Monday, December 18, 2006

Editing Real Soon Now...

Well, my semester is over and I now have a wonderful new MacBook to edit on. As soon as I get done with working at the library packing things away for the winter break, I'll get going on the editing. Let's just call it my holiday gift to those who liked the original tutorial, and for those who didn't.

Here's the first thing I edited on my's the closing ident that will be on my videos from here on out.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Photo Albums while you are waiting for the v2.0 video

It really does look like I won't have time to edit until semester break. Oh well.

To tide you over, here are some photo albums of mine I recently put up.

Service project: making costumes for patients at Children's Hospital, Hollywood, CA.

Appearance, TimeWarner Cable, Chatsworth, CA. I was there representing for Sunrider Base, Rebel Legion. The very tall and friendly Duke Baggett was representing for the 501st Legion. We had fun, and brightened up the days of a bunch of cooped-up telemarketers. I've done that gig, it's rough.

Appearance, 3rd St. Promenade, Santa Monica, CA. When the SoCal Rebels and 501st rolls, we roll like nobody else on the planet. The H-Wing, not one but TWO C3P0 units, a radio-controlled full-size R2D2, and lots of spirit, fun and imagination.

Field trip to Luky's! Luky's Hardware in Burbank is like going to Watto's second-hand spaceship parts store on Mos Espa, Tatooine. Only Luky and his colleagues are easier to take than Watto. Aerospace and airplane surplus and salvage parts. Lots of nurnies and greeblies for lightsabre projects and beyond. The riddle of the true identity of those aircraft aluminum parts on my lightsabres is not yet solved. However, the riddle of WHERE they came from has indeed been solved.

There is another place which deals in similar items, called Apex Electronics. They are in Sun Valley which is not very far from fact, Woodbury University is technically half in Sun Valley and half in Burbank. Guess which non-prestigious town known for junkyards Woodbury decided *not* to associate themselves with! Anyway, if you are visiting Los Angeles for Celebration IV, a trip to Luky's and Apex and All Electronics in Van Nuys is worth doing. Particularly if you are a crafty type like me.

Hope you like the pix!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Costume upgrades...

Just in time for my first trips out with Sunrider Base, Rebel Legion. I finally have my inner tunic done. I didn't manage to do it in time for the Woodbury University Halloween party...oh well.

However, it's done now, so I will be able to wear the full outfit to the two Rebel Legion events. The one this Saturday is actually one the General Public can attend. It's in Santa Monica at the 3rd St. Promenade. Cinemax is celebrating the fact they will be airing all six Star Wars movies by having a "So you think you have what it takes to be a Jedi" event. Cinemax will be donating to a charity of Sunrider Base's choice in our name, so it's all good. We'll be there from 10am to 5pm.

If you are interested in seeing details about the costume as it now stands, drop in here:

Friday, October 06, 2006

Chibi-flash has arrived for chibi-sabre fun...

OK, there's the Finelux mini flashgun.

Here's the pic from eBay that made me fall in love with it:

It's here now and I took a bunch of pix of it including a few torn down. Here's the link to the Flickr photos:

I'm torn because I think the reflector is spiffy. However, I have never seen a lightsabre with the reflector still attached. When they made them from press camera flashes, they always removed the reflector.

Anyway, it's here, I like it, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the thing right away but I'm going to do something with it eventually.

Monday, October 02, 2006

v2.0 tutorial main taping today.

Version 2.0

Still shot slide-show at Flickr.

It might take me a while to edit because the sound is even worse this time than with v1.0. I am going to have to write narration and get some production music together for this. I've also got schoolwork to, school work, what a concept!

Hope you like'll be the first to know when I'm done.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

It never rains in SoCal...

...except when it does.

Gonna have to postpone the taping because we're getting sprinkled on. I could care fact, I like the rain, and would love to see more of it. However, it's not healthy for a video camera not protected by a water-resistant housing, a camera accessory I don't have.

To look on the bright side, the folks fighting the huge Day Fire in Ventura County are getting a little cooperation from Mother Nature, finally.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Shooting postponed

Hopefully only until Tomorrow.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Shooting tomorrow.

I build the second lightsabre and shoot the video tomorrow. Here, not at Woodbury. This will mean dubbing in the narration separately. I think that iMovie can handle that.

May the Force be with me.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Free/Open Source rotoscoping deliciousness...

I have been looking all over for tutorials in how to use the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulator Project) to do lightsabre blades. The GIMP has a Hollywood cousin called Cinepaint. Both are F/OSS and run on just about any and every platform capable of doing the job. (PC+Win32, PC+Linux, Mac OS X)

I'm putting the links down here and putting down for the night but I want to play with this and show you what comes of it. I have the perfect pic to do a test with (my most recent sabre creation in its full-length pictorial debut) and it should be a piece of cake to get rid of the tell tale shadow that says "no, that isn't a real lightsabre."

