Friday, March 30, 2012

Leather Unwrapped, Leather Re-Wrapped

Last night I opened the leather that arrived Wednesday. Then we wrapped it back up to ship back. This morning I called the supplier and got a return authorization number.

Before I ordered it I'd asked a couple questions about it, and either I didn't ask the right questions, or the person answering gave me incorrect information - the leather has a "haircell" finish, meaning that's been embossed with a grain pattern. This makes the surface much harder, and looks IMO, more like vinyl than leather.

This is the second time I've ordered not-too-expensive black leather that turned out to have that finish. The first time I didn't think about returning it until too late, and have been grumbling my way through it (almost gone - yay!). Both are "imported", I'm wondering if this is a new trend for hiding flaws, something specific to a particular tannery, or just bad luck on my part.

I'm beginning to think that I shouldn't try to order less expensive black leather, I should suck it up and stick to the better stuff.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Grumphle, and Also Less Curmudgeonly

After some difficulties getting a response from the trailer dealer I have an update on the trailer: Finished, scheduled for delivery to them, they're expecting it early next week.

Which means, realistically, another week of dealing with the table, gridwall, etc. in the dining room. Insert frustrated noise here.

That means the plans for next weekend are:
  • Saturday: apply one or two coats (depending on weather) of white paint to the interior of the new trailer.
  • Sunday:
    • install rails
    • get stuff out of dining room
    • happy-dance.

(Feeling smug about getting the html right for the nested lists on the first try)

On a happier note, I got my order of hardware and leather in, as well as a couple small spools of lace I ordered from a potential new supplier. The hardware is about as expected, although we did not fully comprehend the clearly-stated size of one item. Oopsie. I didn't get as far as unwrapping the leather last night, Marmaduke and Robin had kind of taken over the living room with gaming.

I'll have to actually try the lace to see if I like it, there are some physical differences from the lace I've been buying. One of the two kinds I got to try is also more expensive, although I haven't done enough number-crunching to see if it would mean I have to raise my prices on pouches that use it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Backwards & Forwards

Stayed home yesterday, somewhat pooped, somewhat (im)moral support for Ron's follow-up appointment with the surgeon (healing normally, staples out). I did a little work on lacing up pouches, sent some things out to the dining room that didn't need to be taking up horizontal surface space in the living room, but that's about it - recovery from being tired.

After Ron's appointment we did run out to the Tandy Leather Factory store, so I could replace the 3/32" drive punch that made a bold leap for freedom on Sunday. It succeeded in the quest for freedom in so far as remaining hidden. I'm not sure if it's going to turn up now that I've bought replacements, or if it's going to wait until I start using one (yes, I bought more than one, as well as of the other size I use most often).

I brought the rocket pocket to show off. It was admired.

Of course I can't go without shopping, even though all I intended to buy were the punches. I found some upholstery leather in a magenta/dark Barbie pink, which I tried to tease Ron by saying I was going to buy. It seemed to be a fairly good-sized piece (I didn't unroll it completely), way too much for me. Had it been a small piece, like a couple-three square feet, I might have grabbed it. I found some nice brown double shoulders with grain and character, along the lines of harness leather, but even at wholesale price they were too rich for my blood - half again as much as the most expensive leather I regularly buy. Sadly, as it was callling to me.

OTOH, I did find a bunch of nice pebbled black heavy upholstery in the bin of odds and ends. I grabbed most of the larger pieces I could find, with gussets for pockets in mind. Even the smaller pieces would have been useful, had I been in need of more black. I'm guessing it was leftovers from some sort of manufacturing that doesn't use smaller pieces.

Finally, last night I ordered myself a "safety ruler". (Google image search results showing various types) I first used one of these in one of my Graphic Arts classes at Harper, and have been meaning to get one since. Some brands are all aluminum, some have steel edges to cut against. Ron and I discussed it, and I decided to get one with a steel edge, as I could potentially ding up an aluminum edge even with a rotary cutter. Ones with steel edges are more pricey than the all-aluminum versions, but should last forever.

Part of what reminded me I wanted a safety ruler was the plan to use some of the soft leather I have (and bought yesterday) for gussets. When I make gussets out of thicker harness/latigo I cut strips with a nifty "strap cutter" gadget, then split them down in thickness. But the strap cutter doesn't work on soft leather. When cutting with a rotary cutter I usually use a steel square with 9" and 12" arms, but it isn't long enough for gussets, and our big framing square is a bit unwieldly; on top of which, there's some flex in both squares. I have a 24" long steel ruler, but it's thin/flexible, and narrow. Flex is bad because leather can shift while you're cutting, narrow leaves you less to hold onto, and thin means it's easier to let the rotary cutter ride up on the ruler and get your fingers. I've never had more than a scare with the rotary cutter using either square or the metal ruler, but...

Anyway, the safety rulers are typically 3-4" wide, and have a hand guard. The one I got has a nice flat bottom with a non-skid surface, so leather shouldn't be slipping under it. At 28" long it's long enough for gussets, but not too long (the next common increment seems to be 40"). If I like it, I may see what brands are available in the 12-18" size range.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Back on Track

Ron's still recovering, not up to doing much yet. I'm still getting caught up on sleep, but not too bad. Good enough, in fact, to get back to work on things.

