A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

The following is a randomly selected newspaper headline from many years ago:

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I have also added a separate page to the blog for the Tower of Magic with a brief summary of all the rooms of the ToM in the one spot. The link is just below this and above the main body of the blog, or you can just click here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Bakery - Stage Two - Week Four

In this week's post, it would be far easier to meantion what I haven't done rather than list all the things that I have done! I started by making furniture for all three room, some air-clay wheels and a barrel (I'll explain this later), then polymer clay accessories (mainly pots and plates) and started embriodering a beadspread. The furniture was made from balsa wood, with a few wooden beads and staircase railing spindles for extra detail. The bedroom, which was going to has a large tester style bed, chest, cradle and other items, gets only a single bed and a nightstand, and it's not easy to fit just them in! Oh well, I guess the rest of the family will have to sleep in hammocks suspended from the ceiling or out on the balcony perhaps! The first floor furniture consists of a dresser, a table and benches and a settle/bench seat. Again, this is all that can be realistically squeezed into the space (alas, no spinning wheel!). The panelling on the settle was all done by hand by very carefully cutting grooves out of the wood. By some miracle, these grooves are mostly straight and even and the finished effect is quite passable. Downstairs in the shop, shelves are supported on wooden brackets and the bookkeeper now has a desk and a stool to work at. Once the shelves were in place, I added some of the loaves of bread I made earlier (while I was working on stage One)and instantly the shop started to look like, well, a shop. An inkwell which is actually a black pawn from a small plastic chess set with a feather for a quill pen as well as a book made from polymer clay left over from some long forgotten project were added to the bookkeeper's desk to almost finish the "shop" room. It now just needs people and a few finishing touches! The first floor is also starting to look 'finished'. The dresser shelves needed to be filled, so I made a range of plates (a couple of plain, a couple of decorative), half a dozen 'tankards' (although only a couple of these are for this space) and a couple of jugs out of polymer clay. The plates were made using moulds made from plates I had used in an earlier project with scupley mould maker. Both plates and tankards were painted with a 'wood' effect. The jugs/pitchers were given a stone effect paint to look like 'earthernware'. Both came up really well, but unfortunately my camera can't focus on small details up close and thus, I can't take a good photo of these to show you. Two vases/pots from barehaven miniature pottery help to fill the second shelf. Like the shop, this room needs an occupant and some other finishing touches such as a cushion or two on the settle. In the attic, I made a bowl and pitcher and a chamber pot for the nightstand from polymer clay and finished it in the same way as the 'earthernware' jugs on the dresser downstairs. The bowl is decidedly 'wobbly' but that aside, the nightstand is looking good. It needs a mirror of some kind and a hanging towel/cloth to be finished. The question is what sort of mirror. In a tudor house there wouldn't have been modern glass mirrors, but more likely mirrors would have been made of polished metal of some kind. I need to figure out what to use that will look right. The bed still needs a bedspread. This, I am attempting to embroider by hand. I found some medieval patterns online HERE and am using one to create the bedspread. While I had the polymer clay out, I also made fake hinges and handles for the doors. I know I promised at the start of this post to explain the wheels and barrel, but I'm out of time for the moment, hopefully I'll add another post explaining this soon!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Bakery - Stage Two - Week Three

