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. 🙂 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. 😦 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.

Give My Creations Life!

What a crazy week. I spent the whole of it waiting for a resin shipment to arrive so I could finish these doll heads. Due to a mix-up with the ordering (PayPal apparently farted or something) it will arrive this week instead.

But I didn’t spend all that time doing nothing!

I’ve got not one, but two new swords in the works.

Everybody remember the cool ring-sword Zaapiel that I made for a wedding?

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It’s making a comeback for a very special project!

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From humble beginnings traced onto a piece of foam insulation …

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To a cut and and honed profile …

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To a sleek shape ready for patching, sealing, and finally, its first moulding. But it will have to wait until my table is clear.

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THIS bad boy is currently taking up all the space! What’s all the pink stuff? That is light, air-dry clay that I use to fill voids in the insulation that I carve the first prototypes from. There’s always some air bubbles and cavities in foam insulation and this makes holes in the swords that I really don’t want. So I fill them before I seal them to ensure a nice even shape.

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Here’s Sariel chilling out in its moulding “box”. I’ve been experimenting with more flexible walls for the moulding boxes so that I don’t have to use as much silicone or other moulding compound. Most swords aren’t just big rectangles, so filling that extra space in the corners of the box is a lot of wasted material! I’m doing my best to reduce costs for crafting my pieces so that more people can afford them. This … isn’t easy. I have to spend a lot of time problem solving and trying out different things before I find something that actually works well.

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Part of that cost-cutting effort is right here in this “box”. I’m using liquid latex as a moulding compound. On the upside: liquid latex is cheap and also bio-degradable over time. On the downside: it takes many coats and takes a long time to dry between coats so what it saves me in cash, it costs me in hours. I’m currently trying to work out if it’s going to be worth it to do latex layers, or if I’m going to have to buy a ton of alginate and try to do it that way.

I haaaaate using non-bio-degradable materials for prototypes. It’s so bad for the environment to make something that’s going to last forever and then only use it once. The foam I’m using for my first prototypes isn’t bio-degradable (I think) but I have a huge slab of it so I have to use it up.  I’m still working out what I’m going to use instead after the foam is all gone.

Wish me luck everyone!

Back from Holiday

Wait, didn’t you just have a holiday Ethan? I did, a bit earlier in the summer, yes, but I had to chop my holiday time in half and take it in two parts because of my wife’s work. So I finally got to have the other half of my vacation.

What’s been going on at the workshop?

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I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a couple brand new Clariels!

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Want to grab one? My Etsy shop is right here. 🙂

I’ve actually managed to significantly lower my shipping costs by switching to a different carrier. For example, if you live in Australia, you can now pay about 40 euros for shipping instead of a whopping 103 that FedEx was charging me. Whew! I told you guys I’m always working hard to make these things more affordable. It’s tough when you’re talking about hand-made commission artwork but I try my best to find some more wiggle room and put things in reach for more people. I understand tight budgets, believe me.

What else am I working on? Witchlights! I’m trying to put the photo here but my phone is being weird. Darn it. I’ll have to do it later. Anyhow, it doesn’t look very exciting at the moment since I’m just working on the mould and figuring out the circuits. Expect pretty things later!

One more exciting announcement before I head off to work. I’m starting on a new project that has nothing to do with Shadowhunters! I know, I know. Bizarre right? But yes I do do other things! One of my interests is ball-jointed dolls. For those of you who don’t know what that is: they are pose-able art dolls.

Inkblade Studios will be partnering up with Lost Chronicles BJD to cast dolls in resin. Our first project will be a small run of head parts for the nice folks who pre-ordered and made this project possible. Here’s a sneak peak at the 3D printed head I’ll be making a mould of later this week.

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I’m pretty excited to be working on this fella! It will be a relief to get to deal with a small amount of resin for once instead of something the size of my arm haha! Wish me luck everybody!

Trying New Things

Hi guys! In spite of the heat, I’m still trying to get stuff done. I managed to get most of the way finished one of the Clariel swords on my table. It just needs its protective glossy sealant and the strap around the handle.

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That’s a handle made of Milliput. Milliput is a two-part epoxy paste. You smoosh it together, knead it thoroughly, and do whatever it is you want to do with it. It’s a lot like modelling clay in consistency. After 3-4 hours it sets hard as a rock. Much more solid and robust than the polymer air-dry clay I’ve been using before.

The downside to Milliput is that because it’s so much harder, it takes longer to shape, sand and polish. The paste is stiffer and harder to mould than softer clays so I have to do some shaping with the Dremel tool after it’s set and then sand those tool marks away before I can begin polishing. It’s also harder to engrave. It’s also a bit more expensive than the air-dry polymer clay.

In addition, any patching of gaps or fine details that I want to do with the Polymer clay (which is softer and easier to accomplish these things with) has to be done after polishing the Milliput. Milliput is hard enough that I have to wet-sand it to smooth and polish it if I want to work with any kind of speed. But the air-dry polymer clay softens with water and can become crumbly before its had its protective coats of paint and sealer put on it.

