Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Production Update

Here's an update on our progress delivering pre-orders. The bottom line is that both Stately Caverns and Space Command should be shipped within the the next two weeks.

Stately Caverns is going very well. The walls are almost all done, that's installing 28 snaps in three walls (15 times) and building the sliding door walls for the library and the support wall for the batpole entrance. The sliding door is the most labor intensive. It involves cutting the plastic track, drilling holes in the exact right location using a template, and then hand cutting the wall parts away from the display box so they can be riveted onto the track. It's a time consuming operation, but it was great to finally get a rhythm going and crank out a bunch of these walls.

The biggest remaining job is to finish the batpole boxes but I just got my new 1/2 inch hole punch so that is underway. I need to assemble the consoles and the batsignal window, and then get everything boxed up for shipping. The whole playset weighs about 19 pounds and it will be packed well.
The Space Command Center is also well underway. The walls are 75% done and are moving smoothly. This thing has been a headache for sure. In pushing so hard to make the outside art interchangeable I really made a lot of extra work for myself. The issue is the snap-on consoles. In order for the art to be removable the snaps in the walls cannot go all the way through the layers of vinyl. These means the holes must be punched carefully by inserting a backing piece under the vinyl so the punch doesn't pierce the outside vinyl. Then the snaps have to be carefully slid into the pocket and hammered closed. It's a delicate operation and I kind of wish I could have just punched the holes all the way through and set the snaps and that would be that. So we'll have to make sure there is cool artwork to change in and out of these sets in order to make it worth the effort!

The sliding door on this is the same crazy operation with the tracks and the rivets and the cursing and grumbling. But it's worth it, they look really cool. Of course, the big issue with these is that the factory put the door on the wrong side and if you are a stickler for accuracy that's a big no-no. A few customers want it corrected and that is doable, it just means the walls won't be factory sealed anymore since I have to cut open the vinyl to remove the art and put it on the other side. I've done one though and it looks pretty good and didn't take that much extra time. Still, cutting that wall open was kind of sad.

The navigation console is now the major project and it's a real labor of love. When I made my original prototype the base of this console was a real funky affair. I wasn't actually sure how I would pull it off in reality.

It's made from scraps that come from making the tri-boxes. Follow me here. The tri-boxes are made from the tower tool modified to have 6 sections rather than two. The tower has three 1.5 inch tabs on each side to secure it to a stacked display. These have to be removed to make a tri-box so I have all of these really nice black vinyl rectangles I can use. They become the main face of the base of the helm.

The sides are then made from the scraps that result from making the triangle roof/floors for the triboxes. The triangles are made from a modification of the basic displaybox floor and there's this great angled scrap piece that gets cut off...the angle just so happens to work nicely as the base of the helm. How I stitch this all together is another story, but the result looks really good in my opinion. Obviously, Mego did theirs in plastic and if this was mass produced that would be the way to go. But I love the shiny vinyl consoles and this helm really finishes the piece off nicely.

My preorder customers are getting a heck of a deal on these Space Command sets. They are taking forever to make but they have a lot of time and love put into them. I'd charge a lot more for them if I could! Ha-ha.

So I think these will be shipping in about 2 weeks, I may ship them in batches as I get the helms finished. Keep an eye on your inbox, I will email you when it leave dry dock.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Space Command Production Update

Consoles, consoles, consoles! I put a big batch of these together this week. It involves first inserting the snaps that will hold it to the wall, then folding the console together and closing it with rivets. Took me a while to figure out the easiest way to do it, but once I found vise grip pliers it was easy. Spent an evening watching TV and putting a big box of these together.

Wait 'til you see the navigation console! Oh my!

What's left to do on these. Snaps are in half of the walls. They are tricky because if the outside artwork is removable then the snaps for the consoles have to sit UNDER the clear vinyl, so it's not just a metter of punching a hole and driving a snap. Then the sliding pocket door. I spent time making a template for cutting and drilling the track. I think I can bang them out. Wish me luck.

Bonus Image: Check out how great the Diamond Direct Captain's chair looks in the new Space Command Set!

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Stately Caverns Production Update:

I've been multi-tasking in the past week, working on both the Stately Caverns and Space Command Displaysets. Although it was a setback that my assembly help did not work out, it's been great to get my hands back on these and start putting them together.

