Friday, February 1, 2019

The BAWler (scrapped)

So this will be a short one today. I've been sidetracked with little, well, side projects before I get back on to stuff I promised for the blog. One of these sidetracks I'm ready to retire, though. You may remember from a previous post the BAW. Its design philosophy was to remain relatively simple, somewhat piece efficient, and just be a novelty. The design revolved around a removable magazine concept that was slightly novel at the time. However, a lot of elements of the launcher didn't age well, and I couldn't really recommend that anyone build it now. It wasn't the most ergonomic and it got pitiful range.

I've long wanted to update the BAW, keeping the same design philosophy but using modern building techniques. I've actually built something very similar before which I think I've shown, but couldn't work out a few quirks. Here's what I came up with this time before I quit it:



I was in the process of figuring out if I wanted it to launch shelled ammo or not to help increase range. It otherwise uses my favorite handle setup and a trigger I came up with long ago. What I was struggling with was how to add a striker guide to help stabilize the striker, and then how I'd add a stock around that.

What I realized all the meanwhile was that I didn't actually like the main design elements anymore. The trigger has a part sticking out at the top of the back of the handle. The magazine, the center point of the old launcher, is usable but somewhat flimsy, large, and limited in capacity if using shelled ammo or connector ammo. All and all it wasn't a simple design anymore that also didn't offer any real benefits over other systems for its complexity. I intend to come up with a new design to replace the BAW that truly focuses on simplicity and modularity. I've other personal projects taking priority at the moment, but I hope to reprioritize K'nex soon enough.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Thoughts on K'nex for Projectile Launchers

Thanks for your patience as I develop more fascinating content, but for now I'd like to contribute just an opinion piece.

For those familiar with my origin story, I was searching out how to make launchers out of office supplies when I happened upon K'nex launchers. I was surprised with just how large the community was at the time. Why are K'nex popular for making projectile launchers (among all other things they're traditionally used for)? Why did I pick them instead of Legos or some other method? I think it comes down to three things: cost, versatility, and ease of use.

Cost

Buying official tubs and/or sets can be expensive for the amount of pieces you get, but most kids probably had their parents buy them a set or two, providing them enough pieces to get started. Luckily, there are plenty of people who have bought K'nex but no longer want them, and so it's very easy to buy bulk K'nex for relatively cheap. This allows you to amass many pieces. I think it's important to build other people's creations to expand your knowledge on building techniques. Sadly, I haven't done this much myself because I used to lack the pieces to do so. Since having my own income, I've bought more pieces as I needed them and I've been pleased with just how far my dollar can go. You also usually only need a bulk amount of certain pieces while the rest you can keep a moderate amount of and special order just a few more when necessary. 

Versatility

I think the next big thing is just how versatile K'nex can be. They offer limited intended ways of being connected together, but with those handful of variations + some creative methods and careful usage of the plasticity of the pieces, you can make a lot of complex shapes and mechanisms. The beautiful thing about construction toys is how you're usually only limited by your imagination, there's generally almost always a way to accomplish anything you can imagine. And yet, somewhat ironically, a lot of the fun is in trying to work around the limitations that are there. For example, K'nex simply aren't designed for being launched, they just aren't. Yet we view that as a challenge to get around, not something to discourage us from building launchers. We try to maximize the range of our launchers with building techniques for the launcher and the ammo. 

Ease of Use

Finally, I think the main thing that seal the deal in comparison to another method, such as Legos, is the learning curve. K'nex are deceptively simple. There are only so many pieces that exist. They are designed to be a child-friendly toy after all. You can build large, stable structures out of a handful of pieces. I think this is what's the most appealing, it's so easy to get into, and a lot of people started with K'nex to build other things like vehicles and other simple static structures. Then you can gradually expand your building capabilities to things that move and perform actions. That first lesson I did with only a handful of pieces and simple techniques demonstrated how easy it is to make a projectile launcher. When it's easy to get your foot in the door, it's more likely to stick as an interest because you get results faster with less experience compared to something else that requires more trial and error to get functional. I'm not that much of a hands-on kind of guy, I much prefer working with computers and ideas than physical objects, but K'nex are easy enough to use that it's one of my few physical engineering hobbies. 

So those are my thoughts on why K'nex is so great for making projectile launchers. I do think it's a fun hobby that teaches people the basics of engineering and problem solving. I believe that all kids should be given the opportunity to experience a construction toy of some sort. And then I also believe that adults should maintain a problem solving hobby to help keep their minds sharp. 