Here's the GIMP tutorial for stills...
and here's the Cinepaint tutorial for video rotoscoping.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Right Hand sabre just about complete...

It's beautiful. It fits my hand. It hangs better on my belt. It's great.

Here are the pix!

Gotta give 'nuff respect to Ryan at Random Sabers. He made this possible.

I think I might try to greeble the control box a little, but the approach I used last time won't work. Control box is way too small for a SO-DIMM. I'm thinking ICs clipped off of a non-working circuit board.

This is sort of a before-and-after pic.

Now you can see the reason why people were talking about "wookiee sabres" with regard to v1.0, and how these are just more in scale with me. The drain-pipe sabres would be just fine for a taller person with bigger hands. These are more like it for me.

Of course, I'll be recording the build of the left handed sabre.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Naked sabres! Naked sabres!!! (SFW)

Yes, these pix are safe for work. Now you see what I will be working with with regard to the new HSJ tutorial.

The old and new sabres, for scale. Note how big and klunky the first version of the sabres turned out. The next version should be a lot more elegant.

The greebling job will be quite similar to the original, except there will be only 5 of the aircraft part nurnies at the top, and there will be no faucet handle pommel. Otherwise I will be attempting to get as close as possible to the look and feel of the original in a more streamlined version.

Look how graceful they are! The pics don't do the blades justice...they are translucent iMac Indigo blue. Sweet. Thanks, Random Sabres!!!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Opening things back up again: Version 2.0 is coming...

Hi everyone...

Yes, I said in May that I was not going to post here again. However, some opportunities have come up and I'm going to roll with them.

The folks at Random Sabers put out a new product: the practice saber. Basically all it is is a basic 1 1/4" aluminum tube, 11" long, open at one end, closed up on the other end with a basic pommel. The tube can admit either a 3/4" acrylic "blade" or a 1/2" carbon fiber "blade" with an adapter. The tube has a hole drilled in it, so the "blade" can be secured with a set screw.

This product is intended for people who choreograph fan films and who do SW influenced martial arts, to have something they can whack around with and not stand a chance of damaging their fancier stunt sabres, something the Random Sabers guys have become famous for. However, with one look at the product, I realized that they would be ideal to use to create an improved version of "the twins" I built earlier this year.

The people who have watched the tutorial and who have commented on the tutorial have made some interesting observations. The first is that the resulting sabres seem to be too big and clunky. Upon reflection, I would have to agree. They aren't quite "in scale" with me. I'm a short person with small hands. Someone made the comment that the sabres might be better off in the hands of wookiees. While I don't entirely buy that, I agree that maybe they would work better in the hands of someone bigger and taller.

I made contact with Ryan from Random Sabers. I ordered two practice sabers, but specified that he use 1" diameter aluminum instead of 1 1/4", and make them 9 1/2" long instead of 11". I also ordered two 30" blue acrylic blades. I let him know that I would pimp his stuff like crazy on my next and hopefully improved tutorial. He was amenable, I sent him what he asked for via PayPal, ($51 for everything including shipping -- such a deal!) and he says he'll deliver by the end of next week.

Hopefully the more petite sized sabres will be more "to scale" with me. I suspect they will also be lighter on my belt than the current two. After all, those drain pipes are made of brass with a liberal amount of chrome, and so are the faucet handles. Brass is dense. Brass is heavy. Aircraft aluminum, which is Random Sabers' stock in trade, is light. Those aluminum nurnies that give my sabres their distinctive look seem like they're substantial and heavy but they are really quite light. For the whole thing to be made out of that nice light aluminum will be a real pleasure.

I will hopefully try to film at Woodbury. It's quiet. It's scenic. It doesn't have a major thoroughfare right next to it and a structure that acts as an audio lens. The tutorial that exists now was filmed in the patio of my apartment building, a standard SoCal apartment building with a central atrium/patio area. I also now have a proper shotgun mic, which is like the sonic equivalent of a telephoto lens. This will be more likely to allow me to be heard and not pick up extraneous noise. You might hear birds. You might hear the tolling of Woodbury's bell on the hour and half hour. But you won't get the distracting noise that people have been complaining about.

The finished product will not only hang from my belt, but will also be able to be used for kata. I have a martial arts background, although my active training ended with a bus accident in 1986. I still practice some of the stuff I remember from 20 years ago. And whenever I get a chance to show off a little, people make the comment that the simple stuff I do looks pretty good. The acrylic rods will help me judge where my moves are going, something very hard to do with one's imagination. Maybe it won't be as pretty as an illuminated blade, but it will look impressive and also provide a guideline for retouching in a blade in pictures.

This is going to be fun, folks. I'm looking forward to the new project.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

One last post here before I really close it up...

George Lucas has finally gotten some sense back. The original theatrical versions of the original trilogy are going to finally get an official DVD release.

