Using Graph Databases for Investigative Journalism workshop with Leila Haddou

Expediting and visualising data analysis Using Neo4J.

Building a node (your data point) and your database:

Note: Syntax not case sensitive but labels are.

CREATE (n:Node{ id:"ID",attribute:attribute})

() creating the bubble aka the node
CREATE command blindly goes through each line of the csv looking for matches.
MERGE command goes through every line and checks if it is the only instance and treats multiple entries as the same thing.
n: – assign the node label
Node – assigned a type (case sensitive)
{} – the attributes of the node, there can be multiple separated with commas

Note: If you have spaces in your header you need to put this character ` around the text string ie `description 1`

MERGE (d:Donor {name:line.DonorName, status:line.DonorStatus})
MERGE (r:Recipient {name:line.EntityName})
CREATE (d)-[dt:DONATED_TO {amount:line.Value, ref:line.ECRef, date:line.RecivedDate}]->(r)
Connecting nodes
CREATE (l)-[r:knows]->(t)
r: label
knows - relationship type
Bringing in csv data
Viewing your
Strings VS Integers

“47” + “23” would output4723


This turns the output into an integer not a string.

MATCH (d:donor)-[dt:DONATED_TO]->(r:Recipient) RETURN * LIMIT 10

This example matches the donor where the donor

MATCH d WHERE d.status= "Company"

You only need to bracket () the node name (in this case ‘d’) when creating a node, to query it you just refer to it.

Fuzzy Matching – string query which includes “a bit of”. Change the NAME to an individual in the

Return r

Who has given to both the conservatives and labour party:

MATCH (d)-[dt1:DONATED_TO]-(l), (d)-[dt2: DONATED_TO]->(c)

Find a donor who has donated to recipient 1 and recipient 2 where recipient 1 is not recipient 2 and they are a company:

Match (d:Donor)-[dt1:DONATED_TO]->(r1), (d)-[dt2:DONATED_TO]->(r2)
WHERE r1 <> r2
AND d.status= "Company"

Bristol Cable and Centre for Investigative Journalism (Goldsmiths)

  • CAA plane data: CAA500
    Register of private planes registered by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (first 500 only) Source: CAA
  • To delete all nodes and relationships:
    MATCH (n)
    OPTIONAL MATCH (n)-[r]-()
    DELETE n,r;
  • Political Donations: CAA500
    Cash donations made to polticians and political party between January 2010 and June 2015. Source: PEF online

Part two

  • Cypher refcard
    Creating Nodes and Relationships
    Building nodes and relationships always begin with the CREATE command.
    To create a node, you need to use the following syntax: CREATE (x:Label {property:Property})
    To create a relationship: CREATE (x)-[r:CONNECTED_TO]->(y)
    Delete entire databases in the terminal:
    neo4j stop && rm -rf /usr/local/Cellar/neo4j/*/libexec/data/* && neo4j start


Example: Open Corporate api allows you to retrieve company’s house data (retrieved using a scraper) so you can match data based on company number for example. Cross matching ?

Cleaning data – when finding pattens things like blanks in data or several entries with the same name spelled different ways will misrepresent your results.  So your methadology of data visualising might need to be explicit that you are grouping Shell plc & Shell Ltd into one

Gephi – alternative graph database software.

Open Refine – data cleaning automation

periodic commit (save every 100 lines)

NoSQL databases therefore structured query language cannot – visualising graph data – great inspiration blog including explanations of how they do what they do

JournoCoders – london based group run by Leila Haddou learning tools together

Global Investigative journalism network 100 best data basesTip Sheet

Web scraper tools : Kimono

David Donald weeklong bootcamp

Paul Mayer’s digital investigation tools and tips

New Economy Organisers Network

Neon‘s Campaign Fundraising workshop notes.

