Building your own 1:1 Terminator? Easy!
By: Shawn Morgan
Info: From article in Sci Fi Fantasy Models magazine #54
This information has been taken from an article in Sci Fi Fantasy Models magazine #54. Shawn's Endoskeleton is well known amongst the Endo builders community, but none has heared from him since the publication of this article. Sure, its from many years back and he might be up to other things, but his endoskeleton and working method is still amongst the favorites around the community. To give applause to his ahead of its time modelling, we've reproduced the article and images on our site and hope he finds the time to contact us and other fans to talk about his old project some more.
Like most science fiction fans I love robots... and in my opinion perhaps the greatest sci-fi robot ever built is the Terminator Endoskeleton. I wanted to own an Endo from the first moment I saw one and, since Stan Winston wasn't likely to just give me one, that meant I'd have to build my own ...so I did.
While the idea had been with me for a while, it wasn't until 1995 that the project got off the ground when I obtained a 1:1 scale resin kit of the skull. While not cast from an original mold, it was beautifully sculpted and required only a few minor modifications. I would lower the brows, giving it a more menacing look, and add more detail into the cranial cavaties. Eventually a light kit would be installed into the eyes.
The Planning Stage
The first step in building the rest of the body was the gathering of as much information as possible. I owned every book available at the time and these proved helpful, by my best resource was the 'Horizon Terminator vinyl kit'. While not detailed enough for my full scale version, its three-dimensionality gave me everything I needed to get started.
I began by projecting both front and profile views of Arnold from his 'Encyclopedia of Body Building' book onto large, taped together sheets of paper and drawing just the outlines. I made the figure six feet two inches tall, though I could have gone a little larger, making the finished Endo even more imposing. Then using the model as a guide, I drew the parts to fit inside and match up all the corresponding joints. Naturally, this was the easiest part of the whole project.
Knowing this would be a time consuming effort, I planned for five months to save up enough money to take six weeks off during the summer to work on the project. As you might have guessed, that time scale proved to be slightly optimistic. I flew back home and, staying at the house of a best friend who let me use his woodshop, I went to work.
The upper body
The best part about having such a long time to wait before actually building anything was that it allowed me to plan out a strategy as to how to make all the parts and in what order. I had decided to start with the shoulder cylinder. I began by gluing together large pieces of basswood, a light but strong wood suitable for lathe work. Once this piece was turned, I cut out a tapered section from the middle and reattached the ends. This gave the cylinder a slight bend in the center, angling the ends forward, duplicating the same trait found in human anatomy. I then built a stand for it to rest on and attached that to an appropriately shaped base of plywood that the ribcage would sit on. Certain design liberties had to be taken here as no solid information was available to exactly duplictat this interior section.
The ribcage was built in sections using a bandsaw with its table turned on an angle to cut out rounded sections of basswood. These wedges were glued together and sanded smooth, with the sternum piece added last. Much easier to make were the shoulder blades, spine, neck, waist and various pistons rising up and out of the chest.
I had decided early on that I had wanted as much articulation as possible so, when attaching the head, I installed a thick dowel inside the skull from ear to ear with a movable collar positioned in the center. This collar had another dowel fixed to it, which extended down and into a hole drilled into the top of the neck. This gave both up and down and left to right turning capability. The neck pistons were dowels inserted into plastic pipes with metal ball bearings glued to the ends. These were held to the shoulder and skull sockets with magnets so that they would turn with the head.
The arms and hands
The most work went into the arms. The shoulders had three points of movement. They could swing up and down, back and forth, and -with a disc joint built into the upper arms- in and out. The arm frames were made out of maple for extra strength. The bicep and tricep cylinders had dowels running into them from each end independent of each other and cut at a certain length to maximize the degree of movement. The ends of these dowels were attached to a shorter dowel and made a 'T'-shaped hinge that was, in turn, set into slots at the elbow and upper arm. When the arm bends at the elbow, a piston-type action occurs, moving one dowel into the bicep while he one on the tricep retracts (Whew, that was actually harder to explain than it was to build!). The forearms were also build tiwht a disc joint that allowed them to roll back and forth. Knowing the real challenge was next, I made the wrists in a fixed posisiton.
