A friend of ours was visiting from Winnipeg and telling us about her upcoming cosplay adventure. She is making a costume from the wildly popular anime Attack on Titan. Part of her props will be 3D Maneuvering Gear - a hip slung propellant driven motor and two cases for spare swords (they often get broken when cutting into the neck of those pesky Titans!). What was puzzling her was how to make the control handles for the 3DMG. That's just the kind of challenge I like to take on.
Armed with some anime from the internet, Corel Draw, a laser cutter, and a little bit of inventiveness, I came up with a suitable solution. I call it suitable, she called it awesome. This Instructable will provide step-by-step instructions on how you can make one too.
This 3DMG control is the kind of prop you carry around with you and show off to your friends.
I'm lucky enough to have access to Epilog Laser Cutters at TechShop. If you can't get your hands on a laser cutter, contact me and I can sell you the pieces to make your own 3DMG. You can do the sanding, gluing, and painting yourself - as I describe here. Or I could sell you an assembled one, if you don't want the fun of making it yourself. Contact me.
Step 1: Parts and Tools
To make this 3DMG you will need the following.
- Laser cutter - I use the Epilog at TechShop
- Small bar clamps - You could use other clamps, but parallel jawed clamps that don't twist are the best. You can make this with 1 clamp; 2 clamps is better; 3 clamps will be the easiest. In this Instructable I'll use just one.
- 220 grit sand paper and sanding block
- 3mm Baltic birch plywood. Two sheets, 24 inches x18 inches each
- Wood glue
- Gray primer spray paint - To look like gun metal
- Red-brown primer spray paint - To look like leather
- Black lacquer spray paint
- Clear shellac spray paint
- Black acrylic paint
- Brown acrylic paint
- A small and really small paint brush
- Optional - Blood red acrylic paint
- 4 inches of 1/8 inch drip irrigation tubing, black
Step 2: Cut Your Parts
The attached Corel Draw file has all the diagrams you need to cut the parts out of 3mm Baltic birch plywood.
On the Epilog Helix I use "color mapping" to direct the laser. The drawing includes three little squares in the upper left. These are test squares you can use to adjust your laser cutter settings to achieve the desired result, as described below.
The green parts go first and they are raster etched. You want to etch them about 1/4 of the way through the plywood.
Next is cyan. These are vector cuts, but just scoring the surface of the material. They are decorations and guides for assembly.
Third is the magenta lines. These vector cuts go all the way through the material. We cut them before the final part outlines are cut so that they don't move.
Lastly cut the red lines. Note the two small parts near the upper left of the drawing. These two little parts can easily drop through the vector tray and get lost.
On the first page of cut parts, I prefer to have the grain of the plywood running from top to bottom.
You'll find two blades in the diagrams, one long blade and one short blade. The short blade is meant to look like it was broken while fighting a Titan. The long blade on the second page looks best if you orient the grain of the plywood so that it is aligned with the score marks on the blade.
The blade is the one part that has laser work on both sides. You'll find that the blade page has two blades on it, one the reverse of the other. Aligning the part for the second side requires some precision.
My technique is to tape the outer edges of the material to the laser bed so that it cannot move. Do a full cut of one of the long blade, making sure that the grain of the plywood goes from top to bottom; the grain is in line with the diagonal marks on the blade. Then carefully remove the long blade without moving the extra material at all. Now cut the second blade - yes it is missing a piece in the middle. Remove these just-cut pieces without moving the material. Now place the first blade into the slot left by the second blade cut; you will have to turn the blade over. Now laser just the cyan color.
You now have a long blade with marks on both sides. You could make the short scrap piece into another broken short blade if you want.
But I Don't Have A Laser Cutter!
Not everyone has access to a laser cutter. If you don't, contact me and I can arrange to sell you the parts so that you can continue with the rest of this Instructable.
I've included a time lapse movie of the laser cutter creating one part. I find the laser mesmerizing.
Step 3: Sanding
Sanding is an optional step. If you sand these parts then then final finish will be a bit like polished metal pieces with primer on them. If you don't sand, then the grain of the plywood gives the final 3DMG control a look of milled metal. In this Instructable I sanded the parts, but I think I now prefer unsanded. It's up to you.
I've included a photo of two finished controls. The one in the back was sanded significantly, the one in the front was not sanded at all. You can see the difference. I prefer the one that is not sanded. The choice is yours.
