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! 🙂

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.

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

So I have a photo shoot coming up with a photographer who just moved into my building this week. Cool! This will give me high quality photos of my stuff that I can use on my website. It’ll also give him more stuff for his portfolio and it will give the model stuff for her portfolio as well. All-around win right?

So the sealant that I put on the sword ate the beautiful solvent paint I had on the handle. The solvent paint that takes 3 days to harden fully. Yeah. That solvent paint. Photo shoot is on this upcoming Sunday. I still have to do the light fixture in the pommel and the seaweed wrap for the handle.

Did I mention I’m also working on these? Yeah. The Clariel there needs to be polished and have its handle sculpted, painted, light fixture in place and magnet closure installed.

Did I also mention the new witchlight mould I’m testing? Yeah. So this is gonna be a short update. I have to run this entire week or this all is not going to get done.

First stop: Hobby Point to get a sealant that won’t eat the solvent paint. Plus some casting resin if they have any on hand. Probably only the stinky crap but I’ll have my respirator on all day from the solvent paint anyway so I might as well. Then try to finish the light fixture while the paint is drying. When I come home, I get to look forward to wet-sanding the Clariel blade cause my apartment has running water and my workshop does not. Obvious choice there.

Tomorrow, will be sculpting the handle for Clariel. Hopefully I can get it done early in the morning so I can get it sanded in the same day. Then it’s on to carving the runes, painting, installing the light … you get the idea. It’s gonna be bonkers.

Wish me luck. Send coffee. Halp. @_@

Pretty & Smelly: Solvent Paints!

This beauty is sitting in my workshop right now, all ready for a heat-cure on the green-blue lacquer you can see on the handle there. What is this wondrous paint that sticks to resin? It’s Deka Transparent Glass Paint.

It’s bold. It’s beautiful. It smells really bad. And nothing else works quite so well! So if you want to treat yourself to this rocking good fun that is painting on resin, you will need a protective mask that will guard against vapours. Yes. Specifically vapour. A regular dust-mask filter will not save you from the smell of this solvent-based paint. I tried just painting it on without any mask, thinking “oh it can’t possibly be that bad”. Yes. Yes it can. I got dizzy and my sinuses burned like I’d just snorted nail polish remover.

Yes, you can certainly do it outside. It’s currently 1C outside for me so … not an option. Vapour protection it is then!

Is it worth it? Ohhhh baby. Yeah. I mixed the greenblue translucent paint with the black translucent paint and then diluted it with acetone. You must use acetone and not water because Deka translucent glass paint is solvent based. It will not play nice with water. You’ll have to use a solvent.

I airbrushed the paint onto the sword hilt. Heavier on the back of the handle and lighter toward the hilt and blade because I wanted it to fade into clear. I wasn’t bothered by the uneven “waves” in the paint where I sprayed it (a little too diluted I think) because I was trying to achieve a water-like effect.

What else do you need to know about Deka Transparent Glass Paint? It needs to set for 72 hours. So if you’re in a hurry, uh … well don’t be in a hurry. After the three days have passed, you should give it a heat-treatment.

The instructions recommend putting the piece in an oven but there’s two reasons why I can’t do that: 1. My piece is made of resin and will deform at roughly 100C, and 2. My sword won’t fit in my oven. So I’ll be using a heat gun (carefully!) to do the heat treatment.

I’m really excited to finish up the handle and show you the piece! I’m not sure if I’m installing a light in this one or not. I kind of want to but I’m nervous of cutting into that pretty blue handle now that I’ve got it all nice … we’ll see.

Happy Little Accidents

So there I was in the workshop, mixing up the resin for a sword. The resin had gelled so I had to re-liquefy it. No big deal, right? Well, despite it being the same resin I used to make the sabre for the Arabian Nights pinball machine, this one did not turn out completely clear.

It has clouds in it.

Now, this would be a difficult task to achieve on purpose. To do it purposefully, I would have to mix up a separate batch of resin with white dye, then do some very skilful pouring to get this kind of effect in a completely opaque mould without being able to see what I’m doing.

What happened? I have no idea. I’ve asked Hardcore Craft and they haven’t responded. There is no dye in this sword at all. It just did this by itself. The white parts are fully hardened. They don’t take any impression from a fingernail as I’d expect if it wasn’t fully cured. I’m baffled, to be honest.

What will I do with it? Finish it of course! But I can’t really say that it’s a Seraph Blade. Every Shadowhunters fan knows that a Shadowhunter’s blades are made of adamas, which is a crystal clear metal with angelic properties. Looks like glass, hits like mithril.

It will be an art piece, for sure. I’m just going to let the blade suggest its personality to me and trust in the crafting process.

That’s all from me for now. See ya later!

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

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.

IMG_3098[1]

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. 🙂 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!