Sunday, May 24, 2015

Modular Belt Prototypes

At TeslaCon I saw a vendor selling modular belts - sections of belts with various steampunky bits attached, and/or pouches permanently mounted on belts. The sections have a ring at one end and a buckled loop at the other.

After thinking about it a while, I decided to do my own version, and ordered hardware. My plan was to have swivels at each end of a section, which can either connect to the dee on the back of a pouch (which I started adding to them a while back for use as sporrans), or to a small ring.  I was originally planning to have some done for ACen, but that didn't work out.

Today we finally got around to working on the project. We made prototypes from inexpensive leather, which will likely be taken apart in the long run to serve as patterns. The sections are 1-1/2" wide (standard man's dress belt width). 

On the top are the buckle and billet sections. The other vendor sells them separately, but I can't think of any situation where you'd want one and not the other. They also make the billet very long, we made the prototype 5 holes long. 

Under that are short and long plain sections, connected to a ring. Ron also pointed out that you can attach the swivels to each other directly. 

The buckle/billet section is 16-1/2" long (center hole), plus or minus 2". The short section is 7-3/4" long, the long section is 10-3/4" long. Adding a ring adds 1".

On Tuesday I'll be ordering some dark brown leather to make the actual parts that will be for sale. I'm starting out with brown with brass hardware. The parts are assembled with Chicago screws, so they're reasonably easy to shorten, and I'll get brass Chicago screws to assemble them (prototypes have black screws). I'll also have some leather strips available, to make semi-custom sections. I'm starting out with plain sections, we'll see about making sections with loops, gears, etc. later on. 

I chose swivels, buckles, and rings are also available with a nickel finish, which I'll do with black, with black Chicago screws. 

Of course, the obvious way to display these is hanging. Good thing we got more gridwall and hooks . . .

Slightly Late ACen Report

ACen (Anime Central) was last weekend. I took Monday off to recover, on Tuesday I travelled to Springfield by trains for work, spent Wednesday inspecting various floodplains and levees in the southeast corner of the state with a co-worker, and returned home Thursday by trains. So the thingy bits have been a little impaired. I wrote the draft of this blog post on Friday, and then forgot to post it. 

We got pretty much nothing done in the way of prep for ACen Monday through Wednesday of last week, so Thursday morning we packed things up, updated inventory, etc. It actually went fairly calmly.

Setup opened at noon on Thursday.  I drove my car, Ron and Robin were in the truck pulling the trailer, and Xap, Wash, And R. met us there. I was on River Road when Ron called - the trailer had come un-hitched. On Northwest Highway. (In front of Des Plaines Honda, if you know the area, came to a stop a block or so east). Ron had instinctively hit the brakes instead of coasting to a stop, so the tongue ended up jammed under the truck.  They jacked up the truck and  shoved the trailer back a few inches to clear it, re-hitched and continued on. Yay for trailer chains. Yay for the police officer who kept them from being rear-ended while jacking, etc., and didn't give them a ticket.

Thankfully, that was the biggest excitement, which was much better than the plumbing disaster last year. Ron stopped at Master Hitch on the way home and had the bent tongue jack replaced for less than $50. And then went out and got a new spare tire and rim for the truck, after checking under the truck for damage and finding that the spare was flat, and the rusty rim probably never did hold air.  Which was still cheaper than the plumbing disaster.

Ron and Robin stayed long enough to set up the gridwall. Robin had to work in the evening, so he left with Ron. Setup went reasonably well.  We had a similar configuration to last year, except I moved belts back and had tails and other thing in front where belts were last year. I also put bottles on one of the front-facing tables, instead of soft pouches.

Although I've retired knitting stuff, we added jewelry, doll clothes, and books, which took a table I used for pouches last year, and bottles took more table space. As a result, I was forced to get creative with shelves and pouches.  In the end it worked out pretty well.

Friday morning we brought some larger shelves we haven't been using, and a couple other things we forgot. 

