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Monday, June 19, 2017

Beginner's Guide to Teapot Racing 3 – This Oolong Earth Build

Been a while since I posted anything on Teapot Racing. And Teapot Racing would be? It is a bit of steampunk silliness, wherein you mount a teapot on an Remote Control (RC) car and race it on an obstacle course. The official New Zealand rules (they made it up) are given here. Now while Teapot Courses will vary, the ones I have seen feature ramps, a banked U-turn ramp, and a slalom course. Thus, I chose a tank as the parent vehicle, because it both climbs and turns well.

Previous posts in this series have looked at:

This post looks at how I created a teapot racer out of an RC tank, using the following:
  • Teapot I bought on It was sold as a child's teapot, though possibly it was a real single cup, probably made in Japan. Anywho, the main thing I was looking for was a small size and lightweight. It's made of thin aluminum. It measures approximately 2 1/2 inches tall by 3 inches in diameter, not counting the handle and spout. Sorry for the poor quality picture I forgot to take one before I put it together.
  • Sided armored off-road crawler All-terrain four-wheel drive high-speed remote control toy car with lights in blue available on Amazon at
  • Toy boat from a 99 cent store. This gave me a platform to mount on which to mount the teapot, that had a somewhat interesting shape on its own. I turned it upside down and backwards to get sort of the effect of a 1930s boat-tail speedster. I bought two of these, so I could have one to experiment on.

  • Black duct tape, a bracket, lots of zip ties, various accessories for decoration, and Pop Metaluna Mutant Mystery Mini Figures as the driver. I talk about these as I go along
Step 1 – Covering the tank with black duct tape. The tank was a blue plastic and was too modern-looking for steampunk, so I wrapped the entire body in duct tape. I suppose I could have painted it, but it had blue LEDs that I didn't like that would shine through the paint. I used fairly small pieces of tape, about 2 to 3 inches long and cut in half lengthwise. That way I could push it down into the contours of the plastic. On the bottom of the tank, there were an access panel to the batteries, a charging port, and a on-off switch. I left these open. 

Note: This vehicle has an antenna. It was not clearly marked, and I didn't think about it until I was about 80% done with the project. I assume the antenna is somewhere under the plastic shell, and once I thought of it, I was afraid that the duct tape would interfere with the radio signals. Fortunately, that was not the case, and it seems to work fine encased in duct tape. Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than smart.

Step 2 – Cutting the top off the toy boat. The toy boat is made, so that the top of the boat just snaps into the bottom, but there is a cabin molded into the plastic that was in the way. I cut the cabin off with a utility knife. A small hacksaw would have worked just as well. I also cleaned up any rough spots, with a file. The plastic was soft and cut easily, but do take care not to cut yourself. 

I ended up taking off the rails.
Step 3 – Attaching bracket to the tank body. I found a bracket at a surplus store that sells mostly hardware. It looks sort of like a simple belt buckle. with three bars, the middle one lower than the two on the outside. I knew I wanted to attach the top of the boat with zip ties, and I figured the two bars would allow me to attach the boat top to the tank with 4 zip ties. It the openings in the bracket are roughly the same width as my duct tape, so I could just tape it down. I eyeballed where I thought it should go and taped it temporarily with just one short piece of tape, so I could test it. It seem to be about right, I took it off reattached it with one long piece of duct tape. I wanted the tape to be long enough to wrapped around the front and back of the tank. I know that when I pick up the final teapot racer, I will grab it by the tank body. But I know other people might not be so careful, and I didn't want the whole top of the teapot racer to come off, because the duct tape holding the bracket came loose from the tank body.

This is the bracket I used, running tape through center bar.
Tank with bracket taped down

Step 4 – Attaching boat top to tank. I placed the boat top on the tank and marked where I wanted holes for the zip ties to go through. The plastic on the toy boat is pretty soft, so I used a ice pick to poke holes through the plastic, seemed faster and easier than drilling. Also, sometimes a drill will wander, when trying to drill on plastic with a curve in it. I was planning to use four zip ties to hold it down, but once I got the first two on, it seemed fine with just two.

Step 5 – Attaching teapot to boat bottom. I drilled 4 holes in the bottom of the teapot. I placed it on the bottom of the boat and used a silver Sharpie to mark on the boat where the holes were. I poked the holes (with the ice pick again). Two zip ties later I had the teapot attached to the boat bottom and could snap it on the boat top on the tank. By this time, I knew I wanted to use a Pop Metaluna Mutant Mystery Mini figure as the driver. The scale was about perfect for the small teapot. I also had some small plastic spoons (about half the size of a normal spoon). My daughter suggested that he hold the spoon like a weapon and maybe have a sugar cube in the other hand (that didn't work out).

The figure and spoon aren't attached at this point.

