Posts tagged “Balsa

Cowboys Invaded – Update (20/10/18)

It’s been an incredibly good day in the studio. My making skills have made a massive jump today, taking a basic idea and develop it to actually achieve a special effect. I’m so pleased with my progress today it’s unreal.

I began by returning to the lift which I feel is entering a longer period. The dimensions are restricting me from doing too much at one. I came back to find that it’s all held together, even after the reduction in size that I knew would make or break the piece. Pleased with that I moved on to add balsa wood to 4 sides of the exterior, leaving only the entrances to the lift bare for more. Carrying on the level of detail that I began the other day.

Having made some good progress I moved onto a piece that is essentially a special effect using very low-fi in-camera technique. I had the seed of the idea after watching the special features for a film that simulated the moving of a lift, by simply running a background on a belt continuously. Now I had to turn that effect into reality without the big budget to support me. I began by making a stand for the lift to sit on in front of the piece I was going to build. Before moving onto cut a cardboard tube to three lengths and two sheets of cardboard up, ready to begin plotting where things would go. Once I had constructed the framework I had Initially thought that two of the three tubes would be fixed leaving one to turn the belt of brown paper around. I found that this wasn’t working, so decided to refix at only one end for all of the pieces. I was thinking a handle on one piece would do the trick. I soon learnt that the belt needed to be gripped in order to be pulled around continously. This meant fixing strips of card to each tube in 4 places. Still nothing. I then thought about how to somehow connect them all, a piece of elastic or a rubber band. I had neither to hand. String was the nearest and still got no movement.

This all changed when I added guides in-between the card grips for the string to sit in, and just for an experiment I taped up a section of string to see what that did. The string needed to move together, whilst being guided around the structure, allowing it to be pulled through. Once I have achieved this I them moved onto add a more substantial replacement for the tape test. I carefully prized one side of cardboard strips, fixed the internal corrugated between the string for a fixed width before covering over with the piece I tore away. I was starting to get somewhere now. The tubes when turned were pulling through the strips on the string, but getting stuck in places. This needed to be rectified, using more strips of card I used a single layer and built up a belt that ran underneath the strips and would allow a smoother motion to occur. Once this was tested out I knew I could apply a strip of brown paper that would be the rock face that would be passed through either going up or down.

Looking back It was simple mechanics and trial and error. All found through pure experimentation and understanding what was going on. I’ve made a real jump into a level of making, whilst still being relatively low-fi, I have an in camera effect that won’t need further editing or animating, It’s just point and shoot, operating the piece and then added the audio later.

I still need to work on the piece (I need a name for it) before I can say it’s complete, a trim on exterior to mask the frame and also some extra trim for a smoother run. It’s never going to be a fast piece, but that can be sped up in the edit if necessary. I also need to work on the lift to added the new locking system, a bar of wood that will slide in front. Above I need to add the framework where the rope/string will be tethered to. Today’s progress has been really satisfying giving me the confidence that I can achieve more with this work. I honestly though that this lift and effect would take far longer than it has so far, even with the reduction in size.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (22/9/18)

Admittedly a day later than planned, I’ve found the time to share yesterdays events in the studio. The aim of the day was to make 2-3 pieces, I made 2, which I’m happy with considering the work that has gone into them. The first being the bank, which I wanted to redesign as I didn’t want the old design with a stone design. After a bit of research I decided upon a wood front with staggered sides. It was a real change for me, having to consider each side more as it came together. Finished it off with a classic detail at the top.

The next I found that my making had taken another step forward, a new blacksmith, moving away from the similar designs that the old series had. Some research later I came up with a piece that required a canopy section on the side, with walls attached, I needed a floor that connected into the main building. This required some false walls so everything connected up. The walls only run up so high as they act as an illusion too. Working from another piece as a template I reduced the roof slightly so that it has a more unique design, I don’t the pieces to look too similar now they are being upgraded.

Lastly, or should I say firstly, not long after getting into the studio I added the last rail to the ramp I’ve been working on. Hopefully this piece will now be complete, I’m think of next making a water tower, which will be an interesting process as it will be a combination of balsa for the tower at a reduced height with all the structural support, alongside the water tank itself. Again this will be a slow process when working purely with balsa wood.

I’ve now got 5 more pieces to make for the town, during which time I’ll also be adding extra detail that started yesterday, I wasn’t happy with the front for the barbers so I fixed a piece on top, and reattached the cylinders on the sides so they appear to be suspended above again. A clock-face was also added to the church, I don’t want these pieces to look to flat a basic, even though they have been fleshed out now.

