Thursday, February 14, 2013

Two birds with one stone

A while back I picked up a Gerber Omnivore. This is a flashlight that has the interesting ability to run off either a single AAA, a single AA, or a single CR123 battery. It's a little expensive compared to the "supermarket brand", but nowhere near the price of some of the upper-end flashlights. And while the smaller model I bought doesn't have the lumens to compete with the heavy-duty models, for most of us it's easily bright enough for casual use (especially if you're using a CR123 cell), plus there's a slightly larger version that's supposed to be a lot brighter.

The convenience of being able to run it off any batteries you have lying around (AAs and AAAs are probably the only two "non-specialist" batteries most of us actually use these days) makes it a great flashlight for use around the house or garden, or leaving somewhere accessible in case of a power failure.

The Omnivore turned out to be a little larger than I expected, but this is dictated by the nature of the multi-battery mechanism. After using it for a while I decided it was just about the perfect size for using the "reverse" grip (that is, holding it with your thumb over the tailcap switch), which is the way this kind of flashlight is meant to be used. If it were any thinner it would be awkward to use the switch, and if it was any shorter there wouldn't be much room for your (or at least my) pinky finger.

So overall I really like the Omnivore. I do, however, have a couple of issues with it. First of all, it doesn't come with a lanyard, and I can't quite seem to pass a strand of paracord through the lanyard hole. Second, the surface is untextured and just doesn't feel very secure in my hand - I wish it had some stippling or something to give you a better grip.

However, I found a way to solve both problems with some paracord. Is there anything it can't do?

Now it feels a lot better in my hand and I can either wrap the lanyard around my wrist or just let it hang between my thumb and finger - that way if the flashlight slips out of my hand I can easily catch the lanyard by simply pinching my thumb in.

The wrap is almost the same as a koppo lanyard, but with both strands passing under the wrap instead of just one. I might undo it and try a regular koppo instead, depending on how much I like it in practice. Or I might get some "skateboard" tape and a regular lanyard instead, we'll see.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Replacement Death

A while back I painted a Games Workshop Cairn Wraith. I mentioned that I broke a piece and so ended up buying another one and making a cast of the broken part. Well, a few weeks back that model disappeared. I kept it on top of my monitor at work; I suspect a member of the cleaning staff must have knocked it off and broken it by accident. I do wish they had left the broken pieces instead of vanishing the whole thing as I might have been able to fix it. Oh well, at least it gave me an impetus to finish this guy:

He came out a lot brighter this time, which is probably partly due to my avoiding the Army Painter Quickshade. He's probably a bit too bright, but I'm a little tired of dark models, which only really look good in bright lighting.

I actually rushed him a little bit. I'm a little tired of spending so long on each model and I seem to have even less time now than before, plus I figured he's not supposed to look pristine. In fact I deliberately stopped adding layers of Dark Angel's green to his cloak before achieving an even colour, in order to look a little worn and faded. I simply drybrushed white then washed with Thraka green and left it at that. The resulting hightlights look rougher than I had expected, but luckily that works for him so I left it.

The metal of his scythe is a little interesting I think; I drybrushed Boltgun Metal over Calthan brown to give a slightly subtle rust effect. I then washed with Devlan Mud and carefully brushed Boltgun back onto the edge to make it stand out without creating a neat line. The bone is just white washed with Gryphonne Sepia then very lightly drybrushed with white again - though I carefully added a black wash to a few spots on his skull, like his eyes - and I think it worked surprisingly well considering how quick and simple a technique it is.

But the paint took only a tiny fraction of the time that I spent on this model. You see, this is the first finished model I've managed that actually features lights! Check it out:

OK, it doesn't look like much in that photo. See, that isn't just a light, that's a UV light behind a glow-in-the dark skull. I used glow-in-the-dark clay in a cast of the original skull, to try to get an eerie glow rather than a bright light (this is actually why I used a simpler method for painting the bone - I didn't want to put too much light-blocking paint over the skull). The problem is the UV doesn't light up all the way to the front of the skull very well, so it looks a little weird. Still, I think it looks rather cool - especially in the dark of course:

In order to power the bulb I had to design a special base that could take a battery. This turned out to be incredibly hard to do, at least without making it very large and high in order to accommodate a battery holder, and I've actually been trying to find a solution for over a year now. In the end I found a way to do it in a 25mm base that's only 5mm high:
You can see the battery partially inserted in this shot.

To put that into perspective, a normal 25mm GW base is about 3mm high, and a 40mm base is about 4mm high, so it doesn't stand out. Basically I use PCB board as the base (and positive terminal) and a bent paperclip to hold the battery (and act as the negative terminal), building it up with plasticard and milliput. The PCB is a big deal as it let's me solder parts without melting the plastic base - a problem I was having before. I might post a bit of a how-to later, but for now here's some photos of the base:

In order to pass the current to the bulb I used two pins, which also supported and strengthened the model. I took the opportunity to reshape the part of the robe that touches the ground - I always thought it sweeps the wrong way in the original model. Unfortunately I didn't make it curve enough, so it almost seems to be weighted and just doesn't match the rest of the model as well as I'd hoped, but positioning the pins was trickier than it sounds. Here's a shot of the greenstuff covering the pins all the way up to the bulb (which is covered in blue tack in preparation for priming):

So yeah, not too bad overall. To be honest I'm just glad this guy is finally done. I'm still trying to improve the base; I've already got a base ready to go that incorporates a switch. Hopefully the next attempt will take less than a year though.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Slimmer Watchstrap

After wearing my watch with the Derweesh MkII strap for a few months, I decided it was just too bulky. Especially when wearing long sleeves. And especially when you wear gloves. Both of which you do when it's cold. Which it has been this winter.

What's more, the pattern I used has a flaw. The original Derweesh Mark II pattern has one working strand going in the opposite direction to the other (the best way I can think to describe this is that, when you start weaving, one of the strands initially comes out from under the belt, while the other goes in from over). This time, because of how I initially intended to pass the spine strands under the watch, it made sense to have the two working strands going in the same direction to make the join look uniform. This forced me to use a slightly different pattern in order to achieve the crossover. The difference is not obvious but it's a little less neat.

Anyway, I finally got around to weaving a traditional strap for the watch:

I forget the name of the weave, but it's basically a typical pattern for a watch strap. The two sides are separate straps, cutting the extra bulk up top, and the clasp removes the overlap and so cuts the extra bulk at the bottom. I did make the first piece a little too long, making the watch a little "unbalanced". I'm not sure if making the sides more even might have made it a little more comfortable or not.

This is the only type of suitable clasp I found that's actually adjustable to a degree, thought it is a pain to take on and off. Plus I think the watch is just generally a little less comfortable now (it's hard to say really), though I am enjoying the slimmer dimensions. I didn't undo the old strap, just slipped the watch off, I can always put it back on if I decide I don't like this one.

I'm contemplating using a one-piece strap like the old one with this kind of clasp and an ultra-thin watch. That should be comfortable without being too bulky, and would also have the (minor) benefit of using a single longer piece of cord rather than two shorter ones. I just can't seem to find a really thin watch that I actually like.