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    Model Behavior: Rocket Launch Smoke Effects

    Using the lessons we learned from experimenting with cotton batting to create smoke effects, Kayte and Norm try their hands on sculpting the exhaust for rockets in flight. We use photo references to guide our plumes, and light up the effect with some cheap LED lights.

    Model Behavior: Miniature Smoke Effects

    Kayte and Norm experiment with a technique for creating smoke effects for our miniature model builds, using simple cotton batting and some paint. For creating smoke at this scale, we sculpt the cotton and trim it to work with our models and give it some volume. It's a fun effect that we're going to keep on using!

    How To Create Snow Effects in Toy Photography

    We're back in the studio of Johnny Wu (aka SgtBananas) to learn about his process for creating convincing snow effects in his photos. It's a simple practical effect you can replicate at home! We also chat about figure posability and what Johnny looks out for when finding new toys to photograph.

    Model Behavior: Shiny Model Cars!

    Bill and Norm build this delightful garage kit from Daniel Dawson, a 3D printed flying retro car model. For this project, we wnted to give this car a shiny candy coated finish, and experiment with two different applications of glossy clear coats: an Alclad lacquer Klear Kote and off the shelf floor gloss!

    Hobby RC: Building a DIY RC Hovercraft

    One of the current trends among micro-quadcopter enthusiasts involves modifications that purposely keep their flying machines at ground level. This floor-hugging tweak is called the Tiny Whoov. It is a micro RC hovercraft built around the uber-popular Blade Inductrix quadcopter.

    There are several different ways to get a Tiny Whoov of your own. A cursory web search reveals many step-by-step tutorials, a few manufactured conversion kits, and even an off-the-shelf hovercraft from Blade, the Inductrix Switch. All of the links I found are based on the Inductrix (or one of the many clones).

    I wanted to build a Tiny Whoov, but I still enjoying flying my Inductrix in stock form. So I wasn't keen on clipping its wings. Undeterred, I decided build my own variation on the quadcopter-to-hovercraft theme using a different micro-quad. I improvised a simple design while taking copious inspiration from the Tiny Whoov.

    Build Notes

    The Tiny Whoov uses only the front two rotors as lift fans for the hovercraft. The rear rotors are used to propel and steer the vehicle via differential thrust. With this setup, the same control and gyro settings that work as a quadrotor will also work in hovercraft mode…sort of. More on that later.

    The heart of this hovercraft project is a 1SQ mini-quad from Heli-Max.

    For the quadcopter, I used my venerable Heli-Max 1SQ. You may recognize it from my recent Christmas tree drone. Although I didn't know it at first, the modular construction of the 1SQ made it ideal for this project. But don't worry if there isn't a 1SQ on your shelf. The basic components of most mini-quads are the same. I suspect that you can crank out a similar hovercraft with whatever quad you have on hand.

    There is nothing fancy about the design or materials that I used. Most of the hovercraft hull was constructed with cheap foamboard and hot glue. One sheet of foamboard from the dollar store is adequate to build several of these things.

    Model Behavior: Painting Portraits

    One daunting aspect of modelmaking is the painting of figure heads and portraits. To get over our fear of ruining a sculpture, we mold and cast a batch of heads to work on. Kayte and Norm each take a sculpt and paint them in quick succession, learning from each practice attempt and refining their workflow.

    Hobby RC: Brushless Motor Conversion Basics

    Most modern, electric-powered RC airplanes utilize brushless motors for propulsion. And why not? Brushless motors are much more efficient than their brushed cousins (not to mention lighter and sometimes even less expensive). Similarly, airplane models that were designed to use brushed motors can enjoy a huge boost in performance with an upgrade to brushless power.

    Some brushed-to-brushless upgrade projects are just a simple matter of swapping out the relevant components (motor, Electronic Speed Control (ESC), propeller). Others require a bit more planning and modification. My most recent brushless upgrade is a good example of the more-complex type. I'll show you the hurdles I encountered during this project and how I cleared them.

    The Airplane

    The recipient of this power system transplant is a small electric sailplane called the Skimmer 400. Kits for this balsa airplane were popular during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Like other electric-powered models of that era, the Skimmer 400 was designed around the brushed "can" motors and NiCad batteries of the day. There was never a surplus of power with that gear. So models that performed well, did so by virtue of excellent airframe design. I've found that these types of model airplanes adapt particularly well to brushless upgrades.

    My Skimmer appears to have led a hard-knock life. I bought the airframe in very-used condition at a recent RC event. Despite model's wrinkled and tattered covering, the balsa structure seemed to be built relatively well and I did not notice any obvious crash damage. It may be an ugly duckling, but the asking price was only $5. What was I supposed to do…just leave it there?

    This old Skimmer 400 looks rough, but it performs really well with a modern brushless motor.

    As originally designed, the Skimmer 400 was powered with a Speed 400 brushed motor spinning a 6-inch propeller. "Speed 400" is just an RC-centric term for the generic Mabuchi RS-380 motor that is used in all types of different applications around the world. It has a diameter of 28mm (1.1"), is 38mm (1.5") long, and weighs 65 grams (2.3 ounces). The intended battery pack for the Skimmer 400 consists of seven 2/3A-sized NiCad cells of 600mAh capacity. Altogether, this system produced about 60-80 watts of power…enough to fly the Skimmer 400 in a leisurely fashion.

