When I lent my services to a collegue who was working on a film about 12 years ago, I was introduced to the world of cnc. I remember watching this huge machining centre milling out a slab of mdf and turning it into a fantastic set of gears. I knew that it would have taken me hours to achieve the same thing with traditional power tools. I decided then that I would invest in a cnc router for my own business Oxenham Design. At that time I could turn on a computer, but even to check email seemed like a crazy set of operations. I persevered and learned every piece of relevant software I could get my hands on. I am now fortunate enough to be using Vectric's ASPIRE software, and Techno cnc routers, which has helped us to create some amazing projects, both in part, or in full. I thought that this blog would be a great place to share "behind the scenes" adventures with the software, materials and equipment we use, as well as the projects we build.

Monday, 30 May 2011

A picture is worth a thousand words

The Death machine is finally over. A lot of happiness, and a bit of sorrow. I find after a long build, I feel a bit sad when a job finally wraps. The weekend shoot went great though. It was filmed on location at the Scarborough bluffs in Toronto. The Death machine had one last laugh at our expense though. The location was quite wet due to all the rain we've been having. After the install on Friday, we were trying to get the truck unstuck from the mud, when I had the brainiac idea to try and help pull it out with a cable and my minivan. "It should be ok-if I stay on higher ground where its less wet" Well not so much. In the end, I was stuck, the pickup was stuck, the tow truck that we called was stuck, and the 2nd tow truck took an hour and a half to get us all out. Yup, one last laugh at our expense. And by expense, I mean $200.00 for the yank out.
Oh well, it was all worth it. Everyone we worked with on the weekend were stellar. It was a amazing to get to work with actor Julian Richings. An amazingly nice man who was absolutely captivating to watch run his lines.
As a write this blog, I am reminded of the email reply from the director when I submitted our quote: "I just want to point out how awesome an invoice for a DEATH MACHINE is!"


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Bubbles everywhere, and Death leaves in the morning

Yaaay. The bubble gun is done. It wasn't that bad of a job. This is for the same photographer, Matt Barnes, as the crazy Yeti build was. I can't say to much, but its for an album cover. I spent most of the day making the little parts, and odds and ends, for the gun. As I got to sit down and work all day, it was a welcome break from the running back and forth on some of the other jobs! Before I knew it, it was all built. I spent quite a while looking at it, seeing if needed a little more here and there, but decided it was great right where it was. The finish came out pretty sweet as well I think. I basically sprayed the whole thing out in satin black, and when it was dry enough to handle, buffed aluminum powder into the black. If your patient enough, you can almost get to chrome this way. Then I buffed brass powder onto some of the details to give them a little more pop. I also did 1 soap container the same way, and left the second one in the transparent blue that it came in. This might be a nice colour pop as well, the choice will be theirs.

The Death machine is sooooooo close to being done that I get excited at the thought of it leaving soon. It eats a lot of space! We just have to bolt the legs to the pylons, and load it up.


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Death claims another victim

Well the death machine claimed its second victim. It was Jody. I guess technically, she was the 2nd AND 3rd victim. After she drilled her finger working on the harrow plate, I had to lend a hand finishing up with that, and lifted the finished plate up and caught her in the mouth. She said she was going to tell everyone that I split her lip with my wedding ring :) We have been working mega overtime trying to get all the loose ends buttoned up so we are ready for the Friday install. We've also been doing some 3-d modelling for our client Brilliant Creative, modelling some trade show displays. So to say we've been swamped is an understatement!

On the harrow, I was able to move the needle assembly over to the toothed belt drive, and that seems to be working great.

The bed got it's final paint job and we also picked up the belts for the "victim" holding straps, and got those installed. I made a copper pipe mouth piece that the victims has to bite down on, while his head has a strap ratcheted down on it. It's kind of gruesome really.

So the only parts left, are to run the tubing that will spray water to wash the blood away, mount the legs to the concrete pylons, and make the harrow cover so no one can see the 18v cordless drill running the needles! Oh yeah, and the pipe that all the wires and smoke will run through.

Phew! that's all.
We also got awarded the "bubble Gun" job. That shoots Friday as well. I was able to pick up a small gun that really shoots bubbles! So with the deadline of Friday, the only option is to hack the one we bought to make it look way cooler. I did a bit of work on it today, and should finish up tomorrow. Maybe the prop fairy will visit the shop tonight. That would be awesome.


