Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflection on 2011

Greetings everyone and I hope you are enjoying your last day of 2011!!

This will obviously be my last post of the year, so I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my letterboxing experiences over the past year - and what better way to do that than to look at the numbers :)

In 2011, I found just over 200 letterboxes... for reference, in 2010 I found only 38.  In 2010 I had just learned about letterboxing, so there you go - that's why the numbers have changed so much.  I suspect though that next year will bring me fewer finds since I've now moved to an area with far fewer letterboxes.

I think my favourite letterbox of the year must be a tie between Norasta's Edwin Holgate letterbox and Fiddleheads'  Neoclassical Revival letterbox. Both for different reasons, but both the boxes, the clues and the amazing locations, along with my personal experiences in finding the boxes make those two stick well out in my mind as favourite boxes for the year.  I highly recommend both.

I also had an amazing outdoor experience whilst seeking Sylvie... I do have a number of amazing memories from this year's letterboxing.

This year, I also had the opportunity to do some cross-border letterboxing, starting with a trip I made to Charleston, South Carolina.  While there, I found the South Carolina State Butterfly, the Lost Ring of Charleston, and Batty for Bats. It was the idillic letterboxing/vacation trip: I had the day to spend in Charleston and spent it for essentially free, letterboxing, while nevertheless seeing all the best parts of that gorgeous city.  Perfect.

Later in the year, I got down to San Diego for the International Comic Con (cuz you know, I'm a geek like that) and while there I danced for the jumbo tron.  Great quick find despite having no time to do any real letterboxing. Finally, I did my first cross border event in upper New York state, the Boneyard Boxing tour - and nabbed a lot of cemetery boxes that day.

I also did a lot of carving and planting this year 67 in total, up from 19 in 2010.  My favourites are the Numbers Station (which I fully intend to do a blog post about the making of that clue), the Purloined Letter, and Hic Sunt Dracones. None of these have a lot of finds on them - Numbers Station has a lone find on it - likely because the clues look difficult.  When really, once you figure them out, not so much.  My favourite carve would have to be one of my most recent plants, A Touch of Voodoo, which from a clue/hide standpoint isn't the best, but it's still my favourite carve.

Anyway, it's been a fantastic year of letterboxing and I'm looking forward to some good experiences in 2012 (not the least of which are my two events, Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge, and Box ON! 2012. I hope to see you there or on the trail!  I'll leave you with a Wordle generated from the text from my blog for the year.  Happy trails!

Friday, December 30, 2011

How I made a magnetic logbook letterbox

So, with OPAL just around the corner, I've been carving away and taking on Fiddleheads' library challenge.  However, while I love the idea of having letterboxes in libraries and right on the bookshelf, I haven't been able to bring myself to actually ask a librarian for permission to do so for a number of reasons all stemming from the old addage it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission...

Since I've already planted quite a number of letterboxes in libraries, including within the library systems in which I intend to plant for OPAL, if I ask and am refused I am potentially jeopardizing the existing boxes.  After all, most of them would be very easily found once the library is aware of their presence and of the clue locations.
Here it is: the final self-contained magnetic library letterbox

My intention then is to plant my upcoming library OPAL boxes without permission and therefore they must be easily concealable.  In the past, this has meant either planting the stamps as magnets without logbooks - but I'm a huge fan of reading logs - or planting magnetic planter's pouches - which is less than desirable.

I've therefore had an idea percolating for some time for a self-contained logbook/stamp holder that would be magnetized... I've finally made one and am going to show you what I did.

First off, I had a number of things on hand: carved stamp for the letterbox, small pads of blank paper, needle and embroidery thread, cardstock, patterned cardstock, double-sided tape, felt/fleece, rare earth magnets, markers, ruler*, bone folder, scissors, gum (I can't think without gum).

Next, I cut down the cardstock to the right size and fold - there were four folds made as you can see in the image below (the signatures for the logbook and the stamp are above). 

Next, after I have the folds right, I covered the card stock in the decorative stuff.  You'll see that I used double-sided tape for pretty much everything in this project.  I also added two small bars of rare earth magnet - you can see them in the middle below.  I lined those up so that where they would be in the final product is at the back where it would serve to attach properly to a metal surface.

You can see the magnets a little better in the image below.  I covered them with double sided tape as well to make sure they wouldn't slip around between the card stocks.  I've used these little magnets very successfully in the past in letterboxing - they are very powerful, and because they are so small, they are easy to use to convert a stamp into a magnet or to made a pouch magnetized.

