Friday, October 26, 2012

Derweesh Mark II Watchstrap

It took me a while to find a watch I really liked, but I finally settled on the Timex Ironman Dualtech. I used the Derweesh Mark II belt weave with black 550 paracord, which for some reason seems to be "flatter" than other types (colours) I've tried. The buckle is from a women's belt I bought cheap from a charity shop, and the leather loop is from another belt I stole the buckle from for a previous paracord belt.
The Timex Dualtech is a nice, clean analogue watch...
... with all the advantages of a modern digital watch.

I used four spine strands, and weaved around each one, which turned out to be just about the right width for the buckle. I used one loop-back row per crossover row to create as many holes as possible so the length would be as adjustable as possible. I think there's around 20 feet of paracord in the strap, I'm not really sure but it's certainly a little more than most thanks to the extra length.
You can clearly see the holes in this picture.
Admittedly it's quite thick where the two straps overlap.

Initially I weaved up to the watch, pulled the strands unwoven through the pins and under the watch, then took up the weave on the other side, but I found that it actually didn't wrap around my hand as well that way. Instead I tried to continue the weave the whole way, and attach the watch using the two inner spine strands (using all four would have interrupted the weave). This turned out to be more comfortable, and I believe it will be easier to remove and reattach the watch when necessary. It does mean the watch sits a little higher, but I don't think it will be a big problem.

The end was a little tricky to tie off neatly, but I've found that if you push the ends through the final loops without actually pulling the weave tight it gives you some wiggle room to fit one more cord through (since each row has two cords you might find yourself a little tight on space at the end, as I did), and luckily I was able to weave it tight and get a neat end.

Overall I think this is quite a unique watch; while paracord straps are not uncommon, I've only ever seen ones with snap clasps that are obviously not adjustable, while mine has (what I believe is) a fairly unique weave and a buckle making it adjustable. Typically I find watches quite uncomfortable to wear, I'm hoping the single piece strap will help this one to be more tolerable, but time will tell.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Newbies Eternal

I haven't been doing much painting lately, but the last few weeks I've been trying to put a little time in - need to try this newfangled "sic-th edi-shon" thing everyone's been talking about. So here's the scouts I've had on the shelf since, oh, ages ago.

I'd say they came out quite well. Comparing them to the first scout I painted shows just how much damage that crappy varnish did. The stuff I'm using right now, Vallejo matt varnish, is much better. To be honest I think Games Workshop purity seal has actually given me better results and I'm considering going back to that, but I'm still a little scared of all the sugar-coated-frosting-of-Doom stories I've heard.

As you can see the paint scheme is basically the same, but there's a few improvements. The cloth is meant to be basic black instead of green (the original model actually had different coloured cloth areas as it was a test piece), the camo pattern is finer, the flesh worked out a little better, the blue highlighting is toned down a little thanks to a blue wash, and the green glowy lenses look much nicer. The new model's leather is much darker; this was by accident rather than design but it kinda makes them look more... stealthy, possibly even more dangerous.

I've also dimmed the Sentinels Eternal symbol from the bright white I was using before - they are supposed to be sneaky after all.

I used a blue primer, but again the Army Painter primers don't seem to be that good and I wont be using them again. The armour is Regal Blue (which I've decided is my favourite of the old GW blues) with Ice Blue highlights then washed with Asurmen Blue wash. The cloth was meant to be black, but I got lazy and just drybrushed grey then white over the blue primer then washed with black, thinking that should be enough to create the effect of black cloth with grey highlights, but the paint rubbed off as I handled the models and as a result the blue shows through in some places. This doesn't look too bad, but I would have preferred a colourless grey/black appearance as my chapter colours are meant to be blue extremities over black central areas.

