May The Fourth Be With You…

This year I’ve had fun coming up with little Lego scenes featuring myself and my wife as mini figures to celebrate certain holidays. And while May 4th isn’t exactly a holiday, it is a day for nerds everywhere to remember that they still love Star Wars. 

  
Fans of Star Wars will recognize everything in the picture but just to add a little commentary I’ll explain the image. I used the Mos Eisley cantina as the setting, it makes a great background full of familiar characters. I threw together a couple tables with chairs to fill the place out. I had a bunch of stormtroopers so decided to insert my wife and I as stormtroopers enjoying some time out, and with the family! The little stormtrooper cadet is our daughter Scarlett and she is holding a teddy bear, representing our 4 month old son Bear. 😄 And I brought my guitar in hopes of jamming with the Bith musicians.

These are fun for me to get a chance to play and use my collection for something creative, and really fun to personalize it. Enjoy these “behind the scenes” shots, one of the whole scene I created and one of Scarlett checking her mini fig self out and playing with the set (after pictures were taken of course).

  
 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little contribution and tribute to the May 4th nerd holiday, thanks for checking it out!

j.


The Gift of Music

A few months ago, my wife was days away from giving birth to our second child. She posted a video of a Native American flute player to my Facebook page saying it would be good to have him present during the birth. :-) I’m half Native American so I know she meant this as a joke but obviously there’s truth to it, soothing sounds would do nothing but help in that situation. An acquaintence of ours from high school who has knowledge and experience with flutes saw this, and being the sweet and generous person she is, offered to gift our family with a flute from her collection.

Native Flute 1

It is a Stellar brand Native American flute made from red cedar in the key of G, with a custom made block carved by the giver, Tee. It is really beautiful.

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Flute 3

It plays really well, and offers a beautiful sound that is very soothing. For years I’ve wanted to get a flute like this, but never pulled the trigger. This was an incredible surprise and I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the gesture. I started playing it right away, and was able to make some nice sounds despite not having any experience. My 2 year old daughter loves it and my 3 month old son perks up as well when he hears it, and I enjoy being able to pick it up from time to time and breathe into it and see what comes out. It’s great having a small, organic instrument around that is easily accessible and allows me to easily share music with my young children. They are the best audience because their response is genuine excitement and love.

Here is a recording I made days after receiving the flute, it’s the first thing I played on the flute, which I thought was a nice little melody. I took a drive, trying to put my daughter to sleep, and stopped at a great lookout spot near my home once she nodded off. It was a beautiful sunny day. I took a few pictures to document the moment, pulled out the flute and played this melody looking out into the beauty with my daughter sleeping behind me. It was a very peaceful moment that I was able to capture in this simple video I put together. Enjoy.

A very special thanks to Tee for the flute, we will treasure it!

j.


Lego Holiday Building Competition

In early December there was a festive building competition held by Brickset to create something original using just the two 2014 promotional holiday sets. Prizes included new 2015 sets. The first set was available with purchase in October, but the submissions really ramped up when the 2nd of the two sets became available during Black Friday weekend in the end of November. Here’s what I had to work with.

Toy Workshop 40106

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Winter Skating Scene 40107

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The challenge was to take these two sets, dump them out, and make something new and original and holiday themed. There were so many awesome submissions! There really was quite a range to the creativity. In the end, a panel of judges selected what they believed to be the best of the bunch.

My Experience:

I’m sorry to say my submission wasn’t among those selected, but it was such a fun thing to do! Sometimes it breeds creativity to have a certain amount of stipulations. In this case, only being able to use a certain number of pieces was fun, you had limits, which in the world of Lego, is a welcome challenge. There were a lot of great pieces to work with too! When I threw all the pieces out, I really wasn’t sure what I was gonna come up with, I just started sticking pieces together, and to my amazement, quite quickly, I had a direction to focus on. I wanted to make some sort of display vignette. After playing with the pieces for a few minutes and setting a base, I discovered what I was going to build: an Elf Wedding. Below were my two pictures submitted of the set I created.

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I had the runway, some present-like decoration along the sides, bride and groom elves with their diamonds, a pastor, and an altar with a lot of festive decoration, along with the notion that elves must have some sort of love ceremony, and what better season than the holiday season for an elf to get married? The most coveted of all wedding dates I’m sure. I was very happy with what I was able to throw together, in a short amount of time, with very little changes. I played with the decorations along the aisle a bit, and in the end extended the runway. Like I said, it was a fun exercise to build something using a limited set of pieces, it really made you think about each piece you were using and if it were necessary, much like I would think Lego designers must do when creating sets.

Thanks to Lego and the folks at Brickset for hosting this competition. Such a fun thing to do, especially around the holidays, and really promotes creativity! I hope to see things like this in the future!

j.


My first Lego set review!

