Friday, March 29, 2013

Small Project Progress

The custom order has left the building. Last night we finished the belt (punch holes, cut to length), and it went out in today's mail.

The new press/setter arrived yesterday. Ron is very happy with it. For bonus happy points, it will use the same dies as our old one. 

Ron's made two trips to Leather Factory today. This morning he went and got another embossing die, which turned out to not fit our machine. This afternoon he went back and exchanged it for one that does fit (makes me wonder if the first one would fit their machine, or if it was a quality control failure). 

I suggested putting the embossing dies in the tool drawer with the cutting dies, but Ron  asked to stop and get a tackle-ish box like the ones we got for conchos, as there's not as much room as I was thinking in the drawer. 

Some of you may recall the knotwork design Ron has tattooed on his arm, which we refer to as "'Shrooms". Ron would like to get it done on embossing roll. The original paper copy is hiding, so I've re-drawn it, so Ron can scan it then trace it in Illustrator. 

Been lacing around the flaps for hanging pouches this week during my lunch breaks. The current roll of lace is shedding gobs of little-bitty black bits, and I had a meeting yesterday afternoon. But I'd thought ahead and worn a black shirt. 

When I was at the Leather Factory Wednesday I got a buckle, loop, and tip set with a celtic design, which has a matching concho. Instead of putting the hardware out for sale, I've decided to emboss a belt blank with the celtic design I picked up on the same trip, and put the belt buckle, etc. on it. 

Last night Ron was fooling around with the embosser making wristbands (not-girly bracelets), which is how he noticed we're low on snaps. So we may have some of those for sale. No pictures yet, though.

The stitched samples (white thread made black with black wax and black thread with beeswax) went to VS on Wednesday. The only way they could be told apart was that the white and black threads are slightly different weights. I've pretty much decided to just use black thread, but I promise a more complete discussion of the subject Real Soon Now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Picture Time!

There should have been a picture of an embossing machine in Monday's post, but the trolls under the ethernet bridge seem to have eaten it.  How odd.

The embossing machine arrived yesterday. By the time I got home Ron had it temporarily screwed to a section of 2x8, for clamping into the jaws of a Workmate. A quick trip to the hardware store, a little drilling and cursing at recalcitrant nuts, and it was permanently mounted (I don't recommend clicking to embiggen this one, unless you want to see how bad the focus is):

Here's some scraps we were playing with:

On the way home from work I detoured to the Leather Factory store and picked up a couple more embossing rolls - one celtic knotwork, and one that looks like a strand of rope. I also have another one on order, with some single creasing rolls to stack on either side of one of the patterned rolls, like we did with multiple passes with a single roll in the top sample. The embosser came with two single rolls, but they're different widths; I ordered one more of each width, so we have a pair of each.

Tonight I finished the custom hanging pouch for the Etsy order I mentioned. Here it is with skirt hikes and the belt:

Here's Pippin telling me to quit messing around taking pictures and hand over his morning meds/treat:

Here's two pairs of skirt hikes, large and small rings:

And here's Pippin stubbornly insisting there's room on the couch for him, too (Sunday afternoon), while I sit on the floor cutting leather for hanging pouch backs:


Monday, March 25, 2013

Hear That?

Listen, can you hear it? That's the sound of money being spent.

We, in the form of Otter Necessities, are doing our part in encouraging the economy. 

Once upon a time we looked at an embossing machine that Tandy carried. They currently carry a different one, but the machine they used to carry is still available made by the company I've bought a couple-three cutting dies from, as it happens. I've also been drooling over a machine that another supplier carries that creases (puts grooves along the edges of) belts and straps.  Waffle waffle waffle.

This weekend the waffle event horizon collapsed and today I ordered the embossing machine, which will also do creasing. 

I also ordered a hand setting machine for snaps, rivets, etc. 

We have a setter, but it really should be mounted on a stand and be operated by a foot press - the handle points toward the back, downward, and is fairly short. The new one is a better design. 

I think the triggering event for the purchase of the embosser, besides having available fundage from our tax return, was a request by an Etsy customer. We'd been discussing a hanging belt pouch and belt, and she asked if we made "skirt hikes". I followed the link she provided, and then responded that ya, you betcha, we can!  

Here's a version from an Amazon seller. 

