Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Light Industry for Heavier Metals

In just under a week I'm planning to run a game of Pulp Alley. For the uninitiated, PA is a fast-paced miniature gaming system designed to produce fun and cinematic adventures. Players create "leagues" of perhaps a half dozen characters. The conflict is developed and detailed with card-driven-events which are resolved with several different kinds of dice against a target number of four. (Thus more and bigger dice are both better.)

Not only do I have to learn the system in a hurry . . . I also need to finish some episode specific sets. (But for the fact that I've decided that everything about this game must be in film-industry speak I'd probably call this terrain.) Specifically, I need to finish a machine shed and a mine. You've seen hints of the shed in an A Place Worth the Fight. Bear with me as I re-use two photographs to get this started.

One day at work I found a nice plastic packing piece for a box of something or other. I thought this something really looked like a factory roof, so I pulled it out of the trash, put it in my trunk, and took it home . . .

But what do you do with that? Factories aren't just a roof. They also need walls and equipment. And people to run them, or in this case shoot in and at them and maybe break stuff there. But let's leave the people out of it for now and concentrate on walls and stuff. The walls (and floor) were easy enough. I used blue foam cut to resemble rough concrete and put flatter part of the plastic sheet on one side. A piece of cardstock works for a floor and some balsa-beams hold it all together nicely. (You have to actually think about structure when you do this stuff? Who knew?)

All of this appeared in our last installment . . . so on to the new. Previously I said I wanted to add catwalks and pipes and panels and things. In a very odd and sideways fashion I work in the construction trade (the entertainment part of it, if you can believe such a thing.) And so I've spent a fair amount of time on jobsites lately. I now have a pocket jobsite in my basement. And while this building doesn't really need to be sprinkled or have HVAC or any of that closed flamable building in a world with a building code stuff, it does need electricity and access. Thus I give you . . . catwalks and conduit:

I have to thank a Chicago area gaming group I stumbled across for turning me on to the idea of using this needelpoint grid material for catwalks. It looks great for the purpose and vast quantities of it are fairly cheap. It does need a little (balsa) support. (Which is fine. It would look darned odd just sitting up there on the beams.)

Next we have a ladder made from more balsa wood with some of my favorite cylindrical styrene stock. The little gate at the bottom was an interesting challenge. While this isn't strictly required on a desert world with no functional government, maybe the mine owner wanted to keep his granddaughter from climbing into the attic without permission. (Which is another way of saying I'd already glued the ladder to the back and I needed a good excuse for this.) The materials and techniques should be self evident. The gate works quite well and is plenty tall enough to keep most would be interlopers out. Judicious placement of the hasp even provides enough friction to keep the thing closed.

With attic access covered, I needed power. My conduit runs are not going to win any beauty contests, but they would all work, and this is the backside of nowhere. It was probably hard to get good union electricians out here. There's not even an IBEW local in the quadrant. So crooked conduit it is . . .

Above you can see the feed from the main panel (part of the island from a 1/2400 WWI USS Vestal) to the lighting. In retrospect, that's too much conduit for the job, but if you've ever had to make a three hundred foot pull by hand, better too much than too little.

Here's the lighting and the materials I used to make it. The fixtures themselves are acrylic sparklies of the vejazzling sort. (Don't look that up at work, folks. Wait until you're safely at home.)  The blue pole provided cookies that make great circular boxes to hang my crooked lights in my crooked shed. Apart from that pole (a fishing toy, I think) the rest of the bits are standard Michaels issue.

Here you can see two of the lights hung and the conduit run out to them. Applied to the face of the center beam is another conduit run. This will be the control run for a chain hoist. Power for the hoist is on the opposite side . . . 

. . . and hanging very awkwardly below the beam. Will someone get me a new electrical contractor? These clowns can't find their plum-bob from their . . . or hang a box stright, or well . . . @#%! . . . Geeze people!

Here's the same talbleau with the catwalk and ladder set in place. I don't plan to attach them until ex-post-paint, but maybe they can remain as removable as the roof. More flexible that way. They do need railings, though. Well, not technically, but without railings they're what Pulp Alley calls a "peril" and I'd feel bad if I made the mad Ramshackle scientist who commissioned this ramshackle mess face too many all at once.

After adding the light fixtures, I promptly removed them. Putting up conduit with hands forty feet wide is a little difficult, and light fixtures are delicate.

Like I said, no beauty contests, but it should work, were it real. You can now see where the power from the transformer feeds into the bottom of the main panel. Now there are five (hideously ugly) conduit runs in assorted sizes coming from said panel. Much more respectable for a factory. And there's a variety of (presumably high voltage) outlet boxes scattered around the shed floor. You can see three of them here and a conduit run heading off across to more on the other side.

Here's an unpainted bug-man in an incomplete factory to give scale.

"Master! The door opens and we can climb the ladder. What shall we do master? What shall we do? Do you wants us to climb up and rain death on the horrible beakies?"

Next time, we put the appliances back. First up, manufacturing a chain hoist from blue leftovers from a random mecha kit . . . 

As always, thank you for reading. Hope this provides you as much inspiration as it provides me.

The Composer


  1. Neat! I envy you this hobby. I should pick a scale - like my action figures, and just start making them things. I'd be so happy.

    Plastic canvas is awesome - my granmother made me a dollhouse out of it once.

    <3 to you and yorus.

  2. There's a lot you can do with inexpensive materials, though it's sometimes hard to get stuff in the small quantities you're likely to use. Thrift stores and craft stores are both great sources and places that it can by fun to just browse around and imagine a little. Surprisingly, hardware stores are also sometimes useful.

    Make your action figures a place to call home. It will be an awesome home. Can they fix things with tools other than a hammer? ;-)

  3. Great! It seems so simple...Very creative!

  4. It is mostly pretty darn simple. Finishing a few details and getting ready to apply the first coat of paint as we speak.

    Thank you very much.