Now came the hands. The two Terminator hands took almost five days to complete. With fourteen moveable joints and over two hundred and fourty parts in each one, they were the most complex and satisfying parts to make. 'L'-shaped knuckles were made out of maple and drilled for hinge pins. Dowels of various lengths were epoxied to these knuckles and, once each finger was assembled, were set into an oval-shaped wrist disc, duplicating the slightly rounded-over look real hands have. These discs were eventually just glued to a similarly shaped piece at the end of the forarms. I have to mention here that anyone who ever handled the hands prior to final assembly would invariably pose them into giving the finger.
The one piece I thought would give the biggest trouble was the pelvic section. I really had no idea if it was going to be possible to make it out of woord and just sort of made it up as I went along. In the end about thirteen pieces of basewood, poplar and maple were used, with styrene plastic added on to assist detailing. Another disc joing was added on top to allow it to turn.
The legs were made out of birch and maple, with more dowels and PVC tubing. They were attached to the pelvis with a wooden ball and socket joint. The knees bent, and my biggest error on the whole thing was not installing a disc joint between the knee and upper shin. This would have allowed outward rotation of the shin and foot. As is, the only poseable parts below the knees are a series of joints on the toes of each foot.
It had actually taken two more weeks than planne to complete this stage. I returned to my prior life, feeling as though I now needed a vacation from my vacation. I had decided to take a break before starting the final phase -detailing and painting- as I knew I would have to get more information on all the fine details I could not discern from my original references. What I didn't know was that this 'break' would last three and and a half years!
Down, but not out
In the time it took for me to finally get the needed information to finish the Endo, I began to examine it more closely, and didn't like what I saw. I had completed over twenty such similar (though smaller projects) since I started it, and had improved a lot in regards to my capabilities. I started to second guess my original decisions and technique, and almost gave up on the damn thing. It wasn't until a trip to a local con that I came across what I should have had since the beginning, a life-sized photo standee of an actual Terminator. At last all the intricate details were revealed in glorious full scale! I think I actually felt a ray of light shine down on me from above and heard what must have been angels singing Hallelujah! in the background. I then felt like a total clown when I found out these had been available for years from a mail order company! At any rate, I was able to purchase one and the final phase was now underway.
The home stretch
The first thing I had to do was compare the standee to mine and see how closely they matched up. By this time I had built a work station to support the Endo while I worked on it. Checking back and forth, I was surprised to see how close I was able to come. It wasn't a perfect match, of course, but it was pretty close. I had made my waist about an inch too long, although the pelvis was still in the right place and should have been a little wider. I could live with these errors - but one I couldn't. I had made almost all my pistons too thin, including the biceps and triceps. This was fixerd by separating each piston and sliding new, thicker plastic tubing over it. If you look at the in-progress pictures and compare them to the finished shots you'll see the difference. Extra detailing was applied using styrene plastic and metal washers.
After much sanding and priming the endo was ready to paint. I knew I couldn't afford to chrome each piece and decided on using Testor's German Metallic Silver. Painting is not my strong point and I've always known that, whole a great paintjob can save an average project, a bad one can destroy a great one. For this reason I went slow and took my time, applying coat after coat until it looked just right. Various blacks and metallic greys were applied by brush into the cracks and crevices, while thin strips of black electrician's tape were pressed into cut grooves then glued down. A high gloss coat of lacquer was sprayed on and eventually a weathered, scuffed up and oil-streaked paint job was applied over it to give the appropriate battle-worn look.
I built a wooden base painted silver and black and attached a phalange with a metal pipe screwed into it. The pipe ran up and then into a hole drilled into the small of the the back, giving it full support. The finished piece weighed in at only thirty five pounds and is now on display at Sci Fi World in Orlando, Florida.
But what have you learned, Dorothy?
All in all, I spent nearly thirteen weeks on the Endo Skeleton and consider it time very well spent. Overall, I am mostly pleased with the end result, especially considering I almost trashed it. At the completion of any project I always feel, looking back, that I should have done almost everything better. I've come to take this disappointment in my stride by realizing that, I can take what I've learned and apply that to the next project. Naturally, as my skills improve so do my expectations, and I find that raising that bar higher is the best way to ensure that I continue to grow, both as a craftsman and, more importantly, a person.
Currently I am working on finishing a full scale IG-88 from The Empire Strikes Back, and after that have plans to make an Episode One C-THRU-PO. At some point much later I may be tackling a full scale ABC Robot from Judge Dredd.
If you have any comments on the Endo, either possitive or negative, please feel free to write me at: Morganthirteen@aol.com
Check out some images from this FanProject.
Left click to open gallery interface and/or right click to save.