Thursday, January 30, 2014

Mucho MattMobile Progresso

Before I start this blog post, I must give a shout out and heads-up to a fellow Batmobile builder, Tim. Tim is building the BatBerry, and has been elegantly blogging the heck out of his build. If watching someone document both creativity and tenacity, then Tim's blog is for you.

I mention Tim's blog here for a few reasons, but the main reason is one of motivation. As followers of my blog will know, I've been depending heavily on my pal Bo (AKA Bo The Welder, AKA BTW) for not only engineering guidance, but also for welding. Hence his name. Bo has tons of experience with cars and with welding. I am entirely confident that the build would not have gotten as far as it has without his help and insight. I fear that over time, I've grown TOO dependent on Bo, which is an easy thing to do when dealing with a guy as skilled as Bo. The punchline here is that I have been scared to move ahead on my own, for fear that I will do it wrong. Therefore, I wait for Bo to have free time to help me.

However, After reading Tim's blog recently, and reviewing some of his earlier posts, I realized that he seemed to have done the opposite of me: he just plowed ahead with little or no fear of making mistakes. I have no idea of Tim's background, but he seemed just as new to Batmobile building as I am. Seeing him speak about how his welding skills have improved dramatically over time AND seeing his amazing progress on his build, I found myself wanting to jump in head first, let myself make mistakes, and then learn how to recover from them.

With that said, I've taken the instruction that Bo has given me with the welding torch, and just started practicing like crazy. I spent a few hours just welding together bits and pieces of scrap metal that were around the shop, and decided I would take a stab at building some of the mounts for the shell. The first two went together really well, though not terribly quickly. I was inspired by how good the welds looked, and how strong they appeared to be. My only regret is not realizing sooner that I needed to learn how to weld for myself, and not depend on anyone else :D

The first order of business yesterday was to lock the shell into its proper position. Honestly, I don't know why I didn't think of this weeks and weeks ago. I have spent probably 20 or 30 hours grand total running around the car with a ruler and a t-square, trying to get the shell positioned perfectly. And every time I get it into place, I knock it out the next day when getting into the car. It finally dawned on me to use some wood and clamps to lock the shell onto the frame. Again, not sure why I didn't think of this sooner. Here you can see the rear end of the car, and the type of contraption I came up with to keep the shell from shifting while I work on it.

This is some of the work I did yesterday, but didn't have an opportunity to add to my blog. I wanted to build supports for the front most anchor points, and the rear most. The two wooden boxes under the rear end got welded straight to the rear end of the chassis. I'm probably going to add some cross members for extra support here, but you get the general idea.

The following picture re-caps the work I did yesterday, and some work I did today. Yesterday I finished the front two mounting posts, and I took this picture today after I finished the second set.

My short term goals are simple: Build out all of the support posts so that the shell can be mounted to the frame. Of course, that's actually a pretty tall order. For many of the posts, I was able to just take measurements, then cut the metal to the desired length. However, for a couple of the mounts, I'm going to build arms off the main cockpit cage. To start working on that cage, I want to mock it up using foam-core. I had already cut out a bunch of 2" wide strips, which came in handy today. These are my tools:

I learned recently that a physical mockup is a million times more valuable than just measuring stuff out. Little details are easy to overlook, and you can very easily get something wrong. A mockup helps you work through the problem at hand, and ensure that everything is considered. Here's my mock up of the drivers side posts for the cockpit cage.

One of the big challenges for me in the welding game is figuring out how to hold the metal in place while you do some welds. Here you can see a fairly intricate jig I came up with to get the post aligned, and held fast while I do some welding.

Skipping ahead, here are the two posts I installed on the drivers side today. Of course, in retrospect, had I done a little more planning, I may have done this differently. At this point in the build, my primary focus is completion, not perfection.

Here are the matching posts on the passenger side.

For reference, THAT is what I accomplished in a full 8 hours of work. I fabricated and installed the two mounting posts for the second-most shell mounting points, and also put in four posts for the cockpit cage. It doesn't really seem like a lot, but it was a TON of hard work. I want to say that once I improve my process, I'll be able to work faster, but I'm just not sure if that's true. The bottom line is that metal fabrication work JUST TAKES TIME.

After putting in a full eight hours of work today, it was finally time to clean up the shop. There were tools EVERYWHERE. Kind of stunning how much mess I can make. After the clean up, I jumped onto my ladder to take something of an aerial photo of the car.

Not a lot of visible progress, but TONS of stuff going on inside.

