COVID Update

Yes, I’m still around. Yes, I still do art. The Work-From-Home recommendation from the Finnish government is currently scheduled to end August 1st. Provided that Coronavirus cases here continue to decline, I will be able to get back to my workshop then.

I promised you that I would always be completely honest with you. That means that some posts are less cheery than others.

I haven’t been posting because … well, frankly there’s been nothing to post. I’ve been working on restoring and modifying an old, broken doll castle and that’s about it. All I have done on that so far is just sanding it in preparation for priming and applying a base coat to the parts. It’s really hard to try and make that look exciting.

When can you place an order for seraph blades again? I’ve taken note of the people who expressed interest in ordering one. I suspect there might be something wrong with my current mould as I’ve been getting a lot of bubbles and delamination in my casts. If there is indeed a problem, I will have to make a new mould. That might take a couple of weeks.

The short answer is: I’m not sure. I’ll have to let you know.

My company has been hit hard by this crisis. As most of you know already, I am a sole-proprietorship. That means I work by myself. A one-person team. While there has been financial relief offered to entrepreneurs, I did not qualify for it. I spent much of last year doing research and development and therefore didn’t make enough money to be “worth” a bailout.

I am disappointed. I was supposed to break even this year. However, I continue to pay rent on my workshop while being unable to work there and because half of the year is already gone, that is no longer a possibility short of some kind of miracle.

What lies ahead for Inkblade Studios? Well, its as good a time as any to rebuild and restructure. I’ll run you through my plans here.

Pressure Casting

Casting under pressure means few to no bubbles. Typically, pressure casting is done in a pressure pot (most often the size of a paint can) or by injection moulding. Neither of these things are suitable for large, long object like a sword. So I must create a “pressure pot” that is long enough to hold the size moulds I need.

This is tricky because if you are sloppy about your construction methods, it will explode. Since I have no interest in making pipe bombs, I will be taking my time and doing this properly. I’ll just have to beg your patience in the meantime.

Carving Blanks

I dearly miss carving swords the way I used to do. Nothing I have cast comes close to the optical clarity of the carved swords.

So, so smooth.

These are very labour intensive, though. I need blocks of acrylic resin in specific sizes and lengths. It’s much more cost-effective and time-saving to cast blanks (blocks of solid resin) myself rather than pestering local industrial plastics manufacturers with my bizarre requests. They’re used to making big thick sheets and slabs of plastic, not rods of weird widths and lengths.

With my new power carving tools and custom-sized blanks, I would be able to carve faster and have less waste material to chew through. It would become feasible to return to carving custom blades without having to sell them at a loss.

To make blanks, again, I need pressure-casting. I don’t have the funds or the space for an extrusion machine of my own. That is too far in the future to think about right now.

Small Items

I have had so many requests for witchtlights. Just so many. I’ve been working on it for ages. It is very, very difficult. My specifications are brutal and I refuse to make an inferior quality product just because it would be easier. Anybody can make a plastic rock with a light inside, but who can make one that doesn’t have a big ugly cap on one side? That’s just a rock-shaped lamp. Seriously, I could do that right now if that was all that was needed.

Thankfully, all that time spent in research and experimentation was not wasted. I have a model that I’m satisfied with producing. I just need to make the final sculpt, take a production-quality mould, and start casting them. Assuming nothing goes wrong–which now that I’ve said so it probably will–I should be making witchlights by the end of the year.

I will also be making some jewelry, amulets, trinkets and such. Smaller items that you can buy for a much more affordable price than the big swords.

That’s about it for now. I have more plans for the future but the others are too far off to discuss right now. Thanks for your patience. I’m doing the best I can with the circumstances and that pretty much means starting over.

Doll Mods

Hello! While I’m waiting for electronic parts to arrive, I’ve been working on some doll modifications.

I re-flocked this fella’s hair and gave the top a trim.
Yeah, that is actually light outside my workshop window. Finally!

