Warcraft in woodworking from Smartwood Customs
We first encountered Steven of Smartwood Customs when we ran into his Azeroth map wall hangings on Etsy. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of impressive fan art in our day, but mostly on a smaller scale: spaced out on a wall, this map measures at least two feet by three feet. And when we reached out, it turns out this isn’t Steven’s only Blizzard-centric creation — though on a slightly smaller scale, his Hearthstone-themed woodworking projects are just as impressive.
We caught up with Steven to ask a few questions about just how he went about bring the map of Azeroth — and his other pieces — into the real world.
What Blizzard games do you play, and as what?
Currently I play Hearthstone pretty casually. I dig the Hunter, but haven’t had very good luck since they nerfed the buzzard. I do have several World of Warcraft characters, but the account is frozen until I find some more time to get back in it. Within WoW I mainly played a Death Knight (Pyah) and a Paladin (Plantane). I’ve played just about every game Blizzard has to offer. I’m not sure if it qualifies, but the first Blizzard game I ever played was Lost Vikings on SNES.
How did you learn woodworking? How long have you been doing this kind of work?
I wasn’t formally taught woodworking. My dad has been a custom cabinet maker and woodworker all his life, and it seemed to to somehow take its grasp on me as well. Growing up, I often found myself at his woodworking shop on weekends or during the week to help clean up, wash his truck, or just hang out. I remember watching him make joinery for cabinets, create cool dark on light wood inlays, and noticing how comfortable he was in his craft. Eventually I got to the age where I could help and make a little money at the same time. I would sand and stain, as well as help install. So you could say, I learned mostly by watching and asking. I still find myself going to him often to figure out how to make a certain cut, or put together a particular type of jig (a template of sorts to make consistent cuts over and over again).
As far as time in woodworking, my time as a shop hand “in woodworking” spans intermittently between my teen years and now, so about 12 years. However, when I consider Game Replica creation, it started with my first project when I attempted to create an interpretation of the Hearthstone Box in about 2013-ish.
What inspired you to make pieces about Blizzard games?
I remember seeing the cinematic for Hearthstone and seeing the wooden Hearthstone Box open and close. I just thought it was so freaking cool. I knew I had to make it. It has actually proven to be a lot more difficult to make than I had expected.
Could you give us a step-by-step on what’s involved in making one of your pieces? How long do they typically take?
The Azeroth maps were somewhat simple. I have to give credit some awesome software for it’s ability to do some of the things that it can do. I can take a bitmap image(Jpeg, png, etc) and either create a a vector image or 3D model from it. It also allows me to import 3D formats (.stl and .3ds) into the program and incorporate those designs into my cutting jobs.
For the map, I took an existing picture of the map of Azeroth and photoshopped the continents to stand alone in their own .png bitmap files. From there I use Vectric Aspire software to convert the .png files of each continent to 3D models (more accurately “2.5D” because the router cant cut under the piece of wood). I can scale the 3D model proportionately to the size I want. Within the software I select the types of cutting bits I will be using to cut the continents out with. Typically there are two main passes during a CNC job that contain 3D models or a high level of detail, Roughing and Finishing. The Roughing pass clears the bulk of the wood down to 1mm of wood where the detail of the map would be. The Roughing passes are done with larger wood clearing bits, I used a 1/4 inch two flute spiral bit. The Finishing pass is done with a smaller finer bit. The continents were completed with a 1.5mm ballnose bit. Once I specify which bits I want to use, I can preview what the continents would look like in the software.
Once I’m satisfied with the preview, I can export the roughing and finishing paths to two separate GCode files. The GCode file is basically X, Y, and Z coordinates along with movement speeds of the cutting router. The X, Y, and Z coordinates determine where the router should be in order to cut the design (think of a high school geometry graph). Once the roughing job starts, it’s a lot of waiting. The continents took a good amount of time. After that, the finishing job runs, and there’s even more waiting and crossing fingers. If the motors miss a step, or there’s an issue with the machine, it could result in hours of wasted time and material.
What’s been the most challenging part about making these?
I’d definitely say the maintaining of my CNC machine. I’ve only had it for a couple years now, and It’s not an industrial machine, so I’ve ran into issues during its lifespan. It’s a hobby machine, and understandably it can’t always keep up with how much I use it. I find myself repairing it often and running into errors with sending GCode occasionally.
With the map in particular, the time it takes to carve amounts to somewhere around 4-5 hours.
Have you made any other Blizzard-centric art?
I’ve done the Hearthstone box which gave me a lot of momentum and motivation. I got a lot of positive feedback and I always love to hear new ideas or take on new projects. The latest Hearthstone box I made is going to be used in a wedding that will be carrying wedding rings for the bride and groom.
I’ve also made a Hearthstone wall mount bottle opener [see images of it above]. I gave it some battle damage to give it a tavern-ish look.
That’s all for BlizzCrafts today — but check back next week for another selection of cool Blizzard-themed crafts! Have Blizzard arts and crafts of your own you’d like to see on Blizzard Watch? Send them our way! Submissions and suggestions should be sent to liz at blizzardwatch dot com.
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