24 November 2018

[Crafts] Halloween Door Decorating Contest 2018

It's that time of the year again. The office had announced the annual door decorating contest, and whoopdie-doo my free time is over for the month. The Kustom Beetle had to be put on hold. I also purchased a new car for the first time, which also meant this project had to be put off until that was fully dealt with, paperwork, insurance, etc.. There was definitely multiple late-night working sessions to get this completed. To comment on last year's results, some people picked up on the theme I went for and found the level of appreciation I aimed for. However, the time spent on the details was gravely overlooked. All that extra time spent fell on blind eyes. The eyeballs in the worm's mouth, the hundreds of teeth in numerous worms, the marbles on the skin and mold on the fungal tips. Those costed me many hours, and all this for 30 seconds of attention. I don't want to do that anymore. To make matters worse, casting votes are done based on mere 3 photographs. I can't capture all those details in just 3 photos. This time, I'm focusing on something easily relatable; spiders. A big spider actually. I teamed up with neighbouring department to unify our doors through a network of spider webbing. He has a door of webs, housing a nesting ground, and I feature a large spider spanning almost 2 meters, hanging out outside our office wall.

Ambitious me never wants to settle for one-time use throw-away ideas. That's too easy and wasteful. I want this spider to be reusable in the future, and not just in the same place. This means I'll be making a posable figure that will be able to hold up its own weight, and have sufficient structural strength to not break when hung upon the wall. This project involved a level of amateur engineering to keeping this as light as possible while making sure this thing doesn't simply break if pulled on. This took up a great deal of the time I had this month. Execution took just about as long. Mistakes were made, improvisation and restarts happened. Let's go over the steps I've taken to reach completion.

