A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

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

Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to leave a comment. I assure you I always read and appreciate everything you have to say. Unfortunately, thanks to Blogger being, well . . . Blogger, I can not respond to comments nor leave any on your blogs. They simply disappear into the ether. Occasionally I will remember to respond in the next blog post I put up, but usually these good intentions slip my mind. So if you want to ask a question or get a response to any comments you may have please leave an email address or other contact method in your comment and I will get back to you.

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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Knight Time

For weeks everytime I've walked past the local newsagent I've stopped to look in their front window.  They have a magnificent knight in armour on horseback that is just about right for 1/12th scale.  The only reason it's still in their window (rather than in mine) is that he's $70.00.  He's also on horseback, meaning I would have to extend Highcroft to include an outdoor 'field' for him to ride about in.  Today, I went past and found that they had some new knights on display, also right for 1/12th scale and much more reasonable at only $15 each.  I figured I could spare $30 and buy a couple for the castle, but when it came down to it, I just couldn't choose between the three different styles, so I bought one of each.

I can imagine the two holding halberds (?) as guards flanking a doorway somewhere.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Look

I've been playing with blogger draft's new template designer to give my blog a make-over. Overall, the template designer is easy to use and the results are quite good. My only complaint is that there doesn't seem that there is a way to use your own picture as a backdrop, you have to choose from one of bloggers images. I guess this is just as well really, I doubt I have any photos as spectacular and impressive as the ones on offer anyhow. I've also added a new page to this blog. It's called Links and you can access it by simply clicking on the Links tab at the top of the page. It contains a complete list of online dollshouse stores based in Australia as well as some international stores and other places of note.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Seven

I haven't had much time to work on Highcroft this week, so haven't much to blog about. I did start to adapt the top floor dormer windows into something more castle-like, got as far as pulling the original windows apart and then had to go and do something else and never got back to them. Instead I made a start on the arch surrounds at long, long last. The surround for the triple arches in the Great Hall was made from air-drying clay using a template of the arches I made before installing the back wall in the castle. The clay should now be dry - I just need the time and courage to put the surround against the arches to see if they are the right size and shape or not. For the arched doorways at either side of the Great Hall, I used regular air-drying clay mixed with paper clay. The reason for this is that normal air-drying clay tends to crack as it dries, paper clay doesn't. Normal clay dries hard, paper clay dries sort of soft and spongey. By mixing the two, I hope to get a non-cracking, hard-drying clay. So far it seems to have worked resonably well, at least there hasn't been a disasterous chemical reaction from mixing the two types of clay. I made the arch surrounds using a cardboard template to get the appropriate size and shape and then glued the clay to the wall before it was dry so it could be 'moulded' to the walls for an exact fit. a lion's head adorns the top of each arch (made from a mould made from a lion ornament). Still waiting attention are the doorways in the tower, which will need a different template drawing up as the one I used in the Hall is too big/tall for the space available in the tower. Once they are done, all the arches will need painting. The question is; what colour? Probably 'stone' to match the other stonework in the castle. I made a start on the top floor 'royal bedchamber'. I had been using this a convienent shelf for tools, bottles of glue and general junk I had been using in other areas of the castle, so started by cleaning it out and discovered it was so neglected it had a spider living in it. Urk. That tended to, I covered the ceiling with some pearly white wallpaper (for a full sized house) I pinched off my mum. The problem now is what to do with the walls. Given their state (having been decorated once already and stripped) it will be best to paper them to cover the imperfections, but what paper to use? I think there is enough of the paper I used on the ceiling left to cover the walls. This has the advantage of being neutral and hardwearing. I also have some cream paper with gold 'swirls' which is also quite neutral and subtle, but is only very thin, so will need some backing and will probably be hard to fix in position without marking the paper. I haven't had a chance to go through my collection of fabrics, but I suspect, like most of my papers, they will be too 'patterned' and look too much like Victorian wallpaper to work in a Castle setting. Another possiblity is to 'panel' the walls in wood or in clay scuplted to look like wood. At the moment it's a case of too many choices but none of them are quite right.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Six

