Monday, February 22, 2016

Prototype Dice Cup

I'd completely forgotten that dice cups were a thing until I saw a few at PAX South. The ones there were serviceable but clearly made from imprinted artificial leather assembled with a simple whip stitch.  I figured I could, at the very least, improve on the art.

And this is what I came up with over the weekend.  So far as it's construction goes it's not much different from the Navigator map case; just shorter and a little bit simpler.  It doesn't need to be able to survive a rain storm so the construction isn't quite as heavy-duty.  It also means I could carve directly onto the "structural" leather.

I probably spent as long coming up with the designs as actually building the thing.  For expedience I modified a pair of public domain wings for the front.  I'd been intending to use a yin-yang dragon on the top but once I had the winged dice for the front I figured the dragon was no longer thematic.  Fortunately it was easy enough to replace the dragons with more d20s.  A bit of resisting, some tinting, a coat of grey gel stain, and then after conditioning it was a simple matter of assembly.

I'm pretty pleased with the result.  I plan to test it out at our usual Wednesday game but so far it seems pretty practical.  Put the dice in, slap the lid on, shake, and upend.  The rim on the lid keeps the dice from skittering all over the place.  Most of the modifications I have in mind post-prototype are cost related.  I'd like to bring the price point down a bit lower if I can.  I expect the final model will probably be a bit shorter (maybe 3.5" instead of 4") but I'll have to see how that looks in drafting. I'm hoping to use those dragon designs on another prototype, perhaps next weekend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tan Wallet

This was a quick commission for my brother-in-law.  The design is patterned off a prototype I built a couple years ago and have been using for myself so I'm pretty confident in the general design.  I cut down on some of the build time by removing any semblance of a cash pocket and streamlining the card pockets a bit.  I figured I could seal the fabric and keep it from fraying by "cauterizing" the edges but that's had the unintended effect of warping the edges a bit.  After spending the night in traction most of that warping's gone away but I suppose we'll have to see how it works out over time.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Large Camera Case

The client wanted a case that could be hung from a strap and was large enough to fit a couple cameras and a lens or two (essentially 4 x 5 x 10.25").  My first impulse was to create what was essentially a padded box with a shoulder strap but that turned out to be too expensive.  So after some rounds of drafting we came up with a box entirely made out of stone oiled leather but stitched in such a way that its own structure would keep it from deforming.

I knew the seams could grant some structure but the result was a good deal better than I'd expected.  Even when I put about 4 lbs inside the final case there was barely any bowing.  The case is solid but without any lining I strongly suspect it could be rolled up and it would pop right back up (though I didn't get the chance to test that).

In fact, the case came out so well that I'm pretty sure I'll add it as a stock item in the shop.  Probably a smaller version of it though...

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Mission Statement

I've been meaning to update my mission statement/creed/tagline thing for awhile.  Back when I was just starting up the shop "Creating custom, handmade leather goods by merging humanity's oldest craft with some of its newest technologies." seemed like a pretty good start.  And by and large it probably was.  But the ideas around the shop have shifted a bit since then and I've realized I'm far from the only craftsmen who's applying new technologies (like 3D printers) to leatherwork.  I've been intending to update the line for quite awhile but didn't really have a clear idea of where to go with it.

Then I got a pretty good idea while sitting in the #LVLurCraft panel at PAX South.  One of the panelists mentioned how she evaluates her products on four criteria in order to maintain her brand.  That's idea has a lot of merits on its own but I realized that criteria could define my tagline too.  I've spent the past couple weeks toying with different criteria; honing in on the four points that I think best describe the shop.  And once I had those four points it was just a matter of assembling them into a new statement: "Handcrafting reliable, custom leather goods & gaming accessories". 

Now the trickiest part is remembering all the spots the old tagline is posted so I can get them all updated...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Strap Extension

What do you do when you have a new purse strap would be ideal but just needs to be 5" longer?  You send it to a leatherworker to make it 5" longer. \o/

I laminated two pieces of milled vegtan with a spot of glue and some extra tight stitching to add another 5".  I expect it'll work out to about 5.125" inches in the end as the leather stretches but the stitching will mitigate that pretty well.  And not to brag or anything, but I think my stitching looks a lot nicer than the original factory stitching. >_>

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Testimonial: Dragon Map

I always love hearing back from clients after they receive their order.  Anecdotally it seems like I hear back about 10% of the time.  I think this is the first time I've gotten a blog post back though:

The client had some exceedingly nice things to say that just made my whole morning.  He also gives an interesting summary of how such an excellent map came into existence in the first place.  I got a lot from this project and I'm looking forward to applying that to more maps in the future.  If I could just carve fantasy maps all day long I'd probably be pretty content with life.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Another PAX down

We got back from San Antonio late enough last night that we just watched a couple youtubes (a nightly ritual for us) and smashed into the 15 C bed.  Now that we've slept and there's coffee I reckon I can recap it a bit.

We flew down on Tuesday and spent Wednesday and Thursday with my folks, who still live in San Antonio.  We drove up to my home town to see the new Public Library they've built there and it was gorgeous.  As a Children's Librarian my wife was more than a little excited by their Childrens and Teen facilities.  While we were there we also strolled through the Wilderness Trail that was my "hang-out" as a teen, by the house I grew up in, had lunch at the ancient bakery/cafe on Main St, and generally appreciated how a small, old town in the Texas Hill Country has found ways to be more sustainable and progress than most people would be inclined to suspect.

Fast forwarding to PAX! and my results were a little mixed.  It seems like PAX South is becoming the spot for more indie games and a generally quieter PAX and I'm quite content with that.  There's plenty of laughs and cosplay and generally geekiness and that's all that we'd want from the convention.

But by the second day I'd noticed that the vast, vast majority of attendees were white males.  There were a few minorities here and there but they were recognizable simply because they were unusual in the crowd.  If the 20 randomly selected contestants for Omegathon could be considered representative then the convention was about 15% female, 85% male/~90% Caucasian.  Since I noticed this it's made me really uncomfortable about PAX in general.  I was expecting it to be more egalitarian, and the booths certainly seem to be (a la the whole room devoted to Diversity) but the attendance clearly isn't.  And that really, really bugs me but I can't imagine a way anyone could directly affect it.

Aside from all that we managed to attend a few panels that were pretty informative. #LVLupCraft gave me some good ideas on how to refine the shop's brand and maybe even some new items to list.  We also attended a panel on introducing parents to gaming, mostly since it's directly relevant to the wife's work.  One of the attendees asked for tips to discourage kids who are overly interested in playing games inappropriate for their age.  The panelists recommended going to the ESRB page for that game and having the kid read off all the reasons the game has the rating it does to their parent (with possible definitions for awkward terms).  That sounds like a marvelous idea to me and certainly something I'll keep in my toolkit.

Overall, we're both pretty glad we went.  I appreciate that I can take one trip, visit my folks, catch up on my "roots", and get doused in geekiness for a couple days.  Hopefully we'll be able to do the same next year!