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Monday, May 28, 2012

The Staircase of Doom


In planning the layout of the Georgian house, everything hinged on the size, shape and orientation of the staircase.  The wider the stairs, the narrower the adjoining rooms.  Thus creating the staircase seemed the only logical place to start work on the house so I could determined the final sizes of the rooms.

Oh boy, was that ever a mistake.

The original plan was to have and grand staircase with an elegant sweeping curve to it.  No matter how careful the calculations, I find nothing I work out on paper is ever actually the same when built, so rather than spend hours trying to nut out the staircase, I pulled out a sheet of balsa wood and started cutting steps.  As soon as I began to assemble the stairs I realised there was no way that this staircase was going to fit into the house, not if I kept the study and second bedroom.  Neither of these rooms were part of the initial plan, in fact as little as two weeks ago I had no notition they may ever exist, but once the seed of the idea for each room was born they both became rooms I just had to have. 

So, big hall and grand stairs and no extra rooms or small hall and less impressive stairs with extra rooms?

I'm greedy, I really want it all, so I decided to try and scale down the grandness of the staircase just a little and still squeeze in the extra rooms.  I dismantled the staircase I'd already begun and started repositioning the steps to create a tighter curve, narrower treads.  Still too big.  I took it apart again and tried something different, still no luck.  Eventually I pulled out some spare ready made stairs that I think came out of the house I turned into Highcroft Castle (that's three castles ago) and cut them into various lengths, put landings in, added bends and took them away again.  With each attampt, the stairs became increasingly less and less grand and elegant and more dull and mundane.  And still, with every possible shape and size there was a problem - a doorway was blocked, there was insufficient head room to walk up the stairs, etc, etc.  In the end (a whole day later) I found myself reduced to a straight front to back run of stairs and a very narrow, unimpressive hall in which to put them.

I looked at what I had decided was the only staircase that left space for the extra rooms then closed my eyes and looked at the staircase in my mind, the one that was supposed to be in the house.  There was no comparision.  Clearly I had compromised far, by far too far, too much for the sake of the extra rooms.  It simply wan't good enough.  There was no choice left but to eliminate the extra rooms and go back to the original staircase.  Hey, I could always just build another level onto the top of the house and squeeze them in up there right?  Five floors isn't too many after all . . . . . .

So it was back to the balsa steps.  These were glued together to create a staircase with an elegant sweeping curve just like I'd started to make days earlier.  This is the result:


Imagine it painted to look like white marble with black iron railings.

Now at long last I had a staircase, I could layout the rooms within the shell of the house.  The hard part was over right?

Guess again.

I hate the house I was using for this project.  I've already renovated and redecorated it once.  I was happy with neither of it's previous incarnations.  In no small part this is due to the way the house was made.  It's very thin plywood walls and floors  and is only strong enough to hold together because of 1/2" square pine beams along every edge and corner.  Therefore every wall appears to be 5/8ths of an inch thich when viewed from the font, but the actual wall inside is 1/2" farther out than it looks.  Basically, it's ugly and worse, it's terribly awkward to work with.  The plan this time was to pad the walls out to the depth of the posts to create flat even walls with no jutting out posts.  I had some 1/2" thick polystyrene foam to use for this, but when I went to try it, it turns out that 1/2" and 1/2" can be two totally different depths.  Go figure.  The polystrene foam was somehow too thick despite being the same depth.  The house also has a big solid pediment accross the top of the middle floor.  With the changes I want to make, it'd be in entirely the wrong place so I tried to hammer, chisel and otherwise pry this off.  I broke one end away, but as for the rest I was closer to snapping the floor than shifting the pediment.  Yet at this point neither could it stay as it was because it was so damaged by my efforts.

Being at this point somewhat short of patience and having a huge amount of the polystyrene (salvaged from the packaging when my Mum bought a new bed last year) I decided the easiest way to proceed was to knock the old house apart competely and use the bottom floor as a base from which to build an entirely new house out of solid polystrene foam.  It seemed so much easier than trying to fix the numerous problems with the old house.  So after a few well placed knocks with a hammer, the house came apart and I started rebuilding it out of polystyrene.  While I was going I added an extra floor for the study and second bedroom and yet another for the basement kitchens.  I also increased the ceiling height of the main floors because they were a little on the low side before.  Dumb move that because the already constructed staircase was built for the lower ceiling height.  Not that that mattered as it turned out.

Yikes!  Suddenly I had a house as tall as I am!

It was one of those moments when you stand back, look at what you've done and think "Nuh-Uh, no way".  As one single unit it's just too big.  I realised I would have to cut it into at least two stackable parts and probably take out a floor as well.

And then a cat jumped ontop of it.

