Framed Again!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Making,Pictures | Saturday 22 June 2013 10:48 pm

I feel as though I use this blog these days for nothing more than cataloging and showing off the stuff that I make…

I’m ok with that.

So, to carry on with that theme, here are the two latest pieces I have framed. They are two of the several Discworld maps that have been made available through the years, and they are two of the first items on the ever growing list of things I was going to frame once I had the tools to do so, and walls to hang them on. They are also two of the larger pieces I had as well, making them more of a challenge. They pretty much fill an entire wall.

Since the maps were designed to look old, and old-world, I wanted to make some very old-world frames. Something a little darker, wider and more ornate than usual. Both prints were also almost too large to get mat-board for, but I eventually made it work. I apologize now for the reflections in the glass on these photos, but no amount of lighting tricks I know — natural or artificial — were going to avoid that.

The first print is the Streets of Ankh-Morpork, and is my favorite of the two. It’s a nicely detailed layout of the city on the Discworld most frequently used as a setting. It’s practically a character in and of itself. I adore the aging parchment look, and all the embellishments around the border.

The second map is of the Discworld itself.


Skin Cups.

Posted by DmentD | Making,Pictures | Thursday 20 June 2013 11:43 pm

Continuing adventures in leathercraft!

A little background for this project: Steve Jackson Games, an Austin game manufacturer who has been producing well known gamer favorites such as Chez Geek and Munchkin, released a quick, fun, and addictive ‘press your luck’ style dice game a few years back called Zombie Dice. Knowing me, you know I can’t refuse many zombie themed things, and a fun game is always good to have around. I eventually bought two sets of the game (and it’s expansion, Zombie Dice 2) — one for the house, and one to keep in the car for impromptu game sessions.

The game itself is awesome, and my only complaint has less to do with the game, and everything to do with the game’s container. The game comes in a dice cup which is essentially a cardboard tube with a plastic cap at either end. It’s noisy as hell when you shake the dice, and we find ourselves playing in places like coffee houses where that dental-loosening rattle is more than a little obnoxious.  SJ Games sells a soft bag you can use in place of the cup, but there’s something a little sad about pulling dice from a bag. I filed away the desire to find or make something better for another time.

Fast forward to now. I’ve got a few leather projects under my belt, and it occurred to me that I could make a sturdy leather cup, lined with felt or velvet, and that would look good and muffle a good deal of the rattle. Even better, I can make it themed to the game… why not have the appearance of zombie skin, greenish, brown and mottled. But hey, this a game where you play a zombie — no self respecting zombie would use a cup made from zombie hide, oh no, they’d cobble something together from their victims. Which to choose? Oh, wait, I have two sets of the game, looks like I’m making both! *grins*

The cups are made from heavy vegetable tanned saddle-grade leather that is nice and stiff. They’re stitched together using artificial sinew for that ‘harvested from a corpse’ look. The cups are very roughly stitched together (that’s a feature, not a reflection of my neophyte status as a leathercrafter, honest!). The insides are lined with a deep red velvet, and the caps are not lined, but instead stained with a very similar shade of red (‘cranberry’ to be precise).

The zombie skin cup has extra stitching to suggest closing up of tears or wounds to make a solid vessel. If I were to make another of this style, I would either eliminate that altogether, or use the same ‘loop stitch’ I use everywhere else. I particularly like the dirty discolored effect that is a result of staining the leather, then softening it with alcohol to shape and stitch it.

The cylinder of the human skin cup is assembled from four individual pieces of leather that were stained different shades of skin tone, then stitched together. There is no straight line seam on the cylinder itself such as the other cup has. Again, that may be something I add to v2 of the zombie skin cup.

Lastly, the Zombie Dice 2 expansion adds three dice to the original game. Sometimes we don’t always feel like playing with the expansion included, so I made little dice pouches out of shaggy black suede to contain the expansion dice to keep us from having to dig them out every time. It fits neatly into the cup for storage.

They all turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I learned a lot more about working with leather from this project. Isn’t that the goal, after all?


Leather Pouch.

Posted by DmentD | Making,Pictures | Saturday 9 March 2013 6:28 pm

After an initial success making a leather case for a Moleskin notebook, I’d been itching to work on something else. I’d been promising myself that I would start making pouches and accessories to go with my Ren Faire outfit, and this season seemed like a good time for it. I had the better part of a large piece of vegetable tanned shoulder, and a few of the basic tools to get started, just needed some buckles, a catch, rivets and a nice rich brown dye.

