Wednesday, June 29, 2016

"Diagnostics" - 2016 - A Commission About Automotive Repair

This might be a lengthy post, as it took 2 months to build this commissioned piece. Stick with me, I will try to make it interesting.

Back in November, my client contacted me and told me he was interested in a piece about the automotive repair business. After some discussion, we came up with this idea - a piece with a souped up sports car, whose owner is a little baffled why the humble mechanic can't seem to find out why it's not running well. So as the mechanic tries to diagnose the problem, the customer watches and waits with a look of indignation. The commentary is my client's notion that many of today's customers don't understand how complicated motor cars have become. They aren't designed and built like they were 50 years ago.

The final images are first - scroll down to see the in-progress pictures.

The piece measure 15" x 28" x 12", and is operated by the red button on the right.

I wanted to give the viewer the idea that the scene is set in a repair shop, without have to build the whole shop. I added the tires here and a service counter on the other side.

The mechanic is a little overwhelmed by the overly-complicated engine. His heads turns as he ponders the problem.

The engine sputters and the mechanic nervously bangs on it, trying to diagnose the problem.

As the customer reads his paper, he glances over and finally shakes his head at the mechanic's apparent ineptness. 

A closer shot of his paper.

An overhead shot of the sports car, showing the interior and overall finish. I was very happy with the way it turned out.

The Build...

Starting out, I foolishly thought I could go to an antique store or do a search for an appropriate sports car on eBay. No such luck. I knew exactly what I wanted, but couldn't find it. After a while, I realized I had to make it myself. 

So this is what I did first - I built myself a sports car. It was loosely based on a 1974 Maserati Khamsin because I found a nice drawing of it online.

Following the drawing, I started out with 4 pieces of basswood, and went from there.

I carved most of the detail by hand - and did a lot of sanding to get them just right.
Here I'm adding the roof. The back section, which includes the roof, was not glued on until much later, as I needed access to the interior.

The roof is finalized, as are the 2 post. It was very challenging to figure out these 2 (seemingly simple) post. They had to be as strong as possible and they had to hold the windshield and the 2 side windows - and they are curved in 2 directions btw.

After I found these hubs at a RC hobby store, I turned the 4 tires out of basswood to fit them. (I didn't want to make the hubs by hand, and didn't have any found objects to stand in for them.)
I also finished the interior, and started to flush out the interior of the engine compartment.

I've started to paint the interior, and I antiqued the hubs and tires.

Here I'm starting on the engine. 
I needed to hide the gearmotor inside, and to figure out how the wires were going to run. 
You can see the windshield here, which took lots of time to figure out it's size and shape. I made it out of plexiglas that was heated and formed over a mold that I carved from wood.
Also, the whole car got a red paint job, and then I antiqued and distressed the finish like I always do.

Here I'm about halfway through building the engine. The engine has many moving parts, and it stops and starts on cue. As you can see, I have yet to antique any of the shiny metal parts.

Here's the engine finished and all antiqued down. I had to make the whole engine removable in case anyone ever has to replace the gearmotor.

The figures....


Next up was to make the 2 figures - the mechanic, who is hammering on the engine, and the customer, reading his paper and watching the mechanic ply his trade.
Since both of their heads turn, a rod runs up one leg to their head. A line runs up the other leg that operates the arms.

One of the customer's hands is finished; and one to go. These are hand-caved from basswood.

Their bodies and their heads, (sculpted from polymer clay), are ready for paint. The 4
covers are to protect the mechanisms inside their chests.

The mechanic, ready to be assembled. (I design and hand make all of my clothes btw.)

The customer is ready as well. ( I love his smirk.)

The mechanism inside the customer's chest. As the string pulls down, the customer raises his newspaper. As you can see, the rod for his head runs right through the same area, so the rod for his arms had to be cut in half.

The figures are finished and ready to be added to the scene.

Starting the mechanism.
I knew I needed  4 cams to control all the action, and a switch that controlled the 'on and off' of the engine - the green momentary switch (seen here) will do that.

The cam followers on the ends of the levers are precision bearings. They will never need to be lubricated and will (pretty much) last forever.

After many, many days of challenging work, it's all finished. (The arm that holds on the cam stack has been remove in this picture.)

Here is one of my many drawings - this one is for the timing of all the action - the figures and the motor.

The cams are all cut and ready to be assembled into the cam stack. The one on the lower right also contains the 'cam' for the (green) engine switch. And the one on the upper left is the timing cam for the whole scene. As the red button is pushed, it raises a small rod (out of that small notch on top) and turns on the motor by way of another momentary switch. Toward the end of the cycle, as the notch comes around, the small rod drops into the notch, and disengages from the momentary switch - turning the whole thing off.


The cam stack in the base. (Again, the arm is removed in this picture.)

Here are the tires I turned out of basswood. They are stacked behind the customer in the scene.


Here is the movie - it's best to view it full screen



Thanks for looking!

tom