Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Designing a Computer Font - Tyndale Book of Matthew

Well my first attempt at font creation is complete!  
I tried three shareware programs which were free to use before deciding to use a "real" software.  I purchased the software package FontCreator 7.5 after using the trial version for about a week.  All the things I hated about the free packages were much improved by FontCreator.  If you are interested in trying to create your own fonts I recommend downloading the trial version.  It is very easy to learn to use.  There is minimal help menus but the program functions much like other CAD type programs I've used so it was 

It took quite a bit longer than I anticipated but so far I do like the results.  I still have a bit of work to do before the font is completely usable.  I have to adjust the kerning.  Kerning is the adjustment of the spacing between letters in a piece of text to be printed.  There are also a number of issues with the size of some of the letters.  The tale of the (q, p, y, g) are all cut off.  I have to try and adjust some things as I learn to use the program.

So far here is an image of what the capital letters look like.  They were based on the text found in the book "Breviarium Romanum".  See post (New Calligraphy Project) for further details on the reason for this project.

Here is what the lower case letters will look like. After rendering the letters all together I find that there are some letters I want to rework.  The letter "p" looks too full and round and the letters "m" and "n" look like they were written with a wider pen.  They look a lot fuller and bolder than the rest.  

Overall this is what a single sentence might look like.  You can see that the shape and size of some letters need to be tweaked.  There is a lot more to creating a new font than I had anticipated.

Pewter Casting Heraldic Token Completed

This is where I left off working on my heraldic token mold.  I cleaned up the edges and defined the quarters a little better.  Once this was cast and the result was satisfactory I moved on to the three doves. 

I started by using a felt tipped pen to mark the location of the head and body of the three doves.

I then used a small hand drill to drill a very shallow indentation for each body and each head.

To test the depth and appearance of the image I took a small piece of clay and pressed it into the mold.  This was a process I used over and over at this point to test the final image without having to use molten pewter.

I continued to tweet the body and head and once satisfied I used a small needle to make the scratch which would become the beak and the feet.

The finished mold.  Ready for casting.

Time to put the metal in the pot.


I found it very difficult to even get a piece filled in as much as th ed following image.  This was cast when the mold was already too hot to touch.  I could not get a decent flow even after 40 attempts.   Time to give up and make the piece thicker.

Here are the four major stages thus far. 

I cut a sprue on both stones.  When the cast piece was set on the back stone I could trace around it to mark the location of the area that would need to be cut deeper.


Traced and scored with a sharp dental tool.

Working with some dental tools and small carving chisels I removed some material to thicken the piece by about the thickness of a few sheets of paper. 

Test fitting to ensure I cut enough.

 A final test.  A success!  After only about 8 pours I was getting good flow and decent results.  I will probably clean up the details on the birds but they will work for now.   I made a dozen for the up coming A&S fair.  Now I can let these rest for now.  Eventually I'd like to put my name on the back, but these will work for a first pass.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Cookie Badges

Pewter Casting Project - Needle Case Mold Making Phase

Construction of the soap stone mold has begun.  I purchase some green soap stone from the local Blicks.

See prior post at: (New Casting Project Enters Planning Phase)

I started by slicing the stone into bread sized slices using a hand saw and a wooden miter box.

Based on the design I came up with each angle cut would need to be 30 degrees.  To best insure that I was able to obtain a consistent 30 degrees I created a template.  I cute a wood plank at 30 degrees and then used that as my template.  As long as the blade of my saw rested on the wood template the cut I made would follow the 30 degree angle.


The following image shows the layout of the cuts I envisioned.  After laying out the pieces I found that I would only be able to get three sections out of each slice of stone.

After making the first cut I used the removed piece to hold the wood template level.

After making the first cut I had to test the shape to see if they would align and work out the way I had envisioned in my head.  So far so good I think.

You can see that the second cut was a bit rough.  I found that holding the saw at the angle while trying to focus on the angle my hand kept cramping.  I could only make the cut about 1/2 way before having to stop and rest.  I rather afraid that the cut would bind the saw and then crack the stone.  The soap stone is very brittle and making the 30 degree cut was a very slow process.

First full and usable piece cut.

A full set of cut pieces.  I may replace one or two of these, but these were the first six successfully cut pieces which I hope will fit together to make the shape you see at the right.


Before spending too much time on the clean up of each piece I cut then all to a consistent length. The final size of the piece is still in question so at this point I simply eyeballed the length.  Once I cut one of the six pieces I cut the rest to a length to match.


I tried to maximize the amount of stone I could use and so sliced only thin wafers off the ends to true up the base.

