Heat Wave 187M In Craft Foam

Another post about fun stuff. Last year, I created a prop from the Trigun anime at zero cost, out of scraps.

Heat Wave 187M

This is Dominique the Cyclops’s weapon, the Heat Wave (Waves?) 187M. It’s possible to commission resin cast versions from some prop makers, but the cost is prohibitive, so I simply made it myself. The end result is  maybe 90% accurate, give or take the size and certain details which I wasn’t able to duplicate (e.g. the engraving on the slide) or which weren’t clear in the references I used. Unfortunately I didn’t document the process too well.

Two of the more popular methods I found were to (a) carve the prop out of foam blocks (b) stick together a dozen layers of craft foam. I decided to try a combination of the two.

I’m firmly of the view that styrofoam is underrated as a crafting material. It might snap easily when used by itself and make a ghastly mess when being cut up, but I’ve found that if you sandwich it between two other materials, the resulting composite – like foamcore board – is unexpectedly sturdy. A friend who’s better at physics than I am explained it thus:

“Styrofoam is strong in compression but not in tension. By sandwiching it, you create a composite material where the hard, brittle outer layers spread out the impact pressure transmitted to the over core, while the inner core prevents too much deflection of the outer layer.”

I therefore decided to create the prop from a styrofoam core, braced by a layer of craft foam, and with more craft foam for detailing.

First, I had to develop the base shape. I spent several days looking through images of the gun and finally sketched out a longitudinal cross section. I sized this to my own hand, and the final measurements are roughly 13.5cm x 41cm x 2cm. This is probably smaller than the canon size, but the proportions are as accurate as I could estimate.

EDIT: I’ve since found an image from the Trigun artbook which shows the details very accurately:

Heat Wave 187M from the Trigun art book

The Japanese text in the box reads “Cyclops’s Gun”; I’m not sure whether the English spelling should be considered the “real” or the “alternative”.

Next, I broke down the 3D shape into layers – which parts were elevated, which parts were indented, again following the proportions from the artwork as closely as I could. Unfortunately I didn’t document the sketch and it’s since disappeared.

I cut out the base shape from a piece of thin styrofoam, leaving allowance for the barrel – a bubble tea straw, one of the tough transparent ones from the branded franchises. The trigger guard and trigger were part of the base shape, but I added the trigger later.

This base piece was very fragile, so I immediately braced it with craft foam glued to both sides. I also added the barrel at this point.

Next, I added more layers of craft foam to create the various components of the gun in 3D, mostly the slide and the grip. I capped the slide with pieces of craft foam glued across the top, stuffing the hollow around the bubble tea straw with bits of craft foam and styrofoam to prop it up. Then I filled in the uneven sides with wood filler and sanded it smooth.

Note: Wood filler on craft foam is generally not a good idea as it tends to crack. However, if the craft foam has been rendered rigid, e.g. by gluing it to styrofoam, it works very well.

For the fine detailing, I made pseudo-screws with small plastic beads and yes, that’s a sequin in the photo. I poked dents in other places with the tip of a ball-point pen to simulate rivets. The design on the grip was created from a piece of string.

Photo-0193

It looked really crude before painting, but when everything had been glazed black, it looked a lot more realistic.

Props can’t dry in peace when there’s a parrot in the house! Admittedly I shouldn’t have hung it on his stand…

Finally, I stuck a bead on the grip to complete the eye design.

The Heat Wave in action! Photo taken by Joelyn Alexandra at Cosmo Youth Parade 2013

The Heat Wave in action! Photo taken by Joelyn Alexandra at Cosmo Youth Parade 2013

All the materials used for this prop were basically scraps that had been lying around the house. Even the styrofoam and craft foam I used were leftover pieces from other projects.

My $9 Custom Design Sith Utility Belt

I’m tired of only blogging about conventional things, so here’s something fun for a change.

