Background notes about Frankie

For a while now, I’ve thought it would be fun to make some kind of stuffed or robotic parrot that I could wear on my shoulder as part of a costume, or just for fun, at events like Arisia.

One of the problems with perching a fake bird on your shoulder (as opposed to a fake cat or dragon or other long quadruped, which can drape over your shoulder and look natural) is that it won’t balance the way a real bird will. If it isn’t anchored properly, and stiffened in the right places, it will bob back and forth in a ridiculous manner. And I have simply too much dignity to put up with that.

Finally it dawned on me that if the feet/legs of the bird were firmly fastened to some kind of shoulder armour, that would provide a sturdy, rigid enough base that the bird wouldn’t bobble around and look ridiculous. Plus, if I were making a cyborg kind of parrot, then having a cyborg kind of shoulder on me would look perfectly natural and not at all ridiculous (at Arisia of course, I’m not going to wear this to go buy lettuce).

While talking this over with a friend, one of us thought about the parrot issue and said, “Oh, pirate!” and the other thought about the cyborg issue and said, “Oh, Borg!” and then we both said, “BORG PIRATE!!!” Because after all, pirates are kind of like primitive Borg – replace the Borg arm prosthesis with a hook, and the Borg eye enhancement with an eyepatch, and leg prosthetics with a peg-leg, and there you go.

Not to mention they’re both known for terrorizing other sea (or space) faring folk, boarding them, killing or enslaving their victims, and making off with all their neat toys.

So most of a year went by with me thinking I really ought to get going on this costume, because it would take a lot of time. And I really wasn’t sure how to go about making the parrot.

And then, out of the blue, someone on the parrot_lovers community on Livejournal posted a link to this sun conure pattern at Silver Seams, which is free, and Open Source, and really quite excellent all round.

So I used that to build Frankie, only I made his primaries and tail out of silver paper instead of felt, and I augmented him with an LED eye (wiring and associated electronics done by a friend who had time and soldering experience that I did not), and made his feet out of aircraft cable (NOT recommended; that stuff is a real pain to work with – it doesn’t want to bend the way -you- want it to bend) so that he could grip the cables and tubing on my assimilated shoulder.

Frankie’s avian side.

Frankie’s assimilated side.

Original pattern copyright 2006 Silver Seams, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0


Unsatisfyingly short work session

I have a pile of wood to use for the automata kit. Some of it needs to be milled to the right thickness, but there were plenty of pieces that are nice rectangles that want to be the thickness of the wood I’ve got.

So I went down to the basement to use the kind of sketchy bandsaw and do that. And it went really fast.

Too fast.

I want to cut more wood up, but first I have to get to the shop where the planer and drum sander live, so that I can mill down the remaining wood. That can’t happen until tomorrow evening at the earliest, and I want to do more stuff NOW.

Instead I will have to settle for uploading pictures of Frankie, the Borg parrot, to Flickr.

Like so: Borg parrot.