Step 6 –  Attaching the eyes and exhaust ports to boat. Originally, I toyed with the idea of attaching wings like 1950s car tail fins to the back, but that sort of conflicted with the 1930s boat-tail speedster look I'd already committed to. Instead I went for exhaust ports in the rear. For the front, my wife had found these reading lights as Daiso (Japanese chain of 100 Yen stores that they have on the West Coast, everything $1.50). They are shaped like miniature desk lamps, (got four of them):

For the exhaust ports, I found these whistle party favors at a dollar store. The LEDs from the book light fit inside them perfectly, so they light up from the inside. On the eyes, at first I thought I would go with headlights, but then I ran into some eyes that were the perfect size for the shade on the book lights. I used gel superglue to glue the eyes to the shade, so the eyes light up too. I cut the base off the reading light with a hacksaw, just after the first joint.

Then poke more holes and attach the exhaust ports with zip ties.

And same with the eyes. I put them on the diagonal to match what I was doing on the teapot on the next step.

Step 7  –  Make and attach interocitor. Now, I know what you're thinking, what is an interocitor. Well, the Metaluna Mutant was from the 1955 Sci-Fi Classic, This Island Earth. The interocitor is a communication device that the aliens with the prominent foreheads used, basically a inverted triangle-shaped TV screen.

This was one of the toughest things to fake. I just wanted a triangle-shaped thing at roughly the right size to turn into an interocitor. The best I could do was a spatula from a 99-cent store toy cooking set. It was already sort of triangle shaped, and I cut it down to make it more so. Then drill holes through both it and the teapot and attach with zip ties near the handle.

Step 8 – Attach stuff to Metal Mutant. The Metaluna Mutant has two claws but they don't hold anything. The best bet was to drill holes in the spoon and teacup and attach to its arm/claw with more zip ties. I tried a couple of things until I found something that worked well. For the spoon, I drilled two holes in the handle and attaching with a zip tie to the claw. For the teacup (from a 99-cent store toy teaset), I drilled a hole through the cup handle and zip tied to the wrist.

From the back, you can see it, but you have to really
look to see it from the front.

Step 9 – Disassemble and prime and finish plastic parts. Disassembly was a snap. Just cut the zip ties. I used a plastic spray primer, Rust-oleum Painter's Touch Ultra Cover 2x Spray Primer (red, which is more of a rusty brown). Black would have been my first choice, but they don't make that in plastic primer.

The boat had some company info molded into the plastic, so I sanded that off and sanded all of the parts, so that the primer would stick better. I used 150 grit sandpaper. which worked well on the lettering. If I had it to do over again. I would have used 150 grit on the lettering and about 400 grit on the rest (the higher the number, the finer the grit). I think the 400 would have given me a smoother finish.

I had a few extra bits including an extra boat that I primed, so I could play around with the finishes. I wanted to try, doing seams and rivets with a Sharpie.  I was planning to use rub and buff silver for the finish.

My first attempt at seam and rivets with a Sharpie

I used the top of the extra boat as a template to draw the seams on the extra boat bottom that I primed. I made a few mistakes, but better that than on the real one. For the Rub and Buff, I applied to all of the pieces and buffed out with a clean cloth. I played around a second time with colors on the seams and rivets on the spare hull. Since this is supposed to be an alien ship, there's no reason the seams and rivets couldn't be a color. Turns out I liked black for the seams and red for the rivets, respectively.

On the exhaust ports, I did the rub and buff lightly on the middle part, so you could still see the primer in the grooves. Once I got that done, I realized that I didn't like the way the primer looked. Since I had mostly red accents on the vehicle I got red whistles/exhaust ports, I did unprimed red ones with Rub and Buff. Even though, it didn't stick as well, I liked the finished results better.

For the boat top I used three coats of Testors red model paint on the edges that would show. It took three coats to cover the primer.

Then, I drew on the seams and rivets with black and red Ultra Fine Point Sharpie, respectively.

Finally, I wanted to put the name on the side.  I searched online for unusual-looking fonts and found one I could copy reasonably well by hand. It didn't come out perfect, but if I decide later that it really bothers me, I could probably cover it with more Rub and Buff and try again.

Step 10 – Finish off interocitor. I found an image online of Exeter the alien from This Island Earth for the front of the interocitor. While looking, I found some other images of what it looked like when it was off, nothing I could use, but it was a fairly simple design I could re-create with my illustration program. I made a printout of both and cut out about an 1/8 of an inch smaller than the plastic piece I'd made for the interocitor. To attach, the printout, I used clear packing tape.

Step 11 – Reassemble with zip ties. Nothing big here. I did use blue zip ties on the spots that I wanted them to show to match the color of the Metaluna Mutant and contrast with the red accents elsewhere. I then tested it. While the Metaluna Mutant figure sits in place pretty decent, it wobbled around when I was driving. I decided to drill a couple more holes in the teapot, so I could zip tie the figure in place. for this I used a neutral white zip tie because it blended with the color of the teapot, and I didn't want it to show.

Final results

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