Thursday, June 15, 2017

The "Altara" Concept Blender 3D Car Is Born!

When the dusts settles in my workshop from finishing a project I usually  can be found elsewhere creating something new on my computer using Blender 3D.  This is the case with the creation of a concept car that I originally drew a little over four years ago. At that time it was just a 2D image that was a spark of inspiration and so the idea was born to change it to a 3D model.  

Here are a couple of the completed images of the Altara concept car that I managed to put together over the past couple of weeks.  But before we get into more details on what you see here I want to show you where it all started and then the process of how I got to where it is now.

I liked the shape that I had come up with the time I put this image together but after looking at it again changes were the order of the day to make it just a bit more refined and workable as a 3D model.  The wheels needed to be changed first as what I have here was way to simple of a design.  So it was added to my growing list of what needed to be improved.

Having only a side view of the car to work with I needed to flesh out the rest of the body in Blender 3D to work out the front, rear, and top of the car to my liking.   Even the openings for the wheels needed to be tweaked a bit but at least the body at this point was taking shape.  

 Following cues from my original 2D drawing I started putting in the openings for the windshield and the rear window.  It was a start but everything that I added at this point was just to get an idea of what would actually work and not work in the real world.  I realized early on that I had a long way to go with the model.

Next I cut the openings for the headlights and refined the front hood of the car.  This was not terribly difficult and so progress was being made and I was encouraged that the design was possible at this point. 

Early on I start playing around with lighting of the car to see what I can see when I put the body together.  In the image above you can see the seams for the front hood, canopy and the rear hatch. I also started looking at headlight covers at this point.

At this point I added the tires and some rims to the design.  I kept the body height the same as the original 2D drawing and this was the result of that decision.  Not good to be sure.  The body looks nice and sleek but the tires look too small and unusable in the real world.  The front tires are not believable in the fact that the wheel opening is way to small for the tire to be able to roll much less turn.  More work changes to my list was in order.

At this point I raised the car up to give the wheels more clearance and enlarged the wheel opens to something that looked more proper. The wheel rims were close to what I was looking for but the centers were to small and there was no bolts holding the rims onto the hubs.  More items for my list of changes. 

The next step was getting the wheels and rims more correct looking.  I enlarged the center of the rims and added the nuts for the hubs.  Also I added a disc brake inside of the wheels rather than have it all blacked out by the lighting. On the front of the car I added a grill, running lights, signal lights and headlights. 

This next series of images gives you good views of the car body from the rear.  Taken from the original drawing is of course the body itself, the rear body quarter panel with the top arch and the rear window. 

Here you can see the original placement of the tires and rims. The body again at this point was still in the original placement that matched the original drawing.  In other words it is to low.  That and the fact that the tires are set to far into the body to be believable. 

I moved the wheels outward at this point which worked out very nicely but the wheel openings are to small as I said earlier in the post. 

Finally I have the wheels and opening corrected with the right body height.  But now what stuck out was the rear window.  Way to small!  It would not do.  So that would be the next step. 

I proceeded to make the rear window larger and with this process it cleaned up the entire look of the rear of the car.  

This is a good look at the side of the car before I finished off the wheels with the disc brakes.  I like the rear window and roof line now with the larger rear window.  Much more believable. 

 With the rear of the car I started playing around with taillights and a name plate for the car.  "Altara" I came up with from an old SciFi movie that I remembered so I thought it would be a good name for this sleek looking vehicle.  The rear of the body was recessed for the lights and no tail pipes.  I thought would be good as an electric car. So no tail pipes. 

Lastly I changed the glass in the car to clear instead of gloss black.  This made it look much more like a vehicle instead of just a model of one.  I still can put a lot more detail into the car by finishing out the interior with all the it needs but for now this will do nicely. Enjoy the images. 😀  

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Couch Table Project Is Completed!

It's been a difficult week trying to force myself to work on any projects while I was at home.  Not that the projects I am currently working on have given me any grieve or the fact that I have lost interest in them.  The weather here in the Midwest has finally given me and everyone else just perfect conditions to be outside to enjoy better weather than we've seen over the past couple of months at least.  Bright, warm and sunny have been the words that best describe the weather for the past week.  But even with all of that going on I have managed to put the finishing touches to my couch table project over the past couple of days.  (In between long motorcycle rides of course.)

So with this post I thought I would let everyone get caught up on this project and pass along detailed information about how I put it all together. 

