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BotCon 09 Customizing Class

Back to the BotCon 09 posts…

After picking up my boxed set, the next event I had scheduled was the all day Thursday customizing class. I didn’t quite know what to expect with the class, but I knew that they only had 2 classes the entire ‘con with 50 seats each. I had heard that they filled up immediately, and so if you had any inkling of taking one of the classes you needed to jump at the opportunity.

The class sounded like a good idea, and so I tried to reserve my seat when I faxed in my registration. As it happened, I was quick enough and luckily I got in under the cutoff for the Thursday class.

Customizing class setup Part tray and tools Customizing class part sheet

The class was held at the Colorado room of the Hilton Pasadena. The room was somewhat small and had several long tables pushed together, which had been draped in plastic. In front of each seat was a foam tray with a couple of tools inside. There was also a parts guide and a small booklet with information about the class and the character we would be building.

As it turned out, the toy we were going to construct was Shattered Glass Thunder Clash. Thunder Clash was one of the exclusive boxed set toys from this year based on the Energon Rodimus mold. Shattered Glass is the universe created by the Transformers Collectors Club that is essentially the mirror universe of the Transformers with Evil Autobots and Good Decepticons. Several of the Rodimus toys and completed SG Thunder Clash toys were also sitting on the table for reference.

I was kind of disappointed when I saw Thunder Clash sitting on the tables, as I was not a fan on this toy from the pre-release photographs. I also wasn’t a fan of the character, and wished it might have been any of the other members of the exclusive toys. However, we were going to be making SG Thunder Clashes and so therefore so would I.

Customizing class partsShortly after everyone had arrived for the 9am start; the host for the class, Shawn Tessman, introduced himself and discussed what we’d be doing. He and other volunteers then handed out bags (containing even more bags) with all the toy parts still on their plastic sheets. We had to then take each sheet and cut/twist off each part and sort them into quadrants on the foam tray. We would also need to trim any flashing still left on each part so they could fit together snugly when completed.

There was one slight hiccup that they caught during Wednesday’s class and it seemed some bags had 4 of a part, which other bags had 4 of another part. So once we got the parts untwisted, we simply traded 2 of that part with our neighbor for 2 of their part.

The parts themselves were the exact same unpainted mold as Wings of Honor Thunderclash, and it was quite interesting just how plain or “naked” this toy looked. Paint applications really are a key part of each figure.

Customizing class partsThe next step was the daunting task of separating out all the screws, pins, and springs. They recommended that you lay down strips of masking tape to group each set of pins together. Differences between the lengths/widths of each pin were very hard to determine and the photocopied guide sheet wasn’t perfect (nor could you expect it to be). This by far took the longest and even then I didn’t match them up perfectly as I came to find out.

So with all the prep work done, it was time to start building. Each quadrant of the tray was a different body part such as a left leg, right arm, torso, etc. In the instruction booklet, each body part had an exploded view showing each individual part, what order to put them together, and what pin or screw you’d need.

In some places where there was just a pin, or a larger screw, we’d need to bore out the pin hole with a mini-borer. Sometimes the parts would be too tight if we didn’t clear out the holes, and so we needed to make sure parts could rotate correctly and not have stress fractures.

Customizing class diagram and partsSlowly my first part, the left arm, came together. It took a little thinking to get started as you had to make sure you wouldn’t screw up. Lots of parts were pressure fitted once combined and so you had to make sure it was right. In addition, some parts needed to be pressed together with a hand-held leather punch (like pins) or hammered with a setting pin at Shawn’s desk.

I kept plugging away at parts and eventually hit on my first snag. I started to screw together one of the hands, but had placed the wrong fist on that hand. In my attempt to fix this I stripped my first screw, and realized that you really did have to put this together correctly the first time. Regardless, arms, hands, and legs were coming together.

The process began picking up speed as I got comfortable with how these toys are built. The construction did start becoming a bit more complicated, especially in areas like the torso where the Powerlinx feature was.

Arm and hand Torso and left leg Lower body

There were a few more missteps along the way: forgotten parts, screws that were too big, over tightening parts, taking things apart to make sure they were right, etc. An example of one of those errors is in one of the pictures above (the one with two legs). You can see a small dimple at the top of his left leg that isn’t on his right leg. That dimple was created by using a screw that was too long and screwing it too far. Doing so made the screw tip poke through and almost push through his left hip. I wasn’t alone with having errors like this, so I don’t feel too bad.