I’m also continuing work on my cat girl doll. You might remember that she came to me with a broken leg. I re-designed her knee joints to make them stronger (using metal instead of plastic). However, the new joints, though strong and very flexible, are rather ugly. So I tried to cover them with some fur-textured epoxy paste.

Hmm, interesting concept but not quite how I imagined it.
They look okay-ish when straight but you can probably see a bit of a gap in the back there.

I’ll probably end up using something like this aesthetic as I continue to experiment. For now, I need to study the other dolls I have collected to see how those manufacturers do their joints and see what I can learn.

As an artist or craftsman, it’s never a bad idea to take the time to learn more about your craft. Time spent practising is never time wasted. Perhaps you’d like to follow along as I take a look at doll joints?

Working on Witchlights

Yep. I’m still hacking away at this project. I’m frustrated, but also very, very stubborn. I managed to mess up my first casting of the year and ended up having to clean uncured, sticky resin goo out of my mould. Hopefully that was just a derp in measuring the quantities of part A and B.

Yesterday, I had a bit of excitement while re-doing that casting. When I started pouring in the resin, it began leaking out of the mould. I realised I had not tied the cord around it tightly enough. Now, because the resin had already been mixed and I had only about 10 minutes left before it gelled, I couldn’t go pull the box of ties down from the shelf, fish out the ball of string, wind it around tight and cut it before the whole operation was ruined.

I stood there, holding onto both sides of the mould, pressing them together, trying to problem solve on the fly. Aha! If I could run into my dust tent, grab a clamp, and get back before too much resin leaked out, I could save the casting! So I did. I dashed into my dust-containment tent, grabbed the first clamp I could get my hands on and ran back to the mould.

Yes, the first clamp I could get my hands on … was about 3 times bigger than the mould itself. LOL! You gotta do what you gotta do eh?

Well, it stopped the leakage sure enough! Today, we will see if the resin cured and, if it did, if the casting will line up correctly with the other half of the witchlight. If it does, I can install the magnets and get to work on the electronics!

If it doesn’t … uh … well I learned something from the experience? Yeah, it will be back to the drawing board for the witchlight project. Well, if it was easy, it would already be available on the market. It isn’t. I know because I want one and I’ve hunted everywhere. I think my company motto is going to be: “Screw it; I’ll do it myself.” Hahaha!

Wish me luck?

Custom Clariel

Hello everyone! I’ve just shipped out what is probably the most gorgeous Clariel style blade I’ve ever made. It took me a little over a week from start to finish. Remember when it took me 3 – 4 weeks to make sword?!

I’m so pleased with how far I’ve come with my crafting. It’s been a long and frustrating journey with big bites taken out of it for illness and surgery. Life doesn’t always cooperate with what we want to do. We all do the best we can.

I continue studying, experimenting, and swearing at my tools to bring you better and better artwork.

About the piece: This shadowhunter requested only the angelic rune on the handle, a black wrapping, and a frosted finish on the blade.

The snap closure on the wrap is the tiniest I’ve ever used so it’s quite difficult to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. I decided to shape the leather flap (which covers the light fixture) in two separate pieces and adhere them together. This resulted in a covering that conforms to the shape of the handle much better than forcing a single piece of leather to go over multiple curves.

If you want your very own Clariel, you can pop over to my Etsy shop and get one made for you. Please note: I go on holiday at the end of this week so your sword will come to you in the new year if you order now. 🙂

That’s all from me for today. Thanks for stopping by!

Almost Done

Quick update on Clariel before I go running off to the workshop again. I’ve been super busy with the holidays coming up.

Leather flap formed, interior painted a nice reflective white, ready to be glued on.
Starting the rune carving. Yes, I do it all by hand.
Carved and pressed. Now for the epoxy putty handle.
Sculpted, clamped and curing. Yessss.

I’ve already got the sanding, the other rune carved on the other side, and the base coats of paint on the handle … but I forgot to take a pic before I left the workshop last night. Sorry! Super busy! Thanks for stopping by! Gotta run now.