The leather was my standard Scorched Brown and Snakebite Leather highlights, but washed with Devlan Mud, which darkened it more than I expected. The capes were Dark Angels Green with Camo Green and Bleached Bone (and possibly Goblin Green) spots, and various washes (not sure what I used to wash with, one cape seems to be noticeably greener than the others, I think I was experimenting but I forget now). I also drybrushed the capes with Camo Green and Skull White, but I think the drybrushes were partly rubbed off from handling. I also stippled black onto the bottom of the cloaks and boots, though I'm wondering now if a dark brown might have been more appropriate. The brass is Tin Bitz and Dwarf Bronze. The black is highlighted with with Space Wolves Gray.

The lenses are just white washed with Thraka Green wash to create a slight glow effect, which is just faster and easier than painting actual lenses. In this case I think it works well enough and provides a nice spot colour. I still finished the lenses with a gloss varnish to add those natural glassy specular highlights.

Skin was based with different flesh colours, then I carefully painted on Army Painter Quickshade (strong), which I find works better than normal washes for shading skin. However the quickshade colour doesn't quite look natural (it's a little too dark and unsaturated I guess for the skin colours I'm using), so I then used some washes - Gryphone Sepia if I recall - to try and give the skin a more uniform shade and tie the colour together better. I think it worked alright, but the final result has less shading than I expected. This might be a result of the wash or the relatively small area being covered.

I tried to give the hair texture by applying a thick layer of un-thinned paint then pulling the brush through it, which would of course be enhanced by drybrushes and washes, but I had very little success. I tried to vary the colours somewhat, leaning to browns and reds.

I made a few mistakes while working that I had to fix afterwards. For one thing, my initial drybrushes on the cloaks look like they were partly rubbed off as I handled the models; the end result lacks definition compared to blending or layering as applied by more skilled painters than myself.

As I was applying the gloss varnish over one model's shoulder I suddenly realised that I had forgotten to actually apply the chapter symbol in any way, shape or form. At that point I was sorely tempted to leave it out completely, after all they are supposed to be all stealthy and thus they might not want to give away who they are if caught... but in the end I decided it was a flimsy excuse and painted the symbol over the varnish. Only two models got the symbol, however, as the cloaks cover the shoulder pads on the others and I couldn't see a good alternative location. The symbol was a quick freehand job and turned out better than I had expected, though I was forced to apply a grey outline as the black was too close to the blue to see clearly.

Finally, half way through applying the second varnish, I noticed that I had forgotten to paint the eyebrows. Once the varnish dried I slapped on some quick (and sloppy) brown lines then varnished their faces a third time. At that point I was tired of it all, and as a result the eyebrows don't match their hair colours and just don't look all that good - but in my defence I can't seem to figure out how to paint good looking eyebrows at the best of times. Luckily they're mostly hidden by the goggles anyway, so no big deal.

I have made some progress with my efforts to assemble a model with a LED bulb inside, and that progress is this: I have discovered that my original plans to use magnets to hold the bulb are unlikely to work because in order to get a good connection I will need magnets on both faces (my previous attempts involved a magnet on one face and another touching the rim, which did not give me a good connection). This involves using very thin magnets (.5mm) if I want to use a normal base, but trying to solder wire to thin magnets kills the magnet. Therefore I would need to use bigger magnets, in which case there's no advantage over using a proper battery enclosure. So yeah, I haven't quite given up yet.

Next up I'm hoping spend a little time assembling some models that I've been planning for a while. Of course I probably won't have anything painted any time soon, no surprise there.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Make Me One With Everything

I decided to spoil myself a little. Cheeseburger with a fried egg, portabello mushroom, and fried onions. It was amazing - I cannot believe how well the mushroom especially turned out. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. I enjoyed it so much I had to post on my blog about just how much I enjoyed it.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Derweesh Belt Mark I No.1

It took several hours of work, but I finally finished the first Derweesh Belt Mark I:

I put a lot of effort into keeping the rows consistent, and fortunately it paid off; it turned out very neat and tidy. I had some trouble at the end, specifically the central two spinal strands turned out to be a little shorter than the outer two. I'm really not sure how that happened, but it took a couple of tries to find a way to tie things off neatly. Here's the result:

Not exactly what I had planned, but not too bad. There's a little under 90 feet of paracord in there, and it's long enough to go around my 34-inch waist with around 3 or 4 inches to spare, making it just long enough for me. I wonder how much longer I could have made it without running out of paracord? I was using a 100 foot piece, if approximate and say that 90 feet was enough for 30 inches, of belt, then that would mean I had enough for about another two inches, three at the most. I actually consider myself lucky I didn't run out, as I was rather careless about measuring out the length at the beginning and I could easily have made the spine 4 or 5 inches longer.