If you choose to sand, use 220 grit sandpaper and some kind of sanding block. You don't have to sand all the parts, just the ones shown here. And you only have to sand the sides that are shown. In fact, if you place the parts marked RIGHT 2 and LEFT 2 against the parts labeled RIGHT and LEFT, you'll see that you only have to sand a small part of the RIGHT and LEFT parts.
Step 4: Glue the Core
Gluing is an easy step as long as you are careful to align the parts correctly AND have patience to let the glue set between steps.
Find the parts labeled MIDDLE and LEFT. Place them on the table as shown. Dab glue on the MIDDLE part and then spread it with a spatula or your finger. Be sure to spread glue to the edges of the part. Also make certain you have glue on the blade release (the thin extension that looks like a bicycle "brake handle") and trigger guard edges. If any glue gets on the LEFT part between the prongs a the top of the MIDDLE part, wipe it away. Any blobs of glue in these slots will make it harder to fit your blade.
Now place the two parts together. Align them carefully. Use one bar clamp to squeeze the bottom of the hand grip tightly together. Then release the clamp and move up the hand grip; squeeze again. Work your way around the perimeter of the pieces. Before each squeeze you must check the alignment; now is the time to make small adjustments so that they align as well as they can. Be sure to apply pressure to the trigger guard and along the length of the blade release. If you have several bar clamps this is a good time to use them. Put a clamp on the body, the trigger guards, and the blade release handle. If you have a fourth clamp, put it on the top back of the body.
This is the hardest part - wait three minutes for the glue to set. If you move on too quickly, you risk that your carefully aligned parts will shift.
OK, you've waited three minutes - right?
Find the part labeled RIGHT and repeat the process on the other side of the MIDDLE piece.
You should now have three pieces glued together to form the core of your 3DMG control. At the top of the 3DMG control the "prongs" of the middle piece should now be hidden behind the two side pieces that you have glued to it.
Step 5: Add the Outer Faces
More gluing! Remember to use your clamp(s), check alignment, and wait for the glue to set.
Find the piece marked RIGHT 2 and apply glue to the back of it, as shown. Spread the glue around and then clamp this piece onto the right side of the core block. Be sure that the writing is visible when you have finished gluing; if not, then you have placed the RIGHT 2 piece on the left side. Bad news! Remove it and do it correctly.
Find the piece marked LEFT 2 and do the same.
You now have the five piece core block of your 3DMG control assembled.
This is a good time to examine the edges. Look for separation between the layers. If you find any, wipe a bit of glue into the space and clamp the area until the glue sets.
Now you will place four smaller pieces onto the core. These pieces easily slide out of position, so if you have been gluing and moving quickly, this is the time to s l o w d o w n. I find that these smaller pieces might ooze out some glue when they are clamped. I keep a folded piece of paper and a toothpick handy to remove that glue when it is still wet.
Find the small side cover piece that matches the area labeled RIGHT 2. Hold the piece in place so that you see exactly how it should fit. Flip the side piece over, apply glue, and clamp it in place. Wait three minutes, at least. Find the other small side cover and apply it to the other side of the core.
Identify the two hinge covers. Note that they are mirror images. Again, find the one that fits on the right side. Be sure you understand the correct alignment, then glue it in place. The two photos show the right side hinge cover identified and glued in place. Wait three minutes, at least. Now repeat this with the hinge cover for the other side.
Step 6: Trim Pieces
We're close to the end of the gluing.
Locate the two sets of little rectangular bits, one has a semi circle cut from one side. Look at the photos to see how they attach, then glue them in place. The bits should fit tightly into the etched places on the wood. Again, wait for the glue to set before moving to repeat the process on the other side.
Locate the three small triangular parts. These three sandwich together with the protrusion in the center layer. Hold these together so you understand how they work, then fit them into the etched area on the right side. This is the most difficult part of the assembly. It's not hard, but you have to understand how it all fits before adding glue. Once you have it pictured in your mind, add glue and press the sandwich together tightly. Now add glue to the etched area and place the three pieces in it with the protrusion pointed towards the blade release handle (see the photo). Look at this carefully and move the pieces until you are satisfied that it all looks good. Now sit back and don't touch it for five minutes.
Find the two small pieces that look like the one shows in the photo. These pieces go on either side of the bottom of the pistol grip. You'll notice in the photos that the 3DMG control is already painted... Whoops, I forgot to add them and had to glue them on at the end. The glue holds better when the wood isn't painted, so you should glue yours in place now. Note that these two pieces are also easily dislodged. Glue them in one at a time and wait for the glue to set.
Step 7: Painting
There are a lot of different painting techniques. I'll describe the one I used.
