Friday, December 26, 2014

The Joys of Country Living

Not sure if I have ever mentioned it before, but my wife and I live in a rural area, outside of a small town of about two thousand people. As such, we have no access to city water. Instead, we have a well and septic system. We also have a large propane tank for the furnace and water heater. The only utility services we get are electricity and phone. Also, we're so far from the telecom central office that our Internet "broadband" is an anorexic 512 kbps and we don't have access to competing services like cable Internet.

Don't even talk to me about satellite Internet. The monthly data cap is a deal-breaker.

Anyway, the point of all this really goes back to the well. We went out of town to visit family for Christmas, and just returned home today. And the water was out -- nothing, not even dregs in the pressure tank (a pressure tank is basically a storage tank in the basement that can hold about 80 gallons of water, and gives us a small reservoir to draw from). Now, this has happened to us before, and usually all it takes to fix the problem is for me to manually reset the pump. We have a little switch in the house for this, and I just flip it up and down a couple of times, and that has always kicked the pump on and fixed the issue.

Until today.

Today, I flipped and flipped, to no avail. Finally, I had to call our local well/pump maintenance company, whose name and number were on a label on the pressure tank. The guy came out within half an hour (thank you Mr. Dedicated Well and Pump Repair Guy!) and checked things, and in the end he determined that our pump was dead. Not an inexpensive piece to replace. Luckily for us, he has one back at his shop, and will come back out tomorrow to replace it. Outside, in the cold and snow. And it's about a 5-hour job.

Did I mention that I am very thankful for this guy? Yeah. So, it's not going to be cheap, but we should have our water restored by early afternoon tomorrow. And for that, I am also thankful to live in a country where such things are even possible. Like I said on Facebook... #firstworldproblems.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Spending a few days with extended family this week, eating too much, and generally having a lovely time. Hope everyone out there in the world is doing the same, as far as possible.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Characters in the Balfrith Story

Note on names: The nations of ancient Aerde are the forerunners of tribes and nations that arose thousands of years later in the current era of known history. Danannsidhe and the Vales were decidedly Gaelic, preceding the Irish and Scottish strains. The Men of Nûmidëa were the predecessors of the Angles and Saxons. Nifflgarde names are obviously of Norse origin. Sildaran names could be of Gaelic or Norse origins, or a combination of the two, due to the intermingling of those peoples. The allied city-states of Cychlos foretold the later Greek nation. The self-styled empire of Vilandria presaged the Latin cultures of Spain and Italy.

Adradomir (ad-RAD-om-ir) - Elvish merchant living in Castor, Sildara.
Aethelred (ETH-el-red) - Ancestor of Balfrith, received the gift-sword Branulf.
Aingeall (“Angel”) - Balfrith's older sister, born between Wilfrid and Balfrith.
Aldfrid - Balfrith's eldest brother.
Balfrith (BAL-frith) – The youngest son of Duke Osric, of House Aethelred, a minor noble house of Nûmidëa.
Branulf (BRAN-oolf) - Legendary sword, part of the history of House Aethelred.
Calunoth (CAL-oo-noth) - Sildaran free-lancer, a few years older than Balfrith, but much more experienced in the world.
Caorall (“Carol”) - Secretary to the provost of the School for Learned Studies, Sildara.
Colman - Provost of the University of the Arts, in Nûmidëa.
Diarmid (dee-AR-mid) - Deacon of the guild of free-lancers, in Sildara.
Ducca (DOOK-ka) - Professor at the University of the Arts, in Nûmidëa.
Duerde Stonefist (DWAIR-da) - Dwarven king of Stonedeep.
Eldamir (EL-da-meer) - Young Elven male, first to encounter Balfrith.
Felaranthir (Fel-a-RAN-theer) - Elven lord of Illithëon, and father of Eldamir.
Goslar (GOS-lar) - Innkeeper in Westmere, Sildara.
Gregorius - Lore-master of Sildara.
Halbrisien (hal-BRIS-ee-en) - Ancient Elvish king, father of Felaranthir.
Hallgeir (HALL-gair) - Warrior of Nifflgarde, free-lancer.
Layla - Innkeeper in Graystone, Nûmidëa.
Odrin Ironshanks - Dwarven captain, warden of Stonedeep.
Osric (OZ-rik) - Balfrith's father, a minor Duke, and lord of Aethelred Manor.
Roih (“Roy”) - Personal servant and bodyguard of Adradomir.
Sørkell - Nûmidëan smith who forged the sword Branulf, as a gift for Aethelred.
Wilfrid - Middle brother, between Aldfrid and Balfrith.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Dragons