The version the customer was looking at was a plain narrow strap with two round rings, so that's what I made. And being feeelthy merchant scum (tm), I made some more to sell. How does this lead to purchasing an embossing machine?  Because if we had one, we could make fancy-schmancy ones with a pattern embossed on them. Or creased borders. And charge extra for them, being feeelthy merchant scum and all.

Meanwhile, the side of my brain that has been looking at trying to make fairly accurate Civil War-era accoutrements clutched its pearls and hyperventilated about modern farby wench gear.  It got a pat on the head and sympathetic noises.

Yesterday I cut out and worked on a custom hanging pouch for the customer. While I was out it, I cut out some more hanging pouches, which we could use. I, um, got a little carried away. I've got parts for 4 small and 2 large ones, besides the customer's.  But assembly-line production works so well!

Needless to say, I spent a good chunk of yesterday in the dining room. Pippin, being my dog, kept me company.

While I was working on pouches, Ron made got the ratcheting tie-down straps I'd bought parts and strapping for made/modified (about half the hardware came from straps we'd bought at various times, that were less-than ideal lengths, thin floppy annoying webbing, or both). 

I need to go to Cabela's and get more ammunition cans for the sock yarn. Right now the yarn is in jumbo zippy bags (to keep the dogs, and their hair, out of it). I was thinking I needed another collapsible fabric bin to display it in, but I'm waffling about display options, and holding off.  I also need to see if I can find a basic sock pattern, either to sell or give away. The supplier I bought the laceweight yarn from has patterns, and my original plan was to get sock patterns with sock yarn from there, but then I went and bought my MIL's sock yarn. Oops. Have to check my minimum order requirement and what I've sold/need to replace in laceweight yarn.

To go with the yarn, last week I ordered a bunch more knitting needles - I'll have bamboo needles in US sizes 0 through 10, in 8" double points, and 16" and 32" circulars, and aluminum double points in an oddball size that works out to, IIRC, US size 2.5.  I may need one more of the little mesh cubes, so I have one for double-points and one for each length circular, but that's minor.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tote Bag and Other Accomplishments

Rewinding almost a week, between the weather and bad attitude, I took a sanity day on Tuesday.

I meant to work on something-or-other, but spent a whack of time cleaning up data. I didn't delete a lot, but I think its somewhat more rationally organized. 

Other accomplishments Tuesday were getting the sales from Military History Fest actually recorded in the books, and making test pieces for the whole black thread vs. white-thread-with-black-wax question.

Which reminds me, while I was out of the house taking Robin to school, Pippin decided to chew on the tube containing the oil paint stick, which I'd decided was too soft and messy to be useful in waxing thread. He decided it was icky and no fun to chew on. How do I know Pippin was the guilty party? The black oil paint smear on his leg. 

I got the stitching done on the test pieces, finally finishing yesterday, now to carry them around for a few days. More about the whole process when that's done.

Saturday I grumbled about the weather's continuing non-cooperation with taking parts outside to dye black.  

Then I cut out a bunch of little percussion cap pouches. I'd been waffling on how many to make, which I decided by starting out with the strip I'd cut for gussets. I got 5 gussets out of it, so I cut out 5 pouches.

Then I moved on to cutting out a fabric bag to carry the new concho boxes, had to leave for a MuseCon meeting, then didn't work on much more after that. 

Yesterday, after Ron left for a trip to Michigan, I gave up on waiting for the weather, got Robin to set up tables and the small spray booth (which has an exhaust fan, which we installed a Y in the dryer duct for), and got his help dyeing lots and lots of parts black. 

Next, I finished the bag, shown here:

The fabric is denim, bought ages ago, I think to make hakama for Robin. There wasn't enough to make a pair of adult-sized hakama (as no one in our family is short and twiggy), so I apppropriated some of it for this project. 

I cut a piece the right width for the main body from the larger piece of fabric, then realized that the piece was large enough to make the body of the bag two layers. The demin is a little lighter/softer than duck, so I went ahead and made the bag two layers thick. The handles are strips, folded in quarters (edges in). They're a little long, because I used strips the full width of the fabric, so the ends of the strips are the selvedge edges of the fabric, and thus won't ravel. 

