Adventures in 3D Printing continued…

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Been a busy year. Since getting the 3D printer in February, I’ve become the proud papa of a SECOND printer. Twice as much fun and twice the output.  I’ve been meaning to share some walk thru’s on my design process from concept to end piece but alas my bandwidth these past few months has been tight. So for now I’ll just share some pictures of some of the various items I’ve 3D printed.

I’ve been working on an adventure that centers around a captured NPC/Monster in a village square. I couldn’t find an existing piece for what I was looking for, a hanging basket. So I ended up making one. Entire design process took about two hours initially. Then about an hour to print the result. another hour of tweaking the design (first one was too thin) and then a final print (this of course was spread out over many days in short work sessions).

Really happy with the end result. Nice thing about this piece is it can be scaled up or down to accommodate larger minis.

If you want one for your own you can buy the file for a few bucks on our Etsy site (should be listed to the right in the side bar). I have a few other 3D files posted with more to come.

All I ask if you pay the modest fee for the file is to not share it or ‘release’ it. The few dollars these files garner help pay for materials and software so I can continue playing around with designs.

As always interested in feedback of any sort.

Happy Gaming!

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Update: After making this post the variant of the hanging cage came off the printer below.



Update on my adventures in 3D Printing

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So back in February I reported had dipped my toe into 3D printing. It’s been quite an adventure. I still find it fascinating. More importantly, I find it inspirational. As one of my friends recently told me, “Jolly you seem be be having a creative explosion”. It’s true.

As a writer who cranks out a monthly magazine I find I’m chained to a desk most of the time and putting in long hours. Over the years I’ve developed a happy of working for an hour or so and then rewarding myself with a 15 minute break where I do FUN stuff. It might be painting a miniature, reading a comic, watching a bit of a favorite tv show, listening a tune or simply throwing sticks for the dog outside my home office in the yard.

I still do all those things above but now there is this thing I share my office with that makes magic 24/7 (seemingly). The routine goes something like this. I find something I’d like to print (such as something I’ve designed myself during those 15 minute breaks but frequently something from I send it to the printer and then I continue with my work. 4 to 17 hours later? Something fun and wonderful is waiting for me (hopefully) on the printer bed.

It has just made the route of my work day a little brighter. All week I print up little things and throw them in a box. When Sunday rolls around, when I dedicate the afternoon to paining minis and making terrain I reach int he box and paint some of those things up. Here’s a sampling of goodies that have come off my printer the last 8 weeks.



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As you can see I’ve been focusing mostly on making buildings. I find they are easy to design and  the texture of 3D printer pieces lends itself to such things as wood and shingles.

Anyway it’s a relaxing hobby and complements my painting/sculpting interests. Every new project is an adventure.

I’ll try to go in more detail next time out on how I approach making buildings with 3D printed pieces. It’s a hybrid process. Part 3D printed. Part had sculpted.

Monkey with a Box Cutter: So I got a 3D printer…

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I a strange thing happened a few weeks ago — a 3D Printer landed in my lap. Let me explain.

For several years, like a lot of people, I’ve followed this new fangled 3D home printer tech with fascination. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to get involved with as a hobby. The buy-in however put me off. Just a bit too high to justify for what I considered a ‘toy’. As a home owner and someone with a lot of interests there are just too many things I can think of I could spend my money on first. So I’ve considered to read developments and wait for prices to come down while sitting on the fence.

So a few weeks ago someone posted a pic of a 3D Gazebo miniature on my wall on Facebook. Okay, not just one person, several people. This little guy here.



Now, I’ve seen this figure before. It’s been floating around the internet for months but on this occasion someone asked, “So Jolly, when are you going to get a 3D printer?” I basically relayed my sentiments above and commented I was on the fence until the right printer for the right price came along.  Fifteen minutes later there was a message in my inbox. A very nice gentleman by the name of Greg explained that he has purchased a $500 HicTop Prusa I3 printer in December. One of those DIY kits that you have to assemble.  His circumstances had since changed and he was looking to find it a good home. $200 bucks and it was mine. After checking reviews (It’s listed on several top 10 printer lists) I pay paled Greg the money and the very next day it arrived.

