Converting a Step Van into a TINY HOUSE!

I began this process a few weeks ago when I purchased a pre-converted 1990 Grumman Olson. The interior was not at all to my liking. Over the past week, I have torn out the interior, kept the appliances, and begun design on a new layout. The van came with a cosy wood stove which I will be keeping. That and the immoveable wheel wells have informed the design process. I’ve used Google Sketchup to create a few layouts. These two are the current winners.

Any advice is of course appreciated. I’ll be making more frequent video updates here: https://www.youtube.com/callumscornucopia

Turning Paperbacks into Beautiful Hardback Tomes 

Recently, I decided to revisit my long standing project of re-covering the books in my library. I’ve been using a new more versatile technique which allows the artist to create many different styles of books. The covers are made from card stock much as the ones made in this blog post. The covers are then decorated with raised designs and covered in a fine paper mâché. The mâché technique ends up looking a lot more impressive in person than I had at first imagined.

For more information on the building of these books, you can watch the video I made documenting the process. I used several other articles for the inspiration and technique behind the creation of these books: For the Love of Books: A Guide to Knocking Together Your Own Journals’08 Halloween #12: Making Creepy Books, Altered Halloween Books Tutorial, new and improved!, and Crafty Mommy & Me.

Tasting Pseudo Mead (White Wine Mulsum/Conditum)

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Mulsum prior to dilution.

In anticipation of Ostara I brewed myself a bottle of mulsum/conditum as a quick alternative to a fully brewed mead. The recipe told me to let the mixture sit for a week or two, but since I wanted to use the mead for my Ostara ritual, I only let it be for five days. When I tasted the drink for the first time before the ritual, the sweetness of it was at first overpowering. I had created a drinking syrup! With a little distilled water, however, the drink took on the sweetness of Manischewitz. It took me a few sips to get used to the heavy sweetness, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. Yes, watering down the wine lowered the alcohol content, but my stomach is easily upset by alcohol so I didn’t mind. Next time, I will start by adding much less honey to the wine since I can always add more to taste.

Making Pseudo Mead (White Wine Mulsum/Conditum)

In anticipation of Ostara (aka the Spring Equinox), I wanted to brew myself a batch of mead. While is something I have always wanted to do, it takes quite a long time, six months or more, to do properly. Luckily, there is a bit of a cheat which I found on the ever helpful website Storm The Castle: “Instant Mead Recipe”.

“The ancient romans called mixing honey with wine ‘Mulsum’ and if you mix it with spices then let it age you get something the ancient romans called ‘Conditum’ which is something similar to what we make here.” Will Kalif’s video tutorial.

A quick search on Wikipedia gave me a little more information on conditum. “The Latin name translates roughly as ‘spiced’. Recipes for conditum viatorium (traveler’s spiced wine) and conditum paradoxum (surprise spiced wine) are found in De re coquinaria. This conditum paradoxum includes wine, honey, pepper,mastic, laurel, saffron, date seeds and dates soaked in wine.”

The recipe itself is really simple, calling for one bottle of cheap white wine (I spent $12.75), one pound of honey, one clove, and a pinch each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Since I was going to be mixing it with sweet natural clover and alfalfa honey, I bought a bottle of moscato which advertised it’s subtle sweetness with “hints of green grapes, pineapple and passionfruit.” Sounds good enough to me!

After the ingredients were mixed together, I let the brew simmer for an hour or so. A preliminary taste-test tells me that that was too long. It really is a little too sweet. Then I strained and re-bottled the ‘mead’. The recipe calls for a waiting period of two weeks. I only have one until Ostara when I look forward to drinking my concoction. The shortened wait time will give me an excellent opportunity to compare the taste on the equinox and again a week later. That is if their is any left!

