Friday, October 23, 2015

Castle Dispatch #15-0001

For the past few months, we've been considering the pros and cons of Amazon's Kindle Worlds, and what it would mean to Tales from Castle Destro if we were to move to that venue.

Ultimately, we've decided to take the plunge.

This means that Tales from Castle Destro will no longer be available in any other venue.  All content previously published at Smashwords and here at the TfCD blog have been removed.

Over the coming weeks, I will be meticulously reviewing and revising the content of all four volumes of TfCD.  The publishing guidelines at Kindle Worlds are much more strict than we've previously observed.  The fact of the matter is that the G.I. Joe portion of Kindle Worlds is intended for fans of all ages and a great deal of my dialogue will need to be toned down. I know that this will be a disappointment to some, and honesty, I still have mixed feelings about it.

I hope that you'll remain with us down the road.

~ Sgt Humpty

Stories of the Future War Cult (On Patrol)

The Refinery
Cosmodrome, Old Russia, Earth

With a sudden rush, I was back.  Instinctively, I crouched to get my bearings.  Resurrections are always like this.  You tend to come back without the memories of the last few moments before your ‘death’, so it makes for a few anxious moments as you try to figure out what’s going on.  The chatter of Garm’s auto rifle told me that we were still in the thick of things.  My ghost was there, floating in my face, hurling admonishments.

“This time please try to keep your head down!” the tiny machine snapped.

I pushed him away with my left hand and checked the pulse rifle’s magazine.  Full.  As I stood, I became aware of the guttural and unmistakable sound of Fallen speech.  Dregs.  Very close.  Like, shotgun close.  Fallen are generally humanoid in appearance, but with four eyes and four arms.  They wear masks that supply the Ether they need to breathe.  The motion tracker in the upper left of my helmet’s HUD showed them just on the other side of the broken wall that currently sheltered me from the firefight raging nearby.  I couldn’t help smiling as I quickly swapped the rifle for the shotgun.  As their name implies, Dregs are the lowest of the Fallen society.  Dregs are forced to have their lower set of arms removed and the stumps fitted with docking caps until they prove themselves worthy.  These Dregs wouldn’t be earning those arms.  Or anything else.  I crept forward a few meters and crouched again.  Wait for it.  Wait.

The three Dregs scurried around the corner, looking back in the direction they’d come and they nearly ran into me.  The first one spotted me and began to screech before my first slug caused his entire head to disappear.  I quickly racked another shell into the chamber, swung the barrel slightly to the left and took the head off the second Dreg.  There’s something deep inside me that loves the way their heads always seem to...  vaporize.  Like smoke wafting out of the empty neck hole.  I’ve never asked about the physiology that makes it so.  I don’t really care.  And I know I probably shouldn’t find it funny.  But I do.  The third Dreg had closed the distance between us and was right up in my face.  It earned him a ferocious punch.  When Titans punch things, they often just disintegrate.  Just like this fellow did, floating away in a purple mist.

The firing had stopped now, so I paused to replace the three shells I’d fired.  My helmet comm crackled slightly.  “Adam?  Are you okay?”

“Yep,” I replied.  He couldn’t see it, but I smiled at my ghost.  “Nothing my little buddy here couldn’t fix.”

Scout rifle at the ready, Kat stepped cautiously around the same corner from which the Dregs had emerged only moments before.  She still had difficulty with the idea that Guardians could be revived after death.  It wasn’t often that one of us went down, but when it happened she was always concerned.

Despite the fact that her helmet concealed her face, her body language clearly conveyed her relief when she saw me standing upright and breathing.  It’s better that she wears the helmet, because her light blue skin is simply mesmerizing to look at.  Kat is Awoken, a species that evolved from Humans who fled Earth after the Collapse.  Most of them have blue or purple skin that shimmers with some kind of energy.  They tend to be quite... appealing to look at.  Not that I’m interested in that.  You know.  She’s my teammate, after all.

“What hit me?” I asked as I stowed the shotgun and went back to the pulse rifle.

“Would you feel better if I said it was a servitor?” she asked.  The tilting of her head told me that she was teasing.

“But it wasn’t,” I muttered. “Was it?”

“Nope.  It was a Dreg.”

Thankfully, my own helmet hid the look on my face, not to mention the reddening that I knew accompanied the feeling of shame at having been killed by a creature that was aptly named for the lowest of the low.  Not that death was a good thing by the hand of any other enemy, but you know...  It was a Dreg.  Damn it.

