Thursday, December 5, 2013

Make Your Own Magic Wand

Here's a simple one! A great project for kids to take part in. Awesome as presents or for those of us nerds out there who just want to have their own magic wand (raises hand)

The only things you need are:
-A dowel rod
-Hot Glue
- some sort of gem

I'll cover the optional parts as we go. First things first you should cut the dowel rod to a length that you want. I made mine fairly long though I forget what the actual measurement was. I used a chop saw, but you can easily use a hand saw, a sharp box cutter would work, or you could just break it and it wouldn't be the end of the world.

Once you've done this, I took a box cutter and shaved the end down a bit so it came a little closer to a point. (there is a lot of this that could be subjective and change depending on what look you want in the end)

After that I took my Gem and glued it onto the flat end with a dab of hot glue. This gem can be just about anything, or you could forgo it but it makes a nice end and base for the "handle" portion of the wand. I used a couple of large beads, you could also go with those shiny stones, a chunk of turquoise, anything that's sort of flat and has a pattern you like. (Don't mind my magazines and mess)

From there just start laying on hot glue. Be careful as you do this, not to burn yourself and to not put on way too much and heat up the other layers. I made 3 at once so I tried various methods. On my first want I made it more organic and twisted hot glue vines up the want. As the glue cools and starts to solidify you have a period of time where its still warm that you can roll it in your hands and form it to some extent. I found that globbing a lot on and hanging it from the tip while rolling made a nice layered look. This is also where you can add small beads into the mix to give it different textures or patterns.

The MAJOR goal here is to make something to hold on to, and make sure the glue goes over the top of the bead on the end. If you don't enclose it there;s a chance it could pop off in the future. Be sure not to cover the whole thing or you won't see it, but think of the glue as a claw holding onto it, wrapping around the outside edges.

And that's pretty much it! let everything dry and then paint it however you'd like. I made a cream colored wand. a dark black brown and then I painted green leaves on my organic wand. Paint them up however you'd like!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mackers! or the Scottish Play

This is a post almost a year late but here we go.

Saint Andrew's Theatre class settled on Macbeth as their play this past year. We went with a female Macbeth and while I'm biased I think it was a pretty darn good production, especially for high schoolers tackling Shakespeare for the first time. It was as presentable as any other production I've seen.

Given the nature of the play and the background of war my design and our concept was a timeless un-ending war. Mixing current and past military uniforms, and styles. The main structure was essentially a pile of junk, with meant to reflect a once great building that has been ravaged by war, who's inhabitants have patched and barricaded using anything they can find creating a patchwork defense.

The audience was again on stage with overflow into the house seats, keeping this in mind I added a temporary thrust stage on top of the stairs leading down the stage. The floor design was a little more abstract but was meant to reflect the two warring houses and the points of their swords, which meet in the middle in a metaphorical battlefield. The circle also became a point of importance and power where the witches met, with a focal point for certain effects.

It was an interesting experience and my stage was covered in drops and smears of fake blood at the end of the show (which by the way "bleeds" through paint). We also got hit by a snowstorm the day we were supposed to open so things were cancelled and rescheduled but eventually it went off without a hitch.

Look for a short sub-post about how I went about creating branches for the soldiers to bring forward as Birnam Wood approached.

An in-progress shot, before the floor and some details were finished.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Making Semi-Custom Blades on the Cheap

This is a project I've had on a burner (not the back one, but not the front one) for awhile now. I had seen tutorials on various sites and always intended to tackle it but never had the time. Well I've finally started it. Back in the day a company by the name of Cold Steel (most famous for their ridiculous product videos, See below) Made a machete blade that cost around $12. They've now discontinued it, which threw the first wrench into the plan. I made the choice to buy one of their other machetes for about $17 and change the design a little. These blades, are cheap, covered in a black coating, and have a junky plastic handle, BUT they are tempered and heat treated properly which means they have potential.

My first step was to take a grinder and cut of the handle without damaging the tang. This is harder now than it used to be when they were making rubber handles. Be sure you have good ventilation and maybe even a mask because if you use a grinder the plastic doesn't cut as much as it just melts.

Step two was to take some charcoal and draw out the shape of the two blades I was going to cut down. I marked it out, took the grinder with a cut off wheel and got to work chopping the long 21" blade into a small dagger and seax style small blade. It wasn't a perfect fit but they worked out alright. The downside to the coldsteel blades is just how thin they are, not much real meat to them.

