Operation Qan[T]: Part 2

I’m fairly certain we’re making double time compared to previous years. I can admittedly feel myself slowly burning out and losing steam as we build every day back-to-back, but it’s good progress nonetheless. Thankfully the Gundam we chose to build this year doesn’t have a crazy big accessory tacked onto it or a complex design in each body panel to build out…oh wait.

I finished my work on the helm last time, so while my partner works on the arms, backpack, and waist, I’ll be tackling some of the most difficult parts of any mobile suit design: the legs.

Thankfully my buddy had already drawn most of the suit design in SketchUp, so it should be a fairly simple matter to just copy the piece measurements and make it all 3D right?

While my partner did draw up the knees in SketchUp and even made a cardboard mockup as shown here, it wasn’t quite as accurate as it could’ve been.

Not to throw blame though – the leg units are arguably the most complex part of the suit – most Gundams share this trait. The SketchUp and cardboard mockup models are useful for figuring out the overall dimensions that the pieces had to be, but the actual shapes would need some redesign to adhere closer to the suit’s original design.

Template sketched on paper and cut out, to be traced onto foam. Looks quite a bit off from the cardboard original, but it should be more accurate.

I talked a little bit last post about how I’d bevel the edges of nearly all my pieces to ensure a smooth and near-seamless fit. This should show it much more clearly – the above has two sides of the knee next to each other, one that’s been beveled (with the thin edge) and the other that’s just the foam cut straight from the mat.

Fitting the pieces normally without beveling the edges would get you stuff like this – the foam’s inherent thickness throws stuff off.

But thin out the sides and we get nice results like this. It’s a lot of work to take the edges off especially since I don’t bother with the mess of using the dremel and instead just cut them off straight with my blade.

My foam knee with the part that was supposed to be there from the cardboard mockup. Sizing is bound to be different.

And we have knees.

But of course we can’t leave them featureless – there are these neat little indents on the Master Grade model that were replicated on foam by just cutting most of a rectangle and leaving one side intact. The shape was then pushed down and glued in place, and voila.

Meanwhile my partner slaves away at the backpack assembly – which will connect to the front we already have.f

Cardboard serves as a backing plate, with the actual backpack’s detail being built out in foam as per the usual process.

More pieces meant for the lower back, which will wrap around my partner’s abdomen.

Getting started on the work for the lower calves – but these parts on the suit are really built around the big circular GN Condensers in the legs, which we don’t have the parts for yet. We know that they’re going to be roughly 5 inches in diameter, so all I needed was a circle that was around that size that I could use as a placeholder while I designed the legs. Enter the usual standard DVD/CD disk – conveniently sized at nearly 5 inches.

Thanks to that I was able to (mostly) draw out the lower calves. But I must point out that I don’t really have much to go off of here – these pieces bend and curve like nothing and no one I’ve ever seen before, so making them out of a flat piece of foam and just praying that they’ll work seems like a long shot.

My primitive idea was to cut the shape out of foam with lots of slack hanging off of each side, and then simply cutting down and trimming them as I bent and fit them until they worked with the shape I wanted. I’m sure there’s probably a more efficient and accurate way to do this with some sort of molding process or whatever, but this is just what worked the most conveniently for me at the time.

And right around this time we needed to crack open a new roll. The scent of fresh foam is welcome, if a bit overpowering.

Check out that backpack plate detail. Looks like the GN Drive that goes back there also happened to be around 5 inches, so he used the same CD disk to make that pattern.

Bringing out the sides.

Back is filling out nicely. Those black marks on the foam are burn marks from the heat gun – but it’s ok it’ll all go away with paint.

Back to my calves – like I said, just cut them and bend them until they kind of look like what you’re going for.

Some of the fitting is whack but that’s why we can cut things off we don’t need. My only recourse while building this stuff was that I only needed to do the R&D once. After the first piece was done and sized correctly, all I had to do was clone it three more times and mash it all together and it should fit.

It fits! Admittedly it’s a very tight fit though – I may have undersized them just a tad, but Hell will freeze over twice before I remake them in a larger size. The Quanta has skinny legs anyway, right?

Much more relieved to see it match up well with the knee and thigh in place. I think once the rest of it is filled out it’ll look A-OK.

Trying to meticulously match the angle of the knee to the angle that flows into the lower calves.

Awkward story – the CD/DVD disks aren’t actually 5 inches. They’re close – about 4.73 or something in that neighborhood, but even at that current size they’re actually a little too large to fit in the opening left by the knee cap and lower leg assembly. I’ve already tried cutting into those parts to make more room, but any more cutting will distort the piece shape. As such I suppose I’ll just be banking on the convex shape of the condenser domes making room for the armor around it when it comes time to put the condenser in.

Had a few seam issues. Fixable with Kwik Seal.

Partner putting the finishing touches on the arms by making the large forearm guard that covers only the right arm.

He doesn’t usually use paper templates to mock-up piece shapes, as he prefers cardboard, but when he does use paper his stencils are absolutely heinous.

