Saturday, February 28, 2009

Brass Goggles Mk. III

OK. Back to something you may actually want to see. These are the Mk. III version of my brass goggles. They aren't really brass of course. They were plastic sunglasses that I took apart and repainted to look like brass. I used a technique similar to the one I used on the Mk. II goggles, but I did some dry brushing with gold paint before I used the Rub-n-Buff. I figured that might make it wear a little better. The Rub-n-Buff can tend to rub off over time. I also, clear coated it. to preserve the finish.

Of course I replaced the elastic band with a leather one. This time I glued the band ends, so this one can't be disassembled. Oh well. I also removed the foam rubber padding around the eye-cups. I replaced it with rolled leather.

I took a piece of leather strap and rolled it into a tube, gluing the edges to make a smooth seam. Then I cut it to the length I needed and glued it to the inside edge of the glasses, just where the foam padding had been. It's not quite as thick as the foam padding was, but it's still pretty comfortable.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Screen Printing

I've been experimenting with silk screen printing since 1993. My setup is very crude. I don't even have a press. I just lay the screen on top of the shirt, or cloth or whatever, and hold it down by hand. To hell with screen standoff! I still get pretty good results, considering. My biggest problem is consistency. My latest silk screening project was to make about 80 t-shirts to promote an event my store was sponsoring.

It was a Halloween party, or as people in the Craft call it, a Witches' Ball. These shirts were made as fund raisers for the event. The event itself was a big success, but it left me about $500 in the hole (and took about $3000 in capital to produce). I bought the shirts in bulk from an online supplier. I made the design myself, using a piece of clip art and a couple nice fonts. I laid it out in Corel Draw and printed it on a piece of transparency film. I printed it out twice and laid one sheet over the other to make sure it was good and opaque. Then I used the transparency as my positive for the photo exposure. My photo emulsion setup is pretty primitive too. I did splurge on the No.1 photoflood bulb (about $5 for one specialty light bulb that only has about a 30 hour life expectancy), but I still use a simple bare-wire socket with an aluminum pie plate reflector. I hang the thing off of my microphone stand and put the screen on the floor. I have used the Speedball photo emulsion kit for years. Unfortunately, my local craft store, Pat Catan's, no longer stocks it. They have switched to the Diazo kit (also made by Speedball), which I hate. The old kit may no longer be in production, which sucks on ice. I also don't have a flash curing heater. I have to iron each piece by hand, for five minutes, to heat set it. Not a problem for short runs, but your arm gets pretty tired after doing that to 80 shirts.

These are a couple of altar cloths I made to sell at the store. I found some nice cloth table napkins at a discount store really cheap. I can't pass up a good bargain, even if I don't know what I'm going to use it for. "Charley Bronson's always got rope..."

I also make custom t-shirts for my gaming club's events. In addition to a whole lot of other great Call of Cthulhu events, Rogue Cthulhu puts on two special events each year. "And Then There Was One" and "Club Carcosa". I make special t-shirts for the winners of each of these events. That is I used to. The events were retired after their 2008 finales. Eight years is a good run.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

White Marble Altar Tile

I make a lot of altar tiles. I make a lot of things in general with pentagrams on them. Pagans like pentagrams. Pentagrams are something that you don't find a lot of in mainstream shops. You could take just about any kind of product, slap a pentagram on it, and sell it in a metaphysical shop. Not that I'd do that ;)

This is a 12in. x 12in. piece of nicely marbled polished white Italian marble. Some years ago I began experimenting with acid etching techniques. My first attempts were pitiable. I used bees wax to coat the design on the marble face, then cut the design with a razor knife. Wow, was that unnecessarily difficult! Years later it dawned on me to use vinyl contact paper (shelf paper) for the masking. Now I can do much more intricate designs with far less effort. I use the same technique as I did on my Etched Glass Goblets, except that instead of the etching paste, I use hydrochloric acid.

