Thursday, February 28, 2013

Carving for friends *or* carving up some nekkid Romans

Today, I finished up a second attempt at a present for a long time friend whose birthday is this weekend.

I had decided to give her a stamp to make book plates, and since she has a background specialty in gay roman porn (she may characterize this differently, but essentially true) I go one of her favourite images out of her and carved away.

Now, unfortunately, the image she picked didn't exactly lend itself to a carve - it's this image, from the ruins at Pompeii:

Kinda hard to get lines or whatever out of that one.  But I gave it a good ol' college try, but it didn't really come to anything grand.  Big ol' mess, actually.

So, I took it upon myself to find some other picture that would work a bit better.

 Too funny.  I love the guy on the left with his hand in the air, like "hey, it's my turn!".  Or the guy towards the right punching the other guy in the butt.

Ah, much better design... time to carve this bad boy up (see what I did there?)...

Done and done.  But still not as interesting as a medusa with penis hair...  But SHHHH! Don't tell her, it's a surprise.

Happy carving!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The wheels are turning...

Oh, plotting is delightful.  I love strategising and coming up with cool ideas.  That's the best part of planting letterboxes for me - it's almost like throwing a surprise party or giving someone an awesome present.  Brings a smile to my face and makes my super happy even though I am not technically the beneficiary of the gift.

Ooooh, I have some fiendishly fun boxes on the way people! Most are in the works - unfortunately the snow is interfering with planting... gah.

To my favourite few who regularly read this blog and any others who cross its path: anything in particular you like to see in a box as a first finder? Anything you like that would make it extra-special?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doesn't Lock & Lock know...

... that there's a market for Altoids-tin-sized L&Ls?

Grr.  Urban letterboxes.  Grr again.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Letterboxing and mini-meets in Guelph

Ah.  What a wonderful Saturday I had.  First, some lovely winter letterboxing in Eden Mills, then a lovely mini meet with old and new letterboxers.  I finally got to go boxing this year, found some great boxes - didn't fall in freezing water this time - and then off to a mini meet which was hosted by the ever gracious Fiddleheads.  Ah, bliss.

I had actually meant to get out earlier in the morning yesterday so that I could go after a few more winter letterboxes, I ended up going out with only enough time to hit some Lone R plants in Eden Mills (on the way to Guelph).

First up: Food for the Undead - planted by the talented Lone R.  I love this gorgeous trail system.  This particular box takes you along the Guelph Radial Trail near Eden Mills.  It's a gorgeous trail, for me particularly in winter where you have some nice crunchy snow in the silence of a fragrant cedar forest.  Very serene.  Loved it. 

Continuing along the trail, a wonderful box planted by Lone R with layered stamp by 3 Blind Mice - I'm a Lumberjack and I'm OK.  I've always lusted after the gorgeous images 3 Blind Mice has created and shown online, and I'm really happy to have one in my logbook today.  Unfortunately, it's not the best of transfers.  I think it was about -10 Celsius yesterday, so I think the ink was actually freezing to the stamps and not transferring well.  I loved the image so much, I may just return in the summer to ink this one up to do it justice.  However, this also has started the gears going in my head to try to find a way to make good impressions on the trail.  Hmm...

Finally, Two Little Zombies Sitting in a Tree. Too cute.  Loved them. Sadly, no more boxes so back to the car and off to the meet!

The very first letterboxing meet up I ever attended was Fiddleheads' Winter Mini-Meet and Carve in 2011. I was completely awed by all the amazing carving I saw going on around me.  I found it really inspiring and I really got carving after that meet.

Two years later, I found this meet equally inspiring and have been plotting some new boxes for Toronto.  It was a smaller gathering - but actually perfect.  I love our little community, so it was great to learn some new things, catch up, and chat about the state of letterboxing in Ontario.  Just like Vivian the Viking, I was most intrigued by the parchment transfer technique which I haven't tried yet.  It seems a little more cumbersome than the xylene pen or hot iron - the two transfer types I rely on now.  The only draw back for me of those is that I have to know that I'm going to carve and what I'm going to carve the business day before I'm actually going to carve since my trusty printer is at work.  I can't be inspired and start carving on the spur of the moment as I have an ink jet printer at home.  So I definitely want to try this one - but I'm lacking in ink, paper, and parchment at the moment, so that's a post for another day.

