Well, yesterday I was talking about buying a Nerf Maverick dart pistol thingy and I was able to with the help of a friend of mine. As it turns out, out of all the Argos stores in the Edinburgh area (at least three) there was only a single pistol available. Well, it’s not now as I purchased it, woo!

Once I got my grubby mitts on it there were a few things to do before decoration could begin..

2-logo-removalThe slider on the weapon has a Picatinny rail on top of it that is the same size as those on my shotgun BB gun, as I had suspected from the photos I’d seen. My BB gun came with a reflex sight, the scope thingy you can see in the photo. It projects a red cross onto whatever is seen when looking through the eyepiece. Not overly useful but I though it’d be suitable for the intended look of the thing. I mounted it and then, uh, dropped it. End result, I had to open the sight up to realign the internals, in the process of which I cracked the casing in multiple places and broke one of the glass pieces. It survived, but was a bit beaten up, as you can imagine (it can be seen in pieces in the background of the next pic).

1-texturingThe other major thing to do was texturing the handle. A completely smooth handle would eliminate any chance of it looking vaguely realistic, so out came my favourite power tool.

A bit of roughing later (and a lot of plastic shavings) and I had a rough handle, ready to be primed. I also took the time to remove a few plastic tabs so the cylinder would swing out the whole way, rather than the single inch it was initially designed for. This also means the cylinder can be spun, Russian Roulette style, a pleasant bonus.

3-blackI had decided on three colours for the finished weapon – a goldy bronze, silver and black. As it turns out, de spite using a light metallic colour I still ended up with a gunmetal colour of metal, but I thought it appropriate enough. So, first painting step – spraying all the components black.

4-some-silverWith that done it was time for me to determine the order for painting the components. First off was the slider, as it was easily detachable and to test the silver paint. The result wasn’t too atrocious but I found that it was probably best to do the imitation wood before the drybrushing, contrary to my usual painting order.

By using a blend of colours and trying to keep them badly mixed I ended up with this:

5-attempted-wood

Not perfect, but it’ll do. As you can see I also drybrushed the scope after piecing it back together (I later wrapped some wire I had spare from my lightsaber build around the worst cracking with a fairly successful outcome).

6-bronzed-cylinderFinally I had the bronze and remaining silver bits to do although I think I took a break first. Why do I mention this? Well seeing photo by photo doesn’t really give much indication of how much time was passing. The process up to this point must have taken a good four hours. Bear this in mind when painting!

7-bronzingThe golden bronze colour was a blend of silver and gold, I didn’t want a pure gold colour as I felt it would be a little too much and wouldn’t quite fit in. As it stands I’m not certain if the result is bronze or gold, or perhaps even gronzld.

Lots of frantic drybrushing later and I had the results. If you don’t know how to drybrush – learn. It’s easy. Paint on brush, not too much, wipe off most of it, brush quickly resulting in highlighting raised areas. Never paint metal with solid colour unless you’re absolutely certain that’s the effect you want.

8-nearly-done

8-nearly-done2

Finally, I mounted the scope and secured it as best I could. The result – a nice prop and terrible poses!

9-done-pose1 9-done-pose2

Yes, I know, I’m very unkempt today – I can’t look great every day!

I can has bloggles?

28 April 2009

Bloggles

Well, I finally got them. I have bloggles. Well, they’re actually supposed to be vaguely steam punk but I’m wearing them whilst blogging, so they’re bloggles, damnit.

The inspiration for their construction was this episode of Threadbanger, in which there’s a video version of this instructable:

I didn’t have a baseball to hand and had no intention of buying one so I chose to use the offcuts of fake leather I have lying about from the flying cap I’m building. Well, it wasn’t too easy although, frankly, it wasn’t as tough as many other projects. I’m rather pleased with the end result, although unlike the photo, the “metal” parts are now a brassy colour, following a repaint (I’ve also adjusted the central strap a little as the two sides were a bit broadly spaced).

steampunkgoggles1Having seen photos of many other goggles made using the same tutorial, I’ve got to say the following..
Why can no one paint? Is it that hard? We’re not talking miniatures, here, just simple things. Perhaps I’ve just got ridiculously high standards (Even then, I feel my work is often inadequate). Perhaps I’m biased from my years of painting miniatures (although by miniature painters’ standards I’m not that good).

