Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Lovespoon Charm

Now that I've given the gift I can put up this post about the charm I designed and had commissioned for my girlfriend for our anniversary recently.

So after lots of research and some early design ideas, I came up with this sketch as a base design. It's a Welsh lovespoon. 

My earlier ideas had lots of Celtic knot detail and some of the more traditional design elements of a lovespoon (horseshoes, padlocks etc.), but in the end I pared it down to the core elements I wanted to keep in which were the dragons and the heart; the knots I replaced with the twisted dragons necks. 

The reason for this was mainly because as it was going to be made on a very small scale (~20mm long) I was conscious that I may not be able to achieve such a fine level of detail as I would have originally liked; especially within the budget I had.

Following the sketch design I started to take a look at materials. The base material was always going to be silver (to match the bracelet I bought to go with it), but I wanted to use something different for the heart to provide a focal point for the piece. 

Here are the options I came up with: The first is a rose gold heart, easy to make and hard-wearing I liked the simplicity and elegance of the design.

The second was to have a rose quartz stone set in it. I had a particular piece of rose quartz in mind which my girlfriend and I had fished out of a stream in Wales while looking for gold (unsuccessfully) on holiday. I'd kept it precisely for this kind of use and I thought for sentimental value it would be a nice idea.

The third was for a heart cut ruby to be set in it. This was actually the original idea I had, but unfortunately having had some quotes back this turned out to be too expensive.

The fourth was for a diamond to be set; again this turned out to be too expensive. 

In the end having spoken to many jewellers I decided to go with the second option, so I sent off my chunk of rose quartz to a lapidary (stone cutter/polisher) and had it cut and polished into heart shapes. One heart was cut for each side of the charm, as to mount a single double sided stone would be too insecure.

When I got the pictures back I was very pleased with the results (each of these is about 5mm tall), although the lapidary did tell me that she had to make several before she got two finished as they kept breaking.

Unfortuately the next update I got was that she had mounted the stones and that they had both cracked during the process; at this point she said she didn't feel that it was going to be possible to continue with the commission and pulled out.

Although I was disappointed that the month or so I had spent waiting while this was all being done had been a waste of time; having had my first glimpse at the charm she had produced I wasn't overly impressed with the quality (although this is a WIP pic, so it could have gotten better), so in a way I was pleased to be able to get out of the commission without it having cost me anything.

So now I went back to the internet and started getting a fresh batch of quotes in, this time for the rose gold heart design. after receiving 10 or so quotes I went with Lava Jewellery Design.

While they weren't the cheapest (they were somewhere in the middle) I chose them partially because I saw some similar dragons head work in their portfolio, and mainly because of the e-mail they sent me with the price was also full of questions on how they would like the clasp done, what sort of finish, what method they would use etc; good communication is key to making sure your design is produced to your specifications.

They had originally intended to make the piece by lost wax casting, but during the process they informed me that the wax was too delicate and kept breaking, so in the end they carved it from silver plate instead. This is the work in progress pic they sent me (at which point I had to pay the deposit).

Compared to the previous one I was very happy with the outcome, the gold I was told would be added later. I then didn't hear from them until the piece was completed, although this only took about a week.

So here is the final piece. I was quite pleased with the result, particularily how the dragon heads came out and the twisted necks. I was also pleased that they put a ring on top to attach the clasp; I had originally intended that the clasp should be attached to a ring that ran through the gap between the heads, but in retrospect I think it would have just hidden some of the detail.

Bits I was less pleased about included the fact that there was no depression in one side of the spoon, and the gold heart was flat rather than domed. It was a shame that by the time I received the charm it was only a couple of days until our anniversary so I didn't have time to get it changed. On the whole though I am very pleased with the result, and so was my girlfriend; as you can see.

You may also notice that there is another charm on there. It's an evil eye charm I picked up while we were on holiday in Turkey in July (she specifically wanted an something with the evil eye in it, but never bought one). So here is a pic of that and a pic of the whole thing:

So things I have learned while commissioning jewellery:

Leave plenty of time, especially if you're designing it yourself. I started this in April, it was finished by late November.

