Author Archives: Liam

About Liam

I am all about making the most of every day and helping those I can. Becoming Star-Lord is my first major blogging project. I am a Master's student, war veteran, reader, runner and blogger. Thanks for stopping by my page!

Star Lord Nerf Blaster Modification: Part 2

Turns out, it takes a while for spray paint to dry completely. After letting the paint set for 24+ hours, I began phase two of the gun conversion.

After doing some research, I decided to use Deft Wood Finish for a clear coat.  If you’re doing something like this, make sure to wear gloves and a mask.  The mask is key. The fumes go to your head quickly and – as the bottle nicely points out – can cause brain damage. Yeah.

I had a little debate with myself when choosing what type of finish to use: gloss or satin. I liked the idea of using satin as the gun is supposed to be worn and dirty. I was afraid, however, of losing the metallic look of the rub-n-buff. I ended up applying the satin to the back two sections of the outer shell to see how it looked. I have to say, I loved the way it made the black paint look. However, I did lose the metallic luster of the rub-n-buff and so decided to go with a gloss for the rest of the gun.

After applying the first coat, I was worried that I had ruined my paint job.  When the sealer goes on, it often clouds up, making the underlying paint job very hazy. To my relief, it became clear again as it dried.  I took the advice of some online forums and did not touch the finish for 24+ hours. Apparently, the oils in your hands can soak into the finish before it is dry, leaving it with a sticky texture forevermore. We certainly don’t want that!

My reference pictures helped during reassembly. I did have to break the blaster down again after discovering that one of the charging slides didn’t function properly. Other than that, it was a fairly straightforward process.  As complicated as the inner workings looked to me, I managed to get it back together with minimal confusion or difficulty. And it functions perfectly!

And so, without further ado, here are the before and after pictures:

Before and after. I was worried that the gold paint didn't make that much if a difference, but it definitely does.

Before and after. I was worried that the gold paint didn’t make that much if a difference, but it definitely does.

You may notice that I didn’t paint the barrel bluing onto the blaster. I actually tried a couple of different methods, but couldn’t get it right.  I think an airbrush would be the way to go, but I don’t have that kind of airbrush skill. Or an airbrush, for that matter.  And so, I elected to ignore that part of the paint job. I mean, at some point, Peter Quill’s blasters were new, right?

It looks ready for action!

It looks ready for action!

And it still works!

And it still works!

As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions, or questions! If you enjoyed reading about the project and have a couple of extra dollars, I (and CASA) would appreciate you supporting my fundraising effort! You all are awesome!

Star Lord Nerf Blaster Modification: Part 1

Time for my first big project: modifying the first Nerf blaster. If you haven’t watched my video showing the blaster and it’s cool features, you should check it out!

So, you’ve seen the Nerf blaster. Here is a shot of the actual prop and what I’m going for:

This photo came from The Nova Props post on Instructables. You should check it out.

This photo came from The Nova Props post on Instructables. You should check it out. Click the picture to go there!

The first thing I did was consult numerous tutorials and guides.  There are no shortage of them when it comes to customizing Nerf guns. It turns out, this is a very popular hobby! Instructables.com is one of numerous websites that feature templates and guides. Nova-Props created one for the Star-Lord blaster that I found particularly helpful.

After buying the paints and supplies that I needed, I began by disassembling the blaster.

Nerf Blasters come apart fairly easily. Getting it back together...that's the tricky part.

Nerf Blasters come apart fairly easily. Getting it back together…that’s the tricky part.

I made sure to take meticulous pictures along the way in order to help me get it back together again. It’s important to take it apart before painting, otherwise the paint can gum up the mechanics.  It also results in a better overall paint job.

After breaking down the gun, I sanded off the Nerf logo and other plastic text. I then sanded off the silver paint and the finish on the shiny plastic to help the paint adhere to the gun. For a base coat, I decided to use a metallic, “carbon mist” black primer & paint. I thought the shine would give it a little more pop.

SprayPaint

I taped up one particular part I didn’t want to cover and proceeded to paint.

(right) A part with an area I wanted unpainted covered with painter's tape. (center) Parts after painting. (right) A close up of a painted component.

(right) A part with an area I wanted unpainted covered with painter’s tape. (center) Parts after painting. (right) A close up of a painted component.

