Monday, August 31, 2015

Camera Case Like A Brick

Perhaps it's because of the complicated assembly process, or perhaps it's because I've been working on this case in every spare moment for the past 2-3 weeks.  Whichever the reason, I just finished the assembly yesterday and now when I look at it I'm still not sure how everything was pulled together.  The structure's simple enough to explain: 5 plates of interlocking 9 oz latigo wrapped up in 5 oz latigo.  The trick is that each of those plates is pressed against another plate so that the whole structure is under pressure and an integral whole.  Once it's all assembled it's rock solid but getting it to that point required some MC Escher-ish thinking and contorting.

Not content to be left out of the complexity, the shoulder strap was an unexpected challenge.  It started out a 3/4" veg-tan strap that needed to be stained to match the latigo.  I figured out that some ancient Ox Blood stain at the back of my closet happened to be the perfect color for it.  Unfortunately the stain had spoiled during its long storage (probably best measured in decades).  The straps still managed to come out ok but the shoulder pad turned into a rigid slab that cracked when bent.  As it happened I'd used up the last of the ox blood stain anyway so I cut to the chase and cut a second pad out of the same latigo used to wrap the case.

For all the toil, sweat, and blood shed the result's turned out pretty nice.  It's got a good heft and feel to it.  I get the feeling you could probably drop it off a four story building and it'd just bounce off the pavement.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Mapping an Anniversary

In this case the client was celebrating their anniversary and wished to commemorate it with a large 11x17" map of where they'd been married: Lake Couer d'Alene, ID.  The contours of the lake were easy enough to trace from Google Maps but the sheer size of the map made it a challenge to work with.

One unique aspect of this order was that it's the first where I've printed a single-use stamp to transfer more than one character at a time to the leather.  This is generally problematic for a number of reasons.  Smaller characters (like lower-case) are usually too dense to transfer well and the fine angles and details of "handwritten" or cursive fonts don't always come out.  In this case it took me a couple of tries to print a stamp that would transfer to the leather in a way that I could cut and carve the label.  As a technique it could use a little more refining but it'll allow me a far greater versatility when it comes to carving writing than I've had before.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Shoulderstraps Galore

The outlier for the past week or two has been a strap bound for Singapore.  The client wanted the strap to be unstained, just the natural veg-tan.  I gave it the full conditioning and sealing treatment of course and it came out looking quite nice.  We'd also special ordered some black clips for it.  They were a bit of a challenge to find but look quite nice.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lara Croft Backpack

One of my favorite challenges of craft has been reverse engineering video game gear and trying to figure out ways to replicate it in meatspace.  This is usually pretty difficult since video game artists aren't limited by physics and they often don't understand the materials they're portraying.  In this case I had a commission to reproduce the original backpack used by Lara Croft back in the early days of Tome Raider.  This would have been a great project to devote a couple of weeks to but I needed to expedite it to make sure it would arrive in time for DragonCON.

There are lots of details that make this backpack a challenge.  My personal favorite is that the buckles are upside down.  If they were really holding the lid closed then the tongue of the buckle would need to be pointing up, not down.  That little detail seems to have recurred through most of the Tomb Raider games until they changed the backpack entirely.  The client was also rather partial to the angled corners on the pack, which would be challenging but not impossible to reproduce.  And then there's the tiny, nonadjustable loops that would probably force Lady Croft to dislocate a shoulder to get her arms through.

I used measurements from the source images to figure out what the proportions and angles should be and scaled that to the client's measurements.  That gave me a pattern I could use to cut out all the requisite parts.

The basic idea was to have a matching front and back piece that would be stitched to a gusset.  There might have been better ways to make the leather take that shape, possibly by molding veg-tan around a custom-made hardform, but I wanted to use the most sure method to reduce the odds of needing to start over from scratch.  Some of the elements were attached with glue (essentially anything that wasn't structural) but I managed to stitch the front pouch into place.

The lid is held closed with a magnet and I was a bit concerned it might not hold well enough.  Turned out it holds a little too well.  The lid needs to be opened by sliding the magnet off rather than pulling it free. 

My biggest concern was that the corners would need some sort of reinforcing to hold the angles.  As I was stitching the gusset into place though it became clear that that probably wouldn't be necessary.  The stoned leather holds the form rather well all on its own.  So well that even if it's loaded with a few pounds of weight it doesn't sag.  I work with stoned leather practically every week but I was still a bit surprised at how well it molded to the shape.

All-in-all, it's been a pretty enjoyable project and one I'm pretty happy with.  The bag's on its way to Florida now and DragonCon shortly there after.

Monday, August 17, 2015

60 Scarf Sliders

This was a relatively large order but since I'm only cutting and shaping the sliders it didn't take too much time.  They'll head out today and within a week I expect they'll arrive, ready to be stamped and stained by some scouts.  It's a pretty good deal all 'round.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Rider Pouch bound for Croatia

I've sent a couple orders to Australia so I'm not entirely certain if this is the farthest one my products has gone, but it's a pretty darn good distance from here to Croatia.  Google tells me it's about 8,800 km (about 5500 miles for anyone still using primitive, unwieldy units).  Anywho, the pouch itself is a custom made Rider, made to 5 x 15 x 20cm dimensions.  I'm not sure but I'm guessing it'll be a nice docket for some papers or cards of some sort.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Action Shot: Motorcycle Toolbox

Just got some pictures from my brother-in-law of the Toolbox on his bike.  Looking good!