Chuggin’ Right Along

Last week was quite productive. IMG-2383

Got the leather measured, cut, and shaped for the handle. And I also got all the runes engraved. The leather shrunk more than expected as the leather paint dried so I decided to smooth and bulk out the edges with an air-drying polymer clay.

Clariel leather

It’s messy at the moment but I let it be so that it would dry nicely. I can sand the edges today and get it all prettied up. I liked working with the clay so much I think it might be the beginning of a new way to do the handles! We’ll see what the end result is to know for sure. I keep working toward my dream of a beautiful seamless sword.

There’s no such thing as impossible; only things we haven’t learned how to do yet.


Making Some Magic

Hi everybody! Just a quick update to let you know I’ve got a couple swords all polished up and ready to be fitted with handles. One more is awaiting polishing.

After this step, I get to wire up the electronics for the lighting and then they’ll be ready to be sold. Yay!

Good news!

It has been decided that I will have a new residency permit given to me and I can continue living and working here. That’s a big relief for me. I was afraid I’d have to go somewhere else and start all over again.

Where does that put us in terms of sword-making? Today I am making some alterations to the mould I have in hopes of reducing the bubbles that I’m still getting in the finished product. I feel that you deserve professional quality in your sword and and I’m determined to get it just as perfect as I can.

While I’m waiting on resin to cure, I’ll continue testing the resin polishing paste I bought in the hopes that it will reduce the amount of time I have to spend on the surface of the swords and result in a smoother, glossier finish. I’m still not sure if it’s as good as the wet/dry sandpaper. So I’m buffing up one sword with the polishing paste and another sword the “traditional” way with the sandpaper to see which yields a better finish.

After that, we move on to the electronics. I’ve already got the LEDs, batteries, and casings to play with but I’m still hunting for just the right kind of switch.

First Resin-Cast Clariel!

I waited until today to show you guys this because I wanted to have a full set of photos from start to finish. It was a tough wait! This is so unbelievably exciting for me! A lot of you know how very frustrated I was with this project because there was just so very much to learn.

The fact is: you can read tutorials and articles and watch all the videos you like, but when it comes right down to it, practice is the most essential part of learning any skill. How firm or squishy will the silicone be when it’s fully cured? How warm does the container of mixed resin feel when it’s beginning to catalyse? How fast will it cure with the temperature and humidity of the room I’m working with? How does a vacuum pump sound when it’s running well versus running poorly? All these questions can only be answered by getting your hands on the materials and working with them.

Every mistake is a learning experience, but when your materials are this expensive, every mistake is costly. I’ve ‘wasted’ about 80-100 Euros worth of silicone to get where I am now and I have a lot more learning to do.

So you can imagine, after weeks and months of materials not arriving on time, machines not working, chemicals doing weird unexplained things, how overjoyed I was to open up the mould and see …


Perfect. It looked perfect. I couldn’t believe it. I had expected to fail, yet again, as I had failed so many times before. Expected it with such certainty that I could not accept that it had actually worked. I had convinced myself, with every heartbreaking flop that I was too stupid to get it right.

I poked the little side tubes where the air vents are because I was so afraid of messing up the sword after all this struggle. It was solid. No stickiness. No softness.

I put my fingertips on the blade of the sword, expecting to encounter a gummy, gluey surface. It was completely smooth. It was still warm from the exothermic catalysing process and it felt like a living creature.


Honestly, I teared up. I was so exhausted from fighting with this project and now it was finally here. All I could do for several minutes was just run my hands over it and marvel at how a bucket of thickish goo could become something like this.


I had been worried about clarity, unsure if this resin would be as beautifully transparent as the PMMA resin I’d been carving. Well, I snapped a photo straight down the pour-spout. I think I have nothing to be worried about. It’s so clear it looks hollow.


After nipping off the extra resin from the air vents and the spout (I affectionately call them ‘umbilical cords’ since that’s really what they looked like!) I buzzed off the seams around the edges with the Dremel tool. In this shot, I haven’t even started polishing it yet.


The edges are still scratchy from the Dremel. Can’t have that! The finish must be even!


This is polished. I gave it my favourite frosted finish (800 grit polish).

This sword is one I’m going to keep for myself and not just because it’s the first and very special because of that. There are some tiny air bubbles in it. I think it’s from when the mould started leaking because it wasn’t clamped tightly enough during the pour. The bubbles are only in the handle, mostly in the pommel which is exactly the point during the pouring that the resin started seeping out at the seams.



You can tell that these little imperfections are barely the size of a needle-point but you know what a stickler for perfection I am! I will be experimenting on this sword to see if I can get the bubbles filled with epoxy or other type of liquid resin and get the surface totally flawless. The bubbles that are encased in the resin I can’t do anything about, but that’s okay. I’m pretty sure no one but me can see them.

I want to make an even better quality mould with this sword since it’s smoother than the plaster prototype and I would have even less work to do with the polishing. That means better quality swords straight out of the mould, and less time taken with buffing so they can be in your hands sooner. Yay!

So what’s next for Clariel and when will I have swords available to sell? Well, technically, I could start putting out unlit blades right now, but for everybody wanting their swords with LEDs equipped, I’ve got to cast another sword, decide on the light mechanism I want to implant, mill out a slot for the light to go in, check and make sure the electronics work the way I want them to, make a mould for all the swords that will have lights in them.

