About this Blog

This is about the combination of two interests, Radio Control vehicles and Science Fiction models. Its also about vehicle design. The models have to satisfy two main precepts.

1. The vehicles have to work, ie be driveable, but not nescessarily win any races or rock crawling competitions.

2. The main thing is that they have to look cool.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Driver/Pilot figures for RC Sci Fi

The thing that many RC vehicles lack is a driver or Pilot figure. To me, a model vehicle just doesn't look right without a figure to populate the cockpit. Some manufacturers of RC vehicles such as Axial have diligently applied themselves to filling this omission while many more have not.
My vehicle projects range across many scales and I am always on the lookout for any suitable figures that can be adapted to fit. It increasingly difficult to find figures in toy shops that are normally clothed and proportioned they are more usually these days superheroes and come in weird costumes and have ludicrous unrealistic physiques.
The other feature that is needed is the ability to pose them seated. Many of these newer large scale figures from toy shops have no articulation in their arms or legs whatsoever, they cant sit! It means a great deal of hacking will be required and if they are made of high density polyethylene or polypropylene you can forget about it, it's not worth the effort.

Below you can see the figures I have on hand, arranged by scale.

Starting with the smallest on the right, I have a couple of men from a Tonka toy. I dont know where I got these but I have had them lying around in a box for decades. They are 90mm tall so scale out at 1/20th scale.

All my calculations are based on taking the average height of a person to be 1800mm (5ft11). Obviously people's height can vary so a bit of license can be taken where appropriate.

Next to the tonka men is a 95mm figure. This is a common size for these small action figure toys more commonly referred to as a 9.5cm figure. Again I have no idea what this figure is from, I think I got it in a charity shop many years ago. Anyway these figures scale out to 1/19th though you could get away with using them in anything from 1/20 to 1/18th scale.

The figure next to the 9.5cm figure is supposed top be another 9.5cm figure, it even says so on the box, however these figures are actually 105mm or 10.5cm tall this makes them closer to 1/16th scale.

Here you can see a couple of them next to a pair of Bruder toy figures which at 108mm tall are precisely 1/16th scale. They match pretty well and as you can see from the box above are incredibly cheap at $3 from Target. The two shown on the right here are the more normal looking figures, there's a few more in the series but they are a little too freaky in style for my tastes. the Bruder figures are very well articulated and the most normal looking you can get, very versatile if you want 1/16th scale.

Sitting at the bottom left of the pictures above and below is a Tamiya 1/16 Tank Crewman figure who has been hacked to get him from his original standing pose to a seated pose. He is a bit taller than the Bruder figures so he is a very tall man in 1/16th scale.

Next in the line up is a couple of Star Trek reboot movie figures, I believe the one in the maroon jersey is meant to be Simon Pegg as Scotty and the mustard jersey, John Cho as Sulu. These work out to be 1/12scale at 150mm tall. They have reasonable articulation but I have dremeled out deep grooves in their upper thighs to get clearance so they can sit better.

Next along is some toy wrestling figures. I am not all that keen on these as they need some work to clothe them properly. The ones I have chosen at least have pants. At 170mm they work out to be at an odd scale of 10.5 but I figure they are a petite 1/10th scale and I have seen a few 1/10th scale vehicles crewed by these figures. they are nicely articulated but again I have done some surgery on their thighs to get them to sit better.

Tamiya makes a number of driver figure kits from styrene which makes them easy to mod and hack.
The one sitting next to the wrestlers seems to be 1/8th scale though the scale is not listed on the packaging. Below you can see him again on the left with a couple of 1/10th scale drivers. As you can see, the one on the right in grey primer seems to be smaller in volume than the one in the middle but they are both supposed to be the same scale so there is a lot of variation in the Tamiya figures.

 Tamiya also make 1/12 driver figures for their formula one sries of model car kits.