Naked Shattered Glass Thunderclash
The class had started at 9am and finally by a little after 1pm I had completed the base figure. I hadn’t taken a break for lunch (knowing that my time was limited) and it still took 4 hours to build this guy. I really didn’t think it would take that long, and I had expected to spend most of my time painting and tweaking the figure when I had initially signed up for the class.

However now that I was done building, it was time to paint.

The only set of personal tools I had brought were my own paintbrushes, and I’m glad I did. We were only provided with one to use (along with some toothpicks) and I wanted to have a few more options. We had access to lots of enamel paints, some metallic but most were flats. An airbrush area was also available, which I ended up using later.

I didn’t have any idea what to go with as far as a color scheme. It was suggested to just enhance his normal non-painted colors since the Wings of Honor Thunder Clash had lots of paint apps, and so by leaving him mostly cream/white would make him look evil. I instead decided to go with navy blues and burgundy red colors, with hits of purple.

Painting the figure was a lot harder than I had anticipated. The enamels were pretty thick and weren’t the easiest to get detail work with (at least in the short time remaining). We could use toothpicks to drop bits of paint into spaces (like the face) and it would fill in the crevices. I did my best with what I thought would work. I was happy with my results for the most part, but I had wished I had not used a metallic purple paint. This particular paint was very watery and so did not cover well and also dripped. The clean lines I had envisioned ended up being leaky and streaked. Oh well.

I had used the airbrush station as well. Like most of the others, we painted his traditionally clear blue weapon a flat black. With Shawn’s help I was able to get full coverage easily and I was happy how his gun looked in the end.

By a little after 3pm I had finished painting my personal customized Shattered Glass Thunder Clash. The volunteers had to go set up for that evening’s club store, and so the class was drawing to a close. I packed up my stuff, thanked the crew, and headed back to the room.

Painted Shattered Glass Thunder Clash

I would later do some additional adjustments once I got back home; like fixing his left hand, tightening screws, and adding additional stickers. However, it still had taken me a whole day to complete a single Transformer.

BotCon toy count to date: 21

BotCon Early Registration and Wings of Honor

So after finishing dinner at Pinks, we headed back to the hotel and then over to the convention center. On that Wednesday evening, we had the privilege of getting in line for BotCon early registration. Since I had a customizing class the next day, we were able to get registered and pick up my box set before the regular attendees.

We got in line around 7pm for when they opened the doors at 9pm. The convention as a whole was being held at the the Exhibition Hall and Ballroom portion of the Pasadena Convention Center. Although the line outside was fairly short, it was foreshadowing what was to come.

Early RegistrationOnce inside, they split us up by last name. Dealers received special treatment and got their own instant service line. It seemed that lots of these folks had purchased multiple sets, and many small groups were walking out with 4-5 of the Wings of Honor boxes. Some fans also decided to open their toys right there in the center immediately after obtaining them.

Getting my boxed setAfter about 45 minutes, it was my chance to go up and claim my first convention exclusives.

We were greeted by a very enthused convention worker who pulled together everything that I got with my Primus Package. Included with my whole package was:

The final item I received was the very limited lapel pin of the Elite Guard faction symbol. I was able to be one of first 100 people to order a Primus or Iacon Package, and for doing so I received this pin. It was an unexpected benefit of faxing in my registration on the first day several months ago, and it is nice little unique trinket that I ended up pinning to my badge’s lanyard.

Limited Edition Lapel Pin

Having finally completing the registration for my first convention, let alone a BotCon; we took at my new toys in hand and walked back to our hotel.

Once back in the room, I quickly opened the Wings of Honor boxed set to get a look at all the figures. Now these figures were somewhat rare in that you couldn’t get them in stores, but I open and play with my toys. This box was not going to remain untouched.

Each one was carefully taken out of the foam box and transformed. Only one of the toys (Scourge) was from a mold that I previously owned, and so each toy initially dumbfounded me as I attempted to transform them. At first I wondered where all the tech specs / instructions were at. How was I supposed to correctly transform these guys?

Wings of Honor toys in foam

Luckily underneath the foam inset were the instructions and all the remaining pieces of the boxed set including several cyber-planet keys, weapons, and missiles. I also opened up the bagged Leozack and transformed him.

Wings of Honor toys

By this time it was roughly midnight and we very tired after a long day of driving. This constant tired feeling ended up being a common theme across all the days of the convention with the long, late nights.

Wings of Honor boxed set and souvenirs Primus Package souvenirs Day 0 Haul

Needless to say after having these items in hand I was getting stoked for the convention. I finally had my first exclusives and was convention ready. The next stop was some sleep and then my customizing class early the next day.