I keep thinking the bag is "gaily striped", because I've been reading 19th century young-adult-ish literature lately, and that's the kind of description I think they'd use for it. But I digress.  The bag took longer to assemble than I expected, mostly because of fussing about folding and pressing the handle strips. And I kept having to stop and refill the bobbin (sewed it on the big machine).  

Tonight I need to bring all the dyed parts upstairs and re-sort the pieces back into their zippy bags. The two different rifle cartridge pouches and a pistol cartridge pouch have a lot of similar-looking pieces. We kept them sorted while dyeing and laying them out on foil-covered cookie sheets to dry, so I just have to put each set of pieces in the right bag. 

Ron made a stop at his parents house yesterday, and shortly before he got there suggested I look at what we have and what we want of his mom's knitting patterns. I sent a list, and a little later he called back, and asked about sock yarn. Ron had mentioned that I wanted to start carrying sock yarn, and she offered us a deal on some she had. I think we might be cleaning out her stock. I had been mentally allocating the proceeds from CodCon to more yarn, now it looks like I'll have sock yarn, and new patterns, for CodCon...

...which means I need to get more knitting needles, in appropriate sizes (I started out with just the sizes needed for the lace patterns we had), and see about finding a basic sock pattern. 

I have also declared that before CodCon we will be modifying/making straps for the trailer, dammit. Ron has agreed, I think we'll do those this coming weekend.

Monday, March 11, 2013

. . . The Rest of the Weekend

Thread- and wax-related messing about actually took up relatively little of the weekend, so what else did I do?

Saturday morning I packed up a pouch that was purchased via Etsy while I was off at the annual floodplain manager's conference. In the process of doing the postage, I signed up for Etsy's "Direct Checkout" program, which is a PayPal-like setup for people to pay by credit card, for a fee, of course. If you sign up for it, you can generate shipping labels from within Etsy's system, even if the purchase was not made with Direct Checkout.

Saturday afternoon I made a price list for conchos, with pictures. I had to go through the three suppliers I get conchos from and find the ones I have, and I also chose ones I might decide to carry. Get images, create spreadsheet, drop images in spreadsheet, go back and edit a bunch of images, finish spreadsheet, export to PDF, export to PDF again a different way, edit spreadsheet, export, possibly repeat edit/export cycle, until done.

Next step is to stamp letter codes by all the conchos on the display strip, and make a new hang tag that has the price for each code. One of the edit/export cycles was to put the letter codes on the spreadsheet. 

I meant to finish up the concho-pricing project on Sunday, but it didn't happen. We went do Dick Blick for black waxy stuff, did personal errands, then went to Dick's Sporting Goods, to look for a tackle box to store conchos in. 

I was looking at a Plano box that holds smaller, flat boxes, like this one, but there's a lot of not-very-useful or flat out dead space in it. I like the flat Plano boxes (I keep tools in several, and they've held up quite well, other than the time they were crushed by Thing 1 shifting in a rental trailer), so I decided to go with those and a tote bag.

But, Dick's didn't have Plano boxes in a bag, only some other brand. Nor did they have individual boxes the size I wanted. Ron wisely counseled not buying a bag with planning to replace the boxes, so we went to Cabela's. There we found boxes we like (good hinges), in the size I wanted (this style, not necessarily this size). They didn't have any in bags, but I don't want a bag with lots of extra pockets, so I'll make one myself, out of either leather or canvas. Or maybe we can fit them into Thing 2. (Ron is probably laughing right about now) Four boxes followed us home, which should be plenty.

It was wet and rainy all afternoon/evening, so I didn't ask Robin to go spelunking in the trailer in Thing 2 for conchos. If we don't get conchos into the tackle boxes before the next event, we can do it at the next event (CodCon, IIRC). I do need to measure the stack of boxes so I can make a bag. Not sure if its going to be leather or canvas. 

Because it was wet and icky not just yesterday afternoon, but all weekend, I haven't gotten cartridge box parts dyed black. I considered doing it in the basement yesterday afternoon, but lacked sufficient motivation.

After lunch yesterday I sat down at the computer, found websites for custom stamp manufacturers, and was going to come up with a design. However, finding the outline-only Illustrator file of our Otter logo turned out to be non-trivial.

