Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Requiem for a Nissan Altima

This post isn't exactly in line with the rest of my posts but as this blog was intended for all my hobbies this does fit that bill. I'll update this with pictures when I get a chance.

The red 1999 Nissan Altima SE was my first car, bought back in the summer of 2008 for around $5000 with 131,000 miles on it. Being a SE it was the highest trim meaning it included a moon roof and even a small spoiler in the back. There's been no shortage of things that have needed to be fixed leading to a lot of frustration but it was definitely a good learning experience in terms of working with cars. I've learned a lot about how cars work and the hands on component was certainly right down my alley.

The car seemed to be in good condition when I bought it and for a '99 it even looked decent cosmetically. For a car that's spent all it's time in northern Ohio that's quite a feat given how much salt gets thrown down in the winters. In the past few years I've definitely seen more signs of rust eating through, particularly right under the driver side door behind the front wheel.

I've taken quite a few road trips in the Altima, most notable was Spring Break of 2009 with Steven, Andrew, and Lily riding in my car and Justine riding in Kenneth's truck. I drove from Cleveland to Chicago to pick up Steven and Andrew who were both home and then we all drove to Toronto. That was a really long drive (9 hours) and I couldn't imagine how tired Kenneth was since he was doing that drive in a truck that doesn't have cruise control. Also it probably wasn't the best idea to leave Chicago in the afternoon as we didn't get to Toronto until really late at night.

Here's a list of some of the things I've done over the years:

July 2009
  • Knock Sensor
  • Passenger Side window replacement (my car got broken into, it was Cleveland after all)
  • Driver Side mirror (some kids went down the entire street and smashed most driver side mirrors, lots of unhappy people)
July 2010
  • Both front Tie Rods (inner and outer), both are Moog brand
  • NGK Spark Plug Wires
  • Bosch Distributor Cap
  • (4) NGK V-Power Spark Plugs
July 2011
  • Worldwide Alternator from Advance Auto Parts
  • Autocraft Gold Battery, Group Size 24F, 700 CCA
Aug 2012
  • Both front Axles (EMPI brand)
  • replacement of the A/C Liquid Tank, bracket, and the pipe that goes from the firewall to the liquid tank
  • Sensor for the Liquid Tank
  • I was informed that the pipe going from the condenser to the liquid tank is no longer available. The old one has visible cracking.

The hardest part of most of those repairs has almost always been removal of the part. Parts that are rusted together tend to not want to come apart. For instance I had to saw the tie rods for that removal since it absolutely refused to come apart.

I had wanted to eventually swap out parts as they wore out but after fixing the axles a few weeks ago I found out that the problem was actually with the transmission which meant it would have cost over $1000 to fix. Considering that the car is worth about $3000 in "good" condition I think it could have sold for more but it was sold by my parents so I guess it's their decision. It was sold at around 163,000 miles on the odometer.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Finishing Cyborg Ninja Helmet

I recently got commissioned to fully finish a Cyborg Ninja helmet so I was determined to make it the best possible. The final result was better than even my own.

I started off by casting another helmet using SmoothCast 65D.

Then there's the familiar process of body filler, sanding, and more filling and sanding. The green stuff is Evercoat Z-Grip body filler and the red stuff is Dynatron spot putty.

I picked up some stuff along the way including more grits of wet/dry sandpaper, Meguiar's Ultimate Compound, and Meguiar's Ultimate Liquid Wax.

After this there's some more priming and sanding involved.

And then the first coat of RustOleum Gloss White.

Before the final coat of gloss white I wet sanded it to 800 grit.

After a coat of RustOleum Crystal Clear I then sanded it down to 1000 grit to make it really smooth for the waterslide decals. The waterslide decals were drawn up in Illustrator and printed on waterslide decal paper using a laser printer. Make sure the printer matches the paper as there is both laser and inkjet waterslide paper.

I have Micro Sol and Micro Set from building scale models so I went ahead and used some of that here. It helps to soften the decal and make it conform to curved surfaces better.
While you can still see the edges of the decal here once you put a few more clear coats and then sand it down it really becomes nearly invisible.
Here you don't see the glossiness of the paint because it's been sanded down some. This is in the middle of working up to 2000 grit.
This is after polish and wax. I was really surprised by the results as it's my first experience with polishing and waxing. It takes some elbow grease but it really does turn out very smooth.
This is a closeup of the decal on the forehead piece to show that the edges become pretty much invisible.

I had some odd reactions with the clear on the back piece so I had to sand it down and restart from the white. It got really frustrating.