My conception of dragons is that they are an ancient race (well... species), as old as or perhaps even older than the race of Men and almost as old as Elves, who were the Firstborn.
They are born of fire and anger and passion, and in their youth they are driven by these things to great destruction. They have no doting parent to teach or guide them, and so they live as animals, predators, for a long time. They are often hunted and killed in this stage (due to the threat they pose to peaceful peoples), so that few live beyond their first few decades of life.
As a dragon grows older, it gains both intelligence and wisdom, similar to any other sentient being. At the very least it will learn cunning, how to hide from hunters and so-called "dragon slayers", lead them into traps and kill them for sport. Sometimes a dragon will learn to communicate with other intelligent races, whether goblins or trolls, Men or Dwarves or Elves. A dragon at this stage may even form alliances for self-preservation and mutual benefit. However a dragon is still a cunning creature, full of the pride of its own strength, and will often betray its allies at an opportune moment.
Dragons continue to grow throughout their lives, and the oldest dragons are therefore also the largest, although not always the most powerful. They eventually lose the power of flight due to their great size, and some may even be unable to crawl or walk very far over land. But their intelligence and wisdom, and their cunning, never lose their potency. And with dragons, it can be truly said that "Age and treachery will win out every time over youth and skill".
The oldest dragons can often be found to have people and creatures of various races worshipping them as gods, dwelling in remote temples, and living off the sacrifices given to them by "lesser" creatures. For the dragon, this is as it should be -- they are clearly the most worthy of worship and adoration of all sentient beings in this middle realm, and thus deserving of whatever praise and honors (and sacrificial food and wealth) come to them.
Of their power, what needs to be said? All dragons can breath fire, and the heat of their fire is proportional to their age and size. While a young dragon can do little more than burn a few trees (or wooden buildings), an older, larger dragon can melt some metals with the heat of it’s flame. The most powerful dragons could cause iron and steel to run liquid in seconds.
Dragons also have the power of glamor in their eyes, which again grows with time, age, wisdom and cunning. This may be what allows them to become worshipped as gods in the later stages of their life, for they can charm large groups of people with the power of their gaze. Experienced dragon hunters know well that they must avoid the eyes of the dragon. Inexperienced dragon hunters often do not survive to learn this lesson.
Finally, older dragons sometimes learn something of magic, usually through the alliances that they form with other (magic-using) people or creatures. But a dragon’s magic is not one of raw destructive power, for they have no need of such. Their interest is in the gathering of knowledge for their own dark designs, foretelling the future, and deceiving others in order to increase their influence. In other words, dragons will use magic in order to increase their appearance as gods, and thus more easily and effectively deceive others into worshipping and serving them.
And that is all I know of dragons thus far.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Story News

It's been a busy week since Thanksgiving, what with planning for Christmas, regular work, and starting to plan my next novel. Sorry for the irregular updates, we'll see if I can start to post a bit more often now that I am starting to work on another story.

I've actually had a few "revelations" of a sort, while driving in to work, regarding Balfrith's stories. I had always planned to write several novels about his adventures, but in my mind they were standalone stories, with a possible "epic" level multi-volume story to cap it all off. They stories would have spanned a couple of decades, so by the end of them, Balfrith would have been near to my own age.

