Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sam Browne Belt

The belt proceeds slowly. It would be somewhat complicated to explain just what little process has been made, suffice it to say, it really doesn't look significant.

OTOH, it's a mental thing - now that I've made the decisions said small prograss has entailed and gotten this far, I'm more likely to accelerate.

After a discussion in which Ron and I reversed our usual roles, I ordered a store display hanging half-form (flat back), for about 1/12 the price of a dressmaker's form. I may have to twiddle the belt a bit for display, but I'll have no purchase-price second-guessing of myself, and it should be easier to store, until we get a Tardis and/or the McMansion next door.

Now, to re-remember exactly how some of the parts are supposed to go together...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Steampunk Project Poll-ish Thing

I rooted around the dining room last night and found all the pieces I'd cut for the Sam Browne belt and map case. I didn't do further work because I didn't trust myself to do precise cutting (sinus headache), and didn't think of edging straps. But I did get two more pouches finished.

Anyhoo, I decided that I need to make the Sam Brown belt first - the whole thing is going to fall apart (literally), without it. BTW, here's a picture of Gen. Pershing wearing a Sam Browne belt, so you know what I'm talking about:
It's the kind of belt worn over a military-ish tunic, with a shoulder strap.

Now, the dees for the shoulder strap are going to be permanently attached to the belt (I've figured out how to make them sliding, but I have concerns that method is sub-optimal and will lead to slop - so I'm not doing it for this iteration). Also, given the way the belt portion fastens, one size will not fit all.

Question the first: Robin-size or Ron-size? (Robin is over 200 lbs and in the neighborhood of 6' tall at this point, so he's a not-beanpole adult)

IIRC I have a good half-dozen accessories to hang off of the belt. The whole ensemble could rack up to a pretty chunk of change, and I have absolutely no objection to selling bits on their own.

Question the second: Present as one ensemble, or offer the pieces separately?

Either way, the only way to display this acceptably (in my mind) is on a model. This is, then, the perfect excuse to buy a dressmaker's form. And a military-ish shirt that fits the dummy neatly, so it all looks good. Yeah, I are feelthy merchant scum. Guilty guilty guilty. The various pouches, etc., would be put on the belt. This does make it hard to affix the usual Art Show bid sheets to the actual items. Plus tape, even good low-tack masking tape *WILL* leave marks on leather.

Question the third and last: If I provide clear photographs of each item to be affixed to the actual bid sheets (and a couple clipboards to hang said bid sheets with pictures adjacent to the dummy), is it reasonable to say to an Art Show staff "Please do not use tape anywhere on the leather"?

Hmm. Also need to go find Mary's guidelines on Art Show price-points...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Return of the Steampunk Project

Some of you may remember that, ages and ages ago, we were working on the Steampunk Project. We were rolling right along, and I had plans to enter the DucKon art show, as well as the WindyCon art show - WindyCon doing a steampunk theme this year.

Then DucKon needed someone to do the program book, and that started eating all my vast amounts (Hah!) of spare time. DucKon happened, other things happened, I've resigned from DucKon, summer happened, and still the Steampunk Project has languished.

Rooting around the dining room last week, I noticed a largish rectangle of dark brown harness leather. I set it aside, but didn't think about it much. Yesterday the brain idly noted that said piece of leather was for a map case I'd been planning for the Steampunk Project. Last night we were discussing shows and the usefulness of showpieces with a friend, and I commented that I really don't have a showpiece at the moment, I could use to make one.

This morning The Steampunk Project kept coming back to me. We've got a bunch of pouches done, as well as wrist-rockets and at least one set of shell-loops for a belt. The only thing I really have left to do for a complete ensemble is the Sam Browne belt and the map case-because I think that's going to be really cool, not that it's all that necessary.

Windycon is the 13th-15th, so I've got a good two weeks. Ron doesn't think I'm barking mad to try to get the belt and map case made by then. That means less time to work on all the pouches I have in the works for Boar's Head, but that's another 2-3 weeks after Windy, so I could/should still be able to get a reasonable amount done.

So the upshot is that tonight I'll re-start work on the map case, etc., and I need to go see what the requirements are for the WindyCon art show...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Bookkeeping & Other Natter

All purchases entered in. I even made sure the year-end total page was referencing all the right bits.

I've started on the repair of the badly off-centered latch pouch. Provided I can find my hand-sewing needles, which for some inexplicable reason were *not* in the box with all the other hand-sewing tools. But even if I don't find them, I ordered some more on Friday. Clever me.

