So you want to build Crow...
It's often said that in MST3K botbuilding, you should start with Servo, because he's fairly easy to build.
Crow is a bit more complicated.
A degree in advanced math is helpful.
I acquired all the parts for Crow in the fall of 2000, but his complicated eye mechanism left me confused, and I ended up putting the parts away for a rainy day.
Well, that day didn't come until 2011, and his eyes didn't get much easier.
I'm not trying to scare you away, Crow is a lot of fun to have around, but you need to understand that Crow is like those 'some assembly required' toys that frustrate parents the world over.
This is going to be an adventure.
Make sure your wallet and hot glue gun are well stocked.
Enjoy the ride.
- Cooper XL7-FG Hockey Mask
- Vacuformed Copy of a Schwartz Brothers Soapdish
- 'E' / Crown pin
- Two Ping Pong Balls
- Poppet Toy
- Tupperware Floralier And An Extra Tray
- Six Inches of Gypsy Tubing
- Two Resin Wallace Desk Lamp Copies For Shoulders
- Two Grabber Claw Hands
- Assorted Plastruct Tubing and Styrene Joint Pieces (see below)
- 34" of Closed-Cell Foam Pipe Insulation (Hoverskirt Tubing)
- Poppet Toys
- Five Cans of Testors #1242 Metal Gold Flake
- One Can of Gold Spraypaint
- One Can of Semi-Gloss Black Spraypaint
- One Can of Krylon Day-Glow Yellow Spraypaint
- 3' of 3/4" CPVC Pipe
- 3' of 1/2" CPVC Pipe
- Assorted CPVC couplers, Nuts, Bolts
- 5/16th" Wooden Dowel
1. First, cut out the center of the vacuformed soapdish.
Beginning with this is about as close to good practice for the bowling pin that you'll get.
I used an exacto knife.
It shouldn't be too hard, just cut slowly to avoid going off track (the plastic will try it's best to not allow you to cut in a straight line.)
After that's done, move to the bowling pin.
2. I had a couple of spare bottom injection Crowns laying around, and made a first attempt on one of those.
I quickly discovered this was not going to be easy, as the knife will want to slip off track.
In prepping the pin, measure along the side seam from the bottom of the pin back six inches and make a mark on each side of the seam.
This is where the slope will start.
Measure back another 1.25 inches and mark a spot centered on what will be the bottom of the jaw.
I then drew a curved line from each side mark back to that center point.
Cut the lower jaw off along the side seam and then across the bottom jaw arc.
Later, you'll reattach the bottom piece to the top by hotgluing a tiny 3/4" hinge on the inside of the jaw.
I got the hinge at an Ace Hardware.
You'll also need to cut off another piece of the pin at the narrow end.
I cut that piece after measuing down two inches from the top and drawing an arced line running toward the center seams.
To make Crow's jaw work, you need to drill a couple of tiny holes, and it's best to do them now, before you paint, even though we won't reassemble the parts until after.
Take the tiniest drill bit you have and make two holes a half inch apart on the top of the bowling pin inside the recessed 'e' area.
Make two similar holes on the bottom, and then make a third hole for the mouth control string a half inch from the elastic holes.
Doing this terrified me, wouldn't the plastic fall apart? Would the elastic stress it too much? No, and no.
Now on to the CPVC.
First, there are two kinds of PVC piping: Schedule 40, and CPVC. CPVC piping has thinner walls than regular PVC, and it's what you want.
It's usually stocked next to regular PVC, but is somewhat more yellowish in color.
For this part of Crow, we'll be using a 1/2" CVPC pipe and three 1/2" to 1/2" couplers.
If you click on the photo to the left, from the base of the floralier upward, in order, there is a coupler, 2 and 1/2 inches of CPVC piping, a coupler, 1 inch of CPVC piping, and another coupler.
I did it this way because the part of the CPVC that touches the pin and soapdish is supposed to be gold, while the lower part of the neck is black, and smaller in diameter (before upsizing again at the base of the floralier.)
I'm sure Best Brains had a less crazy way to do it, but it works and looks show-accurate.
This array of pieces is what Crow's head will attach to.
Take your e pin and drill a 3/4" hole in it at the center of the neck.
Also drill a 3/4" hole in the soapdish about 1/2" back from the edge on the bottom.