That searched turned into another project, in which Ron did a search for all the Illustrator files on the computer and bank of hard drives, determined which were the latest copies, and copied all of those to one central location. Note to self, make sure that that location is being backed up regularly. After that, Ron went through and updated the set of images I use for MuseCon, so all of those are in one place (which was the original intent, but edits and additions have happened over time). 

Ron did, in the process, find the image I'd been looking for. So maybe this week I can get a maker's stamp designed. I also need to go through and clean up my MuseCon and other design directories, there is a lot of unnecessary duplication of files in them. I can also probably get rid of a lot of stuff that I did for the Graphic Design courses I took at Harper. Not that we're short of drive space, it can just be challenging to find the stuff you want in all the cruft.

Return to Research

Back to the research I've been doing on Civil War-era cartridge pouches, specifically on thread color and waxes.

The two books I'd been waiting for (one on Indian War-era cartridge boxes and other accoutrements, another on US Military belts in general) arrived Friday. I've flipped through them, but not started reading. Last night I made space on one of the bookshelves, and put them away, with other military-ish leather-ish books I have (German WWII Cavalry, US military saddles, etc.). 

Circling back to the thread color issue, I'd previously said I wasn't going to try making my own black sticky wax. However, the idea wouldn't quite get out of my mind. The recipes for black  wax are:

"9 [parts] rosin, 6 pitch, 6 beeswax, 1 tallow. To be mixed together and poured into water; then worked with the hands until it becomes soft and pliable." page 175, Ordnance Manual, pub. By J.B. Lippincott & Co. Philadelphia, PA, 1861

"Pitch, 2 lb. ; resin, 2-1/2 lb. seal oil, one pennyworth. In winter add 2 lb. of resin instead of 2-1/2 lb., and never more than of the oil until the stiffness of the wax has been tested

"(b) Pitch, 1 lb. ; resin, 1 lb. ; and linseed oil, one pennyworth.

"The exact amount of oil to be used in both of the above recipes depends on the season and the weather. A little lampblack may be well mixed in when the wax is required very black. Always melt the pitch and resin together, and then add the oil. Afterwards pour the mixture into cold water, and knead and pull it until it floats. Try a small piece first,- to ascertain whether there is sufficient oil, and likewise after pulling to see whether it floats." Saddlery and Harness-Making Paul N. Hasluck, ed.
J.A. Allen and Company, Ltd., London, 1904, available as a modern reprint.

If you point yourself to Wikipedia and do a little vocabulary-checking, pitch and resin can be synonyms, or not. In this case, I'm going with the interpretation that "pitch" refers to a the petroleum-derived sticky stuff, and "resin" to the plant-derived sticky stuff. Exercising my Google-Fu, the common source for petroleum pitch for hobbyists is to beg some tar from roofers. For plant resin/pitch, Stockholm Tar, which is used by boatbuilders and some horse-owners (on hooves). 

Seal oil is oil from seals. Not going there. Linseed oil is, I think, common enough I'm not going to natter any more about it.

I also looked up lampblack. Oh, look, its the same thing as carbon black pigment. Hmm. I wonder if I could buy a reasonably small amount of lamblack/carbon black at Dick Blick and see how adding just that to beeswax works...

...I can't tell you that. Because I found R&F brand pigment sticks, in "Lamp Black" and "Intense Carbon Black", basically oil paint in a stick. Ingredients: " natural wax, linseed oil, and pigment" I followed a link to the material spec. sheet on drying times, etc., and saw that it also had information on their encaustic paint. Think think, think think think. Wait, isn't encaustic done with wax? Yes, it is

Dick Blick also carries the encaustic media, ingredients: "pigment, pure beeswax, and damar resin" in "Intense Carbon Black".  Damar gum/resin is plant-derived.

Yesterday we went to Dick Blick, and I got one of the oil sticks and one of the blocks of encaustic media. As I noted above, the oil sticks have a very long dry time, and I suspect are pretty soft/sticky, they come wrapped in plastic inside a tube. The encaustic media feels like a chunk of plastic, in a plastic wrapper. Hopefully one (or both) will work for waxing thread. The oil stick could be too soft/sticky/messy, and the encaustic media too brittle.

At the very least, I'll do a sample seam with each, to see the color effect on white thread, gauge messiness and/or brittleness, and to have as a sample for reenactors who are serious about Getting Things Right.