I finished up lacing the round laced purse Friday or Saturday, it just needs the shoulder strap.

Saturday I cut out a bunch of little square-ish soft pouches (and a couple slightly larger soft pouches) in various colors: dark blue, pale aqua, olive green, orange, and dark purple. Some will have black flaps or fronts, some are all colored. I also worked on some brown pockets I'd cut the basic pieces out for previously.

Sunday I worked on the pouches some more. I got a half-dozen of the little square-ish ones ready to lace, laced the fronts and backs of the two-piece ones together, and attached at least one end of all the belt loops. I also did work on some pockets and other soft pouches. I've got a couple to the point where they need machine sewing, which I'm kind of leaving to Ron. I accomplished quite a bit, overall.

Sunday morning I realized that I was having a workbench height problem. My new rolly/spinny office chair (so the older and taller one could stay at the sewing machine) is, I think, a bit shorter than the older chair. The Workmate I use as a workbench has two height settings. The lower height is great for using my ASO (anvil-shaped object), but too low for cutting at comfortably. The higher setting is good for cutting, etc., but puts the top of the ASO uncomfortably high. Changing the height of the Workmate by folding the leg extensions in or out isn't difficult, but it isn't something you can do on the fly.

The Workmate I use is the 225 model, here's a picture, etc.:

Think think, think think think...

We have Workmate-clone in the basement that is also adjustable in height. Summon Workmate-clone via the Strong Young Man of the house. Sensibly, I only have him bring it as far as the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the lowest height setting on the clone is the same as the tall height of the Workmate.

I decide that's ok. I'll put the clone in front of the window, where my Workmate was, for cutting and whatnot and put the "real" Workmate to the side, at the lower setting, to hold my ASO.

Ron reminded me that we own two of the real Workmates, and asked why I didn't just use it instead of the clone (which you can angle the top surface on). For part of the answer, look at the picture linked to above - the footrest. I sit on the non-footrest side, the footrest is just in the way. The clone doesn't have that.

In addition, the clone has a larger top surface. On the Workmates we put a piece of 2x10 or so in the jaws and get about the some area. The two-by sits on the rails beneath the top surface, and is just a smidge taller than the top surface. If I had a (powered) planer I'd take a bit off the two-by. It isn't a big deal, but it's there. So the clone actually has a smoother top surface.

The new arrangement seems to be working, and I don't think I made the clutter of the room much worse.

Which brings me to a whine. I want the new trailer. Specifically, I want the tables and gridwall OUT of the dining room!

Patience. Soon. I ordered the trailer 3 weeks ago today. Soon...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

State of Not Much

Hmm. Looks like last time I posted was Friday afternoon.

As noted last time, Ron had planned surgery Friday to take out a chunk of colon. He was released from the hospital yesterday, more posts about that on my personal blog, linky over in the left-hand sidebar column.

Ron being in the hospital, even though it was for an expected length of time and nothing went badly, does not make for sanity on my part.

Beer Gut

I perused a NZ governmental web site that implied there may be paperwork necessary to get leather into NZ. I've queried via a web form, still waiting for a response.

Other Pouches

I did finish two hard pouches with hanging belt loops ala the pockets. Ron knows I want pictures so I can get them up for sale on-line, but he's moving slowly at the moment. Worked on the black Lace Mania purse, mostly done.

Other Things

Thursday of last week I got a message from an Etsy customer asking a question, that resulted in a sale. Ron and I dropped off that package at FedEx on the way to the hospital on Friday morning.

Monday I got another Etsy sale. Happily (because I was melting down for various reasons yesterday morning), the pouch was right on top in the big yellow road case, so I didn't have to do any digging. I did wonder for a few seconds if I was going to get the lid of the big yellow thing open, but it just wanted some authority applied.

Fundage achieved for the new trailer achieved (aka: tax return received)! Last week Wednesday the old trailer went north to the Scout troop we donated it to, and it is reported that renovation work commenced that evening (ripping out the old plywood flooring). Happiness all around. 3-4 week delivery estimate on the new trailer, which I ordered on the 5th, so probably some time next week.

Still pooped from Ron being in the hospital. Hopefully that will abate soon and I'll get back to getting things done.

Friday, March 16, 2012

D'oh! And Accomplishments

I didn't get the Beer Gut laced Wednesday evening after all. By the time I got home about 6:30 then ate dinner I was pooped.

However, I finished lacing it together last night. I just have make the shoulder strap and rivet it on, and the Beer Gut will be done. Possibly tonight, but probably not until tomorrow morning.

Thanks to the joys of smartphones and 3G coverage I negotiated and made an Etsy sale yesterday, six belts, which went out this morning.

OTOH, I forgot to grab the roll of black lace off of Ron's desk this morning. And what am I doing today? Sitting around the hospital while Ron has been having a chunk of his lower GI tract removed, which should put an end to diverticulitis attacks. He's out of surgery at this point and in recovery. I thought I'd get to go see him by this point, but apparently not yet. Boooring.

Since there's not much to work on without lace (put belt loops on one pouch with short leftover bits of lace I did grab, and do a bit of hand-sewing), I've been copy-pasting and re-typing noes and passwords and such into a couple different apps from what I was using. Fortunately, I brought the iPad and the bluetooth keyboard with me.