I am what is known as an AFOL (Adult Fan of Lego), yes, this is a real term. I frequently visit a website called Brickset, which is a great site for Lego enthusiasts! Content includes constant up to date news on all things Lego, a database of all Lego sets past, present, and sometimes future, a tool to see what Lego sets you own as well as those you want, a user forum, reviews, and so much more! They also accept user submitted reviews. After reading some it got me thinking, I should submit a review! There was a perfect opportunity with a new little seasonal set I had that I was about to assemble, set #40056 Thanksgiving Feast. So I documented with pictures of the process and took notes (NERD!) along the way about things that stood out to me as noteworthy. I just thought this would be something fun to create, so I did it!

Here’s the link to see the review! Brickset Thanksgiving Feast review by jaitheartist.

j.

Lego 40056 Thanksgiving Feast Polybag

Lego 40056 Thanksgiving Feast Polybag


Guitar Retrospective #8 (Pt. 2 The Headstock): “Landscape Les Paul”

Welcome to the 2nd installment of the “Landscape LP” project, where I will discuss the creation of the headstock. If you noticed in the first picture from Pt. 1, the guitar kit came with what they call a “paddle” headstock. Meaning, it’s just a blank, intended for the user to create their own style. They do this in these generic kits because the headstock shapes are patented by the company. So to cover their ass since it’s probably too expensive to get the license, they exclaim “you get to make it any way you want!” Great. Thanks for all that extra work. Well I turned some lemons into some some seriously delicious lemonade with this project, turning that square paddle board headstock blank into a perfectly fitted custom shape to complement the detail in the fabric print on the body, as well as match the print by finishing the headstock in fabric as well.

Here’s what I started with.

LP HS back

LP HS front

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I set out designing the shape, figuring out what would get cut out. I didn’t want to stray too far from a tradition Les Paul style headstock design, so I used my little Jai face logo as a starting point to figure out the shape.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.

Traced a template to sketch ideas on paper, then transferred over to headstock when I was satisfied.

 

Cut it out using a coping saw, band saw, and a pneumatic sanding drum, if I remember correctly.

LP HS cut

Sanded smooth.

Sanded smooth.

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!

Burnt it up a little, rough cut here. Maple is hard!

 

Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.

Touched it up with sand paper and files to get the shape just right.

 

Then I set about giving this headstock face a fabric finish. Same process as the body.  I chose the portion of the fabric from the back of the guitar, the night sky with a few birds. It was at this point I realized how well suited that shaped was, as it looks just like a bird flying if you’re looking at it head on.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After fabric has been glued down, and several coats of sanding sealer.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that's ok, it's getting a paint burst.

After sanding the sanding sealer. Got into the fabric a little on the edges but that’s ok, it won’t really show.

 

Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood.

Trim those fabric edges sharp and clean to the wood

After clear coats.

After clear coats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Polished to a lovely shine.

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And all set up and ready to go.

Tuners installed and complete.

Tuners installed and complete.

 

I hope you enjoyed following the process of this guitar, it posed some new challenges which was why I was happy to choose this style and try out this kit. I expanded my knowledge and experience trying out some new things with this one, and I was pretty happy with how it turned out. And I know where it lives and get to visit it every now and then.

 

Creatively,

j.

 

 


Guitar Retrospective #8 (Pt. 1 The Body): “Landscape Les Paul”

I began this project in June of 2007. Since I was also in the middle of a couple strat projects, namely, the “Koi Flower” and “Wild Horses” guitars, I was ready for something different. I decided to try a Les Paul style guitar, with a curved top.  I picked up a Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit.

Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit

Saga LC-10 LP style guitar kit

After studying the kit, which was decent enough with the components (kit guitars like this usually benefit from upgrading some of the parts), I remember being impressed with the body. Nice figure in the top, nice binding, nice mahogany back. I thought, “Wow this is pretty good for a kit guitar…Ok, now which fabric will I use to cover this up with.”

Saga body frontSaga LP body back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had picked out a beautiful Japanese scenic landscape print for this guitar. I used this print because there were a lot of great options and a lot of surface area on this guitar with which to display it, with the rear routed control cavity, and the larger body size, you could see a lot of this fabric. This was the full panel I had to work with. Actually a little more than what is shown in this picture, since I got a full yard, there is more tree and hillside to the left. fabric full panel

I laid it out with my paper templates to determine which section of the fabric would be used for the front and which for the back. This is one of the funnest parts of the process, because you are deciding the look of the whole guitar, it is the decision moment of the design process, because once you cut it out, that’s it, you’re committed. Unless you have a bunch more fabric, which I never do. Fabric can get expensive, especially these fancy prints I always pick out, so I usually only get a yard.

Layout

Laying out fabric, template positioning of the back of the guitar.

