Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sorta-Kinda Progress

Almost no progress on leatherworking.
No progress on doing the books. 

Did do a little putzing around with letterpress.

I fooled around with laying out Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" and Clement C. Moore's "A Visit from St. Nicholas" on the computer with different page sizes and close approximations of our metal type faces. I got "Jabberwocky" into a shape we both liked, printed it out as printer's spreads, and taped the pages together (because I was too lazy to mess with duplexing the right bits together) to create a page-layout guide to make an 8-page book. 

I meant to mess about with some short Lewis Carroll poetry and business cards, but got distracted by visiting with Ron's sister and nephew, and making a tunic for Wash. While I was working on that Ron, Xap, and Wash were looking at examples of leather armor for LARP/SCA-ish combat, and playing with the leather scales we haven't done anything with since for quite a long time. Maybe with Wash's help we'll actually get some quantity estimates and a start on instructions. 

We also picked up a couple Slinkies (it's fun it's a wonderful toy . . .), which have been tacked down to boards for drying stands for printed material - the line in the dining room works, but it isn't perfect. So we'll try the Slinkie-stands. 

I got my Uhlen Rundgotisch yesterday. Still waiting for the spaces, as the font didn't come with them. I've laid out the promotional Capricon Cafe by MuseCon thing we're going to do using my Uhlen Rundgotisch electronic stand-in, so once the spaces come in I can start them. The USPS said the thin spaces were supposed to be delivered yesterday, but they didn't leave the sort facility in Colorado until some time late last night, so I'm thinking the USPS is still cleaning up the last of the pre-Christmas shipping deluge.

Saturday night we uploaded a file of images we'd like to get made into plates to Boxcar Press, and ordered a base. The plates are in production, but because of UPS' holiday schedule won't go out until Thursday (normally they'd go out today). But Boxcar is only in New York state, so there is an off-chance we'll get them Friday (I don't think standard ground service includes Saturday delivery). 

This is a JPEG created in Paint via cut and paste from a PDF, useful only for illustrating this post. The format is long and narrow because the platemaker spits out a piece of film 17" by up to 22", so I packed what I could into 17" by enough the other way to be at least 50 square inches, with at least 3/8" between images (hence the upside-down Otter logo - it allowed better packing). I did pretty well, our end area was billed as 51 square inches. Yes, I am having some text printed as plates, so we can have a consistent font and not always be setting the same bits of text from type.

Robin's finished a bunch of trays. The base size is the 12-1/2" by 12-1/2" type cases we got with the presses, and then he's also making quarter size, and for himself, half-size for transporting miniatures. Over the weekend he finished up the first few quarter-size trays, which are deep enough for our border sets to stand up in without being taller than the trays. Here's a couple pictures:

The large trays have shorter and narrower sidewalls, which caused some assembly problems. Robin's got plans to offer trays for sale, he thinks other miniature gamers might be willing to buy them. For gamers he's going to stick with the taller and thicker sides. And I need to proof-read his first draft of website verbiage. He also needs to price lumber to come up with tray prices, since we only bought the fiberboard for the bottoms, and he's been using lumber from the stash for the sides. 

Last night I sorted the wooden furniture for setting up the presses into the large trays. Most of it fits into two large trays, and there's a few pieces of really wide stuff to go in a third (when Robin finishes one - he's limited by glue drying time and number of clamps). We also have some furniture that's too long to be used (unless/until we get a bigger press...), that I moved to the back of a shelf.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Font/New Look

One of the things we want for letterpress printing is a "Boxcar Base", which is a slab of machine aluminum, on which you mount photopolymer (fairly thin plastic) printing plates to bring them to the right height for presses designed for metal type. Its called a "Boxcar" base because its made/sold by Boxcar Press. The minimum order of photopolymer plate is 50 square inches, so Ron has been working on packing images that we want plates of to get our first plate run made.

One of the things we definitely wanted was an Otter Necessities logo, with the O-Otter for the O. In the past I've used Papyrus font for the words, which is a font that gets a lot of scorn. Last year I used this font, which is I like (which is good, since its one I bought), but the knockout inside the letters could be iffy to print letterpress, especially at small sizes:

As mentioned elsewhere about letterpress, we bought a font of Parsons in metal type. Its Art Deco, but not too over the top. A digital revival of Parsons is Parsnip NF, which includes the cool swashy capitals and italic text. Which looks like this for the basic font:

(the gray background is an artifact of generating sample text from the Linotype website) 

So, when Ron discovered that Papyrus wasn't installed on his laptop, I decided to switch to Parsons/Parsnip, and bought Parsnip. And now we're blaming MS for not installing the font in any rational way so that you can get to the cool swashy alternate capital Ns. AAARGH!

Anyway, we're also planning on having photopolymer plates made of "Letterpress printing by Otter Necessities" and our URL. Because I am feeeelthy merchant scum, yes I am. 

Ron's currently got a bunch of Christmas gift tags half-done. They fold up to about a 2"x2" square, with a picture on the outside and "To:" and "From:" on the inside. IIRC he's done 3 or 4 Santas in red ink, and a Christmas tree in green, and the insides will all be green. Now we just need a hole punch to put holes in the corners. 

Definitely working on taking orders for Victorian/Steampunk calling cards for Military History Fest. It would be cool to bring Ron's little press, but the problem is the solvents used for cleanup. Even Goo Gone/citrus oil has a certain fragrance to it. Hmm . . . Goo Gone does make "paint clean-up wipes" that could be useful. We shall see what happens.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Printing Christmas Cards and Other Natter

Since my last post, I've done very little leatherworking. I did get the belt section ordered at Windycon made and sent out.  The valise is still stalled with decorative stitching on the endpieces in progess.

Doing the books will happen really really soon now, as the end of the year, and the need to file and pay sales taxes is looming. You don't get until April 15th for sales taxes. More like January 15th.

I have printed Christmas cards. Personal blog readers will recognize these:

Both are quarter-sheet size, when folded. The one with the Santa is actually on white paper, but I didn't get the color/temperature balance corrected on the photo. The snow maiden card is on gray, and has the words on the inside. It also has bleed-through problems because of using inexpensive paper; and I was having problems getting the bottom edge of the block to print. I decided to proceed with a faded-out lower edge of image. The ink bleed-though I didn't realize was going to happen, and didn't discover until I was starting to print the words on the inside a few days later, but it isn't so bad that I'm not willing to use the cards myself. 

