Blades and Birds

Hoo boy do I ever have a lot of pictures to show you today! First, we get to look at the newly created mould for Zaapiel for the super cool Arabian Nights project. Yay! I am so very pleased with how it turned out especially because my vacuum pump was dyyyying throughout the process of degassing it. (Seriously, I need a new one. My wallet is sad. 😦 )

What lurks beneath this slab of blue goo?

It’s a sword! (As if anybody had any doubts about what it was… LOL) That’s the first side done. I actually managed to remember to take photos of the mould box this time.

Let’s have a little peek at the anatomy of this mould box here and explore some money-saving tricks! The straight parts near the handle are simple MDF board with laminate on one side to keep things from sticking to its porous surface. The wiggly parts all around the blade are flexible plastic sheet. The upside of using this sort of sheet, is that I can make it the shape that I need instead of one big rectangle every time. This saves money on silicone.

The downside of using the flexible sheet is that it takes longer to set up and it’s more fiddly. It also takes more hot glue to stick together and fill gaps. The wooden sticks you see are there to keep the plastic sheet at a 90 degree angle so the two halves of the mould will actually line up. The wire that stretches across the width of the box in three places helps those six reinforcement sticks from bowing outward when the weight of the silicone starts to push on the walls as it’s poured in.

If you choose to use this method of moulding, take a moment to consider how much you charge (or would charge) customers for your time per hour. Think about how long it will take to get the mould box the way you want it. How much will that time cost? Now compare that to the price of the silicone you will be saving by shaping the mould box more closely to the object you’re moulding. Which will be cheaper?

In this case, I saved approximately 100 euros of silicone. Since I charge 10 euros per hour for my time, and it took me less than 10 hours to fiddle with the mould box, I saved money by using the plastic sheets. Your results may be different, so it’s worthwhile to check!

Back to the pictuuuuures! Here’s the crazy silicone sandwich we all have come to know and love. I’m proud to say I didn’t have any leaks throughout the entire process. Gosh I’ve come a long way from where I began. It seems like only yesterday I —

… you know what, nevermind. Let’s go back to the pictures. Shush.

It’s a win! Two beautiful, bubble-free halves of a sword mould. I cannot wait to get resin into this baby and see what it can do. Will my new bubble-trap design work? Is everything truly straight and perfect? I don’t know! We’ll have to find out when I get my new vacuum pump so I can degas the resin properly. No skipping steps! That’s the way to get a crappy result.

Now, I mentioned birds in the title didn’t I? What was that all about? Well! I’m ready to reveal to you the beginnings of a new project. It has nothing to do with Shadowhunters. (*gasp!* I know. It’s crazy isn’t it?) This new project that I’ve been so secretive about is part of a creative vision that has deep personal meaning to me. I hope to share this dream with you so we can all enjoy it together.

If you guessed “raven” you are correct! This bird is fully baked now so the clay is hard. It still requires a lot of detail work, smoothing, and tinkering, but I had to render the clay stiff enough to support my sculpting tools fixing and fussing around on it without getting bent out of shape. The rest of the shaping will be done with either an air-dry clay or Milliput. I haven’t decided yet.

This project has a long way to go still, I hope you’ll stay tuned for its evolution. Until next time, wish me luck!

Breakthrough!

Research is annoying, boring, and absolutely necessary. I bet you’re tired of seeing these little squares aren’t you? I sure am. Silicone and resin are both notoriously finicky substances. Each brand and each type has their own particular formula and behaviour. Luckily, I knew to expect this and bought extra to test and fiddle with before casting a big beautiful sword.

Always. Buy. Extra.

So what can you do when your materials are not behaving themselves they way they should? Search online for the answers, do some more digging, ask other artists, watch videos, read tutorials, contact the manufacturer. If it turns out that there’s more than one possibility, you’ll find yourself in the unfortunate situation I’ve been in for the past few weeks.

You have to make the best guess you can as to what went wrong and do it again changing only one thing at a time. It’s tedious and frustrating and you’ll really, really want to make it go faster, but it’s necessary to isolate the problem so you can fix it. If you change more than one thing and suddenly it works, (or messes up even MORE) then you’ll never know where the mistake happened in the first place! The ultimate goal is learning more about how the materials work so you’ll waste less and be more sure of yourself later on.

You’ve all seen my first attempt with Alumilite.

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Why is it sticky!?
What happened? The resin was too cold. My workshop is only about 17-18 degrees Celsius. (Yeah it’s not so comfy this time of year.) That’s too chilly for Alumilite waterclear to cure and not even a heat gun on the mould beforehand made a difference.

For the second attempt, I put the silicone mould in my mini oven that I use for clay baking and propped the door open. This kept the internal temperature of the oven at a toasty 50 degrees Celsius.

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Well, it’s not sticky at least … It cured all the way through, nice and hard, but there were weird, flaky patches on the surface of the resin. What could possibly have caused…

Wait a second. Ah! The plaster “jacket” I made to keep the silicone mould flat and secure was made of gypsum. Why is that important? Gypsum doesn’t conduct heat very well at all. That can be really useful for some projects. For this one, though, it sucked. The plaster caused the temperature of the resin to be inconsistent.

