Happy holidays! Filmed on Christmas, released on New Years. Let no one say we aren’t working for you, haha
Quick tutorial on crimping and making ethernet / RJ45 cables
We’re making a subway sign! No, I’m not talking about the sandwich shop.
This project was inspired by the vintage posters that used to adorn the walls of New York City subway stations. Each line on the poster would designate a different station to help guide your way. This one, however, is a gift for my father and has several of the locations he will be visiting on a trip in the near future. Let’s get started!
This project started off with a 12” x 18” piece of 16 gauge mild steel. You may also come across sheets like this in hardware store as “weldable steel”. Low alloy steel is key for a later step when we rust the piece, we don’t want any pesky alloying like chromium messing with our patina dreams.
Using a caliper, holes were marked in each corner of the steel. Measuring equal distance from each ledge allows for precise placement of the mounting holes. After giving swift whack with a hammer / punch all holes are marked and ready to drill.
Using a titanium coated bit and a healthy dollop of cutting oil, each of the mounting holes were drilled out. There were a couple of burrs that decided to hang around the perimeter of the hole, but a quick spin of a countersinking bit took care of that.
Since this sign is going to be hanging on a wall, rounding the edges was decided to prevent any nasty scratches to the hanging surface. The bench grinder was used to shape a radius into each corner. A file took care of the rough edges and the basic shape of the sign was complete.
In order to promote the black paint adhesion, 400 grit sandpaper was used to rough up the surface and remove as much oxide as possible. A wipe with a cloth and a bit of degreaser ensured that all that cutting oil from earlier was sufficiently removed.
The entire sign was coated in about 4 light coats of black spray paint. Generally, a primer would be recommended when painting metal, however we aren’t too concerned about surface finish as the sign is intended to look old and beaten like it has been hanging in a subway for the last 60 years. The paint used was Krylon Paint and Primer in One. 2 in 1 paints are great for projects like this as purposely removing the paint does not reveal any grey primer beneath.
While the paint dried, I booted up the computer. Using sign-making software I drew up the vector text of all the location names. After a bit of fiddling around with sizing and text position I generated the plot path and sent it to the plotter. Once the vinyl was cut, the excess was removed and transfer tape was applied to apply the vinyl to the piece.
After the paint had dried some 2000 grit sandpaper was used to wet sand the entire surface. The wet sanding provides a smoother finish and removes any surface roughness, this is done so that the vinyl will adhere better. Any paint that has dried in the air will create a fine dust on the surface of the piece that will result in poor adhesion of the vinyl. After sufficiently cleaning the surface of any dust and contaminants the vinyl was applied.
Well I must say that looks pretty good. This project could stop at this point, but let’s subject this thing to years of misuse and abuse in just a few minutes.
Using some black and brown acrylic paints, the entire surface was dry brushed and speckled with paint. Special attention was paid to getting the paint onto all the edges of the letters. This is just a preliminary dirtying, the real magic comes next.
Using a couple of wire brushes the entire piece was scuffed and scratched. Certain area received a more rigorous scrubbing to remove the paint down to the bare metal. The edges were given special attention as they are naturally most likely to be worn down over the years. Now that the sign looks sufficiently beaten, it’s time to artificially age it using SCIENCE!
PLEASE NOTE! PROPER SAFETY EQUIPMENT IS A MUST!
This next step involves the use of muriatic acid and hydrogen peroxide. Muriatic acid is a dangerous and volatile compound and must be used with utmost caution. At this step I have acid-proof gloves on, am using eye protection and a 3M respirator with 6002 acid vapor cartridges. I cannot stress the importance of safety enough when dealing with these materials. For home projects I recommend using vinegar (acetic acid) instead of the much more potent muriatic acid. To cause the metal to rust, the hydrogen peroxide was applied to all the bare metal surfaces. The muriatic acid was then diluted to about 10% by volume and sprayed onto the surface after about 25 seconds. The combination of these chemicals cause for the very quick formation of iron oxide. However the iron oxide is formed in a solution – the piece could be left to dry naturally, but we want this to rust even faster!