But what has started to reveal itself to me during my drives, was a way to link the stories into a larger story or character arc with a unifying theme. I don't want to say too much about it, since that would give away some spoilers before they have even been written. And of course things may yet change between now and the actual writing, or revising, of the stories. But in general, I think the ideas will stand the test of time and Balfrith's adventure stories will be much more closely linked together than what I had originally conceived.

Currently my writing consists of brainstorming the next standalone novel, and in light of the above, how to link it to Balfrith's first adventure as well as lay the seeds for the one(s) to come after.

I'm nowhere near to posting any samples yet, and I don't want to post anything like a rough story outline since that would be a major spoiler. So for now anyway, y'all will just have to wait for me to lay the foundation for the next story, and then I'll probably start to put samples up on the blog once again.

Back to the first Balfrith story for a moment... I am still going back and forth between wanting to self-publish, which is a lot of work but could be personally rewarding, and trying to get published through a "traditional" publisher, which takes much of the burden off my shoulders but is also glacially slow and also requires work on my part in the submission process as well as everything that follows if I do get accepted by someone.

I have had a few people read the story and tell me they really liked it, which is encouraging. What I haven't yet done is worked with any true "beta readers". That should probably be my next logical step, but things have been busy enough that I simply haven't gotten around to working through the details of that yet.

More to come later.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Armor Details - Really, This is the Last Post on Armor

For today's final post on the costume armor that I made, I took some detailed photos showing how the pieces were connected to each other. This was what I did in the last few days before my trip, bringing together all the little details to make a "working" suit of armor.

Backplate. Note the hanging flap in the middle...

...connected using two small leather straps, riveted to the flap and to the blackplate. Note also how I continued the gold paint around to the back side and in about 1/4 of an inch. This way if someone happens to get a brief glance at the backside, it still looks like brass or gold metal edging wrapped all the way around.

Lower left "ribcage" of the backplate. This leather strap connects to a matching strap (with real buckle) on the breastplate. I used a total of four of these straps to connect the breast- and backplates: one at each shoulder, and one under each at the ribcage.

Breastplate close-up. Note the three rivets holding the three pieces together. Remember the flap attached to the backplate? Here I apparently have two overlapping flaps, attached to the two-piece breastplate above them. It looks pretty complex, but you will see it was a bit simpler than it looks, below.

Lower ribcage end of the breastplate, showing the leather strap with buckle to connect it to the backplate. I used double rivets on some straps, where I was concerned that the stress on the strap might pull out a single rivet or possibly even warp or damage the armor itself. For the straps and buckles, I purchase a bag of 20 buckles and a 20-pack of 30-inch black leather straps. So I had to measure and cut every one of these pieces to length, make holes for rivets and a cut for the "tooth" of the buckle so it could move, and then rivet the buckle into the strap and rivet the strap to the armor. I got to be pretty good at it, but it was still time-consuming.

Inside of the breastplate. Note the three rivets... and that there is just a single piece showing. There actually is only one "flap" in front, and it's the middle piece (take a quick look above to see it again, it has a rivet right in the middle). The most difficult part of this was the rivets, as they are a bit short and can just barely pass through two sheets of Sintra to connect them. Three sheets of Sintra are too thick. So I had to get a bit creative in the placing of the rivets, to make sure they only passed through two sheets at a time. Also, just to be totally honest, I ended up gluing these pieces together between the sheets, as the rivets popped apart on me twice. Since I didn't want that happening at the Fest (or any time in the future), I just glued the pieces together to make it permanent.

Front view of the three-piece greave. I actually did not originally intend to connect all three pieces. My plan was to have the greave as a standalone piece, and then the knee-pieces would be connected as a separate unit. But when I tried wearing them together, the knee pieces kept sliding down over my shin. So, I just decided to rivet them to the greaves so that the whole thing would stay in place, which worked great.

Side view close-up of the connected pieces. More rivets, and the challenges of connecting two pieces of Sintra. The Worbla edging made it difficult, as that made them too thick for the rivets. Thus you see the rivets just inside the edging, in most cases. That top rivet overlapping the Worbla was a real pain.

