Tabletop Crafting

I’ve created a Google Photos Gallery for my Lost Mine of Phandelver tabletop terrain project. I was going to make a gallery here on the website, but all these pictures already exist on Google and this is just easier. Maybe as things get more finished I’ll put together a project gallery for it. But it’s too early for that right now.

The plan is to do each of the four “dungeon maps”. The ruins may be individual buildings, because otherwise it’d be a single board bigger than most tables playing surface, something like 30 x 50 inches. I’m also not going to even attempt to do the whole village, but I may do a few significant buildings. We’ll see.

Right now, I’m waiting on the arrival of some foliage from Amazon so that I can finish the area outside the Cragmaw Hideout cave complex. That order is coming with some more Mod Podge, as I seem to be going through quite a bit of it. While I wait I’ve been making the individual ruined buildings for the Ruins of Thundertree area, planning out the Redbrand Hideout, and working on building some of the extras–chests, boxes, sleeping mats, that sort of thing–all the bits that get scattered around the maps to make things look lived in and interesting.

I’m certainly jumping into this with both feet. It’s a big project, but I’m having fun. I’m also trying to make these pieces reusable for other scenarios, but I may be less successful with that part of things. Have a look at that gallery, if you’re interested. I’ll be adding more pictures as I take them. Later.

That Was Fast

I had heard that two part resin cures faster when there was more of it, but I did not expect this.

wasted resin

I know, I mixed too much, but I wasn’t sure how much I needed. I was working on the stream, waterfall, and pools in the cave diorama… I poured some. I adjusted my damns. I tweaked my cotton ball rapids. And then I went back to give my resin a stir and pour some more. Hot. Solid. Done.

So, I wasted half a cup of clear resin. I should probably check the set-up time on this stuff before I do another batch. I didn’t have this problem last night, but then I only made about a quarter as much and used it all pretty fast.

Lessons learned. Later.

Tabletop Cave

The work on the Lost Mine of Phandelver pieces continues to move forward. I’ve applied a coat of joint compound to the Cragmaw Hideout cave complex. I started working on some of the cave rubble, adjusted some of the stalagmites, and built a ridge around the pond and stream to hold in the clear epoxy resin. I also realized that I am going to need a structure to hang the waterfall from, so I added a pillar that I’ll thicken and texture up before figuring out how the waterfall is going to work.

cragmaw hideout birds eye view

I started coating the finished foam and joint compound areas with a sealing coat of Mod Podge & black paint. I need to texture the actual play areas with some tin foil, but forgot about that step and you can see that I have one cave floor that has already been coated. Whoops.

entrance to the cragmaw hideout

I made three campfire rings, two small and one larger, that will get placed in the caves. You can see that the small LED and dab of cotton give a not terrible flame effect on the one of the smaller campfire that I’ve put together. I’ll get all three of them set up and wired to a switch, maybe two switches, before this thing is done.

This weekend I made some bricks for the next two parts of this project–the ruins and the first of two dungeons.

20mm x 40mm bricks

Okay, I made more than a few bricks. I made a bucket of bricks. I hope I have enough.

bucket o’ bricks

DAS Clay

I put it half a day of work today and a full day yesterday. Today, I spent the morning snaking out a nasty-ass sink drain and getting quite messy. It wasn’t great.

This afternoon I dug out some DAS Modelling clay out of my craft supplies and started making stalagmites for the cave diorama. I haven’t done much with clay of any variety. I’m sure there were some school projects with regular old clay, Silly Putty was a thing as a child, and I used the Sculpey bake-to-harden stuff when I made that 3d map a few years back, but this is the first time I’ve used air dry clay for anything. The working time on this DAS Clay is very short. I’m making simple shapes and doing it pretty quickly and this stuff is becoming uncooperative in just that short a period of time.

DAS Modelling clay

As I write this I’m checking the package directions and it does mention using wet hands, so maybe working it with water would extend the working time. The other thing that I was disappointed by, was that it doesn’t have any tack or stickiness to it… I mean, it sticks to my fingers when I pull it out of the package, but it doesn’t stick to the foam or to the wooden skewers at all. I used white glue on it before it has cured. We’ll see how that holds up. And one other thing, it seems to be developing cracks as it dries… not sure that is a good thing.

I’m not sure this is a ringing endorsement for DAS Clay, but I also haven’t done much with it or done any research on air dry clays in general. I may be doing something wrong.

stalagmites, modelling clay, and drywall mud

You can see in the picture that I’ve coated parts of the foam with something white. That white stuff is drywall mud. I just smeared it on and then spread it about with fingers, popsicle sticks, and a cheap brush. I’m not done. There are parts that are still uncoated and I want to put another coat over the whole thing. I’m thinking that two coats should hide most of the stuff I’m trying to hide.

hey, there’s a rickety old bridge there… how’d I miss that

Well, that’s an update for you and, I guess, a warning about air dry clay. Later.

3D Showcase

I wanted to showcase the stuff Lady Ronn made in her 3D Design class. They used a bunch of different materials, and as with most of these school projects, they had some specific guidelines to follow. Which can often lead to some frustration, but I’m pretty impressed with each of these things my lovely wife has created.