I prodded one of the headless corpses with a foot.  “Red and gold armor,” I observed, changing the subject.  “Definitely the House of Devils.”

She clapped a hand on my heavy shoulder plate.  “C’mon Titan, let’s get this done and get out of here.”

I followed Kat about fifty meters to where Garm-12 was crouched, peering into a large hole blown into the side of a building.  Kat, Garm and I are one of many Fireteams that operate under the guidance of the Future War Cult.  We’d been on a routine patrol of the area, when we received new orders dispatching us to investigate reports of activity in the Cosmodrome’s Refinery.  This Cosmodrome and others like it, once served as launching points for Humanity’s effort to colonize the galaxy.  Now, it was little more than a ghost town, littered with broken technology.

“Our quarry lurks within,” Garm stated, without looking away from the building’s ragged new entrance.  Under his helmet, I knew that his glowing yellow eyes would be flicking back and forth; scanning... probing... analyzing.

Garm-12 is an Exo, a race of artificial beings created late in Humanity’s Golden Age.  They’re living machines with thoughts, feelings and personalities.  Many believed that the War Cult was originally responsible for their creation, but I’m not sure anyone can really substantiate that.  It does seem likely, though, given that nearly every Exo I’ve known has been somehow aligned with the War Cult.  Lakshmi-2, the public face of the War Cult, is an Exo.  Fully armored, you’d never know that a Guardian was an Exo, until he or she removed the helmet.  Their faces are angular and robotic in appearance, with plasteel alloy skin and glowing mechanical eyes.  If I’m being honest, it’s a little creepy until you get used to it.

Garm stood.  His long blue robes fell into place and he shouldered his auto rifle.  He turned to face me and appeared to be assessing the fact that I was once again intact.  “You should really learn to duck.”

Again, the helmet hid my red face.  “That’s what my little pal keeps telling me,” I mumbled, inclining my head toward the ghost hovering over my left shoulder.

“For what little good it does,” my ghost rebuked.  I batted it away again.  It’s a common exchange.  The ghost scolds me for doing something stupid and then I swat it away like an annoying insect.

“Shall we?” Garm asked.  He started into the building without waiting for a reply from either of us.


We’ve been a Fireteam for a few months now.  Before coming together, all three of us had bounced around a bit, partnering with a number of different Guardians.  This is pretty normal.  In fact, some Guardians never find a ‘fit’ and continue to change companions throughout their careers.  We’ve never discussed it, but I think that all of us are pretty happy with the current arrangement.

Katrin, who we commonly address as Kat, is a Hunter.  Gliding undetected through any environment, she’s the very definition of stealth.  Like most Hunters, Kat wears light armor and a hooded cloak.  Proficient with just about any weapon she touches, Kat is especially lethal with blades and sniper rifles.  It’s pretty rare that an enemy gets so much as a glimpse of Kat before eliminates it.

Garm-12 is our Warlock.  I generally don’t even ask for any sort of explanation for the arcane and unnatural things he’s capable of.  I’m just glad he’s on my side.

I’m a Titan.  Basically, that means I’m the guy that smashes things.  Pure brute force.  Compared to Garm and Kat, I don’t see myself as particularly special.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Guardian, and my combat skills are well above the minimum standards required by the Vanguard.  I’m good.  But I think the other two are simply amazing at a level that I’m not.  My teammates seem to appreciate my company, though, so I do my best to earn my place on the team every day.


Garm stopped and spoke though the helmet commlink that connected us.

“We are very close,” he said, in the flat monotone that he normally used.  “It would be best if we exercised maximum stealth from this point.”

In other words, it was time for Kat to take the lead and do her invisibility thing.  Garm and I would follow at a bit of a distance.  Close enough to help her if things went bad, but not close enough to give her away.  We simply didn’t possess the same level of ‘sneaky’.

Without a word, Kat slipped forward and dematerialized within a few steps.