You can find hydrochloric acid in the hardware store under the name Muratic Acid. It is used for cleaning pools and concrete garage floors and the like. I do it over a utility sink so that the acid doesn't get on the floor. Also, I'll need the water to rinse the tile when I'm done. The first couple of times I tried this, I just about knocked myself out with the fumes. Using hydrochloric acid on marble releases noxious chlorine gas, so I HIGHLY recommend doing it outdoors. It also releases some hydrogen gas, so don't smoke while etching and don't do it near an open flame. Eventually I rigged up a fan and a duct pipe to draw off the fumes. If you have any open soars on your hands, I'd recommend using rubber gloves. Nitrile gloves are best. Eye protection is a pretty good idea too. You really don't want to splash acid into your eyes.

In addition to etching the design, sometimes I tint the etched areas as well. This one is tinted with an iridescent yellow-green to make it stand out from the background. The masking usually doesn't survive the acid and rinsing, so I usually make another one for the tinting. I just put a new piece of vinyl on top (after removing the old one and cleaning up the surface of any remaining glue) and trace around the design with the razor knife. Then I put a light coat of spray adhesive on the exposed marble, and brush it with powdered pigments. Then I top coat it with a matte spray and remove the mask.

I always sign and date the bottom of these. Then I apply a pad to the bottom, usually felt or that soft foam stuff they make kids crafts with. That way it won't scratch the table.

Pentagram Mini-Altar

This is a cast resin piece, about 4 inches across, that I painted with my ubiquitous bronze finish. I made the mold from a jewelry box lid. I added small wooden screw hole plugs as feet to make it into a tiny table suitable for use as a mini-altar.

OuroborosTarot box

This is a wooden (mdf) box that I bought unfinished from a wholesale club. It is the perfect size to fit a standard deck of tarot cards. It has some very beautiful fretwork in the lid. Of course, I hadn't considered, at the time, that those cut outs would be a nightmare to sand and paint.

I painted the interior of the box is black, and lined it at the bottom with a brown embossed felt. The exterior is painted bronze and has gold flourishes in the corners. The main feature is a cast resin ouroboros that is attached to one side. It is also painted to look like bronze. I made this casting from a mold I made from a piece of pewter jewelry that my store use to carry. The company that made it went out of business several years ago.

The lid is a separate piece, and fits snuggly to the bottom because of a ridge along the underside of the lid.

I made this box to sell in my shop. It is currently for sale on

Items for sale on

I've just recently discovered a site called It is a sales site, like eBay, but there is no bidding, and all the items are hand crafted by the sellers. I noticed this site pop up several times recently while checking out Steampunk blogs, and I finally decided to have a look. The terms are very reasonable and, although I doubt it will get the kind of traffic that eBay does, it has a much more laid back atmosphere and listings are less likely to get swallowed up by the powersellers with their 30,000 listings.

I am currently in the process of putting up several items, many of which are featured in this blog, for sale on Etsy. There is now a link to my Etsy shop page over in the navigation bar. If you like the items you see featured in this blog, stop on over to my Etsy shop and see if it is for sale.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Glass Etching

Here are a few more items to go along with my post about glass etching (Etched Glass Goblets). The process is the same. Pictured here are an etched mirror (of which I made a matched pair) with the image of a rose, and a wall sconce (candle holder) which also has a mirrored back that I put a similar rose design onto. I have a couple of nice rose stencils that I got from the craft store, so I feature roses in a lot of my etched designs. I also do a lot of pentagrams and triquetras, because they sell well in my shop.

Etched Glass Goblets

More pics of items that I have made to sell in my shop. If you haven't figured it out by now, I run an occult bookstore and gift shop. These are some colored glass goblets that I picked up at a reasonable price from a warehouse club here in town. These particular goblets were well suited for my purposes because of their straight sides. Also, I liked the colors.

When I first started out etching (engraving) glass I used a Dremel tool and a diamond bit. I still do that if I plan to engrave the glass, but for etching, now I use a common commercial product called Armor Etch. It is a hydrofluoric acid paste. You can buy rub on transfer stencils for it, but I don't care for them. I use a piece of vinyl adhesive backed paper (called contact paper, or shelf paper) as my stencil. I apply it to the piece, then I use spray glue to attach a photocopy or printout of the line-art I want to etch onto the glass. Then I trace the art with an exacto knife, cutting through the paper, and the vinyl. Peal away the part you want to etch, and coat with the paste. In five minutes, wash it off and peal away the rest of the stencil. Ta da! It sounds easy, and it is, but a lot can go wrong, so practice will improve your skills. You need to make sure your glass is very clean, and your stencil cuts are very straight. Even coverage of the paste is a must, and brush marks can be a problem, especially in large etched areas. Since it's very hard to get the vinyl to stick properly, without puckering, to a surface that is curved in two directions (i.e a bowl or globe shape), these goblets with their straight sides worked out well.

