My friend Suzanne is a silkscreener in Baltimore and has started making tshirts of some of my designs! She sells them on her etsy.
About a month ago, my friend Madigan and I started working on the construction of kikko armor. Kikko is a form of japanese armor that uses hexagons of leather or steel that are chained together or sewn to a backing.
I first hit upon the idea because I was complaining about how western brigandine and similar armors seem to work… they use rectangles, which of course means that, no matter how you lay them out, you will have angles at which a blade could strike you and find space between the plates. “Much smarter to use hexagons,” I said, and when I turned to google, I was not the least bit surprised that I wasn’t the first person to think of this.
Anyhow, our kikko has been made of hot-water-hardened horsehide (mistakenly called “boiled leather” by some) plates, chained together by 16ga blackened stainless steel. (butted rings.)
Step by step:
- take your vegetable-tanned, 8oz or so leather. Soak it in room-temperature (not cold) water for 10 minutes, roughly. Then immerse it in 180-degree-farhenheit water for 45 seconds or so (the timing matters a lot, and needs experimenting. We settled on 45 seconds). Take it out and put it between a rock and a hard place. You want two flat, non-water-permeable surfaces. (Cardboard did not work so well for us, it sucks the oils out of the leather or something weird like that.) What we did that worked best was put it on a plastic countertop and put a marble cutting board on top, then stacked heavy books on top of that. The water makes the leather pliable, and the hot water fuses the fibers of the leather, making it much, much tougher, but a bit brittle once dried. We left the leather under pressure for about 15-20 minutes. It takes awhile to dry, but will stay pretty flat after being pressed for 15 minutes.
- It’s easiest to cut the leather while it’s wet, but it’s not essential that you do so. We made two sizes of hexagons. One was a regular hexagon with .75″ sides, one was a twice-as-tall one with 1.5″ tall sides and .75″ other sides. I designed a template on a computer, because our hand-drawn ones were not as regular as we’d hoped. If anyone asks, I’ll post a pdf of it in the comments. We traced the hexagons onto thin cardboard from a cereal box or beer box, then one of us drew as many hexagons onto the piece of leather as we were able to fit while the other cut them out using a boxcutter.
- We stained the plates with USMC black leather stain. I want to try natural dyes sometime too. But as it was, I followed the instructions on the box, one coat of leather stain and one coat of sealant. I sealed the back too, to avoid mold.
- We punched holes in them. We used a small sheet-metal punch on some and a pin vice drill on others. The vice took longer but had more control. Figuring out the spacing was tricky, and getting the spacing as regular as possible helps a lot.
- We chained them together using a barely-modifiedjapanese 6-1 chainmail pattern. The rings we used, which fit well, are 1/4″ 16ga.
Lessons learned so far:
- make sure you dry the leather out before you put it into a plastic bag in your van or backpack for two weeks, or you’ll have moldy leather. If your leather does get moldy before you stain and seal it, use white vinegar to kill it, then dry it out and make sure the mold seems gone before you stain and seal it.
So far, kikko is pretty cool. Even more labor-intensive than straight chainmail, and probably not as strong, but it’s significantly lighter while still staying flexible and pretty tough. We’re making a skirt out of it first, then I’ll probably try some greaves with the plates sewn or riveted to a backing of unhardened leather.
I just approved the proof copy of Being the Explorations #6, my second full-size photo book in this series. (The last one was Being the Explorations #5, which covers all of my wandering in 2011). I’m enormously proud of these books. They’re definitely the closest thing to a journal that I keep. The most recent book includes lots of my photos from 2010, 2008, 2002, and 1999-2000. I’ll put the whole thing up for free download when the book gets back from the printer.
It’s steampunk week on Tor.com, and I have the first post: Boldly Into Our Patina’d Future: How Steampunk Can (Help) Save the World.
Steampunk is, in part at least, a re-envisioning of humanity’s interaction with the things that we make and how we make them. It’s a non-luddite critique of technology that says “Hey, you’re doing it wrong” without trying to eschew technology outright. And that critique is sorely, sorely needed, now more than ever.
We live in a civilization built on an insane and compulsive relationship with technology. Industrialized production creates objects and hopes for demand instead of making things as they are needed or desired. This is backwards and dangerous. It overtaxes our resources—hell, it treats the Earth and all the wonders within it as “resources” instead of beautiful and unique things—and is directly responsible for desertification, global warming, deforestation, mass extinction, mountaintop removal, and any number of grievous crimes against the natural world. It’s economically insane, too. It’s led us to the place where our economy requires growth in order to remain stable. And by producing without regard for demand, we’re stuck with boom-and-bust cycles that drive all but the richest among us further into poverty.
And you know what else? It’s boring. Monoculture is banal. Not only do all the cars look more or less the same, we’re all only using cars to get around. People talk about flying cars sometimes but all I want is to get across the country on a zeppelin powered by passive solar technology. Is that so much to ask?