Such fun. Zzz.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Plenary Session Accomplishment

Created a spreadsheet to calculate the basic sizes for hanging pocket back and flap pieces given the dimensions of a pocket front and gusset width. Still need to analyze known gusset lengths to determine if that can be determined from basic pocket dimensions. Hopefully next session's speakers will be more interesting and prevent that...

More Things

Beer Gut

I was hoping to finish lacing the Beer Gut together last night, but I was distracted by providing moral support for work on the trailer. Still have one side left to go, which is less than halfway around. The only other thing left to do is the shoulder strap. Since my deadline is Friday, I don't forsee a problem finishing. (Last night I laced over halfway around it, plus braiding on the antler peg and putting the turk's-head knot around the top of the antler).

Trailer and Contents

Last night Robin finished emptying out the big trailer, Ron took a 10'x20' garage tent that had been living in it back to the owners, and we sorted through our stuff that was left.

Mice had nested. Eeeewwwwwwww. Fortunately, they'd only damaged a couple canvas bags and two end walls for our garage tents. A few years ago there was an incident with high wind that destroyed some of our frame parts, which left us with enough for only one, but plastic canvas for two, so losing two end walls to the mice wasn't a big deal. Some of the metal parts do need to be cleaned of mousy metabolic end products, but a hose and Simple Green should deal with that.

I'm actually waffling about keeping or getting rid of the garage tent, as we also have three 10'x10' Easy-Ups, and are unlikely to do camping events again (unless we get a really expensive trailer we can sleep in and sell out of. Once we win the lottery.). But I don't have to decide right now.

This morning the trailer went with Ron to his office, from whence it will proceed to its new home with a Scout troop. Yes, they were made aware of all deficiencies. Last night I gave Ron the suggestion to relay that if they don't plan to replace the flooring plywood they at least replace the tarp we had stapled to the (filthy) floor - the tarp is probably decorated mouse metabolic end products at this point.

Cleaning out the trailer turned out to be a bigger job than I expected. I told Robin to call Games Plus and ask them to put some things aside, I'll pick them up on the way home from Rosemont tomorrow (floodplain manager's conference, zzzz).

About That Conference

I learned years ago at a meeting that my supervisors don't grok that knitting does not affect my ability to listen, and I'm sure that applies to lacing pouches (which is also not as quiet as knitting). Which makes me crazy, as some of the presentations are booooring. So I doodle and scribble and doodle some more. Sometimes I even come up with viable ideas. I think I had one yesterday - nothing really special, more a new size of the hanging pockets. We'll see what I come up with today and tomorrow.

I suppose I should quit avoiding it, and head out. Some of today's sessions look reasonably good, but first is this morning's hour and a half plenary session: two political wonks. Sob...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things, Things, and More Things

I really need to post on weekends, instead of letting everything pile up, resulting in huge posts.

Friday at lunch I ran up to the Tandy/Leather Factory store to get studs, which are on sale. My plan was to get 25 nickel-plated and 25 brass, but that plan didn't survive reality. I did end up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 studs, but not in the ratio originally planned (these are the studs that we use on the belt loops of hanging pockets, and for some of the steampunk-ish pouches).

I also planned to look for garment/upholstery leather to use for drawstring or other small soft bags, and/or for gussets on pouches/pockets. I found some pale aqua pigskin for pouches, and completely forgot about the "for gussets" part. Oops. When I got home I checked the rings I got for chainmail - I have some darker aqua rubber rings that should look good with the leather. My plan is to make a softish pouch with the leather (glued to something thicker/stiffer and cheap/hideous), fastened shut with a peg or antler attached with a chain using the aqua rings.

Winch Testing

Saturday afternoon we tested the winch and winch stand. I say "we", but all I did was run the winch. Robin had grossly over-estimated the amount of tow strap we'd need to anchor the stand around the porch, but Ron didn't realize that until he'd opened the second strap. Oops. The testing went fairly well - we ran the yellow bin up and down a couple times via the winch, with a couple different attachment/sling methods. The ramps are probably going to still need reinforcement, they're still flexing under the weight of the bin alone. Still going to be best as a three-person operation: one running the winch and two steering. However, using the winch means the two people will be mostly steering, not two to three people pushing and pulling, so it will make things easier.

Beer Gut

Saturday I dyed the beer gut, and Ron waxed it, and some other hard pouch fronts we'd previously molded and dyed, and the back for the beer gut, which I'd cut out and dyed. Yesterday I continued work on the beer gut, getting the body and the flap ready to lace, lacing around the flap, and sewing the dee holders and a binding on the edge of the opening. Left to do are putting the lacing holes in for attaching the flap to the back of the pouch, doing that lacing, putting on the loop for the antler peg, lacing around the body, and putting on the shoulder straps.

I've got until Friday to do all those things, based on the time estimate I gave the customer. I should be able to manage it if I can put a reasonable amount of time in evenings this week.