- Spray the body with flat gray primer. I used two coats.
- Optional: Once the body is completely dry, apply spray clear shellac. This protects the gray, but also gives it a high shine. Some people like the dull metal look. With shellac the body looks more like polished metal.
- Spray the side grips with something that looks like reddish brown leather. I used flat red primer.
- The two little controls need to be shiny black
Step 8: The Last Gluing
With all the bits painted and dried, there are a few more things to attach.
Fit the two red-brown grips to the core. Note how they seat into the etched locations. Glue them in, clamp them. Wait five minutes. If you have two clamps, put one at each end of the grips.
Look carefully at the two small black sliders. You'll see that one end is squared off and the other is rounded slightly. The rounded ends fit against the back end of the etched slots. Fit the pieces so that you understand how they go together. Then apply a dab of glue and fit them in place. Make sure that both sliders fit into the etched slot. Please, please, wait for the glue to set.
Step 9: The Blade
Let's deal with the blade. First, do NOT force the blade into the handle - it will not fit.
Look at the photo of the prongs. You'll see that one is wider than the other. The wider prong goes in the back slot of the 3DMG control handle.
Look carefully at the narrow prong. You'll see two little bumps on it. These bumps are purposely too big for the slot in the 3DMG handle. Use the 220 grit sandpaper to reduce the size of the bumps a bit. Test fit the blade to the handle. Sand the bumps a bit more. Your task is to reduce the bumps just enough for the blade to fit tightly into the handle. This will allow you to remove the blade. You might need to sand the faces of the prongs just a bit to make them slide in, but be careful that you don't sand too much - a wobbly blade is not going to work on the neck of a Titan!
Now that the blade has been fitted to the handle, we should finish it.
There are several options.
- One is to sand the blade as smooth as possible. Don't sand the prongs or you will loosen the fit. Sanding the blade smooth will make it look more like polished metal. However, a smooth blade will also show any imperfections in the finish.
- The other option is to just lightly sand the blade in the direction of the grain. I prefer this option as the remaining plywood grain makes the blade look like it was sharpened on a stone or grinding wheel. If you were careful about the orientation of the grain when you laser cut the blade, the grain will align with the etched lines on the blade - very cool!
I offer two painting options.
- One is to use shiny silver spray paint. This gives a highly reflective finish that will make the blade appear very bright compared to the handle. It is quite dramatic.
- The other option is to use chrome spray paint.
Step 10: Decoration
Cut a three inch piece of the 1/8 inch drip irrigation tube. Force it onto the two prongs, adding a nice twist. You may want to cut the tube a bit shorter to fit your personal taste.
Some people like their gear to be pristine, but I like mine to look used and worn. Up close the coloring might look exaggerated, but when seen from a few feet away they really make your unit interesting. Here are a few tips I've used to decorate my 3DMG control.
This is an easy one that makes them pop. Just carefully brush on black acrylic paint.
Soot and Grime
To make the basic body look well used I dab on a little black acrylic paint and then quickly wipe it off with a dry paper towel. The two photos show before and after. The quicker you wipe off the black, then less is left behind. Do it a few times quickly to get an idea about how this technique works. I think it adds a very nice grimy touch.
Using the black acrylic I paint inside the round etched areas. In this case I put some water on my brush before picking up the paint. I then wipe it away with a dry paper towel. Just enough black is left behind to hint that these screws (or whatever they are) had picked up some gunk in the heat of battle.
I also like to paint some of the edges where pieces meet. For instance, with a watery brush of black, flood the area where the hinge meets the body. Then wipe away the paint with a damp paper towel. The black shadow it adds helps delineate the supposed junction between the parts. You can do this at many places on the body.
Real leather would not be all one color. I imagine that the leather grips were stamped with that diamond pattern. The stamping would be indented slightly, meaning it would be darker than the surrounding "leather". To get this effect I used brown acrylic that is just slightly darker than the painted wood. Using a lot of water and a thin brush, follow the lines etched in the grip. You don't have to be careful, just slush on the paint following the lines. Then blot it off with a dry paper towel. Repeat this on all the lines.
Take some watery black and dab it somewhere on the grip then quickly rub it off. Do this here and there on the grips.
Compare the two photos to see how it looks after I've done it. It's pretty easy to make this look great.
Step 11: Final Assembly
At this point you can fit your blade to the 3DMG control handle and head out to slay Titans. Remember, this could be the end of the human race unless you stop the Titans!
We are counting on your valor.