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

It’s Possessed!

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.

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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.

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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 …

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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.)

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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.

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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…

It’s not what it looks like!

Okay so … I was testing out a new brand of polymer clay for making sword handles. Sadly, it doesn’t quite work the way I’m used to so this particular version of the handle didn’t really work out the way I wanted it to.

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No, you don’t understand. It REALLY REALLY DIDN’T WORK OUT THE WAY I WANTED IT TO.

Whoops

I was not pleased.

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Oh well. I’ll just have to experiment some more. I guess I’ll just … make this into a pencil holder … or something …

Chewie Bit Me!

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Owie! For some reason, the Azrael model likes to take blood sacrifices from me when I’m working on the hilt. I’d best change the way I do that unless I want Chewie the belt sander on a high-protein diet. Who knows what it will do if it gets a taste for human flesh! Dooooooom!

Yeah, Chewie pretty much just took a layer or two of skin off my finger when I looked at the clock for a second. Remember guys: never look away from your machine! It waits for you to let your guard down and then … chomp!

Anywho, I’m a big boy. I’ll be fine. I just have to wear gloves for a bit to keep the plastic particles out.

In other news, I have filled my last crafting slot so we are currently at capacity in the Studio at the moment. All the same, feel free to send inquiries. You can still nab the first spot in line. I should have a slot open next week when I finish up this looooovely LED equipped Azrael. Pics coming soon. 😉

10 Misconceptions About Medieval England

A friend of mine stumbled on this gem and I have to say, as a fantasy writer, I totally slipped up on at least two of these. Looks like I had better buy The Time Traveler’s Guide to Medieval England: A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. More reading? Woe is me, what a terrible fate! Hehehe.

It seems a common thing to screw up on these ten details. Have a look-see! Perhaps you’re guilty too?

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