What do you think about K'nex and construction toys in general? Am I missing something about what makes them popular? 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Misc. Concepts Part 3

As a child K'nexer, I primarily relied on my parents' digital cameras/camcorders to get pictures. The result was I only got pictures of things I was immediately ready to show, as I'd typically go upload them and then clear them from the camera. But then after getting it, for a time my DSi was my primary method of picture taking. Regrettable because the quality was notably worse, but it was nice in that it was more readily available and so I took more pictures of dumb little concepts I'd make and never post. I'd eventually upgrade to a 3DS, moving over old photos and taking new ones on it. There's more than I thought there'd be, but not that much to explain so this will be a slightly longer post. Some of these I remembered having but couldn't find, so they weren't in the appropriate posts. I'll probably go back and update them.



So this is interesting but I guess I never found it worth showing. It's basically a bolt action assault pistol based on a modified Oodassault 2 frame. I think it worked OK, but I didn't like the bolt setup. Looking at it now, nothing would've kept the projectile held in the chamber either. I think ultimately it didn't make sense to try to get the performance out of a bolt action in a pistol-sized launcher since it would've been limited in range anyway.



Ah, I don't know if you remember me mentioning elsewhere, but here's that sub-carbine UMP model I made up. It was designed just for looks, to take the UMP design and make it look more like an assault rifle.


This weird one I believe was another attempt at making a Thompson-esque launcher? I was trying out a concept where the striker was connected to a charging handle exposed directly out the top to allow for easy recharging. I didn't like how the magazine connected, though.



I also decided that I really liked the design of my TDS but I could never quite make it as functional as I wanted, so I remade it as a nonfunctional design a handful of times. One time I also made a few attachments.


If you recall from my shot launchers post, I came up with a flat shell design. This was the beginnings of a magazine for those shells, but it would've been difficult to design a launcher to take it. Due to the size of the shells, it would've been a large magazine to only hold 4-5 shells, so it'd be more of a novelty. 


I apologize for just how blurry this one came out but I have no other examples of it. If you recall, I attempted a bullpup bolt action at one point but determined it probably wasn't worth pursuing further. Well, I guess I decided to give it another shot after learning some newer design concepts. I still came to the same conclusion that the stock would have to be unreasonably long to contain the action.


So this was my basic shot launcher that at first I thought I didn't have any pictures of. As you can see, the design was much more rudimentary compared to the design someone else would eventually post for me. This was more just to demonstrate the concept.


As you might recall from my non-functioning launchers post, I basically started with the PDR model and gradually turned it into my own design. This was I believe the first one I designed.


Finally, this one I actually intend to post instructions for since it's fairly simple. This was a challenge I did for myself to make a 3 layer launcher entirely flat. Most launchers use white rods (for 3 layer designs) or blue rods (for 5 layer designs) to hold the body together, resulting in the edges of the rods sticking out of the sides. This one utilized a quirk where green rods can fit in the gaps between connectors (one of my favorite tricks which I still use often). The trigger was definitely the trickiest part.

And with that, I'm done with pretty much everything I've ever made or contributed in the past. I'll visit some other noteworthy concepts by other builders that I'm able to dig up enough information on, talk more generally about certain concepts and their potential futures, talk about any current projects I'm working on and get instructions when I finish something, and of course hopefully get that guide series back on track.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Misc. Concepts Part 2

Been a busy week so I'll have to put off instructions for the Barackuda a little longer. So I'm going to get back to all my random concepts.

Let's carry on right where left off, shall we? I have only four left, but they're all newer, and so they're generally a little more interesting.


So this is definitely one of my more out there concepts. There are these certain gel pens that I liked that had these thick ink tubes in them. I discovered they were pretty much the same diameter as K'nex rods. Then of course I should make a launcher for them, right? As silly as it was, I recall they did have much better flight characteristics than K'nex rods. It used a top loading magazine and a striker that was charged via an open side in the stock, however I didn't quite do a good enough job constructing it, so the back of the striker guide would come apart. Between that and a lukewarm reception, I didn't feel inclined to pursue the concept further.


I don't remember exactly when this was, but I guess it was soon after the Oodassault 2. I figured out a simple way to connect a removable green rod magazine, so I made a simple assault pistol to demonstrate. However, green rods aren't all that great an ammo, so this wasn't all that useful since Oodammo had just become popular, but I figured maybe it could be used on a functioning model.


