FeeJee Bogmaid - Reimagining PT Barnum's Mermaid With a Resin Boglin
Boglins were a late 80's toy that was clearly inspired by Gremlins and its immitator, Ghoulies. Their creator Tim Clarke has launched a resin revival of the line and invited various artists to exhibit their own customs based on it.
The FeeJee (Fiji) Mermaid was a famous exhibit by the notorious showman PT Barnum. Thought to have been made by combining a stuffed monkey with a dried fish, it caused a sensation when promoted as a real mermaid. Sadly the actual artifact was reportedly destroyed in a fire and all that remain are engravings of it. It was these illustrations that inspired my Boglin custom.
The Boglin arrived in four hefty parts, cleanly rotocast in resin. The detail was very sharp and there was no flashing so it needed almost no clean-up. I started by cutting open and resculpting the mouth, adding a set of simian teeth. Next I cut up and reposed the hands and arms. I sculpted the extended body from high density foam and detailed it with Milliput. I turned a simple wooden base for it on the lathe.
I wanted to give the impression of a dried or mummified museum display, so when painting it kept my colours to a limited, muted palette, working in layers of detail to suggest faded skin patterns.
It is available for sale in the Clutter Gallery online store.
Twice the Magic - Conjoined Twin Unicorn Dunny
KidRobot's Dunny is a truly iconic and instantly recognisable vinyl toy. It was an honour to be invited to take part in the launch show for the new 5 inch version.
I wanted to preserve as much of the Dunny silhouette as possible, while hopefully revealing some new shape hidden within. I started by asking myself what might have two horns sticking out of its head. The obvious answer - conjoined twin unicorns! Looking at the Dunny's ears, I realised that they looked partially developed rather than fully-formed horns. Instead of making them more spikey and moving away from the classic shape, I decided that the rest of the bodies needed to be made pre-natal to match.
Dune Sea Drifter - Star Wars Bounty Hunter-Style Costume
A costume for Star Wars Celebration London 2016. I wanted to make a new character that felt like it belonged in the Star Wars universe. My concept was a Wild West-style bounty hunter who would be at home in the deserts of Tatooine. I re-visited Ralph McQuarrie's pre-production sketches to get a feel for the ideas behind the classic costumes and filled several sketchbook pages with ideas based on them. I settled on a concept that I felt echoed the early Stormtrooper designs but with the suggestion of the brim of a cowboy hat and Clint Eastwood-style squint lines. He was originally going to wear a poncho but I found this to be just too much in practice, so settled for a long robe meant to suggest a duster coat.
Rather then make a full-body life cast, I added a slightly depressing amount of padding to a mannequin until it matched my dimensions. The helmet and armour were sculpted onto this using WED clay.
Once I was satisfied with the sculpt, I sealed it and applied a coat of release agent. I then built up clay dividing walls. I used a heavy-duty dental plaster to make the moulds. It required 25kg of plaster to make the parts for the helmet, shoulders, chest and back armour. The mould parts were thoroughly waxed and polished and given several coats of release agent. The armour was cast usng an initial layer of Gelcoat, followed by Easylam resin and glass. It was then carefully removed from the moulds and trimmed.
The armour was painted with quite a heavily weathered finish. I fitted three cooling fans in the helmet, drawing air in through the lower vents and blowing out through a vent at the rear. The fabric elements were a combination of modified off-the-peg items and some bespoke parts made by my talented partner to match my sketches. The blaster was built on a non-firing replica rifle. I added wooden and custom-machined aluminium parts to try and match the feel of actual Star Wars weaponary.
Victor Blattodea's Manual Over-ride - A resin display piece
A fully assembled, hand-painted and weathered display piece. Hand-cast in thirteen individual resin parts.
24cm long from tip of finger to rear edge of wheel
17cm tall at the tip of his scarf
Available for pre-order at ToyCon 2016 from the SUVB table at the Toy Chronicle stand (1-3) where a £20 deposit will secure you one at the special ToyCon price of £180 + p&p (balance payable before shipping).
These will be made to order on a first come, first served basis. I will get each one out to you as fast as possible but they are time-consuming to produce and can't be rushed!
Victor Blattodea was born behind a basement wall of Castle Frankenstein. It is impossible to know whether he gained his remarkable intelligence and opposable thumbs thanks to exposure to the many strange chemicals in the castle’s laboratory or by a simple twist of nature. Either way, none of his forty-three siblings shared his gifts.