Other Pouches

In some ways I didn't feel like I got a lot done over the weekend, because I did little bits on lots of things. Besides working on the beer gut (which I did give priority, but for various reasons it had to just sit some times), I worked on:
  • Rectangular purse: Laced together, just needs its shoulder strap now.
  • Two hard pouches that use the hanging belt loops, ala the rocket pockets, they're to the point they only need the bodies laced on and then will be finished (started last week).
  • Salvaging a messed-up back intended for one of the hanging hard pouches, above. It's now the back piece for on odd-sized gusseted pocket.
  • Not strangling Ron when we're both working in the dining/work room. Probably mutual.
  • Cutting up a piece of leather into pieces to mold hard pouch fronts from.
  • Using the big press to cut some pieces out with cutting dies.
  • Sorting scrap from that piece of leather and cutting three little "1/2 soft" pouch fronts from it.
  • Cutting out the basic pieces for three more pockets (one vertical stacked, two single), in various shades of brown. They're still just various sizes of rectangles that require more cutting, but at least I know what they're supposed to be.  


After cutting out the base rectangular pieces for the pockets yesterday, I declared that I really did need templates made, my paper patterns were getting ratty (ok, I could print out new copies, but that would be just another temporary solution). Ron obliged.

The first problem was sticking patterns to the small sheet of Lexan. Just not happening. Then we turned to the larger sheet of plexiglass. Still couldn't glue things to the plexi, but we could stick them to the protective sheet. From that we got the templates for gluing small and large pocket gussets (which can also be used for tracing, my medium soft pouch, and rounded gusset ends in two sizes, with a good bit left over.

The lexan is tougher, so we made the end template for a Sam Browne/Kilt belt template from that, as its going to live in the big rolling tool case with the belts and go to events. It's got the rounded end and the holes for the double-tongued buckle and studs that hold the end of the belt from flopping around. I ended up tracing that one onto the lexan in sharpie. That template and the one for the soft pouch still need some holes drilled, I think Ron's planning on doing that tonight.

Dining Room Chaos

Remember how I cleaned up the dining room last Sunday? It was nice while it lasted, but the floor is almost mythological again. Robin started unloading the old trailer so it can be donated to a Scout troop, and the gridwall and tables are now living in the dining room until we get the new trailer. Sigh.

I don't foresee getting the track lighting straightened out in the very near future, so I'm stopping tonight at Chez Tar-jay to get a swing-arm adjustable lamp with a clamp-on base. I tried over the weekend, but the hardware stores failed me - Ace had none, True Value had them on-line but not in the local store, and the only one I found on the Menard's website was, get this, $150! So not!

I think that about wraps it up for the weekend report.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Introducing: Rocket Pockets!

Here it is, our first Rocket Pocket!

The front piece of the pocket is a 5"x5" square, with the lower corners rounded off - the smaller pocket from the vertical-stack pockets. Ron finished the sewing last week, but I was waiting for the order from Fire Mountain to get the rings for the chainmail to attach the rocket pegging the flap shut to the pouch.

The black chainmail rings are rubber, so the chain will have a little bit of give if it gets caught on something. The gold-colored rings are anodized aluminum. I ordered a bunch of red anodized aluminum rings, but they're actually a color somewhere between magenta and hot pink. Not good with the dark red rockets.

It kind of hides, but there's a second large rocket on the side away from the camera.

All the "rockets" are actually snap-caps, aluminum training/dummy rounds. They're pricey, I charge $15 each for the big ones, and $7.50 for the small ones. I still have to crunch the numbers to determine what we'll be charging for a small pocket without rockets, and then I need to make a decision yet on how much to charge for the small "rocket"+chainmail combination. I also need to look into finding cheaper dummy rounds, these are designed so that you can safely dry-fire a weapon with them loaded, which I don't need for pouches.

The chainmail was slow going at first, but I got better as I remembered what I was doing. I last messed around with chainmail when Robin was little, with copper rings about this size. I hadn't used the rubber rings before, but I've seen the jewelry a friend makes with them. The chainmail bug tried to bite me again almost two years ago, at MuseCon Zero, but I successfully resisted until now, when we have an application for it.

I think I neeeed more rings. Especially some smaller ones, for some of the patterns (I have a problem calling them "weaves" for some reason) that use a combination of ring sizes. Must resist, must resist!

More Odds and Ends

Oops, meant to post this last night, but only saved.

Cleaning the Dining Room

Instead of leatherworking on Sunday, I spent a good chunk of the day cleaning up the dining room.

We'd discussed getting Marmaduke or Wash's help moving the sewing machine over to make it easier to use with where the metal workbench was, but it boiled down to the metal workbench being a problem. It would be good for lampworking, which Ron would like to do more of (and I enjoy too), but it doesn't fit in the room.

We took the metal workbench apart and sent it back to the basement. I moved the Workmate I've been using in front of the window where the workbench is, and Ron can either use that or the other Workmate for lampworking (which is what we bought the second Workmate for), with a piece of sheet metal on top - which is what we did before getting the equipment from Ron's sister.

That, however, meant clearing off the things that had been stored below the workbench, and all the odds and ends that had accumulated on top.

I also had to burrow into a different corner of the room to retrieve the beer gut mold.

The end result was that I cleaned up a lot of stuff. Several cardboard boxes were thrown out, and their contents moved to empty formerly-merchandise bins. I threw out some junk, and in general reduced the entropy of the room.