A life-size clay bust sculpted from a photograph. A wire and plaster sculpture. A bird made out of cardstock. A chair made out of cardboard that could have no glue, staples, tape, or any other additional fasteners… all cardboard and nothing but cardboard. A sculpture made out of various bits and bobs of miscellania. And lastly, a two piece bit of carving that had to incorporate the excess plaster from the earlier sculpture. Each piece took a lot of effort and each is very nicely done.

Canvas Print Map

Here’s an idea that maybe you haven’t thought of, or maybe you have. How about using those canvas print offers on Groupon to print your world map on a large canvas. Hmmm… that might be cool.

I have a few different maps that I’ve made over the years, for writing and roleplaying projects. I’m pretty fond of a few of these and I’d like to display them in my office. But they don’t all look great. And then there was Wonderdraft. Suddenly, my maps are looking pretty sweet. Nice enough to display. Which brings us to the canvas print idea.

If you’re like me, you get these $29.99 canvas print offers from Groupon weekly. For $30 I was willing to take a chance and see what this might look like. My results were mixed, mostly due to my idiocy.

this is the map i decided to print

So, I used a Groupon offer from and chose my size, I went with the 36″x24″ canvas print for $30. I see a lot of 16″x20″ print offers for $20, but I wanted something a bit bigger. Groupon sent me a voucher for the discounted price along with directions on how to use it. At this point I know I need to pay for the shipping, but there has been no mention of how much that might cost. I won’t make you wait. Turns out, it’s fifteen bucks. $15 for shipping. Is that reasonable? I guess so, but I don’t know. I’m still under $50 for this experiment, so that’s okay by me.

First problem, I chose wrong. I either needed to pick a different canvas size or a different map. Aspect ratio matters. Pay attention to aspect ratio. This map ratio is 16:9 or HD, which is not the same as 36×24. And I may have panicked here a bit, or just gotten into a rush, but I didn’t see anyway to change the picture I’d chosen or the canvas size. That might be a result of the deal, or I could have just missed it. Whatever the case, know what you want to print and the size you’re going to need going into this project to avoid this happening to you.

So, the aspect ratio caused some cropping on my image, but mostly this was okay. Nothing important was lost. But once you’re in there choosing your image and finalizing your purchase, you’re offered other options–color grading, framing, canvas thickness. I didn’t do any of those. I arranged my map on the template by sliding it around a bit to get it looking right, and I did choose a black border, but that was free. And I finalized my order.

Canvas: 36″x24″ Border: Standard .75” wood frame, Black

Total including tax $219.00

Voucher $-219.00

Shipping costs $14.90

Payment method: Pay Pal Express $14.90

That’s a pretty hefty discount, $189.01. Not sure that I would pay $219 for this, but $30… that I’ll do. Additionally, I received a 91% off coupon for my next order from CanvasOnSale. Which is very nice. That would be $199.29 off this order, just as a comparison. With that done, I sat back to wait for my print to arrive. Six days later, this showed up on my doorstep.

canvas has arrived, that’s the same map on the left done in a different media

Sure, it’s cropped and I’ll never not see that, but the color is good and the print is sharp. It’s a very nice looking piece. If I had it to do over, I think I would have paid extra for the 1.5″ canvas depth. It just looks nicer. Having it framed would have been nice too, but that might be more than I can justify. I’m very happy with how this turned out and I think it was well worth the cost. Next time around, I’ll pay more attention to aspect ratio.

I’m definitely going to take advantage of the coupon they sent me to have something else printed. I’m also going to try a couple other groupon offers and see how they compare. I have three or five other prints I’d like to get made for the office walls. Later.

Stickler for a Deal

One of the items that showed up in ads above my email on Black Friday was an offer for 50 custom cut stickers for $20 from StickerMule. I’m willing to waste a twenty on an experiment. I mean, hell, I did buy a half-dozen baseball caps, and that was way more than 20-bucks. Besides, I wanted to put that rampant lion shield on some stickers. So I did. Here are the results.

fifty rampant lion shield stickers

I think they look pretty good. They’re about 3″ tall, slightly narrower, and the the printing is sharp, clear, and good quality. I like the way the inner border is faint but visible. I’m curious to see how the hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life, the sun, and whatnot. I received a bit of promotional stuff from them along with my order, a few stickers and weirdly, a coaster.

stickers and promotional extras

Anybody wants a sticker, drop me a note and I’ll hook you up. Next time I might change up the design to actually include the URL, but the first time around I just wanted the plain shield. Also, I’ll let you know how they hold up. Later.

