2017 Christmas Tree Ornament – Stonehenge Me Crows!

Since 2013, when I bought my first 3D printer, I have designed and printed at least one Christmas Tree ornament.

2013’s was a 3D printed version of the 3D printer I bought: An Afinia H479:

2014 we had just purchased our lovely brand new house, so naturally:

2015 saw two different sets of decorations. One was a Santa Werblz, based on the wobbly WERBLZ toys I had created that year.

Also in 2015 I couldn’t resist doing these profile ornaments of me, Carol and Charlotte:

2016 I shrank down a version of my recently-designed ray gun:

And in 2017, I opted to commemorate a rather cool moment from this year – our trip to Europe, and the wonderful hour we spent in and around Stonehenge. While we were there a crow perched atop the lintel stones at the back:

A closer view:

So I downloaded a previously made model of Stonehenge from Thingiverse. I found it was rather inaccurate in placement of the inner stones, so I fixed that. Then I cut the thing into a sphere to fit these 8cm plastic sphere ornaments I had purchased. You can get these at most big craft stores. Two halves snap together to put anything you’d like inside. I filled the sphere with a spherical cut of Stonehenge, concentrating on the rear stones, and put a crow on the lintel.

And if you can cross-eye 3D freeview:

Spirited Away – No Face Pez Dispenser

Let me start by saying that I love the visual style and look of the Studio Ghibli Miazaki movies. I’m not the biggest fan of them for content reasons. To me they lack something. What they do not lack is visual gorgeousness. Even though most of them use repeated themes and character imagery, they are fascinating.

Spirited Away gave me an idea – to create some small statues of a fairly simple-to-create No Face spirit.

I started with something very simple. The mask is all inlays printed in white, with purple, black and grey inlays.

The body is meant to be that simple, amorphous shape.

Later I added arms and scaled him up a tad:

Then Carol said: “That looks like a PEZ Dispenser.” !!! Ok! That was an inspiration!

So with just a bit of extra work slicing the head and using Booleans to create a smooth curving circular structure, and a PEZ head mechanism I downloaded from Thingiverse and altered to work better (the original tapered the hinge holes making them not fit), I was able to quickly put together a working prototype.

The two on either end, with visible seam line at the “neck” (mouth in fact) are the PEZ dispensers.

The hinge is rounded at the back for a smooth opening without a huge gap in the body from behind.

The truly hard part is finding PEZ dispensers with a black body so I can make it all black.

In a future version, I may add red mouth and teeth inside, meaning I will likely use red PEZ bodies. But that’s for later.

Inspired by this wonderful mechanical bank Studio Ghibli put out:

Huxter Labs Mobile Motion Detector

My most recent new invention for Cotswold Collectibles is something a long time coming. First suggested almost two years ago as a small radar or sensor that fits into the cloth backpack, I began sketching way back then. But no great inspiration came until I found these wind-up motors at Dollar Tree.

Then I got inspired, and began sketching. One feature had to be folding legs of some kind so the unit could sit on the ground, but still fit into the backpack nicely.

A challenge! I’m always up to a challenge!

Here is an early sketch.

You can see that my Mobile Motion Detector really didn’t stray too far from the concept.

Here, you can see it in early stages of development:

Here, you can see I had not yet thought of the idea of making the radar dish snug against the body to fit better into the backpack. Other than that, it is fairly unchanged. The legs, however, are an early prototype too. These had tabs for thumbnails to grab the legs which were recessed flush against the body and hard to pull out otherwise.

Later versions remove the obtrusive tabs and in a stunningly simple update, I simply made them longer so they reach a little above the top deck, which makes pulling them out easier, it makes the legs a bit longer, and it removes any foot that would imply it should be flat on the ground.

Prototype

Unseen here is a telephone handset that originally was planned to snap onto the back, but was later scrapped for impracticality.

And here you can see the early legs also allowed various angles:


(Note the blurred items in back are prototypes I’m not yet ready to reveal, printed in prototype form.)

Final Form

So here is the final backpack Mobile Motion Detector.