So I’ve documented the material finish process on previous posts, so I won’t bore anyone (or myself) with every detail by describing it in words. But I will do it with a series of pictures, because pictures are fun and require MUCH less reading.

LP fabric front rough

Fabric glued down, rough cut – front.

LP fabric back rough

Fabric glued down, rough cut – back.

 

Post-Sanding Sealer coats and cut out cavities. Front of guitar.

After sanding sealer coats and cut out cavities – front.

Post-Sanding Sealer coats and cut out cavities. Back of guitar.

After sanding sealer coats and cut out cavities – back.

 

After sanding, before paint - front.

After sanding, before paint – front.

After sanding, before paint - back.

After sanding, before paint – back.

 

After paint - front.

After paint – front.

After paint - back.

After paint – back.

 

I interrupt this series of beautifully laid out sequential pictures to say, holy cow was it difficult to find this shade of navy blue that matches PERFECTLY with this print. I tried at least half a dozen different shades of the usual brands I use, only to find none of them blended well with this fabric. I eventually went to a store I never go to, I believe it was a Sebo’s hardware store in town, and found a construction spray paint that looked promising. When I shot it and saw this result, I was ecstatic, I could finally stop buying blue spray paint.

 

After shooting clear coats - front.

After shooting clear coats – front.

After shooting clear coats - back.

After shooting clear coats – back.

 

For the detail oriented like myself, the paint I used had a hint of sparkle, which again matched PERFECTLY on a deeper level with this print, as it also has a little sparkle in the print, which I’ll show soon in a close up pic.

After clear coats, side of guitar, notice sparkle in paint.

After clear coats, side of guitar, notice sparkle in paint.

 

After wet sanding and polish - front.

After wet sanding and polish – front.

After wet sanding and polish - back.

After wet sanding and polish – back.

 

Yes I did get a few sand-throughs along the edges on this one, I was really bummed. It’s a learning process, and I’m always learning new tricks to avoid this terrible eye sore that is very easy to allow pop up.

And hey, I’m a man of my word, here’s that close up where you can see the sparkle detail in the print.

Close up of front, notice the sparkle in the print.

Close up of front, notice the sparkle in the print.

 

As you can see if you look closely in the neck pocket where I sign and date the guitar upon completion, this guitar was finished in August of 2007, it was intended as a wedding gift for a close friend. I remember now I was kind of rushing to complete this towards the end so it could be ready to give away after the long drive to its new home, which might explain the lack of completed pictures with it all strung up and full body/neck shots. By the way, the headstock was a completely custom design, and will be featured in its own post. Here are the shots I have of the completed body all put together. I show these with slight embarrassment, as guitar players will know, one of the pickups is backwards. (Ooops! so embarrassing!!!) Hey, it was my first experience with a Les Paul style guitar in person, I hadn’t come across pickups like these yet, and like I said I was rushing to get this out the door. But yea, I feel stupid seeing these pics now, so try to ignore everything I just said. :-/

LP finished front 1LP finished back 1

 

You might have noticed the custom neck plate I had engraved to commemorate the event, very special detail. I gave a big heartfelt speech during the rehearsal dinner where I presented the happy couple with the unique gift, explaining how the creation of the guitar represented what a good marriage might require: patience, love, attention to detail, hard work, more patience, etc. I said I hoped it would hang on a wall inside their home to remind them of this. Well, they are now divorced. It must have been sitting in the closet or something.

Seriously though, I hope my buddy forgives me for my commentary if he reads this. The guitar is with him now and that’s where I intended it to be all along, so mission accomplished. I should probably go visit him and replace that neck plate though. ;-) Love you buddy!

LP finished front 2

LP finished sides

LP finished front 3

LP finished back 2

 

Thanks for checking this out and remember there’s a part 2 coming where I go through the process of designing and creating the custom headstock on the neck of this guitar.

 

Creatively yours,

j.

 

 


Lego: Mini-Fig Myself

I freakin love Lego! To celebrate the DVD release of The Lego Movie, I thought I’d share the custom Lego mini figure I had made of myself by the fine folks at minifigs.me.

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The body has a custom decal of my first album cover. It came out really well! Pretty impressive considering how small these things are. Recently they upgraded their equipment to print directly onto the Lego pieces themselves, so they can make some pretty amazing and super custom stuff now. Check out some musicians and bands they have already created here. To name a few you can get Lego versions of The Beatles, Queen, Metallica, and a few brand new ones including Jimi Hendrix, Prince, and The Boss himself Bruce Springsteen!

I also put together another mini fig using standard Lego parts for my shaved head era. Here is a look at what I was trying to copy.

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Now that there are two of me, I can jam with myself!

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The Lego guitars, cases and amplifier I got from Firestartoys. They have a huge selection of mini figure parts and custom accessories. Huge.

Go mini fig yourself.

j.


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