Back from Holiday

Wait, didn’t you just have a holiday Ethan? I did, a bit earlier in the summer, yes, but I had to chop my holiday time in half and take it in two parts because of my wife’s work. So I finally got to have the other half of my vacation.

What’s been going on at the workshop?

clariel

I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a couple brand new Clariels!

IMG_2788

Want to grab one? My Etsy shop is right here. 🙂

I’ve actually managed to significantly lower my shipping costs by switching to a different carrier. For example, if you live in Australia, you can now pay about 40 euros for shipping instead of a whopping 103 that FedEx was charging me. Whew! I told you guys I’m always working hard to make these things more affordable. It’s tough when you’re talking about hand-made commission artwork but I try my best to find some more wiggle room and put things in reach for more people. I understand tight budgets, believe me.

What else am I working on? Witchlights! I’m trying to put the photo here but my phone is being weird. Darn it. I’ll have to do it later. Anyhow, it doesn’t look very exciting at the moment since I’m just working on the mould and figuring out the circuits. Expect pretty things later!

One more exciting announcement before I head off to work. I’m starting on a new project that has nothing to do with Shadowhunters! I know, I know. Bizarre right? But yes I do do other things! One of my interests is ball-jointed dolls. For those of you who don’t know what that is: they are pose-able art dolls.

Inkblade Studios will be partnering up with Lost Chronicles BJD to cast dolls in resin. Our first project will be a small run of head parts for the nice folks who pre-ordered and made this project possible. Here’s a sneak peak at the 3D printed head I’ll be making a mould of later this week.

Malechai

I’m pretty excited to be working on this fella! It will be a relief to get to deal with a small amount of resin for once instead of something the size of my arm haha! Wish me luck everybody!

Trying New Things

Hi guys! In spite of the heat, I’m still trying to get stuff done. I managed to get most of the way finished one of the Clariel swords on my table. It just needs its protective glossy sealant and the strap around the handle.

IMG_2784[1]

 

That’s a handle made of Milliput. Milliput is a two-part epoxy paste. You smoosh it together, knead it thoroughly, and do whatever it is you want to do with it. It’s a lot like modelling clay in consistency. After 3-4 hours it sets hard as a rock. Much more solid and robust than the polymer air-dry clay I’ve been using before.

The downside to Milliput is that because it’s so much harder, it takes longer to shape, sand and polish. The paste is stiffer and harder to mould than softer clays so I have to do some shaping with the Dremel tool after it’s set and then sand those tool marks away before I can begin polishing. It’s also harder to engrave. It’s also a bit more expensive than the air-dry polymer clay.

In addition, any patching of gaps or fine details that I want to do with the Polymer clay (which is softer and easier to accomplish these things with) has to be done after polishing the Milliput. Milliput is hard enough that I have to wet-sand it to smooth and polish it if I want to work with any kind of speed. But the air-dry polymer clay softens with water and can become crumbly before its had its protective coats of paint and sealer put on it.

So the procedure has to go like: Mould handle with Milliput. Wait 4 hours. Shape with Dremel. Wet-sanding. Install leather flap for the light cavity. Smooth over any seam-lines with polymer clay. Dry-sanding. Install magnet closures. Engrave. Paint. Paint. Paint. Seal.

Do I like this procedure? Uhh … I’m still working on tinkering with it. But I do like the structural hardness of the Milliput and will definitely be keeping it on hand for anything that needs reinforcement. I totally recommend getting some to play with. It’s fun!

IMG_2781[1]

 

Here’s a different style of Milliput handle I also tried out. I wanted it to be all one piece so I could slide it on and off the sword to change the light battery when needed. Buuuut Milliput bonds with resin. On the one hand: that’s great! I can put stuff on my swords and be 100% sure it’s not going to come off. On the other hand: I wanted it to come off.

I even put a layer of liquid latex all over the handle before I started moulding the Milliput on. But Milliput forms itself absolutely perfectly to the object you’re sticking it on, so it formed an air-tight suction seal that I couldn’t pull free. I had to cut out a section of the front to do a conventional leather-flap for the light cavity.

IMG_2780[1]

Of course that broke the suction seal. And it came off just like I originally wanted to but far too late. I had already altered the design by slicing a section out of the front. GAH! That was a frustrating day guys!

But now it’s all epoxied into place and smoothed and patched. Ready to have its flap adhered in place

Will I be at the workshop today? I don’t know! I was supposed to have an air conditioner delivered to my apartment last week and they didn’t come. 😦 So I have to figure out if they’re coming today or not and if they are, I have to stick around and wait. But I won’t be doing nothing. I received my electrical components for the witchlights last week so I can begin tinkering with that until my AC arrives. (Hopefully.)