What is not shown here is a 12inch action figure at 1/6th scale. There is a wealth of 1/6th scale articulated action figure dolls and equipment mostly in a military vein, ready to place in very large scale vehicles.
Radio controlled aircraft pilots could also be adapted for use in ground vehicles and come in various scales right up to 1/4 but these 1/4 scale pilots can be very expensive.

Most of the figures shown have a specific project they are destined for (currently not the wrestlers). I find a lot of my recent projects are ending up at 1/16th scale. For me it is a comfortable scale to work in, not too small, not too big and it would be cool to have a fleet in a common scale.

More soon...

Monday, 12 October 2015

Moon Bus part 3

The rear door structure has been built out of 2mm styrene.
The green bit is a piece of one of the rubbish truck toys from the Toybash truck project.
The light blue hand rails at the rear are heated and bent plastic knitting needles purchased cheaply from a Charity shop. Knitting needles are a good source of solid plastic rod that can be bent without flattening out with a little heat and they glue nicely with the usual solvent adhesive.

 You can see the under structure with a couple of holes that I covered up. I was originally going with some round vents here but changed my mind.

The communications dish sits in a well. The circular shape surrounding the well is the outer dial from a washing machine made from good quality ABS. The dish itself is made from another cut down battery powered push activated light. There are two sizes of these, this being the smaller one, the larger is the one cut in half on each side of the rear hull. These I find at the hardware store, the small ones come two to a pack and are much cheaper and more readily available than equivalent EMA elliptical vessel heads.

The dish will be position-able but not motorised.

The next task I started on was the side hatches.
I bought some dummy ccd camera housings for the clear plastic domes (for another project) on ebay.
The bases for the domes were cut down and employed for the hatch surrounds. I needed a short tube to mate with the curved side of the hull. After much thought and not finding any pvc tube the right size a came up with a fabricated solution. I used this handy online tubing coping calculator to print out a paper pattern to cut some 1mm styrene sheet to the fish mouthed intersecting shape fitting the hull curve. You enter in the dimensions of the two intersecting tube sizes. the thickness of the cutting tube , in this case 1mm styrene and the angle here being 90 degrees. Basically I made two sine wave shapes which are each 180 degrees of the tube. First I cut a circle of 2mm styrene 2mm under size in diameter and then placed a central former with the arc of the hull cutaway. To this central spine I added various depth strips to match the curve. Then this structure was wrapped with the 1mm styrene sine shapes.  A sheet of coarse sandpaper was then wrapped around the hull curve and the whole inner structure sanded to suit. Although the black styrene makes it hard to see, it fits pretty well and only a tiny amount of filling will be required.

Once I had the surround sorted I drew up a suitable hatch shape in Draft Sight and printed it out full size. All the corner radiuses get a centre mark. This paper was glued with ordinary UHU stick glue onto two pieces of 2mm styrene stuck together with Scotch brand double sided tape as I needed two of them, one for each side. The center marks were first drilled out with a 2mm drill and then followed up by an 8mm step drill, all the rounded corners having a 4mm radius. Then I dug out the old scroll saw (the same one I used to make the aluminium chassis frames) and sawed between the holes finishing up with some filing and then rounding the front surface edges by scraping with a 150mm (6") metal ruler.

A further charity shop find, a strange pleasant sounds maker designed to help people go to sleep, is going to be a sensor dome on the hull at the front. This is just the top of it, the base having been removed.

More soon...

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Moon Bus part 2

Part 1

A couple of issues which bugged me about this project have now been addressed.
The first was the fact that the Integy wheel wideners/adaptors made the wheels stick out too far.
I wondered if it was possible to find 14mm hex free machining rod and sure enough there was some on Ebay so after obtaining a half meter length I set out to see if I could make my own 14mm hex hubs. Below is the result. In fact this is a reject where I mistakenly made the slot for the axle pin 1mm too deep.
The slot was done using a 2mm milling cutter held in the mini lathe chuck with the hex gripped in the tool post packed up to the correct center height using a 1.5mm scrap of aluminium sheet. The hex adapter's hole was lined up with the center of the chuck using a lathe center. The cross slide was moved 5.5mm out from center in both directions leaving an 11mm slot 2mm deep.

