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woensdag 10 mei 2017

Mage Wars spellbook

A while ago, a friend of me asked me if I could make him something. He's a Mage Wars player, and wanted a custom made spell book. He had seen some of my other books before, and thought it would look cool on a spell book.

In Mage Wars, you play a wizard battling other wizards in an arena. Spells come in the form of playing cards, and you keep those spells in a binder with card sleeves. He gave me an old spell book to see if I could turn it into something like my other books. I always like to try new things, so here we go!

  • Mage Wars spell book (preferably old, since it will be cut up, only the card sleeves will be used) 
  • 3mm thick MDF
  • 5mm PVC foam
  • Cardboard
  • Kraft paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Book binding glue
  • Super glue
  • Regular printing paper
  • Parchment paper
  • Red felt
  • Foamcore board
  • Silicone molding rubber
  • Polyurethane casting resin
  • 35mm glass cabochon
  • Glossy photo paper
  • Transparent craft glue
  • Acrylic paints (black, burnt umber, pyrrole red, raw sienna, bronze)
  • Spray primer
  • Matte spray varnish
  • Hot glue gun
The cover
I started with the cover. I wanted to make a custom cover, carefully cut the card sleeves out of the original cover and put them in the new one. I measured the size of the original cover and cut two 15x20 cm rectangles out of 3 mm thick MDF, and one 1x20 cm strip of the same material (for the spine). Next, I glued the two large panels on a piece of paper, with the spine between them, and about 5 mm of space between them. A second piece of paper was glued on top of the panels, and pressed into the space between the panels. The picture probably explains it a lot better.

After the glue had dried, I ripped the excess paper off so the edge wouldn't be noticed afterwards. The paper forms a flexible hinge. I have said this before, but I can't stress this enough: use special book binding glue! White wood glue is very similar, but doesn't stay flexible and will crack.
Next, I cut out strips of cardboard and made a nice raised edge on both the front and the back. I usually design these things on the fly. In the past, I always tried making them one single piece, because I was worried the seams might show up through the kraft paper, but this was a big waste of material, so this time I cut them out of several pieces and puzzled them together.

On the inside of the cover, I wanted to add some sort of label, where the owner can write his name. I usually put felt on the inside of my covers, but I wanted the label to be flush with the fabric, so I first glued on a cardboard rectangle, and then a piece of parchment paper. I again tore the excess paper off to conceal the edge as much as possible.

And finally, I glued crumpled kraft paper on the cover, for creating the leather effect. When I first made these books, I always used one single piece of paper because I was afraid the edge of the paper would be too noticeable, but in the meantime I managed to blend several pieces of paper together without any obvious seams, so now I always use several pieces.

You'll notice in the third picture I didn't cover everything. That's because of the next step, the cover ornaments!

The cover ornaments
I like putting all sorts of ornaments on the covers of my books. I have entire pages in my sketchbook dedicated to all sorts of designs for cover ornaments! Most of them look horrible, but every once in a while, something useful emerges from the crap.
For the corners, I used a triangular ornament I made a mold for in the past. Along the spine, I made a new one out of MDF. It runs the entire length of the book, and covers some of the cardboard embossings.

After glueing the pieces of MDF together and sanding it, I glued a sheet of tissue paper on it to give the surface a bit of texture. I didn't make a mold out of these things, since they were purely experimental and I wasn't sure if I ever wanted to use something like this again. They are quite big and would require a lot of silicone for one single ornament, and silicone isn't exactly cheap!
I did make a new ornament I intend to use more than once, so I did make a new mold of that one!

This ornament is some sort of medallion and consists of two parts. The main body was cut out of MDF (things like this are the reason I never throw away scraps); the hole in the middle is about 36 mm wide, so a 35 mm glass cabochon fits nicely into it. The ring was cut out of 5 mm thick PVC foam. It doesn't really show on the picture, but on the backside, I had to cut away some material on the inside of the ring so it would fit on the other part when a glass cabochon is inserted in the hole.
Before molding, I always put on a coat of primer. This makes it much easier to spot any flaws or areas that need more sanding. After I was satisfied with the result, I built a box out of foamcore board held together with hot glue and poured in the silicone.

After the silicone had cured, I made castings out of PU resin and primed them with spray primer. For the medallion, I printed a green vortex I made in Gimp, cut it out and glued it to the back of a glass cabochon.

Painting and finishing
The painting techniques I used for this book are the same I used before. I am experimenting with different colors, so I hope to make books in other colors than brown in the future. I have tried different colors in the past, but they didn't really look good, so I'm testing all sorts of new things.
For the leather, I started with a layer of flat black, a mixture of burnt umber and pyrrole red for the basic brown tone, followed by a very thin coat of raw sienna, rubbed on with a sponge. To give it more depth, metallic bronze was drybrushed on the wrinkles in the paper. Finally, a topcoat of matte varnish.