Wish me luck guys!

Back from Vacation

So I’m back from Estonia! I don’t think I mentioned I was going on vacation. Sorry. I was so excited to visit Tallinn for the first time that I just kind of ran out the door.

I finished off another lovely Clariel sword. It arrived in Germany safe and sound and now has a loving home.

IMG_2725[1]

I’d like to take a brief moment to talk about my packaging methods just in case anyone is curious. My blades are always packaged in materials that are bio-degradable, recyclable, or re-usable because I am committed to making my company as eco-friendly as possible.

IMG_2727[1]

When you open your package, you will find unbleached brown paper used for filling voids in the box (so the contents don’t rattle around inside). The sword is wrapped snugly in a fleece baby blanket, all tied securely with a ribbon. The colours of the blanket and ribbon may vary but my wrapping method is always the same.

Even though I work with plastics and craft things with plastics, I don’t want any plastic waste products. The way I see it: you’ll want to keep the sword forever, but not the packaging. So why should the packaging last forever? It shouldn’t! It should go back into the earth and continue the natural cycle of the environment.

Okay, enough jabber about tree-hugging stuff LOL! What’s up for this week? Well, I made a new mould jacket for my Clariel mould annnd … it doesn’t quite fit snugly enough so I have to trim it down a bit. I have to go find out how badly it leaked. Not looking forward to it. Yuck. But at least I had it wrapped up in plastic just in case it failed so it didn’t go all over the floor. It shouldn’t take too long to fix. Hopefully. Wish me luck!

Another Lovely Clariel

I’m almost finished crafting the third Clariel I made with my first mould. I’m very pleased with how this beauty came together. Gave me no trouble at all. My crafting technique is getting smoother and faster. Yay for practise!

IMG_2721[1]

What’s next from the Inkblade Studios? Well, I continue to work on my crazy bucket experiment. Once I’ve confirmed whether or not it works, I can move on to creating a brand new model of sword! Or … will it be a witchlight? Or maybe a stele?! Ahhh help me decide!

Blue Goo; What Do?

Hey guys! I’ve got a lot of new stuff coming up that I’m really excited to share! First, I’m pleased to announce that the third resin-cast Clariel has been purchased by a lucky Shadowhunter in Germany. I’ve already got the flap moulded, underside painted a nice reflective white, and adhered to the hilt. If all goes well, I’ll have it finished and on its way by the end of the week. Yay!

IMG_2713

Secondly, I’ve been doing some weird silicone experiments in an effort to make my moulds with less silicone. That would cut down on my expenses and allow me make things for everybody at a lower cost. Yay! I really am trying, guys. I know cost is a factor for most of us.

If I had a big ol’ factory with assembly lines and million dollar injection moulding systems, I could be making stuff in bulk and charging less but … nope. It’s just me. Me and my own two hands doing the best I can.

IMG_2702
So what’s this stuff? Same silicone, just thickened and painted on.
IMG_2703
The thickener didn’t work so great so a lot of it oozed across the table.
IMG_2704
Still, I got a decent mould of the rock I was using with a lot less material.

Clearly, more experimentation is needed. The mould ends up quite a bit thinner and it might be more flexible than I want it to be, but that’s okay! I remain stubborn and I will find a way to do this just the way I want it. 🙂

Lastly, I have a strange experiment in the works. I want to try a new way of creating a support structure for silicone moulds. Usually, moulds are clamped between two boards or a ‘jacket’ is created around it with either fibre-reinforced plaster (like a cast on a broken leg), or fibreglass.

I’ve experienced some problems casting smaller objects in resin when the mould jacket is made of plaster. Since plaster is made of gypsum, and gypsum has a verrrrry low thermal conductivity it takes a really long time to heat up or cool down and usually feels cold to the touch. My resin needs a certain amount of warmth to set properly, otherwise I get uneven curing.

IMG_2229[1]
Like this. 😦
I would happily make my mould jackets out of fibreglass, but I don’t want to work with glass fibres. They’re nasty things. Irritate the lungs, irritate your skin, and just generally get everywhere and make a nuisance of themselves.

I could use burlap or similar cloth instead of glass fibre and I actually tried to do that last week. However, the epoxy or resin you typically use for this kind of thing is the most foul-smelling chemical I have ever worked with. Most of them require you to work outside with a respirator on. It’s that bad. So, I would either need to use a resin that is less stinky (and way more expensive!) or …

IMG_2711
Is that … is that a garbage can? Ethan, you’ve lost your mind this time.

Yes, that’s a couple of enormous trash cans with bags of fine sand inside. Sand? Trash cans? What kind of crazy plan is this?!

You’ll have to find out later. I’m off to the workshop to finish a sword! Wheeeee!

The Mothermould!