I crafted this utility belt from a handful of cheap clearance sale belts and some scraps. Sturdy enough to hold two lightsabers (not pictured)


The Jedi utility belts from Star Wars have annoyed me for a long time. My waist is 27 inches at its absolute largest, and as Star Wars costumers will know, the commercially available Jedi belts only come in 33 inches and above

I had three options: use a normal belt, buy a 33 inch belt and cut it to size, or make my own. I opted to DIY, because it was cheaper and more importantly, I could customize it. I’m not Anakin bloody Skywalker, after all. Why should I run around in a copy of his belt?

$9 worth of belts. The colour looks nicer in the photo than it did in real life.

So one evening, I spent two hours trawling Bugis Street Market and eventually found some ugly neon-coloured, 1cm-wide belts going for $1 each. The colour was probably why they weren’t selling, but that didn’t bother me. What attracted me was the clasps: plain and futuristic-looking, solid metal and attached by screws, meaning I could easily strip and replace them. I bought four, and then picked up the widest, sturdiest synthetic leather belt I could find at $5. And that was all I spent.

Tools:

  • Leather punch
  • Screwdriver
  • Paper cutter
  • Needle and strong polyester thread

Materials – all these were lying around the house:

  • Pleather
  • Black acrylic paint (matte)
  • PVA glue
  • 2 decorative buttons
  • Replacement screws

Cutting to size

I really didn’t want that stitching coming undone.

I started by cutting the wide belt down to fit me, leaving only an inch of the tail to stick out when the buckle was closed. The edges of the belt were stitched, so I first cut the stitching about an inch below where the actual cut would be, and unravelled it to the part of the belt I was keeping. I pulled the unravelled thread through to the back of the belt and knotted it so that the stitching wouldn’t come undone and spoil the look of the belt later. Then I put a blob of PVA glue on the knot to protect it.

I shaped the cut end of the belt into a curve so it would go more easily through the buckle. I then sealed the cut edge with PVA glue to keep it from fraying.

Next, I cut out a piece of pleather large enough to wrap around the buckle and hide it completely. This would be the belt sleeve. The pleather was scavenged from a sofa someone threw out, and it was a nasty fleshy beige colour. Not a problem. I have learned the art of dyeing with acrylic.

Colour me black

I watered down some matte black acrylic paint just enough to make it runny, and stained the belts (stripping the buckles first to keep them clean) and the piece of pleather. I used matte because gloss paint leaves a tacky texture on pleather. And I stained rather than painting because that makes the texture more even, without brush strokes. It took several coats to get everything solid black. Finally, I went over the belts and pleather with Kiwi liquid shoe wax to give it just that hint of a sheen.

I pinched a pair of my sister’s nitrile surgical gloves to do the staining with. Very nice fit, and my hands didn’t perspire as much as in disposable plastic gloves.

Dyeing with acrylic

Decorative front

The typical Jedi utility belt has a second narrow decorative belt running around its middle. The belts I had bought were rather thick and would hamper putting on my Covertec clips and pouches, so I only extended them across the front.

I cut out four 3-inch pieces from the narrow belts and punched a hole in each end of each piece. To be safe, I sealed the cut ends with PVA glue again. I arranged the four pieces and two of the narrow clasps as in the photo, marked the positions of the ends, and punched eight more corresponding holes in the main belt, for attaching all the short pieces.

Next, I used thick polyester thread to sew the outer ends of the short pieces in place. I didn’t sew the inner ends as those would be attached by the clasps. I covered up the outer ends with two decorative buttons off an old coat, using a small curved upholstery needle to get the thread through tight corners.

Dangly straps

I wanted an Old Republic era look, and specifically I wanted to evoke the effect of the Sith Inquisitor’s belt in the Old Republic MMO. So I took the rest of the narrow belts and hung them from the front to the back of my wide belt. I planned to attach them under the clasps at the front, and with the two remaining clasps at the back.

