For those who happen to be miniature stone masons, this article will be of no interest to you.
For everyone else, read on.
I love the look of real stone, and feel like nothing else--no faux finishing, however skilled--captures the same texture, solidity, and interest. I, however, have no masonry skills whatsoever. Which, really, is why I like Richard Stacey modeling dust. It's made from real brick or real stone, so it gives completely realistic results. Just build your model and paint it on.
This product is generally very easy to work with. However, there are a few tips and tricks to getting the best results. Luckily, it's extremely economical, so you can afford to experiment a little. In the pictures below, I'm using the gault dust.
First, prepare your pieces. I like to do all my pieces at once. Every time I mix up my powder, it's just a little different, and doing everything at the same time--more or less, anyway, this can be a time consuming process--ensures unity. The ONE exception to this is pieces that'll be much easier to finish separately. My fireplace (see the previous post for pictures) is one such piece. I'm going to paint the columns, and the "stone" behind them, before attaching them to the mantelpiece. Give everything a final sanding, but don't feel like you have to go totally nuts.
Now, lay everything out, where it'll be easy to work for an extended period of time.
Now, mix Aleene's tacky glue and water. I usually use a ratio of roughly 2/3 glue to 1/3 water. You want the glue to be soupy, but not totally watery. There are different opinions about glue, but I think Aleene's works best. Now, add gault powder into the mixture (use a disposable cup!) until it has roughly the consistency of ceiling paint. If you're unsure, brush a bit onto a piece of test wood. It should go on thickly but evenly. If the mixture pills, or is difficult to brush, you've added too much modeling dust. If, conversely, it's runny, and you can see the wood grain right through it, you've added too little. Play around a little--you'll find the right balance.
Start painting your first coat on everything. I apply the same rule here that I do to paint: two, or even three thin coats is preferable to one thick coat. It takes longer, but you'll be happier with the results. For this project, I'm using three brushes: a 1" bright, a smaller filbert, and a very small detail brush. I'm using the detail brush to paint the fleur de lis and the undersides of the wall toppers.
Here, I'm painting just the turned portions of the columns. I'll paint the rest of the columns after they're installed. Remember which surfaces you're painting, and which you're leaving blank!
Here's everything, drying after a first coat.
Here's another view. Give that first coat PLENTY of time to dry. This stuff will seem dry long before it actually is. In the meantime, store your excess mixture!!! I like to put my cup, whole, inside a zipper bag.
Here are the columns, ready to be installed.
You may see some grain raise after your fist coat. That's OK, just sand it down with a sanding sponge. I like 3M sanding sponges in "medium".
Here are the fleur de lis after one coat.
The fireplace is almost ready for final assembly. Once everything's together, I'll apply the final coats.
And here it is, drying. I used more of the same tacky glue to attach everything. I also took advantage of downtime to put a second coat on this side of the fireplace. Everything can dry at the same time.
This is the underside of the peak, after I've sanded and applied a second coat (which is drying, hence the slightly uneven appearance).
Don't get freaked out by uneven color. It'll be tough to fully appreciate the final color until after everything's had a chance to dry. One way to avoid bizarre color striations--although there's an argument that they add to the realism of the piece--is to make sure your mixture is thoroughly mixed. Over time, it'll tend to separate. Keep stirring occasionally!
Here's another close-up.
This is the top of the wall after one coat.
Here's a comparison between the wall with one coat, and two coats. The second coat is still very wet.
It's getting there!
Here's another close-up of the wall.
I'll keep you updated on my progress! After I've finished with the inside, and the major installations, I'll start working on the facade. I'm excited!