Wednesday, September 15, 2021

How To Make A Skydancer Tube Man (Tube Person)

Perhaps you've always wanted your own custom Skydancer but didn't know how to make one? Look no further. I will tell you how I made this Skydancer and what all of the measurements are and where I sourced the fabric and fan.

This drawing isn't exactly to scale, but it has all the measurements of the Skydancer you see pictured above. I also made one to model Wolfgang Flür from Kraftwerk. Here's the measurements for that Skydancer.

Kraftwerk Skydancer Measurements
If you have a serger sewing machine, making a Skydancer is fairly straightforward with this pattern. I used the Vitruvian Man drawing by daVinci as the source for the proportions between head/face/torso. The proportions work regardless if your Skydancer is wearing "clothes" or not.

This Skydancer pattern will create a Tube Man somewhere between 14-15 feet in height. Measurements are indicated in inches on the pattern and the process photos below will assist you in placing the openings for the Tube Man arms.

I ordered the 1.9 ounce ~70 denier ripstop nylon from HERE, the waterproof 600 denier fabric from HERE, and the 2-inch wide hook and loop (you'll need the loop side as the fan will have the hook side pre-attached to the circumference of the fan base) from HERE. The fan I have is a Big Bear B-Air BB1 but the current model is a BB3. Total cost of fabric + the fan is around $289. Given that custom Skydancers are priced around anywhere from $100 - $200 not including the price of the fan, you could easily make your own or hire the services of a local person with a serger sewing machine like mine to make the Skydancer for you. I have a JUKI MO 654DE but any serger type sewing machine will work for this project.

The ripstop nylon is 60 inches wide which is exactly the same circumference as the base of the B-Air fan. Create a thicker bottom attachment section with the 600 denier waterproof canvas. This is the section you will sew your 2-inch loop fastener strip to in order to connect the base of your Skydancer to the B-Air fan.


 I used a small salad plate (12 inches in diameter) to mark the arm openings. The arms taper to a 4-inch opening. The center of the "armpit" is 14.25 inches from the back seam (the fabric width including the selvage was 61 inches wide).

Here is what the loop strip will look like on your canvas bottom section. Sew a 60-inch strip around the base of the canvas section and then attach a hook and loop strip to each edge of the canvas 12 inch by 60-inch section to secure the canvas fabric closed once you've attached it to the base of the fan.


You can make the facial features out of the same ripstop nylon, serge the edges and sew them by hand to the Skydancer as seen here:


Here is the pattern for a basic Skydancer/Tube Man

Here is the Skydancer in action!!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Rain Lamp Peak Plastic Fail and What You Can Do About It

Way back in April of 2019 the bottom of our rain lamp fell out and dropped 4 quarts of mineral oil on the dining room floor. The cleanup required a mountain of towels which will never come clean and will only ever be useful to turn sticks into torches. We were dismayed and uncertain as to how to fix the cracked plastic. The rain lamp base is the oil reservoir and attaches to the base of the rain lamp with three small bolts and acorn washers. The attach point for each bolt had completely disintegrated and there is no way I would trust a two-part epoxy to support the weight of 4 quarts of mineral oil.

Rain Lamp Cleanup

Rain Lamp Rag Pile

What did I do? I put off trying to fix it for ages (literally years). I had the idea to get a ring cut out of aluminum or sheet metal from a fab shop, but I was dubious that a shop would want to do a small one-off piece for a reasonable amount of money. The prospect of me cutting out a completely symmetric circle from a piece of sheet metal with a dremel was well outside of what I wanted to spend my time doing, so I just didn't do it.

Fast forward to the middle of the pandemic. I saw a person in the neighborhood with a 3D printer printing up loads of standoffs for face mask shields. I reached out to him and asked about the probability of him 3D printing a potential solution for my rain lamp problem. He said he'd try, and eventually I received three different shim types from him. One of the three shims seemed like it would work, but I only ever got the one shim 3D printed from him (I needed 3) and he hadn't responded to a message I'd sent in over five months. I took the one workable shim prototype and used it to cut 3 shims out of some K-S brass strips I had from another project.



