Mall: Phase 1 - 7 Stores 95% Complete


It looks like I'm going to steal "phases" from Christian - at least it'll give me an impetus to move forward!

It's interesting how things to go according to plan, and how quickly that can happen. I built the first store to go in the mall as a baby step to minimize mistakes going forward, following directions, and getting 1 store put completely together. This was actually one of the ground floor expansion stores and not from the mall bundle. The bundle is just 6 of those stores, 2 entrances, and extra roof pieces. My plan was to take my time and put each store together one at a time, maybe throw in one of the entrances or extra roof sections as I got bored or needed a change of pace. As everything in the bundle is available individually, I thought the bundle would just be a box with all of those individual pieces thrown in.

It was not.

While expecting 6 copies of the store I'd put together, there were 6 stores present but they had been re-cut (re-lasered?) in order to efficiently maximize the use of MDF. Oh, here's a piece of MDF with 6 back walls. Here's another piece with 18 doors.

My plan of making 1 store at a time was no longer feasible. Pieces were going to come apart from their indexed locations. Those pieces were going to get misplaced. I know me. This is what happens. Instead of making stores one at a time, I was going to assembly line this mo-fo. Step 1 was taking care of doors. Each door is 2 pieces, with a piece of clear plastic to act as a window sandwiched between. My new toy here was canopy glue. While this has probably been around forever, seeing it on the shelf at Hobby Lobby made me realize that the majority of my acting-windows have a glue-smudged fingerprint or fogging from various types of glue. Would this act any better? A: Mostly. This is a very thin glue which dries mostly clear. A glob will still show as no-clear-enough when dry. No problem with fogging!

After the doors, I put the stores together - 4 outer walls + 1 inner wall. Front wall and inner wall get doors later. Stores are roughly 10" deep and 4" wide. Time to use now toy #2, which I've had for quite a while. At some point Luke used some 1-2-3 blocks in one of his builds. Straight lines and square angles have long been my bane. Some of these store walls don't have firm fitting notches for other walls, and I really didn't want to try and glue the inner and outer wall sections on at the same time in trying to get everything flush - this has been problematic in the past. The 1-2-3 blocks let me set things up square, plus gave my clamps something to... clamp on to.

Ah, the clamps. Once upon a time while wandering Wal-Mart, I came across cheap 4" trigger clamps and thought "for $2, this might be useful". I quickly got my $2 worth and went back and got more. I still used the prescribed clothes pins and rubber bands for clamping, but these trigger clamps made some things easier. Or at the very least it felt easier. In the last building I made, before mall stores, rubber bands were putting a slow bow into the longer MDF walls. With the trigger clamps, I could localize pressure to where there was support behind and thus limit the bowing. That was my theory, at least.

While the inner walls were drying, I made 6 roof sections. This is where the 1-2-3 blocks really came in handy. Without the blocks, there was a lot more give in the triangular side walls and the square back wall. With the way 4Ground has made the mall, 4 pieces of both the roof and stores have an extra external facade on the side. This is were things being square really paid off, and where I would traditionally have made at least 1 "oops". Once store walls and roofs were dry enough, I added in the external facades.

These 7 stores aren't done. They obviously need interior clutter, but I think I'm going to make an empty mall first and then lease out store space :)

The external facing facades have some detail work left to do. Vents and decorative pieces to cover the lines where things join. I'm waiting a little while to add these, as I'm not completely sure if having an optional 2nd story to the mall will make a difference on how or where any of this is placed. The entrance and roof is a whole other mini-project and counts as at least half of the built on this kit. After spending more of a week then I intended by building only stores, I'm going to take a building break the rest of the week. I've still got plenty of other things to do.

4ground-mall scenery

Breaking Ground on the Mall


This year I've had so little going on I've barely posted once a month. Now I'm at my third post in as many days. A productive spurt!

I FINALLY got around to starting on the mall from 4Ground. I picked a generic store and followed the directions, without taking shortcuts or things I thought would be easier for my fat fingers at an earlier time than suggested. Overall, it worked well. There's an alignment problem on the front wall, but that came from not knowing how everything was supposed to fit together and should (hopefully) not happen again.

Disregard the order of the pictures, but after finishing the first store faster than I expected (less than a day), I opened up the "starter" bundle. 6 ground floor stores with 2 entrances. There were 29 pages of instructions. That was needlessly daunting, as only the first 8 pages are instructions for the stores, entrances, and roof. The rest is graphics for stores (signs, products for sale) and instructions on how to put it all together (lots and lots of shelves and counters). The way the bundle was cut/burned lends itself to an assembly line style. Instead of 6 ground floor store kits, like the first one I made, the set is optimized so 1 sheet has all 6 front entrance walls, another sheet has all the back walls, etc. Having just made a store, I think the assembly line method will work for me. I just have to remember not to get in a hurry.

Using the 123-blocks with the clamps helped keep my walls/floors at right angles. That's what those blocks are supposed to do! I also used some canopy glue for the plastic windows. I've had problems with the plastic fogging or showing some glue-induced fingerprints in the past so I thought I would try something new since the bottle jumped out at me at Hobby Lobby. It's a very thin glue, which may be all it really is, but I didn't notice any glue splotches on the windows in the store. I'll keep using it going forward.

Now to see how far I get through building the basic bundle before, honestly, I get bored.

4ground 4ground-mall scenery

Resin: 1st Pour


Continuing with my early birthday loot from Green Stuff World, I picked up 2 silicone molds for Grids & Fans and Control Panels. The only molds I've used before were for plaster (based) rocks for train scenery. This was made for plastic resin. At some point in the past year, or two, I got a little mold-making and resin kit from Hobby Lobby. I never made a mold, but now I could use the resin.

