Saturday, July 20, 2019

Free Shipping

I've made a few changes to the shop over the past few days but by far the biggest has been including the cost of the postage in the initial price of each item.  That allowed me to zero out the shipping cost on every item in the shop.  I had experimented with this model in the past but Etsy is making some clear moves towards making this the standard so it seemed worth a try.  The only orders that will see any shipping cost now are orders headed somewhere outside US/Canada that weigh more than 1kg.  And International buyers still have the option of ordering expedited shipping if they'd like tracking.

Updates

  • Range Card Holsters now have an option to select Belt Loops or Belt Clips
  • All 5e and Waterdeep coins have had their images updated


New Listings

  • Mini DM Screen: https://www.etsy.com/listing/708996442/mini-dungeon-master-screen
  • Bag of Holding: https://www.etsy.com/listing/722795173/dnd-bag-of-holding

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

New D&D Props

We're just about to start running the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist campaign and I may have gone a little overboard in building props for this new campaign.  Many of these could well be prototypes for future shop products but just as many were just about trying new things and/or making something I figured would be useful.


* Map of Faerun - Because why not?  The Sword Coast has too many place to keep track of and even if this campaign won't leave Waterdeep I like having maps at hand.  This one was pretty easy since I just engraved Deven Rue's awesome map on some pigskin and added some blue to the bodies of water.
* Spell Cards & Case - This one took awhile.  Not as long as it should have, but still awhile.  There's a PDF kicking around the internet with all of the SRD spells so then I just had to make cards for all the other spells in the books we already own.  And because I'm me I drew a fancy back for each card and built a chest to hold them all. 
* Forgotten Realms Calendar - I've been trying to figure a way to show & track date-time information at the table for ages.  I don't have the sense it's important to most campaigns but for various reasons I often need to track the phase of the moon or some PC's logistical what-not.  And in Dragon Heist I understand time and date are pretty relevant.  So this calendar has a wheel for time of day, month, and day and all of them are pretty easy to rotate and use.  I burned the holidays in Waterdeep on the base just because I'm a nerd like that.
* Initiative Tower Name Tags - Everything else here took at least several hours to pull together, most of them a few days.  The Name tags took maybe 15 minutes but they're what the other players remarked on the most.  Go figure. =P


And on top of all of that there was one prop that... hasn't turned out so well.  I wanted to make a topographical map of Waterdeep and really push at the boundaries of what I've been able to do with the laser cutter so far.  I spent a lot of time drafting, tweaking, and calibrating and my initial results were looking pretty promising.  Then I spent two days and most of a side of leather making the full thing and... yeah, I'm not happy with it. 

There's a few things going on here but it fundamentally breaks down to image processing and material.  The first is pretty complicated but essentially, the more the image is processed the clearer it burns but the less detail it has.  The balance I'd struck in small scale didn't work great at large scale.  And as for material, to make a map so large (18x36") I had to cut it into 27 pieces across 4 different layers.  It took a ton of leather to make this thing but as a material leather's pretty dynamic.  It warps and stretches and curls.  Peices that are laser cut to fit together perfectly just won't.  It was really frustrating. 

I still have all the raw work that went into drafting and I'll probably revise that to make a smaller map out of plywood, probably closer to 12x24".  And if that comes out well, maybe that's something that can go one the shop.


Printer Upgrades

I've had this printer for nearly two years now and for most of that time it's been cranking out coins and other prints like a friggin' champ.  So I can't be too disappointed when it finally ran into a few issues recently.

A full accounting of the maintenance and troubleshooting would make this post a book but by the time I was done I'd swapped the old print head for a new, upgraded model.  And it's spinning up great!  The prints are coming nice and quick and with far fewer failed prints.


As part of this whole process I updated the models for the 5e and Waterdeep coins.  My filament supplier's been changing their stock this year too so a few coins have had some color changes.  The CP is the only one that's had a "drastic" change but it was the closest I could find to it's original color.  The Etsy listings have all been updated with photos of the current models/colors.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Mini DM Screen

The client requested this over twitter back in December and I'm a bit embarrassed it took me six months to finally get them there Screen.  I had a prototype back in February but I wasn't happy with some of the details and I didn't get another shot at it until June.

Much of the delay came down to finding a cost productive way of cutting the steel used to make the Screen magnetic.  Once I got that solved the second prototype came together fairly quickly.  I widened the card pockets to make them easier to use and set the Moloch statues gem eyes inside the leather so the surface would be flush.

