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donderdag 8 juni 2017

Zombicide Machine Guns, part 1

Here's the second part of my Zombicide project! In the first part, I made a guitar axe. This time, I'm going to make the machine guns, one full sized Uzi-type gun and two identical mini-sized guns.

This is also my second attempt at making a video tutorial. The first one failed quite miserably. I'm not good at talking in front of a camera, and I forgot to take pictures besides video. Also, this will be a two part tutorial. The first part will deal with building the guns, the second part will be about painting them.

Materials and tools
  • EVA foam floor mats (10 mm)
  • 2 mm EVA foam
  • PVC pipes, 20 mm and 35 mm diameter
  • PVC foam plates, 2 mm and 5 mm
  • MDF scraps, 10 mm and 3 mm
  • Neodymium disc magnets
  • Contact cement
  • Super glue
  • Wood glue
  • Construction adhesive
  • Hobby knife
  • Rotary tool with flex shaft
  • Belt/disc sander
  • Heat gun
  • Glue gun
  • Band saw
The video
I recorded more or less the entire build on video, and this time I didn't screw up! Again, I shot waaaay more footage than I actually needed.
I removed the original audio and did a voice over. I'm not really good at talking in front of a camera. Apparently, my placeholder word for when I can't come up with the right word is "falafel". For example, "Next, I'm gonna drill two holes and glue in the... the... falafels with super glue." I used my phone as a voice recorder. It did a decent job, but I should invest in a decent microphone nonetheless.

Before I could start building guns, I had to design something first. The easiest method would be using pictures of real guns and try to replicate them, but that would be a bad idea. I would end up with props that look way too realistic, even if I didn't replicate them perfectly. Conventions have quite strict weapon policies these days, and realistic looking weapons aren't allowed most of the time.
So I decided to design my own guns from scratch. I did use pictures of real weapons as a reference, mostly for getting the proportions right. I imported them into Inkscape and started drawing. I used an full size Uzi and a Micro Uzi as a reference, starting with the mini weapons. The most iconic part of the guns I was trying to mimic are the magazine in the grip, and the sights, so I made sure to include these. The magazine has an opening in the sides, showing the ammo inside.
Another feature I added was a muzzle brake. This is a sort of barrel extension with holes in it, and its purpose is to lighten the recoil of a gun. It's hardly ever found on this type of weapon, but it looks cool. I also wanted to make the magazine removable, both for ease of storage and transport, and for coolness.
After I was finished with the small gun, I used it as a base for the full size gun. I kept the grip, but enlarged the body and gave it a forward grip. Both guns also have an accessory rail on top, so in the future I can add stuff like high tech sights or other gadgets.
If you're interested in these designs, you can download them here for free. They are made using Inkscape, an excellent free cross-platform drawing program. The drawings are A0 and A1 size, so for printing you'll have to chop them up a bit. I had to cut them into A3 sized pieces for printing. I'm giving my designs away under the Creative Commons license, so if you use them, be a nice dude and give me some credit!

Full size machine gun, SVG file, 268 kb
Mini machine gun, SVG file,  242 kb

Getting started
I had ordered a band saw for this project, a tool I had been planning to buy for quite a while. Unfortunately, a few days after my order, I received an email from the store it would take a bit longer for the saw to arrive. The guns themselves kind of required a band saw, so in the meantime I got started on some of the small parts.
For the magazines, I didn't need the saw. They are made out of 10 mm EVA foam, sandwiched between a few layers of thick cardboard for stiffness and 2 mm foam. The bullets are made from a wooden dowel, painted with wood primer and brass spray paint. The sides got sanded flush on the disc sander, and an extra layer of foam was wrapped around the bottom of the magazine.
I wanted to make the magazines removable. To keep them in place when inserted into the gun, I put two small neodymium magnets in each magazine. I drilled two holes in the top, glued the magnets in place with super glue and then glue another layer of thin foam over it.