On Stately Caverns I concentrated mainly on the Batpole Quick Change box.

The design of this is directly related to the now postponed Phone Booth slipcase. Throughout this project I've tried to design thing that can be used in a variety of ways in order to get the maximum return on tooling and production costs. This has been a mixed bag. I had the notion that the phone booth slipcase could be re-purposed by adding a diagonal sealbar across the top square and then riveting two units together to form this hidden chamber.

My first manufacturer encouraged this kind of creative reuse but they couldn't actually deliver it. The second could do it, but each clever little alteration like this costs more than it's worth and oh, do they cause delays and confusion...at one point I think I had 5 variations on this one tool. Insane, but that's part of the learning curve.

Anyway, that's why the box looks the way it does. It could be designed any number of ways--it could be square, or made from a canister, but, a triangle is a simplest way to get a stable shape--like a three-legged stool.

The batpole boxes are now handmade from heavy black chipboard, which means a lot of labor with a utility knife and a heavy hole punch for the pole holes. It took a lot of planning to make sure it lines up properly. The hardest part is making 12 of them!

But it's worth it to me, because this has been a Mego gimmick I've long wanted to see. I loved the Batpole in their Batcave, but it was a pole from nowhere. And while the Wayne Foundation looks cool, the elevator is kind of disappointing. I always wanted to be able to slide a figure from the top of the Foundation into the Batcave and have them change costume in the process.

This was one of my early 3D drawings trying to figure out the design. Having the batpole chamber in a rectangle facing out made sense, but that's a lot to build. 4 walls plus the elevator shaft. The design I have now has 3 walls and the triangular elevator shaft only has two. It may seem a little funky, but the Tower really makes a lot of sense.

Anyway, that's the update on the Batpole Quick Change gimmick. I had about half of them done before my hole punch gave out. Back to the hardware store!

Meanwhile, my friend Sean has been helping by inserting artwork and installing snaps in the main walls, so we are in good shape! Still left to do are the sliding Library shelf door and assembling the towers themselves. More later.

Bonus brainstorm! Are you a big fan of the Wayne Foundation but don't want to spend $500? Prefer a vinyl playset? Check out the possibilities when you put Mego Wayne Foundation art in a Dida Display Stack...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Post of Firsts 2: First Anniversary

A short history of Dida Displays.

April 2007: I launch the website and blog on my late grandfather Dida's birthday. I'm accepting preorders for the Space Command, Stately Caverns, and Mego Museum Displaysets. Yay!

May 2007: My manufacturer in the midwest decides they can't deliver the job. Preorders are refunded and I start looking for a new supplier. Argh!

July 2007: I find a company in LA that can do the job no problem. Very experienced, quality work.I have the tooling shipped from Wisconsin to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, some of the tools are damaged in shipping and will have to be rebuilt. Argh!

September 2007: It's turned out to take a long time to get things done. Phone calls don't get returned, it's hard to get answers. My project is small and not a priority. It doesn't help that I've made this fairly complicated and there's some confusion. But finally the order is placed for Displayboxes in 3 different configurations, consoles, and towers. Art for Space and Caverns has been shipped down for sealing. I've made the order smaller than originally planned because I'm not sure what the prospects will be for this and the cost turns out to be almost the same.

October 2007: I start taking preorders again. Response to the Space Command, Stately Caverns and Mego Museum Displays are still good. I'm feeling confident. Yay!

November 2007: Now I'm worried. It doesn't seem like we are close to delivering and I can't figure out why. They are working on it.... But one thing that IS delivering is my first born son, and soon! Can the displays be delivered , assembled and shipped before he comes? Argh!

November 26 2007: Jonah Edward is born. Yay! But the Displays are not ready and I tell them to get them to me in January when I will be freer to deal with them.

January 31st 2008: Everything is delivered to my storage unit in Oakland. The wait was worth it. The parts are so much better than what Wisconsin made it's ridiculous. They had cut the chipboard to small, so the panels weren't tight and the diplays started to sag and warp after awhile. These are gorgeous. Yay!

Mid-February 2008: Life with baby and a day job is about all I can handle. I advertise for someone top do the assembly of the displaysets for me. Art has be inserted on the outside walls, then hundreds of snaps put in. Consoles have to be riveted together and that's tricky. The sliding doors have to be made and they are more complicated than they look--cut and drill the track, attach to the walls in a special way. I find a smart friendly guy with a shop in his garage who seems very qualified to do the job. He's a Star Trek geek so he speaks our language. It's in good hands, I think we can ship these in March. Yay!