Sales were good, but not as good as last year. We sold a *lot* of bottles. Spheres and amphora were the most popular. Also tails, soft pouches, and belts, particularly wide ones. We sold more 3" belts than we have in a while.  And unlike last year, light-colored tails went first. The ways of customers are a mystery.  

Sunday morning I compressed bottles and moved some pouches to that table, and moved some shelves of small soft pouches to where tails had been, to keep things from looking too denuded. I also got rid of the upper rows of hanging bottles, and the lowest row of tails, so the hanging displays that were left still looked reasonably full. I think a smaller area with a higher density of merchandise looks better than spreading out too thin, and the rows I got rid of were enough above or below eye level that it looked ok without them. 

One ACen staffer said they thought attendance was down this year, but numbers weren't available. I think that and the mysteries of what customers want is the explanation for sales.

Robin wasn't available for packing up, due to work, but R. Came back, along with P.  Which was good because I bought another vendor's booth - 17 pieces of 6' gridwall, hooks, shelves, and some other grid accessories.  The plan originally was that yesterday we'd be cutting gridwall down to 4' and 3' tall to act as table/Things backstops, and sorting through the other stuff so I know what I've got to work with - they boxed everything up for us, and would even have boxed the gridwall. But that plan didn't work out, because of lack of motivation. 

Two plushies followed me home, a big red panda, and a yak-like thing based on an Inca moon god. Yes, I have a plushies problem at anime cons.  We also bought some art, and Ron got a couple pose able figures (Link from the Zelda games, and Sammus from the Metroid games). And we drooled at the preview figures of Darth Vader and storm troopers done as samurai, available next month.

I think that I'm going to do the doll clothes and books as Etsy only. Except I forgot to put them in a bin to come in the house, so that'll have to wait until after Lake Count-I-Con in August. Anyway, we sold one each of books and doll clothels, but not enough to justify table space. Sold one bracelet, and had lots of people looking - Ron thinks having more made/out will help.  Didn't sell as many hard pouches as soft, and no hanging ones.  I did, however, have an idea for keeping shield pouches displayed better - with the pointy bottoms they fall over easily.

Although the cutting-down gridwall plan didn't happen yesterday, I did order tails, bottles, and new bins. The two bins I've been using as in-the-house bins were translucent plastic, and just haven't held up to the rigors of schlepping UPSes, the cash box, etc. So I ordered Rubbermaid Brute replacements - The Brute line is more well-known for garbage cans, and is supposed to be even more durable than the Roughneck line, which is what we've been using for merchandise for years. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Catching Up & Cutting Down

Heard back from Midwest FurFest a couple days ago. We didn't make the first cut, so we're wait-listed. Considering that I requested four tables and I don't think I want to try to do it with fewer, I'm not expecting to get in.

Robin is mending, still a bit sore. 

Today I cut strips for a Sam Browne-ish belt for myself to wear at ACen. While I was at it, I started cutting into the side of green latigo I got recently. Here it is ready to start marking and cutting a straight edge on the spine side. There's some foreshortening from the angle I took the picture at, but the far end is narrower - that's the neck end, the closer end is the butt end. For reference, that's a 6-foot long level that I use as a straightedge.

Straight edge marked and cut. I debated between cutting it at an angle the way I did, or having roughly equal width sections cut off each end; I decided this way would maximize the width available for cutting belts. I cut freehand (along a marked line!) with the head knife laying on the cut off section. 

Three 1-1/2" strips cut off for belts. The strips are cut with the strap cutter laying on them.

I reduced the leftover wedges from creating the straight edge down to two medium horizontal soft pouches, including belt loops, dee straps, and bottom reinforcements - the left-hand pile. THe middle pile is scrap that's about to be thrown out. The right-hand pile goes into the scrap bin. 

The parts marked, round holes punched, lots of chisel holes punched (3-4 at a time), rivets set, and a few more chisel holes punched (along the bottom joints, through both the body parts and the bottom reinforcements). 

The buckle and the dee rings in the last picture are for my belt.