Good thing the final product doesn’t look bad though.

We had some creative differences over whether to keep the original elbow protrusion under the forearm cover or not. On the kit you basically can’t see the original elbow so it might as well not be there – and deleting it from our suit here would give us more room to make the cover slimmer and more form-fitting, as befits the design language of the entire build.

My partner disagreed however, preferring to keep it and build around it for authenticity.

In the end it makes the right arm look absolutely gigantic compared to the left, but ironically after looking over the kit again that’s really just how it is on the original suit design, so it works.

Trying on our first hands-free test-fit of the torso.

It’s literally held on only by that strip of foam that goes around his waist.

It was a tight fit, but that’s kind of the aesthetic we’re going for here. Those flaps need some reinforcing now that we know they fit properly.

Backpack matches up with the front torso. Just needs a human body sandwiched between them now.

To make the backpack wearable we’re naturally going with the tried and true approach of a PVC pipe-frame backpack. I believe we’ve done this exact setup ever since the Nu Gundam with its gigantic Funnel backpack.

Our hacksaw was a bit dull from constant use though, and since we’re too cheap to just go out and get a new one, we opted for the hi-speed dremel approach coupled with the metal cutting blade.

PVC pipe apparently isn’t a walk in the park to cut. PVC dust, melting material, and apparently somewhat gross fumes tend to make the job less than enjoyable. Bless this brave man’s soul for taking on a task I’m far too intimidated by to attempt.

Looks like the backpack is a bit too snug for even our smallest pipe frame construction.

The T-coupler at the upper right will be used to extend the arm needed to hold the Quanta’s shield, which we’ll get to eventually later. We’re somewhat worried about needing to support the shield’s weight and frame with such a tiny backpack, but the PVC itself shouldn’t break…right?

Continuing the lower legs. These would be the parts that go right under the curved calf pieces, which eventually have the ankle armor attached to them.

This stuff really hurt my brain, made worse that it looked like the Quanta’s leg shape changed with each new reference picture I checked. What I wouldn’t give to just have the model built and in front of me for reference.

First attempt came out all wrong, so these had to be scrapped and hopefully recycled to be used on other parts later. I also screwed up trying to scribe the backside for the bend – knife went too far and tore the good side up.

Take two. Cut out, scored along the backside, heated up, and finally bent to achieve the desired shape.

It all somehow fit! Though a bit too bulbous for my liking.

Test fit with (nearly) the whole leg. I think it looks alright, though I’ll confess I’m banking on the ankle armor and upper leg pieces to fill it out more once those are made.

The leg just looks…too flat. The calf should bulge more, but I’m not quite so how to fix that. Now I’m rushing to get the ankles on there for hope that they’ll flare the lower legs out and make it look better.

Crafting the ankle guards. They’re actually not complicated – though they do have a lot of sides to fill in so they become tedious.

Looking pretty good.

Stenciling out the rear ankles. Those angles and lines are totally arbitrary – just going by whatever feels right.

Translated into foam. The circles and squares are meant to match the pieces up in the correct orientation – otherwise I’m going to forget what goes where and how.

You just know my partner’s not doing jack shit with his time when you go over to his workstation and find a box with a casual penis cutout.

Just kidding it’s apparently the front skirt armor. I never knew how dickish it looked.

Trying out a cardboard mockup first, as always.

Looks much less dickish when it’s actually bent to shape.

And the full thing translated into foam. The front middle section looks a bit long – I told him he was flattering himself if he thought he needed that much real estate up front.

And of course because the front skirts can’t just be simple, they also have to curve upwards a tad, so cardboard supports were made to help with that.

In a truly unfortunate and unfair twist of fate, our reverse glass bowl from Goodwill that we got last time seemed to die an early death.

Yeah, maybe it was only a dollar and maybe it only broke a little under half of the dome, but our hearts shattered right along with that glass.

Emergency surgery via hot glue to piece enough of it back together so that we can still possibly use it as a mold for our future chest condenser unit. Keep in mind that we’ll be heat-forming clear acrylic over this bowl, and that process may very well melt the hot glue holding it together, so only time will tell if this unfortunate mistake really cost us significantly.

It’s a piece of modern art now.

Gluing the straps onto our PVC backpack frame now.

It’s not just hot glue holding this stuff on and keeping it strapped to my partner’s back – we add a healthy dose of E6000 industrial strength adhesive along with the hot glue in a combo that should be nigh-impossible to break once the stuff sets and cures.

Attached to the back plate with the straps running through slits cut in the cardboard.

More mistakes are then made. We got ahead of ourselves and glued the PVC pipe frame, straps and all, to the cardboard back plate before cementing the PVC together.

Not a mistake that can’t be fixed, but it took some painful ripping of the already-glued PVC frame off of the cardboard.

Ended up with not a very pretty sight.

We PVC cement anything that connects via PVC fittings because the cement basically makes it all indestructible. It’s so strong in fact, neither of us could get the cement can open. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Only this time we didn’t spill half the can because we had our body building friend work his raging muscles to crack the stuff open for us.