The rivets permit a certain amount of movement, making this a truly articulated knee joint.

Inside view of the knee joint, showing riveted joints and leather straps, which wrapped around behind my legs and buckled together. In all, I think I used about 18 buckles on the complete set of armor.

Full inside view of the greave and knee pieces. I used three sets of straps and buckles to keep them held to my legs.

Thigh pieces. Even with two buckled straps, they tended to slide down my legs. Fortunately, the knee pieces kept them from sliding down too far, so I just let them slide. In the future I may add a vertical strap from the top center, that would go up and connected like a suspender to my belt ... or something.

Vambraces (forearm protectors). I was going to put one or two straps with buckles on these as well, but they fit so firmly it was not necessary.

Shoulder pauldrons. Note, once again, the rivets. You can't see them here, but each of the overlapping pieces is riveted to the one above it.

Top view of the pauldron. What are those extra pairs of rivets on the left side?

Inside view showing how I used rivets and little leather straps to connect the overlapping pieces. The middle piece was connected to the big piece using three short straps. The lower piece connected to the middle piece directly with rivets. Unfortunately I ran into more rivet-popping issues here, and I ended up just gluing the lower piece to the middle piece, so that it couldn't move (and thus pop out the rivets). I did not get the idea to use those short leather straps until right here, otherwise I would have connected the lower pieces to the middle ones using straps, instead of rivets and glue. Also... note the fuzzy velcro strap in the big piece.

OK, here you can see what those extra pairs of rivets were for. They connect those leather straps at the top. Each of the straps has a small strip of velcro stapled to the end, which you can just see here.

This was how I connected the pauldrons to the breastplate. Those two leather straps with velcro would slide under the shoulder sections of the connected breast and backplate, then come back and stick to the velcro strip which was glued to the inside of the big pauldron piece. I needed my wife to "hang" these on the breastplate while I was wearing it, and get everything connected. It would have been quite impossible for me to do it myself.

And, last but not least, the in-process hip protector flaps. They are conspicuously missing from the photos of me at the Ren Fest, although I think the armor looks pretty good even without them.

So that's about it. I just wanted to give y'all some extra details on the final construction of the armor, in case you were interested. All in all, making this armor was a great experience. I learned a lot about the "tricks" involved in costume making, and got a bunch of great ideas for my next suit of armor (yes, I am that crazy).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Quickie

I know I promised some additional armor photos later this week, and here it is Friday already. I plan to take more pictures tomorrow, with a nice level of detail so you can see how I riveted and attached the various pieces. So, the promised post will go up this weekend.

Until then, happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Final Thoughts on the Armor... For Now

Well, we made it home safely yesterday after a great weekend at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The armor held up quite well, although I should admit that I only wore it on Saturday. On Sunday, I wore the same costume that I did at the Minnesota festival -- that is to say, I wore my old costume with the chainmail shirt added.

It was cold on both days -- not just "cold for Texas", but unseasonably cold due to the whole polar vortex thing, and as you saw from the photos, I was wearing my heavy cape to keep warm. It also kept out the wind and rain quite nicely.

But the reason I didn't wear the armor on Sunday was simply that it is a bit restrictive to my movement. Given that this is the first suit of armor I have ever fabricated, I suppose it's no surprise that such imperfections might become apparent only upon first wearing it. So I don't feel bad about having made an imperfect costume... I simply chose not to wear it on Sunday, so that I could enjoy freedom of movement for a day.

Other than that, I don't have anything really critical to say of the armor. It fits as I designed it to, although it could use some improvements. The paint is as good as I could get it in the time I had, but again it could use some improvements. It held up quite well to the rigors of travel, including being inspected twice by the TSA. I blame the chainmail for that (16 pounds of steel sitting in the bottom of a suitcase), but whatever the cause, it survived being stuffed into a suitcase, then shifted around, pulled out, worn for a day, stuffed back into a suitcase, shifted around for inspection again, and finally removed upon our arrival home. It popped two rivets, one during each trip, which is better than I expected. I had brought my paints and riveting tools with me, plus enough rivets to re-do the entire suit if needed, and I only needed the two rivets. The paint also survived quite nicely, only needing some minor touch-up after travel.

