Friday, October 1, 2010

Halloween is coming

Once when I was wearing a costume, a friend said to me, “Boy, you really like to dress up”. I replied, “Most people like to dress up, they just need a socially acceptable occasion to do so.” Just look at Halloween, the 2nd most popular holiday in the States and spreading. My wife who is from Finland was very excited about getting to celebrate Halloween here.
She had quite an amazing first Halloween (She's from Finland so this was 1995) I had told her about this party (Todd Masters party; see below) and she was very excited as Halloween was just catching on in Finland. So now in America, she was going to go to a Hollywood party for her first Halloween.
I made her some teeth so she could be a sexy Vampire. A friend of mine, Ve Neill, was going to go out with us, she unfortunately was feeling under the weather, but came over to hang out while we got ready. After watching me putting on Pia’s make up, Ve said “Just give me that and go away!” Then Ve did Pia’s makeup. You see Ve has been nominated 7 times and won 3 Oscars for makeup, so now if I have to do Pia’s makeup at Halloween it’s all downhill.
Here is Pia having her makeup done by Ve.
Here is the finnished effect:


My rule for Halloween is I can't wear anything "Off the peg" (In other words, just pull something from my rental stock and go) and I can't spend more than a week building anything.
Here is one year I decided to go as John Lennon from Yellow Submarine. It took about 4 days for me to make this one.

Every year there are a number of “Hollywood” parties with celebrities and people from the entertainment industry. I attended the party at the Playboy mansion last year and was a bit disappointed at many of the costumes. I would have thought that crowd would have had some amazing things to wear. One notable costume was a guy with short curly hair in jeans and a tee shirt. I said to him “Nice Pauly Shore costume”. (It was Pauly Shore)
However one of my favorite parties is one thrown by Todd Masters of Master FX. It always has an amazing array of costumes and here is a Facebook page for Todd's party.

Here are a few others from other halloweens, some mine, some from guys in my shop.
What if the Boy in the plastic bubble were a real person, what would he be doing today? (Myself)

A Disney security guard from "Mousevitz" or "Duckow" (Randy Pike)

"Robot Monster" attacks again. (look it up) (Chris & Pia)

In space no on can hear you rot. (Myself)

Samurai Stormtrooper (Randy Pike)

OK, so sometimes I use stuff just lying around! (Tim Curry & Myself)

Sub Mariner & Juggernaut (Bryce Litgen & Myself)

Pirates from ride at Disneyland (Eric Skodis & Stephanie Ford)

Happy month of October!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Talents I have seen: Chris Gilmore

Growing up around sports car racing I have always had a weak spot for sports car art. Now I have worked a lot with corrugated cardboard to make mock ups and it’s not the easiest thing to make “obey” your desires. Here is a guy who has really developed the upper hand on an otherwise utilitarian material. I have never seen such mastery of a "mundane" medium as this. Bravo Mr. Gilmore! (These are all full size cars!)
Although, I'm suprised that he has been workig in Italy with carboard, and had not built a Ferrari Boxer!

His web site can be found here:

Things I've made: Ironing Board

We live in a 1926 Bungalow and have just recently redecorated (Read gutted and started over) the back of the house including the master bedroom and laundry area. This was due to the fact it had been decorated in 1980's home Depot style!My wife needed an ironing board and we found an old one at an auction, but after examining it closer, it was in very bad shape. So I built one from oak, using the one from the auction as a pattern, but adding some "Arts & Crafts era" style to it.
Here is how it turned out:

Pennsic House: The pay off.

Gregory and I arrived at Pennsic Sunday afternoon and Casa Bardicci was starting construction. In order for us to set up the house in the planned orientation, the entire Casa layout was shifted to the south 12 ft. 

