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.

Sword for Sale!

Sorry I’ve been quiet. I was ill for awhile. But I’m back now with a brand new Clariel to offer!

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. @_@

New Sword Model!

Yep, you read that right. The beautiful, exotic Zaapiel is coming to my Etsy shop. Possibly as early as this week!

The person who ordered this beauty requested a frosted look for a brighter glow.

Does it light up? Pffft, guys. You’re at Inklbade Studios. Of course it lights up!

Shiiiiney *o*
Obligatory sauna pic. LOL

Why does the sword have a couple wires sticking out of it? This beauty is a custom job, designed to be decorate a pinball machine, so it needed to be modified to hook up directly to the machine. If you need any kind of custom modifications for power sources, you need only ask. I’m quite flexible.

Now everybody likes to see the insanity of my crafting process so let’s have some pics!

Draw!
Carve!
Carve more!
Box it!
Mould in alginate!
Smells gross!
Make a huge mess!
Crappy plaster prototype!
Break it while sanding!
Fix with Milliput and swearing!
Break it again!
*censored for profanity*
Start a religion worshipping Milliput!
Finish sanding!
Cover your trauma in black paint!
Box it!
Make a silicone mould!
Pour in resin and pray!
Sand it and fit in the lighting!
MORE MILLIPUT! *_*
Paint it! Wrap it! Act like you knew what you were doing the whole time!

Yeah! Never had a doubt. 🙂 … Not for a second. Nope.

So I’ve got one of these Zaapiels in the mould at work. I just have to go get it out and start sanding. The next question is: who would like a lovely glowing scimitar?

In other news, I am still working on the witchlights. The thing that I’m having problems with is getting the lid to line up properly and look like it’s part of the whole rock. I know how I want it to work but how to get it to that point is a real brain-twister.

Here’s what the underside of the witchlight looks like right now on my prototype. The lid at least sits flush on the opening and extends a few millimetres into the body of the rock so it doesn’t rattle around. But how to get it to look like there isn’t a seam? Hmm … still working on it. Thanks to everybody who’s been patient so far! I’m close to the solution.

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

Little Wee Pokey

It’s so cuuuuute! This was a really good test of the new DIY paperclay stuff. Light, strong. mouldable, and sandable. I’m quite pleased!

This here knife is currently going by the name of Thorn, just so I have something to call it. It is double-edged for maximum utility (slashing or stabbing) and provides a little bit of protection to the hand while blocking another blade.

Yes, yes, panicking parents, it’s not actually sharp. I don’t make real weapons. I make art pieces. I do envision how a blade would actually work if it were real, though, so my designs at least make some logical sense. So many fantasy weapons just look … preposterous.

Like A: it’s half the size of your body; you’re never going to lift it, and B: if you managed to, you’re never going to successfully stick it in the other guy, and C: if you somehow managed to accomplish that (like if he was asleep or something) you would never be able to get it out again. Or quite possibly D: your dagger has six blades on it they’re all curved at an angle even a snake would find obscene and half of them are pointed back at you what are you doing with your life?

Much more practical.

What else have I got for you today? Well, I put some more reinforcement on the wings of the raven.

Cause a cross-guard needs to actually … guard. Yeah. This one is more decorative than anything else though if I’m perfectly honest. I’m okay with that. ^_^

Alright, off to the workshop. Wish me luck!

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!