Thank the lord and sisters Home Depot carried large quantities of styrofoam in sheets. Only $22 (CAD) for about 4-5 5ft boards. The head will start off with 3 boards stacked together. It's going to be a rather large one!
Cost-cutting is a fun challenge in of itself. I was thinking that I'd want to integrate mounting points for dedicated places to hang the spider from. You know, better than taping on string as an afterthought, and that foam isn't exactly a reliable material for durability. The legs themselves also to have working hinges that can withstand its own weight. Basically, keeping it lightweight to hang from a wall or ceiling, while still being strong enough to not break itself is the puzzle I have to figure out. Luckily the dollar store had this shoe rack for $4. It uses thin steel tubing which would work great for creating the skeletal structure which I can build the foam around.
Because I'm aiming for a large-scale model, it would be wise to consider what will happen to it after the 31st. Where will it go? How will this be stored away? Is it easy to transport? I'm thinking is there a way to integrate that by having detachable legs while still making them posable? Modifying these casters is what I arrived at. Rotatable to allow for more angles the legs can be positioned at, and it being metal will be strong enough to bear whatever load the leg will bring. What will need to be addressed though is how I will securely mount metal onto a foam body. Foam's not going to like metal pulling on its insides without a doubt. We'll get to that later.
Broom. Probably the least cost-efficient portion of the project, but I can't think of a quick-release mechanism I can find ready-made that I could use. More research is needed here.
What I want to extract out of this is the threaded screw-on connection. This is what will create that detachable leg.
Cut off the mounting point on the broom head.
Cut off the riveted axle of the wheel and putting together a machine screw and nut to replace it.
Holes will be drilled into the broom socket. This is an exploded view of how it will come together.
and there it is. Tightening the nut will provide resistance to rotating the part. This will also help hold the leg together better.
Screw on the broom stick and we have that portion complete.
Now to do this another 7 times.
We move onto deciding how to arrange where the legs are positioned in relation to each other. How big the spider will be will define the scale of the legs, which will define the girth of the leg and thus dictate how far apart each joint will be placed. The options were pretty much limitless as spiders have different anatomies.
Thought of using leftover particle board to mount the casters. This is great from a durability perspective, but this adds a lot of weight to the final product. I am planning to hang this off ceiling tile grids. I know they can withstand a certain load as that's how I've been hanging up my photography backdrop for months. How much heavier will this spider be? I am not sure yet.
Quick preview of installing all the casters.
Flip that over.How do we allow rotatable joints without letting it slip back out of the hole?
Coat it in enough glue to make the end too large to exit out the opening. Simple!
In an effort to save weight and to shave off the corners, I've plotted what is necessary to trim off.
That table-mounted jigsaw came in handy once again.
By design, I wanted a place to allow a strong mounting point. Having access to mounting it to the wood should be taken advantage of. This way we're not tying string around the body of the spider. It's beneath the body to so it is largely discreet.
These were done with utility hooks at the dollar store, stripping the rubber coating as getting paint on that won't end well.
Once stripped, I bent it into more or less a closed loop.
Primary mounting points complete.
Figured I'd get the paint process out of the way before I permanently fasten the casters onto this.
Looking good!
Originally I was going to use the shaft of the broom as the legs, but in holding up one end of the stick, I noticed just how heavy it was to support the rest of the leg. Instead, I plan to take full advantage of the shoe rack's tubes to build the bones of the legs.
Finding the mounting position of this horseshoe base on the bottom of the head piece.
Those are the approximate dimensions and shape I'm going for.
Marking the spots and getting ready for the cuts.
Box cutters aren't as good as using a longer blade. Luckily I was able to reuse a kitchen knife dad previously used to cut styrofoam.
Used a coarse wooden file and hacked away to get the overall shape.
Made room for the fangs.
Profile of the head.
It's rough, but if there's time I can smooth this out.
The bottom lip is going to taper rather than being a square edge.
Gluing down the foam to fill gaps before gluing down the horseshoe.
This will be trimmed and later shaved down to create a saucer-like shape.
Creating holes where the casters can fit into.
Glue that horseshoe into place. I apply epoxy and hot glue liberally. Notice I cut out sections to allow room for the hooks to be accessible.
Drilled a hole to insert a rod which is where I'm planning to put a bone in the abdomen.
That shoe rack has two differently-sized tubes, meaning one fits in the other. I'm inserting the thicker tube to add extra strength against bending.
Making a round cut to fit a perpendicular tube of the same size.
Test fit. It made more sense to just bend each lip to force a tight fit rather than to shave it down to the perfect size.
This new tube is being added as the ends are where I'm mounting the secondary hooks. In doing this there are now two places where the spider can be supported from. This also means adjusting the length of each string will determine the angle at which the body points off the wall. As always, because this is dealing with load-bearing, I need to ensure parts are not going to break off under its own weight. To secure the cross tube to the main, I'm insert a screw into the tube. I'm loading the main tube with epoxy so that the screw's threads have something to grab onto.
A basic T-shape isn't strong on its own, so I'm adding corner brackets. I'm shaving the tip so that there is a flush fitting.
It will look like this.
Make two to support both sides of the "T".
And then hot glue every side of the connection so there is no movement.
Master hot glue "welding"!
Doing the double-walled tubing to secure the secondary hooks.
Epoxythe insides and pinch the end for extra measure. Those hooks definitely aren't coming out without a ridiculous amount of force now.
The wooden dowel in the back is to help prevent the epoxy from dripping all the way down the piping.
All Hooks are in. All body bones are complete.
That's the main bone structure all in place. Now the abdomen can be constructed around this T-bone. hur hur hur
The main tube, has also been glued down on the bottom side of the head piece. I've also went back to the secondary hooks and wrapped twine between the two loops just as a last measure in the event the epoxy gives and a hook comes loose. This twine will be the last hold. After that, it's GG.
Weight test. Will the hook support what will be the heaviest portion of the body? Looks like it will.

