An extended treatise on the art and science of making geeky things out of raw materials, found items, and anything else we can get our hands on.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Archery Arm Guard

Hey guys! Been a while. Well I won't get all blubbery on you. Let's get to business.

We're making an archery arm guard, because I've recently started attending archery practices again. See how this whole blog revolves around me?

First step is to get your measurements. Measure the length you want the arm guard (doesn't have to be all the way to the elbow, but I think longer ones look cooler) then measure your arm's circumference at the wrist (either over the bone or just behind the bone, depending on where you want the guard to fit, and on whether you have weird nobbly bones like I do), at the part of your arm where your arm guard will end, given the length you chose. Cool? Here's what I got:

Length: 8" (I'm starting back from the wrist bone a bit and also stopping the guard at the largest part of my forearm)

Wrist: 7 1/2"

Forearm: 12"

Okay, that should do it. Now we need to adjust to allow for closure. I'm just doing a simple lace job, so I'll need to modify these measurements down a bit to leave space for lacing. If you want to do another type of closure, you might need to add a bit to get some overlap. I might write instructions for that eventually, too.

I'm going to subtract an inch from my measurements to allow for a gap between the edges of the the leather where the laces will be.

So now we'll have a trapezoid, with the top being 6 1/2" wide, and the bottom being 11" wide. Cool? Depending on how big your arms are, you might not be able to get your pattern onto a standard sheet of typing paper. Also, paper makes for crap patterns, and we're making awesome patterns here! A basic manilla folder, like you'd see in a filing cabinet, is the best, cheapest pattern-making material you can find. I used to work at a place in a college that would go through those things like mad, and instead of trashing the dead soldiers, I stole them all and put them in my garage. I'm still working through them, almost 10 years later. They're good for leather and for metal, even for wood.

(Don't mind the weird curve thing on the side, I was trying something that didn't work out.)

Okay, so you've drawn your trapezoid, Now what? I decided to add a wrist tab to my guard after I'd already cut out the basic trapezoid shape, so I taped a piece of the cardboard back onto the pattern and then kinda roughed out a shape for myself. This way I get extra protection for the inside of my wrist, which is where I need it, but maintain the range of motion I get by having the guard backed away from my wrist a little on the back. Booyah.

Okay, so the pattern is pretty well cut now. Do a sanity check with it. Wrap it around your arm and make sure you don't have any parts overlapping or any parts gapping way too much or something. If you do, adjust accordingly until things look good. What I noticed is that the big end of the trapezoid, once I got it wrapped around my arm, ended up being kinda weird and pointy. I added a big curve to the bottom and everything smoothed out nicely. Once you get it the way you want it, trace it onto your leather. Cut out the leather. Do a sanity check with your leather as well. If you need to trim anything, now is the time to do it.

Next step is to strap that beast to your arm. Get your leather punch, your marker, and a ruler of some kind. Depending on how many laces you want, you can space your laces farther apart (I wouldn't do any fewer than 3 holes on either side) or make them close together for more lacing power. I started with 4 on each side, but I'm thinking now that I may bump up to 7. I'm using a shoelace as my lacing and it's really long. I think I could get away with more holes and it might make for a tighter fit. Also, I think it will look cooler. Draw your holes onto your pattern, punch them out with a paper hole punch (if you have one, otherwise you can use your leather punch to do it. Sacrilege, I know, but whatever. I'm not Michelangelo over here, I'm a dude who does leatherworking on his kitchen counter.) and then transfer the marks to the leather. When making these holes keep in mind that you'll want them away from the edge of the leather by a little ways, so there's some meat to withstand the force of many lacings and unlacings. If you put them way too far away, I think the whole thing will still work, and might even look kinda cool. This thing should be stupid cheap, so you have the freedom to experiment. If you make one that sucks, donate it to a boy scout or something.

Okay, now you've got your holes punched. Lace it up! See how it fits, see how you like it.

If all is well and you think this is the guard for you, you can do a couple things to finish it. If you have an edging tool, you can go around the edges, top and bottom, to take off the harsh corner of the leather. If you have a burnishing tool, you can also then burnish those edges. I have an edger, but not a burnisher yet, so my edges remain unburnished for now. And there you have it. Complete archery arm guard. Booyah. Now go shoot something.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I've resisted posting this stuff until now because these wands were gifts for friends and family. I couldn't let on that I was workin' the purple wood. That would've been embarrassing. So anyway, now it's safe to let the cat out of the bag, so to speak. So here's some of what I've been doing.

This is the wand I made for my brother, Anthony. It's a pretty simple design, made out of purpleheart. Right now it looks more like puceheart though, right? Time to fix that.

This is after 10 minutes in the oven at 300?.

At 20 minutes you can really see the color coming out.

After 30 minutes, it's really a rich, even purple color. Just have to let it cool down now.

Under the bench light, you can really see just how purple it gets. Crazy, right? This is no stain, just heat.

Under the lights on the gray background. Pretty, no?