In the meantime the printing outfit I had been using can't deliver affordably anymore and I'm scrambling to find a new source. I need hundreds of color prints. Argh!

Mid-March: There's been some snags as can be expected trying to start a new person on a complicated project. I find it hard to explain things fully and a few things get done wrong and have to be fixed. Then my helper gets the flu for 10 days. Of course. I'm set to go on vacation for a week in Hawaii and I don't want to be sitting on the beach worrying about these displays. "No problem," he says, "We'll get em done, I've got my system down."

Meantime, my friend Anthony (The Toyroom) offers to help me with my printing troubles. Plus, he's doing some designs to use in Dida Displays! Yay!

March 26 2008: It's clear it's not getting done before vacation. Okay, fine. Have them ready by the time I get back and we're good. The night before I leave he calls me and tells me his knife slipped while cutting board to make Batpole boxes and he cut himself pretty bad. He won't be able to do much for a couple of weeks but he's going to hire a local kid to help him. Have a nice trip. Argh!

April 5th, 2008: After a nice vacation with the wife and baby (10 days with them! What a treat! Yay!) I'm back and ready to get this DONE.

Well, it turns out he lost the lease on his shop and has to move out. I'm not surprised anymore. No Argh! , just load up the truck and move on.....

So I'm back to square one. After almost 2 months he's got snaps in exactly half of the Space Commands. Even with a crying baby and a day job I'm certain I could have done 4 times as much myself. Without question.

And that's what I want to do. I'll get a friend to help me here and there, break it up into manageable chunks and get these things done. I'm dying to fill the orders for my very patient and supportive customers and then get on to designing new playsets. Follow my progress here on the blog as I try to finally fullfill these orders and stay tuned for some really cool new stuff!


More Firsts: First Displaysets Shipping

Well, there it is. After a year of waiting and working I have a cart full of Mego Museum WGSH Special Edition Displaysets ready to take to UPS. It was a pleasure to be doing the job myself again and spending a few hours packing panels into plastic and boxing them up.

Of course, that was the easy part. Now to finish the Stately Caverns and pre-orders...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Posts of Firsts: First Prototypes

October 2006: I don't know how long I've been thinking about making Mego style vinyl playsets. Ever since I started recollecting Megos as an adult, I guess. After I made the Mego Museum logo in Photoshop
it had been on my mind to make it for real (that's a whole other story). As the obsession grew I finally took the first step and sealed this scrap of a Jet Jungle Trading Card between two pieces of vinyl (using our now ruined household iron) and drove a brass rivet through it. It may look a little stupid to you, but to me it was the essence of what I wanted to create: Mego playsets...artwork sealed in vinyl...held together with rivets. This little object was SO SATISFYING. that I carried it in my pocket all the time for inspiration. It launched me off on an odyssey I could never have predicted. Perhaps I should have stopped while I was ahead.

But one thing inevitably leads to another.

More ambitious now, I sealed larger pieces of illustration board in vinyl to try to make boxes. A nasty business, I was melting the edges together with our iron, using a metal ruler to try to keep the line straight, working outdoors and breathing through a ventilator to try to save what few brain cells I have left. Again, the results may not impress you, but here was a structure with sealed hinges. This meant I could do more....

The next idea was to produce a vinyl/chipboard backdrop that you could simply insert artwork into much like a clear-view 3 ring binder. The first designs were nothing more than a folding panel, like a game board. Simple and cheap, but underwhelming.

I wanted something with separate panels that riveted together in an interesting way and I wanted something that would act as a display STAGE as well as a playset. So I settled on a wedge shape that would make a box but also face the side walls out to the viewer like a stage in a play. Again with the iron in the backyard I made my first displaybox. I wanted to be able to take it apart, so I moved away from rivets and towards snaps. The first snaps were the large ones you can find in any hardware store, huge and bulky, but inspiring.

I had recently finished the Mego Museum Star Trek card set so I had backdrop artwork immediately available. I hadn't set out to design a Bridge playset, but that's what this was turning into. If you took two of these and put them together....hmmm....

More on that another time.