper helmet on the cheap; this wasn’t that at all and I wasn’t about to keep throwing money at it.

Therefore, I’m changing my approach once again. While the cross-section approach is still something that I think has merit, I’ve come to the point now where I’ve seen enough successful projects that start from naught but paper that I’m going to give that a go. I’ve already got my 3D model, which needs only marginal tweaking to be suitable for that sort of approach, so I should lose little in the accuracy I hoped to achieve with the CarveWright, though I may not end up with a solid wood positive mold that I can pull numerous silicone negatives/poured urethane casts from. Maybe. Who knows, perhaps I will be able to create a mold this way and still use the silicone-and-urethane approach I planned to use all along.

Time to find out.

Aug 312013

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

Right now, it’s all grunt work. I’m steadily making my way through each of the cross-section cut-outs. They’re tedious and time-consuming, but I had the good fortune to secure a large supply of cardboard boxes completely free thanks to a well-timed arrival at Lowe’s one morning. An employee was in the process of unboxing a number of items and placing them on shelves. I asked if he was going to throw away the boxes, which he was, and then asked if he’d mind me taking them off his hands, which he did not. Jackpot!

Today, I finally bit the bullet and printed out all of the cross-sections. I had been printing them out two and three at a time, waiting until I had finished the cardboard version of each before printing out the next batch. Instead, I now have the flexibility to tackle as few or as many in a sitting as I want. I’m about halfway done cutting out the cardboard versions.

I added an ongoing project cost list to the meta page, as well as a list of tools I had on-hand when I started, for anyone interested in trying to replicate this method.

Some pictures:
Finished cardboard cross-sections Remaining paper templates


 Posted by at 14:26  No Responses »
Jun 272011

Stairs are proceeding slowly but steadily. In cutting the risers down to their proper height, I realized that using a bucket laden with water as a clamp to keep the board in place was probably not the safest approach. I headed to Lowes and picked up an assortment of clamps, along with some polyurethane to seal the boards once they’re stained, and got all of the risers cut and sanded. Next step is either more sanding (the stringers), more sawing (the support beams), or staining (steps and risers). Or maybe some combination thereof.

Also had a bit of an epiphany about how to deal with creating molds for things that need to be symmetrical, like helmets. This might be obvious to those who are old hat at creating molds, sculpting, or anything in that vein. But basically, it involves creating the 3D model in Blender, then taking slices at regular intervals and printing those slices onto paper. The paper template then gets cut onto MDF (or even cardboard) and reassembled. The gaps between the slices gets filled by weather foam, which is nice and sandable/slicable. Done and done.

Started playing Dragon Age: Origins this weekend, which I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. Enjoying it so far (and amused as hell how easy it was to get Morrigan to sleep with my character), but after L.A. Noire, every single game’s faces just don’t measure up. I’d rate DA:O’s visuals far higher overall, but the amount of performance depth that comes with the tech behind L.A. Noire’s faces is incomparable. Ah well.

Did another 1,250 words on the second draft of Misfits. I’m almost certain that it’s going to need a third draft, but that’s fine. Better to revise it as many times as it needs to be a solid, enjoyable piece of fiction than to rush it out the door.

Halloween Redux

 Posted by at 12:11  3 Responses »
Oct 152009

I’m excited about Halloween.

Cody and I have decided to pair as Dr. Horrible (her) and Captain Hammer (me).  They’re simple costumes, so they don’t really fulfill that deep-seated need to construct something  epic.  However, they’re fun costumes that we can achieve with the time we have.  Most of the attendees at the party we’re attending should recognize the outfits, which is a bonus.

So, that’s good news.

From a more long-term point of view, I did some reading up and I severely underestimated the utility of papier-mâché.  I’ve been imagining a future filled with hot ABS plastic and noxious fiberglass-resin fumes because those seemed the only ways to get good, smooth, solid costume pieces. I’ve always thought of papier-mâché as crude and flimsy.  In the form I used, it was.  But that’s because I was only exploring part of it.  Check out this guy.