Here's the other one I made for our friend Liz:

This one I actually did with a heat gun instead of the oven. Not sure which method I prefer, but the oven certainly takes less effort on my part. I kind of like the varied color along the wand that the heat gun does, though. We'll see what I do for the next one, I guess.

Okay, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Index Your Lathe

You don't even know what that means, right? You shouldn't. You should see the sun and have friends and all the nice stuff. That's the stuff I gave up so I can learn the depths of lathe-related knowledge. I'm like the Raistlin Majere of woodworking.

Anyway, what does it mean to index a lathe? The index is just a way for you to measure the rotation of your lathe. It would generally be measure in degrees, but it can be marked in different ways. Some lathes come pre-indexed, which is very nice. Here's what I did with my mini-lathe:

I added a pointer to the front, made of some brass scrap I had laying around.

I also took a measuring tape and measured the exact circumference of the hand wheel (261mm) and then divided that into three and 4 to get my various measurements. I did a split into quarters (0, 90, 180 and 270) and also one into thirds (0, 120, 240) since I figure that will be all I feel like dealing with for a very long time.

What I did was to wrap some masking tape onto the wheel, then marked it with a pencil. I used a protractor and the tape again to make sure I wasn't crazy. Once I was satisfied, I took my Dremel (Actually a Craftsman rotary tool fitted with Dremel brand bits) with the engraving ball on it and engraved the marks into the metal. This way, even though I'll be handling the wheel a lot, I'm not going to lose my marks. I may go back and sharpen them up at some point, or add more, but I at least have a solid baseline for it.

Here's what I did with it as a first project:

First thing was to turn a simple wand design on the big lathe.

Then I used the tool rest, the index and a pencil to mark lines along the length of the parts to be spiraled. I used a ruler and my measuring tape to mark both the circumferential circles and the diagonals. Spirals take a lot more layout time and energy to do properly than simple turned pieces, but they're awesome.

I took a microplane rasp and some various small round files to the diagonal lines, to start my grooves.

You pretty much just keep going that way until you get the depth you want.

Unfortunately, that's where it all ends, at least for me. I'm not satisfied with my sanding options, so I haven't really done much else. I'm going to keep working on it, for sure, and see if maybe a sharp chisel is my solution. I don't know, but I'll keep working and get back to you. There's no way this little wooden bastard is going to beat me, though. I'll get it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Next Project?

I actually referenced this site a lot when I was building my own armor, but now I think I have the facilities, tools, patience, and maybe just enough budget to make something fancier happen. But anyway, here are the pictures:

Click the link to see more: kropserkel.com

These guys are amazingly skilled and detailed. Someday, I hope to be half as good at this as they are.

More Things!

I've been doing a lot in the shop lately, and wanted to keep you all informed. For one, I've got more wands up on Etsy, which is cool. Here's the link to the shop: Septimus' Emporium of Handcrafted Geekery

And here are some pics of what I've been up to:

That's a Tormek T-7 wet sharpening system. It's a beast. I suck really hard at free hand sharpening and the Tormek uses a collection of jigs to make things as easy and repeatable as possible. It has completely revolutionized my turning. Woods that frustrated me to no end before now turn easily. Shapes I couldn't accomplish are now possible. Sharp tools really do make all the difference and a few minutes on the Tormek keeps everything in the shop crazy sharp. It's a big investment, but has been absolutely worth it for me. And this is without even sharpening knives and scissors and all the rest. That will come soon enough, I'm sure.

So here are my tiny brooms. Jenna suggested I make some tiny brooms for Christmas ornaments for friends, and I was originally struggling with them, as you can see. None of them really made me happy.

However, the fourth time was the charm on these. I'm super pleased with it and I learned enough to be able to do more of them, for one, and also to be able to use the same technique on full-size brooms, which I think I'll be trying before too long.

Also, I started trying some face turning. Or hollow form turning. I'm still fuzzy on the terminology, but I'm making cup shaped things. This is how they start. Kind of a rough cylinder.

Then we get to hollowing.

Then you kinda rough shape a goblet thingy out of it, I guess.

And then you take pretty pictures. See how easy that was?

And of course, plenty more wands. But everything I've made is on the Etsy site, so you've already seen it. So there you go! That's what I've been up to recently. So much crafting, it makes your head spin.

Etsy Listings

New Etsy listings are up!




Saturday, December 31, 2011

More projects!

Just wanted to post up a couple new things I turned out this morning. Two mini-wands and a big wand. The minis are alder scrap I had in the shop and the full-size was a piece of poplar.

The minis are really fun to make, and they always come out looking pretty cute, I think. I'll still have to put a coat of poly on these, but they're already looking pretty neat.

This is the full-sized poplar wand. It has a few dings in it, so it would go as a second if someone wanted to buy it. I was paying more attention to the tools than the wood and caught an edge once or twice. Still a pretty wand, though.

I like this design a lot. Especially the handle and pommel (well what would you call it?) but I'm not super happy with the transition bead. If I do another similar design, I'll rework that for sure.
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