Now, I have to admit, I’m not very good at spray painting. If you’re going to do this, read some guides. Most pros recommend a few different, very thin coats. My first coat went on way too heavy. It didn’t run or gunk up any of the details, but I’m sure it could be better.

After letting the paint dry, I began to work on the metallic details. Some people have used metallic spray paint on these parts, but, honestly, I didn’t trust myself not to hit parts I didn’t want silver. So I took some advice from Nova-props and used a product called rub-n-buff. It’s an interesting product.  It’s like paint combined with wax. As the title implies, you rub it on (as opposed to “painting”) and can buff he paint into a shine. It’s a wonderful product.

I, however, was not going for luster on the metallic parts.  I wanted more of a weathered, worn, and stained look. Using a sock, I applied it a little at a time to achieve the following look:

Silvered 1

Now, you can see where the paint didn’t come out smoothly on the side. This was a result of poor sanding before spray painting. The other parts came out better, I swear. Still, I think I achieved the worn look successfully.

I also applied the rub-n-buff to some of the corners and raised details. It helped with the worn look.

Silvered 2

This picture shows my silvering efforts “in progress.” The next thing I did as give some attention to the gold parts of the blaster.  Some people leave this part of the gun alone as it is the right color already.  However, I didn’t. I took some gold rub-n-buff and applied it to give this part of the gun a little more pop.

The gold rub-n-buff has been applied to the bottom picture.

The gold rub-n-buff has been applied to the bottom picture.

I then applied silver to the middle portion.  I put a black wash over this part to bring out the details and make it look dirty. Now, I’m waiting for the paint to dry before applying a protective coat and reassembling the blaster. So, this is where I currently stand:

Current

This was about four hours of work! Stay tuned for the finished product. If you enjoyed reading, I would appreciate any support for my fundraising efforts. CASA would too!

A Study in Pants

It’s fair to say that I’ve had Guardians of the Galaxy on the brain for the past few weeks. I’ve spent hours scouring the internet for helpful screenshots and digging through fan forums for costume ideas. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a dream about talking trees and raccoons, at one point. So, of course, when I was looking for something to watch last night, I quickly settled on Guardians.

Naturally, I paid close attention to Star-Lord’s costume and props while watching and was rewarded several times with some excellent looks at his clothing.  I wanted to share two particularly helpful screenshots which show his legs in detail.

This shot shows some of the details on his legs and his gadgets.

This shot shows some of the details on his legs and his gadgets.

Leg Diag

I thought this shot was interesting because it shows his rocket controls and where his blasters sit while holstered. Getting these props shouldn’t be hard, but figuring our how to secure these to the pants effectively and securely may be difficult.

One more interesting screenshot:

This shows Chris Pratt as he is detaching his rocket booster to attach it to Gamora.

This shows Chris Pratt as he is detaching his rocket booster to attach it to Gamora.

This action shot shows Peter Quill twisting the rocket booster to detach it. This is a hint as to how it mounts to the side of his spats. Maybe some sort of cell phone mount would work here? If anyone has any thoughts, feel free to share! Attaching all of these gizmos is going to be a chore…

The Undershirt: The Devil is in the Details

The undershirt, like the pants, seemed easy to me. At first. Unfortunately, I’ve been stymied by details, once again.

My first challenge is finding the right color. Interestingly, Chris Pratt seems to wear numerous colors throughout the movie, from a darker gray to a light blue.  I guess this should be comforting. It shows that, despite his “filthy” ship, Peter Quill does care about clean clothes. Or at least the appearance of clean clothes.

These are some shots showing the undershirt.  Unfortunately, the lighting isn't great in two of them, but you get the idea.  Stop staring at Chris Pratt's abs.

These are some shots showing the undershirt. Unfortunately, the lighting isn’t great in two of them, but you get the idea. Stop staring at Chris Pratt’s abs.

So, basically, I’m going to poke around the internet until I find a shirt that is lightweight and seems to match one of Star-Lord’s shirts.  Peter’s varied undershirt wardrobe should give me many options and some choice.

So what’s out there?

Option 1: The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt

The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt. A very basic option.

The Hanes Long Sleeve Beefy T-Shirt. A very basic option.