Not sure about my relocation of the Workmate. In some ways it's good - I face out the window, and I can reach my tool drawers without getting up and walking around the Workmate. There's also enough room that Ron can use the sewing machine while I'm at the Workmate. OTOH, the lights are now all behind me. It's not a problem during the day with the window blind open, but when the sun starts going down I don't have enough light. We either need to figure out how to re-wire the non-working track of the track lights and move a fixture or two, or set up one of the several task lamps that are currently being stored in the dining room somewhere where I can use it.

I'm also trying to reduce some of the leather stash, so I can get fabric out of an open bin and onto a shelf. Doing some sewing and reducing the fabric stash is also a viable option to help with that. We'll see which happens first.

Paperwork, Paperwork

Yesterday I caught this year's books up. We've done a lot of shopping in the last month or so, so that was a surprisingly large task. I complicated it by scanning and printing copies of all the cash-register receipts that are prone to fading, and then decided to go ahead and do the less fade-prone ones while I'm at it. It's easier to keep track of 8.5"x11" sheets of paper than odd-sized register slips.


Yesterday afternoon, since I wasn't up to actually cutting things with sharp knives, or making holes with sharp chisels, I went through the SCA Midrealm and Northshield calendars, and websites for conventions I could think of, and made up a spreadsheet listing possible ones to sell at. Another table in the file has the times/distances to places I know I've looked up before but can't remember. (ie: LaCrosse Wisconsin is too far away for a day-trip event).

Things to do are highlighted, and no-gos are essentially greyed out, but I've left them on the list so I know I've looked at them and notes why they're no-gos.

The Clue Fairy blessed me with the idea of adding some other important things to the list, like Robin's graduation weekend. Which turns out to be the weekend after WisCon, and is the same weekend as an SCA event I might otherwise consider, and Duckon.

The gaming group at the College of DuPage is holding their small gaming convention, CodCon, toward the end of April. I did CodCon once before, and it wasn't huge sales, but there are no conflicts and it's reasonably close/probably cheap to get into. Worth doing again, in other words, so I've asked if they'll have dealer space. If so, we'll be making some inexpensive drawstring bags from the stash of leather and fabric - which we may very well make even if we don't do CodCon.

Stone Dog Inn, an SCA event at University of Chicago in mid-April, is one I have a love-hate relationship with. Ida Noyes Hall is a visually gorgeous venue, sales are typically good, and there is handicap-accessible access now, but the thought of parking with the trailer . . . Probably not. And I don't want to re-pack to small bins, I really like the simplicity of the road cases!

There's a couple weekend-long SCA events this summer that I've done as day-trips in the past - Border Skirmish and Ragnorak Rampage in June. We just need to figure out if it's feasible to do them with the road cases, as they're outdoor events. Pieces of plywood to roll cases across/park on? Asking about pavilion/indoor space? We'll see - it was a tradeoff we did consider when we bought the road cases.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Progress on Projects

Winch Stand

The winch stand has been built. Sunday morning while Ron shopped for chain and hardware at Ace, I wandered around. One thing I found was a Workmate workbench/sawhorse on steroids on sale. It's the "original" Workmate model, which isn't as big as the other two we have. We have a similar-sized knockoff in the basement that Ron was thinking of using for the winch stand, but it has a tilting top that he didn't trust not to tilt at the wrong time. Ron decided the Workmate was worth the time and effort of building something (we have a bunch of pieces of 2x10 left from building the side porch).

Ron and Robin assembled the Workmate and then attached to the top of it (which is only about 1/2" thick) a piece of 2x10. Then the winch an its mounting plate was bolted to that, which required drilling divots for the heads of the bolts that hold the winch to the plate. It sounds complex, but it isn't too bad. They also attached the rocker switch to run the winch, and tied the wiring down neatly, and even put in terminals (bolts) to clamp the leads of the battery changer/jump-starter to.

The Workmate itself will fold up, with the winch attached, for storage. Folding doesn't make it a lot smaller, but it's an easier to maneuver form factor. Right now it's sitting in the dining room (unfolded - more stable) until we get the new trailer, which is where it will live. AFAIK there's no plans to make loading/unloading the trailer winch-assisted.

While we were out getting parts, we also went to Harbor Freight (home of cheap but useful crap!) for tow straps to tie the winch stand back to the opposite end of the side porch. I believe the plan is that they will pull against the 8" or 10" diameter posts that are sunk at least 4' deep. Or maybe 3' deep. Whichever, they're plenty strong enough. When the winch isn't in use a piece of sacrificial rope will be left to pull the straps into position when needed, so we only have to send somebody (Robin) under the porch once - the rope can be pulled back into place with the tow straps when we're done with them - and the tow straps don't degrade by being out in the sun and weather.

The plan at this point is to test the system next weekend with the big yellow bin. We're not absolutely confident the Workmate is up to the task, or there may be some other bug in the system that will take time to work out, even if just the first time. It's almost guaranteed something will come up we didn't think of, really. Testing before we're trying to get ready for an event makes those kind of discoveries a lot less stressful.

Steampunk Pockets

I finally finished the set I was hand-sewing Friday night! Yay!

