Friday, January 27, 2017

Dice Cup, PHB

I've been looking forward this order for awhile.  The client had the brilliant idea of duplicating the art on the cover of the original D&D Player's Handbook (PHB) and art from the classic Tomb of Horrors adventure on the lid.  Then, before they'd seen a real draft, they requested that I run with the notion so they could see what I came up with.  With specs like that I couldn't make anything less than super shiny.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1rst Edition Player's Handbook (published 1977)

Tomb of Horrors Adventure (published 1978)

I have at times referred to getting a good or bad transfer and in this case I got both.  Fortunately I got the good transfer on the design that really needed that fidelity.  A little slop on the statue wasn't nearly as disastrous since it was more about the staining than the carving.  Normally I get a bad transfer if the print or the leather moves even the eensiest bit during the transfer process.  I've gotten a lot better about preventing that so now the most common problem seems to be the leather being too wet.  I'm pretty sure that's what's causing the blurry seeping shown above.
The trickiest part was always going to be the shading on the statue.  The tiny adventures were tricky on their own but it's the lighting on the statue that really "makes" the image.  I did my best to match the original by mixing and layering the stains to create that complex shading.  Then I smacked the whole area inside the arch with 2-3 layers of finish to resist the overcoat.  The last thing I wanted was some "accidental shading" from the gel stain.

The dice on the side were meant to come out a bit brighter a couple of the did (particularly the d6 and d8).  I stained them just a couple days before I received a new shipment of stains with a couple of colors I could've really used there.  Alas.

My coup de grace was using a couple gem rivets in place of the statue's eyes.  This required a slight alteration of the adventure's (since they were both overlapping the gem-eye) but I really like the effect.  Totally worth it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

RIP M3D Printer

The same month I opened the shop back in '14 I'd ordered a 3D printer from M3D.  At the time they were being billed as an entry level printer that was simple and reliable enough for anyone to use for everyday anythings.  In the year I spent waiting to receive the printer other initial adopters were receiving theirs and... well I suppose we could say the receptions were mixed.  After shelling out the duties my total bill for this printer came pretty close to $500 when I finally received it in July 2015.  And after all of that waiting and time my first attempts at printing were pretty disappointing to say the least.

It took several months of tinkering, researching, and working out the kinks in the hardware and the software to finally start getting functional (not yet good, just functional) prints 7 out of 10 times.  I learned that the spool had to be suspended over the printer to reduce any tension on the filament as much as possible.  I also learned that if I wanted to scale my prints I needed to go through a complicated process of piping it through a separate piece of software before sending it to M3D's proprietary software.  Funny story too since they sold the printer as being able to work with any open source software (it can't). 

This list could go on for at least a few more points but the summary is this: If M3D's goal was to create an inexpensive printer that didn't require much maintenance and any layperson could use right away then they failed catastrophically.  This wasn't helped by the impression that the closest thing they have to a support department are the forums where their customers are trying to figure out their own fixes.  If you check the official M3D FAQ it's full of links to those forums.

In fairness I did get a couple prints I would call "good" after the 1.5.1 version of the software was released last fall.  And even the vast majority of prints weren't quite "good" they were good enough for most of what I needed to do.  I was able to dress up the corners of the DM Toolbox with custom fit caps thanks to the printer.  And I've printed lots of tap-offs, which was the original reason I invested in it, so it's been a success in that way.

All of which brings me to now.  As the title implies the M3D has effectively kicked the bucket.  The feeder gear that pushes filament into the extruder has gotten wobbly and can't push the filament any longer.  I could replace the entire assembly.  This component is troublesome enough that M3D does sell it separately through their internal store.  And the printer has worked just barely well enough that I functionally require a 3D printer now.  But if the choice is between investing another hundred or so into this printer or five times that to entirely replace it with a different brand, it's a pretty easy choice for me to make.
I don't yet know what I'll be replacing it with but it's definitely going to be a printer that's been out for a while.  The Printr bots are a good contender but I'll be doing a full review of my options over the week before ordering something by Friday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Brown Snap Pouch

Making these pouches is routine enough that I don't usually write a blurb for them anymore.  However this one was the first product made with a new brand of oiled leather.  It's a couple ounces heavier than the old brand and has a nice pebble texture and good hand.  I think it's going to work pretty darn well.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Dice Cups, Phish & Celtic Knot

The client contacted me originally about making a Phish-themed dice cup to custom dimensions and in the course of our conversation their spouse decided they wanted a celtic knot-y dice cup of their very own.  Worked out pretty great for me!

I've been pretty busy setting up some new web-based services that'll help me keep all my numbers in a row.  That's meant of lot of time doing basically paperwork this week but it should mean I'll need to spend a lot less time doing the same thing in all the coming years.  It's already proven useful so far this year, at least more useful than a kobbled spreadsheet.  Good stuff!

Friday, January 6, 2017

Condition Tokens Mark... 14?

I made quite a few of these over the holiday season and iterating so quickly helped me make some improvements along the way.  I drew up a better logo for the hidden/invisible tokens for one and worked out a staining procedure so that I wouldn't have to paint borders on some squares.  Thanks to a clearance I was able to pick up a lot of nice "jewel-ish" rivets that set the lace quite nicely.  A good way to start off the year! =)