Picking up where I left off last time, I painted the roof slate grey. By some miracle, I managed to paint only the roof slate grey (except for a couple of patches under the eaves!). More than that, I managed not to fall off the ladder while I was doing it (although there were one or two close calls!). As the house sits on a quite deep basement block, it stands a little too high to see what you're doing to the top of roof while standing on the floor, hence the two step ladder. Of course the other option was to lift the entire structure off the cupboard and onto the floor, but that would have been doing things the easy way! The roof was painted with a couple of coasts of dark grey, then given a coat of matte varnish. When that was dry I went over this with a lighter grey paint that was well watered down and used an old cloth to remove most of it. A very important tip is to only press straight down and remove the cloth straight up or you risk rubbing off the eariler coats of paint. I repeated the paint/sponge off process a couple of times until I was happy with the result and finished by giving the whole lot a couple more coats of matte varnish. I used the same grey as the roof's base coat to paint some thin cardboard that became the flashing around the chimney. Next, I pulled out some air clay and moulds made from sculpey mould maker of some things I thought would prove useful and played around. I used a mould of a wooden bracket to make some decorative brackets for the outside of the house. A mould made from a decorative bead was used for some square 'carvings'. A length of undyed braid soaked in my 'wood stain' paint mix became strips of 'carved wood' adorning the eaves, the beam between the ground and first floors and over the windows. A strip of 'gingerbread' trim bought from a dollshouse supplier last year for that I decided not to use for what I bought it for decorates the beam above the balcony. Some time ago when I made the ceiling light for the bakery itself, I made some extra candles and have now used these in some candle sconces made of balsa wood scraps and metal beads as light fixtures. After three weeks (well, three and a half really) the basic structure and decoration of the house is mostly finished. The roof is painted, extra beams have been added in the attic and decorative brackets and trim have been added to the exterior. There are a few small details that are yet to be attended to, these are mostly fall into three categories: "I need something I haven't got to finish it", "I want to make the furniture first before I make the final decision about it" and "I haven't figured out how to do it yet". This includes decorative door hinges and handles, chimney pots and apex trim on the roof. So for now at least, I'm saying that the construction phase is over and it's time to start working on the furniture. Now as usual, I want to add more furniture than there is space to put it. I'd love to do a large tudor style four poster or tester bed, but not only will it not fit under the slope of the roof, there won't be room for any other furniture in the attic. In fact any bed larger than a cradle won't leave a lot of space for anything else. On the first floor, I'd like a table and benches (where the inhabitants eat, prepare food, etc), a tudor style 'dresser' or cupboard of some sort, a settle and one or two people. If I put all that in I think it'll be piled up one ontop of the other! I guess next time I'll just have to make a larger house! Perhaps another castle?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bakery - Update

At long last I have decided on a name for the Bakery! It will be known as Becke's Bakery. 'Becke' is from middle high german and means 'baker'. Perhaps not a very original name, but very fitting.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Bakery - Stage Two - Week Two

I started the week with the quick and simple task of fixing the balcony railings in place. The 'spindles' are made from a wooden fan, cut down and stained to match. As I had already done the cutting and staining all I had to do was glue them in place and add a top/handrail of balsa wood. This took all of five minutes. The rest of the weekend was spent working on the roof. Having spent most of a week trawling the internet for pictures of tudor-ish houses for ideas as well as looking at miniatures sites for available products and how other mini rooves were created, I decided to tile my roof. Rather than spend a lot of maoney and wait a long time to buy premade tiles or tile sheets, I chose to make my own tile effect with paper clay. Actually, that should be I chose to TRY and make my own tile effect as there was no guarentee that I wouldn't end up placing an order for roof tiles after I made the attempt. I chose paper clay because it is lightweight and doesn't tend to crack when it dries as much as normal air-drying clay and is a lot cheaper to use than polymer clay. The disadvantage with it is that it remains so soft when dry - the first time a cat tries to climb on the roof it'll be torn to shreds! It's quite a steep roof, so maybe the blighters will have the sense not to try and curl up on it! I started by cutting pieces of foamboard the size and shape of each side of the roof and porch roof, cutting an opening for the chimney to pass through in the appropriate place. I finished the inside sides of the roof pieces the same as the walls. To be acurate, they should probably be finished to look like the underside of the tiles, but my way was easier and I can always change it later if I decide to. For the outside side of the roof, I started by rolling some paperclay into a rectangle a bit under 1/2cm thick the size of the roof panel. I spread some PVA glue on the piece of foamboard and laid the clay over the top. With wet fingers I carefully rubbed the clay until it was smoothed down and carefully curled over the sides of the foamboard. I then trimmed the excess clay off from around the edges. I pressed a plastic ruler on it's edge into the clay to make horizontal lines accross the roof marking the height of each row of tiles. I then sprinkled a little more water over the clay and wrapped it in cling wrap to keep it moist, leaving only the bottom row uncovered. A good tip here is don't use air drying clays in 30+ degree heat. I used a palette knife to press the top of the bottom row of tiles down along the ruler impression so that it looked like the bottom row emerged from under the row above (as tiles usually do). A blunted toothpick pressed (not dragged) into the clay marked out the horizontal lines to separate the row into individual tiles. I then peeled back the cling wrap and repeated the process on the next row, then the next, then the next . . . etc. All this was done 'by eye' without measuring. Some rows are higher than others, some tiles are wider than others and some are simply crooked. The plan is that the end result will look 'rustic' or 'traditional' rather than just plain crooked. This was repeated for all four roof sections. When the clay was dry, I gave it a quick coat of a grey blue acrylic stain. This is primarily to get rid of the white in the hard to reach places between tiles so that if later coats of paint miss a spot it won't show up as much as if it were still white. Next three of the roof panels were glued in place. The fourth panel, the left hand main roof, was glued on later, after I had cut a hole in it to allow access to the attic. The hole was careully cut along the lines formed by the grooves between the tiles so that when the cut out section is put back in the hole, the join will (hopefully) be almost invisible. The exposed edges of foambaord along the cut were given a thin coat of texture paste to help stop the foam from falling out of the board and toughen it up. The roof stills need painting, but that will have to wait until it's a little cooler, just enough so that the paint doesn't bake before I even get it onto the brush! I'm planning to make it look like a greyish slate as this will look better on a lavender house than, say, a terracotta tile. While waiting for various bits and pieces to dry, i also made the steps to connect the first floor to the attic. They are very steep; steps often seem to have been in times past. I really don't know how the miniature residents are supposed to haul a bed up them, but I have found a solution on how to put a big four poster in an attic. Click here to see the beds I want to try and copy . I still need to do some measuring and thinking, but I think something like that might work and it's such an obvious answer to the problem!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Bakery - Stage Two - Part Two