So, this is the basic option.  Peter’s shirts look a little heavier which makes sense.  It is probably a little chilly in his tiny ship and some insulation would help. The collar doesn’t quite match the one above, but that’s not to bad. The best part about this shirt? It’s cheap. You can get it on Amazon, but I think it’s cheaper on Hanes.com.  Oh, and it comes in 30+ colors including a light blue and darker grays.  I thought this gray was about right. Here’s a picture of a blue which I think would work as well:

This blue would definitely work.

This blue would definitely work.

In addition to color, the photos above reveal some details of Peter’s undershirts which are easy to miss. First, take a look at the collar of the shirt on the left. It think, ribbed, and sits a little high. There are also some seams running down his shirt which are pretty unique. The Hanes shirts work for style and color, but they’re missing these details. I bought them as my fallback, but did not stop my search.  I am determined to find one that is pretty close to perfect. Little bits of texture – like the collar and seams – are the difference between costumes that look like imitations and ones that really pop. Unfortunately, I have been unsuccessful thus far.

I spent hours trying to find the right collar.  The problem is that the collar doesn’t really match the style of shirt. I’ve found similar collars on some jumpers and sweaters, but all the ones that look right are on heavy, winter garments which wouldn’t work.

I’ve also tried searching for thermals and mock turtlenecks, to no avail. So, for now (and after 3 hours of working on this blog post and trying to find the right shirt), I’m going to settle for the Hanes shirts and see If I can make them work. For now, there is no option 2. I’m not giving up, though. I’m sure the perfect shirt is out there somewhere…

Abused Children: Inside Out

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.  ©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

INSIDE OUT: The emotions. Joy holds a memory.
©2015 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I had two things to do tonight – attend a screening of Pixar’s Inside Out and write a blog post. Although I intended to write about a costume item, I can’t stop thinking about this movie and its implications. The movie explores the workings of a young girl’s mind and emotions. Riley, the main character, is 11 years old and spends the movie struggling with a major life change. We watch the story unfold, both inside and outside her mind.

I promise I won’t give any major plot points away.

The world Pixar creates inside Riley’s head is complex and insightful. Her entire personality and her resilience – her ability to deal with adversity – is based on certain “core memories.” These are Riley’s foundation. For Riley, these memories are filled with Joy. Created when she was very young, Riley’s core memories are consistently reinforced as she falls back on them again and again while she grows. Because her core memories are happy, Riley is essentially a happy person and uses this happiness to overcome challenges.

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar's

Fear (voice of Bill Hader), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Disgust (voice of Mindy Kaling) and Anger (voice of Lewis Black) guide 11-year-old Riley from Headquarters, the control center inside her mind. Directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.,” “Up”), Disney•Pixar’s “Inside Out” opens in theaters nationwide June 19, 2015. ©2014 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The implication is that we all have core memories and strong personality traits defined by them. But what happens when our core memories are not happy, but sad? Or angry? Or Fearful?

The implications are tragic. A child whose core memories are any of these would be defined by the corresponding emotion. When faced with adversity, a child without joyful core memories would fall back on something else. Like fear. Purely fearful core memories would result in a child cowering and running when challenged. Anger would cause a child to lash out when dealing with hardship. Sadness could lead to deep depression.

This is what life must be like for abused and neglected children.  In this Pixar world, the traumatic events abused children experience would be so strong and defining that sad and fearful events would make up the bulk of their core memories. This would affect the way they act, the way they confront challenges, and the way they view the world. Sadly, it is very hard to change core memories. They are the foundation.

I, like Riley, was fortunate enough to grow up with joyful core memories, memories I can fall back on when things get rough.  Others aren’t that lucky and find themselves confronting life with a shaky foundation, one that leaves them prone to distress and anger.

Maybe we can’t change the sad or fearful core memories, but we can add a little joy to the lives of these children. Create happy memories and nurture them. Give the emotions living in their heads the tools and the base they need to deal effectively with challenges and, well, life. Maybe, hopefully, we can add a splash of yellow to memories that are currently blue or purple or red.

That’s what this project is about. I’m just a normal guy, but at least I can dress like a Marvel character and raise a few dollars for those trying to help them.

