Behold, the Orange-y Power of Q*Bert
- This post is going to be one part tutorial, and one part photo gallery. If you have a problem with that, you can bite my furry orange nose.
- Warning! This post is a bit long, but it is SOOOO worth it.
- The fabric looks like crap in some of the pictures, due to the flash. For some reason, it looks almost reflective when the flash hits it. It looks much nicer in person. You’ll have to trust me on that.
Awhile back, the wife and I made a Baby Pac-Man Topper:
It was a lot of fun to make, and came out pretty nice. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to fix the sound in my Q*Bert lately. My wife dragged me to the craft store the other day, and while I was roaming every aisle in the store for the twelfth time the thought of making this came to me in the styrofoam aisle, and I started buying the components to put him together.
I got this at AC Moore. The regular price was pretty high, but I had a coupon.
(1) Yard of Orange Q*Bert Fabric
Go to a fabric store and tell the person at the fabric counter that you are making a giant Q*Bert to go on top of your Q*Bert arcade game, and that you require one yard of their finest Q*Bert fabric. When they laugh at you, roam around until you find some orange Crushed Solid Panne Velvet and just have them cut it for you. I got this at JoAnn Fabrics, and it was $5.99/yard.
It seemed just right. It was slightly fuzzy, without being overly furry – a bit like the first beard I grew back when I was in middle school.
I don’t know what this is. It is a see through type material that your wife probably knows all about. I got this at JoAnn Fabrics, for the nose. Just about any tube would do for this, even a piece of PVC pipe. The color won’t matter as you’ll be putting fabric over it.
I got this at Walmart at about 12:30 AM. For fun, try putting this right next to the toothpaste in the bathroom!
(1) Roll of Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper
(1 butt load) Pins with Round Plastic Heads
(1) Piece of 2″ Thick Foam Padding
I got this at JoAnn Fabrics.
(1) Spool of Orange Thread
(1) Box of Sponge Bob Square Pants Band-Aids
These are to keep the blood from coming out of you. You may or may not need these, but it is probably a good idea to have them handy.
(1) Flat head screwdriver
(1) Pair of Scissors (or 2 scissor, whichever you prefer)
(1) Sewing Machine
This is optional. If you don’t have one, you can just sew by hand like they did in the good old days.
(1) Wife and/or Girlfriend
This is also optional. This is used to operate the sewing machine. I found mine at a seedy bar. Price may vary.
(1) Large Bowl
I used one like this:
(1) Pair of Tin Snips
(1) Utility Knife
(1) Stapler (not an office stapler) and some short (5/8″ ?) staples.
Step by Step Instructions
- First, you’ll need to prepare the ball. When I made the Baby Pac-Man topper, I had a hard time getting the fabric to stretch tightly and smoothly around the ball. It gathered in the back, and you can’t see it unless you turn it around. I didn’t want to do this the same way. I wanted it to look good from all angles. To accomplish this, I hid the gathering of fabric inside the ball by cutting it into two pieces. To make the seam less noticeable, cut the ball in half but NOT down the middle. Instead, make one piece about 2/3, and the other 1/3. Use the saw, and cut it nice and straight. Here is my 2/3 piece to give you an idea how I cut mine:
Hold the tube you are using for the nose on the larger piece of the ball, wherever you want the nose to be attached.
- Draw a line around it with a sharpie to mark the location
- Cut along the line with the utility knife, about 2″ deep
- You’ll need to dig out the inside area to make room for the nose. The easiest way to do this is to keep slicing across the circle area that you need to remove, and then dig it out until you have a nice cavity. It will look a bit like the death star. See above.
- Now to prepare the nose. You’ll need to sew a tube of orange fabric to slip over the tube you are using for the nose:
This might take a little trial and error. You’ll need to cut a piece of fabric longer than your tube so it sticks past each end about 2″ or so. The opening in the fabric tube must be smaller than the actual tube diameter, so it fits tightly over the nose.
Here’s the fabric for the nose before we stitched it:
You’ll want to sew a line down the edge with the fabric inside out. When done sewing, turn it right side out and slide the nose inside. It looks like I forgot to take a picture of this. Here is a finished pic of the nose:
- You’ll need a cardboard paper tube that will fit tightly inside the nose. I used a tube from a roll of paper towels, and it fit perfectly. Color the inside of one end of the tube with a sharpie as far in as you can get it, including the edge. Fold the excess fabric from one end of the nose inside the nose, then slide the paper towel tube into that end and pull it out from the other end until it is flush with the tip of the nose. On mine, the paper towel tube was very snug and I had to pull it pretty hard to get it all the way in. This accomplishes 2 things – it makes the end of the nose look nice and dark inside, and it secures the fabric inside on that end of the nose.
