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. ūüė¶ )

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!

It’s Goo Time

No that wasn’t a typo. Goo! Sticky slorpy blue goo! It is time to pour silicone all over this beauty!

When you see something halfway buried in clay, you know the wacky wizardry is about to begin.

So right now I have Zaapiel sitting in its mould box (which I didn’t take a picture of because I was dead tired at the end of the day on Friday) awaiting my arrival this morning.

What else is afoot at the workshop? Well, I found a few DIY recipes for air-dry paper clay that I’m dying to try out. If it goes well, I’ll have a supply of much cheaper self-hardening clay I can use to sculpt my prototypes instead of using foam insulation. Foam insulation is not very good for the environment and is also annoyingly porous so it has to be sealed over and over again with layers of glue and paint before I can actually take a prototype mould of it. It’d be great if I didn’t have to do that! Let’s see if I can find those recipes for you and maybe we can try it together.

Yaaay! Let’s go get messy!

Back and in Black

Hello everyone! I’m so happy to be back from the holidays! I never know what to do with myself when I have time off. I’m kind of bad at relaxing, haha!

So what was I doing just before I ran away to sleep and eat sweets for a couple of weeks? I’m very pleased to present to you the new sleek shape of Zaapiel, my Arabian-inspired scimitar! Let’s take a look at how the sanding and refining process went.

Now careful with the belt sander, or the sword might …

Oops.

Well then! Time for some good ol’ Milliput to save the day. No worries. Good as new.

Now let’s … are you serious?

The other strap on my face mask broke so I was forced to stop and fix it again.¬†Well, now that that’s taken care of, let’s go back to the belt sander and …

Really? Okay Chewie is way too aggressive for shaping plaster apparently. Milliput to the rescue! Again!

I went out and got myself a set of metal files and used them in combination with my wood rasps to get the sword all shaped as I wanted it.

Then smeared Milliput all over any pin-holes, indents, or just anywhere I didn’t like the texture. Look at this thing! It looks like a troll sneezed on it. Ew.

Here we are all sanded nicely (by hand of course) and looking decidedly less sneezed-upon.

Now it’s time to get it all painted and sealed for the final moulding. The paint I happened to have on hand at the time was black. So we get a nice svelte-looking sword to feast our eyes upon.

Hurrah! Now it’s time to order some silicone and do the final layers of sealing. While I await the arrival of my goo, I will polish this beauty up to the best shine I can manage and¬† work on a secret sculpting project that I haven’t yet revealed. What could it be? This mystery item is not related to Shadowhunters nor is it a doll! Stay tuned for future reveals!

A Fine Mess Indeed!

No really, I’m quite pleased with myself. It is a gigantic mess and I have a lot of cleaning up to do in the workshop today, but this mess has resulted in a major breakthrough. This post marks the sum of months of trial and error, experimentation, swearing, epic messes, and more money than I’d like to admit. I’ve finally gotten something worthwhile out of it all. Let me share my joy with you!

Remember I was making the mould for the prototype of Zaapiel, that fancy Arabian Nights sword? Yesss, I got both halves of that mould completed. I made the mould out of alginate (a moulding compound that is essentially … well … algae), with a coating of wax in between to make 100% sure the sides wouldn’t stick to each other.

Which just might make it the grossest sandwich ever. It smells like washed-up seaweed. 

Now, the thing you have to know about alginate is that it’s only good as long as it’s moist. Once it starts drying out, it gets crumbly and it’s not much use for casting anymore. So you have to work quickly and if you’ve got to do the mould in multiple stages or something happens and you have to use it later than you intended, you have to protect it from evaporating off its moisture. Most people put it in a sealed container in the fridge. This … this is way too big for a conventional fridge or normal food container. I improvised with a combination of wax and wet plastic wrap. It was an ugly hack job, but it worked.

Snazzy! Algnate is nice and soft, kinda like tofu in texture. So it’s easy to cut the sprue and the air traps in it. The downside is you have to be gentle when handling it or it will crack or rip easily!

So! I cleaned off all the wax as best I could, put both halves together and strapped it between two wooden boards. Then I mixed up a batch of Artestone (a special gypsum plaster with hydrophobic properties) and poured it into the mould. And that’s when the mess happened.

A puddle of white began expanding from beneath the mould and I realised that there was a leak. I had a problem. I couldn’t just stop the whole thing and open up the mould at this point because then¬†all ¬†the plaster would pour out onto the floor and I’d have wasted the whole thing. So all I could do was grab the closest thing at hand–a large stirring spoon–and frantically scoop the goo back into the mould until it hardened enough to stop pouring out.

