Saturday, December 31, 2016

Closing out 2016

Whew!  Well that was a year.  On top of all the celebrity deaths there was that election that just tore the US up one side and down the other.  They're calling it the year the Fact died, which is probably justified, but it's certainly been the year we've all read the obituary for Nuance.  There's other blogs a plenty for the politics and world-changing stuff.  If you can find a moderate outlet, especially if it's a moderate outlet for a "camp" other than yours, I'd invite you to delve into it.  Call your representatives.  Be reasonably skeptical and ask questions.  And that's as politic-y as I'll get today.

It was a pretty enormous year for us too. In Feb I invested in a tool I don't expect to receive until the Fall quarter of 2017 but if half of what I read is accurate it'll be well worth the wait.  Then at the start of April my wife and I moved out the small apartment we'd lived in for 4 years.  We moved all of 5-6 blocks away into the ground floor of a house her parents had just purchased.  I spent April through June renovating our new home and building furniture.  It was a pretty intense time and as I was working around the clock on the house I wasn't able to spend any time producing things for the shop.  This went on straight up to a family trip to Alberta at the end of June.  Then as soon as we got back from that trip (the morning after we got back home) we zipped off to the pound and picked us up a pup: Imperious Maximus Prime.

So yeah, a busy year.  The shop had been receiving more and more business at a relatively steady rate since I'd opened in the middle of 2014.  Having to essentially shut down for 6 weeks reversed that trend pretty quickly.  My fall quarter more or less bottomed out and I found myself back to the same pace of business I'd seen in 2014.  I used the time to develop prototypes, catch my breath a bit, and teaching Max not to park at everyone else on the sidewalks.  And all that work came with a significant upside: my work area was able to expand into two entirely dedicated spaces with custom built furniture.  I expected that to make things easier, and it did, but I didn't expect how much faster it would make things too.  It's been a huge boon.

And thankfully things kicked right back into the crazy-busy gear during the holiday season.  I developed a set of tokens for tracking conditions in D&D based on feedback from the DMB community.  I listed them just before the holidays and sold far more of them than any other item.  The dice cups are moving pretty well too and things are looking pretty shiny heading into 2017.

I haven't finished crunching all the numbers yet but so far it's looking like, in terms of raw net numbers, the first and last quarters of 2016 were so good that I've still improved on 2015's numbers.  I'll be looking to continue building on that in 2017.  I want to expand the sets of tokens, build new pouches, refine the DM Toolbox, and do some more "artsy" things.  Also maps.  I don't think I'll ever not want to do maps.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dice Cup, Dwarven

Given the popularity of Dwarves and their general aesthetic I've been waiting to get a commission for something dwarven themed.  And it was worth the wait too.  I know dwarves are better known for their stone work but this aesthetic turns out pretty swell in leather.  The runes on either side of the center peice are the recipient's initials in D&D's dwarven script.  We tried finding a way to keep the keeper from overlapping with them.  Raising the anchors ~1/3" certainly helped but seeing the final result I'd've liked to find a better approach.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Testimonial: Austin Neighborhood Map

This map -almost- arrived in time for the 25th & it's lovely to hear back on the how it was received!
The map arrived today and it is spectacular. My husband adores it. Thank you so much, Fallon. I'll be sure to write a glowing review as soon as Etsy will allow. Thanks again!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Dice Cup, Ouroboros

This client had a pretty clear idea of what it was they wanted so it all came together reasonably quickly.  They also expressed an interest in leatherworking so I sent them daily progress updates with the general process.  It led to some good conversation.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Buckle, Beaver Creek Farms

I need to find a better, long-term supply chain for these buckles but I like the trend of making a few every holiday season. I hope everyone's having a safe and happy holiday!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Map of Austin's Neighborhoods

This order has lots of things I really like: a map, Austin, and one heck of a challenge.  For one thing all of the text had to be carved by hand and it didn't help that transfers are always a bit goofy on 11x17 maps.  The printed transfers never quite line up just right and get a little fuzzy around the edges. 

Tougher than that though was the staining.  I wanted to keep a mosaic look with a handful of bright colors randomly spread over the neighborhoods.  Normally I'd apply the colors then put an overcoat (a mix of gel stain and finish) over them to bring out the carving and it'd be easy peasy.  In this case though, three of the colors (yellow, green, and purple) pretty much disappeared under the overcoat.  So in this case I reversed the order by applying the overcoat first and then carefully painting in each neighborhood to maintain the lines & text as nicely as possible.

