Saturday, March 3, 2018

Flea Circus Update #02 -- Carousel


This is the first of two carousels I've built for my flea circus. There were two things wrong with it: first, the animals are backwards relative to the direction the flags are flying, and second, the needle bearing I made for it is pretty poor and has a little more friction than I wanted. I rebuilt it with the animals corrected and a metal lamp finial as the pivot point for the needle bearing, and it spins quite nicely. 

Flea Circus Update #01 -- Strongman Pulls Down a Statue

I'm building a flea circus, updating some of the techniques documented in Walt Noon's excellent DVD tutorial, and I think I've come up with a unique strongman act, inspired by fairly recent events in the news. I'm going to have one of the fleas pull down a statue.

Here's how I see it playing out when I perform: I take out the statue, and explain that he's the former ringmaster of the circus, who was terrible and all the fleas hated him. I'll wave it around a bit, so the audience will get the idea that the statue and the plinth are all one piece. Then I'll place him on the floor of the circus, and loop a bit of rope around his neck, and give the opposite end of the rope to the strongman flea. He'll then begin tugging, and he'll pull the statue off the plinth.

Here's the first prototype...


He's Mr. Green from a Clue set. I've inserted a thumbtack in the base, and hidden a small magnet at the top of the spool. That way, I can hold him upside down, and he'll still stay attached to the plinth. Then I attached a stronger magnet to the bottom of the plinth, so I can set him down on the floor of the circus, and he'll stay put because I've either hidden a metal washer or another magnet under the floor. I'll help the flea tug on the rope with some trickery hidden under the floor. 

Once I'd tested to make sure my proof-of-concept miniature worked the way I wanted it to, I built the final statue. 


The base for this is a larger spool, painted with a faux marble finish. The figure is from a "Series of Unfortunate Events" board game, and I thought he looked passably like a circus ringmaster. He's painted with a bronze/copper mix, and given a thin wash of turquoise for the patina. TThe whole setup stands about 4" tall.

I thought about using a Confederate general, but it was more expensive to find just one of those toys than I anticipated. Anyway, the right audience members will understand the implication that this guy represents a Confederate statue.

I've built quite a few components of the circus now, and all that's left is assembly, training the fleas, and building some of the hidden mechanisms to help them do their stunts.

More to follow...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fairy Houses

I've started to make Fairy Houses. In a lot of ways, they're more fun than conventional buildings, because I can make up the details as I go along. I don't have to measure a damn thing, and if it's a little wonky, that's a good thing.



I made this from a plastic soda bottle, some air-dry clay, cardboard and acrylic craft paint. I'm using a technique I learned from this YouTube channel: Creative Mom. By starting with a plastic or glass bottle and building on the surface, all you have to do is cut away the clay where you want a window, and HEY-PRESTO! your window is already glazed. After fitting dozens of tiny bits of clear plastic into HO-scale Tichy windows for my last commission, this is much more fun. I can bat one of these out in an enjoyable afternoon, and paint it the following day.

I started on a fairy-house-style train station to go outdoors, and for that, I started using Smooth-On Free-Form Sculpt epoxy clay, as suggested by this YouTuber: Ultimate Papier Mache. Here is the first part I completed: the ticket window.


So far, I've found it a tough medium. The "clay" is very sticky, unless you keep a lot of water on hand, and it doesn't really have clay-like qualities when you're working with it. At times, it was like trying to sculpt with warm taffy. You have to wear latex or nitrile gloves when you use it, which is a drag when you're used to using Sculpey. However, the end result is rock-solid, and I have no doubt it will stand up to harsh weather. 

Anyway, I'll keep slogging along with this new-to-me medium, and I'll see if the result sells on Etsy! 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Imitation of a Sanborn map.

For no particular reason, I decided to create the footprints of a bunch of Clever Models in the style of an old Sanborn fire insurance map. I might use these to plan a layout someday, or maybe I'm just fooling around.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Railcars! Railcars! Railcars!

Man, do I love railcars!

I found these images recently while researching 1920s trucks. They're from a Google Books scan of the trade magazine "Motor Truck: The National Authority on Power Haulage" from 1921.




The roof on this one is really good...


 I always call these sorts of things "palindromes," after a kitbashed engine built by Chris Wallas.

This last one is from another source...


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Replacement for Ertl plastic powerhouse.

A client sent me an HO scale Ertl kit, the Easton Mill. It consists of two plastic buildings, but the sculpt, fit and factory paint-and-weathering on them... let's see, how to say this nicely... it's not up to my standards.



I talked my client into allowing me to build the power house as a cardstock model. I pulled all the dimensions from the Ertl kit and then made it in The Gimp.

Here it is.

Stereoscopic View
 

The main part of the building is inkjet-printed cardstock laminated onto museum board. I used Clever Models textures, as usual. I laminate with the cheapest spray adhesive I can find, which happens to be Aleen's Tacky Spray. (I'll have to do a proper how-to post on this technique when I find the time.)

The most painstaking part of this build: I cut out the doors and windows, then painted the thick edges of the holes with neutral grey acrylic, then I used brown, yellow and grey gouache paints to touch up the edges to match the stones.

I tried a new technique for the steps; I made the bottom tread part of the base of the building. That way, there's no chance of the steps falling off if the structure is handled roughly. Once I had the steps assembled, I treated the edges with cyanoacrylate glue and sanded the edges. 


The original model included a boiler out front, and I replicated it with two caps from Trader Joe's disposable pour-over coffee brewers, along with some brass tubing scraps and bits of museum board.

All in all, a quick and fun project.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Clever Models' Papercraft Trailer Shed Freebie

Thom Miecznikowski designed a papercraft model of this oddball structure, and put it up as a freebie on the Clever Models site. I assume he based it on a prototype he saw during his travels.
It's only available for a limited time, so JUMP ON IT NOW and maybe send a donation. I sent $5.