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zondag 1 juli 2018

What's happening?

It's been a while since my last post (wich was right after Halloween), so I thought I might bring you all a bit up to date. I've posted some stuff on my Instagram page in the meantime to show some of the stuff I'm working on, so here's an overview of what I've been up to the last few months.

Workshop upgrade
The most important thing: I finally cleaned out the garage and did some necessary renovations and upgrades. Patched up holes in the walls and ceiling, painted everything, installed new lighting and extra power outlets and sorted my tools and supplies a bit (actually, I'm still in the process of doing that... It's a never ending story!).
I hope to keep everything more or less clean and tidy from now on, and especially avoid dust as much as possible. Before the upgrade, there was dust everywhere, and it was almost impossible to clean out! Besides dust from sanding and cutting, the bare plaster walls had holes in them everywhere and contributed their share to the mess.
And finally, the lighting and electricity were insufficient. An old fluorescent light, and only a single power outlet and lots of extension cables. The fluorescent light got replaced with LED light bars, and I installed a series of new power outlets, with their own circuit breaker. Bye bye fire hazard!

Etsy shop on hold
For now, I have put my Etsy shop on hold. This summer, I will attend three art markets, and I want to have enough stuff to put on display. Last year, I did one art market, and it was quite succesfull. I'll attend the same one this year, and two markets at fantasy events, both in the Netherlands. In August, my shop will reopen.

Those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram already know this, I'm working on more sketchbooks. I'm always trying to come up with new ideas, concepts and color combinations, and I'm trying to expand my themes beyond the Necronomicon/Lovecraft universe. For my faux leather technique, not all color combinations work, and it's a lot of trial and error. Although I made small test pieces to test something out, it still might turn out entirely different on a complete book.

Last year, when I did my first art market, I had one prop weapon on display, but it wasn't for sale. Some people were a bit disappointed, so I decided to build some prop weapons to sell. At the moment, I'm building a few maces, a hammers and a flail.
I did intend to do full build logs, with pictures and video, but the problem is, I always tend to underestimate how much time a project takes. You'd think I would have learned by now, but I didn't. I've got a lot of photos and video footage on my pc that needs processing, but I simply don't have the time.
So here's the plan. I won't be able to finish the build logs I had in mind. Sorry, not gonna happen. It would take me too much time to process all the images and video footage, and then write blog posts. After the hectic period I'm in right now is over, I'll post an overview of some of the stuff I built over the past few months, with some pictures, and I hope I'll be able to resume writing proper build logs after that.

New tools
A while ago, I bought a 3D printer, a Prusa I3 MK3. I've already got some videos of the assembly up on my Youtube channel, I hope to complete the remaining chapters soon. I'm glad I bought the kit; not only did I save 200 euros, it's very useful to know how to take it apart and put it together again. I've already had some issues with the extruder, and it's much easier to fix if you built it yourself.
In the future, I plan to build a simple laser cutter, partially with 3D printed parts. This will come in handy for cutting cardboard and thin craft foam. This won't be a tool that can cut acrylic or plywood, perhaps one day if I win the lottery...

Follow me
I know I'm not as active as I want to be on this blog, but writing posts and editing photos takes time, wich is something I'm already short on. If you want to keep up with my work, here's where you can follow me:
The next events ahead are Elfia Arcen and, of course, Halloween. I do have some cool new things in mind to build, and I hope to find the time to do complete build logs again.

maandag 27 november 2017

Cemetery Crosses

Besides tombstones, I wanted new crosses for my cemetery. My first set of tombstones I made in 2013 did have a cross, but because of the wide pedestal, it wasn't easy to transport, and it was the first prop to get damaged. Time to start building something new!

  • 20mm thick XPS Foam
  • Particle board (leftovers from our old kitchen)
  • Trim molding
  • Polyurethane glue
  • Wood screws
  • Drill & screwdriver
  • Band saw
  • Wood burning tool
  • Scenic Dope (see my Tombstone Tutorial for that)
  • Matte varnish
The problem with my first cross was, like I said, the wide pedestal. This was necessary to keep it standing, but it made it a pain in the ass to get in and out of the car. I wanted to make my props easier to transport this time (that's why I made the tomb for holding the tombstones), so I had to come up with something new.
So here's the basic idea. The crosses will be a lot taller than the tombstones, so storing them in the tomb won't be possible. They will still need a pedestal for stability, but they also need to be easier to transport. So here's my solution: I made the cross and the pedestal two separate pieces that can easily be taken apart for transport and storage.
I wanted to use styrofoam for the cross, because it's cheap, light and easy to work with, but this wouldn't be strong enough for props that need to be put together and taken apart. Luckily, I had a lot of leftover particle board from our old kitchen. My wife and I had a new kitchen installed earlier this year, and I kept anything I thought would be useful from the old one, wich includes a few large panels.
So here's how I'm going to build them. The pedestal will consist of a wooden box with styrofoam for the ornaments. The cross will have a wooden core that protrudes from the bottom, and fits in a hole in the pedestal, sort of like a tenon-and-mortise joint. The wooden pedestal will also make it bottom heavy and more stable.

