One of the biggest perks of living in Austin is the tacos, and no one makes them better than Torchy’s Tacos. It was love at first bite and I’ve grown to love the sight of the cherub devil mascot.
One day I was at the dollar store stocking up on foam-core and a few other random items, when a little solar-powered dancing Valentine’s devil caught my eye. Maybe I was just hungry, but I found the resemblance between this tchotchke and the local taco chain’s mascot to be pretty uncanny and for one dollar I cant resist the chance to have a dancing Torchy of my own.
I started by seeing how easily the figure cames apart. First things first, the cape is not part of the official wardrobe so it has to go.
Taking the head apart, I can see the clever mechanism that makes the eyes of the devil blink as he rocks.
The whole design behind these toys is actually pretty interesting. The base contains some simple electronics. The solar cell stores energy in a capacitor that feeds a tiny coil with pulses of electricity at specific intervals. Inside the figure is a pendulum with a magnet at the end. The coil is offset, just below the magnet such that every time it gets a pulse, it induces a weak magnetic field that either attracts or repels (or both?) the magnet, causing the top end of the figure to wiggle.
For more on the specifics behind these things, check out this Engineering Zone blog where they deconstruct a similar toy and analyze it’s elements in detail.
I’m really only concerned with aesthetics though, so while I had the head apart I adjusted the angle of the eyelids to be a little less sleepy and love-struck and a little more like Torchy.
The tie also has to go, which is a little tricky. I ended up shaving it off with an Xacto blade and polishing the part where it had been with a Dremel buffer tip.
The horns on this devil are black, but need to be white, so isopropyl alcohol helps strip off the paint so I can put on white model paint later.
Torchy needed his signature diaper, so I sculpted it on with polymer clay. Because the figure is plastic, I didn’t want to just pop him in the oven at 250 degrees like I would normally do to get the clay to cure. Instead, I borrowed my neighbor’s hair dryer (and forget to return it for a week) to heat up the clay more locally. It gets hot enough to cure but not hot enough to melt anything.
Next, I sculpted the other pieces of the sign, taco and iconic pitchfork out of polymer.
I cut the plastic pitchforks off both hands. The left hand I melted enough to turn palm-up to hold a taco. The right I melted tiny metal pin into the hand and clip it off to help hold the pitchfork on. Same for the tail. I had to use pieces of clay to keep the little guy from dancing while everything dried.
Coloring was done with sharpie and enamel paint.
And that’s it! Now I have a one-of-a-kind piece of Austin memorabilia to sit on my desk and cheer me up.