I intend to post a few more pics, close-up to show the various finished pieces, later this week. Other than that, I am starting to turn my mind toward the next Balfrith story, writing down some ideas I've had rattling around in my head for a while. More to come on that later, too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Houston Renaissance Festival, and the Premier of My New Armor

It's been a busy few days, but we had a great day at the Ren Fest today. The weather was a bit chilly, but at least it didn't rain like they were predicting.

My armor survived being tightly packed into a suitcase for two days. I only had to touch up two small areas where the paint was scratched, and one rivet popped out which I had to replace. Since I brought everything I needed to repair such things, it was a simple matter to fix.

I put the complete suit of armor on for the very first time this morning, just before we left for the festival. Thankfully, everything fit pretty well. Since we knew it was going to be cold, my wife (the famous Geekwif) brought the heavy cloak from my old costume. It kept me nice and warm, and you will see it draped over my shoulders in the pics below.

The Geekwif also has a new costume this year, a sort of Middle-Eastern warrior priestess based on a character from the Pathfinder boxed game. Our close friends Eric and Bonnie are hosting us in the Houston area, and they enjoy wearing costumes and getting into character at least at much as we do, so the four of us have a great time together.

But enough of my idle chatter. You came here for the photos, right? Look below for what you came for...

Me and the Geekwif. The cloak has two layers, gray on the inside and blue outside. I bought a nice two-piece cloakpin set today at the Festival, which you can see holding the two sides together beneath my chin.

I don't recall if I had mentioned this before, but as the time for my trip got closer, I realized I wasn't going to be able to finish the entire set of armor. So, I set aside the hip protectors for the time being. They are partially painted, sitting at home waiting for me to return and finish them. But overall I am pretty happy with the way the armor came out, even with those pieces missing.

Our friends, Eric and Bonnie. Bonnie also had a new costume this year, sort of a barbarian huntress theme. She was looking at recurved bows today, which would go nicely with the outfit and add some depth to the character.

Eric has a pretty nice matched set of leather coat and boots, and he bought the gloves just today. It's a fun costume that he's gotten good use out of over the years.

The four of us together, natch.

So this post doesn't tell you a whole lot, but if you wanted to see some pics of my completed set of armor, these are what I have so far. We're going back to the Fest tomorrow, but I think I'm going to wear a simpler costume, with just a cloth surcoat over the chainmail shirt, and the cloak over that as well. The armor is fun to wear but it can be a bit restrictive, and I think I'd like to just change things up a little bit tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Armor Complete!

The armor is done, but I'm too tired to post anything about it tonight. Tomorrow morning I board an early flight to Houston, so I may not post again until I take some photos at the Renaissance Festival.

Until then... yawn... have a good one!

Armor Assembly - the Countdown Has Begun!

I don't recall if I mentioned this before, but I will be at the Houston Renaissance Festival this weekend, both Saturday and Sunday if the weather is decent. So of course I am now in the final hours of finishing up the armor, to get it ready for packing (I board my flight tomorrow).

The painting is complete at this point, although there are a few points that may need some touch-up. I plan to bring my paints and brushes with me on the trip, so that I can repair anything that gets scraped or scratched in transit, or even while at the Fest.

Most of my evening was spent riveting plastic and leather, along with the application of small amounts of glue where needed. Here are a few photos of the assembly in progress...

The knee protection pieces, riveted together. Kneecap is on the left, upper calf on the right. The joint is a bit tight, but it does move.

Shoulder pauldrons in process. The rivets are so tight that the pieces don't really move, although there is a little bit of flex in the plastic itself.

Shoulder pauldron, assembled. The rivets attach to small leather straps, which are then riveted to the next piece down.

