Saturday, May 19, 2012

DIY Star Wars Papercraft (With A Hidden Surprise!)

Here's a fun Star Wars "card" I made for my friend Chris' birthday yesterday:

This is a papercraft set of electrobinoculars - those nifty binoculars you see everyone from Luke to the Storm Troopers using in the films. However, the really cool part is that these binoculars have a special message inside:

Ok, so it's hard to see from here. But it's there. Honest.

The papercraft template is by Tektonten Papercraft, and you can download it for free from their site. (woot!) The template wasn't actually designed to have a message inside, though; that's my own little addition.

Now, this is probably the most difficult papercraft project I've ever assembled (mostly because of the visor; that thing required two do-overs and a John consult to figure out), but if you have a lot of patience and want to give it a go, here's all you need to put a message inside:

When you've completely assembled the front half of the binoculars, cut a hole like this in the piece that goes on top of it. Then print and attach your message to the very far end inside (the very front of the binoculars) before gluing that top piece in place.

After that, all you have to do (besides finish assembling the binoculars, of course) is punch holes in the eyepieces to look through. That's actually trickier than I expected, since the printed eye pieces are set much too wide. Your eye holes will need to be a lot closer in to the nose piece if you want to be able to read your secret message. (In the end mine turned into big ovals because I had to keep widening the holes. Harrumph.)

And one more quick tip for anyone planning to make these: that pesky visor will be a LOT more manageable if you add three extra tabs before cutting out this visor piece:

Note my (badly) drawn-in tabs.

Then, when you've assembled the visor, insert those tabs into slits cut into the faceplate, and fold & glue the tabs to the backside of the faceplate. This is the *only* was I was able to get that lousy visor to stay in place securely, so please, learn from my mistakes/trials & errors!

Now, let's all bask in the glow of my creation! Mwuah-ha-haaa!!

Hm. Maybe these glue fumes are getting to me.

Oh, and if you have any interest at all in papercraft, definitely check out Tektonten Papercraft. I just stumbled across it a few days ago, but already I've found TONS of new templates I can't wait to download. (Where has this site BEEN all my life?!) They also have simpler projects for kids and newbies (like this cutie), so you're sure to find something fun to try no matter what your skill level!

Friday, May 18, 2012

If You Have Coulrophobia Go Ahead And Skip This One

First, let me apologize:

I'm very, very sorry.

Now let me to explain the thing I'm apologizing for:

It's...well, it's what we found in an old arcade on my birthday last weekend. More specifically, it's the fact that I'm about to show you PICTURES of the thing we found in an old arcade on my birthday last weekend.

[deep breath]

Ok, here goes.

Meet Stinky:

...the Clown.

(Oh. Maybe I should have said something about not scrolling down here if you have a fear of clowns. Heh. Whoopsie!)

Stinky was way in the back of the arcade, past all the kiddie games and claw machines, and from a distance I honestly couldn't tell if he was a real person or not.

When we got closer, we were treated to this nightmare-fueling view:
Oh, but wait: it gets worse.

(You, uh, may want to scroll quickly past this next one:)

This photo is blurry because:

A) I couldn't look directly at him
B) my hands were shaking from laughing (that's my story and I'm sticking to it), and
C) Stinky chose this exact moment TO START MOVING.

You know, I'm not sure these photos truly capture the full "Stinky experience."

So let's try a little video!

You can hear his high pitched laugh around the five second mark. I'm honestly not sure if this is *supposed* to be scary or not...but it is. It really, really is. And speaking as someone who used to be a clown - yes, with the face paint and everything - I'd like to go on record as saying THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE CLOWNS. 

Well, this and Stephen King.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


If you were on Twitter yesterday afternoon then you already know most of this story. If not, buckle up. It's gonna be a SQUEAKY ride.

So...remember those scratching noises I mentioned way back during my Supernatural post? The ones that would always start up around 2AM and freak us right the heck out? Well, they kind of went away, and then came back, and then John put this strong spruce-smelling stuff up there that's supposed to ward off varmints, and then it went away again.

When the scritching came back again John got a humane metal trap and put *that* up there. Since it was in our back room, which was an addition to the house, there's no crawl space up there - just a tiny space you can stick your arm (or a boxy metal trap) inside. And since that room is directly under the branches of our massive backyard tree, we kept telling ourselves it was probably a squirrel.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And nothing happened.

The past few nights the noises have gotten a bit louder, like the squirrel was either moving its little squirrely furniture around or leading a rodent jazzercise class, so John and I finally agreed it was time to call in the professionals. We hated to do it, since we didn't want to actually *kill* anything, but it seemed we no longer had any choice.

