Zoltar Speaks!

I began working on Zoltar by breaking and unrolling the seams on the Mystery Build Kit tin container.  Each seam and joint was hammered flat on an anvil then marked with a paper pattern for respective parts of the upper cabinet, lower cabinet, base, Zoltar’s platform, background, niche panel, and cabinet cap.  Leftover scraps of tin were cut to size and formed for the trim/cornice at the top of the cabinet on three sides.  More scraps were cut for the star escutcheons behind the coin ramp control wheels, the coin ramp, button escutcheon, coin receiver slot, and card dispenser.  A narrow band of tin was also used to create Zoltar’s necklace and a thin sliver was cut for the earring hanger. Once the parts were cut, each matching/mating part was glued.  The top of the cabinet took three or four passes with the Elmer’s glue to make it stable.  Once stable, the tin was layered with 8-10 strips of masking tape then trimmed to match the contours, giving the thin tin some body and added stability.  The base cabinet parts were also glued and clamped and then masking tape applied to stabilize the parts as well as create the raised panels simulating woodwork raised panels.  Likewise, Zoltar’s platform and the niche panel behind him were glued and clamped until they became stable.  Where possible, I was able to crimp the metal and create seams to aid in holding the parts together until the next step. In addition to glue, the cabinets’ lowermost base was layered with the plaster cloth to create a stable, sandable base for the cabinets and also to provide some bottom weight to lower the center of gravity. Each part, once in their basic form, was then coated at the seams (metal to metal and tape layering) with a lite coat of plaster mixture to chink the joints.  After drying, each part was lightly sanded and then very lightly sprayed with red primer.  When the primer dried, the parts were then sanded again and plaster was applied in another light coat at remaining seams and joints and then sanded again prior to receiving a second and then third light coat of primer.   To make the wooden top of the lower cabinet, the 5” plywood circle was squared off at the appropriate size.  The smaller of the dowels was then ripped in half on a jig saw table to create edgebanding.   Each cut, no matter how small, I was able to capture some portion (if not all) of the sawdust created to use in my next step.  Squaring up the disk to the size needed left four voids where the corners of the edgebanding and sanded, cut circle met.  To fill in, I mixed sawdust with Elmer’s, layering the mixture into the voids enough times to create solid corners that could be sanded to match the newly created square panel’s surface.   Yellow primer was sprayed on, then sanded, then another coat of yellow primer and sanded. To make the other trim beneath the wood panel, I ripped a larger dowel lengthwise and cut the pieces to fit.   From one of the 1” wood cubes, I ripped slivers 1/8” thick to create small, flat panels to cut the scalloped trim pieces on Zoltar’s roof.  I drew on a pattern to emulate the carved originals and used a Dremel grinder to flesh out the design.  Each scallop was then sanded on a belt sander (bloody knuckles!) and then hand sanded and painted blue, sanded, and painted a final time.  The two corner scallops were created by cutting one of the .5” wood cubes on the bias and carved, painted and sanded as were the others. To make the dome, I slightly blew up the balloon (!) and tied it to a ceiling light track in our kitchen – yeah, my wife is awesome.  Into the blender I threw roughly half of the newsprint after shredding it, along with some warm water and glue.  I layered the glop over the balloon and let it dry.  It dried into the most puckered, dimpled dome imaginable.  To the dome, I plastered a coat to fill most of the voids, then sanded once it was fully cured.  I repeated the sand/plaster/sand/plaster routine four or five times until the dome was smooth.  The smoothed out dome was trimmed to a flat bottom so it could be glued to the roof, then was primed yellow inside and out, sanded, and then primed again. To make the rope trim, I used some modeling clay and created a negative mold of the detail and poured it with wax from the candle, embedding one of the mini dowels in the back of each part to make it easier to glue in place later.  The green plinth blocks and cornice pieces above the rope were cut from wood disks and glued/sanded/primed/sanded/primed. The coin ramp wheels were first drawn on the 3” wood disk and then carefully carved using a Dremel micro grinder bit.  They’re roughly half the diameter of a dime and half the thickness of the original disk from which they were cut.  