The creation of the Pheropod

Although the Pheropod is depicted as a soft and squishy alien organ with wriggly nodules, I wouldn't actually have to make mine soft at all
when it will mostly be used in photographs anyway, so I decided to make it out of plastic that I could also add lighting inside to give all the
nodules the accurate glowing effect.
When life gives you questions, you need a magic 8-ball, but sadly mine
got tired of all my horrible questions and started leaking magic blue
fluid all over the place, staining my building materials and floorboards.

Since I already needed a plastic sphere for the Pheropod, I thought
this magic 8-ball would be a good candidate now that it had lost its
magic.

Holding up the less magical 8-ball next to a full size image of the
Pheropod, it seemed to have just about the perfect size for this
project.

I'm almost certain that holding a magic 8-ball is not as effective
against Antlion attacks as a Pheropod.

In case you were wondering what's inside a magic 8-ball, it's full of
lies!

Maybe one day this leaky canister will become a costume part of its
own as well.

Even though the Pheropod is just a randomly shaped organic blob, I
still wanted to replicate the exact pattern as closely as I could from
the view-model, so the nodule fingers or whatever they are called
were traced onto the surface at the same locations.

A heat-gun was used to push in the recessed areas where the nodule
fingers would go, and it went surprisingly easy without any warping in
the wrong directions, almost as if the magic 8-ball really wanted to
become a Pheropod.

After filling in the gap between the two halves with a
3D-pen, this new plastic was further smoothed out and fused together
with the rest of the surface using a soldering iron on medium heat
setting.

From looking at the bump-mapping texture of the Pheropod, I could
mark off where to make all the many faint ridges on the main section
that will make it look even more gross.

A sanding drum on a rotary-tool was used to faintly cut the ridges into
the surface, then a sharp knife was used to carve over the edges to
further smooth them out into the rest of the surface.

A small round grinding bit on a rotary-tool was used to grind many
wavy lines into the surface that together would emulate the grain of
thick skin.

The Pheropod doesn't really do much in the video game, other than spraying a horrible musk on people and working as a stress-ball, but most
statues and action figures of Gordon Freeman include it as something worth holding on to, so it is still an important part of my costume, next to
every other weapon I will make for it.

If you found this project tutorial helpful, please support my future projects on Patreon.

Thanks to

Whoever made the leaky magic 8-ball.
Rui for inspiring the creation of this project.
Profatus for giving me the optical audio cable.
Tamiya for making all the different paints I used.

Project duration

3 weeks, 1 day - Between 12 July 2017 and 28 January 2019.

Costs spent

Magic 8-ball - 119,99 NOK
3D printing filament - 0 NOK - Already available
Quick epoxy glue - 39,90  NOK
Optical audio cable - O NOK - Donated item
Tamiya spray primer - 89 NOK
Tamiya airbrush paints - 150 NOK
Tamiya airbrush semi-gloss clear coat - 29 NOK

Total - 427,89 NOK / $50,19 USD


- Jehudah Design





While I prefer the noble art of hand-making over simply 3D-printing
things, my 3D-pen does at least involve manual control of where the
plastic should go, so I decided to use it to shape the nodule fingers.

After getting the first layer of plastic wide enough in the right
locations, a soldering iron on the highest heat setting was used to
fuse the new and old plastics together.

The rest of the nodule fingers were shaped mostly hollow onto the
surface to use less of the plastic filament.

With all the nodule fingers in place, I could start shaping the nodules
onto them with the 3D-pen as well.

As with all other weapons from Half-Life 2, their view-models were
only sculpted to be seen from the front, and have quite strange
dimensions and missing materials when viewed from above, so I
would just have to guess where the rest of the details and nodules
should be.

A soldering iron on medium heat setting was used to smooth out the
previously jagged texture of the nodule fingers.

Just sanding the previously melted surface gave it a wrinkled and
pitted organic look, so I just left it like that.

A small hole was drilled into the top of each nodule for inserting
fiber-optic strands that will make each nodule glow like they do in the
video game for whatever biological reason that has for the Antlions.

An optical audio cable was a good source for fiber-optics, and I
wouldn't have to ruin one of my fiber-optic lamps this way when not
needing this cable for anything else.

A stack of 3 fiber-optic wires fit right into each hole, and were pushed
all the way down into the surface where they were held in place by
their own friction.

I thought a good material for making the translucent nodules would
be to use quick epoxy glue that would also hold the fiber-optic wires
in place.

The quick epoxy glue was also dyed to a light blue hue by mixing in a
few drops of the dark blue liquid from inside the magic 8-ball that had
now come full circle for its new usefulness.