In backpack:

Part-way removed, showing the dish snug against the body side:

Fully out, two pieces:

Antenna attached:

Angles:

Q*Bert!

I have long been a fan of the arcade game Q*Bert.

Heck, I even created a kind of clone of it in BASIC for my Commodore 64, called “BOXXY” which even had a level editor.

I also found out Funko made a deformed version which I saw on shelves but was not happy with. Their tendency to square off round heads would just not work with Q*Bert.

But then I saw they also made an Arcade series which were far more accurate, and before I actually found one, I had already made mine. But here’s theirs for comparison:

So in August I took it upon myself to create a 3D printed Q*Bert figure. It would not be difficult. A simple sphere with a piece of macaroni coming from it, with two spindly legs and nubby feet.

And the finished prototype with eyes:

So how do you go about making a 3D model of a pixel figure you only really ever get to see like this:

Easier than I thought. It seems there are many renditions of what Q*Bert may look like, including the one at the top of this article (seen on the side of the cabinet) and then there’s this one:

So I opted to do something resembling this, and my result was quite satisfactory.

Alas, 3D printing is great, but not perfect. Here, you see the weak spot. Since I wanted the face to print best, I printed it nose-up, meaning the rounded back had to sit on rafting, which so far, never prints very smoothly:

Nonetheless, I love the little guy.

I wanted a display base, and of course the thing that sprang to mind is the teleport pad in-game.

I made several since several friends wanted one.

Then last night, since I had just finished some other PEZ dispensers (another article) I decided to take this model, scale it down a bit and make a PEZ Dispenser head of Q*Bert.

 

 

 

 

 

…in which I get to sit down with Captain Lorca, Flash Gordon and the Green Power Ranger

 

Rhode Island Comic Con is not something I attend regularly. I went a few years back because my friends Tod, Barry and Dave were going to be there, as well as my friend Dean. So I packed myself up and went. It was fun. Got to do some unexpected things.

While there were stars all over the place, mingling with the crowd, and sat behind signing tables, I wasn’t overly interested until I saw Sam Jones sitting next to Gil Gerard, (Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers!) joking to each other, I saw the opportunity to get an autographed photo of the Highwayman. Because while most love Sam Jones for Flash Gordon (as do I), I know him better as my beloved Highwayman, a show that aired in the early 1980s and was cancelled well before its time.

Last year, 2016, I intended to go down to Rhode Island and see my friends again. For those who don’t know, Tod, Barry and Dave are the Regular Joes, and for the last five years have run the Regular Joes Podcast, which is a wonderful podcast about all things geeky. “They’re into movies and toys and TV shows, comics and collecting and superheroes. There’s no end to the useless stuff they know, but don’t call them geeks; they’re just Regular Joes.”

I didn’t get to go. Other things came up, and I couldn’t make it.

The Regular Joes usually set up in the lobby and run their podcast from there after the show, and sometimes they catch stars walking through the lobby and one time got Zabka’d, which means William Zabka wandered by as they were recording, and sat down with them for a lengthy chat.

Not last year. Last year was a bit of a miss, but the show was ok anyway. Still, I was determined not to miss this year.

Cut to 2017, and I am trying to get tickets for me and my daughter to go, but alas, I wanted too long and they were sold out. So I told my daughter I was just going down to meet my friends, which was not likely to prove interesting to her.

I got there around 8:30 and the Joes were just setting up in the lobby.

With them was their friend (and mine online for more than a decade) Derryl DePriest, who wrote the definitive book on GI Joe Collecting. Which, I might add, I brought with me so he could sign it at long last!

So they began the show, this time talking about how much better it was than last year – the Comic Con in general – and how engaging and delightful the guests were this year – and they highlighted Jason Isaacs (Captain Lorca from the new CBS series: Star Trek: Discovery) as the most fun and engaging chat they had. And while they were praising him up, dammit, the guy just walks by. Earlier in the day, he had said that due to being in the show, and how it is currently running, he couldn’t say much about it, but they did discuss “Star Trek: Discovery” a bit anyway. Now here he is, walking by!