(Inside out is a wonderful film, by the way)

The pants are in!

I came back from a trip this weekend to find *drum-roll* the pants.

Not what I expected.

I mean, they’re not bad, just a little different. To start, they’re a little more lightweight that I thought they would be. When I think of motorcycle pants, I think of heavy material, with a little faux (or real) leather.  These remind me of the snow-pants I wore sledding when I was a kid. Without too much padding.

Star-Lord seem like the type of person to wear rough, distressed, leather and tough canvas pants.  The type of pants that can take a beating and keep on going. The type of pants that Peter Quill had worn for years and years…maybe without washing. These pants are not those pants. These pants might be able to take a beating, but not many more than one.

That’s not to say that they aren’t cool looking, They are cool. Darn cool.  Just not quite what I had imagined.

Anyway, now that I’ve conveyed my first impressions, let’s take a look at some of the details.

First, the obvious.  There are some logos and patches that need to be removed. Star-Lord was not advertising “Riding Tribe” in the film. Luckily, everything looks to be sewn on so that, with a care, I can remove the unneeded patches.

IMG_4466

Notice the stitching which should be easy to remove.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

The stitching is harder to see on these, but is there. This logo should come off easily as well.

Here’s a close up of the material:

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill's trousers.

It is mesh in some parts. This is great because it somewhat mimics the multiple fabrics of Peter Quill’s trousers.

Here is a side by side of the front:

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

Star-Lord on the left. My pants on the right.

As you can see, they’re not at all an exact match. However, they are a good baseline. As I said in a previous post, Star-Lord’s pants are custom so short of hiring someone to make me exact replicas – or miraculously developing some serious sewing skills – I was always going to have to make due with “close.” And these pants are close.

They just need a little work. First, I’ll have to remove the logos and pocket. After that, well, we’ll see if there’s any way to modify them further.

Thoughts, suggestions or comments? Leave them below…especially if you will make me a custom pair of Star-Lord pants in exchange for advertising to my four readers!

Why CASA? (true story)

Why CASA?

The court room was fairly empty the day I visited. Lawyers sat in the front row with an emotional mother who dabbed her eyes periodically. In the rows behind, a few CPS case workers read through their notes and whispered to each other. Everyone was waiting for the judge to enter, the judge who would decide what would happen to a child who CPS recently removed from her mother’s care.

The judge entered and the day began. The mother testified about the progress she had made and her lawyer made the case that it was enough. CPS and the state brought up their concerns. The judge sat and listened, asking thoughtful questions and gathering the information she would need to make this difficult decision.

And then, at one point, a woman took the stand. After she said an oath, I learned that she was the child’s assigned CASA. The judge proceeded to ask her questions about the young boy. How were his interpersonal skills? How does he act when he talks about his mother? What does he say about school? What does he want? Does he want to go home with his mother?

Slowly, thoughtfully, she answered each question.  Her answers and her tone of voice reflected the time she had spent with him and the relationship they had developed. She had been his CASA, a figure in his life, as he had moved from temporary home to temporary home. She was there for him throughout the transitions and was at court to advocate for him.

I found out later that she was a volunteer, that there were many CASA volunteers. But not enough. As the Family Court dockets grow in size, CASA can’t keep up with volunteers. But they’re trying. One CASA for every child – that’s their goal.

This is an organization worth supporting. This is an organization worth giving $5.00 to. This is an organization worth registering a website and fundraising for, even if it means hours out of each day and money spent on a superhero costume.

Thanks for reading! As always, I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

How Awesome is the Awesome Mix?

The Awesome Mix 1.

Is this an ancillary prop? Absolutely not.

Peter Quill would not be Star-Lord without the Awesome Mix.  These songs were his link back to Earth, to his childhood. These songs influenced him growing up. These were the songs he listened to during the most important moments of his life. These were the songs he learned to dance to.

Constellation sums up the Awesome Mix 1 perfectly on the-artifice.com:

Music both influences our perception of Peter and directly affects his path toward self-definition. Some of the tracks which accompany scenes that demonstrate this include “I’m Not in Love”, “Come and Get Your Love”, “Hooked on a Feeling”, “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”, “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Together, they represent the culmination of Peter’s efforts to free himself from his ravager identity and the trauma of losing his mother. Awesome Mix Vol. 1 provides great insight into Peter’s developing identity as Star Lord, not in an explicit story told through lyrics but in his reactions to it within context.