Knocked out a few designs in cardstock to get a feel for the size and style, and also to have a cutting template when I was done. Went for a more organic teardrop curved shape, simple but attractive. Finished, it looks well made (if I do say so myself), but not “modern made”, which is important for a period piece. The bag is approximately 6″ wide.

I have added, since its completion, a fleur de lis embossing which I think may become part of all my costume pieces. It would have been a little nicer and deeper had I done it before I had stained the leather, and if I could have done it in wet leather as well, but it’s not too bad as it is. I am heartily encouraged by this success, and see myself happily making more, and possibly more elaborate pieces before too long.


Framed, You Hear!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Making,Pictures,Reflection | Thursday 13 September 2012 12:42 am

Since I’ve been regathering woodworking tools lost to Katrina, I’ve been able to get a start on what is likely to be a very ongoing project… picture frames. Sweets and I have been slowly gathering prints and posters and artwork over the last few years (with no apparent end in sight), and for the smaller ones that fall into a standard size frame that can be bought “off the shelf”, we’re doing just that. Anything larger, or oddly sized — and the majority of what we have falls into this category — requires a custom frame.

The few pieces I’ve had framed in the past, while being done well, are fairly expensive… especially considering our tastes and preferences. At this rate, we’d likely only get one or two pieces done a year and we’d never catch up. Even the cost of just getting a mat cut is stupidly out of proportion considering a typical full-size sheet of acid-free mat board costs ~$15 for a 32″x40″ sheet and it takes all of 15 minutes to cut it. Add to this the fact that you’re limited to the frame styles the shop has in stock — to be fair, while not a minuscule selection they do tend toward a variation on a small number of themes. Additionally, if I wanted something more stylized or thematic I’m pretty much out of luck. The materials the frames are made of is rarely ever solid wood (composite materials mostly), and far too many of them are hideously garish.

So, I decided to do my own framing… quite in the tradition of my grandfather who framed all of his own artwork. I have a full-size mat cutter, I have the tools at my disposal to cut, fit and assemble frames, I have the skills and know-how, and I can do it all for a fraction of the cost that a frame shop would charge me. This also affords me the opportunity to do many more pieces in a shorter span of time and not break my budget. I can also get faaaaancy.

Two recent pieces that I finished were prints by Terrance Osborne: Post Katrina Blues, and Hurricane Solution #3. Both purchased over two years during my annual pilgrimages back to the motherland. I wanted to do something special for these, but hadn’t any specific ideas.

While foraging around the local architectural salvage companies for materials for another framing project (that’s another post) I came across an old wooden white painted window screen. I mean old, and poorly repainted over the years — never scraped, so the scaly ‘gator skinned peeling paint from previous generations created a prominent texture, and of an old hand-made style not seen any more. I was instantly transported back to NOLA, and the ancient white houses with the hunter green trim that is still found in older neighborhoods today (I lived in one myself), painted and repainted over the years. This screen was worn, weather-beaten and a perfect representation of a home — both physical and spiritual — lost to tragedy. It was mine for all of $4.

I disassembled that screen, carefully so as to not dislodge too much of the flaking paint, and lovingly cut and assembled it into a frame. I lightly dusted the worst of the dirt from it and sealed the rest in with satin Polycrylic. I paired the frame with a hunter green mat, the entire assembly representative of the loss depicted in Post Katrina Blues. The funky weathered appearance may not be for everyone, but it strikes me profoundly. You can even see a white house with green trim to the right in the print.

The next frame is another find from my architectural salvage hunts. It’s pieces of chair-rail moulding, reclaimed from an old house that was obviously decked out in quite a bit of fancy millwork when it was built (the pieces I used came from a huge bundle apparently from the same salvage project). The moulding was painted with a high-gloss white oil paint originally — those old oil paints just had a way of sitting on wood that is unmistakable — but the paint had lost some of it’s luster and has faded to a slightly ivory off-white color over the years. At $1 per linear foot, I had more than I needed for a measly $25.

