I retired a week ago and decided to tackle an arts and crafts project for the game room in our new house we are having built. There will be a BattleTech theme, because, my wife is awesome.
I have always been intrigued with WWI and WWII aircraft art, or nose art. The WWII bomber images were often of buxom women and they had a cool vibe to them. I began to contemplate that we would have the same things in BattleTech as well. It made sense. You probably won’t see them at miniature scale, but it would be hard to believe that we wouldn’t have them. So I decided to create my own and do it for a character from my work – Colonel Rhonda Snord.
I wanted a statement piece (that statement being, “I’m a geek!”) so I opted for three foot by five foot. I got a ¼ inch sanded piece of plywood for the backing and cut the “ribs” so that there was some curve. The cutting wasn’t tricky, but I wanted the same angle which took some hand-plaining to get it right.
I wanted a little pattern in the cross-members, so I went with some creative spacing. These two had to be planed for the eventual curve of the metal.
The metal was from Home Depot, you get it in three-foot-square pieces, so I had trimmed some for experimentation purposes with the paint.
I used a nail gun to nail the ribs and supports to the plywood, along with some glue. This gave me the frame for the metal. The key is to make a diagram with accurate measurements of where the ribs are so that when you “rivet” them you know where to drive the brad/rivet.
I laid the metal out and realized (duh) that the curve of the ribs meant my metal wouldn’t cover all of the ribs. No problem, I decided to leave the exposed part at the top, as you can see.
To rivet these, you use an awl and tap a small hole. I did mine at about one and one-half inches apart. Using some needle nose plyers, I used some large aluminum thumbtacks and pounded them in. I learned that at some the ends of the curve the thumbtacks weren’t long enough and popped up, so I sunk in a few screws mixed in with the tacks and glued them in just to be sure. Next time I am getting longer brads so they will hold better.
Imperfections are okay, remember, this is outer skin for ferro-fibrous armor we are talking about. Some imperfections are to be expected. I think the few I have give the piece character. I liked the aluminum skin so much I was tempted to leave it as-is and put the art on it. But we don’t see too many bare metal ‘Mechs out there, so I went to paint.
It took exactly one can of spay paint to cover this. For the colors, I referred to my own book, Call of Duty, which described Rhonda Snord’s ‘Mech as a dull green with the Buffalo Nickel, Elvis’s TCB lightning bolt. Her callsign was Jailhouse Rocker – but I took the liberty of trimming that down. The nickel, well, it just looked like crap no matter what I did. I assumed this was so big on the ‘Mech that it might not apply with what I was doing. I was going to do the TCB (Taking Care of Business) lightning bolt, but decided against that. Let’s just assume that was on the other side of her cockpit. I only bring it up here because I know some fan boy will be convulsing that was not 100% accurate. Well, bear in mind, ‘Mechs get painted and repainted a LOT. Deal with it junior.
I was going to hand stencil the letters but my tests on the scrap metal left me worried that, given my lack of artistic ability, I would screw it up. So I ordered the stencil work, and her artwork logo (Jailhouse Rock) from https://doityourselflettering.com. The cost was around $50 but was worth it compared to the price of me messing up such a large project.
For Rhonda, I went to cover of the scenario set and scanned her. Three fans jumped in and helped me crop her out perfectly. I then went to Fat Head’s web site and ordered up Rhonda. https://www.fathead.com/custom does custom vinyl’s – just upload and rock. The cost was $35. Strangely enough they sent me two of them.
Total cost of the project, including purchasing of metal cutters, and awl, etc., was around $200.00 total. I’m not a carpenter or very skilled, but the time involved was around 15 hours or so – with the majority of that being putting the rivets in.
Alright, truth be told, I used my time machine, went to the future, found this replacement cockpit side for her Highlander in a junk pile, grabbed it, and came back. All of us BattleTech authors have a time machine because all of this stuff is REAL.
You may not like it. You may think the proportions are off and stuff, but I love it and can’t want for us to get the house built so I can hang it in the game room.
I have a three foot piece of plywood left and am contemplating doing a Black Window one too.