One of the things I was going to look for at Comic Con this year was a set of either DVDs or VCDs of the original theatrical releases. No need to wade through a ton of crappy DVD boots of Underdog and Mighty Mouse and the '60s-vintage, barely animated Spidey and Hulk cartoons. At least, not unless I want to...

And yes, this really does close up this blog. Now that all four parts of the tutorial are safely up at YouTube, there really isn't any point updating. Thanks to everyone who's been supportive of this project. Metaphors be with you.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

OK I lied, here's Part 1 of 4, Lightsabre Tute

So now the April archive will have all four parts of the Lightsabre Tutorial if I work it out right. I'm slicing and dicing the original iMovie file to yield something YouTube will allow me to post.

Here's part one: Know your parts!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

This is the last post on this blog. (Yeah, right)

I have accomplished my mission. I have documented the building of a lightsabre. I have posted both a static HTML tutorial and a video version.

The most likely changes I will make to this is a link to an iPod-compatible .MP4 or an XviD or both of the tutorial. I might even put a PSP version up somewhere. I could see someone using a handheld to follow the steps (Generally, please! Please don't copy my sabres! You will be likely to be laughed at, considering how I've gotten the occasional person emailing me or posting in TheForce.Net about how my sabres are too thick!) during their own build process.

I might also do a short project which would modify two Shinai (Kendo fencing sticks) with lightsabre-like grips. However, I would likely create another page on GooglePages (I love me some GooglePages!) and put a tutorial on that up in a similar way. There might even be a movie again. That worked well.

By closing this blog out by the end of March, you will be able to peruse all the pages on a single big page.

So this is it. Thanks to all who have commented on this, for good or for ill. And thanks for joining me on this journey. May The Force (whatever it may be) be with you.

Michelle Klein-Hass, the Hardware Store Jedi.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Phantom Re-Edit now at Archive.Com

It's at Internet Archive!
It's a lo-fi QuickTime version. More versions in different formats to come.

The Phantom Re-Edit

Due to music clearance issues, I will have to re-edit the video. However, if all goes well and the stars align correctly, I will have a version of the tutorial up at Google Video and linked on the main tutorial page tonight.

I have my fingers crossed.

Update 8:38pm: neither Google Video nor YouTube have been especially cooperative. This is going to have to go to Archive.Org. More progress when there is some.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Main tutorial now available...

So, you thought you'd see my full-on Lightsabre Tutorial here on these pages, huh? Well, Google set me up with yet more of their non-evil stuff that doesn't suck...I decided to take advantage of it, and here we are.

Google Pages: Lightsabre Tutorial by the Hardware Store Jedi

Almost all of the pictures on this page were done as screenshots from the video I shot on March 13th. It's really odd when the screenshots look better than actual pictures taken by my digital camera.

The video is going up really soon, but I think I want to crush it down as DivX first. The QuickTime I saved was a high-quality file, and I didn't have time enough to re-render it as a lower quality QuickTime. However, I do have a DVD master! w00t! And it seems to play on every DVD player I throw it at. It was from the DVD that I took the screenshots.

Isn't technology FUN????

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Video tutorial: how to do sabre effects

This is a short tute on how to do lightsabre effects in Photoshop. I will be taking this information and seeing if I can do the same in the GNU Image Manipulation Project, aka The GIMP, (sorry, I didn't name it) which is Free/Open Source Software available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X. There is no narration. If I can do this, I will put up a GIMP tutorial here on this site. After all, once you make your sabre, you want to make it look cool in pictures, right?

Enjoy the video. When I finish the hilt-making video, I have decided it will also be available via Google Video. Their interface is best and their Flash player is less crashy than the YouTube one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I feel every bit as old as Yoda this PM

I'm getting too old for all-nighters, man.

Tomorrow I'm going to just turn in as early as possible so I can be sharp to go in and edit the video on Friday. This will be my first use of iMovie. It's an iApp, how hard can it be?

I should be able to hit the hay sometime around midnight tonight. Bleah. Then tomorrow I need to be here at 10am so I can print stuff.

May the bed be with me...soon.... :P

Friday is editing day...

The OASIS center at Woodbury is open until 8pm. Rock on.

Hopefully by the end of the day I will have the Quicktime and the MPEG1 version of the Lightsabre build done. Also by the end of the day I hope to have a DVD master and a bunch of stills for the static tutorial.

And Thursday after classes I'm hoping to get some more time to finish my over-robe. If not then, it gets done Saturday.

I have my classes for Fall 2006, and I'm going to be seeing my way clear to finishing up these bits and pieces I need to do for Financial Aid, so hopefully school will be 100% settled as well.

Now to finish these blasted papers I'm pulling an all-nighter to finish. Oy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Guerres D'√Čtoile a Paris...

Now doesn't that guy look like Obi-Wan? If he was French? If he was a photographer?