The sights and accessory rails are made out of 2mm thick rigid PVC foam. This material is easily softened with a heat gun and bent into shape; the different parts are glued together with super glue. For the adjustment screws on the sides, I simply cut the heads from a few screws using my Dremel and a grinding wheel, and glued them on with super glue.
The barrel consists of two pieces of PVC pipe. The barrel itself is a 20mm pipe, and the muzzle brake is a 35mm pipe. For the slots in the muzzle brake, I drilled a row of holes, cut the remaining plastic between the holes away with my Dremel and cleaned it up with a file. Another thing to add to my shopping list: a drill stand, because drilling a row of holes accurately isn't easy freehanded.
To fit the 20mm pipe into the 35mm pipe, I wrapped two layers of thin foam around it. This almost fit, but I still had a little bit of space left, so I wrapped some electrical tape around the foam until it fit firmly. The transition between the two pipes was then sculpted with Apoxie Clay. This is a two component sculpting medium that hardens into a rock solid mass that can easily be sanded, without shrinking or cracking.
A few discs made out of PVC foam, some more Apoxie and a few strips of thin EVA foam finished the muzzle brake. I did paint the interior black before I finished it, because it would be too difficult to paint it afterwards.

I wasn't really pleased with the barrels. The muzzle brake looked crappy, so I decided to start over. I used two pieces of PVC pipe again, but the other parts were 3D printed. Since I don't own a 3D printer, I headed to the makerspace at the Hasselt university and printed it there. The parts were modeled in Blender, an incredibly powerful free application, but with a steep learning curve!
The next day, a friend of me who runs a computer store told me he had a printer set up in his store for demos, and if I wanted something printed, I just had to send him the STL-file. I needed one more printed part for the barrel, and that's the part that connects the barrel to the gun itself.

The gun body
When my new band saw had finally arrived, I could get started on the gun body! I had already cut out the shapes I needed from my foam mats and sanded away the texture. For each gun, I needed 5 pieces of foam; the body is about 5 cm wide. With all the sanding, however, the foam was a bit less than 1 cm thick, so I used some 2 mm foam to bring it to the right width.

The handle needed a hole for the magazine. I glue three layers of foam together and then cut out the hole. Next, I drilled holes for the magnets (to keep the magazine in place), glued them in place and, after checking if everything fit, glued on the last two layers of foam.
Next, I cut the foam blocks into the right shape on the bandsaw. The upper part of the gun was easy, since these were all straight lines. The cuts were cleaned up a bit on the disc sander; special bandsaw blades exist for soft materials that produce a very clean cut, I should try to find one of those. The grip needed a bit more work, this was done with my Dremel and a sanding drum. I had to be very careful here not to sand away too much!

The raised details are all made out of 2mm EVA foam, cut with a hobby knife and glued into place with contact cement. The details on the handle were made by making a shallow cut and then heating it with a heat gun, causing the cut to open, and with a chainsaw sharpening bit in my Dremel.

Finishing touches
The trigger and trigger guard are made out of MDF scraps. Whenever I use MDF, I keep all the little scraps (well, not the tiny ones of course, anything bigger than the size of a playing card), they always come in handy for stuff like this. I used 10 mm and 3 mm thick MDF, wood glue and lots of cutting and sanding.
To install the trigger, I cut out a slot in the foam gun body and nudged it into place. I couldn't use contact cement for this, so I used a bit of construction adhesive. This has the added advantage to fill up any voids, so it bonds well even on a rough surface.

For the barrel, I carefully drilled a hole in the gun body. Since I don't have a 20mm drill bit, I enlarged it with my Dremel, until the barrel fit. Again, a bit of construction adhesive, and some hot glue. I was all out of super glue at this point, that's why I used the hot glue.

And then, some final finishing touches. I put the sights and accessory rails in place, drilled some small holes and put in some screws. The two last parts were the loading grip and the fire selector. The loading grip was also 3D printed, the fire selector is made out of MDF.

Coming up...
The next part will all be about painting and weathering the guns. They look quite silly and colorfull at the moment, but that's because I used craft foam sheets in all sorts of colors. Don't worry, the finished guns will look badass gunmetal grey with chipped paint, scratched metal and dirt!

woensdag 10 mei 2017

Mage Wars spellbook

A while ago, a friend of me asked me if I could make him something. He's a Mage Wars player, and wanted a custom made spell book. He had seen some of my other books before, and thought it would look cool on a spell book.

In Mage Wars, you play a wizard battling other wizards in an arena. Spells come in the form of playing cards, and you keep those spells in a binder with card sleeves. He gave me an old spell book to see if I could turn it into something like my other books. I always like to try new things, so here we go!