Fundraising through philanthropic foundations application process cycle based on a funder and fundraisers presentations:

  • What you want to do? How far can you get without finding? Plan with a team, people are assets not just beneficiaries. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
  • Find some one who wants to do it. Collect a database of potential funders, look at successful bids. Funders want to hope for a better world, they have an agenda and targets for giving.
  • Be able to give a 3 minute pitch then phone ahead of applying to test the water so not to waste everyone’s time on inappropriate applications. Bate the funder to ask questions. Don’t just talk about your self, ask questions about the funder, are you a right fit?
  • Request feedback and tweak plans.
  • Write the bid, if possible share it with the funder for feedback before submitting. Tips:
    1. Clarity – application needs 1 sentence explanation. Funders wont spend more than 5 minutes reading an application. Be aware explaining the need is easy but explaining the strategy is more important. I.E. the living wage spent a while shaming employers into committing to the it, this had limited effect. By commissioning research to show that it benefited the business as well as they employees they responded to the positive reputation benefit more than the shame.
    2. Why will your strategy work? What is your theory of change?
    3. Every campaign is a series of mile stones i.e. make an alliance of interested groups, work out who your audience is… Where are you in the journey? Why now? What opportunities are arising?
    4. Why hasn’t your campaign worked yet? Or Why has it? e.g. shifting attitudes, what audience/message. Commission research and evaluate plans. What are your indicators of success?
    5. Understand your adaptability.
    6. Why now?
    7. Niche is sometime easier because there is little competition, if you are working in a crowded field, how are you working with other campaigns? What is your team? Who are you and what legitimacy do you have around this issue?
    8. Targets – audience can’t be too broad. What particular group? i.e. 5 MP’s and 2 particular special advisor?
    9. How much will it cost? Value for money is important. Do not ask for more than 13% – 19% core costs, ask for campaign costs.
    10. What happens afterwards? What follow through? For example how will you get more resources for policy to become practise i.e. will police/councils enforce policy?
  • Make sure you have a bank account.
  • SAY THANK YOU. Treat them like a friend, listen, be honest & upfront. Be able to say no to funding and make sure you don’t change your plan to fit funders, do what you WANT.
  • Evaluate your campaign, get evidence.
  • Send feedback from evaluation.
  • Back to the start with what you want to do NEXT.
 We were also introduced to the Edge Fund which is a community led funding model which promotes rights not charity. They have a great guide which covers different types of grant funding including their own. Edge Fund DRAFT Fundraising For Grassroots Social Justice Groups Guide


Designing Authentic Fictions with Ken Eklund

A Fantastic day long workshop with Ken Eklund (organised by the amazing Jess Linington for the Digital Cultures Research Centre hosted at the Pervasive Media Centre… I’m always wowed by how much INTERESTING one city can hold) where Ken with puppet master skills gamed us into designing and pitching an authentic fiction targeting an ecological issue which we were to budget for & pitch to a dummy panel of generous industry pros who gave up their time to hear and give feedback.

Ken’s process perfectly demonstrated his ideas giving us a self-persuasive learning experience. What a clever chappy.

The essence of it was –

Authentic: Multi-sourced & multi-authored. Open to new information. Emergent.

Fiction: Immersive. Playful. What if Scenario.

These things together bring about play, a self persuasive learning experience.

It was really challenging, when presented with Ken’s amazing projects it was hard to focus on the learning objectives of the workshop rather than with coming up with a worthy idea & pitch. The nice folks I was grouped with had very different objectives & motivations which was great because it pushed the edges of my ideas but was also challenging because we didn’t agree on anything. At all. Almost… Lucky for us they were totally great characters and our discourse left us stimulated & provoked in the best possible way.

The idea we finished with was to take data on the agricultural output of the UK and create a days food stamps using only an evenly distributed & accurate representation of what would be available to a person if we only had British Isle grown food. The bleak prospect of drastically reduced intake & variety would come with an invitation to contribute to a digital archive with a creative but real world response to what you would do in this situation and having submitted those responses to then document & submit a recipe (with photo) of the meal using only the ingredients fictitiously available to you. The event would culminate in a pop up restaurant serving the most up voted responses & recipe outcomes.

The hope is that in considering the problem of large scale mono-crop agriculture & reliance on imported goods the food stamp fiction would challenge people to seek out community agricultural projects, allotments, locally produced green grocers, organizations like the the Land Workers Alliance or Farm Hack as well as being an open enough format for new information to emerge and contribute to a hopeful narrative about what we will eat, culminating in actually eating it.

Having spent hundreds of hours researching food issues while involved in Rising Up, food security & the disconnect between local government strategies from our food needs is really high on my personal agenda as an activist. I’m really grateful to the pair I was teamed with for bringing their specialisms and experience to the issue I wanted to tackle.

