Testing Products & Trying New Things

Hi folks! As promised, I wanted to give an update on things I have in the works and talk a bit about how I do research.

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Here’s a peek at my desk where I’m testing new products I haven’t used before. This is a scrap piece of acrylic that I’ve milled a few grooves in the top and applied some different coatings to see how they behave.

I found while I was making Heosphoros that the engravings on the blade needed some more opacity to stand out from the rest of the blade. But I couldn’t just paint any old substance into the grooves without knowing if it would stay there or melt the acrylic or crack … You get the idea. As you can see, the different substances have different opacity, different thickness, and different texture.

The varnish didn’t work at all. It just rubbed off when I touched it. The faux snow was ridiculously hard to work with and ended up really chunky. The … Glitzershnee? Don’t ask me to pronounce that. I can’t speak German. Anyway #2 was pretty cool but dried kind of soft. #1 was a kind of lacquer for colouring stained glass but I accidentally picked up the crystal clear stuff instead of the white. (#5 is the white stuff which turned out to be too opaque)

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So what ended up working the best? The liquid acrylic (which smells like the Devil’s personal port-a-potty) and a semi-sheer nail polish with mica particles in it for a very fine glitter. Gosh, it would have been great to know that before I spent 30 euros and several hours poking a piece of plastic with weird goo. Ha! But that’s just the way it goes. I still have to test stuff before it goes on the final product. Even the nail polish. Different companies use different chemicals to produce their stuff so you can never be sure if something will play nicely with the acrylic. There are SO MANY kinds of plastic guys. o_o So. Many. And by the end of my life I’m sure I will have smelled them all.

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So I’m working on a witchlight… It’s more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s really hard to get the right stiffness so that it lights up when squeezed so I’ve been thinking of a completely different way of engaging the light switch. The one you see here is 100% silicone and there’s a big ol’ air pocket around the light inside so it’s a no-squeezy. I have to actually fish the light out of the thing to turn it on and off. Too inconvenient. Plus I hate that the light rattles around inside. It really takes away from the “magic” effect.

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Plus … WHY THE H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS DID THE SILICONE CURE TO THE ALUMINIUM FOIL?! Ugh. Maybe because some derpface forgot to give the foil a coating of petroleum jelly before plopping the silicone on it. Silicone is confusing guys. I’m just sayin’. Chemistry class did not prepare me for this.

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Anywho I do like how the opening is pretty well hidden until the silicone is squeezed and then it opens up like one of those rubber froggy coin purse things. It’s progress toward a witchlight I’d actually be pleased to sell. It’s not there yet, but the experimentation taught me a lot about the way silicone behaves and what it’s capable of.

I went out and purchased some actual powdered mica to mix into the silicone/plastic/whatever I end up making these things out of because I found that when the light is off, it doesn’t look so much like a rock as I would like it to. In fact, my first attempt at the silicone witchlight ended up looking like a big white booger or maybe somebody’s pet slime. … actually I might put googly eyes on it and just keep it as my shop mascot. Ha!

As I’ve said before and I’m sure to say it a hundred times more: art is about 90% problem solving. You get an idea, and then you have to figure out how to make it real. The other 10% is kind of a mix between stubbornness and insanity.

That’s all from me for now folks. I’ve go to get my butt to the workshop and polish up a Jahoel. See ya later!

Introducing Heosphoros!

Hm, does that shape look familiar? I sure hope so!

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This blade is a re-imagining of what the Morgenstern short sword might look like if it had been crafted from adamas. The Shadowhunter who ordered it specified which runes she liked and we put our own spin on the piece. I think it came out rather well.

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So exactly how hard is it to engrave on a curved piece of acrylic with no router or CNC milling machine? Well, on a scale of 1-10 it’s somewhere between 12 and crying in the fetal position. See, the lovely thing about automatic machines is that they are very stable and they don’t get tired. Hand-engraving with the Dremel tool requires the craftsman to hold his body and arms perfectly rigid and force the tool to stay in one place when all it really wants to do is skitter off into Narnia.

The other challenge was cutting 90-degree angles and sharp corners. I have a Dremel tool, a Bosch multi-tool, and Chewie my faithful belt sander. So how do we get these kind of angles?

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30% creativity, 70% tenacity, and 112% profanity.

Needless to say, Heosphoros challenged me and pushed me to my limits.

