Friday, December 21, 2012

Beloved Denton

There's a thread at the Replica Props Forum about literary props.  Not props that are literature -- they call those "paper props" -- but props from works of literature that have not (yet) been turned into movies or television shows.

The one I've been thinking about on and off for a while is the pistol carried by James H. Schmitz's character "Trigger" Argee.  (Not actually my favorite character of his, but Telzey Amberdon would be more likely to carry a set of law books.  In a "reader," which is a very nice 1940's prediction of an eBook with Internet connection, but still...)

Trigger's weapon is interesting both as a high-end collector's item; a very expensive, classy but ruthlessly effective weapon suitable for someone who is a crack shot and makes a living on the frontier, and as the signature item of a strong female character from the Golden Age; as much a signature weapon for Trigger as the twin DeLameter's were for Kimball Kinnison.

That said, there are maybe ten words of unique description spread out among the various short stories and the one novel-length adventure, "Legacy."  Some sort of weapon appears in the cover art for the Baen re-issues (so far I've not seen an Argosy or other magazine cover from the time of original publication that features Trigger, and the only other artwork I've seen for "Legacy" also fails to show her weapon), but those aren't as much help as they might be.  That rather makes the design up for grabs.

For that matter, DeLameters or the Valerian Space-Axe have only barely been depicted -- and not named as far as I know -- in a Lensman anime that bore little resemblance to "Doc" Smith's epic space opera otherwise.  Or, of course, the Lens.  And it hardly matters what the latter may have been depicted as before; you walk into a science-fiction convention with a polychromatic jewel set into a wristband, you hardly need to add a plain gray leather outfit for the locals to "get it."

Anyhow, I've been thinking for a while of making some SF weapon that isn't from any particular movie or game.  And I've also wanted to go in a different direction than the brutal, heavy, highly-weathered aesthetic these days (and not in the some-what overused steam or atom-punk directions, either.)  More in something that has a boutique aesthetic; fine details and rich materials like expensive watches, cigarette lighters, etc.  So technical details, yes, but something that also looks expensive and well-cared for.  Not like a mass-manufactured gun that's been through a war.

Plus of course integrate materials, fabrication methods, and internals with the design process.  So instead of trying to cram LEDs into the shell, design the shape around the necessary batteries or circuit boards or whatever.  And leverage CAM, 3d printing, photo-etching; every time-saver that modern technology has opened up.

But it is hardly like I need a new props project!  For all the above ambition, I'm struggling to finish the seemingly much simpler Morrow Project boxes.

My first pour of the Medkit faceplate was a failure.  The pour holes were too small. 

This is my second two-part mold.  I molded the faceplate face up, first.  Then, since the original model is solid balsa, I flipped the mold and built up a thickness with clay, attempting a technique I'd read about to achieve a uniform thickness (you roll out cords, then lay them edge-to-edge to fill the space).

I was in a hurry to make the second pour and completely forgot to add mold release!  Fortunately, I'd put down a layer before starting the clay and it was enough to keep it from turning into a solid mass of silicone.

The second pour was more successful.  Bubbles mar several of the letters (to achieve raised letters on the model I attached styrene letters sold by Plastrut).  The backside of the hood needs to be shaped to fit the vacuum fluorescent display (although I'll probably be using the dead one, for simplicity, and back-lighting with a couple of LEDs.)  And all that sanding and patching and shaping seems to have altered the shape of the cut-out enough where it isn't a good match for the box anymore.  I'm not sure if I'm going to try to repair that with sheet styrene (or a lot of sanding on the box, once that is cast).

Ah, well.  A little more clean-up, and I'll be ready to mold up the box.  I still haven't decided if I'm going to try a two-piece mold and attempt thin-shell fibreglas, or just do a box mold and see if my hand is better at slush-casting now.

I've been flipping back and forth between adding details to the battery compartments on both boxes, and prepping the new models for molding.  Just yesterday I splurged on a Squadron panel scriber, which turns out to be much faster with a smoother result than scraping panel lines out with X-acto knife.  Except that the bulk of the Medkit body is the soft green plastic of an Army first-aid kit, and it doesn't take details cleanly, not at all.  Been a lot of go-around with Bondo spot putty and Rustoleum filler-primer on that one!

With luck I'll be able to pour silicone today for the last mold for this prop.  It will be a relief to clean up and put away at least some of the tools and supplies I have spread all over the apartment!

I keep thinking "this is the day" I can finally fasten the lid down on the CBR.  But as of this moment, I still have to touch up the paint job, re-glue the components that go inside the lower body, solder them to the mainboard, add a couple more lines of code to decrement "doses left" and play a buzzer/change the "injectable" status LED when all the doses are used up, and swap out the Atmega168 for a 328 because I'm down to the last 40 bytes of program memory!  Oh, yes -- and fasten down the lid, which as of this moment is probably magnets inside, and some dummy screws as decoration.  But I might epoxy some nuts and make the screws practical instead.

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