Friday, 20 May 2011

Death, it's really a black and white issue

The last 2 days have seen some jumps in the death machine build. I was able to install all the camshafts and needle carriers. There's quite a few hours into this process for sure. When your dealing with plastic parts and small tolerance discrepancies, the errors can rapidly compound. And what is in the computer, doesn't always translate to the real world perfectly. I intentionally left the a little play in all the parts as we made them up, which translated into some issues when we were testing the camshafts. It took a little while to go over all of the 132 moving parts and fix  the little issues we had, but by the end of the day it was all running fine. I will switch out the pulley and belt system we were using for a toothed belt drive system. This will provide far more torque to drive all the needles. This is so I can run them all from 1 drive motor. The less stuff the better! The video shows only 1 bank of needles running, but it will look pretty cool with all 4 banks running at the same time.
 You'll also notice that all the pics of the death machine, from today on, will be in black and white. This is because the film is being shot in this format. And because of this, we really only need tones on the machine, not colour per say. As we progress on the painting, it won't really look all that great in colour :)

We really liked the original rust colours as a base, but now we  need to work for B&W. So as we photograph, we're taking them all sans colour. Just so we can keep an eye on the contrast. And these are the pics I'll post.


Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Finally the texture

Today saw the texture make it onto the death machine bed and harrow. It looked like serious rain all day, but I did it anyway, and the rain held off. Nice. Jody got a few rust colour washes onto the machine and John came in for a bit to help with the camshaft assembies.

After finishing all the rest of the needle parts I started a test assemble, then I realized I made the 'piston rods' too short. When we were initially shooting ideas around, I made a 4 needle version for the director and producer to see work. After playing around with it for a bit, I thought the needle stroke was a bit long, and assembling it the way we did was a huge pain. So I changed the file to shorten the needle throw and make the piston rods 'snap' in, instead of painstakingly trying to assemble it the old way. Well the 'snapping in' part worked well, but a failure to pay total attention to my own drawings, yielded piston rods .100" shorter and caused them to bind on the camshaft. So I re-drew them, as well as some 'safety' caps to avoid the whole crankshaft from popping out of its mounting. It kind of sucks a little to re-do work that was done once already, but Aspire and Techno cnc made VERY short work of the replacement parts. In fact, it took longer to find the material in the rack then cut all 56 parts out again!

Tomorrow should see the final assembly on the moving needles. It might take a bit to retro-fit the worm drive motor I picked up to drive it all, but it should be fairly easy.


Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Oh the things that come up

At the advice of a couple of my blogger friends, I decided to add the code for a 'Digg' button to my blog. Well, I was able to edit all my posts with the HTML code, but it managed to screw up all my published dates. So it would seem all my facebook friends will have MULTIPLE posts on there walls! Live and learn I guess.

Did you ever have one of those days that didn't necessarily go as planned? Let's start with the rain-no texture for me outside today. Early this morning I was asked to supply an Aspire model of a small memorial plaque, which I happily agreed to. Before I knew it it was noon, and I was still at home.

So I got to work about 15 min. later and finished all the base coating on the Death Machine parts. I tell you, The only thing that that machine can really kill is all my small paintbrushes. With all the lightning holes I carved into all the supports, there was a TON of small openings to try and jam paint into.
I also had been asked to cut some vinyl graphics for a local business a few weeks back and never quite got to it...............until today. I felt I couldn't put this job off any longer, so right after the last of the basecoat paint, I went right to town on the van graphics. It was nice to get that small job off the ever-growing list!

Maybe tomorrow will see way more action on the Death Machine. This job was awarded VERY early, so it's been kind of nice to be able to start newer jobs, and backburnering the Death Machine when we need to.

Speaking of new jobs, we've been asked to build a BUBBLE gun. Sort of retro-sci-fi. That should be interesting. I don't think I've ever built a BUBBLE gun before


Monday, 16 May 2011

Death gets a bed

Today was a bit of a juggle. I had 2 meetings for some upcoming tentative projects. So between meetings, I was able to get the bed for the death machine started. I had already cut the skins a while ago, so I really just had to cut the backer panels and apply the 2X2 supports. I was also able to make some more headway on the painting. There are definitely more gears at painting time then I remember making :) I mixed up a dirty reddish brown for the base coat and applied it liberally to all the parts. Before I knew it, it was the end of the day. I can't decide if today was a hugely productive day, but it certainly flew by pretty quick. I was really hoping to get the bed texture coated, but the rain outside had other plans. And after the over-spray explosion texturing the top of the death machine, I think I'll take this one outside!
 If all goes as planned, tomorrow I will finish all the base-coat colour, texturing, and be able to get back to assembling the tattoo needles of death.
 This job will start to come together by leaps and bounds once the weathering gets started. The last part should be running all the wiring and BAM, it should be done.