I’m frequently horrified to see metallic colours applied in big dollops rather than drybrushed on. Some of the things I’ve seen have had so much potential and have effectively been ruined by sloppy application. My apologies for my snobbery.

On a side note, someone who hasn’t disappointed me in painting gave me a rather spiffy gift today. You see that enormous mug in the top photo with “i can has tea” on it?

I liked my present. Ooh, the lizard/gecko is rather spiffy too, although as yet unnamed. I’m considering calling it “Sandor” though.

Back to the point, anyway – what’s next?

Well, the flying cap needs work but I hope to have it finished in a few days and I’d like to add a few more amusing steampunk elements. I’ve seen plenty of Nerf N Strike Maverick pistols used to make a variety of styles of pistols. I thought I’d have to order them over the ‘net at exorbitant prices. However, it turns out Argos is flogging them for a fiver a piece. Not bad, eh?

nerf-n-strike-maverickI’m considering two of them, with suitable holsters. I might lengthen the barrel on one of them though and add the scope I have laying about. Hmm. I’m now uncertain – would a pair be better or a single one that’s rather customised? I’m thinking the latter, but I’m not entirely sure.

Opinions?

Carrying on from my previous post, I spent a little while working on my Cthulhu mask today. So far I’m rather pleased with what’s beginning to take shape, want to see?1-plaster

The first thing to do was to blend the small plaster mask with the papier-mâché cranium. To achieve this I first needed mounting points so it was a case of trying it on and wiggling it into position, whilst asking the Captain “does this look straight to you?”. My wording should probably have been less setup for mockery, I know.

1-plaster-2

I used some of the plaster bandage cut into strips to blend the flatness of the mask with the distinctly unflat surface of the cranium.

1-plaster-3Here’s glance inside the cranium, where you can see I’ve carefully removed the coils inserted in the initial build, something that was far easier than I expected. The clingfilm meant it was just a matter of taking a firm grasp of the cranium with one hand and a coil with the other and pulling. Yoink!

The photo shows, if you look carefully, where the inside of the mask has a few strips to make it attach to the paper, although I didn’t go too crazy as the stuff didn’t really stick. It needs a dry-ish surface to stick to and is soggy. Placing it on dry newspaper creates soggy newspaper, meaning a rather irritating lack of adhesion.   2-melding

A bit of drying time later and I was able to start layering on papier-mâché strips to meld the two together in earnest. Whilst a little tricky to begin with, it got significantly easier with a few strips in place.

3-guide-structure

With the main structure drying it was time to start on the next feature – the snouty bit. This is eventually going to be part of the tentacles but I feel a basic framework will make attaching things much easier.It’s easy to cut bits off where necessary so even if it ends up being surplus to requirements, it’s no biggie.

To create the basic snout shape I took a bunch of surplus flyers and trimmed them, bent them to shape and then coated them with clingfilm. On with the gluey paper!

3-guide-structure2

I applied a load of layers to the guide structure first – I want it to be strong enough to support further additions, after all. With that done I used a great many sizes of strips and merged it with the rest of the project. I think the basic shape has turned out rather well, if I do say so myself.4-melded

Still to do? Hmm..

Well there’s going to be a whole load of side structures – coils of different sizes and curviness. I’ve also got to find some eyes, I’m thinking bulbous clear plastic that I’ll fill with a gel or similar to get a nice gooey yellow look. Mmmmm..

Oh yeah, then there’s going to be tentacles drooping out from the snout and an ambitious paintjob. Wish me luck!

Vote for Cthulhu.

26 April 2009

I missed last Halloween due to attending my half-brother's wedding. Had I gone I'd intended to put together a Cthulhu costume:cthulhu

From the Cthulhu Wikipedia page:
Cthulhu is one of the central Great Old Ones of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. It is often cited for the extreme descriptions given of its hideous appearance, its gargantuan size, and the abject terror that it evokes.

