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Sunday, 27 December 2015

Collected Warhammer Volumes part 7: Step through binding part 3- Board yet?

Quick update with about as far as I'm likely to get before buzzing off to New Zealand.

This bit is optional, but to give the spine some interest I'm going to recreate the look of ancient bound books and put bars on the spine. This replicates the old practice of sewing gathers around thick twine which is then fixed into the boards.

The bars on my books are 5mm wide strips cut from some leftover thick hide I used to make some leather armour once.

These strips are glued at the desired intervals across the spine using PVA. Later on the title labels will fit between the strips.

Using a sharp scalpel the ends of the strips are tapered towards the edges of the spine...

...and the square edges are removed so that the leather that will be stretched over the top will have a nice curved contour.

Wrap clingfilm around the text block and secure with masking tape to make a kind of book condom. This will protect the text block from glue whilst you attach the boards.

The boards are 1000gsm recycled greyboard. Ideally I'd have gone for something a bit thicker, but these are OK and I struggled to find anything a bit chunkier without buying large quantities. For previous volumes I've got good covers from lever arch files and even recycling the boards from books I've dissected (like the WHFB3 and Armies boards).

Apply a liberal amount of glue to the fabric hinge, leaving a strip of 5-10mm between the board and spine so it can open freely. Apply glue to the same area of the board and press together. Use plenty of glue so that if (when!) you need to remove the board again because it's not straight or evenly spaced you will be able to.

Open the board and smooth down the fabric onto it. Then close it again, turn the book over and check you have an even amount of board all round the text block and it is sitting square to the spine. If not, peel it off and reapply. Keep the board pulled away from the spine, it's important the fabric doesn't stick to the edge of the board. Repeat with the other board, trying to keep it evenly aligned to the front one.

Once the boards are in places press the book firmly. I stack other books on top to keep it all pressed together. Remember to place something under the book you are binding and have the spine hanging over the end to prevent pressing it at an odd angle.

That's all for now. Hoepfully sometime soon into the new year I'll actually get the leather and covers on. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Wintering in the swamps

It's been quiet in the workshops for the past couple of weeks with the students away, so I've been 'upcycling' some old metal shelving into modular terrain boards- swampy on one side and cobbled on the other.

There are 9 boards here making an area about 3' by 5'. The finished board will be 12 sections measuring 4' square (or other combinations). The three that aren't here have more advanced cobbling on and were used for demo games of Systemmech at Steampunks In Space recently:

The cobbles start off as 4mm Depron foam sheet, glued to the smooth side of the metal shelf with copydex. Then I mark a 25mm square grid on the board, keeping the cobbles to squares means I can use the boards for Heroquest, AHQ, Warhammer Quest etc. Hopefully when the Twisting Catacombs scenery finally arrives I'll have a lovely big dungeon to keep it in!

The cobbles are drawn in with a ballpoint pen. Then a couple of layers of PVA are applied to protect the foam, followed by a black spray undercoat and successive drybrushing. I'm currently clocking in at 2 hours per board drawing cobbles, so it'll be a while before this side is finished!

Now, the other side... the fun, swampy side for the Marsh Demons! These metal shelves are about 20mm deep formed of aluminium sheet bent around at the edges, leaving a cavity underneath. This cavity I have been using to sink marshy pools by building up inside the shelves with Styrofoam blocks sanded to the same depth as the shelf. Using a hotwire foam carver and rough sandpaper I then dug out some hollows for the pools, cut a grass-effect mat to the size of the shelves and glued it over the top of the boards with copydex.

The decoration on the boards to break up the even green of the mat is a combination of scenic leaves, lichen, static grass builders' sand, cat litter, bristles from an old paintbrush, ears of corn, tea and branches from an artificial Christmas tree. The lichen I've glued mainly around the edges of the pools and have then glued static grass onto it to give it a thorny, gorse look.