We called him over and he enthusiastically sat down for almost a half-hour in which I sat silent (I was originally supposed to guest on the show) while the Joes and Isaacs dived into the various aspects of the new series, the controversy about fan reaction, theories of what’s coming up and just what’s going on, emphasizing that every person working on the show is a true Trek fan and they discuss “hard and soft canon” in great detail before making any decision.

It was a delightful interview in which Isaacs was – rather candid – about many things. He also got to talk about Harry Potter a bit, and how he has the script upstairs right now for the second season of “The OA”, and he is in it, which is actually breaking news!

Jones went on quite eagerly about all manner of thing including fan theories, and talked about how that Sunday night (it hadn’t aired yet) “shit is going to kick off” which implied that it was going to be a momentous episode.

Now I did mention my daughter earlier. Why? Well, she happens to be a huge Jason Isaacs fan since he was Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, and she loves him in the new “Discovery!” I really felt awful that she missed out on this, but really, who could have predicted????

After he left, (he had gotten up to go, then sat back down for more) Melody Anderson walked by and sat down for a shorter but lovely interview. Anderson played “Dale Arden” to Sam Jones’s “Flash Gordon” and talked about her favorite moment on the set, and also her favorite role, playing Marilyn Monroe in a Movie of the Week. Anderson, I believe, now is a counsellor for drug abuse victims. Good on her! She was delightful to talk to.

She even mentioned that Sam would be coming through the lobby within the next half-hour. True to her prediction, Sam Jones came through not five minutes later. We called him over and he said “I’d love to fellas, but I gotta pee first! Where’s the bathroom!” We pointed. After a few minutes, I had to go myself (honest!) and we met at the door. I went in and when I got back out, he was seated with the Joes, talking away.

He concentrated on the convention scene, and how he has come to see them as a wonderful thing. He used to do 3 a year for a while, but last year he did 42 conventions!

He talked about one particular incident in which a man in his forties, with his wife and two children, saw him in a restaurant and came over and said ‘hi’. After a few words, his wife and kids went to their table, but he hung back and said (paraphrased from my memory) “Sam, I have to tell you, when I was a teenager my father turned abusive, and one day I was in my room and I was going to commit suicide, but I glanced over and saw the ‘Flash Gordon’ VHS and it spoke to me. I put it on, and it saved my life. You gave me value. You gave my life value.”

Sam is not alone in this kind of interaction with fans. For an incredible story, see James Doohan’s (Star Trek’s Scotty) story of a suicidal fan he befriended.

So he sees these things as a venue to engage fans. People who may have saved up the entire year and this was their vacation – this was their one event that they had scrounged for, and he was going to make it worth it for them.

While he was talking, he called over Jason David Frank, the Green Power Ranger. Now while a lot of people are not in the know, the Green Power Ranger has a huge following. 15 million people follow him on Twitter and facebook. He engages a crowd like no other.

Sam called him over, and he took a seat on the couch and the two related their tales of engaging fans at the shows.

While they chatted about the convention scene, I snapped these photos. Poor lighting didn’t make for the best pics, but hey, they’re mine!

These guys gave us well over a half-hour of their time, and as that goes, we were floored.

I’m glad I went this year, and while I went to give the Regular Joes and Derryl (honorary Regular Joe) a copy of my latest GI Joe toy, the Huxter Labs/Cotswold Collectibles Mobile Motion Detector, I got much more in return.

 

NECA Blade Runner K’s Spinner Diorama

Since the Blade Runner 2049 movie came out, I am a bit surprised at the general lack of merchandise for what had promised to be a huge hit. Sadly, it flailed at box office, but is a gorgeous piece of cinema. I’ve seen it thrice and now it will go to video where I hope it finds its true audience, like the original did.

But NECA did create two vehicles from the film, both are K’s Peugeot spinner, in two different scales. In this article, I focus on the smaller one, which is to scale with standard Hot Wheels cars (1:64) and the ERTL Spinners from the 1980s.

