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!

Having a Rough Time – Announcement

Hi folks! I know I’ve been quiet for awhile. It’s been a hard time for me here. I had hoped that I could have the situation all resolved in a few weeks and then I wouldn’t have to post any kind of explanation at all other than “Been busy! Sorry!” But it’s not going to be resolved that quickly so I’ve decided to tell you about what’s been going on.

This is going to be reading-heavy. Sorry about that.

The workshop that I lovingly refer to as The Adamant Studio (or more recently Inkblade Studios as I move closer to incorporating my business) was located in the back room of my apartment. WAS. I had to decommission it, and this is why:

I’ve been making swords out of 1 inch thick (25mm) acrylic. I decided to move up to 2 inch thick (50mm) material so I could have wider hand guards and more 3D detail in general. Unfortunately, this thickness was too much for Nibbles my band saw to handle and it broke. The blade snapped. I tried to fit it with a new blade and discovered that the driving wheels inside the machine had been jarred out of alignment. What does that mean?

That means that the saw blade comes flying off the machine when I turn it on. That’s a bit of a problem.

I tried to complete the remaining 8 orders I had for the year with a table saw and my plunge cutter Jitterbug. Unfortunately, the table saw is much louder than Nibbles. The neighbours complained about the noise and the landlord forbade me from using the back room as a workshop anymore.

So what happens now?

Now, I must look for a workshop to rent where I can do my crafting again. This is not as easy as it sounds. I am a Canadian living in Finland and I don’t speak Finnish. Most of the inquiries I made received no response. One place I went to see is in the building’s bomb shelter two floors below ground. The air filtration is kind of … questionable. The “flooring” is made of old, loose boards that are not nailed down. Yeeeey. All this for the jolly price of 400 euros per month.

Yes, you read that right. 400 euros or $439.24 US per month. My swords usually sell for 200-300 euros depending on the model. I don’t get to keep very much of that money. Out of the price of each sword comes the shipping (about 41 euros depending on where it’s going), the materials (the acrylic, leather, paint, LED mechanism), and the saw blades, sanding belts, sandpaper … you get the idea. What actually goes into my pocket is a number much, much smaller than 200.

I usually make two swords per month because I’m carving thick acrylic by hand, and it’s slow work. I physically cannot work any faster because the machines I have just can’t chew through the material any faster.

“Hang on a minute,” you might think at this point. “If Ethan makes two swords a month and they cost us 200 euros each to buy … he gets 400 euros. But the workshop costs 400 euros to rent. That means …” 

Yes.

“Ethan is working for free.”

Kind of. I still have to buy the materials and pay the shipping fees.

“Ethan is working for minus dollars?! what?

You got it. Ethan is spending money to make swords. That’s not a very good business plan. So, is it all over then? Do I stop making swords? No. I don’t get to call myself the Iron Brother if I give up that easily.

I’ll keep looking. That’s what I’ll do. There’s a possibility that I may be able to get a work space for 180 euros a month. Yes, I know that’s still not very much money for me at the end of the day but it’s still better than losing money to do my job.

What I really need to make this work, though is better machines. I’ve been making do with little hobby saws and things that are just not made for any kind of industrial manufacturing. I need to make more than two swords per month and to make that possible, I need a CNC router machine. One of these:

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How much does that cost? Funny you should ask that … it’s about 3000 euros. Haaaaaa … *head desk* Yay. Yeah that’s quite the investment. But all is not lost.

The Finnish government has a wonderful program called the Startup Grant Program. It’s for people who are starting a new business in Finland and need a little extra cash to get everything up and running. I have to make a business plan, a budget, and then apply and cross my fingers, pray to the Angel that they say “yes” and give me funding.

This machine can cut several swords for me in a matter of hours. Instead of taking two to three weeks per sword, I could have one ready for you in less than a week. I would be able to keep some swords in stock so you could buy them whenever you need one and you would only have to wait for it to arrive. No more waiting in queue for a crafting slot. I could afford to lower the prices of the swords so more people could have them. It would change everything. It would allow my business to survive.