Anyways, after yesterday, I have a number of transferred images waiting to be carved, so I must be off!

Happy trails!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Spoiler: carve for L&B XV

With all the snow I've got this weekend, I finally got around to start carving the two stamps that I'm donating for the Live & Breathe event this fall.  I transferred them awhile ago, but they were just waiting for me to actually start. 

One is "Carving up a Storm" and the other is for James Perrott.  Carving up a Storm is a pretty simple carve, but I wanted to do something really nice that will make a nice replant once it comes back home.

But there was a mistake on it.  A big one.  Oops.

Did I notice it when I made the collage for the image? Nope.

Did I notice it when I printed it out? Nope.

Did I notice it three days later when I got around to transferring the image? No.

Did I notice in the last week while it's been sitting on the coffee table? No.

Did I notice when I started carving today? No.

Did I notice after carving teensy lettering for 20 minutes?


Do you notice it?

So, luckily I transferred this with an iron rather than xylene, because that means I could give it another transfer - just a light ghost of a transfer, really - on the one offending spot, just to give me some guidelines to follow.

 Will it work?

Yes, mostly.  Phew. 

Lots of text on this thing - hope there are no more mistakes!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sweety, your brain looks delicious

Confined to my apartment due to a snowy whopping, I finally got the chance to finish up the carves I made for Fiddeheads' Sweetheart Transfers Mini-Meet next weekend - and make a couple valentines I can give away.

I generally don't like Valentines, so I wanted to make something off-kilter and who doesn't like zombies?  With a new font in hand - Feast of Flesh - I carved some quick stamps to make some fun cards.

Here are the stamps, done:

And then the finished cards:

Looking forward to seeing folks next weekend!

Happy trails :)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The letterbox is neither here nor there

Every so often I get an AQ mail or a find report for a new box from an unknown boxer and that person vehemently insists that my letterbox is missing. (I’d say about 2/3 the time, the box is where it should be, and there was user error.)  This happens more often when I plant while travelling.  I suspect that clue writing – not the puzzles, particularly, but the actual turn by turn directions to get you to the box – is written slightly differently and varies regionally.  For instance, I notice a difference in the style of clue writing when I travel across the border to box in Buffalo or Niagara – not better or worse, just different. (Except for the tendency for Buffalonians to refer to any evergreen plant as a “pine”).

I digress, where was I?  Well, in other letterboxer territories, I don’t know who the reliable find reports should be coming from. So when I get missing box reports, it’s hard to gauge their reliability. (I think everyone has received a stern message from a new boxer who insists that (a) the box is not where it should be, or (b) that your clue is terribly written.  So, some of these messages need to be taken with a grain of salt.)  When these are not new, unfound boxes, I usually make a mental note that someone couldn’t find it, but wait until I get better or further confirmation that something is awry (ie. Someone I am familiar with and confident of in their finding of my boxes).

But unfortunately, when I get missing box reports on brand new letterboxes I’ve planted while travelling, this results in a little bit of panic; my boxes are my babies and I worry about them.  While I actually expect that my boxes will all disappear in the sands of time and I accept that reality, I only get upset when a box goes missing without a single find on it.  But just because some unknown finder says it’s gone does not in fact mean it’s gone.

Case in point: last October, I planted three of my best down in Florida while on vacation: And a Bottle of Rum, Siste Viator: Key West, and Numbers Station.  On both Bottle of Rum and Siste, Viator, I received at least two messages each saying that the boxes were missing – and neither had a find yet.  Me, on the inside: gutted.  There may have been some head slamming on my desk.  It’s one thing to get one missing report, but multiple?  I had my suspicions when I read the messages that the reports weren’t reliable, but accepted that the boxes were nonetheless gone – or that my clues were really botched.*   I really wanted to contribute something nice to the Floridian letterboxing community and brought some nice boxes to plant – all that time and effort wasted.

