TOOLBOX: Water Color Masking Fluid

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I love playing with watercolors, I’m going to admit that right now. I love the way the colors run together, the little blotches of pigment, and basically everything else about it. I’m not a watercolor expert, which means that whenever the paint does something unexpected I have the giddy feeling that I just discovered something amazing. (What did I tell you? I love the process.)

My philosophy teacher in high school used to amazing things with watercolor, and I would always try to sneak a look at his paintings before and after class. One day I noticed him using something to cover up portions of the paper while he was working– cut to 15 years later and I finally decide to buy myself a little bottle of masking fluid to play around with. (I bought Winsor & Newton Colorless Art Masking Fluid.)

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Still a little overwhelmed to jump in, I watched this introductory video, decided on a test project; and gathered my brushes, paints, and spirit of exploration.

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A note: the first time I used the fluid, I ruined my brush. It was a cheap brush, granted, but after that I sharpened up and coated the next brush in dish soap before dipping it in the masking fluid. I coated the whole thing in the dish soap, then squeezed the excess out. (This video shows you how.) Trust me. It’s better that way.

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I drew a basic outline of the words I wanted to mask out with pencil. After coating the brush in soap, and gently rolling the bottle of masking fluid to mix it up, I dipped my brush in and saturated it.

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Bit by bit, I covered the words with the masking fluid.

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All the lines are covered in the fluid now. I’ll be able to erase the pencil lines once everything is done.

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I let the masking fluid dry COMPLETELY before I began to paint with my watercolor. (The dry masking compound feels like rubber cement. You’ll know it’s dry when it is only slightly shiny, and your finger does not stick to it.) The watercolor will not stick to the mask, so you will be able to see what you’re working with.

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When I had finished my first layer of paint, I let it dry COMPLETELY, then added a little more masking to what would be the little abstract windows in the buildings.

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Then I let those dry COMPLETELY (do you see a theme here?) before I went in and darkened all the fields of color.

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When I was done working around my masked areas, and everything was dry, I lightly rubbed the masking agent off with the tips of my fingers. (This alone is worth the trouble. I love pulling glue off of things.)

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Once the mask was off, and I did a little erasing, I had crisp white lines to work with.

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The masked areas were pale enough to let me add a little light yellow watercolor. I love the way the white letters stand out.

Tips to remember

• Test out the water color paper you’re going to be using before you start your artwork. Some of the papers I tried stuck to the masking fluid terribly, and I had to tear the paper to get the dried mask off.
• Coat your brush in soap, or you will ruin a brush, and most likely the piece of paper you’re working on. The first brush started to pull the drying mask fluid back off the paper, and it totally ruined one of my projects.
• Let everything dry COMPLETELY before moving from fluid to paint, or paint to fluid. The fluid will cling to wet paper, or your wet paint and make a wet mess.
• Remember to have fun! Let that childish sense of wonder take over for an afternoon… and when you’re done experimenting, send us the outcome! April’s DIY Challenge is Watercolor, after all.

TOOLBOX: Saddle Stapler Review

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You may or may not have heard of a saddle stapler– but let me tell you, I love this sucker. I mainly use it for binding small booklets, but it’s handy for any project that you need to staple further “in” than the 1-inch you get with a regular stapler. Plus they are heavy-duty, sturdy, and have lovely lines. (I’m not sure why I’m quite so fond of a piece of metal.)

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My journals and booklets typical have about 10 sheets of text weight paper, and a 100# weight cover. I use a bone-folder to fold the inside sheets in half (with the grain) 3-4 sheets at a time for a crisp fold throughout. I like to score my covers before I fold them (also with the grain) to make sure that I have a nice smooth spine.


When I’m ready to bind, I’ll slip one side of the paper into the curved opening of the stapler, and the spine with lay smoothly along the stapling edge.

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My stapler is a little picky about where it staples, so I usually have to hold the paper down with a finger on either side of the spine. Then I staple, trim, and voila…

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Journals! (You might notice I used the corner rounder on these, as well.)

IMG_7161Although my saddle stapler isn’t very old, they have discontinued the model. You may be able to find this exact model online (it’s a Swingline 615 Saddle Stapler) you can buy the very similar Stanley Bostitch Booklet Stapler at Amazon*. Both use standard staples found just about anywhere, so you don’t need to stockpile anything.

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The one feature that appears to be missing on the Stanley version is the measurement guide, a little piece of metal that can be adjusted to line up the staple location if you’re doing multiple books. I typically make a mark where my staples should go or eyeball it, so I seldom use the guide anyways.

If you love journals, or staplers, this is a must-have. If you’re in a pinch, and local, I might even let you use mine.

*Support Adventures-in-Making by shopping from our Amazon store. We’ve selected a few things that we love, and think you will too. If you purchase through us, you pay no more for those items, but we get a small portion of the sales to further the adventures.

