Mini project: Bike helmet

Of course it’s sensible to wear a helmet when biking. So that means that I am wearing one. But I couldn’t stay out of at least modding the one I got a little bit. Because who wants a normal bike helmet? Well, okay, if it fits you, that’s fine. I had an idea of what I wanted instead. And when the joker has an Idea, take cover.

masking masking
Ah, airbrushes. A breeze to paint with, several hours of painstaking masking tape application not included.

Which doesn’t mean it would be easy. I, being a very casual “too lazy to take the bus”-biker would probably just have grabbed a paintbrush and some water-based acrylics (bike helmets are generally made out of foamy plastics that don’t like solvents in the least). But nooo. That would have been too easy. A bit of research showed concerns over uneven paint layers compromising the helmet, and Mirar wasn’t happy with that. So off to the internet it was, to order a beginners’ level airbrush. Which I had wanted to try out for ages anyway, so there we go.

First, I masked off all the exposed (=non pre-painted) parts of the helmet and the parts I didn’t want to paint with masking tape. This took longer than expected. And lots of swearing. But I got it done eventually, and I could go on to testing my airbrush (important!) and then, finally, painting.

Getting there
Getting there…

Airbrushing is fun! I started by trying it out on a yoghurt bucket, which was a Good Thing, because you do not want to get your first spattery experiments onto the Thing You Really Care About Painting Nicely. (From experience with other media.) But with a bit of tweaking, even the cheapish airbrush managed to get a nice and even flow. And as opposed to spray cans, they aren’t basically firehoses, so once you get them tuned in you can work nice and detailed and put thin layers of paint exactly where you want it (well, almost… if you get the hang of it… and have a good nozzle… but you get my drift).

The Reddening has happened.

One thing I definitely learned was this: When working with bright colours, a light base colour definitely would have helped. Next time I’ll do a foundation of white before I start with the red. That would have saved me some layers of paint, definitely. I’m not saying it would be cheaper (I took care to order a paint specifically recommended for painting on this kind of material) but as you can see on the photo, the masking tape is already a LOT redder than the helmet seems to be! So, next time, foundation.

Eventually I did manage to get the red to a level I liked though. After thorough drying overnight I dared to make a scratch test in a non-sensitive area (looked fine, though I might go over with a finish later on) and remove the masking tape.


Looking good! Now the joker can go out and ride in style, without danger of being mistaken for a normal person. 😀 (Also, the helmet has a blinkenlight built in. How cool is that?!)

All in all, not a bad yield for a first-time mini project.

Let there be Steam!


In our introductory post, we teased about a project we were doing together with another mad scientist, namely the Steam Organ. Check out the blog to see the considerable progress he has made on the project so far!

We have been busy with building and fixing things in our apartment (as you could read in our other posts), but there are a few proof of concept tests that we have managed to squeeze in so far. Here is the first of them.

At the first concept of a steam anything, we were wondering what kind of steam to use. Steampunk looks alone were definitely not enough for us. No, for a proper steampunk build you need one thing and one thing alone – steam, and masses of it!

We tossed around several concepts – dry ice, a kind of oil-based smoke that model railways use, and professional fog machines – but those were all expensive, clunky and dangerous to use in places with smoke detectors. Our final solution was actually as cheap as it is simple and fitting – vaporized water.

You can buy ultrasound water vaporizers in bulk and for relatively cheap prices on wholeseller sites like AliExpress and DealExtreme. Not a bad thing at all when prototyping! After they arrived in the mail, we immediately set to testing them. They are simple to use – just plug them in and put them under water, and you will get copious amounts of smoke in no time at all. Perfect!
We also figured out that the best smoke output happens when they are just about covered by water. We will have to implement some kind of swimmer solution for the final water tank.

For the next part of the test, we built a tank box and submerged the vaporizers in it to see if the smoke can easily be pushed into the pipes we are planning to use. A bit of work with a stiletto knife and some hotglue later the lid of the tank had a pipe coming out of it and a fan to push the air around.

Steeeeam.Moar steeeeam.

Works perfectly! Even with a ceiling-high pipe stuck to it, the small computer case fan is strong enough to put a sizeable plume of smoke out.

Proof of concept: Done.

Now, the next questions are: Will we have enough smoke for Maestro Chamafox’s performance? And just how many pipes can we fit onto that organ?

blueYou had me at yellow.

The LED lightshow will luckily be hidden inside the box later…

Mini-build: Phone tentacle

Phone tentaclePhone tentacle

A headphone plug gem that we got as a promotion, pink Fimo clay, green Fimo clay, a heated oven and a drop of superglue.

Modelling took maybe five minutes. Now the Day of the Tentacle can come! (I for one bow to our new tentacled overlords.)

The phone is a Nexus. The camera seriously can’t deal with its signal orange-ness. (Just in case you were wondering if either of us would want to be seen with a pink phone – NO!)