This is a photo of all the wooden parts that were needed to create the little couch table. All of the wood was select pine.  I choose this as it is very inexpensive and the wood is nice and straight without any knots in it.  Also pine is a very easy wood to work with so it was an simple choice to make.  

Starting in the upper right corner is the top of the table which measures 16" x 20".  This had to be pieced together using 1 X 6's and a 1 X 4 and pocket holes to get the dimensions I wanted.  I used my Kreg pocket hole jig to make the mounting holes and assemble the top together.

Next to that are the two cross supports for the table. These are 1 X 4's 20" long.  Below the table top are the two legs of the table.  Again 1 X 4's 25.5" long.  The smaller piece to the right of the legs is a 1 X 2 X 18.5" long piece that already has the pocket holes drilled into the ends of the part.  Lastly are the four tapered pieces that make up the feet and table supports for the project.  Again these parts are 1 X 4's that are 15.25" long.  They are all tapered down to 1 1/2" tall on the ends with a nice radius to finish them off.  These parts also needed pocket holes as shown so that they could be mounted correctly in the assembly.

As I did not have an assistant to help me hold the leg and table support assemblies together while installing the mounting screws for it I created this simple little jig out of scrap wood.  Just a few wood screws to hold it all together did the trick nicely.

Here I have one end of the leg assembly mounted into the jig and ready to be screwed together.  I put the pocket holes on the outside of the assembly so that the screws when installed would not split the end face of the cross member. If the parts were reversed the pocket holes would be on the inside of course and also point the screws in the wrong direction causing problems when assembling the parts together. 

Here is what the leg and table top supports looked like once the parts had been assembled.  The little jig did the trick nicely as installing the pocket hole screws went very smoothly.

Here the table has been completely assembled.  The upper table top support assembly and the leg assemblies have been mounted to the legs of the table.  This was just a matter of squaring things up so the table sat nice and flat on the floor and screwing in four mounting screws at each of the upper and lower positions where the assemblies mated up to the legs of the table.  With the screws for the assembly on the inside of the table the outside legs covered up the pocket holes on the outside of the assembly giving the table a very nice clean look that works very well.  The table top itself was then slid into place on top of the upper supports  and held in place using 1-1/2" metal "L" brackets and wood screws from the underside of the table.  Again this way I could keep everything nice and clean looking on the outside surfaces of the table. 

The last few steps to finish off the table were just a matter of sanding everything nice and smooth and then applying a stain and three or four coats of varnish.  I was not sure about the finish on the project until I had put the first couple of coats of varnish on the table.  Then I stepped back, took a good look and put my seal of approval on the project. 

It will be a nice addition to my living room when I want to sit down and watch TV while eating dinner or playing on my laptop.  Total cost for the little table came to around $30.  A far cry from the $100+ table I had stumbled across last Christmas and it will serve my purposes just as well. 

One last little thing that I need to do with the table while I am writing this is to add some small felt pads to the bottom of it so that I won't scratch up my hardwood floor when I am moving it around on the floor.   So my efforts once again have been worth the time spent to create this little table.    

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Big Week....New Project, Old Tool Sold and New Shop Tool Acquired

This week has brought a new project to the shop along with a new tool that I have needed for more years than I can count along with the selling of a tool I never used.   This all started actually a couple of years ago when my Brother-in-law decided to move and get rid of his shop.  Or at least down size it a bit I am really not sure which it was anymore.  Anyway he had a really nice jigsaw that he no longer wanted.  I picked it up for $100 and thought it could be something that would be good in my shop.  Wrong.  I never found a project in the three years that I owned it that I needed to use it. I never even fired it up to run it.

Here is the scroll saw that  I cleaned it up and ran for the first and only time in the shop a few days ago. I put it on Craigslist and sold it in about an hour and a half. Really only  1 1/2 hours! It was a very nice tool but the wrong tool for my shop.  I got my $100 back that I paid for it and was not sorry to see it go.

Here is the new router and router table that filled the empty space where the scroll saw used to be.  It took me a bit of time to get it all put together but I am happy to say that I am very pleased with the new tool especially because it is exactly what I need for my current project.

This last Christmas season while I was doing some shopping I came across a small table that you would use when sitting on your couch so that you could either work on your laptop, eat dinner or whatever. This is my version of that table.

  The one I had seen last Christmas was not much different than the one you see here other than the fact that it was made of metal and painted black.  I liked the idea and the table looked ok and all but the price was over $100!  I knew I could make something that worked just as well and did not even come close to being that expensive.  So another project was born. 

