Monday, November 30, 2009

Faux stone blocks in Tower 1

Today I did the first roughing-in of the stone blocks on the ground floor of the First Tower.

I painted the walls of the room a medium grey.

Then I used a few glazes of darker grey, lighter grey and a warmer tone (raw umber) overtop of the medium to give me a stone texture.

Then I painted the grout lines of the blocks freehand.  I now need to go over individual blocks more and make them tidier and more varied in colour.

Here's the result so far:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

First Tower Construction (continued)

Today we assembled the first Tower and I built the ground floor stairway.  First of all David and I glued and pinned the three walls to the base (using wood glue and an air nailer).

Because it's easier to build from the ground up, we left off the interior floors.  Now the first order of business is to construct the stairs from the ground floor to the first floor.

First step:  use wooden blocks to make the stairs and first landing (this was a bit like making stairs as a kid from a set of wooden shapes :) I had cut these shapes out downstairs in the workshop ahead of time, and just brought everything upstairs to assemble.  Everything is pine.

Second step:  glue in the staircase:  I'm using a standard, easily-available narrow, steep, open staircase, which I'll stain dark brown.  My idea is that the stairs to the first landing (as shown above) are stone, the next flight is wood.  I had to cut the top step off, but it fits quite well and takes up very little space.  You can see the member I put in to support the first floor, and the notch I put in it for the wall of the stairwell.

Then I glued in the walls of the stairwell to enclose it.

Here is the room so far:

And a close up of the stairs.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Standing desk, lectern, book stand

One of the pieces I want for the Library is a lectern or standing desk.  I built one today, using some new tools I've acquired :)

The top tool is an Easy Cutter Ultimate, perfect for cutting strip wood, and with a built in mitre box for a variety of angles.  VERY useful!

Then there's a lovely Razor Saw David got me from Lee Valley Tools yesterday.  Thanks, darling!

First of all I cut the sides from boxwood, and the bottom and back from balsa. The angle turned out to be about 60 degrees.  It could certainly have been less steep :)

I added a bass wood top and for the fiddle at the bottom (the part that stops the book from sliding off) I used some gorgeous 1/12 scale laser-cut gingerbread.

I made a stand from square balsa stock and popsicle sticks -- here's one of the two supports gluing up in my jig.  I may make a prettier stand later, but this will do for now.

Here's the stand before sanding and finishing:  I added some trim around the sides and drilled some decorative holes.

And here it is with the book I want to display on it -- Les tres riches heures

And here's the finished lectern, painted and varnished, posed next to some of our books :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Making the first Tower

This morning David cut out the basic plywood pieces for the First Tower, the one that will house the Throne Room, Library and Guest Bedroom.

As for the Great Hall, we used 3/8" good-one-side plywood.  The base is 15" wide by 12" deep and the tower will be 34" tall.

Now I have to mark the locations of windows and doors before we can assemble it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Court Cupboard

I got a shipment of little turnings and settled down to build an open court cupboard for displaying pewter and silver in the Great Hall.

This sort of piece was my inspiration:

Again, I was improvising and didn't take photographs, but this was my general method:

I cut the shelves out of basswood -- three shelves, each measuring about 4" by 1.5".

I drilled out holes for the tenons on the turnings.  I used four turnings for the front supports, and four plain pieces of strip wood for the back supports.

I assembled the shelves and supports, gluing and weighing things down.  (I hate waiting until the glue sets!)

I glued the plain wooden friezes on the fronts and sides.

I would like to learn how to carve, but until I do that, I decided to try my old friend, polymer clay, to give this piece the detail a court cupboard really needs.  I rolled out some thickish strips, cut them to width and length and embossed them with a jewellery finding.  After they were baked, I glued them onto the friezes.

The cupboard was a little low (I wanted it to be about 6" tall, it was more like 4" :))  so I made some longish feet to boost the thing up a little.  I made the feet from chunks of balsa wood with balls glued on the bottom.  The finished height is about 5.5".

Then I painted the whole thing with a darker shade of burnt umber (added some black) and washed some raw umber and black over it to bring out the "carving".   I varnished it, and I'm very pleased with the end result (although my photo could be better).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Current photos of Great Hall

This morning I decided to take a few photos of the pieces we've made recently and of the Great Hall in general.