Once the card stocks were taped together, I then taped in a piece of felt which is where the stamp will go once the thing is complete (I really should come up with a name for this thing - any suggestions?).  I then sewed in signatures I had prepared out of pieces of paper I took from a small pad of paper. (I hate cutting paper for signatures, so why bother?)

Then it was pretty much done, just had to add the name and typical info I include in boxes (although minus my usual geocache warning). 

Below, you can see it folded with the stamp in place from the top to understand how it works.  I initially used the embroidery floss to tie it closed, but decided on a colour-coordinated rubber band instead.  In the future, I would incorporate an elastic right into the design (like moleskin books).

And that's it.  There will be more of these made and used for OPAL (and likely other places).  I'll probably get a better feel for proportions in the future boxes, but for now I'm really pleased.

*Yes, I use a ruler, but for its straight edge, not as a tool of measurement.  I eyeball everything and generally won't make something if it requires me to measure things too precisely. Also, this explains why I am a terrible cook, can't sew to save my life, and why my lab marks in undergrad where subpar.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Winter's here, time to carve!

Winter has finally come and we've finally gotten snow.  I don't ever remember a wintertime that had such a late onset - the latest I ever remember snow coming was shortly before Christmas.  I suspect this has been Mother Nature's way of apologizing for the long, wet spring (and mosquitoe-y summer)... or global warming.  One or the other.

So since I hate snow and the cold, time for more carving and plotting.  Just as an update to the carving process, I have 4 finished carves waiting to be planted and about a dozen images waiting to be carved. I'm also carving for this year's OPAL, but having brain blocks for clue ideas... Which reminds me, I need to go find some earth magnets on eBay...

For an update to the plotting, there is the ever-constant plotting of new hides/clues as well as my first two letterboxing events, Wink Wink, Nudge Nudge, and Box ON! 2012 which will be in Markham.  Only slight angst about that...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy (letter)Boxing day!

Yes, I'm Canadian, and yes, we have a holiday called Boxing Day, and no, I have no idea what Boxing Day is meant to celebrate.*  So it must mean that it is meant to celebrate letterboxing.  I will endeavour to update Wikipedia shortly.

In celebration of this underwhelming holiday, I present to you a tidy roundup of some recent blog posts of those I follow... Some may be letterboxing blogs, others, well, not so much ;)  Enjoy!

It's never too cold to box, go do some winterboxing: Brush and Barron: A little more chilly cheer.

A Krampus?  Yes, finally a Christmas demon in dire need of being carved: Black and White: Gruss vom Krampus.

Favourite winterboxing travelogue (though, minus a few points for lack of snow, plus a few points for noting that I screwed up my last letterbox search): Lone R: Letterboxing, Commuting and Chickadees.

If you can put the $$$ together, Dartmoor winterboxing: whoisthechallenger: When the going gets tough...

Favourite start-to-finish video carving tutorial, with a fantastic, festive result: eraser carving and printmaking: The process of eraser carving.

Hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday!

*Although, secretly, I think the day is truly meant as a day to celebrate cardboard boxes. Because really, can you imagine a world without them? Just think about the awesome impact of the cardboard box on your life. All great things come out of boxes.  And so I wish you a very happy boxing day and may your boxing day be full of numerous and sufficiently square boxes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Spoiler Alert: FINALLY, a good transfer...

Not withstanding all the crazy moves in the last few months and the lack of carving/letterboxing, I've been having a terrible time finding a proper printer for doing my xylene transfers. And now, FINALLY, after lots of searching, I have found perfection.

A little back story: As you may not know, I almost solely use a xylene blender pen for my transfers.  I originally started with acetone, and I've experimented with an iron, but the xylene has consistently won out in the ease of use category, as well as best transfer. (I've also seen wintergreen demonstrated by the wonderfully talented Fiddleheads, but fled the room as the smell hit me... I even feel sick sometimes if I don't air found letterboxes that were done this way...)

Anyways, when I first started experimenting with transfers and finding out what worked for me, I lived near a little convenience store that had this old (read: ancient) photocopier that I think was run by hamsters.  It actually chugged and spewed out smoke when you hit "copy".  It gave beautiful transfers, no matter the method.

And then...

                        I moved.

And no printers would work.  I spent a number of hours one day driving from library, to corner store, to copy centre - on and on, zigzagging through town with a hunk of pink stuff and my blender pen, tossing nickles and dimes wherever I went.  And nowhere did I find a printer that would work.  As a result, I've come to an unscientific conclusion that one's carving ability is directly proportional to one's transfer abilities.