The CPVC couplers will fit perfectly into the holes, I didn't even need glue.
The XL7 will attach to the narrow end of the bowling pin using two small bolts.
You'll want it to mount about two inches back from the hole you drilled for the neck.
In dealing with the bolts, hardware stores stock shiny metal bolts, and muted black ones.
The black ones blend better, but cost 30+ cents each compared to 10 cents for the shiny ones.
Now just fit everyting together, and move to the torso (we'll get to the eye mechanism later, once his body is assembled.
Take your 3/4" drill bit and drill holes through each of the floralier pieces.
Dry fit all of the parts to a piece of 3/4" CVPC that's at least 15" long (the length is ultimately up to you.)
You'll probably have to make the holes a bit bigger for the CPVC to fit through, but I like having things snug enough that they stay in place without glue.
To attach the shoulders, drill two holes on each side of the Floraliers and also through the shoulders.
Make sure all the holes line up, as you'll run a two inch bolt through all three pieces on each side.
You'll also use about four inches of Gypsy tubing in between the two floraliers.
If you don't already own any, it's generally only available in increments of at least ten feet, although it's not expensive.
Once everything is together, take a long piece of the smaller 1/2" CPVC pipe and fit it to a coupler on the base of Crow's head.
At this point, drill a small hole through the bottom of the coupler and the 1/2" CPVC.
This is where Crow's mouth control string will run through.
BBI used a pop rivet here to cut down on friction, but unless you already own a rivet gun, it's not really economical to buy one just for this.
You can then run the thinner CPVC through the larger 3/4" pipe that makes up his torso.
When using Crow, he's easier to operate if you hold him by the thinner 1/2" CPVC, so make long enough to wrap your hand around it.
7. Now lets build the arms.
There's two ways to do this. You can go to a thrift store and buy two adjustable desk lamps to use as arms, or you can use Plastruct tubing and pieces of Styrene sheet plastic.
Plastruct is lighter weight, but can be a pain in the butt to find in stores.
Perhaps realizing this, the Plastruct Company maintains a list of dealers on their website.
To make the arms, you'll need eight pieces of 3/8" Plastruct tubing, 20 3/4" bolts, and 20 matching nuts.
And speaking of hard to find, if you want to confuse a craft store person, ask them for Styrene Sheet Plastic.
You'll need some for the arm joints.
I managed to find a few 6"X6" pieces of it in a hobby shop, but you can easily take a Rubbermaid container and cut the pieces you'll need from there.
- Cut the Plastruct into four 10.5" (upper arms) and four 9.5" (lower arms) lengths.
- Make eight Styrene equilateral triangles with each side measuring 1 3/4" (to scratch build them, draw the first line, then measure up 1.5" from the center and make a point. That's where the other two legs will meet.)
- Make four Styrene lower brackets. This joint is basically shaped like a triangle with the top cut off and a hole in the middle. The base is 2.5" across and the top is 7/8" across, centered 2 7/8" above the base. The donut-hole inset is 1/2" from the outer walls all the way around.
- Put it all together with the nuts and bolts and then attach four 8.5" lengths of closed-cell foam pipe insulation (Servo hoverskirt tubing.) Tada! Now take it apart so you can paint it.
8. Take everything apart and lightly sand anything that is going to painted.
Once that's done, start painting with the black parts.
Doing the black first ensures you won't end up with dark overspray on any of the combination black and gold parts.
After painting the dark parts with semi-gloss black paint, mask off the appropriate sections of the soapdish and mouth and go to work with Krylon Gold.
Once that's done, it's time for the Testors Metal Gold Flake.
For many years, Testors called this Lime Gold Flake, but they've changed the name.
The color number is still #1242.
While painting, use the lightest coats possible.
I can't emphasize this enough.
The lime gold runs unbelieveably easily, more than Ruby Metal Flake and Pearl Purple.
I ended up having to sand off and repaint sections of the e pin, soapdish, a floralier tray, and both floralier columns because of paint runs.
It's very frustrating to use light coats and you feel like you're not getting anything done paint-wise, but having to fix paint runs is worse.
Thankfully, you can apply as much Lime Gold as you need.
With Servo, if you keep applying Ruby Metal Flake, he'll eventually turn maroon.
