Thursday, September 25, 2014

Check Me Out, I'm Dancin'! I'm DANCIN'!!

New project time!

I figure John and I are far enough along now to - knock on wood - avoid the Epbot curse. (That's the one where I doom a project by mentioning it here before it's finished. :))

This will be more of a build walk-through than a tutorial, though I'm happy to answer any questions I can. It's one of the most complex things John and I have ever tackled, which is funny, considering it looks pretty simple:

 Oh, did I mention? 

We're building Claptrap.

Woot woot!

Of course by "we" I mostly mean "John," though I'm helping where I can. Plus it'll be my turn to take over soon, since I get to handle all the painting and finishing. o.0

John got the lion's share of the body done in just three days, after which I think he realized just how complex this build is. So many details and funky angles! We're around the 2 week mark now, with John working at least a couple of hours a day.

First steps: scale drawings (using measurements taken from in-game screen shots) and a quick arm mock-up.
Transferring templates to wood.

Attaching inner frame.

John used an old sample board of wood stains for the inner frame, which is why it looks so pretty. :)

Block supports & thin wood laminate to make the inner curve on the front:
 The laminate was actually my idea. See? HELPING.

Sliding in the bottom panel.

We decided on a hinged top panel, so we can access the insides later:

(You can also see the inner side panels coming along; those will be filled with wires & tubing later.)

John did a great job recessing the hinges, so you shouldn't see them at all once it's painted.

The eye flap is reinforced underneath with a wedge of wood cut to the same angle.

A quick mock-up of the eye, which is made from a stryofoam ball & PVC pipe:

The front wheel surround was a pain; John re-did it three times to appease a particularly demanding supervisor [smirk]:

In the supervisor's defense, now it's practically perfect.

The wheel is a used go-kart tire John ordered online - our most expensive piece so far, since we had to buy two for $45, including shipping. It's the perfect size, though, and the tread is close to Claptrap's.


The hubcaps are screwed into four wood supporting blocks inside the wheel, and the inset is a PVC threaded reducer. There's also an inflated bicycle tire in there, for padding.

I had John add an inner wooden ring to the hubcap, both to hide the joint & to better match Claptrap.

The wheel shaft and assembly is made from more PVC pipe, plus cast iron flanges John had left over from an old project:

Taking the new wheel assembly for a test spin!

Here I am starting my first attempt at cell-shading for the paint job:

 Adding thick, sloppy borders on purpose is really hard for a perfectionist. Had to keep going back to mess it up a bit.

(If you're not familiar with the cell-shading look for Borderlands cosplay, here's an example:

 The game has a graphic, comic book sketchy feel, with lots of heavy outlines & almost cartoony shading.)

So, after shading, highlighting, and adding some grunge:
 Eh. Satisfied enough to keep going!
The struts were harder; I initially made them way too clean & realistic. I kept going back, adding more and more "sketchy" lines to really drive home the graphic cartoony feel.

 For the finishing touch I made two faux screw heads from "Bead in a Bottle" paint:

(Pipe the paint onto a smooth piece of plastic or glass, let it dry completely, pop it off, and use a craft blade to make the screw-head indentation. Easy-peasy!)

Screws in place, and outlined with more black paint:

 We have a wheel!!

Think I'll end there for now. Next time I'll show you guys some of the fun stuff we're doing with the front panels, which light up and are looking pretty cool, if I do say so myself. :)


  1. I don't know Borderlands, but that looks SO awesome. Really amazing. My husband is a Make Magazine guy, and wants to know if you know about . Lots of tutorials there that might be helpful for you guys. And if you ever have questions about that end of things (Arduinos, electronics, LEDs), give us a shout out. He'd be happy to help. Can't wait to see the finished product!

    1. Thanks, Erin! I'm familiar with ada fruit, but I'm still such a beginner with electronics that I don't know how to use most of what they sell! Hoping to change that, though; I see LOTS of goodies I want to play with.

    2. It's definitely a whole new world when you get into electronics. I'm sure that you and John (thoJ) are up to it! My husband is going to do a tutorial on how to make a little pouch of pixie dust glow -- I'll send you a link when it's up.

  2. SUPER impressive, you guys! I also am unfamiliar with Borderlands, but damn, does anybody else think that Claptrap looks totes like the moon robot from the Wallace and Gromit movie "A Grand Day Out"?

    If you add a coin-op slot and dial to your version it will make me VERY happy. :) (Actually, maybe Claptrap even has his own coin-op slot and dial already, for all I know. Did I mention I know nothing about Borderlands?)


    1. Ha! I'm not crazy!!

      Um, well, at least I'm not crazy just for thinking that Claptrap looks like the W&G moon robot.

      Or if I am, at least I'm not the only one. Hey, small victories.


  3. Oh, my freaking GAWD. You have GOT to be kidding! I can't believe the ambition you two have. That's got to be one heck of a time-consuming project. Whenever I try to tackle anything huge like that, I start off like gangbusters and then, halfway through, I completely lose momentum, and whatever it is ends up sitting unfinished, taking up space, for years. Can you please tell me your secret to maintaining your drive throughout a lengthy, detailed project?

    Jen, I'm a perfectionist, too, and I guess I just have all the motivation sucked out of me when I can't get every little detail exactly like it is in my head...or I just focus for so ridiculously long on one small, stupid part that I exhaust myself and lose sight of the whole. Does John help keep you on track and moving forward when you want to give up, or do you have enough self-discipline and determination to keep making progress all on your own?

