Build report- 1:12th Aoshima Honda CB400T Hawk II

From the blog at the Spinneyworld shop.

This is the first build I’m going to be doing that will utilise Spinneyworld products. I’ve been so busy developing them, that I’ve neglected the workbench, and haven’t built as much as I’d like.

It’s also my first bike model, and, being me, I’m building it custom. Bosozoku are Japanese biker gangs (the most common translation I’ve seen of the name is “running tribe”), who have developed their own style of customising for cars and bikes. On bikes, it manifests as chopper style handlebars, exaggerated seat backs, and aero fairings lifted up so far they’re more likely to detract from the bike’s dynamics. Intricate paint jobs are common as well.

I’m going to be copying the seat and handlebars for this build, and trying out some new paints and techniques. The fairing may be beyond me, unless I get lucky on eBay. The handlebars will be designed by me for 3D printing (not started yet, need to get that done), and I’ll also be using some of the foot pegs I designed recently.

The model I’m working on is Aoshima’s 1978 Honda CB400T Hawk II, which I ordered from Hiroboy.

The first thing I did was glue the frame together, and the main parts of the engine block.

Frame and engine basic constrruction

Whilst the frame went together nice and true. the connection pins for the lower half of the engine block were vague, and, no matter how I lined them up, there was a very obvious seam, which I later had to file down before fitting other components. The two carburettors were similarly tricky to align.

Golden frame

Boring black wouldn’t do, so the frame got a coat of gold paint. Wilko own brand rattle can, in fact.

Motor

The engine block, and the wheels, got a coat of Citadel Iron Hands Steel, and I learnt that my airbrush doesn’t work very well with a rotted seal on the air hose, on one of the most humid days of the year. Luckily, the paint’s just there to enhance the colour the plastic was supplied in. Those seams I mentioned were filed down, the chrome covers were attached, and the gaps between the fins were enhanced with a little Citadel Nuln Oil.

Foot rests

The next job is to get the chrome off the footpegs and their mountings. I’ve already tested oven cleaner on a bit of sprue.

'Croc jaw' footrests

Then the pegs will be replaced with these. The ‘Croc Jaw’ pegs, from my very own range.

I had a moment of inspiration whilst sorting through the mess on the workbench. I’ve bought a number of nail file sets from the pound shop, to use as cheap sanding sticks. They may turn out to be too coarse, but some of them are the exact shape I need to build the seat back. Even better, there are three different sizes of them. I cut out a plastic card back, then glued three of the sticks to it, using a combination of superglue and PVA. The next step is to use filler to build up a smoother cushioned shape, and then fit it onto the back of the kit seat.

Seat back

The fuel tank is in the spray booth (which is a plastic crate on its side on top of the fridge, for the time being). I shall do a grand reveal of the paint scheme it’s getting in the next build report.


The Ruins of Manchester City Centre

Manchester, August 2019

As yesterday was the first day for a week where it wasn’t pouring down, I grabbed the chance to head into the city centre and do some writing. Once I’d got a thousand or so words out, it was time to take the new camera, and have a walk through the back streets on the edge of the centre. There are still some run down buildings in the Northern Quarter, but also a number of more surprisingly unused ones nearer to Piccadilly. I also found an industrial age chimney, rising up out of a building halfway between a couple of the busier streets, that I swear I had never even noticed before.

Enjoy the gallery (you may have to click on the image to see it at Flickr). I have also added some of the images to the Ruins of Manchester collection in my Redbubble shop, so you can get prints, cards, and other items with them on.


FittedUK 2019

FittedUK 2019

I know, I know. What’s a Green Party member doing at a car show?

I like cars, particularly ones with a bit of individuality. If I ever get to the point where I can afford to run one, switching it to electric power will be part of the customisation. Until then, I’ll enjoy the looks and styling of other folks’ rides, and steal ideas for models for the Spinneyworld Shop.

Enjoy the Flickr album. You may have to click on the image to go to the site, depending upon how temperamental the embedding code is being today.