However, Ron has determined that my smaller hand-sewing awl was being a pain to use not due to being dull, but because of a design-ish flaw. Too bad I didn't have him sharpen it earlier in the week, because then I'd have known to look at what I could get as a replacement when I ordered things Friday. Oops. But all is not lost, I have enough control with the larger awl to do the job.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Thursday night-Friday morning was rather short on sleep, plus the weather was making my sinuses miserable, so I stayed home yesterday. My grandly ambitious plan was to work on the books and pouches.

Yeah, right. I did get the books mostly caught up. I haven't done them for the last mumble events, instead of doing them after each one. Baaaaad idea. I slogged through the receipts from all the events, although I haven't gotten purchases in.

Today is about a total loss, between karate, meetings, and some evening plans. I brought some pouches to work on, but forgot some semi-important things. Oh well, I can still do flaps.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Last Night's Accomplishments . . . And AARGH!

Here's a picture of what I accomplished yesterday. One of the little black pouches I had pretty much done by the time I got home yesterday (after about 3 days of very slow progress), with only one side left to be laced up.

I finished the other two while Robin did homework, and while watching a movie. Ron finally got home, and embarked a round of customer disservice frustration with AT&T, so I started the fourth pouch, the larger black one. And with only half of one side to go, I realized what you might notice about the latch.

It's not a funny camera angle. The (expletive) latch is severely off-center. Carp. I wish I'd noticed before starting to lace the sides up, it would have made the fix easier to carry out. I checked the other half-dozen pouches I put this kind of latch on the other night, fortunately it's the only one I messed up (the others were the little ones, which are harder to mess up).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Coronation/Midrealm 40th Anniversary Report

I was checking the tags on some recent posts, and realized I'd forgotten to mention how we did at the fall Coronation/Midrealm 40th Anniversary event back in the first week of October.

It went pretty well. The merchant coordinator was running late, but we still got set up in a timely fashion. We even had power to run the charge machine, woo-hoo! Quarters were tight, as expected, but we made it work - We did things in a U-ish shape, with a table on one side, belt rack on the other, and ourselves across the bottom of the U.

We'd have had better sales, but there was another merchant seriously undercutting us on belts. I suspect his customers will eventually become mine, but I can't blame people for wanting to save money in the short run. There was a third person with belts, but he does bright dyed colors that we don't, and AFAIK our prices and his are pretty comparable.

I also got what I considered a big compliment - one of the other merchants (our non-competitor in the belt market) was sorry we didn't have the bracers out, he wanted to show them to some people. And he's very big on authenticity, *and* all his stuff is very nicely done. Woot! I expect he likes our bracers because even though they may be iffy on authenticity, they're understated. Even the fancy red and white pair is not tacky, I think. Hope. Err, oops, there is that one pair on that page with all the spots. That pair is long gone, and won't be repeated unless money talks.

Which reminds me, I should make a couple smaller pairs of bracers in plain black. That rolled edge binding looks sooo nice, if I do say so myself!

More Tool Hunting

I ventured into the basement last night in search of big C-clamps. I found three more, and it wasn't even a thorough search. That puts us up to 12 accounted for. At least three more to go, and Ron also thinks we have a total of 20.

Then I had to search for the aluminium bars we use for setting the rivets for certain latches. Looked it spot A, then B, C, and D. Returned to A, and there they were. Insert appropriate expletives here.

I need to check to see if I have latches stashed somewhere, the supply in the hardware bins is looking thin. I have a memory of ordering more, but I may have already burned through them.

So just how did all this misplacement occur, you ask? I took some time off, during which the living room and dining room were cleaned up with Robin taking care of the tools & supplies, and one of the dog got sick on/in the bag of commonly-used tools. At this point the only significant items actually missing (that I can think of . . . ) are the damn C-clamps. The rest of the stuff is just spread around locations A-E, and are being re-consolidated as I actually need it.

Anyhow, the end result of last night's work was two more pouches molded, a small soft pouch cut out of scrap from the stock for hard pouch fronts, and latches set on 11 soft pouches. Plus a bit of lacing done. This morning I looked at the significant piles of soft pouches waiting to be laced, and remarked that I probably should get some them actually *done* before doing further work on that pile of cut-out-only ones over there . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More Missing Tools

And while I'm on the missing-tool subject, where the heck have the big C-clamps gone?!? We have 15, if not 20 of the things, so why is it that Robin could only find 9 on Saturday?

(Most of the hard pouch molds get 5 clamps, I know we've had 3 molds in use at once, and I want to say we've done 4 at once before).

I've looked around the living room and dining room, but since those have both been cleaned up in the recent past, I don't think the clamps are there. I suppose this means I have to brave the basement. I expect they're somewhere on the workshop side.