TOOLBOX: Dremel Micro Review for Glass Etching

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I have a secret. I’ve been hoarding glass bottles… and jars. Sure, I’ve been drinking out of a set of 6 jars, but what no one knows is I have a whole box of them in my closet.

Shoot. Now you know.

The big plan was to use etching cream to mask and etch them into glass masterpieces– but something always stopped me. It may have been that the first time I pulled out the etching cream, Safety Husband insisted on reading the ingredients and warnings. He then set out a strict list of suggestions for using the DANGEROUS stuff I got from the craft store. I followed the suggestions once, but lived in fear of getting out the cream ever again. “Wear gloves. You don’t want it eating through your skin… to your bones.

We live in a world of excess caution, over here.

Safety Husband recommended safety goggles and a respirator- talked down to spectacles and a dust mask.

For Dremel Etching, Safety Husband recommended safety goggles and a respirator- accepted spectacles and a dust mask.

The box of glass lived to taunt me. Sitting in there, instead of going to the recycling bin where it belonged; until I got the bright idea of looking for alternate etching options. There are a lot of great, videos, but the one from Dremel sold me. It was time to replace our old rotary tool, so after some shopping I decided on the…
Dremel Micro, which is cordless.
•I bought two diamond bits, but I’ve only got around to playing with the one that looked most useful, the Dremel Diamond Wheel Point Bit.
** UPDATED 12/14 – I’ve since started using two different diamond bits with more success. 7105 Diamond Ball Pointand 7103 5/64-Inch Diamond Wheel Point

Experiments

I tried several different ways of getting my initial artwork laid out, including drawing the design on with a Sharpie, as well as using masks that we had made with the intention of using the etching cream.

Tara Bliven drew and cut out this beautiful mask for me.

Tara Bliven drew and cut out this beautiful mask for me.

We drew and cut these masks out of contact paper, but you could also use masking tape. They are a great way to start out, because the mask will help you learn to control the tool. If you jog out of the lines, the mask material will shred before you mark the glass, giving you one chance to screw up without consequences.

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The mask is definitely the most time consuming and tedious way to go. I’ve moved on to freehand patterns, and occasionally use paper templates that taped to the other side of the glass. (More on that later.)

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Tips

•Higher Speeds (controlled with a button on this model) work much better for etching glass. I usually use the second to highest speed. The highest works even better, but the sound is skull-splitting, so I only use it when absolutely necessary.
•Using the bit I’ve listed above, you will mainly be making thinnish lines, so plan on going over your artwork a couple of times. It works best to hold the bit as close to parallel with the surface of the piece.
•Make a jig for round items. I took a couple of wood scraps and made a kind of rail for the glasses to lay in. (See in the photos above.) Make sure it’s small enough to move around, as you will want to be able to approach your piece for all angles. After my experiments, I sprayed the whole jig black so I could see my work more easily.
•Wear Protective Gear… or you’ll get in trouble. I found a dust mask and glasses worked for me, but it might be good to start out with even more coverage. Remember that your glass could shatter at any time.
•Start with thick glass pieces, and don’t grind too much in one place. This is not a tool for drilling, so you’re more likely to shatter your pieces than cut cleanly through.
•Start with trash pieces you’re not afraid to throw away. There’s definitely a learning curve.
•Hand-wash any pieces, to make sure you’re not shocking the thinned glass with hot water.
•Work outside. You’ll be generating a ton of dust. While I haven’t had any sharp pieces (yet) it’s nice to let nature get rid of the dust.
•This is a no-distraction project. Don’t plan on watching TV while you work with power tools.

Things to Love

•It’s lightweight. Initially I was planning to use a flex shaft like they use in the video, but the cable is not very flexible, and I decided the lack of cord would be a benefit.
•It compact and easy to transport (although it does not come with a carrying case.)
•The battery lasts longer than I do. I haven’t had to stop what I was doing to recharge.
•I haven’t hurt myself (yet). This is always remarkable.

Things to Hate

•The “Lock” button sticks out just above the power button, and I have hit it accidentally a couple of times while the Dremel is running. It makes a terrible sound to tell me I’m killing it to death.
•It’s still a little clumsy. Even though the end is tapered so you can hold on to it, it’s more like trying to write legibly with a Squiggle Pen than an actual writing implement.
•It is quite tricky to get make a curve. A lot of this has to do with skill, and the kind of bit I’ve been using.
•The sound, especially at higher speeds. It makes a high keening when you’re using it on the glass. The birds have been complaining about this as well. It’s just life in the etching game.

Things to Try

•More bits. I tried scratching the glass with non-diamond bits with little result, but now that I’m hooked on the etchin’, I’m going to try everything. (If you have suggestions, I’d love to hear from you.)
•More freehand designs.
•On flat surfaces, like plates, trays, etc. On mirrors.
•Make a set of matching glasses, with patterned numbers, using paper templates. That’s pretty specific, huh? I guess a DIY is in the works… but until then, have fun!

