BIG update (many pics!)

Hello everyone! Sorry I’ve been quiet. I’ve been struggling with various things. Briefly: illness (I’m better now!), research (you don’t wanna see pics of me reading; BORING), annnd finding out that my new tiny workshop is too hot in the summer for me to do my work properly or be at all comfortable.

I’m hunting for solutions to that last problem there. Looking for a new workshop, or a house to rent that has a garage or some outdoor space I can work in, or an air conditioner at a reasonable price, or a refrigerator to at least keep my silicone and resin at a proper working temperature. It needs to be about 21 to 23 degrees. My workshop is currently 27 degrees so everything is curing way too fast.

I have a wee electric cooler, but it drips water continuously from its cooling fins inside. So much so that it actually grew mold on the wooden backing of my thermometer that I had in it.

Ew.

That’s no good. 1. I’m allergic to mold, and 2. urethane resin is really really sensitive to moisture. It can’t sit in a puddle and then be expected to work.

NEXT! I am currently moulding a brand new witchlight model.

It’s a rock!
Or is it?
Into the moulding box it goes!

At this point, I have the silicone done and an outer jacket made of the usual burlap and plaster. I’m practising the brush-on method of silicone moulding even though this piece is clearly small enough to get away with a pouring mould. Practise is important to refining technique and I can’t let the opportunity go to waste!

The benefit of the brush-on method is that you can use less silicone which is crazy, crazy expensive. The downside is that you have to make a hard jacket to keep the mould stable because it’s going to be thinner and clamping it can squish the mould. The other downside of brushing on is that there’s a risk you won’t get the silicone into all the little details of the piece you’re working on, especially if there’s undercuts or weird textures.

I will find out today if it worked all right! I’d show it to you now but someone forgot to take a picture of it. I blame Cool Kevin.

Dammit Kevin!

NEEEEXT! I’m conducting experiments on different types of resins and epoxies in an effort to find a cheaper material to make my swords. I’m using a little silicone skull mould for the test.

Let’s see what we ha … ew.
He’s having a real bad day.

Okay so this is TFC EP Casting Resin Epoxy from TrollFactory. I have tried casting witchlight parts, roses, and this skull here with it. All of them had at least part of the casting fail to cure. This test actually damaged my mould. It will be disposed of. Maybe some people can get it to work but I find it far too finicky. That, and it comes out a pale pink, making it unsuitable for swords or witchlights.

Well … it LOOKS cool but that’s not what I wanted.

This little fail is made of ZDS epoxy resin. I discovered that I accidentally added the wrong amount of hardener so while it did harden completely, it also went bonkers all over the outside. I tested it again adding the correct amount of hardener this time!

Well! What do you know? It works better when you follow the instructions! The better version still has some bubbles and flaws in it though and this presents a problem. In order to ensure that there won’t be bubbles, I’d have to put it into my pressure pot while it’s curing. But it needs to be kept at 70 degrees while it’s curing or it won’t harden fully. How to keep it warm while under pressure? I don’t know! And that really won’t help with the swords because I don’t have a pressure pot big enough to fit a sword inside it.

The next test is going to be using polyester resin. I really don’t want to, because it smells bad and wearing my respirator all day is stuffy and annoying. But I don’t really see another option at this point. I literally cannot afford to lower my prices any more than what they’re at now unless I turn to a less expensive material.

It’s a difficult situation. I want to make my stuff more affordable to more people so everybody can have the pretty things they want but ultimately, I also have to pay rent on the workshop, buy materials to make the art, advertise my stuff so people can actually find it, and also … y’know, eat food. Otherwise, none of this can happen at all.

Wish me luck with it eh?

Small reminder that I have a Clariel sword for sale.

New Sword Model!

Yep, you read that right. The beautiful, exotic Zaapiel is coming to my Etsy shop. Possibly as early as this week!

The person who ordered this beauty requested a frosted look for a brighter glow.

Does it light up? Pffft, guys. You’re at Inklbade Studios. Of course it lights up!

Shiiiiney *o*
Obligatory sauna pic. LOL

Why does the sword have a couple wires sticking out of it? This beauty is a custom job, designed to be decorate a pinball machine, so it needed to be modified to hook up directly to the machine. If you need any kind of custom modifications for power sources, you need only ask. I’m quite flexible.

Now everybody likes to see the insanity of my crafting process so let’s have some pics!