Growing up so different from his brothers and sisters, Victor was lonely and spent much of his time secretly watching the Doctor at work. He found that he could easily understand the experiments and it wasn’t long before he spotted the flaw that was making them fail and causing Frankenstein so much frustration. Stepping out of the shadows he took a deep breath, introduced himself and began to explain what he had worked out. He was surprised to be greeted only by shouts and a flying wrench. It seemed that the Doctor was well aware of his fragile sanity and was not ready to accept advice from a talking cockroach.
Running back to safety, Victor decided that he would continue the research on his own. There were plenty of spare parts and materials in the laboratory left over from the Doctor’s failed experiments. Collecting them on foot under a barrage of thrown hand tools would be dangerous, so first of all he needed transport...
One Ugly Crustacean - A Predator-Inspired Custom Vinyl Toy
A custom Space Crab made for the Martian Toys Space Crab Wars exhibition at DesignerCon 2015 in Pasadena USA.
The Space crab is a new and appealing platform that looks great out of the box. Despite this, I pulled it apart and used the individual elements as a kit of parts. I was immediately struck by how the legs reminded me of Predator mandibles and decided to see how far I could take that theme. I turned the helmet into a rounded body, wiring the claw arms in place to make the legs. I built up a basic wire armature for the feet and arms. The oversized calves and ankles sugested by the claws defined the proportions for the rest of the sculpt, resulting in a nicely cartoonish character. The head needed more detail adding than I'd initially thought. I tried to make the 'dreadlocks' echo the spiky shape of the crab legs. I turned the crab's eye stalks into the alien's wrist blade weapon. The figure was painted in naturalistic tones, picking out the armoured areas in a lightly weathered metallic finish.
The finished piece stands well on his huge feet and I couldn't resist photographing him freestanding in some local woodland.
Ray - Phantom Edition
A limited edition version of my Ray figure sold exclusively through Collect and Display
Phantom Ray has a glow-in-the-dark head with painted details that shines through a semi-clear visor. He also has an all-new heavily weathered paint scheme.
Munny Shines - A Custom Vinyl Toy
A custom Munny for the Reinvention Show on display and for sale at the Clutter Gallery, New York from August 8th to September 4th 2015.
Details and pictures of how it was made are here.
ToyCon UK 2015 Exclusive Ray
A new colourway of my Ray figure produced for ToyCon UK 2015 and sold at The Toy Chronicle stand. Ray is articulated at the neck and shoulders and his helmet is removeable to reveal a random, blind-packed head. The 2015 edition is in a Dan Dare/Flash Gordon-inspired red and gold uniform and the heads are all either new colourways or entirely new sculpts.
Glad-tea-ator and Tea-ger - Lunartik Customs
I was happy to be invited to contribute to the Fans of Tea 2015 Series. I decided to make a pair of customs inspired by the movie Gladiator.
Matt Jones' Lunartik in a Cup of Tea figure breaks down into several interesting component parts and is made from a nice plastic that responds well to tools.
The Glad-tea-ator used the Lunartik's head as its body. One of the requirements of the project was that the figure had to fit in the cleverly designed 'takeaway drink' packaging that is standard for Lunartiks. I had planned to use the neck joint from the donor figure to make it poseable but I found that even with the head removable, it became too tall for the packaging. I ended up using simple pins to keep it secured while allowing it to be detatched for transport. I lengthened the arms with wire and sculpted them in a simple style that matched the look and feel of the original piece.
For the helmet, I extended the curve of the cup over its base to form a continuous dome and repositioned the handle to make a crest. Although most of the face would be covered by the mask, I decided to sculpt the whole thing so that the visible areas would look as convincing as possible. After the face was formed, I applied mould release to it and sculpted the mask over the top. Once dry, I popped it off so that I was able to paint mask and face separately before gluing it all back together.
I was tempted to paint the shield with all the decoration seen in the movie but decided it would distract attention away from the face, athough I did end up including a few bits of patterning on the body armour. I wouldn't normally apply lacquer over a metallic finish but it was one of the specifications set for this project in order to protect the figures in transit.
The tiger used the channel on the top of Lunartik's head as its mouth and the hands as ears. The rest of the body was built in Milliput on a wire armature. The trapdoor was based on the disk that originally formed the surface of the tea in the cup. I tried to give the cup and saucer the look of the dusty sandstone amphitheatre.
Both customs will be available as part of the Fans of Tea Series at ToyCon 2015
One Sixth Scale Judge Death Bust
A 1:6 scale bust of the 2000AD character, made as a gift for a friend.