A small butane torch was used to accelerate the reaction and evaporate the water. The concentration of the chemicals becomes greater as the water evaporates away and heat also helps accelerate the chemical process. The metal turned a beautiful array of rusty hues in just a few seconds. After all the rust had formed and the piece was dry, the torch was used to burn a few vinyl letters to add a little extra age.
A file and a couple of wire brushed were then used to beat up the edges a bit more, lending the appearance of more recent damage. Once I thought that the sign had been aged enough I dropped it on the ground, just for good measure.
Well there we have it. A vintage looking subway sign with real rust. This was a bit of an experiment with the acid method. There is a wide array of techniques usable for creating surfaces that look rusted, however if steel is being used as a base material there is no excuse for just making the real thing. This technique is great for pieces that are going to be hanging on a wall but I don’t recommend handling rust as it dusts off and is structurally much weaker, alternative techniques are preferred for props and armor.
In this tutorial we’re going to show you how to create a quick and easy finish that resembles steel with a realistic patina. There are many methods of producing a metal like finish on a non-metal thing – and we’ll definitely come back to the more advanced processes in further tutorials – but today is the day you learn to create an old and battered steel object plucked freshly from the nuclear wastes the easy way.
To begin, you’re going to need a few things. Weapons include:
- A sandable or high-build primer
- Silver spray paint (pick a basecoat that suits your fancy)
- Brown, black and silver acrylic paints
- Some medium-fine sandpaper (400 grit should do)
- Heat gun
- A couple of brushes
In this tutorial we are going to be painting a giant wooden wrench we made some time ago. The wrench is made mostly out of MDF (medium density fiber) which is a common prop building material. MDF is also quite difficult to achieve a very smooth surface on due to the material’s absorptive properties. To combat that nasty paint absorption, spray your piece with a couple of coats of sand-able primer. What we’re trying to do here is to create a nice, smooth finish that will lend a more metallic appearance. We recommend priming your piece regardless of the material of the prop as getting that piece nice and smooth will lend a closer appearance to metal. When you’re shopping for primer, look for something that says sand-able or high build. The solids content in these primers allow you to fill little holes, cracks and fill the pores of the MDF.
After your primer is all pretty and dry as per the manufacturer’s directions, grab yourself some fine sandpaper and smooth out all those rough and raised surfaces. You don’t have to sand too hard, just to level out anywhere the primer hasn’t left a smooth surface. After you’re all done, wipe your piece down and crack open the silver spray paint. Give your piece a few consistent coats until it looks fresh off the showroom floor and leave the piece to dry thoroughly. Make sure your prop is totally dry before moving onto the next step or you’re going to have a bad time.
The key to this technique is the wash. To create a wash, grab your acrylic (or other water-based paint) ad mix up a thin solution of about 10 parts water to 1 part paint. In this example we used mostly black, with just a few little sprinkles of brown. Mix the paint up until you have a consistent, extremely thin paint. Take a big brush and just slather your wash all over the piece. Pay special attention to getting this stuff into all the nooks and crannies you’d expect dirt and grime to thrive.
Next, draw your heat gun into action and begin to apply heat to the entire piece at a distance to begin evaporating the water in the wash. As the water dries, it will leave behind an organic looking patina. Have some fun while doing this, get the heat gun in close to push some droplets around to create lines of runny grease or extra oxidized patches. Just be careful not to apply too much heat to surface or you’re going to risk ruining your paint and even your piece (especially if it’s made of foam or plastic). Re-apply the wash and repeat this step as many times as you like until you achieve the amount of age and grime you’ve been longing for.
This next step is optional if you’re happy with your dirty, weathered steel surface. If you want to apply a little bit of wear on the patina, crack out your silver acrylic paint and a stiff bristled brush. Dip your brush in the silver paint and remove most of the paint with a paper towel. Lightly dry brush your piece paying special attention to all of the hard edges and areas you’d expect to see wear in real life use. Remember, every prop is an opportunity to tell a story, emphasizing certain areas can really tell the story you’re imagining for your piece.
If you want you can throw a glossy or satin clear layer over all of this for a bit of metallic shine, but we opted not to ourselves; the matte is lovely by itself and the wash makes the reflections irregular enough to look good as you move it around in the light.