Small Altar Table

This is one of the items I made to sell in my shop. I didn't make the table itself, It is one of those clearance sale finds I like so much. I just put the pentagram on top and gave it some clear coat. Pretty simple really, and hardly worth posting about, but it's one of those things I made, so here it is. I have quite a few more of the tables (I buy in bulk when I find a good deal). I just modify another one when one sells. The last one I sold had a triquetra on it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sandstone Altar Tile

When I changed the batteries in my camera the other day, I decided to go around my shop and take pictures of things I had made so I could post them, so over the next few days, You'll be seeing a few of my more commercial (read as, mundane) creations, but it illustrated some of the media I work experiment with. .

Here is a little something I made to sell in my shop. It is a sandstone altar tile with engraved pentagram and ivy motif. The sandstone piece is 6in. square, and about 1 1/2 in. high. It is beveled (smaller at the base, and widening at the crown) and is slightly concave on top. I think it was supposed to be some sort of candle holder originally. I picked it up on clearance, and thought I could do something with it.

I drew the pentagram and the ivy design by hand sing a pencil. Then I went over it with a diamond burr on my Dremel tool. It took several hours to complete (I wasn't really in a rush), and just about wore out the burr. It was labor intensive and time consuming enough that I don't plan to make any more like this, even though I have two or three more sandstone blanks. I have a short attention span, and bore easily. That's why many of my projects take months, or years to complete. I start on them, then get bored and set them aside, leaving them half finished. This one was right at the edge of what I can do in one sitting.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Brass Goggles Mk II (WIP) pt 1.

I love goggles. I was wearing welding goggles for sun glasses back in 1989; way before Steampunk fashion became all the rage. Of course, all my friends thought I looked retarded, but back then I made a lot of unique fashion choices, and I never cared much about other people's opinions (ask me about my 20ft. long hand knitted Dr. Who scarf some time). Well, now that the rest of the world has caught up to my taste in retro-tech style (i.e. steampunk), I don't feel quite so alone anymore.

As you can see by the title of this post, these are my second set of steampunk goggles. The Mk I version was started a month or two ago, and was put aside and has yet to be finished. Partly because I needed parts for the next step in its construction, and partly because I wasn't entirely happy with the way they were turning out. I'll post them when I finish them, but in the mean time, I have already begun work on the Mk II version, and already I am much more pleased with the results.

These started out as glossy black plastic, cup style welding goggles that I purchased on eBay for about $5. So far I have actually done very little to them, but they're looking very nice. I took them apart, and removed the side vent covers. Then I sanded them a little and gave them a quick coat of flat black spray paint. Then I got to work with the gold Rub-n-Buff. This is weird stuff, and difficult to work with. I hated it the first time I tried it, and I tossed it in the paint drawer and resigned myself to having just wasted a few bucks. Then I read an Instructable that gave me a few pointers on it. It takes a bit of practice and patience to get the feel for its application, but I'm getting better with it, and when it goes right, it looks fantastic. An hour or so of patient rubbing, and I ended up with an antiqued brass-like finish that is 10x more convincing than any of my paints I had been using up until now. Tedious, but worth it. I still have some more to do on them. I want to brighten them up a bit more.

After applying the finish to the main part of the goggles, I removed the dark glass lenses. They were too dark for what I wanted, and I wanted to try a different color. I kept the clear plastic lenses, and cut some clear plastic sheet to match. Then I sandwiched a piece of red cellophane in between the two layers of plastic for each lens. This is just temporary, as something about this arrangement is adding a lot of blur, making them unpleasant to wear. I'll work out a better optics system as the project progresses.