I'll probably resume leather production, specifically more reenactment pouches for Military History Fest, with the New Year. 

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oops, Been a While

Sorry, I didn't mean to fall off the face of the blog.  I think I'll play catch-up in bullet points (Oh nooooo! Not bullet points!), which are not necessarily in chronological order:

  • Click to embiggen pictures.
  • Found a contact for what appears to be Anime Midwest's parent organization, and poked that. That finally got me a response, but not a very useful one, essentially "we've got some apps we still need to review, don't know when we'll get around to it".  I poked again as they completely ignored the question if they had our app, and finally got an answer that they do. Feh.
  • Poked the grommet supplier, poked them again, and finally a third time. They showed up this week, a month after they were ordered. The excuses are plausible, although the delay was certainly annoying.
  • I finished the map case in time for Boar's Head. Its very nice:
  • I've started on a black (saddle) valise from the same leather. So far I only have ends, so there's not a lot to say about it. This one will be simple - one-piece body/flap, no inner rain flap, no liner. It'll be a lot like this one:
  • I also finished some pouches. Not sure if you can tell from the picture, but I discovered that the construction is good enough to hold water:
  • I was actually soaking them so they could dry stuffed with newspapers, so they'd hold their shape better, instead of wanting to bow in, because I store leather rolled good side in. The wetting and drying were successful.
  • One of the pouches I finished is based on this replica of a WWII-era Japanese small map case. Mine, which I forgot to photograph, seems taller, and I didn't add the pencil/pen pockets on the sides.
  •  I also dyed it black, because black sells, and prototypes sometimes have the odd bug that being black can help overcome.
  • The book-keeping?  Don't ask.
  • Working on a new product line, letterpress printed cards. Because on the mumble-th time of being tempted by letterpress I mentioned it to Ron and we both failed:

  • The bigger press is mine, the smaller one is Ron's. See my personal blog for lots more letterpress natter. 
  • I also have plans to print signs (prices, etc.).
  • And steampunk calling cards. 
  • Boar's Head went pretty well. We sold a little bit of everything. I don't think the map case got a lot of attention, but it wasn't displayed as well as it could have been.
  • The weather was cold for Boar's head, but clear and dry. So I didn't complain about the snow on Sunday.
  • Sunday we got new rollers for the small press with some of the Boar's Head proceeds. 
  • Regarding Boar's Head food, the lunch sounded like it was going to be pretty much inedible for Ron and I (hard to swallow/digest), as well as high-carb and pretty questionable in an overall attractiveness, but we didn't check that until Friday evening, at which point it was a little late to contact the group running the event and try to get a medical pass on the "no outside food" rule. So we went to the grocery store, stocked up on meat and cheese, and took turns going out to the truck to eat lunch.
  • The very cold weather was a bonus, as we left the food in a cooler in the truck overnight both Friday and Saturday nights with no worries, and the cooler only acting as food containment. 
  • The Pippin containment measures mentioned in the last post continue to be effective. 
  • On the other hand, last night while Ron and I were out running an errand and Robin was upstairs, he stole a jar of printing press roller cleaner. Fortunately, he was either distracted or decided it didn't smell very interesting once he got it outside, so there's only some superficial teeth marks on the outside. 
  • Plans for this weekend: Belt piece that I ordered the grommets for, printing Christmas cards, Cookie Lab. 
  • I probably should be working on pouches, but, oooh, shiny, printing!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Successes and Progress

I think we're finally making progress on some things that have been issues.
Finally got notice that I could pay for our ACen exhibitor space, and have done so. (You may have noticed a giant sucking sound from the direction of our bank). That should mean that we've finally completed the registration process. If we want to get services (pipe & drape, electrical, etc.) from the convention center, which I don't plan to, that will be handled a little closer to May. We do still need to figure out if there's anywhere nearby we can park the truck & trailer Thursday and Sunday. 

The check for our Reenactor Fest spaces has been cashed, and the check for Boar's Head is listed as "in clearing", so I'm comfortable with where we are for those events.

Still haven't heard back from Anime Midwest, but I'll give it until at least Sunday afternoon/evening, if I don't hold out for a solid week. 

Pippin got out of the yard again yesterday. Robin called me just as I'd arrived at work. As I arrived home he was down the street, and happily came when I called - he's happy to go exploring, and he's happy to come home. Ron and Robin procured 6x6 landscaping timbers, a new chain for the chain saw, and we think we've got the problem areas dealt with - except for a couple small spots Robin is supposed to deal with . . . any time now.  

Last night I tried to order some clear sheet vinyl for one or more additional new projects, but the web site in question was not playing nicely with my iWhatsit. This morning I tried again with better success. 

The pebbled black leather that arrived Thursday is very nice. I don't think it's going to last long - besides the small project I ordered it for, I'm going to make it into sporrans, belt satchel, and satchels. Still waiting on the grommets to finish the small project. Had a "duh" moment on the way to work yesterday (the first trip) about a simpler way to put dees on pouches for use as sporrans. Which means more shopping. Its been a busy month for shopping.

Not sure the piece of black leather I got a couple weeks ago is large enough for both a map case and a valise. I'm going to do the map case first, as I think it'll sell sooner. Ron suggested a slightly smaller valise, which is an option, as they don't seem to have been standardized like some accoutrements. 

I probably could/should work on the books some more, but I'm going to start the map case this afternoon. Dammit.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

About That Thing . . .

Being a Post About Things Which Are Not the Things Which Were Expected

A Map Case Type of Thing:

I still have not started the map case. While I was working on dinner(s) (1) on Monday a single-serving bottle of Moscato (a white wine made from Muscat grapes) demanded that I drink it. I decided that making critical decisions on a new project and working with sharp pointy things and somewhat expensive leather while under the influence was not the wisest idea, so I sorted paperwork. Then I attacked acorn squash with a kitchen knife, thus proving that alcohol impairs judgement. No injuries. 

Things of a Record-Keeping Nature:

As noted above, I've finally started getting the books for this year in shape. Trying a different way of sorting purchases this year, we'll see how it works out. Still have not dealt with sales since we started using the PoS software.