That won't happen with Crow, so don't worry about overdoing it.
Now's a good time to paint Crow's eyes.
The ping pong balls are painted Krylon Fluorescent Yellow.
The best way to get even coats on the eyes is to poke two finishing nails through a piece of cardboard and push them into the eyes.
This way you can paint the entire ping pong ball at one time.
You'll eventually need the holes in the ping pong balls anyway to mount them to the eye control mechanism.
9. Once everything is good and dry, you can reassemble Crow and run his mouth control string.
BBI used some kind of thin nylon string, but black kite string is fine.
If black is unavailable, you can always take regular white string and run a black marker on any part that will be visible.
I secured the string inside Crow's jaw by tying it to a small washer.
We forgot something... didn't we, the eyes.
This is the one part of Crow where there is no clear 'official' way.
When Gary Glover wrote the Bot Building Booklet, apparently the only Crow at BBI at the time didn't have functional eyes.
The end result is everyone does this somewhat differently.
I struggled with Crow's eyes for a long time.
What I came up with builds on other bot builders and works, although if you run into Trace Beaulieu, I'd recommend kidnapping him and making him build the eye mechanism for you.
Note: Criminal charges may result from this course of action.
For this you'll need a 5/16" wooden dowel and a pair of rollers for a screen door.
Hardware stores sell an array of door rollers, and since part of this will have to fit into the soap dish, get small ones.
Using hotglue, attach one roller to the end of the wooden dowel.
Take a long piece of string and hotglue it inside the track of one of the roller wheels.
Then hotglue a similar string parallel to the first on the opposite side of the wheel.
Take the ping pong balls, and behind the small hole you drilled earlier for painting, cut out a 1/2" x 1" section of each eye.
These cutouts are so you can mount the eyes closer to the screen door roller so there is enough room inside the soapdish for the mechanism to move.
If you found an exceptionally small screen door roller, these cutouts may not be necessary.
Hotglue the two ping pong balls together by running a single finishing nail through the nail hole in each eye and dabbing glue in that area.
Now, use hotglue and attach the eyes to the screen door roller.
Take the mechanism and run it through the soapdish and down the 1/2" CPVC line.
Once you have it in place, hotglue an identical roller on the bottom end and attach the other end of the strings, also with hotglue.
If the strings are glued tautly into place, you can turn the bottom wheel with your fingers, and it will move Crows eyes.
If you're like me, and I know I am, you'll quickly discover that the strings controlling the eye mechanism can get tangled up with the string controlling Crow's mouth.
I resolved this by taking the mechanism apart (sigh), and wrapping the full length of the wooden dowel with a strip of paper, with the eye strings inside the paper, and the mouth string kept outside.
It was the easiest way to create separate chambers for the strings while fitting them all inside the 1/2" CPVC pipe that runs through Crow's body.
At this point, you should be done!
It took me a long time to figure out how to operate Crow's eyes and head and mouth string at the same time.
It helped me to hold Crow by the 1/2" head control CPVC pipe.
To prevent the pipe from pushing up through the 3/4" pipe and giving Crow a neck extension, I put a metal shaft collar on the 1/2" pipe where it meets the 3/4" pipe.
When using Crow, you'll use one hand to run his mouth string, and the other hand for everything else.
How does that other hand turn his head and run his eyes at the same time?
A lot of practice.
When I first started, I finally got why Crow had a 'stroke' when Bill took over.
Either way, you've now got an awesome piece of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
However, with this power comes great responsibility.
Don't paint him black and threaten Sigourney Weaver.
She will kick you out an airlock.
Prank calling with Crow is also straight out.
Ro-Man has Caller ID, and he's good friends with Bender, Data, and Twiki.
He also knows Kevin Bacon, so word will get out far and wide to be suspicious of strange calls asking, "Does your face hurt?"
You may also find Crow's ability at turkey volume guessing has been overstated.
Well, there is a Godzilla marathon on AMC this weekend...
Assorted Crow Pics!
I'm huge! Wait, do I say that?
Indiana Crow Jones. Remember, in Latin, Crow begins with an 'I'.
Crow ponders his place in the universe.
Crow, preparing to harness the powers of the Puma.
Thinking about tunneling his way right back to earth.