Draw!
Carve!
Carve more!
Box it!
Mould in alginate!
Smells gross!
Make a huge mess!
Crappy plaster prototype!
Break it while sanding!
Fix with Milliput and swearing!
Break it again!
*censored for profanity*
Start a religion worshipping Milliput!
Finish sanding!
Cover your trauma in black paint!
Box it!
Make a silicone mould!
Pour in resin and pray!
Sand it and fit in the lighting!
MORE MILLIPUT! *_*
Paint it! Wrap it! Act like you knew what you were doing the whole time!

Yeah! Never had a doubt. ūüôā … Not for a second. Nope.

So I’ve got one of these Zaapiels in the mould at work. I just have to go get it out and start sanding. The next question is: who would like a lovely glowing scimitar?

In other news, I am still working on the witchlights. The thing that I’m having problems with is getting the lid to line up properly and look like it’s part of the whole rock. I know how I want it to work but how to get it to that point is a real brain-twister.

Here’s what the underside of the witchlight looks like right now on my prototype. The lid at least sits flush on the opening and extends a few millimetres into the body of the rock so it doesn’t rattle around. But how to get it to look like there isn’t a seam? Hmm … still working on it. Thanks to everybody who’s been patient so far! I’m close to the solution.

Blades and Birds

Hoo boy do I ever have a lot of pictures to show you today! First, we get to look at the newly created mould for Zaapiel for the super cool Arabian Nights project. Yay! I am so very pleased with how it turned out especially because my vacuum pump was dyyyying throughout the process of degassing it. (Seriously, I need a new one. My wallet is sad. ūüė¶ )

What lurks beneath this slab of blue goo?

It’s a sword! (As if anybody had any doubts about what it was… LOL) That’s the first side done. I actually managed to remember to take photos of the mould box this time.

Let’s have a little peek at the anatomy of this mould box here and explore some money-saving tricks! The straight parts near the handle are simple MDF board with laminate on one side to keep things from sticking to its porous surface. The wiggly parts all around the blade are flexible plastic sheet. The upside of using this sort of sheet, is that I can make it the shape that I need instead of one big rectangle every time. This saves money on silicone.

The downside of using the flexible sheet is that it takes longer to set up and it’s more fiddly. It also takes more hot glue to stick together and fill gaps. The wooden sticks you see are there to keep the plastic sheet at a 90 degree angle so the two halves of the mould will actually line up. The wire that stretches across the width of the box in three places helps those six reinforcement sticks from bowing outward when the weight of the silicone starts to push on the walls as it’s poured in.

If you choose to use this method of moulding, take a moment to consider how much you charge (or would charge) customers for your time per hour. Think about how long it will take to get the mould box the way you want it. How much will that time cost? Now compare that to the price of the silicone you will be saving by shaping the mould box more closely to the object you’re moulding. Which will be cheaper?

In this case, I saved approximately 100 euros of silicone. Since I charge 10 euros per hour for my time, and it took me less than 10 hours to fiddle with the mould box, I saved money by using the plastic sheets. Your results may be different, so it’s worthwhile to check!

Back to the pictuuuuures! Here’s the crazy silicone sandwich we all have come to know and love. I’m proud to say I didn’t have any leaks throughout the entire process. Gosh I’ve come a long way from where I began. It seems like only yesterday I —

… you know what, nevermind. Let’s go back to the pictures. Shush.

It’s a win! Two beautiful, bubble-free halves of a sword mould. I cannot wait to get resin into this baby and see what it can do. Will my new bubble-trap design work? Is everything truly straight and perfect? I don’t know! We’ll have to find out when I get my new vacuum pump so I can degas the resin properly. No skipping steps! That’s the way to get a crappy result.

Now, I mentioned birds in the title didn’t I? What was that all about? Well! I’m ready to reveal to you the beginnings of a new project. It has nothing to do with Shadowhunters. (*gasp!* I know. It’s crazy isn’t it?) This new project that I’ve been so secretive about is part of a creative vision that has deep personal meaning to me. I hope to share this dream with you so we can all enjoy it together.

If you guessed “raven” you are correct! This bird is fully baked now so the clay is hard. It still requires a lot of detail work, smoothing, and tinkering, but I had to render the clay stiff enough to support my sculpting tools fixing and fussing around on it without getting bent out of shape. The rest of the shaping will be done with either an air-dry clay or Milliput. I haven’t decided yet.

This project has a long way to go still, I hope you’ll stay tuned for its evolution. Until next time, wish me luck!

Back and in Black

Hello everyone! I’m so happy to be back from the holidays! I never know what to do with myself when I have time off. I’m kind of bad at relaxing, haha!

So what was I doing just before I ran away to sleep and eat sweets for a couple of weeks? I’m very pleased to present to you the new sleek shape of Zaapiel, my Arabian-inspired scimitar! Let’s take a look at how the sanding and refining process went.

