Saturday, April 18, 2015

Strak Attack!

He's finally done! I actually enjoyed painting Strakhov more than usual, I think it's because it was a relatively easy model to paint and I wasn't trying to do anything too fancy so I didn't run into the occasional frustrations that I do trying to do fine work on some more detailed models. At the same time I was experimenting with colour combinations and mixing paint, so it was still interesting. And of course there was this waiting at the end:

I stuck pretty close to the studio scheme in the end, mainly because I quite liked the whole "shades of grey" thing the official paint-job has going on with his... skirts. I tried to stick to darker colours, using a darker red for his armour and trying to use predominantly darker browns and metals, and using black leather in many places where the official paint scheme is brown. I think it turned out quite well to be honest.

Other than the base, the only conversion work was to fix a couple of areas that bugged me about the original, namely the receiver of his gun (I don't even know what's going on with the original model there), and that stupid chimney he has sticking out of his back. I mean, a chimney, really? Exhausts wouldn't have been so bad, but it's a genuine chimney. The chimney is genuinely larger than the funcional areas of his backpack! It's not even coming out from between his shoulders, it starts at the small of his back! Good grief, I hate that thing. This may be presumptuous of me, but I much prefer the lower-profile "generator" on mine.

Just for fun, some darker shots of "the Hoff" with some more of his army:
"No-one will see us coming!"

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Derweesh Mark III

I've figured out a small change to the Derweesh Mark I pattern that improves it significantly. I'm calling this one the Derweesh Mark III. I've just finished the first belt made using this new pattern. I used 275 paracord; I wanted a lighter, more elegant belt that would fit through the tighter belt loops that some of my trousers have.

While the belt is thinner, lighter and more flexible that previous belts I've made in 550 paracord, it seems that 275 paracord does not compress like 550 does, so it didn't take as much cord as I expected. The belt is a total of 105cm (41 inches) long, not counting the buckle, I forget how much paracord I actually ended up using but I think it was about 35 metres. I believe it took somewhere around 10 hours to weave. Turns out I made a mistake when I was measuring the jig I used, and the belt is just a little too short for me to actually wear (I'm giving away far too much info about my waist size here...), so I'm going to have to start on a second one soon.

Getting Started
I used 8 spine strands for this belt, which gave me a good width for the buckle I was using. Of course you can always experiment with different numbers of spine strands to get the thickness you want. I was using a jig, so I didn't need to knot the cords around the buckle the way I have in the past, but of course that is always an option. You'll notice that these first pictures feature a different buckle. That's because I figured out an easier way of getting started after I had already begun weaving this one.

First of all, pass the paracord through the belt buckle twice:

Now you can draw the buckle along the entire length of paracord until it's at the halfway mark. Next, take one of the strands and pull a loop back partway through the buckle, giving you two loops on that side. Repeat on the other side for a total of four loops. These are your eight spine strands. The rest of the paracord, that you will be weaving with, are your two working strands.

You can now measure out these eight spine strands to the length that you wish the belt to be. As mentioned before, I used a jig to hold it in place. Here's what my setup looked like:

Step 1: Looping Back
I found that starting with the loop back step worked better, at least the way I had this belt set up. First of all, take one working strand and weave it around two spine strands. That means that you pass it over the spine strands if it came out from beneath the buckle, and vice-versa. In this case the strand was coming out from the top of the buckle, so I passed it underneath the first two spine strands. I then passed it over the next two:

Next loop it back and continue weaving. In my case this meant passing it back under the inner two spine strands and then over the outermost pair of spine strands:

You can tighten it up a bit now:

Finally do the same on the other side and tighten it all up:

Step 2: The Crossover
Next start weaving again, going under two spine strands then over the next two:

Now instead of looping back, leave that working strand for a moment and pick up the other one, again weaving through the first two pairs:

