Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Ultimate Edition 10 Sonic

When I embarked on this journey in three years ago, I never expected to really carve out this little niche for myself in the pantheon of prop replica makers. What started as a 'fuck you' to the jumped up powers-that-be has snowballed into an enjoyable little venture that has brought immense joy to a small but loyal section of the fans that want decent accurate replicas built with an artisanal sensibility to the highest levels of quality, value and service. To those that have supported me, despite my all too frequent bouts of stupidity induced psychosis, you have my gratitude and respect. To those that haven't...well, you can fuck off.

One of the things that characterises my work is that, wherever possible, I use original reference material obtained through a carefully cultivated network of trusted insiders that goes a long way to making my replicas the best they can be. Unlike some, I eschew the design-by-committee process that characterises much of the fan made prop replicas I see. Personally, I can't think of a quicker way to fucking a replica up than to submit to the often flawed observational abilities found on many online forums or to cull the temporary conclusions of endless circular online flame wars. To make a decent replica, you need a decent pair of eyes, a free thinking mind and a strong committed personality to make the big decisions.

It has been nearly two years since I first released my Tennant sonic replica and in that time much has happened, MFX has been seen off, QMx's first abortive attempt at a replica has been seen off and their second is also pretty much seen off. I've therefore decided to piss in the soup one last time and release the final word on this replica just to make sure that the market has been well and truly covered before the big tamale, my 11th Sonic, is unveiled in a couple of months from now.

My original Tennant sonic was an extrapolation of the dimensions taken from the Penny Howarth made wide-slider Season 1 Eccleston sonic. At that time, about 2007, not a huge amount was really known about these sonics and the public domain material wasn't all that great. During the development cycle many assumptions and rounding up and down of numbers were made, liberties were taken and many mistakes crept into the final product which, in retrospect, has never stopped bothering me. About 2 years ago, one of my contacts in the UK mentioned casually that she could get me access to the original Tennant prop as well as the River Song and 11th Sonics. Due to conflicting diaries and the huge amounts of subterfuge involved nothing came to fruition until early this year when I got a phone call requesting my presence on the other side of the world immediately. Like something from a Bourne movie, I got onto a plane and less than 48 hours later I was in the backend of beyond in the freezing cold to RV with my contact to finally study and measure these props in detail.

The result of this study was both a revelation and a curse. The 10th doctor prop was in a very bad state having been seen on screen for the last time in The 11th Hour: Paint was peeling badly, the tinting coat on the lens had chipped and flaked, the spacer block on the top of the slider channel was missing and the head was dented and scratched to hell. The head had also been reworked significantly and had lost a lot of sharpness to the lines since it was obvious that the struts had been machined down to remove the gouges and scratches that were on it. In order to preserve some definition and to compensate for the loss of strut height, the sides of the struts were reprofiled in order lift them from the head surface slightly. This has given them a slight 'V' profile. The front of the sonic had also gained a screw just below the slider channel, in all probability to straighten up the slide action since that was wonky and had a tendency to catch when the path of the slider deviated from straight. The biggest revelation was however, the paint. The original off-white crackle had been caked over in a grey/blue wash that had reacted badly with the original crackle and left it bubbled and pitted where the bubbles burst aerating the original finish. Have a look for yourself here:

Having armed myself with detailed dimensions of the Tennant sonic I'm now creating an updated 'Ultimate Edition' that will feature sound, dimensions taken directly from the filming prop, microswitch activation and where possible, threaded contruction. It will be machined from aluminium and brass with an acrylic bulb and painted in the same stuff used on-screen that I've been using for some private custom repaints the last year or so. The main variant will be the Tennant off-white version without the blue wash and the front screw but I will also be making a handful of 11th Hour versions too. Look out for pre-ordering in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Secrets of the Aztec

My word, hasn't time flown since my last entry? The summer sun has packed its bags and fucked off south for the winter and SDCC is all but a distant memory. I'm sorry I've left it so long to update this blog but to be honest, I've had so much to do what with developing new products and my day job, something had to give and blogging was one of the things that has fallen by the wayside in favour of more prosaic pursuits such as family, job and finishing some of the products I've been promising you all. Truth be known, blogging is something I thoroughly enjoy but I'll only do it if I have something worthwhile to say. And boy, do I have something to say....

