Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Project Grayskull part 4 - towers and teeth!

TLDR: A continuation of my project: turning Castle Grayskull into a GM screen. Earlier posts: Project Grayskull Part 1Part 2, and Part 3

With the exterior painted it was time to tackle some engineering. Technical building isn't really my strong suit, but I can be as handy as I need to be most of the time. First I tackled the shelves using some pegboard I had around. I cut them out with a sabre saw and decided they were too thin, so I cut out two more in the same shapes and glued them together. It would have been easier, perhaps, to go get some nicer wood of the correct thickness, but I just wanted to keep moving forward. Also it's good to use up stuff and not spend money!

Since the shelves and the dice tower kind of came together at the same time, I'm going to show the piece I used for the top half of the dice tower first. It's obviously some kind of piece for joining misaligned PVC pipes. I figured the corrugated sides and the bends I planned to put into it would work for tumbling the dice, no "baffles" necessary inside. I painted the piece gray so that it looked more in-keeping with the build. The following pictures show it in place, with the two shelves (unpainted and then painted). Note the cut-outs to secure the top and bottom of the dice tower/slide. 


My original idea for the bottom end of the dice tower was for the dice to free-fall into a self-standing elbow piece that would shoot them out of the mouth. I used a black piece of PVC and globbed up the end with hot glue, then painted it a flesh pink just to be fun/gross. Here it is. Don't get too attached though, because it's going away.

Note the view of the inside of the drawbridge in these photos. It's still just green plastic. I'll get to that below. But first, a slo-mo video of me testing out the dice tower. Please turn your sound on so you can hear the clunky tumbling of dice in slow-mo. Also note how the bottom end of the dice tower wobbles. 

Basically, I gave up on self-standing elbow because of my dissatisfaction with its instability. Also the gloopy-throat look was just too much and I didn't care for the "inelegance" of a two-piece solution. Plan B involved something subtler, something that was firmly hung instead of just sitting in place, and (bonus) a separate hidden dice input for the GM!

Here is the plan A and plan B pieces side-by-side. Sharp eyes will catch the LED light tape, remote, and USB power bank in the background. That comes later. The black-pipe solution on the right is the new plan. I hot-glued the top of it to the shelf as pictured below. It works great, by the way, and is very sturdy. I keep forgetting little things I did in the process because all of this work was completed over a year ago. I put some craft foam in the bottom of the castle as a kind of flooring. But then I ended up cutting away some of it and painting the space below the dice tower bottom all black so that it looked better from the outside when open. Looking at this makes me a little nauseous that I didn't go with black on the upper part of the tube and the shelf too. But ... "perfect is the enemy of done."

And here is what the top of the dice tower looks like from the front, with the case closed. In a later stage I add a backing piece behind the tower to hide the interior. The goal here is for players to be able to reach up and throw dice in the tower. The GM can use the top or the secret side input from behind the screen. 

Ok. Now for something fun. The inside of that drawbridge/gate/door thing. I used moldable plastic to create teeth. You just dump the pellets into a mug of boiling water and they become malleable for a few minutes. I bought this stuff, Polly Plastics, through Amazon. The front tooth and near-jaw molars were molded just a few seconds before the picture was taken. The molars along the far side (near the container) are cooling into a cloudy white. When fully cool, the plastic is white and hard, as seen in the following picture.

The plastic is a bit waxy and smooth at first, and it takes a good coat of primer before it will take paint well. Sanding it would probably be smart. Oh! I almost forgot, why even do this? Well, otherwise the dice would roll right off the edge of the gate. Note that in the dice video above I placed a bit of pipe-strap in a U shape around the tongue to get an idea of how high the dice "dam" needed to be. Even now the dice don't always lay flat on the tongue. I'm considering a bit of clear resin poured on the tongue to make it look wet and to also make it flat. Finally, I ended up putting a spot of craft foam inside the bottom bend of the black PVC to slow the dice down just a little. I mean, they really come flying out!

Here it is finished and painted. No comments from anyone who understands teeth please. I clearly don't, but I think it works, visually. I tried to roughly match the upper chompers, which look gorilla like to me. Here's a front and side view.

That was a lot to absorb, so we'll leave it there for now. Next up "finishing steps?"

Friday, September 2, 2022

Project Grayskull part 3 - the paint job!

TLDR: A continuation of my Castle Grayskull turned into a GM screen project. Earlier posts can be read here: Project Grayskull Part 1 - In the RawProject Grayskull Part 2 - Planning and Prepping.

With the shell cleaned up and the eye holes drilled, it seemed like a good time to get the paint done. I started with a coat of primer. Specifically, I used Rust-Oleum 2X Satin Granite spray paint. 

