Saturday 24 December 2022

Ho, Ho Ho! It's the Obligatory Christmas Blog Post!

Yes, so... updates to this blog have been somewhat sporadic.  Back in February I started a new day Job, and whilst the money has been much appreciated in these times of doom, it rather meant that the creativity and model-making dropped off significantly.

This has proved to be a problem, because the Day Job is quite stressful (because of my usual knack for these things, I joined the NHS in the exhausted aftermath of a pandemic, working in a department busily and desperately training new staff).  I've been recommended in the past by the doctors to do creative things like the blog and comic, and model-making, as a mindfulness exercise, and I hadn't realised until I was unable to find time to do said tasks, quite how much I needed them for my sanity.

So to get round it, I started trying to incorporate the model-making into my other activities, in this case, Scouting...

The Scout Group that I'm a leader with were looking for a Christmas activity, a nice 'making something' sort of a project where the young people could create an item to take home as a decoration.  After bouncing some ideas around with Amy, we hit on the idea of a laser-cut Christmas Tree that the youths could decorate in the Scout meetings.  It would be suitable for all sections, from the Squirrels (4 years old) up to the Scouts themselves (early Teens).

The somewhat simple drawing was scanned and edited in RDX...

...resulting in this rather garish prototype, as I didn't have any green or red acrylic at this stage.

One delivery from Kitronik later, and we had prototype 2.  Note the slots in the base...

...for presents.  More on these in a moment.

Mass-production underway, with the slightly-underwhelming Laser Cutter looming over the plastic forest.

Decorations to go on the tree were being mainly provided by Amy, from lots of scrap mini circles, stars, and diamonds from her laser cutter at the school she works at.  I decided though after Prototype 1 that it was missing something on the base, so designed a few simple presents.  The idea was to create a large selection in a variety of colours (cut from my offcuts box)...

...and the youths could pick a few each, to glue in.

And here is the project underway on the night, thus is one by one of our younger Squirrels (4 and a bit years old) who properly got stuck into it.  Not literally, mind you, we did all the supergluing for the younger ones.

It went down well, and the youngsters really seemed to enjoy it and get into the build.

I took one of the spares home to knock-up as well.

It seemed to work as a project, and forced me to find time to do something creative and practical (at a point where I was up to my neck with the day job, and really needed a task to focus on outside of the job).

Yeah, so anyway... doing the whole Christmas Tree project, and the beneficial effect it had on my mental health, prompted some serious thinking about this blog, the comic, and my wider model-making.

Before the new job, I was chasing magazine articles, competitions, all sorts, and it was getting a bit wearing because I wasn't really doing what I wanted to do.  Then I pretty much dropped it all for months because working at the hospital was so knackering.

Anyway, it's prompted the decision to drop most of the speculative magazine work which has had patchy results (some big winners like Port Eden and some bits for Hornby, but a few duds too) as the Day Job pays more than the freelancing could.  In the meantime though, to keep me sane, I'm going to be properly throwing myself into this blog.  More comics, more random builds just for my mental health, and even if nobody else ever reads these sprawling, stupid blog posts, at least it will be something for my mental health, and keep me going.

Assuming the Russians, the rising oceans, the various plagues, or Martians don't get us all first.

Merry Christmas, and here's to 2023 being more successful and less of a shite-storm than 2022.


Sunday 23 October 2022

Contractually-Mandated Yearly Appearance of the Daleks

I'm an unapologetic Dr.Who fan and Dalek nerd; I've been into these monsters since I was little, and love finding excuses for shoe-horning them into projects.  I was somewhat deep in doing other (railway-related) work in December of 2020, but with a Dalek-themed New Years Dr.Who special coming up, I found myself feeling the need to do another shoot with them as a bit of a palette-cleanser.

And bloody hell, am I ever aware that it's been nearly two years between shooting the project and putting it on the blog.  But I started a new day-job back in Feb, and rather neglected this blog.  Again.


The last-stand of the Engine Shed Project set saw a Dalek-themed shoot back before Covid Times, and whilst I was sort-of happy with it, it was a little rushed, and I fancied having another crack at it.

My Dalek collection was looking a tad worse for wear... my bronze Dalek (back right) is very much treasured, it was bought for me as a Christmas pressie back in 2005.  The two derelict R/C ones were in poor nick, but these are collectors items now and hard to get hold of... I suspect because the official special effects team for Doctor Who (the talented lot over at The Model Unit) took to using -and destroying- them in some of the filming in the Matt Smith era.