With my husband's help, we sanded down the shims to fit under the lip of the oil reservoir, marked and drilled the bolt holes for each of them, and reassembled the rain lamp with new, improved non-disintegrating, weight distributing brass bolt supports.


If you have a rain lamp, beware that it is probably reaching peak plastic brittleness and you could find yourself with 4 quarts of mineral oil on your dining room floor. We were lucky that it happened while we were home, awake, and could quickly mitigate the large pool of mineral oil that hit the floor. If your lamp hasn't bottomed out yet, perhaps you should take a few moments and make some shims to prevent against a mineral oil disaster in your own home.

If you need to restring your oil rain lamp, I have a how-to for just that very thing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Reverend Fred Lane as a puppet!

As I was thinking over who I know that would appreciate a puppet of themselves and is also visually iconic, I came up with none other than The Reverend Fred Lane. The Venn diagram of people I know and who can be unmistakably rendered in puppet form is admittedly small, but I digress.

The Reverend Fred Lane as described by Wikipedia:
Tim R. Reed, known by the stage name Reverend Fred Lane, is an American, Tuscaloosa, Alabama-born singersongwriter, and visual artist, who released two relatively obscure yet critically appreciated albums in the 1970s on Say Day Bew Records, later re-released in the 1980s on the Shimmy Disc label. These albums explored various traditional genres of American music such as jazzcountry, and big-band swing, but infused with improvisational experimentations and Dadaist free-associative lyrics.

I first met Tim at the showing of the documentary of him titled Icepick To The Moon. David had clued me in to The Reverend Fred Lane many years prior and we were both thrilled to see the film and meet Tim in person! It was shown at the University of Florida. If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the trailer for it. It was super to see the documentary on Tim Reed and then have the opportunity to meet him and his lovely wife. The following year, we visited them both at their artists booth at the  Florida CraftArt festival in St. Petersburg, FL. He and his wife Jeanie are traveling artisans. He works in wood (mobile sculptures) and his wife Jeanie works in fiber and ceramic arts (mixed media).

I reached out to Jeannie and asked if having a puppet of his stage persona would appeal to Tim. She said yes (!) and I quickly began working on replicating The Reverend Fred Lane (TRFL) based on photographic evidence in the way-way back machine called the Internet.

The puppet pattern is the Small Fry pattern created by Adam Kreutinger. The fleece is from (leftover from the fleece I used to make Kraftwerk). Once I had the puppet form created, I began working on creating The Reverend Fred Lane's stage props and costume accessories. I used a duplicate resin cast of a nose I sculpted for another puppet, flocked it with UHU glue and fibers cut from the fleece I'd used to make TRFL's puppet.

I documented the process behind making all TRFL's accessories and costuming in this Flickr photo album.

I ordered the smallest "straw" fedora and children's sunglasses that I could find on AliExpress. The sunglasses turned out to be just perfect. I knew the hat was going to be too big, but I hoped boiling it would make the synthetic fibers shrink up. I had no luck in shrinking the hat, so I cut up the hat according to a tiny fedora hat pattern and made a TRFL sized hat from a hat.
<insert hat photo here>

My pal Joel is a whiz with 3D printers, so I sent him a link to sunglasses on Thingiverse and said, can you make these sunglasses but have them be 2 1/2 inches wide? He said yes he could, so he sent me 5 print out in case I needed backups. As it turned out, my measurements ended up being much too small for TRFL's face. I was shooting for 'comically small' sunglasses but ended up with TEENY TINY sunglasses. Not a problem, I turned the teeny tiny sunglasses into a pair of earrings (!!) for Jeannie.