The piece was sculpted in Milliput on a wire armature. Details and pictures of how it was made are here.
Molien - The Fate of the Nostromole
A custom figure inspired by the Space Jockey in Alien, built on Kerry Dyer's resin Mole XL toy.
Details and pictures of how the figure was made are here.
Dewey - Building a Full-Size Silent Running Drone
A 1:1 scale replica of the lead Valley Forge maintenance drone from Silent Running, a science fiction film made in 1972 with a strong 'green' message which feels quite relevant today. The three maintenance drones in the movie were particularly innovative as they were benign, non-humanoid, non-vocal robots that still came across as unique characters. As such they are very clearly the direct inspiration behind R2D2 and the other droids in Star Wars, which was released five years later. I produced my 1:1 rendition of Drone 1 for a museum sci-fi show.
I started with the arm as I figured that was going to be the most complex element. In the end, it did represent about half the total build time for the entire drone. For much of their screentime, the Drones actually have static, dummy arms but for several key scenes they sport fully functional pneumatic limbs. Director Douglas Trumbull's father Donald designed the practical arms in the movie. He later went on to pioneer the mechanical and optical effects in Star Wars.
It's quite hard to make out all of the details of the arm just by viewing the film but fortunately one of the original props was auctioned in 2012 and Prop Store provided excellent photos. By comparing these pictures with screengrabs I was able to reverse-engineer the mechanism and draw up some plans. Around eighty individually fabricated aluminium and brass components went into its assembly. It was very satisfying to see that the parts on my replica interacted in the same way as those on the movie version when the arm was moved. I cheated slightly with the gears, machining down some pre-made plastic parts rather than making my own metal ones from scratch. Once painted, I don't think the difference is noticable. I did consider motorising the arm but although I established that I could fit a linear servo into the pistons, the weight of the limb would have limited movement more than would really have been worthwhile. I opted instead for making the arm as poseable as possible.
Although I did see some nicely made blueprints on the Web I wasn't 100% convinced with the interpretations and decided to do my own based on screengrabs. I suspect that the lens used for filming in the restricted space of the Valley Forge sets generated quite a lot of distortion, meaning that angles and proportions on the Drones look very different from shot to shot. I calculated the dimensions for my version by working outwards from the arm, for which I had accurate measurements thanks to the Prop Store photos.The size of the drones probably shouldn't have come as a surprise given that they had to be big enough to house a human torso but once I drew up the plans I realised that they were about 50% bigger than I'd imagined from first watching the movie.
The body was made as a timber frame supporting an MDF shell. I originally intended having several parts either vac-formed or in fibreglass to keep the weight down and improve durabilty but as the time going into the build extended, I decided to cut out the extra stages. This meant spending a lot of time softening the sharp lines and joins inherent in an MDF build. It seemed to me that the riveted forms of the drones were probably in part due to the prop makers being inspired by the bulkheads and details of the decommissioned aircraft carrier on which the movie was filmed. With that in mind, I tried very subtly to suggest some weld lines and other textures found in ship construction. While not necessarily totally accurate, I felt this helped sell the look of the drone as a working piece of equiment.
Although the drones' silhouette is deceptively simple, they are made up of some quite complex angles and multiple layers, probably reflecting the experimental way in which the costumes were built. I designed the structure so that the side panels and legs could be removed for easier transport and storage. I also made as much of it hollow as possible to reduce the weight.
The legs were built as sleeves that slipped over the timber support very like the actual costume. The idea was that they would sit more naturally than a screwed-together assembly. As the body came together, I gained even more respect for Mark Persons and the other the actors playing the drones. It must have been very cramped and awkward.
Due to time constraints as the date of the show loomed, I had cut several corners which I will later make more accurate. A non-curing batch of silicone caused me particular problems, forcing me to use simplified forms instead of casts of my carefully sculpted detail pieces.
The fog light used on the movie props had the manufacturer's name etched into the glass in large letters. Since I was unable to obtain the exact make and model, I chose a similar unit with plain clear glass. I considered adding the logo but decided that it would be distracting and preferred it without. You have to be very careful when using found items that aren't exactly the correct dimensions as you of course need to alter adjacent dimensions to make them fit. Where you have several such parts, there's a danger that you'll end up with nothing quite lining up. As it is, some of the proportions aren't quite spot-on, but I think it looks pretty close for an idealised 1:1 model, if not for a screen-accurate replica.