Foam Board Dragonbone Dagger

Recently I came across Will from stormthecastle.com‘s youtube channel epicfantasy. He has many, many video tutorials on making props, usually swords and other weapons, with foam board. I was fascinated by the level of quality he was able to achieve with such a cheap material. I wanted to try using foam board as a material for myself and I knew that I wanted make another Skyrim prop to go along with my Windhelm guard’s shield. Because I had never worked with foam board before, I chose a small project, the dragonbone dagger. I didn’t take the same number of progress photos as I usually do for my props because Will’s tutorial is excellent and shows in detail all the various steps.

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Smoothed and sealed foam board.

I knew going in that foam board is a flimsy material which cuts easily, but cannot be refined (smoothed out or sanded) to any great degree. One thing which I disliked about Will’s prop was that the seams between the layers of foam were raw. In order to blend the layers of foam board and to fill in the gaps, I used extra hot glue which I smoothed out with my finger, ouchie ouchie! This didn’t quite give me the effect which I wanted so I used silicon to get a more accurate effect. Silicon isn’t really a good choice, but it was what I had available. I would have preferred to use some sort of putty or clay for this. To stop the silicon from peeling and to even out the seams even more, I coated the entire dagger in 5 coats of modge podge. I followed Will’s tutorial for the paint job, then sealed the project with 2 more layers of modge podge.

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DIY Skyrim Windhelm Shield: Finished

Read part one here.

Day Three: I started painting the rim to look like aged metal by mixing black and silver acrylic and painting two base coats on top of the Plasti-Dip coated craft foam. I then dry-brushed on a thin layer of silver, highlighting the raised parts of the rim. After the paint was entirely dry, I mixed orange, brown, and a small amount of red paint to create a rust colour. I watered down the paint and with a wet brush, I created pools of paint wherever I wanted there to be rust. I tuck to the burnt in depressions in the foam, and places where the Plast-Dip had bubbled. After a minute of soaking, I used a paper towel to remove most of the paint.Once this had dried I noticed a few spots which needed a touch up, so I used the appropriate colour paint to apply small fixes. Then, I sealed the rim with two thin layers of modge podge. By this point, I had decided that I wanted to finish the back side of the shield as well, so I removed the bag and tape from the back side of the shield and stained the exposed wood.

Day Four: I started by removing the bag and masking tape from the front of the shield. I noticed that the blue paint needed another coat so I added one before moving on. With the chisel tip on my wood burner, I added the planked look to the back of the shield. I made the decision not to use the single, dead centre handle that is seen in game. Instead, I created a double strap hand out of double layered foam. This turned out to be a horrible idea since the first time I used it, the foam broke. Instead, I lay two pieces of foam down where I wanted the handles to be to serve as padding against the hard wood, then I cut two pieces from an old belt to fit on top. I secured the belts in place with screws and washers which passed through the belt and foam into the wood of the shield.

As usual, I learned I great deal on how not to do things. Doing, this project again (cough* Solitude) I would stain the project last, since I found that paint which overlapped with the stain required several extra coats. I wouldn’t carve out the rim in wood, since the foam rim looks much better than that would have. That was a good chunk of time which ended up being wasted. I’d also burn planks into both sides to begin with and go straight for propper strapping.

The shield was finally complete! I’m really happy with the way the shield turned out. It’s a sturdy build, and the bright logo (while note game accurate) really stands out against the battle worn look of the shield. You gotta to keep up that Stormcloak pride, am I right?


New Cedar Wand

It has been a while since I have taken up my carving knife to create a new wand. I find that carving is rarely something which I can do without the right attitude. Still, when the spirit of inspiration strikes I must be ready. I started this wand more than a month ago and bit by bit I completed it.

I used a new finish this time around. Normally I use walnut oil, but I wanted to try linseed oil for a change. I really enjoy the smell and texture which linseed oil has on wood. I’m not quite sure which I prefer so I may simply mix and match the two from now on. We’ll see.

I created a page for this wand talking about its special attributes: Cedar Wand with Aragonite.

To purchase this wand, visit my etsy store.

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