Another picture showing the final finish. You can read the words of the sandpaper in the reflection. Deep reflections don't show up nearly as well on white paint as with darker colors such as black.

Pictures of the final finished helmet. I added some upholstery foam on the inside of the cheek pieces where it attaches to the outside of the helmet in order to protect the finish.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Steiner Sword (Final Fantasy IX)

EDIT: Link to the PDF file

My friends and I are doing a Final Fantasy IX group and I was asked to make Steiner's sword. The sword is huge and has odd proportions because Steiner has massive hands. I scaled the sword using in game references to my friend's height.

The first task was to create the blueprint for the sword so I used Illustrator and did front and side views of the sword. I then got this printed out at FedEx/Kinko's since they have large scale printers. While it was really simple and straightforward and it's nice having one large sheet for the blueprint I may just cheap out and print it out on regular printer paper (tiling the sheets) in the future.

The core of the sword was constructed using 1/8" MDF with a threaded steel rod through the middle. The steel rod was then fiberglassed onto the MDF.

I used pink insulation foam to build up the thickness of the sword to try and cut down on the final weight. The handle is made using PVC with circles of pink insulation foam. The inside hole of the insulation foam was cut out using a hole saw bit for the power drill.

This was then double checked against the blueprint I made. The paper sketch below was to help calculate the sizing of the foam circles for the handle.

The pink insulation foam was covered in a layer of sintra to make the top surface smoother and harder. I cut out 4 sintra panels, one for each surface.

The handle pieces were coated in acrylic paint after some initial shaping and then I put some Bondo on it to smooth out a few surfaces.

I wanted the handle to be sturdier so I fiberglassed it but I learned that acrylic paint isn't enough of a barrier. It's enough for body filler but fiberglass resin is too liquid so it will still get into small gaps. So at this point the handle is just a mess.

While I was on a fiberglassing streak I went ahead and fiberglassed the entire blade as well. I had some issues with the edges when I tried to fold the fiberglass cloth over the edge. It would bubble out. I talked to Aaron from Fiberglassblades (the guy who makes all the Zelda swords and shields) and he said for edges it's better to lay the fiberglass so it hangs over the edge, sand it down and repeat for the other side.

The knuckle bow guard was made by heat forming strips of 1/8" sintra (it's the only thickness I have access to) and then super gluing it all together.

I used some Bondo brand body filler earlier but for areas where a lot of sanding is needed I use Evercoat Z-Grip. I've only managed to find it at automotive stores but it sands miles better than regular Bondo. I highly recommend it.

Halfway through sanding the last handle piece pictured above I realized that it was not actually round but octagonal so I had to go back and cut it down. Below is all the handle pieces mostly smoothed out.

The handle pieces were Gorilla glued onto the PVC pipe. Upon double checking to the blueprint I found that it was too long so I had to cut about an inch from one side. You can see I had to sacrifice some of the detail from the original blueprint. This was mostly due to no having a lathe and not spending enough time during the shaping of the pink insulation foam.

The guard of the sword is a large dome and it would be impossible to make out of one sheet of sintra without cutting it apart so I made a 3D model and used Pepakura to make the template. The initial one came out too boxy since my 3D model was too simple.

After remaking the 3D model using a higher poly model I put it back into Pepakura.

The sintra was then heat formed to get the correct shape. The other two sintra pieces are to cap off the hole at the top. The guard sits just under the blade so the cap pieces are made to fit onto just the thickness of the MDF + steel rod core.

And here's a shot of the blade and handle put together. The MDF + steel rod core extends into the PVC pipe and it was all Gorilla glued together.

The end was capped off using a circle of sintra.

I dremeled out a hole for the knuckle guard at the bottom of the handle. The other attachment point is on the large dome guard.

The dome was glued on and then blended in with more body filler.

The underside of the guard is ugly because of the Gorilla glue but since it doesn't really get seen I didn't really bother cleaning it up too much.

A closer view of the slot for the knuckle guard.

The knuckle guard glued in place.

Everything assembled together.

After some priming some spot putty was needed before it would be ready for actual paint.

The entire sword got a few coats of RustOleum silver spray paint.

The handle was masked off and I airbrushed a custom mix of acrylic paints for the brown. I just use the cheap acrylic paints that are less than $1 at craft stores.

This was my first time weathering a prop but I think it turned out alright. The weathering was sealed in using Future Floor Acrylic. I've had a large bottle for years since I used to make Gundam models and resin kits and I used it as a clear coat for those things. Weathering really adds some depth to the overall piece.