Ken EklandPhoto credit: Jess Linington


The Board Finalised

Following from the first & second posts about the board design process I got really into detail with getting a quality print, laser etch, window film application as well as polishing the legibility and even the board tile shape…
As the laser cutter follows the outline of the vector the shape perfectly, when cut any unjoined shapes overlap which on close inspection looks untidy and can cause some over heating/browning of the acrylic when the same point is cut multiple times.

While perfecting the vector I changed the shape quite considerably as the dashed outline was quite busy on the eye over the illustration. I opted for a double stroke which has a clearer path & reflection off of the iridescent film.
New laser vector

I also discovered that cast acrylic etches and cuts much better than extruded acrylic so got down to Amari for the final (fingers crossed) two sheets.

Finally I wasn’t happy with the board cut into square tiles, the cut lines were distracting from the etched design so I printed some paper versions and tried a few different ways of dividing the board, finally
picking a 5 tile version where the cut lines follow the graphic layout and the whole thing still breaks up to fit into a reasonable sized box.

New tiles

For the window film print I wanted to get the text as visible as possible so I attempted to have the graphics layer of the window film illustration under printed in white which caused some headache for the printers as the print driver expects under printing to cover large areas of the design so doesn’t lay the primary layer down very thickly causing the illustration to come out greenish and not a strong black. After much trial and error having weighed up the possibility of printing the illustration normally, waiting several days for it to dry and then attempting to register the print for under printing against the marginal benefit I decided against it and
went with the richer blacks of a regular print.

Print Tests

I have finally perfect the application of a single sheet of window film without creases or bubbles, however the new film contains PVC which means it isn’t possible to laser cut it…. so I had to painstakingly cut the tiles out and register the application of them onto the tiles. I swore a lot but got there in the end without too many mishaps.

Finally the iridescent window film which is so central to the entire aethsetic of the game has been my biggest disappointment. For early prototypes I was able to order sheets of the film big enough to cover the entire board however 3M (who manufacture everything, ever) have stopped manufacturing it and with my Uni hand in looming I have to order every last scrap of if I could find on the internet in A4 sheets and hope I had enough. 3M have replaced the product with a 5X more expensive thicker variety which is beautiful but also marks with finger oils much easier. It now would cost £45 to cover a single board. I am sure there are equivalent products out there for mass production (you can but iridescent everything) but for a small run I couldn’t find anything anywhere.

3M dichroic film

So with huge disappointment I applied the worlds last remaining A4 sheets. The border between sheets is visible on the final board but it will have to do as proof of concept.

I spent a great afternoon in the uni photography studio taking fancy shots of the whole thing followed by a tragic hard drive failure later that day so I’m waiting for another studio session before I reveal the final thing! For now enjoy this taster of one of the player pieces which I had emailed off before my drive died.Player piece

Rhino 3D & 3D printing

Took an amazing workshop learning to build 3D models in Rhino 3D, we even had a chance to run our creations through a 3D printer. I attempted to model one of the ships I carved as the symmetry allowed for a bit of cheating. It took 2 days to get comfortable enough with the software to navigate without accidentally using Adobe shortcut keys.


Some of the amazing possibilities…. I am dying to have a go at Pepakura which takes your 3D model and flattens it into a paper model complete with taps and numbered sides! The spirals in the below image are the same model using different construction techniques.


Stone Spaceships

I designed and sculpted the masters from which to make molds for the cast resin ship token used as player pieces in the game Skirmish.

Stone Ship

I started with paper aeroplanes as the most familiar form and material, probably not the most progressive futuristic choice but, you know, childhood.

To get a more solid ship I used 0.5mm copper foil and experimented with bits of origami and cutting things up and sticking them together. Having already

decided on the narrative of solar powered space craft that use ‘star shards’ to generate power from solar energy I wanted the craft to have a crystalline quality. My idea was that the ships would be translucent with a sort of geode within that housed the players so the copper ships were not quite solid enough. I tried padding them out with scuplty and then tried just making the forms in scuplty from scratch but found it impossible to manipulate a clay into perfectly flat geometric forms, every time I got one section flat I was depressing into another.

Having worked with shou shan stone while carving chops which is very soft and can be worked with simple files and hand tools as well as polished to a shine I bought soap stone on ebay. I wasn’t very impressed that it came in a pile of rubble.

I used hand tools to make my self some starting cubes and then small files and chisels to work the shapes taking inspiration to my pile of copper origami and a couple of semi precious stones kicking about the boat.

