Intro: Make a Gigatorch
Now you may be asking, what is a Gigatorch? Well, here is the answer. (if you were not asking, skip ahead to the next step).
A Gigatorch is a plant “hero” from the game Garden Warfare 2, which is part of the Plants vs. Zombies universe. It is the job of the Gigatorch (and other heroic plants) to defend the other plants and their base in the Backyard area.
The Gigatorch (or actually Giga-Torchwood) hails back to the Torchwood plant in the original (mobile) game, where it was a perpetually burning (and angry) trunk that would set fire to peas shot over it, thus dealing more damage to the incoming hordes of undead. And if that does not satisfy your inner Nerd, I imagine nothing else will.
On to the actual build process!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Here is what you need to make your own Gigatorch (except for the detour, see two steps further down). Of course, you can also make something completely different inspired by what I did. Remember to be Inspired!
- a piece of board - the size of which depends on the size of plant (or thing) you want to make. Make sure that your stock is thick enough for whatever carving you want to inflict on it.
- two pieces of slat - large enough for the arms. You can glue up smaller pieces for this as well.
- wooden dowels - the number is dependent on whether you build it with bottom (~5) or without (2).
- paint - at the very minimum I would recommend black and white for eyes and teeth, but only if your wooden body is quite pretty. Otherwise, use brown as a base color.
- wood glue - for reasons of humility and tradition, but also because it is really good at gluing wood.
- duct tape - as a clamp for the miter glue up.
- a scrap piece or screws - optional, to hold the pot of a decorative plant.
Side Note: I have a number of different tools, so I use them. That does not mean that you cannot substitute something you do not have with something else. And while I try to add alternatives to each step, that does not mean that it is an exhaustive list.
- table saw - to cut the pieces at the necessary angle. You could use a circular saw in conjunction with a slat clamped to the board as a guide, or a (sliding compound) miter saw if it extends far enough for your board.
- belt sander - for rough shaping. Can be substituted or complemented with...
- rasps - also for basic shaping
- jigsaw - also for shaping, when larger chunks need to go.
- rotary tool - to hold, spin and use the…
- power carving bit - There are different varieties out there, varying in size and method. I used a bit with “metal needles” and liked it, but use what you have available to you.
- bandsaw - also to shape and remove larger pieces of material in a later part of the project.
- drill - hand or power, it does not really matter as long as it can spin the...
- drill bit - of the same size as the wooden dowels.
Step 2: Watch the Video (optional But Appreciated)
As usual, I also have a build video for the Gigatorch with what I hope to be an entertaining streak to it. It also illustrates the real danger that Zombies pose to brains or at least cookies, and what a Torchwood can do to remedy that.
If you prefer a classic written account, keep on reading.
Step 3: Detour: Through Steel...
This project started out as something else - a more accurate depiction of the Gigatorch including the fire on the inside. Let me start by saying that it did not work and that I should have expected that. This detour gave me some ideas for future projects, but if all you want to make is a plant-bearing torchwood skip ahead two steps.
To satisfy your curiosity, though, the idea was to modify a steel pipe so that it would stand inside the wooden body, with a bottom “grate” made from strips bent inwards. I then welded them together. Which is using the term "welding" very loosely. It held, but not to any standards.
Step 4: Detour: ... and Fire
I would then put in a firestarter and pieces of branch or twig. It did burn rather nicely for a while, so I think this has the potential for a future project. But seeing how it lit the wooden body on fire (which was completely to be expected), I scrapped that part of the Gigatorch project.
Step 5: Making the Body
Now let’s start in earnest. For the body I am using a thicker board which I then cut on the table saw to produce slices of a ring. I decided on the number of segments and found the corresponding angle (I believe I used Mathias Wandel’s miter cheat sheet).
I cut the first side of the board to get things started, then I kept cutting segments of equal width, flipping the piece over every time so I do not end up with parallelograms. To do that, either set the fence to the desired width and run the board against it, in which case you need to pay special attention to the pieces just cut off, as they are prone to kickback, geometry-wise. A better method is to put a mark (piece of tape) down on the other side of the fence and adjust the fence after placing the piece accordingly - I do not recommend free-handing those cuts. A sled would work as well.
Once I have the required amount, I place them next to each other on a work surface with the wider side facing up. To “clamp” them for glue up I use duct tape. Two long strips keep things in place for me to flip the whole thing over. You can do a dry-fit at this point, too, but if you are of little patience like me, there is no going back anyway. Apply glue to all the joints, spread it a little, and roll it up. Use surplus tape (or extra pieces) to close the cylinder and keep it that way till the glue has done its magic.
Step 6: Add the Bottom
This part of my design was meant to hold the steel pipe in place, so it is not strictly necessary for the new and improved planter version. Still, I would not leave it out, especially since it can offer you a way to support a pot - see the final step for reference.
I trace the end of the wooden cylinder onto another piece of board, with a smaller circle on the inside. I then cut the outside shape out on the bandsaw. To remove the material in the center, you could use a large hole saw or Forstner bit, a circle cutter, or even the scroll saw. The hole is for drainage, and can thus be a lot smaller than the one I made, which was intended for air circulation.
I wanted to use the bandsaw on the inner hole for whatever reason that I cannot remember and to facilitate that, I had to break the bottom in two. After finishing the inside hole I put it back on the actual inside by gluing the pieces together again. To attach the bottom ring to the cylinder I use glue, but since the ends of that cylinder are not the flattest, I drilled three holes through both pieces and fill them with a mix of glue and wooden dowels cut to length.
