Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Confrontation Part III: Engineering for Metal

It has been quite some time since I posted the last installment of this series. Even though I knew this would be a long one, I had not intended to go five months between updates! To provide a brief recap: I had assembled most of the parts of the dragon Narthrax, but the other participant in the scene was sadly lacking in readiness:

Since the, I have been trying to get the metal half of this duo assembled, so I could get back to blocking out and building the base that will support both of them.
By far the biggest, and most obvious, difference between the two players in this little drama is weight. In spite of being at least twice the volume of Barros and Tempest, Narthrax is a featherweight model, easily supported on two tiny hind limbs, and a few drops of superglue.

The metal pegasus, by comparison, is quite heavy. Supporting it, and its rider, from only a small contact point requires quite a bit more engineering. The Tempest model does come with a built-in socket for a support rod in his model, but I very much wanted to try to minimize the visibility of the support structure. The end product will be much more dramatic, if he appears to be suspended in mid-flight, charging at Narthrax from across the base.

The down side, of course, is that, to hide the support point, Tempest's pose calls for a strongly cantilevered position, supported from on of his hind legs, with nearly his full weight hanging in mid-air over the base. Moving the support point to the back required drilling a new hole for a connecting rod to attach, so I began to carefully drill a new hole through Tempest's hind leg, hopefully without screwing it up, and mangling the thin pewter casting in the process.

My first attempt made room for a 1/16" brass rod, which was pretty good, but some test-fitting showed that it still tended to bend slightly, when I placed Tempest's full weight on it. After some soul-searching, and a little eyeball measurement, I decided that I could probably get away with a stiffer, 3/32" rod. Re-drilling the hole to widen it was a nerve-wracking experience - there was not much room for error, given the thickness of the leg.

Case in-point: The first leg I tried drilling went wrong, with the bit chewing up the details from the inside. I was able to fix it up with some green stuff and sculpting tools, but I do not recommend trying it. Fortunately, the second leg worked out fine, and I am hopeful that the end-product will be nice and stable.

A quick return to the diorama's base allowed me to review how the two figures will be positioned relative to each other. This is my first drama, and I am still figuring out what will look best. I want the scene to be contained in the space, but there needs to be enough separation to keep them from interfering with each other too badly.

After a little trial and error, I toke a pencil, and lightly marked each position to give me a good idea of what should go in each spot. The mark for Tempest is pretty close to the edge, but remember that it's the location for his back foot. Most of his body will be in front of that, over the base.

The next step was actual construction. I cut some lengths of brass rod stock, and installed set them up as a little tripod, embedded in the wood of the display base. It's possible that the basic rod would have held on it's own, but I wanted the extra reinforcement to make extra sure.

A touch of solder, and a big blob of green stuff completed the basic structure. (I tragically forgot to take a picture of the support with the green stuff in-place.)

Once the green stuff cured, I took the liberty of roughing out some of the terrain around the mount using Super Sculpey. I finished up, and fired this part now. My plan will be to build up the rest of the base in sections, sculpting and firing them separately.

Once mounted, I have to say it feels good to see most of the main parts in place! Tempest and Narthrax look good facing off against each other. They look good, don't you think?

The next step will be building up Narthrax's mounting position. I think I'm going to have to elevate his position by a centimeter or so. I am also debating whether to try mounting him on a removable base, rather than gluing him permanently to the display. It would be very cool to make it possible to use him in gaming. It would also probably make it easier to pack up the diorama for transport.

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