Project Steve Austin: Taking It To The Next Level

Since I was called out last month for getting such a late start on posts, figured I would try to crank one out a little earlier this month.  Besides, it is Dog Show weekend which means I have plenty of spare time for a change.  Today’s topic is really a multi-parter chronicling a slight obsession (as Linda puts it – I refer to it as enthusiasm) with a Project I documented around Halloween (link here).  If you recall, the topic at hand was a new idea for decorations based on putting costumes on a PVC structure.

Killer Clown

This was another effort focused on bringing more scare into the Haunted Trail.  I now call this Posey V1.0 which essentially consists of a fixed posture.  If wanted to change the pose I would have to break the existing connections and make another pose by using different connectors.  The drawback being the pose was limited to what I could create with a limited number of angles (90 and 45 being the core angles available).  Granted you can do a lot depending on how you combine those but just seemed limiting.  This deficiency got me thinking and when I get to thinking… interesting things can happen.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you …. drum roll … Posey V2.0.
Posey 2.0

Hit the jump to see how to make this version of Posey!

The intent was to have some control over every joint in the body and with a limited set of tools be able to set just about any pose.  The second goal was to have it stable enough to actually stand  and the third goad was to hopefully accommodate animation in the future.  The latter I promised my guests after the last Haunted Trail – not sure how yet, but I’m on the hook and challenges to me are like cocoa to a chocoholic.  Time for a slight confession – I actually made a number of version of Posey that were a lot more elaborate ahead of this one – I basically went back and created this base model so I could show how the concept evolved in my head.  There are definitely good uses for this model and I believe it does come out cheaper than the other iterations – we’ll test that as we go through the various posts.

As all things I create, the intent is to share and give back to the creative community.  That means we get to dive into the details!  First off, the hardware  list:

  • Drill Press (technically optional, but highly recommended) if not, can uses a standard drill)
  • 1/4″ Drill Bit (or slight smaller to give more grip for the Eye Bolts)
  • Screwdriver or other similar straight piece of metal (mainly for ease)
  • 1/4″ Long Socket
  • (28) 3/8″ by 1/4″ x 1″ (or longer) Eye Bolts with nut ($0.45 ea)
  • (28) 1/4″ Locking Nuts ($1.89)
  • (28) 1/4″ Split Washers ($4.06 –  40)
  • (28) 3/8″ Large Washers ($3.78 – 100)
  • (14) 3/8″ x 1″ Bolts ($4.21)
  • (14) 3/8″ Nuts ($2.28)
  • (14) 3/8″ Split Washers ($2.00)
  • Two Socket Sets
  • PVC Cement

Next the materials list:

  • (2) 1″ PVC Cross ($2.15)
  • (28) 1″ PVC Caps  ($0.45)
  • (2) 1″ PVC T’s ($0.59)
  • (1)  3/4″ PVC Cross  ($2.37)
  • (1) 3/4″ PVC T’s ($0.45)
  • (5) 3/4″ PVC Elbows ($0.25)
  • (1) 3/4″ PVC Cap ($0.19)
  • (1) 1″ to 3/4″ Reducer  ($0.77)
  • (1) 10′ x 1″ PVC Pipe (depends on size but by two, if you are like me you’ll be making a lot of them) ($2.48)
  • (1) 3′ 3/4″ PVC Pipe (basically just enough to build the head) ($1.50)

Step #1: PVC Cap Prep

The base component of this version of Posey is the Eye Bolt joint.  The easiest way to configure this is to utilize PVC end caps.  You can then cut the PVC straight pipe to map the desired arm/leg lengths and simply slap an end cap on each length of the connection.  For this mode you will need 28 end caps of which 26 are used as a joint.  To hold the Eye Bolt, a 1/4 hole needs to be place in the middle of the cap.  Caution: drilling PVC can be tricky in the sense the plastic can accidentally catch on the bit and twist it in your hand.  My posts are not intended to detail all of the safety issues and I leave it to the reader to a) be familiar with required tools and b) approach any use of those tools in the most efficient and safe manner to produce the desired item.  From time to time I will show how I happened to do it, but that is an example only and not meant to imply that is the best way to accomplish it.  With that out of the way, this is where the drill press comes in handy insuring you get nice perpendicular holes in the center of the cap.  Leary of my hand being that close to the drilling I opted to hold it in place with a pipe pliers.  Goal is to get a center punched hole in 26 of the 28 1″ PVC Caps.

Posey 2.0

Step #2: Install the Eye Bolt

I opted for the 3/4″ eye by 1/4″ thick by 2″ long because I had them lying around the house already from a previous project – go to 1 inch if you are buying new.  The first thing you need to do is run the provided nut almost all the way to the end (don’t go past the last threads) and add a 1/4″ split washer.