I sanded them and then, over a period of three days, added successive tiny drops of glue to build up the suicide knob and center spoke hub on each wheel.  After they were the correct size, I primed them with the gold paint used on the finished gold elements. Zoltar’s head is modeled from a Barbie head.  I modified one of my daughter’s Barbies (see note about the wife, above) and then pressed the Zoltar-ified Barbie into modeling clay and cast the resultant mold with plaster of Paris.  Zoltar’s body was made from heating the plastic tubes (with the candle!) and bending a crude armature.  Air-dry putty and clay were used to make his neck and chin/goatee attached to the armature.  Air-dry putty was used to fill out the basic shape of his shoulders and upper body. For the turban and robe, I hammered the canvas to soften it, then used the glue stick to hold the pleats in place.  The lapel was made by smearing glue on the cut material then pressing it flat with a weight to retain its shape prior to attaching to his robe.  To help give the canvas some sheen when painted, glue was painted over the entire surface of the canvas.   Like the coin ramp wheels, the earring was carved from a disk using the Dremel.  It was then sanded and primed using the gold finish paint.  Zoltar’s head brooch and necklace pendant are small wood ovals cut from the 3” plywood disk then layered with glue to create the look of jewels, then primed gold and painted accordingly.  The “feathers” on his head dress were made by unraveling the rope and staining it black with a Sharpie, then pressing it with a cool iron.  This detail is tough to see, but is one of my favorites. I flattened one of the straws and cut a small section from it.  Then I folded it in half to make a “hinge” for Zoltar’s head, glueing it at the back of his head and neck so he can open his mouth. With all the parts fabricated, sanded, and primed, I attached the base cabinet to the toe-kick base, the flat wood square to the top of the base cabinet, the top cabinet to the wood square, and Zoltar’s platform and niche background, glueing each joint several times over three days.  The finish red paint was added to the entire thing except the exposed area of the square.  Between Zoltar’s platform and the top of the cabinet, a gap was filled by troweling plaster into the void and smoothing it, further locking all the upper cabinet parts together. The “Zoltar Speaks” panels in the upper cabinet were drawn on sections of plastic bags from the kit then painted yellow on the reverse and finally red as the background.  The copy was then outlined again using a Sharpie after the panels were glued in place. The upper and lower cabinet’s blue paint was diluted with mineral spirits (to get the red paint beneath it to wrinkle and crinkle as if old) and dabbed on in three very light coats, allowing some red to show through as if worn by age.  The gold was dabbed on as a finish coat to give a more authentic gold leaf look after the green was laid on.  Green painted wooden disks were glued to the upper cabinet to receive the star escutcheons and ramp control wheels.  A small wood spacer separates the wheels from the star escutcheon.  The red button was cut and sanded from a wood disk then painted and glued to a small tin escutcheon and then glued to the cabinet.  Behind the button, a tiny section of aluminum wire was inserted to represent the cam arm the button would depress to activate the action. The panel reading “-Zoltar Says- Make Your Wish” was printed on a laser printer on the provided paper.  It was then glued to Zoltar’s platform and trimmed with aluminum wire hammered into a form to make it look like extruded trim material.  Once hammered, the wire was also sanded on a belt sander (my knuckles are really rough, still) to true up the sides and thin out/flatten the back side for glueing.   The blue wooden scallops were glued to the roof after packing the fabricated metal cornice trim with plaster and sanding/priming/sanding/priming with gold.  With all the scallops in place, the Dremel’d out details were filled with dots of gold paint and later touched up with blue.  The dome was glued in place and the entire roof was daubed with gold to simulate a gold leaf job. The recessed flat panels framed by the raised panels of the base were decorated with gold and black Faber Castell artist pens.  The coin receiver and card dispensers were then glued onto the cabinet and daubed with gold paint. The coin ramp aimed at Zoltar’s mouth was layered with glue several times then daubed with gold paint prior to being glued and clamped inside the cabinet. Zoltar’s clothing and turban were “painted” with Letraset brand metallic markers and red Rustoleum.  Zoltar’s eyes are pink opalescent nail polish over red Rustoleum with Faber Castell pen pupils.