Now, just sit back and listen to some Don Felder while admiring how awesome you are.
The good news is that we’re keeping the every tuesday schedule, the better news is that we’re finalizing a deal on an industrial bay to set up shop in and have a ton of sweet tools and cool things to set up in the coming weeks (hint: we bought a 3D printer!) buuut the bad news is that in the meantime, you get half-hearted tutorials. We are planning a lot more video stuff in the future, we are planning to have live streams and production value and an awesome workspace to do it all in, but we appreciate your patience as it’s all being set up first on our end.
Still! Enjoy a basic Photoshop tutorial:
Our very first post was one of the first things I made after we finalized our gear logo idea. People seemed to really like it, so I’m going to demystify the effect and break down the layers. We start, above, with just a basic slate texture that I use quite often. Any rock will do, you just want a big clean surface that has grit and texture without being busy and distracting.
The second layer is a film dust one, actually, and a favorite of mine. It gives some extra dust, scratches and little pixel details as well as those red scars at the bottom which are actually little lens flares or something, but work for our red fire + sparks theme. While you can sometimes get away with mixing multiple rock layers over each other to add increasing detail, quite often it becomes unrealistic in obvious or even subconscious ways. You start seeing things like rocks coming out of of each other, or sitting in impossible ways. By using layers that are physically feasible (rock texture + lens texture) we can add bonus detail without removing realism, or the realistic illusion thereof.
Throw the logo in there, add a very slight glow to it. You’ll notice, also, that my glow has a color ramp instead of being one color. Like we did with the animated sparks, fire exists as an energy gradient that goes from white through yellow and orange into red and finally fades out to transparency. Our logo isn’t realistically “on fire” but it is white, and it is glowing with energy so we’re going to respect the fiction a little and give it that extra detailed touch. Besides, it’s almost no additional work.
I’m going to turn the logo layer off for these next few to demonstrate the fire by itself. It starts as some firepit photos that are set to screen, lighten, color dodge as necessary. Definitely play around with overlay settings – most of the good stuff is in there when creating layers of things like this is. Erase out with a soft brush any signs of non-fire details from the stock photos and you’re left with an alright plate. We can hide that awkward bottom edge with the logo shape itself. Let’s add some more:
Not bad, got the ring going nicely, it’s sparking and bursting a bit more. The goal with any still frame is to make it look alive – tell a story or give the impression of motion or at least sound. Logos, of course, are a notoriously static thing to work with, so we’re using fire which is a thing that can never be still visually and also makes that whoosh of flames or crackles of a firepit; it’s inherently more visceral than just still rock. Though, if rock or ice is the motif, cracks can suggest nice sounds as well – maybe some wind or snow is blowing past. You can always add dynamic elements to things.
A smoke layer. Remember how we’re adding texture using realistic / feasible sources? So now we have the rock itself, fire as an object and smoke as an atmosphere all being seen through a film / scratchy lens. These things can exist in one frame of a real photograph together, so it creates a more frictionless viewing – the human mind doesn’t have any trouble putting things together when it works on a very basic plane of knowledge about reality.
Unfortunately smoke is too light, so we’re going to vignette the frame a bit – another faked camera lens effect. This is super simple and basically a radial gradient.
We darken the entire thing with a black layer set to ‘soft light’ which will keep our whites and bright yellows dazzling. If you just adjust brightness you clip those values down unfairly, we’re really only trying to darken the medium shaded background area to force that popping contrast.
Then, you throw the logo back on.
Based really loosely on the art of Himmeli, a Scandinavian tradition of making geometric mobiles out of straw, I wanted to make something still modernist geometric and minimalist but less patterned and more asymmetrical, like feature rocks in a zen garden or something.
A quick and easy way to build geometric shapes is using hollow aluminum or brass tubing and some armature wire. These things can be found at almost any hobby store (they’re often used for making RC airplane bodies and wings) and probably most craft stores. It’s pretty cheap, we bought 10′ of rod for a few bucks, and the spool of nearly endless wire is a few more. The kind of wire can vary quite a bit, the only thing you really need is something flexible enough that you can bend it with your hands but stiff enough that it’ll hold its own shape. You actually can use loose cable like twine or fishing line if you want, but your knots at the vertices of the shape need to be taught to hold everything together.