So the procedure has to go like: Mould handle with Milliput. Wait 4 hours. Shape with Dremel. Wet-sanding. Install leather flap for the light cavity. Smooth over any seam-lines with polymer clay. Dry-sanding. Install magnet closures. Engrave. Paint. Paint. Paint. Seal.

Do I like this procedure? Uhh … I’m still working on tinkering with it. But I do like the structural hardness of the Milliput and will definitely be keeping it on hand for anything that needs reinforcement. I totally recommend getting some to play with. It’s fun!

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Here’s a different style of Milliput handle I also tried out. I wanted it to be all one piece so I could slide it on and off the sword to change the light battery when needed. Buuuut Milliput bonds with resin. On the one hand: that’s great! I can put stuff on my swords and be 100% sure it’s not going to come off. On the other hand: I wanted it to come off.

I even put a layer of liquid latex all over the handle before I started moulding the Milliput on. But Milliput forms itself absolutely perfectly to the object you’re sticking it on, so it formed an air-tight suction seal that I couldn’t pull free. I had to cut out a section of the front to do a conventional leather-flap for the light cavity.

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Of course that broke the suction seal. And it came off just like I originally wanted to but far too late. I had already altered the design by slicing a section out of the front. GAH! That was a frustrating day guys!

But now it’s all epoxied into place and smoothed and patched. Ready to have its flap adhered in place

Will I be at the workshop today? I don’t know! I was supposed to have an air conditioner delivered to my apartment last week and they didn’t come. 😦 So I have to figure out if they’re coming today or not and if they are, I have to stick around and wait. But I won’t be doing nothing. I received my electrical components for the witchlights last week so I can begin tinkering with that until my AC arrives. (Hopefully.)

Wish me luck guys!

A New Look!

Whoa! Dude! What happened to the site? Don’t panic guys; I changed my logo. Everything’s still here.

I took a recommendation from a friend to check out Turbo Gold Media  to get my very own logo designed for me. I liked the work they did on her logo so much that I decided to give it a whirl. I was immensely pleased with their services and I found their prices to be quite reasonable for the quality I got. They’re very quick and responsive and took my feedback seriously.

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I felt the need to change my logo because the old one didn’t really fit the direction my company was going. Originally, it was my plan to make a career of both writing novels and making cool costume props. Well, it turns out that making costume props is a heck of a lot more work than I thought and takes almost all the energy and time I have and I still don’t get everything done that I need to. On top of that … well … books just don’t sell. I don’t really care about worldly riches but I do need to eat and pay rent.

So, yes I still write, but it’s a hobby now. It was a brutally difficult decision to make but I had to be real with myself and admit that it was time to adjust my priorities. Maybe once I can afford to hire an employee or two to help me out and I don’t have to do everything myself, writing will be able to take a bigger role in my life. Until then, I need to focus on improving my prop-making business and get a stable income so things aren’t so financially tight for me.

Running a company is hard guys! O_o

Enough yammering about my new pretty picture! What’s up in the workshop? Well! I had a crazy failure in casting a couple of swords. I think the resin got contaminated or is a little too old or quite possibly the heat/humidity is too high in my workshop right now. It’s 30 degrees Celsius and because there is no air conditioning, I have no way to bring the temperature down.

Either way, I had this bizarre snowflake-pattern delamination on two swords.

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Now, that would be rather cool if it was what I was going for, but since I wanted crystal clear and perfectly smooth … nope. Bad news for me. 😦 As you can see (maybe) there’s a bajillion little bubbles there and each one has flaky resin coming up around it in a flower/snowflake pattern. Boo!

What to do? I didn’t want to waste all that resin. So I sanded the swords as best I could manage to get alllll those little air bubbles and flakes off the surface. I got it as smooth as I could and then tried something weird: I mixed some glazing resin (the stuff you normally use to seal a painting or piece of wooden furniture) and carefully dribbled it down the sides of one of the swords until it was completely coated and left it hanging to dry.

It was an unconventional solution to be sure, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Either it would work and the sword would be saved, or I would have to admit defeat and throw it away. And you know how crazy I get over wasted plastics!

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Whoa. Just whoa.

Why did I never think to do this before!? That is the clearest, smoothest, most pristine finish I have ever been able to get on a sword EVER. I cannot wait to get back to the workshop today to handle it and inspect it now that it’s all cured.

What do you guys think of it? I mean … this is more than crystal clear. It looks like a liquid that just decided to hold the shape of a sword! Should I offer this option as a possible finish you could choose for your blade? What should I call it? Ahhhh I’m so excited! I gotta go to the workshop now and give this beauty a handle!

Another Lovely Clariel

I’m almost finished crafting the third Clariel I made with my first mould. I’m very pleased with how this beauty came together. Gave me no trouble at all. My crafting technique is getting smoother and faster. Yay for practise!

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What’s next from the Inkblade Studios? Well, I continue to work on my crazy bucket experiment. Once I’ve confirmed whether or not it works, I can move on to creating a brand new model of sword! Or … will it be a witchlight? Or maybe a stele?! Ahhh help me decide!