We continued on in silence.  Soon, we reached the main portion of the Devil’s former lair.  The piles of bones were still there, but the Devils were not.  We detected no activity, though it was clear that there had been Fallen here recently.  The dozen Dregs we’d killed outside had been wearing the Devils’ signature red and gold, but they were certainly not the significant presence we’d been asked to look for.  We hadn’t encountered anything more than the Dregs.  No Vandals or Captains.  You remember how I mentioned that Dregs have to prove themselves worthy before they are allowed to grow their lower arms back?  Well, once that happens, they are called Vandals and they’re allowed to wear capes bearing the colors of their House.  A Vandal will often lead a small group of Dregs.  A particularly skilled and experienced Vandal will eventually become a Captain.  Captains command several Vandals and their subordinate Dregs.  Vandals tend to be a bit bigger than Dregs and Captains are even bigger than Vandals.  This has something to do with a special Ether draught that the leaders consume.  The more they take in, the bigger and stronger they grow.  This is how some of the top level Fallen leaders manage to be more than two or three times as large as a Dreg.  The hierarchy continues after that, with each House having a couple of Barons that oversee a group of Captains.  Each House has a single Kell that acts as the operational leader, issuing orders to the Barons.  Here’s where it gets kind of weird.  The Fallen worship these floating purple machine spheres called servitors.  You’ll sometimes find them on the battlefield, funneling additional Ether to the Fallen troops.  Each House has a Prime Servitor.  On top of that, they have a single Archon.  The Archon is similar to the Kell in size and appearance, but that it serves a much different function.  The Archon communes directly with the Prime Servitor and then communicates the wishes of the machine-god to the Kell.  Thanks to the efforts of my fellow Guardians, none of the known Fallen Houses have their entire leadership structure intact.

Nearly a year ago, I’d been part of another Fireteam that had breached the Devil’s lair and destroyed their Prime Servitor.  As we reached the place where Sepiks Prime had met his end, we stopped for a few moments to rest, rehydrate and, most importantly, listen to our surroundings.  This practice had served us pretty well in the past.  As we resumed our search I caught myself grinning again.  Sepiks Prime had been a very memorable fight.  After that, the Devils had been mostly scattered and leaderless.  Constant patrols of the area had picked off the occasional straggler or two, but there had been no sightings in quite some time, so it was generally believed that the surviving Devils had either been absorbed into the House of Kings or perhaps found their way to the House of Exile on Earth’s Moon.  Despite this, none of us were really surprised to hear that the Devils might be on the rise again.  They were vermin, and vermin always seem to find a way to survive.


We took another two hours to complete our sweep of the area and had no further enemy contact.  We found a defensible position and took a few minutes to rest.  Kat quickly prepared a Field Activity and Intelligence Report.  As soon as she finished, her ghost transmitted it both the Guardian Vanguard and the Future War Cult back to the Tower.  Though our missions were usually issued by the War Cult, the Vanguard was responsible for monitoring and directing the activities of all Guardians in the field, regardless of their faction affiliation.  The Vanguard could elect to overrule our instructions or even co-opt our team for their own missions, if need be.  Thus, both organizations had to be notified.  A few minutes later, we received a short response acknowledging our information and instructing us to return to base.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Unconfirmed Tales of the UNSC (Skip)

I’ve hated Skip for as long as I’ve known him.

Which hasn’t been that long, if I’m being honest.  A little less than four months.  But I hate him nonetheless.  Big, loud and as arrogant as the day is long, Corporal Wayne ‘Skip’ Alders was the kind of guy that would just ride your ass for no good reason.  Always bitching that my weapon wasn’t quite clean enough, or that I carried my medpack in a different place than he’d told us.

Whatever.  He’s not my father.

Nope, my father died when the Covenant glassed our homeworld.  My mother and I had been away visiting family and were lucky enough to have missed the festivities.  But my father refused to leave the farm for a few days.  We had workers who could have run things while he was gone.  But my old man just had to have his hands in things.  Had to oversee his little domain.  Couldn’t risk that things might not go perfectly if he was absent for a while.  Anyway, his stubbornness left me without a father at the age of fifteen.

Over my mother’s protests, I joined the UNSC Marine Corps as soon as I turned eighteen.  I was determined to do my part to make sure that the Covies got what was coming to them.  For all the countless millions who died in the Covenant’s rampage through our solar systems.  For my father.  For me... and the anger that burned in my belly.  I flew through training and was assigned to UNSC Security Forces Reach.  Everybody knew that the Covies would never find Reach, so my assignment there was disappointing.  I wanted to get into the fight, so I worked my ass off and in June of 2552, I earned myself a transfer to a frontline infantry unit.  Unfortunately, that unit turned out to be the 405th Division, who were based out of Diego Garcia.  Yeah, that’s right.  On Earth.