It makes a lot of sense, if one pauses to think about it. At its most basic, papier-mâché is the same thing as fiberglass: fibers suspended in a glue.  Paper is a lot stronger than one might give it credit for, too.  Sure, we can rip paper by pulling nearby sections in opposite directions, but have you ever tried to tug on it from two opposite ends?  It’ll give, but not without effort and usually local to the area where you’re pulling, not in the middle where the highest stress is.  Paper’s strong stuff.  Add glue to the mix and you’ve got a decent material—if you execute it correctly.

What’s more, the “strip” form is only one of the two ways to use papier-mâché.  The other, using pulped paper, ends up as a clay-like material that can be molded and shaped however you want.  Way more versatile.  Layer something up with several layers of strips, work in detail with the clay form, and then waterseal it with lacquer of some kind and you’ve got a pretty formidable piece of hardware that’ll stand up to a good amount of weathering.

Get some fine-grained sandpaper to smooth it down, and you might, might have something on par with ABS plastic or fiberglass—as far as costuming goes, anyway—and at a fraction of the cost and risk (glass fibers can do terrible things to your lungs; where’s the risk in water, paper, and flour?).

Suffice it to say I plan to test out this hypothesis at the earliest opportunity.  If it works, hoo boy.  I shall become a costume making machine.

Aug 272009

Following my epic battle with the solitary invader, I returned home from work to my fiancee and her sister. We set about preparing dinner…when I noticed a yellow jacket. It had just come through a small hole in the upper corner where the exterior wall meets the ceiling. Another one of these things was in my home!

Of course, my initial reaction was the spheksophobic response. Watching it warily, I tried to keep it as distant as possible. It seemed to sense my loathing and terror, hovering ever-closer to me. Instinct took over and I crouched down into a tiny ball, whimpering. In the back of my mind, shame was washing through me for putting on such a ridiculous display. Little I could do about it; the phobia was in charge.

The wasp got within a foot of me before deciding I had been sufficiently terrorized. It then proceeded to fly around Cody’s sister’s legs for a bit, before returning ceiling-ward. We all lost sight of it. I looked about for it, frantic. The only thing worse than knowing a wasp is present is knowing that it’s present and not knowing where it is.

We finally spotted it. It had landed on the wall above the kitchen window, over the sink. Throwing caution to the wind, I yanked the Swiffer out of its usual corner, swung it around so that I could mash the flat pad against the wall, and slammed it down on top of my nemesis. A partial sense of relief flooded through me, but I wanted to be sure. I started dragging the pad along the wall and over the cabinets, bring it closer and closer to the trash can. When I finally removed it from the wall…the yellow jacket wasn’t there.

This worried me. While the ladies assured me that it had probably fallen on top of one of the cabinets, I wasn’t so sure. Wasps are tough bastards. As a preventative measure, though, I busted out the spackle and covered the two holes (there was a hole in the opposing corner too, though it was an interior wall). I had been planning to spackle anyway, so this just gave me an excuse.

Satisfied that there would be no additional invaders from these spots, I returned to my sandwich. In the back of my mind, I was still thinking about the lack of a corpse. That’s when Cody spotted it. It had fallen into the sink…and it was still very much alive.

Though it was not airborne, it was moving about uninjured in the basin of the sink. Its wings looked undamaged, suggesting that it could probably take flight at any moment. Reacting as fast as possible, we covered it with a small glass jar. It was contained and the immediate threat was neutralized.

That’s when the other half of my phobia kicked in. You see, when you have an irrational terror like this, your threat response is fear. Once it’s contained and you can do something about it, it’s rage. Nebulous fears (I also suffer from mild acrophobia — fear of heights) don’t have this, since there’s nothing to get angry at. In this case, there was.

After running water to ensuring that the yellow jacket’s wings had been soaked, I lifted the jar just enough to let the tail-end of the invader out and slammed it back down, bisecting the insect. Relieved of its primary weapon, I felt comfortable removing the jar.

It was still moving! Still crawling unimpeded, as though it hadn’t just lost half of its body! In the course of its bisection, it had also lost its wings, so it could no longer take flight, either. Nevertheless, the fear started to take control again. Before it could, I slammed a wadded paper towel down on the black-and-yellow demon. Picking up all of its pieces, I crushed the paper towel as hard as I could.

Still not convinced it was dead, I opened the paper towel a bit. It was still moving, but these were the nerve misfiring twitches of something dead.

Finally, some peace.