The pedestals
I started with the pedestals. Basically a simple wooden box, with a hole in the top for installing the cross. Well, not just simple a hole, I also made this contraption (don't know what else to call it) inside to keep the cross upright; this is the "tenon" part of the tenon-and-mortise joint. The boxes are put together with wood glue and screws.

Speaking of screws, I always, always buy Torx screws, even though they cost a bit more than Phillips screws. I hate cruciform screws, because the screwdriver always has a tendency to slip out of the head. Torx screws don't have this problem.

Because I didn't want the pedestals to look like boring boxes, I decorated the edges with trim molding, and made frames on all sides of the boxes. I wanted to put on more decorations on them, but again, I didn't have enough time.

The crosses
Next up, the crosses themselves. I first drew them on sheets of foam, and roughly cut them out. I then cut a piece of wood for the core, and glued it to the back. Some more strips of foam were glued on to enclose the wood, and finally another sheet of foam to close the back, so the wooden core is fully enclosed in the foam.

On the front, I let my imagination run wild. By now, I had a lot of small foam scraps lying around, and I turned them into all sorts of decorations.

I tested them to see if the crosses and the pedestals fit together, and behold, it worked perfectly! Before I started painting, I carved some cracks and chipped corners with a wood burning tool.

The painting was done the same way as my other props for this year. As described in my Tombstone tutorial, I painted them with scenic dope mixed with sand first, for the base color and the rock texture. This was followed by a dark gray wash and white drybrushing.

To weatherproof the paint, I clearcoated them with matte varnish. This did mess up the drybrushing a bit in some spots, so I had to go over it again.


The crosses are very easy to transport, and very stable. They held up perfectly in the rain, although in some places on the pedestals, the paint didn't hold well. I think this was because the panels were still a bit greasy in some places (our old kitchen was quite dirty...). Nothing that can't be fixed, though!

maandag 6 november 2017

Tomb / Tombstone Storage

Besides my tombstones, I built something else for our graveyard this year. This tomb is more than just a prop, it also serves as storage for the tombstones! Transporting and storing props is always a major pain in the butt, and this is a very elegant solution.

  • 5 mm plywood
  • 35 x 35 mm lumber (recycled from old props)
  • 28 x 70 mm lumber 
  • Trim molding
  • Wood glue, nails and clamps
  • Band saw
  • Hand saw and mitre box
  • Hot wire cutter
  • 20 mm thick XPS foam
  • 20 mm thick EPS foam (for padding the inside)
  • Scenic Dope (see New Tombstones, Part 2)
  • Rubber window gasket
  • Carrying handles
The box
The starting point of the tomb is a plywood box. I calculated the size so it would provide the storage I needed, would fit in my car and could be cut out of a single large sheet of plywood. For reinforcements, I used pieces of lumber I recycled from some old props I no longer used.
I started with the bottom. It consists of a 120 x 60 cm piece of plywood, and a wooden frame on the bottom. This is attached with both glue and nails, just to be sure.

Next up, I attached the sides. These are glued to the bottom frame, and also nailed. The corners of the box are reinforced with pieces of wood. The lid is made exactly the same way as the bottom.

At this point, it looks like a simple, boring box. With the 28 x 70 mm lumber, I made two borders around the box, one at the top and one on the bottom, and finished them with some trim molding. I used a hand saw and a mitre box to cut them at 45° angles.

For the top of the box, I put on an extra horizontal border to make sure the lid would fit nicely. The pictures explain it a lot better than I can :-) The arches - wich I'll talk about next - are already in place in these pictures. Yes, I know, my pictures aren't exactly in chronological order.

To make sure the tombstones in the box won't get damaged during transport, I also padded the inside with some cheap 20 mm thick styrofoam (EPS, the white beady stuff).

Tomb ornaments
First of all, I wanted gothic arches all around the tomb. The outside dimensions of the box are roughly 60x120 cm, so if I made 30 cm wide arches, four of them would go on the long side and two of them on the short side, for a total of twelve arches.

I cut twelve 30x20 cm pieces of XPS foam, and then cut out the arch. I used the foam I cut out as a template for drawing the arch on all the other pieces, and after a lot of cutting on my bandsaw I had my twelve arches, wich were glued on with PU wood glue.
After the glue had dried, I took my hot wire cutter and cut some nice decorative profiles in the foam, just like I did with the tombstones.

I wanted to put more ornaments on the sides of the tomb, such as skulls, but unfortunately time was against me and, as usual, I was working on too much projects at once. But there's always next year!

The lid of the tomb is adorned with a big cross. I had designed a lot of crosses for my cemetery, so I had no shortage of inspiration.

Painting was done the same way as the tombstones. I started with two coats of scenic dope and sand, and then the usual load of shading, washes and drybrushing. Not much can be said about it, the process is explained in detail in my Tombstones painting tutorial.

To finish the tomb, I glued a strip of rubber window gasket on the bottom of the lid, to keep out moisture a bit. I also attached two carrying handles to each side, to make carrying and loading it in and out of the car easier.

There you have it! An extra prop for the graveyard, and an elegant way to store and transport my tombstones. I bought a new car a few months ago - a Peugeot Partner - wich can be transformed into a van by removing the back seats. My entire graveyard (wich includes a few more props I'll talk about in my next post) fits in it, with room to spare!