Monday, May 14, 2012

How To Paint A Faux Copper Patina

Today I'm going to show you how to take something like this:


And turn it into something like this:

 BioShock Seahorsies!!

This is a great technique for transforming everything from knick-knacks to cosplay props and hardware, and it can be used to make almost any material - wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.  - look like naturally aged copper.

But the best part? It's really easy! All you need are a good spray primer, spray paint in metallic copper and flat black, mineral spirits, and some cheap flat craft paint in a bright teal.

So let's get started!

First, prime your piece. (If it's plastic, be sure to use a plastic primer.)

(I originally planned to paint this piece gloss white, but the ceramic was rough and didn't look that great in a solid color. So...ultra aged copper, it is!)

Next, spray your piece with the copper metallic, and let it dry completely:

For this next step, have a small cup of mineral spirits and some cotton rags handy, because you'll want to move somewhat quickly once you've finished spraying your piece black.

When you're ready, go ahead and spray a nice thick coat of flat black all over your piece. Make sure you don't miss any nooks or crannies:

As soon as you're finished spraying, grab a rag and start wiping down the piece. The paint will get tacky pretty fast, but don't worry; that's what the mineral spirits are for.

Using two fingers wrapped in your cotton rag, dip the cloth in mineral spirits and continue wiping down your piece. [And it's much better to wear gloves; we just ran out.] You want to expose the copper on all the raised areas, leaving the black in all the recesses.

Keep going as long as you like, until you're happy with the look. (More black = more aging, so if you only want a light patina you'll want to take off more black than I did.)

This is how mine looked after I finished wiping it down.

Of course, you *could* stop there, but trust me: this next step is where the magic happens.

For this part you'll need your teal craft paint on a plate or palette, a brush, and a cup of water.

Mix a lot of water in with a little paint to make a thin glaze. Err on the side of caution: use a LOT of water.

Now, using your brush, start to drip your watery paint mixture onto your piece:

Concentrate on getting the glaze into all the recesses: the nooks and crannies. In short, anywhere there's black paint, that's where you want to concentrate your glaze. Use extra water to make the glaze drip and run down the sides.

Stop every now and then and splatter some of the glaze onto the piece. When these dry they'll leave really cool-looking water droplet marks.

The most effective aging mimics what would happen naturally out in the elements, so make your patina heaviest near the base and anywhere rainwater (and therefore rust) would naturally pool. You'll also want to do several coats of drips to get the best texture, so take your time.

Oh, and keep in mind that your glaze will look a lot like solid paint while it's wet, so don't worry if it seems too dark; it'll dry lighter.

Most of the glaze here is still wet. Compare that with the dry sections on the smaller seahorse's face and tail. See how translucent and dusty it looks? That's why you need several coats to get a really vivid patina.

You can put as much or as little patina on your piece as you like. For mine, I decided to go all out and really age the heck out of it:

 The heavy sections have at least half a dozen coats of glaze drips on them.

Of course, you still want some of your shiny copper metallic to show, so as a finishing touch rub down some of the raised areas with a wet Q-tip or paper towel to let that shine back through again. And if you realize your patina is a little *too* heavy, just rub some of that off, too. You may have to rub pretty hard, but the glaze will come off. (And if you rub off too much, just drip more on!)

And, guess what?

 You're done!

 Fortunately the glaze is strong enough that it's not going to rub off with casual wear, so there's no need to clear coat your finished piece. Which is good, since clear-coating would ruin all that great texture you just created, anyway!

To finish my seahorse statue I think I'm going to have John cut a thick wooden plaque for the base. And since I like to imagine it's a little souvenir statuette recovered from the underwater city of Rapture, maybe I'll even get a brass plaque saying something to that effect for the side. :D

I hope you've found this tutorial helpful! And if so, please let me know how you plan to use it in the future -  or better yet, send pictures!

Update: A couple of you have pointed out - and rightly so - that copper patina is usually a bit more green than this. I just used the teal craft paint I already had on hand, but for your own projects you may want to find a shade that leans more green. 


Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Steam 5/12/12

I know I just mentioned this not too long ago, but if you're not already watching Felicia Day's Flog then you should at least give this week's show a try. In it Felicia visits the famous Clockwork Couture and does a hilarious fashion shoot - meaning you get LOLs *and* steamy fashion eye candy. Great stuff!

Guess why I've been searching ebay for an old bicycle horn?

By Flickr user lowtechatmo, found via Craft:

This iPhone speaker uses nothing more than a pvc pipe and old brass bike horn to naturally amplify the sound - no cords needed!

But believe it or not, that's not the only non-powered iPhone amplifier I saw this week. Check out this 3D printed version I found via Mashable:

The iVictrola Gramophone comes in two pieces (the horn and the base) in your choice of colored plastic, which you can then paint to match the scheme above or leave a solid color for a neat modern look. Pricing starts around $95 for both pieces. (Isn't 3D printing cool?!)