Soap stone is a silicate, the dust is talcum powder but that doesn’t mean it is safe to breath. Silicate dust is a repository health hazard eventually causing silicosis so should be worked wet or with extraction or dust masks. Soap stone also contains very small amounts of asbestos so all the more reason to be cautious.

I’m trying to think of technique practiced and developed while carving but it really is very simple, a couple of different shaped mini files and patience.

One really cool thing which my mum put me on too was while polishing them I was working through the grades of wet & dry paper which on such a soft stone is pretty fast but getting the final shine seemed to rub off as quickly as on until I used a nail buffer which I shit you not is my new favorite polishing tool. It even works really great on resin. I cut the end of and divided it up into triangles to have smaller bits to get into the nooks of the ships.

Copper Ship
Copper and Sculpty
Stone Block
Hand Tools
Final Ships


After the doors on my boat warped beyond staying shut I got to spend a pleasant afternoon with Justin as he taught me to spindle lath and guillotine my self some new ones. The Sapili I had salvaged had a twist in it which make guillotining it to length quite hard but Justine assured me that once glued, screwed and clamped it would hold straight. I also enjoyed his tip for measuring the depth to drill too using masking tape on the drill.

T-shirt Screen Printing

I had a go at t-shirt printing, I’m not that into images on clothes (!) so I ummed and arred about what to draw and decided on some abstract forms which were surprisingly hard to get right. I had to mix the acrylic paint with an acrylic medium at about a 60/40 ratio so that the splats would expose a printable amount of detail. After some trial and error I made templates to control the shape outcome and then covering one sheet in 60/40 medium/paint and sandwiching the template pressed & peeled mark resist over on top. Nothing is every as easy as it appears. The actual printing was fine although the flat beds & drying racks weren’t very helpful and I had some casualties to getting marks on the shirt and a couple where the ink soaked through to the back before I realized you have to put a sheet of paper between the layers of fabric to catch the excess ink.

The Board Continued

Picking up from the first post where I had figured out a way to marry the functional purpose of the board with a space scene background illustration and was beginning to develop the illustration and game layout to be as if the board is a screen from within the players space ships. To bring about the feeling of a screen I made up the board layout in Illustrator. I created some simplified iconography for the various positions and used the lovely Museo fontface.

trianglerI purchased some sheets of 3mm acrylic from Kings Plastics and after some adjustment of the illustrator file to set it up appropriately I laser etched the design onto the plastic.

The laser cutter cuts or engraves a 0.25pt line to a set depth, so set all strokes to 0.25pt and differentiate between cut and engraved lines with colour. All text needs to be made into outlines. There are lots of resources for setting up your files on the fabrication workshop info page. The fuzzy look to the plastic while in the laser cutter is working is because I coated the acrylic in a thin film of washing up liquid which dissipates the heat and prevents any discolouration or cloudy spots from over heating the plastic.



Here you can see the acrylic placed over the a print from the etching.


After scanning and digitally touching up the etching and layering in some further illustrative elements I printed it onto acetate and screen printed the illustration onto the reverse of the plastic using water based inks. Screen printing is a well documented process but some notes on printing onto plastic;

Firstly it would have been much better to have used a larger screen as the edges of the print were susceptible to errors from the over stretching of the mesh where the squeegee approached the frame. It was essential to build a supportive frame of the same depth as the acrylic around the sheet before printing to prevent the squeegee catching on the edges as I drew it across. I attempted to print with some fluorescent acrylic which unfortunately due to the thin layer of paint applied during screen printing came out very pale.



I added a sheet of iridescent window films both to protect the print from scratching and to shine through all the blank areas in the illustration. Ultimately however I wasn’t happy with the quality of the screen print. The gradation between black and transparent lost all detail when compared against the digital file and looked flat.

IMG_6329 IMG_6334

The lovely Jon McNaught Suggested a method of… (going to make a separate post because this was a really interesting tip)

I experimented with digital printing onto acetate and various methods of mounting the acetate to the acrylic but since the fixative sits between the design and the acrylic even the finest misting of fixative shows as a grainy texture dulling the richness of the black.

IMG_6622 IMG_6621

Next I had the design printed onto vinyl window sticker by the high quality art printers Hello Blue. While the printed vinyl surface was a little fuzzier than the acetate the print quality is a lot richer than the screen print and after much practice learning to apply window film, perfectly aligned and without even the smallest of air bubbles I got the two layers of film onto the board.

