Lots of Sanding

Okay! Quick update before I go off to work: I’ve got all 7 heads and head caps casted for this beautiful boy.

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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!Ā  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. šŸ™‚ 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:

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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 literallyĀ 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 workĀ and the foam prototype is destroyed, it means I have to carve an entirely new sword from scratch and startĀ allĀ over 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.

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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, IĀ 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!

Get ‘r Done!

Yeah! I’m chewing my way through projects at the workshop. I’d love to be making progress faster but my goodness I will acceptĀ 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.Ā Finally.

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Dude that doesn’tĀ 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 nothingĀ 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.

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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 shopĀ Ā 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 horribleĀ 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. šŸ˜¦ 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. IĀ 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.

Give My Creations Life!

What a crazy week. I spent the whole of it waiting for a resin shipment to arrive so I could finish these doll heads. Due to a mix-up with the ordering (PayPal apparently farted or something) it will arrive this week instead.

But I didn’t spend all that time doing nothing!

I’ve got not one, butĀ two new swords in the works.

Everybody remember the cool ring-sword Zaapiel that I made for a wedding?

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It’s making a comeback for a very special project!

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From humble beginnings traced onto a piece of foam insulation …

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To a cut and and honed profile …

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To a sleek shape ready for patching, sealing, and finally, its first moulding. But it will have to wait until my table is clear.

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THIS bad boy is currently taking up all the space! What’s all the pink stuff? That is light, air-dry clay that I use to fill voids in the insulation that I carve the first prototypes from. There’s always some air bubbles and cavities in foam insulation and this makes holes in the swords that I really don’t want. So I fill them before I seal them to ensure a nice even shape.

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Here’s Sariel chilling out in its moulding “box”. I’ve been experimenting with more flexible walls for the moulding boxes so that I don’t have to use as much silicone or other moulding compound. Most swords aren’t just big rectangles, so filling that extra space in the corners of the box is a lot of wasted material! I’m doing my best to reduce costs for crafting my pieces so that more people can afford them. This … isn’t easy. I have to spend a lot of time problem solving and trying out different things before I find something that actually works well.

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Part of that cost-cutting effort is right here in this “box”. I’m using liquid latex as a moulding compound. On the upside: liquid latex is cheap and also bio-degradable over time. On the downside: it takes many coats and takes a long time to dry between coats so what it saves me in cash, it costs me in hours. I’m currently trying to work out if it’s going to be worth it to do latex layers, or if I’m going to have to buy a ton of alginate and try to do it that way.

I haaaaate using non-bio-degradable materials for prototypes. It’s so bad for the environment to make something that’s going to last forever and then only use it once. The foam I’m using for my first prototypes isn’t bio-degradable (I think) but I have a huge slab of it so I have to use it up.Ā  I’m still working out what I’m going to use instead after the foam is all gone.

Wish me luck everyone!

Longswords Anyone?

Just a wee update this morning to show you what I’m working on this week.

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It’s Sariel! Inspired by Isabelle’s glorious two-handed sword from the Mortal Instruments movie. šŸ™‚ I’ve got all the initial carving done and the holes all patched up. (This insulation seems to have a lot of voids in it for some reason.) Now I just need to sand it and apply several layers of sealing on it before I can do the first moulding.

I’m hoping to have these available in time for Christmas. Wish me luck!

Wild Week

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.

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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.

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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

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I also discovered that I can close the eye and neck holes with draft-stop tape. I’ll remember this trick for the future!

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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.

Nice!

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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 butĀ youĀ 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. ā¤

Making Headway

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Here’s the back of Malachai’s head with Lost Chronicles’ logo loud and proud. Isn’t it a lovely design? The edges are rough cause it’s popped fresh out of the mould with no sanding just yet. That comes later. Busy busy busy!

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They’re multiplying … o_o Taking over the workshop! Somebody help before they —

Hehe just kidding. They’ve been mostly well behaved. Mostly. I’ve had some odd bubble issues to the degree that I actually had to alter the mould and give more room for the gas to escape from the resin. All of the bubbles occurred right at the top of the mould so at least fixing them should be reasonably easy. Well … as easy as manually filling the tiny voids with tiny amounts of mixed resin and then sanding it back down flat so no imperfections remain.

In fact, I was just about to start that process when …

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What the heck is this?! This is the Part B jug of my white resin. It has chunks in it like orange juice pulp! How? Why? Dammit I can’t use this! I will have to contact the seller and figure out what’s going on. Ugh!

In the meantime, I will be exploring other options. This resin sets in only two minutes. That’s clearly not enough time for all the air to get out despite the mould being very well vented. I’m looking at the very real possibility of having to use a different resin that sets more slowly … which probably means casting all those heads over again. -_- ButĀ if that’s what I have to do, I will do so at my own expense, as per usual. I have a policy of not making customers pay for my mistakes.

Now, despite my adventures in Doll Land, yes I do still make swords everybody, don’t panic. In fact, I have two lovely Clariel swords waiting to be purchased on my Etsy shop.

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Now I’ve got to poke my resin seller to see what’s wrong with the stuff they sold me and get to the workshop to do some more experimentation. Wish me luck!

Big Changes Ahead

Hi guys! I have to try to show and tell you lots of stuff while being really quick cause I have to go move my workshop. YES! I am moving. From the 3rd floor to the 4th floor. LOL

Why?

My previous space was too expensive for me. Almost 600 euros a month. That, coupled with the cost of materials to make my shinies (silicone is ridiculously expensive, I’m not even kidding), and my vacuum pump dying and needing replacement (I’m degassing things in a couple stages as it limps along with its last gasps of life) I could not afford to stay there.

So: we’re going from 37 square meters down to 15 square meters. This is okay because I had way too much space to begin with. But … the new room also doesn’t have access to water. So I have to schlep a water reservoir from the bathroom to my workroom when I run out. Booo. Well, I guess I’m about to become very strong? Yay.

My wife helped me move all the things that needed two people to move yesterday (Sunday). Bless her heart for sacrificing a day off lifting and lugging with me.

Now, on to the stuff I’ve been working on! Quick quick GO!

I made a witchlight! Yay!

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It didn’t work! Boo.

I shaved it down.

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It … kinda works! Yay? Not good enough. I’ll keep trying!

Next thing GO!

Doll head made by Lost Chronicles prepped for moulding!

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Covered in blue goo!

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Mmmphhhrrmmph!

How did the moulding go? Don’t know! Not finished yet. Not touching it until it’s safely settled in the new workshop!

Next thing GO!

More carving done on Sariel!

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Yes! In about a month you will be able to get your hands on a glorious longsword like the one that Isabelle Lightwood wielded in The Mortal Instruments movie! Woo! Send thoughts n’ prayers that everything goes smoothly.

Okaygottarun wishmeluck! Aaaaaah bye!

Wait! I forgot.

Don’t forget I have a Clariel for sale on my Etsy! It could be yours! Grab it!

Okay now bye for real gotta move stuff!