The trim was in fairly good shape (compared to the screen from the last frame) with just a few chips and scrapes in the finish to show its age. It reminded me of the loving restoration that is done in the very old houses in NOLA, where the original millwork, filigrees and fancy flourishes are painstakingly preserved, showing the wear of the years but still holding up — mostly — the the test of time. It spoke to me of hope, history, and carrying on even in the wake of destruction. That fancy, scrolly moulding was cut and assembled into a frame, and left as-is with no additional finish… warts and all. Paired with a goldenrod colored mat, it evokes the stubbornness, ingenuity and spirit of preservation in Hurricane Solution #3.

My intention hasn’t been to salvage materials for all of my frames, that style just happened to fit the prints I was working on. Going forward… who knows what I’ll be using, but I have the freedom and flexibility to do what I like. Just you try to get a frame shop to make one from an old window screen. *grins*


Crawfish Table Number Deux.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Family,House,Pictures,Reflection | Sunday 22 April 2012 10:11 pm

In 1994 my brothers an I designed and built a crawfish table (well… adapted a picnic table design, to be honest) — a table made for the intent of standing at and eating crawfish.  Once a pot of bugs was done boiling, it was hoisted up and dumped out onto the table, an inner and outer rail keeping them corralled onto the table-top. Folks bellied up to the table and ate their fill without the need to grab a pile and go find somewhere else to settle in.  While eating, the shells were pitched through a hole in the center directly into a garbage can, rather than making a pile of them to be dealt with later.

Like all of the outdoor furniture we built, it was a heavy, solid, sturdy, beastly monstrosity — anything worth building, was worth overbuilding. Made from pressure treated 2x lumber, it would withstand the elements and insects. It was coated with more than five layers of outdoor polyurethane to help protect it from the crawfish, and us from the chemicals used to treat the wood. Our little furniture “company” was known as Hurricane Furniture (prophetic, I know!), on the premise that come a hurricane or tornado, you should abandon your home and seatbelt yourself into our outdoor furniture — you’d be safer (“tornadoes just bounce right off of our shit”).  It was branded with our signature logo — literally branded — burnt right into the wood.

This table saw eleven years of life in the sun, rain, heat, humidity and cold. Eleven crawfish seasons this table was put to use, occasionally hauled from house to house as needed. It stood the test of time. It was damn near indestructible.

Damn near.

It didn’t give up without a fight.  Oh no. When I evacuated for Katrina, I put it in front of my garage door to ensure the wind wouldn’t blow it open. It was a silent sentinel, a guardian of my tools. The storm hit and I was the lucky recipient of 9′ of water on my street. That foul, acidic water didn’t recede for more than a week, and the table was beneath it the whole time. Upon my return I found it, just about where I left it in front of my garage door and still holding it closed, only it had tipped over onto it’s side and turned 90 degrees. It was still intact, but the table-top had warped and twisted and it was fouled with dirt, the borderline bulletproof polyurethane coating eroding away from the wood. Sadly, the table was ruined beyond future use.

After the storm I moved to Austin, carting my meager surviving possessions with me. Among them was my crawfish boiling pot and burner… they were in the garage attic, and had survived high and dry. I vowed to return to my duties as boil-master some day, but unfortunately that was hard to do in an apartment.

It took a few years, but eventually I got back into the groove — there are live crawfish to be had in Austin, the best ones being trucked in from Lake Charles for pickup on Saturdays during the season. I host a boil a year now, and generally act as boil-master for at least one other hosted by friends, sometimes two. I missed it, dearly. It’s a lot of work, but it’s in my very bones. It calls to me. It reminds me of home, family, and good times. It allows me to make more good times, and carry on healing bits and pieces of my soul.

But, there has been a big, overbuilt table-shaped hole these last seven years. The absence of the crawfish table has not gone unnoticed, or unlamented. I’ve had a yard of my own for it to live in for many years, but hadn’t had the opportunity to build a new table.

Until now.

I knuckled down, and made a new one this year. It took a little digging to find the original designs I had, and some CSI-like action — oh yes, I was a clever motherfucker, for the original designs were done in CorelDraw v3, and nothing opens those any more, not even CorelDraw. Using a hex editor I was able to extract the shopping list and some basic notes I had jotted down. I was also able to see the postage-stamp sized preview to determine that I used five boards for the table-top, giving me the overall dimensions — 3’x5”.

I redesigned the table digitally (in a format that is more universal and likely to stand the test of time). I kept the same basic design and expanded the table-top to 4’x6′. I tweaked the height a bit. I also changed the way the inside rail fastens to the table — from pegs in holes, to a routed recessed area. I’ve also added a removable second tier table made of PVC that can be used to put drinks, paper towels, etc, replacing the paper towel rods drilled into the outside rail, and the car-window drink holders as well.