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I think it came out pretty nice though. 😉

The pommel is actually made of pine but thanks to the wonders of paint and a really nice high-gloss sealer it not only looks like metal but also feels like it too. It’s pretty fun to watch people run their fingers over it and then, perplexed, ask “what’s it made out of?” I figure that if you can’t really tell even after touching it, I’m doing a decent job.

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The runes themselves are inlaid with liquid acrylic (yes the stuff that smells like Satan’s personal urinal when it’s curing) and then inlaid again with a semi-transparent lacquer. I had to do this for two reasons: #1 It’s impossible to smooth out the tool marks from the engraving without using the acrylic because I don’t have a CNC milling machine or laser cutter, and #2 the acrylic is so clear that they were too hard to see without adding some opacity.

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Without the inlay.
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With the inlay.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this post. Sorry it’s been a long while between updates. I’ve been pretty busy and now you can see what I was working on!

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Haha take that demons!

Hopefully, it won’t be so long between posts next time. I’d like to give you a wee presentation on some product testing I’ve been doing and some neat ideas I have for future creations.

That’s all from me for now. I’ve got to dash off to the workshop and get started on the next sword. Until next time, stay safe out there Shadowhunters.

 

What Happens When You Cross a Shadowhunter with a Slytherin?

Something really cool apparently!

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I had so much fun making this. I had never worked with wood before so carving the snake head on the pommel was an exciting new challenge. After carving the nightmarishly hard acrylic, my tools sliced through the solid pine like a piece of bread! I actually had to be careful not to use too much force.

The blade style itself was based on the Jahoel model. I made it longer, wider, and curved the spike forward instead of at a 90 degree angle with the handle.

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The crystals in its eyes are faux emeralds made from acrylic and the crystal ball trapped in the mouth is made of glass.

I know, I know. You’re asking: “Yes but does it glow?”

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Yessssss it does.

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Quite nicely, I might add. 😉

This is also the first time I have added a sheath to the bundle.

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This sheath has a hard spine of stiffened canvas to make sure it keeps its shape and allow the wearer to draw and return the sword easily. It’s fully lined with a fine, soft felt to protect the blade from scratches.

The sheath was actually the most difficult part of the whole piece if you can believe it! I had never used this kind of fabric stiffener before and I was so glad it behaved like I thought it would. Getting the it fitted precisely to the curve and the width of the sword was really challenging. If the sheath is too loose, the sword might slip out and that just won’t do! All the same, it can’t be too snug or it will be too hard to get the sword in and out of it.

Please allow me to share a pic of the fitting process because I think you’ll find it just as funny as I did.

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Behold! The giant chocolate fondue banana! I’m not sure if that would make me the most popular Iron Sister or get me kicked out of the Citadel immediately…

I’ve been thinking of doing a short photo series illustrating how to wear a sword and how to draw and put it back in the sheath. Essentially “How to handle a cosplay sword and make it look like you know what you’re doing.” Would anybody be interested in such a thing? I’m not a master at any form of martial arts but I have studied a few years in Bujinkan ninjutsu so I can at least draw and return a sword without dropping the thing. (most of the time anyway …) Super duper basics but better than nothing for folks who haven’t had any training at all? Maybe? I dunno, what do you guys think?

Let me know. I love hearing from y’all. ^_^

I’ve already got a new project clamped to the cutting table and I’m eager to get carving. I’ll plop one more pic here and dash off to work. See ya later Shadowhunters!

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Whoa! What’s with the new look?

Hi guys! I’m trying to make my site a little easier to navigate let me know what you think, okay? Can you find your way around? Are the colours nice or ugly? I hate white backgrounds cause they’re rather harsh on the eyes so I try not to do that to you.

Other than monkeying around with the site design, I’ve got a wee update for you all about the current project I’m working on. I’ve taken some more time with the details of this piece and I think it’s really paid off.

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This is the first time I’ve ever carved anything out of wood. No, I’m not joking. I had a hypothesis though. I carve pretty shapes out of really, ridiculously hard material. (Acrylic.)  Couldn’t I apply that skill to something a bit softer like pine?

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That looks like a “yes”! I was gobsmacked at how easy it was to shape wood after having worked on acrylic all this time. In fact, I had to be really careful not to go at it too aggressively as I’m not used to a material that can fray and chip at the edges. The other new experience was encountering harder and softer areas in the wood where the bands run through it. (The dark lines.) I’m accustomed to a material that is 100% uniform in density so I had to learn when to press a bit harder and when to ease off so I didn’t end up gouging the wood.