Posey 2.0

Screw the eye bolt into the top of the cap.  I recommend putting a screwdriver through the eye and rapidly rotating it around your fingers to screw it all the way into the cap until it presses up against the split washer.  After that you need to apply the locking nut on the underside of the cap.  You will need a long socket or at least one that will allow the length of the eye bolt to pass through as you tighten the nut.  While holding the screwdriver in place, Simply ratchet the nut on until it is very snug.

Posey 2.0

Here is what it should look like when you are done.

Posey 2.0

That gives us one half of the joint.  You will need to do this again for 25 more end caps.  Be sure and tighten down the nut onto the split washer from the top. This will keep the eye bolt from twisting, but if you do need to change the angle, simply loosen this side – spin it to desired angle and retighten.  You will not have access to the underside which why it is important to get that pretty snug from the start.

Step 3: Create the Joint

Now that the 26 caps have been built, you need to take 24 of them and put them together to make a moveable joint.  To do this you will need a 3/4″ x 1″ bolt, two 3/4 washers, a 3/4″ split washer and a 3/4″ nut along with two sockets which fit the bolt and the nut.  The order of the connection is shown below.

Posey 2.0

Do your best to align the eye bolts to keep the connection as straight as possible.  Tighten them just enough to make them snug but moveable if average force if applied.

Posey 2.0

If you want, you can also replace the nut with a wing nut.  I originally thought this was the way to go but eventually decided getting the wing nut tight enough that it would not give out required a significant amount of finger force and chose to use the sockets instead.

Posey 2.0

Step 4: Body Core Joints

The main body has two joints.  One at the hips to allow it to lean forward or backward.  The other joint is at the neck to allow for independently moving the head back and forth.  You should have two end caps with eye bolts already created from the last step (bet you were wondering why we didn’t marry all 28 together back then).  Since we need to connect the shoulders to the hips (the backbone if you will), we need to be able to make additional connections.  To allow for this you will use two 1″ PVC T’s.  Head back to the drill press and put a 1/4″ hole slightly off center on the long part of each of the T’s.  In the same manner as the caps, put an eye bolt facing away from the short side of the T and perpendicular to the long side of the T.  Again, be sure and get the bottom nut nice and snug and lock the top nut down against the top split washer.  Once that is done, affix it to the end cap in the same manner as the previous joints.  Not, the reason for placing the eye bolt slightly off center was to compensate for the thickness of the joint – this keeps it better aligned overall.  So, be sure and put the connecting eye bolt on the right side of the eye bolt on the T.  This is what it should look like when you are done.

Posey 2.0

Just another angle in case you had a question about its orientation.

Posey 2.0

Step #5: Bones

Okay, this is the part of the project that varies depending on how you are using it.  If you are putting costumes on it like I plan to do, you will need to lay out the costume to determine what the dimensions should be for the arms and legs.  Be sure and include the length of the joints when determining how long each segment of straight pipe is needed – oh, and of course add length to the straight pipe to compensate for the amount that is inserted into the connector.  For my design I needed

  • 2 Shoulders
  • 2 Biceps
  • 2 Forearms
  • 2 Hips
  • 2 Thighs
  • 2 Calves
  • 1 Spine

Here are all the pieces layed out – don’t worry about the crosses and bottom two caps at this point.  Note, the end of the arms will just have a joint at this point.  I wanted the capability to put the wrist in any angle I wanted.

Posey 2.0

Step 6: Connecting the Body

This is the fun part of the build because this is where the bulk of it comes together.  I recommend first putting it all together to make sure you are happy with the dimensions before utilizing any PVC Cement.  You will want to eventually glue it just to prevent unwanted twisting.  The joint itself is managed by the eye bolts and turning them on the end caps – as a result, the bones need to be locked into the caps. Slap it all together, check the dimensions against your costume and if that all looks good get the PVC cement out and lock those puppies into place.  This is also the point when you will no longer be able to get to the locking bolt on the underside of the eye bolt so make sure those are nice and tight.