You can see more detailed photos of each toy and item of the Wings of Honor / Primus Package by visiting this Flickr gallery.

BotCon toy count to date: 20

Driving to BotCon and Pink’s

We stayed at my folk’s house a final night before driving to Pasadena on Wednesday morning. The plan was to casually make our way into the Los Angeles area by early afternoon.

Of course, there are many Targets and Wal-Marts on the way along I-10 to check for early toy releases. Plus we had budgeted a little time for these little stops along the way.

The first Wal-Mart had the Revenge of the Fallen themed limited edition Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s. They aren’t nearly as bad as they sound and taste more peanut buttery than strawberry.

Vector PrimeJust after crossing the California border, we saw a new Target off the side of the road which we backtracked to on a hunch. The hunch ended up working because I was able to finally pick up the voyager class Vector Prime, and at a discount no less. I had never seen this figure in all my searching, and it was nice picking him up. My classics had be relegated to storage bins but it was probably more sound to get this guy now that at a possible markup in the con’s dealer room.

A little bit further down near Indio we came across another Target that we felt lucky about. Fortune smiled on us and it led to more pre-release RotF toys and I was able to pick up 3 more deluxes: Sideswipe, Rampage, and Breakaway. I really didn’t expect to find any more of these guys before the convention. I thought we’d just take the occasional break by stopping for a drink at these stores, but these were an added bonus.

SideswipeSideswipe is definitely the coolest looking of these three, and his package was opened shortly after leaving the store while we were still driving. He has a very sleek look and looks to be an interesting character that they added to the film. He isn’t quite like his old G1 self, and Sunstreaker is nowhere to be found, but I look forward to see what they do with him.

Having hit the outskirts of town, we decided to stop visiting stores and just head to the hotel to drop off our stuff and then head out to an early dinner. The menu for this first day of the trip was Pink’s Hot Dogs.

Last time we visited the LA area, we tried to hit up Pink’s for a quick bite. Little did we realize on that trip it was midday on a weekend and the line was around the building and appeared to wrap several times.

However this time on an early Wednesday afternoon it was much different. We parked along a nearby street and got into a line of about 15. A few minutes later we had one plain dog, one Brooklyn Pastrami-Swiss Cheese Dog, fries, onion rings, and two bottled drinks.

The food was above average, with the onion rings standing out and the fries being fairly bland. It was worth visiting just for the experience and would recommend it if you ever visit Hollywood.

Pink's Hot Dogs Pink's Hot Dogs Pink's Hot Dogs

After Pink’s we tried a few more local Targets located on the way back to the hotel to no avail.

That evening is when the real festivities began though as it was time to get into line to pre-register. Soon I would have my first ever convention exclusive toys…

BotCon toy count to date = 14

Days leading up to BotCon

Leader Optimus PrimeSince there is just so much content to write about our trip to BotCon this year, I’m going to be splitting it up into multiple posts and maybe going into detail about specific things. So here is the first bit.

I’d say the start of the BotCon adventure began with my parents’ house being broken into the weekend before the convention. They had been out of town on a trip to Ireland and my sister, Jessica, and myself had been watching the house while they were gone. Unfortunately during one of the spans between us checking up on the home, the front door was broken into.

Nothing apparent was stolen, but it did necessitate us having to stay over at the house for several days, installing a metal security door at midnight, and travelling between their home and ours multiple times.

I suppose a good thing that happened while we were there was that Fry’s Electronics released some Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen toys early on Friday May 22. The toys weren’t officially supposed to be available until May 29th, and most places that had them on the shelves weren’t allowed them to be sold. In fact BotCon was advertising the fact they’d have these first figures available exclusively early and with special first release stickers. Not one to wait, Jessica and I headed over there after breakfast and picked up my first RotF figures: Leader Optimus Prime, Leader Megatron, Deluxe Bumblebee, and Deluxe Sideways.

So that was a nice little surprise to a fairly rough start of a weekend.

Robot Replicas Optimus PrimeFast forward a few days to Memorial Day and on another trip back to the folk’s house for another sleepover and the Tempe Marketplace Target decided to slip some more RotF toys early. This trip netted Deluxe Wheelie, Deluxe Chromia, Deluxe Soundwave, Gravity Bot Bumblebee, Bumble Spud, and a Robot Replica’s Optimus Prime.

So here I was just 3 days before the official start of the convention and I already had 10 toys from RotF. That would be at least 10 less ‘first release’ stickers than I planned and less I’d have to drive home with, or at least so I thought…

BotCon toy count tally to date = 10