Step three was taking my orbital sander and getting the black coating off. This was the easiest part to do. A little elbow grease and some repetition with a coarse grit paper did most of the work. So I was left with two bare blades ready for rehilting.

This is about the point where I had a long break since life got hectic, but I started carving and shaping the new handle out of Red Oak. I cut the basic shape with my jigsaw (a scroll saw would be great for this) and then started working it with the bench grinder and sand paper. It was a bit bulky so I thinned one side down using the table saw. I unfortunately ran it through backwards and cut too thin, so the blade will be offset. Not what I intended but it will make a nice pair for the dagger as a side blade on a main scabbard so I decided I could live with it.

They Fight! Peter Pan Edition, Also- They Build

Another summer post!
Heather's summer camp season for the YMCA included both Bye Bye Birdie and Peter Pan. This meant more work on my end helping out, though I only had a small hand in Birdie. An hour or so in photoshop gave her an Elvis style poster starring her lead. The interesting part is that the picture we had to work with only showed one arm, so I had to clone the good one, meaning he's got two right arms. I don't think anybody could tell. Then a nice parent took it to work and printed it on a giant sheet of foam board, pretty nice for not a lot of work.

For Peter Pan I made Heather 8 rehearsal cubes, 2 large windows, a base for a sonotube mast, and then helped walk through how to make a few other pieces. I spent a day cutting out panels at her branch and then took them back to my shop to assemble. By the end of the day (probably 4 hours of work) I finally had all 48 panels cut, was covered in caked on sawdust (it was raining) and had a nose full of junk too (should have had on a dust mask). I also made a hook for Hook out of a $12 hay bale hook and some leather.

 If you were ever curious how much stuff you can cram into a Prius C, here's your answer. 2 tool bags, a bunch of clamps, a sword box, a table saw, 2 drills, a router, a circular saw, box of screws and a few other things. This is AFTER I'd taken a bunch of stuff out.

The fight choreography was interesting for this show. I did all the choreography and had one day of instruction with the kids (which only was about an hour of work) and Heather did all the actual running of the fight, troubleshooting, training and fight calls. I wish I could have been more hands on but I was too heavy into my own summer work to be there. So when I finally saw it again was the night I saw the show. It needed a little more polish for sure and the night I was there they bobbled a couple of times, BUT for middle schoolers with only a week or so of training, they did a pretty good job. I'm always critical but for two young kids completely new to sword fighting they definitely put up something presentable.
Full set with the rope ladder and mast in place
The windows unfinished. These were flown in for the house scenes at the start and end of the show. They ended up stained a golden brown.
 I took this chance to build a lockbox for on site storage. The big sword is my Hanwei hand and a half sword. We did not use this. The other one however is an Amfence blade, we had 3 of these for the show.
My shop on assembly day, this was the easiest part of the job. Glue, staple, flip, staple, move on. 

The Pirates of Penzance on Treasure Island

It was a busy season at the ACTSA Summer camps this year. We had our usual camp classes and small shows but this year we took on The Pirates of Penzance as our musical which is no easy task for children under the age of 14. Our Tour took us out and about with an adaptation of Treasure Island with music added by our wonderful director, Laura Minadeo. Needless to say, we had a bit of a pirate theme. When everything was finished, we had done Pirates, Treasure Island, Macbeth, When the Mountain Meets the Moon, Rats, and a few junior classes as well.

For Pirates, we really needed a universal style set because it was going to serve as set for every other camp production. Normally that's not a big deal but we also had a rock musical called Rats, written composed and directed by David Tessier. Luckily it fit his needs as well. Stage right was just a 4x8 tower with stairs which was supposed to be cave like. Given my lack of time and help I decided to create a rock face with some 2x4 scraps and a drop cloth stapled onto it all and then painted. Certainly not perfect but I think it looked alright.

Stage left was a bunch of 4x4 platforms and scrap pieces from the shop combined to make ruins. I didn't spend much time on this at all since I still had some foam bricks and half walls sitting around. Throw a couple of painted flags into the mix and a silhouette of the Queen of England and I was just about done.

