100 Days Later (70 days remaining)

Earlier this year I did a “100 day challenge” to work on my Zaku Kai project: The idea of the challenge was to work on the project every day for 100 days. It was a great experience in a lot of ways, but by the end of it I was ready to take a break. Now with SCGMC looming, I’m returning to the project with the aim of having it done in time for the show.

Following the break I found it a little difficult to get back into the project. I had actually intended to do “another 100 days” leading up to SCGMC, but struggled to achieve something that felt suitable for my return to the project. Ultimately I decided to focus on the hip area: building out the missing joints to connect the torso, hip, and leg together, building the missing skirt armor pieces, and mounting the skirt pieces to the hips. It’s been a fair bit of work, and there’s still more to do with it, but I think it’s a nice bit of progress.
First up was the connection from the hip to the leg. I had already set up a ball joint in the leg, so I really just needed to set up the point where the ball joint would connect to the hip. Generally I use “Perfect Parts Collection” ball joints for applications like this. They’re great, strong joints, but they can crack and break down over time. So often I’ll connect them with a polycap, so I can easily replace the joint if it breaks. After taking some time to determine just where the ball joint should connect, I cut a hole in the hip part for the polycaps, then packed the area around the polycaps with epoxy putty so that when I reproduce the part in resin, it’ll be easy to pop in the polycaps and secure them in place.

From there I wanted to figure out the connection between the hips and the torso. I’ve put a fair amount of effort into making sure that the finished Zaku will have some mobility in its midsection, but it’s always been a bit of a puzzle, how to get a good forward bend, considering there’s that power cable receiver right up front. The belly and torso basically have to move up and around that for the torso to bend forward. I considered a few options, but ultiately decided on one joint at the back of the hips, used to elevate the upper body, and another joint at the bottom of the midriff, to allow rotation and tilting forward. This achieved a pretty significant forward bend… But it can’t really bend backward at all. That would be tough anyway with the rear skirts and backpack taking up so much space anyway. The joint works pretty well but I may need to rethink it, as it’s not really strong enough to carry the weight of the body at this point.

With the structural joints of the hip and waist finally coming together, I turned my attention to the skirt armor. There’s a lot here that needed attention: missing parts, incomplete parts, parts that I never actually built previously at all. The rear skirts were still relatively crude: the one on the right already included the cutout outline for the thruster that’s supposed to go there (but not the thruster itself) but it was missing entirely from the skirt on the left. Also the shape of the rear skirt parts was extremely boxy. I corrected the missing detail and reshaped the rear skirts to give them their more proper, curved shape.

I also began work on the side skirts: I had made parts for the side skirts at some point in the past, but those parts have been lost. The new ones, for now, are just rectangular blocks attached at the correct locations via polycaps. I’ll be refining these, of course, to include more detail.

Then I looked to the front skirts: unlike the immobile rear skirts, or the side skirts which are mobile but don’t really need to be… Mobility is important for the front skirts if the legs are to be able to move well. It’s kind of a complicated arrangement, too, as the front skirts are jammed right up against the bottom of the power cable receiver. They kind of have to swing around that somehow in order to swing forward. I decided to mount the front skirts on flexible springs, and tried a few different arrangements. To be honest I may need to rethink how I’ve done this.

Finally, I began work on the front quarter skirts. I didn’t feel comfortable doing too much with work building or mounting these parts until I had the mounting of the other skirts pretty well sorted out, because these front quarter skirts really need to bridge the gap between the front center skirts and the side skirts… It made more sense to me to work out the locations for those neighboring pieces first, then build up the front quarter skirts to fit those gaps. With these last skirt pieces done I can finally see the whole skirted hip assembly, which is a part of the Zaku Kai design that I really love.

This project has a very long history. At this point, I’ve had this project in the works almost as long as I’ve been in this hobby. Eventually it began to feel like it would never end, and so as a result I didn’t work on it, focusing instead on other, more “finishable” projects so I could participate in model shows, etc. The 100 day project was great for me in a lot of ways. It really helped me get engaged with this project again, and to see it as something that I could finish, if I put in the work. At the end of the 100 days I really needed a break, I took some time to pursue other interests for a while. Now, it’s time to seal the deal. 70 days remaining.

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