- Stuff the extra fabric on the other side of the nose into the nose tube. You are now done with the nose (I don’t think I’ve ever said that sentence before).
- Take the larger 2/3 piece of the ball, and lay it flat on a table.
- Drape the orange fabric over it, and stuff the nose into the hole you made earlier.
- Take the orange fabric, and start stretching it over the ball. You’ll want to make it look nice and tight with no wrinkles. This is pretty tricky. I used pins to secure the fabric around the back side of the ball. Push the pins way in, and let the round heads sink into the styrofoam.
- When you have all the fabric stretched around the ball and pinned around back, cut the excess fabric off with scissors.
- Now, this part worked out great. Take the flat head screwdriver and push the loose cut ends of the fabric inside the foam. This will keep the fabric nice and flat on the inside of the ball and works to hold it securely.
- Repeat this process for the smaller 1/3 piece of the ball. Here they are side by side.
…and yes fellas, I know what you are thinking.
- Now, to attach the two halves. Cut the wooden skewers into smaller pieces. Stick them into the smaller half of the ball with the points sticking up like so:
- Slather on some Liquid Nails:
- Carefully attach the larger half to the smaller. The wood skewers will help to keep the halves together until the Liquid Nails dries.
- Rest the whole thing on a small bowl and wait 24 hours for it to dry:
- The seam all the way around the ball may not look that hot now. Take the curved needle and thread, and carefully go all the way around the seem stitching it together. This took a lot of time, but ended up making a huge difference. Do the same all the way around the nose. Here is the nose before stitching:
If you do this right, the seams will just about disappear.
- Put the whole thing back on/in a bowl to steady it.
- Carefully draw 2 white ovals for the eyes using the puffy paint. I don’t have pictures of this, just look at one of the finished ones. The paint won’t lay flat. Cover the entire oval area with paint, and then smooth it out using the foam brush. This is a bit nerve wracking, as one mistake will basically ruin the entire project!!
- Without waiting for the white to dry, outline each oval with black puffy paint. Draw the pupil right on top, leaving a small area of white as a reflection in the pupil. Smooth it out with the foam brush. Follow the instructions for drying time on the paint bottles.
- Your Q*Bert should be nearing completion, minus some legs and feet. I wanted the legs to be very sturdy, but also a bit flexible so I could get just the right bend in them. For that reason, I chose yellow flexible gas line. It is pretty tough stuff. You’ll need a grinder or a Dremel with a cutting wheel to cut through it. Cut the gas line into two pieces using whatever tool you have handy. Use your judgment on the length. Some of the length will be stuck inside the feet, and inside the ball. I made mine like this:
When you cut this, it will be super sharp at the ends. I filed the ends on mine and taped them temporarily with duct tape so I wouldn’t accidentally cut myself. If you enjoy cutting yourself, you can skip this step.
I needed to fatten up the legs a bit. For this, I took an old pair of sweat pants and cut some scraps from it. I wrapped the scraps around the legs a few times and put a couple of stitches in them to keep them rolled together. I left about 1″ of exposed pipe sticking out of the sweat pants material on each end. I forgot to take a picture of this, so I drew one for you:
I included a picture of a bear smoking a cigar, in case you like that sort of thing.
- On to the feet… Drill a hole in each wooden block large enough to fit the yellow gas pipe leg into each foot. Go almost all the way through. Drill two smaller holes (size does not matter much) where the creases in between the toes end. These two smaller holes must go all the way through the blocks. The one on the left in this picture has been done:
- Trace outlines of the blocks 4 times onto the lead flashing:
- Cut out each one with your snips.
- Put one piece of lead on the bottom of a block and tack it down in several places with some small nails. Try to get it as flat as possible. Lay another piece of lead over the first and secure it the same way so you have two pieces of lead on the bottom of each block.
This will give the feet some weight and keep the topper from toppling off of the top of your Q*Bert cabinet. It will also help to keep it in place.
- Run your drill through the smaller holes again and drill through the lead. If you get burrs around the hole, just whack the lead a few times with a hammer to flatten them down.