Back in Business

Hey guys! I’ve been out of commission for 6 weeks with this stupid surgery thing and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back in the workshop! As soon as the doc cleared me for active duty I hopped on the train, headed directly to the shop, and cast a brand new Clariel.

I like big clamps and I cannot lie …

I was worried about getting back into the swing of things. Would I need some time to get back in the game?

It looks like a creepy but happy fish.

The resin behaved. The vacuum pump behaved (even though I really should probably change that oil …)

Yaaaaassssss

This is probably the fewest bubbles I’ve ever had in a casting and they were all pinhole surface bubbles, easily buffed away with a little sanding. To say that I’m pleased with the results is a huge understatement.

Here it is all trimmed and with its first couple rounds of sanding. I’m starting to leave the handles rough so the adhesive and epoxy putty has a better surface to grip to. I can’t wait to see how it’s going to turn out!

Thanks for stopping by my page. Hopefully updates will be regular again.

Being Sick Sucks

Yep. I’ve been sick for two weeks. I don’t know what that was but it filled my head with boogers and stole my voice. Yuck.

I’m supposed to have a shipment of resin coming in this week? We’ll see. I had to fight Finnish customs for it as usual.

While I’ve been unable to get into the workshop and do stuff, I’ve been studying up on crafting techniques. I found a great book by Lightning Cosplay about Moulding and Casting. I recommend checking out their stuff if you want to try your hand at making your own costume props. 🙂

https://www.lightningcosplay.com/books/

Don’t worry; it’s available in English too! 🙂

Yes I Forgot to Post Last Week

Whoops! Sorry guys, I got back from a month of vacation and just kind of derped on the whole blog-update thing. Anyway, I’m back from Canada and doing some research and development on doll making.

There are a lot of different ways to make joints for a doll or action figure. How to decide what kind of joints will work best for the toy I want to make? Well, I went around buying some new and used jointed dolls to study and experiment on. I need to decide what works and what doesn’t and since I’m not a huge manufacturing mogul, I can’t afford to make all my own mistakes. I need to learn from what others have already done.

Here’s a sneak preview of a Monster High doll I’m tinkering with and modifying.

Those knees need to be much more robust than Mattel designed them to be. I’m fixing that. 😉 Turns out being stick-thin isn’t all it’s cracked up to be eh?

In other news, WordPress is currently really not impressing me. I have to re-boot my router every time I want to upload images and the website crashes all the time. It did it to me again today in the middle of writing this post so I’ve had to re-do it. This wasted half of my working day. Thanks WordPress. I will be switching to Square Space in the near future. I’ll let you know when that happens. I’ve had enough of crappy service. 🙂

Castle Makeover Project Part I

Castle what? Ethan has a castle? Since when? Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes upon this!

You’re squinting. I know you are. What are we looking at? This is the original MGA Storytime Collection Princess Castle Playset and this is the ONLY photo I can find of it. Anywhere. I can find its newer incarnation, the Storytime Princess Collection ICE CASTLE Playset all over the place but you can very quickly spot the differences.

Deep breaaaaath: No dome on the left side, no mirror, no other half of the tower, no stained glass window, no supports under the flip-down bed, no balcony, no handle, no stickers, no rose and filigree decorations, no stairway to the second floor, and it’s blue. They took a lot of stuff off of it to make it cheaper. It shows.

So, how did I get my hands on the original? Well, I got it second hand for 10 euros from a nice lady whose children had outgrown it. It has been very well loved. Very VERY well loved. Personally, I am absolutely fascinated by the ageing process of toys and other frequently-used items. Hopefully you’ll be interested to see what happened to it over time.

So you can see what colour the sun bleached the plastic. In the most protected areas, you can still see the original purple. The most UV-damaged area, the rounded side of the tower, has had all the blue leeched out of the purple dye leaving only a peachy-pink behind. The outside of the castle has turned mostly brown for the same reason while the inside is still struggling to hold onto its purple.

