Tuesday 28 March 2017

New Web App: Target Creator

Quick Link

The application can be found at http://targetcreator.darkmidnight.co.uk

Years ago I used to have an air rifle and spent a lot of time target shooting. When I wasn't competing, I'd enjoy coming up with different target arrangements and challenges to add variety – some favourites included things like popping balloons, trying to snap a thread to drop a weight (cowboy-movie hangman style), and trying to shoot through the centre spindle hole of a CD without touching the disc itself (Remember those AOL promotional CDs they’d put through the door? Guess where mine went..)

This was about the same time that I was learning to program, so naturally the two hobbies intersected, and one of the first applications I wrote was a target creator that not only allowed me to print paper targets from home, but also customise them by changing the diameter of the rings/bullseye, change colours, put multiple smaller targets on a single page, etc.

The application was a Java desktop application – nothing particularly ground breaking, but for an early project, I was proud of it.

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, and I was sorting through a bunch of old stuff in storage, and happened to find a printout of a couple of pages of the programs source code (I don’t remember why I printed it, but apparently I did). Hit with a wave of nostalgia, I thought I’d rebuild a modern version of it.

In the years since I made the original, many desktop applications have given way to the rise of web-apps, so I decided to take it in the same direction. The core of the new version is rebuilt from the original, but as a web-app, it doesn’t have direct access to printers, so now it produces a PDF instead. I also added in a QR code function so that you can in effect ‘save’ chosen settings for a target to return to it to print more later, and the ability to switch between A4 and US Letter sized paper.

The application can be found at http://targetcreator.darkmidnight.co.uk

  • Select your chosen unit of measurement – imperial (inches) or metric (centimetres)
  • Select your paper size - A4 or US Letter
  • Set the first rings diameter, and select it’s colour.
  • Either select “Use the same thickness for all rings” or repeat the above for rings 2-9, also selecting their colours.
  • Do the same for the bullseye.
  • Chose your additional options – either a single target centered on the page, or fit as many as possible onto the page.
  • Choose if you want a QR code appended to the corner of the PDF to easily recall your chosen settings.
  • Then click Generate to produce the PDF, which you can then print.

Sunday 12 March 2017

Farcry-inspired Leather Notebook part 2

In my last post, I started making a leather notebook inspired by Farcry. For the first part of this build, click here.

I opted to use a mix of papers in the notebook, so it could be useful in multiple situations - I included lined, plain, squared, and sketch (plain, thicker stock paper).

Pen Loop
I wanted to get some practice using hardware with the leather, so I used a scrap of leather of approx 1 inch width, wrapped it around a pen for size, and trimmed it to create a pen loop, which I fixed to the left of the notebooks cover flap, so it would sit in the fold opposite the spine, which will help balance out the overall thickness of the notebook (to help achieve the stated aim of keeping it pocket-size).

The Cover

I shaped the cover with a curve, and added an eyelet hole. This is to thread a leather lace to act as a closure for the book.

The lace itself, was literally a leather shoe lace - I had to cut it short, and slice it lengthways to fit the eyelet.

The Farcry journal had a small metal charm-type item on the end of the lace, which serves as kind of latch mechanism, as well as having it's aesthetic appeal.

I didn't have anything particularly symbolic or meaningful, but I did have a small hollow metal die that came from a Christmas cracker, and a metal hook. I filled the hollow die with contact cement and screwed in the hook, giving it time to set, then tied that into the other end of the lace.

The finished notebook

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Despite the caption, I think this project will be one I never really consider 'finished'. There are plenty of things I would change if I re-did the project, but given that this is my first attempt at making something with leather, I'm very pleased with how it's turned out. I'll definitely be keeping leather work in my repertoire.

I envision that as a project book, it will be modified and tinkered with as I learn new things and will be a bit of a 'test bed' - two things that immediately spring to mind is the finishing of the materials' edges, and embossing a logo or emblem into the cover.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Farcry-inspired Leather Notebook

This year I resolved to pick up a new skill.

A key game mechanic in Farcry 4 is the survival and "living-off-the-land" aspect of the fictional island of Kyrat. Part of this aspect is hunting, and using the pelts to craft useful items, such as backpacks, holsters etc.

That, coupled with seeing some leatherwork done by Jimmy DiResta in his videos, inspired me to have a go and teach myself some leathercraft.

For a first project, I decided to make a leather notebook, based of this faux-leather journal that came with the collectors edition of Farcry 4 (left).

I'm the kind of person whose idea of a notebook is usually a sheet of printer paper folded into four. I usually start using a notebook, only to find various flaws that stop it fitting into my workflow - like being too large to fit in a pocket, getting left behind, nowhere to add additional sheets, etc. So this seems like a good chance to make something exactly how I want it.


  • Refillable using cheap paper (ie, printer paper folded into four)
  • Fit in the back pocket of a pair of jeans.
Other nice-to-haves:
  • Mix of paper - it'd be handy to have lined, plain, squared/graph paper in one notebook.
  • Space for printouts/other paper - some kind of pocket.
  • Pen loop
The size was based around a sheet of A4 paper folded into quarters, with approximately 1 inch added for the spine.

Another layer of leather was added in the spine to strengthen it, and fixed with contact cement.
Four loops of thread, stretching from top to bottom of the spine were added, approx a quarter inch apart. This will be where the paper is mounted - either I can use it for four different types of paper, or treat it as four sections for different projects.

A second outer layer of leather was added to the back, the same height as the main section, but wider (total width approx 300mm. This excess piece would create the wrap-around cover for the book.)

I misjudged the behaviour of the main front and back cover - I thought that the double layer of leather would behave as though they were a single, thicker layer. However, I found when folding them, the inner layer would bulge out slightly, so I was concerned about using contact cement to join them.

Although this did create an opportunity - stitching each side and the base of each cover meant that I could leave the tops open and create pockets for printouts and other papers.

This finished off the main structure of the notebook, with the next steps being to refine it and add finishing details (and of course, paper), which I will cover in a later post (Update - Part 2 is here)