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Dude Dad and Stranger Things

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Mind Flayer - Dude Dad

I am a huge fan of Stranger Things. So when one of my favorite YouTubers, Fort Collins, CO-based Dude Dad, built a 14-foot Mind Flayer and a life-sized Demogorgon 20 miles away from me, I knew I had to go check it out!

Taylor Calmus, creator of Dude Dad and Super Dad, is not new to building. Growing up in rural South Dakota he learned how to build from a young age:

“When you grow up really rural there's just not a lot to do. So me and my brother kind of grew up making our own fun. My dad sells construction equipment for a living. So there were always tools around and stuff and we got into BMX when we were young and started making our ramps and stuff.”

By the time he was a senior in high school, he had built an enormous 60-foot skate park with his brother. Throughout high school and college, he worked for local carpenters, framing houses and other stuff. He also worked in a bicycle shop for five years learning bicycle and general mechanics.

“I learned how to work with my hands at an early age and then, you know, aside from that it's just like any project. I got an idea for you, just kind of figure out how to do it. And now, I have that skill too, you know, so no real formal training and some of that stuff.“

Taylor is a down-to-earth, friendly, funny guy. He is exactly the guy you see in his videos. Taylor describes himself as “a husband, a father, and an entertainer of many sorts.”

“I make content, whether it be sketch comedy or building things. I’m a bit of a ‘Jack of all trades’”. When asked who inspires him he said he gets inspiration from all different kinds of people. From his wife to his mailman, he finds inspiration all around him.

“I love seeing what other people are doing and then going like, okay, how can I take that up a notch? What would make that even cooler? You know. So it's really fun. You know, that online collaborative process of just building off of each other's ideas and stuff. “

As we are sitting on his back deck talking, I couldn’t help but look around and admire everything around him. From the beautiful deck we were sitting on, to the enormous play house for his kids, to the backyard landscaping, Taylor has customized almost every single inch of his home.

“As of recently, what I build is, remodeling my house and building things for my kids. Things that bring joy to the people in the community. We did a big pinewood derby event too.”

In addition to the pinewood derby loop-de-loop, he also built a giant snow luge for the community kids last winter. When asked what his favorite build was, he told me “Probably the DeLorean that I built for the kids. That project took a really long time, and the video we made to go with it. It was just so much fun seeing the kids play their parts. It took a long time but I think it was worth it.” His next projects include an outdoor kitchen for his new deck, decorations for Christmas (of course), and a remote control baby stroller. “We have plans for making a remote control baby stroller that also has a babysitter mode where it’ll just drive in a little circle.” Taylor said he’d like to do more with robotics. “If I could take a class, I’d take a class at robotics and I would pay attention so that I could learn more of that stuff. That kind of stuff, I always have to get help with or just watch YouTube so I can do it. I can watch a YouTube video and copy it and get the thing done, but if I have to replicate it, yeah I don’t know if I could.” When I asked him what is the biggest thing he’s built, he immediately joked and said “My fan base”.  He then continued on:

“In the Super Dad episodes we have built some really big stuff. We did a tree fort like thing that was a series of teepees and that thing was massive. We had a castle in Season 1 of Super Dad that sat up on this little hill and that thing was enormous.”

Stranger Things Build

We spoke about the Stranger Things build and what inspired him to build it.

“We just enjoyed the show. I saw someone online had done the floating Max, and I was like ‘oh that’s really cool, I want to do something like that too’. Then I saw somebody else make a mind flayer but they only took it to step one. They built the frame out of wood and then painted it and I was like, oh no, they need chicken wire! So that was like, oh we could do this, let's try that. That's how it started just being inspired by what other people were doing and coming up with a way to take it to the next level.”

The Mind Flayer was not designed on fancy software, he made some basic drawings on a board in his office and just jumped right in. 

"Design" of Mind Flayer

He credits his improvisational design approach to birth order, noting some key differences in the approaches he takes on builds compared to his brother.

“So the firstborn is often very type A right and that's my brother. My brother is an amazing craftsman. We are always joking, he's the woodworker and I'm the carpenter. He'll do everything down to the 32nd, and if it's not then it's wrong. If we both were going to do the same project, he would build out the whole thing in Sketchup and have it all figured out. But by the time he got done doing that, I'd already have mine built and have it half taken apart to fix what I've screwed up. I almost never have plans for anything. I will just doodle it up on a whiteboard and then start it like the mind flayer. I just kind of looked at a picture and go ‘Well this leg is a little bit longer than this leg. So let's go eight foot, six foot, four foot and then we just start putting it together. You lift it up, look at it and think it needs a little bit more dips. We bring it back down, we change the angles a little bit, you know. Almost no measuring on that thing at all. It’s fun building things like that too. They don't have to be precise and if one leg looks a little different than the other leg, it's actually probably good. Right?”

After building out the frame, Taylor then wrapped it in chicken wire to hide the joints and give it a feeling of legs without any sharp points. Originally he was going to use paper mache, but after he wrapped the chicken wire with saran wrap, he decided to just try painting that and see how it looked. It turned out amazing looking, I honestly couldn’t tell he painted it and thought he had used black landscaping plastic to wrap it. He told me that it had been rained on and had his sprinklers blown out underneath it and it has held up really well. Did I mention the head also moves!!

When I asked him if he was going to do it again, and would he do anything differently, he promptly replied:

“Yes, I'd go bigger, if I was going to do it again, I’d go bigger. It was a good manageable size the way it was but if I did it again, I'd go bigger.”

Mind Flayer

I had a great time talking with Taylor and seeing the things he’s built. Thank you, Taylor, for taking the time to talk to me and letting me geek out a little bit. I’d like to close this with Taylor’s advice for anyone reading this article:

“If you want to make something, just make something. If you don't know where to start, just use cardboard, everyone has cardboard and it is cheap. Just just start creating and especially with kids, kids love to make things. Honestly, they just love doing things with you, as you are the dad or the mom. Even if you don't know how to use a saw or whatever, just get some cardboard, make them a slide, make them a car, out of a box, and they'll love it.”

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

Alicia is the Software Engineering Manager at Make:. You may have seen Alicia walking around Maker Faire with her Bat Girl cape. Do not be afraid, she is devoted to saving the world, one website at a time. Her magical powers include turning coffee into code and fixing 404 not found errors.

Alicia has been coding since before coding was cool (OK, we aren’t talking way back to punch cards, but there were green screens involved). In her ‘down time’ she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, puzzles, and is a huge advocate for Autism.

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