Sunday, 7 May 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 11

After a cold, damp day yesterday, it was a surprise to wake up to find that today was actually Nice. Finally, the AT-AT could be moved outside and life was made an infinite amount easier. Although putting it together is taking a lot longer than ideal, which is going to complicate things when it comes to setting it up at school for the convention.

Anyway, first here are some Start of Day photos, showing some of the additions I haven't been able to take proper photos of while the build was inside.

First job was attached the previously-made side-flaps. This was done by adding a scrap of wood and some velcro. I'll add more detail later.


Next was the bigger job - sorting out the side panels for the body. After much hunting through bits of cardboard and wood, I found an old fence-thing, that my dad made years ago to stop my children falling down the step by our patio doors. I only had enough to cover either the front and back, going for the back since it's larger. No idea what I'm going to do about the front.

The ridges will be filled in before painting and I might add a panel on top to add some detail.

After the walls, the roof needed adjusting. Fairly simple, in theory, however since the left and right sides weren't symmetrical, there was a bit of fudging involved. I doubt anyone will notice, however. A couple of extra hinges will be added as soon as I have them, just to make sure everything is secure.

Finally I added a couple of flaps to the main side panels. This literally was a 2 minute job.

So that's another job ticked off and leaves only a couple of main areas to do:

  1. The front side panels & roof.
  2. The undercarriage.
  3. A little work to complete the feet.

2 & 3 are fairly straightforward, or at least I have a plan in my head for. The first one, well, that depends on finding the right materials. After doing the back, I know how to do the front, I'm just not certain what to use. I may have no choice but to give in and buy something.

After those 3 it's a matter of deciding how much detail to add to the build. I could go crazy and add tonnes, but I have to allow a decent amount of time to start painting in case the weather turns terrible. But then if the weather stays fine it'll be much harder to add detail in after it's been painted.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 10

I was in Asda this morning and came across a big pile of buckets. This are probably exactly the same buckets as they have in Homebase, however since they were reduced from £1.50 to £1, whereas the Homebase ones' standard price is £1, I convinced myself they were somehow better.

And bought 4.

Then I chopped them and added a cardboard ring.

Ta da!

I put my hand in the air and own up to messing up two of the cardboard rings. Somehow I didn't cut them large enough so, running out of cardboard, I just added a load of hot glue to fill in the gap.

Digging around in the shed, I found a plank of slightly-mouldy wood.  After a bit of a sanding and a chopping, I had a pile of toes.

...and absolutely no idea how to attach them. I cut a wedge out on a whim, as I knew it'd somehow need to go around the lip of the bucket.

Thankfully there was just enough space to run a screw through.

On the fourth side, there's the lip of the bucket. It'd be a bit of a pain trying to cut this and replace it with a toe so I'm just going to leave it as 3 toes per bucket and have the lip pointing into the centre.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 9

With the basics of the legs done, today was Foot Day. Annoyingly, the feet are round. I hate making round things. Round does not come easily to cardboard or wood, so I was thinking of using something pre-made.

Something like buckets.

After spending a long time wandering round Poundland and Homebase I bought these:

My thinking is: make hole in bucket, slide onto leg. I know that there's a second, larger, bucket-shape on the lower portion of the foot but I couldn't find anything in a) large enough quantity and b) cheap enough to make this part. I'll worry about that tomorrow.

My family has a history with cutting holes in buckets. Once upon a time, my dad decided to cut the bottom off some buckets with a large knife to use as planters. Once thing led to another and soon my dad was on his way to hospital with blood pouring from his leg.

Thankfully, my bucket experience was a little less exciting and soon I had these:

And thus:

Which is how it'll stay until I figure out the next bit.

A slight worry is that, after having had stacks of the stuff for months, I'm now starting to run out of cardboard and wood. I've got plenty of little bits for adding detail, but not enough, for example, for constructing the rest of the feet. There's not really much I can do about it either, other than constant trips to Homebase/supermarkets and hoping they get some decent bits in that I can have.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 8

The weather was slightly annoying today.

Set up and pack up time has been taking big chunks out of building time, so anything that can be done to reduce that is welcomed. Plus there's a slight worry that if I'm taking screws in and out repeatedly, it's only a matter of time before things start to become a bit loose and eventually no longer hold together.

To save taking the legs on and off all the time, I decided to...well, leave them on. This creates a bit of a problem (beyond the assault course that now exists to use the washing machine) in that getting it outside to work on requires two people. It's also not a particularly quick thing to do. Faster than taking all the bits out individually and assembling each time, but still not exactly speedy.

So when the weather spends all day alternating between brilliant sunshine and downpours, decisions have to be made about where exactly is the best place to work on it: outside with the constant threat of having to move it in quickly, or inside which requires climbing over, under and around.

What I'm saying is: the photos aren't brilliant.

First quick job for the day: the sort-of undercarriage bit aka 'where the legs are supposed to attach'. It Two circles, joined together. Make two. Ta da!