I asked Ron if a template to help glue gussets in place prior to sewing would help, and he thinks it would, so we picked up some more plexi to make a couple templates for that. Menard's didn't have much clear stuff in the thickness I wanted (1/4" or so) that wasn't overly-large sheets. Fortunately, Robin noticed that the black and grey translucent were available in thicker stock. Usually I use clear plexi or lexan for templates, so I can see any scars, whatnot that I want to avoid (or highlight for character). But these aren't for layout prior to cutting, so that's not an issue. Templates not produced yet, but I haven't cut out any more gusseted pockets yet, either.

Ron really likes that method of attaching to/hanging from a belt, and suggested we do some of our other pouches that way. I had some hard pouch fronts in the dining room that didn't have backs/flaps yet, so I said we could try it with those. Sunday evening I laid out backs to use that kind of hanging belt loop, and a separate flap attached to the back. I did the large and medium hard squares, and the shield pouch. I didn't have a shield front molded, but I decided to lay out all three at once so I wouldn't have to go back and re-create my thought processes.

I cut out backs and flaps for the two square pouches, Ron sewed on the belt loops, and I laced around the flaps. Then we noticed that I'd cut the notch in the smaller square too deep. Ron suggested a way of using it as it was cut with a slight modification to the flap, but I wasn't entirely happy with it and cut out a new one last night.

Once the flaps are sewn to the backs and fronts are waxed, I'll finish lacing them together pretty much like I usually do.

Secret Pocket Modification

The Fire Mountain Gem order is out for delivery. Tomorrow I'll stop being a secretive nuisance and have pictures! I'm excited, I hope people like it as well as we do!

Beer Gut Bag

Ok, this one is actually a new project. I got e-mail from an overseas customer last week asking about shipping cost, and wasn't scared away by the answer!

A deposit has been paid, and we've got a Beer Gut on the mold and drying. It's a somewhat extreme shape, only the fourth one of them we've done, and at long intervals, so molding it was not as simple as the pouches we usually do. This morning it was mostly dry, and looking good. I think we can probably loosen up the clamps tonight, but we'll leave it reasonably undisturbed for another day or night after we do so.

Trailer Shopping

As I mentioned Friday, we've been trailer shopping.

Saturday morning we made a trip to a trailer dealer, to see what our options were in person. One of the things was the question about ramp steepness that I think I mentioned before.

The trailer the salesman showed us was a tall 5'x8' trailer - nominally 6' tall, which IIRC makes it a smidge shorter on the interior, Ron has to keep his head down a little, but can stand up almost straight. It's only an extra 6" or so in height, but a big difference in comfort for working in it. It also adds that much to the length of the ramp gate, which is not insignificant. The ramp gate also had a nice flip-out extension, which doesn't change the angle you have to push something up, but does make the bump to get up on the ramp much smaller.

The trailer we were looking at was not quite what we wanted, but close enough to see that we liked the brand, and the dealer.

We went through the options on the trailer line in question, and the salesman worked up a price for us: 5x8 trailer, 6' tall, square front (V-front would not be useful, and of questionable benefit in terms of wind resistance), ramp gate, setting the wall studs to 16" instead of 24", thicker interior walls, and adding jacks at the back. Nice stock features include a built-in tongue jack, interior light, roof vent, and stone guards.

Reasonable down payment, rest due on delivery in 3-4 weeks, and the salesman said he could hold it for a bit after it was delivered if necessary.

Then we went home, without ordering.

Well, we did go drool over a really fancy trailer that IIRC the salesman said was used as a Coast Guard recruiting trailer - big trailer, one long side opens out to form a porch floor, with a railing that folds up, and there's a big canopy on the side. The interior, porch, and ramp gate floor are tiled with nice looking linoleum, and there's cabinets built in along the front wall and partly down the other side.

After some other errands, I started work on the books and taxes. Ron figured out a couple bugs in my summary page of my spreadsheets, then I did the business taxes - which is mostly filling in zeroes on the partnership returns for all the things that do not apply. And ranting at changes to the forms after mumble years of only cosmetic changes.

I had originally planned to be done at that point, but I decided that since the day was shot anyway, I'd forge on ahead and do our taxes. TurboTax makes it easier, but I still end up ranting.

E-filed both Federal and State, somewhere around dinner time. Not getting as much back as we did last year, but IIRC last year's return included a stimulus payment, and in 2010 we'd donated a lot of books to the library, and replaced a furnace that was probably 40 years old with a modern model that's something like 95% efficient to the tune of multiple $K, and within a tax-incentive window.

The return will be enough, with what I already had set aside for a possible down payment, so yesterday I called the dealer and ordered a trailer. The color choices were black, white, red, silver, dark metallic grey, and "light pewter metallic", which is what we ordered. It looks a bit brownish on our computer monitors, but we'll see how it comes out. I also added a spare tire - we've been living dangerously in that regard for a number if years, it was a prudent addition.

The first thing we plan to do once we get the trailer home is to paint the interior white. Then we'll probably give it a second coat. It's amazing how much of a difference having white walls makes, as we saw at the dealership.

Then we're planning to add rails such as are found in semis and some rental trucks, which you can attach load bars and all sorts of other brackets to. I started to ask the salesman about getting them installed, and he said if we're reasonably handy that having it done is a waste of money. Well, points to him, and we'll DIY. The rail comes in 10' sections, and Ron's thinking that we'll use the cutoffs, which should end up 2' plus a bit long, to support a shelf across the front, for things like the tool bag and the Rubbermaid bins we're still using (and which aren't too heavy).