Get plenty of quotes, I got about 10-12 and they all varied wildly. 

Cost is no guarantee of quality of craftsmanship.

Never pay a deposit until you've seen the piece at least partially made (this really saved me some hassle with the first attempt).

All in all well worth the time and the cost, and certainly something I would do again.

Monday, 28 November 2011


So here is the cover art and the opening intro paragraph for the d6 RPG system I've been working on. I was going to wait until it's finished before I posted anything but I think that may be a way off so here's something to keep the blog going in the meantime:

Metaverse is an RPG set across many different worlds, it’s designed to be a played across quick sessions with short story arcs; above all it’s supposed to be quick, easy and fun.

It’s a d6 system and it’s very GM led, it’s not designed to be very competitive or have strict rules, so don’t play these rules if you want to have lots of structure to help determine what is or isn’t possible or what you/your character can or can’t do, the rules are only there to support things like combat situations etc.

The idea stems from when a friend and I used to play RPGs when we were younger. We never played with any official rule sets like D&D etc. we just made up a story, drew some maps, worked out a quick set of simple rules and got playing; the problem with this kind of system is that you don’t get as much of a sense of character progression because the sessions were always short and when we came to play again (usually months later) we came up with a new story etc.

What I’ve tried to do with Metaverse was create a system where you could play all the different story ideas you’ve ever had, but combined into a single system with a single character for consistent progression with a simple set of rules that doesn’t take ages to relearn every time you play.

Friday, 18 November 2011

How to Survive the Apocalypse Part 2: Kittens

Now that I have bread, I need to make sure I survive. This means looking after both my physical and mental wellbeing. After all it would be all too easy to dissolve into a quivering pool of traumatised uselessness due to all the horrors I've witnessed (horrors are an inevitable part of any apocalypse) and as I'm sure you know this would not be conducive to good bread making.

The answer to this is of course: kittens.

Kitten therapy is my primary coping mechanism for dealing with things. After a long, hard day at work you come home feeling all angry and stressed. Then you watch this video:

If that didn't make you feel better, you either had a really shitty day (in which case watch this video too, then maybe this; and in dire situations this), or you're a sociopath.

Of course post-apocalypse there will be no YouTube from which you can get your daily dose of kitten shenanigans; as such you will need a constant supply of actual live kittens. For this a male and female cat will be necessary, along with scratchposts, mousey toys and some Barry White.

Of course you will also need food for all your cats and kittens, but I'd assume that if the cats you've bred from made it through the apocalypse they're probably pretty good hunters so they should be able to feed themselves. Plus you might even be lucky enough to get a tasty mouse or rat left for you as a gift!

The benefits of kittens don't just stop at mental wellbeing either, according to some research they can also help to heal broken bones and muscle damage. Sprained your ankle running form zombies? Sleep under a pile of kittens; you'll be better by the morning.*

If it's a choice between a first aid kit and a first aid kitten, kitten wins every time.

*This does not constitute actual medical advice, or for that matter sensible advice. But it would be totally awesome to be covered in kittens.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Alianon Penblaidd

Here's a quick post (trying to keep the updates going) of my character pic from the D&D campaign we started last week. 

Unfortunately the squirrel and the wolf are both already dead, but I'm sure I can procure some replacements for the next session.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Medieval Feasting

Wow its been way too long since my last post, I have lots of drafts but no artwork to go long with them (that's my excuse) so lets try photo's to illustrate instead.

Tonight we are starting a new D&D campaign, so we decided to make it special by having a medieval(ish) feast to go along with it, so for my contribution I have:

A whole side of smoked salmon (smoked by my Dad) and freshly baked bread:

Roast pheasant wrapped in bacon, and some pigs in blankets:

Some roasted Welsh black beef:

Some mushrooms stuffed with Stilton, bacon and garlic (these will be cooked later):

And the pride of this mornings cooking, my triple dripping roast potatoes, cooked in the fat of  the pheasant, beef and pork they are absolutely delicious:

I'm now going to do another very medieval thing and fast for the rest of the day to make sure I can actually eat all of this, otherwise there will be nothing left for anyone else (especially the potatoes).

