In October of 2013, we found out we were going to have another kid! Any sane person would be instantly concerned about all of the logistics that come into play after learning this life-altering news. Me? I was trying to figure out what nursery theme I was going to choose. After creating my Legend of Zelda and Yoshi’s Island nurseries, I knew I had to up the ante just a bit. A Paper Mario room was out, as another guy just made a fantastic one a few months prior. After searching online a while, there didn’t seem to be any big attempts at a Mario Kart nursery out there, and with the newest version coming out, Mario Kart 8, it sparked my interest.
In many of Nintendo’s initial gameplay videos, they showed off a map featuring Princess Peach’s iconic castle and a Möbius strip as a track. I figured that would be a perfect scene to see when you first walk into the room. After a series of “wouldn’t it be cool if…” propositions in my mind.. I had a crazy idea. I got to work in my sketchbook and in Photoshop, drawing up a mockup of what I wanted to do. Putting the idea on paper is one thing, running it by the boss (pregnant wife) is quite another. I showed her the idea I had for the murals themselves. Each wall would have some beloved Mario Kart characters, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser and Peach, on various vehicles riding down tracks found in the game. She quickly realized that the namesake of the game was not among them. I then showed her the crazy part of the plan, to suspend large physical models of both Mario and his kart, inverted from the ceiling as if he is coming out of the painting Wiley Coyote style! To my shock, she didn’t immediately say no! 🙂
Fast forward a few months to the end of June and a very large portion of mural painting is done. This ended up being just in time as my son, Grant, was born! Now the pressure was on to knock this nursery out! Just two weeks after Grant arrived, with my wife’s blessing of course, I zipped up to NYC with my pal, Cole (who I did the Zelda Nursery for). While in the Big Apple, I somehow arranged a meetup with one of my favorite makers, Jimmy DiResta! He was gracious enough to grant us a tour of his legendary subterranean workshop and even hung out with us for a few hours. I shared my plans for my suspended Mario & Kart models and asked for some fabrication advice/pointers. Jimmy told me about a technique used in his Stormtrooper helmet build which involved sculpting the rough shape from layered blue DOW insulation foam and coating it with a modeling compound called Magic Sculpt. This putty like substance, when cured, provides a rigid ceramic like shell around the foam which then can be sanded and painted. After all of Jimmy’s sage advice, I left this visit fully jazzed up and more determined than ever to see this project to it’s end.
Little did I know that it would be almost another years worth of work to finally get to that end. The majority of this time was me hunkered down in my basement workshop between the hours of 10 pm and 1am. It didn’t help that NC endured an unseasonably frigid winter and our basement had no heat. I did not account for the colder conditions slowing the cure time of my main building material, Apoxie Sculpt. Fast forward thru many months of slicing, gluing and sanding I was ready to make the tires. After several attempts at hand carving the tire tread using a dremel engraving bit, I knew I needed to get more precise. Enter the CNC machine. A friend of mine had just finished building a GIANT CNC in his workshop a few months prior and was graciously willing to cut the tires for me. It just so happens he played Bowser in the YouTube series, Mario Warfare! I could not resist the perfect irony of the King of the Koopas helping to build Mario’s Kart! When it came time to paint the Kart, after about three attempts, it became apparent that masking out the white for the M on the hood was just not going to cut it. I found a company that specialized in video game themed vinyl decals on Instagram of places! The proprietor of Spinnywoosh Graphics, Scotty, was a huge help. He offered to even cut the M for free, since it was such a simple design! He then asked me if there were any other decals I needed for my project. After thinking on it for a few days, I whipped up some Adobe Illustrator designs based on various racing cups found in the game. $40 later he shipped out them to me and they turned out great!
Mario’s head & hat were created using a technique that was brand new to me, but I was itching to try. It is called slushcasting, which is commonly used to create Master Chief, Storm Trooper and similar helmets. The advantage to this process is that it creates strong lightweight castings that use very little liquid plastic resin. I figured that since he was to be suspended from the ceiling, lightweight was a good way to go!
This project was great to work on and I am very happy to finally be able to share it with everyone!
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I have a notebook full of other geek-centric ideas to try next. I hope you join me!
Mario & Kart Build Notes & Material listings:
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DOW Insulation Foam Scoreboard ( could only find this when sourcing from local building supply company)
Apoxie Sculpt (very similar to Magic Sculpt)
Super 77 Adhesive Spray
LED Strip lighting
Plastic Cutting Boards as LED diffusive material
Wooden Sculpting Tools
Metal Sculpting Tools
PlatSil 71-20 Silicone Rubber
EasyFlo 120 polyurethane casting plastic
Extra fast Set Plaster Bandages
Mario Head and Hat:
Head & hat were hand sculpted using Monster Clay. Then molded using Platsil Silicone Rubber and plaster bandages from Brick in the Yard Mold Supply. I slushcast the head and hat using EasyFlo 120 casting resin, also from Brick in the Yard Mold Supply.
The bodies of Mario and the Kart:
Sculpted out of blue DOW insulation foam using a hacksaw blade and various rasps/files. Large pieces of foam were glued together with 3M Super 77 adhesive spray. Then these roughed out shapes were coated using Apoxie Sculpt modeling compound for strength and rigidity. This material cures within ~24 hours, which then can be sanded down pretty smooth!
Designed tread in Adobe Illustrator CS6
Cut using a CNC machine out of two sheets of 1/4″ black Sintra plastic.
Designed the images in Adobe Illustrator CS6
Had them printed here at http://spinnywhoosh.com/
3D Printed Mario Coins: