A Fine Mess Indeed!

No really, I’m quite pleased with myself. It is a gigantic mess and I have a lot of cleaning up to do in the workshop today, but this mess has resulted in a major breakthrough. This post marks the sum of months of trial and error, experimentation, swearing, epic messes, and more money than I’d like to admit. I’ve finally gotten something worthwhile out of it all. Let me share my joy with you!

Remember I was making the mould for the prototype of Zaapiel, that fancy Arabian Nights sword? Yesss, I got both halves of that mould completed. I made the mould out of alginate (a moulding compound that is essentially … well … algae), with a coating of wax in between to make 100% sure the sides wouldn’t stick to each other.

Which just might make it the grossest sandwich ever. It smells like washed-up seaweed. 

Now, the thing you have to know about alginate is that it’s only good as long as it’s moist. Once it starts drying out, it gets crumbly and it’s not much use for casting anymore. So you have to work quickly and if you’ve got to do the mould in multiple stages or something happens and you have to use it later than you intended, you have to protect it from evaporating off its moisture. Most people put it in a sealed container in the fridge. This … this is way too big for a conventional fridge or normal food container. I improvised with a combination of wax and wet plastic wrap. It was an ugly hack job, but it worked.

Snazzy! Algnate is nice and soft, kinda like tofu in texture. So it’s easy to cut the sprue and the air traps in it. The downside is you have to be gentle when handling it or it will crack or rip easily!

So! I cleaned off all the wax as best I could, put both halves together and strapped it between two wooden boards. Then I mixed up a batch of Artestone (a special gypsum plaster with hydrophobic properties) and poured it into the mould. And that’s when the mess happened.

A puddle of white began expanding from beneath the mould and I realised that there was a leak. I had a problem. I couldn’t just stop the whole thing and open up the mould at this point because then all  the plaster would pour out onto the floor and I’d have wasted the whole thing. So all I could do was grab the closest thing at hand–a large stirring spoon–and frantically scoop the goo back into the mould until it hardened enough to stop pouring out.

There I was, on the floor, scuttling like a crab from the back of the mould to the front of the mould back and forth, scooping at the puddle expanding on either side of it with a spoon of all things. A stream of plaster coming out of the mould, a stream of profanity coming out of me, and by the time the goo hardened enough to form a seal and stop going everywhere, I was laughing my head off. Really what else can you do at that point?

Seriously, it looks like I got bombarded by a gigantic seagull who ate way too much curry. I had to mix up about 200mL more artestone to replace what was lost out the bottom, but I did manage to complete that pour with no further disasters. My neighbour probably thinks I’m insane now. … He’s probably right. LOL!

Now this looks blobby and weird right now but that is completely what I expected it to be. What I need this prototype sword to be is roughly the right shape and a little larger and chubbier than the finished product is going to be. This is so I can do all the final shaping, sanding, and polishing without it ending up too thin or shorter than I wanted. Basically: It’s way easier to sand things off than it is to add things on. So this baby gave me exactly what I wanted. Woohoo!

That was an adventure!

I am sad to report, though, that we had one casualty during this adventure. One of the straps on my protective face mask broke. That’s the third breakage I’ve had on this mask and there isn’t enough strap left to cobble it back together so I have to replace the strap entirely. That’s going to take a little time that I’d really rather be spending on crafting. But it needs to be in proper working order because there is NO way I am sanding any of the materials I work with without respiratory protection.

Safety gear is NOT optional!

So! If anybody needs me, I’ll be scraping uhhh … 300ish mL of extra-hard water resistant plaster off the floor! 😀 … Pray for me. LOL

Ready for Moulding

So I’ve got that cool Arabian Nights sword all set in its mould box ready to have the alginate poured in. I tried to do it last week but when I poured in some water to figure out how much volume I would need to mix, the sword floated!

The foam model is so light that I had to hot glue part of the hilt to the bottom of the moulding box and drive a couple of screws through the blade just to get it to stay down. *grumble grumble*

Now, when I say moulding “box” you probably envisioned something square. Thing is, that wastes a lot of extra moulding material and costs me more money. So by taking a little extra time to craft a box that follows the shape of the object, I hope to shave a little cost from the whole mould-creation process.  Yes, I am still trying to make my stuff less expensive! LOL I will keep trying too. I want to make the cool shiney stuff available to more people. 

What else am I doing today? Uhhh, well I have to call Pay Pal again. I still can’t put money in my Pay Pal balance and I kind of need to be able to do that! Seriously, it’s been a couple weeks now and I’m getting concerned.

Wish me luck okay? To battle!

Wow So Much Stuff to Tell You!

Yep! I’m keeping my Clariel swords on sale for Cyber Monday. Was 415.00 Euros, now 390.00! 

https://www.etsy.com/listing/613227011/shadowhunters-inspired-led-sword-clariel?ref=shop_home_active_1

What else have we got going on for this week? Well I’ve got an open-house coming up on Friday. That means I have to tidy my workshop. Yey. Uh, wish me luck on that. LOL But I’ll be super happy to see people and show them my little corner of crazy!

If you’re interested and you happen to be in Finland this week, you can stop by at Sahaajankatu 22, Helsinki and ask for me. Liisa will show you where to go. The building is a bit of a maze.

What else is going on this week? Well here we have the newly re-carved Sariel. RE-carved because the experimental prototype moulding process failed and destroyed my original. I may have cried. Shush you! That was three weeks of work. *sulking*

It is reborn! Yay!

But before Sariel can be moulded again, we haaaaave …

What kind of cake is that?

No, it’s not cake. Don’t eat it! Ew. Plasticine doesn’t taste good. Neither does foam insulation. Or glue. Don’t ask how I know these things. All I will tell you is wash the plate before you eat off of it.

Now what happened to the doll heads? Did the shipment get found? It did! Annnd it seems there were a few too many micro-bubbles and sanding mistakes to sell them. *gasp!* Ethan don’t tell them that! Your customers will lose faith in you and think you’re a crappy artist!

Oh no! Microbubbles! How did I not notice these?! Ugh.

Listen guys, my business is small and new, but even so I want to start it off right. I want every part of Inkblade Studios to be ethical. I am constantly working to reduce waste and find environmentally friendly materials to use. I have to haul my plastic waste to the recycling facility myself every week but I do it because I have a responsibility as a manufacturer to clean up the mess I make. 

I want my business to be based on a principle of honesty. When I screw up, I will tell you I screwed up, and I will tell you how I am going to fix it. I could cover my mistakes with paint and glue and hope you don’t notice but you know what? That’s not the kind of person I want to be. Lazy and sleazy business practices end up costing more in the long run. You can recover lost money, but you cannot recover a lost reputation.

Thankfully, Juliane at Lost Chronicles BJD has been amazingly understanding and kind. We knew from the beginning that this would be a learning experience and that learning experiences are often frustrating. I’m issuing a full refund for the project, and I have bought a brand new compressor and pressure pot.

My new babies ^_^

Unlike a vacuum chamber which pulls air bubbles out of a liquid, a pressure chamber crushes the air bubbles down so small that they can’t be seen by the human eye. This makes a lovely smooth, clear cast. It also forces the resin into all the little small areas and undercuts so that air doesn’t get trapped and end up getting a giant bubble where the nose is supposed to be for example.

The Malechai project taught me that I need this kind of tool now in order to step up my game. I wanted to wait because I knew it would be expensive, but it turns out that not having it cost me more money in the long run. It was a costly lesson to learn but I’m grateful for it. This is not the end of my doll making career, but just the beginning. I’m looking forward to creating more beautiful things and sharing them with you all. ❤ 

Wish me luck!

Black Friday Sale

Hey everyone! Thinking about a seraph blade for Christmas? I’ve just put my Shadowhunter swords on sale for Black Friday! Yaaay!

Check out my Etsy shop and grab them before they’re gone!

IMG_2574

Well, that was a week.

Yeah, I didn’t make a post last week. It was a rough one. I finished all seven Malechai doll heads over the weekend (10th and 11th of November) and got them in the mail on Monday the 12th. I crashed for a couple of days because, hey, I hadn’t gotten my weekend yet at that point.

Sanded, cleaned, dried, packed in cotton batting (cause it’s bio-degradable!) and individual resealable bags. In a box lined with more cotton batting. Taped up, and shipped out!

Now, we’re trying to find out where it went.

Yeah.

Can I just go back to bed? This is not how I wanted to start this week.

Lots of Sanding

Okay! Quick update before I go off to work: I’ve got all 7 heads and head caps casted for this beautiful boy.

IMG_3098[1]

They just need all the seams and whatnot sanded and an overall buffing so we have that nice skin-like texture overall. The whole surface of the doll should be an even matte texture so that any face-up or makeup jobs, tattooing or other detail work will actually stay put. If it’s too shiny, any kind of powders and most kinds of paints will just slide around on it and make a mess.

Also, the skin should be matte because … well, that’s what real, living skin looks like!  That means sanding/buffing the surface of the doll in gentle circular motions with wet sandpaper or sanding pads, and a lot of patience. I just put on some nice peppy tunes and set an alarm every hour or so to remind myself to get up and stretch. 🙂 Otherwise I kind of hypnotise myself and forget to move for like three hours and then feel like I’m sixty years old all of a sudden.

More sword-related news:

IMG_3104[1]

Sariel is probably ready for its plaster prototype casting! Probably? Yes, probably. I’m trying a new moulding method here. It might completely flop. And by “flop” I mean literally flop. If the latex won’t hold its shape when I demould the foam prototype … well … I’ll have to re-mould it all over again. Let’s just pray that the demoulding process doesn’t destroy the foam prototype. If the latex mould doesn’t work and the foam prototype is destroyed, it means I have to carve an entirely new sword from scratch and start all over again. I’m not gonna lie, that might result in some tears. I’ve spent over a month on this thing.

In other, other news: expired resin. Again.

IMG_3101[1]

This is delamination. It’s flakiness on the surface of the piece you’ve cast. There aren’t any bubbles inside the piece. I can tell because it’s transparent and I can look inside it. It’s just the surface that has this weird frosty/snowflake pattern look. This can happen if there is moisture in the mould. (There wasn’t.) Or — you guessed it — the resin is no good.

This is the third time in as many months that I’ve gotten expired resin. Twice from Hardcore Craft and once from Hobby Point. In fact, this very resin that I’m holding in the picture is part of a replacement batch for expired resin. It’s also gone off.

This is preposterous. I don’t care how expensive shipping is from the United States to Finland, I’m buying from the manufacturer from now on. I can’t afford the wasted time. Every day I can’t work due to faulty materials costs me money. I don’t get paid for working. I only get paid when someone buys something. That means I have to be constantly making stuff. When I buy a batch of resin, I have to be sure that it’s a fresh batch that is going to work. I can’t afford to waste time making plastic waste to go in the trash.

Now, it’s time to get suited up and out the door. I’ve got some plaster to pick up on the way to the workshop so we can continue making magic! Wish me luck!

Get ‘r Done!

Yeah! I’m chewing my way through projects at the workshop. I’d love to be making progress faster but my goodness I will accept just moving forward as a success!

What have I got for you this week? Let’s have a look. I’m finally getting some perfect casts with the Malechai heads. Finally.

IMG-3066

Dude that doesn’t look perfect. Well of course it doesn’t. The crud you see at the top of his forehead there is a bubble-trap. I had to make an extra-large one there because this resin hardens so crazily fast that I have to provide extra room for the bubbles to go. They just can’t escape the mould before the goo hardens. The blips on his ears are also bubble-traps. There’s a bit of flash in his eye-holes and along his jawline but this is quite normal. It just gets sanded off. Flash happens when a bit of resin leaks in between the two halves of the mould.

The important thing is: no bubbles are present in any of the parts we care about. Just the bits that get cut off.

Naturally, I’m still looking for a resin that gives me a bit more working time while still being opaque white. Until then, though, there are people patiently waiting for these doll heads and I must finish them! So this week will be a lot of gentle, careful sanding and casting the caps for the back of the heads. I hope to be shipping these beauties by the end of this week. Cross your fingers that nothing else goes wrong. (Please art gods, haven’t I been through enough with one project? Can’t you torture me with something new now?)

We also have a Sariel on the go! Working away at getting that first prototype mould done.

IMG-3055

 

Looks like a tasty sandwich of … actually, ew. No I wouldn’t eat that. Anyway. I’ve gotten the thing flipped over, all the clay cleaned off the latex, re-balanced on the foam board, and the “box” re-constructed around it. Also got some mould wax (separating agent) painted all over it so the latex shouldn’t stick to the other latex when I put it in. Hopefully this method will work out okay and I’ll be able to bring you more sword styles at a lower cost.

Speaking of lower costs! I’m working out some new ideas for making prototypes and putting out new styles for you guys. Here’s my chief problem right now: money. Silicone is craaaazy expensive but it’s something I can’t do without. The mother moulds that will create each beautiful sword that appears on my Etsy shop  has to be made of high-quality silicone or it will end up breaking down in a few months and I’ll have to make a new one. That’s not only a waste of money but it’s terrible for the environment! Resin is a bit cheaper than silicone but it’s still not just pocket change. Every mistake I make costs me money. Usually a lot of it.

My vacuum pump is limping along, slowly dying (because I’m an idiot and put the wrong kind of oil in it for a few months) while I try to work up the funds to replace it. My electric cooler is also dying a horrible noisy death. I’ve had to use it every day to keep my food cool because somebody on my floor keeps stealing my food from the break-room fridge. This leaves me without any lunch. 😦 There is nowhere nearby to buy grocery food, not to mention that, well, having a really tight budget means I can’t just eat at a restaurant or buy my lunch every day. So I’ve had to force my poor little cooler to work much harder than it was ever designed to do.

I’ve already had to downsize my workshop by more than half and now I have to carry water in from the bathroom because there’s no faucet and sink in my new room. I cannot work in any smaller space than this. I don’t have enough space to work on three projects at once. This means sitting, wasting time watching glue/paint/resin dry. I feel the squeeze guys. I really feel it. I’m doing my best to keep on working and making cool stuff, trying not to use “disposable” plastics or Styrofoam (which is cheaper but horrible for the environment), and keeping the quality of my products top-notch while still being affordable. It’s not easy.

Where does that put us in terms of getting cool swords (and now dolls!) into your hands? Well, I’m at the point where I need to sell swords in order to be able to afford the materials to make more swords. There’s a bunch of people who want swords, but they’re not interested in the Clariel model. Some want Gabriel, some want Sariel, some want Jahoel, and some even want a Michael. I want to make them! You want me to make them! Yes! So what we need to do is somehow get all the people together who want the same model of sword and get the project funded.

That … sounds like a Kickstarter! Ooooh. Could I? Should I? If I can just get the darn moulds made, making the actual swords is not so hard. I’ve already got lots of experience with that! But the funding … it’s so expensive for just one person alone to fund the project. Right now that one person, alone, funding each sword project is me. We’ve got to fix that so I can make some headway.