The very next afternoon - yesterday - I was sitting on the couch working on my laptop when I heard a ceiling-shaking metallic *CLANK!!* I felt like hitting the fire alarm and yelling a triumphant, "WE GOT ONE!!!" but since we don't have a fire alarm I just yelled for John instead.

Cut to: John standing on a ladder outside in the rain (the ceiling access is under the roof line) with me standing inside at the window beside him, calling helpful things like, "Don't fall!" and "Can you see it yet?"

There was a bit of scraping and huffing from John, and then:



"I think it might be hurt."

"OH NO! Really? I thought the trap wouldn't hurt it!!" Desperately I tried to think of a vet that would treat injured squirrels. (Hey, I bet the smelly vet would do it!)

"No, wait. Never mind. He's not hurt. He's just being an [censored]."

I took a moment to process this. "Um. How does that work, exactly?"

At this point John heaved the cage into view, revealing a small-ish sized squirrel with a rat tail. Well, ok, maybe it was a rat. But I prefer to think of it as a squirrel who just Nair'ed his tail, ok?

Naturally, I did what any woman would do when faced with a caged rat pulled from her attic:

I ran to get my camera.

I told John to strike a triumphant pose with his bounty. I got this:

Because of the rain I instructed John to take it into the garage so I could get a cute close-up.

Yeeeeah...about that....

So it turns out, rats aren't terribly cute. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like rodents as much as the next girl - growing up my friend even had a lovely white rat with a spots like spilled chocolate milk -  but let's face it, they're no Fennec foxes.

Still, I did the best I could:

It helps to imagine him in a little cloak and guest-starring on the Secret of Nimh. And also that I cropped out his tail. Those things are mega squicky. [shudder]

Oh, and when I asked John what he meant about the rat being an [censored,] he told me the little bugger had stuck his head through the bars and was trying to bite him. Once the rat got his head back inside the cage, though, it was obvious he was fine.

After this we got down to business: John driving our catch many miles away to a patch of woods far from houses and stores, and me tweeting about it.

 About fifteen minutes after John left, he called me.

"Why are you torturing everyone on Twitter?"

"Aw, c'mon, it's hilarious making them guess what we caught."

"Just tell them what it is!"

"Ok, ok, fine.


"How's the rat release going?"

"It's surprisingly hard to find an isolated patch of woods in Orlando."

"Oh, I thought you'd let him out by now. I wanted to make sure he didn't leap for your face when you opened the door."


"Um... No? Probably not. Just, you know, stand back."

"Gee, I am SO glad I called."

Fortunately the release went fine, and now we wait to see if there are any *more* scritching noises in our LR ceiling. We'll just have to watch something super scary tonight - that's the only way to be sure.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weekly Geek Glee 5/16/12

(As you can see, the quest for the perfect "cool stuff roundup" post name continues. It's down to this - John's idea - and "Jen's Gems" - a reader's idea. Feel free to cast your vote in the comments. :)

First up, a Ghostbusters-inspired Ecto-1...bicycle?

Photo by Nik White, found via Ghostbusters Fans

 Love the fins. And the tanks. And the striped trap box lid. And...ok, all of it.

Actually, this is kind of a Pee Wee Herman/GB mash up, since that looks like the same bike from Pee Wee's Great Adventure. "I'm a loner, Dottie. A 'buster."

Not the best shot, but check it out lit up at night:

I'm a little confused as to where the tail light came from, since I don't see it in the first picture...but whatever. It's awesome. I'll take it.

Who's got two thumbs and wants to snuggle a giant miniature Wookiee?!

THIS GEEK, that's who.

Spotted on Reddit: the best staircase for bibliophiles EVER?

I think soo-ooo!

This is so well done, at first I thought it was a clever Photoshop. Turns out it really exists, though, in a parking garage by the downtown Kansas City library. The fact that this is real makes me oh-so-happy.

It seems crafters are always looking for new ways to upcycle old LPs. Purses, bowls, dessert trays...and now, painstakingly hand-cut clocks!

[UPDATE: Tyler from NotByLaser has just e-mailed to offer a special discount code for you Epbot readers: use the code "Baxter" to get 17% off!]

As the shop name says, these are *not* cut with a laser. They're done by hand - and there are lots and lots more designs at the link. Hat tip!

You guys realize you're only encouraging my Labyrinth addiction by sending me cool Labyrinth links, right? You're incorrigible, all of you. PLEASE NEVER STOP.

Case in point: behold!

 Labyrinth door knocker earrings!! (Elizabeth Z., bless your goblin-loving heart.)