Worse than that, the flaking of the resin actually scratched the silicone mould. That means anything I cast with that mould will have scratches all over it. Greaaaat. So I had to make another mould. I made it double the thickness of the original mould so it could stay flat and secure all by itself.

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Ah yeaaaaah! That’s what I’m talking about! The resin stayed nice and toasty throughout its curing and hardened all the way through. No stickiness, no weird bubbles, no probl- Oh. Yeah there are some dark flecks in there. It’s not a uniform pink.

Sigh.

Yeah, the dropper I used to put the dye in the resin had a semi-dried “booger” in it. (I call bits of congealed paint, glue, whatever that gets stuck in the nozzle of something a “booger”. I don’t think that’s the technical term for it.) So the clump of dye came out in the resin and failed to dissolve into it.

But I’m still happy. “Use a clean dropper” is a really easy fix!

As I always say: “There’s no such thing as perfection; only beauty.” So how can we feel better at being forever imperfect? Just have a look at where we started and see how much we’ve grown!

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Are you stoked? I’m stoked! Let’s get to the workshop and make cool stuff!

Yes, You Can Ask Me Cosplay Questions

I’ve noticed that I get questions now and then from people who want help with creating their cosplay props. I decided to make a quick post letting you know that it’s okay to do that and I will get back to you as promptly as I can.

You can ask me on my website, my Facebook page, or by email. I don’t mind and I don’t ask for payment for my advice. I don’t know everything but I have been doing this for a few years now and I can usually help track down solutions to problems people run into while crafting.

Fans gotta help fans after all. Just remember I’m doing it in my spare time kay? Good luck with your projects guys. 🙂

How to Run a Writers’ Circle

It’s a bit of a departure from my usual “Ooh Shiny!” swords and whatnot, but ultimately, I am a writer and I do writerly things.  One of those writerly things is providing support to my fellow creative people. For three years, I have run the Bonavista Writers’ Circle in Montreal: a group of writers of various skill levels and interests who come together to brainstorm, edit, critique each other’s work, and provide workshops for skill sharing.  We’ve all learned so much together and come through as stronger, more confident writers.

I’m not able to run the Circle anymore because my wife and I are moving to Finland for work. I’m saddened at having to leave behind this amazing group of people, but I will look back on our time together with pride and a smile. The Circle has taught me a lot, and I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned about running a group like this. Chances are, if there isn’t a Circle in your area, you’ll have to do what we did, and create your own.

Continue reading “How to Run a Writers’ Circle”

How to Self Publish a Novel in Canada

I was recently asked the process one must go through to self-publish a novel as I did. Okay. Let me see if I can make an explanation as easy as possible. I shall be completely straightforward and honest so brace yourself! It’s better than getting nasty surprises later.

1. Get an ITIN. You’re going to need that in order to claim the Canadian-US tax treaty and stop them from withholding 30% of your profits every time you make a sale across the boarder. Do this FIRST because it takes a full year for it to kick in once it’s processed. Do not baulk at the fee. This is a business. If you invest nothing, you’ll get exactly that in return.
2. Get an ISBN. If you’re selling your book in more than one format, request more than one ISBN. I requested 3 because I’m selling my book as an .epub and .mobi (two different ebook formats, the latter being exclusive to Amazon), and as a paperback.

Continue reading “How to Self Publish a Novel in Canada”

29

What an awesome weekend! My wife and friends threw me a great birthday party. I requested a kidless kid party and I was not disappointed. There was construction paper, origami, finger painting, toys, games, candy, Kraft Dinner, Sloppy Joes, and BOOZE. Yes. Lots of that. Mmmm. 

Now the finger-painted masterpieces of my friends are taped up on my wall to make me smile whenever I turn around. This year I have selected a My Little Pony calendar to put up on the wall, its bright cheery colours in strong counterpoint to the freezing rain outside. Bleeeeeh. I wore my Oscar the Grouch pajama pants and we listened to Raffi and Sharon, Lois, & Bram while we jabbered about writing, politics, and sex … yeah kid-friendly topics there. I had an awesome time. The only bad bit was that I seem to be allergic to the fingerpaints because I broke out in a rash over my neck and shoulders at the close of the evening. At least we’re assuming it was the fingerpaints because that was the only thing I’d never come in contact with before. We’re going to experiment later to see if using them again makes me break out again. It’s useful to know when you’re allergic to something! Thankfully, someone pointed out the rash fairly quickly and I jumped on it with Benadryl, a bunch of water, and went to lie down. This is what my drunk brain told me to do. Not bad programming!

As this will be my last year in my twenties, I think I shall focus on celebrating youth and vigour this year. I’ve been told countless times by my elders to “enjoy it before it’s gone” and I’m the sort to listen to and respect my elders. A dying breed, I know!

Anyone want to join me? C’mon. Get out there and do something childish today. You’re not dead yet.