For the ornaments, I used the same technique as always for achieving a cast iron effect. First, a coat of flat gray, followed by a black wash. Over this, silver is drybrushed. Very simple, but it looks very convincing. The cabochon with the vortex was sandwiched between the two parts of the medallion.

Next came a critical part: attaching the card sleeve binder! I had cut it out of the original cover without damaging it, and it turned out the plastic sleeves were attached to some sort of rigid plastic spine. I forgot to take a picture of this, but the spine had a row of small holes in it, wich hopefully makes it easier for the glue to grip onto it.
I used a hot glue gun to glue the binder in place. I don't know what type of plastic the spine was made of. Polyethylene is especially notorious when it comes to glue. I had tested it first. It was possible to peel the glue back off with some effort, but I think it's strong enough for normal use.

To finish the inside of the cover, I glued red felt on it. The label didn't really turn out the way I hoped. I should have used thicker cardboard, it doesn't really stick out enough.

And finally, the cover ornaments were all put in place with superglue.

donderdag 4 mei 2017

Voodoo Bottle and holder

Last weekend, we went to Elf Fantasy Fair in Haarzuilens. I put on my Voodoo priest costume again, and made one more prop to go with it. I ended up not using it, for reasons I'll explain later. It was a quite simple prop, made from an empty barbecue sauce bottle.

  • Empty sauce bottle
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Apoxie clay
  • Craftskin (a type of synthetic leather)
  • Red felt
  • PVA glue
  • Hot glue gun
  • Painters tape
  • PVC foam sheet, 2 mm thick
  • 8mm neodymium disc magnets
  • Acrylic paint and varnish
  • Short piece of string
  • Printing label
  • Sewing machine
The bottle holder
The bottle holder is made from Craftskin. A while ago, I bought a sample box from Minque, a cosplay supply store in the Netherlands. It contained several types of foam, a piece of Worbla (wich I still haven't used), some other thermoplastics and a piece of this synthetic leather. I'm quite pleased with it, it doesn't feel plastic-like like some other types of faux leather. I glued some red felt to the back using PVA glue for lining the inside of the holder.

The pattern for the holder was drawn directly on the bottle with a sharpie, and then two strips of Craftskin were cut out. I borrowed my wife's sewing machine for running a few decorative stitches across the edges, and then glued the strips together with a hot glue gun.

Next up, there's a strap that runs over the bottle to keep it in place, and closes with a magnetic clasp. It also forms a loop on the back, for attaching it to a belt. I made a simple pattern for this using painters tape, and then cut it out of Craftskin. Like the other straps, I put on the decorative stitches and then glued in in place. The loop on the back got reinforced with a few stitches to make sure the glue wouldn't come loose. This had to be done by hand, because the material was too thick here for the sewing machine. It doesn't exactly look nice, but it's on the back side, so it's not really a big deal.


Next up, the magnetic clasp. I still had some 8mm neodymium disc magnets lying around, I thought these would be perfect for this. I drilled a hole in 2mm thick PVC foam plate, put a magnet in it and glued another piece of foam to the back. I cut this into a circle and painted it; I made two discs like this. Sorry, I forgot to take more pictures.

After painting, I glued one disc to the front of the bottle holder, and another one to the strap. The magnets aren't as strong as I hoped they would be - next time I'll use larger magnets - but it does the job.

The bottle
The bottle I used was an empty barbecue sauce bottle. Although I had thoroughly cleaned it, it still had a very strong barbecue-smell. I wanted to put something I could actually drink in it, so I wanted to get rid of the smell. A few teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate in warm water did the trick nicely.
The most important thing I did with the bottle was modifying the cap. Using Apoxie Clay, I sculpted an organic-looking stopper around the metal cap. It didn't have to look very smooth and accurate, I was going for the wax stopper look.

After the Apoxie had cured, I painted it, wrapped a piece of string around it and secured it in place with a drop of hot glue. Next up, the entire cap got a wash or brown paint, including the string, to make it look older and dirtier. And finally, a coat of varnish.
For the label, I simply googled "Voodoo bottle label", and quickly found something perfect. I printed it on a label with a laser printer and stuck it on the bottle.

So last Saturday, we drove to Haarzuilens, and on the parking lot, while I was putting on my costume, I found out the bottle holder was useless. I should have made the belt loop a lot higher, so the bottle would hang below my belt, not right on top of it. Anyway, it was too uncomfortable to wear, and it would be hidden beneath my coat anyway, so I left it in the car. Too bad, I had even filled it with apple juice so it would look like a bottle of booze. Lessen learned for next time!