Screw onto side of AT-AT...

Next was starting work on the leg coverings, to fatten them up a little and make them look a bit more 'AT-AT leg' like.

Not having any cardboard long enough to do the entire leg, I had to do it in two sections and then glue them together.


Bottom (including circular 'knee' and flaps to wrap around the sides of the leg):


Since they have to slot around the existing legs, I used the undercarriage bits as a guide - drawing on them where the woods comes, removing them from the AT-AT and copying it onto cardboard. You can see the resulting slot on the picture above.

Next was lots of climbing over and under attaching velcro to the fence post legs and the cardboard coverings to make one stick to the other. I'll get some photos of how exactly I've done this once I can get the thing outside.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 7

Troubles ahead...

Cutting to the chase, the 'simplification' I had in directly attaching sloping roof to the flat roof does not work. The angles are all off and the 'step' section is needed as a kid of fudge to make everything connect.

There are two options - fill the side panels will cardboard as (for once an asset) the warpiness of the material it has a bit of give and could be bent to fit.

Alternatively, option 2: build it properly.

Either way, for the moment, this places the body on a back-burner. Thoughts instead turn to the legs...

The problem with the legs, for me, is expense. I don't have an infinite budget, so options are limited. At some point I may go back on fill in my thought processes, but for the moment every minute I spend typing this, is one minute less on the actual build. I'll skip to the end, therefore, and tell you what I decided upon.

450mm square, 1500mm long fence posts. Annoyingly, the stock control at my local Homebase is awful, which meant I had to travel. I could have gotten more wood for less money, but it had to fit in the car and thus I ended up with what I did.

In more positive words about Homebase, a few years ago my local one moved (about 200m). During the clearout of the old store they left a pile of wood outside with a nice 'free' label on it. I've had a bunch of MDF sitting about in the shed ever since.

I've decided to attach the legs as you would a table, resulting in...

The fence posts are currently screwed it; I may switch to bolts but I don't currently have any bolts but do have a lot of screws. Annoyingly, the fence posts, despite being all '1500mm', aren't all the same length. But, hey!, problem for another day.

It's getting a bit tall now. It's also not super-stable, which may have to be dealt with later on. Hopefully (there's rather a lot of that going on with this build), once the feet are on, things will be improved in the not-toppling-over department.

Head attachment is problematic. Despite being cardboard, it's still a bit on the heavy side. Still having a length of MDF left after the leg-attachment, for the time-being, I've simply screwed that down to the base and, after cutting a slot at the front and back, slid the head on.

Apologies for no close-up of the head, but, if you look carefully, you can see where the plank sticks out of the front of the head. The neck bends a little (in part from the head-weight, in part due to it's own weight), but I see this as an advantage as it means the gun turrets aim towards the ground.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Construction: AT-AT part 6

I've had a couple of thoughts after being away from the build for a week.

Firstly, I've always known that the front end of the body, in order to support the head (however I end up attaching it) is going to need to be very strong and secure. Cardboard just isn't going to cut it. So back to Homebase for another lump o' chipboard.

Ta da! Two ends, looking similar (though the sizes are slightly different). I've attached two L-shaped brackets to the bottom in order to attached them to the base. I'm using bolts in the hope that it'll be quicker to assemble/dissemble.

One minor issue was that after drilling the holes for the brackets, I realised I hadn't bought enough brackets, went back to Poundland to buy more and... arrived home to discover this...

Yep, the two backs of what seemed to be exactly the same thing, actually contained two different things and none of the holes I'd drilled now fit. Dammit.

Originally, I was going to cover the whole of the body in cardboard since it's, well, cheap. It's also, as I found out when lying the large pieces I'd been hoarding on the ground, very liable to warp. Since the chipboard-slot system had worked so well for the base, I decided to use the same method for the central roof. I'd also still got some (extremely horrible to work with) plywood leftover from my carbonite build so I've used that for the central side panels, screwing it in at the top and bottom.

It's worth repeating just how horrendous the plywood I was using was to work with. Nasty, nasty stuff, even though it was free.

Next step: The sloping parts of the roof. I know on an actual AT-AT there's a slight step between the flat roof section and the sloping parts, but, in an effort to simplify things, I'm going to ignore it and connect the flat roof and the front/rear vertical sections with single sloping sections. For this I need wood of a total length of 140cm.

In the shed, acquired from another school skip, I found...

So happy! It's not wide enough on it's own, but two pieces side by side gives..

Something that I forgot to mention earlier: before I went away I began to fill in the pizza plates on the head with Poundland filler. Hopefully (AT-ATs are build on hope), when this has dried and sanded down, this will look ok.

Which gives a final day AT-AT looking like...

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Review: Revival Retro Solstice '16

Wrote this a looooong time ago and for some reason never posted it for, probably, needing to add photos. Which I still haven't done. But here it is anyway.