Is this fur real? We get to do this!

Well today was a fun day. We all got on the same page pretty quick as how the fur should be applied. Here Karen, a wonderfully talented artistic collegue of ours, is starting the fur. It's amazing how much hair is now in the air just from getting this far! These pieces are extremely tedious, as we cut them all into little strips and applied them individually. After this part, we will be able to start furring with larger, serrated strips. That should make this move along faster. While that was being taken taken care of at one end of the shop, I was able to start coating the face, chest and hands with a mixture of plaster of paris and white glue. This was used instead of our regular Urethane hard coat system for a couple of reasons. One was the expense of the Urethane vs. this method, and 2 was hardening time. Our Urethane coat requires a creamy, water based primer, and we didn't have the time to wait for this additional step to dry. Being that our Yeti really only needs to survive the shoot, and then be displayed high out of reach at the studio, the Urethane hard coat system was a little redundant.

 Being that we would never set our yeti up fully at the shop, it was very important that each piece be fiitted to the next one in the chain. As the day progressed, we made leaps and bounds on getting the fur and paint applied. We didn't really do very much air-brushing on this fellow. He would never have a close up in the final cut. Jody was able to apply a pretty cool mottle texture with 3-4 colours on the exposed skin, and then we air-brushed white translucent spots around the fur to skin edge. This helped blend the white of the hair to the relatively dark skin.

 After this step, we did the eyes and bleeding cuts (after all, he is attacking a 1960's era expedition) When it came to the teeth, I decided to just build by hand. Aspire would have easily taken this on, but there was no indents in the mouth for them. So it was just as easy to sculpt them and the gum portion together.
The tonque was also done by hand, as the cg file looked abit weird after we posed and sculpted the face in the computer. I suspect we will be here pretty much all night tonight as tomorrow will be the shoot day.
In a neat turn of events, Matt asked if I wanted to appear in the final picture as a Himilayan Sherpa! I'm not sure if it was my charisma, or my face that didn't get shaved this week, but I happily agreed nonetheless.
Sherpa Jamie........... I think I like it.


Sometimes it's not all excitement

Today was a bit of a slow go on the buoy and the death contraption. I got asked late yesterday to supply 4 cg models for packaging display units. It was one of those "Sure, that sounds fairly easy" kind of jobs. The modelling was pretty straight forward. However, it took a while to get all the lights and materials set up in the computer, and then even longer for the computer to render the scene. After that, they'll apply all the packaging graphics to our renders. So today was a fairly late start to the other jobs. I did manage to get all the fabrication on the buoy all finished though. And the base coat of red on as well. Our Techno cnc got the pre-mask cut on the sign panel, and I got the text all sprayed. This job is due Friday at noon, so getting the buoy to this stage was paramount, as that leaves tomorrow to do all the rust, fading and beating up of the sign panel.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Oh bouy, it floats

 Thursday saw the completion of the buoy. When I came into the shop, all the red base coat had dried nicely and it was time for the magic. We applied the many layers of different rust colours to the base and tower. We used latex paint for this step, ragging and sponging it around until we were happy. The sign panel, which we had made from .080" styrene plastic, got sanded to remove a lot of the paint from the text. This made it look like the text had started to fade and wear down. Then it too got a watery weathered grey/brown applied to it, letting the colour run down the face, adding years of atmospheric grime in about 5 minutes. When the panel dried, we flipped it over, sprayed the back with dark grey and speckled it with a textured black, making it look like very old galvanized metal. Then with a heat gun, we added the dings and bent edges. The final steps were to spray foam a few styrofoam chunks for flotation, mount a drop hook for adding weights to, and dill a vent hole, allowing any trapped air to escape once it took up residence on the lake during the shoot.

Once the spray foam had hardened up a bit, we added a few splats of seagull droppings, mixing brown into the off white, to add some realism to the poop.

Seagulls? Didn't I make one of those from Finding Nemo? How could I let this opportunity go without some fun. Plus, the poor seagull needs to get out of the shop every once in a while.
We let the buoy set of overnight, and bolted the tower to the base Friday morning. On our way to deliver it Friday in the AM, I stopped by my in-laws who have a pool. Now my in-laws are pretty understanding. This definitely isn't the first time they've looked out the window and seen something strange in their pool. I seem to remember a pirate ship, alligator and a small submarine. The buoy floated exactly as planned, and it was one last exciting photo op for our seagull.