And just because that's the way the universe is, this morning the truck started acting up, just enough to tell Ron that it probably wants a trip to John & Scott's (our local good garage). Growf.

Today's Warmup Post

I think I'm going to break up today's posting into several chunks, since I didn't get around to posting over the course of the weekend, and much happened.

You've been warned . . . BWAH HA HA HA HA!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Looking at Conventions

Our neighbors at the event last weekend (Betsey and Warren of Traditional Treasures), suggested some conventions we should try selling at: Reenactor Fest (RF), CyPhan, and C2E2.

We did do the second local-ish RF (it is/was also held in the Gettysburg area), which was at the Starship Hilton in Arlington Heights. There were capital-I Issues at that time, but some of them were hotel-specific, and Betsey said that the others have also been resolved. Part of the problem at that time was that I felt we didn't have historically authentic enough merchandise, but the Urbiks think we'll do fine - it sounds like the attendance has broadened.

This year RF had, as I understand it, all of Pheasant Run's convention-type space. In addition to vendors there was space for people to set up day camps, and what sounded like a big display of WWII vehicles, all indoors. Sounded pretty cool, in fact. The Urbiks said it would be back at Pheasant Run again for 2013. Pheasant Run is another few miles south of work, but from my one trip there on a Saturday morning for the Stitches Marketplace (vendor hall for a stringy bits convention), the commute was about the same as my commute to work. So pretty much by definition within commuting distance.

Currently the 2012 RF website is still up (it was in the first half of February), so I sent mail asking for vendor information for 2013 when available. Unless it falls on the same weekend as Capricon (IIRC RF is usually a week before Cap) I think we'll be giving it a try. Ron and Xap are running the Capricon Cafe again next year, and I'm kinda committed to working the Cafe myself.

CyPhan is by the same organizer as RF, and it looks like this is year three. I think I skipped it the first year because of a timing conflict with DucKon? Maybe something else? Last year we didn't do much of anything. This year I'd see if I could still get in, except that it's the weekend before MuseCon. It's also in Rosemont, a town I despise for that sort of thing (parking, getting there, union fees, yadda yadda), but the date conflict with Muse is the killer. If there was one week between I might have a case of lost marbles and consider it, but not back-to-back.

Betsey described C2C2 as being similar to Comic-Con. Aah, here we go: (whodathunkit!), The Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, April 13-15, McCormick Place. I think Betsey had said they're full, and I don't think we're quite right for it, but I checked out check out vendor information for grins . . . Erk. No prices for a basic booth listed, which to me is a bad sign in that "if you have to ask, you don't want to know" sort of way. What's interesting is the stuff there is information on - load-in/load-out rules depending on vehicle type (anything larger than a van gets shuffled off to a marshalling yard), trade-show-type booth furniture rental, and the trumpeting of "you can do things yourself now!" - as is, I can set up my own displays, not pay union rates for riggers, etc. to do it.

A while back, mostly for amusement value, I checked out the vendor information for some of the other local Ginormacons - ACen (Anime Central), MFF (Midwest FurFest), and Chicon Mumble (7? Whatever - it's this year's WorldCon, which is in a different city every year).

MFF 2011 was in November at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare, in Rosemont. It had the least painful pricing, but still high compared to smaller cons like Cap and Windy. Yes, Cap and Windy are small, comparatively. OTOH, you're also paying for all the traffic of a ginormicon, so not so bad, really.

ACen is in April, same hotel as MFF. The prices for vendor booths seemed terrible at first, but each space also comes with a generous number of memberships/badges. ACen has got, hands down, the most complex pricing, although they do a decent job of explaining it. You pay for your base booths, then you do upgrades for premium spaces/locations. And then there's the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Complexity - there's rules for when you can get assisted load-in and load-out (for a fee!) vs. DIY, trade-show-type booth furniture rental, yadda yadda. Interesting reading, if nothing else. I don't know that I have the right merchandise, but I can see that the cost can be worth it.

Chicon is at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. The vendor booth prices are even higher than ACen's (although they appeared cheaper until I read a bit farther), as they don't include any (pricey) memberships.

Interestingly, Chicon and the MFF vendor information include nothing about load-in/load-out, booth furniture rental, etc. which is found for ACen or C2E2. I wonder if it's a venue difference, in that they've got vendors in space that isn't a big "convention center" ala Stephens (formerly Rosemont Horizon) or McCormick Place.

Yes, looking at these ginormicons is why I was amusing myself yesterday by trying to fit everything in a 10' x 10' space - I don't expect to be at a convention like one of those any time soon, but it got me thinking.

Still More Ideas and Continuing Projects

Driving to work is a fertile time for my imagination, especially as we still haven't gotten a Round Tuit to put an inexpensive radio in the Kia.

Table Arrangements

Yesterday morning I was trying to decide if there was any way I could actually fit Otter Necessities into a 10' x 10' booth (been looking at other events/conventions to do, post on that in a holding pattern). I cut out some 1"=2' tables, road cases, and gridwall belt displays (quarter-circles), drew boxes on paper, and started pushing bits around.

and pushing

and pushing

If I ever have to do an event with only 10' x 10' of space, I want a lot more gridwall, and it's going to have to be pretty much one of us working the booth at a time. 18" wide tables might also help.