Inside of the shoulder pauldron, showing the leather straps mentioned above.

Breastplate, assembled from three pieces. The clamp on the left is holding those two pieces while the glue dries.

I had to glue these pieces because the Sintra plus Worbla is too thick for the rivets to work well. When it's just two pieces of Sintra, there is no problem. The Worbla is just thick enough to make it too much for the rivets.

 Another shot of the breastplate, with clamps on each side for the glue.

That's all I've got for now. I still have the back-plate to assemble (two pieces), plus attach leather straps and buckles to various pieces so that they will hold in place when worn. I may do one last post tonight, showing those straps, before I pack up the armor for travel.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Armor - Painting - Progress Report

As I mentioned previously, I'm not entirely satisfied with the way the paint is turning out. It's not terrible, but it's not great either. Part of that is my own lack of skill with painting these surfaces using this type of paint. And part of it is that the silver metallic paint just does not look like metal. But, as time is running out, I decided to just move ahead and do my best with what I've got.

Here are a few pics of the work in progress...

Random pieces. The gold paint goes on pretty nicely with one coat, but the silver takes two coats. The pieces here all just have one coat so far.

The knee pieces in the foreground have two coats of the silver, and they look OK. Not as shiny as I might have hoped, but otherwise not too bad.

More pieces, with a mix of one or two coats of silver. The spray can is for the black primer that I've been using.

The trick with the two coats of silver is that the paint does not dry very quickly, so I have had to wait a full day before putting on the second coat. When I tried to just wait a few hours on the same day, the second coat was actually dissolving the first coat and causing it to smear. Definitely not the effect I was hoping for.

I expect to finish all the painting tonight, and then start with the various leather straps and buckles that will be needed to hold everything together and in place. I already made one experimental strap with buckle, and it worked pretty well. So I have some confidence going into that, that it will turn out fine.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Armor Painting - Moving Ahead

Spent some time this week just priming the individual pieces. Everything now looks very flat black. Making good progress, but I need to get all the painting done by the end of this weekend, which isn't a lot of time. May not have time to post anything this weekend, but hopefully will be able to post progress pics next week.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Armor - Testing the Paint, and Rethinking the Plan

For the past few days I've been testing the paint on a piece of scrap Sintra with a bit of Worbla stuck to it, to simulate what an actual piece of the armor would be like.

First, I tested a spray-can type of primer, to see how well it would coat the two different surfaces. That part went pretty well. It took three coats to really cover the Worbla, but that was mostly because the Worbla has a rough-textured surface. I could actually sand the Worbla first, and then prime it. But I wanted to see how well the primer would smooth out that roughness. So yeah, three coats did the trick. And since the primer is black, and the Sintra is black -- and also the Sintra is pretty smooth -- I only need to prime the Worbla areas and I can pretty much ignore (not prime) the Sintra.

The second step was to actually try some paint. This was, in a word... disappointing. I bought a metallic silver paint that someone else had recommended, but it is really thin and doesn't cover very well. After two coats, it still has not completely covered the black Sintra or the primed Worbla. I think a third coat would do it, but I am surprised, and disappointed, that it's taking that much. And after all that, it does not really look very metallic to me anyway.

So, now I am starting to reconsider how I want to paint this armor. And what I am thinking about is actually painting the silver on first, but then painting a coat of some color, maybe something blue, so that it looks like colored metal. This would (hopefully) cover up the fact that the metallic silver doesn't really look like metal, while also (hopefully) add a bit of color to the costume.

Why do I want color? Well, for one thing I have realized that my mail shirt is actually black, rather than plain shiny steel, meaning that having the "metallic" pieces layered over the mail might actually look kind of silly. But if I painted the armor pieces in a darker color, they might blend better with the black chain mail, and give the whole costume a better look.

So yeah, I've got some minor frustrations here but am trying to figure out a good solution to fix the way things are looking now. After I do some more testing with the color, I will post my results. Hopefully later this week. I only have about ten days to get this thing done, so I really need to move fast.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Armor Update 2014-10-26: Worbla Application Complete!