Some people have made houses out polystyrene foam and they work.  Obviously these people don't own cats.

The thousands of little beads of polystyrene that had acumulated while I cut few into the air and same down like snow and when the air had cleared, the cat had vanished and the walls and floors of the house were a broken crumbled mess.  So much for that plan.

At the end of the week, what do I have left?  I have the start of a swanky staircase and this:


A pile of walls and floors (with broken pediment still attached) hidden under a cupboard.  I have no house unless I re-assmeble this pile.  If I do that I'll have all the old problems back to haunt me yet again.  Broken Pediment, silly plywood and beam construction.  Is it worth it?  And if it's not, what do I do?  Draw up a design and cut a new house out of MDF?  I can't do that because a house that size would end up being too heavy to move.  The polystyrene foam obviously wasn't terribly practical.  By a new kit house?  Again, it'll be MDF, thus heavy, plus it'll be ridiculously expensive, won't arrive for weeks and when it does get here I'll need to totally change it anyway.  Give up on the idea of the Georgian house altogether?  But I already have all this furniture, most of it the expensive type, I can't just let it stay in the cupboard where most of it has been sitting for almost a year already.

I think the only practical solution to the hole I'm currently in is to go away and cry.  I really don't know what else to do.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Endings and Beginings


Whoa.  Such a lot has been going on this week it's hard to know where to start!  I guess the best place is at the end of the Dig Site.  As you can see, the columns have been given another repaint.  They look a lot less crazy now.  Instead of multi coloured stripes, they now have blocks of colour.  These pilars are (very loosely) modelled on "lotus flower" style pilars, which are meant to resmble an open lotus flower.  In keeping with this idea the main body of the pilar (i.e. the "stem" of the flower) is now green while the upper part (the "flower") is blue.  The pilars are accented with gold faux leadlighting outliner.


 This is not only an improvement on last week's look, but a vast improvement on the orgininal "lotus bud" style pilars.


 The Site is now finished.  At least for now.


 You may notice in some images Kiki (the mummy) has developed a distinct lean.  I think he must have been hitting the jars of wine that were entombed with him for the afterlife.  It's because one of his legs is shorter than the other.  I'll find a wedge I can slip under his foot and hopefully steady him up.


 I told you about the logs in the fire last week, but failed to take a decent photo of them.  Here they are at last.

Moving on to other things, Friday and Saturday saw the annual Doll, Bear and Miniature fair return to the Country Club Casino.  This is my haul:


Those of you out there who are DHE fans will recognise almost everything in the photo.  Of the dwindling number of dedicated miniature stalls (down to four this year) each of them had about 90% Dollshouse Emporium items.  It was overall very disappointing, absolutely no wallpaper or any kind of DIY items including scenic water, nothing in 24th scale (though there were some 48th scale items) and almost no cats!  Every year I go there to stock up on Scenic Water and cats, but alas! all I could get was the little tabby on the chaise who is a pretty low quality polyresin job.  Still, I did manage to spend lots of money.  Almost all of this is destined to go into the Georgian house.  The desk, though lovely, strikes me as being more suited to a later period in history, so I might save if for something else.

And speaking of the Georgian house  . . . . . I have at long last started to work on it!


This is the shell of the house with all the old decoration stripped out of it.  You can see the remanants of the last two decorations schemes in this shot.  Let's hope it's third time lucky for this house.  Below is a diagram of the new layout I have in mind for the house:

I'm not sure whether it will stay like this or if I'll move the Hall/staircase over to one end.  If I do it means putting fake doors in the back walls to connect the rooms.  If I leave the Hall in the middle, the rooms can connect though doors in the side walls.  I am also going to add a basement area for a kitchen and other "domestic" rooms such as a larder, scullery, dairy, etc.  I'm still doing a lot of thinking about how the layout will (or won't) work.

And finally, some more photos of the Dig Site just because:












Thursday, May 17, 2012

. . . . Where'd Everybody Go?

I logged into my Dashboard this morning to see what was happening amongst my fellow Bloggers . . . . only to be told by Blogger that I wasn't following any blogs!

It's obviously another of Bloggers famous mystery faults.  Has it struck anyone else?  If so, did the list of blogs you're following come back on it's own after a while or should I start madly hunting down all the blogs I had been following and re-follow them?  Thanks.

OK . . . never mind, all the blogs seem to have come back on their own.  Phew!