Anyway, a French photographic magazine, Photographie, has published a series of photos done by Cedric Delsaux which juxtapose Star Wars toys with real locations in Paris. The scenes might as well have been shot A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Away. Here's a link in English, from British site The First Post.

There are a bunch of locations in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley that would work this way. I think taking it one step further, with costumed people, would be a lot of fun, especially since 2007 is a little less than a year away. Imagine a bunch of stormtroopers, money in hand, lined up in front of Grauman's Chinese to go see a movie. Imagine Jedi fighting Sith at the abandoned naval battery in San Pedro. Imagine Imperial Guards escorting Darth Vader and Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine across the castle-like structure of the Sepulveda Dam Basin. Imagine R2D2 and C3PO taking a stroll on the Venice Boardwalk. Or Luke Skywalker riding the Santa Monica carousel with Yoda in a backpack on his back. Or Boba Fett running away from freshly-painted graffiti art, a spray can still in his armored hand.

Mad propers to ValedaKor from the LA Fan Force forum on TheForce.Net for the link.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Lucas gets specific: 100 episodes in 3D.

Not one, but two little sniglets of news about the SW live action TV series, from our good friends across the Big Pond at The Register.

  1. Lucas intends to make 100 episodes of the new live-action show.

  2. It's also going to be broadcast in 3D. Not HDTV, folks, but 3D TV. Yes, you will have to wear funky glasses when you watch the show.

Is it just me, or do I sense a boondoggle reverberating through The Force? Meesa no like, Mistah Lucas, mon.

More of the interview with Lucas here.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A little fabric Lagniappe from FIDM

I finally laundered the khaki cotton sateen fabric I got from the FIDM Scholarship Store. They charged me for 5 yards at $1/yard. A nice chunk of fabric for $5, I thought. When it came time to take the fabric out of the dryer I used a yardstick to help me fold. Richie was there to help, and he was indispensable for helping me get the twists out. I folded in yard increments. When I got to the 5 yard mark, it was obvious they had underestimated the length of the fabric big time. When I finally got to the end, there was 10 yards and change. Whoa momma.

Not only can I do the outer tunic with this, I can also do the Hakama. OMFG. This is so great. The fabric is looks nicer and even more Jedi-like after the laundering process, although it's not as shiny. It looks more like raw silk this way. Can I do those cargo pockets, though? This is the question. I promised Colleen I wouldn't slavishly copy her female Jedi look. So I came up with the idea of going really wild and putting pockets on the Hakama like a Utili-kilt. Here's what those look like:

And here's what the Kamishimo, the Hakama/Kataginu combo that is traditional Samurai wear, looks like:

Note that there is no pleating on the sides of a Hakama. A perfect place to put a cargo pocket or two, neh? Yeah, I know, Jedi don't wear pockets on their clothes. This is supposed to be a post-Battle of Endor Jedi outfit...the garb of a Jedi who survived the Empire and is helping to piece back together the Order. Practicality would win out over traditionalism every time. Instead of the fancy ties you see on the Hakama the way it is on the picture, I'm thinking of using webbing and D-ring cinches, or maybe the buckles they use for webbed belts. One set of straps go from the back to the front, the other from front to back, crossing in back, then fastened at the front.

I'm also going to put a fabric panel on the two open parts of the sides, because the inner tunic fabric is kind of porous in places. Once this is done and I take pictures of everything you'll see what I mean. It's nice fabric to use underneath something a bit more opaque, but not so good on the outside unless you are going for the "Jedi hoochie mama" effect. Or would that be more accurately "Sith hoochie mama?" Oh sith! ^_^

Anyway, there is a word used in Louisiana which means "throwing in something extra"...Lagniappe. I'm not sure the nice lady at FIDM meant to give me such a huge amount of extra fabric, but I'm quite grateful. Merci beaucoups, madame.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Costuming stuffs, and Obi-Shawn checks in.

OK, yesterday I spent some time doing some work on the costume that goes with these two sabres and the belt. The other Jedi-related workshop at Anime Los Angeles was a costuming workshop where we cut out our over-robe. There was a lovely (if cramped) handout from that event, and if I get permission I will eventually have the PDF for download. Until then, here's a very good link for over-robe info, right from the Rebel Legion: That will get you started.

My chibi sewing machine (It's now on sale for $64.88...w00t!) has served me well in this. I'm still a padawan learner when it comes to the arcanities of sewing machines though. I almost boned the entire project when I threaded the thread around wrong. Luckily my friend Lodrelhai has a mom who is an old hand at sewing and was able to set me straight. Everything went pretty swimmingly after that.

I will be catagorizing the links on the right-hand side of the blog to make them easier to deal with. Propmaking, costuming and official SW links will be in separate categories. I'll also have a "links to geeky friends" category, including one geeky acquaintance who got me going with all this. The changes will be up later today but I'm putting the links up now.