Um, I think I may be slipping into that mind-set. And Ron says I've infected him, he's probably going to sew the stuff I've got cut out at a finer count of stitches per inch than the last ones. 

I didn't get as far as the sample seams yesterday, got derailed by other things. But I think I've nattered and deluged you with links quite enough today.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bag Finished!

I finished my new bag last night. Got the dye touched up on the handle, sewed the tabs on, trimmed to length, and holes punched, and Ron trimmed the extra binding from the inside of the flap.

I can see all the things that aren't perfect about it, but I suspect most people wouldn't.

Here's a picture of it packed for the trip today:

And here's a closer view of where the handle attaches to the bag:

The end o the handle on the right was just tilted toward the camera, its the same as the other one. 

That's about it for today, Harper College is closing early, and Robin doesn't want to slog home in the snow, so I'm off to get him in a few minutes.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Productive Weekend

The customer liked his pliers, sounds like he may be asking me to do more. 

Tax paperwork did get copied and mailed out last week.

I think I may lay claim to a little bit of our federal return and get a maker's stamp, which we've been thinking about doing for several years. Provided the possible resolution of house water pressure issues unpleasant noises the truck was making don't hoover it all up.

Still still waiting for the two reference books. Still within estimated delivery time frame, though.

Remember months ago when I was working on a bag for myself, kind of based on a cavalry Quartermaster's bag?  Well, it's only this (small amount) far from being done!  I was motivated to finish it by the annual floodplain managers' conference this week, which will be held in Bloomington-Normal. 

When last I left the bag, the main parts were sewn together, the flap needed to be cut to final length, and I'd decided that the flap needed a binding, as the outer and lining pieces had some alignment problems. It also needed a way to carry it, and tabs to buckle it shut.

I started by stuffing it full, as part of determining flap length. Turns out I made a bag of holding:

This picture shows all I had stuffed in there: A fleece blanket and a roomy sweatshirt of mine in the large pocket, and two iPads (mine and Robin's) in the front pocket. This picture also shows how flat it collapses to, thanks to my cleverly molded gussets. 

Saturday afternoon/evening I sewed the binding on. First pass right sides together, then I rolled it over and sewed it down again. Because of the mis-alignment of the two layers, the second, visible stitching is farther away from the binding than I usually do it on pouches, etc. This picture was taken with the bag empty, you can see the flap now only goes to the bottom  edge of the bag. Or, it would if you nudge it a little - it sat for a while folded over loosely and lopsided, it'll take a little time to forget that fold.

Here's the bag with the binding done. I also put a coat of tan dye on the tabs holding the buckles to the front, which I'd inexplicably made from leather that doesn't match either the dark brown on the flap and front pocket, or the london tan I used for the gussets.

Yesterday I made a handle. I'd planned from the start to make it easy to change handles/straps. I thought about making just short handle for this week, but decided for travelling to/from the conference I'd want to be able to put it over my shoulder, but I didn't want a full shoulder strap flopping around. The compromise is a handle that's long enough to go over my shoulder, but not too long. I got fancy and rolled and stitched the leather around a piece of rope to make a round.

After sewing, I trimmed the handle, then soaked and shaped it - so that it would be in about the right size/shape U, with the seam on top, and to put the twist in at the tabs where it hooks to the bag. The back of the bag extends up past the flap (which you can't actually see in any of the pictures), and has two slots in it. I stitched around the slots, too.

The only thing left to do is to do a little touch-up dyeing to the edges of the handle, and to sew two tabs on the inside of the flap so that I can buckle the bag shut. If I don't get the tabs on tonight its no big deal, but I think I'll probably have time (I also need to get some things done to get ready to leave tomorrow for the conference).

But wait, that's not all I did this weekend!  Yesterday I also cut out cartridge pouches! I did two different styles for rifle cartridges, which get shoulder straps (haven't cut the straps yet), and a smaller one that rides on the belt, for pistol cartridges. There's a lot of similar small fiddly bits, especially between the two bigger pouches, so with the exception of the two larger main body pieces, they're sorted into labeled zippy bags. 

Not sure if Ron will get as far as doing any further work on any of those, but he knows where the parts, patterns, and directions are.