Monday, November 9, 2015

Art Deco Snack Bowls

So, at the Rogue Cthulhu Friday Night Speak Easy, at Con on the Cob, I wanted to decorate the room in an art deco style. I had just watched the Great Gatsby for inspiration, and I found some roaring 20's style decorations on eBay, but I didn't have the time or money for that, so I planned to make them myself. Unfortunately, time became a severely limiting factor and I only managed to get one art deco style decoration finished for the show.
These are large dark green salad bowls that I got at a local discount store for $1 each. I spray painted them with gloss black (on the outside only!) and then used aluminum foil tape (the kind used for furnace repair) to make a geometric line pattern on them. I kept the pattern very simple and easily repeatable. I made six of these and I used them as snack bowls and filled them with various kinds of chips and snacks. This was a very small touch that ultimately had next to no impact on the look of the room, but I thought it was a good idea.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Howard's Place

My photoshop-ing skills are meager at best. But I thought this picture of Howard Phillips Lovecraft tending bar turned out reasonably well, especially given how little time was put into it.
This image was hastily 'shopped together to use as a web advertisement for the Rogue Cthulhu - Friday Night Speak Easy; an alcohol, dance and gaming party held at Con on The Cob, 2015. I liked it so much that I did a little additional touch up to it and had it blown up into two 36"x 48" panels, which were then printed out at OfficeMax on their engineering (blueprint) copier and then glued together with spray adhesive to make one 6ft.x4ft. poster. We hung that poster on the wall next to the actual bar set-up for the Speak Easy party. Total cost: $12 and change.
This second image was also put together as an advertisement for the same event. It didn't turn out nearly as well. The lighting and shadows are all wrong, but it served its purpose.
If I'd had known how little it would cost, I would have blown up more pictures of 1920's bar and party scenes and wallpapered the room with them, instead of spending more than a week making carboard cut-outs of gangsters and flappers.
...But that's another post ;)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Phonograph Prop Redux

Ha! I'm back! I have parted ways with the second job that kept me from my workshop, so at least until I find another day-job, I am back in the saddle.

The past few weeks have been spent preparing for a convention called Con on the Cob. Over the past few years, Rogue Chtulhu has been making a larger and larger presence there. This year, we took things up a notch, and that included several small builds from yours truly. Lets start things off with a look at my second attempt at a turn of the century style phonograph prop.

Some of you will remember my Steampunk Phonograph that I posted about previously, which was made as a LARP prop for Origins. My second phonograph was made as decoration for a prohibition-era themed party at Con on the Cob, called the Friday Night Speak Easy. For the second version, I re-used the black and gold cardboard horn from the first phonograph prop, but a new body and plumbing were created. This version would look much more like an actual phonograph from the period, without the laser pointer stylus. I would, however, use similar plumbing pipe and fixtures for the brass-work, simply because it was easy and convenient (and I was under a time crunch).

I recently acquired a vintage victrola and a crap-ton of 78rpm disks from a friend who was moving cross country. So I decided to use the vintage disks instead of my poorly fabricated cylinders from version 1. That meant a new body, so that's where we start. The new body was made from some scraps of 3/8in. plywood, some 1/4in. luan paneling, and some molding strips.