IMG_6645 IMG_6641

Starting to get there…


Resin Workshop Notes

Resin is a (usually liquid) casting plastic which sets in an endothermic reaction to a catalyst. Use acetone to clean from tools or fingers is necessary. For safety… Hair tied up, work overalls on and goggles are essential. All Resin casting must be performed on a tray on the vent units. Catalyst is oxadising so will presumably combust if it comes into contact with water.

Polyester available in the uni stores, medium hardness/brittleness. 30-60 minutes set time. Comes in opaque, clear and gel coat (thicker for painting a layer).
Polyurethane – low exothermic reaction, least hard/brittle and can be very clear. Only comes in opaque.
Epoxy most expensive, heat resistant, chemically stable and toughest & clearest. 2-3 days setting time. Comes with a slight yellow tint but not visible in small layers or pieces.
Vinylester – what surf boards etc are typically made out of.
Acrylic – industrial process not available at uni. Very clear and used for embedding objects (think scorpion in a key chain) and for jewelry.
Bio Resin – Lower ecological impact, very expensive.
Jesmonite –
Water based resin, still exothermic comes as a powder and liquid combo. Very hard and brittle with a off white opaque colour.

Resins come in the following purities/functions, these notes are based on polyester resin;

Clear Cast Resins
Most sensitive, toxic and expensive. Clear cast resin will go yellow if too much catalyst is added as the heat will colour the plastic.

General Casting Resins
Good for adding materials too like metal powders (iron which looks black, aluminum which looks silver, copper which looks coppery and can be corroded or oxidized with patination for green tones. Add 1:1 ratio of resin to metal powder for a fake metal appearance and 2:1 resin/metal ratio for things like patination.). Basically any materials which don’t contain water like broken glass, ground stone or oil paints (tip: when mixing oil paint in, first mix it into a small quantity of resin then add the rest as mixing into a large quantity takes ages)

Gel Coat
Gelcoat is the same as General casting resin but thicker so that it can be applied with a brush. It is often used as a first step in fiberglass to product the smooth outer layer. It can also be used to produce hollow castings or to fill a detailed mould surface which otherwise might trap air. I


Rubber band the silicone mould together or for moulds of other materials spray the mould surface with a release agent like Macwax or polish the mould surface with Mirror Glaze to prevent the resin bonding with the mould surface. Catalyst is added 2% for just resin, 4% for resin mixed with oil paint and between 8-15% when mixed with things like sand which will have a cooling effect on the reaction so require more catalyst. Mix very thoroughly and pour or inject resin into the mould. Bubbles from mixing will find there way to the top while it sets but if you have a complex mould it might be with rotating it and giving it a few taps as it settles to help any which are caught on details.

If casting a thick object pour in layers of 15mm to prevent a strong exothermic reaction (resin is oil based and therefor a fuel so highly flammable) which can cause yellowing, cracking and eventually a chemical fire (use powder or CO2 fire extinguisher only). Ideally leave 30 minutes between layers so that the resin is not completely set and creates a primary bond rather than a secondary bond which may be visible. When layering clear cast drop the catalyst for the 2nd layer to 1% to prevent heat yellowing.


Depending on quantity of catalist and thickness of cast you can demould 20-60 mins after casting. Surface tackiness will remain (especially on clear cast resin) for several days, careful handling will prevent finger prints and maintain a shiny surface until it fully sets (up to a week). Washing a demoulded object with acetone then leaving it to dry for 2 days can help expediate hardening.


ClearCastIt is possible to saw, file, drill, use a rotary tool, sand and machine polish hard resin. Be careful to do any machine tooling in a downdraft vent unit as inhaled dust is dangerous. Any Hand tooling may be done in the workshop, it is good practice to hoover the dust up rather than sweep it to prevent inhalation.

Surface tackiness resulting in finger prints while demoulding is often found using polyester resin and can be dealt with firstly by careful handling and patience (a week seems enough for small casts) or by washing the freshly demoulded cast in acetone to expedite setting and waiting for several days. It can also be helpful to warm your mould before casting to help the surface set or spray a wax release agent into the mould to put a barrier between the silicone (which is often condensation curing so can contain moisture) and the cast. It is often advisable to gently oven bake a silicone mould for many hours to rid it of any moisture. Over heating the silicone will result in splits and deformation.




