Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Wow! What a piece of shit

At the London Toy Fair at the beginning of the year it was announced by Wow Stuff that they would be producing a die cast metal replica of the Eleveth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver claimed to be 'screen accurate' by Wow Stuff staff manning their stand and embellished by some pretty outlandish lies as well.

I poured scorn on these claims as well as the claimed price tag of about £20 in one of my blog entries earlier this year and I gave some pretty good reasons why economics and common sense would make it impossible  for them to produce what was promised together with a prediction as to what the finished product would be like. As time went on, insiders who had seen the product grumbled that this much feted 'cheapskate's sonic', is actually not all it was cracked up to be with rumours that it would be static and the dimensions and build being heavily compromised. Now, as we reach the fag butt end of the summer, some pictures are finally emerging of this so-called 'screen accurate' sonic.

Thank you to one of my readers Mark for sending me this pic as it really does make for a real eye opener and, at the risk of sounding like a smug fucker, reinforces the fact that I know what I am talking about.

So, without further ado, here is the Wow Sonic:
...and what a piece of crap it actually is. I don't know what the fuck happened but how did they manage to make a die cast metal replica look more plasticky than the plastic toy? I'm not one to disparage a good effort irrespective of my own personal opinion of the maker, but this thing sucks in a very big way. In fact, I am astonished that despite everything, they seem to have gone out of their way to make it look cheap and nasty especially after touting it as a Hero prop grade replica that was used on the show. Which leads me onto something else I find quite annoying: the ill informed bullshit and deliberate misinformation that is fed to the punters at Tradeshows/Fairs/Conventions by the cocktards that man the manufacturers stands. This is no fantasy: I have seen and heard it first hand. Indeed, during the Toy Fair earlier this year I was told by the rather enthusiastic twit manning the Wow Stuff stand that the replica would be 100% accurate and many prototypes were given to the production team for use as the actual props on the show. And we now know what a bunch of hairy gonads that turned out to be. This even extends to the QMx stand at the recently held ComicCon where bullshit was bandied around so freely I thought I was on a farm. So it appears that the lesson of the day is to take some of these claims with a healthy dose of Sodium Chloride and actually think about the logic of these claims, especially from beardy weirdies waving around sonic screwdriver prototypes. Oh, and a pair of wellington boots wouldn't go amiss either!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Comparison Shots of the Perfetto Vs Powdercoat

I finally got round to painting one of my sonics in the Perfetto. Here's how the Eccleston sonic looks in the current powdercoat and next to the screen-accurate Perfetto crackle:

The difference is highly noticeable and makes a marked improvement, I think.

On a related topic, I had previously repainted the MFX in this screen accurate crackle and it has made it an altogether different and better beast. I wasn't happy with the crackle size so I stripped it down and repainted a second time in order to get the crackle more screen accurate and here's the result:

The result is, I'm sure you'd agree, freakily simlar to the finish on the DK sonic pictured third down.

Friday, 6 August 2010

A new kind of crackle

I've had some good news this morning. Remember a couple of weeks back when the QMx sonic news broke I decided to look into replicating their paint? I succeeded, as my findings have shown. However, in addition to my own experiments here in the workshop I also pulled in a favour with a chemist buddy of mine and we have been looking at developing a whole new industrial coating with industry leading figures for hardness, durability and substrate adhesion.

Well, this morning he delivered the following:

No, your eyes do not deceive you, this is an industrial coating that has the highest ratings for adhesion and hardness possible.

I am in a quandary now. The Perfetto solution is perfectly acceptable from the point of view of results but they are more random and less predictable as many factors can vary the outcome of crackle size, shape and distribution but it is that randomness which this type of finish is all about. The issue is the cost of handpainting all of them. It is incredibly labour intensive.

The industrial coating however is much more uniform, predictable and standardised. It can also be applied via automation with an exact amount of paint applied to each sonic and in a coating thickness that is identical from one sonic to another.

Do I invest more money, money I have already put into the powdercoat, into this new experimental coating? Indeed, will existing customers pay for the ungrade? I need to think about this and discuss the options with my chemist friend and see if I can economically put this stuff into production.

Polishing a turd

've done it! Crack out the cigars and pop the champagne. I'm in a bloody good mood. The reason being I've performed a feat that even I, the Zarathustra of Sceptics, King of Doubters hitherto thought was impossible. I have managed to polish a turd. Wait! That's not all. I haven't just polished it, I have managed to clad it in shiny, spanking translucent cracked porcelain goodness.

