No Such Thing as Luck (51 days to SCGMC)

The time remaining before SCGMC is diminishing, and I’m sorry to say it’s not looking good for this project at this point. The upshot is I’m getting organized, focusing on setting a pace that can yield success for the project and working hard to get parts finished. At this point I want to spend more time, maybe another week, working on the project, see how much progress I can make relative to the amount of work still left to be done, and then make my decision whether to continue, or find some other project I can get ready for SCGMC.

First off, an introduction to a feature of my workspace: About 5 years ago, after my last model workshop was destroyed in a basement flood, I relocated to a new, smaller space. Knowing that I had less space to work with, I tried to come up with solutions to use the space more effectively. One feature I added was a wall-mounted computer to use for viewing reference materials or instructions and potentially for some kind of automation control as well. I’ve had this system mounted to the wall for 5 years, but I haven’t really used it much until now. In addition to viewing my reference images I’m also using it to access some project planning software I’ve used to outline the remaining tasks for the project and estimate how much time I’ll need to complete them. Setting this up did take a few days of my time, which isn’t great at this point as every day really matters if I’m going to get this project done. However, I think the time I spent setting up the software, and writing down tasks and estimating the time for each has helped me to focus, and it’s helped me to understand what it’ll take to finish the project.

The task estimates do paint a pretty dire picture at this point, however. I came up with a list of 24 tasks that need to be completed to finish creating the parts for the model. After that, more time is needed to make molds and recast the parts in resin, and then to clean up, paint and assemble the resin parts into a finished model. With 7.5 weeks left (when I made the task list), I set aside 3 weeks for that finishing work and planned on about 4.5 weeks time to get the parts finished. However, I estimated around 120 hours total to finish making the parts. At this point I don’t really know if those estimates are accurate, they could be too high, but it’s safer to assume they’re too low. That would mean over the following 30 days or so, I’d need to put in around 4-5 hours per day, every day, to finish the work. Already that’s looking infeasible, and so I may have to give up on getting the project ready for SCGMC this year.

Since I don’t really know if my estimates are high or low, however, I decided to continue work on the project for a bit, try to meet the kind of pace I’d need to keep to finish the work on time, and log how much time I spent on the tasks to get an idea of whether my estimates were high or low, and by how much. I worked out how many estimated task hours I’d have to get done per day and chose a few tasks to try to complete them in a few days and meet the pace required to finish the project. I started with the pauldron, the helmet, the vambrace, and the grenade.

There were a few tasks I needed to complete for the helmet. This is one of the oldest parts in the project, or possibly the oldest part in the project. I originally made it back in 2006. I’ve altered and reworked it here and there over the years, and considered replacing it entirely more than once, but it’s a good piece of work, mostly it just needs some work to clean up boundary areas between different segments of the part, and a bit of detailing. But one particular sore spot was the “cable receiver” at the back of the head. The part that was on there wasn’t well-placed, I never felt like I’d really centered it properly and it was sort of super-glued on the back rather than properly integrated. It was also the wrong design: at some point, years ago, I wasn’t sure how the part was supposed to look, and it seems like I copied the general shape of the equivalent part from the old MG Zaku. I created a new version of this part, aligned and integrated it as well as I can with. I also took care of a few other issues like adding keying to the inside of the helmet to make it sit more consistently on the inner portion of the head, straightened out the snout, etc.

Continuing on some work from the previous session I made some more progress on the foot, sanding the surface of the heel part smooth and correcting an issue I spotted in the front part of the foot.

I started the current version of the grenade part last time, this time I did my best to wrap it up, adding missing details and creating parts for the “stick” handle as well. There’s still some work left to be done but it’s getting there.

The knee joint is another assembly I worked on last time that I continued work on. The main thing right now is that I felt I needed a better system for holding the knee armor in its proper alignment on the joint’s strut.

Finally, I put a bunch of work into the vambrace part, the distinctive forearm armor on the Zaku Kai. I was pretty happy with the state of this part overall but I gave it a bit more care to improve symmetry and key it to the desired position, and I started on adding the missing details

Adding the missing detail bits is one of the last things that needs to be done to wrap up this part. I started with the “studs” on the elbows. I wasn’t sure how to approach these bits so I started with a Kotobukiya “mobile pipe” part, cut and sanded it down to produce basically just a circle of plastic, and added a tapered bit of styrene rod to the middle. I think it turned out pretty well, though installing them in the right position and orientation will be a challenge.

It’s been a tough but rewarding few days on the project. I think the task list did help me to focus my efforts, but I have to think about whether this kind of pace is sustainable, and whether it will actually be enough to reach my goal. These preliminary results aren’t super-encouraging, either. So far it seems like my time estimates were low, not high, and of the four tasks I set out to complete, I didn’t complete any, and I didn’t even start one of them. As previously noted I don’t want to give up just yet, I want to give it at least another week and see if I can make this happen. But if I change my plans and start working on something else instead, it’s better to do that sooner rather than later.

3 Comment(s)

  1. Great Progress! You can get it done well enough I’m sure!

    Andrew | 2023-09-25 | Reply

  2. I thought about it, and I decided it’s not going to work. I don’t know for sure if my time estimates are really accurate but if they’re even in the right ballpark it’d take a really aggressive schedule, and in the end it still might not be enough. If the schedule was accurate and it would have taken 120 hours of work, over 30 days (with just two weeks left at the end to mold, recast, and paint the thing) that would have been very tough. Maybe I could have done it if I took a week off from work? Even then I’m not sure. What I really needed was to get in gear on this project like three months ago or more. I started to feel like I’d wind up compromising the quality of the work, too, and I don’t want that. It stinks ’cause I really wanted this to be the year, and this sort of thing has happened over and over again with this project over the years (abandoning work because a show deadline was coming up and I didn’t want to turn up empty-handed…) but I think it’s better to change my plans while I’ve still got time to get something done.

    I’m not really sure yet if the project management software is helping me (and it’s not the first time I’ve tried something like this) but it seems promising so far. I think I always got hung up on the idea of trying to estimate time for tasks and set a schedule to get them done because I didn’t know how long tasks would realistically take, so I’d always wind up unable to hit the schedule and run out of time or abandon it, and all that time planning out tasks would feel like a waste. And that’s kind of happened with this project’s plan now, too. And now as I’m trying to dig into other projects to get them done for SCGMC, I’m sinking hours and hours into just outlining and estimating tasks instead of working on them… The task planning feels like valuable work but at the same time, it’s a significant chunk of time to lose on something that doesn’t directly contribute to having a model ready for the show.

    I guess the real test will be in the next couple of weeks, to see if I can actually stick to the project schedule I’ve laid out. If so, I’ll at least have something there that I feel good about putting on display, even if it’s not what I’d hoped for.

    tetsujin | 2023-09-25 | Reply

  3. Project management can be difficult for me too. There’s definitely a balance between overthinking the process and effectively organizing work. I’m sure you’ll come up with something worth showing at SCGMC.

    I’m rooting for you!

    Andrew | 2023-09-25 | Reply

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