I completely ditched the elastic band and decided to make a leather one from scratch. This is, so far, the most actual modding I have done to these goggles. I cut a strip of ox-blood red leather off of one of my hides (I like to keep several leather hides around. I like leather). I attached the strap to the temples of the goggles using a small screw and a brass... well, I don't know what it's called; some sort of knurled knob. I was going to use a rivet, but I only had silver ones. Then I was going to use a brass snap, but the bright brass looked odd next to the faux finish. These stick out a little and add some steampunk flare without being overpowering. I'll likely add some more odd bits to punk them up a bit more. They are also a bright(ish) brass, but they don't look as out of place as the snap did. I used an antiqued brass buckle that I just picked up the other day at the craft store (something that had been holding me back from finishing the Mk I goggles). It matches the faux finish rather well. Since this is the first time I tried to make a strap like this, I wasn't sure if it would wear well, so I wanted to keep all the parts removable, if possible. That's why I also decided to use a screw and brass nut to attach the buckle as well. I made a couple of leather collars to hold back the excess belt length after buckling, and a leather collar for the nose bridge, but they are not in the pictures because I took them before the glue was dry for those parts, and I'm too lazy to take them over again.

These pictures kind of suck. The lighting in my house is not conducive to picture taking at night. I have included a couple of shots of the original goggles to show how they started out. I still plan to make a few more modifications on these. When I do I will post final pictures, along with the Mk I, which should be done any time now.

UPDATE:   While I had intended to make more modifications to these goggles, I never did get around to it. I couldn't figure out what to do next. Now, that point is moot. They have been sold as-is. Oh well. The Mk. I has seen a little progress, but is still not finished. I have put goggles aside for the moment and moved on to other projects. I will be back to them eventually. I still have more that I want to do.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Faux-leather book covering v1.0

A few weeks ago, I stumbled on this technique, on the internet, for creating a faux-leather style book covering. I can't remember now where I saw it, but it was on one of the blogs that I frequent. Check out the article if you get the chance. The technique is amazingly simple, but the results are impressive. It consists primarily of taking a paper bag, crumpling it up and gluing it to the boards of your book; then painting it. That same article also turned me on to the use of "matte medium" (which is basically acrylic paint without the pigment) as a glue, primer, sealer, et all. Wonderful stuff.

Start by taking a paper bag (the lighter kind you get from a boutique, not the heavy kind you get from the grocer), and ripping/cutting it so it lays flat. Then trim it down to the size you will need to cover your book, leaving an inch or so of overhang an all sides for turning under. This technique is fairly forgiving, just make sure it is big enough. Then crumple up the paper bag a couple of times and flatten it back out again. Spread the matte medium over the entire surface of the paper (on one side) with a paintbrush. This is your glue. Go ahead and soak it down pretty good. Then apply the paper bag to the thing you want to cover, glue side facing the item. For my first attempt, I used a commercially available 5x8 blank book. To get the "veins" effect you see here, I scrunched up the paper a bit with my fingers, wrinkling it a little, as I applied it to the book. Then wrap the overhang around the edges of the boards, like a present. Tucking it in around the spine is the trickiest part. The rest is pretty easy. don't forget to put it in a book press while it dries (or cover it with wax paper and weigh it down with some encyclopedias) to prevent the water in the glue from warping the book boards.

At this point, it looks like a paper bag, glued to a book (which, it is). After it is dry, you can paint it any way you want. I experimented with a new technique that I just sort of thought of a few weeks ago (though real artists will likely be saying "Duh", again). I used a sponge to apply a base coat of black acrylic paint. Then, when it was dry, I applied a dark red in the same way, making sure to let some of the black show through. At this point it was looking a little less like a paper bag, but still wasn't very impressive. Finally, I dry brushed a brighter red and some silver across the whole thing. That's what really made it come together. Once the dry brushing was done, I was actually quite impressed with the results.

Before painting, I cut out a pentagram from a piece of thin cardboard and white-glued it to the front cover. I painted it along with the rest of the cover, but gave it a final dry brushing of gold paint to make it stand out. My last step was to install new end papers to hide the wrap around from the new cover. I used a black card-stock. I plan to make several more of these to sell in my shop. I also plan to incorporate this new technique into some of my upcoming projects. This was my first attempt at this, so I'm still experimenting, but I expect to make good use of it in the near future.