I think the coolest thing as of right now is the stability of the shell. Before, it would bend and flex and shift all over the place every time I got in and out of the car. Now it just kind of... stays there. Wild.

My goal is to get the shell completely mounted on the chassis by Sunday night of this week. Still plenty of time. (Famous last words)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Han In Carbonite Repairs and Upgrades

I recently sold my house in Irvine and moved to downtown Los Angeles, where I now have a crazy apartment with an amazing view. The moving company did some damage to my Han Solo in Carbonite, so I decided this would be a good opportunity not only to repair the damage, but also make some changes to the thing, and get it finished once and for all.

These first two pictures show how the project stands as of earlier today. You'll notice that the side panels are of course missing, and the edges are square, not rounded

Here's a couple examples of the type of damage that the moving company did. My guess is they just handled it pretty roughly, and probably dropped it. The seams around the edges popped out in a few places. Not unexpected, just a bummer.

Worst of all, a couple of his fingers were snapped off. Thank goodness the moving company was wise enough to save the fingers.

I started off with my trusty router, which I originally purchased with this project in mind. It has since proven super valuable in the Tardis build, and even on the MattMobile.

I ran around the upper edges a couple of times, and things were going really well.

Sadly, somewhere along the way, the router bit depth dropped a bit, and the cuts became too deep. Now I will need to go back along every inch of the thing and sand down the lip. No big deal, just more work than anticipated.

Here's a pic of neighboring FIDM, and a fountain.

And my view from the balcony.

I then routered the vertical corners. Due to some warping on the box, it didn't come out super even, but that's nothing a sanding block can't fix.

A couple of the nails that held the fiberglass casting of Han to the box I built had popped out. I hammered them back in, but they still need to be puttied again, and then painted.

Last item for the day was gluing the fingers back in place. I found out upon attempting this that a big chunk of the ring finger is missing, which will need to be reconstructed using putty. No big deal really.

That's it for today. My goal is to get all of the body work done by tomorrow, and then I can start reshaping the openings on the side to fit my screen-accurate control panels.

BTW, Meet MTW!

Bo The Welder (BTW) has been of immense help on the MattMobile project, and also spearheaded the motorcycle restoration project. I've learned a lot from working with Bo, and his knowledge seems to know no bounds.

It was time for me to finally get my feet wet in the world of welding, and that happened just the other day. Though completely ugly, I finally made my first few welds. I took some scrap 1X1 stock I had lying around, clamped it to the welding table and went to work. I kind of focused more on getting the feel for how the gun works, and that's what the big strips of welding goo are all over the place. Just getting familiar with the torch.

Hopefully over time I will improve :D

Dr Grordbort's Rightous Bison Kit

Saturday, January 25, 2014

UD Replicas Smallville Jacket

When Smallville was on the air, I was a huge fan of this jacket and definitely wanted to get one. There were a couple of alternatives that cropped up over the years. The folks that made the jackets for the show started offering jackets for sale, but at a price tag that was too steep for me. Not saying that it wasn't a fair price, just that it was more than I was interested in paying. There were also a few cosplay companies online and ebay who offered a jacket, though the quality looked extremely questionable.

So it came as a complete thrill, and no surprise, to learn that UD Replicas would be bringing a high quality, affordable replica of the jacket to market. Though they announcement was made after Smallville went off the air (May need some fact checking on that claim - ed) interest still existed for the jacket, especially from me.

Mine arrived just the other day, and as with all of my previous UD Replicas purchases, I'm really happy with it. To my eyes, it's a really well made garment, and looks just like the one from the show. It's a very flattering cut, and looks great when worn.

Please be sure to check out the UD Replicas website at for more information, and a listing of their currently available products.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

TARDIS Painting Booth & MattMobile Fenders

When I painted my TARDIS, I did it in my garage. It was a big mess, smelled really bad, and I got blue overspray everywhere. This time around, with the work shop in full swing, we decided to do something different. FULL credit goes to Ewan for coming up with this idea.

My workshop has a big door that opens upward. Ewans idea was basically to attach plastic sheets to the door. That way, when the door opens, a "room" is automatically formed that happens to have one wall open to the outside. You know, fresh air. When we are done for the day, we simply close the door and the room collapses.

Here's how it looks collapsed:

And here's what it looks like with the door open. Pure genius.

Here are some of the results from the painting room.

In unrelated news, work continues on the MattMobile. Here I am working on making the sub-fender uniform.

Doctor Who Bells of St. John Costume

Regular readers of my blog (HI MOM!) will know that I am a stickler for accuracy, terminally so. Which is why it came as such a great surprise to my readers (HI MOM!) that I would be assembling a Doctor Who replica costume under the "close enough" guidelines.