It took six to seven hours one evening to assemble while listening to tunes. Another week to get a response from the Chinese manufacturer as to why it wouldn’t work (turned out it was corrupt firmware) and a week and some days corresponding with Tom Tullis of Fat Dragon games to successfully print my first piece. (Thanks Tom!).

I named this entry, “Monkey with a box cutter” because that’s exactly how I felt starting out on this journey. The realization that I knew nothing about his new tech and the feeling I was in over my head. There was actually a point I considered boxing it up and reselling it. As I told a friend, “My life is pretty stress free, other than the constant loom of deadlines. I feel like I bought a box full of headaches.”

Tom Tullis was encouraging however. He assured me once I ironed out the wrinkles, I was going to “love it”.

“It’s the FUTURE!!!” he told me in one instant message.

Well, now that things are running smoothly (over a dozen flawless prints under my belt) I have to admit — this is damn fun.

Not only have I printed out various table top terrain items but I’ve printed put out handy attachments for my Dremel tools, a Uhura ear piece, two apple ear bud cases, a paint brush caddy…

What I love most about this thing is it takes several hours to print something. My favorite thing to do at the end of a work day when pushing away from my desk is to drop a file to the 3D printer. Then come back the next morning and find magic waiting for me.  There’s a feeling you’re part of a revolution. Something new and BIG. I’m sure ham radio operators, and garage computer builders in the 70’s felt the same way.

I’ve compared it to the feeling I hand in 1982 when I brought my first Commodore 64 home and began programming it to ‘do things’. It was life changing. I immediately knew, I would never live without having a computer in my house. I sort of feel that way about 3D printers.


Anyway, I’m going to be talking a lot about 3D printing and what I’m doing with my printer going forward (as well as my other projects). Be aware I’m a total noob. This will be a journey of discovery for me as I explore what works and what doesn’t work.

Meanwhile here are a few things I’m printed so far.


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And here are a few things I actually designed and printed out.


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HackMaster Homebrews


New subject category being added here at Cries From the Attic — HackMaster Home Brews.

It may seem odd, being that I’m part of the HackMaster D-Team but even I have my own house rules and tweaks at my home table. Every Game Master is different and part of the fun of role-playing games is the ability to get under the hood and tweak things to suit your own peculiar tastes. And I’m no different.

Over the past few years I’ve come up with a variety of rule tweaks (and completely new rules) that I use in my own game. I thought it would be fun to share some of them here. Keep in mind that unless noted otherwise everything here should be considered ‘unofficial’.

I’ve been planning on doing this for a while but this past weekend while hanging out with some fellow gamesters I realize I’d been kicking this particular can down the road.

So stay tuned.

Exalted Die Shrines



For the past three months or so I’ve been slowly building up a small batch/short run of the Exalted Die Shrines.

I wanted to have 25 for Con on the Cob. I’ve managed to do 20. This is a limited run set. I may do more in the future but with alerations. Whatever doesn’t sell at the con I’ll probably save for Game Hole in November or give to the wife to sell on her Etsy shop.

This is just a fun little item for those who have a cherished ‘lucky’ or named-die. The Claw on top exalts your die and holds it up in honor — pleading to the gawds of the game to bestow even more magical energies onto it.

And for those dice that are poor performers or who have let you down…? There is a “pit of shame” in the base under the claw where errant dice and contemplate the errors of their way in total darkness. And, if the fates take mercy, some luck may trickle down from the exalted die to lift it up out of despair.  😉

So if you happen to be at the con come grab one — once they are gone they are likely to stay gone for awhile.







So you want to paint a ship…? Tutorial: Part Four

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So know we’re ready for our third shade of paint. Again we will be dry brushing and THIS time a little will go a long way. You can take this one too far very easily so the trick is remember “less is more”. And if you screw up (I have often times on this step) don’t panic. Just go back to the previous step and dry brush some of shade 2 per the ship and darken things up a bit.

