Hackerbot Project

Earlier this year I decided that I’d like to have a 3D printer. I’d considered getting one for a while but I’d felt that they were too much hassle for not enough quality. This year I reconsidered and finally took the plunge. After considering my options I decided on a set of design features I wanted: an enclosed build area for better temperature control, independently-controlled axes, and modular construction to make it easy to change things in the future. I found the Hackerbot Project and decided it was just what I was looking for. I made a few minor changes to the design (made it taller and replaced the one big door with two smaller ones) and I ordered my parts and got started.

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RGB upgrade for the Nintendo Entertainment System

For a long time I was completely unaware of this: the composite video output that comes out of the NES is pretty terrible.
When I got my first HDTV in 2007 and tried my Nintendo with it, I was able to see the problem clearly: straight edges were jagged, shapes staggered oddly as they moved across the screen, and other strange artifacts were appearing as well, like “checkerboard” echoes of on-screen shapes elsewhere in the frame. Initially I thought my NES was in need of repair, but all these things are pretty much normal for the system. It’s all part of how the system renders video. It all looks fine on an old, low resolution TV, but it starts to look pretty terrible when you hook up to higher-quality displays.

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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

Once my plan to complete the MG Rick Dias in a week for Patcon fell through, I started aiming for Granitecon, roughly a month later. For various reasons, I lost a lot of my potential work-time leading in to the event, and again fought down to the wire trying to complete the project for a show. It was at this point that I got the first coats of primers on the parts, and various mistakes from earlier in the project came back to haunt me. These posed various challenges, but none worse than the seams on the legs, which for some reason have given me a world of trouble.

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The One-Week War

It’s a classic story: the deadline for some modeling contest creeps up on me, and then I rush to get something ready to show. It never works. But this time it was at least a lot of fun, and I made a lot of great progress on a new project.

I got this kit as part of a trade, kind of on a whim, but when I got my hands on it I decided I really liked it. Bulky kits are just really cool, and while I wouldn’t call this thing anime-accurate, its chunky design style gives it a very bold look.

This time the event in question was Patcon, the show held by my local IPMS club. This was the first Patcon held by the club in several years, and I was excited to see it back. I wanted to be a part of it, so I took a bit of time off and spent most of the last week prior to the con working on my Rick Dias.
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The arena is empty except for one man, still driving and striving, as fast as he can…

SCGMC is only about a day away, and for me that day is a travel day. So, sadly, the Zaku FZ won’t be ready. I actually realized yesterday that I had run out of time to make molds for the parts that needed to be duplicated. By the time a new 2-part mold would have cured, I wouldn’t have had any time left to cast parts in it… And the parts that needed duplicating weren’t all ready anyway. It’s really a shame that it didn’t work out, I’m going a long way to attend SCGMC and I would have really liked to have something new to show apart from the HG Zaku. But I don’t feel too bad, the trip will be fun, it’ll be nice to see everybody and the model work at the event and so on, and even though this burst of activity working on the FZ hasn’t resulted in the completion of the project, I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished in the past couple weeks of working on it. Even though it didn’t work out, this is the first time with this project that I’ve dared to draw a line in the sand and say, “this is when it’s gonna be done.” Pushing for completion on the project, and looking at it as a practical, tangible goal has made a big impact on this project. I didn’t complete all the parts I needed, but because I treated the project as an attainable goal with a fixed deadline, I was able to motivate myself to focus on the project, and get past some perfectionist obsessions that had been holding me back. The project’s not done, and I didn’t even get far enough to hack together something showable, but I made a lot of progress, and I feel that I can keep on making a lot of progress and maybe finish this thing by the end of the year.
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Try Not

With SCGMC looming, I have at last set myself to work on the Zaku Kai project once again, with the goal of getting it into some kind of presentable shape by the time of the con. Lately the work on this project has been pretty intensive, as I’ve done my best to get back to work on these parts and whip them into shape.
Personally, I can’t discuss scratch building without bringing up the thing that, to me, is one of the greatest obstacles to completing a scratch build project. I have trouble articulating it sometimes but I think it could be described as a lack of confidence. Many people in the hobby see scratch building almost as a kind of black magic beyond the reach of mere mortals. This attitude is poisonous, and it infects everyone it reaches. Kit builders think they can’t scratch build, and since many of them never try, that belief is never challenged. In my case, the problem is a bit different: I have had this project in the works for over six years now, with design drawings going back farther than that. It almost feels as though I have always had this project in the works, and that I always will. I have become too comfortable with that, it’s too easy to look at the parts or old WIP posts and think, “Gee, I did some nice work there.” The confidence issue also comes into play when I consider issues like, “How good is good enough?” I have tended toward an overly rigorous approach to this build, I think, because I lacked the confidence in my own ability to refine a part to precision after its initial construction. But after all that work trying to make the initial build as good as possible (using data from the Blender model, etc.) I wind up having to go through the same refinement process anyway.
Another problem I face is that the way I approach the work can have a big impact on whether I get the kind of results I need. A lot of the time I’ve approached certain parts with the intent of making some good progress on them, improving them or finding a way to check their symmetry or whatever, or starting work on a new part, for which any amount of progress will be a major improvement over nothing at all. The result, it seems, is that by setting these goals short of my true aim, I satisfy myself that the work is still progressing, but without pushing any parts all the way to completion.
This is why I’ve rolled out a Yoda quote for the title of this WIP post. “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” I’ve got to stop “trying” and start “doing”. That’s exactly what I’ve done for the last couple of weeks, and so far I think it’s been pretty successful. By aiming for completion, rather than progress toward completion, I have changed my mindset and my approach. I don’t know if I will succeed at getting the model ready for SCGMC, but I intend to do everything I can to make it happen.
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HG Zaku Complete

Every year I attend the local IPMS model show, Granitecon. When possible I like to have something new to show there, so I’ve been working to finish up the HG Zaku in time for the show. Since the model was painted and the decals were on, it was mostly a matter of finishing steps – but there were some complications along the way as well. As usual, the work came right down to the wire, but in the end I think it turned out pretty well. Due to the hectic pace of the finishing work, I didn’t document much of it along the way.

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Bandai’s Decals Have Herpes

In reality, this post is just another WIP post for my HG Zaku, showing the work I’ve done applying decals to it. I have a whole collection of decal sheets from which I pick out markings that I want to use on a particular project. Often the decal sheet I’m using isn’t specific to the kit I’m building, so it’s just a matter of finding a sheet that has a marking I want.
However, when dealing with these decals there is an issue I can’t avoid: some of these Bandai decals have really terrible half-toning on them which makes the markings look terrible up-close, or even at a moderate distance. These images should give you an idea of what’s going on here:

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Paint it a slightly different green

Last time I was finishing the cleanup of this kit and getting the first coats of primer on – more recently I’ve gotten the initial color coats on and made some progress on a few other details that I either couldn’t or simply didn’t address previously.

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The Greatest Challenge in All of Modeling

Since the last update, I’ve been focusing on parts cleanup and so on in preparation for the first coat of primer, which finally went on tonight.

Along the way, however, I had to deal with the dreaded curse that has plagued everyone who has built a Zaku in the last 17 years… By all accounts the most hideously deranged challenge ever incorporated into a model kit: the power cable beads.

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