Easy … peasy? Man I hope so after all this but I fully expect a “Mistakes with Metal” photo series to be coming up. Haha! Wish me luck okay?

Before I scamper off to the workshop, I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being so supportive through all my frustrated yowling. Those of you who have commented on my page, in person, here on my website, the hugs, the suggestions, the shares, the likes, the kitten pictures, the coffee … it all helped so very much to keep me somewhat sane … okay functional while throwing myself at this project. The demon Depression is the scariest of all; it steals your will to fight, to even try. It needs a full team to defeat and it’s great to know you’re all part of my posse.

Stay awesome everybody. I’m off to make cool stuff.

A Mould for Clariel

Yay! After harrowing adventures, I finally have a completed silicone mould for Clariel


Why is it two different colours? Well, I ran out of the pink silicone from Alumilite halfway through the moulding. It took a little bit more than I thought it would. Then the white silicone from FormX didn’t set the first time I used it because I accidentally mixed too little catalyst. (I thought it said 100:1 but it actually said 100:5.) Annnnd when I was cleaning the un-set silicone off the pink stuff that I did have on the other side, the turpentine shrank the pink silicone and caused parts of it to rip. So I had to re-cast the entire half mould all in the white stuff.

In addition to that, because my workshop is so cold (17 degrees C or 62.6 degrees F) I had to rig up a little hot house out of foam for the white silicone to cure. It’s much happier at 24 degrees C. I almost despaired and tossed it out because it hadn’t gotten totally solid overnight (Thursday night) and when I arrived on Friday, it was still very smushy. The thing about tin-curing silicone is: if it’s not cured by the end of its stated curing time, it’s not gonna. Unless …

Unless it’s too cold. If it’s too cold, it’s probably still curing just reaaaaaally slowly. So I crossed my fingers and warmed it up. In a few hours, it set! Woohoooo! I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was.

So, today, I still have a bunch of cleaning to do from the failed curing (last Monday) and the retarded curing (last Thurs/Fri). Un-cured silicone is a nightmare to clean up cause it doesn’t react to very many chemicals. I use turpentine, and then concentrated dish-soap to clean up the residual oil. Or I use acetone or 100% isopropyl alcohol. It depends on how cured it ended up, what it’s stuck to, and how stubborn it’s being.

Once I have a nicely cleaned working area, I can tackle the actual casting in resin. I’m kinda terrified. I hope it’s not as challenging as the silicone!

Some Progress?

Okay! Good news: I’ve completed one half of the silicone mould for Clariel and about 1/4 of the other half. (It’s a two-part mould.)

Bad news: I’m out of silicone and my supplier still hasn’t delivered my shipment yet. Rrrrrgh! Come on! I ordered it back on December 22nd! Get the lead out guys!


Not half bad if I do say so myself. Uh, no pun intended. The silicone looks a bit tacky and weird on the surface in this shot but it’s just because it has mould release painted over it. I need to be verrrrry sure that it will come apart when the top layer is finished curing, otherwise, my sword will be trapped in a solid block of silicone. That would suck.

Now, hopefully, I will get to work this morning and find that my new silicone shipment is waiting for me. Wish me luck everybody! I’m trying my hardest to make this happen!

Still testing …

I wanted to have some more positive news for you before I posted again but it looks like that’s going to come a little later than I hoped. Remember the pink plastic coaster thingy I said I was making?


Yeaaah, it’s not supposed to look like that. The darned thing just didn’t cure properly. I’ve been doing more research and realised that my workshop is too cold for curing Alumilite in small quantities like this. (It’s only about 4-5mm thick.)

The plaster jacket I made to hold the silicone mould nice and flat is unfortunately sucking the heat out of the material because gypsum is a substance with very low thermal conductivity. What does that mumbo-jumbo mean? Well it’s cold. And it stays cold. (There’s more to it than that but the coldness is the important bit to this project.)


It ended up sticky and not fully hardened. You can probably see my fingerprints all over it. That’s not good.

So, yesterday I ran an experiment with my mini-oven at work, heating up the resin and holding it at 50 degrees Celsius while it cured. I couldn’t stay for the last hour of its curing because it was my wife’s birthday and I had to go spoil her properly. But before I left, I noticed a few tiny bubbles that should not have been there and it looked like it was separating from the mould in a few places. Not good! But I didn’t see any cloudiness that would indicate it didn’t cure all the way through. If there’s still no clouding when I get to the workshop today, that means we’ve made some progress!

So, why are small things harder to cast with Alumilite than large things? Well, when you mix part A and part B together, the resin has a chemical reaction that causes it to harden. This chemical reaction is exothermic (it gives off heat). If the piece I’m casting is large enough, I don’t have to worry about the mould being chilly. The resin will heat it up nicely for me.

While I’d love to simply go ahead and cast the Clariel patiently waiting for me in its box, and I think it will do fine with its own heat, a sword is a LOT bigger than a wee coffee coaster and will eat up more of the resin. If I should mess up on a sword casting, that would be a very expensive mistake! This is why I’m doing something small first so I can understand how this material works and get a feel for it before I tackle the seraph blade.

Wish me luck guys!