I just got a second hand digital SLR, so I was trying it out and experimenting with settings a bit. There was definitely a lot less noise than I got from the last camera I used in EventCity, but even with aperture priority set to its widest, and ISO at 800, exposure times were enough to introduce the occasional blur from shaking. I’ve not included the worst of those, of course. And cars with darker paint jobs are less well represented as well. The autofocus had issues differentiating them from dark backgrounds.


In development

From the blog on the Spinneyworld shop

The product development process here at Spinneyworld is, well, let’s call it organic. I create items I want to use in one of my projects. Even if that project is scheduled for some unspecified point in the future. As I find the points where my odd interests intersects with yours, no doubt my direction will change again.

This week’s deigns are spun off from a motorbike project I’m about to begin, if not immediately usable in it. For a while now, I’ve wanted to build a bosozoku style bike. I purchased the base kit last month- an Aoshima 1978 Honda Hawk II CB400T- so it’s time to start work on the accessories it needs.

Except, I’m easily distracted.

A bosozoku bike will usually sport a pair of chopper style ape handlebars. Whilst searching for reference to base my design on, I found a different pair of handlebars, and made them instead. The Clubman bars are suited to hardcore cafe racers and ton-up machines. Don’t let the picture fool you, they’re not risers. They’ve been rendered the wrong way up. The curve doesn’t lift the bars up, but is supposed to drop the bar ends down, so that they’re on a level with the bottom of the fuel tank, and the rider can get down into an aerodynamic position.

They’re available in plastic or aluminium. At the moment, I have to order them on demand from Shapeways, but I will endeavour to get some in stock for a quicker turn around, and possibly a lower price.

Another cool looking accessory that isn’t very boso, is the bar end mirrors I designed yesterday. They’re more modern sport bike than cafe racer or Japanese gang. I shall be ordering in a batch, and making them available here and at the ebay shop primarily.

bar end mirrors design

Next up is foot pegs, which are mostly inspired by chopper photos, but will be closer to the theme of the build that either of the previous two designs. I’ve been scribbling designs, and taking measurements, and shall be getting on them soon.


British Type 22 pillbox for 6mm wargames


Chosen Ones and new directions

Chosen Ones, part 1, page 1

The Short Version- This is page 1 of Chosen Ones, my new comic. The elevator pitch goes- “What happened to Harry Potter next?”* A bunch of former teen heroes and heroines, bored now they’ve fulfilled their prophesied destinies, set out to have more adventures.

Pages will go up on the Patreon as they’re finished, then will be published on The Duck webcomics later.

The Long Version- I’ve not been as productive as I’d like so far this year. It’s time for a rethink. I think I’ll get more done by putting aside the projects that aren’t working out, and try some new things.

I still want to work on Didn’t Bleed Red, but I need to leave it for a while, and build a better outline. Then I’ll be able to attack it properly.

On the comics front, Uninvited Guests is not getting finished any time soon, and I did too many pages that I wasn’t happy with. So I’m taking it down from the webcomic host, and starting again with Chosen Ones. I’m drawing it on smaller pages, and in shorter episodes. As said above, Pages will go up on Patreon first, then I’ll work out a schedule for wider publication. Right now, I have six more pages pencilled, and I’ll be attacking them in the next week or two.

Hopefully, I’ll have more new stuff for you soon.

*Yes, I know what happened next was shown in the epilogue (I’ve only ever seen the films), but the cliche of the elevator pitch is that you have to relate you project to an existing successful franchise.


1:350th Cigarette boat models


Hot Rod Peep Mirrors/Vintage Wing Mirrors


70s custom car interior accessories


1:24th scale hood scoops for custom cars


Kiddie seats and coffee cups- new 3D printed products for modellers

New 3D printed items have been added to my shop on Shapeways.

Child car seats, in various scales, for detailing models-

Various scales of coffee cups for dioramas and detailing.


Support your local indie author!

I don’t sell enough books to make a living, mostly because I’ve never been much good at self promotion. But, increasingly, also because I’m not a cheat, it seems.

You can help independent authors like me- real people, writing because it’s what they love to do- fight back. If you’ve read one of my books, and enjoyed it, please leave a review. They feed into Amazon’s* algorithms, pushing my books up lists and getting them in front of more potential customers. If you didn’t like the book, contact me directly, and I’ll take the criticisms on board and try to do better next time.