Made by Ale Buz of BuzHandMade, who has a whole Labyrinth clay collection here. (Plus lots of other goodies from The Never Ending Story. OoooOOooh.)

Seen something that makes your inner geek gleeful? Share your links in the comments, or hit me up via Twitter or FB!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Birthday Sweets!

So after boasting about what an awesome birthday I was going to have in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I woke up in the not-so-wee hours with a miserable case of food poisoning. (Helpful Tip: I'm pretty sure the Boston Market meatloaf is *not* supposed to be pink in the middle. Ug.) That's what I get for jinxing it, right?

Fortunately I was recovered enough by the afternoon to still get out of the house for a bit, and fully recovered in time for my deeeLIGHTful Boma birthday dinner with friends:

Mmmm. Booooomaaaa.

Now I'm going to brag on John a bit.

He's been acting extraordinarily pleased with himself the past few weeks, dropping hints and collecting packages and generally being way more excited about my birthday than I was. (Which, to be fair, wasn't hard.)
Last week the suspense was apparently too much for him, because he surprised me with my first gift: the oh-so-elusive paperback movie adaption of Labyrinth. (WOOT!!) It's never been reprinted, so he was up 'til 5AM one morning in a bidding war on ebay to get it. (And I've already finished it. And it's awesome. I may have to write a book review to share some of the cool extra tidbits in there with you guys...)

John and I don't usually "do" birthday gifts, so please forgive me for photographing my haul like an obnoxious 12-year-old:

Toys, art, and books. Does my hubby know me, or WHAT?

The ACEO is from Jasmine Becket Griffith. The adorable mustachioed octopus was a custom order (teal & orange FTW!) from Cheek & Stitch, and I'm especially impressed because John found it all by himself - or maybe one of you readers tipped him off? (He *has* been helping me with a lot of e-mail lately...)

Sir Squibner now sits in the place of honor on my monitor stand:
"I say! What what! Tally ho! And so forth."

Of course, the big big surprise came on Saturday afternoon when John handed me his phone and instructed me to read the e-mail he had on screen.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say that John had been conspiring with the famous Geek a Week artist Len Peralta for nearly six weeks, all to get me this:

Me as Mr. StayPuft. 


Len's an insanely busy guy, but thanks to John's charm (and the fact that Len happens to be a fan) he found the time to do this drawing and surprise me with a sweet birthday e-mail. (In which he informed me what a great husband John is. Believe me, Len, I KNOW.) John even talked him into giving me the original sketch, something he normally doesn't do. I'm going to get them framed together side-by-side. And then try to find a free spot in my office to hang them. (I need more walls!)

Thank you all for the lovely get-well and birthday wishes on Saturday - they made the day that much sweeter. If I could, I would totally throw a big ol' geek party at Boma and have every single one of you there. Maybe next year? You guys don't mind coming to Orlando for that, right? :D

Monday, May 14, 2012

How To Paint A Faux Copper Patina

Today I'm going to show you how to take something like this:


And turn it into something like this:

 BioShock Seahorsies!!

This is a great technique for transforming everything from knick-knacks to cosplay props and hardware, and it can be used to make almost any material - wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.  - look like naturally aged copper.

But the best part? It's really easy! All you need are a good spray primer, spray paint in metallic copper and flat black, mineral spirits, and some cheap flat craft paint in a bright teal.

So let's get started!

First, prime your piece. (If it's plastic, be sure to use a plastic primer.)

(I originally planned to paint this piece gloss white, but the ceramic was rough and didn't look that great in a solid color. So...ultra aged copper, it is!)

Next, spray your piece with the copper metallic, and let it dry completely:

For this next step, have a small cup of mineral spirits and some cotton rags handy, because you'll want to move somewhat quickly once you've finished spraying your piece black.

When you're ready, go ahead and spray a nice thick coat of flat black all over your piece. Make sure you don't miss any nooks or crannies:

As soon as you're finished spraying, grab a rag and start wiping down the piece. The paint will get tacky pretty fast, but don't worry; that's what the mineral spirits are for.

Using two fingers wrapped in your cotton rag, dip the cloth in mineral spirits and continue wiping down your piece. [And it's much better to wear gloves; we just ran out.] You want to expose the copper on all the raised areas, leaving the black in all the recesses.

Keep going as long as you like, until you're happy with the look. (More black = more aging, so if you only want a light patina you'll want to take off more black than I did.)

This is how mine looked after I finished wiping it down.

Of course, you *could* stop there, but trust me: this next step is where the magic happens.

For this part you'll need your teal craft paint on a plate or palette, a brush, and a cup of water.

