Monday, November 07, 2011

Nov 5 - Saturdays Make Sense

Saturday is the perfect day of the week - safely tucked between the work week just ended and the next one just ahead. While Friday is all about reaching the shore and Sunday is spent dreading the on-coming storm, Saturday is a safe harbour where one can remain warm and dry for the moment.

I make the most of my Saturdays. A morning that started with errands gave way to an early afternoon respite with coffee, friends, and conversation. This was all just prelude to an afternoon spent on nudging the GameCube Portable project just a little closer to 'done'.

The electronic guts complete, recent weeks have been focused on the case design (for which we've had many false starts and deadends). But now the case is all-but-complete. The pieces have been glued together and holes have been cut drilled - after which there were alternating phases of Bondo and sanding. Three coats of black paint have been applied to, in part, hide any imperfections in our bodywork.

Before the case can be clear-coated for a protective shine, there is one last detail to tackle: labels. There are signs and letters that need to be added to the case to denote which sockets will accept headphones and power cords. The 'Z' button needs to be set apart from the 'brightness' and 'volume' controls. But how to do this?

A first step was to create the various symbols and labels so that they could be printed out somehow. My son, JediBoy selected the font (Amiga!) and determined the sizing. With a little help from the Internet, Photoshop, and Gimp, we created the needed symbols and logo. Now that we had the right content, the next step would be figuring out how to add them to the outside of the case.

Our idea was to (InkJet) print everything onto thin plastic sheets. Everything would be carefully cut out and affixed to the case. It would be held into place with a few coats of clear acrylic sealer. In principle, it should have worked. But in practise, it did not. The fundamental issue stemed from the choice of a black case. We just could not print anything bright enough on plastic that show up well against the black paint. Yellow, the lightest colour possible (one cannot print 'white' on an Inkjet), was simply too washed out when printed on plastic.

Instead, we would need to print our labels onto something with white backing to get enough contrast against the black case. This is where we entered the wonderful world of water-slide decals. Anyone who has ever built a plastic model kit will know all about these kinds of decals. You cut them out, soak them in water, and then slide the thin film images onto the model where they dry into place.

After a lot of time spent in Internet forums for model-makers, we learned that we could make your own custom decals! At a local hobby shop we were able to purchase blank decal paper suitable for running through an Inkjet printer. We opted to use 'white backed' decal paper to get the right contrast. After some trial and error (and some label re-design), it all worked. Add a could sprays of clearcoat, and the results look pretty good!

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday, eh?


David said...

Nope, don't like it. Too much learning.

Well done.

Crazylegs said...

Too much learning, indeed. Tonight we spent an hour positioning the optical drive just so - all in the name of drilling 4 freaking holes to allow the drive to be bolted to the case. I figured this would take 10 minutes. Wrong! Every damn step has been like this.