I have all of the wooden parts cut out already and have even gotten most of the parts edges routered(?) using the new router table.  (It worked great by the way.)  So in a few more days I will be putting out the next post showing the assembly of the table and hopefully have it stained and varnished also.  The table is made out of clear pine that I will stain either oak or cherry.  Not sure which one yet and then varnish.  But the images of the table above are exactly how the table should look when completed.  It will stand 26" tall, 20" wide and 16" deep.  This will give me a good table top size for whatever I plan on using it for.  The legs are tapered so that they will easily slide under my couch when I sit and watch TV while having dinner say.  I'll post more about this project just as soon as I get it pretty well wrapped up and some photos taken of it.   Have a good day in your shop.  Today was one of the better days for me in that regard.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Say Hello To "Dexter" My New Muppet Style Puppet!

I am happy and proud to introduce to you today my newly created character puppet "Dexter". I posted several weeks ago about the Stan Winston School Of Character Arts where you can learn how to make everything from monsters to Muppets.  I have always wondered how the Muppets were made and as I am more of a Muppet kind of guy than a monster maker this was a no brainer in my book to take the class presented by BJ Guyer.  I had an absolute blast making Dexter and so I thought I would put together this post telling you a bit about the class and how he was created. 

Here's "Dexter"!  This is the very first and certainly not the last Muppet style puppet I will create.  I learned everything about how to make him from the video training that I received from the Stan Winston school online.  Well worth the time and I have several other classes I want to take that are related to puppet making and performing as well as some that have nothing to do with puppets at all. 

This is BJ Guyer who taught the Muppet making classes.  Before I get into how the class went and some of the construction of Dexter here is BJ's info that will fill you in a bit more about how talented this gentleman is.  


BJ Guyer has served as a puppet builder for The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and puppeteered on Muppets from Space. He was also a coordinating producer and puppeteer on “Crank Yankers,” and has performed in a variety of other projects including Team America: World Police, “Between The Lions” and “The Book of Pooh.”
Most recently, he is a co-creator and lead puppeteer on MTV Flux series “Videogame Theater” and puppeteer and puppet builder for several commercials including Nike’s MVPuppet campaign, Boost Mobile, Grocery Outlet and Trace Adkin’s music video “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.”

I want to let everyone know that I have never made a "Muppet" in my life and after taking this enjoyable class I highly recommend that you follow my lead and also take the class.  It is not rocket science.  The class to make Dexter was easy to follow and simple to create what "BJ" was teaching. Just like being in the room with him as he takes you step by step (or maybe by the hand) and shows you how easy and simple a Muppet character can be created.  The photo above is one of the first steps in making the hands.  All of the templates for making a Muppet are included with the class so there is no guess work.  The main parts of the puppet is made from ordinary 1/2" foam.  I picked up what I needed from my local Walmart store in their craft isle.   In the photo above you can see the two hands that I traced and cut out of the foam.  Below the foam hands are the wire skeletons that are mounted inside.  It looks difficult to make but it really is simple once you learn how.

The hands are glued together with the skeleton inside and the edges are glued and pinched together to form a nicely shaped hand when done.  In order to hold the hands to the arm and then to the body a shoe lace is attached to the wire framework as shown in the photo above. 

The arms are nothing more than more foam glued together on the long sides to form a tube.  In the photo above you can see the shoe laces sticking out of the ends where it will attach to the body of the puppet.   The arm is glued to the hand at the wrist and then pinched to secure the contact cement. On the lower hand in the photo above you can see a portion of the pocket that is installed into the palm of the hand so that the rod to animate the arm can be mounted into the puppet. 

This is a good start on the head of the Dexter.  The wide opening in the front is where the mouth will be located.  You can see all of the seams that were created when the head was glued together.  Again with all of the templates included with the class it was a no brainer to follow along and get this rather complicated looking piece put together.  I was a bit leery at first wondering if my puppet would turn out half as goods as the one BJ was showing how to build.  I am happy to report that my thoughts about failing this classes were unfounded. 

Here's a couple views of the head with the mouth in place.  Already you can see a lot of how a Muppet is built by just these two photos.

I started playing around in Blender 3D with ideas I had for a face for Dexter early on in the construction. The character on the far right could be a frog easy enough.  If the eyes were held up on supports then you could have an alien.  The center character looks more like a standard Muppet character but nothing really makes him stand out.  The last character struck my fancy with the goggles and the little black eyes.