Obi-Shawn, said geeky aquaintance, emailed me yesterday and gave me the go-ahead to post the PDF from the Anime Los Angeles workshop. (Right click or option-click to save to disk) Unlike the v.1.1 flier I had from the workshop, this has two important addresses if you live in Los Angeles and want to do this project. One is accessible for everyone else in the country via the web: All Electronics in Van Nuys. The other is an aerospace surplus store in Burbank, Luky's Hardware. For those who don't want to download the PDF, Luky's is at this address: 3814 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank. This may have been the source for the aluminum nurnies at the front of my sabres. I need to go there and scope it out. If I do, I hope to get some pix.

He's happy the sabres came out so well, too. Apparently he's been teaching this seminar to kids at cons, in a "Padawan Workshop," for the past 5 years. The Anime Los Angeles workshop was the first geared towards adults. So yeah, this project has a track record of being kid-friendly.

Oh yeah, I figured out the etymology of nurnie, with the help of Wikipedia. It's a Special Effects term that has crossed over into the crafter world, probably from costuming/cosplay geeks. Nurnies are decor that are not vital to the project but are there to make it look cooler than what the project would look like without it. Nurnie is related to greeble, which is the term that actually originated at ILM for the parts on models that "don't do anything but look cool." You might say that this whole project is an exercise in greebling with nurnies. There, I just added two more words to your vocabulary. There will be a test tomorrow. Come prepared. Bring a Scantron and number two pencil. (Just kidding!)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mini-tutorial: Belt clip

This is a "mini-tute" on how to attach your lightsabre to your belt. The Original Trilogy used hooks and D-rings to holster light sabers (tm) but starting with the first Prequel Trilogy movies they used Covertec mobile phone/pager clips. Actual Covertec brand clips are being sold for extortionate prices because of their Star Wars saga connection, but there are alternatives. Here are a few I found on the Web:

Ooh! Shiny! I wish I had known about those.

This is sort of like what I have. However, by my experience, those quick-release belt clips tend to not be able to support the weight of a hardware lightsabre hilt. They are made for little phones and little pagers, not a 12"+ pipe with attached "nurnies" which only add weight.

This is perhaps the closest to what I actually have. Note that at bottom left, there is a "surface mount" connector. It's actually built for mounting your phone on a surface like a car dashboard or your desktop computer or something like that. Usually they come with adhesive pads.

However, that adhesive isn't so hot for porous surfaces like leather. And leather has a flex to it. You need something solid and made of a non-porous material like plastic or metal.

Standing Bear rides to the rescue: (Hoka hey, buddy...)

That little object is a holster clip. Those go on pistol holsters, usually. But they make very nice lightsabre attachments. Who said attachment is forbidden to a Jedi? ^_^

Anyway, here's how I took the surface mount connectors from the kit Obi-Shawn and David sold me and attached them to my Hong Kong-made sabre belt.

Step one: clip the holster clip on the belt in the place you want it. Since the belt is a little wider than the 1 3/4" standard belt width it's designed for, make sure the two bottom clippy things have met. You might have to push it a little to get it to click into place. Once these puppies are on, though, they are ON.

Step two: attach the adhesive pad to the holster clip. Press down on it HARD to make sure it's on tightly with no air pockets.

Step three: Peel off the red protective plastic from the adhesive pad and then press the surface mount holder onto the holster clip.

Step four: There's no step four! ^_^

Here is the result on my belt: note I have two of these to go with my twin lightsabres. Cool beans, no?

This will have to hold y'all until I get the screenshots from the video. Keeping my fingers crossed so that I can get some time on my friend's G5 iMac. If not, I'll use the G5 minitowers at College next week.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lightsabre experiment: Success!

OK, here they are...

Note that they are slightly scrunched by Blogger's picture if you want to see them unscrunched.

Tomorrow I will hopefully have my over-robe done, and this afternoon I will be going to Standing Bear's Trading Post and getting a couple of holster clips to mount the other side of the mobile phone clips in such a way that they can hang on my belt.

Like I said before, I'm going to have to get screenshots from the DV tape so that I can put together a formal tutorial on how I made them. I could have conceivably clicked a few snaps with the camera while the tape was running, but I had glue on my hands and was more concerned with providing a good running commentary while I was working.

So anyway, I'm quite relieved. Shouts out again to the folks who did the Lightsabre building workshop at Anime Los Angeles 2, January 2006. Put this project in t3h w1n column.

Monday, March 13, 2006


The sky is clear and blue as a shining sabre blade. It's Spring Break. The birds are singing. It's a crisp day, full of promise.

Time to build.

It might take a little while for the pix and tutorial to go up. Quicktime movies will have to wait until College reopens. But I'm going for it.

Update 6:29pm: the build is done. I have a photo (needs to be transferred) of the two finished lightsabres, but since I basically just rolled tape I am going to have to wait until I get some editing time to get the actual tutorial up. I'll be using screenshots from the DV for the tutorial.