I measured two separate lengths of strap, one longer and one shorter, and punched a hole in each end of each strap. I screwed the ends of two straps into each of the remaining clasps, replacing the original short screws with longer ones to reach through the extra thickness.

Screwing the straps into the clasp

The next part was complicated. I placed the free ends of my dangly straps under the loose ends of the decorative straps on the front of the belt, lining the holes up: short dangly strap under the top decorative strap, long dangly strap under the bottom decorative strap. Then I took two long screws and, with a good deal of difficulty because the alignment was very tight, I ran each screw through the belt, through a dangly strap, through a front strap and into a clasp. As I did so, I poked the long stud on the other end of the clasp through the front strap and the dangly strap across from it, creating a very tight fit that more or less nailed all the straps together.

One screw placed. Note the mass of threads where the outer ends of the short pieces and the decorative buttons were secured.

A clearer (?) look at the fastening arrangement of the straps.

Halfway through this I had to stop, unscrew everything and run a few rounds of polyester thread through the holes in the dangly straps and the belt, because the stud ends of the clasps were so heavy that they dragged the decorative straps out of alignment. Then I screwed everything back in place again…

Finally, I punched two more holes on either side of the buckle to secure the clasps on the dangly straps. That made a total of 25 holes including the ones to resize the belt, and very sore hands by the time I was done – I’m not exactly strong and the leather punch was a bit blunt.

Belt keeper

EVA foam, good for crafting armour and also good as a backing for punching needles through pleather.

This bit was easy, if tedious. In a fit of perfectionism, I hemmed the edges of the dyed pleather. Then I attached velcro to it and wrapped it around the buckle.

Protip: Nitrile gloves have an extraordinarily good grip on metal! Using the same glove I’d dyed the pleather in, I was able to grip a stuck needle and pull it through the pleather and velcro with no difficulty at all. Perhaps this isn’t surprising since nitrile gloves are made for surgery, after all…

Add Covertec clips and pouches, and there we have a customized, perfectly fitting XS belt that actually looks reasonably authentic.

Front view

Front view

Side view

Side view

Back view

Note: I created this belt on the fly, based on what materials I had on hand. The design of the decorative front came about simply because the clasps of the cheap belts suggested it.

Opposing The HPB Sexuality FAQ Is Plain Wrong

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen a great deal of vehement opposition to the Health Promotion Board’s FAQ on sexuality, and most of it left me feeling as if I had been wading through a knee-deep pit of thick, sticky, foul-smelling sewage. A minority of writers did put forward calm and reasoned arguments, but for the most part, I got the impression that people who oppose homosexuality are a bunch of raving trolls. Yes – that was the quality of the thought, language and attitudes I observed.

Now, for the sake of fairness, I shall add that the pro-homosexuality faction has its share of screaming nuts. But for some reason, there are far, far more offensive voices in the anti group.

Precisely because of the amount of strong language and emotion-based reasoning flying around, I decided that I wanted to look at this as neutrally and objectively as I could. This is what I came up with:

What is the real objection?

Let’s begin by thinking about what people are objecting to. They are objecting to the information provided by the Health Promotion Board. What is this information?

In intention, the information is about how homosexuals can maintain their physical and mental health. In practice, the information is…well, it’s about how homosexuals can address the unique health-related problems they face and thereby maintain their physical and mental health. I’ve read through it repeatedly and while I still find the title and presentation of the article rather misleading, the content is essentially what HPB probably wanted it to be.

Let us reduce the intention of the HPB’s article to its basics. The article aims to provide health-related information to a minority group which does not have easy access to such information, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that members of this minority group are able to care for themselves. In practice, it is still too early to know what the actual effect of the article will be.

But in terms of intention, when you object to the publication of this article, your intention is essentially to say that you do not want a minority group to have access to health information. You are saying that you do not want people in this minority group to be able to care for themselves. You are saying that you do not want the authorities to look after this minority group – that you want the authorities to discriminate against them by omission. Do you see how intrinsically wrong this attitude is?