I used a microcontroller to run the electronics in the drone. The purple eye light cluster randomly plays a series of animated sequences which bring Dewey's face to life. He also has a servo-driven tapping toe, as per a memorable throw-away scene in the film. The mouth and ear flaps are articulated and ready to be motorised but I ran out of time to install the actuation prior to the show, so they will be installed later.
It was interesting to see the public reaction to Dewey on display. While not the best known movie, people do who remember it clearly have a lot of affection for the little drones and seemed genuinely excited to see one in person.
Ray - a Resin Toy Launched at ToyCon UK 2014
Ray is a 5 inch (13cm) resin figure. He is articulated at the neck and shoulders. The helmet is removable to reveal one of several blind-packed heads. I was very happy that the initial, limited run sold out completely at ToyCon.
Details and pictures of how Ray was made are here.
Hellboy Samaritan Special Purpose Ammunition
Custom bullets for Hellboy's oversized Samaritan revolver. Made as a gift for friend. The Special Purpose Ammunition is not based on anything that actually appears in the Hellboy mythos but I tried to came up with ideas that would I felt would fit in.
The shell cases were turned from solid brass rod. The bullet for the 'Mithril Armor-Piercng' round was made from aluminium and the 'No Miss Stake' anti-vampire round from polished beechwood. The shell case dimensions are based on the movie prop but I extended the bullet length, reasoning that the extra space in the Samaritan's huge cylinder might have been made to accommodate them. The ammunition will fit in the Sideshow Samaritan replica, albeit rather snugly.
I blatantly borrowed the style of the labels from those that come with the excellent Skelton Crew replica props as I knew my friend was a collector and might want to display the custom rounds with them.
Breakout - a Custom Mini Munny
A custom vinyl Mini Munny made as a donation for the Toy Collector's Christmas party.
I needed to make sure the custom would fit back inside the original Munny packaging so that it could be boxed 'blind'. With that in mind, I had to avoid sculpting too many additions on the surface of the toy, opting instead for sculpting mainly inside it. I did sculpt some simple classical drapery on the surface to try and make it feel more like a stone statue once it was textured and weathered.
Reindeer Skull Helmet
Festive reindeer skull costume helmet partly influenced by the Krampus legand. Made entirely from EVA foam. I free-formed the shape in paper on a polystyrene head before transferring the parts onto foam and hot gluing them together. The faceplate is hinged and can stay raised thanks to magnets. A small LED light provides the internal nose glow.
Blake's 7 Liberator Teleport Bracelet Replicas
Made using the same materials as the original props from the 70's/80's BBC show. It was a lot of fun trying to track down the various alien script patterns, which are different on each bracelet made for the show.
The actual props were metallic brown with an orange 'light' but 70's TV recording and lighting made the colours appear very different on screen. So for fun, I made one version trying to match those screen colours. I also gave the silver button something approaching the pearly finish it had on screen. In bright natural light, these differences are very clear but in artificial light the screen accurate bracelet is almost indistinguishable from the standard. I'm not sure if this means I got it right or wrong!
Invader - a Custom T-Con Vinyl Toy
A custom vinyl T-Con figure for the T-Con show. I was a little concerned I'd gone too far with the customisation on this one as it can take a moment to spot the shape of the donor figure in the finished piece, but it was a lot of fun to do.
Complete details of the build are here.
Replica Blake's 7 Liberator handgun
Sleek, lethal and distinctly alien in appearance, the handguns in the Liberator's armoury in the 70's BBC sci-fi show Blake's 7 remain one of the most original sci-fi weapon designs. Slightly dagger-shaped and driven by a power pack worn on the belt, it was never actually clear exactly how the weapons worked. Although they've been described variously as 'sonic' and as 'laser' guns, they sometimes seemed to produce a muzzle flash, but this lack of a clear definition only added to their enigma. I remember being fascinated by them as a child when Blake's 7 was first broadcast and seeing them again when I introduced my own son to the show rekindled my desire to own one.
I began by assembling all the reference material I could find. There are surprisingly few clear close up images of the original props generally available. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that each prop was hand made resulting in quite considerable differences between them and that screengrabs from 1970's television are very indistinct. The Horizon website produced a very nice set of Blake's 7 blueprints but on comparing them to my reference material I found that there were too many discrepancies and omissions to rely on them alone for the basis of a build, so I set about drawing up my own. Having tracked down a few of the necessary components I was able to use them to get reasonably accurate measurements by comparing the known parts to multiple screen and promo shots.
