Monday, August 22, 2011

QuasiMiddleAges, or What year is this Court thing supposed to be?

In case you're a new guest to my little corner of the blogosphere, I should mention that I have this medieval sort of fantasy story I've been working on for years, and a majority of my dolls are characters belonging to that story. Specifically they belong to the Court of Dun Elisedd, the group of people who are the movers and shakers of a castle in a small northern kingdom.

It draws inspiration from many, many sources, not the least of which are things like The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Prydain, Beowulf, the Arthurian mythos, and histories of many actual kingdoms. It is a fantasy story, but like Tolkien and other authors, I have something of a passion for world-building and cultural anthropology, so I have done a lot of thinking about the cultures in this world and how they interact, and what their clashing or melding means for their society.

I have trouble sometimes with keeping my historical & locational influences to one period or place. I am madly in love with the Arthurian era of war-torn, Saxon-invaded Britain, with kings and chieftains and warriors, and the simpler architecture and gorgeous celtic artistic forms they had. I also like the "Ivanhoe" period of Post-Hastings England with the Saxons and Normans uncomfortably mixing, and all the cultural awkwardness there. There are lots of things in fashion and clothing, however, that I like from as late as the High Middle Ages, 1300 or so. I try to keep my main influences in fashion, art and architecture somewhere between the Roman British era and theNorman Invasion, just for the sake of clarity and some vague unity in the whole mess.

It is well worth pointing out that I have only barely begun a dabbling study of British and European history compared to many authors and illustrators, and there's a lot more to study. It's one of the things that makes this story a work in progress.

Why base a fantasy novel on history, you might ask? Because I've seen what happens when you don't, and it looks like Dungeons and Dragons. *twitch* Not that I have anything against High Fantasy, as it's known, but it doesn't feel as real to me. The appeal of Fantasy is that you can imagine somewhere, somehow, once upon a time, it was real. My story is about real people, even if there is a bit of magic involved and they use swords and horses instead of iPhones and Toyotas. These people live and love and bleed and die, and I can't cheapen that by making everything up and having it not make sense. Their world needs to be solid, and have real weather, real troubles and real life in it.
My fantasy world cannot have everyone on the continent under just one king, they can't all speak a Common Speech with no good reason for it, and they can't have an economy based on unrealistic amounts of gold pieces everyone has and everyone values exactly the same, and they can't all have conveniently enlightened modern views on property, citizenship, women, and slavery. That's how it is in many Fantasy settings, but not in mine.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Grindbox - Resin is Toxic

Resin dust is like silica, coal dust or other things tiny, particulate and inorganic- once it gets into your lungs, it never comes out. It can cause cancer like Mesothelioma, or simply Miner's Lung just by being in there. Cancer can be fought by horrible chemicals, but there is no way to cure Miner's Lung. It is a slow death sentence.

Sounds dramatic, but that's the truth. Lots of things that we deal with every day can totally kill you if you do something stupid, and resin dust is no different. Arc welders and industrial power tools are just as deadly, but the right equipment makes them safe. With the right precautions, you can make resin safer to work with. One vital way is to wear a properly fitted respirator of N95 rating or higher and make sure it is always fitted and has fresh filters. There are lots of ways to keep resin dust out of your environment and under control.

What I have for my setup is a thing I've been calling the Grindbox. (Pictures coming later!) It's like a sandblasting box used industrially or a chemical hood, except it's built out of hacked together parts and caulked foamcore board because I couldn't be bothered to try to cut wood in an apartment, and wood is heavy. Metal was out of the question. I plan to post images of the thing to my blog eventually but I'd recommend building this thing to serious modders only, since it takes a lot of work and buying a dedicated shop vac and expensive HEPA filters- Also, I have not yet perfected the design and cannot in good conscience vouch for its efficacy yet. I still wear an N95 mask while working with it, just in case. (Mesothelioma is a horrible way to go. Not for me, no thank you!)

What the Grindbox is made up of is a big ol' box with a wide, tilted lid on top that has a panel of clear acrylic in the lid so I can see what I'm doing, and big sleeves and gloves that are caulked into their holes and extend into the box. The gloves are rubbery non slip gripper things that help me not drop things when I am working with the Dremel and they are thick enough to protect my fingers when the toolbit slips accidentally. (Never work with a Dremel without gloves- we like our fingers' flesh!)

The lid is sealed by velcro straps to hold it tight shut when I am working in the box. The box has an air intake made of a hole with HEPA filter over it caulked to the side, which I will have to replace periodically. The air outlet is a caulked on funnel in the opposite side, to which has been sealed a vacuum hose attachment. This is connected to a just-for-this Shop Vacuum that has been fitted with HEPA rated filters that also have to be regularly changed, but this thing sucks up all the dust and shavings from whatever I work on inside the box and does not allow particles back out into the air.

There is also a hole in the side of the box to allow me to place a Dremel in the box, then run the cord out of the box. This currently has a valve-like sealing around the cord made of layers of rubber and Gorilla tape, but I'd like something less kludgey eventually. Currently the Dremel just kind of stays in the box and I open the lid to put new bits in the box, then close the box promptly and use my gloved hands inside it to change Dremel bits.

I am still perfecting the whole thing but it does make it possible for me to do lots of stuff I could never contemplate doing in an apartment. I wear an N95 mask when I use it anyway, and have air purifying filter fans running in the studio pretty much all the time just to be extra safe.