I'm Annoyed About a Thing:

At Windycon I was rather annoyed about our Virgin Mobile coverage, and the lack of clarity on their webpage. Alternatives seem to be thin in the ethernet. (2)

And Another Thing I'm Annoyed About, or Rather Two Related Annoying Things:

Received and returned my ACen contract, still not able to pay, as of this morning, although the message on login says my exhibitor space invoice is available. This is likely due to the contract not being processed yet, and was specifically mentioned in the e-mail exchange last week as frustrating. 

When I submitted my exhibitor/vendor application to Anime Midwest on the 31st of October, via web form, I did not receive any sort of acknowledgement or echo back of what I submitted. Therefore, on Tuesday I sent e-mail to their general contact e-mail address, and asked for confirmation my application was received, and an estimate of when I could expect acceptance or denial. Response has been the chirping of crickets.  

E-mail Things:

I've realized I will need to go through all my e-mailed purchase receipts (and probably receipts for on-line sales) and make sure they get into the books. This realization led me to break down and sort my @otternecessities.com e-mail in-box. Over 400 messages. Now I have a better chance of finding things. (4)

Pouch-Type Things:

Working on the fourth belt pouch that I took to Windycon. Still need to do various finishing bits on all the others.

Shopping for Things:

Today I bought silk and silk-wool blend fabrics. For a leatherworking project. Specifically for lining a music roll/portfolio. 

Yes, you may have noted that I sayd "fabrics" plural for a "project" singular. So shoot me, the second fabric jumped into my cart. I have other projects in mind that would warrant a fancy-schmancy fabric lining. Or maybe I want it for . . . meeeeeee!

Personal-Type Things, Since I've Been Remiss in Posting on My Personal Blog:

Yesterday Pippin escaped from the yard, by going under the fence where it doesn't quite come down to the ground, again. Robin has been assigned the task of moving (more) rocks (5) back to that side of the yard to prevent discourage further escapes. 

More Project-Type Things:

Ron and/or Robin will be doing the required woodworking to make molds to form leather sockets for small cobalt blue potion bottles by the end of this coming weekend. Expletive. 

Have to figure out a way of holding the plastic bottles I got, as they aren't as sturdy/rigid as glass bottles, and wrapping a leather strap around them tightly may result in crushing. 

See above note about shopping for lining fabric for a music roll. 

Late last week I received footman's loops for making a saddle valise.

Perhaps the leather and grommet setter I ordered Monday to make a piece commissioned at Windycon will (or has) arrived today. Also waiting for black grommets, from a different supplier. 

Need to update inventory to reflect sales at and since ACen, and figure out what we need to make in the way of pouches. I should also probably check to see if I made myself any notes. Because that would (have) be(en) S-M-R-T smart. 

Footnote Types of Things:

Dinners plural, because I made both Monday's (pot roast and acorn squash) and Tuesday's dinners (kibbeh and cucumbers & onions in yogurt) on Monday. 

At least that fall within the ill-defined matrix of price, contracts, and data allowances that we have in mind. Cricket seemed like a front-runner until I realized they don't actually have WiFi hotspots. (3)


Or they do not any more, which boils down to the same thing.

Yes, I know how nice/easy it is to search gmail, which the account in question happens to be, but some tasks are not as well suited to a google search of everything as they are to scanning a set of sorted messages. 

Rocks, of a reasonably rectangular prism-ish blocky nature, that were originally dug out of the ground along that side of the yard because they were right on the lot/fence line, and piled up on the other side of the yard.

Monday, November 11, 2013

International B-to-B Commerce

The internet has really changed business-to-business commerce, at least in my experience as a small business order.

Today I ordered button studs from Thailand and Japan. I also ordered leather and hardware from Ohio, and grommets from a manufacturer in New Jersey. I phoned in the order to Ohio (because their on-line ordering is for retail customers, and I'm wholesale), but the rest were all on-line. 

I've also looked at reproduction brass navigational equipment (box sextants) from two suppliers in India in the past. 

My mind kinda boggles at this all.  

In other news, I got the sewing done on three pouches while at Windycon, out of the four I took. My version of the Japanese map case needs to have the flap trimmed to the right length and then a tab sewn on - about 1" of sewing. All three pouches also need some finishing work, but they're substantially done.

I probably could have sewn the fourth pouch yesterday after I got home with the dogs, but we weren't that ambitious. 

Once I go make dinner for tonight and tomorrow I think I'm going to start on the new tubular map case. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Registration Frustration

Just fired off e-mail to the Anime Central Exhibit Hall (vendor) staff. To simplify to the bare essentials, their described process for registering as a vendor, choosing space, receiving the vendor contract, and remitting payment appears to be . . . not actually as described.

Headdesk, headdesk, headdesk . . . the profits will be worth this . . . the profits will be worth this . . .

Monday, November 4, 2013

Busy-Ish Weekend

Ron and I have spent the last week looking at/for pictures of various map cases and other pouches, mostly from the WWII era. We have a bunch of ideas, and one Russian example on order. 

One that we both liked is a reproduction of a Japanese map case, which isn't obviously for maps:

It's about 6" tall by 4" wide, and hangs from the belt by that brass hook. 

I decided to make my own version. I started converting the dimensions from centimeters to inches, then realized that was stupid, and set my CAD program units to centimeters. 

I've come up with a design and cut out a prototype, which is going to be dyed black, because the selling power of black will overpower any imperfections in the prototype. The belt clips I have are black, need to see if I can find some brass ones similar to the ones in the picture.

I also cut out three Civil War-era belt pouches while I was at it, also to be dyed black. If I'm really ambitious, I'll get several things ready to sew together and can work on them at Windycon (not vending there, though).

I didn't get as far as starting a new tubular map case, although I got my thinnish-wall PVC in last week and meant to. I've decided how I'm going to construct it, though. I think this version will be more successful than the first one. And black, because . . . you know.

Saturday we went to the local Tandy/Leather Factory store, with Xap, who hadn't been there before. Some dark teal heavy garment/upholstery leather followed us home, as well as some more . . . interesting colors: metallic purple-ish that called to Ron, and screaming sparkly metallic magenta. It isn't a large piece of magenta, but big enough to do several soft belt pouches, because I think it may go at anime cons. 

