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. 🙂
Let me share this magical experience with you. This is a quintessential moment of “you get what you pay for”. Yes, I absolutely knew what I was getting into when I picked this gem off the shelf.
It was half price, and cost me a whopping 6.50 Euros. Now, why did I invest in this piece of cra … plastic? Those of you who have been following my blog for awhile have seen my adventures in the ball-jointed-doll making world. I really do enjoy dolls and miniatures and all things “mini”. I don’t know why it’s so much fun to see every day items made tiny; it just is. So I embrace my crazy little hobby with joy. 🙂
Part of that hobby is getting down to the nuts and bolts (sometimes literally!) of how a doll is constructed. Awhile ago, I bought for myself a Made to Move Barbie so I could study how that particular doll moves and poses.
I’ll do an actual review on this type of doll later on for those of you who are interested. But for now, I can tell you that I was quite impressed with the quality of the Made to Move Barbie and the range of motion that she has. Excellent pose-ability. She can even sit with her legs crossed! I really hope whoever designed her joints got a promotion.
I was curious to see what Mattel had for us in terms of flexible dolls with a male body type. And that’s where I ran face-first into disappointment. There are no Made to Move Ken dolls. That’s right. Barbie can’t do yoga or go cycling with her boyfriend because his joints are woefully inadequate to the task. (Note: The Fashionista Ken doll line used to have flexible joints, however, the current generation has the old stiff joints and immovable arms. Why Mattel?)
Now, in order to check out the joints of a “Made to Move” Ken type doll I could either shell out for something like this:
And wait for him to arrive in the mail just so I can peek at his joints. Or I could grab this hunk right off the shelf at Hong Kong.
So, without further ado, let’s get acquainted with Mr. Kevin, first name “Cool”.
There is literally no text on this box other than what you see here. No explanation. Kevin has been cast adrift in this world with no idea of why he was made or for whom. Kevin will have to make his own meaning, just like the rest of us. (Okay so there’s a warning at the bottom telling you not to let your 0-3 year old eat it.)
Yes, his leg returns to that position if left unattended, in case you were wondering. Kevin has no idea what “socks” are. What are you talking about?
So that’s how far his elbows bend. On the upside, he actually has his fingernails sculpted in which is more than I can say for most Barbie dolls.
He can almost kneel.
He can almost sit. I had to put him on my leg to take the photo because he can’t quite get his legs at a 90 degree angle. Needs to be tilted forward a few degrees or he falls over backwards.
Okay his ankles are actually slightly more flexible than mine. Not bad.
His sleeveless sweater has a hood. Okay.
Yes, his Velcro “fly” is in the back. His pants conveniently fit over his adult diapers.
So … I’m fairly certain that whoever sculpted Kevin’s chest has never seen a man without his shirt on before. Pectoral muscles actually have connections under the arm and do not come to a point near the diaphragm unless you have your arms above your head. Thus, I can only conclude that Kevin’s chest is an artistic representation of surrender that the artist felt when the realised they weren’t getting paid enough for this.
I … well I would give a warning for nudity but Kevin is incapable of being naked. Ever. And it looks like it wouldn’t matter even if he was.
The only thing I can conclude is that these legs were actually sculpted for another doll who was smaller.
Well, that’s better than I can do. Good job Kevin.
Kevin’s bionic legs. No attempt made to conceal the pins of the hinge-joints that let his legs and ankles bend. Or trim the excess plastic left behind.
The leg joints are reaaaally loose.
The slapdash paint job on his hair is really noticeable. Parts of his hair are left uncoloured while there are flecks of blond paint are all over his ears and forehead.
The moral of the story is: pay your artists what they deserve. It costs a certain amount of money to create and ship a piece of merchandise. If you’re not paying that price, someone, somewhere up the line is getting cheated out of their money. That will show up in the quality of the product.
You can tell when the person who made the product didn’t care about the result. You can tell when something was pumped off an assembly line by people who just wanted to earn a pay cheque and eat and pay the rent. Those aren’t bad people. They’re doing an honest day’s work and they deserve their earnings.
There’s a market for 6.50 euro dolls. Many children are perfectly happy to receive Cool Kevin and play with him. But if you want something of higher quality, something that someone put a piece of their heart into and sent to you with pride, you’ll have to turn to small, independent artists. And, yes, you’ll have to pay us. Our goods come out of closet-sized workshops where we work alone, using single moulds to produce one-of-a-kind items one at a time. The piece that you’re buying didn’t just zip past us on a conveyor belt. We literally spent hours looking at it, working on the details until we were sure it was up to our standards.
We can’t hope to compete with the manufacturing power-houses of China. Most of us don’t want to. So, please, if you can’t afford an item that you want from us, just be honest about it. We know our goods aren’t within everybody’s budget. They’re not “too expensive”. They cost what they cost and can’t be made for anything less without us taking a financial loss.
If you tell us “I could get that at Walmart for a quarter the price!” or “I could make that myself for less!” then please do so. If you’re asking us to match sweatshop-labour prices for custom-made art: you deserve a Cool Kevin.
Yep! I’m keeping my Clariel swords on sale for Cyber Monday. Was 415.00 Euros, now 390.00!
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*
But before Sariel can be moulded again, we haaaaave …
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!
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.