10' x 20' is my preferred amount of space. 8' x 16' is a bit more squished, but manageable. If I have 16-20' of "front" space, the amount behind is negotiable.

Other Display Natter

When we were cleaning up around the big sewing machine Monday night I put some hooks up on the shelves - big forged iron hooks we got a blacksmith to make years ago, 9-12" long, with a rounded hook on one end, square hook (to hang over a two-by) on the other. This morning I had the thought that those would work on gridwall - hang them from the gridwall by the rounded hook, and hang dog leashes (which I hadn't quite figured out a good way of displaying), mug loops, or whatever from the square hook. I just need to remember to move the hooks to the bin with the other display hardware.

Continuing on the gridwall theme, we have 8 sections, 2' wide, 6' tall. By MuseCon I want to get at least one more piece, so that we can cable-tie them into triangles for signage. Other local conventions do this already with WindyCon's grid panels, which are also used for most of the local art shows. I don't think MuseCon is big enough yet to need/afford rental of the WindyCon panels, but we may find the few I have useful.


Trailer shopping is getting more active. I really need to get income tax done so we can get the tax return. One co-worker got her return in something like 8 days, but she filed early, and a radio report last week said something like 2-3 weeks.

I called one dealer (R.A. Adams, McHenry, IL) today to get an idea of their prices. I asked about 5' x 8', enclosed, with a drop gate (so it forms a ramp). The salesman told me their starting price, then pointed out that because 5x8 trailers typically have a lower ceiling than bigger trailers with that type of gate, it means a shorter, and thus steeper ramp. He said he actually sells very few of them, and suggested a 5x8 trailer with doors that swing to the side(s), which are actually cheaper than drop gate trailers.

He could be trying to push something he has more of on his lot, but at the same time, he was suggesting a cheaper trailer than what I inquired about. I think this one is points to the salesman for suggesting based on need, rather than price/commission. In any case, it's now a factor we'll keep in mind when we start looking at trailers in person.

Winching the Road Cases

The mounting bracket for the winch arrived yesterday. It's smaller than either of us expected. Partly, I suspect, because we're both thinking of bigger winches and bigger vehicles (it is a bracket for an ATV, after all). It is in scale with the winch. It sounds like it isn't going to cause major issues with how Ron was planning to build a stand.

Mobile WiFi Hotspots

I checked all the carriers in this region I could think of. The vast majority immediately wiped themselves out by requiring 2-year, pay-every-month regardless of usage contracts. The survivors were Virgin and Cricket.

Virgin is the knida-winner with the only obvious pay-as-you-go data plan for their widget. I don't see a strictly pay-as-you-go plan for Cricket's wireless hot spot service/device (it is available for some phones), but their web page advertises that you can cancel a plan whenever you want, and no activation fees. I didn't read in more detail to see if they have anything against activating it for one month, then deactivating until you think you're likely to need it again.

If we decide to get a mobile wifi hotspot widget, I'll have to do some more Virgin/Cricket comparing. Another option is that when (not really an "if" any more) Ron gets an iPad, we get Verizon service for it, instead of ATT. (Verizon being the other service with the best coverage in the Midwest, based on my not-especially-intensive research).

Steampunk Pockets

Ron machine-sewed the single small pocket on Wednesday. It looks pretty good, but we do need to adjust the tension on the big sewing machine so that the next one looks better. Waiting on the Fire Mountain Gem order (expected Tuesday, sigh) to finish, you'll have to wait until then for pictures.

Hopefully I'll have the vertical stack done by then, also. Yes, still slogging along. The upper pocket is completely done now; lower one needs the front sewn on and the flap sewn down. Did come with me to work yesterday and today, since I didn't have leftovers to fit into my bag, and because I'd like to get the murmfle things done.

Weekend Plans

It looks like we'll probably be starting one of the big "Beer Gut" bags this weekend, for an overseas customer that likes the style well enough to pay the cost of shipping (consulted GT, apparently slow-but-cheap shipping is no longer an option unless you have enough items to fill a container, or at least a pallet). But that won't take large amounts of our attention, mostly it'll just be sitting on the mold unattended.

I may take a break from sewing the pockets to get some of the soft pouches I've cut out ready to lace. I'll probably also cut out a vertical stack set of the steampunk pockets in browns for Ron to sew, with the currently-secret spiffy modification(s).

I got a piece of lexan last weekend for a template made for the curve I use on all the corners for the pockets, I need to get that, and the soft pouch pattern I think will fit with it onto the lexan so Ron or Robin can do the cutting for me. Having a nice firm template for the corner would be nice. A pair of cutting dies would be even better, but a template is significantly cheaper, and it isn't a fussy curve to cut by hand.

Other things on the Otter Necessities to-do list that may or may not happen this weekend include slitting and braiding the belts I cut out a couple weeks ago, replacing old hardware on belts, and making more frogs with some of the old hardware.

And I suppose I should do boring housekeeping things like mopping the kitchen floor (dogs are tracking in lots of mud through the dog door).