I also got some black button studs, a couple steampunk-ish belt buckles, and nickel hardware to use on the black map case. And then we got home, and I ordered some shorter button studs, and footman's loops. The loops are to use for making a saddle valise/portmanteau, as is the ticking material I ordered last week. Nice sturdy twill-woven blue-striped old-fashioned pillow or mattress ticking, with an honest-to-bob woven-in (not printed) stripe. That will be the lining for the valise.

Ordered a couple books on WWII German cavalry from ABE, turns out from the same seller. Today a book I ordered last weekend, "Art Nouveau Designers at The Paris Salons, Volume VI: Textiles & Leather", arrived. From a quick flip through, most of the leather is in the form of bookbinding. 

Still waiting to hear back from Anime Midwest on my initial application, and ACen on my contract/payment information. Its been over a week since I chose my ACen space, my opinion of their process is not improving. Trying not to make any judgements yet on Anime Midwest. 

The shutdown of our ArtFire store is completed, as of October 31. I think I got all of one sale on ArtFire, it definitely was not working for us.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Schedule Stuff


Still waiting for the next step (payment and accepting the dealer contract), sigh. 

Other Events

Last week I looked through various websites looking for other events to do, looking for months where we don't already have something scheduled, and looking mostly at weekend-long events - setup has gotten big enough (although we're still not sloths) that I'm questioning how many one-day events we want to keep doing.  The ones I looked at:

Con-Alt-Delete, 13-15 December, Lisle, IL
Anime Apocolypse, 27-29 December, Rockford, IL
Anime Milwaukee, 14-16 February, Milwaukee, WI
Kitsune Kon, 21-23 March, Appleton, WI
Chi-Fi, 27-30 March, Chicago (downtown), IL
No Brand Con, 25-27 April, Eau Claire, WI
Up in the Aether, mid-late May, Detroit, MI
Cog County Faire, 30 May - 1 June, Monticello, WI
Anime Midwest, 4-6 July, Rosemont, IL
Wausabi Con, mid-July?, Wausau, WI
Daisho Con, 22-24 July, Wisconsin Dells
Geek Kon, 22-24 August, Madison, WI
TeslaCon, Halloween-ish, Madison, WI
Con-Alt-Delete? Mid-December? Lisle?

And the rundown of reasons for/against

Con-Alt-Delete: Anime, 1st year, but appears to be by Anime Midwest staff, had a name change issue, wasn't sure when my surgery was going to be. Sold out now. If they run again next year I'll probably consider them. 

Anime Apocolypse: Sold out. Oops, probably would have been in the running. 

Anime Milwaukee: Too close to Military History Fest and Capricon (where we'll all be busy in the Cafe).

Kitsune Kon: Anime. Full with wait-list. I really need to keep on top of these things better. Also, a week before Chi-Fi, if they were both in the running.

Chi-Fi:  SF/Geek. Conflicted. Prices not unreasonable. Downtown Chicago does not thrill us for getting the trailer there (much less parking - would probably haul it back home), or getting there ourselves. 1st year, wondering what attendance they'll get. Xap pointed out that they have some good musicians coming, though. Currently leaning away.

No Brand Con: Anime. Seem to have their act together, prices decent, but 5 hours away.

Up in the Aether: Steampunk. Err...Detroit. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, or at least it has the reputation as an empty hulk of a once-proud city. And rather a haul. OTOH, there just isn't a lot Steampunk going on nearby, and lots of people say we should do more Steampunk stuff.  On the gripping hand, there's no information available yet for 2014.

Cog County Faire: Steampunk. Oh, how I wish it didn't start out with two strikes against it, which are being only 2 weeks after ACen, and outdoors. Right now we only have the EZ-Ups, which are only 10x10. IIRC we have no complete 10x20 garage tents any more, which are better/sturdier. The resort its at does have rooms for rent (real beds! power for CPaP/BiPaps and re-charging electronics), and the prices were decent (for the 2013 season, and I expect them to remain similar for 2014). Waffling hard on this one.

Anime Midwest: Just filled out the on-line application. It falls in the tail end of getting the MuseCon book out, but most of MuseCon's programming is lined up early enough that it shouldn't be a problem. 

Wausabi Con and Daisho Con: Anime. Too close to MuseCon.

Geek Kon: Anime, SF, and Gaming: Would we be sufficiently recovered from MuseCon? Xap's heard good things about this one . . . somewhere. Waffling, probably should decide sooner rather than later.
TeslaCon: Steampunk. Definite "YES" for 2014. Must keep an eye on their website and/or e-mail them in a week or two to ask them to let us know when vendor information for next year is ready. Will have to get to work on costuming. We'd heard of it before, but hadn't looked at it until Maneki Neko Con, and wisdom said that sandwiching it between my surgery and Windycon was a Bad Idea (if there was vendor space available, which may not have been the case).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

Windycon Publications

Wednesday I was very tired, so I stayed home. Programming Ops had let me know that the programming schedule was ready to go, so I finished up the pocket program. Which I then revised slightly on Thursday, and then uploaded to the printer. Got the program book Friday, which has already been returned for the press and bindery staff. 


Friday I intended to send off our registrations for Boar's Head and Military History Fest, but I forgot that I didn't have stamps with me. So those went out Saturday morning. Also e-mailed about a couple conventions next year, have to let Ron and Xap know what I found out.

At some stupidly early hour Saturday morning I chose our spaces for ACen next year. Suffice it to say their process continues to annoy me (although the stupidly early hour part wasn't their fault).


Finding stamps led to cleaning a bunch of Otter-ish purchase receipts from my wallet, which I scanned Friday night. And then Saturday morning I had Robin fetch me the big pile of paperwork that needs to be recorded/dealt with, and found all the receipts to scan in that were in that mess. 

That, in turn, led to sorting said paperwork. 


Saturday morning I went to The Leather Factory, and indulged myself in some (slightly pricey) leather I've been admiring for a while. My plans for it are a new map case, with a different and hopefully better design that the first one, a saddle valise/portmanteau (cylindrical/oval-ish hand/saddle luggage), and a music roll/portfolio/satchel.

After I got home and messed about with paperwork, I did some on-line shopping: I got thinnish walled PVC for the new map case, and some plastic bottles - a taller (also possibly larger diameter) cobalt blue bottle (8 oz), and a clear oval with round shoulders (12 oz):

For reference, the small cobalt blue glass bottles I have are 2 ounce, and the glass bottles are 7-8 ounce. 