Whilst not apparent from the title of the event, Revival Retro Solstice was a retro computer gaming event held at Bank's Stadium in Walsall. Knowing that these types of events take place in various places around the country, and figuring that, being a kinda large city, there must be one held somewhere vaguely close to my house, I've been on the lookout for a gaming event for quite a while. After lots of putting random computery-type words into Google & Facebook, I finally came across this one.

When I mentioned it, I'm not sure my wife knew quite what to expect; quite possibly she was thinking it would be something along the lines of the UK Games Expo. So when we entered the room in which the event was being held, and she saw what was there, there was a sudden look of panic and an attempt to back out and go shopping instead.

Thankfully, she didn't (though she did leave to go to the shops for a couple of hours in the middle of the day) and what was had was a fun day of playing old video games for me and the children.

Yes, all of them, including my 5 year old daughter who pretended she didn't know me and one point and want off to play games on her own. Because she's a big girl now.

Essentially the room, probably about the size of a school hall, was filled with rows and rows of old consoles from the past 30 years or so and a bunch of arcade machines. Down the side were half a dozen traders selling, well, it's a bit obvious what they were selling. There was a panel room at the back (I never actually went to any of the talks so I can't comment on those) and in the centre a stage where various tournaments took place...

My 7 year old signed up for absolutely everything he could. He was a boy obsessed. An announcement went out, and seconds later he was scribbling his name down on the sign-up sheet. Hadn't heard of the game? Didn't matter. Hadn't heard of the machine it was running on? He couldn't care less.

The funny thing was he actually did quite well. He'd have won the Megadrive football tournament if he hadn't started fouling the opposition and had half his men sent off. As I pointed out to him afterwards, it was a lose-lose scenario for the middle-aged bloke he played in the final - the man faced the prospect of either beating a small child, or being beaten by a small child.

My older son played a bunch of games but was particularly fond of the light gun and House of the Dead 2. He wasn't particularly happy when I explained that while, yes, we had a Dreamcast at home, and yes, we even had that game, he wouldn't be able to use the light gun because of our lack of CRT TV.

And, as I mentioned, my daughter had a load of fun playing racing games and attempting to play arcade games that she wasn't tall enough to see the screen (we got her a chair in the end).

Meanwhile I bought none of the things I was looking for from the traders (Jaguar, you continue to elude me) but a bunch of things I wasn't looking for. This included an N64 that I was 'forced' to buy after 7yo didn't win the football tournament and I had to make him happy somehow.

I'm not sure it was the best of days for my wife, but for everyone else it was a Grand Day Out and we'd definitely have gone the following day too (for more tournaments, if nothing else) but we had a prior appointment at Grandma's house. We look forward to the next one!

Construction: AT-AT, part 5

Quick update about things I'm not supposed to be doing while I should be packing to go away...

If you'll recall, the size of the build was essentially determined by the largest piece of wood I could buy from Homebase. Well, today, I went and bought that wood and can announce that work has officially begun on the body of the AT-AT.

The next problem is the building of some kind of frame upon which to fix the panels to cover the body. There are many (better) way of doing this, but after some digging around in the shed I found an old clothes drying thingamajig which I'd been keeping because It Might Come In Useful One Day.

I've drilled some holes in the base for the thingamajig to slot into and (hopefully) this ought to be strong enough to support a cardboard shell.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Construction: AT-AT, part 4

Today I've moved onto the smaller 'head' guns, piecing them together from whatever sized cardboard tubes I had available. I was quite happy with my progress until... Well, I'll get to that in a moment.

After the guns were made there was the problem of how to attach them. Essentially this was where any hope of making an interior for the AT-AT went out the window as I plumped for 'security of guns remaining attached' and threaded a big tube all the way through the centre of the head.

I like square things. Square things are easy to make out of card, wood...pretty much any material. Round things, however... I hate curves with a fiery vengeance. And AT-ATs have two giant dome things either side of the head.  My papercraft plans simply have these as flat discs, but that wouldn't look too good scaled up. I looked round various shops, hoping to find objects of the right size that I could simply stick on, but eventually gave up.

Instead got a load of polystyrene discs, leftover from months of Pizza Tuesdays, cut them in increasing smaller size, and stuck them together. I'll eventually smooth these over with filler. Not perfect, but I think I'll get away with it.

Finally came sticking the guns onto the head-pole. They looked great! And yet also...

Yeah, they're about double the size they should be. At some point I'll try and redo them, but hey! this is for kids and kids are stupid and won't notice...right?

Things are going to pause here for a couple of weeks. In part because, with the head more or less done, I need to think properly before commencing on the body (I've 80% got it sussed), and, in addition, because the kids are off school for a fortnight and they'll get in the way 'helping'.

Finally, things have to stop because I've managed to break both my glue guns. One I broke the trigger of by trying to force still-cold glue through, the second simply went 'bang' when I plugged it in. This is generally not good.