Fiber glass

Comes in many forms, most commonly at uni as CSM (chop strand material). If using fiber glass in casting always wear gloves.  If not laying onto silicone first spray a release agent to prevent bonding. Apply a layer of gel coat and wait 10 minutes for it to go slightly tacky. On a vinyl sheet brush General Casting Resin onto the CSM on both sides so that it goes translucent. Layer onto the gelcoat and push air out with gentle brushing. 2 or 3 layers will be more than enough for a strong structure. When using other woven fiberglass the strand direction can produce a slight flex in the perpendicular direction if desired.


Casting resource This guy has comprehensive tutorials and information about different materials and mould making/casting process.

Suppliers cheap supplier of casting & mould making & sculpting products.
www.smooth-on .com brand of casting & mould making products. Bristol based resin and moulding company.

Weld it Workshop Notes


Aluminum – most common ore but requires lots of electricity to extract. It has a very sable oxide and is 2/3 the weight of mild steel. Tig welding only (electric welding with tungsten electrode)
Mild Steel – Iron & Carbon 0.025%
Medium Carbon Steel – 0.4 – 1.1% carbon.
High Carbon Steel – 1.3% carbon. High steel has a unique property that at 1% carbon it is heatable to become glass hard.

Heated iron properties:

220°c -> 320°
Soft -> Hard
Tough -> Brittle
Blue -> Straw


Soft soldering – with iron
Hard soldering – with a flame (brazing)

Brazing torch uses Acetylene & Oxygen, when balanced correctly the flame neither oxidizes or carbonises.

Brazing Process:

  1. Turn on the Acetylene tap (red) and draw it backwards through the pilot flame, adjust until slightly smokey.
  2. Turn on oxygen tap (blue) and adjust until the middle flame is just beyond the first. Acetylene flame is 30 times hotter than boiling water!jpeg
  3. Clean the metal surfaces to be soldered and add flux paste between surfaces. Flux prevents oxides from forming while the metal is cleaned. When soldering iron we use boax flux.
  4. Heat the metal generally holding the flame 2 to 4 cm away until red hot.
  5. There are two soldering techniques we tried;
    • Melt some brazing rod (brazing rods are solder with a flux coating, for iron soldering we used a brass (copper and zinc) rod) and drag it along the join. The molten brass should follow the heat.
    • Melt some brazing rod into the edge and drag it up the surface of the join without melting too much more brass to create a stronger more rounded join.

Tips:  Lump solder means not enough heat was applied where as a very coppery colour means too much heat was applied.
A white coating some times on steel is Zinc and is called galvanized steel.

Plasma cutting

Plasma is super heated gas (compressed air and electricity)

Plasma cutting process:

  1. Switch on & turn power to 20amps. Turn on air the top light should be on.
  2. Put on goggles/face shield/gloves. The plasma unit produces UV light so cover up! Make sure the earth is attached to the table.
  3. Touch the nozzle lightly to the surface and drag it around.
  4. The hissing after use is just the cleaning cycle!

The plasma cutter can theoretically cut any conducting material. UWE’s unit cuts up to 12mm thick. Plasma cuts under water.

Gas Welding

Gas welding will only weld matching metal surfaces.


  1. Set the torch the same as with brazing (first two steps above).
  2. Tack together the join to hold them stationary.
  3. Holding the flame perpendicular to the join, then at a 60° angle the length of the flame ‘bead’ from the join.
  4. Heat until a pea sized pool of molten metal appears, move the pool along aiming to move at an even pace.
  5. Using a copper coated steel rod melt the tip into a pool and tap evenly into the pool as you move it along. This fills up holes created by any over heating and adds metal to strengthen the join.

Tip: Hold the rod between thumbs & fingers so you can control it through gloves. You are looking for a ‘fish scale’ texture along both sides of the weld (which means the weld has penetrated both sides of the join). Slow and steady!




Mig Welding (metal inert gas)


  1. Turn the gas on (switch at the back). The gas is Carbon Dioxide & 10% Argon (its not toxic like carbon monoxide). Adjust the Amperage dial to the thickness of the metal (1.0 = 1mm thickness). The screen will show the watt power.
  2. Turn on the welding helmet and check its function by looking at and away from a light source.
  3. Weld using copper coloured wire with electricity, gas & control wire. Bend any excess wire out the way and as with Gas Welding hold the flame first perpendicular then at 60°.