Caitlin W. spotted these bookends with gears that actually move:

Yep - the hand crank works! Awesome. They'll be available in August for about $50 here.

And speaking of cranky things, check out this adorable "Hootch-Owl" bottle opener:

 $50 from Red Envelope

Oh! For those of you who live within driving distance of Waltham, MA, get yourselves over to the Watch City Festival, the city-wide steampunk celebration, STAT! It's going on now through tomorrow. And I want pictures!

And finally, check out my new steamy side table!

John and I stumbled across this on sale at Hobby Lobby for $90 - not bad, considering it's all heavy wood and metal. The legs especially have some neat screw and hinge detailing.

Here's a view looking out towards the dining room:

And here's a closeup of all my goodies on it:

I love how steampunk is slowly but surely creeping outward from the dining room into the rest of our house. I still try to keep a lot of color with it, but the aged pieces and leathers and metallics add so much warmth and character to the place. It's all quite cozy, really.

And now, if you'll excuse me... IT'S MY BIRTHDAY!! So I'm off to be spoiled rotten by John and then have dinner at Boma, my all-time favorite restaurant (which just happens to be at Disney). I hope you guys have a great weekend, too!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Going to a Con...By Yourself?

Many of you often mention in your e-mails that while you'd like to go to a convention some time, you just don't have any geek friends to go with. I can totally sympathize; John and I can count our local geek friends on one hand, and I'm not sure either of us would be brave enough to go to a con alone.

But then I got this e-mail from Catherine, and no lie: I was so inspired I actually got a little weepy. Fortunately she's given me permission to share it with the rest of you, so without further ado, here 'tis:


Hi Jen (and John),

I just wanted to write to let you know how awesome I think your blogs are and how you encourage everyone to let their geek flags fly.

Like so many nerds, I am quite shy and hate large crowds. I also don't have any friends that share my love for all things sci-fi, so I never thought I would attend a con. Then I saw all your cool posts and pics about all the ones that you attend but still wasn't sure if I was brave enough to go alone.

I finally decided to take the plunge when I heard about the Calgary Comic Con and the fact that the entire cast of Star Trek:TNG would be there!

I had the most amazing time and met so many really great people who love all the same kind of stuff I do! Plus I got to meet Sir Patrick Stewart and listen to him speak in that AMAZING voice of his, as well as hug Wil Wheaton ( girly sigh! ). 

(I just had to include a couple of photos cause I have no one else to show them off too.)

So thanks for pushing me to try something new, now I want to go to as many Cons as I possibly can.  Maybe someday I'll meet you at one.



SHE HUGGED WIL WHEATON, you guys. (Sooooo jealous.) 

And you know what's even more awesome than the fact that Catherine went to her very first convention by herself?

The fact that she went IN COSTUME:

Oh yeah, she just crossed the Star streams - and I love it.

Now THAT is a magical moment. (Sorry, Disney.)

You know, having been to my fair share of cons I know just how friendly the people are - heck, at Dragon*Con if you don't make a new friend in every line it's because you're actively trying NOT to - and yet I still have this lingering fear of ever venturing out by myself. Seeing Catherine overcome that fear, though, and how happy she is that she did, makes me want to jump out of my comfort zone and try to get out there more. The fact is, cons are where "our people" are - so if ever there was a place to make new friends, it's at a con!

Also, if you're a bit shy like Catherine and me, then I really can't recommend going in costume enough. I know it seems scary, but costumes are instant conversations starters. Not to mention they'll attract fans of the same flavor, so you'll already have something in common to talk about! 

If a costume feels too ambitious, then at least go with a geeky t-shirt, bag, or accessory - the more obscure, the better. I've had people cross a crowded room just to talk to me about my t-shirt at conventions before - and I've done the same for an especially nice ray gun or piece of jewelry. It's all about breaking the ice, so don your finest geekery, and get out there!  

Thanks again to Catherine, my newest hero, and here's hoping her story helps inspire some of you out there, too!

So tell me, peeps, have you ever been to a con by yourself? How was it? Any tips for newbies?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We're Trekkies And We Know It

Though people often mistake me for a bigger Star Wars fan, the truth is my first sci-fi love has always been Star Trek. There just aren't as many awesome Trek goodies out there for me to post about, so 'Wars tends to get a lot more love here on Epbot.

But today, thanks to a link from Jennifer P. on the Epbot FB page, I get to even the score a little.

Yes, it's ridiculously cheesy. Yes, you're probably not going to want anyone around you to see or overhear what you're watching. And yes, I realize I'm reaching new heights (depths?) of extreme geekdom by posting this.