    John, your woodworking is da bomb! (Eh, people don't say that anymore.) Dude! You got mad wood crafting skillz, yo! (Nope, that's out, too. Sorry I'm not cool enough to compliment you in the latest hip lingo.)

    Jen, that paint job on the wheel and struts is amazing. You guys are so impressively talented. How fortunate that you have each other to share your inspiration with!

    I'm assuming, from the work you've done so far, that your Claptrap is going to be purely decorative. You're not actually going to try to motorize him in any way, right?

    I can't wait to see the final product. Is he going to be the pièce de résistance in John's man cave, or will he be a prop for an upcoming con? Fun, fun, fun! Looking forward to seeing your next post and finding out more details!!


    1. You nailed it, K; it's all John keeping us on track. I'm exactly like you, expending all my energy obsessing over details, and then I get overwhelmed and quit. John, on the other hand, barrels in without even *trying* to think things through, and somehow that always works for him - which I don't mind telling you is SUPER ANNOYING. But in a good way. I guess. ;)

      I like to think I keep John balanced, slowing him down & making him re-think some things (or redo others). It annoys him initially, but in the end I think (hope?) he appreciates the added attention to detail. I tend to enjoy the process more, where John likes FINISHING, so we pull each other along between perfectionism and practicality.

      Claptrap will have a handle bar so we can steer him, though we've joked about setting him up with a remote-control segway inside. (Hey, if my electronics skills ever get that far...) He'll be making the convention circuit with us for sure, though! I'll be able to make him wave with rods, and I have plans for music and semi-interactive audio, so he can talk to people. He'll also be poseable, so we can put his arm around kids for photos. Can you tell I'm excited? Ha!

    2. Okay, so I swear that we have no fingers in the Adafruit pie, but my husband read this and immediately said, "oh, they need the Adafruit FX board" which is sadly out of stock at the moment. But here it is:

    3. Mobile, poseable, AND interactive? He's going to be awesome! You two and your Claptrap will be a huge hit at the cons!

      So, I'm guessing there will also be Borderlands cosplay in your future?!?! Do you know already which characters you and John will be?


    4. Erin, I just mainlined about a dozen adafruit Youtube videos last night, and started an online arduino course, so... maybe I'll learn enough to actually use that when it comes back in stock!

      And K, SHHHH. It's a secret. ;)

    5. Hooray!! My DH is a serious Arduino aficionado, so email us at if you have any questions at all. He'd love to help.

  4. The virtual claptrap seems to have a gyroscope to stabilize him. How have you two solved the problem of the "real life" claptrap not falling over?

    You two seem to share the same skillset my husband and I have, though we've not made anything nearly so cool. Well... we built a tree fort with a swing this summer.... Nope. Not as cool as Claptrap.

    1. Our super low-tech solution for now is a hidden handlebar (so I can push him) & a kickstand, so he can "stand" on his own. John caught me researching "one wheeled self-balancing robots" last night, though, so... [maniacal laughter]

  5. This looks amazing! You guys are seriously talented.

  6. You two are just absolutely stunningly awesome!

  7. This looks fantastic! My husband LOVES the Boarderlands games. I've only watched him play a little, but it took less than five minutes to become enamored with Claptrap. Good luck with the rest of the project!

  8. Your sketchy paint jobs look fantastic! Can't wait to see the rest of the project :)

  9. Can I just like move into your house so you guys can help me do crafts? I can do all the cooking!

    Seriously, though, you guys always leave me in awe. Claptrap looks fantastic so far. John totally nailed the body, and Jen, your painting is perfection. Can't wait to see how wonderful it looks totally finished.

    (And I'm sure I can find something in Supernatural to break that pesky Epbot curse. :D)

  10. Amazing!!! I'm not talking about Claptrap (which is amazing), but I'm talking about the fact that you and John are so crafty together!!! My dear hubby and I don't have that...he basically watches TV and I basically crochet. So many things I'd like to do in our house if only we had the talent to do it.

  11. Oh that is awesome!!!!! To be honest before this post i have never heard of claptrap (sorry) but heres the thing; HE LOOKS FREAKING AWESOME :) Thanks for sharing I love this blog!!

  12. AHHH so awesome!!! My husband and I bonded over Borderlands and it's still pretty much our favorite couples activity :-) By far the best video game I've ever played!

  13. This is amazing! I'm so in awe of your (and John's) drive. I mean I have tons of things I want to do, but just never seem to get around to doing things... I have however spent the last 3 nights spray painting things for my house - seriously spray paint is a new addiction. I keep looking around to see what I can make "better". My bf is starting to think I'm crazy I pretty sure. But that is nothing compared to this...

    Anyhow, I can't wait to see how this all turns out! No evil curse for you guys! You both are brilliant! :)

  14. Amazing! I've had those games for ages and I've finally gotten around to playing through them. Finished first Borderlands last week and I'm a fair way through Borderlands 2 now. Trying to catch up before the pre-sequel. Can't wait to see your Claptrap when he's done. Make sure you can position his arms so he can give high-fives :)

  15. Very impressive! Can't wait to see the finished project!! Let the Epbot curse be lifted for Claptrap! :)

  16. ha ha what 1 are you going for there the sense or the senseless


  17. For those playing along at home, Bill Doran from Punished Props put out instructions on how to build a pretty simple/cheap claptrap puppet dealio. Though, having Jen's remarkable painting skills would be incredibly helpful in making it look awesome. :)


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