Once I started to source raw materials I found that I needed to tweak a few of the dimensions to fit what was practical within both my budget and my ability. The ribbed portion of the original guns seems to have been turned from a solid piece of perspex (or at least a very thick walled perspex tube) and that type of stock is prohibitively expensive. I decided instead to make it using a series of stacked discs and rings cut from perspex sheet. I found that very thin-walled perspex rings tended to distort and so had to modify my dimensions to allow for that, while preserving the proportions. The outer curves were turned and polished by hand on my lathe. Diffraction in the clear curved forms tends to magnify and distort even slight imperfections making it very difficult to get as clean a look as I'd have liked. I also discovered that perspex cement will bond plastic to wood, meaning that the wooden former I used to align the rings had to be cut free and the inside re-polished, resulting in more blemishes. With hindsight, I should have sealed and waxed the former and probably used mould release to be safe.
The central barrel was turned from a piece of perspex rod. I formed the dome near the end with a combination of a radius cutter and hand turning by eye. I drilled a hole in the base for the lighting. At this point I discovered that it is possible accidentally to weld a drill into perspex if your cutting speed is too fast, making it nearly impossible to extract it. Luckily I was able to heat the protruding end of the drill with a blow torch just enough to soften the plastic and work it loose without damaging the barrel.
The grip came from an old power tool. It had originally been held in place using a long bolt but since I needed to be able to pass wiring through it, I replaced that with aluminium tubing that I threaded at both ends. I widened the hole through the grip to allow for the thicker tube, while being careful not to damage the hexagonal hole that would hold the nut. I also bored a wider hole in the base of the grip to accept the connector for the curly cable. I then needed to polish out thirty years' worth of wear and tear to try and make the grip look clean and new.
The grip tube was secured to the body of the gun using a simple aluminium bracket. I also made an aluminium collar with a dished face to couple it onto the domed body.
I used a plastic hemisphere for the base of the gun and cut the body from plastic tubing, heat-forming the thumb guard and lower plate.
The trigger button came from a doorbell. The original prop would have contained an incandescent bulb but I decided to use LEDs. To try and maintain the feel of the original lighting, I chose warm white LEDs and built a simple fading circuit so that they would dim gently when the trigger was released, as if cooling down. It's quite a subtle effect but I'm pleased with it. I considered using small batteries in the body of the gun but it seemed silly when the cable and belt box would be needed anyway to complete the look of the replica. I used miniature inline connectors in the cables to the trigger and the grip so that if worst comes to worst it can be dismantled for repairs without de-soldering. This also made final assembly easier as all the soldering was already complete.
I primed and sprayed the body parts in gloss black acrylic. Despite all the careful preparation, final assembly was still tricky and a little stressful. Order of assembly was critical (an import factor when designing blueprints; it's all too easy to design something that is ultimately un-buildable due to a fixing bolt being inaccessible). The electronics were checked repeatedly throughout construction. Extreme care was taken when tightening screws as a slipped screwdriver could easily gouge the paintwork. I was pleased with how securely the push-fitting parts locked together but to be extra safe I used PTFE tape in some of the joints.
The holster for the battery pack was hand-stitched from leather. It was a fiddly job as there is very little room to maneuver inside once the sides start to come together. I went through quite a few needles and some bad language. Once assembled and formed, it was dyed and given a finishing coat. The colour isn't exactly right but does have a 'hardware' look that I quite like.
While this project was more about detective work and fabrication than creativity, it was very satisfying watching such a familiar object take shape. The gun was on display at a signing by Paul Darrow and the ultimate thrill was seeing it handled by him. He was also kind enough to sign it for me.
Customising a Vinyl Cavey
I was invited to do a custom for a show celebrating the third birthday of A Little Stranger's Cavey character and the launch of the new Vinyl Cavey
The Vinyl Cavey is an appealingly simple form. While this leaves a lot of scope for adding features, it would be very easy to lose the core shape. I hoped to add just a few simple parts and apply most of the detailing with paint. However, as is often the case, I found myself enjoying the sculpting and may have got a little carried away.
Inspired by the ears, I decided to base the custom on Oliver Reed in Curse of the Werewolf. A quick sketch looked hopeful but showed that the rounded ears looked alarmingly Ewok-like and needed to be made more wolfish. I set to work with Milliput, forming the ears and suggesting other features. I made a stiff wire armature to reinforce the arms and started working on the shirt. I hoped to keep as much of the Cavey's basic shape visible as possible. Staying true to the figure's form was more challenging when it came to adding the legs. I tried to keep them as small as possible but was limited by the need to have both trouser leg and boots defined.