What about the T-bone? Look like it too! I'm impressed it is supporting 2lb on skinny metal tubes secured with adhesives.
Close-up of the saucer-like tapering.
Here's another angle of that.
The abdomen dimensions would be constrained by making sure the loops are easy to access. Therefore, the abdomen probably shouldn't exceed the T-bone's width by too much.
Plot out the lines and get trimming.
Because I will have to accommodate for carving a groove for the T-bone to sit in, I'm working on the bottom half first.
Abdomen-to-head size ratio depends largely on the type of spider. I found that those that hunt using a web have abdomens much larger than their thorax. Those that traveled more tended have similarly sized body portions, some even had smaller abdomens.
Working on the top-half, I need to gut out a section to accommodate the abdomen circular piece is going to reside partly inside the thorax's back end. This took quite a bit of trial and error until it began to fit.
I'm ready to commit to bonding the steel rod to the styrofoam. Always apply liberally!
Base form is there. Next is to start hacking away soon.
Before I forget, let's draft the fangs.
Cut out the rectangles and shave them into cylinders.
Next is to establish the curvature of the tooth.
How does it look? Good enough for now. How will we attach it?
We've got concave surfaces.
toothpicks I suppose will be the quick & easy solution. This is good enough for now for paint prep.
Back to the broom sticks, here it is chopped off.
The plastic insert has another inner diameter further in that fits our steel tubes.
I plotted down how long each leg was going to be based on how high up the wall I wanted the spider to reside without crushing its hing legs against the ceiling tiles. This is what I came up with and here are the limbs.
Looks pretty good so far.
This is what I have as a solution to hinging the joints; making two cuts on one end of each tube...
Prying the two sides open like flaps...
Inserting the other end of the joint inside that space...
Drill a hole through it all and insert a nail!
The rod should be strong enough to withstand torsion flex, but will the flaps?
Wait hang on a sec. Why- why does the leg look so short? The measurements match a scaled drawing I did, and in said drawing the legs were longer. I honestly never figured out where the translation failed, but I don't have any more tubes to use.
Wooden dowels...? Hold on, these can work too, possibly even be easier to work with too.I cut out all the limbs with larger measurements.
Holes will have to be drilled, to ensure I am drilling through the center-line down the stick, I'm putting together a jig that will hold the dowel into place.
I would then clamp the jig to the drill press, making this process significantly faster and precise.
The mounting points for the connection with be double-layers popsicle sticks.
I imagine one layer wouldn't hold for long. Two should help in resisting torsion flex. Punch the nail through it all and dab hot glue on both its ends to hold the popsicle sticks in place.
The other end is now used to fix it to the shaft of the other dowel with more glue. Just for added measure I've put a nail through all so the glue isn't doing all the work.
Step by step on how the hinge is assembled. Before I punch in finishing nails, I coat the head with glue because the head is about the same size as the nail's shaft.
First they go through the first popsicle stick.
Then it's the dowel.
After that it's the second stick.
Seal the other end with glue so nothing slips off.
Line up the other limb, making sure to give enough clearance for the rotating dowel to not contact the fixed dowel.
Coat all non-moving parts in glue to seal in its position. This is crucial in combating flexing forces that are bound to arise when letting the legs hang freely and having gravity continually try to rip these apart.
Top off with a nail for extra measure.
Great! Now to do this 7 more times!
With the ends of the broomsticks cut off, I'm designating each one a specific slot. The reason for this is because not all plastic screw sockets are created equal; factoring dollar store product quality and all. Thus, I cannot ensure that by the end of the project, each leg can go into any slot with still be orientated correctly. Some may tighten when the leg is actually pointed upside-down. We can't have that; it's going to confuse the contestants.
I mark each end with a unique shape so there's no confusion of which leg goes to which joint. I also marked a line to help identify Where to tighten to. The wooden limb will be glued in place while the broom end is installed on the caster joint to ensure I don't mess up the angle of each leg.
Time to work on the abdomen's profile now.
At this time, I have less than a week to complete this project.
The shape isn't perfectly round or symmetrical, but
Yay now we're getting on the leg.
Split it in half, and gut out a channel to fit the dowel.
Cut out a slot to allow room for the joints to bend.
Carve out space for the popsicle sticks that bulge out.
This is what it looks like cover one half.
Will be using that curved black line marked on the foam to trim to create the impression of a ball joint.
And what about the other half where the the dowel has to pass through when the leg bends?
Here's another angle of it with both halves of one limb together.
Now we round off the ends and carve out concave spaces to conceal as much of the dowels as possible.
The concave cut allows for a snug fit of the rounded ends of its partnering limb.
Results are bound to be inconsistent, but this is the connection at its roughest state.
While working on putting meat on the bone, I noticed that the looseness of the hinges wasn't going to sit well in the final product. It takes next to no effort to bend each limb, and that can pose a problem if I want the spider to hold certain poses.
My solution to stiffening the hinges was to jam the hinge with hot glue. It does seem like that will lock up the ability to rotate, but it doesn't stop it all the way. The glue almost acts like stiff tendon. It will resist, but it will give way if you apply enough force.
And it holds without falling over on its own. Success.
Let's try this again. It is looking much better. However I am see the shortcoming of putting the casters so far below the "belly". The legs look quite detached from the rest of the body. All this means it that if this was ever presented, the belly side wouldn't be the side facing the viewers!
The shape of each limb has been carved.
The joints end in a bulge to look more organic.
The tip of the leg ideally would end in a point, but sanding out the tip of a dowel was not on the to-do list. There is also another reason why the ends left rather blunt which I will reveal later.
With all this time spent on the legs, I can't be leaving out the palpi. I hack out more rectangles from the styrofoam sheet so I don't forget about it.
Crunch time. There's only a few more days left.