The weekend was a pretty busy time down here in Tasmania. There was the state election, the annual Duck Race and of course the annual Doll, Bear and Miniature fair in support of the Eskleigh home. Now in it's fifth year, it was billed as bigger and better than ever, but frankly I was a little disapointed. The miniatures side of the fair was always in the minority, but of the thirty-five stalls, there were only five selling miniatures of any kind. For the most part the miniatures they had on offer were full price rather than the usual sorts of stock clearance discounts found at earlier fairs. In fact I could buy some of the items on offer a lot cheaper from stores online and that includes the cost of postage. All this is just as well really because disapointing or not, I still spent more than enough money! This mostly went on small but expensive items like cats and some toby jugs. As usual there was little to be found that was designed for a pre-victorian era setting. Inbetween browsing the fair and trying to decide which politicians would mess things up the least, I did get some work done on Highcroft. I set the main goal for the week to be getting the tower and stairs permanently fixed to the top of the 'basement box'. This seems an easy enough task, until I tell you that before I did this I wanted to tile the floor in the 'passage' that connects the stairs, tower and main building and before I do this, I need to build the steps from the main building to the tower unit and before doing this I thought it best to paint the outside of the basement box. Largely, all this means is that I spent a lot of time waiting for stuff to dry: the glue holding the stairs together, the paint on the box, the clay for the tiles. The tiles were made from air-drying clay in terracotta in the same way as the tiles for the floor of the lowest level of the tower. While waiting things to dry, I worked on the main building exterior and the fireplaces in the main hall and kitchen. There is now a front door instead of a gaping hole and stained glass in the lower windows. For the fireplaces I added 'hoods' to all three and generally finished them off (except for adding fires to them). This means that the great hall construction/decoration is almost finished, I just need to add 'frames' around all the arched doorways, lights and a little trim here and there and the room will be ready to have furniture added! The tower rooms, kitchen and treasury are similarly well advanced, needing between them a strong door, arch 'frames', steps and a little touch up paint. I haven't decided yet, but my next goal will either be to make all the arch 'frames' for the many doorways or to finish the exterior of the tower.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Five

This week I've been focusing on the tower and stair structures. The staircase (which was made last week) has now been filled, sanded and painted with a 'stone' paint. The back wall of the stair tower is simply a piece of stiff cardboard wrapped around the back half of the stairs. Before it was attached to the stairs, it was decorated with stone look and suede papers. The stone paper is not as effective as the stencil-and-paste stone effect used on the main building of the castle, but is quicker, easier and cheaper and by the time a few windows and wall hangings have been added you won't see that much of it anyway. The tower had been assembled in a dry build held together with tape. This week it was dis-assembled so that the walls, floors and ceilings could be decorated before it was permanently glued together. The walls of the upper two floors were covered with the same stone paper as used in the stairwell, while the lower floor was half covered in the same suede paper as the lower part of the stairs. (If you're wondering why it's only half covered, it's because I ran a little short. Hopefully the store still has some more of the same. The two pieces will join as the back of the room, where a fake door will be placed, covering up most of the join). Some brackets made of air drying clay were glued into position around the walls to help support the ceilings/floors of the tower. Then the round floors were glued in place as the walls were wrapped around them. The whole lot was held tightly together with more tape while the glue dried. The exterior of both structures is still untouched. I think perhaps I might add a layer of paper machie on the outside before adding the final decoration for extra strength. I should finish the outside with the same paste and stencil stonework as I used for the main building, but I don't have anywhere near enough of the paste left and the stencil has been so well used it has buckled, parts of it no longer being flat which makes it hard to use without stone paste bleeding under it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Four