There I was, on the floor, scuttling like a crab from the back of the mould to the front of the mould back and forth, scooping at the puddle expanding on either side of it with a spoon of all things. A stream of plaster coming out of the mould, a stream of profanity coming out of me, and by the time the goo hardened enough to form a seal and stop going everywhere, I was laughing my head off. Really what else can you do at that point?

Seriously, it looks like I got bombarded by a gigantic seagull who ate¬†way¬†too much curry. I had to mix up about 200mL more artestone to replace what was lost out the bottom, but I did manage to complete that pour with no further disasters. My neighbour probably thinks I’m insane now. … He’s probably right. LOL!

Now this looks blobby and weird right now but that is completely what I expected it to be. What I need this prototype sword to be is roughly the right shape and a little larger and chubbier than the finished product is going to be. This is so I can do all the final shaping, sanding, and polishing without it ending up too thin or shorter than I wanted. Basically: It’s way easier to sand things off than it is to add things on. So this baby gave me exactly what I wanted. Woohoo!

That was an adventure!

I am sad to report, though, that we had one casualty during this adventure. One of the straps on my protective face mask broke. That’s the third breakage I’ve had on this mask and there isn’t enough strap left to cobble it back together so I have to replace the strap entirely. That’s going to take a little time that I’d really rather be spending on crafting. But it needs to be in proper working order because there is NO way I am sanding any of the materials I work with without respiratory protection.

Safety gear is NOT optional!

So! If anybody needs me, I’ll be scraping uhhh … 300ish mL of extra-hard water resistant plaster off the floor! ūüėÄ … Pray for me. LOL

Wow So Much Stuff to Tell You!

Yep! I’m keeping my Clariel swords on sale for Cyber Monday. Was 415.00 Euros, now 390.00!¬†

https://www.etsy.com/listing/613227011/shadowhunters-inspired-led-sword-clariel?ref=shop_home_active_1

What else have we got going on for this week? Well I’ve got an open-house coming up on Friday. That means I have to tidy my workshop. Yey. Uh, wish me luck on that. LOL But I’ll be super happy to see people and show them my little corner of crazy!

If you’re interested and you happen to be in Finland this week, you can stop by at Sahaajankatu 22, Helsinki and ask for me. Liisa will show you where to go. The building is a bit of a maze.

What else is going on this week? Well here we have the newly re-carved Sariel. RE-carved because the experimental prototype moulding process failed and destroyed my original. I may have cried. Shush you! That was three weeks of work. *sulking*

It is reborn! Yay!

But before Sariel can be moulded again, we haaaaave …

What kind of cake is that?

No, it’s not cake. Don’t eat it! Ew. Plasticine doesn’t taste good. Neither does foam insulation. Or glue. Don’t ask how I know these things. All I will tell you is¬†wash the plate¬†before you eat off of it.

Now what happened to the doll heads? Did the shipment get found? It did! Annnd it seems there were a few too many micro-bubbles and sanding mistakes to sell them. *gasp!* Ethan don’t tell them that! Your customers will lose faith in you and think you’re a crappy artist!

Oh no! Microbubbles! How did I not notice these?! Ugh.

Listen guys, my business is small and new, but even so I want to start it off right. I want every part of Inkblade Studios to be ethical. I am constantly working to reduce waste and find environmentally friendly materials to use. I have to haul my plastic waste to the recycling facility myself every week but I do it because I have a responsibility as a manufacturer to clean up the mess I make. 

I want my business to be based on a principle of honesty. When I screw up, I will tell you I screwed up, and I will tell you how I am going to fix it. I could cover my mistakes with paint and glue and hope you don’t notice but you know what? That’s not the kind of person I want to be. Lazy and sleazy business practices end up costing more in the long run. You can recover lost money, but you cannot recover a lost reputation.

Thankfully, Juliane at Lost Chronicles BJD has been amazingly understanding and kind. We knew from the beginning that this would be a learning experience and that learning experiences are often frustrating. I’m issuing a full refund for the project,¬†and¬†I have bought a brand new compressor and pressure pot.

My new babies ^_^

Unlike a vacuum chamber which pulls air bubbles out of a liquid, a pressure chamber¬†crushes¬†the air bubbles down so small that they can’t be seen by the human eye. This makes a lovely smooth, clear cast. It also forces the resin into all the little small areas and undercuts so that air doesn’t get trapped and end up getting a giant bubble where the nose is supposed to be for example.

The Malechai project taught me that I need this kind of tool now in order to step up my game. I wanted to wait because I knew it would be expensive, but it turns out that¬†not¬†having it cost me more money in the long run. It was a costly lesson to learn but I’m grateful for it. This is not the end of my doll making career, but just the beginning. I’m looking forward to creating more beautiful things and sharing them with you all. ‚̧¬†

Wish me luck!

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!