The corn, bristles and Christmas tree needles make grasses for the pools, I've had to keep them short because the boards have to lie flat when turned upside down to use the cobbled side. There are a few animals dotted around the board, like this thrush opening a snail on a rock. There's also a squirrel, an owl and a hedgehog, all from the Oakbound Studio Woods Accessories pack.

Once the decoration was done I used a polyurethane yacht varnish to paint in the areas where the swampy pools will be. I'm using polyester clear resin to make the pools and don't want the resin soaking through the mat and eating away the polystyrene. The polyurethane varnish helps hold together the lichen, cat litter etc. and also makes good wet areas of ground by just painting it into the mat. It's high gloss so I've also used it over dappled green and blue on the cobbled side to create a nice river effect. It takes about 16 hours to dry.

The polyester resin is much cheaper than other artificial water effects, and cures in about 5 hours which is far quicker than any clear epoxy resins I've used in the past. There doesn't seem to be much shrinkage, but I am only pouring pools about 10mm deep. It is more viscous than the epoxies I've used previously, which is good in this case as it helps protect against seepage. It does mean, however, that I've needed to 'tease' the edges into the mat with a mixing stick to prevent domed edges.

I experimented with a couple of pools leaving the metal shelf exposed at the bottom to give the high-reflective look often seen in pictures of marshes. These pools I imagine are much deeper and have been walled around in stone by the inhabitants of the marsh in an attempt to create reliable reservoirs. I'm pleased with the effect of these pools, although the polyester resin did an odd thing. When I poured into the pools the first time the resin ended up with an almost choppy looking lumpy surface. I can only think it reacted in some odd way. Pouring a second layer over the top smoothed the pools out, and has left an interesting mottled effect.

Now, back to cobbles! Oh, and the edges of the boards will be a bit more blended together with the help of some extra static grass!


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

A New Year's retrospective-futurespective for Oakbound Studio

It's nearly the end of the year, as I'm sure you've noticed, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to have a look at what happened at Oakbound in 2015 and ask some important questions about what I want to happen next year. For the latter part I'd like to ask your help, but more about that later down the page.

The beginning part of 2015 saw a couple of important events, one for Oakbound and the other for me. First we shipped (after a lot of unavoidable hassle which I hope not to experience again!) The Woods Kickstarter miniatures. Yes, it really did take five months to mould, cast and ship and since that period involved my having to make hasty arrangements to get bits resculpted and cast by three different companies in order to not keep backers waiting any longer than necessary the final sending of those boxes was a great relief. If you've noticed that there are still only a tiny fraction of the figures we produced on the webstore that's because of the rate at which my painting was able to go before getting caught in the next thing...

I got married! Not of enormous significance to Oakbound maybe (although my wife Solly has generously donated space in her studio and a substantial amount of her excellent artwork to the company) but certainly a momentous occasion for myself and one that kept me away from big developments with Oakbound for a few months.

The Summer and Autumn were more productive on the Oakbound front with the Legends of British Steampunk Kickstarter gearing up and a couple of trade shows where we sold the last copies of our first Tripods! board game print run and a significant number of The Woods miniatures. Completing the Legends Kickstarter at 500% was a very positive way to end the year and I'm now leaving the casting in the capable hands of Kieven at Lancer Miniatures whilst I go off on Honeymoon.

So, LOOKING AHEAD TO 2016 then...

There have been two very key developments from the previous year. The first is that Tripods! is currently earmarked for an international release and a significant amount of work has been undertaken to make the system more strategic for the adult board game market. The developments need some serious playtesting in the spring but we're hopeful it will be ready for print in the next 6 months.

The second development is with a game system called 'Factious Waste' which a number of followers of this blog and the Oldhammer Forum have been testing during 2015. Talking to visitors at the trade shows one thing that is apparent is that selling miniatures without a game system supporting them can be confusing for some people. A slight frustration of 2015 has been having a huge amount of background for The Woods produced for a couple of aborted attempts to work with people producing roleplay systems and which has yet to see publication. That, and wanting to release Factious Waste but knowing that the miniature and background development is a good year or so away from being ready, has prompted me to make a significant step which I believe is going to make some future developments much easier. I have stripped the rules-set (all 4 pages of it!) from Factious Waste and left it as a background-free system I'm calling Systemmech. Legends Kickstarter backers have had a chance to download and try out Systemmech with a Legends plug-in which gives a good idea of where I'm going with this.

