Sunday, October 28, 2012

Let's see what this puppy can do...

Hello All,

This week, I had a deadline at work so I pretty much only had time to eat, sleep (a little), work, or think about work. Busy is good for an architecture firm - especially considering the brutal past few years. Things are really getting better in the building industry.

With my first paycheck from my new job, I bought a Silhouette Cameo. (This is an electronic cutting machine similar to the Cricut. However, for the Cricut, you have to buy pre-designed cutting files in really expensive cartridges. (I think something like $40...?) The Silhouette comes with software that allows you to create your own designs. There is also an online store where you can buy individual designs for about a dollar each. I considered buying a Cricut because at one time you could hack the machine and make your own files, but Provo Craft put an end to that pretty much as soon as they figured out people could do it. I bought the Silhouette because this machine allows me to design my own cutting files. I don't scrapbook and I wanted to use this for miniatures. For more information about the machine:

So this is essentially a very expensive experiment to see what this puppy can do for my mini's habit... A lot of inspiration for using this machine for miniatures came from Kris Compas's matboard projects. The maximum thickness the machine can cut is cardstock - so no matboard. BUT the automation of cutting allows me to cut 20, 40, 50 layers of cardstock to be glued together. The additional effort required to glued together the layers seems worth it for the precision of the pieces.

The fist project I tried was Kris Compas's gumball machine basket. I created the cutting file in a drafting program based on the template Kris provided in her tutorial and did some file hocus pocus to make it a .svg file for the Silhouette. Then, I just send it to the Silhouette and cut as many as I need.
I had to do some tweaking in converting Kris's hand-drawn/drafted template to a digital line drawing due to pencil line thickness.  The cut "star-bursts" in the picture are not the version I used for the basket in the picture, but they represent an approximation of the pieces I used for the partial basket on the form. These star-bursts were then stained per Kris's tutorial, and I can now finish the project exactly following her instructions. The 1/8" strips in the background were also cut with the machine. I'm not finished - obviously - but I started with some very crisp and precise pieces. I have the file made, so I can cut as many as I like at any scale that fits on a 12"x12" piece of paper.
The next project I tried was Kris's occasional table. My version is a little less round - more elliptical - than hers. I imported the template file she so generously provides in her tutorial into my drafting program, traced over it, tweaked it to my preferences, and did the previously-mentioned file hocus pocus. (I may do a post on this process once I get it streamlined.) Then, I cut something like 10 - 20 of each piece. These got glued together with wood glue and dried under a couple of heavy books. I did a few at a time over several days. Ten minutes here and ten minutes there... Next, I did my gesso-sand-gesso-sand-repeat routine. That's where I am in the process now.

I'm not satisfied yet with the smoothness, so I think I have a couple more rounds of sanding to go. The next image shows a dry-fit of the pieces.

Unstable like a wee colt with knobby knees...
There is no glue holding it together, so it's pretty unstable without the little shelf in it. The next thing I need to do is cut some notches in the shelf for the legs. The biggest benefit with this project is that the curves on all the pieces were consistent and precise. A big challenge I'm facing is the edges of the pieces. I was really, really careful gluing the layers together, but the ridges of 10 pieces of cardstock are still evident after a lot of sanding. That part is labor-intensive, but I got a really smooth finish with the same process on my system kitchen, so I'm confident that this can be overcome.
Another that I'm working on is Kris's ewerware pitcher.
Here's the bowl of the pitcher gessoed and sanded. I might do another round...

Here are a few other images of tests:
Here's a little box I made from a purchased cut file and scaled down. You can scale all the cut files in the Silhouette. You will need to take into account paper thickness when making scaled boxes with lids. Learned that the hard way...
These are actually the negative of a lace cut file that came with the Silhouette software. They are a little big, but I think they would work for some plants.  Which ones? I don't know, but I'm saving them... The Silhouette can actually cut smaller than this, but I haven't photographed them yet.

So this was a long post, but I hope that it is informative for miniaturists. While I'm still working on these projects, it has been super-fun testing them. I know I'm barely scratching the surface of what the Silhouette can do. I hope my followers can post some ideas, and time permitting, I'll do some posts on them. I take requests!

Final note:
I have to thank Kris Compas for allowing me to post about her projects. Her blog is one of the things that gets my creative juices flowing. If you haven't seen it, GO! If four links to her blog is not enough, here's another:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's been a while...

I wish that I had not let so many months go by without a post, but I have a good excuse. I now have a real, full-time job in my field. I've been busy, but I'm getting an income and things are considerably less scarier than they were.

I have been making things, but I haven't finished much to show. Here are a couple of little projects I've completed.
Alex colored the paper an cut the petals on this one. I made the leaves and assembled the rest. I'm lucky that my partner is so encouraging of my obsession/hobby that even he gets into it occasionally.

These are the tulips I started a while ago. The bucket was made with my new Cameo Silhouette machine. I scaled a bucket cupcake holder and assembled it. I used silver spray paint. It turned out a little mottled, but that's good if it's a galvanized bucket.
 I have adapted a project by Kris Compas from 1 Inch Minis for my Silhouette machine. Details to come soon... I'm still in the sanding and gessoing process, but it has been an interesting experiment. I'm anxious to share what the Silhouette can do with the miniatures community. 

So off to bed at 9:30 pm... I have 9 hour days Monday through Thursday and a half day on Fridays (most of the time). I hope to have some minis time this weekend. I hope all my followers are well. Thanks for reading this if you're still with me.