The basic beginning is to take the long rod and make a bunch of semi-random lengths, I happened to have a circular pipe cutter but you can use a knife or saw if you’re careful not to crush the ends of the pipe. My main strategy was to cut one main size and then build off of that based on the angles that look good – you’re essentially building a triangle and then branching off to make the 3D parts. Your shape can be as complex or simple as you want, I opted for a more minimalist thing because I was short on time and made a bunch of smaller ones rather than a single huge one. Feed the wire through the triangle and knot or solder at the end; as you add more rods just keep feeding the wire through and fastening it to the corners you desire to make the shape. Depending on the density of the junction you might have too big a knot or too many pipes vying for a dense space, so you can trim the corners of the tubes a bit to give clearance (or just tie them looser so they end away from the knot).
When you’re happy, a quick few coats of spray paint over everything
The next time I try this there’s going to be a bit more utility: wrapping a succulent plantpot or candle, or a shape with a thin platform on top to act as a shelf or something. Lights! Everything needs more LEDs, and you could hide the wires the same way as the structural wire. Make a Deus Ex table lamp, maybe. Not sure if it’s been tried yet, but it might actually work as a good way to make the basic structure for cosplay prop making – the aluminum is soft enough that you can bend it with a table edge and a bit of effort (depending on pipe thickness) and it’s light and strong enough to support a skin of whatever material you’re making the prop with. You might see this technique come back in some of our further prop tutorials.
The goal of this site is to be a running thread that links our works together. The goal of Forgelock itself is to be broader, more multimedia, and include a lot of awesome, professional videos of building things. Part of the branding, then, is to have an equally awesome intro video for that Youtube and Twitch stuff.
Above is the first one I made up. This is 100% Blender and although not an in-depth step by step tutorial, I do want to go over the basics of what’s happening.
This is the general view of things: we have a ground plane (or a wall, I suppose, however you think of what’s happening) and the logo object itself. You can see there’s a very slight environment texture providing some ambient light and the material nodes for the glowing orange block is basically a yellow emission and an orange velvet (which is so subtle as to be not there. I was playing with it as a method for getting the insides to flow differently than the outsides, but it didn’t really work out. As it stands, the fresnel node is almost useless since the model isn’t curvy enough to have those sorts of angles be useful in the rendering itself – mostly, it’s all just there because I never axed it).
There’s also the particles themselves for the sparks. I’m on frame 48 here, which is almost exactly halfway through. There’s a wind and vortex modifier that give it that really nice whoosh effect as they die out. The secondary purpose of this is that unless you go to really random particle start values, the symmetrical nature of the logo means the particles themselves burst out very symmetrically which looks super fake. Having the vortex swirl them and the wind going from one side to the other pushes them into a chaos that’s more realistic.
Here’s the node setup of the particle itself (which is just an icosphere as an object) – basically we’re dividing the time of life vs age, so it’s taking how long the particle lives and how far along it is in that life and spitting out a single value. That value goes into the color ramp, so as it goes along that life it’s moving along that gradient. It starts white hot and burns through yellow into orange, much like a real spark or fire does. We can use that value for a second thing though: that age can also shift from one material to another, in this case the emission itself to a transparency, and “burn out” the spark as it travels so it’s not just dying and blinking out of existence. It’s a subtle difference, and the results of just disappearing at once aren’t bad but it’s slightly more natural to do it this way, and it’s minimal work to achieve the effect. The particles themselves just emit on the frame when the logo lands and do their simulated thing from there.
The camera is pretty basic and there’s not much to picture. I’ve got it tracking to an empty and to do the screen shake, I simply take that empty on the frames just after the logo lands on the plane and move it around a little. You can use the camera rotation itself for this effect certainly, but I like the more delicate touch a target can give and it keeps the camera key frames separate from the empty’s keyframes which is nice in a situation like this where the camera is also doing that second move at the end – you don’t need to worry about that movement interfering with any sort of rotational reset or whatever because you’re never actually rotating it in the F-curves.