Actually Making Stuff?

Nope. Didn't get that far. But I did look at/find pictures and some old patents for reference. Hoping to come the weekend (although I also have some outdoor work around the house in the plans, too).

Still need to get Ron or Robin to make me a mold for the bottom of the small glass bottles.

Also need to talk to Modelmaker about a fancy rod for this style of music (or whatever) satchel:

It occurs to me now that there's no reason that the bar-over-handle closure has to be just for a music portfolio. Now I'm thinking tablet bag. 

I think the new map case and valise/portmanteau will be probably be black. I like brown for steampunky things, but black will probably sell faster. The music case(s) will be brown, though, dammit.

Which reminds me, I need to get some striped ticking material to line the valise. An excuse for fabric shopping!  Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Windycon Publications Death March

I finished the Windycon program book Sunday and uploaded it to the printer. 

I think it was on Friday that I got half of the pocket program done. I did not do the second half, which is the programming grid, as I realized that I had/have another whole week to do it - I'll finish it up this coming weekend. And there was great rejoicing.

Back to the day-job yesterday. Ready for bed by the time I got home (and that was early), don't expect to be much better today. 

Naptime yet?

Friday, October 18, 2013

I'm Back

Survived surgery. More about that here.

Started getting edits to the Windycon program book made yesterday, need to do some more today and make the pocket program by the end of the weekend (do-able).

And that's about it for now. Wouldn't mind a nap, but not too bad, and if I nap now I suspect I wouldn't sleep tonight.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

(Insert Maniacal Laughter Here)

I spent large chunks of time last week (except for Thursday night, which I took off), and the weekend on a long, ugly slog through the Windycon program book, declaring it "mostly done and ready to be proofread, dammit" on Sunday night at about 6:00.  At which point I adjourned to a hot bath.

One advantage of subsisting mainly on protein shakes is that meal breaks don't take much time out of the slog.
 There are a few things left to do that I will probably wantonly ignore until next week, several of which are tasks involving my Graphics Minion (Ron).  

Wantonly ignoring the book for a week is standard operating procedure, I proofread better after ignoring things for a while. This is why I try to leave two weeks between declaring a book "mostly done" and getting it to the printer. And to give other proofreaders time to do their thing, and to process their input. So really, the whole surgery thing is rather nicely timed, in that it falls right into that wantonly ignoring chunk of time.

On a not-completely-unrelated note, I seem to have a herd of hissy cows wandering around the living room...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Catching Up

Maneki Neko Con could have been better, sale-wise. We're not sure if there were fewer people there, or if they were off doing more than hanging around the building atrium, or what. Friday night sales were better than I expected, but Saturday only equalled Friday because of one last sale (of an item that really needed to find a new home, so that's another plus). 
Numerically I think we sold more test tubes than tails, but I'd say tails were the must successful type of thing. We also sold two potion bottles with lots more looking. So we got proof of concept for potion bottles and test tubes (especially since I didn't have any holders for the test tubes, was just selling the tubes).
They're working on moving Maneki Neko Con to a hotel next year (the one we spent Friday night at, as it happens), I'm thinking we'll probably give at least one more go. 

One of our Klingon customers (they had a fan table) suggested that we'd do well at TeslaCon (Madison, WI), and one of the local costumers agreed. But not this year, as its between now and Windycon, and only a couple weeks after surgery. Xap was investigating their website with an eye toward next year.

Setup was, once again, made of flail. We had a triangular space, and all the new gridwall to play with. We really really need to sit down and draw up some layout ideas. Packing up was fast, we were out in about an hour, thanks in part to help from Pen, and the logistics crew who took all the gridwall out on their big cart and pushed the Things and the Grinch. Yay for Pen, and Taz and his Logistics crew!

Working on the Windycon book. The goal is to get it done except for final proofreading by the end of this weekend, as I have surgery a week from tomorrow. 

Which meant that I did Maneki Neko Con on days 2 and 3 of icky protein shake starvation diet. Ron and Xap did most of the customer interaction, because low blood sugar is not good for my attitude. And I succeeded in staying nice for the customers. 

But I digressed. The Windycon book is being the Windycon book. Tuesday night I realized I was pretty much at page count, with about 10 pages of material to add. Ron suggested I e-mail the chair and co-chair. After sleeping on it, I did. The solutions were, in retrospect, fairly obvious, and mostly carried out last night (change to a couple more space-saving fonts, do additional compressional things, blah blah blah). Apparently I just needed someone else to make the suggestions to me this time around.  

Need to get our registration in for Boar's Head, which is the next event I expect we'll be at.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Keeping Busy, Mostly

The cartridge pouch is done, except for two things. The first is punching the hole in the tab which holds it closed, a 2-minute job, max. The other is slightly more complex. The pattern calls for the side pieces being double layered, but when I cut it out, I only cut out one of each side piece, and assembled it that way. All the photos of originals show doubled side pieces, so the plan is to cut new ones, trim as necessary to get a good fit, and glue them in. 

After my previous post I did more searching, and found another source for reproduction black buckles. And, it turns out, they specify their 7/8" buckles as for cartridge pouches. So my gut was right that 3/4" buckles looked small. Waiting for those to come in.

At MuseCon I was working on some very small reproduction (cap) pouches, which I thought I'd misplaced, along with the parts for a smaller belt-only pistol cartridge pouch. Saturday I found them, on the sewing machine table, trying to hide behind a box flap. I feel so S-M-R-T smart.

I decided to order more tails for Maneki Neko Con, including some less expensive ones (fox and raccoon). Those should be delivered today. They probably won't arrive until about the time we get home anyway, but I warned Robin so that he can keep the box out of easy dog access range, on the chance it arrives earlier than expected.

Saturday I tagged all the other tails and the potion bottles, and have notes to update inventory. Pippin was very good, only sniffing a lot, but that doesn't mean I trust him. 

Saturday morning Ron, Robin, and Marmaduke re-packed the trailer, with all the new gridwall and accessories, as well as everything that usually lives in Thing2, which had been in the basement since we used Thing2 at MuseCon.