MY HANDS ARE NOW COMPLETE!!! (thank you, Stephen Sondheim...)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Maybe not.

I had other stuff creep up on me and I wound up not doing the build today. However, next week is Spring Break, so I'm going to have plenty of time and hopefully good weather to build in.

I decided that the bit of SW humor I was going to put up is a little raw for this site. So I decided against it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Looks like Thursday it is...

The gods are smiling on me, finally.

The current situation looks like Thursday will be a rain-free day. There will be a 10% chance of rain but that's probably more like a chance of sprinkles.

I might post once more here tonight, I ran across something that might be humorous. However, if it's not PG-rated I'm not going to link. I need to maintain some sort of standard here so this can be accessible to all. The parody movie I linked to off of Google has an adult theme but it's done so cleverly that younglings won't get it and they won't be exposed to anything bad.

See you later, maybe.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Maybe Thursday?

This will be the first day I will have my afternoon free in days, and supposedly it might even be rain-free. I have "nurnies" burning a hole in the pockets of my robes. The right-hand sabre looks totally *right* with the addition of the flashlight reflector. To paraphrase Sweeney Todd: my right hand is now complete. Now to get the rest of this done.

Some preliminary things about how I built the right-hand sabre:

1.) It would not have looked as good as it does without the weirdly shaped aluminum pieces that surround the upper part of the sabre. There are six of them. I can't tell you where they were procured but they were in the "nurnie" bags that Obi-Shawn Crosby and David Milano were selling for $10 each at the workshop. I'm thinking they are probably some sort of aircraft part. I used 3D Dots to adhere them to the sabre...those are way better than I ever thought they'd be when I grabbed a bunch off eBay. They have the "curiously strong" adhesive, although it's not 100% perfect. The adhesive does not give off any sort of smell so I suspect it's safe to allow a kid to use them themselves.

2.)Fun Foam is absolutely positively VITAL to getting this to hang together. It's also good grippy stuff too. And it's cheap, cheap, cheap. $0.99/sheet at Michael's. There is adhesive-backed Fun Foam but I have no idea if it will hold to chromed pipe well enough to use it with this project. I have been using contact cement, which is sort of like rubber cement on steroids. That seems to work well. The compression connector that makes up the "control box" of the sabre will hold fast to the sabre without the introduction of any sort of adhesive if you cover the place the control box will sit with Fun Foam first. All you have to do is screw down the screws. Sweet.

3.)Make sure you put a little of your own personality into the project. The Linux penguin, "Any Key" for the ignition switch and the SO-DIMM all are bits and pieces of what I'm into. I'm a proud computer geek and Free/Open Source Software supporter. The use of a flashlight reflector for an emitter is a reference to my first lightsabre building project. Hopefully you can add a bit of yourself to your own sabre.

Tomorrow we have to make an OSH run to actually fix something here. The kitchen faucet is giving up the looks like the original '50s vintage one that the builders of my apartment building put in. It is times like these when I wish I had a cam-phone so I could surreptitiously take pix of some of the items I'm using for the sabres in their natural habitat. The evil Home Depot site has some of the necessary items on display, but I don't want to support those guys because of their winger ties. Lowe's is almost as evil but not as much. However, if you have a neighborhood hardware store, do the Jedi thing and support them. The big chains have forced almost all the indies out of business. It's sad but true. Your mission is to defend, Padawan. Go and win this one for everyone who bit it when Darth Samwalton began putting up Sith*Marts in every town and village in Known Space. I think that was Order 67. Or something. Pardon my ramblings.

Oops...OSH is not as lily-white as I once thought. They're a part of the Sears/KMart conglomerate, which is red as a lobster. See what I mean? Go forth and buy at an indie hardware store if you possibly can! Then again, there aren't a lot of them anymore. I can't think of a full-service hardware store in the Valley that doesn't belong to the majors. If any San Fernando Valley folks within the sound of this blog can point me to one, please email me. Sigh...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Build delayed for a while...

Today I have stuff to do, (tm) and then the whole of next week will be not suitable for outdoor work. Winter came late to the Los Angeles area, and it is predicted we will have rain, rain and more rain for the next few days.

I have no problems going outside and taking shelter in the patio area of my apartment building for finishing up this task. However, I fear for the health of my camcorder, which I emphatically CANNOT replace if it gets damaged. I will be using the camcorder for both movies and stills of the build. I have seen people mickey-mouse rig an umbrella or a plastic bag shroud for camcorders for shooting in inclement weather, but that would make me nervous. And when you are nervous, you make mistakes. So, it looks like part of my Spring Break will be devoted to this build, weather permitting.

If there is a break in the weather, and my schedule permits, I will try for a build this week. If not, hopefully weather will be better during Spring Break.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Everybody's got a little light under the sun...

OK, I now have all my ducks in a row wrt the sabres.