At this point I was liking things but wanted to change out that wall texture. You can see the nodes for it below:
It’s a pretty standard thing, honestly. We’ve got the texture itself in the top left, some cheap quasi-specular reflection mapping in the lower middle and we throw that texture together with a rough bump to give it a little grit displacement for the lighting to really bounce off of from the logo emission.
The real trick here is the motion blur simulating shutter speed to make all the sparks look long and more realistic to physically filming it. It’s simply “Motion Blur” in the render setting, and I used a shutter of 0.60 which is 0.6 of a frame. At 24 frames a second, that’s a 1/40 shutter time – reasonable enough to real cameras, if slightly exaggerated.
Slap some vignette on there to keep the corners dark and make the yellow pop, a very slight amount of chromatic aberration for style (they say it’s for realism, but ironically digital things use way more aberration than even cheap real lenses give – it’s a rendering style thing these days), a little bit of bloom for the light and some minor RGB curve tweaking.
Next up, a bit of fire sound effects
The meta of this project is that we get to show you the things we make in an effort to build a website about making things. It’s doubly useful content! And what is a brand without swag: logo shirts.
We’ll get into screen printing “official” and “nice looking” ones a bit later, but we had an spot of time to spare so we went with a classic of DIY home shirt designs: the bleach spray method.
The gist is simple, you make a mask of some kind to block the half-bleach, half-water spray from simply covering the entire shirt and what you’re left with when it dries is the design you cut out. Now, it should be noted immediately that bleach is a dangerous chemical and shouldn’t be ingested or sprayed about without careful consideration: it will permanently stain most fabrics (including carpets etc.) and spraying something means particles of it are going to be floating around the area, so make sure you have some space and ventilation to keep yourself from breathing it in. Further, we’re working with knives here, so blade safety is a must, of course.
The mask was simple, the logo was carefully drawn on to some thin corrugated cardboard and cut out with a pocket knife. Any ol’ blade will do, ideally sharper edges will cut into the corners a bit better – you can see there’s some less than clean edges in the photo below. They can be fixed easily, but the main cause of that is that my particular knife was a bit fat to get into the curves effectively. A hobby scalpel would have been perfect in hindsight.
Once it’s all cut out, you can place it on your shirt directly. This is a good time to look at the size and placement of your design and try to imagine it as the finished product, a positive shape rather than the negative cutouts. I’ve put down plastic to protect what’s an already abused shop floor but essentially you just want to keep your bleach overspray in mind. My cardboard piece was large enough to cover most of my shirt but you’ll notice there are exposed areas – if these get sprayed you will see them, so you can cover it with newspaper or plastic to protect them, or be really careful with your spraying. In the end, I actually did make a mistake and there’s a slight lightness to my right shoulder. This was a $5 blank shirt I had laying around anyway so it’s none too concerning, but just know that it can happen.
Also, there’s another piece of cardboard inside the shirt to protect from the liquid going from the front and transferring to the back. That layer can also be newspapers or plastic, it just needs to make some sort of boundary between the two shirt fabrics.
Here’s the spray when wet – don’t worry if the contrast isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, design wise – it takes about a half hour to really soak in. An interesting thing to note about this process is that while bleach tends to make things lighter (as is its original purpose), if you spray black shirts you’ll quite often get a random colour. This is because, I’m told, black shirts are quite often made from coloured shirts that didn’t sell for whatever reason, and so they take that warehouse stock and recycle it. So, when you bleach it, you’re not only lightening that black, but you’re finding that original colour underneath and revealing it.
When the desired lightness is achieved / it seems dry (and don’t leave it on too long, it can eat through thin fabrics altogether) carefully handle it to the sink and wash it out with cold water. This’ll stop the process and make sure that you’re not going to bleach your chest the first time you put it on. Hang dry.
From here on there’s no special washing instructions – it’s a regular shirt like any other. There does seem to be a slight degradation of strength in those areas, so in theory you might be shortening the shirt life span a little, but I’ve never worn a shirt so thin that holes appear so I doubt it’s much an issue.