New Crafting Station

We were discussing home projects and my upcoming summer break Saturday Morning. I’ve got a lot of stuff that is mostly finished, some stuff that is less done than that, and I was saying to Lady Ronn that I was going to finish up these things before moving on to whatever the next project is. We started talking about what that might be, plans for our space, my cluttered up office, and next thing you know, less than 90-minutes later I’m starting a new project 😀
I was getting frustrated with the mess that was my office, plus, I need to clear it out to put down the new floor. So after some discussion about options and ideas, this is what I came up with. It cost me nothing but a little time. I had all that stuff either in the garage or the storeroom. The file cabinet, desktop, drawer, and those stacked rolling carts (with wheels removed) are all treasures that have come out of my various buildings over the years. The same is true of all the floor mats. I don’t remember where the plastic drawer-things came from, but they were free as well. The paint rack and tin can organizer are handcrafted pieces by yours truly.

I still need to install the shelves in those two recessed openings, but that was always the plan. I just haven’t gotten to it, yet. And I need to find or buy a chair, though truth be told, I do have some folding chairs in the storeroom and/or a ratty old chair in the boy’s room.
Carpet, paint, and some kind of treatment for the ceiling is still the plan for the basement, but this works well for now. The exercise equipment will eventually end up in the guest room, after I build a Murphy bed to get that up and out-of-the-way. Then that area will become a sitting space. All those old shelves will go away and be replaced by something more akin to the shelving in the office. And the crafting corner will get refined as I use it. Right now it’s got all my art supplies, the vinyl cutter and press, scanner, foam cutters, paper cutters, and sculpting stuff. The one thing that I do want, and this comes with the refining, is a light table. If/when I redo the desk I’m going to make the entire desktop one big light table.

the crafting station

basement TV

arts, crafts, and exercise

work or workout, that is the question

In other news, I took my neighbors advice and recharged the AC in the Spirit. It worked. Super cool! (See what I did there?) I’m not a car guy, so I get a little intimidated every time I open the hood, but this was easy. It cost $80 in refrigerant, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it when it hits 90°F later this week.

Extinction Level Event

A few things to share.
1.) Still having issues keeping the site malware free. I was  going to take it apart and restore from a back-up, but I made the mistake of thinking that the Pro Backup service that comes with my Pro package at Bluehost was actually a thing… it’s not. So I need to call them and get a few things straightened out. Mainly, I’d like to get the services that I’m paying for. I’ll probably have a full tear down on the site this weekend to find and destroy whatever malware is hiding in my files.
2.) Final grades were posted for the winter semester and I pulled off an A in each of my classes–HVA 221 Ductwork Construction and Design was the one I just finished and HVA 230 HVACR Elec Controls was earlier in the Winter Semester. Both were three credit classes, so I added another 24 grade points to my total and my GPA is sitting at 3.839, according to my Unofficial GRCC Transcript.
3.) I came home to find this on the office floor.

extinction level event?

So my fancy Tyrannosaurus statue is now in 4 pieces. It can certainly be glued back together. But how evident will the cracks be? I’m not sure. I’ve resisted the urge to immediately grab the superglue and start putting it back together… going to give it some thought and determine if it’s going to need any other work and/or improvements.
How could this happen? One theory presented was that the wind blew it over. This is unlikely given the depth of the pegs on the feet and the weight of the base. Perhaps the blinds hit it? No. The blinds are secured with brackets. What could have happened? There is some evidence that points to a solution to the mystery.
claw marks! NEW claw marks!

There are some claw marks in the paint that were not there when I left for work. Probably too small to be the dog, but just about right for a smallish cat. My working theory is that the cat was on the shelf and killed the dinosaur. Possibly with the aid of the dog or a startling wind gust. Either way and whatever the circumstances, I have one very broken dinosaur.

Testing the Equipment

I’m back on the sauce. I was trying to break the caffeine habit by drinking green tea, but the call of my weekend routine was too strong. That routine works out to a pot of coffee on Saturday and another on Sunday, no sugar, but lots of artificial creamer. So cheers to you and let’s see what I got up to over the weekend.

not being careful enough

It’s been a long time coming, but on Sunday I put the knife in the vinyl cutter and gave it a test run. I checked Amazon and apparently I ordered this thing on October 30, 2016. I’ve taken my own sweet time in getting any use out of it. I should be ashamed of myself.
I used the green, because I can see no project in the foreseeable future that will require or necessitate green vinyl. My other choices were black, white, yellow, or red, and three of those colors have very obvious uses with regard to arohen dot com. As you can see in this first picture, I was not very careful in my weeding and I let the vinyl roll back onto itself and ended up tearing off an arm, but otherwise, consider me suitably impressed.
What is weeding? I’m glad you asked. Weeding is the process by which unnecessary vinyl is removed from a design. It wasn’t bad on this design, but I imagine it can be tricky when working with small letters or intricate designs. On the design below, I had some problems with the finer bits lifting off the backing and wanting to curl up. I imagine I just need more practice.
still not perfect, but quite a bit better

I tried something a little smaller and included the outline to determine how precise the cuts are. You can see that it mostly worked out well. There is one section above the upper arm where the outline didn’t survive. I haven’t worked up the courage to try a two or three color, layered piece quite yet. Honestly, just getting the blade depth set right nearly put me out of my mind.
Lady Ronn is already asking for T-shirts for her upcoming bridal shower. So I should probably get this process down and figure out how well lettering works. And I think somebody’s car is going to get a sticker…