Hallowe'en 2009

Hallowe'en is always a good excuse to get out the maker gear. My costume this year was a partially-(self-)dissected* cadaver. What's the point in having access to a morgue if you can't abuse it now and then?**

Above is a low-res shot pilfered from Facebook; hopefully I'll be receiving some nice photos of the full get-up in the days to come. In the meantime, here's some old-fashioned facial anatomy:

The mask is moulded latex, painted with watercolours. Latex paints would have been longer-lasting, but I made do with what I had to hand. You know how it is with last-minute costumes. You might notice that some of the paint has worn away in these photos.

Yes, there's a lot of cartilage in that nose, but I had to fit my own sizeable nose inside it.

I also put together a papier-mâché cauldron, complete with protruding latex tentacles and an air pump to produce a continuous simmering effect for the party punch. Recognise the preserving jars in the background from last year?

And finally, what fun would Hallowe'en be without a pumpkin? The neuroanatomy here is interpreted a little loosely but the effect comes across nicely.

*How's that for an awkward use of brackets?

**I'm probably joking. You can't prove anything.

Scarecrow hands

In 2005, I made a pair of terrifying mechanical bamboo hands/claws and used them as part of a scarecrow costume in a Slovenian juggling parade. I made children cry. Turns out it's hard to mime, "Don't worry, I want to be your friend," when your face is covered by a sack and you have two four-foot rake-like grabbing machines attached to your arms.

Above is a video of one slightly battered hand in motion.

On a vaguely related noted, here's another photo of me from Slovenia:

By somersaulting off a 4 metre high diving board on a unicycle I won 3 juggling clubs, 4 juggling balls, a DVD and a whole evening of free drinks from impressed bystanders. I hadn't the heart to tell them it was just a spectacular accident. In retrospect, I'm not sure how I wasn't hurt.

Water cannon and backpack

A work in progress, currently at the functional prototype stage.

The top image shows a water pistol. It straps to the dorsal surface of the wearer's pronated forearm and is operated by flexing the fingers against the bar beneath the device's tip.

The pistol connects by a hose to the backpack, which holds 10 litres of water and has a crank at its side to maintain pressure. The backpack also features shoulder-mounted water jets and a chimney for venting gas. Expect updates on this contraption in the future.

Laptop cooler

In 2008, my four-year-old laptop gradually gave up the ghost. A number of things went wrong with it and a corresponding (actually slightly smaller) number of its parts had to be replaced.

One of its problems was overheating. The logical solution was to build a cooling system for it.

I didn't want to block the airflow to the computer's already overloaded fans, so I made series of customised aluminium and copper water tanks to fit underneath the laptop while leaving its fans unobstructed.This is actually a smaller, healthier laptop being used as a demo model. Water is pumped up the pipe on the right and allowed to trickle over a series of aluminium cones on the left before recirculating underneath the computer.

The cooling system was eminently practical and portable to suit my hectic urban lifestyle.

Pork and chicken pie

Not much to say on this one. The most time-consuming part was collecting bones from butchers and boiling them for hours to make stock that would set into jelly. The rest really took care of itself.

It measured about 20cm across.

Robot head

Electronics aside, this chirpy chap was made almost entirely from scrap material I had lying around from other projects. Notice the tongue depressor bearings and ping pong ball eyes.

He's controlled by a BASIC stamp and a load of servo motors. At the moment he's in a state of disrepair, but when he's feeling better his eyes light up and he'll pull faces without my hand inside the back of his skull.

Cactus man

The theme of the party was Wild West. I would never have passed as a convincing cowboy, so went for the next best thing. No, I'm not a lizard. I'm a cactus.

Sometimes I just blended into the background seamlessly.

To make the mask, I first made a positive plaster cast of my own face using an alginate negative. Well, I say that I did that. Actually I just lay still and tried not to inhale alginate while my beautiful and talented girlfriend did the actual modelling work.

I then built on that with modelling clay, made a new negative and sandwiched latex between that and the original positive. It was stuck to my face with spirit gum and painted with two tones of green make-up.

My ears produced green wax for a week afterwards.

Snow in early 2009

Existential crises hit snowmen hard, but not for very long.

This snow shark became embedded in the ground before we could photograph its face.

Failing light made for a grainy image of our getwaway in this hastily assembled sled.

Mr Hyde mask

Sculpted in modelling clay, then cast in plaster for latex moulding. Painted with water-based paint. Attached to the back of my head for a quick transformation at parties.

Fan-powered barbecue

One of the most common mistakes of a novice barbecue chef is to make the coals as hot as possible to cook the meat more quickly. This inevitably just chars it on the outside, leaving it raw on the inside. Great for bacteria, mediocre for humans.

That being said, sometimes you just want a great big barbecue that billows gouts of flame from its sides and can blacken a rack of lamb in half a second.

Assorted Hallowe'en jars

Delicious things from my other lab. Sculpted from plasticine, latex, paint and bits of corpse. Floating in tea.

Hot air balloon

Every once in a while it's good to find a use for all the old plastic bags that aren't quite worth recycling properly. The astute observer will notice that the balloon is in fact on fire. The gentleman holding onto the balloon above was not an astute observer, but eventually caught on nonetheless.

An emergency landing of sorts was made.

Ground control carefully considered what could be learnt from this experience. Cardboard is perhaps not the best material for a basket of flame.

Rocketeer helmet

Based on the 1991 Disney film about the world's third-favourite self-propelled airborne Nazi-fighter.

Made from papier mâché, garden wire, mains electrical flex, cardboard, a cider bottle and paint.

Fits my head comfortably, but slightly large for a normal human.

Power On Self Test

This blog will be an online reminder of things that I have made. Or started to make. Or want to make.

I suppose it will be a catalogue of my workshop, with some details and hopefully some pictures. More info later. So, in no particular order, I will start adding past projects.