Preparing for the overhaul...

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Dollhouse Tudor Roof

I've always struggled with roofs.  Traditional kit-type roofs never seem to come out quite right.  With this house, my problem was twofold: create an authentic-looking tudor ridge line, and cover up the edges of the balsa.  After examining a few real tudor roofs, I came to the conclusion that three things, in particular, identify a roof as tudor: the thickness of the roof itself, the presence of gable, eave, and ridge line carvings, and, of course, the roofing material itself.  I'll be roofing this house with slate, eventually, but in the meantime...

I created the apex angle, glued my triangle, then taped it in place so I could measure the lengths of the eaves.

I tried dry-fitting several different combinations of carvings.  This is one I rejected.  I usually design my pieces by playing around with different component parts and seeing what happens.

Ultimately, I preferred this corbel.

I started gluing everything in place, from the apex out.

Here, I'm holding up a corbel so I can figure out where, exactly, I want to put it.  I've drawn a light pencil line in the background, indicating where I want to cut.  Creating these pieces was something of an organic process, as I wasn't sure, initially, what would look good.

I taped the piece in place.  It looked good, but something was missing.  I decided I needed something else...but what?

I looked at it from another angle.

And realized I needed to make the piece taller.

While the stain was drying, I put a first coat of copper paint on the drain pipe.  I carved this little piece to hold the pipe in place next to the house.  It'll connect to the gutter at the top.  Once I've had a chance to sand this piece, it'll look a lot smoother and more metal-like.

Here's the drain pipe, posed next to the gutter.  It'll only traverse the length of the first floor.  I taped the top to something so it could dry in place, with nothing fuzzing up the paint.  This is oil-based paint, and it takes forever to dry.

A copper gutter isn't strictly tudor, but this is where the "tudor fantasy" aspect of the project comes into play.

Miniature Bricks and the Tudor Dollhouse

I'm finally ready to grout, but first...

Please ignore my laundry basket in the background.  This picture marks where I left off last time: starting to clad the house.  Putting things in perspective, these pictures chronicle DAYS' worth of work.  By the time I'm done cladding everything in the house (I still need to do the chimney column) I will have glued on almost 3,000 individual bricks.

It's really important to keep your lines parallel!

The ends of these rows (this is on the right-hand side) are an example of the "not quite half" bricks I was talking about before.

These end bricks are about 3/4 of a brick.  I cut and sanded the ones I needed as a batch, all at the same time, before I started gluing.  Personally, I prefer that approach, as it speeds things along.

I did the entire left-hand side before gluing on a "bridge" row and beginning the right-hand side, working, this time, from the top down.

I glued rows on the bottom at the same time as I added rows to the top.

The completed front.  As I'm sure you've noticed, there's a gap above the door.  Unlike in real life, you'll sometimes end up with funky shapes that don't quite fit together.  In real life, you can work around these problems by framing to specific door and window sizes, but the dollhouse world isn't that standardized.  So, well, what to do?  Here, I'm going to cover the gap with a pediment.  It'll add interest to the facade (and remember, the fountain is coming, too!) and draw attention to the front door.  Which still doesn't have any hardware, but I'm working on that...

I started cladding this side in the middle, because I measured from the top so the rows would match up.  The ground on the bottom is uneven, because I've already glued in the tiles for the hearth.  Then, basically, I finished this side the way I did the other.

It was a little tricky working around the columns!

I dry-fitted the bottom section of the ovens, to make sure everything looked good.  I clad the entire back wall behind this lower section, because, due to the size of the grate opening, you can see most of it.  So far, I'm happy with how everything looks.

However, I left some of the back section, that no one will ever see, blank.  3,000 bricks are enough!  Not only do these bricks (and slates, and sandstone pavers) add expense, they add weight.  Less is (sometimes) more!

So far, so good!

I used a piece of scrap wood to lay along my cross bridge, to help me make sure everything was aligned correctly.

I need all the angles to line up.

I think the courtyard itself will be gravel.

I may add some urns, for greenery; I haven't decided yet.

Most of this wall will be invisible.

Here it is!

The last major thing, on this wall, apart from the stucco and the mortar, is the roof of this little oven.  I'm still debating what to do, here.  Any suggestions?

I attached one half of the shutter.  Cladding around the shutter supports was nigh on impossible.  I'm fairly pleased with how it came out, but one row is slightly uneven.  It's possible nobody will notice but me, but trust me, I will always notice...

Almost done with the bottom part!

This, right here, was the hardest part.

Cutting the bricks for the left-hand side was no joke, either.

I did these with white glue, since I ended up having to mush them around a bit.

Finally, victory!

I haven't finished antiquing the upper shutter, but I wanted to tape it on to get a sense of what it'd look like.  I'm sort of at a loss for how I'm going to rig up some shutter hardware.  I really wish there were a better selection available for purchase!