Monday, 29 August 2011

Skaven update

Just a quick update here, got all the basing done so done a quick undercoat and now they're ready for painting. Will put up a better post when I have the first clanrat finished, but for now here's the undercoated horde (plus at the back there is a WIP movement tray).

Sunday, 28 August 2011

How to Survive the Apocalypse Part 1: Baking Bread

I've got a slight obsession with what I would do in a post-apocalyptic situation. Given a lack of tools, resources and the skills to extract them from the natural environment I wonder how I would be able to survive in this brave new world.

On that note, one of the things I couldn't live without is bread. I love bread, it's my favorite food and imagining a life without it isn't an option. I don't however know how to make it, so I've decided to learn how.

Of course in a post-apocalypse scenario I'd need to also know how to make an oven, how to make a mill, how to grow wheat, how to get yeast and how to mill the aforementioned wheat with the theoretical mill. Most of this is a little impractical to test in my house though so I've learned how to do these (Wikipedia is amazing), and will limit practical excersises to things that don't involve digging out an earth oven in my garden.

So to begin the recipe for bread: very simple really flour, water, salt and yeast. This recipe called for 650g of flour, 15g of yeast, 5g of salt and 400ml of water, mix it all up in a bowl.

Keep mixing until you have a ball of dough, by this point it shouldn't be sticking to your hands, if it is keep adding flour until it's a cohesive ball.

Then you need to knead the dough (forgot to take a pic of this) but basically it just involves stretching the dough to help it rise (this stretches the gluten in the dough which allows air bubbles to form without ripping the dough), not enough kneading will result in the bread not rising properly. Make sure when you knead you do it slowly or the bread will rip. I normally knead for 5-15 mins.

Once its kneaded shape it to the desired form and cover it with a damp cloth, then it needs to be put somehwere warm to rise. I put the bottom oven on to 150C then put the dough in the top oven. Leave to rise for approx 45 mins, the dough should double-triple in size.

The bread is now ready to bake, simply move from the top oven to the bottom oven (still at 150C). If you want a crispy crust put a roasting dish in the bottom of the oven (before the bread) when you put the dough in add water to the tray. The steam this creates will give a nice crusty crust.

Leave in the oven for 30 mins or so until it looks like this.

Now cut, butter and enjoy.

And sleep sound knowing that if ever the apocalypse comes you can still enjoy the nicest food known to man.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Progress so far

So here's the list:

Warlock Engineer x 2
40 x Clanrats (inc 2 x Champion, 2 x Standard Bearer and 2 x Musician)
Warpfire Thrower
Poisoned Wind Mortar
Rat Ogre x 2

I also have another 20 x Clanrats which will be used to bolster the 2 x squad I have now.

Clipped and filed them all, and first job is to base them all. Basing them with stone slabs which I'm cutting from plasticard, so far got one unit of clanrats done and both weapon teams.

As you can see in the above I've also finished and painted a warlock engineer:

So that's progress so far currently working on getting everything based and then undercoated.

List of extra things to buy to make a more balanced force:

3 x Warplock Jezzail Team
1 x Unit of Night or Gutter Runners
1 x Unit of Stormvermin?

New Blog

Ok, I'm so bored at work I'm actually starting a blog; something I've been toying with for a while but never wanted to start because I just think it will end up getting abandoned. My friend Mal has been pressuring me to get an army log up too, so Mal you win.

Anyway, that's the why; so now the what. I was recently given an Island of Blood boxset by my friends Mal and Gaz for my birthday as I've always wanted a Skaven army but because we've never really played WHFB before I've never got round to buying. So this will be a project log for my skaven army, and possibly diversify into other wargaming projects at some point in the future; although I wouldn't count on that given my (admittedly deserved) reputation for sloth.