Preparing for the overhaul...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How To Plaster A Half Timbered Tudor Dollhouse

There are several commercially prepared products labeled "dollhouse stucco", or some such out there; most of them aren't very good, and they're all expensive.  In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to make and apply your own dollhouse stucco.  It's cheaper to make your own and, most importantly, I think you'll be really pleased with the results.  Because you control what goes into it, you have much more control over what it'll look like when applied.

First, you'll need two products, both of which are readily available at any art store: acrylic craft paint, and  pumice gel.  Pumice gel is an additive used by fine artists, to add texture to paint.  It has many useful craft applications as well.  Note, here, that the kind of pumice gel you choose is critical.  Fine pumice gel will produce very citified, refined plaster; coarser pumice gel will produce a simpler, more countrified look.

For your paint color, pick something that suits your individual project.  I like this color, "antique white", because it resembles the yellowed parchment effect of aged plaster.  A brand-new dwelling would probably call for bright white.  Keep in mind, too, that many half timbered structures were painted in a rainbow of hues.  Many of the finest surviving examples in the UK are very brightly colored.  I've seen yellow, and even bright pink plaster.

For the Wizard's Eyrie, I'm using coarse pumice gel.  For the Tudor Bakery, which is a more refined town building, I'll use fine pumice gel.

Find a container--preferably one with a lid--that you don't care about, and, using a tongue depressor or piece of scrap wood, spoon some pumice gel into it.  Do NOT use flatware!  Pumice is an abrasive; it will scratch!

Mix in the paint, a little at a time, until you've achieved the desired consistency.  You want your mixture to have a noticeable texture, but still be smooth enough to spread easily with a brush.  Too much of a good thing...is too much.  If you're not sure, you can always spread a little on and see how it looks.

Begin painting on the first coat of stucco.  You'll need to do two coats.  I prefer to cut in each section, just like I'm painting a room in my house.  Here, I tested my mixture to see if I liked the consistency.  For your first coat, you may have to use your imagination a little; because this is just the first coat, the stucco will look slightly uneven.  The second coat is what will even everything out.

A close-up of my first coat (in progress).

Be careful to wipe up any mistakes.  Nothing will take your project out of scale quicker than huge blobs of stucco all over your timbers.  Remember, while many medieval and tudor structures were of the rougher variety, your dollhouse person's sense of scale, and yours, are very different.  Too many blobs, and your house won't look rustic--just sloppy.

The first completed section--we're still on the first coat, though!

A close-up of the same section: see how, with only one coat, it's still slightly uneven?

I prefer to use several different sizes of brush: medium, small, and tiny.  The tiny brush comes in handy for corners like this, which really can't be carefully painted with anything else.  Working around this window was difficult, and took a lot of patience!

Here I am with my tiny brush.

This section required quite a bit of work--but I'm optimistic that it'll pay off in the end!

A view of the rear; our first coat is completed!

If you're wondering what that unfinished side wall is about, I'm planning on facing it with brick along with the main structure.

I'm really pleased with how the wattle and daub is coming out.  So far, it's looking quite rustic!  With a small structure like this, interesting architectural detail becomes all the more important.

Now, take a break.  You need to let the first coat dry--and I mean really dry.  If you start applying the second coat before the first coat is totally dry, it'll all just turn into a gigantic mush.  Applying pumice like this takes some effort, and you don't want it all to go to waste.  

For our break, Jim and I made a nice fry up.  He's always been very good at potatoes.  We ate it at the table, in the company of the dollhouse.  Dollhouses make excellent dining companions: they're very quiet, and listen to everything you say.

Once your first coat has dried completely...

It's time for the second coat!  I won't lie, this is a long and tedious process.  I felt every minute of it.  But, honestly, when I admired the final results, it was totally worth it the sacrifice.

I took this close-up so you can see the difference between one coat and two.  The panel on the left has one coat; the panel on the right has two.  Part of what makes doing the second coat such a drag is that you have to be fairly attentive to how you layer on the stucco.  It's not rocket science, but getting an even-looking final result does sometimes require mushing the stucco around a bit. 

The west side is done. 

A close up of the lean-to. 

A close up of the eaves--what a pain! 

Here's the completed lean-to.  I am, once again, working in the dining room as my husband writes in the living room.  As always, I'm trying to protect my surroundings.  Here, I'm using two hand towels that everybody in the family hates.  I got them at a discount shop and was quite promptly told that, bargains aside, I should've left them there.  Thus, they make perfect craft towels.

I saved the easiest panel for last. 

Here's a close-up of the completed eaves. 

I've done everything I can do, on the hut itself, until my bricks, and thatching materials arrive. 

I must say, I'm really pleased with the final results.  I think they look very realistic.  Sometimes, shortcuts are good, but sometimes, going the long way 'round really does work out best.

So that's how to plaster a half timbered tudor dollhouse!  This same procedure could work equally well, really, in any plaster or stucco application--especially if, like I suggested at the beginning of this tutorial, you vary the coarseness of your pumice gel.  You can use it on any medieval or tudor structure--I'm also planning on using this same coarse pumice on the (forthcoming) medieval blacksmith's shop--but also on your mediterranean villa.

3 comments:

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

Great tutorial. Will have to try this, I like that it is applied with brushes. I can't wait to see you do the roof on this charming house. The base is really Awesome too.

Victoria ♥

Eva said...

Tiene unas casas impresionantes, muy estudiadas y muy bien reproducidas; los consejos son impagables. Un saludo, Eva

Rosa said...

Oh thank you, thank you so much for the great tip! It is going to be most useful. Your dollhouse is very, very beautiful - as I write this, I cannot wait to peruse the rest of your blogXD