So this was a nice thought with horrible execution. I had just gotten back into K'nex more seriously during my freshman year of college, perhaps this was the summer. I was talking to another vet member who popped in for the first time in a while. We discussed the physics of K'nex launchers. I won't bore you with the details, but basically understand that projectiles can only be launched about as fast as the striker is moving by the time it hits the projectile. The rest of the energy left in the striker is wasted into the back of the launcher. I thought this was silly, why not try to use it for something? So first idea that came to mind was to use it for a "bolt action" where it did the loading automatically when hitting the back of the launcher. However, this was a pipe dream because I was, ironically, ignoring physics. I was hoping the projectile would've left the chamber before the next round would get loaded. I had never completed the mechanism, let alone test fired it, but I'm pretty certain it wouldn't work. It's a shame because it was otherwise setup to be a compact bolt action if I gave it a manual bolt operation, but it was top loaded instead of with a removable magazine, which I wasn't sure I liked. I've thought of a better system for an "auto-chambering" launcher that should actually theoretically work, but I haven't been able to pull it off yet.



This was also back in college, my third year I believe. I can't emphasize enough how much I struggled to make my own bolt action, but I'd keep trying every now and then. One big self-requirement was that I'd give it a removable magazine. I had the idea for the magazine originating from an evolution of the BAW magazine floating around for a long time but never knew how to apply it. Here was one attempt that made a somewhat compact frame based on the barrel of my Oodassault 3 series. While I had a sear in place, I didn't know how to connect it to a trigger. I disliked the look and the high bore axis (distance between the barrel and the handle) so I didn't try to make it work for all that long.

That's all that I have readily accessible right now. Like I mentioned previously, I believe I have a few more examples on my 3DS, I'll get those someday.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Barackuda's Reelection

Funny how going through all these posts and revisiting my older launchers makes me want to rebuild them so I can get instructions. I've been working on this for about a month now. Go check out my post on the Barackuda if you haven't already. What I have today is an updated version. The main difference is this one includes a striker guide. It's not as pretty as I'd like it to be, it's a little bigger than before, and the sights extend a ways from the top, but I think the addition is well worth it. It allows you to stack more bands on the striker with less flex.


I'm still making a few adjustments here and there. The last time I made the Barackuda, as I mentioned, I got hung up on the little things and never did end up posting full instructions, only getting some pictures of the internals. This time I'm determined to get full instructions, though I want to tweak it a little more first. It performs admirably but is still limited. That said, I think it's still a great novelty to fire for being as compact of a bolt action as it is with an unconventional removable magazine.

And here's a quick demonstration video. I'll get a more detailed video on how to load the magazine and use the launcher alongside the instructions.


As for my plans for future builds, I think after the Barackuda, I'll finally get back on track toward making the next step in the guide series. Then there are other designs of mine I'd like to revisit and get instructions for. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Misc. Concepts Part 1

I've pretty much gone over all of my bigger contributions to the K'nex launcher community, so now I'm going to scrape the bottom of the barrel before I get back on track with other topics.

I've had my fair share of experimental and incomplete builds. Most of these things were too inconsequential at the time to really be worth showing, but altogether I figured I'll go through each one quick. I have another collection I'll grab eventually of ones left on my 3DS (yes, I originally used my DSes to take pictures, hence why some of them are pretty awful). I've got a lot to show, but not much to say, so hopefully this doesn't run on too long for you.


I apologize for how dark this photo is, it's really hard to make out what's going on. This was one of the very first repeating launchers I made before I really knew what I was doing. It had a small handle magazine and a trigger connecting a string to a rotating block sear behind the magazine.


There was a phase where I kept reusing this semi auto slingshot mechanism for different launcher designs. One was in the style of a Bren gun. It was really clunky to reload.


I've mentioned before I started as someone who wanted to make functional models of real firearms out of K'nex, though I never really did get good at it. Here was an attempt at an AR15 style one.


This one probably won't mean much since it's the least complete thing here, but at the time I was thinking of making an XM8 using shelled ammo. I spent a lot of time coming up with the receiver area. The design was such that the actual projectile would be held in place, but once shot out, the force of the magazine would push the shell off a ramp and out the right side, which I thought was pretty slick. That said, I never made it a functional launcher.


You get the drill by now, here was an iffy shot at the M1A1 Thompson. I didn't have enough pieces for the stock nor liked where the design was going.


So this was silly. I remember someone else made an Stg-44 and basically slammed my original one, went on how theirs was the best and whatnot. I got all fussy since mine was really old and I figured I could've made a much better one by then. But, as you'd probably guess, I didn't have enough pieces.


This one is a touch more interesting. It came right before the Oodassault 3.0 and gave me most of the design elements. The idea of this launcher in particular was a sort of mini slingshot. You'd push a black/clear rod through the front catching it directly on the band in back, then pull it the rest of the way to catch on the sear. The neat thing is this was quieter than a traditional striker-fired launcher. Its range and accuracy varied dramatically depending on when the rod began to spin out.