I found an abandoned LED flashlight in my garage, and thought it
would work perfectly as both the power source and light source for
the Pheropod, with its cylindrical battery-pack and many bright LEDs.

The flashlight also came with a convenient little toggle switch that
was fused onto the top of the battery-pack.

A large plastic lid that conveniently fit perfectly onto the top of the
battery-pack was fused onto it with a soldering iron.

After rummaging through all my material crates to find the right parts
needed to make the battery-pack housing, I found hundreds of parts
that just weren't right for the task, but then realized I could just make
the part I needed myself out of what I had.

After melting together a few cylinders onto a plate with a big hole
through it, the previously missing battery-pack holder was starting to
get shaped into existence.

A battery connector was melted onto the bottom of the battery-pack
housing where the positive pole of the battery-pack would come in
contact with it.

A metal disk was also added to the inside rim of the battery-pack
housing to connect with the negative pole of the battery-pack.

Three strips of plastic were fused to the side of the battery-pack
housing to give it more strength, and to work as mounting points for
all the LEDs that would illuminate the nodules.

The strips were positioned to point towards the 3 closest pairs of
nodule fingers so the LEDs could illuminate them all as much as
possible.

Since you won't usually find switches on internal organs, I wanted to
reshape the switch into a broken blood vessel that would be hidden in
between many other blood vessels that were melted into the plastic
next to it.

A few more broken blood vessels were added around the switch, and
two of the larger ones in the corners were used to house a couple of
screws that would hold the lid of the battery-pack in place.

Not wanting the battery-pack lid to appear unnaturally round, I
reshaped its edge to follow the locations of the blood vessels, then a
strip of aluminum tape was applied around the edge so I could fill in
the gaps around it without the new plastic sticking to the lid.

With all the new plastic properly melted together on the edge of the
battery-pack housing, it looked much more randomly organic in shape.

The LEDs were wired together in the same parallel configuration as
they had been inside the flashlight, and 3 LEDs were hot-glued onto
each of the fins of the battery-pack housing, with the top LEDs
pointing upwards.

Many pieces of aluminum tape were stuck to the inside of the
Pheropod and around the battery-pack housing to make the light
bounce around more inside the Pheropod so the nodules will glow
even brighter.

To properly fuse the battery-pack housing to the bottom of the
Pheropod, the tip of a soldering iron on the highest heat setting was
poked into the gap between them, then more molten plastic was filled
into these holes later on.

After sanding down the newly fused plastic, an even rougher skin
grain was cut into the bottom of the Pheropod, along with various
rough textures that are meant to represent the torn edge of the skin
where it had been ripped apart from the Antlion Guard.

All the nodules were masked off with wood-glue that could simply be
pealed off after spraying the Pheropod with primer spray.

After clearing out some space in one of my horrible rooms, the
Pheropod was sprayed with a couple of coats of gray primer to
smooth out the cracks and make the paint stick to it a lot better.

The previously gray primer was given a splotchy coat of a light skin
color to work as the basecoat for both the Pheropod and the lid of the
battery-pack.

Many different spots and lines were airbrushed onto the Pheropod to
simulate blood vessels and other gross organic stuff underneath the
surface of the skin.

While blood vessels are usually airbrushed with blue and red paints, I
gave the Pheropod more green and yellow hued blood vessels to
match with the color of Antlion blood.

Some deeper red colors were airbrushed around the edges of all the
details to give them more contrast and make them look more organic.

A light skin color was airbrushed onto the main section, while a darker
brown color was airbrushed onto the nodule fingers and the lid of the
battery-pack.

The insides of the blood vessels on the battery-pack lid were also
airbrushed with yellow and green paints.

A light mist of black paint applied around the deep cracks and other
details would give the shapes more contrast.

While the colors look a bit washed out in this photograph, they looked
a lot clearer and more natural in real life after spraying over
everything with a semi-gloss clear coat.

Wanting the battery-pack lid to look like torn Antlion flesh, I
airbrushed it with a coat of orange paint to make it match with the
Antlion innards texture found inside the files of Half-Life 2.

Also Antlion flesh tastes horrible, and I don't recommend it.

To make it look more like the Pheropod was recently blasted out of an
Antlion Guard by the electric jolt of a Vortigaunt, a mix of green and
yellow enamel paints were applied around and inside the blood
vessels.

To really make all the cracks and details pop out more, I wanted to
oil-wash the surface with a dark oil paint that was brushed into the
largest cracks before being mostly rubbed off again with a wet cloth.

The battery-pack lid was also oil-washed with the same method, and
looks greatly awful.

The oil-wash made the Pheropod look twice as gross, bringing out the
grain of the skin, and giving a lot more contrast to the cracks in
between the different parts.

It's probably the grossest looking thing I will ever make, and it even
glows.
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