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TOOLBOX: Lacis Cord Maker Review + Video Demo

TOOLBOX: Lacis Cord Maker #tool #equipment #braid

This nifty braiding machine is something I picked up a few years ago for Camp Smartypants. I was getting really sick of hand-braiding for my greeting cards (each card included a braid around the fold of the card back in the day). When I reached the point where I was selling hundreds of cards, the braiding got to be pretty daunting. After doing a bit of research, I found this battery powered cord maker on Amazon. It works great and definitely sped up my production process. I’ve since discontinued the braids with the cards (since I’m now selling over 1000 every year), but I still use the cord maker to make my Peace Bracelets.

Here are a few examples of what the cord maker can do. I typically stick to using three different colors of embroidery floss, but the Lacis Cord Maker can twist/braid up to 4 strands. You could also use yarn or even ribbon to make your cords.

TOOLBOX: Lacis Cord Maker #tool #equipment #braid

To Love

• The Lacis Cord Maker is powered by two AA batteries, making it portable and easy to keep running.

• It makes consistent twisted braids quickly and easily.

To Hate

• I’ve found that sometimes I have trouble getting the two settings to work. I have to play with the button or give the whole thing a good shake to get it to run (you’ll see this happen in the little video demo I made below).

• The noise. It makes a loud noise when you use it, making it a bit distracting if you are making braids in a public place or trying to watch a movie.

Here’s my video demo, so you can see exactly how it works:

All in all, I would definitely recommend the Lacis Cord Maker to anyone interested in making twisted braids for their craft projects!

TOOLBOX: Lacis Cord Maker #tool #equipment #braid

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad Review

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review

My mom, who is especially good at finding useful things in unlikely places, brought me home a Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad one day. Actually, typical of my mom, she bought 3! One for her, my grandma and me. Both her and my grandma are sewers, so she thought they would be useful in tracing pattern pieces. Boy, was she right! Who would have thought you could find such a handy tool in the toy section.

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review #adventuresinmkg

What’s great about this light pad is that it’s small and portable. You can easily fit it into your bag along with your sketchbook. After showing it to my friend Tara, she picked one up to use during her calligraphy classes! The light is powered by three AA batteries and is nice and bright, making for easy tracing.

This has become one of my go-to tools for my illustration work and I love that I can sit with it on the couch, at a bar or in a cafe.

TOOLBOX: Crayola Light-Up Tracing Pad #product #review

UPDATE! Here is a video from Crayola showing off their Light-Up Tracing Pad. Watch to see it in action.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures In Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Martha’s Score Board Review

Toolbox: Martha's Score Board Review #productreview #marthastewart #craft #paper #tool
My awesome mother-in-law got me this Martha Stewart Score Board for Christmas. I have to admit I was excited by the possibilities (envelopes!) but didn’t see immediately how often I would use it.

Cut forward to the invention of the FlipOver planner and my elbow, sore from using a rotary scoring blade. I pulled out the score board, and I’ve been using it since.

Toolbox: Martha's Score Board Review #productreview #marthastewart #craft #paper #tool

To Love:

• I heart the square corner to line up in, and the ruler. I often will put a piece of masking tape on a score point I plan on using again and again.
• The 1/8 inch divisions usually give you all the options you need. Also, if you would like to make something like a curved/flexible spine you can do a few scores in a row, and they are all parallel and perfect.
• There’s a little box at the top of the board that stores your bone folder, or anything else you might like to keep in there. There is also a corner guide for scoring on 45 degrees that slips into a slot at the bottom of the board.
• The score result is lovely, straight, consistent, and deep
• I really like how flat and compact it is (especially compared to my rotary cutter). It’s a lot easier to find a home for it.

To Hate:

• DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING. Do not glance away. Do not blink. If you blink the Angels will make your bone folder slip and will ruin what you are doing. I plan for 10% failure rate on this because I get distracted easily.
• The bone folder they provide is clumsy at best, and danged uncomfortable at worst. I replaced mine with a slightly sharpened bone folder from an art store. (I’ll tell you how I sharpened it, if you ask nicely.)
• I want to score everything, and I really don’t have time to make all my own envelopes.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

When I first read about the Sharpie Liquid Pencil on the Sharpie Blog I was pretty stoked. I am a fan of using pencils for my doodles- but I hate that they rub and fade over time. Sharpie’s Liquid pencil promises to write and erase like a pencil, and to be permanent after 24 hours (or more?).

Since I am also a Sharpie-aholic, I went ahead and bought a set at the office store to try out.