Bespoke 3D printed sunglasses

I used my Cricut to cut a sheet of ABS plastic into sunglasses, salvaged a pair of eyeglass hinges from a broken pair of sunglasses, and created the 'comically small' sunglasses for TRFL. It required much sanding and grinding with a Dremel because my Cricut is a Cricut Air, not a Cricut Maker. The Cricut Air is not powerful enough to cut all the way through the ABS plastic, I had to do the work to free the semi-cut parts from the surrounding plastic and grind them down to the 'engraved' lines the Cricut made in the ABS sheet.

Custom Cricut "cut" sunglasses

To get the right look for TRFL's band-aids, I made three prototypes. I used ink-jet printable heat transfer material to get two sets of band-aids on a sheet of white fabric. One prototype used Mod Podge gloss to glue a layer of thin clear vinyl to the band-aid image to make it shiny, the second prototype used layering of the Mod Podge gloss to create several layers of Mod Podge to create a shiny band-aid surface. The third prototype used a beige vinyl fabric and permanent fabric markers to make the band-aid perforations and gauze pad center. The beige vinyl band-aids looked the best against TRFL's head! I used Fabri-TAC glue to adhere heavy-duty Velcro hook squares to each end of the band-aid; leaving the gauze section in the middle of the band-aid free from Velcro. This allowed me to criss-cross the band-aids on TRFL's face as is his stage wear.

Which band-aid is best?

As luck would have it, I found a paper-craft globe online and it was already sized proportionately to TRFL's puppet size.

He's got the world on a string

I used this photo of Mattel's Tommy-Burst Detective Set to replicate the toy Tommy Gun TRFL is seen sporting in photographic history.

Papercraft Tommy Gun for The Reverend

PEX tubing made the frame of TRFL's tricycle possible. Silver and red spray paint made it complete. Tiny pedals made out of FIMO gave TRFL something to perch his tiny feet upon.

Fimo pedals to push on

His hair was cut from a scrap of faux fur, sewed into place and then a suitable haircut was given. After his first hair cut, I fashioned a wispy mustache and goatee which could then be 'waxed' into a twist.


For his final million-dollar grin as seen on the cover of "From the One That Cut You" I sculpted his grin out of a section of PVC pipe with various Dremel bits and grinder tips. A base coat of paint was applied to his teeth and the final paint layer added pink to his gums and a bit of grey shading between his teeth to make the depth of them pop visually.


I had a ton of fun making all of TRFL's accouterments and I am happy to hear that Tim is as pleased with himself as I am!

He's got the world on a string and Anne Plastic Ear.
He's got the world on a string and Anne Plastic Ear.

The Reverend Fred LaneThe Reverend Fred Lane

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Adam Kreutinger's Small Fry Puppet Clothing Patterns

I have been making Small Fry puppets from Adam Kreutinger's pattern and modifying doll clothing patterns to fit the measurements of the Small Fry. The Small Fry doesn't have a "neck" that is smaller than its shoulders, and as such, 18-inch doll clothing patterns require modifying to fit the Small Fry's proportions.

This post is about the formal suit jackets and dress shirts I made for the Small Fry. The suit jacket pattern has three different collar styles and two different fit styles in it. One is more of a Pea Coat fit, bigger in the overall sizing and with a wider lapel. The other fit is more true to the Small Fry measurements and I have included a 1950's style Peak lapel and a smaller Mod notched lapel style.

The dress shirt has two different collar styles - a traditional straight collar and one with a bit longer collar points as seen in the polka-dotted dress shirt photo. The sleeves are intentionally about a half-inch long for the Small Fry arms, adjust your pattern as you desire for sleeve length.

The patterns all include a 1/4 inch seam allowance. When a 1/8 inch sewing edge is called for, it is indicated in the pattern instructions.

If you download and use these patterns and instructions, I'd love to see what you've made with them!

I will be editing and uploading the dress pants and boxer shorts I made for the Small Fry puppet soon.