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. ❤

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!

Big Changes Ahead

Hi guys! I have to try to show and tell you lots of stuff while being really quick cause I have to go move my workshop. YES! I am moving. From the 3rd floor to the 4th floor. LOL

Why?

My previous space was too expensive for me. Almost 600 euros a month. That, coupled with the cost of materials to make my shinies (silicone is ridiculously expensive, I’m not even kidding), and my vacuum pump dying and needing replacement (I’m degassing things in a couple stages as it limps along with its last gasps of life) I could not afford to stay there.

So: we’re going from 37 square meters down to 15 square meters. This is okay because I had way too much space to begin with. But … the new room also doesn’t have access to water. So I have to schlep a water reservoir from the bathroom to my workroom when I run out. Booo. Well, I guess I’m about to become very strong? Yay.

My wife helped me move all the things that needed two people to move yesterday (Sunday). Bless her heart for sacrificing a day off lifting and lugging with me.

Now, on to the stuff I’ve been working on! Quick quick GO!

I made a witchlight! Yay!

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It didn’t work! Boo.

I shaved it down.

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It … kinda works! Yay? Not good enough. I’ll keep trying!

Next thing GO!

Doll head made by Lost Chronicles prepped for moulding!

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Covered in blue goo!

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Mmmphhhrrmmph!

How did the moulding go? Don’t know! Not finished yet. Not touching it until it’s safely settled in the new workshop!

Next thing GO!

More carving done on Sariel!

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Yes! In about a month you will be able to get your hands on a glorious longsword like the one that Isabelle Lightwood wielded in The Mortal Instruments movie! Woo! Send thoughts n’ prayers that everything goes smoothly.

Okaygottarun wishmeluck! Aaaaaah bye!

Wait! I forgot.

Don’t forget I have a Clariel for sale on my Etsy! It could be yours! Grab it!

Okay now bye for real gotta move stuff!

Blue Goo; What Do?

Hey guys! I’ve got a lot of new stuff coming up that I’m really excited to share! First, I’m pleased to announce that the third resin-cast Clariel has been purchased by a lucky Shadowhunter in Germany. I’ve already got the flap moulded, underside painted a nice reflective white, and adhered to the hilt. If all goes well, I’ll have it finished and on its way by the end of the week. Yay!

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Secondly, I’ve been doing some weird silicone experiments in an effort to make my moulds with less silicone. That would cut down on my expenses and allow me make things for everybody at a lower cost. Yay! I really am trying, guys. I know cost is a factor for most of us.

If I had a big ol’ factory with assembly lines and million dollar injection moulding systems, I could be making stuff in bulk and charging less but … nope. It’s just me. Me and my own two hands doing the best I can.

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So what’s this stuff? Same silicone, just thickened and painted on.
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The thickener didn’t work so great so a lot of it oozed across the table.
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Still, I got a decent mould of the rock I was using with a lot less material.

Clearly, more experimentation is needed. The mould ends up quite a bit thinner and it might be more flexible than I want it to be, but that’s okay! I remain stubborn and I will find a way to do this just the way I want it. 🙂

Lastly, I have a strange experiment in the works. I want to try a new way of creating a support structure for silicone moulds. Usually, moulds are clamped between two boards or a ‘jacket’ is created around it with either fibre-reinforced plaster (like a cast on a broken leg), or fibreglass.

I’ve experienced some problems casting smaller objects in resin when the mould jacket is made of plaster. Since plaster is made of gypsum, and gypsum has a verrrrry low thermal conductivity it takes a really long time to heat up or cool down and usually feels cold to the touch. My resin needs a certain amount of warmth to set properly, otherwise I get uneven curing.

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Like this. 😦
I would happily make my mould jackets out of fibreglass, but I don’t want to work with glass fibres. They’re nasty things. Irritate the lungs, irritate your skin, and just generally get everywhere and make a nuisance of themselves.

I could use burlap or similar cloth instead of glass fibre and I actually tried to do that last week. However, the epoxy or resin you typically use for this kind of thing is the most foul-smelling chemical I have ever worked with. Most of them require you to work outside with a respirator on. It’s that bad. So, I would either need to use a resin that is less stinky (and way more expensive!) or …

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Is that … is that a garbage can? Ethan, you’ve lost your mind this time.

Yes, that’s a couple of enormous trash cans with bags of fine sand inside. Sand? Trash cans? What kind of crazy plan is this?!

You’ll have to find out later. I’m off to the workshop to finish a sword! Wheeeee!

The Mothermould!

Woohoo! This has been a crazy exciting week. I stubbornly went back for another try at the mother mould for Clariel. I was terrified that I’d fail once again and have wasted over 100 euros on silicone.

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Well … it’s smooth, but is it cured?

I was especially nervous because one spot was a bit of a different colour and firmness than the rest.

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Poke poke. Hello? 

But it wasn’t sticky and my finger didn’t sink into it soooo, let’s get it out of the moulding box.

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A fine looking silicone sandwich!

Well it looked like it was all okay. But I would only be able to know for sure by separating the two halves. This was the moment of greatest tension. The moment of truth! Would it be sticky inside? Would it have somehow cured to the other half, trapping the model sword inside?! I didn’t know. I’d have to open it and find out.