I finished the application of Worbla edging this afternoon, and as promised here are a few photos of the final work. Since I have previously posted pics of the simpler completed pieces, I won't re-post those, but below you can see the more complicated pieces that I saved for the end.

First, the breastplate, assembled from its component pieces. Three pieces for the front, and for the moment I just used my old standby, blue masking tape to hold them together. I need to get everything painted and finished, before I do the final attachments using rivets and leather straps.

Breastplate, assembled. Imagine it with silver metallic paint where you see black, and gold-metallic paint where you see tan.

Next, I took a few photos of the connected knee pieces, to show how it will look when the pieces are finally riveted together.

Front view.

Three-quarter side view.

Full side view. You can guess the scale of the knee protection by comparing it with the 2-liter Coke bottle holding it up.

Not much else to say today. I'm going to take the rest of the day off, and start testing my painting skills Monday or Tuesday evening. I'll post some more pics of the pain testing, to show you all what I have in mind for the final look. I will begin my testing on some scrap pieces, so that I don't risk ruining the costume itself.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quick Armor Update 2014-10-25

Just a quick update to say that I have almost all of the Worbla applied. I expect to finish tomorrow, and will post a few pics then.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Armor Progress 2014-10-19, Now With More Pics!

As mentioned once or twice previously, I've been working almost daily on the armor, and I took a few photos today to show the current progress. You may recall that I was working with Worbla, using it to add edging to each of the armor pieces. As you will see below, I've made some pretty good progress -- with a few pieces still to do.

My dining work table. These are all of the pieces that are done or in progress. Conspicuously missing is the huge breastplate, which will be the last piece that I do. Also, the knee protectors are just off the left edge of the photo. I haven't started them yet, but they will go just before the breastplate.

Closer-in shot of some pieces. Clockwise from lower left: hip protectors in progress; small parts of the breatplate; the right shoulder pauldron pieces; greaves, one inside the other; vambraces, also one inside the other; and thigh protectors.

Closer-in shot of other pieces. The only additions here (from the previous picture) are the left shoulder pauldron pieces, in the upper left.

Tools of the trade: heat gun in the lower right; shears for cutting Worbla (Sintra is too thick); box cutter; the little blue glass bowl has scrap pieces of Worbla that I can use to patch up little gaps (these really work great for that); the blue tape is used whenever I need to hold something in place and I can't do it with my own hands; the pen and ruler are used for drawing my cutting lines on the Worbla; along the left side of the photo are one-inch wide strips of cut Worbla, and a single half-inch wide strip. I measure and draw cutting lines for the one-inch strips. For the half-inch strips, I take a one-inch strip and just eyeball the cut rather than trying to measure and draw a line.

On most of the pieces, I used one-inch strips, where about 5/8 to 3/4 of the width is on the facing side, and the remainder wraps over the edge and onto the back of the piece. I used the half-inch strips for the smaller hip protector pieces, which themselves will be overlapping as they hang at my sides. The half-inch strips do not wrap around to the back, they are simply heated and stuck to the facing side of the pieces. As I mentioned before, one side of the Worbla has a very thin layer of glue, so all you need to do is warm it up and stick it to the Sintra.

This stuff has been great to work with. The heat gun makes it very easy to soften up the material and shape it to whatever I need, including some pretty tight curves, and the glue facing makes it easy to simply stick to the Sintra wherever I want. No additional adhesive is needed, ever.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Armor Update, 2014-10-16

The Worbla application is going well. I've spent a little while each evening this week working on it, and have actually progressed further than I would have thought possible. At this point I've got about a dozen small and easy pieces left, which could be done in maybe ninety minutes or so, plus five or six big and complicated pieces that will take considerably longer -- I would roughly guess an hour per piece. So that means that I could actually get all of the Worbla application done by the end of this weekend, if I keep at it.