If you think it’s cool that one of your friends is an author, show that appreciation by buying one (or more) of their books. They cost less than that pint you were going to buy them the next time you’re in a pub together. Sales push books up the charts, another way to raise a book’s profile and get it seen by more potential customers.

I can’t ask that you stop buying the churned material barfed out by scammers. Part of the scam is that customers don’t know they’re being scammed until it’s too late.

*Other ebook sites exist. My books are available from most of them, as well.


Northern Gorehouse: Vampires and Zombies and Brexit

The ‘Brexit novel’ is a thing, but they tend to be literary works, which aren’t really my thing. I would like to make the case for Northern Gorehouse being not only a fun alternative, but also one of the first to be published

The novel was finished in April or May of 2017, but it didn’t feel right to release it so soon after the Arena bombing, given the violent ending of the story. So it came out for Halloween of that year.

The book was written as an action horror story. The ability to map the stupid politics of the last few years onto it is a bonus. Indeed, the B word is only mentioned once in the story, right at the beginning, to establish the run down state of the nation, and show how the vampires have come in to take advantage of it.

Vampires as a stand in for capitalists and the ruling elite is not a new metaphor, but as I’ve established it’s post Brexit, I’m going to call them the disaster capitalists who caused, and benefit from, all the pain. Being vampires, they, of course, take advantage of the homeless the country has abandoned. And have corrupt servants in the political system, covering up for them, and pushing policies that aid them. Again, not new tropes in vampire fiction, but ones that map perfectly well onto the Brexit theme.

Of course, the political allegory was never the main aim of the story, and it’s harder to map metaphor onto it once the action really starts. The zombies are created by the vampires but (spoiler) it’s an accident. In a true Brexit allegory, they would be a deliberate method for distracting people at street level and keeping them away from turning on the elite.

Similarly, the fact that vampires exist wouldn’t be such a shock in a more pointed Brexit take. Everyone would have at least an inkling they were there, but their bought politicians and the media would be demanding that people look the other way.

Since I wrote the book, I’ve discovered another character who wasn’t included- the Brave Warrior claiming to be from a long line of vampire hunters, who has actually betrayed the people they pretend to be protecting, for reasons that don’t make any sense. There’s no Lexit Van Helsing in Northern Gorehouse.

I think you should read my accidental Brexit novel. If nothing else, you can pretend the vampires are Farage, Gove, Johnson et al. (It won’t be any stretch at all with Rees Mogg.)


Lexit means…?

I’ve been arguing Brexit with a Lexiteer (or whatever they call themselves), and it drove me to write this little rant. I can’t understand how someone on the Left can be such a noisy cheerleader for this-

The referendum was called by a Right wing Prime Minister, to appease the Right wing of his party, lest they defect to an even more Right wing single issue party.

The Leave campaign was funded by dodgy businessmen who saw exit from the EU as a way to decimate workers’ rights and consumer protections so they could make more profits. It also offered the chance to escape proposed EU rules cracking down on tax avoidance.

Labour Leave was funded by the same people.

The Leave campaign traded in lies and anti-EU tropes established by decades of propaganda in the Right wing press.

Despite the billions in free publicity pre-loaded into the campaign by the papers’ propaganda, and all manner of cheating, Leave only managed to win by a narrow margin.

So a new Right wing PM, with an authoritarian streak and a history of attacking immigrants, took this narrow victory, and used it to justify major constitutional change. She drew the team to plan it from her Right wing party, and always bent to the demands of the same Right wing members her predecessor had been pandering to, no matter how impossible they were. Meanwhile, the Far Right, buoyed up by the victory a bit of bullying won them, threatened riots if they didn’t get their demands met in negotiations.

We’re now in a position where the Right wing PM is basing the decisions she’ll allow to be made on Brexit on the demands of the same narrow band of Right wingers her predecessor was afraid of. She’s going to do whatever she thinks will save her party from disintegration, rather than what will work out best for the country.

Yet, still, the Socialist Leaver will go out of their way to insult anyone who dares point out any of these facts, because they believe that, somehow, this Right wing project will lead to a Left wing utopia. Never mind the long term damage this will do to the communities they claim to stand with, or the huge steps backwards for all their other ideals. They’ll betray those to give a victory to the ‘neoliberal bosses club’ they claim to hate.