I've never used resin. Anything with 2 chemicals you keep separate until time to use has got to be fun! I've watched enough people pouring resin on YouTube (usually for water effects) to have a good idea of how it works. Pour equal amounts of 2 liquids together. Mix. Pour. Wait. Easy enough.

The instructions for the exact kit from Hobby Lobby varied on how long to stir the 2 parts together. 3 minutes per the packaged instructions. 30 sec to "until it's not cloudy" on YouTube. The resin was supposed to set in 10 min. Armed with this knowledge, I poured and ounce of each part together and mixed it for a couple of minutes until I thought it didn't look cloudy. Then I began to delicately pour into each opening in the mold. Except I didn't have a precise pouring cup, so resin started dripping everywhere. That's ok, I'll just scoot it into the right places with my stirring stick. And then we'll go over to this next mold and tryt o aim my pour a little better. There you go, now that's

and at that point the resin started to solidify in the cup, on my stirring stick.

Well, might as well see how this batch turns out and try again later. Batch 1, to not know what I was doing, wasn't too bad. I never had a chance to get rid of air bubbles, so there were air bubbles. The details in the mold still came through. I mixed up another batch, not mixing as long this time, and shotgun-poured onto the mold to where the resin was basically a sheet on top and each part would have to be cut out later. I got rid of some bubbles, but I didn't de-bubble the resin enough. I repeated this for a total of 3 batches, because that's when I ran out of mixing cups.

Going forward, I need to get slower curing resin. I also need some mixing cups with some type of spout so I can aim my pour and not have to cut all of this stuff apart. And tapping the mold to help release bubbles should also help.

Next time: breaking ground on The Mall.

Green Stuff World scenery

Leaf Punch


As part of my traditional pre-birthday online loot ordering, I placed an order from Green Stuff World and picked up some leaf punches and silicone molds for resin. After a trip to Hobby Lobby for colored cardstock - can't have white edges on leaves - I broke in the punches.

First, the cons. It may be the thickness of the cardstock, but the punches were having a hard time making the cuts. The part of the punch to press down on is small for me. Since I've had my calipers out I went ahead and measured it - 19mm in diameter. To punch, I had to press on my thumb (which was on the punch). I've read and watched plenty of tips on sharpening the punches, but out of the box I expected a little more fluidity. I tried using the punch with my palm. This worked as far as punching, but the next day you can still see the 19mm redness that wants to be a bruise on my palm. Thanks to necessity being a mother, a nearby empty and inverted frappuccino has turned into my solution. The top of the bottle fits well and presses down on the punch. I think the slightly curved, metal top is an advantage here. The bottom of the bottle has a large enough surface area that my hand doesn't scream back at me whilst punching.

That's the only con, and it's eventually been overcome. It shouldn't be a problem as I have no shortage of frappuccino bottles.

Over on the pro side, these things really do look like leaves. Most of the tips I saw online were using coffee filters with (ink) washes to get the crinkly leaf look, but I like the solid cardstock look. At least for now.

I have no idea what I'll actually use these for, but I know me and it's better to have leaves punched and ready to use versus trying my patience with punching them when I want to use them. Plus, punching leaves while various whatnot is playing on YouTube is my kind of multi-tasking.

Later we'll see how my first attempt at mixing and pouring resin goes.

Green Stuff World scenery

...And A Month Goes By


After the printing frenzy from last month, I would have thought I would have been productive and have something to show on here. But nope, nada. That's not to say I've been doing nothing, it's just for the things I've been doing I've nothing to show. Hence, it was time for a traditional "not dead" post.

My big hobby projects have large "I need to do stuff on the computer" components. For the 4Ground Mall, I've got to scrounge, resize, and print graphics. More importantly, I've got and idea for switchable store-front signs that involves not just the 3D printer, but making the model for the 3D printer. Even with my years and years of playing around with Poser and some intro training to 3D Max when I started working at Westar, I still don't know how to make a 3D/Printable model. Thanks to a recent sale, I found a starting from scratch tutorial series that I thought I would give a try - and so far I'm enjoying it. There are plenty of free tutorials out there, but I like the way Vladimir teaches. Halfway through the course and I'm not lost yet.

I'm taking the Old Man approach to these lessons, which is something I found worked well for me when I was trying to learn Unity programming. Although it would be fairly easy to binge and run through all the lessons, that only teaches me to parrot what I see and not understand why I'm doing things - and more importantly why NOT to do some things. With the Unity tutorials, I would watch a video - not follow along and write code, not skip the parts I thought I already knew - and then after watching I would replay the video and follow along writing code (or whatever I needed to do), trying to use the video more as a reference to see how well things soaked in. It worked well - in later videos the instructor might make a mistake and I would pick up on it before he corrected it better than half the time. And here's the important part of my approach - I only watch/attempt 1 lesson/day. At some point I read about trying to learn too much at once, and how the brain and subconscious needs time to sort and absorb what you take in. It sounded like New Age hullabaloo, but I've found since then that I retain better using this approach. It takes a little longer, but I'm in no real hurry.

Slow tutorial learning - that's been the crux of the past month. Add in cold weather is still keeping me from doing anything with the printer in the garage, and the big things I had lined up to do just have nothing to show. While I've still got a batch of minis primed, I've not thought about painting anything. Not sure if that's good or bad. Maybe I'll pull out the paint this weekend and see how my skills have dulled?


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