What is a Scratch Build?
A scratch build is the process of building a scale model "from scratch", i.e. from raw materials, rather than building it from a commercial kit, kitbashing or buying it pre-assembled. There are as many ways of scratch-building models as there are modders, but generally the modder obtains plans of a prototype, or designs his/her own, transfers these plans to paper or other material as patterns (much easier since the arrival of household computer printers and copiers), and uses these patterns to cut, trim and affix the stock together to form the model. Finishing work (such as sanding and polishing, painting, weathering, distressing by forming dents and rust, dust, etc.) is done to complete the model and (hopefully) bring it to a lifelike state.
MSI Germany held a media dinner event during CeBIT 2015 in Hannover, a stunning scratch build called “Nocturnal Hunter” by Stefan Ulrich was showcased there. It was a real eye-opening piece of work. Some of you might be lucky enough to have already seen it in person or on the internet and admired his work; you may also have been curious about the process of modding it in detail. Now we are excited to share a peek behind the scenes into Stefan's creative concept in the scratch build.
About concept and process:
In early 2015, I received several opportunities to cooperate with MSI for implementing casemod projects. The focus should be on the recently released MSI X99S SLI KRAIT EDITION motherboard. Inspired by the logo on the package, I decided to create a mod that looks like the head of a real Krait. In order to fit all the hardware in and for aesthetic purposes, my design became a mixture between a stylized and a natural appearing banded krait. The hardware was kindly provided by MSI, Cooler Master, and Kingston HyperX. Besides those, I did not use any pre-assembled, fabricated or machined parts, but I built up everything from scratch by myself.
NOCTURNAL HUNTER SCRATCH BUILD was inspired by the logo on the package of MSI X99S SLI KRAIT EDITION motherboard.
At the beginning, I generated a 3D model of the Krait head by using Cinema 4D. The model allows me to fit the position of the hardware and to simulate the mechanical opening of the mouth. I decided to build the mod in two parts: an upper and a lower jaw.
After the 3D model was set up, I had to find materials that were suited to realize my design ideas and stable enough to host the hardware. The main question turned out to be, how to form a Krait shape at all? Sometimes, it is necessary to think outside of the box and consider otherwise unconventional solutions. Thus, I decided to make the basic construction out of paper, and stabilize it later on. I converted the 3D model to a program called paperkura that visually cuts the model in different sub units and shows the folding lines of the paper. After printing and cutting out the template, each piece was glued together.
Then, I made the first attempt to fit the hardware into the real paper model. This was the only time when optional changes could have easily been made. Luckily, everything matched perfectly, and I started to strengthen up the paper from the outside using fiberglass resin.
After curing, the paper already got pretty stiff. Next, the inside was laminated with 3-4 layers of glass fiber
This material was only suited for stabilizing the interior, because at the outside, details of the paper model would get lost. In the following step, the surface was smoothed out with body filler. After applying a layer of body filler, the material was sanded down to shape the head until it is almost perfectly smooth.
This was one of the most time consuming steps, because I wanted the Krait to look as natural as possible. Regarding this demand, it was necessary to realize a snake-skin-pattern as well. Therefore, I drew the pattern on the surface, cut foam rubber in the shape of snake scales and glued them to the upper and lower jaw. Little adjustments were made on the fly. A disadvantage of rubber foam is that the painting won’t stick to it very well.
To overcome this issue, I covered the foam with a single layer of Worbla´s Finest Art, a technique often applied in costume design. Worbla is a thermoplastic material, which becomes highly flexible upon heating-up. With a sculpting tool I drew the detail lines, following the snake-scale pattern of the rubber foam. Due to the rough surface, Worbla has to be primed with several coats of PVA glue.
After everything has dried, I started painting the mod with a basic black coat. Details were added in white. At last, three layers of glossy clear coat were applied to protect the painting and achieve a snaky look.
Inside the Krait, the hardware was arranged in the lower jaw in a horizontal dimension. I created spacing between the bottom plate and the motherboard which facilitated the cable management. The plate, to which the motherboard is attached, was made of MDF. The PSU was separated by a MDF-wall in the back of the head. This wall additionally allowed fixing the VGA card. I cut holes to run the cables and masked the grommet with black foam rubber. Both MDF-plates were covered with black faux leather that had a krait-shape pattern.
Because the outside of the case and the motherboard were kept in black and white and the interior was predominantly black, I decided to sleeve all cables with white paracord.
In order to acknowledge MSI, who supported my work, I depicted the MSI logo on top of the SSD.
As a final particularity, I cut by hand the symbolized krait head, the MSI logo as well as the name of the motherboard into acrylic glass and illuminated them with LEDs.
Since the main purpose of this mod is to highlight the hardware inside, the mouth needs to stay open which was simply realized by using two aluminum pipes.
I decided to call my krait mod “Nocturnal Hunter”, because the black design would perfectly camouflage this snake at night. Besides, it is an allusion to its natural model, the banded krait that actually is a nocturnal hunting animal.
Hopefully, you will like my work. I am sure I will make some more scratch mods in the future.
About Modder :
His name is Stefan Ulrich and he is a 27-year-old student at Heidelberg University in Germany. Stefan has already achieved his Bachelor degree in Japanese Studies and East Asian Art History and is currently conducting his Master's studies in "Transcultural Studies", which focuses on the interactions between Asia and Europe in a global context. During the last few years, Stefan has had an increasing interest in crafting and designing. That is why he began to work on creative projects in his leisure time. His work mainly focuses on prop making for costumes and small film productions. As a result he builds pieces of armor, fake weapons, and also accessories and stage requisites. Besides prop making, Stefan also tries to realize projects in other areas. For instance, he built a case for his guitar last year, which features a distinct and unique shape, leaving him without any stock case options to purchase. Another example is his self-made arcade stick that he created for his video game console.
In addition to handicraft, Stefan began to learn the basics of 3D modeling and animation. By combining 3D modeling and crafting, Stefan is able to make a precise design of objects he wishes to build on the one hand, and implement virtual ideas in reality on the other. Moreover, the model allows the simulation of possible functions and putative design issues in advance. He has already finished some small and complex animations like an explosion in a mine shaft. Because working in 3D is very interesting and offers many opportunities, Stefan says he will definitely try to increase his skills in this specific area.
In the field of case modding, Stefan is relatively a newcomer. He did his first scratch mod for the “HardwareLuxx – Casemod Contest” held by the German website hardwareluxx.de which wassupported by the hardware shop caseking.de in the summer of 2014. The headline of the contest was “Build your own Steam Machine”. His design for this mod was based on the Space Orc Gargbot from the Warhammer 40k universe and actually produced steam by an internal dry-ice tank
Hardware supported by shop caseking.de includes: AMD A10 7850K CPU / Motherboard: MSI A88XI AC /
GPU: MSI R270X Twin Frozr / SSD: Plextor M5S 128GB / Case: BitFenis Phenom Mini-ITX
"Build your own Steam Machine" let Stefan's creativity run wild in this area.
Surprisingly, he was able to win the contest and got the possibility to show the casemod at the “gamescom 2014” in Cologne, Germany.
Stefan’s steam machine was showcased at Casking stand on gamescom 2014 event in Cologne, Germany.
Due to this exhibition, he got the opportunity to get in touch with MSI. Currently, he is working together closely with MSI on various case modding projects.
Nocturnal Hunter Video
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Stefan Ulrich FB-
Stefan Ulrich Youtube-
More About MSI X99S SLI Krait Edition-