Mix a lot of water in with a little paint to make a thin glaze. Err on the side of caution: use a LOT of water.

Now, using your brush, start to drip your watery paint mixture onto your piece:

Concentrate on getting the glaze into all the recesses: the nooks and crannies. In short, anywhere there's black paint, that's where you want to concentrate your glaze. Use extra water to make the glaze drip and run down the sides.

Stop every now and then and splatter some of the glaze onto the piece. When these dry they'll leave really cool-looking water droplet marks.

The most effective aging mimics what would happen naturally out in the elements, so make your patina heaviest near the base and anywhere rainwater (and therefore rust) would naturally pool. You'll also want to do several coats of drips to get the best texture, so take your time.

Oh, and keep in mind that your glaze will look a lot like solid paint while it's wet, so don't worry if it seems too dark; it'll dry lighter.

Most of the glaze here is still wet. Compare that with the dry sections on the smaller seahorse's face and tail. See how translucent and dusty it looks? That's why you need several coats to get a really vivid patina.

You can put as much or as little patina on your piece as you like. For mine, I decided to go all out and really age the heck out of it:

 The heavy sections have at least half a dozen coats of glaze drips on them.

Of course, you still want some of your shiny copper metallic to show, so as a finishing touch rub down some of the raised areas with a wet Q-tip or paper towel to let that shine back through again. And if you realize your patina is a little *too* heavy, just rub some of that off, too. You may have to rub pretty hard, but the glaze will come off. (And if you rub off too much, just drip more on!)

And, guess what?

 You're done!

 Fortunately the glaze is strong enough that it's not going to rub off with casual wear, so there's no need to clear coat your finished piece. Which is good, since clear-coating would ruin all that great texture you just created, anyway!

To finish my seahorse statue I think I'm going to have John cut a thick wooden plaque for the base. And since I like to imagine it's a little souvenir statuette recovered from the underwater city of Rapture, maybe I'll even get a brass plaque saying something to that effect for the side. :D

I hope you've found this tutorial helpful! And if so, please let me know how you plan to use it in the future -  or better yet, send pictures!

Update: A couple of you have pointed out - and rightly so - that copper patina is usually a bit more green than this. I just used the teal craft paint I already had on hand, but for your own projects you may want to find a shade that leans more green. 


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Steam 5/12/12

I know I just mentioned this not too long ago, but if you're not already watching Felicia Day's Flog then you should at least give this week's show a try. In it Felicia visits the famous Clockwork Couture and does a hilarious fashion shoot - meaning you get LOLs *and* steamy fashion eye candy. Great stuff!

Guess why I've been searching ebay for an old bicycle horn?

By Flickr user lowtechatmo, found via Craft:

This iPhone speaker uses nothing more than a pvc pipe and old brass bike horn to naturally amplify the sound - no cords needed!

But believe it or not, that's not the only non-powered iPhone amplifier I saw this week. Check out this 3D printed version I found via Mashable:

The iVictrola Gramophone comes in two pieces (the horn and the base) in your choice of colored plastic, which you can then paint to match the scheme above or leave a solid color for a neat modern look. Pricing starts around $95 for both pieces. (Isn't 3D printing cool?!)

Caitlin W. spotted these bookends with gears that actually move:

Yep - the hand crank works! Awesome. They'll be available in August for about $50 here.

And speaking of cranky things, check out this adorable "Hootch-Owl" bottle opener:

 $50 from Red Envelope

Oh! For those of you who live within driving distance of Waltham, MA, get yourselves over to the Watch City Festival, the city-wide steampunk celebration, STAT! It's going on now through tomorrow. And I want pictures!

And finally, check out my new steamy side table!

John and I stumbled across this on sale at Hobby Lobby for $90 - not bad, considering it's all heavy wood and metal. The legs especially have some neat screw and hinge detailing.

Here's a view looking out towards the dining room:

And here's a closeup of all my goodies on it:

I love how steampunk is slowly but surely creeping outward from the dining room into the rest of our house. I still try to keep a lot of color with it, but the aged pieces and leathers and metallics add so much warmth and character to the place. It's all quite cozy, really.

And now, if you'll excuse me... IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!! So I'm off to be spoiled rotten by John and then have dinner at Boma, my all-time favorite restaurant (which just happens to be at Disney). I hope you guys have a great weekend, too!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Going to a Con...By Yourself?

Many of you often mention in your e-mails that while you'd like to go to a convention some time, you just don't have any geek friends to go with. I can totally sympathize; John and I can count our local geek friends on one hand, and I'm not sure either of us would be brave enough to go to a con alone.

