Monday, March 28, 2016

Prototype DM Binder

Since the previous DM Binder I've been meaning to prototype a slimmer version to stock in the store.  When a hiccup in my supply chain presented a couple day's pause in my work load I zipped at the chance to crank out that prototype.  My wife will be using this prototype for her upcoming campaign starting later this summer. 

To make it more cost effective I used a material I haven't used very often before: deertan cowhide.  As the name suggests it's straight up cowhide but it's been tanned using the same process normally used for deerskins.  The result is pretty supple and durable and just at the edge of a cost-effective lining.  For the interior I used trusty EVA foam, appropriately textured, which should be durable enough to work over the long term.

There were a few tricky spots during construction, mostly having to do with the properties of EVA.  I quickly figured out that tension on the stitching was very important.  Too much tension and the foam would tear.  Too little and the stitching would slack or look sloppy.  I expect that's something I can continue to improve with production models.

All in all, there's probably a few things I'll change (mostly having to do with the EVA joint on the back but not nearly as much as I'd usually have after one prototype.  I expect it should be up in the store pretty soon!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Gamemaster Pencil Case

While it's called a pencil case I've found that these make a perfect token chest for D&D.  I'm not sure if that's what the client will be using it for but it was a bit nostalgic to make another one of these.  I hadn't realized it had been so long (almost a couple of years).  I reckon they've improved during that time.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

D&D Tome of Binding

In this case the client liked the aesthetic of the old DM Toolbox but they needed a binder rather than a box.  This was something I've been meaning to try out for awhile and this gave me a pretty good opportunity to go for the high end option.  Externally the box looks almost exactly like any of the toolboxes except the shell is made of stone oiled leather, rather than goatskin lining.  That sharply increased the material cost but was necessary for the binder's structural integrity.

Inside the binder is a stained poplar frame and some close cut plates of fiberboard.  I figured I could just bolt the binder rings down to the spine but thanks to some UPS shenanigans I didn't get the rings until fairly late in the build.  It turns out that the rings are very sensitive to any pressure against their back side.  If I bolt it down to hand-tight the rings can't even open.  I had to find a "sweet spot" between being secure enough to not jiggle around being lose enough so that the rings would open.

I lined the interior with some EVA foam I textured before hand and I'm quite pleased with how that came out.  The tolerances were so tight that the stretching and contracting of the foam during texturing and gluing was pretty inconvenient but I managed to work around it.

All in all I think it came out pretty swell.  I'd like to pair the design down a bit to get closer to a certain price point and then I plan on adding it to the store as a regular item.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Prototype Dice Cup, Mark III

For the third round I wanted to focus on correctly honing in the geometry and adding a strap across the body of the cup.  I figured this could function as both a handle and as a way to lock the lid in place.

Unfortunately the first lid I made turned out pretty distorted.  I'd picked a scaled design that I knew would distort the lid to some extent but I grossly underestimated by how much.  I did make a second lid, sized to fit directly over the body.  Of course, the geometry of the stitching meant that the lid is now exactly the radius of the body.  I should've added 1/4" to the radius to account for that.

I don't really plan on ever selling these prototypes and I've got enough work at the moment so I think this one will remain lidless for the time being.  I might use the lid from the Mark II to test the design elements but so far it all seems to work as a proof.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Out with the old, in with the new Belt

These days when folks need a belt they usually get a factory-pressed piece of cloth or split leather (suede) with a bit of plastic/vinyl stamped on it.  This artificial leather (usually called "genuine leather" in a bit of ingenious branding) allows leather products to be mass produced but they don't have the long-lasting durability of natural leather.  Any belt from a big box store is going to fall into that category and for me they usually last 1-2 years and then I need to replace them. 

To compare that with a full-grain, natural leather belt I inherited a small belt from my father when I was about 9.  He'd gotten the belt as a kid from his father who'd worn it back when he was a kid.  Doing the math I can guess that this belt was made somewhere in the 1920s-30s (before artificial leather was developed during WWII) and when I received it in the 90s it was just fine.  I wore that belt every day until 2003-2004 when it finally snapped.  I'm sad to say that if I'd been conditioning it properly all that time (and not folding it to stuff it in my boots at night) it'd probably still be around (whether or not it would fit would be another matter).

A couple of years ago, back when I had a better opinion of Tandy, it was time for me to replace the belt I was wearing at the time.  Tandy has a pre-built belt they sell at a price point that certainly implies that it's full-grain leather.  The exact price up here fluctuates with the exchange rate but it's about triple what I'd pay for a similar belt at a retail store.  I figured that was probably a bargain if it meant I wouldn't have to buy another belt for at least a few decades.  Well it's two years later and that belt is in worse shape than the belt that preceded it.

Tandy's belt is built on a heavy split leather, a bit under 1/4" thick, but they slapped a cheap vinyl on top that.  The vinyl's wearing away and wrinkling as the leather molds over time to fit my waist.  The construction is solid enough but as a leatherworker the finishing is nothing short of shameful.  Fortunately, I could do something about it.

Belts aren't that complicated to make compared to most of my other products.  You take a strap of heavy, quality leather, in this case 9 oz Italian veg-tan, and you shape it by punching holes, beveling, burnishing, etc. 

Then you stain it.  I wound up using about 3/4 of a bottle of Fiebling's Oil based Dark Brown on the belt.  After a few minutes the stain would sink into the leather and leave the surface a fair bit paler than I was happy with.  After rubbing in 6-8 coats of that stuff (it would've been faster to just dip stain it) I let it cure and sealed it with a Dark Brown stain/finish mix.  The result is very difficult to capture in a photograph but it's essentially a brown that's so deep/rich that it's almost darker than any black stain I have.  After conditioning & assembling it I'm very happy with the result.  And who knows, my grandkids probably will be too.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Prototype Dice Cup, Mark II

I figured I could make a prototype that was a bit shorter and tighten up some of the dimensions here and there.  I also have half a dozen ideas for dice cup designs I'm hoping to test out.  So today was a good time to try another design and some slightly different measurements out.

I'm pretty pleased with how the designs came out.  The yin/yang design uses a bit texturing and resist to maximize the contrast.  The wrap-around dragon is painted with a gold enamel paint that tends to be a bit messy in large areas but I think it works well enough here.  The obvious problem is with the geometries.  Both the body wall and the lip of the lid wound up being a bit too long which is causing some bunching at the end of the stitch.  I'll try to work that out with the Mark III.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Yin-Yang Dragon Toolbox

I rather liked this order since it's a gift a group of players were picking up for their DM.  So far as I can tell it was just happenstance than the order came in smack after the preceding Toolbox.  I'd figured I could get them both done at the same time but unfortunately that just resulted in a few days of delays.  On top of that, the cardstock wouldn't take a stain for hide or hair.  36 hours soaking in coffee, tea, and casing water (loaded with tannins) and it came out just about as white as it went in.  And then I ran out of chicago screws (they hold the hinges to the structure) so I had to wait for those to be restocked.  That shipment came this afternoon so I was able to get the box finished up and on its way!

For all that the emblem worked rather well.  It's an adaptation of an image the client provided and it works rather well with the resisting.  I figured I'd stick with the black-light grey theme with the foam lining and I'm fairly pleased with how it's come out.