Now here's the tricky part. You're going to pass one working strand around the other, and then back to the same side of the belt that it was before, then continuing weaving. In the last step I passed the working strand from the left side of the belt over the outer-left spine pair and then under the inner-left spine pair, so now I pass it over the other working strand and then back under the belt, going under the inner-right spine pair. I then continue weaving the other working strand in the same way, going over the inner-left spine pair then under the outer-left spine pair:

That last step was probably quite hard to follow, but hopefully the photo will make it clear. When everything's going where it should, you can tighten up the cord:

Step 3: The Boring Bit
You can now continue weaving, simply swapping between crossover and loop back steps. This pattern is a little different from my previous ones in that you can't really have two or more crossover steps in a row, because the way the two cords twist around each other takes up more space and two such steps in a row will start to interfere with each other. At least when using tight cord like the 275 I'm using here; it might actually work better with the more compressible 550 cord I'm used to, I'll have to give it a try later. Here you can see what it looks like after a few more rows:

Step 4: Finishing Up
I discovered when I reached the end of the belt that I had a problem. You see, my spine was made up of four loops, and I was weaving around them. That meant that when I reached the end of the belt, I had nothing holding the weave in place! So I needed to switch to a different pattern so that I was weaving inside the loops instead of around them:

First I passed one working strand through the middle of the outer spine loop, and then again through the middle of the inner spine loop:

After pulling it tight I did the same from the other side:

Next I continued weaving through the centers of the loops with the second working strand, passing over the first:

Finally I continued weaving the first working strand through the centers of the spine loops, passing over the other working strand, and pulled it all tight; this is similar to the crossover step in some of my previous patterns:

I continued this until I reached the end, where I cut the working strands and melted the tips to neaten it all up. The final result is a rather nice belt:

This new pattern has the best holes yet, making it the easiest belt to actually use; overall I'm very happy with it. I think 275 paracord makes for a belt that's significantly lighter and thinner, making it more elegant overall. The last few rows are a touch wider and look a bit different, which is a shame, but hardly a deal-breaker. The problem that I ran into at the end could be solved by using a different configuration of spine strands, or a slightly different weave pattern; for example if I weave around individual spine strands instead of pairs then the problem simply goes away (although the belt would be much wider then).

That's all a case of experimenting to find what works best with the chosen cord and buckle; the important part is the crossover step. Bear in mind that for the crossover to work properly the two working strands have to start off on opposite sides of the belt, i.e. if one working strand is starting off from on top of the buckle, then the other should be starting off from underneath it.

One little tip when it comes to finishing up is to use a leather-working needle. If you don't have one, another thing you can do is keep the weave very, very loose in the last row and then pull it tight at the end; you should be able to fit two strands through a loop that only looked large enough for one if they are loose enough. It's a bit hard to describe, but basically when you pull a strand tight it actually takes more space.

So that's the Mark III. Hopefully my next project will be a new watch strap that I recently had an idea for... assuming I ever get the time. We'll see how that works out I guess.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Card Creator V1.2

Ok, so I've added a couple of features to the Card Creator. This first is a local save feature; this uses HTML5 functionality to save all the data in your browser so you can load it again later. The second is the ability to output all the data as a text string that you can manually save in a text file and reload later; this allows you to save several cards and load an edit them as you please. It's still not perfect, but I think these new features are huge and make it much more functional.

I've also updated the Karchev card using the new version of the card creator. The faction logos look a bit nicer now as I don't have the double-border anymore, but the main change is adding the "Former Jack Marshal" text. I know I said I didn't want to invent any new rules, but I decided that I needed a clarification of how the Jack Marshal rules interact with the Warcaster rules, since on further reflection it's not exactly obvious. I decided that fluff-wise it made sense to have a 2-jack limit when it comes to taking advantage of the Jack Marshal advantage, since it represents him yelling out directions at individual jacks.

I have some ideas for slightly more original Warcasters in my head, the big problem now is the character art. Time to learn how to draw!