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. ❤
Okay! Quick update before I go off to work: I’ve got all 7 heads and head caps casted for this beautiful boy.
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:
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 allover 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Okay, so I was trying out some resin from my local hobby shop. This resin is from Artidee, a German company. Cool. I like buying within the EU.
First thing I notice is that the hardener seems to have solidified? Oh, the package says it needs to be shaken if it’s been sitting for awhile. Okay. I shake it. Still has some flakes in it but I hope that will integrate when I mix it.
I go a head and pour it into the mould.
It FOAMS. It foams up out of the sprue, up out of the vents, out from between the mould seams. I had to tape down the central part of the mould there because it was LIFTING it up out of the socket! I have never seen a resin do this before. It wasn’t even hot! No steam. No weird smells. Just foaming like a maddened animal.
Naturally (or unnaturally), the doll head it produced was uh … interesting. What was happening? I thought maybe it was the bit of white dye I put in the resin so I tried casting it without the dye and putting it in the ComposiMold transparent mould just to see what it was doing. Well, it still foamed, and …
AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Kill it with fire! WAIT NO RESIN FUMES ARE TOXIC DON’T KILL IT WITH FIRE AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! WHERE IS THE ACETONE? THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY COMPELS YOU! GET OUT DEMON!
It’s crackling! It’s snap-crackle-popping like Rice Krispies! It continued to pop and crackle for HOURS after it cured. Sitting there … staring at me … asking “Why was I made … why … brought into this … eternal torment … what have you … done?”
Nope. Nope nope nope nope. Screw this. I’m going back to the Alumilite where it’s safe!
I’ve contacted the hobby shop in hopes that I can get an exchange or refund. The resin has obviously expired. I’m getting awfully tired of being sold expired products. I think I might actually write to Alumilite directly and ask them if there’s a way to tell how old a particular batch of resin is and, if there’s no reliable way to determine if its spoiled or not, buy directly from the manufacturer and just eat the shipping costs from America like a chump.
What else did I play with last week in the world of goo? Well, I used Alumilite Water Clear (my favourite resin) with some white resin dye. My hope was to make use of the Water Clear’s 15min pot time to get alllll those evil air bubbles out of the cast. Now, this worked well with a wee bit of dye. (Less than 1 gram.)
The one on the right there is how it came out. A kind of ghostly, ethereal whiteness. Slight translucence at the tips of the ears and just around the thin parts of the eye sockets. Cool! Buuuut not what I was supposed to make. I’m supposed to be making opaque white heads! Okay so I tried it with about 2-3 grams of dye.
Annnd it didn’t cure. See that sticky, goopy, melted-marshmallow stuff? Yeah. Uncured resin. And it’s exactly as sticky and messy as it looks. I have used a total of 3 litres of acetone cleaning up my experiments this past week.
It’s been a frustrating week guys. A very frustrating week. I ‘m just going to muck with my Sariel sword and witchlight prototype until my new shipment of white ALUMILITE RESIN comes in. No more messing around. We’re going to do this thing right.
Oh, uh, if I don’t post again in a week, please send an exorcist. The doll head probably got me…
Yes I’m updating today instead of Monday. It’s been crazy.
My water jug decided to leak onto the table all weekend. Apparently the table was mostly made of cardboard and the entire end of it was ruined.
So I had to take an entire day to chop the end off my work-table and reattach the legs. The seatings for the bolts were apparently laminated into a block, inserted into the table, and then laminated over so it was impossible to just move them and re-bolt. I had to use wood screws, which ended up being too long and pierced the top of the table, and a couple of G-clamps which are now a permanent fixture helping to hold the stupid legs on. Yay.
So. much. swearing.
I did some experimenting with a product called ComposiMold. It is a re-meltable, re-usable moulding compound. Poor Malechai looks a bit like Han Solo frozen in carbonite here. LOL
I also discovered that I can close the eye and neck holes with draft-stop tape. I’ll remember this trick for the future!
Now, what I learned from this experience is that ComposiMold tends to retain some bubbles. Currently not sure if I can actually get them OUT before the moulding compound hardens. But, since it’s a reusable substance, and the bubbles are quite small, I can use it to create prototypes of the items I make without having to buy more moulding products each time AND without creating more environmental waste to make a mould that will only be used once.
Now what have we got going on with this crazy little geode thing here? This is a prototype mould I made with a new technique I’ve been trying out. I’m constantly working on making things more cheaply so that I can lower my prices and make my stuff more accessible.
This is a moulding of a rock I’ll be using for the shape of my new witchlights. I’m still unsure of the size. It might be a little big, but we’ll have to see.
Now, here’s the really exciting part:
This is a touch-activated circuit that I have been working on. The final model of witchlight that I will be selling will light up when placed in the palm of your hand. No buttons, no slide switches. Magic. My aim, as always, is to make the prop look like it is activated by the power of the person holding it. I strive to hide the electronics and mechanics to the point where nobody but you can find the button. It’s a secret trick that you get to reveal (or not!) at your own discretion.
I want to take a moment to again thank the people who have been ever so patient while I tinker with these projects to get them working just right. It means a lot to me to bring something to you that I can be truly proud of, not just something that’s “meh good enough”.
That’s all for me for today. I’ve got to get back to makin’ magic! Have a great weekend guys. ❤