Some of you will have seen the new entries I have put on my site regarding three new sonics. You will note that the Matt Smith sonic isn't on there...yet. There is a perfectly good reason for this and it is something I have alluded to for some time. The design is flawed. Seriously flawed. Fatally flawed I would go so far to say. Getting a 100% accurate replica is not a massive issue. I have pretty much got that licked. The problem is that the prop breaks too damn easily. Flicking it open a few times is enough to generate enough shearing force to snap the internal metal guide tube and fracture the acrylic. Unless I sell it with a full time prop wrangler and ample spare parts, this is not a usable replica  and if it isn't, where's the fun? The other reason is it's not good PR to have 99%+ of your sales return, kaput, within a few days of delivery. No sir, I don't like it! So, I am redesigning it internally with the aim of engineering out this fatal flaw and as soon as it is done, you will get it. It will happen but just not this year. I see early next as the date when I finally get this thing out.

In the interim, we have 2 and a half new sonics to satisfy the sonic fix you may be craving. Today I'm going to talk about the first of these: The hero sonic used by Eccleston in Season 1 and on and off by Tennant until the Season 3 refit, 'The Aztec'.

Little is really known about the Aztec and there has been a lot of myth that surrounds the original Season 1 prop. I had the pleasure of measuring one of the Season 1 props: the 'wide slider' version that featured the 0.25mm step below the struts but this version, although able to extend, was not really considered a 'hero' prop as such as it was quite battered and had to be held in such a way as to hide the 8mm wide slot in the body. The honour of being main 'hero' prop fell to one of two props made by a British prop house called 'Aztec'. These are interesting props for a variety of reasons and I felt that that given the amount of screen time they had, they deserved to be considered the definitive Season 1 sonic. Some interesting facts about these sonics:

1) They were made from metal: despite popular myth perpetuating the fact they were made from resin, very few of the props with the exception of the 'burnt' sonics were. They were CNC machined out of aluminium and were built to a high standard. Such was the quality of these props that the heads were salvaged and used on subsequent refits including Tennant's sonic.

2) The paint was Plastikote Crackle Touch Colony Cream: Yes, you heard it correctly. This was something that I posted earlier this year but Plastikote Colony Cream crackle was the correct paint used on this sonic. Don't believe me? Check these pics out:

3) The prop was non-static: There is a misconception that the Aztec props were static which from the pics above, you can see is not true. The reason behind this commonly held notion is quite interesting. The Aztec sonics, whilst able to extend, did not extend in quite the same way as the other props as can be evidenced by the lack of a slider slot. You actually had to pull the head out by hand. Now here's where it get interesting. The head/battery tube assembly was never fixed inside the body and was joined to the fixed button on the side by the connecting wire and theoretically could be pulled straight out, hence the probable origin of this prop's mythical fragility. It was never designed to be a working slider prop but merely a prop that could be fixed at whatever point of extension the shot demanded at the time. This was achieved via a screw on the reverse that served to not only hold the upper collar in place, but also fixed the degree of extension that was required. A good shot of this screw can be seen here:

In order to create a working version of this prop, I've therefore had to compromise slightly and redesigned the prop to incorporate a working slider function by way of a slider slot. In time there will be a non-slider version, but that will be for my universal remote control version.

I'm only going to be producing a few dozen of these at most so if you want one, get in quick as I won't be making any more. I'm finishing the prototyping in the next week or two so as soon as pics go up, the order book will open. It will be highly doubtful they will be ready this side of Xmas but if you order, you'll get a gift certificate or something that will guarantee your sonic (I'm still working out how to do this, but don't worry, I'll figure it out soon).

Sorry this is so brief, but I promise the next blog will be a few hours away as I don't intend to leave it so long next time!