All the while I was cutting and assembling the lumber, my brain kept whiplashing back to 1994, and building the original table with my brothers. It made me smile for the connection to the past and to my family, and a little melancholy to think of the distance between us now, both physical and emotional — one more thing to thank Katrina for. All the while I was sitting underneath the giant wooden hulk, brushing on polyurethane, I was reminded of how much I despised getting that lovely crick in my neck the last time, and how much — after five days — I was getting damned tired of the smell of it.

But most of all, through all of the table construction, the thoughts looming largest in my mind were: I hope I do this justice, I hope this lives up to what we had created before… I hope I do my brothers proud.

They taught me well, those knuckleheads did. We didn’t always get along, and we never quite knew how to show healthy affection for one another other than through incessant teasing and verbal sparring, but they knew how to create, and they passed that on to me. When there was sawdust in the air, all was right with the world.

Here are the fruits of my labors, and I can’t wait to put it to the test in a few weeks time. I was even sent our brand so that I could properly mark anything I build, proclaiming it properly built in the finest tradition of Hurricane Furniture.

And here are three of the jackasses that helped make me the jackass that I am today. Love you all.


Next Step.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Rambling,Stress | Monday 26 September 2011 4:48 pm

The bookshelves are done, now we progress to the next stage in the living room and hallway… ceilings and walls.  I’ve already started doing patchwork — proper patchwork, not the stupid crap that folks pass off as patchwork, like, say, two layers of masking tape over a hole in the wall that was then painted over.


The old molding is already gone from around the doors and baseboards.  I’ve tested a spot on the ceiling that needed some TLC to ensure that we can simply wet the old popcorn texture down and scrape it right off (this worked surprisingly well!).  Tomorrow we start laying down sheeting on the floors and taping it along the walls at the ceiling line, so that we can start scraping the texture off in earnest.  Then we can re-texture the ceiling with something more pleasant and subtle (a knockdown texture, also known as a “California Ceiling”… it’s pretty much what’s on the walls already).

Then we paint.  Ceilings and walls, two coats each.  Anything will be better than the “beige available in 55 gallon drums” that’s on the walls now.


Yet Even More Shelf Progress.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Pictures,Rambling | Tuesday 20 September 2011 11:25 pm

We’ve completed four of the six shelves — routing, sanding, staining, sealing and all — the last two should get wrapped up this week.  The completed four are stowed in the dining room until we can do all the rest of the work in the living room… which starts next week.  “And miles to go before I sleep…”

Here’s a pic to document the progress so far.  While not easily seen here, the stain brings out a gorgeous pattern in the birch, very reminiscent of ripples in water.  The maple trim on the front edges is ever so slightly lighter in shade than the birch, and I think it makes a nice accent.


Bookshelves Progress Report.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Pictures | Friday 9 September 2011 1:24 pm

As previously mentioned, we’ve been working on bookshelves for our living room lately.  We’re building six 8′ tall, 9″ deep shelves that will take up about three quarters of one wall in that room.

The shelves are made from birch veneered ¾” plywood for strength and affordability, and the facing edges are being trimmed with ¼” clear maple.  I started with five sheets of 4′ x 8′ plywood and ripped it down to 9″ x 8′ strips, then cut those into the respective shelves and sides.  The trim started as 19 pieces of ¼” x ¾” x 10′ maple which was cut into appropriate lengths for the shelves and sides.

We’ve been assembling them one at a time in the evenings during the week, and stacking them in the dining room until we move onto the next phase: trimming/staining/sealing.  Basically, the trim needs to be routed flush with the sides and shelves as it’s a fraction of an inch wider than the plywood (useful for making aesthetic adjustments as you install it), and the nail holes need to be filled with wood putty and sanded.  The screw holes in the side have had birch plugs glued in to hide the screws, and those plugs need to be cut flush and sanded as well.

So basically, we’ve been slowly turning this…

… into this:


A Few Updates.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,House,Links,Pictures,Rambling | Friday 2 September 2011 12:07 am

A few things worthy of note to report ’round these parts:

The Bakers Bill, not quite in it’s original form, was passed thanks to an 11th hour Hail Mary from some dedicated folks in the Texas Legislature.  After it died in the House, they snuck that bugger in as an amendment to a Senate bill, which was then approved by both the House and the Senate.