The rims are then secured using the long barrel nuts from the Integy adapters which previously were too short.  I had previously drilled out the rims to fit my wider diameter home made barrel nuts so I had to make 4 brass tube sleeves that fit over the integy barrel nuts to fit the wider diameter holes in the rims. The result is that the rims sit about 12mm closer to the axles and look and perform much better.

The other problem was that the location of the  curved shock mounts on the axle that I made interfered with the full turn of the steering. that was fixed by shortening the fuel tubing bushes, swapping the cap screws to a lower profile button head and dremeling out a clearance groove for the shock shaft in the mounts. Now I get full lock without binding the servo travel.

The picture above also shows the newly made hex in position and the new more cosy clearance for the steering arm.

Added to the suspension set up was a front and rear sway bar. This was possible because I swapped out the Venom Creeper transmission (which went into the ToyBash truck project) for an Axial SCX10 transmission which locates the motor along side. You can clearly see the slot which allows the sway bar to slide back and forth as the suspension compresses. The sway bars were made from bent 2mm piano wire.

An electronics tray was made from 2mm styrene, heated and bent in the middle to match the angle of the side frames. A flat raised section is added to support the battery and get over the top of the transmission which protrudes up through a shaped hole in the tray. A start has been made in laying out the electronics. A small clamping antenna tube holder made from some 10mmm pvc has been added on one of the 6mm rod cross members. There is a horizontal saw slot through which the m3 cap screw clamps down and a small vertical slot at the other end which allows for the pre-housed antenna wire to pass through before pushing the tube into the 3mm hole.

A start has been made on skinning the wooden hull frame with 1mm styrene. The wooden frame was sealed with shellac first which helps the thick super glue to go off quickly which is otherwise a problem for porous plywood end grain. I like shellac as it is easy to mix up the flakes with methylated spirits, it dries fast and is easily sandable, plus it is a reasonably natural material without lots of nasty chemicals of which there are more than enough in plastic model making.

The areas of the plastic sheet that were to come into contact with the superglue were marked out and then roughed up with very coarse sandpaper. It took a bit of coaxing with clamps and tie down straps to get it to conform to the radius required. It is impossible to handle trying to do glue it all at once so I glued it in stages with the occasional assistance of that foul smelling Zip Kicker (cyanoacrylate accelerant).  When doing this sort of thing it is wise to make the sheet bigger than needed all round and then trim the excess off after the glue has fully set.

The interior of the cockpit has also been skinned. The circular side windows are made from a PVC pipe reducer. It has a small lip on the inside against which an acrylic sheet disk window will sit. A ring of pvc pipe that fits the inner diameter will then slide in from the outside securing the window neatly in place. I plan to put a couple more porthole windows down the side.
The 1mm styrene sheet still has the clear plastic film protective sheet on it which is why it looks bit ragged in places. I will leave that on as long as possible to stop the surface getting unduly scratched while I work on it.

The rear has a cut in half push light housing glued on. There is a rear door structure still to be built and added.

A 1/16 Bruder man squats in the approximate position he will occupy. He originally had a co-driver to keep him company  but he was requisitioned for the Toy bash truck. I have a replacement coming and to mix it up a bit and redress the gender bias I am thinking it is going to be a Bruder female figure.

This project shares much in common with the ToyBash project having 4 wheel steering and sharing similar components in the drive train.They are also both in the same scale, the idea is that they would exist in the same world and time-frame.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Toy Bash Truck part 7

Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part4, Part 5, Part 6

The model was masked up and sprayed with orange car paint from a spray can. The masking was reversed and the detail areas were sprayed with a "sandable" car primer which is a darker grey than the normal car primer. I'm not sure what the difference is, other than the shade of grey, as primer generally is usually easily sandable.

I also masked up and sprayed some white primer markings on the sides and added some old decals from random model kits.

