Jane Starr, Galaxy Defender!

Classic sci-fi comic book bad-ass, Jane Starr, defended the Galaxy with her robot sidekick, Mr. Goodwin, and an awesome ray gun, the FLP-44m. This is 1:4 scale model made of metal and wood and plastic. An illustration from the original box is mounted on the face of the metal display stand.

Jane Starr comics and toys are exceeding rare, and this is the only example of this model I have found anywhere. Priceless to a Jane Starr collector (worth about $175 to anyone else)!

This piece will be on display at Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, NS as part of the Preshrunk 2021 Art Show.

This is a virtual 3D model version.


The Gravimetric Quantum Field Disruptor built by Ecktrol Manufacturing Co. in Ohio, USA. The “Model A” was only produced from September of 1948 to April of 1949 before it was recalled due to a dangerous fault within the induction stabilizer coils. All known examples of the Model A were dismantled. In June of 1949 the GQFD was re-issued as the “Model B.”

Ecktrol Manufacturing was one of only a handful of companies with clearance to produce ray-based devices after the world-wide treaty of 1929 that halted the production of weaponized field manipulators.

Officially these new devices, designated “class 2” were built for “scientific research and industrial applications.” Due to some rather glaring loopholes in the WFM Treaty, however, it became a simple matter of applying for a special RBD (ray-based device) permit, allowing for even members of the general public (provided they had deep enough pockets) to own one. Because of the expense of purchasing and maintaining an RBD, they were often bought by small groups and enthusiast clubs that proliferated across North America and Europe.

The 1970’s brought new regulations and tightening of restrictions, essentially ending legal access to functioning RBDs for private citizens and organizations.

Clipping from Poston Chronicle (Poston, Ariz.), January 15, 1943
Parts list for the EM-GQFD
3D rendered turntable video.

The Collector

The Collector is a perfect example of a piece emerging from just playing around with parts. I had no vision at all of what I wanted to build when I started. In fact, I didn’t even have a robot in mind. His hands are the play and rewind buttons from a lovely vintage German-made reel-to-reel audio tape recorder. They reminded me of gorilla-like hands. So the bulky body, long arms, and short legs seemed like an appropriate choice. The face was a complete mystery until I found the little brassy buckle. I’m not sure where that came from.

3D render.

I knew I wanted to have it holding something in those grasping hands and the tiny wrench was a lucky find. Because of its adjustable arms and head, it was possible to pose it with a quizzical aspect. Suddenly I imagined it sorting through junk (much like I do) looking for something. That was when I knew it needed something in which to carry more items. I searched for parts to make a little cart, but decided a sort of backpack would be more compact.

The Collector is still available for sale at Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

360 degree turntable video.
The Collector’s head and arms are adjustable.


Kyocera gets its name from the little metal badge on its chest which I removed from a vintage film camera. I like the idea that these robots have specialized appendages for very specific jobs, although I t’s rarely clear exactly what those jobs might be. My favourite aspect of Kyocera is its glass-domed head. It magnifies and refracts the light in a very pleasing way.

A better view of the glass dome.


This is V.I.N.C.E. So called because the disc on top was spring loaded, so when you pushed it down and let it go, it would spring back up. This action was reminiscent of a kitchen appliance that was advertised by an overly-energetic pitchman named Vince. Anyway the Robot’s name was also an acronym for Very Intelligent something something, I forget now.

Constructing found object robots is very fun, but they seem to be less appreciated by others than my ray guns. Perhaps it’s because most of my robots are not so friendly looking. To my eye they seem quite goofy, but perhaps the claw hands and staring eyes are not endearing them to my audience. V.I.N.C.E. hung around Argyle Fine Art for ages and now he’s staring at me from a shelf as I write this.

Pixel art inspired by V.I.N.C.E.

Little Rockets

I have always liked the way rockets in classic sci-fi movies used vertical takeoff and landing. When I constructed these found object rockets I would never have guessed that we would see vertical landings in real life thanks to the efforts of SpaceX.

Put on your anaglyph 3D glasses!

These rockets are both accompanied by a tiny “maintenance robot”. My vision was that of a rocket landing on some distant outpost in the galaxy and a robot quickly rolling out to perform any required repairs or refuelling.

Photo by Argyle Fine Art
Photo by Argyle Fine Art.
The Maintenance Robots. Photos by Argyle Fine Art.

Matchbox Robots

Really? 2011?? It’s hard to believe these little junk robots were built for a show at Argyle Fine Art that long ago. These robots included boxes with artwork on the covers. I was inspired by the sometimes less than honest packaging of my youth.

