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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

A New Look!

Whoa! Dude! What happened to the site? Don’t panic guys; I changed my logo. Everything’s still here.

I took a recommendation from a friend to check out Turbo Gold Media  to get my very own logo designed for me. I liked the work they did on her logo so much that I decided to give it a whirl. I was immensely pleased with their services and I found their prices to be quite reasonable for the quality I got. They’re very quick and responsive and took my feedback seriously.

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I felt the need to change my logo because the old one didn’t really fit the direction my company was going. Originally, it was my plan to make a career of both writing novels and making cool costume props. Well, it turns out that making costume props is a heck of a lot more work than I thought and takes almost all the energy and time I have and I still don’t get everything done that I need to. On top of that … well … books just don’t sell. I don’t really care about worldly riches but I do need to eat and pay rent.

So, yes I still write, but it’s a hobby now. It was a brutally difficult decision to make but I had to be real with myself and admit that it was time to adjust my priorities. Maybe once I can afford to hire an employee or two to help me out and I don’t have to do everything myself, writing will be able to take a bigger role in my life. Until then, I need to focus on improving my prop-making business and get a stable income so things aren’t so financially tight for me.

Running a company is hard guys! O_o

Enough yammering about my new pretty picture! What’s up in the workshop? Well! I had a crazy failure in casting a couple of swords. I think the resin got contaminated or is a little too old or quite possibly the heat/humidity is too high in my workshop right now. It’s 30 degrees Celsius and because there is no air conditioning, I have no way to bring the temperature down.

Either way, I had this bizarre snowflake-pattern delamination on two swords.

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Now, that would be rather cool if it was what I was going for, but since I wanted crystal clear and perfectly smooth … nope. Bad news for me. 😦 As you can see (maybe) there’s a bajillion little bubbles there and each one has flaky resin coming up around it in a flower/snowflake pattern. Boo!

What to do? I didn’t want to waste all that resin. So I sanded the swords as best I could manage to get alllll those little air bubbles and flakes off the surface. I got it as smooth as I could and then tried something weird: I mixed some glazing resin (the stuff you normally use to seal a painting or piece of wooden furniture) and carefully dribbled it down the sides of one of the swords until it was completely coated and left it hanging to dry.

It was an unconventional solution to be sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Either it would work and the sword would be saved, or I would have to admit defeat and throw it away. And you know how crazy I get over wasted plastics!

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Whoa. Just whoa.

Why did I never think to do this before!? That is the clearest, smoothest, most pristine finish I have ever been able to get on a sword EVER. I cannot wait to get back to the workshop today to handle it and inspect it now that it’s all cured.

What do you guys think of it? I mean … this is more than crystal clear. It looks like a liquid that just decided to hold the shape of a sword! Should I offer this option as a possible finish you could choose for your blade? What should I call it? Ahhhh I’m so excited! I gotta go to the workshop now and give this beauty a handle!

Ooh Shiny!

So I played with my new silicone mould last week as I continue my witchlight experimentation. I thought you might like to see the results. I was delayed a little bit at first since the plaster mould jacket I made broke.

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Whoops.

So I had to make a new one out of wood. That whole incident took a couple days more than I was expecting but I bounced back fairly quickly. And of course, I learned things! Time spent learning is never wasted. 🙂   (and my clamps may have learned a few new curse words …)

Aaaaanyway. Look! A shiny rock!

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Yaaaaay!

It’s flat on the bottom so I can more easily work on the whole internal electronics stuff. The resin is so clear, it looks like it’s hollow, but it’s actually solid!

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So next for this little treasure? I’ll be messing about with tiny electronics and figuring out how I’m going to hide a light inside a clear object. I’m thinking it will probably be similar to the witchlight you saw in The Mortal Instruments film that was kind of cloudy inside with some imperfections like a natural stone would have. Kind of like quartz?

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You know the one I mean.

It’s fairly safe to say that adamas would look something like this before it’s refined and worked by the Iron Sisters. At least as far as we can estimate by looking at how mundane metals and crystals behave. I’ll be playing with pigments, dyes, and different kinds of inserts to see what yields the best and most natural looking crystal, while still being able to light up. Y’know just … the usual high wizardry.

I’m sure I’ll figure it out. My superpower is stubbornness.

But! I didn’t spend my entire week on a rock. Nope! I was levelling up my crafting skill finishing off the first ever cast resin Clariel sword!

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Super DUPER shiny. 😮
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The hilt is a combination of polymer clay and leather.

I’m working on making the seams smoother so it’s more difficult to see where the handle opens up. This sword, like the ones before it, has an invisible light switch. Wait, it lights up?

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Of course it does!
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We must have the very shiniest! 😀
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Also functions as a flashlight. Y’know. Just in case.

So does this mean I’m taking orders now? Kinda? I have a mould but I want to make a better quality one since this one has some imperfections in it that I have to spend extra time buffing out when I finish each sword. Rawr! Since silicone is quite expensive, I’ll be selling the three Clariel blades I currently have so I can actually afford to do that.

Of course, those who have been waiting patiently on the contact list get first dibs on the blades up for sale cause that’s only fair. BUT! I can add your order to the list and let you know when one becomes available. I can’t give actual dates quite yet as to when I can complete those orders but I am definitely working on that. And no, you don’t have to put down any kind of payment on the order before I have a completion date for you. I’ve done that before and it’s really stressful on both me and the nice Shadowhunter waiting for their sword!

This whole ordering process thing WILL get easier in the future. Once I’ve got things the way I need them to be (ie: a quality mould I’m happy with and reliable crafting times from start to finish) I will be opening an official web shop for you to find my stuff and buy what you want. I’ll still be taking custom orders, of course. I just need to streamline the crafting process so I actually have time to make custom pieces again.