Now the color for this shade is a very light tan. Americana’s “Coffee” works well right out of the bottle but I sometimes use Craftsman’s “Pebble” or Folkart’s “linen”. Or, in a pinch, just add a touch of brown to some flat white paint and mix it. You basically want a very light shade of brown that’s gong to draw out all the high details and grain (including the edges of any raised rails).

I dip my dry brush in the paint and then stroke it across a piece of cardboard until hardly any paint is being laid down. This is what you want – just enough paint so that only a hint is left when you lightly run it across the surface. When applying this shade just hold the piece at arm’s length now and then. If you feel an area needs lightened up, hit it again with more pressure. Sometimes rubbing the paint away with your finger can add some interesting highlights.

Here’s the end result.


Now I will tell you, if you compare this to photos from the last step you find it’s very subtle. And that’s what you want, although admittedly photos don’t do justice to all the subtle highlights and contrasts. Here’s some more pics.




Now we could stop here, paint all the little details (patches, door hinges and iron banding, etc) but there’s one more shade I’ve recent added to the mix that I think is a nice touch.

I take some Folk Art “Cinnamon” and do one more very light dry brushing – most across the deck surfaces and lightly over the entire surface. It adds a subtle touch of color back that makes things pop a bit more.

Here’s the ship with that fourth color.


Again, very subtle and my photos may or may not show it. But to my eye it looks better and is now part of my process for painting all my ships/docks.







So that’s it. Maybe not the best way but it’s the way I do it. And of course this process will work on any wooden piece. I use the same process on my docks and smaller boats.

That’s it for now. Next time I’ll highlight how I paint the smaller details on the ship and then how I rig them up with masts and sails.


So you want to paint a ship…? Tutorial: Part Three

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Okay, so we’ve let our first coat of paint dry. Time to add the next layer.

This time we’ll be dry brushing. I use a cheap dry brush for the purpose from Michaels (Craftsmart) that was made for oil paints and is about a 1/2 inch wide. The stiffer the bristles the better. You will be dipping into your paint, dabbing off any excess and then dragging the brush perpendicular to the wood grain/plank lines on the ship to catch the high points on pieces.

It’s hard to screw this process up as long as your brush is dry. Avoid the temptation to apply too much of this shade. All those dark nooks and crannies, nail holes and wood grain details and what’s going to make things pop when you’re finished.

For the color — again, I mix my own so I don’t have the name of an exact shade off the shelf to recommend to you. But a brownish tan is what you want. Something in this ballpark…


Again, it doesn’t have to be exact.

Mix the paint well but don’t add water. The thicker the better. You don’t want the paint to fill or be pulled into the lower surface areas.

Here’s our ship after a quick dry brushing.


As you can see I simply dragged the brush over the surface.


Already or deck is starting to look like wood. Simple tip here – on the edges of the railings be sure to hit there with the brush a few extra times to simulate light reflecting off them and wear marks from where the crew has been leaning and climbing over them.


Don’t worry about painting over any of the small details like the tiller house or the copper deck/hull patches. Those will be detail painted later. Also resist the urge to jab your brush back under the rail on the aft castle and other areas – these areas wouldn’t be getting much light so no highlighting there helps to give the piece more depth.


Don’t forget to do the wooden bowsprit we glued in. You’ll want it to match the rest of the ship when you are done.



And there we are – our second paint shade down. If you want a ship that’s lighter in color overall you can let this coat dry and then repeat the process.

Now this looks half way decent but is sort of ‘meh’ to my eye still. Nothing special.

It’s the third shade that’s going to really kick this up to the next level.

That’ll have to wait till the next time.

Edit: I got a few emails asking for more specifics on how I mix my paint colors. Next time I mix up a batch I’ll try to take notes on how I do it. If mixing paints just isn’t your thing however you could always try Gamer Decor’s paint kits. They have an Aged Wood set (for about $10) that uses shades similar to what I use (with no fourth shade/color) that will give you very good results.

I reviewed their paints here on my blog awhile back. Here’s a pic of the paint colors in their kit.


So you want to paint a ship…? Tutorial: Part Two

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Okay, so I warned you this might be slow going.  Deep in some deadline driven work on the comic so I was distracted for a few days with no chance to paint during breaks. Finally found sometime before supper tonight. This step will be brief.