The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot came with a city skyline to threaten with its springy “angry arm action.” The Atomic Oracle has a blissfully grinning silver baby face behind a freely rotating optical lens. All the better to see and know all!

If you have anaglyph 3D glasses now is the time to put them on!
The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot
The Mighty Galactic Destructo Robot. So scary!
The Atomic Oracle with 360 degree vision!

And, as usual, the folks at Argyle Fine Art took more reasonable photos:

Photo by Argyle Fine Art.
Photo by Argyle Fine Art.

An Insect

An old microphone, springs, plumbing fixtures, typewriter strikers, and a vegetable steamer all lent parts to this insect sculpture. I came up with a scientific sounding name for it at the time but I can’t remember what it was now. I do remember that an expert pointed out an error in the name. It had to do with the number of wings.

Whatever you want to call it, this piece is definitely insect-like. And while I was very happy with how it came out I found it difficult to photograph well. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m no photographer and clearly I was not shooting under anything like ideal conditions. I’m sure I took photos in our kitchen with a smartphone. Not great.

I feel like it was this piece more than any previous one that made me think an accurate 3D render would be useful. With a render I can control various aspects of the virtual camera, surroundings, and lighting that would require equipment I don’t have in real life. Also, it’s another excuse to practice 3D modelling and rendering. I enjoy the variety of switching from actual to virtual building. When I’m tired of being in the basement I move to the computer in my little home office. Eventually the computer will become tedious and it’s back to the workshop again.

Not terrible, but I’m no virtual lighting expert either!
Argyle Fine Art did a better job with their photo.

The Flying Saucer.

In 2015 I built this Flying Saucer. I like everything about it and it became one of my all-time favourite pieces. My memory on this might be wrong, but I think this may be the only junk sculpture that I started and finished on the same day.

I was so certain it would be sold quickly and I would not see it again. But it seems I was almost alone in my appreciation for this little saucer. It sat on display at Argyle Fine Art for ages. They really gave it every chance but it was just hanging around, going nowhere.

An idealized 3D render.

Eventually the saucer moved on to a group show in another town that I mentioned in an earlier post. I thought surely now after being seen by a new group of people it would finally find a home. I sold a ray gun at that show, but the little saucer came back.

I was now resigned to the idea that the saucer would just stay with me and it would be a mystery to me why no one wanted it. And that is when it sold. Apparently my brother-in-law saw it at that group show in Annapolis Royal and expressed interest in it. When I mentioned to my sister that the flying saucer had not sold, she said she wanted to buy it for her husband. Now, selling art to family members seems like… cheating… or something. But technically it was finally sold and I still get to see it when I visit them.

The real saucer sculpture with a blue light under it. I’m no photographer.

Is the point of this story that you should not give up on a piece that has not sold for years? Sure, keep trying. Maybe the point is you should be careful about your reactions to art at art shows. Someone might decide to surprise you with it as a gift later. The lesson for me was something like “make art that you like yourself. It might be yours forever. If a friend or relative gets it you don’t want to be embarrassed every time you see it”. It’s not a pithy moral, but I’m no writer.

Finally Finished. (maybe)

It was a strange and busy time here when my daughter suddenly had to stay home and attend school on-line back in early March. We live in a part of the world that has had no new covid-19 outbreaks for months, so my daughter has been back at school since September. My wife and I can both work from home. So many people have far greater challenges these days and we are keenly aware of how lucky we are.

With time to spend tinkering in the workshop again, I have made significant progress on a ray gun I started woking on years ago. I finally settled on what pieces to use and worked out how to make them fit together. I found some of the details for this one especially enjoyable to work on, such as the power supply label, and a metal switch plate that i fabricated myself from a large steel washer. Making custom metal parts is not something I normally do. It was very satisfying.

Custom Switch Plate.
Custom Label.
Label in situ.
Tiny dial for tuning the forward sensor.

I often make virtual 3D models of my completed ray guns, and this one is no exception. I spent more time trying to make this virtual version’s materials look accurate, not just the shapes and dimensions.

Virtual 3D version

I’m often not entirely certain when a piece is finished, but at this time I don’t see much I would want to add or alter. I do need to construct a stand for it, and I’m also working on some printed material to accompany the piece, specifically a manufacturer’s parts catalogue.

I hope to have the real piece available for sale at Argyle Fine Art (Halifax, Nova Scotia) soon!