Tagging bottles and tails Saturday was by way of taking a break from working on the computer - Friday night was the main content deadline for the Windycon program book, and I was trying to get a good chunk of it done this weekend. I didn't get as much accomplished as I'd hoped to, but probably as much as I is/was reasonable to expect. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Progress, but Not Quite Planned

I had been sorta-kinda planning on working on more potion vial (test tube) carriers and/or a bandolier this weekend, as well as a way to put the little cobalt blue bottles on a belt.  

Didn't quite happen.  The grommets and grommet sets I ordered hadn't arrived (not entirely surprisingly), so I didn't get as far as poking at the bandolier.  I was going to pick up drill bits Friday evening for the bottle project, but on-line shopping meant that I Ron picked them up for me, and for various reasons we didn't get to doing anything with them Saturday morning. 

Saturday afternoon we went to a friend's, where she and Ron worked on the MuseCon website, and I worked on a cartridge pouch.Sunday I worked on the cartridge pouch some more, and Ron had fun with stained glass. 

Yesterday Ron had picked up the rest of the narrow gridwall we'd ordered, which had come in to the supplier much earlier than I expected (not that I'm complaining, I thought they wouldn't be in until after Maneki Neko Con). Now we have a recycling wheelie bin full of tall cardboard boxes, and front entry full of of tables and gridwall.

And yesterday the self-centering punches I ordered (and ordered and ordered) last week had arrived. The small set starts at 1/4" and goes up to 1" in diameter. The set with the big red handle goes from 1-1/8" up to 1-1/2". 

The small set is in a plastic case with nubs to hold things in place. The big set is in foam in a cardboard box. A larger-than-expected box, but the handle is bigger than expected, too. I need to find a case of some kind for it, hopefully a little smaller than the box it came in. Or the same size would be ok, if I could also work in the small set. We'll see.

Worked on the cartridge pouch yesterday, at this point there's one side of one side piece to sew on (which you can't really see here), and the tab to hold the outer flap shut.

I hadn't quite realized how much work there is in one of these, as Ron had done all the marking, stitching holes, and assembly on the ones we'd made previously. That would be why we charge $90 for them. 

I tried to order more of the black buckles (which hold the shoulder strap) that you can kind of see on the bottom of the cartridge pouch yesterday. They're replicas of ones from the Civil War, an are nice, but the supplier is out of them either again or still.

The pattern calls for 3/4" buckles, and the ones I used on this pouch were 7/8", as I'd decided the 1/8" was Plenty Close Enough, Thanks. I can get non-replica black roller buckles in 1" from one of my more usual suppliers, and I suspect the only significant difference is the weight of the tongue. I was looking at pictures yesterday, and I think I can
justify, at least to myself, going to 1" buckles. In fact, 3/4" looks like it would be on the small side. I just haven't quite convinced myself to do it. Maybe I'll exercise my Google-Fu one more time before I decide.

If nothing else, it would distract me from the fact that I've been fasting since 8:30-ish this morning, until after an ultrasound at 4:15 this afternoon. Yes, I know, that's not really a very long time, but OTOH, low blood sugar makes me cranky. And I have a Windycon meeting tonight. Yes, Ron is making sure I get fed between the ultrasound and the meeting. He doesn't want me arrested for murder . . .

Friday, September 6, 2013

Potion Vials

I have made another new thing - a prototype holder for potion vials (aka test tubes):

Unlike the potion bottles, this prototype has/had some issues.

It started out with just the upper strap, and the bottom shelf was supposed to be a pocket. Unfortunately, I made the pocket too shallow, and it flops open. Also, if the back flexes at all, the tubes can go right on past the shelf, and they have no lip to catch on the upper loop.

The last loop on the left of the lower strap is not in line with the rest of that strap. Not sure what happened there. 

The loops are snug enough that the whole lower pocket/shelf idea is probably unnecessary, and I'll probably just go with two sets of loops. I like the look of the wider upper one, I'll probably go with that.  And the corners will probably end up rounded off. Not sure if I want to stick with rivets for the belt loops, or go with sewing. 

Crunching the numbers, a piece like this for holding 5 vials would probably be $15. The test tubes, with nice black rubber stoppers, would be $1 each, either for the colored ones or for clear ones. Smaller tubes (not shown) would be $0.75, again with stoppers.

I used the slightly frosted translucent tubes for test-fitting, as they were kind of an "oops" purchase - I meant to get the transparent ones, but they weren't worth the cost/bother of sending back. Debating if I want to knock some off the price for those, which would come with the plastic stoppers shown for the larger sizes. I'm thinking $0.80 for the larger size, and $0.60 for the smaller, which I don't have stoppers for.

The next new project is a holder for small potion bottles - I have some very pretty small cobalt blue glass bottles with screw caps (root root root . . . yes, I do have a picture): 

These are 2-ounce bottles, about an inch and a half in diameter. (The larger clear glass square bottles I did over the weekend are 7 ounce and the spherical and cylindrical ones are 8.5 ounce). 

I think for the little cobalt blue bottles will have one strap, a bottom socket, and either a belt loop or a belt clip - I'm inclined toward the belt clip just for something different. 

Robin and I have been consulting on how to do a bottom socket, probably stopping at a woodworking store on the way home tonight as part of that project. Ron also offered input.

Getting out the test tubes stimulated Robin's creativity, he was coming up with a design for a pouch to hold his share of the test tube stash. I think I understand what he's planning, but this morning I asked him to cut the parts out of paper. Not that his drawings aren't clear, but I'd just be more comfortable seeing a mock-up. Contra-wise, he'd probably have similar issues visualizing from one of my drawings: your own drawings are always easier to understand that someone else's. 

Yesterday I tried for the third time to order a large set of self-centering punches, as the place I ordered from Wednesday night does not actually have them in stock, and I wouldn't get them for 4-6 weeks. I'm not entirely confident in this place, as I still don't have an e-mail confirmation/tracking number, over 24 hours after my phone order. I'll be calling them this afternoon to see what's up.  If this place fails I'll probably suck it up and pay more than I want to/what the punches were going for a few months ago.

OTOH, I do have the invoice for the grommets and grommet sets I ordered yesterday from one of my usual suppliers. Those are for possible use in a bandolier project. More natter about that later, I think I've gone on long enough at this point.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Bottles

I made another seven potion bottles yesterday: All three shapes in golden brown, and spheres and cylinders in red brown and chocolate brown.  I've got three more bottles, one of each shape left, I'm thinking of doing them with embossed straps around the bodies.