I've also figured out a good way of using my Mark II pattern as a watch strap, just going to pick up the watch I want and I'll get started. I might have been wrong before about the Mark II being thicker than the Mark I pattern; it may have had more to do with the particular paracord I was using (the blue stuff I currently have seems to be more round than this black type, which is more "squashed") and how tight I was pulling it.

I'm also planning to get a longer strand and making myself a Slatt's belt; I've figured out a way to partially solve the issue of it starting at an angle, but I don't think 100 feet is long enough. Lastly, I want to get a two-prong buckle to try a Mark II weave with two rows of holes, which I think could work extremely well as it seems to work best with two spinal strands per loop, but four spine strands (meaning two loops per row) is too narrow for a man's belt. So with six spinal strands I can have three loops and two holes per row.

Sigh. So many plans and so little time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Manly Baking: Howdya Like THEM Apples?

I gotta be honest; it's hard to feel manly when you didn't have time to do any knitting because you were too busy baking a cake. Sigh. Anyway, it's a recipe called "Autumn apple cake" from "The easy cook cookbook" by BBC books. Here's a shot of the ingredients:

The recipe states "Ready in 15 minutes, plus 50 minutes in the oven". By this point I had already been working for maybe 20 minutes or more chopping and cutting. Of course the ingredients ask for chopped apples and dates and hazelnuts, so apparently it's not counting the time spent preparing the ingredients prior to actually mixing them. Anyway, I ended up with enough for two cake tins, so here's the finished articles:

They turned out OK, though I think the centre of the larger one was undercooked. I can see now why it's called an "autumn" apple cake.

Just a head's up: I don't recommend this book if you're new to cooking (like I am) as it tries to make recipes look easy by not describing the process in sufficient detail and combining multiple actions into a single "step", so for inexperienced cooks (like me) it's not so easy to follow in a step-by-step manner.

For example, here's a step from a different recipe:
"1. Put the biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush to crumbs with a rolling pin or the base of a pan. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the biscuit crumbs. Mix well. Tip into a 20cm-deep, loose-bottomed cake tin and press down firmly and evenly with the back of a spoon to make a thin layer. Chill while you make the filling."

Come on! That's at least 3 steps! Here's how I'd write it:
1. Put the biscuits in a plastic food bag and crush to crumbs with a rolling pin or the base of a pan.
2. Melt the butter in a large pan.
3. Add the biscuit crumbs to the butter and mix well.
4. Tip into a 20-cm deep, loose-bottomed cake tin and press down firmly with the back of a spoon to make a thin layer.
5. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
In fact, I might split step 4 into two steps, just to keep each step to a single action / sentence.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Manly Knitting IV: The Re-Return

I found another way of weaving a belt with holes, so I'm calling this the Derweesh Belt Mark II. Or something. Anyway, this one is faster to weave and has much better holes, though in my opinion it doesn't look as good, though perhaps when I've developed a little more consistancy it will look better. Right now I'm working with four spine strands, I believe it will work with as few as two, though it might be necessary to change the pattern for more than four.

1. Getting Started
As usual measure off the length and anchor the cords.

In this case I'm using four spinal cords. Notice how the middle loop is behind the two central spinal cords, and the outer spinal cords go into the belt from above.

2. The Crossover
Choose one of the weaving cords. This will be the leading side; always start each row with the cord on this side. If you switch leading sides halfway the pattern will be inconsistent. Take the cord and pass it over two of the spine strand and behind the other two.

Repeat with the other weaving cord.

Pull tight.