Therefore, I feel like I wouldn’t be properly channeling Star-Lord without this tape.

So here it is, fresh out of the mail!

Photo Credit: Me. All me.

Photo Credit: Me. All me.

The label is an exact replica of the movie label. Now here’s the sad part: it doesn’t actually play. No songs on this cassette tape. It will serve, though.

If you are interested in how Peter’s music is a reflection of his personality, you should read Constellation’s post, “Becoming a Guardian of the Galaxy: Star Lord and the Importance of Music.”  It goes through each song, describing how it contributed to Peter’s evolution into Star-Lord. An excellent piece written by a creative writing student.

Now to find a walkman to put the tape in…

And I’ll leave you with this meme:

Me and you!

Me and you!

 

I Forgot Nerf Guns Were This Cool…

I have a confession to make.

After receiving the Nerf gun in the mail, I acted like a five year old. I shot darts at everything…including my wife. Four or five times. To her credit, she was cool with the first three.

A 3D model of the Quad Blaster would still be my first choice for a prop, but these Nerf guns are pretty darn cool. I began to write a post describing them, but words could not do them justice. So, naturally, I spent the whole evening making a video. Enjoy.

Star-Lord’s Pants: Trickier Than I Expected…

Of everything I have to get together (besides the blasters), the pants seemed the easiest. At first.

Turns out, if you’re going for authenticity, that isn’t the case.  These pants appear custom made with some interesting features. Take a look:

This is a decent shot of the pants in good lighting. Fortunately, the boot covers conceal the bottoms leaving less exposed area to worry about.

Chris Pratt…being a boss. This is a decent shot of the pants in good lighting. Fortunately, the boot covers conceal the bottoms leaving less exposed area to worry about.

Here’s a look at the back:

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy L to R: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) & Gamora (Zoe Saldana) Ph: Jay Maidment ©Marvel 2014

Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy
L to R: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) & Gamora (Zoe Saldana)
Ph: Jay Maidment
©Marvel 2014

A thread on RPF.com (click for link) sums the challenge up perfectly. In the words of user Kevin Gossett:

On to the pants. OH the pants! These things are a beast. So many details and multiple fabrics.

It looks as though the exterior panels are made from a waxed cotton/canvas and the interior panels are possibly a cotton twill or nylon/cordura. There is the same type of zipper, which appears to be nonfunctional, that is used on the short jacket. On the front of the pants there are two panels at the top with a faint ticking stripe stitched in, an extended flap closure, more panels, straps, and snaps. You’ll also find the rocket controls mounted to the outside of the knee. At the knee there is also what looks to be some pleated horizontal panels. On the hips are leather padding, similar to motorcycle pants body armor. This is where the quad blasters sit while holstered (more on that later)

Yeah. Custom indeed. Not only do they need to have the right features, but they need to fit properly. They don’t hug Chris’ legs, but aren’t terribly baggy either. More of a “modern fit.”

Luckily for me, I’m far from the first person to study Star-Lord’s outfit or to attempt to recreate it so all I need to do is follow someone else’s lead. A few enterprising fans have paid for custom “from scratch” pants which, I’m sure, cost a pretty penny. This is money I’m not willing to spend with the punch-in-the-wallet coat still looming in my future. I absolutely do not have the skill to sew my own. I needed to find a close match ready-made.

Eventually, I stumbled across a blog post by a gentleman named Darryn Bonthuys (@Darrangedd) who found motorcycle pants which were a close match.  Close, not exact, but close enough for me. They’re being sold on eBay. Take a look:

Not quite right...but close?

Not quite right…but close?

Fit looks about right. They have close to the correct groin snap thing (I’m sure there is a correct term…which I don’t know). Color, obviously, is good.  The red should be easy to deal with. The biggest problem is material. I feel like there is a lot more leather to these than the authentic wardrobe pieces. Unfortunately, on a budget, these are as good as it gets. I may have to do a little customization, but these will get me most of the way. Hopefully.

Ordered them yesterday and they are in the mail.

Fortunately, the seller takes returns.