Being Sick Sucks

Yep. I’ve been sick for two weeks. I don’t know what that was but it filled my head with boogers and stole my voice. Yuck.

I’m supposed to have a shipment of resin coming in this week? We’ll see. I had to fight Finnish customs for it as usual.

While I’ve been unable to get into the workshop and do stuff, I’ve been studying up on crafting techniques. I found a great book by Lightning Cosplay about Moulding and Casting. I recommend checking out their stuff if you want to try your hand at making your own costume props. 🙂

https://www.lightningcosplay.com/books/

Don’t worry; it’s available in English too! 🙂

Quick Update

Hi everyone! Yes I know I didn’t post last week. I’ve been crazy busy with some research & development, working on that sea n’ sky sword, and also doing a writing gig that I got with a local games company. Yay!

A bunch of stuff that’s within my skillset but never done it before. That leaves me with not much to show you but soon I will have stuffs I can take pics of. (Nobody wants to see my random pieces of clay and paint smears. LOL)

Today I will be testing out some new translucent silicone from SEMOST. They were kind enough to send me a sample of their product so I can see how it performs. I am going to be moulding the artificial stone that I created to make my new witchlights. Might as well do something practical with it!

I wanted to try a translucent silicone so that I can see at least some of the voids and bubbles that sometimes mess up my projects and be able to tilt or apply vibration to the right spots to get them out before the resin solidifies.

What’s more: it seems to be cheaper than the Zhermack 22A I’ve been buying from Materialshop. It may be a different story when I buy a bigger quantity of the SEMOST and have to pay customs fees on it … Either way, I’m trying my best to push down the cost of my products while keeping the quality high. This is not an easy thing to do.

Wish me luck!

Polishing Day

I have got some great news for you all. Check out my new baby!

What? You thought I had one of those stinking screaming mini-humans? Hah!

After I accidentally loaded my old vacuum pump with hydraulic oil instead of vacuum pump oil (oops!), it has never worked right again. Overheating. Loud banging noises. Foaming oil in the sight glass … It was bad. I needed a new one.

Thankfully, my buddies at Unicorn Tools had my back and got me a great price on a bigger, beefier vacuum pump. This one is getting pampered, I can tell you that much. They even sent along a spare container of the correct oil. Thank you guys so much! It takes about 3 seconds for this beast to pull all the air out of the vacuum chamber and it hums along like a champ under load. Love it!

Bask in its beauty.

And now that I have a working vacuum pump once again, I can cast things! Woo! Back to making swords!

Speaking of making swords …

Oh yes I did. Those of you familiar with my models will recognise Zaapiel, the exotic ring-sword inspired blade. The funky “spikes” sticking off of it are simply the little tabs that are created by the bubble traps in the mould. They get trimmed off before sanding and polishing happens.

Now this sword has some bubbles in it due to a resin issue I had, but the person it’s for said it looked cool as-is so we’re going with it. If you look closely, it looks like they’re some kind of magic spell firing down the length of the blade from the hand of some powerful magus.

ZAP!

That’s going to look really cool when it’s lit up. 🙂

The issue I was having with the resin was that I was using Alumilite Clear Slow and this resin tends to “gel” up after a few months of not being used. If this happens to you, do not panic and do not throw it away. All you need to do is put it in a water-tight container and give it a hot water bath for a few hours and it will be liquid again.

I portioned out about 500mL of resin, stuck it in a Ziploc container, sealed it, and popped it in a hot water bath. Every now and then I took it out, dried it off really thoroughly, opened it up, and stirred it until it was the liquid consistency I wanted. Now, you’ll notice I emphasised “dried it off really thoroughly” and that’s because resin is really, really finicky about moisture. Even a little dampness. So you can imagine what a drop or two of water in the mix would do to it. Be careful when you’re handling it.

So I re-liquefied it, vacuumed it, and still got bubbles in the finished product? Yep. That was my fault. You see, resin cures faster when it’s warm. Annnnd I forgot to cool the resin down after its hot water bath. I just went straight to the degassing and mixing and pouring. Whoops. I got a little too gung-ho and eager to try out this new sword mould. So I should have gotten twelve minutes of working time with the resin but I had slightly less than that because it was quite warm and the bubbles couldn’t escape as well before it hardened.

But we still ended up with a really cool result so I guess I’m learning stuff about mould-making and handling my materials effectively. Yay for learning!

Today, of course, I move on to the next stage of the build and that means wet-sanding the whooooole surface and getting a consistent overall clarity and shine. And that means I’m working from home today where I have running water. Yup. Picture me standing in the bathroom with my hands in the sink for … let’s not think about how many hours. That’s my work day today. LOL

As a little bonus on the end here, check out where we are on the raven statuette!

Sorry it’s a little hard to see its features on camera. In person, though, the black paint makes it easier for me to see imperfections and correct them. I noticed that the angle of its beak was a little off on its right side so I had to do some sanding and filing and a little carving to get it the way I wanted it. This piece will be getting some more smoothing, re-painting (to check again for errors), and sealing before I move on to the next part of the project.

As a bonus-bonus, here is the current state of “Thorn” (working name). It’s so comfortable to hold.

When can we expect to see it appear in my Etsy store? Well … that depends on when the person who asked for it gets back to me. LOL

Okay, time for me to stop yammering and go pick up some more sandpaper. It’s sleeting outside so uh … wish me luck. XD

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. 😦 )

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!

It’s Goo Time

No that wasn’t a typo. Goo! Sticky slorpy blue goo! It is time to pour silicone all over this beauty!

When you see something halfway buried in clay, you know the wacky wizardry is about to begin.

So right now I have Zaapiel sitting in its mould box (which I didn’t take a picture of because I was dead tired at the end of the day on Friday) awaiting my arrival this morning.

What else is afoot at the workshop? Well, I found a few DIY recipes for air-dry paper clay that I’m dying to try out. If it goes well, I’ll have a supply of much cheaper self-hardening clay I can use to sculpt my prototypes instead of using foam insulation. Foam insulation is not very good for the environment and is also annoyingly porous so it has to be sealed over and over again with layers of glue and paint before I can actually take a prototype mould of it. It’d be great if I didn’t have to do that! Let’s see if I can find those recipes for you and maybe we can try it together.

Yaaay! Let’s go get messy!

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! 😀 … 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!