It hasn’t gotten any less toxic over the years, but at least this time we have a proper safety respiratory mask.

That awkward moment when the cement dries and cures before you even have a chance to shove the pipe in evenly. It’s a bit off and not totally snug, but even a hammer wouldn’t get the thing to budge, so it should be safe to assume that it’ll hold up during the Expo.

Messy and uneven, but that’s just how we roll.

Now we can really get the backpack together.

Looks like we got a bit of poke with the pipe even with the conservative frame measurements. We’ll just have to make a bent foam piece to fill it in here later.

Cutting and sizing the straps according to the wearer’s body now. It has to be tight enough to hold the backpack high enough and have minimal movement once the rest of the armor is on.

Every year we normally make runs to our local Home Depot for cheap as all hell buckles (absolutely tiny, difficult to remove, and around a dollar for a set) or try Joann’s Crafts for the higher-end stuff that run nearly triple the price. This year we finally decided to wise up and just ordered a bundle of the higher-end buckles off of Amazon for the price of the cheap Home Depot ones.

He’s basically unable to expand his lungs anymore with this thing on.

Solid.

Now that the backpack has been attached to the wearer we can start assembling the rest of the torso and lower body around it.

The lower leg was technically finished – the only part left was the blue piece that goes on the back of the leg over the GN Condenser. However as I was looking at the finished product I just wasn’t satisfied with how it turned out.

So it’s time to go in with some surgery to try and rectify the problems. The main issue I have is that the round calf pieces don’t curve enough, so the whole thing just looks flat all the way down.

Also wasn’t happy with the side of the ankle – changing and pulling proportions is fine to fit the human body, but there are some iconic elements of a design that you simply have to get right.

Split the rear upper portion of the calves to insert a triangle that would hopefully make it look larger up top, and have a more dramatic curve as it comes down to the ankles.

Comparison between the revised leg on the right and the original on the left. It’s hard to really capture on camera, but by bringing the lower ankles inward and allowing the calves to bulge out more it really gives it more of the curved look that the Quanta’s actual legs sport.

The downside of splitting the rear of the calves earlier was that now it’s an absolute mess that needs some serious Kwik Seal filling.

So ugly. But all it needs to do is be flat – the paint and primer will take care of the rest later.

Thankfully I learned from modifying the first leg – the second one was much easier to do since I decided to just take parts off instead of simply splitting and re-cementing them at one seam.

My second attempt on the left is a lot cleaner, though it may not look that way with more Kwik Seal still leftover. Note the lack of dremel marks on the foam compared to the leg on the right.

Partner is tearing some of the backpack apart now since we realized it doesn’t actually sit flush with the front of the torso. It’s slightly raised, so the connecting parts need to be adjusted accordingly.

Gluing the snap buckles in.

The hot glue forms an instant bond so we can test fit the armor immediately; there’s E6000 industrial adhesive under each buckle that, once cured, will take the brunt of the load and ensure against any connection failures.

Front and rear connected via buckles.

Test fit with the torso strapped in and the legs slipped up. We’re mostly looking for how we need to adjust the front skirt, given the gap between the thighs and upper body.

Quite satisfied with the legs now. Just one more piece to fill out the back of the knees and we’ll nearly be good to go.

It’s a painfully tight fit around his arms –  I actually accidentally pinched his skin more than a few times getting the buckles together while suiting up. Might need to extend those arm openings a bit to mitigate that.

The cardboard connector is there because on the Quanta that area is basically inner-frame, so for our suit it’ll be painted black and hidden with the morph suit that my partner will be wearing under the armor.

The most comprehensive test-fit yet. The shoulders really bring the upper body together – need to get those glued in ASAP.

Getting on those last pieces for the legs.

I normally don’t like using cardboard in my pieces, but in this case it serves as a nice rigid support for the otherwise floppy leg bits that go behind the knee.

This is the magic of EVA foam – oh how nice it is to be able to scribe panel-lines so easily. The left is the raw foam that has the lines scribed in with a hobby knife – so thin you can barely see them, right? Take a heat gun to it and you end up with the piece on the right – all the lines expand on their own without any additional work.

These detail pieces are then inserted into the main leg pieces – so complex because we’re going off the MG model here.

Unfortunately after a week of straight use it looks like we’re both running out of contact cement and mason jar life. Each jar has become pretty gnarly and sticky from constant use by now; shouldn’t cost more than $5 to make a new set.

Partner working on some finishing touches for the torso.

Can’t forget the yellow vent-like collar pieces.

Apparently we don’t have enough real estate around the neck area to really fit these bits well; making them the proper width would intrude too much on the wearer’s head movement.

Looks pretty good.

Mounted. Some bends in the lines, but otherwise pretty solid.

So very close to a full-body suit-up. Next time we’ll be getting the straps and fitment system together, then come the hard parts with the clear material required to make the GN Condensers, GN Drive, and clear Sword Bits.

 

Read on the rest of the build:

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

 

 

 

 

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