Here you can see the basic box shape being glued together. The sides are 3/8in. plywood scraps that were left over from my last lighting rig expansion. The top is a scrap piece of 1/4in. Luan paneling.
Because I only used glue, and no nails or staples, I put some reinforcing strips of molding (some may have been thin scraps of plywood) on the interior side to give it more strength and stability. The bottom of the basic box was left open.
 In order to hide the cut edge of the plywood, and to give some more shape to the box, and make it look a little more authentic, I added some strips of molding. Around the bottom edge, I added quarter round, and along the seams and around the top I used some flat molding (I don't remember what it's called). Unlike the plywood sides, the molding was mitered for a nice clean seam. These were also glued and clamped. No nails or staples were used.
The next step was to center a disk on the top and find out where to put the spindle pin. Because there is no motor, the pin could be just a piece of metal of the appropriate diameter sticking up through the luan top. I searched through my dad's old bolt bins for the right size machine bolt, cut it off with an angle grinder and rounded out the cut tip. After some polishing, it made a fairly convincing spindle. Since it is just a set piece, there isn't even a platen. I just stack two 78s on top of each other to give the illusion of height.
I had already sanded the box thoroughly before adding the molding, so next up was staining and poly. I used red mahogany stain and gloss polyurethane. The difference in base color between the plywood and the luan creates a slight contrast. Also, some of the trim molding was previously stained from another project, so that creates a little contrast too.
With the stain and clear coat dry, the last thing to do was to mount the old horn. I would need some new pipe-work, a stylus, a bracket, and maybe something ornamental.

I looked for a little while to find something to use as a bracket to hold the horn assembly up. I finally settled on a bit of brass scroll work that came from a decorative sconce. It is a little weak for the weight it must hold up, but it looks nice, and though it sags a little with everything assembled, it is holding up so far.
While I was looking through my parts bin for brass bits, I found a nice brass lion head drawer pull that provided just the right amount of ornamentation for the front panel. 
The pipe-work was made from actual copper pipe and pvc painted to look like copper. Trying to match painted copper to real copper is a huge pain in the ass. Especially since copper can vary so widely in hue depending on its state of oxidation. Also, unless you put some clear coat on it, your copper will darken, but your painted pieces will remain the same over time. The selection of pipe pieces was largely dictated by what I had on hand and what would fit together with the least amount of modification.

As for the stylus, I got lucky and found a part form my junk bins that was about the right shape and fit into the pipe end perfectly. It's a cheap tire pressure gauge. I took off the stickers, popped off the glass, ripped off the dial pointer and flipped the dial face backwards so it appears to be blank silver. I put the glass back in place and removed the tip so it would fit better into the diameter of pipe I had chosen.
 The final touch was the needle itself. I looked around for a while to find something that was the right size and shape but would cause the least risk if damage to the 78 disks that it would be sitting on. I settled on a pop rivet. I just drilled a hole in the appropriate spot on the tire gauge and stuffed the pop rivet in the hole. I didn't use a rivet tool, or even glue. I did, however, trim the length of the pop rivet by about half, subsequent to these photos being taken.
 Next I had to paint the pvc parts of the pipe-work and once dry, everything is just dry fitted for final assembly. Only in a couple of places did I use any glue. It can mostly be disassembled. 

 And that's it! I know it's only an approximation of an actual phonograph, but it was a hastily made set piece that would only be seen in the dark and not used or handled. Still, I like it better than the first version. Below are some pictures of it in situ at the Friday Night Speak Easy at Con on the Cob.

I hope you all enjoy this fun little prop. I have a few other small builds from the Con on the Cob show, that I will be posting soon, and who knows, depending on how soon a find another day-job, I may have some more good stuff on the way.

Monday, July 13, 2015

In Ink

I was scrolling through my FaceBook feed the other day and I just happened to stumble onto this image of Charlie Platteborze's new tattoo. I'm not even sure why it showed up on my news feed. I don't know Charlie, and it was posted to a FaceBook group of which I was not a member. 
I'm not even sure how my eye caught it, but a small detail in the above bounty of imagery grabbed my attention. Look closely at the book The Old Gent is holding.
It was the central sigil that first caught my attention. I had to pull up the full sized image to see if my eye really saw what my brain said that it saw. They did! That's a glyph I created for my Book of IOZ manuscript, which has subsequently been used on my Necronomicon fragment pages, as well as on the interior pages of my De Vermis Mysteriis, and on the cover of my Necronomicon that I created for the indie film, Doctor Glamour.
 Yep, the corner bosses and the lock escutcheon cinches it! That's a representation of my Doctor Glamour Necronomicon. Boy, this thing seems to be getting around, doesn't it?