With all of the work I had done over the years of designing and building things on my 3D printer the goggles were the right choice for me.  Here is what Dexter looked before I painted the goggles.  The blue fur really was a great choice too.  

Here's a nice close up shot of Dexter with the goggles I hand painted and mounted on his face.  The dots of his eyes are nothing more than the felt pads that you use on the bottom of chairs to keep them from scratching a floor. They already have a sticky back on them so it was a simple process to position or reposition the eyes to get the look that I wanted. 

Here Dexter is completed all except some clothing that I had not picked out for him when this photo was taken and some hair that I want to use to finishing him off just a bit more.  As you can see from this posting I have not gone into every little detail involved in making Dexter.  That you can find out more about by taking the class as I did.  I am still learning how to make Dexter come to life so to speak as I have only seen photos of Muppets and now I actually own a real one that I can play around with.  I know my grandson will go crazy over Dexter and so I have a couple more characters at least that I have in mind to put together to go along with him so the fun has just started.  

With all of this in mind I have also put together a short little video (shown below)  I call "Dexter's Screen Test".  It was a good way for me to see what it takes just to shoot the video and learn how to make Dexter come to life.  This little video was a major undertaking and already I have learned that operating a Muppet takes a lot of practice and effort.  I give the real Muppet artist a big thumbs up for their mastery of this form of entertainment. So with that in mind please let it be know that this is the very first time I have every tried something like this.  No matter what I am having a ball with the process and it looks like I will continue in the weeks, months and years ahead. Enjoy the video!

Click the link above to learn how you can make your own Muppet!

A Last Minute Update!

Dexter has hair!  His hair arrived shortly after I put the video together. He looks a lot younger!

Friday, May 19, 2017

BrakeFree: A New Smart Brake Light For Motorcyclists!

This morning I received an email from the team who are at this moment crowd funding a new product called BrakeFree.  This project that has already reached it's funding goal is now coming close to ending it's campaign.  The product that will come to market in the coming year is an autonomous brake detection light that attaches to the back of a motorcycle helmet.  This idea is not something totally new but then again is because of the features that have been designed into the BrakeFree light. 

The BrakeFree light is held magnetically to the back of a standard motorcycle helmet.  It has a rechargeable battery  for all day riding.  You simply remove it from your helmet and plug it into a charger using a micro USB cable.  

The helmet is programmable, lightweight, weather resistant and aerodynamic.  There are 100 individual LED's in the unit for a nice bright display that will surely be an attention getter while in use.  

The BrakeFree has a battery life of 8+ hours.  It takes only 2 hours to recharge and has no wires or apps to make it work.  Another plus is that the unit weighs only 6 ounces or 170 grams.  Very light weight for the size of the light.  The BrakeFree has three modes of operation.  Regular braking, engine braking, and emergency braking.  Even with this capability the light will not come on if you bob your head up and down to try and turn the brake light on.  A nice bit of engineering I would say. 

The light is held to a helmet using two magnetic mounts.  I thought about this for a second the first time I saw BrakeFree online and was wondering what happens when you have a passenger on your motorcycle and  you want to use this on your ride. The passenger would have brake lights in his or her face?   No. What you do is have another set of mounts put on the passengers helmet and the unit will work exactly the same way giving you and your passenger a safer riding experience.  Also being as the unit is so light weight the passenger would not even notice that the light was on the back of the helmet.

I for one am a big supporter of this new Indiegogo project and so I wanted to spread the word to other riders that this crowd funding project will be ending soon.  I enjoy riding my motorcycle a great deal and with this product I will feel just a bit safer and  secure knowing that I will be seen when I am traveling down the road and need to stop.  

BrakeFree as I said earlier in this post has already reached it's crowdfunding goal to get this product on the market.  With only eight days left they are trying to expand the capabilities of the BrakeFree light to let everyone have a larger battery in the unit that will give it 2  hours more battery life or 10+ hours total battery life.  Of course with helping fund this project the cost of the unit is less than it will be once the crowdfunding campaign has ended.  

The Brakefree campaign lists the price of the unit at $119 which is at a 25% discount compared to what it will cost once the campaign has ended.  The price goes up from there depending on how many units you would like to order. 

It will take almost a year for the BrakeFree to be available but as with anything new that comes on the market it always takes time to get all of the fine details worked out.  For more information about BrakeFree and have a chance at helping crowdfund it's success further you can find the link to the BrakeFree campaign listed below.  I know I am happy to have helped and will look forward to getting one of these units in my hands as soon as possible. Check it out today!