This set of bottles went fairly quickly, even though laying out the parts is a little fussy. If they sell well I need to make templates for the various parts, which would speed up layout.  

The bottles don't stand up nicely, because of the lump created where all the straps come together on the bottom. I may switch to attaching each strap separately to a bottom piece, so they'll sit better on a table. This set I'll probably display hanging, so their slightly drunken-looking leaning doesn't detract, since they are made to wear on a belt. 

Interestingly, although the square bottle is the shortest of the lot, that fourth side/strap means that its also the most expensive. Looks like prices will be $15 for the spherical bottle, $16 for the cylinder, and $17 for the square.

Did some shopping today: replacing a couple of undersized end punches that I've been grumbling about for several years, blades for my rotary cutter (rusted after Saturday night's shower), self-centering punches so I can make backing discs for conchos, a new on-off switch for the sewing machine, and some other odds and ends. 

I've been mulling over how to do cartridge loops or whatever for test tubes, but haven't decided on anything yet. They don't have an upper lip, so whatever I do has to have a provision to keep them from falling/being pushed all the way through.  I've also had ideas for a cartridge box type arrangement, which would be a larger/more expensive option.  Machine-sewing would be nice, or rivets.

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Things Made!

Saturday morning, with much help from Robin, I got the dining room cleaned! In the process, I made a bigger mess out of it, which spilled out into the kitchen. Mid-way through the process I had to get moral support from Ron, who pointed out that making a bigger mess is normal for cleaning up in here. 

Sunday morning I put a bunch of tools and hardware away that I'd piled up while cleaning. That wasn't too big a job, and didn't take too long.

Then I started rooting through the big bag of straps. First I pulled some that are the right width for belt loops, and too short for binding for belt satchels, etc. Those are set aside for use next time I need to make a batch of belt loops. 

Then I pulled out straps to make "Potion Bottles". Sorting, measuring, note-taking, measuring, note-taking, measuring, note-taking, splitting leather down, going out to Menard's to replace my square, measuring, cutting, measuring, later, I had the first one made. At first I thought I'd gotten the spacing on one thing wrong, but once I finished it, we decided I'd gotten it right. Then I made two more:

I did them with black leather because, as Ron pointed out, black sells. 

I did get the length of one piece wrong - the collars that go around the neck of the bottle. The length I originally meant to cut it would have been too short to sew it up easily, but on the first bottle I mis-cut it long, and went with it from there on. I also meant to have the seam on the collar on the spherical bottle back by the belt loop like the others, but that's minor. 

The new-ish press makes setting rivets very easy (not that it was difficult before), and much quieter. 

Next up, doing some more bottles. I'm going to do a set in one or more shades of brown, then I'm thinking of having Ron emboss and dye/antique the straps for another pass. Not sure about doing the collars. I'll probably do the belt loops, too, as that just means doing a bit more of a long strap. 

Slightly surprised that my missing square hasn't shown up yet. The new one was less than $5, so I wouldn't have bothered taking it back even if the old one had greeted us at the door. Maybe its waiting to see if the new one rusts after being poured on last night - I forgot to shut the dining room window when I was done working for the night, and the storm last night was blowing right in. OTOH, the new square is painted, so so I don't expect it to be an issue (and I dried it off). 

Friday, August 30, 2013


Toshiba is nice, and gives Ron both Friday and Monday off for Labor day.  This morning I realized that this means he could go down to Specialty Store Services in DesPlaines and get the additional gridwall we've been discussing since ACen. They don't necessarily have the best prices, but we don't have to pay shipping, which would probably be extra-expensive since it would be to a residential address. I didn't sit down and run the numbers exactly last time I was shopping for gridwall, but I'm pretty sure the price differential will wash out with shipping from the cheaper suppliers.

I opened up the bank account to confirm that we could afford to buy gridwall today, blinked a couple times, and told Ron that it would be no problem. As the result of negotiations between the State and the unions, I'd gotten a couple deposits that will cover it.

We went through the on-line catalog, and decided on another four 2' x 6' sections of gridwall, a dozen 1' x 5' sections (1' x 6' doesn't seem to be available), a couple waterfall hooks, some corner shelves, scanner hooks, and acrylic brochure displays. We usually run out of gridwall before we run out of the 2' wide shelves we use, so we didn't order any more.

That brings us up to 12 pieces of 2' x 6' gridwall, for a total of 24 linear feet if we stretched it out (to display belts we use quarter-circle hangrails). With the added 1' wide gridwall, I'm wondering if we can reduce the number of tables we use.

The plan is that the 1' gridwall will stick out from the main 2' gridwall walls, like so:

Then, the hooks go on the 1' sections, and are long enough that they can hold a belt pouch through both loops. We got "scanner hooks", which have a secondary hook, in the hope that they'll keep the pouches from rotating too much. We'll probably need more hooks than we got today, but we're not sure which type will work best, and hooks are small enough to ship economically.  

The corner shelves are triangular sections of gridwall that hook into the corner formed by two pieces of 2' gridwall. 

The brochure displays are for MuseCon flyers. Because we're like that. Now I need to make some 2014 flyers before Maneki Neko Con.

Unfortunately, we couldn't get all the 1' gridwall we planned on, only three sections. More should be available some time next month. It would be really nice if we could get it by Maneki Neko Con, so we can give everything a good test-run before the bigger events next year (Military History Fest, ACen), but if it doesn't it doesn't. 

This morning was cool enough that I was thinking maybe I could get in and start working on the dining room in the mornings this weekend. I'm feeling the bug to get things made, with an event coming up. Unfortunately, nobody can clean that room for me, at most Ron or Robin can move stuff around as I direct. We'll see if it actually happens or not.

In other shopping news, I just remembered, the 300 yards of cotton twill tape I ordered for tails arrived a couple days ago. Each roll (100 yard roll each of black, off-white, and white) is about 3/4" thick by maybe 9" in diameter. They won't sit on the shelf where I've been keeping the few yards I got from the local fabric store rolled up on an old lace spool, but they won't be a problem to store. I had no idea how big they'd be, and was a little worried.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Schedule and I am Opinionated

Fox Hunt, an SCA event, is coming up on September 7th. Its at Plowman's Park in Big Rock, which is a nice site and not too far away. We'd probably do well at it. But my calendar looks like an ink explosion (although removing Robin's class schedule from it helps), particularly the weeks bracketing Fox Hunt. So we're not going. Ron says I'm not a wimp.