There were some serious shenanigans, though, on the part of the Harris County Department of Health who said that they would have their friends in the Senate beat the bill down like a dog that crapped on the carpet if the Cottage Foods portion of the bill didn’t omit four little words: “and at farmer’s markets”.  Those four little words, while not completely diminishing the effectiveness of the bill, did put a serious damper on where Cottage Food can be sold… namely only from the home of the maker.  Having said all that, the bill did pass, and it’s a huge foot in the door.  The same folks who fought so hard to get this bill passed, are going to use that foot in the door to kick it open a little wider in two years.  They are going to expand the language of the law, and whittle away at the limitations.  Expect me to start making noise about it when the time comes.

So, now having the legal right to operate above board and in the open, Curious Confections is now Curious Confections LLC, complete with an EIN number, and soon to be tax ID.  We can open a commercial bank account and accept payment made to the company name.  We’ll be able to buy materials wholesale — that’s just dangerous right there.  *grins* We can advertise online, list prices, and get our name out there without fear.

Beyond the bill and Curious Confections (LLC), we’ve been having a ball with the pup.  Esme’s growing up to be a very sweet, if not energetic, bundle of fuzz.  She’s edged a little over 40 pounds, and at 8 months old, she’s likely not far from her final size.  She’s lean and long legged, and runs like a bat out of hell when she gets a wild hair up her ass… them promptly passes out on the kitchen floor under the fan for 5 minutes to recharge her batteries.  If we sit still long enough, she flops onto our feet and catches some Z’s (she’s using my feet as a pillow as I write this)  — this dog loves her some contact with her people.  Since I’m a horrible dog papa, I don’t take nearly as many pictures as Sweets does, so I’ll direct you to her gallery of pics of the pup for some cockle warming adorableness.  I will, however, just leave this lying here:

Cute as can be.

In other news, after 6 years I’m starting to feel like I’m getting some of my creative spark back.  I’m not to pre-storm levels, but my drive to get off my ass and make shit is definitely in gear.  I’ve replaced a bunch of the power tools I lost in the storm, and I’m currently making six bookshelves for the living room.  Of course, I don’t want to put them in until I paint the living room.  Of course, I don’t want to paint the walls until I scrape all the obnoxious popcorn texture off the ceiling, patch a few cracks, re-texture with something pleasant, and paint that.  Of course, once all that’s done, I’d love to replace all the painted baseboard and door molding with new, natural wood molding… oh, and add crown molding while I’m at it.  Yeah, “Sir Stuff” is definitely making a comeback, and he’s not fucking around, is he?

More than just woodworking is on my plate.  I’m dabbling in watercolors again, making art for my mead and wine labels, and I’m working on some charcoal rubbings as well.  I’m also starting to make mats and frames for the mountain of prints/posters/art I’ve collected these last six years (ok, that’s some woodworking too).

I’m not the only one with a creative drive in this household, either.  Sweets has been a crafting whirlwind, trying things she’s not had a chance to, or hasn’t done in a long time.  I’m also teaching her how to do some basic woodworking as well, and getting her familiar and comfortable with the tools.  I expect to find her out there building shit on her own before long, and that’s just dandy.

Aaaand, I’m done.  Save some stuff for other posts, or it’ll be months before I post again.

Y’all stay sane.


The Texas Baker’s Bill… Last Gasp!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Family,Links,Promotion,Spotlight,Stress | Wednesday 25 May 2011 4:34 pm

After fearing the Cottage Food Bill was dead in the House, turns out it’s still gasping for air!  It has actually passed the House, and is in the Senate as bill # SB 81, and has apparently gone round and round a few times already for amendments.  The unfortunate part is that we have less than a week for the Senate to pass it, or the legislative session will end and it’ll really be dead, not to be brought up again for another 2 years.

So, as before, I’m practically begging everyone to call and/or email your Senator and ask that they support SB 81 — specifically supporting it “as is” with the current crop of amendments, as there is little to no time to make any more.  The passing of this bill is the best chance for Sweets to get a legal baking business off the ground without having to scrape up  thousands of dollars in additional fees.  If you would like to help, I ask that you do so very, very soon.

Find out who your Senator is HERE.  More info on the progress of the bill is HERE.

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