Then just this past week, I get a find on each.  Made. My. Day.  They can go missing now ;)

Hoping that any missing box reports you receive are unreliable ;)

Happy trails!

*I actually have an great sense of direction – I have the elephant compass in my brain. I can usually plant a box, walk back to my car, and only then start writing down the directions to the box.    Even once I’m home and starting the clue, I can add more details, etc.  I can go back through my clues at a much later date and fix ambiguity, etc. because I can remember exactly how to get to the box from memory.  However, I planted these few boxes while… err… slightly hung over.  So my recollection of the details is slim; can’t fix botched clues if they are indeed botched.  Don’t drink and plant, folks.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Spoiler: boasting about my coaster *or* laser colour transfers

Transferring coloured laser copies... very lovely.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a colour copier that uses toner available for me at work.  I've had this in the past, never made use of it (ya know, for things other than work) but, as I looked through some images for my contribution to this year's Coaster Boaster event, I thought it might be a good way to do layered stamps (which I've never tried to do before... mistakes ahoy!).

The real thing: the Steam Whistle beer coaster.
This year, I'm contributing a Steam Whistle coaster for the event - my favourite Toronto beer. Did you know that you can have a free drink if you visit the Steam Whistle brewery at the Roundhouse?  Now you do.  So no excuses if you go letterboxing downtown Toronto.

Anyways, the coaster for Steam Whistle is just their iconic green logo with the steam whistle and a blue overlay for the text.  I'll take artistic license to make the ring around the outside blue as well, and from that I figured that it would be easy to carve two stamps to layer this image (so long as I can come up with a fairly repeatable way to line up the images, of course).

Two transferred images - the tiny text smudged on the first.
Since the image is just two colours, and I've got a colour copier, I printed out a sheet with two copies of the Steam Whistle logo and tried the transfer with my iron.  My findings were thus: it took a heck of a lot longer to transfer than just black.  At first, only the yellow from the green was transferring - with more heat, the green started to go, then with more heat the blue finally transferred.  This probably took a couple minutes all told.  I will just note this for myself and next time not keep lifting the paper to peek, and here's why: the paper warps ever so slightly when I did this and so the image on that area being lifted was not as clear (almost had very minor multiple registrations).  This happened to be where the teensy text for "Canada's Premium Pilsner" was written and it's smudged enough to make it difficult to try to carve that.  Fortunately, there are actually two transfers for this layered stamp, and I'll just use the other one for the blue layer.

Anyways, the transfers look great, very colourful - I'd do this again.  Off to carve.  One carve for the green background image - steam, another for the blue whistle and text.

You can see above on the bottom left the cutout transferred image.  At the top, the carving for the blue was done (oops, mucked up the A - but to err is human!) and part way done the lower right.  I actually found it helpful to have both colours on the rubber while I was carving to understand how the images would go together, but I could see this being confusing on a more complicated image.

Okay, so once I finished the carving, I went through probably about 25 inkings to try to figure out how to line these suckers up - and how to describe to boxers on the trail how to reliably repeat it.  What was I thinking?  Jeez. Mostly my advice is, try your best!  Gah. I tried lines galore, measured pretty much everything, but still couldn't get reliable transfers.  There's got to be a better way.  Next project.

Anyways, I'm still happy with the result. The colour transfer was helpful and just as clear as a typical black transfer.

Anyways, if you'd like to see this stamp in the wild, it's being sent across the border for GreatBigSabres as yet unscheduled Coaster Boaster even this coming spring. (I'm sure there's some sort of joke to be made here about sending booze across the border, but it escapes me...) Last year's event and entries were stellar - I'm really looking forward to it.

Happy trails!