It's Been a Carve Days Night.

So we have this thing... this amazing, wonderful, maddening, temperamental, beautiful, finicky, incredible thing.  No, I'm not talking about any of the actors - it's called a Carvewright.  

Here's what it does (or rather SOMETIMES does).  It's works kind of like a dot matrix printer - except using a drill bit.  So it carves.  Wood, foam etc.  And this thingy was NOT cheap.  But we figured that it could save us buying vast amounts of architectural detail pieces, and it's something we would use for sets over and over again.  You use software to create a pattern that looks, for instance, something like this:

The software took me a long time to get the hang of.  I wouldn't call it ergonomic.  There are a number of youtube tutorials featuring a guy named "Bud".  Bud sounds like he could voice a 2,000 year old tortoise in a swamp-themed Disney movie.  Occasionally Bud gets as confused as I do and he pauses the video, says "hold onnnnn" and then comes back.  But after a lot of trial and error I've gotten fairly competent (if not proficient) with the program.

So anyway - you create what you want your carving to look like (it can only take something 14" wide).  And then load it into the machine.  And... in theory out pops this:

These guys, for instance are for a long bannister unit in the '16 going on 17' number.  

It's amazing right.  Absolutely amazing.  Yessir.  Yes it is.  And since we had the machine I pretty much designed the WHOLEEEE show using detailed pieces from the compucarve.  So for instance - with that bannister unit.  We needed four of them.  The compucarve, however, likes to toy with you.  So it will make three of them and then play very hard to get and just break down.  And very rarely will it break down the same way twice.   

The compucarve is kind of like a drug.  The high is SOOOOO great that you can't help but get addicted...even though you are bound to crash.  And crash, ladies and gentleman, with the compucarve is quite frequent.  On average - it creates one stunning piece of carving and then decides to have a fit.  A complicated fit that usually takes Rich an hour to coax the temperamental little diva back to life.  The company that makes the device is also ever so slightly opportunistic.  About every four seconds you discover that you need another accessory.  It's kind of like "ohhh you mean you want it to not blow up and eat your cat?  You really ought to get the 'anti-blow-up and eat your cat sprocket'.   When we first started doing stuff for the show we discovered that without a dust collector you might as well just chuck it in a swimming pool.   And, admittedly, it's doing some pretty complicated stuff - so it's fair that it's temperamental.  But it can be totally maddening when something has been carving for 8 hours in the machine and then suddenly foils up at the last minute.  Admittedly it's a device really targeted to the hobbyist to make cute signs like this:

But people ALSO have produced stuff that looks like THIS:

And so we continue our relationship with the compucarve that has kind of turned into the marriage in that Michael Douglas movie The War of the Roses.  We found a way to circumnavigate most of the hair-pulling however.  And lord knows we need the hair we've still got.  We've started doing things in smaller pieces and tiling them together.  I can't believe some of the beautiful details it's allowed us to create for the set - and even though it takes hours to produce something, it's saved me hours sculpting and carving to create stuff that would have a fraction of the detail.  

And - it really can do some amazing, amazing stuff.  And if it behaves long enough for us to churn out this show... it's going to be pretty beautiful.


And if not... there will be a compucarve floating in Deb Jacobs pool on opening night.

We've been making LOTS of progress... can't wait to show you the Mother Abbess' office that's just about ready to paint.  It's one of my favorite pieces I've ever designed... and I'm gonna tell you all about how we put it together from a zillion different wacky materials :)

And after months of me chomping at the bit to start on it... Maria's mountain - a 14 foot long giant hill thingy is on it's way.  Here are Rich and bob putting together the base.  It's going to be pretty darn cool.

My ribs are feeling better.  I've weined myself down from four percocet a day to one... so i'm not only in less agony - but i'm less loopy!   I supposed I was lucky that I managed to keep at all functional over the past 2 weeks - I pretty much only got completely floored when the sawdust made me sneeze... which was about as much pain as I've ever felt.  Also sneezing - not much of a party.  Anyway - I managed to keep moving forward... and the plus side was that I've taught Cindy a whole bunch of pretty tricky scene painting skills.  She's pretty awesome!  It's not easy stuff to do...but she's become a whiz at ragging and sponging and glazing... so that she can do a great job of matching what I've already done.  It's a huge help... saving me hours and hours of work.  And, thankfully, she finds it kinda fun.  It means I can trust her with things like the mass-production of painting 45 flagstones to flank the set, while I work on more finicky details.  

Janice has mastered the hot wire for detailing all the foam pieces.  I'm gonna do a whole little blog on the hot wire cuz that thing is so darn nifty... but those forty flagstones - she's cut, bevelled, assembled and base coated every single one of the little fellers.  She also did great job slicing all the pool noodles in half.  Yup, folks... that molding around the door in the picture below?  Those are actually pool noodles sliced in half and textured.  We use them for columns and all kinda stuff.  I went to the dollar tree and bought 40 of the suckers... 

All right - bed time.  I gotta mountain and 100 feet of chicken wire waiting for me in the morning.