A Randomly Selected Newspaper Headline:

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

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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.

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