During the leg carving stage, there have bee nnumerous cases where I cut too deep revealing the dowel. I'm trying out a new product I've added to my arsenal; LePage Tite Foam. It is a expanding spray foam that is designed for plumbing jobs, sealing large gaps or cracks. It is extremely sticky and cleaning out the nozzle is tedious. Luckily this stuff dissolves instantly with acetone, so cleanup isn't as bad as one would imagine.
Going back to the palpi, I hacked away the bulk of the foam.
The eyes. Ah yes, it has been neglected for so long. I already knew I was going to use last year's leftover marbles for the 6 smaller eyes, but what about the bigger 2?
Plastic spoons. These aren't spherical, but I'll try and find the best out of this.
That's a lot of eyes I can make out of this bag. Hehehe.
Lightly carved out sockets for the spoons.
For the marbles, these look great as they give you that sense of depth. Only challenge I face right now is that I cannot achieve the same look with the spoons. That disconnect of having two different types of eyes may not end well, so what are my options?
So maybe instead of trying to make the spoons look like the eyes, I make the eyes look more like the spoons (when I paint the spoons that is). I've hit one side of the marbles with a mist of matte black paint so the marble doesn't light up with a bright green like it did with a white backdrop in the previous photo.
This was fun. No prior testing was done to achieve this finish. Originally I was thinking to start with Tamiya Chrome Silver to establish a metallic sheen, and then to spray on a very fine of whatever green (green) paint I had, and then finish it with a smoke black to increase depth of the would-be flat-looking green. Thankfully my memory kicked in on time and recalled I still have the Dupli-Color anodized green paint. This was pretty much all I needed to get a very close finish to the marbles. It's a transparent paint designed to take bare metal finishes and make them look like coloured metal.
They start off with a bright flashy green. This was after 5 coats or so. Suddenly I've got a rich metalspeck green finish.
Auto-exposure for the win, camera. Can't see the shine at all!
Annnnd the 6 other eyes go on now.
Alllmost done. Home stretch at this point. I had to drop the idea of using the broom bristle for hair. There just wasn't enough time. On goes the paint. Borrowed the striped look from some weaving spider. I figured since we are no longer doing the beefy-legged furry type, we'd go with the web-weaving spider types. These tend to have patterned legs and ornate abdomens.
However I wasn't trying to go for a garden spider. This is halloween. It's going to have to be a dark look overall. Can't do a black widow because the abdomen is a big black ball, which this abdomen isn't.
And here's why I left the foot tips with a blunt end. I applied a strip of adhesive-backed velcro. This will be used to plant the feet to the surfaces it will be hung up beside. Brilliant.
And we're done. Finally. My room can stop being a styrofoam galore now!
I think the leg span on this is over 2 meters. Time to take it to the office.

Our department's offices are separated into two offices. A colleague and I teamed up on a spider team this year. He went for numbers, and I went for size. We connected our offices through a series of web across the ceiling.

Upon following the ceiling web, we make our way to the mascot. A great deal of time went into refining the mess of webbing I stuck to the ceiling and walls, but hopefully the giant's presence doesn't completely overshadow it.

The hallway lighting doesn't permit easy visibility of the webs.

I extended both front legs outward and like the spider, I'm using fishing line to hold it up.


Until next year. We've got a spider we can use for the future now.