The big downside being that the finish in the "over"coat kept the stain from bonding as neatly as it normally wood.  So there was a fair bit of work to clean it up as I went and the final result still looks a bit more mottled than normal.  It's not a look I'd normally go for but it's growing on me in this case.  If nothing else it's pretty good proof that it was hand made.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

DM Toolbox, Black & Blue

I did myself a huge favor long ago by pre-cutting a lot of the peices that make up the DM Toolboxes.  So when an order came in for one in the middle of the holiday rush it was just a cannonball and not a 2-ton bomb on my production schedule.  It's been awhile since I had an order for one but I've made so many by now that their assembly is just about routine.  I'm still finding ways to improve with each iteration though.  This time around I used some tips from +Deven Rue to improve the weathering on the "paper" around the box.  The client choose the black and blue scheme this time and I think it looks rather nice.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Adapted Binder

This started as a run-of-the-mill leather binder on a short deadline.  The client needed to receive it in NY in time to fill it full of goodies and ship it to their nephew (who's just starting to DM) in Chicago.  So you can probably imagine my ARG! when I finally finished the stitching and bolted the rings in to find that it didn't completely close.  I'd made a typo in the draft (10.75 instead of 10.25) so the backing was just a little too long.  It wasn't that large of a change but it shifted the back of the binder over a little over an 1" from the edge of the front.

If I'd had a week or two I could've dismantled the whole thing and repaired the error.  Lacking that I decided to stitch a flap over the lid that would wrap around the back and close with velcro.  It was an improvised solution and the best I could do with a minimal amount of time but I think the result's turned out fairly well.  I'm sure I can do better with it if the binder is designed with the modification in mind.  So I'm tempted to develop a new model of "deluxe" binder based off that pattern.  It's a lot of material so it'd raise the price of the binder but it's something I hope to look into in 2017.

Edit: As worried as I was about the package arriving on time, the client received it just a few days later.  They've got plenty of time to set it up and get it on its way to Chicago! \o/

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Conditions Galore

The holiday season slammed into full gear this week and I've been shipping out sets of tokens left and right.  All these rapid iterations have helped me hone in and refine the tokens even further.  The tap-offs that I use to transfer the designs have seen a lot of improvements.  And by handling the stains a bit differently I was able to avoid having to paint the edges.  On top of that, I came up with a new logo for Invisible/Hidden that I think does a better job of communicating that status.  These sets are fairly unique in my stock in that I can crank them out ahead of time (they aren't customized).  So in addition to a few commissions I've been turning out 225 tokens (9 sets) in the last week or two.  I'm going to try and always have a couple in stock so they can ship right off the bat.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Flapjacks & Dice

I don't normally repeat designs but in this case a little weird.  The client asked to see a sheet of designs for the dice cups.  I'd tried to pull a sampler together a couple of times but for various unimportant reasons I didn't have one prepared at that moment.  So I referred them to the blog here and as soon as they saw the old Flapjacks & Sasquatch cup they were set.  Even so, there were a few differences (the keeper, slight differences in staining, etc).  And it was a good reminder to finish that sampler...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dice Cup, Ehlonna

After a just delay due to orders the Ehlonna Dice Cup is finally finished & up in the shop.  The gold on the lid is maybe more subtle than I'd intended but the weathered effect is pretty nice!

I'm in the midst of the holiday mash, churning out gifts hopefully straight up to Xmas.  Canada Post's shipping deadline to the states is 12 Dec this year and I still have a little space on the calendar between now and then, but it's filling in pretty fast.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Testimonial: Jester Dice Cup

I got this today from the client who ordered the Jester Dice Cup:

The cup arrived today, and I could not be more thrilled with it. Thank you so much for helping me refine ideas, and for executing them so beautifully!
My only problem is that I think I have to make Thanksgiving into a gift-giving occasion, because I don't think I can wait until Christmas :)

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Introducing D&D Condition Tokens

I've been trying to develop something along these lines off and on almost since I opened the shop.  With the help of the fellows at the Dungeon Master's Block I think I've finally hit on the right idea.  For the longest time I'd been trying to 3D print tiles to mark the different status effects but after chatting with some other DMs I realized sticking with leather would be the better idea.  Aside from looking better, it's going to be more durable over the long term and, given the unreliability of my little printer, more practical to produce.

That said, I did 3D print tapoffs to hammer the designs onto the tiles.  It's not a perfect system but it's working pretty well at this scale.  Coming up with 14 designs was tricky but the hardest part was the coloring.  Many stains that have entirely different names (Light Brown, Golden Rod, Yellow) tend to produce very similar results.  Since the edges were the key elements there (often the only areas visible under a mini) I touched a number of them up with acrylic paint.

The case was pretty fun too.  It's made to just fit the tokens and since oiled leather is a bit elastic there's no risk of damaging the tokens or making them hard to retrieve.  I started off using a concho to anchor the lace and that was working pretty well and looked nice.  Unfortunately when I crunched the numbers it was a little more expensive than I was shooting for so I had to replace it with a rivet.  Still looks nice though.

These are already up on the shop and you can see them here!