The window frames and the top of the tower which used to be a periwinkle blue are now beige where the blue dye has been totally destroyed. By this damage we can determine that the blue dye they used in their plastic was not very durable and did not stand the test of time.

So what is Ethan going to do with this poor abused structure? Well … when I’m done with it, it’s going to look a lot different than what the original designers had in mind. You’ll just have to wait and find out!

BIG update (many pics!)

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been quiet. I’ve been struggling with various things. Briefly: illness (I’m better now!), research (you don’t wanna see pics of me reading; BORING), annnd finding out that my new tiny workshop is too hot in the summer for me to do my work properly or be at all comfortable.

I’m hunting for solutions to that last problem there. Looking for a new workshop, or a house to rent that has a garage or some outdoor space I can work in, or an air conditioner at a reasonable price, or a refrigerator to at least keep my silicone and resin at a proper working temperature. It needs to be about 21 to 23 degrees. My workshop is currently 27 degrees so everything is curing way too fast.

I have a wee electric cooler, but it drips water continuously from its cooling fins inside. So much so that it actually grew mold on the wooden backing of my thermometer that I had in it.

Ew.

That’s no good. 1. I’m allergic to mold, and 2. urethane resin is really really sensitive to moisture. It can’t sit in a puddle and then be expected to work.

NEXT! I am currently moulding a brand new witchlight model.

It’s a rock!
Or is it?
Into the moulding box it goes!

At this point, I have the silicone done and an outer jacket made of the usual burlap and plaster. I’m practising the brush-on method of silicone moulding even though this piece is clearly small enough to get away with a pouring mould. Practise is important to refining technique and I can’t let the opportunity go to waste!

The benefit of the brush-on method is that you can use less silicone which is crazy, crazy expensive. The downside is that you have to make a hard jacket to keep the mould stable because it’s going to be thinner and clamping it can squish the mould. The other downside of brushing on is that there’s a risk you won’t get the silicone into all the little details of the piece you’re working on, especially if there’s undercuts or weird textures.

I will find out today if it worked all right! I’d show it to you now but someone forgot to take a picture of it. I blame Cool Kevin.

Dammit Kevin!

NEEEEXT! I’m conducting experiments on different types of resins and epoxies in an effort to find a cheaper material to make my swords. I’m using a little silicone skull mould for the test.

Let’s see what we ha … ew.
He’s having a real bad day.

Okay so this is TFC EP Casting Resin Epoxy from TrollFactory. I have tried casting witchlight parts, roses, and this skull here with it. All of them had at least part of the casting fail to cure. This test actually damaged my mould. It will be disposed of. Maybe some people can get it to work but I find it far too finicky. That, and it comes out a pale pink, making it unsuitable for swords or witchlights.

Well … it LOOKS cool but that’s not what I wanted.

This little fail is made of ZDS epoxy resin. I discovered that I accidentally added the wrong amount of hardener so while it did harden completely, it also went bonkers all over the outside. I tested it again adding the correct amount of hardener this time!

Well! What do you know? It works better when you follow the instructions! The better version still has some bubbles and flaws in it though and this presents a problem. In order to ensure that there won’t be bubbles, I’d have to put it into my pressure pot while it’s curing. But it needs to be kept at 70 degrees while it’s curing or it won’t harden fully. How to keep it warm while under pressure? I don’t know! And that really won’t help with the swords because I don’t have a pressure pot big enough to fit a sword inside it.

The next test is going to be using polyester resin. I really don’t want to, because it smells bad and wearing my respirator all day is stuffy and annoying. But I don’t really see another option at this point. I literally cannot afford to lower my prices any more than what they’re at now unless I turn to a less expensive material.

It’s a difficult situation. I want to make my stuff more affordable to more people so everybody can have the pretty things they want but ultimately, I also have to pay rent on the workshop, buy materials to make the art, advertise my stuff so people can actually find it, and also … y’know, eat food. Otherwise, none of this can happen at all.

Wish me luck with it eh?

Small reminder that I have a Clariel sword for sale.