So, my hope for the next year is to finish testing and release Systemmech, a cards-free, dice-free tabletop roleplay system consisting of a short, free, downloadable rulebook. THEN to release a series of printed supplements with equipment lists, skills trees, scenario ideas, narratives, character classes and, most importantly, a ton of background for each of the miniatures ranges to allow their use not only with Systemmech but also with any wargame or roleplay system players wish to plug the setting into.

All going well with the casting process, the success of the Legends Kickstarter  puts Oakbound at a position where I hoped we'd be this time last year, with a comparatively small but usable pot of money to invest in developing a setting.

NOW, this is where I need your help.
With the two Kickstarters we've run so far we've got a small but strong core of supporters. Kickstarter is something of an odd beast, I'm very keen on it but I know some people, especially with established businesses, aren't since it has taken a lot of trade away from the small companies who aren't using the platform. Meanwhile, companies like Mantic, with a customer base and reputation large enough not to need Kickstarter any more, are still using the platform for the coverage it provides for them. My own take on Kickstarter is that it is a wonderful opportunity for someone like myself with ideas I'd like to make flesh but no supply of capital to enable that to happen without the support of other people who think those ideas are worth pursuing. BUT, at the point at which the company has enough capital to go it without crowd-funding platforms I think it SHOULD, to allow others to benefit from Kickstarter without being overshadowed by established giants, and to grow the business practice of the individuals running company.

For this reason I would like Oakbound to not have to resort to Kickstarter in 2016 (or afterwards) As I say, we have a small but usable pot of money to invest in the development of our settings and systems now and I believe we should use it for that rather than banking it and then asking backers for more money through crowd funding. That doesn't mean necessarily we won't need to do pre-orders, but it represents a move away from the startup stage and I'm very excited about it.


From this point it would be very easy to crash back to the point of not having any funds rather than building on the funds we have available to invest in the necessary and hefty expenses such as getting artwork commissioned, printing books, paying painters and sculptors to work on the miniatures I find myself not having time to work on and so forth. WHATEVER WE DO WITH THE FUNDS WE HAVE NOW HAS TO REALLY COUNT! So I'd like to ask a few questions of this blog's readers if I may. It won't take long, but it really is important to me as the future of Oakbound Studio could really hang on this one decision.

The decision is... which setting do we go for as a starter? You can find a description of the settings and a few related questions
courtesy of Survey Monkey (here). You don't need to sign up or provide personal details or anything. I'd be very interested to see what you think, grateful for your participation and would love further feedback and ideas. Please do feel free to post on the Facebook Page.

Thank you again, and Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Collected Warhammer Volumes part 6: Step through binding part 2- Getting messy!

Here it is then! The next gallop through binding one of my volumes for the Encyclopaedia Warhammica! But before I pick up with the sewing, remember how I was unsure about what to do with the Heroquest rules last time? Well the solution pretty much made itself apparent when I held the gathered book together for the first time...

See that big lean off to one side? From left to right here we have the Advanced Heroquest rules (glued into gathers), Terror in the Dark (glued into gathers), Warhammer Quest rules and adventure books (as they come), roleplay book (glued into gathers), Orc Lord and Catacombs of Terror (glued into gathers) and Mordheim (as it comes). See how the block of Mordheim sits perfectly straight where it doesn't have the added width at the spine? That pushes all the glued pages off to one side. There's no way this book is going to have a neat, evenly curved spine when glued. I need to either put the Mordheim block in the middle to even the spread (putting it out of sensible, chronological order- no way) or find something that will sit square up against the left hand side of the text block...