I happened to like these too:

cthulhu4prezpreview1 cthulhu4prez

So, why not a Cthulhu costume? Well, the first thing required was a base to build things on. My father's fox mask is raised on foam blocks and fits very well and this seemed a good place to start. To this end I got Midnight to smoosh a load of tinfoil onto my face to get the shape. Once that was done I got my flatmate, Matt, to lay a thin layer of plaster bandages onto the tin foil mask, creating a custom-fitted shape that would serve as the basis for the design.

1-Foil 2-plaster

Next up, the cranium. Cthulhu has a very prominent cranium and it seems vital to the costume that I replicate it. I'd previously sketched something out (sorry, no scans!) that was designed to minimise overheating - bear in mind that something like this is going to really heat up over time if not designed to be light and airy, so design it to counteract overheating I did! Will it work? Who knows?

Papier mache seemed an ideal material to work with so after a bit of recycling we had a stack of newspapers for use with our home made wheat paste. Sorted!

In order to make the ridged lines I rolled up long sheets of newspapers into quite tight coils and then had Midnight wrap them in clingfilm to make sure the papier mache wouldn’t stick to it permanently.3-clingfilm 3-Midnight-Clingfilm

Taping these coils together (two big ones, four small to medium ones) at the base produced something like this:4-structure

With the coils done we proceeded to mould them around my skull, jostling my ego out of the way temporarily. A bit of tape here and there and we had the following in place:

4-structure-flamekebab-head

On with the recycled newspaper!

5-papier-mache

The result that’s now drying on my kitchen table looks like a less soggy one of these:

5-papier-mache-mostly-done

Once it dries I’m going to start work on blending the two elements together and working on the tentacles and snout. Updates to follow unless I get sidetracked and never finish the project. Thanks for all the help, Midnight!

Just a quick one before I head to bed.

rssssI’m in the process of tweaking how my blog works and looks. I’ve done away with the “About Me” box, for example, although it may be replaced with something similar later. I’ve also been toying with the way posts look and the comment system. It’d been a while since I did anything under the hood and so things were a bit outdated.

Now anyone can comment and the form appears below the story, although as always you’ve got to open the story in its own page to comment on it individually.

I’ve also added some updated “Flamekeblog” buttons to the sidebar, one for Atom and one for RSS (previously I only provided an Atom feed, mainly ‘cos I didn’t know Blogger provided an RSS one).

If you don’t know what this stuff means, seriously, don’t worry. I just wanted to update my blog as I’ve seen the latest posts so many times today during editing that I just wanted something new to look at.

Ooh, shiny prop

21 April 2009

As many of you know, I adore the Fallout series. My bedroom door has a Fallout shelter sign on it (imported from the US at great expense), I have between one and four copies of every Fallout game ever made and have in the past played so much Fallout that I dreamt about playing it when I wasn’t.

I was sceptical about Fallout 3 and I’m still not entirely happy with it as the next step in the series but I will say this – subjectively it stands head and shoulders above Fallout Tactics (and obviously Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel, *cough*..). It has its flaws, lots of them. It has things that feel wedged in where I feel they don’t fit, but generally speaking, it’s not bad. Bethesda could have done a lot worse.

I hope a fourth Fallout game is produced, one that fixes the damn engine and includes a little more dark humour. It feels like the world often takes itself too seriously whilst knowing that it’s supposed to have a few jokes, resulting in a few half-hearted things here and there.

What I do admire is the random promotional items associated with the game. Vault-Tec lunch boxes were produced, for example (I’m currently considering acquiring one). An item of particular note was the life-sized PipBoy 3000A prop. Whilst obviously not a fully working device, it did function as an alarm clock, I’m led to believe, even if many of them were faulty.

Pip-boy

Well, it’s not bad but obviously rather plastic, which could be fixed if I got my mitts on one, but, to be honest, that’d probably be quite expensive given that I don’t think they were released in Europe.

The PipBoy appeared in both Fallout 1 and 2, although I’m not sure which model it was and it behaved a little differently, although I would say the devices weren’t drastically different in function.

I’m thinking that perhaps I should put together a Vault dweller outfit. Not necessarily for Halloween (I have a Cthulhu costume planned for that..) but as a general costume to wear for something. A tattered jumpsuit would be great, but I think a PipBoy would really complete the look.