I set a goal for this week - finish the front facade. Needless to say I didn't quite make it, but did come close. Having already 'stoned' the front, all that remained was to add the windows, door, a handrail to finish off the stairs and some vines to climb the walls. I covered the front of the castle with cling wrap and made the upper windows and door surround in situ from air drying clay. Once they had started to dry, the cling wrap made it easy to lift them out to dry thoroughly and paint before glueing them in position. The theory was that by making the windows in the window openings, they would be a perfect fit. Unfortunately I was forced to use a different, cheaper brand of clay than I have used before as that is all my local craft store is keeping nowadays and the awful stuff shrank something shocking! The windows and door surround ended up too short for their openings, but oddly are still the right width. Oh well, at least they didn't crack. My plan is to add a strip of wood (or card) that has been painted with my stone paint in the gap so that it will (hopefully) blend in with the wall and be unnoticable. The windows were glazed with some metal mesh painted black (to simulate leading) infront of mirror paper. I chose the mirror paper as opposed to a clear plastic for a couple of reasons. First, I am currently a little short on acetate sheet or other suitable window material. Secondly, the interior will be set in the evening so you would expect light (from the chandeliers etc) to shine out through the window. By using mirror to reflect light, you get much the same effect. Lastly, using mirror enables me to cover over the window entirely from the inside. As I have re-jigged the front to lift off rather than swing open, the inside of it will never really be seen and will need to be hardwearing so as not to be damaged by whatever it is lent against while not in position on the castle. Thus simply covering over the back of the windows is the easiest path and will help them not to be accidentally knocked out from behind at some point in the future. The lower windows are the original bay windows from the house, they have simply been turned upside down and had some 'trim' cut to look like creneallations added to what is now the top. The idea for using the original windows came from looking at pictures of 'Cumberland Castle' from the Dollshouse Emporium. The large, bay type window that comes with the kit reminded me of an upside down bay window . . . as I had a couple of bay windows . . . well, it was worth a try! I think they look quite effective, but have yet to decide whether to use clear 'glass', 'leading', mirror or leadlighting to glaze them with. The only snag is that with the stairs turned around as they are, anyone walking up them will need to bend over to avoid knocking their head on the bottom of the windows! The last thing done to the front was the addition of 'vines' of plastic pondweed (for fishtanks). This helps cover the gaps where the windows shrunk, the placed where the stone bled under the stencil and all the other flaws. As I said I still haven't quite finished the front and still need to do the following: add a door, add a handrail to the steps, glaze the lower windows and maybe add some flowers to the vines. When not working on the front facade this week, I have been starting to work on the 'tower' section of the castle. It's base is a pre-bought storage cube (the same as I used for the basement of the 'Bakery'). As this was too tall for purposes, I cut the sides down by about two inches, but must have measured something very poorly as when assembled, the cube was still too high! I then cut a notch out the side where it will meet the doorway from the main building into which steps will be 'sunk' to create access from one part of the castle to the other. On top of this base will be two conjoined structures; the main tower itself and a smaller tower housing the spiral staircase that gives access to the higher reaches of the tower. Both will be round. I decided to make the staircase as one unit first so that I could then make the tower and match the floor heights to the heights of the landings on the stairs. After calculating the height the stairs were supposed to be, how large a diameter they could have (etc) I came up with a step template to cut thirty-two steps from. Each step is actually two pieces of balsa wood sandwiched together to achieve the right height, so that meant cutting out sixty-four pieces of balsa wood! Unlike the first time I tried to cut out a spiral staricase, this time I managed to cut out all the steps without trying to cut my finger off in the process! Once all the steps were cut out and the two pieces of each step glued together, the staircase was assembled by glueing and pinning each step in position around a 'column' of one inch diameter balsa wood dowel. Despite my careful calcualtions, the landings that give access to the tower did end up at slightly different heights to those I had intended - this is exactly what I had expected and why I made the stairs first. I had found some 5mm thick MDF circles in the craft store and planned to use these as the floors/ceilings in the tower, the problem was how to make a curved wall to wrap around them. I solved this problem by using something called 'presentation board'. Close inspection reveals this is the stuff real estate For Sale signs are made of. It is made of two thin sheets of rigid plastic held apart by plastic struts that run the length of the board. By carefully cutting the solid sheet on one side along every 'channel' made by the truts, but not the struts or far side I created a strong board that curved. I then wrapped the board around the circular MDF pieces, temporarily holding them in place with sticky tape to create a round tower. The front of the tower is still open, but this will be finished off with another section of board that will be removeable to provide access to the tower.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Highcroft Castle - Week Three