You see, I have finally managed to make an MFX sonic look amazing. Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration but I have managed to make it look better than it did. I achieved this frankly biblical feat of cosmetic chicanery by doing two things:

1). Polishing the metal using a Cape Cod cloth  to even up the finish and remove the tarnish
2). Applying my cracked porcelain crackle finish I revealed in my last blog.

I also milled a new lens cap as the previous one was frankly, shit. I knocked the corners off the slider plate using a hand files and I re-profiled the ridges to remove the sharp edge (you can actually do this through hand sanding). I removed the hex grub screws and replaced them with two 3mm cross head machine screws to make it more screen accurate.

So here's the results:

As you can see, it has totally transformed this piece into something that though still flawed, is actually a pretty decent sonic in its own right. If you can forget the way it looked originally with that stupid bright yellow paint job, you could be forgiven for thinking it's actually a QMx. For MFX owners this is a cheap and easy upgrade to making the piece a very attractive and sturdy replica and not a single bit of 'heritage gold' in sight. I'm actually thinking of calling this new color 'boot polish grey'.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Crack addict

First of all, many apologies if things have been a bit slack in these parts the past month or so but this has been in no small part due to the launch and subsequent fulfillment of the Tennant sonic orders which have taken up most of my waking hours. Most of the backlog has now shipped and I'm slowly getting my life back much to the relief of my long suffering wife, thank fuck. However, I have developed a severe addiction to crack. More about this in a minute.

So what has happened in the past few weeks? Well, ComicCon came and went and along with it was the announcement of QMx's licenced sonic, something I've known about (and dropping hints on) for some months now. More about this project later but I will say this: it's an outstanding piece of work, on a par with my own obviously but with some subtle dimensional differences that I can ascertain. The biggest difference is the paintjob, where QMx have done an outstanding job in accurately duplicating the cracked porcelain look of the original prop:

I must admit, this paintjob was the best thing about the QMx and spurred me to try and recreate it and hopefully, surpass it. I believe that I have succeeded in both.

However, before I reveal exactly how I did it, a bit of background.

Until this point it was widely and erroneously assumed by many people that the prop used PlastiKote CrackleTouch (or Valspar in the USA) two stage spray paint. Sadly, this was a falsehood that was perpetrated by MFX and others, including myself to some degree.

The simple fact is that the original prop did not use Plastikote (except for perhaps a single stunt prop). The easiest way to see this is the crackle patterns differed fundamentally. Quite simply, the prop had paint that cracked in irregular polygonal blocks and the PlastiKote exhibits tiny capillary-like tears.

Compare the following:

with this:

The second picture resembles the screen used sonic finish as can be seen in this shot from the DK Visual Dictionary:

It is fairly obvious once this has been pointed out that PlastiKote cannot achieve this kind of cracking despite Daniel Pawlik claiming otheriwse. So what was used on the prop?

To find the answer to this, you need to put yourself into the mind of the propmaker and actually look at what was available to them. Aside from PlastiKote, there really is only one other commercially available crackle finish (excluding obscure specialist finishes) that was readily obtainable from 2004+. This stuff is Tim Holtz brand Distress Crackle Paint by Ranger Inks:

This is what I strongly believe was used on the original props and I did drop some serious hints back in 2007 as to this but when the MFX said it was PlastiKote I decided I must have been mistaken as this stuff is notoriously fragile and I doubted that the propmakers would use something so shoddy. However, ever since the Heritage Gold Vs Colony Cream debate started I found myself in a state of doubt once more. What sealed it was reading that David Tennant had a habit of picking the paint off the sonic with his thumb: something that it is impossible to do with the Plastikote!!!!

So what does the Tim Holtz stuff go on like? Well, let me show you the paint and its shortcomings:

This is the Tim Holtz 'picket fence' painted onto a properly primed piece of copper pipe:

and after some minor scraping with my thumbnail:

As you can see, this stuff is terribly fragile. Zero adhesion, brittle and will remove even the primer from the bare metal. Granted, I did lay it on pretty thick and I did not seal it with lacquer which would help durability somewhat but it is obvious that the finish is pretty piss poor.

As for the color of paint used, there are three candidates: Picket Fence (white), Antique Linen (a creamy 'greige') or Rock Candy. As 'Rock Candy', which is a clear crackle similar to Giclee varnish, was not available until last year I suspect it was one or both of the former. QMx,  I am almost certain, used the clear variety 'Rock Candy' over a white basecoat using a similar technique that I am about to reveal. (Indeed, you can try it yourself using the Tim Holtz Rock Candy as it is not bad: more durable than the pigmented versions and certainly more forgiving to apply but nowhere near as good as the stuff I am about to show you).