(Personally, I lost it at "C-Captain Kirk out," and "Tribbletribbletribbleyeah." And the non-stop pelvic thrusts/dancing, of course. Hee!)

LL&P, y'all.  J-Jen out.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And That's Why I Answer E-Mails 3 Weeks Late

John and I always keep an iChat window open with each other while we're working. This is so John can send me various funny and/or cute pictures he finds on Reddit to distract me from my serious work of pinning my latest craft aspirations and catching up on Twitter.

Anyway, this is how one of our exchanges went yesterday:

IM window: *ping!*

Me: "D'AWWWWW!! So cute! And they totally look like they're skydiving! Someone should photoshop them onto a sky. Right? Right?!"



Me: "BWA-HA-HAA! Except now they look like they're plummeting to their deaths. They need parachutes."



 Me: "Ok, now they really need some goggles."

John: *sigh*

Me: "Oh, come on. You've come THIS far."



Me: "YES! I love it. Now it just needs a big LOL cats-type caption with, 'DON'T LET GO,' or 'I'VE GOT YOU' on it, right? Something cute like that.




Now if you'll excuse me, I have some very serious work to BWAHHAHAAA!! Sorry, I couldn't even get that out TYPING. Heh. Aheh. Heh.

(Hey John, now how about some double rainbows? And glitter? And little top hats? And a little squirrel in a rocket pack? [Too much?])



I'd like to thank Epbot reader Orcrist for this vital service to humanity:

Especially since John wouldn't do it. (The spoilsport.) :D

Jen's Truffles 5-8-12

Before you ask, "Jen's Truffles" is the result of an impromptu brain-storming session with John. After compiling a list of boring generic terms like "cool stuff" and "favorite finds" and getting pretty frustrated, I finally blurted, "They're like truffles. You know, 'cuz I had to dig through a lot of crap to find them." Which made John laugh so hard that he insisted I use it. So there you have it. My favorite finds of the week are now comparable to "a strong-smelling underground fungus." Which, you must admit, is pretty memorable.

Now, on to the fungus among us!

I know I'm supposed to save my favorite for last, but I can't wait that long -  so LOOK AT THIS AMAZING LABYRINTH BOX:


I found this hand-painted beauty over on my favorite Labyrinth fan site, and I'm head over heels for the whole thing. The stylized jewelry and hair piece, the spindly lettering on the side ("I was looking for something..."), and of course Sarah herself is just gorgeous.

And as if that weren't enough, check out the inside:

It's the helping hands!

This was painted by artist Darcy Ripley, and sadly it's already sold (CURSES!) from her etsy shop. If you hit that link you can see a few more close-ups of it, though - and maybe we can petition Darcy to paint more Labyrinth-inspired boxes. After all, wouldn't this be perfect for an engagement ring?

Next up, this Doctor Horrible Plush has a Ph.D. in adorableness:

I'd want a Bad Horse plush to go with him. 

If you love Fantasyland as much as I do, then you're going to really love this children's playhouse:

I found this while following the links from a whimsical wooden fairy house over on Boing Boing. The site it's on has lots of storybook playhouses like this one - and yes, that's an actual kids' playhouse, complete with real landscaping. AND I WANT ONE. Hit the storybook link to see over a dozen more guaranteed to make your inner 6-year-old squeal with delight.

Via Fashionably Geek: check out a princess Leia hoodie, complete with bunned hood:

Now that's adorkable.

(And they sell them at Hot Topic!)

And finally, in case you haven't seen it yet, behold the awesome lineup of Avengers-inspired eye makeup that went viral last week:


These are by a Finnish makeup blogger named Jangsara, and her site is chock full of gorgeous shots like these, often along with full step-by-step tutorials. (She also did an amazing R2D2 look for Star Wars Day on Friday.) Whether you'd ever wear these yourself or not, you can't deny that this is the ultimate geek girl eye candy. Me likey.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Comic Books for Newbies?

One of the cool things about being a geek is that there's always something new to try, read, or watch - and whatever you choose, there's sure to be tons of other geeks out there ready to cheer you on and give advice. Case in point: I've never really read comic books. It's not that I've never had the interest, exactly, it's just that I've never known where to start.

Well, Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, and thanks to the urging of nearly every geek I follow on Twitter, I decided to go check it out. Plus I'd heard there was a special give-away book being released from Archaia that included a new Labyrinth short story. Aww yeeeah.

John and I headed out to our local comic book shop around 3, and when we got there we found the parking lot mobbed with people. OUR people. A few were in costume, a lot had their kids with them (awww), and pretty much everyone looked to be in a good mood.

Then again, how could you NOT be in a good mood when you pass this on the way in?

Once we got inside the madhouse, John and I realized that we had no idea how Free Comic Book Day worked. So we wandered around the aisles, trying to look like we knew what we were doing and talking out of the corners of our mouths.