There are reasons I have no sympathy for Lexiters’ claims they have anyone else’s interests at heart, or even any coherent policies.


Didn’t Bleed Red

I’m trying something different for the serialisation of my current work in progress. Didn’t Bleed Red is being serialised at Tapas, a comics and prose platform for mobile and web readers. As usual, supporters on Patreon get to see episodes around a month before they’re generally available.

Here’s the prologue-

The ships appeared from nowhere, or so it seemed. The world’s governments had known there was something coming for a month, but no-one could tell them what it was. They were as surprised as everyone else by the shapes that arrived in orbit. Simple platonic solids from a distance, up close the scoring of heat dissipation trenches and hangar doors, and the dimpling of sensor arrays and weaponry became clear.

They hung over the planet for half a day, visible from the ground as they caught the sun. Then the smaller ships arrived, and the attack began.

Space Force lasted seconds, its satellites swatted away before the order had been given to release their nuclear payloads. Conventional forces fared better. In the air, fighter pilots became aces as they met the first wave of the attack. But the alien ships kept on coming, and were joined by larger, tougher vessels. Despite mounting losses, the air forces of Earth kept on downing invaders, but could not hold the mass of them back.

On the ground, as the landing craft disgorged all manner of armed creatures, infantry and armoured divisions fought as bravely as their comrades in the air. The aliens had more powerful weapons, and were heavily armoured. But they weren’t invulnerable. If they could be made to bleed, then there would be a way to kill them. Many did die, but they took at least as many human soldiers with them, and were soon replaced.

Earth was losing the war of attrition. Prime Ministers, Presidents and dictators around the world considered launching nuclear weapons at the key landing spots. It seemed their only means of rebalancing the battle on the ground. Hopefully it would be a harsh enough blow that their remaining forces could repulse the attack.

The decision was made. A timetable was hurriedly agreed, and fingers hovered over the launch buttons.

Just then, the invasion fleet started to drop from the sky. The gigantic ships in orbit went dark. The spherical one had a bite taken out of it by a huge explosion. On the ground, the menagerie of troops fell into disarray. Many collapsed, or froze in place, trapped inside the armour that had protected them moments before. Some threw down their weapons and cowered in surrender. Others turned their guns and blades on creatures which had, moments before, been their comrades. A number fought on, but their depleted and confused ranks were soon bested. A large number fled, and a significant number of them have yet to be tracked down.

A disc shaped ship, smallest of the first arrivals, dropped from orbit and tumbled into the Western Pacific. Belly flopping into the ocean, it drove a minor tsunami toward the Chinese coastline. It floats in international waters, a new island of exotic alloys and unknown technologies, circled by ships from all the world’s navies, awaiting investigation.

No-one in power knows why the invasion came to such an abrupt end, though many want to take credit for it. Supercomputers and intelligence analysts are working hard to crack even the slightest bit of the spike in communications amongst the aliens that presaged the collapse. It must have some bearing upon what happened, but they can’t yet tell what. Everyone awaits the rebooting of the orbiting platonics, a second wave of fighters and troop carriers, or some other terror that they cannot imagine. Something must be set to happen.

Until it does, the clean up must go on. Rubble is being cleared, plans are being made for cities to be rebuilt. Refugees are being found shelter, and provided with food and water. Elsewhere, dead aliens are being dissected, and live ones are being examined. Their languages are being learnt, where possible, and they are being questioned. Their craft and weapons are being gathered up and dismantled. Reverse engineered and reworked, some of their equipment will be used against them, should they try again.

As yet, the question of where the fleet came from has not been answered. The reason for the invasion is unknown, the wide array of differing morphologies and biologies of their army unexplained. But humanity defeated them once, surely it can resolve all of these questions in time.

Meanwhile, a tiny group knows some of the secrets of the invaders. They, with help, were the ones who halted the invasion and saved the planet. But they dare not reveal themselves, because they also know that the aliens arrived years before, and have implanted their agents, and cultivated traitors, at the highest levels of Earth’s governments.