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I’ve given the serpent head a base coat now though these pictures were taken before I painted it. Tomorrow will be a busy day painting, setting the eyes in the sockets, and other detail work. Stay tuned!

What’s on Ethan’s Table This Week?

Hi everybody! Here’s a quick update before I run off to the workshop. Man it feels great to be crafting again! I finished the cutting on this downsized Gabriel. (The pic still has some excess acrylic on the back but that’s all cut off now.)

It took me a couple days to get it cut as I’m using Jitterbug, my multi-tool to do it. I miss Nibbles, my band saw, but it just can’t handle the 50mm (2 inch) thick acrylic. I might see about getting a stronger multi-tool to see if I can shave off some time. Jitterbug has a bad habit of overheating and spitting black sludge on the table. How rude! We’ll see what I can do about it.

I’m still working out the specifics of getting my CNC machine. The one I was initially planning to buy is out of stock until March. The other one I’m looking at is in stock right now but it would cost roughly $2000 more. I must find out when the more expensive one would arrive (it’s made in the USA). Depending on the answer, I can move forward with my decision.

Bleh. I hate all this money and technical crap. I just want to art dangit! 😄

That’s all from me for now. This sword isn’t going to carve itself! Stay safe out there Shadowhunters.

A Brand New Start – Workshop Pics

Today, I signed the lease and put the security deposit on my new workshop. I collected the last bit of paperwork I needed and submitted my application for the government Start-Up Grant. This is a proud day for me and it marks the end to months of stress and frustration.

You’ve all shown me the kindness and patience that the Shadowhunter fandom is known for and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

I’d like to share with you the first pictures of my new workshop. It needs some cleaning and some care, but I can’t wait until then to show you! Besides, you see all my other works-in-progress so why not my work space too?

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On my floor, there is also a break room with a microwave, fridge, and a couple of coffee makers. Maybe I’ll see some of the other artists? Who knows! The building manager said he’s never seen anyone use it. I’ll be cooking myself lunch in there though so maybe it will encourage others to come and be social. 🙂

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Finally, after so much tearing my hair out and worrying myself silly, I can relax and enjoy my holiday. I still have to deal with tax registration and insurance and all that crud but for now, I’m just going celebrate my victory with my favourite beer.

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Whatever winter holiday you’re celebrating, I hope you have a good one! Me, I’m gonna eat a lot of food and be lazy. Probably visit with a bunch of friends while we all have a little time off.

I’ve got permission from the building manager to paint my workspace, by the way. Any suggestions about what COLOUR it should be? Feel free to comment! I’d love to hear what you think. 🙂

That’s all from me for now. Stay safe out there Shadowhunters.

Exciting News!

After a long and difficult search, I have finally found a suitable workshop! It is 32 meters squared, has an industrial sink for wet-sanding, its own climate control, a wall of storage racks, a workbench and chair, and excellent air filtration. It has a freight elevator and hand-trucks I can use to haul in my big plastic slabs, and also a kitchen to cook and store my food in. Best of all, I can be as noisy as I like! I’ll be surrounded by mostly storage rooms, another sculptor, and a hockey-mask painter with a lovely, loud air compressor.

The only downside is that it’s in Herttoniemi which is about 45-50 minutes away from where I live. Not a terrible commute as it’s mostly on the metro line, and frankly many people have a longer trip than that so I won’t complain. Much. Hehehe.

Herttoniemi has a lot of industry in it, especially automotive shops. There are several huge hardware stores within easy walking distance of my workshop. That means re-supplying tools and machine parts will be easier than ever!

I’m really looking forward to working near other people, to be honest. Having a workshop in my home was pretty convenient but also usually lonely. I could go an entire day without going outside or talking to someone other than my wife when she comes home from work. While I’m pretty introverted, I do need people-time now and then or I get sad.

So, Monday is going to be a very busy day for me. In the morning, I will go to register my business. That means I get my registration number and notify the tax man of my company’s existence. Then, in the afternoon, I go to sign the lease for the new workshop. Yaaaay!

After that, I’ll need to poke the Startup Grant people in hopes of getting some financial assistance with my newborn company. Wish me luck! I’ll put up some photos of the new space as soon as I’m able.