The one thing I was dithering about with regard to parts has been figured out. The "emitter" on both sabres will be flashlight reflector units, scavenged from two 99 Cents Only store flashlights. It looks perfect, and it also has a bit of meaning having to do with my status as one of the first wave of SW fans.

I am not a pimply-faced youth, mind you. I am 42 years old. I saw Star Wars before it was retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. In fact, I saw Star Wars the first day it came out, at what was then called the Mann's Chinese Theatre but which has now reverted back to Grauman's Chinese Theatre but is still owned by the Mann's theatre chain. If I still had my May The Force Be With You button I received that day, I would have been able to pay for my return to College without taking out student loans. (Maybe that's an exaggeration, but those are rare little puppies.)

I was 13 1/2 years old. The story spoke to me, big time. It's a classic coming of age myth, expertly crafted using Jungian principles by a guy who believed in them big time. It's also a fun adventure tale. It created a believable world that didn't glimmer and gleam, but was scuffed up, battle scarred and lived-in.

The next day after I saw the movie, I grabbed an old flashlight from the garage. It was one of those neat metal ones that look like they could double as a lightsabre anyway, complete with the O-ring on the bottom that folds down against it when not hanging from something. I went to an aquarium shop on Ventura Blvd. and bought a nice big piece of clear plastic tubing. I brought it home. Presto! Well, not exactly Presto...I didn't have a gel to put over the lens to give the beam color, nor did I have a way of capping the end except for a liberal application of Scotch tape, so there was light leaking out the top. Still, I had built my first lightsabre, the day after the first public showings.

About a month later, the plastic-bladed lightsabres made from flashlight parts started arriving from Taiwan or South Korea or wherever. I got one. By comparison to modern-day sabres it sucked, but it certainly sucked less than my homebrewed one. No, I don't have it anymore.

Anyway, I might do some build stuff today. Stay tuned.

PS: the 99 Cent Only store is a great source for inexpensive stuff to cannibalize for your sabre. If you have one out your way, you are in luck.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A little amusement...

While I wait for a nice sunny day to build and document my sabre, here's a very funny bit of video.

Warning: this is not for the younglings, but there's nothing blatantly objectionable either.

How to be a Hardware Store Jedi

No, this is not a place to learn how to sell hardware better. This is not a place for Tim Allen fans or for people who like to putter around the house fixing things. No, this is a how-to about building a non-functional but very cool prop lightsabre (yes, I know that Lucasfilm spells it differently and the different spelling is intended!) with goodies from the hardware store.

This is actually the way that the propmakers for the original three movies made lightsabres. They raided the junk bins and cobbled everything together from spare parts. They just happened to have a whole shipload of old press camera flash handles, and with a little bit of tweaking, those were transformed into the Light Sabers (registered trademark of Lucasfilm) used in Star Wars, aka Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Now, you can pay about a Benjamin for a Graflite flash tube on eBay. The folks who restore Speed Graphic press cameras are fighting the Star Wars geeks over the last of them. There are people who get raw metal tubing and cut it and solder on pieces to basically turn it into a replica 3-cell flash tube. However, you don't have to go on eBay and join the fray. A fine foundation for an impressive looking lightsabre is just as far away as your neighborhood hardware store.

Basically what you want is a bathroom sink drain pipe. It's about a foot long, just like a Graflex 3-cell flash tube. It's usually chromed up prettily and made of thin brass piping. At Orchard Supply Hardware, (only the Sith go to Home Depot...) this item goes for about $4.50. Let me repeat. You can pay $50-$100 for an actual flash tube. Or you can spend less than $5 for something that will serve you just as well.

Anyway, I built one lightsabre based on a bathroom sink drain pipe, and I will be building another one and documenting the build right here on this blog. I was inspired to do this by a workshop I attended at Anime Los Angeles 2 in January 2006. Yes, when I'm finished, I will have two lightsabres hanging from my belt. This is in honor of a misspent youth playing Traveller, a Science Fiction pencil-and-paper Fantasy Role Playing Game.

The Traveller games I played with a group of geeky friends featured a tweak on the canonical Traveller universe. The Imperium, which really wasn't meant to resemble in any way, shape, or form the Empire in the original Star Wars trilogy, was ruled by Emperor Palpatine instead of Emperor Strephon. His trusted right-hand man was Lord Darth Vader. And the Traveller stand-in for Rebel Alliance-held Known Space was the Solomani Rim. Now, of course, in the actual Traveller universe, the Imperium is not an evil empire. The Solomani actually resemble an evil empire more than the Imperium does. But the first official Star Wars FRP wouldn't be released until 1987. And Traveller, with its Jump Drives and Psionics and Free Traders and so on, was easily adapted to the world of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

We had lots and lots of fun. We threw in a bunch of non-canon races, and also had Traveller races like the Aslani and Vargr (Very Wookiee-like!) living in what was basically the Star Wars universe. One race that really shouldn't have belonged in Traveller was the Elves. No, not the LOTR Elves. No, not the D&D Elves. But the Elfquest variety. Four-fingered barbarians who figured out how to get back to the space they crash-landed from. Barbarians with psionically-steered spacecraft whose only reason why they don't have pwn4g3 over the entire cosmos is because they want absolutely no part of a human-dominated universe. And because of their psionic talent, they seem to have more Force-sensitives than the average race. In Prequel terms, they sure do attract the Midichlorians. (Barf.)