I hated the 405th from the moment I arrived.  Skip was my squad leader and for some reason, he seemed to take a special interest in breaking my chops.  Always on me about something.  The real kicker was when the Covenant found Reach.  For all my efforts to get into the fight, I’d just barely missed it.  Skip told me that I was lucky, but just felt cheated.

On October 20th, 2552, a small Covenant fleet arrived at Earth and it seemed that my prayers had been answered.  More than a few Marines were scared.  I couldn’t wait to get my hands dirty.  But there was Skip, in the middle of my moment, telling me to check and re-check my gear.  Make sure my magazines were topped off.  And to make sure my goddamned medpack in the proper location.

One of the Covenant ships breached the atmospheric defenses and settled over New Mombasa.  Our company was deployed to reinforce the 17th Marines, who were fighting a losing battle to hold the ONI Alpha Site.  The Adrenaline ran through me like a drug.  This was it!  And in my moment of glory, as I ran down the Pelican’s ramp, there was Skip, directing me to take cover.  Screw that.  I didn’t come here to take cover.

Even now, Skip is berating me.  Bitching again about the placement of my medpack, as he works.  For a guy that clearly doesn’t like me, he’s trying awfully damned hard to save my life.  The three glowing pink spikes protruding from my chest plate seem as though they ought to hurt.  But they don’t.  I can’t feel them.  It’s hard to breathe, though.  Kinda feels like something heavy is sitting on me.

As my vision grows fuzzy, I can see that Skip has stopped working, his eyes filled with tears and resignation.  What the Hell is that about?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

UNSC Infinity: Fireteam Badger

My entire family loves playing Halo, so it wasn't unexpected that my penchant for turning my family members into custom figures would eventually spill over into the Halo Universe.  Halo 4 features Spartan Fireteams with names like Crimson, Majestic, Castle, Lancer, Switchback and so on.  I asked my wife, son and daughter what they thought our Fireteam name should be and it was decided that because we are proud residents of Wisconsin, we would be Fireteam Badger.  Our in-game characters all feature armor emblems in the red and white of the University of Wisconsin Badgers (we had to settle for the bear claw emblem as it was the closest thing we could find to an actual badger paw print).

The figure depicting me is the steel/red Warrior.  The base figure was the red Warrior from wave 1 of McFarlane's Halo 4 line.  It is the same one I posted in October of 2013, albeit with a new paint job.

The figure depicting my son Adam is the steel/aqua CIO.  This figure is the same steel/aqua CIO that was released as a Walgreen's Exclusive in wave 2 of McFarlane's Halo 4 line.  When Adam saw the figure, he loved it so much, he set out to earn the CIO armor so that he could wear it in-game.  He hasn't changed armor since.  No significant modification was done to the figure because it was already accurate.  I touched up the factory paint a little bit to remove flaws, and I gave it a plasma pistol.  Adam really loves highjacking vehicles after freezing them with a shot from an overcharged plasma pistol, so it seemed like a no-brainer to set his figure up the same way.

The figure depicting my daughter Kate is the steel/pink Soldier.  The base figure was the blue Soldier from wave 1 of McFarlane's Halo 4 line.  I didn't realize it until I started painting this one, but as far as I could tell, the forearms and lower legs on this figure do not match any in-game armor.  Sort of odd considering how well McFarlane usually manages to match the in-game content.

The figure depicting my wife Jenny is the steel/green Scout.  This figure started out as the rust-colored Scout from wave 2 of McFarlane's Halo 4 line.  This was easily the most difficult of the four figures, because the steel paint was reluctant to stick to the figure as well as it did the previous three.

All four figures were given tiny decals to match our chosen armor emblem.  I made these by saving the emblem image from the Internet, shrinking it down to the proper size and then printing four of them out onto decal paper.  The hardest part was cutting the tiny circles out.  ;)

The base is a simple pre-cut wooden plaque that I picked up at a hobby shop for two dollars.  I painted it and then added some 'terrain'.  The figures are each attached with a tiny dab of hot glue.  The hot glue keeps them in place very nicely, but can be pulled off in seconds if I decide that I want to change the display.

Adam is currently working on a back story for these four characters and I'll post that when he's finished!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Star Wars Display at Pinney Branch Library

I was recently asked if I'd be willing to set up some of my Star Wars toys (both customs and non) at the Madison Public Library's Pinney Branch.  So early this morning, my wife and I hauled a few boxes in and set up a display.  If you'd like to view the display in person, the address is: 204 Cottage Grove Road Madison, Wisconsin 53716.  Here are some photos my wife took after we finished setting up:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halo 4 Spartan Warrior

I tend not to change my in-game armor set up very often, but recently I decided to do exactly that.  Being me, I then needed to create a figure to represent my new armor.  The base figure is the same Warrior figure that I dyed black last month.