TOOLBOX: Sharpie Pencil Review #productreview #sharpie #review

Overall it’s a disappointment. The pen[cil] does not write smoothly, more like a cheap ballpoint. When you do write with it, it leaves a relatively deep impression in the paper that makes it virtually impossible to erase completely. At the same time, the “liquid graphite” is very easy to smear, or “erase” with your finger or hand.

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The uneven quality means that it is not any good at the things I love doing with a pencil- shading, varying stroke weight, messing around. I’m really not sure that it is good at anything. I will check it out to see how permanent it is tomorrow.

Guess I’m stuck with my mechanical pencil fallbacks, and all my Sharpie pens (which I heart) and markers.

(If you want an even more thorough review, check out this one.)

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder Review

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper
I’m pleased as punch (no pun intended) with the Diamond 1 Corner Rounder I recently bought. It comes with a 1/4″ corner rounding die, which is great, plus ordered a couple of other dies as well.

It will punch a whole stack of paper/cardstock/etc at a time, which is super handy for rounding the corners on pads or books. The extra scrap falls down a hole at the back, into a trash drawer. There is another drawer at the front for extra dies, and tools.

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

The extra dies I ordered are namely a wider diameter rounder, and a 45 degree straight cut (possibly because I was watching BSG at the time.) In total I have 4 blades, from a very small professional curve to a nice big friendly one. The blade pieces are a bit oily- I would advise wiping them down with a paper towel before hooking them on. The oil has never been on the blade portion, so it doesn’t transfer to the paper.

They look like this…

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Here are the cutting results from each blade: M (45 degree die), S (1/8″ die), M (1/4″ die comes with the cutter) and L (3/8″ die).

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Each die bolts onto the cutter with an Ikea style hex key. It’s very important to re-adjust the blue guides after replacing the blade, and from time-to-time while you’re using it. (If the blade is too close to the paper, or if it is slightly turned you get a small notch in the side of the curve. Look at the “S” example in the sample picture above. The curve goes into the paper, instead of going straight into the straight side.)

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

Once you have your die blade bolted into place, the blue guides are loosened and adjusted.

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper

I cut several scrap pieces of Crane Lettra. It does well, but with a large stack there is a little variation in the shape of the curve from top to bottom. A stack 1/4 inch or smaller works best. These sheets were cut as a stack…

Toolbox: Diamond 1 Corner Rounder #tool #review #paper
The cutter has a nifty hole and drawer for catching paper scraps (though they will still get EVERYWHERE). The front drawer holds some of the things you need; a couple of blades, the hex keys, etc.

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All in all I’m happy- my biggest complaint is the constant adjusting of the blue guides. But it’s worth it to get rid of those sharp, pointy edges (and so much better than craft rounders.)

What I love about this tool

• It’s simple and easy to use.
• I’m able to change out the dies for different purposes.
• It cuts clean and fairly consistently on a variety of different papers and card stocks.
• Good quality and value

A couple of drawbacks I’ve found

• The blade really cuts into the blue plastic underneath. The set comes with a few replacements, and I can see I’ll need to replace the original pad more quickly than I’d hoped.
• It’s really important to get the paper lined up in the corner just right, so you have to really keep your eye on how you are putting the paper under the blade. There are guides, but for some reason it’s easy to slant the paper one way or another.
• I want to round everything. In fact, I just might.

I bought this guy from Binding101 because they were the cheapest. It’s also available from an Amazon dealer. It took about 5 business days to get to me, which was great.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.

TOOLBOX: Corner Rounder Craft Punch Review

I once watched a plucky design student cut 60 rounded corners with an Xacto knife. This is a painstaking process that I will not illustrate for you because it involves too much work and too many accidents. Although I had not been exposed to all of the crafting materials out there, I knew there must be a better way.

One of the major perks to working in a paper store was that we had access to almost all of the tools we sold, and to the wisdom of the older crafters around us. So when I decided to buy a corner rounder for myself, I bought this one…

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It’s called the Corner Adorner – Medium Corner Rounder by EK Success.

Don’t expect too much. It can only handle one piece of cover stock at a time, and after a few years (of abuse) some of the flimsy parts in mine broke. However, compared to the quality of most of the craft corner rounders it worked better from the beginning to the end with less finger strength needed. (Some of the others were just plain tough to use.) I replaced the broken punch with an identical one if that says anything.

A Hint- if you have punches like this (or any punches really) there are a couple of good ways to keep them working smoothly. If you punch through aluminum foil (which I usually fold over a few times) it is said to sharpen the blade. Punching through wax paper makes the whole thing move a little smother.

I think that rounded corners can be the touch that makes a paper project, but if you’re working on something with quantity make sure you have the necessary finger strength and time to get it done with this little sucker OR invest in the Diamond 1 Corner Rounder.

Note: I did not receive any kind of compensation for this product review. At Adventures in Making we love sharing information about our favorite tools and resources because we believe knowledge should be shared and that we can all learn from each other’s experiences.