I didn't want to re-use the home-bodged Special Weapons Dalek from the last shoot, so went with a different approach.  My first Dalek toy was a black and silver Dapol toy (it's in the above pic, front-right, though rebuilt and painted bronze for an earlier shoot), I've loved this colour scheme since "Remembrance of the Daleks" from the 7th Doctor era.  I wanted then to have a black and silver Dalek for this new project.

So, I rebuilt the black R/C dalek, and cannibalised the broken Bronze one for parts.  A new light was made from a super-bright LED micro-torch.  Some spot repainting of the hemispheres, slats, and so on with Citadel gunmetal followed, then it was hit with gloss varnish to bring out the shine...

I wanted a much more contained, easy-to-do set this time around (I also didn't particularly have time to build anything new, or the budget for that matter), and after some thought I realised our washing basket could, with a bit of modification, be turned into a Standard Science Fiction Corridor.  It was also -slightly- a solution to the fact it was Yet Another Lockdown and the shops were shut...

The good old mini humidifiers would be making an appearance again.

In the spirit of cheap upcycling, a set of flashing lights taken from a Playmobil lorry.

The corridor set; I couldn't chop-up the washing basket (apart from anything else, we needed it to put washing in, of which our family seems to generate heroic amounts), so everything is attached with cable ties.  The main lighting would be from strip LED's for cupboards, the pipes are electrical conduit and spare flexible hose from a dead washing machine.  An inspection lamp back-lights the scene, and the door (scrap ply) sits on an L-shaped bit of MDF scrap, covered with Scalextric track.

The final effect was rather pleasing.  Underlighting with red LED's also helped give the Dalek the trendy new-series hovering feel...

Ah, the glamour of these shoots...  A washing basket, the kitchen table, clutter.

Still, the holes in the basket let the steam through nicely.

Despite the bodging, I was ridiculously pleased with how the pics were coming out.

For a bit more atmosphere, I added the Bronze Dalek too in the background, though it was a bit of a squeeze.

Trying for some more dramatic on-set lighting, with a bicycle lamp.

I thought I'd try some just with the Bronze Dalek too.  I think the pic at the top of the blog is my favourite from these shoots.

The Bronze Dalek looked rather good and dramatic with the lighting, the only let-down are the gun and the plunger, which in hindsight I should have modified from the flexible plastic of the toys.  I found out since, via some old pieces in "Dr.Who Magazine" that when The Model Unity did the miniature work with these toys they replaced these with custom-made parts.

Elder Child has a radio-controlled New Paradigm Dalek, courtesy of my old friend Tom who managed to acquire one from his work, so I thought I'd see if I could make the design look as good as the classic 'Time War' variant.  A noticeable struggle was that this Dalek is considerably taller than the others, and barely fit the set.

I had to add the eye lens-flare digitally, as it wouldn't work on the night for some reason.

Whilst I'm not a massive fan of this design (it does some stuff really well, like the panels) I couldn't get as dramatic a shot.  I prefer the gun though.

I tried some long-exposure shots to experiment, wanging-around some red LED xmas lights to try and create the effect of incoming laser-gun blasts, something I tried with the earlier shoot too.

I couldn't get it to quite work, the size of the set was a bit limiting.

Greyscale test.

And a bit of camera trickery with a zoom-out on long exposure.

Overall I was really chuffed with how the shoot went, showing once again that the simpler option can often work better.  The bodged/improvised corridor worked a lot better than the more intricate Engine Shed Project set from last time, and it also showed the value of using larger-scale miniatures.


The promo-pics for the 2020 New Years "Dr.Who" episode featured some nice, atmospheric daytime shots of the new Security Drone variants, shot outdoors on a cold, winters morning with quite harsh lighting.  Not long after the indoor shoot, a suitable morning presented itself, so after the school run, and before work, I headed out to the woods at Damems.

I was reasonably pleased with how these came out...

...but I think the indoor ones worked better.  Luckily one of the humidifiers was battery powered, so I could use it out on location.

The unusual lighting on the morning helped massively though.

The Dalek miniature saw another chance outing a while later, when some surprisingly heavy overnight snow hit, and I couldn't resist the temptation.  The black and gunmetal colour scheme stood out really nicely!

Well, I loved making this model, and frankly I really enjoyed it as a non-railway related model project, as well as being really pleased with how the final shots came out.

And it even got a little pic in "Dr.Who Magazine".


Yeah, so one rambling story and blog later... this is all getting rebooted, though (having shot a load of stuff, and new projects over the summer of 2022) it's all dependant on the day job, for which this blog is very much a form of stress-relief.  Hopefully I can get this nonsense back onto a semi-regular schedule.  

For now though, adieu.