Enough blathering from me! I must go to the workshop and get busy finishing those other two blades. See you later!

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!

First Hiccup

So, the vacuum pump I got to degas the silicone (and after that, the resin) isn’t working. Yep. And because the seller is in China, I have to wait a day between each response via customer service. So I’ve lost a week of work now.

See that pressure gauge on the big ol’ bucket there? It’s supposed to be dropping. It’s not moving. Boo.

What’s the next step for me? I go through the troubleshooting process, see if we can get this machine working and, if not, I return it. Whether I get a replacement from the same company, or buy from someone else in hopes of getting a more reliable product remains to be seen. We have to determine what the problem is first.

If it’s a simple “whoops! we put the fan on backwards!” then, no problem. If it’s “oh yes, some of our models can be a little leaky …” then I’m probably going to have to consider other options.

Why didn’t I buy locally? You might ask that. Well, because this vacuum pump kit cost me only about 200 euros. Comparable ones sold in Finland are at least 1000 for the pump only. No attachments or chambers to hook it up to.

It’s frustrating, but I’m stubborn.

Now, if it would only stop raining… Wish me luck!

Final Moulding: Clariel

Hey guys! I am really excited and nervous today. I’m using my brand new vacuum pump and taking the final mould for the Clariel model sword. (I hope.) It has taken way longer than I thought to get that plaster sword prototype as smooth and shiny as I possibly can.

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The glossy varnish I have needs about 12 hours to fully set before I can put on a second coat so you can imagine how long it took to get multiple coatings on and then polish the thing.

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I think it was worth the extra effort. 🙂

Now, the next step is getting it fitted into the moulding box nice and snugly. That took a long time as well. Why? Because you saw how sloppy my first mould was. Let’s not have a repeat of THAT nonsense! We want the two halves of the mould to line up all straight and smooth and beautiful so that I can easily clamp them together with no leaks or weird seams.

To do that, I have to find the exact middle of the object I’m taking a mould of. That’s tricky when it doesn’t sit flat on the table. It’s chubbier in the middle than it is at the point of the blade or the pommel (butt end). So that makes it do a see-saw thing when I try to lay it flat. To compensate for that, I have to put a cushion of clay under the blade and the handle to make it sit perfectly level. Then, I have to cut a piece of laminated foam (or anything else that’s flat really … could be wood but I used foam) to fit in the space between the sword and the edges of the box. That’s so the silicone doesn’t fall down through any gaps and fill the whole darned box. That would trap the sword inside and I’d be really sad. (Hey! Give me my sword back!)

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And that gives us exactly one half of Clariel to make exactly one half of a mould. Yaaaay!

But what’s all that green stuff in there? No one said there would be green stuff aaahhhh! Don’t worry. that’s just clay. Some of those clay noodles are touching the sword and some aren’t. The ones that are touching Clariel are air vents. Those allow the bubbles to escape from the resin when I pour it into the mould so (hopefully) they get out of the sword and don’t get stuck in there.

The noodles that aren’t touching the sword are what we call “findings”. You know when you’re closing a plastic container of leftovers and putting it in the fridge for later? Take a look at the lid sometime and you’ll see there’s a trench all the way around where it fits over the edge of the container. That makes a nice snug fit so air doesn’t get inside and so you know the lid is in the right spot before you push down on it for that nice satisfying “click!”. Container closed and ready to go. Like your plastic sandwich box, the two halves of the mould need to fit together nicely and the findings help you figure out when both sides have lined up just right.

And then I pour 300 Euros of silicone into it. Haaaaah … yeah send me Luck runes guys! You can probably see why I’m a little nervous of screwing up! Haha!

Well, that’s enough procrastinating for me. I’d better go Iron Brother it up in the workshop. (I’m just kidding. I love talking to you guys. LOL) Oh, and if you’re a Matthew Daddario fan like me, don’t forget to wish him a happy birthday if you haven’t already!

Ciao for now!

A Pure White Blade

What an amazing ride last week was! Here’s where we left off with my last update:

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That’s the second prototype of Clariel curing in its silicone and plaster jacket. No way of telling if it worked or not. If it cured all the way through. If it cured with giant bubbles in it … So, it’s time to reveal what was hiding in that plaster cast.

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Ahhhhh it worked! It worked! It’s really rough on the surface there but the plaster is solid all the way through and the imperfections that are there are really small.

Let’s take it out of the mould.

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Aw yeaaah! Hello me beauty! I’d recognise that shape anywhere. No time to gloat though; let’s get sanding.

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Ah, now that is just a lovely sight to behold. You can see a shift in colour where the handle is because I poured the plaster in two stages. Plaster cures with an exothermic reaction. That means it gives off heat while it’s hardening. I didn’t want to overwhelm the rather shoddy mould I’d made so I decided to do it in two pours instead of just one. Next time, I’ll do it all in one go as I’m more confident that the materials can take it.

There are tiny imperfections on that blade though I really doubt you can see them. I vibrated the mould while it was curing to jiggle the air bubbles up and out of the plaster so there really aren’t many bubbles and the ones that are there are really small. Still, this prototype has to be perfect. Any imperfections left will be present in every Clariel from now until I make a new mould.

The Iron Sisters aren’t known for their “okay” craftsmanship. 😉 I demand excellence!

This week, I am correcting the remaining errors in Clariel prototype 2.0 with a very fine spackle and … yeah … more sanding. Then it gets sealed and polished up just as shiny as I can make it. Then, we take a mould with the expensive professional moulding silicone. That mould will be the one that makes all my Clariel swords from now on.

Yes I’m terrified but hopefully we’ll have just as much luck as we had last week! Cross your fingers for me folks.

That’s all from me for now. See ya later!