With the ground floor structure finished, it was on the the first floor. I was really surprised how fast things were going at this point as it was only the start of day two of work! After a little consideration I decided to lay the floor before placing the posts for the walls - it just seemed easier than cutting the floor around the posts. The floor is made from three strips of 4mm thick balsa wood with a faux floorboard effect. The floorboard look was achieved by using a ballpoint pen with no ink left in it. By running the pen over the balsa wood - just as though I you were drawing a line only pressing a little harder - you can create grooves that make the one piece of wood look like separate boards. This works just fine as long as you go with the grain of the wood. When you have to go accross the grain, be careful and always press gently or the wood will splinter. Once the wood for the floor was 'boarded' on both the top and bottom (the floor is also the dowstairs ceiling)it was stained and varnished. Lastly, using a pen with some ink in it this time I drew on the 'nails' at the ends of each board and applied another coat of varnish. The floor was then fitted in place over the ground floor beams. The posts and beams for the first floor were fitted in the same way as those for the ground floor. Rather than repeat myself, I'll just refer you to my earlier post The Bakery - Stage Two - Part One. The only difference here is that the majority of the posts are balsa wood rather than hard wood, mainly on account of the fact I was running short on the hard wood. The top floor/attic was constructed in the same way as the first floor with the floor being laid first, then the posts added. The differences were that a 'hole' was left in the floor for access from the lower level and that the posts, instead of going straight up, were angle together to form an 'A'. I thought very carefully about the angle of the 'A'. If it was too shallow, there would be no room inside, if it were too steep, the house would become too tall. From memory (and keep in mind I'm trying to remember more than a week - quite a hard ask) the angle I chose in the end was about 55 degrees. Whatever it actually was, it leaves a reasonable amount of 'head room' inside without being too high. Unfortunately, my vague plans of putting a grand four poster or half tester bed on the top floor probably won't work out, but then I don't suppose the miniature people could have carried such a big, bulky bed up all those stairs anyway! Next came the chimney and the walls. The chimney is merely cardboard painted mortar grey and then 'bricked' with my brick stencil and paste mixture. The bricks should be the same colour as the bricks in the basement block, but I ran out of that mixture back when I finished the basement's brickwork and there is no chance that I could ever mix the exact same colour again. Rather than spend hours trying to match the exact colour, I just mixed a reddish colour and hoped no one would notice. Perhaps the basement structure was already there when the house above was built, and so two different bricks were used? Perhaps a fire burned down the original structure? In any event, the chimney bricks are a much better colour than the basement bricks. While waiting for the sections of chimney to dry, I cut out the remaining walls. They were then given a thin coat of texture paste to resemble rough plaster. I prefer texture paste to something like polyfilla as it remains flexible when dry, unlike polyfilla which crumbles all too easily. The inside side of the walls were painted 'soft white'. For the outside, I didn't want to go with white - EVERYBODY makes white tudor style houses and I like what I do to be a little different. I have seen tudor houses painted soft yellow and light terracotta and thought it might try one of those colours, but soon discovered they clashed with the very pink basement bricks (that were supposed to be an orangey-red). I the end I chose a very pale lavender for the walls - it tones well with the pinkish bricks even if it is a long, long way from being an authentic colour. When finished both the chimney and most of the walls were glued in place. I cut 'window holes' in the three remaining walls before they too were put in place. Doors came next. Naturally, all three places I intended to put doors I had made different sizes requiring me to make three different-but-identical templates. The doors are again balsa wood, each door and it's surround cut from a single piece. I used the same technique on the doors as I did on the floors to make them look like they were made from a number planks. The doors open and close by pivoting on pins that pass through the top and bottom of the frame. Later on, I'll add some hinges and other door furniture to give the impression they work more like normal doors. The 'shop windows' on the ground floor were made and work in much the same way except they go up and down rather than in and out. With the doors in place I went to work on the windows. I stared each window with a basic rectangular frame that fitted exactly the hole in the wall left for it. For the large windows I added 'crossbars' inside the frame. Next I cut an acetate sheet to the same size a the frames and using faux leadlighting outliner in a pewter colour and a pattern drawn on a piece of graph paper to create the 'glass' for the windows. Once dry, the glass pannels were glued to the inside of the window frames and the windows glued in place in the house. Next came the fake beams on the walls that give the impression of an authentic tudor style building. I started with the strips around the windows as these help hold the windows in place. I then went on to add them on all the remaining walls, inside and out. Now we've almost caught up to where I am at the moment. I have cut out pieces of foam board for the roof, but am yet to decied whether to thatch or tile the roof and how to best achieve either effect. To finish the 'construction' phase of the house I also still need to add the balcony railing, the internal stairs, fake ceiling beams and a few decorative brackets. Then it will be on to the furniture, accessories and people!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Bakery - Stage Two - Part One