They must lay low until they can be sure they and the world are truly safe, avoiding the alien and human forces hunting them down. And they have to help a friend who is no longer completely human, and is fearful of losing her identity, but who could hold the key to the ultimate safety of the planet.

This is their story.


A Death In Didsbury

A Death In Didsbury is available from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online stores.

When a woman is shot dead on a quiet street of trendy shops, Detective Sergeant Kay Wood is reunited with an old acquaintance, and has to work with retired intelligence analyst Irwin Baker to help them out.

Unexpected violence flares on the streets of the Manchester suburb of Didsbury, and the investigation is soon tangled up in links to Russia and crimes dating back to the Second World War. As the intelligence services are drawn into the mystery, two witnesses find their lives turned up side down, and threatened, by their connection to the victim.


Because Roadkill

There’s a new series of Top Gear coming soon. It’s the programme that will never die, if only because of all the money that must be rolling in from its syndication abroad and all the international offshoots.

And, if I’m honest, I’ll probably make the mistake of watching an episode or two. But there are a bunch of far better shows about cars out there.

I’m an odd eco-worrier, in that I love cars. The designs, the mechanics, the cultures that have built up around them or use them as a form of expression. The sorts of things that Top Gear, mostly, ignores.

The Speedhunters website- set up as a promotional companion to the Need For Speed franchise- covers a wide range of car cultures through blog posts and photo galleries. For the other stuff, I’ve found a few cool online video channels.

Motortrend is a channel that grew out of YouTube videos. It is home to dozens of syndicated shows from other sources- all car related, of course- but it’s the originals that are the real draw.

Roadkill is the original. Friends Mike Finnegan and David Freiburger travel the USA, trying to get old cars up and running again, quite often rescuing them from scrapyards or having to cut them out of shrubbery. Then they attempt to drive the bangers to an arranged meet up or event. Of course, they don’t always get there.

I know this sounds like so many of Top Gear’s challenges, but there’s a big difference. Finnegan and Freiburger are competent mechanics (and bodgers, when necessary), and they genuinely want to succeed, rather than simply build up to a scripted failure. And they’re not farting around in supercars with their tame racing driver in tow. Their failures are fun and funny, and their successes all the more impressive.

Roadkill gave rise to a bunch of other programmes. Dirt Every Day can be thought of as Roadkill off-road, with excitable puppy Fred Williamson rescuing or hacking up four wheel drives to take rock crawling, trail driving or mud plugging. Roadkill Garage sees Frieburger teaming up with scarecrow genius Steve Dulcich for budget engine swaps, performance upgrades and crazy conversions. Hotrod Garage is a tidier version of Roadkill Garage, with cuddly duo Tony Angelo and Lucky Costa delivering everyman performance. There’s now a two wheeled take on the Roadkill formula- Throttle Out- which is only three episodes in so far, but shows promise.

Subscription to the channel is only £5.99 a month, and its worth it for the originals alone. But if you’re in the US, or use VPN, there’s all the syndicated stuff, and lots of motorsport, as well. Highly recommended.

YouTube is a good place to go for interesting hobbyist motoring content. The Motortrend family started there, before striking out on its own, and it is home to some others. Mighty Car Mods is my current favourite. Presented by Aussie mates Marty and Moog, it follows their adventures and misadventures in souping up cars. They’re big fans of Japanese motors, regularly taking trips to the land of the rising sun to pick up ‘nuggets’ or sample the delights of drifting and other car subcultures. They’re passionate and enthusiastic, but don’t take themselves too seriously, and episodes have fine soundtracks courtesy of Moog.

Much more British, right down to the obligatory cups of tea, packs of digestives, and oily overalls, is Project Binky. The project is a long term production, as Bad Obsession Motorsports (two guys in a garage) shoehorn a four wheel drive system into an original Mini. Episodes are sporadic, turning up when enough progress has been made to merit an update. This is an involved build, as you might guess, but it’s delightful to watch sheets of two mil aluminium bent, cut and welded into all sorts of components. The bit where we get to see the car up and running is still a way off, but it should be worth it.

So, I’ll probably fold, and watch some of the new Top Gear, but I’ll go back to the internet if I want to get some interesting car TV.