Category Archives: Toys

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Time Lords Use More Starch

I like tech, especially when it can be used for fun. That’s largely why I have a 3D printer, to make toys. Truth be told, it’s really why most anybody has a 3D printer at home, to make toys. Sometimes I’ll just hop onto the big library of 3D files on the Thingiverse website and waste an hour looking for something cool to print.

And sometimes I design something reasonably cool myself. Tonight I was inspired, and the thing I designed turned out pretty great. At least I think so.

Earlier this week I’d run across a design on Thingiverse for a Lego version of Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Neat! But it was lacking a bit of detail, so I grabbed the model, threw it into my design software, and before you knew it I had a nicely detailed Han ready to be hauled away by Lego Fett. Still, I had just cleaned up someone else’s design. I wanted to do my own.

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Suddenly I was interested in legos. I tried to think of other designs I could attempt. I remembered that there was a Doctor Who lego set due out, I’d heard about it on a the Radio Free Skaro podcast. A quick search and there it was on Amazon – it has Daleks, a weeping angel, and the entire Tardis control console. This is definitely on my list for Santa (hint, hint). And then it dawned on me. The Doctor was headed back to Gallifrey in the season finale, he was headed home. But the lego kit didn’t have any Gallifrinians or Gallifrayans or whatever they’re called (I’m a bad fan). But you know what every member of the Gallifrey high council has?  You betcha, a super-high three-winged Gallifrey collar! That’s what I’d build!

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I broke out my handy digital caliper, went down and dug out our daughter’s old legos, and began measuring. I mocked up a little helmet, something simple just to test that I had connector design right.  Why put all the effort into sussing out the entire design only to find the thing didn’t fit? So I took a baby step, and about half an hour later I had a little lego minifig wearing a silver helmet from the printer.  It clicked on and off quite nicely. I like small bits of success.

I then became absorbed. I think I lost a couple of hours, designing and fiddling and designing and tweaking. When I was ready to print I discovered two things. The helmet was too thin, and the supports the software automatically built into the design were too thick. But it fit. My lego minifig looked like a Time Lord.  🙂

Another hour of work and I had it. The helmet was thick enough that it didn’t fall apart, and I replaced the automatic supports by designing my own breakaway struts. I finished the model off by dropping the Seal of Rassilon onto the shoulders. The Time Lords are ready to greet Doctor Who! If you’d like to print one yourself, the file is up on Thingiverse. Enjoy!

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Do you think the show will have a warm, happy reunion between the Doctor and his home world? With an episode title like ‘Hell Bent’ I’d think not. It would be quite the twist for Timothy Dalton to give the Doctor a big hug and invite him in for tea…

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Flotsam & Jetsam – The Iron Giant

I love thrift stores and flea markets. It’s a bit like visiting a beach to see what’s washed up on the shore. Finding abandoned things that can be reclaimed, dusted off, and given a second chance is fun. And I find some treasures to boot.

Like today. I stopped in a local GoodWill and what was sitting on the shelf waiting for me? The Iron Giant. And he was giant. Twenty inches tall, this was the Ultimate Iron Giant figure put out by Trendmasters in 1999. This was only sold in the Warner Brothers retail stores (remember those?), so there aren’t a lot of copies of this toy out there.  It’s not only cool, it’s very rare.

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It’s from the movie of the same name, The Iron Giant. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. It didn’t do that well in the theaters, but it’s a terrific film. The central message is about ignoring labels and being who you choose to be.  There’s a good bit of fear-mongering and alarmist behavior demonstrated in the movie as well, especially by the government (‘Well we know that we didn’t build it, so that’s reason enough to assume the worst and blow it to kingdom come!’). So there’s a lesson in there about keeping calm and not pre-judging foreign things. Did I mention that the robot design is gorgeous, and the film is directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles)? Watch it.

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So, GoodWill had an Iron Giant. I quickly rescued it. They wanted $7.99, which is more than I’d typically want to pay. I’m happiest when I find a deal for under five bucks. It’s just a thing with me. But this toy was so cool I knew I was going to take it home.

Did I have a spot for it at home? Oh, absolutely not. All the shelves in my game room are stuffed full. There really isn’t anyplace handy for a twenty inch tall robot. But still, it was going home with me.

Then I pulled out the most useful tool known to a thrifter – my smart phone. I did a quick scan of eBay for Iron Giant Trendmasters. Oh wow, in the box this thing goes for well over a hundred dollars, sometimes more than two hundred. That sealed the deal, eight dollars was a steal!

I got it out to the car played around with it a bit, the eBay listing said that it could talk. Sure enough, I found the right setting for the switch and it talked. The jaw moved and the eyes lit up, it was animated. Cool. I sat it in the passenger seat and headed for home.

Funny thing. I’d accidentally found the setting for the ‘Guard Mode’. There’s a sensor on the front of the robot that senses fluctuations in light. Which triggers the animation/voice chip in the robot. It’s meant for little boys to protect their bedrooms from encroaching little sisters.

While I drove down the road the amount of light filtering through the windows went up, and down, and up, and down. And the Iron Giant sat in the passenger seat having a random conversation with me.  🙂

This thing really is big.
This thing really is big.

Fortunately when I got it home the first thing I checked were the batteries. They had just started to leak.  Not much, but I did clean things up as a precaution with a bit of vinegar. Always replace the batteries in anything you buy. They’re little time-bombs full of acid, get rid of them!

Once that was done I took some photos.  This thing has an amazing amount of articulation!

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Sadly it’s not in the original box. And it’s missing the Hogarth figure (the little boy), as well as the two cars and the statue that the figure can ‘eat’.  There’s a hole that runs from the toy’s neck down into the robot’s chest – the original came with small cars that you could ‘feed’ to the robot as it talked.  All of that is missing though, so this isn’t going to command incredibly high prices on eBay. Just very high prices. It’s still a rather rare thing.

My wife doesn’t know yet that we’ve adopted a giant robot. Will she be amused? Or unhappy? I suspect amused, as long as I keep it in my game room. Guess I’ll have to clear off some shelf space somewhere. This is too cool to sell off on eBay just yet. I mean, we bonded on that drive home!

Yummy!