We also had just replaced all the cyc gel, which made for some awesome color, though after doing the math, to replace all 3 colors for all the fixtures cost $140. ouch. But oh boy was it worth it

Our Tour had to pack into a short school bus and we decided on keeping the layout the same as our last tour since the support pieces were all there already. I swapped out for a new backdrop, which I'm pretty happy with, but as always wish I had a bit more time for, framed by palm trees. The disaster piece that I hated and didn't have time to do anything about was the side tall landing boat flat, it was just done quick and ugly and I was less than pleased with how it turned out.

Balancing the stage out we had a magic treasure chest which I built from the ground up, far larger than I had intended. I got going and about half way up I realized how huge it was going to be, but it was all made from scrap material and I didn't have enough to start over so I went on with it. The chest turned out pretty well though and I was definitely happy with the end results. The chest stayed on stage the whole show and contained all the props that were needed. It clearly held no treasure, but that's where the magic came from.The lid had a built in shelf that was was held in place by two handles so when it was time for the big reveal, they closed the lid, pulled the pins, and when it opened had a pile of treasure sitting on top which was worth all the hassle if only for the crowd reactions when it happened.
Here's how the chest worked. This was my test run
Projection speeds things up greatly. I took my rough sketch, 
made a transparency and went to work. 
Drop in progress
 Almost finished
 Pirates tower, in process
 Before painting SL, some of it was usable without any work
A dowel rod, piece of linen and some paint and I've got a flag.

A post of Backlogs and busy-ness

I realize that my last post was about an eventual update, which never came. I have a literal backlog of things going on right now. Heavy into construction for our production of Grease. One of these nights I will in fact write out posts and get them published. Since the last update I've added a few projects which are in limbo due to my schedule, but they include;
-modifying a cheap cold steel blade into a small seax and dagger
-various Grease projects
-Going to the Ohio Renfest and talking briefly with Guido Crescendo, also known as David Woolley
-Buying a car, a Valiant Armory blade and a Starfire dirk, not sure which one I enjoyed more haha.

These are coming, with pictures, and will satisfy the couple of people that actually check my blog occasionally, if they even still do.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An overdue update

Long time no post. I'll keep it brief and slowly catch up on a little backlog of summer work and projects to be posted in the coming weeks. We finished out a busy summer at ACTSA and packed it away until a undetermined point in the future. Classes are sneaking up and will start in a little over a week. This year's musical is Grease. Not super excited about the story since it really isn't my favorite, but the set I think (knocks on wood) may be my best yet if everything goes according to plan.

Planned posts that should be upcoming:
-Coverage of Macbeth
-Summer camps (Pirates of Penzance and Treasure Island)
-Harry Potter style magic wands
-Peter Pan and the related Fight Choreography and scenery

Thats what comes to mind at the moment. Keep an eye open for the updates!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Curved Shields and Captain America

I recently decided to start looking into making wooden shields. As a quick side project I built a round buckler just as a test run. It was a simple 20ish" planked shield. Assembled from 1x3 furring strips, the whole thing only cost about $10 worth of materials.

This started me further down the path. I was in the middle of working on a production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and the director asked for a shield for the battle. So I started doing some research for methods to make curved shields. So I got online and found plans and instructions for a shield press which I built in the shop with some scrap material. I called for hardwood in a couple of places which I should have listened to. under pressure it popped and I wrecked the first sheets. Reinforced for the second time it all worked.

How the press works
So what you see here is the press, the material inside it is 2 sheets of 1/4" ply. I cut both sheets into 4ths so this is about 2'x4' which leaves a shield anywhere up to that size. You cover the sheet with PLENTY of wood glue and then put it into the press. the 2x4's on top spread the pressure around and then ratchet straps press it all down and hold it in place. The 2 sheets of ply make it easier to bend and once the glue in the middle sets it holds the curve like a rock. I left it for 2 weeks but that's because I was out out town, after about 24 hours it would have been fine to release.

After the Press
After they are free take the jig saw and cut out your shield shape. Its much easier to draw the shield on before you curve it.Cut it out and you've got your rough shape. Sand all the edges to smooth it up and I like to round everything over just because it looks a little bit nicer and makes things a bit less rough on the skin if it hits you at some point. After cutting them out you end up with something like this:

Now I had the cut I needed to do the shield for LWW and I had an extra larger one sitting around. I wasn't sure what to do with it. I kept looking at it and eventually I realized it wasn't too far off from Captain America's World War Two shield. So that's where I went. Note the picture, on these kind of things photo references always rock and you really sort of  need them for anything that already exists otherwise it just won't be accurate.