Step 7: Shaping the Tree
If you look at reference material for the Gigatorch, you will quickly find that its face is its biggest feature, and it is not actually that hard to replicate, at least in the opinion of someone who thinks of himself as a sub-mediocre woodcarver, i.e. me.
To begin with, the polygon needs to become (more or less) round, and for that, I use the belt sander. It does not really lend itself well to detail work, though, so I switch to a rasp to remove material in certain places like for example the sides. You could do the whole thing with the rasp, too.
One thing I would not recommend to remove with the rasp are the chunks between what will be the legs. For that, the jigsaw works well, and so would a fretsaw.
For the finer details, I am using a carving bit for my rotary tool that comes with what is advertised as “metal needles” and works rather well. Any other carving bit designed to wear away wood will work just as well, though.
Step 8: Making a Face
Carving a face might seem daunting, but here is how I go about it: break it down into simple shapes. In this case, you have two (roughly) half-circle shapes around the mouth, which is basically a line. Then two triangles for eyes, and wavy lines for brows.
Start by sketching them with a pencil so you get the ratios right, then figure out where the high and low points are. For example, the eye-triangles are probably set low, so you can remove material there. The mushed half-circles above and below the mouth are raised, so their low points are around them - a line which you route into the wood. Do the same for brows and any other distinct features that you see. Once you are happy enough with your “line drawing”, continue by connecting the high points to the low points via curves - gently sloping for the mushed half-circles, and a lot steeper for the brows and eyes.
But most importantly - experiment!
Step 9: Arms Race
Apart from the face, the arms are the main, if not the only other distinct feature of the Gigatorch. I picked a piece of slat, cut it in two equal pieces and tested the general size for the arms. Then I sketched a more arm-like shape, based on reference material. Working with simple shapes like squares and circles makes it easier to now transfer that sketch from one piece to the other.
I use the bandsaw to remove most of the waste material, and I felt confident to free-hand some parts of it. If you are not, then do not do that. Instead, you could try to cut out the shape you sketched on one side, then re-attach some of the cutoffs using hot glue or double-sided tape so you can rest it on that surface and cut the other.
Again, I use my rotary tool for the finer details, with my hand as a guide (make sure to mirror the thumb and finger placement for both arms and keep one side each flat for the "shoulder"). This is where the arm will connect to the body.
Step 10: Aggression Gauge
A Gigatorch's arms basically tell you how dire the zombie threat actually is. As such, I wanted to be able to pivot them, although I imagine that once it is done I will rarely change the actual angle of the arms.
I use the orbital sander to flatten the connecting faces on both arms and cylinder. You could also use sandpaper or even the rotary tool if you possess that kind of precision. On the cylinder side, I then roughed up parts of that flat face to leave roughly a squarish circle, just to make things look better later.
With the drill and the bit matching my dowels, I drill holes in the center of both sides of the connection, deep enough to house a dowel each. I used pre-made dowels for this because I had them on hand, but you can easily cut yours to length if your stock is too long.
The fit should be snug enough that the arms stay in place even when raised. If that is not the case, you can try to figure out on which side the dowel is actually loose, and glue it in there. If both holes are too wide, you can either glue them both in, foregoing the aggression gauge feature, or try wrapping one end with electrical tape to make it fit more snugly.
Step 11: Painted Wood
While I realize that the Gigatorch is supposed to be a tree and thus made of wood, chances are that the wood you used does not look like the tree this project was inspired by. So unless you used some beautiful wood like walnut and want to sand for hours and hours to make it as smooth as it can be, your (and my) best bet is to paint the thing.
This also aligns well with the looks of the source material, with Plants vs. Zombies generally leaning towards the bright and colorful side. So I painted my Gigatorch with brown paint and added only a few accents. White for eyes and teeth, black for between the teeth and the actual pupils.
I also tried to drybrush the rest of the body, using a brush dipped in color and emptied almost completely on another surface (like an old newspaper). The idea was to highlight the high spots using white and add depth to the low spots using black. Frankly, I do not think the effect is that big, at least not the way I did it. I imagine that I could have done a better job at that, but it does not really matter for the finished look.
What does matter is a final coat of flat acrylic lacquer. It protects the paint and finishes the comic-like look. Do not get fooled by the milky look in the last picture, it dries out transparent.
Step 12: Plant in a Plant
The Gigatorch is pretty much done, but since it will not have the characteristic flames that you can see in the reference material, it looked somewhat empty and unfinished. So I decided to get a plant that looked somewhat fiery instead - with yellow flowers. Having a pot that fits exactly into the opening would be great, and routing a small channel to hide the rim of such a pot would not be that difficult.
But my plant came in a pot slightly too small for that. So instead I cut a piece of scrap to fit the inner diameter of the cylinder, and since I had the bottom designed to make a ledge it could rest upon that and support the pod at the right height. If you did not add a bottom you can also use screws to hold your piece of scrap.
You might want to consider putting a saucer underneath the pot. This way you will not have to water the plant as often since otherwise, all excess water will just drain away. And a Gigatorch with a dried out crown will not be as intimidating as one with flourishing green.
Thank you for checking out this Instructable. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you did, I would appreciate it if you shared it with a friend. And if you feel like it, why not check out the video and let me know what you think about that, too?
And as always, remember to be Inspired!