So, there it is. No pics yet, I'm too tired. But I should be able to take a couple of pics this weekend and post them in another status update. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Armor Progress 2014-10-13

Uhh... well, the Geekwif and I spent the past several days finishing our basement. And then, with the home theater well and truly finished, we watched a lot of TV and played games on the PS3. All on the 65-inch 1080p HD plasma screen, and in surround sound.

So yeah, I didn't get a lot done on the armor. But, I will be working on it every night for the coming weeks, so I expect to have something to report in my next post, in a few days or so.

Until then, have a good one!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Armor Fabrication - Testing with Worbla!

Yesterday I mentioned that I wanted to do one more fitting before moving to the next step, working with Worbla. Well, I changed my mind a little bit -- rather than doing a full fitting, I just eyeballed the shape of the armor and adjusted some of the curves to be the way I thought they should be. There will be time for a proper fitting later, if needed.

One thing I did do was take a couple of pictures of the knee protectors, in order to post them here:
This is the inside of the lower piece resting within the kneecap protector, and you can just see that I have the middle joint taped with blue tape while the glue dries.

Here is the lower piece within the kneecap piece, showing how they will overlap. I am planning to rivet them together, one on each side, so that they can rotate with my knee when I bend it.

After taking these photos, I decided I wanted to start working with the Worbla and see if it lives up to everything I have heard. And so far, it really does. It has a rough side and a smooth side. The smooth side is actually a thin coating of glue. You can warm up the Worbla, and the glue will soften along with it, becoming sticky. When it cools, it's no longer sticky and can be handled with bare hands. A heat gun works perfectly to warm up the plastic, and it softens in less than a minute with the gun held a couple of inches away from the surface. When it gets warm and soft, the plastic darkens just a little bit, becoming almost translucent. The glue isn't quite ready at that point, but you know you're getting close. A few more seconds, and the plastic will become very soft. The glue is also nice and sticky by then, and the piece can be applied to whatever you want at that point.

Here are some more photos of my testing, and my first couple of applications.

Worbla comes in rolls like this. The outer face is rough, but the inner face is smooth (the glue facing).

Here's a piece of scrap Sintra that I used for testing. I cut a small strip of Worbla from the roll, then held it to the Sintra and used the heat gun to warm it up. After a few seconds, the glue melted to the point where it was sticky, and the plastic itself was plenty soft to make it follow this gentle curve.

Same testing piece. I positioned the Worbla such that there was about a quarter inch of excess past the edge of the Sintra. Keeping it nice and warm, it was easy to fold over the edge and stick to the other side.

A better angle showing the Worbla folded around the edge of the Sintra. After it cooled, the glue held it quite firm. I had to use a razor knife to peel it away at all, and even then it required me to reheat the Worbla so that it became soft.

This is a real piece of the armor, part of the breastplate. I ran one strip along the long curve first, overlapping the edge just like the test piece. Then I added a very short piece at the end, and pressed the edges together so that the seam became almost invisible. It shows here, but when it is painted over, you won't see it.

Close-up of the edges and seam.

Here is the piece on place on the breastplate. As you can see, the main breastplate overlaps it, and there is another flap behind and below which will also get a Worbla edging strip like this one. In fact I intend to put this edging on just about every piece of armor that I have.

Here are my vambraces (forearm protectors).  I cut the Worbla into one-inch wide strips, attaching just over half an inch along the edge, and wrapping the remaining width over the edge and into the backing. You can see the inside edges at the bottom of the photo, the Worbla doesn't always wrap cleanly along a curving line. I'm not too worried about this, since it the inner edges be hidden when I'm wearing the pieces anyway.

The outer face of the vambraces.

And that is as far as I got in a couple of hours working today. I'll do some more work today, but clearly this is going to take quite a few hours to complete all the decorative edging. The good thing is, the Worbla appears to be just as easy to work with as I have heard from others. It's kind of expensive, especially compared with cheaper materials like Sintra, but for decorative edging and other things it is really nice to work with and you don't need a lot.