I'd really like to be able to mold more than one larger pouch and an iPouch (only takes 4 clamps) at a time. I've got leather casing for a third iPouch, but since I haven't even finished the prototype yet, and I'm not sure they'll actually *sell*, I don't want to go overboard making them. (although they're small enough they're damn near scrap-consumers). What I want to make is shields and the medium hard squares. I'm *out* of those. I have one shield molded and drying, and another piece of leather casing to mold tonight, but they're a consistently good seller, so I want more.

I don't think I've mentioned it before, molding is definitely the throttle-point in making hard pouches. I only have one mold of each style, and it takes about 48 hours of time on the mold for a pouch to be fully dry - if I take them off while still too damp, they'll shrink. And the leather needs to case for a good 6-12 hours before molding. "Casing" the leather before molding is wetting it down, then letting it sit in a zippy bag or Rubbermaid container that seals up tight, so the moisture level can even out throughout the leather, and the fibers soften up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

The particular synapses (finally) started firing again Saturday morning. I'm back at work at Otter Necessities!

I cut out about a dozen pouches, mostly soft ones, and have the majority to the point where they need the latches installed and to be laced together. Yes, that does sound like most of the work is yet to be done, but not really. In some ways there's more work involved in doing all the marking and punching of holes than in the final assembly. Lacing is something I do almost on auto-pilot, getting things to that point requires more thought.

Now that I've started doing further work on the pouches laid out with silver Sharpie, I realize that I should have done said silver marking on the back side of the leather. The solvents used in black and silver Sharpies are the same, so the black doesn't so much cover the silver as dilute it. Not a big, fat hairy deal, more a live and learn.

Working on pouches Saturday and Sunday was complicated by the fact that I had misplaced a bin of tools. A lot of tools, in a small bin. Saturday we searched high and low without success. Fortunately, I have another set of dividers, so I wasn't brought to a complete standstill. Yesterday I poked into a couple more places I thought it might be hiding. On the way upstairs to bed last night, I found the bin. On the stairs. Where it's been sitting for several weeks. In plain sight. We're all idiots.

This also means that I can continue with the two iPouches in the works, which are to be hand-stitched together - *all* the important hand-stitching setup tools were in the not-missing bin.

On a lesser idiocy front, a number of the pouches I cut out were from scrap, which Robin consolidated with some not-scrap when cleaning. But did I remember that I can run the pieces for the smallest soft pouch through the splitter, to make them thinner/softer? Nooooo, at least not until it was too late (all fiddly bits cut out and most holes punched - at which point they *might* go through the splitter ok, but they also might not, I'm not brave enough to find out if various holes, slots, and cutouts would tear out). Oops. This is what happens when you take extended time off.

Ron has made a set of beads that we think are good enough for sale, once they've been annealed (just need a kiln...). Half are doughnut-shaped, ivory with light-blue speckles. The other half are cylinders, light blue with ivory speckles. IIRC there's one more of one style than the other, so you can alternate them. Pictures forthcoming, hopefully.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tomorrow's Challenges

I thought that I'd mentioned that we did get space for the SCA event tomorrow. I took the "tentative" label off, but looking at older posts, I guess I didn't. Yes, we got space. One space. One 8' x 8' space. This ought to be . . . interesting.

I did finally get the belts inventoried and re-packed into a larger number of smaller bins. Bins which are not quite full, since I didn't re-pack everything. This means that I don't know if we can get everything in the truck. But since we are *only* taking belts and pouches (see previous paragraph), and maybe belt hardware, we may be able to do some on-the-fly repacking tonight. Not that driving both cars to the south side of Chicago would be a big fat hairy deal, but let's avoid it if we can.

Earlier this week Ron asked if we were taking Sprout tomorrow. "No room." was the essence of my reply.

"I thought we'd probably be taking both vehicles?"

"No space in our space!" Plus, the dogs will appreciate him staying home.

I can't say I'm super-enthused about tomorrow. I don't know why. Nor have I done any leatherworking in quite a while, except for a small fit of cutting out black leather a few days ago. I think it's because I work better under pressure, and even though the inventory of some pouch styles is sad, on the whole we've good. So I don't feel the pressure. Maybe once this event is over and I'm looking at Boar's Head approaching.

OOOh fire... oh, and glass

Well yesterday we picked up a starter glass bead kit and these are my first attempts, in order starting at the top left working across each row. Had to call my sister for advice on getting some of the more stubborn beads off the mandrel. Maybe I can play some more with fire and glass tonight, after we get the truck ready for the event tomorrow.

Maybe if I get good enough we might start selling beads.