Still being fed up with stonework, I decided to start work on the interior of the Great Hall this week. Having been too busy lately to sit down and think things through properly, I pretty much made up the plan for the Hall as i went along by rummaging through my cupboard and shelves until I found something that would work. Normally when I decorate a room I start with the ceiling, then the walls and cover the floor last. Although I haven't quite figured out the ceiling yet, I do know that I am going to do an ornate panelled ceiling that I will assemble outside the house/castle and install as one piece when it's finished. This means that it will be easier to add the ceiling after finishing the walls. As I wanted to add a 'fake' wall at the back of the room to create the impression of a corridor beyond with flooring that continued under the wall, I decided to start with the floor and reverse my usual order of decoratiion. I considered (very breifly) using more of my stencilled stone for the floor, but as I've said, I'm sick of doing that, so quickly dismissed the idea. Next I considered using teracotta tile and pulled out some terracotta coloured air drying clay. After playing with the clay for a few minutes to see how much it would cover when rolled flat, I decided I didn't have enough for the whole floor, but did cover a piece of round MDF I'm planning to use as a floor in the 'tower' section of the castle when I get as far as working on the tower. By adding grooves in a grid pattern, I created the look of a tiled floor. Now I just have to hope that the tower will work as I hope it will when I get around to building it! With tiles dismissed, I went through my collection of assorted floor papers. There was plain floorboard (a little dull), leftover parquet floor (not enough), various carpet (not enough and not very great hall-ish), ornate victorian style tiles (too Victorian and again not enough) and lastly some black and white chequerboard scrapbooking paper. This paper was absoultely perfect and there was just enough left (this paper having been left over from the first time I decorated the house!). I gave it a couple of coats of spray gloss and (after cutting it to fit of course) stuck it into place with double sided tape. Next job to tackle was the walls. I started by cutting the back wall out of foamboard and cutting the arched openings and two fireplace openings from this piece. At this point I realised the probably wan't enough height for the balcony/gallery that was going to run accross the upper back wall. For the time being I've left them out, but may add two smaller balconies in the back corners of the room later on. I had been considering creating a wood panelled effect for the hall and as a test run decided to try a panelled wall in the corridor behind the 'back wall' as it would be at the back and largly obscured by the back wall, so if it didn't look good, maybe no one would really notice when it was finished. I found some pieces of oak veneer (left over flooring from my last castle) and stuck these pieces to a piece of sturdy cardboard. Next I cut strips of balsa wood and glued them over the veneer in a grid to create a panelled look. Lastly the whole thing was stained with watered down brown paint and sealed with gloss varnish. When glued in postion with the fake back wall in front, the panelling is quite effective, but I don't think with would work so well if you could see the walls more clearly. Plus, I didn't have anywhere near enough veneer to cover all the walls this way. So it was back to rumaging, but I couldn't find anything that really seemed to work, until I remembered the embossed paper I had used on the ceilings of Madame Bellerose's house. Beacuse I was worried about crushing the pattern, I had stored this away in a different place to my other papers and it took a while to find it, but when I did I realised this was perfect for the castle. There wasn't enough to cover the walls floor to ceiling, but I think that would have been too much anyway. I painted come pieces of thin cardboard cut to size for the top half of the walls in a beige stain. The embossed paper was the wrong colour, so I gave it s couple of coats of acrylic stain in ruby and went over that with a rub on paint in silver to highlight the pattern of the paper. All this was then stuck on the walls. I was going to show you a picture of the result of all this here, but Blogger seems to be having an issue adding photos again, so if you want to see the Hall, you'll need to broswe over to my flickr account ).HERE I still need to add a rail/beam around the walls where the two wall papers meet and of course finish around the arches and the fireplaces. Lastly, I need to create a ceiling and the basic decoration of the Hall will be finished! After what seemed like an eternity of stenciling stone, I finally feel like I am making progress! (just don't tell me that I still have to finish that stonework