I sculpted the face in polymer clay to give myself more working time. Once I was satisfied with the sculpt, I cured it with a hot air gun rather than risk the whole piece in the oven.
I made simple wire armatures for the hands and then sculpted them in Milliput. Holes were drilled in the figure's wrists so that the hands could slot into place. For convenience, they were painted separately and only fixed to the figure when everything else was complete.
Imprisonment is a recurring theme in Curse of the Werewolf so I decided to give my custom a dungeon diorama. I cut the wall shapes from plywood and textured them with Milliput. The window bars were made from thin dowel rods.
With the sculpt complete, the first coat of primer served to reveal all the imperfections that needed sanding down before painting. Even with this, the finish wasn't really as clean as I'd have liked. The whole piece was then painted with acrylics.
Realistic Custom Mega Munny for ToyCon UK
When I was kindly invited to exhibit at the first ever ToyCon UK, I felt it deserved something special. I had recently enjoyed sculpting skin textures for some mask projects and thought that it might be interesting to apply the same techniques to a vinyl custom. My plan was to make a Mega Munny look like a real creature - what if the Munny design was based on actual humanoid beings; what might they look like? I hoped the result would be eye catching and a little unsettling. The completed custom is about 53cm tall.
Complete details of the build are here.
Severed 'Bot Head
A heavily weathered severed war robot head made as a gift for a fellow collector of Ashley Wood's ThreeA toys. Bot heads are a recurring theme in Wood's work and ThreeA have produced several both as stand-alone art pieces and for display as props and accessories for the figures.
This head was not intended to directly represent any of Wood's designs, just to fit the feel of them. It was made mainly from found plastic items augmented with Milliput. The face plate was cut from styrene and bolted into place. The eye tubes were turned from aluminium on my lathe. The white 'war paint' was based on the recipient's Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skull tattoo. The weathering was acheived using multiple layers of acrylic paint and washes.
Doctor Who Asylum of the Daleks Zombie Replicas
In the Doctor Who episode 'Asylum of the Daleks', a Nanocloud resurrects the long-dead crew of the crashed spacecraft 'The Alaska', turning them into zombies with the familiar Dalek eyestalk emerging from their foreheads. We decided that Dalek Zombies would be ideal Hallowe'en costumes for me and my son.
Complete details of the build are here.
K-Rex - a Jurassic Park-Themed Custom Vinyl Toy
A custom vinyl toy based on a Kidrobot Kracka figure. This was built for the Dragons show at the SHO gallery in Cardiff, which features customs by fifty UK artists, each using the same base figure to raise money for Diabetes UK. This is an exciting event for a cause that is close to my heart.
Full details of the build here
I'm happy to say that the piece sold and is now in a private collection.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom Statue Replica
A replica of the statue in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom that turns out to conceal a secret passage when pushed in just the right place.
As always when replicating a prop, I started with research. I was unable to find any production shots of the statue and so had to rely on grabbing screenshots from the DVD. Careful examination of statues in the background suggested that there were at least three variations used to dress the set. Unfortunately, the 'hero' design was only clearly visible from a very limited number of angles and the style and detailing of the others was noticeably different. It was clear that I was going to have to make some assumptions about several areas of tha statue. I based some of these on visible elements on the other statues, as well as on pictures of real temple statues that appeared to have been used as reference by the set sculptors.
The build started with the construction of a plywood frame curved over rounded formers. I then cut additional formers to define the curved mouldings at the upper part of the pillar. The whole structure was thoroughly sealed with liquid PVA. I drew on the figure's outline, allowing for the distortion caused by the curve of the pillar's surface. Next, I cut pieces of insulation foam to fill in the thicker parts of the figure. This was to reduce both the weight and volume of materials used. I then started blocking in the main form of the statue using WED clay.
Since the sculpt was done over the course of several evenings, it was important to keep it from drying out by spraying it thoroughly, covering it in damp cloths and then wrapping it in bin liners between sessions. I found I needed to mix a little mold and mildew removing liquid with the water to stop mold from growing on the damp surface. Despite my precautions to prevent it from drying out, I still had occasional problems with cracks forming where some parts dried more quickly than others, particularly where they were in contact with the wooden formers. The WED clay was fairly quick and easy to work with, being very soft at first, for building up large areas and firming up after a few hours to hold detail quite well.