I'm fairly pleased so far.  I can't wait to see it with the stucco, and the final roofline--which I have to carve today.  That'll be my next project after finishing this blog post.

Just picture it with a pediment...and mortar.  And landscaping.  And a roof.

I haven't yet decided if the turntable will be part of the finished project.

I might landscape it?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stucco and Brick Cladding Tips

It seems so simple: just glue it on.  But, if you're anything like me, you've had at least one rage blackout while trying to clad a building.  How can something so "easy" possibly be so hard?  As I take a break from gluing on bricks, I'm going to share some tips I've picked up over the years.  Hopefully you can avoid some of my mistakes!

The hardest part about stuccoing a half timbered house is the little crevices.  It's hard to get the stucco in there without getting it everywhere!  What I did here, and what, generally, I think works very well is a two step process: stucco, then water.  I used a very fine brush to push stucco into the crevice, trying to keep everything as neat as possible.  Then, I took a very fine angled brush, loaded with clean water, and used it to "clean" the section around the crevice.  I'd swipe the area, leaving a slight film of left-over stucco, swirl my brush in the clean water, and swipe it again.  It's a little time consuming, but this process gets the beams clean and creates a very clean look.

Here, I'm cleaning the area.  Be prepared for this process to take hours.  I did all the little triangles first, because they're the most unpleasant.  I left the larger areas for later, since they a) use up more stucco, and b) are fun.  

I also highly recommend purchasing all the stucco powder and paint you need before you begin.  I actually ran out of stucco powder after completing a little more than one side, which is--in this case--OK, since more stucco powder is reasonably easily available.  However, powder formulations do change, and, often, so do batches of paint.  I bought a new bottle of "antique white" paint just for this project, and it's actually slightly darker than the last bottle I bought.

Use a spacer.  These are strips of 1/32" thick wood.  Make sure, though, that your rows remain parallel by periodically measuring both sides.  Don't eyeball it, and don't rely on the spacers to keep everything horizontal!  Once in awhile, rows will become slightly uneven, start listing to the left, etc.  The more often you spot check, the easier these problems are to identify and correct.

If you need 1/2 bricks, I recommend making yourself a little supply before you begin.  Generally, what I do is dry fit a row to see how everything will fit.  Here, I got lucky: my rows aligned perfectly.  My "1/2 bricks" are actually half bricks.  I've done projects before, though, where I had to fuzz things a bit, by using 1/3 bricks, and shortening the bricks immediately around them so everything appeared to line up.

I'm excited for sealing and grouting!

Notice, I'm NOT cladding the other side of the door.  That's because I'm going to wait until I've done the entire left side, and the first full-length row over the door.  Then, I'll clad the right-hand side of the door from top to bottom.  That way, all the bricks will line up.  Stay tuned, I'll post more pictures so you'll understand what I'm talking about.

And, best of all, soon I'll be ready to add the fountain!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dollhouse Miniature Stucco: Tudor Edition

So I'm stuccoing the upstairs.  It's incredibly painstaking and time consuming work, because, well, staying in the lines is harder than it looks.  Gloppy stucco is ugly stucco.  Here, I'm using a variety of angled brushes to fill in the "daub" in my wattle and daub.  For stucco, I'm using a combination of Greenleaf's stucco powder, and DecoArt's "antique white" craft paint.  

You can get different effects, depending on your ratio of paint to powder.  Here, I've created a stucco that sets in stiff peaks.  A thicker stucco is better for tiny crevasses, as it generally sticks where you put it.

The so-called "bargain" craft brushes are often as nice or nicer as the really expensive ones.  Of course, it depends on the brush, but don't immediately discount those little packages.  I've gotten some good deals that way.

I started cladding the ground floor with brick, while I waited for the stucco to set up.  Greenleaf recommends waiting ten minutes after mixing the powder, and this is excellent advice.  If you start using it before it's set up, you may not be happy with the results--and, at the very least, they'll be inconsistent.

Working around this window took the better part of an hour.

More bricks...

I was extremely pleased with how everything was coming out.  One secret to success is staying away from strict black and white color schemes.  Bright white is a product of the modern age; for most of history, "white" was really off white.  Also, too, keep in mind that our notion of half timbering isn't entirely historically accurate.  The dark timbers we tend to think of as "tudor" originated in Germany.  German, Polish, and Czech builders rubbed their beams with creosote to preserve (and darken) them.  In England, however, builders tended to use whatever wood was on hand and let it darken naturally over time.  Many period examples are anything but black and white: silvery ash beams and colored stucco (even pink!) weren't uncommon.  Hm, maybe I should build another tudor-style house...

Almost at the halfway point...on one side.

Almost there!

These were a real pain in the butt to fill in.

And here's the finished product...on one side, anyway.  For right now, you'll have to imagine the windows.  They're coming, though--as is the brick!