 Once the rear loggia (Balcony) was set up, we could layout the floor of the house. In order to level to floor I made a simple tube level. This is nothing more than a piece of tubing, clear Tygon in this case, with an added feature of a clear acrylic tube at each end and small metal stakes to hold the tubes vertically. Since water will seek out its own level, the tubes were just place at either end of the house frames and since the water surface is level at each end, we simply leveled the frames to this.
It took about an hour to level all 7 cross frames and crib up each one, because the ground as about a 1 ft. crown in this location. This time cribbing was made from sections of leftover 2x10’s, but now that I have the measurements of where the house sits (and will each year)  I will make dedicated blocks for each location under the cross frames. This will make the process much faster.
Once the floor was leveled and squared, we set up the vertical 4x4’s and the 2x10 frame. It went very fast with just Gregory and me, with some additional help when pieces needed to be handed up to the second floor. Once all of the structure was up, and the upstairs furniture was in place it was time to attach the walls.
Here is the house almost ready for walls (note the canal behind the house)
Remember me commenting on how the scaffold system would come back to bite me, well, here’s what happened.  I plugged in the scaffold support bars into the houses frame then because others were busy, I wrestled the 2x12 scaffold board to the back of the house where the canal is and into the bars myself. Not noticing I had rested the board on the 5/8” “locking” bar, instead of the ¾” “load” bar. Now the 5/8” bar should still have supported my weight, but I had not tested it, and it turns out it was not fabricated from low carbon stainless, but high carbon stainless, and it was too hard and brittle where I bent it. Because while on the scaffold right near the top of the stairs, I leaned over to grab another wall screw and heard a snap and instantly realized I was falling. Now early in my life I did stunt work, so I immediately tried to kick my body backwards towards the canal. Figuring it would be better to land in this putrid water than on the hard ground or the houses foundation. I partially hit the water and bounded my head off of something because I saw stars.  As I dragged myself towards the embankment I’m thinking, what the hell broke? Well a number of people saw this and came scrambling over to me. Meanwhile I was taking a mental inventory of my “parts” and thought ok, nothing hurts I must not have broken anything. It is then I looked down at my right chest and saw a rather large gash. Crap! This is definitely a hospital trip…and I Just bought this tee shirt! There wasn’t much blood but I was told in no uncertain terms an ambulance ride to Butler hospital was required.
I’m sure the hospital reception though I was a drunken homeless person because I was all wet, no shirt, missing one shoe and the back of my head was caked with black mud. After waiting in the triage center for a ½ hour the hole was given a good “scrubbing” (that felt “good”) and 14 stitches (on the outside, I don’t know how many inside. It turns out it was pretty deep) and a drain tube. Oh yeah and a huge bottle of antibiotics!
Two days later.
Well the next morning I went to see what had broken and saw the broken lock bar. I then realized my mistake and remembered that old adage, “When making something fool proof, Never underestimate the power of the fool.” Or as an old boss of mine said, “Next time I need a “dumbshit”, I can go myself!”

Gregory was a huge help and we (with me getting yelled at for lifting anything) were able to get the rest of the house together in the next couple of days. Here is the final result.
(Photo credits: Daniel P. Bronson, William J. Tifft, C. Gilman, Helena Hall, Eveline Darroch)


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pennsic House: The second story

After finishing all the bottom floor elements (less final paint) I put everything together and tested the fit to make sure I could move on, as well as get a sense of the overall look of what would be the main entertaining area of the house.

Up until this point I had only been working on the bottom floor as the ceiling height of the shop would not permit the entire structure being set up. To work on the top floor, I removed the 4x4 uprights and lowered the “ceiling” down to the floor structure and started assembly of the second story. The basic construction is the same using 4x4’s and the plastic skinned foam walls. However as there is a 16 foot height limit at the Pennsic site , the top floor is a bit shorter than the bottom floor and to keep the openness I used an open rafter style and a shallow pitch to the roof. (10 degrees)
The roof rafters are again of hollow box beam construction and light weight; in fact even with an overall length of 14 ft, one can be carried in each hand. (Although at 6’3” and 240#, I am a bit of a moose!)

Each rafter has a 1 ½” steel tube running through the wooden cross brace and welded to each end of this tube is a 4” square steel tube socket, just like the floor structure. These where foamed inplace with rigid urethane foam. These sockets drop down over the top of the 4x4 uprights. Welded across the top of each socket tube is a steel plate, this keeps the 4x4 from passing through the tube as well as allows a 3/8” stainless bolt to thread into a threaded insert in the top of each 4x4. This neatly ties the rafters down to each 4x4 upright.