I had decided to use brush-on silicone to make a one-piece blanket mould. Once the sculpture was finished, I coated it with mould release and then applied two layers of brush-on silicone. I then applied a third coat incorporating sheets of thin cotton fabric for reinforcement. The mould used a total of 3.3kg of silicone but was thinner than I'd have liked. I left the silicone for 24 hours to ensure it had completed curing, in order to avoid alcohol from the silicone from contaminating the resin used for the mother mould. Next I layed up the fibeglass mother mould directly over the silicone. When the fibreglass had cured, I gently eased all of the edges of the mould apart before inserting an air hose from my compressor between the silcone and the sculpture. Forcing air in in this way made it much easier to separate the mould from the model, but it was still not an easy process. In retrospect, although the piece was designed avoiding undercuts, a two-part mother mould would probably have been much easier to work with for a cast of this size.
After treating it with plenty of mould release, I applied several coats of Gel-coat to the inside of the mould. It took around 1.5kg of Gel-coat to build up a satisfactory layer in all of the detail. I then applied fibreglass. This was a long process as there were a lot of complex curves and corners. Once the fibreglass had cured, I separated it from the mould, again using the compressed air technique.
With the cast safely freed from the mould I worked over the surface removing small blemishes and bubbles. The finish would have probably have been much better had I had the facilities to de-gas large volumes of silicone. Since I was rapidly running out of time, I had to get it ready for display as quickly as possible. Because of this, I was unable to spend the time I'd have liked finishing the surface and working the slight warps out of it. I constructed a display base from timber and plywood and secured the statue to it. The statue was primed and painted before being weathered with acrylic paint using washes and stippling.
The piece was displayed at the Memorabilia show at the Birmingham NEC, along with my live display of some of the insect species used in the movie.
The B-Fin Black Beam Source - a Customised Weta Dr Grordbort Ray Gun
My entry for a contest run by New Zealand Special Effects and Collectibles company Weta. Weta produced a limited run of raw, unfinished versions of their 'Righteous Bison' gun. The brief was to turn it into a new weapon that would still fit into the Grordbort Universe.
I took my inspiration from the look of classic Flash Gordon ray guns and from Chinese cannons that had sculpted dragon figure heads. I also thought it would be fun to work an actual bison into the design, hense the prominent 'hump' and the cylinder forming a kind of rib cage. When spoken aloud, the name 'B-Fin Black Beam Source' reflects both the bovine nature of the gun and the Chinese influence.
I'm proud to be able to report that my gun received honourable mention, coming in just outside the prizes thanks to some stiff competition from over fifty amazing entries from around the world. Full details of the build here
Low Budget Flux Capacitor
A replica of the Flux Capacitor that makes time travel possible in Back to the Future. We built this for my son's school assembly. It took roughly a weekend to build and cost about £15.
To keep the cost down, most of the parts came from the Pound Shop. The most expensive part was the box, which cost £5 at Tesco. We later added a Pound Shop bike light, a couple of sheets of plastic and a few bits from my spares box for details. I cut the backing panel and the small angled strips that form the raised platform from plywood. The cables were lengths of mains flex fixed to the sauce dispenser caps using steel pins. After painting some of the parts, a quick test assembly looked promising.
I desoldered the white LEDs from the head lamp and connected them to lengths of wire. They fitted pretty neatly inside the bag seal tubes. I had planned to tint them yellow to match the colour of the lights in the film, but found that the yellow was visible when they were switched off, which didn't look as nice. I butchered the Pound Shop bike light and patched the white LEDs into appropriate parts of its flashing sequence to create quite a nice animated effect. I bypassed the bike light's switch with a momentary switch taken from the head lamp connected to a length of wire.
All that remained was the box itself. I cut the window out of the lid and also an access panel in the rear of the box to allow for changing batteries. I cut the gasket from a sheet of black plastic, and the window from a clear sheet and hot-glued them onto the box once it had been painted. The Flux Capacitor assembly then slotted neatly in and was screwed into place. The Dymo labels should really have been red, but in the interest of keeping the costs down I stuck with the black that came with the labeler.
Pound Shop Arc Reactor
Built for an online competition run by the Replica Prop Forum. The challenge was to create a custom Arc Reactor (like the ones seen in Iron Man's chest in the movies) using only parts from the Dollar Store (or in my case Pound Shop). This was a particularly exciting competition for me as the site is frequented by some of the best model makers and builders of movie props.