He is armed with a Battle Rifle, taken from a Halo 4 Soldier.  My friend Josh made several casts of it so that I could arm custom figures.  His secondary weapon is a Plasma Pistol, taken from a Halo 4 Grunt.

Last time I did a Warrior repaint, I used thin strips of masking tape to get the lines straight.  This time around, I went free-hand.  Hope you dig it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Hollow Point (Range Officer)

Hollow Point was originally released with the Locust Helicopter in 2003 as part of the Built to Rule line.

According to his file card, "when new weapons become available, Hollow Point is responsible for training the G.I. Joe team on their use, in addition to advising mission teams on the optimal use of terrain, firing points, and correct choice of ammo. Before joining the G.I. Joe team, Hollow Point taught the Range Officer Course at Quantico and served with the Marine Expeditionary Unit."

Those of you who follow my work know that I'm a Marine, as because of that I really can't resist the Marine Corps characters.  Hollow Point was one that I didn't have in my collection, so I set about giving him a modern upgrade.

The base figure is just a repaint of PoC Dusty.  I trimmed away the large armor pieces on his hips, but otherwise the base figure was not modified in any way.  He was given a new head and a removable soft cover (from Raginspoon).  Because he is supposed to be an exceptional marksman, I armed him with a scoped M14 (from Legion XIV Productions).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Night Force Vehicles

These two vehicles were done for a friend.  He wanted a couple of vehicles in colors that would work well with his 2013 G.I. Joe Convention Night Force figures.  I just shipped them off yesterday, and as of this posting, he hasn't seen them yet.  I took much longer to finish these than I should have, so I hope he's happy with them!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Spartan-III in Mark V Armor (Halo: Reach)

This is the first in a series of four.  My wife and kids have become my favorite squad mates while playing Halo, and I thought it would be fun to do a custom repaint of the armor 'worn' by each family member when we were playing Halo: Reach.  To be honest, I'd rather do a group of Halo 4 Spartans, but since so few of them have been released (none of which are female), I'm working with what I have available.

This is the armor set-up I used for Halo: Reach...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Halo 4 Spartan IV Warrior

I've long been a fan of the Halo Universe, but only recently started playing the games.  Of course, that immediately led to a desire to make Spartan figures with the 'in-game' armor I use when I play.  This is the Warrior armor worn by Spartan IV characters in Halo 4.  The base color is brick and the accent color is yellow.  He's armed with a Designated Marksman Rifle (DMR) featuring the Noble weapon skin earned by completing the Wetwork specialization.  His secondary weapon is a Magnum pistol.

While this was just a repaint, it was by no means simple.  I can't begin to tell you how many hours I spent masking the armor (and later the DMR) so that the paint apps would be sharp and the lines straight.  Hope you dig it!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ghostbusters' Ecto-1

This is a Hot Wheels Ecto-1 that I detailed for a friend.  The car came with all the items on top molded in solid black plastic.  He wanted a little more detail and asked me if I could take care of it.  It only sat on my workbench for two years before I got around to it...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Lady Jaye (Covert Ops Specialist)

Since it was originally unveiled, the common knock against the Retaliation Lady Jaye figure was that her face sculpt looked 'mannish'.  This got me wondering as to whether she might not have simply fallen victim to the same fate as the reviled Rise of Cobra Baroness figure.  Some time ago, I stripped all of the factory paint from a RoC Baroness head and found a really nice sculpt underneath.  When I compared Lady Jaye's head sculpt against photos of the actress, two things really stood out.  The first was that the figure had very red lips, whereas the actress usually wore a lighter color of lipstick.  I fixed that with a tiny bit of paint (Country Colors #2300 - Painted Desert).  The other issue was that the actress always seemed to use a lot of eyeliner, yet the figure had a very thin line above each eye and none below.  Again, a simple fix with a bit of paint (Country Colors #2477 - Real Black).  As soon as I finished adding the eyeliner, not only did she look much more feminine, but I could see a very strong resemblance to the actress.  I hope you dig it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Sgt Humpty's Buy / Sell / Trade List