I need to dig up some blogs to follow!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Mummy Returns


Another week, another pair of pilars.  These two are definately an improvement over the originals, nowhere near as lumpy and uneven . . . . . It's just too bad some idiot painted them in a colour scheme that works best within circus tents.  And the bullseye pattern on the bases is just too much.  But guess what?  I don't know what other colours would look better, so for the time being at least they are staying as they are.  The area over the door is decorated with a fridge magnet depecting an Egyptian style head.  On the whole, the inside space of the Dig Site just hasn't cooperated or gone to plan at all.  I should have been less ambitious and just done an outside scene and skipped the inside bit.


On the plus side though, Kikerikotep (just call him Kiki, it's easier) has turned out wonderfully.  Since last week he's had his wrappings "dirtied" up a little more through the application of a couple of layers of brown paint that had been watered down a little.  Somehow he looks more cheerful than menacing so maybe he has those red eyes not because he possesses some sort of evil power but simply because he's been awake for the past two thousand years.


Right outside the door, Wil now holds a lantern in one hand and a pistol in the other, ready to peer through the hole he's chipped in the door and discover what lies within.  The first thing he'll see is Kiki . . . good thing he's got his gun ready then?  His lantern is a piece of acetate sheet cut into a cross shape and then folded to create a box.  Faux leadlighting outliner covers the corner joints as well as the top and bottom to create the impression of a metal structure/frame.  A loop of black wire pushed into the faux lead while it was still wet creates a handle while a red glass seed bead acts as a flame within.


 The Site is now more or less finished.  The space between Wil, Agnes and Aldo seems a little empty, as does the space between the first two sections of pilar, but I can't think what to put there


 I seem to have managed to forget to take agood photo of it, but one of the finishing touches I've added are logs on the fire.  The logs are bits of real firewood scrounged from the bottom of the woodpile.  I held them over a candle to char them a little then added them to the fire.  In the past I've used black paint to give logs a charred, burned look, but the real thing looks so much more convincing.


 All the lose parts (tools, snakes, arefeacts, cups, etc) have been fixed in place with Tacky Wax.  You may notice Rashid now has hair.  I realised one of the reasons he didn't look right was that he didn't have ears!  (oops!)  That solved the to wig or not to wig debate as I had to cover up his lace of auditory organs once I'd discovered it.  His hair turned out messy and I'm still not entirely happy with him.


 A cheeky little bird has perched atop the bust of Nefertiti.  Let's hope he keeps his bowels under control for the duration of his stay on the priceless artefact.


The entire scene is covered by a clear perspex cover.  No sooner had I glued the pieces together to create said case than a cat decided it looked like a good place to stretch out for a while.  At least now I know the cover is Strong.



So, now do I start work on the Georgian at last?



Monday, May 7, 2012

Show Me The Mummy!


After a week of wrapping, stuffing, stitching and glueing the people of the Dig Site are finished!  All four have head & shoulders, lower arms and lower legs made from polymer clay connected by a wire armature (frame or skeleton).  Their 'bodies' are made of foam wrapped around the wire armature with a little extra polyester fill stuffing down their trousers to give them more shapely legs.  They all wear clothes made out of various cotton fabrics.


This is Rashid.  He's the team's local guide and translator.  Yes, his head is too big.  I was going to leave him bald, but I may go back and give him some hair to see if this makes his head look less out of proporition.  His sandals are made from leather while his clothing is made from a cotton fabric.



Aldo is the most experienced member of the team with a lifetime of treasure hunting under his belt.  His hat is absoulutely the best one I've ever made and I'm now thinking that if I ever get around to making that dress shop it will have to have an extensive millinery section.



Agnes is the only woman of the group and perhaps the most keen to get to work.  She even wears some tools on her belt to help her excavate the ruins.  Her wig is a pre-bought one made by Heidi Ott.



Wil, short for William, is the leader of the group.  You saw his hat and gun last week; they were bought online.  His belt, braces and holsters are real leather. His shirt, like Agnes', has seed bead buttons.



And finally, there is one more "person" at the Dig Site. . . . . 


The Mummy, I call him Kikkerikotep, is a 6" high plastic skeleton wrapped in strips of calico.  Once he was fully wrapped he was painted with a mix of glue, water and brown chalk paint to fix the wrappings in place and start to give them an aged look.  The wrappings will still need a little more aging before he's finished.  His eyes are red glass seed beads.


You may have noticed that I've ripped out the columns by the door.  I will have another go at making some new columns.  Once I've done that and cleaned up the mess I've made of the back wall, the Dig Site will be very close to finished.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Giveaway Prize Draw!

Thankyou everyone who entered the 150 Follower giveaway draw.  It's now time to announce the lucky winners!

Draw One: Magical

The lucky winner of the Magical selection is:             Norma


Prize Two: Lady's Selection



The winner of the Lady's Selection is:      Luisa



 Congratulations Norma and Luisa.  Please let me know your postal address by sending an email or commenting on this post.