There is another version of the above attitude. Certain groups are saying that the information in the HPB’s article is inaccurate, and cite their own sources as proof. They are basically arguing that they know better than the authorities how to look after a minority group. This is a legitimate viewpoint. However, there is a fundamental question here – who really knows better?

Who has the right to determine?

The Health Promotion Board’s mandate is to promote health and prevent disease among residents in Singapore (summarized from its website). It has decided, based upon its own research – we will assume here that due diligence was adequately carried out – that publishing the FAQ on sexuality contributes to achieving its goal. In short, the HPB’s grounds for publishing the FAQ are related to the purpose of its existence.

The interest groups that wish the HPB to take the FAQ down argue that the article promotes immoral behaviour and should therefore be removed. I find this argument deeply disturbing on several levels.

Firstly: It claims superiority of a religion that is not universal.

I have observed that with only a few exceptions, the arguments against homosexuality and by extension against the HPB’s article are religious in nature. Again reducing it to the basics, certain religious interpretations find that homosexuality is against their moral codes. (I won’t say that it’s against any particular religion, because I’ve also seen that different members of the same religion hold differing views on this.)

It’s fine if they are against it for religious reasons. Our society supports freedom of belief. However, massive complications arise when the groups following these religious interpretations demand that the authorities should alter their policies to match their internal codes. They are basically saying that their internal codes and their interpretations are superior to the policies adopted and pursued by the governing bodies of the nation. In plain words: they are saying that the principles of [insert religion here] are superior to the secular principles of the Singapore government. In a multi-religious, multi-racial society, this is a hideous claim to make. There is no excuse for it.

Secondly: It attempts to determine the public good based on discrimination against another group.

The intentions of the anti-homosexuality interest groups are, in their view, benign. They believe that they are acting for the public good, and they have a clear definition of the public good which they actively work to advance. In this particular case, their definition of the public good revolves around the idea that homosexuality is bad.

It is the right of these interest groups to put forward such a definition and lobby for it. But this particular definition strongly suggests and, in other countries, has led directly to the idea that homosexuality must be marginalised and even actively discriminated against for the sake of the public good.

I won’t go into utilitarian ethics here. But this argument basically says that (1) the existence of a certain minority group is harmful to society and therefore (2) the public good is based upon how much discrimination is directed against that minority group. I consider both arguments to be flawed, firstly by the fallacy of absolutes, and secondly by the fallacy of the false dilemma.

Who is really being hurt?

The arguments against the HPB’s sexuality FAQ all share a common denominator. They dehumanize everyone. Not only homosexuals, but other members of society. To say that someone’s sexuality can be changed by something as simple as reading an article – that disregards people’s agency, their ability to make choices, their capacity to think for themselves. It suggests that their very identity is so easily swayed as to be unimportant. And that ultimately hurts everyone…

…except, maybe, the individuals who seek to gain power by guiding and influencing others’ thoughts.

I’m going to finish by sharing a very personal story here. I’ve seen people argue that homosexuality destroys the family unit, and this is my answer:

Many years ago, a pastor told me that it is natural for Christianity to break up families, that it is in fact part of the teachings of Jesus that families should be broken up by the faith. He told me that in response to my anguish over the fact that my staunchly Buddhist grandmother had been converted to Christianity on her deathbed, under false pretences, while she suffered from dementia so severe she couldn’t recognize her own children, and was now buried separately from my grandfather as a result. Meanwhile, a close relative had been influenced to will all her wealth to a church, completely disregarding and nearly cutting off other members of the family who were in financial need. I was in pain; my family was in pain; and that was the answer a religious leader gave me.

Tell me again, then, that homosexuality is bad because it breaks up families. Look what Christianity did to my family. Oh, you won’t forgive a complete stranger for being homosexual? Well, I forgive complete strangers for being Christian. Now tell me again who is bad.

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