NEED / WANT: (None of the complete figures need to be carded. They are all going to be opened)
1986 Leatherneck v2 X1 (loose, complete)
1988 Gung Ho Miniature X1 (loose)
1997 Gung Ho v6 X1 (loose, complete)
2001 Gung Ho v7 X1 (loose, complete)
2001 Leatherneck v4 X1 (loose, complete) 
2002 Gung Ho v8 X1 (loose, complete)
2002 Gung Ho v9 X1 (loose, complete)
2002 Gung Ho v10 X1 (loose, complete)
2003 Gung Ho v11 X1 (loose, complete)
2004 Gung Ho v12 X1 (loose, complete)
2004 Gung Ho v13 X1 (loose, complete)
2004 Gung Ho v14 X1 (loose, complete) 
2004 Gung Ho v15 X1 (loose, complete) 
2004 Leatherneck v5 X1 (loose, complete) 
2005 Gung Ho v16 X1 (loose, complete) 
2005 Gung Ho v17 X1 (loose, complete)
2008 Leatherneck v6 X1 (loose, complete) 

FODDER NEEDS: (These are all needed for custom figures)
25th Lt Torpedo (or RoC Deep Six) head X5 RoC Dusty v13 X1

GIJCC Membership Figure Iceberg
Dollar General Snake Eyes (repaint) 
1982 MMS Die-cast miniature
Accessories & Fodder: I do a lot of parts trading and my 'inventory' changes very, very frequently.  I do my best to update the photos with every trade completed, so please bear with me if I forget to add or subtract something in a timely manner!

Toxo-Viper (Cobra Hostile Environment Trooper)

Another simple custom, my Toxo-Viper consists of a 30th Anniversary Techno-Viper that was re-equipped with Toxo-Viper gear I got from Raginspoon.  There are other figures that might have matched the uniform a little more closely, but all of them would have required me to paint the purple uniform.  Using the Techno-Viper, allowed me to just paint the accessories and not worry about the paint rubbing off at the joints.  At the end of the day, I was more interested in the final product than how creative I needed to be to get there.  All in all, I think he looks pretty good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Heavy Duty (Indirect-fire Weapons Specialist)

The base figure here is the RoC Heavy Duty and the only thing I did to modify it was add the baseball cap and paint the vest.  It's ridiculously simple, but it fills the gap in my collection!

Ninja Force Zartan

It has been a couple of months since I finished anything new, so now that the workshop is back in order I wanted to start catching up.  This is a modern era take on the classic Ninja Force Zartan.  This one was requested by a friend and I'm ashamed at how long it's taken me to actually get it done.  Tomorrow, he'll be on his way to Connecticut!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tales from Castle Destro e-Books

Click on the cover images below to download Tales from Castle Destro collected volumes.  Each volume is available as a FREE e-Book.

Volume I: Mercenary War (collects chapters 1 through 22)

Volume II: Aftermath (collects chapters 23 through 42)

Volume III: Vengeance (collects chapters 43 through 62)

Volume IV: Brotherhood (coming soon)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Our Basement Workshop - Under Construction!

06/18/2012 - Today, the kids and I started renovating Our Basement Workshop.  The room does double-duty as a display area for our collection, so we like it to look nice.  The thing is, it rarely does.  So we're putting some serious effort into spiffing things up.

A lot of the clutter in the room is stuff that is designated for one of two really large dioramas we've been planning for well over a year.  Diorama building might seem like an odd way to clean up a room, but I think that once we have them well underway, there will be less lying around to pick up.

We started by installing some 'under-the-shelf' lighting in the two designated diorama areas.  I've been hoarding the lights for a while, but hadn't yet found the drive to rip things apart for the installation.  Once the lights were installed, Adam and I set about giving the shelves a good base coat of white paint.  Most of the shelf area will be covered by the diorama display, but there will be some parts that aren't and we don't want those to be too much of an eyesore!

In between coats, we started working on sorting through the clutter stacked and stuffed everywhere in the room.  We also took a few minutes to patch the tiny little crack in the wall behind the workbench.  Since moving into the house, this is the third time we've patched in this area of the basement wall and each time we've improved the condition.  Since our last attempt (two years ago), we've had some really significant rainfalls, but only a small trickle of water leaked in.  I'm hoping that this last patch does the trick!

