Designing the first Sphinx kit

By Richard Helliwell


I’ve worked in the creative industries all my life, starting with ten years at Games Workshop and the last ten working in the VFX industry on many of the biggest films to grace the silver screen in recent years. It’s been a great ride, but I’m finished with making other people’s dreams a reality and I’ve created my own company to make things I really like, things that have meaning to me and come from my own dreams and memories - not that of others.

I started making models inspired by early movies that had stuck in my head since childhood. First was the Cavorite Sphere from H.G. Wells’s “First Men in the Moon”. The memory of that fascinating craft had remained with me all these years. It’s just such a classic design !

Another film from my childhood of course was “The Time Machine”. However, there were already several wonderful Time Machine models available. So I decided instead to pick another of the iconic images from the book and the film: the Sphinx that served as the main entrance to the Morlocks’ underworld.

The model took a few months to complete while working on several other projects at the same time. Because of my background in both digital and traditional sculpting, I first worked on the computer to create a 3D structure using the 3D modelling programs Maya and Zbrush. The result was then printed out on my 3D printer. Then I sculpted over the whole model in Green Stuff putty, adding detail and texture.

I find this method of working ideal for me. It allows me to test out parts of the model before committing them to the final version. This way, I can make sure all the parts fit together well. I made the Sphinx’s head several times over before settling on the final design.

Once the model was completed and that I was happy with all the details, I started making moulds in silicon rubber. I used a vacuum chamber to create bubble-free moulds. Then the casting was done in a compression chamber, putting the mould under seven bars of pressure to insure that the resin fills every detail and the models are as bubble-free as possible.

The final components that were too small to cast in resin were the sirens. These were too detailed for my own 3D printer, so I sent the CAD model away to obtain highly detailed 3D prints. From these, I created moulds in a high heat tolerant silicon so I could cast them in white metal.

In all, the model consists of ten resin parts and fourteen metal ones (the sirens). The size of the model when fully built is 16cm wide, 11cm deep and 15cm high. This matches the 25/28mm scale (about 1:64). Kit builders should enjoy putting this one together, painting and finishing it. But for those collectors who prefer a model that is ready to display, I also offer a build-up service. The build-ups are quite meticulously done with great attention to finishing, painting and weathering - all done to order to your specific preferences.

I’m very proud of this model. It’s something that has been in my head for over thirty years and I am really happy about how it turned out. To my knowledge, it’s the first ever kit of the Sphinx from George Pal’s adaptation of The Time Machine.

If you would like to purchase this kit, you can find it as well as others on my website. It is the largest and most complex model I have created so far and costs £50 plus postage. You can also purchase a fully built and painted version that is ready to display. In the latter case, please contact me directly for details. Due to the time and effort I put into it, a ready-to-display build-up is a bit more expensive at £150 including the model and postage, but I am sure you will find that it is well worth it !

For the holiday season, should you order the Sphinx kit or build-up before December 20th 2015, I will offer you a 20% discount if you mention this article.

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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
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