Along with my brilliant co-editors Kate Khatib and Mike McGuire, I’ve been working on this book We Are Many: Critical Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation for the whole of 2012. And it comes out this weekend. I’m incredibly proud of it.
I’m proud of it because it, like the Occupy movement itself, is inspiring and diverse, with contributors who are academics, activists, creatives, and just people who were swept up by the movement. What sets this book aside from all the Occupy books coming out is that this book contains contributions pretty much exclusively from folks who were a part of the movement. This is not some book written by professional activists or theoreticians standing aside trying to tell of us what to do. This book was written by people who were at the general assemblies and general strikes. I was particularly happy to work with folks who aren’t professional writers to get their movement stories included.
It’s got Molly Crabapple and Unwoman alongside David Graeber and CrimethInc. It’s got insurrection from Bay of Rage and it’s got Cindy Milstein tying occupy anarchism back to the anti-globalization movement.
Anyhow, it’s out this weekend. I’ll be doing two events in Minneapolis for its release: one at the University of Minnesota Thursday, Sep 13 at 6:30, Blegen Hall – room 150, the other is Sep 15, 5pm at the Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair. Only the latter will actually have copies of the book, sadly.
Look at me trying to be clever for a camera!
So we’ve been working on A Steampunk’s Guide to Sex for months now and we’re at the point where we’re looking to find the funding to print it. So we put up a kickstarter.
This is the first time anyone will have a chance to buy the tintypes I’ve been making, what’s more.
Anyhow, I’m really excited about this project. The people writing for it are really damn smart… Professor Calamity seems to know and have access to an immense amount of information on all things 19th century, even stuff that isn’t on the internet. And Alan Moore is one of the smartest wingnuts I’ve ever spoken with, so he’s got amazing shit to say. Luna writes what she knows and does it well, and Miriam Roček has a way with words I’ve never before encountered. Hell yeah.
My first professionally published comic story is out! I wrote the story “I Am Damned” for the 2ombies anthology put out by Accent UK. In the states your best bet for buying it is probably from Forbidden Planet.
My story was illustrated by the incredibly talented Fanny M Bystedt from Sweden. The story follows anarcho-punk squatters in Amsterdam after the zombie apocalypse. Good stuff.
A couple friends of mine asked me to make them chainmail tops. I finished one of them yesterday, a loosely-woven halter.
The main part of it is a triangle of japanese 6-1 chain woven with pink anodized aluminum square-cut 5/16″ rings and white anodized aluminum 1/4″ rings. I made a large triangle, then took off one hex at the two bottom corners to attach larger aluminum rings to tie the ribbon through, then took of a larger piece of the top corner in order to attach it to the collar. The collar is a leather bondage collar we bought that I added rivets to to support the chainmail. A really simple design in the end.
Since it’s see-through, the full picture of it is sorta NSFW, so it’s after the jump.
One of these days I will post something other than tintypes. Today is not that day. This time we set up in my friends’ apartment against a
white greenish-white wall instead of a red one, and augmented my 16-CFL-litebulb light with two seriously-high-wattage CFLs for a fill. We dropped the exposure times down to around 30 seconds (one minute for some of the exposures). The rest of the shoot (a total of 10 plates) after the cut. Some are mildly NSFW.
I’ve been working for awhile with the now-imprisoned anti-g20 activist Kelly Rose Pflug-Back to put out her first book of poetry, These Burning Streets. She got sentenced yesterday to fifteen months for her part in protesting the g20 in Toronto a few years ago.
Kelly is an inspiration to me, for any number of reasons. Try this: if you google her name, the top results are a mixed bag of published poetry (and people lauding her poetry) and mainstream news reports about how she’s an evil terrorist black bloc rioter. And, of course, mixed in with those is her blog, which has a good deal of her poetry on it.
Or try this article about how badass she was at her sentencing:
Kelly Pflug-Back calmly smiled at friends after Ontario Superior Court Justice John McMahon denounced her leadership role, albeit limited, in the June 26, 2010, rampage.
“Ms Pflug-Back appears nonchalant and has not acknowledged that her actions were not an appropriate way to get her message across,” McMahon said.
He noted that during previous sentencing sessions the 23-year-old social activist from Guelph has appeared indifferent, yawning and playing with her hair.
and what leadership role was that?
The Wilfrid Laurier University student wielded a pole to smash windows and directed fellow rioters to avoid smaller stores.
I can never be happy when someone I know is led away to spend almost a year of their life locked in a cage, but I’m happy to know that she’s loved and supported by so many.
What we’ve done is put out her book as a fundraiser for her. Combustion Books is distributing These Burning Streets for $8, with all but postage and printing costs going directly to Kelly. AK Press has agreed to carry the book under the same fundraising terms as well. The book is out at the printer at the moment, but we’ll send out any copies that get ordered as soon as we get it back from the printer.
For more on Kelly’s story, check out this profane existence interview with her.