06/19/2012 - The top shelf is too close to the ceiling to be of much use, so we normally use it for storage.  There is a Millennium Falcon and some other Star Wars ships collecting dust there for the moment.  The next shelf down is the Rogue Squadron diorama I finished a few years ago.  We spent some time today removing everything from that shelf, dusting and replacing them.

We paused work for a little while because Adam wanted to take some photos of his Star Speeder 1000 in the hangar bay.  Once we finished with that, we replaced the rest of the diorama and moved on to the third and fourth shelves from the top.  The third shelf will house my 1983 G.I. Joe Headquarters, while the fourth will feature my 1985 G.I. Joe Transportable Tactical Battle Platform. The third shelf was given a 'floor' of back construction paper.  The third was textured using joint compound.  Once it was dry, we painted the whole thing a nice deep sea blue.  Finally, we dry-brushed the blue with white so that the ridges in the texture would catch the white and look like waves.  The background for the third and fourth shelves was created using a roll of printed cloud paper from Michaels.  For the third shelf, we painted some random landscape at the bottom.  For the fourth shelf, we added some water.  

11/05/2012 - Today, we began the serious work.  The shelves we showed off back in June are going to be closed off with an old sheet and the rest of the stuff in the room is being packed up and moved out!  That's right - a SERIOUS renovation.

Roughly half of our basement is 'finished'.  However, Our Basement Workshop is located in the unfinished portion.  During our renovation, we intend to build a wall to close it off from the rest of the basement and hang a drop-ceiling.  Once that is done, we'll re-paint the entire room and find a nice carpet remnant.  Only then, will we put all of the toys back in place.  Adam and I worked for a few hours today and managed to pack up all of the Star Wars toys, with the exception of the ships hanging from the ceiling.  This will likely go back up after the renovation is done, so I will just pound in a couple of temporary nails for them to hang from near the laundry area.

11/06/2012 - More packing. Unfortunately, packing isn't very much fun and I keep getting distracted by the toys in the room, new project ideas and the Interwebz.  <Sigh>  This is going to take a while.

11/20/2012 - Still more packing.  I finally got all of the loose figures removed from the shelves and bagged (individually) with their accessories.  The shelves they were displayed on have all been taken down and set aside.  They'll go back up once the room is finished.  The loose figures that are displayed in large dioramas will likely stay where they are.  The Pit can be rolled out of the room and covered with a sheet to keep the dust out.  Putting wheels on the bottom of that thing really seems like a great idea now.  The recessed wooden shelves will also be covered with old sheets.  I'm not sure yet whether I'll remove all the stuff currently on those shelves (I should, but my laziness may win in the end).

Sadly, I have decided that much of the Castle Destro display will not return to the Workshop after the renovation is finished.  I love the display, but it takes up far too much room for too little display space.  I will be coming up with something different for my Iron Grenadiers.

11/21/2012 - More packing...

11/24/2012 - More packing.  Why is this taking so long?  Because it's not very much fun.  And we keep getting distracted with things...

11/29/2012 - Almost everything has been packed now.  The workbench is covered with tools, but that won't change during the renovation (it's likely to get worse).  The displays on the recessed shelves are going to stay put for now for a couple of reasons. First, I'm running out of places to store things while we work on the renovation.  Second, I'm planning to make some serious upgrades to all three of them after the rest of the room is done, so they'll be pulled out eventually anyway.  The plan is to simply hang an old bed sheet over the front of the shelves to minimize the dust while we're working.

12/01/2012 - I bought all of the building supplies for the wall today.  I can't pick up the building permit until Monday morning (12/03/2012), but we'll be ready to go as soon as we have it!

12/03/2012 - I acquired the building permit today and got started with the framing.  I almost managed to get it all finished, but ran short of time.  Tomorrow, I'll have to secure the last two studs and mount the light switch to its new location.

12/04/2012 - I finished off the framing and got the door hung.  This is as far as I can go until the building inspector approves my work.  Once he does so, I'll be able to start hanging drywall.

12/05/2012 - The building inspector approved everything, so now we're on to the drywall.  Progress was limited today, as my daughter was home sick from school. Still, my son and I managed to hang all of the drywall inside the room.  Adam was proud of his contribution and wanted to get in the progress photo!

12/06/2012 - Today, we hung the last two pieces on the outside of the wall.  Tomorrow, we hope to begin applying the joint compound.  Adam likes the fact that applying joint compound is referred to as 'mudding'.  :)

12/07/2012 - As planned, we got both sides of the wall taped and mudded today.  There was also a small crack in one of the basement walls that we applied elastomeric patch seal to.  It's been several years since we had a substantial leak in the basement, but the crack behind my workbench is usually good for a small puddle once or twice a year.  I'd like to put a nice carpet remnant in the room when we're finished, so I want to get the leak shored up for good.  Once the patch seal is dry, I plan to reapply.

12/08/2012 - Today we applied more of the patch sealant to the wall.  We also sanded the drywall and found two areas that needed more joint compound.  After applying it, we left it to dry.

12/09/2012 - We sanded the two areas we touched up yesterday.  The walls look pretty good!  We also took the door off the hinges to get it ready for painting.  The door had to be trimmed to fit the space, so we needed to use a piece of wood to fill the hollow space left at the bottom.  It worked out well and we left it to dry.

12/10/2012 - Today, we painted the inside and outside of the new wall.  While we had the paint out, we also painted over the areas where we applied patches to the cracks in the concrete walls and touched up any other paint flaws we found around the room.

12/12/2012 - I managed to find time to cut the trim to be placed around the door frame.  The trim is pre-primed, but the door and the door frame aren't.  So the plan for tomorrow is to prime the door and frame when I get up.  If they dry quickly enough, I'll let Kate help me paint them when she gets home from school.  We have two cans of 'mossy green' paint that were purchased a few years ago for another project, but somehow never got used. So we plan to use that on the door and the trim.

12/13/2012 - First coat of paint on the trim.  Kate has decided that painting with a roller is far more fun than using a brush.  Sadly, a brush is far more appropriate for these pieces...

12/14/2012 - Second coat of paint on the trim.  I think we should be able to wrap up the wall/door portion of our renovation tomorrow!

12/15/2012 - We got all of the trim up and it looks pretty good (if I do say so myself).  I also installed the doorknob, so the wall and door are now complete.  I'm planning to use Christmas funds to pay for the ceiling, so it will be a couple of weeks before we make any more progress...

12/27/2012 - Today we visited Home Depot again and bought all of the materials to install the framework for our suspended ceiling.  The first step was mounting the wall angles all the way around the perimeter of the room to help support the frame.  We ran into a couple of snags due to it being the first time we'd done anything like this.  We also had to make an extra trip to Home Depot after breaking the masonry bit we needed to drill into the concrete walls to attach the wall angles.

12/28/2012 - Here, Adam is reviewing the 'ceiling plan' we had devised prior to beginning the installation.  Adam has gotten pretty good at supervising and pointing out my errors.  ;)

Today, we finished installing the perimeter and got started on the framework.  Lag screws were drilled into the overhead beams and the wire was attached to them.  The main T's were then suspended from the wires.  After the main T's were up, it was a simple matter of installing the cross T's that connect one main T to the next.  Prior to starting this, I had expected all sorts of problems getting the ceiling level, but to my surprise, it just seemed to take care of itself.  Installing the grid was not particularly difficult, but once again we ran into some 'first-timer' problems - nothing terrible, but the kind of thing that made you shake your head and cost you time while you went back and corrected your error...

Once the framework was finished, I moved the lighting so that it would line up properly with the openings where I wanted it.  The lighting had all been installed and hung by the original homeowner.  When he put them in, he drilled holes through the overhead beams and ran the wiring through the beams.  This was pretty efficient for his needs, but it didn't allow the lights to be moved more than a few inches.  So, in order to position them properly, I needed to disconnect two of the three lighting units from the junction boxes, move them and then re-connect the wiring.  Adam proved to be instrumental in holding the spotlamp while I did the wiring tasks.

12/30/2012 - With the framework finished, the only thing remaining was to buy the ceiling tiles and drop them into the grid. The whole family ran out to Home Depot and picked up the tiles.  The tiles toward the center of the room were installed, as is.  But all of the tiles around the perimeter of the room had to be trimmed to size.  Happily, they were easy to trim and the whole process took maybe 90 minutes.

12/31/2012 - The entire room got a new coat of paint today.  It's amazing how bright it is in there!

01/01/2013 - This evening, I repainted the floor in the room using an epoxy paint designed for garage and basement flooring.  The directions indicate that I need to wait 24 hours before walking on it and at least 48 hours before moving any furniture around.  So, I closed and locked the door with the intention of waiting a full two days before venturing back into the room.  Better safe than sorry.  The last step will be to lay down the carpet before moving the shelves and dioramas back into the room.