But then I got this e-mail from Catherine, and no lie: I was so inspired I actually got a little weepy. Fortunately she's given me permission to share it with the rest of you, so without further ado, here 'tis:


Hi Jen (and John),

I just wanted to write to let you know how awesome I think your blogs are and how you encourage everyone to let their geek flags fly.

Like so many nerds, I am quite shy and hate large crowds. I also don't have any friends that share my love for all things sci-fi, so I never thought I would attend a con. Then I saw all your cool posts and pics about all the ones that you attend but still wasn't sure if I was brave enough to go alone.

I finally decided to take the plunge when I heard about the Calgary Comic Con and the fact that the entire cast of Star Trek:TNG would be there!

I had the most amazing time and met so many really great people who love all the same kind of stuff I do! Plus I got to meet Sir Patrick Stewart and listen to him speak in that AMAZING voice of his, as well as hug Wil Wheaton ( girly sigh! ). 

(I just had to include a couple of photos cause I have no one else to show them off too.)

So thanks for pushing me to try something new, now I want to go to as many Cons as I possibly can.  Maybe someday I'll meet you at one.



SHE HUGGED WIL WHEATON, you guys. (Sooooo jealous.) 

And you know what's even more awesome than the fact that Catherine went to her very first convention by herself?

The fact that she went IN COSTUME:

Oh yeah, she just crossed the Star streams - and I love it.

Now THAT is a magical moment. (Sorry, Disney.)

You know, having been to my fair share of cons I know just how friendly the people are - heck, at Dragon*Con if you don't make a new friend in every line it's because you're actively trying NOT to - and yet I still have this lingering fear of ever venturing out by myself. Seeing Catherine overcome that fear, though, and how happy she is that she did, makes me want to jump out of my comfort zone and try to get out there more. The fact is, cons are where "our people" are - so if ever there was a place to make new friends, it's at a con!

Also, if you're a bit shy like Catherine and me, then I really can't recommend going in costume enough. I know it seems scary, but costumes are instant conversations starters. Not to mention they'll attract fans of the same flavor, so you'll already have something in common to talk about! 

If a costume feels too ambitious, then at least go with a geeky t-shirt, bag, or accessory - the more obscure, the better. I've had people cross a crowded room just to talk to me about my t-shirt at conventions before - and I've done the same for an especially nice ray gun or piece of jewelry. It's all about breaking the ice, so don your finest geekery, and get out there!  

Thanks again to Catherine, my newest hero, and here's hoping her story helps inspire some of you out there, too!

So tell me, peeps, have you ever been to a con by yourself? How was it? Any tips for newbies?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We're Trekkies And We Know It

Though people often mistake me for a bigger Star Wars fan, the truth is my first sci-fi love has always been Star Trek. There just aren't as many awesome Trek goodies out there for me to post about, so 'Wars tends to get a lot more love here on Epbot.

But today, thanks to a link from Jennifer P. on the Epbot FB page, I get to even the score a little.

Yes, it's ridiculously cheesy. Yes, you're probably not going to want anyone around you to see or overhear what you're watching. And yes, I realize I'm reaching new heights (depths?) of extreme geekdom by posting this.


(Personally, I lost it at "C-Captain Kirk out," and "Tribbletribbletribbleyeah." And the non-stop pelvic thrusts/dancing, of course. Hee!)

LL&P, y'all.  J-Jen out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And That's Why I Answer E-Mails 3 Weeks Late

John and I always keep an iChat window open with each other while we're working. This is so John can send me various funny and/or cute pictures he finds on Reddit to distract me from my serious work of pinning my latest craft aspirations and catching up on Twitter.

Anyway, this is how one of our exchanges went yesterday:

IM window: *ping!*

Me: "D'AWWWWW!! So cute! And they totally look like they're skydiving! Someone should photoshop them onto a sky. Right? Right?!"



Me: "BWA-HA-HAA! Except now they look like they're plummeting to their deaths. They need parachutes."



 Me: "Ok, now they really need some goggles."

John: *sigh*

Me: "Oh, come on. You've come THIS far."



Me: "YES! I love it. Now it just needs a big LOL cats-type caption with, 'DON'T LET GO,' or 'I'VE GOT YOU' on it, right? Something cute like that.




Now if you'll excuse me, I have some very serious work to BWAHHAHAAA!! Sorry, I couldn't even get that out TYPING. Heh. Aheh. Heh.

(Hey John, now how about some double rainbows? And glitter? And little top hats? And a little squirrel in a rocket pack? [Too much?])



I'd like to thank Epbot reader Orcrist for this vital service to humanity:

Especially since John wouldn't do it. (The spoilsport.) :D