  • Mage Wars spell book (preferably old, since it will be cut up, only the card sleeves will be used) 
  • 3mm thick MDF
  • 5mm PVC foam
  • Cardboard
  • Kraft paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Book binding glue
  • Super glue
  • Regular printing paper
  • Parchment paper
  • Red felt
  • Foamcore board
  • Silicone molding rubber
  • Polyurethane casting resin
  • 35mm glass cabochon
  • Glossy photo paper
  • Transparent craft glue
  • Acrylic paints (black, burnt umber, pyrrole red, raw sienna, bronze)
  • Spray primer
  • Matte spray varnish
  • Hot glue gun
The cover
I started with the cover. I wanted to make a custom cover, carefully cut the card sleeves out of the original cover and put them in the new one. I measured the size of the original cover and cut two 15x20 cm rectangles out of 3 mm thick MDF, and one 1x20 cm strip of the same material (for the spine). Next, I glued the two large panels on a piece of paper, with the spine between them, and about 5 mm of space between them. A second piece of paper was glued on top of the panels, and pressed into the space between the panels. The picture probably explains it a lot better.

After the glue had dried, I ripped the excess paper off so the edge wouldn't be noticed afterwards. The paper forms a flexible hinge. I have said this before, but I can't stress this enough: use special book binding glue! White wood glue is very similar, but doesn't stay flexible and will crack.
Next, I cut out strips of cardboard and made a nice raised edge on both the front and the back. I usually design these things on the fly. In the past, I always tried making them one single piece, because I was worried the seams might show up through the kraft paper, but this was a big waste of material, so this time I cut them out of several pieces and puzzled them together.

On the inside of the cover, I wanted to add some sort of label, where the owner can write his name. I usually put felt on the inside of my covers, but I wanted the label to be flush with the fabric, so I first glued on a cardboard rectangle, and then a piece of parchment paper. I again tore the excess paper off to conceal the edge as much as possible.

And finally, I glued crumpled kraft paper on the cover, for creating the leather effect. When I first made these books, I always used one single piece of paper because I was afraid the edge of the paper would be too noticeable, but in the meantime I managed to blend several pieces of paper together without any obvious seams, so now I always use several pieces.

You'll notice in the third picture I didn't cover everything. That's because of the next step, the cover ornaments!

The cover ornaments
I like putting all sorts of ornaments on the covers of my books. I have entire pages in my sketchbook dedicated to all sorts of designs for cover ornaments! Most of them look horrible, but every once in a while, something useful emerges from the crap.
For the corners, I used a triangular ornament I made a mold for in the past. Along the spine, I made a new one out of MDF. It runs the entire length of the book, and covers some of the cardboard embossings.

After glueing the pieces of MDF together and sanding it, I glued a sheet of tissue paper on it to give the surface a bit of texture. I didn't make a mold out of these things, since they were purely experimental and I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to use something like this again. They are quite big and would require a lot of silicone for one single ornament, and silicone isn't exactly cheap!
I did make a new ornament I intend to use more than once, so I did make a new mold of that one!

This ornament is some sort of medallion and consists of two parts. The main body was cut out of MDF (things like this are the reason I never throw away scraps); the hole in the middle is about 36 mm wide, so a 35 mm glass cabochon fits nicely into it. The ring was cut out of 5 mm thick PVC foam. It doesn't really show on the picture, but on the backside, I had to cut away some material on the inside of the ring so it would fit on the other part when a glass cabochon is inserted in the hole.
Before molding, I always put on a coat of primer. This makes it much easier to spot any flaws or areas that need more sanding. After I was satisfied with the result, I built a box out of foamcore board held together with hot glue and poured in the silicone.

After the silicone had cured, I made castings out of PU resin and primed them with spray primer. For the medallion, I printed a green vortex I made in Gimp, cut it out and glued it to the back of a glass cabochon.

Painting and finishing
The painting techniques I used for this book are the same I used before. I am experimenting with different colors, so I hope to make books in other colors than brown in the future. I have tried different colors in the past, but they didn't really look good, so I'm testing all sorts of new things.
For the leather, I started with a layer of flat black, a mixture of burnt umber and pyrrole red for the basic brown tone, followed by a very thin coat of raw sienna, rubbed on with a sponge. To give it more depth, metallic bronze was drybrushed on the wrinkles in the paper. Finally, a topcoat of matte varnish.

For the ornaments, I used the same technique as always for achieving a cast iron effect. First, a coat of flat gray, followed by a black wash. Over this, silver is drybrushed. Very simple, but it looks very convincing. The cabochon with the vortex was sandwiched between the two parts of the medallion.