Woohoo! This has been a crazy exciting week. I stubbornly went back for another try at the mother mould for Clariel. I was terrified that I’d fail once again and have wasted over 100 euros on silicone.

IMG_2666
Well … it’s smooth, but is it cured?

I was especially nervous because one spot was a bit of a different colour and firmness than the rest.

IMG_2668
Poke poke. Hello? 

But it wasn’t sticky and my finger didn’t sink into it soooo, let’s get it out of the moulding box.

IMG_2673
A fine looking silicone sandwich!

Well it looked like it was all okay. But I would only be able to know for sure by separating the two halves. This was the moment of greatest tension. The moment of truth! Would it be sticky inside? Would it have somehow cured to the other half, trapping the model sword inside?! I didn’t know. I’d have to open it and find out.

IMG_2675
Here goes nothing …
IMG_2676
SUCCESS!

It cured! It cured all the way through and didn’t do anything crazy! I can’t tell you the relief I felt. That was so much work to get it right and my mistakes were not cheap but it all paid off.

IMG_2688
All cleaned up and ready for a mould jacket!

Ahh, there it is. That’s exactly what I wanted. I really needed that win. it fits together just perfectly. No weird gaps. No bubbles. No cracks. Hurrah!

Now on to the mould jacket! This mould is too wobbly to support itself indepedently so it needs a “cast” around it to keep it from popping open or deforming when I pour the resin in. Imagine it like a body; right now, it needs bones so it can stand up. 🙂

I tried some really gross-smelling plastic stuff.

IMG_2692
Uhhh …

And it hardened before I was done working with it! well that’s useless.

So I gave my dear mould a nice, relaxing mud-mask.

IMG_2695
I thought it looked stressed out. This’ll help.

Really, though, that’s hobby concrete smooshed into layers of burlap cloth. I’m hoping it will be strong enough when dry to not crack or crumble. We’ll have to see! This is how I left it last Friday night so this morning I will check on it and see how my experiment went. Don’t worry! I’m not out of ideas yet!

I have determination! I have sisu! And if that doesn’t work, I have coffee.

Silicone Sandwich

Otherwise known as the two-part mould. It’s half finished guys! Actually, it might be all finished right now; I have to go to the workshop to check. But I wanted to share with you the progress shots from last week because playing with goo is exciting!

IMG_2610
There’s the mould design sculpted in clay.
IMG_2613
And placed in its box for silicone pouring!
IMG_2621
Some kind of strange Ikea cake …
IMG_2623
Now to clean of allllll that clay. It took hours.
IMG_2632
Then a quick re-sculpt of the spout and air vents.

And it was all ready to go back in the box for the second half! Then I hit a few snags. First, since it’s the other side, the bendy part around the blade had to be put on the other way and when I did that, it somehow ended up about one centimetre shorter. I have no idea how this happened. Oh well! I just added some more corrugated plastic on the end.

Then, I noticed that the straight pieces of foam board I had used for the upper parts of the sword had become badly warped overnight! I tried to patch the gaps with extra hot glue but it just wasn’t working. I had to cut some MDA board instead and use that. That sucked up some extra time.

Then, as I was degassing the silicone for the second pouring, I realised something: it was really hot in my workshop. I thought it couldn’t be more than 24C or so in there and I was really focused on my work, not my comfort. BUT, with this silicone you can accelerate the curing time by increasing the temperature. Handy right? Except when all the bubbles aren’t out of it yet and it’s starting to set! AHHHHH! By the time I noticed what was wrong it was already as thick as cookie dough. I had to stick my gloved hand INTO the bucket of silicone and pull it out glob by glob. It even started curing to my glove and I had a big hand-sized blob of blue slime dangling off my fingers as I desperately waggled it, trying to get it off. It eventually plopped into the mould box with the rest.

So … will it be okay? I don’t know! The top of it won’t be as smooth and glossy as the top of the “Ikea cake” picture there. I’m afraid the silicone had already thickened so much that the last blobs that fell in will probably stay as they are and make the surface bumpy and weird. What does that mean for me? Well, it just means that I’ll have to do a fibreglass jacket around the mould instead of a wooden clamping box. Oh well! I have the stuff to do either one and I was on the fence about which way I wanted to do it anyway.

The real question is: did it cure nicely against the SWORD? Because if there’s bubbles or spaces against the sword, I have to do this part of the mould again. I’m making a pretty new mother mould for every Clariel model sword that will come from my shop. If there’s a mistake in that mould, there will be a mistake in every sword it produces! And I’ll have to take time to fix each and every one. That would ruin the point of making a better mould in the first place! It’s gotta be just as perfect as I can possibly make it.

Wish me luck! I have a feeling I’m gonna need it today.