The main inspiration for my take on the Arc Reactor was the scene in Iron Man 2 where Stark replaces the burnt-out palladium fuel in his reactor. The unit opens up to eject the spent fuel and a new palladium ingot is inserted. The reactor then retracts the fuel and heat-sinks around the cylindrical body clamp shut. At the time of the competition, Iron Man 2 had not yet been released on DVD, so I had only my vague memories of the sequence with which to work and I was pretty sure I wasn't going to replicate it exactly.
The following images show what I came up with. There is also a small animation showing the mechanism in action.
I am delighted to say that my reactor was voted best overall in the competition, despite some spectacular opposition.
Full details of the reactor's construction here.
Aliens M40 Grenade
The multi-purpose M40 grenades are standard issue for the Colonial Marines in James Cameron's Aliens. They could be detonated manually by removing the cap and pressing the timer button, or launched from the iconic M41A pulse rifle. The machined design made this the perfect first project for my new lathe.
The grenade was turned from a length of aluminium rod. For simplicity, I opted to make the cap part of the main body. Several people have asked how I made the ribbed section. This was done by first setting up my dial indicator touching a tooth of one of the thread-cutting gears, then using this as an index, manually rotating the chuck for each groove until the indicator zeroed. Each groove was made with an unpowered pass using a V-shaped tool, with the slide set at an angle.
I primed and painted the cap section. Despite having cut a shallow channel in the right spot to make it easier, painting the white stripe proved unsatisfactory, so I instead cut and applied strip of PVC tape.
The M41A pulse rifle props in the film were made by grafting a Remington shotgun onto a Thompson sub machine gun using a SPAS shotgun cage. The shotgun portion represented the grenade launcher. This particular m40 grenade was made at a slightly reduced scale so as to replace the dummy shotgun cartridge in the chamber of my pulse rifle replica. It would be nice to be able replicate loading grenades into the magazine via the bottom of the SPAS cage, but there is very little spare room inside the replica. My next customisation is instead likely to be improving the look of the Remington chamber and bolt with the addition of an extractor claw.
American Werewolf in London Nightmare Demon
Described variously as 'Nightmare Demons', 'Zombie Werewolves' and 'Nazi Demons', these characters appear only briefly in John Landis' An American Werewolf in London but make a big impact. Despite having only three weeks' notice, as soon as I heard that there would be a costumed celebration of the movie at London's Curzon Cinema, I knew I had to make one of these creatures.
The result is a custom-made pull-on latex mask with resin teeth and a fibreglass helmet. The eyes are painted on the inside of clear acrylic hemispheres.
The costume was completed with a Swedish army tunic that was customised by my partner, Katherine who added black epaulettes and collar. The finished outfit was able to replicate a key shot in the film fairly closely. I was also happy to be asked to pose with John Landis himself for publicity shots (Landis photo courtesy of Mark Mawston).
In depth construction details for the mask here.
Dot Robot Punk
A commission for Jason Bradbury. 'Punk' is one of the robots from Jason's new book 'Dot Robot'. The model was built in around six weeks and required over fifty bespoke hand-cast resin parts.
The body uses a pair of prefabricated shatterproof plastic hemispheres. I made custom router jigs to cut the panel lines into the surface of the sphere. The 'eye' panels were treated with transparent black acrylic and back-lit with arrays of LEDs. The inner spikes are interchangeable, allowing different lengths to be attached using magnets.
The base is wood and uses perspex rods to support the robot, which contains an inner wooden frame.
Jason has posted a video of his first meeting with the finished robot on his site.
A custom vinyl Munny. Continuing the theme of favourite 80's movies started with my Blade Runner Munny Spinner, I based this custom on a scene from John Carpenter's The Thing.
I had to take a few liberties with the scene to make it work. To be accurate, there should have been a third head involved, emerging from the chest of the body on the table (both of which would be on fire!), but I felt this would have over-complicated the diorama.
A custom vinyl Munny based on the 'Spinner' flying car from Blade Runner.
I sculpted wheel pods onto the figure's feet and a tail fin on its head. I also used filler to smooth the contours slightly. I painted the characters in the cockpit adding a slight distortion that compensated for the curve of the surface, so that they would appear less flat and as if they were actually inside. It turns out to be remarkably difficult to get a likeness in a caricature of Harrison Ford.
More construction details and photos here.