I've moved again, and I tried my new work's printer - and was actually taken aback when... It worked!  It wasn't perfect, but it gave a nice clear transfer for me to carve my new signature stamp:

And then, today (after sudden inspiration for a new letterbox that needs to be planted) I tried a printer that is really close to my new home, and PRESTO! a flawless transfer.  It's gorgeous.  I love it.  I don't even want to mar it by starting to carve it.  So I will share it with you, dear reader... [Spoiler alert: this will definitely be planted, so be warned and take appropriate steps if you're sensitive.]

It's beautiful, isn't it.  I have an urge to frame it and stick it on the wall.

For your reference, here is my process for this flawless transfer:
  • Find a suitable image and print on an HP P1102 laser printer
  • Take acetone and thoroughly rub down a new piece of Webfoot's NZ Cut
  • Cut out image, and tape it image down on the acetone-scrubbed NZ Cut
  • Within 10 minutes of printing, take your Chartpak Blender Marker and with firm pressure quickly scrub back and forth so that the image appears to bleed through so you can easily see it, from one side to the other and back again (two full passes).
  • Immediately take a burnisher/bone-folder and continue scrubbing back and forth across the whole image until all of the xylene has evaporated and you can't see the image any more.
  • Untape and remove the image. 
  • Stand back and admire.

Postscript: My very first transfer involved me pulling an image up on my laptop's computer screen, putting a paper over top of it, then tracing the image with a pencil.  True story.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Carving for fun and profit: Christmas cards

Every year, one of my favourite things to do in advance of the holidays is write and send out Christmas cards. Every year, I go to Chapters or some other shop and find a cute set of cards, then send those out along with that year's Canada Post holiday stamp (postage stamp, not holiday stamp).

This year, instead of buying what are, quite frankly,  soul-less commercially produced cards, I decided to make my own.  I can carve - so why not make my own?

So, armed with some white (and a few black) card blanks I got on sale from Michael's, I sat and had a think as to what I could carve up to make cards with.  Unfortunately, this thinking process took way too long (ahem, weeks), and before I knew it, crunch time was upon me... The good news is I had come up with an idea: draw and carve a simple background of birch trees I could stamp in silver, then draw and carve a few tiny cardinals to stamp into the trees.

I drew away and came up with a nice block stamp for the background birches (using up some left over pesky Speedball Speedy Cut that you should absolutely stay away from using - crumbly terrible stuff) as well as some cute little cardinals in different poses.  As I didn't have a lot of time, I picked up some stamps with words like "Merry Christmas", "Seasons Greeting", and "Joy" on them... I know, you can't believe I actually bought stamps instead of carving them... I hang my head in shame... Once this initial carving was done, the rest of the process flew... Cards all stamped up, I decided to put some finishing touches on in the form of some nice red sparklies on the birds' wings.

The vast majority I did with the red and silver.  But I also did about a half dozen in the blue and gold and two with just the silver birches on black. Each of the cards is different, given what is stamped outside and in and where the birds are in the trees.  I think I will definitely be doing this again next year.

The girls I was making cards with that day loved watching me carve the stamps I then used, so after I finished stamping, I gave them away...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Time Flies

Greetings and salutations...

I haven't gone anywhere, I've just been living the crazy life since my last post.

I've now moved twice since my last post (yes, you heard me right) and now have settled for the time being (crossing fingers).  I'm also a member of an active marching band and as it is Santa Claus parade season, my weekends have all been eaten up.  So, understandably, no letterboxing has really been done recently... The last time was before leaving Hamilton where I replanted my HHH, along with recarving my Worm letterbox and planting a new one to make a pair. I also had a fairly unsuccessful letterbox trip to the Cambridge area - went looking for about a dozen, found five.

But, in the move, I've set up a brilliant new carving space for myself, which includes a fantastic new lit magnifier (picked up on sale in the midst of my last letterboxing outing).  All my stuff nearby, fireplace to warm my toes and a TV to keep me entertained - what more do you need? My first project will be to carve another signature stamp - my current one has Burlington as my home location, which is now two homes ago.  Sigh.

I'm now living in a bit of a letterboxing desert - certainly not as bad as other areas, but not really any nearby letterboxes that I haven't found to speak of.  In fact, in Markham there are a total of 6 unique letterboxes, 4 of which are mine.  Richmond Hill, there none.  This has to be corrected and I am up for that task!

If you're a fan of scifi/fantasy, you'll likely understand what I mean as I'm feeling fairly sympathetic to the Stark family's motto/threat/warning: winter's coming.  I spent most of last winter/early spring painfully monitoring the weather, looking for the opportunity to get back out on the trail.  Now, I'm stuck dreading when the first real snow fall is coming to bury all the boxes out there and putting any real boxing opportunities out of reach.  Snow shoeing anyone?