Anyway, it made my day seeing a piece of my work out in the wild like that, so I thought I would share it with all of you.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


is the sincerest form of flattery. The other day I was doing a Google image search, looking for Mythos prop ideas, when I stumbled on this picture on Crudelia's Deviant Art page.

Look familiar at all? I was immediately struck by the similarity of the bosses and hinges to those from my Doctor Glamour Necronomicon, shown below.

Of course, once I got a closer look at the picture, I could finally make out the text that specifically mentions that the design was inspired by my Necronomicon (squee!). I love seeing and hearing about how my work has inspired someone else's! It gives me fuel to trudge on.

I quite like Crudelia's book. In many ways, I like it better than my own (though not in all ways). The sculpts of the hardware are very stylish and have a lot of character to them, though they are a little over the top and cartoonish for a "serious" Necronomicon (imho). He is clearly a better sculptor than me. I wish I could sculpt with that much flair. The painted leather on the boards and the finish on the hardware is also quite nice, and the multiple bookmarks are a nice touch.

I had never seen any of this artist's work before, but having a quick glance at his resume on his Deviant Art page, he has quite the list of accomplishments. It's very impressive.  I am flattered that anything I have done should have made such an impression that he would choose to simulate it in a work of his own.

Seeing as Crudelia's book was finished in 2012 (the year after mine), I'm surprised it took me this long to notice it. If anyone who follows this blog happens to spot something of mine, or clearly inspired by my work, out in the wild, please let me know. I would love to see it.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

What A Crappy Year

I can't believe it's been almost a year since I posted anything to this blog! WTH! My life just isn't the same as it was when I started this. I hardly ever get into my workshop any more. I miss crafting tomes, and making props and binding books. I miss it, but the rest of the world has me stretched so thin, if I ever do have any free time, I just want to veg-out. Still, it's nice to have a reliable income, even if it's not from the kind of work that I want to be doing.

Well, I haven't been in the workshop much this year, but that doesn't mean I haven't made anything. I still make stuff at work (sometimes). Not the kinds of stuff I normally make, but it is enjoyable. So, since the year is almost over, and I just couldn't stand the thought of ending the year with only one single post from way back in January, I thought I would throw up a couple pictures of some of the things I have made while I was at work.

Yep, that's a stairway. And no, I didn't build it. But I did modify it. Those blue parts were built by a professional metal fabricator. They look nice, and they were well made, but they don't actually satisfy OSHA safety requirements. The hand railing was inadequate. No rail on one side, and no mid-rail. So, I had to add a mid-rail, and build a complete railing for the other side. Those ugly brown rusted metal bits, those are mine. I just did that yesterday. Designed it, cut it, welded it, all by my lonesome. My boss never lets me paint anything. He thinks is't a waste of time, and given the life expectancy of just about everything at this plant, he's probably right.

Made the railing to protect this transformer, the day before yesterday. The blue bits were made in-house a few years ago (one of the last projects we were actually allowed to take the time to paint) and were installed elsewhere in the plant. We re-purposed them and added to them (that would be the brown bits) to make a corral around this transformer. Exciting, yes? But wait, there's more.

OOh, look. More hand-railing! I built this over the summer. Just the handrail around the catwalk at the end just above the grey control box. It has a removable gate to make maintenance on the machine easier. I helped build that end of the catwalk too. It was added on. The platform didn't originally extend around that end. Oh, you see that big honkin' trapezoidal thing on top? That's a hopper that feeds into the top of the Artech shredder (the machine that I run as the main part of my job). I built that too. Well, me and a guy named Carl, who doesn't work there any more. We built that a couple of years ago. That thing is built like a brick shit house. Reinforced walls of five-eighths inch thick plate steel. WAY stronger than necessary for the amount and type of material going into it. But I didn't design it.