(This is a test to see how the pipboy looks on screen)
(sorry it's just music, my onboard mic on my camera was off and didn't pick up any sound effects.)
The Pipboy 3000- The holy grail of Fallout 3 fans seems to be a working prop, espessally after the flop of the pipboy wrist clock that no one seemed happy with. This is the first (that I have seen) real step towards making that a reality. 

I've figured out the screen and the main computing aspects of the unit (as you can see in the video, I've set a few of the screens in a loop because I'm using the other hand to hold the camera). At curent moment, I'm figureing out how to fit the LEDs back on the buttons and make the dial control the screens and such. Also, I'm trying to figure out a better latch for the unit, right now I'm holding it on via gaffers tape. It's a WIP, but I should have a game acurate prop by this sumer.

Now in order to build such a thing I imagine I’d need a variety of things, including a digital photo frame, some LEDs and a friend with some electronics know-how. I’d want to map the buttons on the frame to the controls on the device too, I reckon it’d be rather swish. The PipBoy 3000A has a scroll wheel, two clicky buttons and a clicky rotating knob. Basically.

I’d also need some piping, I think, in order to create the right tube to go underneath. It’s tricky, but I reckon it could be done. Ooh and the bolts to hold it on. The device isn’t supposed to come off easily!

Typically Trite Title

20 April 2009

I’m in a bit of a quandary. A conundrum if you will.
Nothing world shattering or emotionally crippling, just, uh, tricky.

A little while ago I bought myself a PC off Gumtree. The price wasn’t bad and I’m very pleased with it. That said it does have a few issues.

It’s a Medion PC with a 2.2GHz Phenom X4, 2GB DDR2 (667MHz), nVIDIA 8400GS and 500GB RAM. Overall I’m not disappointed but I want to get more from it. I’ve already purchased a cheap monitor for it, although not a bad one, as you may have read should you read the techier bits of my blog.

I’m thinking of getting this machine, currently known only as EchoFoxtrot, a shiny nVIDIA GeForce 250GTS, some more RAM and a beefier power supply to feed it (which I hope will be sufficient, unless I’ve botched my power calculations).

My main problem is deciding which RAM to get. My motherboard and processor support up to 1066MHz RAM, 4GB of which would set me back about £40. Alternatively I could get 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 for about £32. Or I could get just 2GB of 667MHz.

My main issue is that I don’t know what makes most sense. If I get the top end stuff I won’t be able to add more the the machine as I’m led to believe my Phenom doesn’t support more than two sticks of the 1066MHz stuff. If I was to add more I’d have to push them down to 800MHz.

So far, RAM excluded I’m spending about £143. I don’t want to push that too high, obviously.

Finally. How much RAM can Windows XP actually use?

Masks

19 April 2009

Before writing this I took a moment to read over an article on maskaphobia and to consider how I feel about masks now.

vlcsnap-8645706I used to find them far more unpleasant than I do now, although I can’t say I’ve entirely got over it yet. They still put me a little ill at ease but only in some cases. The pig mask seen in the Saw series has helped dull my response to them, thankfully.

I believe this is the reason I find masks so creepy:

mask1

My father made this mask many years ago. I’m not sure what its original purpose was or whether it was scratch-built for a masquerade he wore it to, but either way, I still find it very impressive. It’s made with actual fox fur and is fairly sturdy, with foam padding inside and enough room to carefully sip drinks. It’s actually the basis for a Cthulhu mask I intend to build sometime soon.

Either way, when I was a lot younger I remember this mask hanging from a beam on the way down the stairs in our home in Wales. I found it so intimidating that I’d sometimes not be able to summon the courage to walk past it in order to get to the sofa to watch early-morning TV.

I’ve been meaning to get photos of this mask for some time and this time I finally remembered whilst I was in Wales. Hope you like it.

mask2

It’s a.. uh.. bracer!

18 April 2009

I was in the shower a few days ago and started thinking about what to do with some fabric off-cuts I had lying about. They weren’t really big enough to do anything particularly advanced (and even if they were, I wouldn’t have the skill to make something complex) but I thought that perhaps it would be a good place to try out another idea I had.

We had a large number of Napier Subculture badges made a while ago and there’s still a few around. I was considering turning a few into buttons for a waistcoat I was making. Well, the waistcoat is still only about 40% done and is going to remain so for the foreseeable future, unless I suddenly get a flash of motivation to finish it.

I decided that making a “bracer” might be fairly easy and would be quick enough that I could be wearing it pretty quickly. Well, I was right, mostly.

DSCF8256It wasn’t hard, per se, I just took a little longer than I intended as I tried a few things. The buttons were done in two different ways – the first one I drilled several holes in and stitched fabric to the back of whereas the other two I used araldyte to make a raised lump and attached the fabric to that. I would say that was the superior method but was also quite a lot messier. Argh, contact adhesive everywhere. Bastards.

That wasn’t the only thing I tried out though, the other main thing was the thread used. I found I didn’t have enough black but I did have one spindle/spool of it. I wanted red and black so I tried having one thread feed with red thread, another with black. I’ve got to say, the results were very positive! It meant in places I could put red on one layer without interrupting the other designs. Well, to put it more simply, it let me easily hide my many sewing screw-ups.

I also have never put button holes on anything. I had always assumed they were done manually. Apparently not though, there’s several settings on my sewing machine that allowed the machine to do lots of the work, even if it took three attempts before I mostly understood how it was supposed to work.

Finally, there’s a bit of elastic on the top half, I’ve never worked with it before and learnt quite a bit, although I feel I need to amend the stitching a little as it’s not quite attached enough. It’s not coming off the fabric, I mean more that it’s not bound to the fabric quite right. I have some ideas for that particular problem though, if I can ever be bothered dealing with them.

DSCF8257

The end result isn’t perfect, but I liked it enough to wear it in public and didn’t feel like a complete turnip. Now, the next project requires scrap leather and some anime-style source material, although that makes it sound a lot more interesting that it really is.

NSS, ENTV and ENU

16 April 2009

I’ve been thinking recently about where my uni society is going in the coming months, the changes we have planned and the execution of same.

We’ve been planning to change the society name but the more I think about it, the more I feel uncertain whether it’s a sound course of action. I don’t wish us to remain exactly the same, many elements of the re-brand seem very sensible.

Napier recently became Edinburgh Napier, although it’s more like “is becoming” as it’ll take some time before it’s the new status quo. imgLogoWe as a society have been planning on becoming Edinburgh Napier TV, or ENTV (pronounced “NTV”). My concern with this is a simple one – who will join such a society?

Perhaps we’ll get a few AV people, maybe some journalism students, but really, we’ve existed for a few years now and haven’t heard a peep from more than a handful of people. That’s simply not enough to build a successful society on.

That said, unless we gain significant staff and skill, we can’t draw the numbers of students that we need to run the kinds of events we want to run. There’s lots we’d like to do but struggle to do simply because we find drawing a crowd so difficult. This isn’t to say it’s entirely our fault – it’s difficult to get Napier students to do anything, there’s not a strong sense of community spirit, something that I feel pained that I don’t do enough to remedy.

What I’m considering is whether it would perhaps be better to continue with the rebrand but simply retain the original society name. By that I mean “Napier Subculture Society – Home of ENTV”. By creating a degree of distance between the society and the show it might be possible to still run both. The crucial thing being that I feel if we push too far for the separation of the show and the society we will end up in a position where the society isn’t suited to be a society.

The show alone is unlikely, in my view, to be enough to encourage students to join up. I’m sure a few will, but getting enough might be tough and ultimately perhaps the show will be better suited as an NSA ongoing concern rather than a society.

Instead what could be worth doing would be the following:

  1. Boil down society events into a few categories.
  2. Establish a small team for each.
  3. Schedule events as far in advance as possible.

The categories would be modelled on something like this:

  • Music
  • Performing arts/film
  • Napier events

So, this would mean two or three people would have the job of looking up which gigs were coming up and trying to arrange tickets.

Two or three people would have the job of finding out which drama shows, comedy shows and films are upcoming.

Finally, two or three would be charged with liaising with other clubs and societies to find out what they have  planned and whether any inter-society things can be organised.

We would need this information regularly for the show regardless and so to be publicising the activities and encouraging our members to go along in groups would not be too far of a stretch.