First up, here's one of the early dolls I've made from polymer clay -- she's actually my first doll -- sitting on our new settle in front of the fireplace I worked on yesterday.  The settle is from an eBay seller. Above her head you can see the brass double candle sconce I painted black.  The rug on the wall I also bought from an eBay seller -- I'm very pleased with it.  The enormous cat's name is Ralph Roister Doister, after one of our cats, whom he greatly resembles.

Here's a complete view of the Great Hall as it looked this morning.  The minstrel's gallery to the left hasn't been glued in place -- we're still working out how the little inhabitants of the castle are going to get to it :)  My husband rejected the stairs I had worked out as unrealistic, so we now think we'll cut a door to it from the library which will be next door in the Tower.

(Am I nuts, or do other people turn on the lights in their dollhouses or roomboxes nearly every day and just gaze with profound satisfaction at the tiny world they're creating?)

Looking at the photo I realize that we really have to deal with those windows -- we haven't figured out the best way to divide them or frame them or anything, so for the moment they're just big ugly holes.

Here's the table, groaning with the books the kids and I made last week.

It's amazing what scraps of leather, pieces of balsa wood and gold paint can do, eh?  This is a very good craft to do with children --even very young ones can produce satisfying results, although you'd have to watch them with craft knives.  If you cut the scraps of balsa wood for them, thin leather can be easily cut with scissors, though.  (The children making these books were 9, 12 and 15).  If you get the grain of the balsa wood going the right way, it looks very like pages when it's been gilded.  If you get it the wrong way (as I did, nearly every time) you just shelve them and hope for the best!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Library Fireplace, day one

The next section of the dolls castle we're going to work on is the first Tower, the one that houses the Throne Room, the Library and the Guest Bedroom.  It's to the left of the Great Hall.

In preparation for that, I'm working on the fireplace that will go in the Library.  It's a basic, prebuilt Jamestown fireplace, chosen because it's reminiscent of a Tudor limestone fireplace (it's almost, but not quite, got the Tudor arch :)

To make it look more authentic, I want to line the firebox with herringbone brick and add a fireback.  My inspiration includes this wonderful, REAL minature limestone fireplace by UK artisan Gavin Poyner:

I recently bought a selection of Malcolm's Miniatures' brick impress molds from Silly Sisters in the Netherlands.  The instructions suggest using air dry clay, which I'd use if I were doing a floor or a wall (I want a brick floor in the castle kitchen, for example).  But I just couldn't see using air dry clay in the rather restricted confines of the firebox.

Polymer clay to the rescue!  I made a paper pattern (see photo above) of the three surfaces I have to cover in the fireplace, rolled out some scrap clay (a particularly virulent yellow) in my pasta machine, cut out the pieces of clay using the pattern and used the mold on them.  (The white you see is baby powder -- first of all on the tile I bake my clay on, to keep the thin sheets of clay from sticking, and secondly to dip my mold into, to keep the mold from sticking to the clay).

Voila!  This works brilliantly -- the pieces of baked clay are stable enough that I could try them in the fireplace for fit and thin enough that I was able to further trim them to size using an ordinary pair of scissors.

I then painted them grey (for grout -- I could have saved this step if I'd made them in grey clay to begin with :). 

Here they are, being worked on for the first layer of colour.  I'm using cadmium red medium, raw sienna, black and burnt umber in various combinations.

This was my first use of the impress molds, and it's far from perfect.  I didn't use even pressure, so some of the grout lines are fainter and less impressed than others. I forgot to stipple or texture the clay after impressing it.   I also messed up the pattern a little :)  Still, for all my faults, I have to say the results are pretty darned good -- well worth the 7 euros for the mold -- and relatively idiot-proof.  Thank you, Malcolm's Miniatures!

This is a close up of the first layer of colour.  I picked out a few bricks in raw sienna, then applied a base coat of red and umber to the other bricks -- the base coat was put on rather "dry", so as to keep it out of the grout lines.  I've drawn in some of the grout with a thinner wash, to make the bricks clearer.  I will clean things up on the next pass, and add some more character and age.

So here it is with the brickwork more or less finished, and the panels in place but not yet glued down.  I've very happy with the brick impress mold and love the contrast between the warm brick and the pale "limestone" finish of the mantel.

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