As the newsletter noted, as part of closing up shop, I pushed some products into the catalog that had been waiting their turn. Leather bags are back in a limited run, there's a Daily Planet parking sticker, an X-Men Faculty one, and some Pokémon Go labels.
"Icing on the Cake" is how a customer described his use of an Improbable Objects artifact, and I couldn't agree more. I don't know if my customer built or bought the Iron Man "arc reactor" that he gave to a "superhero fanatic" for Christmas, but sticking a "Stark Industries Advanced Energy Division" asset tag on the battery pack is, well, kinda perfect.
At last (whew). Etsy store is back online, and I've managed to get almost every item in the catalog back in stock.
It is probably worth mentioning that I've already started offering products on my own store that are not, and will not, be available through Etsy, a trend that will continue this year as I simplify the Etsy offerings.
Temporarily(?) Closed, at Etsy at least.
December was a very grueling month here at Improbable Objects. I moved from one side of the state to the other, and among my various trials and tribulations was taking the exhaust manifolds off my truck (that I'd already had off last month in order to replace the cylinder heads) and having them resurfaced so the truck would quit filling the passenger cabin with exhaust fumes. (Yikes!)
Having all my inventory in boxes on the truck made... filling orders rather difficult, and it was all on the truck longer than intended. Not unreasonably, some of my customers got concerned, especially since I had only intermittent access to my email, and was trying to get moved as fast as possible, so I was very backlogged even on answering email.
Nevertheless, all but one of the cases was resolved to the buyers' satisfaction by Christmas, and the only one left open was because the buyer had left to spend the holidays with relatives before my package arrived, so they could not confirm that they'd received it.
That one unresolved case was enough to make Etsy shut down my entire store, and they refuse to put me back online until I issue a refund or the buyer closes the case. I have no idea when the buyer will be back home, and the order was for more than $100, so until I get desperate enough to refund the buyer's money for the products sitting on their doorstep, the Etsy store will remain offline.
The Shopify store at http://store.impobj.com/ IS still open, and I just added the 2017 Stark Industries sticker to the catalog.
The travails of invention.
Some years ago, my third Kickstarter was for a PennyGems accessory: leather storage bags. I've been planning to do a follow-up Kickstarter for it ever since.
The big difference this time around was (is?) that people would be able to get the bags personalized with their name, or maybe the name of the game bits they were keeping in that bag, or whatever....
To accomplish this, I was going to, in effect, 'brand' the bag, but instead of putting a hot iron in a campfire, the lettering would be burned into the leather with a laser.
I bought the laser cutter a year ago, and I can tell you, the lettering looks super-sharp. It's very very tricky to get the settings right, though. Not enough laser, and it comes out pale brown at best. Too much, and it looks beautiful, but as soon as you touch it, the black falls right off (the leather's gone from 'burned' to 'carbonized ash.')
Also, raster engraving is pretty slow.
So today I looked into an alternative approach; transfer 'vinyl' film. Actual vinyl is too stiff, but most of the industry products called vinyl film are actually polyurethane films, which are much thinner and more flexible.
The laser would cut the poly film by tracing the edges, rather than scanning back and forth, so it would be much much faster. On the other hand, then I have to pick out the middles of O and A and P by hand. The real potential negative, though, is that once the film is properly plucked, it's bonded to the leather (or a T-shirt or coffee mug or whatever) with a heat press.
(A) I don't have a heat press, and
(B) Too much heat or pressure will mar the leather.
Those of you who snagged some of those leather bags know that we're talking about remarkably soft leather. Expensive driving-glove-grade leather. I strongly suspect it would be *very* easy to mark that leather with even a fairly cool heat press.
But aha! I discover a blog post by a guy that describes a product called "Coolflex." It's a poly film with an aggressive adhesive that works like heat-transfer film, but doesn't need heat! And this guy is a retired R-tape executive, doing work with R-tape products. R-tape is the company that manufactures the shiny silver vinyl that I use to make PennyGems. I have ordered a total of at least half a mile of self-adhesive vinyl from these guys.
I call the distributor. Alas, they don't carry Coolflex. Ah, well. I go to the R-tape web site. I can't find Coolflex. I call R-tape. They don't HAVE Coolflex any more. They weren't actually manufacturing it, they were just the U.S. distributor for SEF, the French company that made it. SEF now has their own office in the U.S.
I call SEF America. . . .SEF no longer manufactures Coolflex at all. Period.
It's like the whole series of preposterous events regarding the double-colored paper for the laser puzzle card all over again.
Anyway, there's always a Plan B. In this case, I've got samples of low-temperature heat-set film headed my way.
If you're a blogger or podcaster, contact me about getting a prototype of the puzzle card for you to evaluate. If you *listen* to a podcast or read a blog that you think would find the puzzle card interesting, let me know and I'll send one to them. :)
The latest invention from Improbable Objects is now a a launched Kickstarter project!