In a previous article I talked about how I converted the ERTL Deckard Ground car from a brown hunk with a logo on top to a fairly accurate model of the real deal (using reference photos for color and detail).

Two weeks ago I took a model railroad figure (I bought a lot of them in bulk some years back for this purpose) and since they are too large for the scale, I cut the legs down (which also usefully made the suit jacket seem longer) and made a K figure, painted it up, and glued it to a CanDo Tank Display Case.

Here are the results, shown next to my previously-mentioned Deckard Ground Car reno, and the Hot Wheels Syd Mead Limo 1000 concept car.

The spinner is quite nice, but the one complaint I have is that it has no visible interior. While cars this size have no great detail inside usually, it is at least desirable to show an interior. This would have been nice. Rather, NECA saw fit to paint on a fake reflective blue wash that is supposed to fake glare. It fails. But the rest of the vehicle is quite nice, and even has a springy rear wheel, which was a nice and unnecessary touch.

Here, I show the three side-by-side-by-side, backed by one of my most prized possessions, a copy of the Blade Runner Sketchbook gifted to me while I was in college by my friend Todd Wareham, who I’m sure never knew how valuable a gift it would become. This book is a rare gem.

Note that I did not do anything to the car itself, but the figure is entirely customized from a set of 1:50 (too large) figures I bought several years ago for customization. I have used other figures to stand in for Simon Templar for the white Volvo P180 Matchbox released a few years ago.

This is the figure before I cut down the legs:

Then I primed it and painted it with craft paints.

Sorry for the blurry picture. I think putting it on a snowy base was a prime idea.

Each display base comes with a plastic box cover but I left them off for visibility.

 

Selling My 3D Prints – The Downside

I sell my 3D prints in various ways.

I have an ETSY shop called MoonbaseBeta to sell my Space 1999 Dinky Eagle pods, which are pods that never existed on the market, but many collectors want because they did appear on the show. These, I 3D print at home, assemble, and ship. Start to finish, it’s all me.

I have a Shapeways shop called FourthD in which I sell things for various collectors. Models for Space 1999 Dinky Eagles, for example, to replace parts or augment their collection with new parts that never existed on the market, like new pods, moon buggies to scale, etc. Plus some GI Joe scaled ray guns and pistols, etc. Shapeways does all the work. They print, they ship, all I do is upload my models and make them available to people.

On Shapeways, they print the model for their cost and profit. Then I get to add a bit for myself as markup which is how I make money. I usually charge anywhere between a few dimes to a few bucks, depending on how much of a percentage that is of the total price.

Yesterday I noticed one model up there I had left up for people to see and buy inadvertently during a mass editing session. But hey, fair game, the model was there, and someone ordered it. I got 0% markup. No harm no foul. I really didn’t care about that sale. So I edited the file to add a $1.28 markup fee.

Then this morning I saw this Correspondence on my Shapeways shop site, and here was my response.

I ask you: am I being unreasonable???

 

CSS HADFIELD – Canadian Space Station Hadfield Model

In the 1958 the Space Race was heating up. Model kits reflected this optimism and The Lindberg Line introduced the U.S. Space Station model kit.

The standard inflated-tire design was evident here, which showed itself in a lot of space station concept ideas. This could even be seen in a dual form in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the 1968 Kubrick film.

I coveted this kit as a kid, but never got it. I managed to get a few other rocket model kits from the same line but never this space station.

Until recently when Lindberg released a dual reproduction kit of the Space Base (now called) and the Explorer Rocket. I snapped it up, and it sat on my shelf unbuilt for a few years.

I just recently finished it. Here it is, painted to my ability, which is … not terrible, but hardly expert.

The decals that were supposed to go on were on this sheet (though this sheet has decals for both the station and the rocket models.)

When I saw the American flag, which is for the Explorer Rocket, I thought: “Hey, why not make this a Canadian Space Station?” After all, Canada is deeply involved in the space program, and recently I recall Col. Chris Hadfield’s real stay on the International Space Station beginning with his launch on Dec 19, 2012. Memorably, he played “A Space Oddity” by Bowie for a YouTube video while up there.