I’ll tell you the truth guys, because the Shadowhunter fandom received the award for the Best New Fandom. I feel safe telling you all these things because our fan community isn’t full of haters. It’s full of love and support and good attitudes. I don’t have to worry about being ridiculed or trolled for sharing with you when I’m having a problem.

For me, making these swords isn’t about the money. It’s about loving the Mortal Instruments series. It’s about loving Cassandra Claire for sharing her magical, imaginative world with us. It’s about creating beautiful things and sharing them with you. It’s about learning and discovery and pushing my skills to uncover new ways of crafting things.

Art is my life. And this … I don’t have words to tell you how much I want to finish the sword in my hands right now. It hurts my heart. I get a lump in my throat when I set foot in the back room of my apartment, mostly empty now. And silent. I sit at my computer and endlessly refresh the listings for workspaces for rent, hoping to see  a new one pop up that I can inquire about.

I feel like a Shadowhunter stripped of his marks: useless. Unable to do the task I was made for, despite how badly I want to.

So, yeah, I’m frustrated and sad and tired right now. I will keep trying. I appreciate how kind and patient everybody has been and I hope you will understand. I could really use a turn of luck right about now. Fingers crossed everybody.

Thanks for hearing me out. Much love, and stay safe out there Shadowhunters. ❤

Artistic Accidents

So, I was trying to make a lovely smooth, flawless, transparent coating of red over a clear sword. I had to strip it all off and re-finish the blade completely three times before I realized that it was absolutely impossible to get a coating free of drips without an air-brush unit. Which I don’t have.

I tried giving it an extra thick coating and then sanding it down, hoping for an artificially-created flawless finish. But there was no getting around it; there were still drips and …

wait a minute …

That actually makes a really cool pattern!

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I accidentally produced a lacy pattern much like Damascus steel on a semi-transparent blade. My wife, who is very much a fan of blacksmithing and adores the Damascus patterns told me on no uncertain terms to do the whole blade like that.

So here it hangs in the closet dripping bloody red into a bucket while it dries. Spinner isn’t even finished and it is already hands-down the weirdest sword I’ve ever made.

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Of course, as a side effect of dribbling the glass paint all over the sword, it got other places too.

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Paint. Yes … just paint. Ahem. *closes the cupboard*

Ouriel and Remiel

A short sword and matching dagger. The first of the LED-equipped blades that I have released. I’m proud to present to you Ouriel and Remiel!

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Hidden under the leather is a button that sits just under the middle fingers of the left and right hand. With a little pressure in the right spot, the blades light up as though by the wielder’s will alone.

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Magic! Yeah, yeah, I know. “Show us more pictures Ethan!”

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And this is why Shadowhunters wear black. The rest of me is there. Promise.

Shadowhunter cosplay

Alright, let’s get to the machinery behind the magic.

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The interior of the hilt is hollow. To access the light, you simply open the pommel, push it back, and grasp the small handle of the fitting and pull it out. The white fitting holds the light in place and prevents it from rattling around inside the sword.

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Here I’ve tugged the handle up a bit for you to see how it fits in.

Let’s roll back in time a little so you can see what the guts look like without the leather cover. I drilled a hole where the flashlight button sits when it’s inside the sword. Then I formed the fitting around it and created a button of a firm polymer clay. The white button bridges the gap between the leather under your fingers, and the switch on the flashlight so you can turn it on without needing to move or open anything.

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I enjoyed working on these blades and I have to admit, they challenged me at every turn. I’d like to do some more playing with the orientation of the lights in the future and see if I can work out an easier installation method.

If you’d like an illuminated Seraph Blade of your own, feel free to stop by my Buyer’s Guide and browse the options!

Almost done!

I can’t wait to show you the forging of Ouriel and Remiel, but until then, have a teaser.

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A gentle squeeze on the handle brings Ouriel to life and lights up the room. Not only is it clear enough to read through but you can read in the dark!

Stay tuned for more pretty things coming up next.