The white on here was just a primer, which is nice to add once sanded just for a basic shield blank. For added strength and paint-ability people cover the blank with canvas just for another layer. I skipped that here. First step was to measure everything out and figure out spacing. If you look at the center stripe I wasn't perfectly centered but you don't notice it much in person. I'll also note that I use carriage bolts for the handle and straps mostly for ease of repair. If something breaks I can just unbolt it rather than using a rivet which is much more permanent. So I striped things out and hit the red stripes. I won't show it, but let things dry, pull the tape up, do the blue, do the white etc.
Here is a printed out star I used to figure out spacing and size, the center star on Cap's shield is a bit larger. partially because the top bumps up a bit as well, mine was cut straight across the top but there was still space for the larger star. I had to do this for both shields but I HATE HATE HATE painting white over colors. it takes so many layers to get good coverage, it just sucks. I still needed to do the white for all of this, but the primer was white and clean enough that I was able to just to small touch ups and call it good. After the stars are traced and painted I'm just going to add a coat of poly or clearcoat of some kind just to give it a nice shine. I doubt I'll ever use the cap shield for fighting since I want it to stay nice.

Last but not least here's the almost final product. It needs another coat of white on the stars but its basically done. After it I'll add in some more pictures just so you can see other in progress moments and what the other shield ended up looking like.
If I haven't covered everything real well or if anybody wants more details on how I did something just let me know and I can go into more depth. Also let me know if there is interest in any of these I've got the press now and I'm thinking about doing custom shields for people if enough people want them.

Nearly the final product
Size difference between the two shields. The bottom is the Cap shield. These both came out of the 2'x4' sheet I pressed.

The back of the cap sheild. I use a solid metal handle for the grip. Some people use crossed leather straps I like the metal just because its rigid, I don't care if its not accurate. The pad in the middle is nice to soften blows and make it more comfortable to hold.

The final shield for LWW. It was a little quick so my hand was rough in a couple places but this is basically what the custom shields would be. Give me a picture, colors, design of whatever and I'd make and paint them. The next ones I think will just have a coat of arms type center image

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Time for a wedding! ...almost.

Well it's getting to that point in our planning that we are needing to get on top of save the dates. Being a creative type that knows photoshop and our wanting to save money, we decided to design them ourselves. We had already talked out what we were thinking about doing so Heather sat down one day while I was at work and made a rough sketch. I got home and went from there. Our general wedding plan is do slip in the nerdy stuff we love without it being an overtly nerd wedding. Basically we're taking the classy parts and certain styles and building on them, if you know what to look for you will likely see the patterns and references but they'll be loose enough that we're expecting some "...did you guys mean to do this? is this _____?" and the answer is probably yes. Then we're fleshing it out with our love for art deco looks and we've got what is, (in my opinion) a pretty stylish wedding. Without further ado, here is the front of our save the date for what promises to be a rather.... timey wimey wedding.

Showing this around to a couple of people (the non nerd types) they immediately (thank god) picked up on the art deco theme. The fanned shape, the rays of light at the top, the background and of course the font helps sell that. But I'm sure all the Whovians out there probably noticed the tardis sitting in the middle and the Galifreyan on the edges. We'd both seen the real Doctor Who save the dates that are floating around, thanks to pinterest, but we both agreed that they were a little too overt for what we were doing. We, ironically enough, are hoping for a real timeless feel here. I suppose if you don't catch the references it could look like the music stand for a big swing band and you'd never know the difference.

For the most part this is our color scheme too, the tardis blue (though this is a bit darker for the purposes of the save the date), yellow, and grey.

The Galifreyan and background continue on the back side of the postcard just to help tie it all together and to keep the style consistent.

While it has been quite a time since I last updated the blog, expect there to be more wedding updates like this as we keep going through the planning. Now that the school year is slowing down I'll have some more time to get into a backlog of posts about my various projects through the year, the next one will likely be covering making curved wooden shields for a show, and a WW2 Captain America shield, so check back for more!