Step 7: The Head

This also varies per the type of mask you happen to have.  For the ones that go over the head (as opposed to those that just have a front mask with an elastic line that keeps it against the back of the head) I prefer the following configuration.  This is the head I came up with for the Killer Clown in order to keep the face from wrinkling on the sides while still giving complete mobility – I can spin it on the neck for left and right movement or tilt it left and right with the bottom elbow (connected to the T).  For the best fit to the shape of the mask, this area is done in 3/4″ PVC.   First attach a 3/4″ T to the 1″ to 3/4″ Reducer – I left about an inch between them for the neck.  Attach a 3/4″ elbow directly to the short side of the T.  Add the 3/4″ cross directly to the elbow along with two more elbows directly attached to the left and right sides of the cross.  At the top you will need to add another elbow – measure the height of the mask to determine how much room to leave between the cross and elbow – think for me this was like 2″s.  Add another elbow to the end of that again using the dimensions of the mask to determine what length of pipe to leave between the two elbows  Lastly, I just added an end cap leaving a half inch gap to put the elastic strap on the sides of the mask onto something that would not allow it to slip off.  It is much easier to have a picture than walking through the text above, so here is the front.

Posey 2.0

and here is the side view.

Posey 2.0 class=

Step 8: The Feet.

There are tons of options for feet and you will see in upcoming posts I have an ever evolving design to fit a variety of needs.  This was meant to be a base model so I simply connected a 1″ cross to the last leg connector.  From there I added about a 6″ inch length of PVC and put an end cap on the it (this allows the foot to sit flat)- these were the extra pieces on the unassembled bones and joints picture above.   The bottom cross makes a nice flat stand while allowing you to put shoes on it if you want.

Step 9: Pose it!

Everything is together now.  I recommend making all the joints snug but still allowing you to move it with hand force.  You pretty much have total freedom to put in any position you want, but keep in mind it is free standing so you will need to worry about balance etc. unless you plan to stake the feet into position.  Here it is in my simple pose from the front (also gives a view of the feet which I didn’t have for the previous step).

Posey 2.0

.. and from the side.

Posey 2.0

.. and lastly from the back.

Posey 2.0

What do you think?  Knowing my friends, I’ll go ahead and jump to what is sure to be coming question regarding it looking like a male – that was by necessity only.  If you remember I needed a way to lock the nut down (god, that was awful) on the eye bolt.

Now for a quick assessment on the overall design

Pros:

  • Fairly easy to build with minimal amount of complexity.  Run a hole through a cap, put in an eye bolt, lock the eye bolts together and cuts some bones
  • Met the articulation requirements since any angle can be created buy simply moving the eye bolt orientation
  • Relatively cheap – more expensive than the fixed pose V1.0 but not nearly as expensive as the upcoming models
  • Would be a good for a skeleton frame – saw on Pinterest where they are hollowing out the 5 dollar plastic skeletons and skinning the PVC Bones with it.
  • Probably also good for any type of flying or hanging – could loosen everything up and give it that rag doll feel

Cons:

  • The least stable of all the versions.  Basically very planer
  • The joints are difficult to get aligned since it is trying to tie tube to tube on the eye bolt.  Get them out of alignment and the angle gets a little wonkey – just loosen and retighten straightens that out, but a tad annoying.
  • Doesn’t store as good as the fixed version but then again this has more capability – can take it all apart, but then you have to bolt it all back together again.
  • Clothes sit very flat on it and doesn’t have that real person look

Total Cost Estimate at: $43.61 (and that includes left over hardware) $38.82 with Menards 11% sale and you could probably get other sales to bring that down to around $35.00

Total Time Estimate at: 2,5 hrs

3 thoughts on “Project Steve Austin: Taking It To The Next Level”

  1. Very detailed!! You’re giving away your secrets, you know!

    Your mention of Steve Austin got me started on reading all about The Six Million Dollar Man on Wikipedia (changed to The Man Worth Millions in Israel because of the connotations of the number 6 million). So I read that complete action figures are rare partly because they had peelable plastic skin on the left arm so you can see the mechanical innards. SOOOO…ever thought about adding skin of some kind???

    Ron

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  2. BTW, I just learned that the M2-F2 test plane that crashed and rolled in the intro to The Six Million Dollar Man was made by Northrop. Oh, well.

    Ron

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  3. I know, but I like to give back to the creative community seeing as how I borrow from them just as much. Besides, every once in awhile I get good tips to improve on my designs!

    Good to see I was a catalyst to increase you knowledge base. Admittedly, all I did was google the name real quick to make sure I spelled it right. I didn’t know that it was a Northrop plane that bit it – must feel like the guy in Wide World of Sports intro that was filmed crashing over the ski jump – every Saturday and Sunday he got to watch his epic failure.

    I’d love to put skin on them! Linda got me a professional prop making DVD for Christmas and was hoping to gleam some ideas from that to apply to the Posey’s – guessing they’ll have a discussion on prosthetics and skin so stay tuned one of the future version just might incorporate it. If I do, that would raise the scare factor to at least an 11!

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