The Horror.

I must confess, I am the FIRST person to run shrieking in terror and agony when I see a "close enough" costume, as they tend to teeter on the "not really at all close, but I'm wearing it anyway" category. Yeah, yeah, call me an elitist snob if you want. It's not about them, it's about me. I just like to get as close as humanly possible to accurate. Granted, that usually forbids me from doing a costume in the first place, but that's an argument for another day.

I am of course a big Doctor Who fan, though I must confess that the Matt Smith years didn't really resonate with me the way Tennant and Eccleston did. No big deal. However, one of Smith's costumes really stuck out in my mind as something that was pretty darn good looking. This one:

I don't know if I've got this right, but I'm branding this one the "Bells of St. John's Costume", though I think it is also lovingly referred to as "7b". Please feel free to correct me if this is incorrect. Some of my good pals in the DW Costume scene have done dead on replicas of this suit, right down to having the various pieces made from the exact same fabric used for the screen used pieces, by the exact same tailors and artisans who made them. That's pretty spot on, if you ask me.

Inspired by their enthusiasm and results, yet deterred by the price tag, I decided to undertake the project on a much humbler budget, keeping in mind the expectation that 99.9% of the people seeing the final result won't know the difference between my "close enough" and the more elaborate "Dead on".

I started with the Abbyshot jacket. Abbyshot has a history of producing amazing pieces that are not only of high quality, but are also pretty accurate. While not dead on perfect, this 11th doctor jacket from Abbyshot comes extremely close to the screen used one, while certainly satisfying the casual fan.

Only a tiny cell phone pic so far, but you get the idea.

The shoes worn by the Doctor in this outfit are hand made by some folks in England. They do happen to offer them for sale, but at a price that is outside of my budget for this build.

Fortunately, this style of shoe is fairly common, if you know where to look. Though the details are not perfect, I feel that this pair of Steve Madden shoes I found on ebay for 40 bucks captures the essence of them.

There was a small split in one of the seams along the wingtip, which I was able to quickly repair with some Barge cement and a sewing needle. Consider me a cobbler from here on out. I also painted parts with some purple acrylic paint from Angelus which I picked up from Sav-Mor Leather, a super amazing place in downtown Los Angeles.

I took this picture without a flash, as WITH it, the purple appears super bright and garish. It's actually a very rich and dark shade of purple. These shoes turned out FANTASTICALLY, and I actually enjoy wearing them as everyday wear shoes. Very posh!

Though probably not obvious, I also replaced the laces. The kind I got are not accurate, but they accurately keep the shoes on my feet.

I got from ebay a decent match for the fob chain that the good doctor wears. Shout out to S. Ricks and his blog for pointing me to this piece.

That's all I have for now. Check back soon for more updates and pictures.

Sherlock Bits & Pieces

Like the rest of the civilized world, I've been greatly enjoying the BBC series "Sherlock", which recently had its third series. Really fantastic television, if you've managed to be living under a rock for the past few years.

I picked up a few pieces recently that I think are pretty neat.

From Amazon, I picked up a copy of London A to Z. Not entirely sure if this is the right one, but it's iconic enough from the first season episode that it's good for a laugh or two. Something I will probably carry in my pocket when running around in Sherlock garb.

The iconic magnifying glass that Sherlock is seen sporting throughout the series is also available on, though not terribly cheap. Big thanks to the website who provided information and links for this piece.

I also wanted to find a Deerstalker. The one pictured here was my first attempt. I believe the supplier of this hat was the same one the Sherlock production used for their third season herringbone hat, but they have since changed the fabric used and it now appears much darker than the one seen on screen. Which is kind of a shame.

After that, I resigned myself to finding one of the more available tweed deerstalker hat, which is the style worn in the first season. Though the one I found is not IDENTICAL, it falls clearly into the "Close enough" category that I'm happy. Which is unusual for me. Not the part about being happy. The part about being happy with a "close enough" alternative.

The big reveal though is still to come. I recently broke down and ordered one of the Sherlock coat replicas from the Celestial Toystore. For reference, these coats are made from the exact same fabric used in the original Belstaff coats, using a pattern pulled from an original coat. CT also provided a few coats to the Sherlock production for series 3. So for my money, this is THE coat to get, barring stumbling upon an original Belstaff.

I'm holding off on posting pictures until I can get some quality shots of the coat in good lighting. I can however confirm that it's an amazing jacket, and you should get one.