This was my first mistake -- not the paint, the paint is GREAT -- the color and the satin finish. If I had it to do over again I would have based it flat black since most of the painting I did was dry brush, but we'll get to that. Here is Castle GRAYskull. Note the purple die. Gonna talk about that next.

The die shown is a Roll4Initiative d20. They are a little larger than normal d20s. I ended up replacing these with plastic purple gems, but I think I may go back to the d20s. (You'll see the difference in a future post.) Thing is, these were just a little big to sit in the socket easily, so I may go with a different brand. But the idea was to rotate them so that one eye showed the blessed 20 and the other accursed 1! Like this:

You can see the light leaking out around them here. But they are just lying in the sockets; they aren't hot glued in yet. 

The next step was greens. Now I knew I was going to be using a lot of paint and the detail is good but on a much larger scale than a miniature, so I bought cheap craft acrylic paint from Michael's. The greens I used were Bright Mint and Apple Tart, with a bit of Ocean Breeze. In fact, these paints account for about 90% of the work. (I forgot to put the red I used on the roof. See it below - in the shot.) 

I used a dry-brush technique for a lot of it, which is to say I loaded the brush, then dabbed a bunch off on a paper towel, then dragged the brush across the surface (rather than jabbing it into the cracks). I made multiple passes sometimes with one color of green, sometimes with another, and sometimes with the brush loaded with a loose mix of both (swirled or loaded one color to a side but not actually mixed). Here and there are touches of turquoise. This photo shows the base coast. The green is basically done, but the teeth, door, and some other details are simply blocked in with brown or white. I did make one pass here painting a runny black back wash into the cracks (remember I said that I should have based it black?), the gray was too soft and didn't provide enough contrast. The eye sockets were painted black for contrast and the dice have been glued in here, with lights shining behind them. (These weren't the lights I eventually used, just a cheap string of Christmas white LEDs that ran on a battery.) 

Anyway, it's already starting to look pretty cool, but just wait.

Here is the (close to) final result, exterior, after painting the rocks, the metallic bits on the door, and the (what I perceived to be copper) dome. The roof tiles were done in a brick red for contrast with the green. I also blotched some green spots on the copper to make it look like a patina from natural weathering. At this point I was getting hella pleased with myself. This picture was taken about 6 work hours (non-consecutive) into the project. The original matching picture is placed immediately below the painted piece for comparison.

This is honestly the first time I've looked at the pics side by side. I kind of miss that high, acid green on the original, but the overall effect of mine is clearly superior, a bit more "realistic" (if such a word even makes sense here), and kind of ghostly. It's amazing how much more of the detail you can see when it isn't literally camouflaged by random paint sprays. 

The next step involves dealing with the innards. Shelves, dice tower tube, inside of the gate, etc. Stay tuned. 


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Project Grayskull part 2 - planning and prep

TLDR: A continuation of my Castle Grayskull / GM screen project. The first part can be read here: Project Grayskull Part 1 - In the Raw

Here's a quick look at my first ideas for the project, from a journal I was keeping at the time. This was probably drawn around November 2020. It's a pretty solid beginning though it's clear I don't know what to do with the left half other than "storage." I was mostly thinking about the dice tower and lighting components.

My initial idea for the dice tower involved a bendy, corrugated hose, like one might find on a shop vac. Turns out those are kind of pricey and I was better off with just common PVC anyway. (I used black PVC so I didn't have to paint it, but more about the dice tower -- and my mistakes -- in a future post.)

I didn't want a plug-dependency, so from the beginning I was thinking of LED lights that could be run off a USB power bank or battery pack. From there, my notions were pretty vague about what else I might want, but some earlier mock ups of cardboard shelves told me that I had room for either full-sized books or digest books and a shelf on the left hand side of the open screen. See pics below. 

I opted for digest-sized books, partly because the weight of multiple full-sized books seemed impractical and because I could pack more into the build if I stuck with zine-sized books. I thought about a removable shelf on the left, but given the really curvy nature of the interior, I was afraid it wouldn't stay put if I didn't glue it in. 

I mocked up these cardboard shelves in multiple stages. I didn't have one of those flexible rulers that will hold a shape, so I just kind of worked with paper and guesses until I got it right. I have sense found some images of the shelves online and think I might have used those to trace, but I would have had to scale them up to the right size before printing. 

At this point I took my first scary, irreversible step and drilled holes for the light-up gem-eyes. I drilled them at 1.75 inches in diameter. I was really afraid that the bit would catch and make a crack in the case but that didn't happen. If it had, I supposed I would have repaired it with green stuff.

Next up - painting and lights (attempt #1)!