Anyway, Thareen Penumbra, aka Thareen Ninefingers, was a genetic accident. An Elvish woman and a Human explorer fall in love. She gets pregnant. She dies in birth. The child survives: a girl with four fingers on her right hand and five on her left, big eyes, and pointy ears. Half-Human, Half-Elf. The Human explorer is put to death by her tribe because of it, and the baby girl is left to perish in the elements. Good thing she winds up found by a member of the Jedi underground, who takes her in and begins her training. However, the training is never completed, and Thareen must find a way to complete her training before the Empire finds her first.

Thareen joins the scout corps, since this is not only good cover and allows her a fair amount of freedom to quest, but this is one of the occupations that suit Elves best. Long-lived, patient, solitary when in human-dominated society, the rare Elf that doesn't live back on the World of Two Moons is usually in the scout corps. This also allows her to get her own scout craft on mustering out. While discreetly looking for others in the Jedi underground, she gets involved with activities in those rough edges of the universe where the Empire's grip is weak.

Remember, this was just after "Return Of The Jedi" and the next couple of years after that. All the conventions brought in with the Prequels kind of didn't exist. (In my opinion to mess things up. I'm part of the "George Lucas ruined my childhood memories" faction.) No "you have to begin your training as a toddler" stuff. No Midichlorians. I have to say that again: no Midichlorians. And none of the "Jedi Playboy Philosophy" nonsense. If you were a Jedi, and a true Light Jedi with no Grey stuff clouding your aura and certainly not a "Fallen Jedi," you were CELIBATE. Warrior Monks. Paladins. One of the surest ways to wind up a Grey Jedi (at least, if not completely dark) was to get busy. Or do any number of other things that could trip you up. However, only Grey Jedi and Dark Jedi would show up as Player Characters in our Traveller universe, for the same reason why in the AD&D days people didn't play non-Fallen Paladins. BORING!

Anyway, I am sure this reminiscence about gaming is getting boring too. I'll cut to the chase. Thareen fought with two lightsabres. I was thinking about Miyamoto Musashi and Wu Shu swordplay when I pushed for that characteristic of her training. It took lots of argument with the gamemaster and a roll of Percentile Dice, but when I got a natural 99 on my roll the gamemaster relented and allowed me in with the two lightsabres. Two attacks, two defenses. Way cool. This was way before Count Dooku and Anakin Skywalker doing the two-fisted Light Saber (R) action.

I also have a background in Martial Arts, and one of my favorite weapons styles is Filipino Arnis. There was something impressive in that famous scene where Bruce Lee's nunchaku gets busted by an enemy, and he fights them Escrima style instead. I don't remember which of his movies contains that scene -- Enter The Dragon comes to mind but I could be wrong, it's been years since I've seen any -- but it's hot. It's also nice to know I can defend myself with a stick or two in a pinch. ^_^ So that's why the two lightsabres. I don't remember all of my exercises (it's been 20 years) but I remember the basics.

Anyway, let's wrap this up. I will be building a second lightsabre, and documenting it right here. I will point you to where to get stuff. And I will point you to resources on the web should you want to get a bit more ambitious with yours. Note also that the way I have figured out how to do this, one needn't do any drilling or anything dangerous. Kids can do this, with sufficient parental supervision. You will be using some heavy-duty adhesives which shouldn't be eaten or inhaled or used in an area that doesn't have perfect ventilation. In short, do this project outdoors. It might be a perfect project for kids home for the Summer.

Although this also must be stressed: this is not a toy, this is a prop replica. And this is not a usable prop replica either. I won't be showing you how to mount either a light-up rod or a wood or PVC rod for sparring with. I can point you to places where the mod is detailed, but I will not teach you how to do that. You can hang this from a lightsabre belt. Or you can put it in a case and show it off. Junior, put that thing down and don't threaten Missy with it! Or you're getting a time out!

Also: this is not going to be anything like the professionally-done replicas. It will be more fragile than those. I'm going to be wearing mine on Star Wars Day at San Diego Comic-Con. But I will be babying them. If you want something durable, buy yours from a commercial manufacturer, or follow the directions which require shop tools and metalworking experience.

In any event, have fun with it. That's what this is all about. Good, clean, geeky fun. I'm going to keep the language rated "G" on here, unlike other places I blog. Again, if you want to do this with your kids, watch them and help them with adhesives. But other than that, it's fun for the entire family, from the younglings to the elder masters. More to come.