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 accept 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. Finally.

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Dude that doesn’t 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 nothing 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 shop  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 horrible 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. 😦 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. I 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.

It’s Possessed!

Okay, so I was trying out some resin from my local hobby shop. This resin is from Artidee, a German company. Cool. I like buying within the EU.

First thing I notice is that the hardener seems to have solidified? Oh, the package says it needs to be shaken if it’s been sitting for awhile. Okay. I shake it. Still has some flakes in it but I hope that will integrate when I mix it.

I go a head and pour it into the mould.

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It FOAMS. It foams up out of the sprue, up out of the vents, out from between the mould seams. I had to tape down the central part of the mould there because it was LIFTING it up out of the socket! I have never seen a resin do this before. It wasn’t even hot! No steam. No weird smells. Just foaming like a maddened animal.

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Naturally (or unnaturally), the doll head it produced was uh … interesting. What was happening? I thought maybe it was the bit of white dye I put in the resin so I tried casting it without the dye and putting it in the ComposiMold transparent mould just to see what it was doing. Well, it still foamed, and …

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AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! Kill it with fire! WAIT NO RESIN FUMES ARE TOXIC DON’T KILL IT WITH FIRE AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! WHERE IS THE ACETONE? THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHEMISTRY COMPELS YOU! GET OUT DEMON!

It’s crackling! It’s snap-crackle-popping like Rice Krispies! It continued to pop and crackle for HOURS after it cured. Sitting there … staring at me … asking “Why was I made … why … brought into this … eternal torment … what have you … done?”

Nope. Nope nope nope nope. Screw this. I’m going back to the Alumilite where it’s safe!

I’ve contacted the hobby shop in hopes that I can get an exchange or refund. The resin has obviously expired. I’m getting awfully tired of being sold expired products. I think I might actually write to Alumilite directly and ask them if there’s a way to tell how old a particular batch of resin is and, if there’s no reliable way to determine if its spoiled or not, buy directly from the manufacturer and just eat the shipping costs from America like a chump.

What else did I play with last week in the world of goo? Well, I used Alumilite Water Clear (my favourite resin) with some white resin dye. My hope was to make use of the Water Clear’s 15min pot time to get alllll those evil air bubbles out of the cast.  Now, this worked well with a wee bit of dye. (Less than 1 gram.)

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The one on the right there is how it came out. A kind of ghostly, ethereal whiteness. Slight translucence at the tips of the ears and just around the thin parts of the eye sockets. Cool! Buuuut not what I was supposed to make. I’m supposed to be making opaque white heads! Okay so I tried it with about 2-3 grams of dye.

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Annnd it didn’t cure. See that sticky, goopy, melted-marshmallow stuff? Yeah. Uncured resin. And it’s exactly as sticky and messy as it looks. I have used a total of 3 litres of acetone cleaning up my experiments this past week.

It’s been a frustrating week guys. A very frustrating week. I ‘m just going to muck with my Sariel sword and witchlight prototype until my new shipment of white ALUMILITE RESIN comes in. No more messing around. We’re going to do this thing right.

Oh, uh, if I don’t post again in a week, please send an exorcist. The doll head probably got me…

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. 🙂 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 but you 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. ❤

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!

I’m Melting!

Okay, so, it’s really freaking hot in my workshop. Still. It’s been a couple weeks or so of 30C, in Finland. What the crap?! I didn’t move within spitting distance of the Arctic Circle for this garbage! Rawr!

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Pls send ice cream.
I’m going slightly bonkers. Still trying to get work done. Somehow. I stand directly in front of the fan and wear a cooling vest so I don’t lose quite as much water via sweat but it’s a daily struggle. Just trying to keep my head clear enough to work without messing things up. Gah!

But the good news is I am well on my way to completing my latest couple of swords (the ones I saved and made gorgeous with the crazy resin glaze experiment). I’m also trying a new product (new to me anyway) called Milliput for the handles. It is a two part epoxy paste that hardens into a very strong plastic in about 4 hours. I absolutely love it so far! Today I’m going to be sanding off all the lumps and bumps and smoothing it into the shape we all know and love. 🙂

More exiting news! I have just ordered the electronic components for the new witchlight design I’m working on! I have many hurdles to overcome with this project which is why it has taken so long. Several of you have requested witchlights and I have not forgotten you! Let me just run over the problems I’m trying to solve:

  • How to hide the electronics inside a transparent substance?
  • How to make the electronics as small as possible?
  • How to conceal the on-off switch?
  • How to conceal the opening? (You’re going to have to change the battery sometime…)
  • How will it open and close?
  • How will the on-off switch work? (Touch? Click? Slider?)
  • How can I keep costs as low as possible so people can afford them while still managing to pay rent on my workshop?
  • How do the Iron Sisters work in a freaking volcano when I can’t even concentrate at 30C?

All this and more on the next episode of What the Crap am I Doing?! Stay tuned.

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!