No, not a hand railing this time. A safety guard (fence). Certain areas have to be gated off if they have mechanical hazards, like moving belts and rollers that could rip your arms off if you got your hand in them (and yes, it has happened, at this plant, though not while I have been working there). I made about a dozen of these metal barriers to cordon off dangerous areas in the past month or two. Unfortunately, they keep falling over in high winds because the angle iron they bought was way too light for the job. But the boss wanted them, and that's what he bought to build them with, so that's what I used. Iv'e also had to repair most of them at least once, because people keep bumping into them with the heavy equipment, and they are so light duty, they bend all to shit if you hit them with anything. C'est la guerre.

So that's been my life recently- safety guards and hand railings. I've built some conveyor belts done a little carpentry work around the plant too, but I don't have any pictures of those (and frankly they are as boring as these anyway). Not as sexy as movie prop tomes or steampunk diving helmets, but it pays the bills, and at least I'm making something. A maker makes, always.

So, Merry Christmas, and thanks for coming and checking out my blog, even though I haven't posted all year. I do have one personal project that I did this summer, sort of an adjunct to a project I did last summer, but I'll save that for another post. It'll give me something to look forward to for next month.

Friday, January 3, 2014

DMG repair and recover

It seems like the only time I get to post anything is when I am off of work for some reason, which isn't often. This time I am home sick with bronchitis. So that makes it a wonderful opportunity to post about one of my projects I recently finished.

This project took a LONG time to complete. Way longer than it should have. I experimented with a few new techniques, a few new materials, and I was never really sure where the design was going. All in all I'd say I have mixed feelings about the outcome. It started when a friend of mine, we'll call him "Eric" (because that's his name, -duh), left his Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition Dungeon Master's Guide at my house after a game session. Before I could return it to him, the book got dropped and the spine cracked. I promised to fix it for him, though he didn't really care. He would have just replaced it. That's the kind of guy he is. It took me almost a year to make good on that promise!

For those of you who are not familiar with it, here is what the D&D 3.5 DMG looks like. The cover image evokes the feeling of a 3D sculpture, and that's what I wanted to do with this re-cover. I envisioned a multi-layered design with ridges, baubles, and thin strips of riveted metal trim. That is not quite what I ended up with.

To begin, I started sketching out some designs on butcher paper at 1:1 scale. I had no idea where I was going with it. I just sketched as the spirit moved me. One thing I knew I would need for sure were titles. So I started with those, figuring I could design the rest around them.
 Then I sketched a framework around the title elements. What I ended up with was a sort of art deco style applique.
 I glued the original sketch to some chipboard and cut it out with a hobby knife.
 Then I got around to fixing the broken spine with some tyvek. As with many modern RPG books, there was no mull in this book. It relied entirely on the strength of the end paper and the varnished paper covering material to hold the boards to the spine. As pretty as varnished paper can be, I think it makes a lousy covering material, and even more lousy text block pages. It is brittle and cracks and tears easily. It was the varnished  paper covering material that cracked and split when the book was dropped.
 I used the cut out chipboard as a template to draw the same framework design for the back cover, and also to make an archive copy of the design, in case I ever want to use it again. Since the back cover didn't need the titles on it, I put cut outs in the areas where those were.
Then I cut out the back cover applique and glued both to the original cover boards, after roughing the original covers up with some sand paper. Another drawback to varnished paper covers. Glue doesn't want to stick to them.
 I wanted the titles to be 3D too, so I re-drew them on some thinner chipboard (a shirt box) and cut them out, gluing them directly over top where they were originally drawn on the cover sketch. As you can tell, I'm not really good at drawing custom fonts.
 For covering material I was trying a new product that I had purchased a few months earlier and was dying to try out, bonded leather. The look and feel of leather at a fraction of the cost. When I first got it I thought it looked great. But now that I have worked with it a little, the honeymoon is definitely over. The surface looks and feels more like vinyl than leather, and it has much different handling properties than working with leather. It doesn't absorb glue the same; it doesn't stretch the same. I don't like it. I don't like the look of it, and I don't like working with it. But I have a bunch of it, so I guess I'm stuck with it.

