Saturday, November 27, 2010

Woodburned Piecepack Set

For the Decked Out for Deathly Hallows Swap, my wonderful partner Andromeda007 wanted a game she and her husband could play together or with friends.  My husband Jim loves playing games while I do not, and he pointed out that a kitschy HP themed game would just gather dust.   He also pointed out that to get a game that was fun to play, you would have to test it a lot to make sure it didn't go on for hours, or be over in 5 minutes.  That it should be easy to learn but still pleasurably challenging to play, etc.  In the end, he proposed the idea of a Piecepack.  A Piecepack is the board game equivalent of a deck of cards.  It is a set of pieces that can be arranged in nearly limitless configurations, and allows users to create their own games with it, just like you can play poker, eucher, hearts, bridge, etc with a single deck of cards.

I wanted my game to feel old, in that way that many things in the world of Harry Potter are timeless.  I settled on making all the pieces out of wood.  I was able to pick up most of them at the craft store, but the 3" wooden tiles needed to be ordered offline.  I got mine at  I created the images for the coins and tiles in Photoshop, then flipped them over digitally and printed them on a laser printer.  If anyone wants them, I'd be happy to send them the PDFs.

I used the transfer tip on the wood burning tool to transfer them to the pieces.  Most of the pieces were then woodburned with a detail tip, though the tiny suits in the corners of the tiles were just too small to burn. I traced them with a black art pen that doesn't bleed when used on wood.  All the pieces were painted with a thick coat of watercolor, so the wood grain would show through.  Then the empty areas were stained with Chartpak wood stain markers which I freakin' love.  (They are available in tons of colors at Michael's).  I also gave them all a few coats of a clear acrylic to protect them. 

The really neat part about it is that it is in the public domain, so anyone can create games for it, and most get added to the games page at, and sites like it.  The game set already had 4 suits, which I felt were *mostly* already HP themed, and just needed a tiny bit of tweaking.  

The firey red sun for Gryffindor. 
The green crown for the ambitious Slytherins. 
A majestic blue moon, for the Ravenclaws.
And the suggested fleur-de-lis traded out for a yellow leaf for the earthy Hufflepuffs.

The suits each have 6 tiles, 6 coins, and a die, each numbered Ace, zero, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

Each piecepack is supposed to have 4 pawns, which I made out of the smaller wooden people I found at Hobby Lobby.  But when I ordered the wooden tiles online for the board pieces, I saw the "2.5" tall girls", which are the larger set of pawns.  I thought they were so cute, and looked like they could be figures in robes, so I made an extra set of pawns. 

Some of the piecepack games require a set of game pieces called an "Icehouse Set", which are 4 sided pyramids, made of plastic.  I didn't want to order the sometimes expensive pieces, plus I didn't think they being plastic would fit with the feel of the wooden game pieces I had already created.  So I used wooden flower pots, with a gouge mark burned into them.  When you stack them with the gouges all facing the same way, you get which way your player is facing in the game.  Purists might not like my plan (Jim didn't).  But I think it's a good compromise to the pretty wooden set. 

Here are some detail shots of the coins and dice:

Since the games are all in the public domain, it's also okay to tweak them as desired.  Jim found me a "Wizard's Dueling Game", which I felt was practically written with Harry Potter in mind.  I retyped the rules, changing a few names & terms to suit the theme, and ended up with a game I called "Dumbledore's Army", which allows you to practice Stunning, Disarming & Shield Spells in the Room of Requirement.   Wink

I knew I needed to make a container for all the parts and pieces to the game.  DH suggested a drawstring pouch, but since he had just bought me a new wood burning tool, I opted for a wooden box, that I burned then stained with Chartpak woodstain markers.

If you're interested in games, be sure to check out for various games, printable pieces, and more.  (I'm in no way affiliated with them, I just found their site very helpful!)

Ice Mice Tutorial for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Premier

My lack of updating has been due mostly to the fact that I'm teaching a history class, on top of my full time job this semester.  As a result, I've had virtually no time for crafting, and even had to stop doing craft swaps.  I did make an exception however in order to host a Decked Out for Deathly Hallows Swap over on Craftster.  The idea of the swap was to prepare for going to see the Premier.  Participants were required to make 1 wearable item to wear to the film, 1 edible item to eat while watching the movie, and one toy, game or accessory to play with while waiting in line.

I organized the swap with my friends Grace and Melissa, and Grace and I even made all our candies together.  We made mountains of treats, including from top to bottom:
Raspberry Almond Marshmallows
Peanut Butter Gryffindors with Truffle Centers
Chocoballs (Bourbon Balls)
Dr. Beanpole's Skelle-grow Vita Charms
Chocolate Frogs
Ice Mice
Ginger Stars
Dark Chocolate Rasberry Truffles & Raspberry Creams
Dark Chocolate Wands

Today I'm going to post my tutorial for making Ice Mice.

