Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Building Mister Mug, Part 1: The Creeping Eye!

In last week's blog, I (perhaps foolishly) said I'd build an animated Mug, the enchanted houseplant from my Paths of Shadow series. Mug sports 29 eyes, each independently mobile and affixed to a moving stalk.

That's what I get for drinking shoe polish. Building a full-scale, completely functional Harrier jump-jet in my garage might actually be easier. But a project is a project, so I set about tackling the moving stalks that support each of Mug's eyes.

At first glance, the basic mobile eye-stalk doesn't seem all that difficult to build. I took a length of flexible plastic tubing (fuel line, I believe, available from any hardware store for about 30 cents a foot). That formed my flexible spine.

Here's a photo of the parts before assembly:

To move the spine, I needed something analogous to muscles. 30-pound monofilament line seemed to be a good fit for that. I added vertebrae to the spine by drilling four holes, equally spaced abut the outer perimeter, to ten hard nylon washers with a central hole that just happened to fit over my flexible-tubing spine.

A series of spacers cut from a slightly larger diameter fuel line kept the nylon washer vertebra apart.

Next, I wove the monofilament line through the holes in the nylon washers and tied off each at the 'eye' end.

It became obvious at this point that the thing wasn't going to work. When I pulled on any of the lines, the washers managed to rotate on the tubing so that whatever line I was pulling became the bottom. I had to fix each washer in place on the spine, preventing any rotation, so I drilled through each washer with a 1/16 inch bit and fixed it in place with a pin made out of straight steel wire.

That solved the rotation issue, and I could see that the 'stalk' responded well to being manipulated using the four control cables.

Next I added the eye -- a ping-pong ball hastily decorated with pupil and iris. That done, I mounted the whole works to a sturdy base, and tied each free end of the control cables to an improvised puppeteer's cross.

Well, Frank, did it work?

See for yourself. I posted a short video of the eye in operation, along with a few comments.

With all that in mind, what does the future hold for the Mug model?

Changes, obviously. I'm not giving up, just changing course a bit. Note to Self: Limit the number of organs and appendages of future characters to single digits, please. Or lay off the shoe polish, sheesh, you don't see Muppets with more than two eyes, do you? No? Think there might be a reason for that, chief?

Other News

Work continues on the new Mug and Meralda book, Every Wind of Change. I will drop this single hint -- Mug has his own weekly newspaper column in the Tirlin Times. His column is entitled 'Mr. Mug's Musings,' and I include them between chapters, much as I did the excerpts from his private journal in All the Turns of Light. They've been lots of fun to write.

I'm not forgetting Markhat and Darla, either! Speaking of which, they'd appreciate a quick review on Amazon, if you read the latest book and enjoyed it. A helpful link is below.

The Darker Carnival at Amazon! <Doffs battered newsboy hat and shuffles nervously> Just a quick review, eh, Guv? Nothing to fancy, a few stars, a kind word 'er two, thankee very much Guv!

And with that bit of shameless begging, I drop the mic, grab my eye-stalk, and exit stage left...