First layer of paint

This step is easy. Basically we’re covering up the primer we applied from the last step.

Now not all wood (or ships for that matter) are going to be the same exact shade or in the same state of distress/weathering — so nothing that follows is an exact science. It just happens to be the way I paint these boats. Since I sell them handprinted I try to be semi-consistent in the interest of just speeding things up with fewer chances of screwing up a paint job. I’m comfortable with this method and it consistently works.

For different results you can go with different shades of paint. We’re going to be applying three basic shades of brown to complete our ship. With a possible fourth shade to make things pop (I don’t always apply the fourth shade – just depends on my mood).

In this step we are only going to be applying the first shade and letting it dry over night.

You want a dark brown acrylic for this step. Not brown but DARK  chocolate brown. You might have to mix a dab of black to your paint. Again the exact shade isn’t important. You just want to be in the ballpark. If you have a hershey candy bar wrapper – that’s about the shade I shoot for.



And yes, you could go out and buy a shade of acrylic craft paint that matches. I just find it’s easy to mix it up on the fly on a pallet.

Once you have the the proper shade you want to thin it with water. A consistency of milk is about right but if you’ve got a good quality paint the covers well you can go thinner. You want this coast to pour into all the nail holes and plank lines. It might not look it when you are finished with the step, but this is the paint that’s going to bring out the contrast int he woodgrain and planks and transform it later when we start dry brushing the other shades on.

I use a 1/2 inch house paint brush to do these boats – putting the paint on heavy and then dabbing off the excess. Since the paint is watered down it’s going to dry and tighten up very thin, so you don’t have to be overly concerned about the paint glowing on or filling in detail.

When you are done your ship should look like it’s made of dark chocolate like this.


Doesn’t look like much does it? I will make a confession. I’d painted about 75 of these ships over the past 18 months and for the longest time at this stage, I ALWAYS doubted myself, sure I screwed things up. The real magic starts on the next step when we dry brush our second shade on.

But that will have to wait for the next post.

Note: I mentioned I’m letting this dry overnight. A few hours would suffice for the next step. As I mentioned before I like to paint these in assembly line fashion, so I generally just do the same step to three to five ships and then wait and do the next step a few days later during one of my breaks.

Just make sure the paint is thoroughly dry. Being watered down it could take a few hours.

Till next time.

Edit: BTW I glued in the wooden bow spirit before applying paint for this step.

So you want to paint a ship…? Tutorial: Part One

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Okay so I’ve been getting a lot of emails from folks who bought one of my ships off the wife’s Etsy shop — basically asking how I go about painting mine. I’ve been promising to do a walk thru but with so many distractions this summer the project just kept getting side-burnered. Now that I’m catching up on things I thought I’d get around to finally doing a tutorial.

This is also my sneaky way to follow up on another promise. For months I’ve been promising my buddy, Craig Zipse on of my hand painted ships.  So — it’s going to be his ship I’ll be walking through the procession this tutorial.

One thing before we start. I like to paint ships in batches and at a leisurely pace. Generally I do one task/step a day (from casting to finished ship), devoting maybe 15 to 30 minutes to each task in the morning or during a break from writing. I find it relaxing to do it this way and I also find I do better work if I don’t rush it. A large ship like the one I’m doing here, hand painted and fully rigged? Might take five days to complete. If I’m doing a batch of ten to 15? About the same amount of time. If you’re doing more than one ship it just makes sense to do them assembly line fashion since much of the time is in prep (like pulling out the proper, paints, cutting masts, etc). Saves a lot of time doing it that way.


So the above pic shows the ship we’re going to paint. Only difference is, since this is for my buddy, I’ll be adding some extra touches such as chains, anchors and other details.