Eh, actually that's enough for now. I have a few more to show in another post, plus whatever I can pull off my 3DS eventually.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Non-functioning launchers

(Update 1/9/2019: I found pictures for a couple other models I intended on showing here)

While I intend to design functional launchers most of the time, sometimes I just like to make things that look cool, typically designed to look like it could be based off a real firearm, but isn't. You'll notice I have a certain style I stick to while making such designs, evolving over time slightly. Here are a few.


This was actually one of the very early launchers I made, and a lot of the design elements went into the AK-47 model I attempted. Technically, I think it was setup to launch projectiles, but it performed so pitifully and I couldn't be bothered to improve it. It was just designed for the sake of looking like a cool sniper rifle though based off of no real one in particular.

Y'now, sad thing is I'm pretty sure I've had more examples in between here, but because they never functioned, I rarely bothered getting picture since they were mostly just for my own amusement and not to display.


One example I do have pictures for was basically my UMP-45 body adapted to take a magazine for assault rifle ammunition to look like a compact subcarbine type firearm. I carried some design elements over into future mock models.


Technically this is based on a concept firearm (the Magpul PDR), and technically it was intended to launch projectiles originally, but I think it's important to show this just to see where I got inspiration for future designs from. I really liked the design of the PDR, and I even bought an airsoft version of it eventually, but before I had the money to do that, I tried replicating it. Ultimately, I didn't succeed, but I came up with a functional removable magazine setup. At some point, as you can see, I also figured out how to attach airsoft accessories to K'nex for making attachment rails and scope mounts.


I'd end up turning the design into something more custom. I added a fake charging handle above the handle and I made what I intended to be a carrying handle scope, but it was mounted too low to give you room to hold it. I also added a small section of foregrip that would allow you to add a vertical grip.



This isn't the first version actually, but ultimately the last evolution of what was based on the PDR design, cleaning up the last custom model I made. As you can see, it uses the same magazine setup. It had a charging handle above the handle but setup differently, a removable front sight, and a section of K'nex rail for sighting accessories. It used an elongated version of that grip from the UMP (which I actually got from someone else, though I don't remember who) that allowed you to attach vertical foregrips. This would be a reoccurring design element.


This was a silly one which was basically just turning the above model into a traditional layout with a skeleton stock. The magazine rocked in AK style in this one. I didn't really like the design of this one.


This one was called the SMRI, which never actually stood for anything it was just meant to be pronounced "Samurai". It was basically reattempting what I wanted with that previous model but doing it much cleaner. It had a straight in magazine but an AK-style charging handle/mock bolt carrier. The magazine didn't lock in, though, so I wasn't entirely pleased with this design. It had top and side rails for airsoft accessories and again a removable front sight for using sighting accessories.


Funnily enough, I wanted to make the SMRI a functional launcher at some point, so tried to get some help in doing so, but ended up accepting it wouldn't work well and left it nonfunctional. This isn't quite the latest version, but there have only been some minor changes since this photo. I did come up with a really slick removable magazine setup in this one with a functional mag release lever. The stock design comes from a user The Red Book of Westmarch and is adjustable. The rear sight also folds down. Since it was originally redesigned to attempt launching projectiles, it has an ambidextrous charging handle striker that works with the trigger. I like this design so much I've still have it around, never having the heart to destroy it, still thinking of trying to make it functional someday.


This was a launcher I was halfheartedly thinking of making function, but I just couldn't be bothered to finish it since it was designed more around the looks anyway. It took some design elements from the SMRI and the magazine connection method from the UMP. It was basically designed to look like an internally silenced SMG. I think I named it the Ninjato to keep in theme with the SMRI, thinking about making it a full series. There was otherwise nothing else special about it.


Last one. I made this not all too long ago actually. It's kinda funny how I kept flipflopping. I originally made bullpups, then I made a traditional layout model of the bullpup, but then I improved the design with the SMRI, but then I wanted to basically make a bullpup version of the SMRI. However, as I designed it I decided instead to design something with the mentality of making it as compact and sleek as realistically possible, following design cues from real compact bullpups like the AUG, MDR, and MTAR. As such, I put the charging handle underneath the top rail and snug to the foregrip. I used the SMRI's better magazine system in the PDR's stock. It was a sleek design that I liked and considered trying to make functional somehow, but it'd be difficult without compromising the looks. I still had the SMRI around too, so I eventually destroyed this so I could work on other projects.

These probably won't be the end of it either. Sometimes I just like to design something without worrying about it firing or not. Which one is your favorite? Have you designed any nonfunctional launchers just for looks? Let me know.