As I make my way onto the final 5, I wonder where my making skills will develop further, always an achievement no matter how big or small.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (16/9/18)

The aim of the weekend was to make between 4 to 6 pieces. I’ve made 5, so I’m pretty pleased to have done so many. Each piece comes with it’s own challenges. The first of the day was pretty straight forward in that I had to decide on a flat or raised roof before getting stuck in. The main challenge of the day was the church which was originally just a very flat piece from a VHS box. I had to build it in 3 sections, the main building, the tower and the steeple. As I was working with different angles and butting I had to go slower and constantly look to see how it was going. The height was reduced before the roof was fitted. The tower has a false entrance below so figures could stand and interact with it. Also it’s a nice feature which I’ve been missing from the others recently, pace has been the main objective, I’ll add details later on.

With this two pieces completed I took a sneaky look to learn I have 7 more to go, that at least 3 visits to the studio to get them done. In between all of that I’m still looking at the cardboard train-set, with the ramp getting slowly completed, one side of posts are fixed so I’ve been adding the rail to that side. The other side was disappointing, as all the of the posts had to be re-fixed, hopefully they’ll have fixed in place this time.

Once the town has been upgraded I’ll decide to either turn to the army fort or to another version of the town in ruins, or even something else, lets see where I go next.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (8/9/18)

A few weeks ago I reached another milestone with my making skills with the ability to make the model miniatures move. Today I have reached another one, I can now construct complex rooftops. Previously I have found this part of any piece I’ve made difficult to get over, going through lots of cardboard before I able to achieve to cover the roof (making it water tight). Today after going through a few ideas for a train station I decided to again as I expanded my cardboard train-set. I found it easier working on a smaller scale, less cardboard was wasted so I wasn’t so worried about things in that respect. I was able to measure out the dimensions and chip away where necessary on each piece of cardboard before fixing in place. I also made sure that they were fixed to a structure that was more secure. I had boxed out the main piece and added triangles for the pieces to fix onto. The side sections were held back until I made a start on the rear as they all interact. I learned that all the pieces affect one another, so equally important. I’m really pleased with it. I could have reduced the height in places but for now and this piece it really works, I may extended outwards at a 180 degrees angle, I’m not sure yet.

I then moved on briefly to look at adding a ramp to the open wagon for goods/horses etc to be un/loaded from it. At the moment I’ve been working with the balsa wood to raise it into position. Next time I’ll start to add a rail on either side.

I them moved onto make a start at adding more track, which is in desperate need now that the set has more than doubled in the last month at the studio. So far I’ve made 3 pieces, 1 very small, I’ll be making 3 more straight pieces before I attempt a few curved pieces, which again are harder to achieve. I do I have a plan which I’ll be putting into action though.

As I look at the train set I can see that I have a long way to go still. I’m really enjoying the making process. I’ve returned to balsa, the perfect companion to cardboard. Once the additional pieces have been made I may make a start on the town or take a break and look at the Army fort, which I want to be more substantial and possibly smaller, something I need to take a look at further.


New Mills Arts Festival (2015) Arts Trail

New Mills Festival (2015)

Gather at the River (2014) Part 2

A continuation of my Frontier Town work that explores the Western genre, focusing on the river-road.

Part 1

rEvive (2014)

Gather at the River (2014) Part 1

A continuation of my Frontier Town work that explores the Western genre, focusing on the river-road.

Part 2

rEvive (2014) 


rEvive (2014)

A joint show with artist Neil Dixon, exhibited in the Cafe revive shop, in the Albion Centre, Ilkeston, Derbyshire (24/7-23/8/2014).

Gather at the River Part 1

Gather at the River Part 2

Cafe - rErive

Designs for the Future

Ok the title maybe a bit confusing as my inspiration for the design of my work comes directly from the original The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947). It wasn’t what I was expecting, just enjoying a classic comedy which may lead me to watch he Ben Stiller remake more recently. I think it’s the style of MGM that has really done it, when the film drifts into one of Mitty’s (Danny Kaye) dreams. It was the last one that really caught my attention, for obvious reasons too when you look at the images (could only find a few). Which are very stylised, coming from a studio that didn’t produce half as many westerns as others such as Warner Brothers. The set design relies on fronts of buildings that can be seen through, acting only as loose representation of a frontier town, using the images of the time to inform the design. Applying to my work is something I would like to do when I return to the studio, a new direction that would push my making away from what I have become accustomed to, the cardboard shell covered in balsa for detail. I will hopefully incorporate both, pushing balsa to the forefront of the making. it would also allow for background experimentation.