Now careful with the belt sander, or the sword might …

Oops.

Well then! Time for some good ol’ Milliput to save the day. No worries. Good as new.

Now let’s … are you serious?

The other strap on my face mask broke so I was forced to stop and fix it again.¬†Well, now that that’s taken care of, let’s go back to the belt sander and …

Really? Okay Chewie is way too aggressive for shaping plaster apparently. Milliput to the rescue! Again!

I went out and got myself a set of metal files and used them in combination with my wood rasps to get the sword all shaped as I wanted it.

Then smeared Milliput all over any pin-holes, indents, or just anywhere I didn’t like the texture. Look at this thing! It looks like a troll sneezed on it. Ew.

Here we are all sanded nicely (by hand of course) and looking decidedly less sneezed-upon.

Now it’s time to get it all painted and sealed for the final moulding. The paint I happened to have on hand at the time was black. So we get a nice svelte-looking sword to feast our eyes upon.

Hurrah! Now it’s time to order some silicone and do the final layers of sealing. While I await the arrival of my goo, I will polish this beauty up to the best shine I can manage and¬† work on a secret sculpting project that I haven’t yet revealed. What could it be? This mystery item is not related to Shadowhunters nor is it a doll! Stay tuned for future reveals!

A Fine Mess Indeed!

No really, I’m quite pleased with myself. It is a gigantic mess and I have a lot of cleaning up to do in the workshop today, but this mess has resulted in a major breakthrough. This post marks the sum of months of trial and error, experimentation, swearing, epic messes, and more money than I’d like to admit. I’ve finally gotten something worthwhile out of it all. Let me share my joy with you!

Remember I was making the mould for the prototype of Zaapiel, that fancy Arabian Nights sword? Yesss, I got both halves of that mould completed. I made the mould out of alginate (a moulding compound that is essentially … well … algae), with a coating of wax in between to make 100% sure the sides wouldn’t stick to each other.

Which just might make it the grossest sandwich ever. It smells like washed-up seaweed. 

Now, the thing you have to know about alginate is that it’s only good as long as it’s moist. Once it starts drying out, it gets crumbly and it’s not much use for casting anymore. So you have to work quickly and if you’ve got to do the mould in multiple stages or something happens and you have to use it later than you intended, you have to protect it from evaporating off its moisture. Most people put it in a sealed container in the fridge. This … this is way too big for a conventional fridge or normal food container. I improvised with a combination of wax and wet plastic wrap. It was an ugly hack job, but it worked.

Snazzy! Algnate is nice and soft, kinda like tofu in texture. So it’s easy to cut the sprue and the air traps in it. The downside is you have to be gentle when handling it or it will crack or rip easily!

So! I cleaned off all the wax as best I could, put both halves together and strapped it between two wooden boards. Then I mixed up a batch of Artestone (a special gypsum plaster with hydrophobic properties) and poured it into the mould. And that’s when the mess happened.

A puddle of white began expanding from beneath the mould and I realised that there was a leak. I had a problem. I couldn’t just stop the whole thing and open up the mould at this point because then¬†all ¬†the plaster would pour out onto the floor and I’d have wasted the whole thing. So all I could do was grab the closest thing at hand–a large stirring spoon–and frantically scoop the goo back into the mould until it hardened enough to stop pouring out.

There I was, on the floor, scuttling like a crab from the back of the mould to the front of the mould back and forth, scooping at the puddle expanding on either side of it with a spoon of all things. A stream of plaster coming out of the mould, a stream of profanity coming out of me, and by the time the goo hardened enough to form a seal and stop going everywhere, I was laughing my head off. Really what else can you do at that point?

Seriously, it looks like I got bombarded by a gigantic seagull who ate¬†way¬†too much curry. I had to mix up about 200mL more artestone to replace what was lost out the bottom, but I did manage to complete that pour with no further disasters. My neighbour probably thinks I’m insane now. … He’s probably right. LOL!

Now this looks blobby and weird right now but that is completely what I expected it to be. What I need this prototype sword to be is roughly the right shape and a little larger and chubbier than the finished product is going to be. This is so I can do all the final shaping, sanding, and polishing without it ending up too thin or shorter than I wanted. Basically: It’s way easier to sand things off than it is to add things on. So this baby gave me exactly what I wanted. Woohoo!

That was an adventure!

I am sad to report, though, that we had one casualty during this adventure. One of the straps on my protective face mask broke. That’s the third breakage I’ve had on this mask and there isn’t enough strap left to cobble it back together so I have to replace the strap entirely. That’s going to take a little time that I’d really rather be spending on crafting. But it needs to be in proper working order because there is NO way I am sanding any of the materials I work with without respiratory protection.

