Friday, March 22, 2013

More fun with brass!

I had the opportunity to be crafty again this week. A friend of ours (a member of Security Forces) who is PCSing to Germany had requested a set of cufflinks and a tie tack made from spent shell casings. Since he has a lovely wife, I decided to add a pair of earrings and a pendant just for giggles. With all that jewelry, they had to have a box, so I took a cheap dollar store box and prettied it up for them. Here are the results:

First, the casings "in the raw." This is the condition they are in before I hack away at them:

shell casings photo shellcasings_zps4a6ebca0.jpg

They don't start out very pretty or very shiny. I use a pipe cutter to remove the excess brass and then a lot of sand paper to remove any burrs and make the cuts flat and even. Then it's on to sanding, sanding, and more sanding to remove tarnishing and stray scratches. I use 150 grit to flatten the cut area, and go from 600, to 1000, to 2000 grit to buff and polish.

The cufflinks and tie tack were both soldered onto their bases using a microtorch. I am not that good at it so tend to use this method sparingly when the end results are going to someone else.
shell cufflinks photo shellcufflinks_zpsec092418.jpg
shell tietack photo shelltietack_zpsb8213e1d.jpg

Cufflinks are first, tie tack second. The cufflinks look silver around the base of the casing but that is due to the flux having spread up the sides. Where the flux goes, the solder goes. I decided I liked the look so ensured the second one got "messed up" in the same manner as the first.

For his lady, I went with .45 caliber rounds since they fit my pendant bezel perfectly. After several failed attempts at soldering these (it's been a while and I was never that good at it), I used a 2-part epoxy to hold them to their findings. The earrings are a simple stud base with a wide back to keep them from drooping. The pendant bezel is from a pack purchased at a local big box craft store. They, too, went through the sanding, buffing, and varnishing routine to bring out their best shine.

shell jewelry photo shellearringspendant_zpsfb8efbc0.jpg
Earrings up top; pendant on bottom. They're on a piece of scrap styrofoam while the varnish dries since the posts stick into it easily without bending. I loved the red tint to this set.

And finally, the box I put them all into! 

USAF giftbox photo USAFbox_zpsae9ed95c.jpg
This box began its life as a dollar store plain pine box with a magnet closure. A bit of wood stain, a scrapbook sticker of the USAF seal, a set of scrapbook metal corner embellishments (painted silver then dabbed to remove excess paint to "antique" them), and the inevitable coat of clear varnish turned the simple box into a lovely gift by itself. Filled with the other goodies, my friend was extremely pleased.

Now, time to get back to writing!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Camp NaNoWriMo

Yup, I've totally lost my ever-loving mind. I've rejoined the insanity that is NaNoWriMo and it's not even November! Twice a year, the staff at NaNo do a "camp" - a looser, more relaxed version of NaNoWriMo where you can choose your own word count goal. It's also a bit more relaxed when it comes to "rebelling" or working on something you've already started. This is what I'll be doing.

I'm working on The Fox Hunt, the first in the Children of Jarilo series, and using the camp format to  keep me motivated, get me closer to a decent word count, and encourage me to finish. Sometime the thrill of writing the story gets lost in real life stuff, or just goofing off on the computer, so Camp will (hopefully) keep me honest! lol

If you want a look at the synopsis and a brief excerpt of The Fox Hunt, click the participant badge and it'll take you to my page at the Camp site. Ignore the hasty cover... it was a 10 minute bodge job just to have one. If the names sound familiar, this is a modernization and revamping of Emeralds & Ice, a serial novella that had been submitted to both this site as well as Literotica. When I realized I wanted to include it in this new series, it was pulled (and pulled apart) and is finding new life as The Fox Hunt.

Now, sharpen your pencils and set up your blanket fort and join me at Camp!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Crafty time!

Since I'm not currently working on a serial story, the posts have tapered off a bit. I did manage to find a little something to put here, though not about writing. As I posted back in September, my daughter does anime/manga cosplay at conventions and sometimes lets her dear ol' mom participate. This weekend is MomoCon in Atlanta and she encountered a bit of a time crunch on completing some of her items. One of them, a kunai for a character from Naruto, wasn't high on her list of priorities which meant it was the perfect thing for mom to do. When she showed me a still from the anime followed by the plastic kunai she had bought, I knew we could make it look better.

Here is the inspiration photo:
kunai_inspiration photo MinatosKunai_zpsdc34a090.jpg

This picture was chosen so we could grab the image of the writing, but it also shows color and general feel of the weapon. The plastic kunai didn't exactly look like the still.

Here's what she purchased:

Naruto Kunai - Before photo kunai_before_zps998714cc.jpg

Looks a little sad, doesn't it? Plastic with a thin ribbon wrap, it looked exactly like what it was - a toy. So we got to work.

First thing to go was the red ribbon. As it wasn't needed, we didn't want to risk it interfering with the rest of the additions. Since the handle in the still was thicker and round (the plastic one was flat in front/back), we built up the bulk using a series of cloth tape, sculpey clay, and hemp cord. Once we got it to a good size for her hand, I printed the Japanese lettering onto beige parchment colored paper and used Mod Podge to glue it to the final layer of cloth tape. This left both ends looking a bit pathetic. Since I wasn't sure how to make the staggered rings in so short a time, I opted for more hemp cord to finish the ends. I dyed the cord black to match the photo and used leather dye instead of paint in hopes that it will maintain color and not flake.

Then it was on to the blade. The red letters were painted over and then the whole thing covered with painters' tape. Using a hobby knife, I trimmed the tape so that only the edges showed, gave it a light sanding, then painted it with chrome spray paint. Finally, touch ups were done with acrylic paint and the whole thing got a coat or two of clear varnish. It may not be perfect, but I think it looks a heck of a lot better than it did right out of the package!

Here's the kunai, after two days of fiddling: 
Naruto Kunai - After photo kunai_after_zps6121d387.jpg

Yep, that's the same little plastic dagger. She approves so that makes me a happy mom :)