Spot Welding

Mild or stainless steel only. Steel has a higher electrical resistance than copper or brass. Before welding make sure the steel is corrosion free and the copper electrode on the spot welder is clean. It uses a low voltage but high current to weld two surfaces together. Our machine will weld 4mm of steel together (so 1mm and 3mm pieces). .

Pot Rivets

Drill the metal from center punch mark. Put the rivet into pneumatic pit riveter and through the hole then pull the trigger. Pit rivets can be used on leather, cloth etc… they may need a washer.

The Board

Stephen the games creator provided me with a document with the number, position of places and their content for the laps around. The basic narrative he provided was that the game was set in space and did laps around a giant blue sun where players collected Star Shards to power upgrades to their ships and alter the course of the game.

I began by sketching out ideas of how to structure the functional elements while complimenting the background illustration.


My initial thought was the below layout however once I began planning the background illustration I realised this format was limiting because the content for the places didn’t make visual sense so evenly placed in space, the format didn’t allow for the illustration to have any kind of natural perspective.


Then while experimenting I came across the idea that the board its self represented the computer terminal from within the players space craft.


This lead me to position the sun within an isometric frame which the places/elements would orbit. I realised however that even with the places spread evenly in a fake isometric style, once drawn out in life size (painfully, with a protractor and lots of erasing) the spaces were too thin to fit the player pieces or any text.


Next I produced the below mockup which solved the function graphics vs illustration with depth of field issue.


After laying it out on tracing paper I set about with the background illustration.


The illustration posed its own challenges, I soon realised that futuristic imagery doesn’t read well in natural media, which I usually work in. I am not a visual effects artist and I’m not so interested in working in a comic style so I had to go about finding a new process which I could adapt more quickly than I could learn VFX.

I decided to produce the scene as an aqua tint etching as aqua tinting has a nice dark grainy quality I thought I could manipulate into something which doesn’t look so recognisably hand drawn. I experimented on a test plate (below) and found scattering large grains of aqua tint resin across the plate (once an even layer had already been applied) produced a very organic star scape.

IMG_5114 IMG_5059 IMG_5068
I then experimented with burnishing, wet and dry sanding and finally using a wire brush rotary tool to polish some cloudy nebular like textures back into the black plate.


The print from this plate had a nice quality for the beginning of the illustration.

IMG_5157 IMG_5159

From this point I began considering how to take this grainy image and make it more futuristic. I returned to the idea that the board was the players ship interface and decided to experiment with screen printing the image onto the underside of a sheet of acrylic as generally shiny surfaces produce a much richer black and the material would bring a futuristic feel to the board.

To be continued!!

Enamel Worshop Notes

This workshop took us though different process with liquid and powdered enamel. We had the chance to experiment with liquid and powder enamel on both copper and steel.

Gloves goggles and a fork must be worn at all times when placing or removing objects from the kiln.

Copper: Degrease the object and paint with liquid process enamel and leaving to dry completely or using the ventilation unit powder the enamel by laying down a sheet of paper (to catch the and reuse the waste), placing the copper on a block for ease of picking it up afterwards and use the a hand sieve to evenly dust the surface. It is helpful to enamel both sides to prevent bowing, this can be done with a layer of dry liquid enamel on the underside fired at the same time.

To fire place the copper on a **** and put it into a kiln with a temperature ranging between 750° and 830°. Copper melts at 1,085 °C but it is worth noting

While the copper is still hot from the kiln it is possible to flatten it. Any bare areas will need to be scribed to have the fire scale removed.

The below images show the effect of different firing times on different powdered enamels including a clear enamel which in total was fired for almost 20 minutes causing oxidation to form around the edges of the clear enamel. The attempts at firing different enamel colors on the same plate at the same time completely failed causing the enamel to blob together and lake off. The Celadon green fired faster than the tangerine. The clear was on thicker copper and took longer to fire again.






The below image shows from right to left different firing times… under fired matt, under fired specked, completely fired, double coat.


Steel: Steel first needs a tooth ground into its surface so we sand blasted our steel plates although I am sure a course wet & dry paper would have functioned provided it doesn’t’ cause to much oxidation. Then we painted and fired the plates with a base coat of Vitreous Enamel which protects the carbon in the steel producing CO2 causing unwanted reactions the enamel. Once the steel is sealed in a layer of Vitreous enamel the process is the same as for copper.