Safety gear is NOT optional!

So! If anybody needs me, I’ll be scraping uhhh … 300ish mL of extra-hard water resistant plaster off the floor! ūüėÄ … Pray for me. LOL

Ready for Moulding

So I’ve got that cool Arabian Nights sword all set in its mould box ready to have the alginate poured in. I tried to do it last week but when I poured in some water to figure out how much volume I would need to mix, the sword floated!

The foam model is so light that I had to hot glue part of the hilt to the bottom of the moulding box and drive a couple of screws through the blade just to get it to stay down. *grumble grumble*

Now, when I say moulding “box” you probably envisioned something square. Thing is, that wastes a lot of extra moulding material and costs me more money. So by taking a little extra time to craft a box that follows the shape of the object, I hope to shave a little cost from the whole mould-creation process.¬† Yes, I am still¬†trying¬†to make my stuff less expensive! LOL I will keep trying too. I want to make the cool shiney stuff available to more people.¬†

What else am I doing today? Uhhh, well I have to call Pay Pal again. I still can’t put money in my Pay Pal balance and I kind of need to be able to do that! Seriously, it’s been a couple weeks now and I’m getting concerned.

Wish me luck okay? To battle!

Wow So Much Stuff to Tell You!

Yep! I’m keeping my Clariel swords on sale for Cyber Monday. Was 415.00 Euros, now 390.00!¬†

https://www.etsy.com/listing/613227011/shadowhunters-inspired-led-sword-clariel?ref=shop_home_active_1

What else have we got going on for this week? Well I’ve got an open-house coming up on Friday. That means I have to tidy my workshop. Yey. Uh, wish me luck on that. LOL But I’ll be super happy to see people and show them my little corner of crazy!

If you’re interested and you happen to be in Finland this week, you can stop by at Sahaajankatu 22, Helsinki and ask for me. Liisa will show you where to go. The building is a bit of a maze.

What else is going on this week? Well here we have the newly re-carved Sariel. RE-carved because the experimental prototype moulding process failed and destroyed my original. I may have cried. Shush you! That was three weeks of work. *sulking*

It is reborn! Yay!

But before Sariel can be moulded again, we haaaaave …

What kind of cake is that?

No, it’s not cake. Don’t eat it! Ew. Plasticine doesn’t taste good. Neither does foam insulation. Or glue. Don’t ask how I know these things. All I will tell you is¬†wash the plate¬†before you eat off of it.

Now what happened to the doll heads? Did the shipment get found? It did! Annnd it seems there were a few too many micro-bubbles and sanding mistakes to sell them. *gasp!* Ethan don’t tell them that! Your customers will lose faith in you and think you’re a crappy artist!

Oh no! Microbubbles! How did I not notice these?! Ugh.

Listen guys, my business is small and new, but even so I want to start it off right. I want every part of Inkblade Studios to be ethical. I am constantly working to reduce waste and find environmentally friendly materials to use. I have to haul my plastic waste to the recycling facility myself every week but I do it because I have a responsibility as a manufacturer to clean up the mess I make. 

I want my business to be based on a principle of honesty. When I screw up, I will tell you I screwed up, and I will tell you how I am going to fix it. I could cover my mistakes with paint and glue and hope you don’t notice but you know what? That’s not the kind of person I want to be. Lazy and sleazy business practices end up costing more in the long run. You can recover lost money, but you cannot recover a lost reputation.

Thankfully, Juliane at Lost Chronicles BJD has been amazingly understanding and kind. We knew from the beginning that this would be a learning experience and that learning experiences are often frustrating. I’m issuing a full refund for the project,¬†and¬†I have bought a brand new compressor and pressure pot.

My new babies ^_^

Unlike a vacuum chamber which pulls air bubbles out of a liquid, a pressure chamber¬†crushes¬†the air bubbles down so small that they can’t be seen by the human eye. This makes a lovely smooth, clear cast. It also forces the resin into all the little small areas and undercuts so that air doesn’t get trapped and end up getting a giant bubble where the nose is supposed to be for example.

The Malechai project taught me that I need this kind of tool now in order to step up my game. I wanted to wait because I knew it would be expensive, but it turns out that¬†not¬†having it cost me more money in the long run. It was a costly lesson to learn but I’m grateful for it. This is not the end of my doll making career, but just the beginning. I’m looking forward to creating more beautiful things and sharing them with you all. ‚̧¬†

Wish me luck!