The result is nice and sturdy and folds up to about pocket-sized.  It's magnetic from either side and just the right size for hiding a few key notes without blocking a view of a dungeon mat.  I should have them up on the shop before too long.










Saturday, June 22, 2019

5e Bag of Holding

This was one of those orders that took buckets of blood, sweat and tears but it was all worth it in the end.  My wife's been saying I should make a 5e bag of holding out of leather since 2015 (or at least I have notes going back that far) but I never had the opportunity to invest the time and materials to really develop the idea.  That changed back in May when I received back to back requests from two apparently separate clients for exactly this idea.

Turning my notes into a draft took a month and then my first swing at production turned out to whiff.  I'd been planning to engrave oiled leather then inlay canvas to make the various designs with some sturdy layering.  Once I got to it though I quickly realized that once it was cut the canvas wasn't stable enough to inlay.  It would deform or fray or generally not be up to snuff.


So mid-production I had to shift approaches.  I swapped the oiled leather for milled veg and replaced the inlays with paint and stain.  I'd been afraid the paint would be patchy or uneven but paired with engraving it came out fairly clean.  To get the cleanest cuts and engravings I often had to pass the same component through the laser cutter multiple times.  That introduced the challenge of how to get the alignment even for each cut.  I used everything from jigs to very low power scores to to get that sorted










For all that the result is pretty grand.  The bag has a nice feel and heft to it.  It holds its shape pretty well but it's flexible enough to swish if pushed.  And it perfectly fits the core books and a little extra.  I have a few tweaks I'd like to make but it came out so well I've already added it to the shop!














Thursday, June 13, 2019

Map, Banff

This was an anniversary map made of the Banff area.  I used the same approach I'd normally use for a city map; building the draft from public domain maps.  That's what gave me the park borders to engrave but in hindsight I wish I'd found a way to add the topography.  All the mountains around Banff are really what the area's known for.

Meanwhile, I've been experimenting with burning a hole in the backing instead of stapling a bit of lace on the back.  So far it seems to be working pretty well.





Sunday, June 9, 2019

Dice Cup, May the Dice

The client definitely had a clear idea of what they were after here.  They were looking to emulate the old "May the Force Be With You" logo from Star Wars on a star field.  At first I'd figured the starfield would be the tricky part because white paint on black leather doesn't always turn out well.  Though once all the staining was done the starfield came out wonderfully and it was the yellow paint in the lettering that was patchy (despite 3-4 coats).





Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Map, Waterdeep

Despite a fair bit of overlap it isn't that often that my daily work and our weekly games interact but this project was one of those times.  Doing the research and drafting for this map showed me just how detailed Waterdeep's background and lore really are.  And when I told the rest of our table about it we wound up picking up Dragon Heist to explore it ourselves. 

Getting back to the map, I traced a map of Waterdeep from an older edition to make the draft.  When I started I believed I had the correct map and didn't realize my mistake until after I was 4 or 5 days into the drafting.  But the biggest difference is the Upper Downs, now known as the Field Ward by Dragon Heist-y time. 


To get the most out of the scale we decided to really push the limits of the laser cutter and ran right up against its margins.  This turned out to be a hurdle when I began engraving the draft onto the leather since different elements wound up with different margins.  That took some sorting to work out but I was able to disguise any missing bits with a little hand carving so it all worked out. 

And the final result looks pretty darn nice!  I'm hoping to do some more tweaking, clean up some elements and maybe add some topography, and make this a regular item on the shop.  Because cool!






Thursday, May 23, 2019

Announcement: Condition Cards

I was smack in the development process for a few new production lines but that's been interrupted by active orders for the time being.  I was able to get the new 5e Condition Cards though so those are now available here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/708670043/dnd-5e-condition-cards



I've also added a variation to the Evil Dead 2 Harness so clients can select whether it comes with a hook or not at purchase.

In the meantime I've still got some prototypes limping along between orders and there's some pretty interesting projects I'll be digging into soon.  Might be more to report before too long. =)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Map, Louisville

This map will be an anniversary gift for a couple in Kentucky.  It took a heckuva time to draft but I wanted to keep as much detail as I could cram in.  The laser did an awesome job of transferring that carefully preserved detail onto the leather.  The map is labelled with several locations of personal significance so the legend was blurred to protect the client's privacy.