Yup. That's Heroquest rules printed onto A3 in gathers that echo the construction of the Mordheim pages. Now, if I'm going to the effort of using high-quality PDFs to print out Heroquest stuff them I'm going to do EVERYTHING... so first up I've got the European rulebook and American rulebook. Then...

Quest books (Initial, Kellar's Keep and Witch Lord), printed with the European version on one side and the US version on the other. Now I know this lacks something in the design department. Personally I think the European version looks great whereas the US version with its orange and green tones looks a bit naff. However, the US versions are much more challenging quests and for ease of reference it made more sense to me to have them side by side than one after the other. I'll just cover the US page with furniture or a small rulebook until needed!

Obviously I need to have these two ridiculously unobtainable quest books in there!

This one I used to have for real... sadly it went along with my original copy of Heroquest when I decided I no longer needed to play it. Boo.

Some bits from magazines...

And there was space for a lush double-page Les Edwards print!

OK, so with the addition of these pages (actually a bit too many, but that's ok) that's evened up the spread of the spine. So on to...

Making holes for sewing. I've left out the Mordheim pages from this block as they already have holes for thread from where they were sewn before. The remainder of the block goes in between two chunks of MDF and clamps. This is my Book Press- cheap and cheerful!

Yup, that is a saw. Now Stephen gave me a massive Jack saw to slice into the volume I bound with him. It worked great, surprisingly, but since I am a modelmaker I like to work a bit finer and am using a razor saw to slice thin slits for the thread.

It's surprising how deep you have to cut to reach the centre of gathers!

Sewing is pretty simple. Start off on the outside and go in, out, in, out down the length of the gather.


 When you get to the end of the gather jump across to the end of the next and repeat, in, out, down to the other end.

At the other end go back to the gather you started on, catching the needle through the first loop before going on to the third gather. Repeat this process throughout the book, making sure that any joins in the thread are on the outside of the spine.

Now, this is important. The gap you want between gathers is a couple of millimetres. You need to be able to shape the book by sliding the gathers past each other, but you don't want it floppy as this will make the spine weak.

OK, sewn. Took a couple of hours to put this lot together. You can see the threads are not entirely even as in some places the thread tore through the paper so I had to skip holes and the Mordheim block has slightly different hole positions. This doesn't matter so long as the resulting block is tight.

Back in the Book Press for gluing. Now this is the bit that takes a while, trying to get the block so that the top end is neat and level (as this is the side that will be most seen) and the curve of the spine is even and pleasing. This volume was actually very hard to get right since the paper I'd printed the Heroquest rules onto, nicely as it took colour, was very slippery and prone to shifting and messing up the curve. I had to compromise a bit more than I'd like at this stage just to get everything glued so I will try and coax the curve to be a bit more even once the glue is set and I'm putting the leather on.

Lots of glue is applied with a  brush, making sure that I fan the pages as I go and stipple glue down between the gathers. The Book Press should be holding the block really tight, but there'll be enough flexibility to get a couple of millimetres in with the brush.

Now a section of shirt fabric is glued across to form the hinge. The fabric needs to be a bit wider than the spine to allow the boards for the cover to be glued on and a bit narrower than the length of the spine so the headbands can be glued on. The stripes on the shirt fabric are a good guide for getting the spine straight and the fabric needs to be pulled nice and tight across the spine and pressed down thoroughly with fingers and a wooden mixing stick or clean clay tool.

To neaten up the spine and reinforce the hinge a strip of card is glued across. Stephen uses cereal box card with the shiny side sanded so the glue will take. I am using matt Ivory Card which is about the same weight but takes glue easier both sides. The card is rolled gently before gluing down so it takes to the curve of the spine nicely. Rub this down thoroughly but be careful you don't slice your fingers!

Elastic bands go on to hold everything firm whilst it dries. Then let everything set nice and solid. Once it's dry you can unclamp everything and you should have a recognisable book just lacking covers! Which is where we'll be going next, but I'm still waiting for this to dry so it may be next week... If it's not net week it'll be upon my return from Australia in January!


Fimm McCool's

Fimm McCool's