Got the Windycon progress report uploaded to the printer Sunday night, once the backup sucking  CPU cycles finished. There was some communications flail in some related issues, but I think it should be going out Real Soon Now. Which, carp carp carp, reminds me that I never sent the text to the webmaster to make a web page version.  Done. And the first/main deadline for program book content is careening at us (13 Sept.).

Its going to be warm enough this weekend that I don't forsee getting the dining room clean. I will, however, be starting the ACen exhibitor registration process on Sunday. Two spaces! Which will cost more than one space this year (but not double - time-tiered pricing), but less than we grossed this year. I think it'll be worth it. I hope. No, I think. We waffled, but I have capital-D Decided.

But on to the real point of my post today, which I can't seem to reduce down to one pithy bit.

This morning I was looking at a fairly well known crafty/creativity blog, where the blogger posted pictures of a Disney-character-themed steampunk outfit, including a belt pouch she'd made and antiqued. In part by toasting it in the oven.

I did not, quite, scream out loud. I did leave what I hope was a polite non-critical comment as to why this is not a good method for something like a belt pouch (toasting=brittle leather), and suggested that there are many sources out there for other techniques.  (If you suspect you know which blog, mine comment  is in the first 40, and is my Blogger ID, which is what I post under here).

Now, the blogger in question has experienced a lot of the crap that well-known female bloggers are wont to get, as well as personal issues, so I didn't want to be harsh in my comment, and didn't want to leave a trackback to here, which is why there's no link, as her work isn't really what I apparently want to vent about. Her commentariat seems to be very much of the rah-rah-everything-ish-great variety, which makes it just a little more challenging to not sound like a trollish jerk.

The blogger is, IIRC, in her 20s, maybe early 30s. I suspect that this is relevant. She and I may be technically of the same generation, but I think she's enough younger than me to really not have experienced the pre-Google world.

Now, the blogger in question is pretty new to leatherworking. She's also very skilled at some arts/crafts. She does some things that are amazing. She may have applied the technique of aging a piece be toasting it in the oven from some other field. But I have this niggling suspicion that she got the idea from the web.

The web has many wonderful wonderful things on it. It also has deep festering sewers of stupidity. There certainly have been many many books printed that are festering sewers of stupidity, but OTOH, art/craft technique books, especially the leatherworking ones, are usually decent. Publishers of leatherworking books have often been tools/materials suppliers, and an unhappy customer is a lost customer, and lost business.

The internet is wide-open wild wild west territory. Any opinionated goob can put up a blog focused on leatherworking, and if their work looks decent and they write with some basic skill, there's no editor to do the whole editorial input thing like you (HOPEFULLY) get in a book.

And the internet seems to be taking over the instructional market in a big way. I've bought a lot electronic knitting patterns than paper ones in the last year. We've started buying leatherworking books as PDFs that we own as paper copies - Tandy has created the Leathercraft Library with scanned copies of a lot of their books.

But those PDFs cost money, and the other thing that seems to have grown with the rise of internet craft instruction is the drive for freeeeeee information (which is another rant for another day). 

The problem is compounded in leatherworking when people ignore books that are older - a lot of the basic leatherworking books we use are 20+ years old. Yeah, they look dated, but the techniques are solid. Hand-stitching, for example, has been done pretty much the same way for centuries, substituting metal needles for boar bristles, and adding in the convenience of pre-waxed thread.

There's several leatherworking books on the market currently that I haven't bought because there's no new techniques in them, and all the example projects make me say "ewww" ("fashionable" is not a big word in my vocabulary, guilty guilty guilty). OTOH, I have some books from, IIRC, the 1920s and earlier that include chemical recipes that make me cringe.  So no, old does not automatically mean good, either. But if you substitute in modern dyes and finishes, the basic techniques are valid.

I guess my point is that you have to be review internet sources with a more critical mind, because the author may be talking out of their hat, or neglecting to tell you that X is great in Y situation, but has A and B as site effects, because there's no editor to question them. And remember that the internet doesn't hold all the world's knowledge. Those (old) books of techniques? Still useful. They didn't suddenly go out of date just because they aren't on-line.

Monday, August 26, 2013

More Tails

I still haven't cleaned the work room. Saturday was sucked up by MuseCon and Windycon business, and yesterday was too warm. 

Home today because of having the truck in the shop. I've been alternating between working on knitting and sewing swivels on tails. I've gotten 8 out of a dozen tails done. And had both dogs snuggling at different times. Between the tails and the dogs I'm covered in fur. Pippin has been very good about the tails - he's sniffed, and he has to at least turn and look every time I open the bin, but hasn't done any more than that.

Today is supposed to be hotter than yesterday, so cleaning is not going to get done today, either.

Saturday morning I sat down to work on the Windycon progress report, and discovered that I hadn't set up my style sheet (my term) - the document where I define all my text styles. That took a bit, but got it pretty much done before the MuseCon meeting. I finished up the progress report yesterday about 11 am, did a couple-three editing passes with Bill and Angela, and once a backup that was sucking serious CPU cycles was done, I uploaded it to the printer last night.

(if you read my personal blog, I did indeed copy and paste a good chunk of this post from it)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Again?

Still haven't cleaned the work/dining room.  

Got the new bins for the Thing, but still have not re-packed the Thing.

Ordered a dozen more tails, which brought us up to two dozen needing swivels.  Saturday I sewed swivels onto a half-dozen, sent one home with Wash, and  yesterday I did another half-dozen. This is progress - I'm working on something!  And I think I'm getting faster at sewing swivels onto tails.

Thinking of ordering another batch of tails. The most recent batch were all pale, we could use some more darker ones.

Windycon publications work is ramping up. Saturday and/or Sunday I'll be creating a progress report, and then in a couple-three weeks is the first program book deadline.

In scheduling considerations, I've pretty much decided that we'll be doing Boar's Head in December, and not a brand-shiny-new anime con that's being held in Lisle. They're on consecutive weekends, so doing both would be too much. The convention recently had some identity issues that I'm concerned would hurt their projected attendance, and is pricey. Boar's Head, OTOH, is usually good, and we haven't done an SCA event in a while. So we'll stick with the known quantity.