    Model Behavior: Diorama Water Effects!

    Kayte and Norm take miniature vehicles from past Model Behavior projects and augment them with a water base. Using Smooth-On Crystal Clear to make a base, we experiment with sculpting water effects using silicone caulking and Smooth-On's Sil-Poxy.

    Modeling Achilles' Sword for 3D Printing!

    This week, Darrell walks us through his process for 3D modeling Achilles' sword inspired by the prop from the movie Troy. Using photo reference of the prop, Darrell explains how he creates a faithful replica that retains all the characteristics of the original!

    Model Behavior: Let's Talk Paintbrushes!

    We got back to the basics with an overview of the various kinds of paintbrushes you can use for modelmaking and painting props. Bill brings a selection of brushes and we demo each type, showing the techniques that make the best use for each. What are your favorite brushes to use for your projects?

    How To Make Flying Holiday Decorations

    At this time of year, I try to keep a few simple projects in my back pocket for when my kids act bored during their holiday school break. I like things that fly, so my projects tend to lean that way as well. For example, I previously figured out how to repurpose Christmas Cards as indoor gliders. My latest flying holiday craft is just as much fun to make and to fly.

    For this year's project, I dusted off one of my indoor mini-quads and gave it a holiday makeover. It is now a flying Christmas decoration! I'd be willing to bet that many of you have a mini-quad stashed away somewhere. The crafty, decorative parts can be made with common household items. So you probably have everything you need. Here's how I did it.

    A Quick Fix

    The quad I chose is the Heli-Max 1SQ. This particular quad is no longer available. But that's not an issue here. Just about any mini-quad you have on hand should work just fine.

    I had not flown the 1SQ in quite some time. The airframe was in good shape, but I quickly discovered that neither of my batteries for it would take a charge. This quad is designed to be flown with a single 250mAh LiPo cell. While I didn't have any direct replacements for the dead batteries, I did find an alternate that works great.

    My first step in this project was to repair the long-ignored mini-quad by replacing the stock battery (top) and connector with new parts.

    The new battery is a 260mAh LiHV cell, which is basically a LiPo battery that charges to a slightly higher voltage (4.35v vs 4.2v). Despite the drastically different form factor of the newer cell, it fit well in the quad's battery compartment. I only had to apply a small patch of thin foam padding to give the battery a snug friction fit.

    My final hurdle was to reconcile the mismatch of battery connectors between my new power source and the quad. The LiHV cell uses a JST-PH 2.0 connector, which has become common for micro-RC applications. I had to snip off the 1SQ's stock battery connector and replace it with a matching JST plug on about 1" (25mm) of additional wire.

    Model Behavior: Hairspray Paint Chipping

    For this week's project, Kayte and Norm experiment with a modelmaking technique using off-the-shelf hairspray as a way to create realistic paint chipping. We apply this to a few test pieces and then to a garage kit from Machination Studio. We couldn't be happier with the results!

    Modeling a Judge Dredd Helmet for 3D Printing!

    This week, Darrell walks us through his process for 3D modeling a helmet replica using photo reference. We've shown how he preps models for 3D printing, but much of the work happens on the computer screen. Follow along as Darrell explains how he approaches creating digital forms to exacting detail.

    Hobby RC: Upgrading a Third Hand Tool

    I'm sure that most of us have some variation of a Third Hand (aka Helping Hand) in our workshop. If you're not familiar with this particular tool, it's basically a pair of alligator clips that are attached to articulating arms with a weighted base. The mechanical "hands" will securely hold whatever small widget you're working on, while leaving your actuals hands free to do the work. The utility of these simple tools for outweighs their meager cost (usually $5-$10).

    I have several Third Hands that I employ for a variety of tasks. The one I use most often is at my soldering station. I use it to hold wires, connectors, circuit boards, motors, or whatever else I need to solder. While I love this tool, I do have to concede that it has limitations. You can certainly buy nicer and more elaborate Third Hand tools. But there is often a significant bump in price for the upgrade. Second-tier units typically sell in the $30-$50 range.

    There's nothing wrong with spending $50 on a high-quality tool that fits your needs. The problem was that I didn't see any off-the-shelf models that had everything I wanted for soldering tasks. So I decided to try upgrading my base model Third Hand. This was actually my second round of modifying the Third Hand I use for soldering. I previously adapted an aluminum heatsink that makes it easier to solder battery connectors.

    Model Behavior: Groot in Carbonite Garage Kit!

    Time to put together another garage kit! Bill brings a kit featuring a pretty sweet mash-up: baby Groot at 1:1 scale frozen in carbonite. We use this kit as an opportunity to practice some oil washes, as well as install a lighting kit. This was the project that put us in contact with VoodoFX!

    Model Behavior: Making a Set for Toy Photography

    Kayte and Norm work with styrene this week to build out a backdrop for sixth-scale toy photography. Specifically, we're going to making a photo-ready approximation of an Imperial wall from Star Wars for use with a K-2SO figure. Follow along as we cut stencils out by hand and then also experiment with the Cricut vinyl cutter to automate some of the processes!