So I thought I would commemorate this achievement by Canadian Astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield by naming this station the Canadian Space Station Hadfield, with serial number CSS 12192012, the date Col. Hadfield launched towards the International Space Station. (Stupidly, I used the Empirical date notation of month, day, year, rather than the Canadian SI standard of day, month, year, but oh well…)

And you will note, the Hadfield Shuttle 1 and 2 are also labeled now.

This now proudly hangs upside down on a string in my 3D printing room, above my desk alongside a four-foot-long Discovery from 2001.

GI Joe Fan Pic with My Gear

As you should know by now if you follow this blog, I create GI Joe toys with my 3D printers, and Cotswold Collectibles sells them through its catalog. People generally find them quite enjoyable. Every now and then someone posts a photo.

This one was featured in Cotswold Collectibles’ E-News letter this week.

Phil Gilbert posts this photo of my Helijet with the wonderful uniform Cotswold put together for it, as well as the RACCS Platform which fits on the rear of the vintage Adventure Team Vehicle. On the RACCS is the RACCS Power Winch and the RACCS Spy Probe – Dual Carrier System. The driver is wearing two Drone Control Cuffs.

New Shapeways Dinky Eagle Restoration Project!

Announcing the first wave of my new Dinky Space 1999 Eagle Restoration/Repair Project!

I restored a Dinky a few months ago. I ordered some side attitude jets on eBay and they were very nice. But I was thinking I could make my own, and make them available on Shapeways. And for that matter, any part I wanted to restore, I could make myself and print it at Shapeways.

As of today, since my package of test prints has returned, and I have pushed all of the parts onto a Dinky Eagle I’m about to restore, I thought it would be a good time to announce to the collecting community that these are now purchasable on My Shapeways Store.

 

ATTITUDE JETS

(Click to be taken directly to the Shapeways item)

I started with the Attitude jets. Mine are modeled in the same way as the originals, except the rocket bells are not half-cylinders, they are fully round.

They come on a tree as a four-pack. You need only buy one item to get all four.

They are availble in white, red, yellow, silver, frosted, and raw aluminum.

 

RETRO JETS

(Click to be taken directly to the Shapeways item)

The original Dinky Retro Jets are paired with a connecting object that has no basis in reality. I decided to make these retro jets individual, which is far more accurate.

They are available in white, red, yellow, silver, frosted, polished nickel steel, and raw aluminum. (I LOVE the polished nickel steel!)

 

ENHANCED LANDING LEGS

(Click to be taken directly to the Shapeways item)

Also, I was thinking about how short and stubby the Dinky Eagle’s legs were, and how they were lacking fundamental detail. I opted to lengthen the legs to a more correct height, and add detail to the foot, and the hinged “heel” at the back.

They are available in white, metallic silver plastic, frosted plastic, stainless steel and polished nickel steel. Stainless Steel is my favorite of these. Frosted Ultra Detail seems a bit brittle and might break easier in play. The Strong & Flexible might take some doing to break.

 

REPLACEMENT LANDING LEGS

(Click to be taken directly to the Shapeways item)

Since this all really started with this Eagle I’m restoring having only 3 legs, I first modeled a leg after the original. These are also available. I have no pics but the connecting points are identical, so I am confident they will work fine.

No pics, since I have not yet printed one for myself.

 

VARIOUS PARTS, VARIOUS MATERIALS

Here are the prototypes I received today. There are other variations of each. See details on the individual items’ pages.

 

Future items I hope to include

  • Replacement spine in Strong & Flexible White Polished (other colors and materials may not work.)
  • Enhanced Spine that replaces the existing trough on the Dinky, and adds greebling underneath where it will screw onto the Eagle. Probably only in metals, which will be prohibitively expensive for most, but nice to have anyway.
  • Replacement Engine Tanks, more accurately modeled
  • Replacement Main Engine Bells with Baffles.
  • Landing Legs for Passenger Pod
  • Replacement Nuclear Canister