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.

Testing Products & Trying New Things

Hi folks! As promised, I wanted to give an update on things I have in the works and talk a bit about how I do research.

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Here’s a peek at my desk where I’m testing new products I haven’t used before. This is a scrap piece of acrylic that I’ve milled a few grooves in the top and applied some different coatings to see how they behave.

I found while I was making Heosphoros that the engravings on the blade needed some more opacity to stand out from the rest of the blade. But I couldn’t just paint any old substance into the grooves without knowing if it would stay there or melt the acrylic or crack … You get the idea. As you can see, the different substances have different opacity, different thickness, and different texture.

The varnish didn’t work at all. It just rubbed off when I touched it. The faux snow was ridiculously hard to work with and ended up really chunky. The … Glitzershnee? Don’t ask me to pronounce that. I can’t speak German. Anyway #2 was pretty cool but dried kind of soft. #1 was a kind of lacquer for colouring stained glass but I accidentally picked up the crystal clear stuff instead of the white. (#5 is the white stuff which turned out to be too opaque)

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So what ended up working the best? The liquid acrylic (which smells like the Devil’s personal port-a-potty) and a semi-sheer nail polish with mica particles in it for a very fine glitter. Gosh, it would have been great to know that before I spent 30 euros and several hours poking a piece of plastic with weird goo. Ha! But that’s just the way it goes. I still have to test stuff before it goes on the final product. Even the nail polish. Different companies use different chemicals to produce their stuff so you can never be sure if something will play nicely with the acrylic. There are SO MANY kinds of plastic guys. o_o So. Many. And by the end of my life I’m sure I will have smelled them all.

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So I’m working on a witchlight… It’s more complicated than I thought it would be. It’s really hard to get the right stiffness so that it lights up when squeezed so I’ve been thinking of a completely different way of engaging the light switch. The one you see here is 100% silicone and there’s a big ol’ air pocket around the light inside so it’s a no-squeezy. I have to actually fish the light out of the thing to turn it on and off. Too inconvenient. Plus I hate that the light rattles around inside. It really takes away from the “magic” effect.

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Plus … WHY THE H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS DID THE SILICONE CURE TO THE ALUMINIUM FOIL?! Ugh. Maybe because some derpface forgot to give the foil a coating of petroleum jelly before plopping the silicone on it. Silicone is confusing guys. I’m just sayin’. Chemistry class did not prepare me for this.

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Anywho I do like how the opening is pretty well hidden until the silicone is squeezed and then it opens up like one of those rubber froggy coin purse things. It’s progress toward a witchlight I’d actually be pleased to sell. It’s not there yet, but the experimentation taught me a lot about the way silicone behaves and what it’s capable of.

I went out and purchased some actual powdered mica to mix into the silicone/plastic/whatever I end up making these things out of because I found that when the light is off, it doesn’t look so much like a rock as I would like it to. In fact, my first attempt at the silicone witchlight ended up looking like a big white booger or maybe somebody’s pet slime. … actually I might put googly eyes on it and just keep it as my shop mascot. Ha!

As I’ve said before and I’m sure to say it a hundred times more: art is about 90% problem solving. You get an idea, and then you have to figure out how to make it real. The other 10% is kind of a mix between stubbornness and insanity.

That’s all from me for now folks. I’ve go to get my butt to the workshop and polish up a Jahoel. See ya later!