Lots of Sanding

Okay! Quick update before I go off to work: I’ve got all 7 heads and head caps casted for this beautiful boy.

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They just need all the seams and whatnot sanded and an overall buffing so we have that nice skin-like texture overall. The whole surface of the doll should be an even matte texture so that any face-up or makeup jobs, tattooing or other detail work will actually stay put. If it’s too shiny, any kind of powders and most kinds of paints will just slide around on it and make a mess.

Also, the skin should be matte because … well, that’s what real, living skin looks like!¬† That means sanding/buffing the surface of the doll in gentle circular motions with wet sandpaper or sanding pads, and a lot of patience. I just put on some nice peppy tunes and set an alarm every hour or so to remind myself to get up and stretch. ūüôā Otherwise I kind of hypnotise myself and forget to move for like three hours and then feel like I’m sixty years old all of a sudden.

More sword-related news:

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Sariel is probably ready for its plaster prototype casting! Probably? Yes, probably. I’m trying a new moulding method here. It might completely flop. And by “flop” I mean literally¬†flop. If the latex won’t hold its shape when I demould the foam prototype … well … I’ll have to re-mould it all over again. Let’s just pray that the demoulding process doesn’t destroy the foam prototype. If the latex mould doesn’t work¬†and the foam prototype is destroyed, it means I have to carve an entirely new sword from scratch and start¬†all¬†over again. I’m not gonna lie, that might result in some tears. I’ve spent over a month on this thing.

In other, other news: expired resin. Again.

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This is delamination. It’s flakiness on the surface of the piece you’ve cast. There aren’t any bubbles inside the piece. I can tell because it’s transparent and I can look inside it. It’s just the surface that has this weird frosty/snowflake pattern look. This can happen if there is moisture in the mould. (There wasn’t.) Or — you guessed it — the resin is no good.

This is the third time in as many months that I’ve gotten expired resin. Twice from Hardcore Craft and once from Hobby Point. In fact, this very resin that I’m holding in the picture is part of a replacement batch for expired resin. It’s also gone off.

This is preposterous. I don’t care how expensive shipping is from the United States to Finland, I’m buying from the manufacturer from now on. I can’t afford the wasted time. Every day I can’t work due to faulty materials costs me money. I don’t get paid for working. I only get paid when someone buys something. That means I have to be constantly making stuff. When I buy a batch of resin, I¬†have to be sure that it’s a fresh batch that is going to work. I can’t afford to waste time making plastic waste to go in the trash.

Now, it’s time to get suited up and out the door. I’ve got some plaster to pick up on the way to the workshop so we can continue making magic! Wish me luck!

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. ūüė¶ 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…

Dolls? Dolls!

Yay! Ethan what are you talking about? I’m talking about my current project in partnership with Lost Chronicles BJD!

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Remember this fella? Well we’re continuing to do the silicone moulding of our lovely Malechai’s head.

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The paint-on technique with the silicone didn’t quite work in a way I was satisfied with so I decided to go the old-school way of pouring instead. Yes, I treated myself to Legos. I got tired of having to cut a new mould box every time I wanted to make something only to have to throw out the used foam board. Very harmful to the environment!

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Somewhere under this blue goo there lurks a Malechai … What’s with the UFO sitting beside him? That’s a back massager that I use to vibrate out the last little bubbles from the goop before it solidifies. I do everything I can to get that perfect mould!

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The Legos make a funny pattern on the outside of the mould.

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Here’s the front side of the mould all cleaned off and ready to be re-boxed, sealed and have the second side poured! I did all that on Friday but forgot to take pictures … yeah. I’m professional like that. Ha!

What’s with the funny yellow antennae thing on his ears? Those are “vents” for air bubbles to escape into when I pour in the resin. You see, when you make a mould, you have to consider the rising level of liquid inside it and try to guess where air bubbles can become trapped. This will be all the high points. You can either make little shafts or an extra “tag” or two here and there or you can make a full vent that will come right to the surface of the mould.

Here, I decided to just make a shaft on each side. To save a little bit of resin. The air bubbles will rise into the shaft as the level of liquid resin fills up the mould. The tips of those little antennae will have a bunch of bubbles trapped in them, making them ugly and full of holes. But that’s okay! Because the antennae simply get snipped off and the ears sanded smooth where they were attached. And nobody knows they were ever there! Except you, because you’re a cool person who reads my blog. ‚̧

Well I gotta get to work and unbox this lovely fella! Then it’s time to make a mould of his head cap (the back side of his head that can be removed to adjust his strings or replace the eyes with a different colour). Are you excited? I’m excited! Let’s go!