3. Looping Back
Take the cord on the leading side and pass it over two spinal cords, the back behind them.

Repeat on the other side.

Pull tight.

4. Infinite Loop
Keep going, repeating crossover and loop back rows as desired.

The final result looks something like this:

As you can see it has large holes along the middle. Because of the how the crossover step weaves through the centre, these holes aren't pulled tight the way they are in the "Mark I". Also I think the crossover strands are more sturdy for a belt. As you can see, the belt is a lot narrower than the Mark I, but it actually seems to be thicker for some reason. Personally I don't think it looks as good though.

In this case I didn't finish the belt because it's too narrow for the buckle. I'll have to keep an eye out for a smaller buckle or experiment with more spine strands. I had a quick go with the same pattern with two spine strands:

As you can see it worked about as well and is noticeably narrower. This might make a good watch strap if you can find a good buckle. Here's a slightly different pattern with six spine strands:

Note that this buckle is from a women's belt and is smaller than the average male belt buckle, so this six strand design would work reasonably well for a man's belt.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manly Knitting III: Vengeance

Here's a couple of adjustable-length bands I made with nothing but a single piece of paracord each - no buckles needed. The first uses the same pattern as my Derweesh Belt but without the loop-back step - the reason why I do this rather than use a regular sinnet is to get two lengths of cord at the end - and the second is a simple Cobra weave, just to show that it's quite easy to do with different patterns.

1. Getting Started
First measure off the spine - this should be about an inch or so less than the diameter of your wrist. Again I'm using carbiners to anchor the strands, in this case I used 4 spine strands.

Notice how one of the end goes in from above and the other comes out from below the carbiner.

2. The Weave
Like the "crossover" step from before, weave one working strand thorugh the spine strands, then the other so that they pass each other on opposite sides of the spine. Once you're done, pull tight. Notice that this time we went straight to the outside - in the Derweesh belt the first row starts with the working strands looping around the outer spine strands, but that isn't needed here.

3. The Loop
After you've woven two or three rows, remove the carbiner.

You'll have three loops that can be opened out.

Reattach the carbiner to the central loop.

Then pull the inner spine strands to draw the central loop tight, and pull the outer spine strands to get rid of the other two loops. You may have to adjust the spine and the anchor at the other end in order to keep similar tension in all spine strands.

Now continue weaving. Remember to pull the woven rows tightly towards the base as well as pulling tightly on the weaving strands.

4. Finishing Up
When you get near the end of the band, remove the second carbiner. You'll be left with two loops.

Keep weaving until the weaving strands finally pass through the two loops with no room for any more rows.

Now remove the first carbiner again and bring the two ends of the weaving strands back to the single loop at the start. Pull the ends through the loop. This might be difficult depending on how large the loop is. Bear in mind that it should be a tight fit, as the friction here is what holds the band closed.

Measure off a few inches of cord and cut the ends to the same length, melting the tips. Finally, tie the ends together with a simple  knot.

And you're done. There should be enough cord at the end to allow the band to be slipped over the hand, but the woven section should be short enough to allow the band to to be tightened to a comfortable fit.

The Cobra
This pretty much works the same way, but using the cobra weave and just two spinal strands.

You start off with a loop at one end and two at the other, but the two loops might to be too large to provide good tension.

So what you can do is remove the carbiner after completing two rows and, with a little shuffling, pull out the a loop from the first woven row and pull tight the original two loops to get rid of them.

Once you reach the end, pass the two working strands through the single hole from opposite directions.

Then pass them back through the first hole and tie a knot.

And you're done.

The nice thing about this kind of band is it's very easy to make; they don't need any buckles and are woven from a single length of cord, plus of course they are adjustable. The main disadvantage is obviously the hanging length of cord with the weight of the knot on the end, which could get annoying.

If you want to use this idea for a watch strap you should probably make sure the loop that the cord ends are pulled through is very tight, otherwise the weight of the watch could conceivably work the band open. Soaking the band after it's finished weaving might help, as this can shrink some types of paracord and so make it tighter.