Sunday, August 7, 2011

Team Fortress 2: the Sandman

this was a relatively simple build, but not with out its challenges. Like any project i first needed to find a decent reference photo. thankfully there are a ton on the internet, and that the bat it's self is simple and didn't require extravagant blueprints to create. in the end i didn't make any actual blueprints, but rather just printed out the picture above, and scaled it to be about 2 feet long.

Because i was planning on taking this to conventions, for safety reasons, i decided that it would be best to make the majority of it out of foam rather than wood. starting from bottom up, i cut a wooden dowel to the length of the grip and the tapered area of the bat. then adding foam rings at varying widths, i made a rough taper down the the grip like so.
from here i added one more ring for the end but on the batt and covered the tapered area in expanding foam to fill in the gaps on the neck of the batt. after the foam had hardened, i put this segment onto the wood lathe and carved/sanded it into the shape i wanted. 

the top half of the bat was then build with a strip of EVA (or closed cell) foam that was heated, shaped and glued into the shape of a barrel. this was then glued onto the neck/ grip of the batt. despite the foam being 1 cm thick (which doesn't sound like much but is surprisingly thick) the tube of foam was still flimsier than i liked, so i filled the tube with more expanding foam and then capped the end, which provided the batt with just the right amount of heft and stiffness that i was looking for. with both ends attached together, the bat really started to take shape.
the next step was to give the whole thing a smoother, and rounder look to it, so i  covered the entire bat in a 1/4 inch laver of EVA foam. although this did smooth out a lot of the edges, it changed the angle of the taper, as well as the shape of the grip. so i ended sanding and cutting the grip section out so that the wood was exposed. i also took the time to carve the infamous crack into the top of the batt. Unfortunately that due to my eagerness to get this project done, i rushed some of the sanding, which caused warping and divots to appear in the neck of the batt. to fix this i coated the neck of the batt in a layer of smooth cast 321 casting resin, then applied some bondo once the resin was dry. this gave the whole thing the  nice and smooth effect that i was looking for.
 at this point i wasn't sure which route would be the best way to go for getting the colour right. Because the batt had foam, bondo and wood all exposed, i wasn't sure if my painting abilities could get the nice and smooth unified look that i was hoping for. so instead of painting it, i went out and bought some brown cloth that was pretty close to the colour i was looking for, and sewed it onto the batt, ensuring that it was nice and tight, with as few wrinkles as possible. this caused two things to occur. it definitely gave the batt a flush unified look, but also resulted in me attempting to sew by hand, leaving one long and very ugly seam down the back side of the batt, as well as causing the butt of the batt to become slightly misshapen, as you can see here
Because this was a somewhat of a commission for my girlfriend, i was pressed for time and was unable to correct these issues, so i moved on to the next step of the which was adding the logo. again, going back to my reference photo, i printed out the logo to scale, cut the lettering and outer ring out of the picture, and stenciled in the logo using some fabric marker. although  this was not my original intention on adding the logo to the batt, but it gave the desired effect in the end so i was relatively satisfied.
with obvious defects aside, i was really happy with how the batt turned out in the end. i do intend on redoing this project in the near future as other possibilities and ideas open up to me. with the plans i currently have, i should be able to correct the current mistakes while still allowing the bat to be convention friendly, but we will have to see how things plays out in the next couple of months before i can make and real promises.

One very pleasant surprise was that the cloth added on feature that i did not expect. instead of having a sheen and making the logo hard to read, as paint would have, light was simply absorbed into the material making the batt great for photo opportunities. here you can see my lovely michele wielding her weapon  at animethon 2011

anyways, that's all i have for today! thanks for tuning in!