Almond Bark or White Chocolate Candy Melts, available at grocery or craft stores
Peppermint Candy Oil (I used Lorann Gourmet)
Blue Candy Coloring (note, you CANNOT use regular food coloring here)
Buttercream Candy Filling (I picked up the Make & Mold variety at Hobby Lobby)

Clean (New) Nylon paintbrush
Mouse Candy Mold (I got mine from Cake and Candy on Ebay)
various toothpicks, spoons & stirrers
a small bowl
microwave safe container for melting candy
cutting board & a sharp chef's knife

Begin by clearing a clean work surface.  Open up your package of almond bark or candy melts.  If using almond bark, break off a few squares of the candy, and then chop them into small chunks.  (Somewhat smaller than Hershey's kisses, and larger than chocolate chips.)

Place the candy in a microwave safe dish, and begin microwaving for 30 seconds.  Stir.  It will still be rather solid.  Continue for another 30 seconds.  Stir.  You should see it begining to melt.  Continue microwaving and stirring for 20 second bursts of time.  As it is nearly all melted, reduce time to 10 seconds.  Stir until all the candy is smooth.  After the candy is all melted, add a few drops of Peppermint Candy Oil.  This stuff is 4 times more concentrated than flavoring extracts and you will not need a lot.  I went with about 4 drops.  Stir well and taste.   

Take a small amount of the white chocolate, maybe a tablespoon or two, and put it in a smaller bowl.  Dip a toothpick in your candy coloring, and stir into the white chocolate.  You are looking to make a nice light blue, and should only need a little coloring.  Too much and it will change the texture of the candy.  Continue coloring and stirring till you reach the desired color.

Now, take your clean new paintbrush, and dip it in the blue candy coating.  Paint the noses and the tails of the mice mold with the blue chocolate.  Be sure to paint it on thick, especially at the tails.  Allow to set in the fridge for a moment, while you check on your white chocolate, and reheat a few seconds if necessary. 

Pour about 2 Tablespoons of the white chocolate into each mold.

Use a new clean paintbrush to spread the coating around the rest of the mold, being sure to get plenty of candy into the tiny crevices, like the ears.

 Once you think the mold is all set, hold it up to the light, and make sure you don't have any air bubbles or thin spots.  Don't worry about a few stray drips of chocolate on the mold.  We'll fix that later.  Place the mold in the fridge for a few minutes. 

 Now that your molds are full of their first round of candy, it's time to prepare the buttercream filling.
 Start with a small amount of the filling in a bowl.  A few Tablespoons at most.  (I used about 1/4 of the package at a time.)  Use a toothpick to add a small amount of the blue candy coloring. 

Stir in the coloring thoroughly.  It may look like a different shade of blue than your chocolate did, because the buttercream has a naturally yellow tone to it.

Add more coloring if necessary to get your desired color.  We are going for a light blue again.  Anything too dark with show through the white chocolate, which would ruin the surprise to come when your friends bite into them.  Once you get a color you like, add a drop or two of the Peppermint Candy Oil.  Stir well and taste.  It should be pepperminty, but not overpowering.

Next, you will be making small logs out of the buttercream to fill your mice.  The buttercream is a little firm on it's own, and we will be using that to our advantage.  Take a small chunk out, about a Tablespoon.  Roll it gently and quickly into a small log.  You don't want to over-handle the buttercream, or it will become too soft and sticky due to your body temperature.

Now look back at your mold.  Will the log you made fit inside one of the mice, with room to cover in a second layer of white chocolate?  Adjust as necessary.

 Place a log of buttercream into each mouse, and use your clean fingers to press the cream into the mold, making it nice and flat, and leaving about 1/4" of room at the top of the mold for more chocolate. 

 Check on your white chocolate, and re-heat if necessary, in 15 second bursts of time.  Stir till smooth.  Top each of the mice with enough white chocolate to fill the remaining space in the mold.  It should be about a Tablespoon or two.  Spread the chocolate evenly with a paintbrush or a stirrer, and make sure not to miss any spots.  Be especially careful to get some more of the white chocolate on top of the blue chocolate tails.  If the tails are too thin, or not properly attached to the bodies, they will break when you remove them from the mold.

 Place your mold in the fridge for about 20 minutes, till the mice set up.  The chocolate should be completely firm to the touch.  If in doubt, hold the mold up to the light again.  If the chocolates have a slightly frosted appearance, and the candy seems to be separate from the mold, they are done.  If they appear to be slightly wet, they are not set up enough.  When they are done, turn the molds upside down over the table or a plate, and pop the mice right out.

Grace and I packaged ours in blue and white airtight containers from the dollar store.  I placed some blue tissue paper in each box, then a small square of wax paper to protect the candies, and to keep the tissue from getting oil spots.  Here's one broken open, to see the filling. 

After mailing tons of treats to our swap partners, Grace and I made some more for the Deathly Hallows Premier party we hosted, and brought the extras to the theatre, where we handed them out to other excited fans.  One girl even made her friends take a picture of her with her Ice Mice and Chocolate Frogs.  It made me so happy to see how much enjoyment everyone got out of our candies.

Enjoy the candy making tutorial, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I.  I can't wait to go see Part II!

P.S.  A special thank you to my swap partner Andromeda007 over at Un-Managed Mischief  and to Grace's partner RippledWater for some of the photographs!