- I did not want the feet to look like wooden blocks wrapped in cloth. I also wanted to make toes that looked as much like toes as possible. So, I used some 2″ thick foam to contain the wooden blocks. Start by placing a block on the foam, and trace it’s outline.
- Cut around the outline with a very sharp blade in your utility knife. It is much easier with a new sharp blade. The foam is 2″ thick, and the blade only sticks out of your knife about an inch or so. Cut down around the outline just about the length of the blade. Then, cut some lines all the way through the oval like this:
- Rip the foam off piece by piece to make a hollowed out oval like so:
- The piece of foam that is facing up is actually going to be the bottom of the foot. You’ll need to get the hollowed out area deep enough to fit the wooden block so it is flush to the foam:
- Draw a shape resembling a foot around the oval, with 3 toes.
This is not the Sistine chapel, so you don’t have to go all “hog wild” on it. “Hog normal” is perfectly fine for this.
- This part is a bit tricky. You need a very sharp blade in your utility knife for this, it will make it much easier. Cut out the foot shape.
You can’t do it all in one pass. You’ll need to cut around your lines, then spread the foam a bit and cut more, and keep going until you make it all the way through. When I did this, it felt like I was
sharingshearing a sheep (note that I would never “share” a sheep. I like them all to myself).
- After you get the foot free from the foam, take a pair of scissors and bevel the top edge of the foot all the way around at a 45 degree angle, so it won’t look like a hard edge under the fabric.
- Wrap the fabric around the foot like you did for the ball. Pull it very tight around the bottom edge and it will squash the foam down into a pleasing shape (yes, I said pleasing). Use a heavy duty stapler and some short staples to secure it on the bottom. The staples should sink into the lead nicely. Again, I was too excited to take a picture of this. Here’s another crudely drawn picture to help you make yours:
- Lay each foot on top of the orange fabric, and trace the outline. These pieces will be for the bottom of the foot and will cover over the lead and staples. You will be stretching this fabric quite a bit, so cut it out on your line, and then trim off about 1/4″ – 1/2″ all the way around each piece.
- This takes some patience. Pin the fabric bottoms to each foot. You’ll need to stretch the fabric a bit to do this. It should look something like this:
- With the curved needle, sew all the way around to secure the foot bottoms. You’ll need to use the needle and thread to stretch the fabric so it lines up with the edge of the foot.
The picture above is a good example of how the flash makes the fabric look like ass!
- With the bottoms now sewed on, take some black thread and a straight needle. Find each of the small holes on the bottom. Feed the needle through the hole and push it through the top. You may need to push down on the foam on the top of the foot so the needle can come through. Watch out for your fingers (or not, your call). Pull the thread through, around the front of the foot, and back through the hole a few times. Keep the thread nice and tight. Finish it off with a few stitches on the bottom to hold the thread securely. The toes should look very cool, like this:
- Give the legs you made earlier the same fabric treatment as you did for the nose. Make some sleeves out of fabric, making sure that they fit tightly around each leg. Don’t actually put the fabric on yet, just make sure it is sized right to fit tightly.
- Cut a small slit in the fabric on the top of each foot, right above the hole you drilled to hold the leg. You’ll need to cut/rip out some of the foam to get at the hole in the wood block.
- Try to get some Liquid Nails inside the hole you drilled, without getting it all over the fabric. It helps to be sober for this part.
- Push each leg down into the hole, and wait 24 hours for it to dry.
- Put the fabric sleeves over the legs, and slide them down to touch the foot. Use the curved needle to stitch the leg to the foot. It should look like this:
- If you’ve gotten this far, you need a drink. Grab a beer, and continue below…
- OK, this is almost done. By now, I’m getting bored typing this. I found that I wanted the legs to stick into the ball more than the yellow gas line would. So, I got some dowels, cut them to about 4 or 5 inches long, and stuck them into the top end of the legs to make them a little longer.
- Figure out where you want the legs on the ball, and cut small slits in those locations to get at the styrofoam. I used an awl to dig out a hold for each leg, making sure to make the holes a little smaller so the legs will fit tightly.
- Squeeze a good amount of liquid nails into the holes.
- Stuff each leg into the holes
- Carefully turn it right side up, and stand it on it’s feet to dry for 24 hours.
- All that is left to do is stitch the top of the legs. Use the curved needle. Here’s how that looks on mine:
- Very carefully bend the legs, and you are done. Here’s a good shot showing the front and back of our orange buddy.