I think I will ask for this buoy back if production doesn't want it after. I have a great idea to tie it to my dock and make a couple more seagulls. That should look pretty sweet to the confused boaters this summer.


Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Grey is a good start for DEATH

The title says it all! Jody started heavy into the base coat on the Death machine today. The texture step was well worth cleaning the wet compound 90 over-spray off the walls and doors, as our drop cloth was unsuccessfull in catching it all.
As Jody worked her but off with the painting, I was able to make some headway on the buoy. We used dowel for the 'welded' pipe and MDF for the spike and top cap. Not really water proof, but it will be ok for the couple of hours at sea. For the base, we cut a disk and wrapped it in Sintra. This part definitely needs to be water resistant. Then we'll cut some foam as a floatation device, to keep somewhat upright.

Tomorrow we'll pre-mask the sign panel and cut cut the graphics with our Techno CNC. I decided to paint the graphics, instead of using vinyl, so we could partially sand it down to make the text look weathered.


Monday, 9 May 2011

What a week

Well, the new website is up and running! This was a whole week of 5pm to 3am computer work. There was a LOT of 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. Then the monumental task of finding all my passwords and login info for the hosting company. But it's done. Now we will be able to update this far more regularly.

 But back to the work that pays! John was in today assembling all the small cam levers that will form the 4 camshafts. Although the picture looks like a Tim Horton's ad! Each camshaft will have 14 tattoo needles. It will look pretty sweet with all the needles pumping up and down as well as the tube that snakes between the rows spraying water to wash all the blood away. Keep in mind, our tattoo needles will be made from 1/8" brass tubing, and will look extremely unsanitary, so there will be a lot of blood.

We were also able to get the machine texture coated, this will help to make it look really rough when we do the rust paintwork.
 The front of the machine has that mechanical iris I spoke about earlier. The iris will open with a lever, and that's where the paper gets fed into for the machine to decide what the fatal tattoo will be. That file was supplied by gbanet from the Vectric forum.  We got that cut from 1/4" sintra and all painted up. It looks great! Behind the iris, we hacked a paper shredder that will "suck in" the paper. We'll put in a catch basket so the shredded paper doesn't rain down on the actor.
  We also got asked to fabricate the marker buoy with a weathered sign that states "Now Leaving Canadian Waters."
I got the "tube" frame all fabricated for that, and hopefully will finish the building tomorrow.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

Finally, a new website is concieved

The other major player in my time has been working our new website. Yeah I know, 'What a geek!' -'only nerds build there own sites!'- 'get a real job you bum'- Oh wait,  the last one was my mother in-law. I don't really mind the look of our current site, but I have no idea how to maintain it! The guys who did it years ago have all moved on to other things, and this left me kind of stuck. I have had an offer from a friend who does this for a living, but as I didn't really know what I wanted, I didn't think it would be fair to dump that on him. I can hear myself now "Yeah, it looks good, but can you change it all to this maybe?" So I decided I would do it all myself. I know nothing about website design (or at least I didn't until Sunday) but there is lots of software out there, and I pretty much closed my eyes and picked one. A little bit out of the norm for me, as I like to research and compare, but website building is out of the norm for me as well. I kind of thought 'ultimately, how hard can it be?' I do have a lot of software experience under my belt, and I understand design and layout. I decided I wanted something creative,  fun, and a little unexpected. It really doesn't say much when a creative company has a boring site that isn't maintained or updated. I really have enjoyed working on the death machine. And with all it's rivets and rust, it started to give me an idea for what I wanted our website to be. So I started designing all the artwork for it, as well as all the little roll-over icons, etc. Well I can see why building a website can quickly become very costly, there's a lot of checking, page linking, layout changes and the "OH-NO, I didn't design an icon for the gallery page!"
 But I hung in there, and now have a pretty comprehensive understanding of  how this all works. I still have a ways to go on it, but I'll get there. Hopefully I can launch this weekend. It will be a sigh of relief to cut the line and let this website free!


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Busy, busy

It's been very busy for me the last 4 days. I got the heads all made for the stone. We also got the various texture coats on the sculpture as well.

Due to the various washes and glazes, there was a fair amount of dry time before we could start the next steps. The whole thing looks great! You almost have to see it in person to see all the little texture elements that would be in carved stone. Finally today we were able to wrap up the sculpture as done. Which is good, as tomorrow is the delivery date I promised.