Cut to length it was ready for some clean up.  I started with a medium grit sandpaper and progressed to a "fine" grit.  I placed the sandpaper on a piece of glass to ensure a flat surface.  I then slide each stone over the sandpaper until I was satisfied with a very smooth and even surface.

As this was all hand work there were some minor changes in the angle of the cuts.  All six pieces did not align perfectly when placed together.  You cannot see the details in this image but there are some cuts which are 1 or 2 degrees off.  I plan on creating register pins on each section grouping the mold into two groups of three.  Once those two groups are joined together I can then sand the surface flat and true again to correct any imperfections in the cut angle.

Once I got the pieces basically fit together I softened the edges of each stone.  After the sanding each stone had very sharp and crisp corners.  Those types of edges are more likely to grab, chip and crack the stone when working with them.  I took a small metal file and rounded over the edge of all the edges which were not going to be in contact with the finished casting.

Time for another test fitting.  I moved the stones around until I could find the best overall fit for each group of three stones.  I then marked the stones 1,2 & 3 so that from this point forward they would all have the same relative position.


Oops!  I set the stone down to abruptly and chipped a corner off.  I have heard and once witnessed using "super glue" to repair such a crack.  I decided to glue it together and see what would happen.  This is one of the two stones I may replace later.  Depending on how well the test fitting goes I may try to make a replacement.


Quitting time.  This is the set of six stones place into their metal box lined with thick wool for safe keeping.  I haven't even gotten into any carving yet and I have quite a few hours in this project.

So far it seems to be coming along basically as I had planned.  Next step will be to cut some register pins to group three stones together.  Once I have two joined sections I can then treat them as a "two-part" mold and true of the surfaces for those halves.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pewter Casting Heraldic Token

I've long been a proponent of personal tokens.  A personal token might be something that is customized by the giver.  Something as simple as a glass bead, piece of lace or pewter object works well.  The tokens can be handed to individuals who you witness performing a kind deed, who performed a dance well, who sang a lovely song, who fought well on the field, who served a great feast etc.  I have used various bits on occasion but I have never created my own personal token.   I have been using brass pins for a while, but I've always wanted to make a heraldic token.  While at a friends house doing some pewter casting I began work on such a token.

Concept:  Small and thin to minimize use of metal.  My heraldic device on a shield shaped token about the size of a dime.  I was hoping to make the object very thin.  I find that carving stone to make a very thin item is more difficult that a thick item.  When the item is thin it takes longer to perfect the mold to get a good flow of molten metal.  I thought that a thin yet crisply designed image would make the piece stand out more.

Sliced chunks of stone were sanded smooth.  I used a piece of glass and progressively finer grit sand paper to get a reasonably smooth surface.  When the two slices of stone are squeezed together and held up to the light little or no light makes it's way through the crack.  Ready for the design.


I traced the size of the stone on to a piece of paper and then roughly sketched my device.  Details aren't important at this point.  I just wanted to hold it at arm's length and see if it looked about the right size.  After the shape and sizer were OK I cut it out and traced the shield on to the stone.


Mark & Erica working on their first stone carving.

I sketched an idea for the sprue size and then didn't actually use it.  :-( 

I decided to carve the device on one stone and the sprue on only the back.  I was hoping that in the future I might use that same device on other casting projects.  Having the sprue cut on to the face of that piece might pose a problem for future castings.  I tried to make the sprue on the back large enough that exact alignment wasn't as critical.  My hope was that I wouldn't need register pins if the sprue wasn't only on the back.  I could eyeball them and simply hold them together with my hand while casting.

Some initial versions.  Took about 30 pours before the stone was warm enough to allow a good even flow.  These pieces are roughly about 1/2 the thickness of an American dime.  Once I got a good flow I then proceeded to clean up the shape of the shield and smooth out the front as much as possible.


As I worked through getting a smooth face I kept performing test pours to see if the thickness would be a problem.  You can see here that the flow of the metal was leaving a stream line down the middle.  I cut a few vents on the side of the stone and that helped a little.  We were using a new electric pot as well.  Flow from the pot was not always even and I think that the metal was not always an even temperature.  

After playing with the temp I was able to get a better more even pour.  The face was cleaned up enough at this point so after this piece I proceeded to move on to cleaning up the edges and beginning the shape of my device.

You can see the stone where I ended for the day.  The badge is quartered.  Again it took about 30 pours before I was able to begin getting a good clean face.    I am very happy with the size and thickness of the token so far.  Had to call it a day at this point though.  I will start off the next step adding my three doves to the mix as depicted on my device at the top of the blog.