Okay so first off — the ship. I’m not going to bother showing the casting process. I’ll be painting the largest ship I’ve sculpted to date (about 19 inches tip to tip when finished). I sculpted this ship last winter and it’s been one of my wife’s best sellers. I’ve blown at three molds casting this ship and with each new mold, I’ve made a few changes to the original master. This ship pictured here is what I refer to as a “rev 3”




First thing I do with any piece I plan on painting is to do some sanding/trimming. The edges on the ‘pour side’ are typically rough or uneven. I gently sand to take off any shine and make sure the bottoms and smooth and flat. I also check for bubbles or defects even though I typically haven’t experience such problems with these boats. If you do find a bubble one good trick is to pack it with baking soda and apply a drop of super glue. It’ll harden and turn white. It works so well oft time you can’t even detect the repair. You can also use squadron putty or even speckling compound – just be sure to sand it down smooth once hardened.

Next thing I do is put the pieces on in the dishwasher (don’t tell the wife). This is the best way I’ve found to completely remove any release agent on the resin — which can wreak havoc on your paint job later in the process.




Next step is primer. Now you can run out and buy the expensive speciality stuff, I suppose. Don’t bother. For $3.00 a can you ca pick up a can of Rust-Olem Flat Red 2X Ultra Cover. Home Depot carries it, I’m sure Walmart does as well. This stuff is great. It bonds with resin, goes on thin (so it doesn’t obscure details), dries fast and helps acrylic paints bond better. You could go with White Primer is you want a lighter looking, new ship but for me it’s Flat Red all the way.

I’ve primered a LOT of the ships this past year. Best way i’ve found to do it is to place them upside down on a flat surface, primer the bottom and sides lightly. Let dry for 30 minutes. Flip – primer the top. There are a lot of deep lines/details on this boat (mostly woodgrain and planking lines) so hitting the sides from various angles will help get better coverage.

You don’t have to completely cover the ship. Coverage can be uneven, just make sure it has a good dusting with no white showing through.

And this is what I consider to be Step One. Tomorrow we will apply our first base coat of paint.



A buddy of mine emailed me the other day and said he’d discovered my blog a few weeks ago and spent some time catching up. He claimed it was all very fascinating to him. The various projects, insights into working on KODT, etc. But he finished with, “Why, blog? You write all the time. You have an outlet for your creative streak. Why bother?”

My reply was immediate. “It keeps me sane.”

The monthly magazine and other projects all have deadlines associated with them. And that means there is some stress involved. Catching up on the monthly print cycle. Worrying if any given strip is good enough. Wondering if readers are going to rebel. You know – the typical worries and stress that go with any job.

I get that this is a dream job for many, the notion of writing and doodling and getting paid to do it. And trust me, it IS for me as well. But it’s hard work and it’s the type of job that never quite leaves you when you push away from the desk. I’m always thinking of the current strip, I’m working on or the next one. Taking notes. Rereading old issues for recall so I can maintain continuity. I’m used to it after 25 years but takes it’s toll.

Through trial and error, I’ve figured out that the best way to avoid burn out and to keep the ideas coming is to set aside time when I do something completely unrelated to KODT.

Taking a drive at night is one of the best remedies. Sadly, I live in an area with lots of urban sprawl so that’s not as relaxing (or rewarding) as it once was when I lived in rural Indiana. Some time in the deep soaker tub with the whirlpool and air jets on max, ears just under the surface like some deprivation chamber — that really soothes the noise in my head and gets the ideas flowing as well.

Something, I only rediscovered a year or so ago is that, painting minis, sculpting  or crafting really relaxes me and recharges my batteries. Funny because there was a time, about 15 serfs ago when, I KNEW that. But somehow that activity in my life fell to the wayside. It wasn’t until the Bones I kickstarter a few years ago and the daunting task of painting over a hundred figs that was prompted to pick up a brush in fact.

And finally, just getting my thoughts on the page or screen helps. No deadlines. Writing about whatever comes to mind. I find that’s more relaxing and helpful then almost anything thing above. So yeah, that’s why I blog occasionally here.

Oh, there’s a  a picture of my dog, Violet up above because she helps rejuvenate my spirits as well as helps with writer’s block. Nothing like petting that little mop of hair on her head to make the stress go away.

And not that I’ve rambled for about 500 words or so, I’m feeling relaxed enough to drift off to sleep. 😉