So what did I do? I did some research into why paints crackle and I did a quick experiment using giclee printing varnish and PVA glue. By painting a wash of diluted PVA glue over a white primer then going over it with a thinned giclee varnish, I did this:

Ok, the result looked good. It was glossy, the cracks were delicate and fine and it had a toughness that the Tim Holtz lacked.

I did further experiments using various combinations of compounds including table tennis rubber cement and thinned cellulose yacht varnish over a white primer basecoat and the results were astonishing:

As you can see, the results are virtually indistinguishable from aged cracked porcelain and the toughness even without sealant is astonishing.

I spent the past few days searching for commercially available analogues that mimic the result above that I achieved using Chinese products and I believe I have cracked it.

The product you need is this:

These two pots are your key to an accurate and durable sonic finish.

The clear crackle is available here:
The crackle size is avialble here:

8 Oz is the smallest size and will probably last an entire lifetime.

Anyway here's the breakdown:


White automotive primer spray
Perfetto Crackle Size
Perfetto Clear Crackle
Heavy Duty Polyurethane Lacquer (either automotive or heavy duty floor varnish)
Black shoe polish
Foam pads/blocks


1. Rub the bare metal with a medium/fine grit automotive abrasive paper 200 grit or finer is perfect.

2. Spray several fine coats of white primer onto the bare metal until an even opacity is reached. Allow to dry (depending on your paint it could be 1 hour to 12 hours)

3. Take a foam block and dip it into the crackle size and stipple over the body evenly until a nice even coating is achieved. Don't worry if it's not perfectly even, as it will self level. Allow to dry for at least two hours, preferably overnight. When ready, the crackle size will result in a thin, even, glossy surface that is slightly tacky. Do not thin this stuff out as thinning it out results in very small cracks:

4. Take some of the clear crackle and place it into a smaller screw lid pot and add 10% water to it to thin it. The clear crackle is a very thick gelatinous white substance so you really need to shake it hard to get the water to mix properly. By adding 10% water it gives the desired smaller cracks and the thinning helps it to self level during application. Too thick a consistency or too thick a coating results in large cracks:

Once it has been thinned, take a foam pad and stipple the clear crackle over the surface in a layer about 0.5mm thick. Don't worry too much about evenness as the surface should look like orange peel:

Under no circumstance must you brush this stuff on! The reason why is that the crackle will follow the direction of the brush stroke and you end up with linear rectangular blocks of crackle like this:

5. After an hour or so the clear crackle would have levelled and the crackle would have started to develop and the surface will become hard and glossy:

Wait a further 2 or 3 hours for the surface to fully cure and then you can begin the process of highlighting the cracks.

To do this you take your finger or even an old toothbrush and work a light coating of polish onto the surface making sure that the polish is inside all the cracks. This what you should have once this is done:

7. Now take a soft clean duster or cloth and give the surface a good rub, removing all excess polish from the surface but still keeping the polish inside the cracks:

If you prefer a greyer, less high contrast look, you can substitute ash for the shoe polish: this will work just as well. Just make sure you work the ash into the crack using a fine soft brush.

8. The surface as it stands is very hard and extremely durable. I bashed it around and it barely made a mark. However, I recommend a few coats of polyurethane lacquer on top for added protection. Personally I prefer automotive spray lacquer used to protect alloy wheels but a good PU floor varnish will also be suitable. I recommend Polyurethane as it is extremely abrasion resistant and once cured, is very hard.

So, there you have it. This should be pretty self explanatory and so easy I doubt even Risu could fuck it up. For those existing customers who wish to strip their sonic bodies down, they should soak it in a methanol based paint stripper to remove the existing paint. If there are any further questions, please email me.

I have been asked if I will be implementing this on my production sonics and the answer is no. The reason being is that it is not economically viable for me to do so. I have invested an immense amount of money in replicating the PlastiKote finish in a durable industrial powdercoat and they are now done. The personal and financial investment precludes stripping these sonics and essentially burning many thousands of dollars in order to set production back months whilst I repaint them all. I am often in two minds about revealing information such as this. There comes a point when a replica is about as accurate as one can make it and to keep changing something in light of new research when another piece of research can easily come to light which refutes that is both soul destroying and economically crippling. By revealing this information and the exact method of achieving it at minimal cost, I hope I have reached a compromise and will leave it up to you, the customer, to choose whether you wish to take advantage of it.