 The roof is constructed from 10mm sheets of Coroplast. This is basically “corrugated plastic” Just like the corrugated cardboard boxed are made from, but polypropylene plastic. These sheets are very tough yet light weight. Since the material is like corrugated cardboard, it can be folded and “boxed” like it’s paper counterpart. I used a 4mm Coroplast to make folded box beams that drop down into the top of each rafter. These are pop riveted to the 10mm room material. These will be pinned into the box beams with a cross pin.

This drawing will better illustrate the construction.

To achieve a more period look, I used a vacuum formed “Spanish tile” roof panels over this that I bought from the Warner Brothers staff shop. Down the ridgeline of the roof, I constructed another Coroplast box beam reinforced flashing piece. Each roof panel is 7’x7’ and dovetails together with its neighbor to create a waterproof roof. Because I had around 350 sq. ft. of roof, I didn’t want any rain (often heavey at Pennsic) to shed onto our courtyard, or the neighbors. So I cut recesses in the tops of each end of the rafters and installed gutters. To keep them from looking like gutters they were painted to look like wood and the Spanish roof tile extended over them. But to drop the rain water into the gutters, the bottoms of the roof tiles were cut out were they extended over them.

For the arches I again fabricated the entire end of the house structure from the ¾” foam board and added vacuum formed arches. All bonded together with Weld-On. Since the floor needed to be light weight, it was made from the same foam board with a layer of 1/8” luan plywood. This was bonded to the styrene skins. Except for the “porch” area, as I knew this would get wet with rain and even with a urethane finish the luan would likely warp, I used a vinyl flooring. To make sure water could not find it’s way through joints in this floor section, I added raised “dykes” around each opening to prevent water from finding its way to the downstairs ceiling. I also pitched it towards the front so water would run off. At Pennsic we had some pretty heavy rains and even with the wide open arches the roof overhang (about 18”) kept most of the rain off the porch and any water just shed off the front of the house.

I knew that setting up a tall ladder to reach the upper walls and roof elements would be difficult. Setting up a tall ladder is unstable enough in grass but to make problems worse, the house would be very close to a canal on the back side, so a ladder there would be close to impossible. So I came up with a scaffold system that “plugged” into the houses frame. This scaffold would be 14’ feet long and the clips would plug into the metal frame elements at 12 foot increments around the house. The system consisted of a simple 3/4” diameter “Z” shaped bar made from tool steel and an additional 5/8” bar that when weight was applied, the whole assembly would twist and pin the scaffold board in place.

I tested the system (close to the ground) with 3 times the weight it would be supporting. I also put a long extension on the main bar and tested its stiffness, all was good to go. (This simple clever idea, that would come back to bite me!)

After completing the upper floor and balcony, I was down to the last couple of days. It was now time to paint everything. To give the walls a “finished plaster” look I needed a tough yet lightweight (also thin) coating that would stick to the styrene skin of the the walls and arch elements. Over the last few weeks I tested a number of things that came to mind, but I wasn’t really satisfied with anything. One day at Home Depot, looking at their “artistic” home finishes, I got to thinking, “What could you add to paint to give it a “plaster” like texture…” “What could you add to a Water based paint to give it a plaster texture….”

“Duh! Plaster!

So I went back to the shop and tried Plaster as well as Hydrocal and did some tests. The results were fantastic. The polymers in the paint kept the plaster from being brittle and the plaster set up because of the water in the paint. The result was it could be applied just like plaster with a trowel and thinly then, when it dried it was very tough. I settled on a 50/50 by volume mix of latex wall paint and plaster.

So over the weekend my wife and I painted all the walls inside and out. Exterior was white and the interior was a light mustard color. With help from a new shop employee, all the trim was painted a terracotta color. The plan was to hire a couple of motion picture scenic artists to give the entire house a complete “aging” to make all of the elements homogonous, but time was too short, so all that could be done was some scenic work to the fireplace and the ceiling.

The day before packing the house into the trailer, we set it up in the parking lot of the shop. This would be the first time the whole structure would be set up. With minor difficulties, it went together quite well.
I had planned on having period balcony railings but out of time I had to settle on just the simple bar railing.

I now knew I could assemble it completely at Pennsic. So with much help from the guys in my shop, we packed it into the 22’ enclosed trailer. Since we also had to pack all the furniture and some armour it was a bit tight, but we eventually got it packed. (It is about a 3 day drive across the US from California to Pennsylvania.) Finger crossed we hit the road.