" it a buy-one-get-one kind of thing?"

"I dunno. Will we look stupid if we ask?"

"Yes. So you should do it."

"Maybe the guy driving R2D2 knows." 

"Ok. Go ask him. I'll be over here pretending I don't know you." 

R2 never judges us on our lack of Free Comic Book Day knowledge.

In addition to scoring some fun tidbits on droid-building, John eventually learned there were specific titles at the front counter that you could choose from for your free comic. And another lady passing by told us they still had the Archaia book! WOOT!!

After collecting our freebies John and I tried to find something to actually buy, which is when we remembered we know nothing about comics. And they're not really something you can browse through easily, are they? The only series I've read are the online comic Girl Genius (so addicting) and Lady Mechanika, which I also really like, but sadly they didn't have any of those at the shop. (We asked.)

I need to track down the latest issues of this; I've only read the first two!

Oh, and last week I read Return to Labyrinth, a graphic novel, but I didn't like it well enough to read the sequels. Actually, I didn't like it at all. Heh. Good thing it was a library read...

Anyway, after wandering around a while longer, John and I admitted defeat and left with just our free comics, feeling guilty.

The Archaia anthology has short stories from six different children's comics, which acts as a nice sampler of different writing and art styles. The Labyrinth one is about Hoggle and the Worm, and is funny with a slightly sad ending:

My other favorite was Return of the Dapper Men. The writing was utterly confusing - which I think was intentional -  but the art is nothing short of magical:

I've since learned The Return of the Dapper Man is a graphic novel, not a comic book. You can browse through some of the pages here on Amazon - and it's definitely going on my wish list.

So here's where I need your help, comic book geeks: where should a noob geek girl start? I don't have any particular favorites in the super hero world, so I'm open to most anything. I also love sci-fi, steampunk (obviously), kids' books, and old cartoons with reboots like TMNT and ThunderCats. Oh, and I know there's a Ghostbusters comic out there - is that any good? Please, leave your recommendations in the comments!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Steam 5/5/12

This week one of my favorite artists, Doktor A, released photos of a gorgeous new toy prototype:

Her name is Bella, and the toys are due to be painted in gold and teal (see the mock up here). However, Doktor A also mentioned on FB that, "There is a plan for an all white version with Matte and Gloss areas and a random splatter of blood red." AWESOME.

And while I'm at it, check out my new favorite piece by the good Doktor:

It's called The Candy Factory, and it has sooo many drool-worthy details. The little glass bottles in the back! The two tiny mini-bots operating the hand cranks! THE CANDY! Click here to see the rest of the photos - they're well worth it.

And speaking of eye candy, check out the rare 1895 Ford typewriter featured over on Boing Boing:

Not quite as ornate as those ball typewriters, perhaps, but still impressive.

After a while, a lot of steampunk jewelry can start to look the same, but I'm really liking the shapes and chain draping on these necklaces:

Plus, with a shop name like Spanky Spangler Steampunk Creations, you know it has to be good.

(These two have already sold, but there are similar designs in the Spanky Etsy shop which range in price from about $33 to $48 - not bad!)

Just when you thought you'd seen everything anyone could *possibly* make with old watch parts, someone like Dmitry Khristenko goes and makes a mini motorcycle with 'em:

Almost everything you see here came from an upcycled wristwatch - even the seat is an old leather band!

This one even has a cute little hatch back:

Epbot reader Tahlia P. sent these images in via e-mail, and when I tracked them down to Khristenko's DevianArt page (where there are dozens more), I got another pleasant surprise.  Check out what Dmitry's making from watch bits now:


He also made the most insanely complex and gloriously steampunk radio you will ever see:

Seriously, this thing has so many moving parts and switch-operated lights and built-in music boxes and spinning gears that the accompanying video showing them all off is TEN MINUTES LONG. Gaze in wonder, ye steamheads! GAZE! IN WONDER!!

Reader Kendra B. sent in John's favorite find this week: a bronze statue that's nearly three feet long called "Catfish Lily:"

Granted, it's not hugely steampunk, but there IS a gear, so we're going with it. For John's sake. Besides, the embellishments have a neat found-object look to them that reminds me of our bird Schnappsie:

(More on Schnappsie here.)

Since one of our cats (my cat) is named Lily, and the statue has all those lovely teal and orange accents PLUS a giant gear, John has become thoroughly smitten with "Catfish Lily." So much so that he went hunting online for a price. Which is $7,800. So I told John he could just use that picture up there as a desktop image. o.0

And finally, here's the best steampunk Leia cosplay I've seen:

By Flickr user CaptainSparrow

Now THAT's a princess. Love it!

Oh, and remember that steampunk Portal gun from last week? Well, I heard from Duncan, the creator, who sent in a couple more photos of himself & the gun. Hit the link to see them at the bottom of the post!