With all the chores of the Christmas season out of the way, I started work on Stage Two of the Bakery on Boxing Day. My first task was to make a firm decision on the layout of the house. Way back when I started the basement block (stage one) the plan was to have the oven on the side and the trapdoor access to the surface on the back wall, but somewhere along the way I changed the plan and swapped the position of the oven and trapdoor. This means that the chimney carrying the smoke from the oven in the basement had to run up the back wall of the house, not the side as I originally planned. I also originally planned to have the trapdoor emerging inside the ground floor shop, but no matter how I drew it, having the shop positioned over the trapdoor just didn't work, so in the end I left it outdoors. The trapdoor now emerges under the outside steps up to the first floor. This is probably a little inconvenient for the bakers, but the structure of the steps gives me somehting to attach the pulleys to so that the bakers can lift their bread out of the basement via a 'dumb waiter' type of system. So, with a new layout plan decided, I started work on the house. First came the 'framework'. I cut six posts (at 7" high) from 1/2" square stick of spruce wood to form the outline of the ground floor and to hold up the first floor. I drilled a hole in the top and bottom of each post and a hole in the 'ground' (the top of the basement block) where each post would go and used a piece of toothpick as a 'dowel' to help hold the posts in place. (The holes in the tops of the posts also hold toothpicks that pass through the beams above and into the first floor posts, but that comes later.) Next came the horizontal beams that connected the tops of the posts. These were made from balsa wood strips that I had 'stained' with a mix of watered down paint to look something like oak. I started with the two side beams which were - carefully - pushed over the toothpicks jutting up from the posts until the toothpicks emerged from the top. The remaining beams were then fitted and glued in place. This was the result: This photo is taken from the back left corner. The space between the back left post, the centre left post, the centre right post and the back right post is the space where the bakers shop will be. The next step was to make and fit the stairs to the first floor. These are again made from balsa wood. Normally when I make stairs like this I use lils (craft pins) to hold everything together. This works well, but leaves a metal 'nail head' showing along the side for each step. As I wanted my steps to be metal free, I used toothpicks again. The toothpicks are glued to the uderside of each step and then each end of the toothpick is poked through the side piece - which I think is what should be called the 'stringer'. The ends of the toothpick were then cut off. This makes the toothpick almost invisible, unless you happen to lie under the staircase and look up. With the stairs made, I positioned two more posts and used beams to tie them into the existing structure and fixed the stairs to the beams. As you can see in the photo, my current test dummy Naked Neville took a stroll about to see what he thought while the glue was drying. Before moving on to the next floor, I cut pieces of foamboard to act as the 'walls' and this next photo shows how effective adding walls can be! I'll add another post soon with the details of the first floor construction!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back on Schedule

Just a quick post to let everybody know that now the Christmas break is over I'm back to working on my normal schedule (which unfortunately also means I'm back to the grind at work) and should be back to adding a minimum of a blog post per week. Over the break, I made a flying start on the second stage of the Bakery, but I'll add that post in a day or two. In the meantime, I already have the photos of my progress so far on Flickr, so go take a look!