Next came a critical part: attaching the card sleeve binder! I had cut it out of the original cover without damaging it, and it turned out the plastic sleeves were attached to some sort of rigid plastic spine. I forgot to take a picture of this, but the spine had a row of small holes in it, wich hopefully makes it easier for the glue to grip onto it.
I used a hot glue gun to glue the binder in place. I don't know what type of plastic the spine was made of. Polyethylene is especially notorious when it comes to glue. I had tested it first. It was possible to peel the glue back off with some effort, but I think it's strong enough for normal use.

To finish the inside of the cover, I glued red felt on it. The label didn't really turn out the way I hoped. I should have used thicker cardboard, it doesn't really stick out enough.

And finally, the cover ornaments were all put in place with superglue.

donderdag 4 mei 2017

Voodoo Bottle and holder

Last weekend, we went to Elf Fantasy Fair in Haarzuilens. I put on my Voodoo priest costume again, and made one more prop to go with it. I ended up not using it, for reasons I'll explain later. It was a quite simple prop, made from an empty barbecue sauce bottle.

  • Empty sauce bottle
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Apoxie clay
  • Craftskin (a type of synthetic leather)
  • Red felt
  • PVA glue
  • Hot glue gun
  • Painters tape
  • PVC foam sheet, 2 mm thick
  • 8mm neodymium disc magnets
  • Acrylic paint and varnish
  • Short piece of string
  • Printing label
  • Sewing machine
The bottle holder
The bottle holder is made from Craftskin. A while ago, I bought a sample box from Minque, a cosplay supply store in the Netherlands. It contained several types of foam, a piece of Worbla (wich I still haven't used), some other thermoplastics and a piece of this synthetic leather. I'm quite pleased with it, it doesn't feel plastic-like like some other types of faux leather. I glued some red felt to the back using PVA glue for lining the inside of the holder.

The pattern for the holder was drawn directly on the bottle with a sharpie, and then two strips of Craftskin were cut out. I borrowed my wife's sewing machine for running a few decorative stitches across the edges, and then glued the strips together with a hot glue gun.

Next up, there's a strap that runs over the bottle to keep it in place, and closes with a magnetic clasp. It also forms a loop on the back, for attaching it to a belt. I made a simple pattern for this using painters tape, and then cut it out of Craftskin. Like the other straps, I put on the decorative stitches and then glued in in place. The loop on the back got reinforced with a few stitches to make sure the glue wouldn't come loose. This had to be done by hand, because the material was too thick here for the sewing machine. It doesn't exactly look nice, but it's on the back side, so it's not really a big deal.


Next up, the magnetic clasp. I still had some 8mm neodymium disc magnets lying around, I thought these would be perfect for this. I drilled a hole in 2mm thick PVC foam plate, put a magnet in it and glued another piece of foam to the back. I cut this into a circle and painted it; I made two discs like this. Sorry, I forgot to take more pictures.

After painting, I glued one disc to the front of the bottle holder, and another one to the strap. The magnets aren't as strong as I hoped they would be - next time I'll use larger magnets - but it does the job.

The bottle
The bottle I used was an empty barbecue sauce bottle. Although I had thoroughly cleaned it, it still had a very strong barbecue-smell. I wanted to put something I could actually drink in it, so I wanted to get rid of the smell. A few teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate in warm water did the trick nicely.
The most important thing I did with the bottle was modifying the cap. Using Apoxie Clay, I sculpted an organic-looking stopper around the metal cap. It didn't have to look very smooth and accurate, I was going for the wax stopper look.

After the Apoxie had cured, I painted it, wrapped a piece of string around it and secured it in place with a drop of hot glue. Next up, the entire cap got a wash or brown paint, including the string, to make it look older and dirtier. And finally, a coat of varnish.
For the label, I simply googled "Voodoo bottle label", and quickly found something perfect. I printed it on a label with a laser printer and stuck it on the bottle.

So last Saturday, we drove to Haarzuilens, and on the parking lot, while I was putting on my costume, I found out the bottle holder was useless. I should have made the belt loop a lot higher, so the bottle would hang below my belt, not right on top of it. Anyway, it was too uncomfortable to wear, and it would be hidden beneath my coat anyway, so I left it in the car. Too bad, I had even filled it with apple juice so it would look like a bottle of booze. Lessen learned for next time!