The pitch would go something like the following:

nss-whiteWe’re Napier’s TV show, we’re involved with everyone and keep our ears to the ground in Edinburgh. We find out what’s worth going to and make sure our friends are kept in the know. If you want a summary of what’s going on this week and a great group of people to go to stuff with, we’re your best bet.

Whilst we might organise our own events, this would mean the focus wasn’t primarily on that and our resources wouldn’t need to be stretched so thinly.

I’m interested in constructive feedback and consider this a particularly pressing issue for the society and its exec. I hope we can come to some kind of resolution that leaves us all confident for our society’s future.

Passion and Bling.

09 April 2009

n339500246_183390_6185 Last night there was the third in a series of parties. One I had planned to attend but discovered was fairly unworkable shortly before leaving. The previous two “Passionate” nights had been on Tuesdays, this one was on a Wednesday.

Thursdays are pretty hectic for me and I don’t feel that staying out until the early hours of the morning would be a good way to survive my least favourite day of the week. In the end I missed my classes today because I slept so badly, which of course makes me wonder how much worse I would have felt if I’d been drinking heavily as well.

bliiingAnyway, the first one was awesome, the second was alright and this one, well. I just wasn’t feeling it. Perhaps it was the fact that most of my friends weren’t going to be there and I feel awkward around that many strangers where my main talents are of little use. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have anyone to go to the event “for”, so to speak or maybe it’s because the prospect of filming footage on my own that I have no real use for just didn’t fill me with glee.

That said, I did prepare a costume. In fact I put quite a lot of effort into it. The end result, as per the usual, was that I had more fun building the costume than I did on the night.

The theme was “bling”, so I thought to myself “how can I cheaply make my own, custom made stuff?”. The result? Shrinkydinks, gold paint and LOTS of cheap fake crystals.

It took some time to find a suitable design and to place all the crystals (having to cut a huge number of the square ones to actually fit the letters on the bling knuckleduster I created).

Hopefully the results are pleasing – the total cost was less than twenty pounds, I think. £2 – 3 per bag of crystals (I bought two varieties). £3.50 for the chain. £8 – 12 for the shrinkydinks (I refuse to call them by their name on the box “Shrinkles”. Euch).

Thankfully, as with many of my other props, I have plenty of uses in mind for them. I intend on throwing a suitably themed party in order to use them, an unbirthday party. I don’t expect massive attendance, I gave up that expectation many years ago.

bling

bb_crowd No, this isn’t directly a post about Lugradio Live, although it’s certainly very relevant.

I’m currently president of the Napier Subculture Society, everyone’s favourite ambiguously-named, award-winning society. Well. Mine anyway. We started our podcast back in April 2007 and are coming up on our 50th episode and recently, at an exec meeting, we were discussing the planned re-brand of the show.

We’re going to be becoming NapierTV, if all goes to plan, although we’ll still be a podcast, not a TV station (admittedly the boundaries between these two things are becoming increasingly blurred in the modern world). During the meeting we spent some time looking into other student TV shows or podcasts – there aren’t as many as one would expect.

That said, we did find some, although the quality varied. Some were very technically competent but lacked good direction, others had excellent content but could do with work in other areas. The nice thing that we saw though was that we, by comparison, compare very favourably.

The Captain mentioned the idea of having a conference with these other podcasts, a concept I wandered around thinking about for a short while before having an idea (and, *cough*, thinking that I’d had the original idea.. Sorry, Chris!).

The idea being that there must be a great deal of students out there involved in student mass media. Here in Edinburgh alone we have several DJ-Matt-Werner-on-Fresh-Air-The-Alternativenewspapers, an internet radio station, at least one podcast, split over several universities.

Well, what if we were to put together a student conference? An LRL-style meet-up with talks, discussions, workshops, light bulb talks and live recordings?

I’m hoping I’ll keep on with this idea as I feel it could be an amazing experience for all involved, even if it would be fairly tough to orchestrate. It would hopefully not cost too much (and hopefully we can get Napier to foot the bill..) and I would hope we have the facilities to hand already.

The basic structure I would think would work as follows:
Set over two days at  Merchiston campus, probably a weekend with the union for drinks over lunch, possibly sometime in September before Freshers’ Week.

I’d like some serious feedback on the idea though and I hope to get in contact with at least some other podcasts first to see whether the idea is feasible.