The liquid latex masking (applied earlier in previous post) was peeled off leaving chipped paint revealing the original red primer and silver metal scrapes from the paint pen.

After the paint has been allowed to dry for a at least a day ( 2 days or more is better) I start the application of "poo juice", a roughly five to one mix of methylated spirits ( alcohol) and Tamiya flat black mixed in a jar. Essentially this is a wash that is flowed onto the surface into all the vents, grooves, depressions, edges, lumps etc. Then metho dampened rag is used to wipe it off from the high spots leaving it in the low. The rag is wiped in the direction that grime would run and flow leaving grubby streaks. It is essential for this method to work that the underlying paint is not dissolved by alcohol, so any water based hobby paint such as Tamiya is not suitable. Acrylic car paints and primers are fine, and enamels such as Humbrol will work given sufficient time to dry.

I have seen Randy Cooper on You tube demonstrating his technique using a water based wash on a wet model getting similar visual results. I find that for me that the methylated spirits based wash flows along edges better with a capillary action that is more effective than I have been able to get using a grime wash based on water.

After the poo juice wash has dried, (it dries pretty fast) I then dry brush white students acrylic paint using a stiff flat oil paint brush onto all the raised spots and edges. The student acrylic is a cheap artists acrylic that is not as densely opaque as a quality artists acrylic so builds up slowly onto the models edges with a pleasing lightening of the underlying value. If you make a mistake the metho dampened rag will easily remove the white for another go.

To people used to subtle pastel shaded weathering on 1/35 scale military models, the result to the eye may seem ludicrously over the top, but in my experience you really have to exaggerate the weathering for the camera to see any of it.

After looking at the photos I realise the chassis needs a bit of weathering to tone down all the colorful anodising on display. More than likely a good run on some dusty dirt tracks will naturally take care of that.

A momentous event for this blog, as a project has actually come to completion and for me personally as it is the first Sci-fi model I have completed in maybe 20 years. I hope there will be plenty more to come.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Toy Bash Truck part 6

Part 1, Part 2, Part3, Part4, Part 5, Part 7

Some work has been done on the cockpit of the truck. In fact the whole model has been painted and weathered but that will follow in a subsequent post as I haven't taken any photographs of that as yet.

I made up a helmet for the 1/16 scale Bruder toys driver figure. It possibly a little big but that's what he's getting.

It was made in two halves joined down the middle by pressing a half dome shape into heated 1mm styrene. To heat the plastic I used my Bosch heat gun which is designed to strip paint among other things. It looks like a hairdryer but it puts out industrial grade heat. You would not want to mix up the two.
I made a domed ended bit of broom stick and pressed that into a hole in a piece of wood that was slightly larger. You can see the stick, hole and result below.

The two plastic domes were sawn off with a razor saw, sanded flat and joined with my usual methylene chloride solvent. A dremel was then used along with a sharp olfa blade to cut away the hole for the neck and face. I used a couple more presses of the 1mm plastic to make some side discs and added a strip of 0.5mm styrene down the join. I also added some pieces of closed cell foam as padding on the inner sides which also makes it stay on his head.
Still needs a bit of sanding and then painting to finish.

To cover up the rolled up sleeves molding on the drivers arms I used some heat shrink tubing, with a smaller piece as some sort of cuffs around his wrists. I also put a larger piece around his neck. You can see a bit of filler as yet un-sanded in the v neck of his shirt.  A few Drops of thin super glue has been flowed into his arm joints to fix them in position. Eventually he will be painted to look more like  he's wearing a jump suit with gloves.

The chassis has been disassembled so that it could be painted with flat black. I always use a Rust guard epoxy style spray paint for any aluminium parts as it sticks very well without flaking off. A couple of lightish coats are sprayed on without any primer. It takes 24 hours to dry fully but a couple of extra days does no harm before reassembly with scratchy tools. Here is the chassis hanging up on a wire hook.

On the shelf  behind the chassis are a couple of my old spaceship models readers of this blog will be familiar with, built many many years ago.

More soon...