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Here goes nothing …
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SUCCESS!

It cured! It cured all the way through and didn’t do anything crazy! I can’t tell you the relief I felt. That was so much work to get it right and my mistakes were not cheap but it all paid off.

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All cleaned up and ready for a mould jacket!

Ahh, there it is. That’s exactly what I wanted. I really needed that win. it fits together just perfectly. No weird gaps. No bubbles. No cracks. Hurrah!

Now on to the mould jacket! This mould is too wobbly to support itself indepedently so it needs a “cast” around it to keep it from popping open or deforming when I pour the resin in. Imagine it like a body; right now, it needs bones so it can stand up. 🙂

I tried some really gross-smelling plastic stuff.

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Uhhh …

And it hardened before I was done working with it! well that’s useless.

So I gave my dear mould a nice, relaxing mud-mask.

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I thought it looked stressed out. This’ll help.

Really, though, that’s hobby concrete smooshed into layers of burlap cloth. I’m hoping it will be strong enough when dry to not crack or crumble. We’ll have to see! This is how I left it last Friday night so this morning I will check on it and see how my experiment went. Don’t worry! I’m not out of ideas yet!

I have determination! I have sisu! And if that doesn’t work, I have coffee.

Round Two: FIGHT!

I know, I know, I haven’t got any new pictures for you today. Bad Ethan! 😦 I was so busy getting the mould box reconstructed that I forgot to take a photo of it! I’ll make it up to you and take lots of photos of the process today. Forgive me?

I got my order of silicone in at the end of last week and I am ready to have a rematch with the half of the sword mould that cured too fast! Everybody cross your fingers, toes, and eyeballs for me and hopefully we’ll have a brand new mould ready to rock by tomorrow.

Are you excited? I’m terrified! Let’s go! ADVENTURE! 😀

I hate bubbles.

No really. They’re all well and good when you’re blowing them into the air on a sunny summer day, but when they’re in your mould? Sucktastic.

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This will not produce a lovely smooth sword. This will produce a mostly lovely smooth sword with weird little warts all over it. Unacceptable.

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So why is it like this? What happened? Well, it turns out that my workshop was hotter last week than I thought it was. Zhermack’s beautiful ZA22 silicone’s normal working temperature is 24 degrees Celsius. That means that, at 24 degrees, this lovely blue goo will set in 60 minutes. If it’s colder than that, it will set more slowly giving you a longer working time. But if it’s hotter …

The setting time is dramatically faster! I was in the middle of degassing it when it started turning into a sticky glop the consistency of cookie dough. I knew I was in trouble. 3 litres of silicone is NOT cheap. I pulled it out of the vacuum chamber and poured it as fast as I could. It was sticking to the inside of the container and I had to shove my hand into it (gloved of course) to pull out the rest because it wouldn’t flow anymore. It was like working with a huge mass of chewing gum.

As you might guess, bubbles got trapped in the silicone because it was just too viscous (thick) for the air to escape.

What to do? That right there is about a 108 Euro mistake. Yikes. Well, the important bit is the mould that immediately touches the sword I’m going to be casting. That has to be perfect. The rest of it? Meh. Nobody’s going to see any of that. So I decided to cut out the middle section of the mould and re-pour it instead of re-pouring the entire thing.

I should have re-poured the entire thing.

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So what’s this crazy deformed blue crocodile thing? That’s the mould. You might notice a slight gap there in the side.

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And by ‘slight gap’ I mean it’s wide enough to see the model sword inside the mould when it’s closed. So if I used the mould like this, all the resin would leak out the side. Why did it do this? Well, you might notice that the left side of the mould there has no gap. Let’s have a top-down view so you can better see what I’m about to explain.

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The top half of the mould is where hilt is and also where all those funky vents and the pour spout is. That makes it thicker than the funny banana-shaped bottom half where the blade is. Of course, the thicker bit is heavier. So when I poured the silicone into the middle section that I chopped out, the heavy top half stayed put, but the lighter bottom half floated! Since it only lifted up about a centimetre, I didn’t notice the movement.

The silicone I poured into the middle part to re-mould the sword bonded nicely with the rest of the silicone mould around it. Yay! But the silicone that crept in between the two halves of the mould didn’t stick to either side even though I cleaned one of them really, really well, and sealed the other very thoroughly. It would not obey my wishes and stayed a crazy blue flap just hanging out in between the two halves of the silicone sandwich.

So what do I do? Uhh … well I don’t have enough silicone left to re-pour the half of the mould I messed up. I’m not completely sure my budget can withstand another silicone purchase this month. We’ll have to see. So I’m going to attempt a weird “spacer” where the gap is so I can at least use the mould until I can re-pour the other side. What I’m going to make that out of is still up for debate. Possibly some kind of polymer plastic. Possibly rubber of some kind. Possibly uh … I don’t know. I’m going to experiment with many kinds of goo and see what works.

I have learned a lot from this mistake so it’s not entirely doom and gloom. So I’m trying to look on the bright side. It’s still frustrating for me cause I really wanted to be casting my first sword in the new mould this week. Oh well. The Iron Sisters are stubborn for a reason! Don’t give up!

Stay tuned for more exciting news including a brand new sword I just finished. I’ll give you a hint: it has nothing to do with Shadowhunters!