After gluing down the bonded leather covering material, I filled some large zip-lock bags with sand to use as weights that would conform to the intricate curves of the appliques and hopefully give me a nice contour to the leather.
 Then I added more weight to make sure I got the best possible compression. A lot more weight.
 Sadly, the results were unimpressive. I have successfully used the sand bag trick before on a smaller scale, so I had high hopes. But after the weights were removed, the leather showed poor definition around the appliques. Time for plan B.
 I went down to the local pharmacy and asked for some medium sized syringes. After explaining what I wanted them for, and convincing the pharmacist that I was not a junky, he agreed to sell me some. I needed a needle that was big enough to let watered down glue flow through it, but that was small enough not to damage the leather with a noticeable hole. I think the ones I got were 25 gauge. I injected the cover with some more glue at all the edges of the appliques, working it around by massaging the leather with my fingers. Then I took the cut out pieces from the original appliques (thank goodness I hadn't thrown them away yet) and taped them down in their respective places. Then I reapplied the weight and let it dry. I only did one half at a time, because I had no idea if this would work.
 Success! You can see in the picture below, the difference in definition that the chipboard pieces made compared to the sand bags. Not all of the areas were as crisp as I would have liked, but it was a vast improvement.
 I repeated the process to the other half of the cover and finally I got something that I thought was passable, though I wasn't thrilled with it.
The cover of this book was going to be busy and bright with lots going on (or at least that's what I wanted), so the subtle raised letters of the titles would simply not do without more embellishment. I decided to try another experimental technique, gold leafing. I had tried it once before on a small leather journal, but the results were unimpressive. I don't know why I though it would be different this time, but I was hoping for something akin to a miracle.
 I applied the sizing agent (glue) to the cover as carefully as my artistic skills would permit. Then I covered the affected area with a thin delicate sheet of fake gold foil. Then I covered that with a sheet of waxed paper and used a rolling pin on it to ensure good adhesion. Then I carefully flicked away all the unstuck foil with a paint brush.
 The results were, once again, not particularly impressive, but at least it did make the titles pop. I probably could have gotten at least as good of an effect with a gold paint marker. Maybe it's because I can't draw for crap.
Moving on, It was no use crying over amateurish gold leafing. Time to bring the rest of this design marvel to life, starting with some brass studs. These were brass upholstery tacks. The holes were all pre-drilled. A drop of super glue was applied to the shaft of the tack. The tacks were hammered through the cover. Then the protruding shafts were cut off from the underside with wire cutters and ground down flush with a Dremel tool.
My grandiose plans were being whittled down to much more simple designs. Instead of the complicated multi-layered metal trim pieces I had sort-of envisioned, I opted for some much more feasible metal appliques to fit into the recesses of the art deco framework. These were all hand cut from a sheet of thin copper sheet (I think it was something like 30 gague). They were glued on with Barge brand contact cement, the best contact cement I know of.
And then I added brass brad heads in the same fashion as the brass upholstery tacks. This was the first time I had used sheet metal in this fashion. In the future I would stay away from acute angles. They tend to get pokey, even if glued down well.
The text block was cased in with a proper mull and grey end papers. I had a little trouble with the spine as the original text block was a "perfect bound" glue binding, but I sorted it out in the end. The pva glue from my new mull didn't want to stick to the glue from the perfect binding, and ended up with the new mull pulling away from the spine, but glued to the end papers. I solved this by cutting up some tiny floral glue beads into thin slivers to fit down the gap at the spine, then applying a hot iron to melt them. This affixed the old perfect bound spine to the new mull nicely.
I don't think the book turned out terribly, but I wasn't really happy with it. And of course Eric could care less about a custom cover. He just wanted a functional book. Some of the new techniques and materials didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped.