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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ignore this post. It's pure rant and drivel.

Tomorrow is Launceston Cup Day and for some parts of Tasmania, that means it's partly a public holiday in parts of Tasmania.  Confused?  Try reading this:

All day – Municipal areas of Break O’Day, Dorset, George Town, Glamorgan-Spring Bay (north of and including Cranbrook), Launceston excluding Launceston City centre and suburbs specified in Item 2 of Part 2, Meander Valley excluding suburbs and townships specified in Item 2 of Part 2, Northern Midlands, Southern Midlands North of but not including Oatlands, West Tamar excluding townships specified in Item 2 Part 2.

From 11am – Launceston City centre and the following suburbs and townships: Alanvale, Blackstone Heights, East Launceston, Elphin, Franklin Village, Glen Dhu, Inveresk, Invermay, Killafaddy, Kings Meadows, Mayfield, Mowbray, Mowbray Heights, Newnham, Newstead, North Riverside, Norwood, Prospect, Prospect Vale, Punchbowl, Ravenswood, Riverside, Rocherlea, St Leonards, Sandhill, South Launceston, Summerhill, Trevallyn, Vermont, Waverley, West Launceston, West Riverside, Youngtown.
What is really odd about the holiday is that it is in honour of the Launceston Cup, so why does Launceston only get half a day while places farther away get the whole day?  Strike that.  Actaully what's really, truely and completely odd about the holiday is that it is in honour of a horse race?  I know it's Australia, but is a sports event really that important?  Why not a holiday for the football and cricket too then?

Welcome New Followers

A Warm welcome to the two newest followers of the blog, Sharon Larkin and Angeles. I can't find a blog for Sharon, but you will find Angeles' here : http://elrincondebaldu.blogspot.com/. Google translate has decided to act up on me so I can't say much about her blog, but I love those bottles!
Remember a few weeks ago I tried to show you images of some of the ideas I had for Starcaster's layout, but couldn't make them upload to blogger properly? Well, for some reason they are working just fine now. The images are a little outdated now given much of the changing of mind that has been going on, but in case anyone is interested, here they are.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week Three

The week started with yet more clay as the centre front panel was completed. I should have then kept working with the clay to cover the two half round tower structures that adorn both side walls but quite frankly couldn't face up to the thought of yet more clay. So the current plan is to paint these to match the crenellations and hope of the best. If it looks odd, I can always come back and go over them with clay to match the walls later.

With the clay work finally behind me (for now) I eagerly made a start on painting the stonework. After trimming back the excess clay to allow the crenellations and other features to fit ptoperly, I started with a couple of coats of light grey to hide the multicoloured clays used and to become the mortar between the stones. Next I dry brushed a medium brown and various greys over the stones. The results of this are what you see in the photo. I still need to do some more painting to lighten the overall colour of the stones and to pick out some individual stones in different colours and then, well, whatever I figure it still needs to look right.

I have (I hope) made a final decision about the interior layout, now I just need to decide on the decoration of the rooms, which is proving about as hard as deciding what the rooms will be and how to acess them was. I've decided to have two bedrooms, one at either end of the middle level and have one masculine and one feminine. Hopefully the feminine room will be suitable to display some of the lovely items I won in Linda's blog giveaway before Christmas. In between them will be the Library. It's walls should be lined with shelves of books, but between doorways, a fireplace and the stairs up to the next floor I'm wondering if there will be enough bookselves to justify calling the room a library, I may have to downgrade the room to a study.

Above the Library will be the magic room. As I have male and female bedrooms I had thought I might divide this room in two and have a masculine table of spells and potions and a feminine table of the same. Again, I don't think there will be quite enough room for two separate areas, so maybe one long table with a jumble of both styles? One member of the household will be researching dragons, so have dragon eggs, teeth, diagrams, skeletons and perhaps a couple of small live specimens.

Downstairs on the ground floor will be the entrance hall, dining room and kitchen. The high ceilings on this level enable me to alter the floor heights of the rooms. The kitchen will be a step or two up from the hall and have a faux cellar or maybe dungeon underneath. On the back wall of the entry hall will be a faux door raised up several steps from the floor level.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week Two

Castle Starcaster - Week Two
Originally uploaded by Alennka
Another week . . . more clay.  Lots more clay.  It seems I'm slowing down with the clay and impress mould work as this week all I've finished are the two side front panels.  I haven't used or handled the impress moulds for a couple of days now, but I can still see the impression of their handles on one finger.  Once that divet clears up and I can type without the tips of my fingers tingling each time they impact a key I'll move ahead and work on the centre front panel and the two half round towers that hook over each side.  Maybe this time next week I'll have all the clay stonework finished.  Maybe.

I have two new followers to welcome to the blog.  Erica is a fellow Australian and has a few different blogs.  Her main blog is http://dragonfragments.blogspot.com/ while her dedicated miniatures blog is Miniatures:  http://grimoire-miniatura.blogspot.com/.  If you're a fan of Terry Pratchett, or simply of fantasy, be sure and take a look at her Library complete with oragutan Librarian.

The other new follower is Teddy.  Although Teddy doesn't seem to have his own blog, those of you who have found your way here from the DHE forums will be familiar with his fantastic work (and thanks to Bluebird for refering him here).  Work on Teddy's own castle has been forced to grind to a halt lately and he has been living vicariously by following the castles of others.  So for his benefit and for those of you looking for ideas for your own castles, here is a random selection of blogs featuring castles or castle type structures:




Two weeks ago I drew my giveaway and announced the winner was Cyndy.  Cyndy has yet to get in touch with me at let me know her address or even to acknowledge the prize.  She has no blog of her own.  I have tried sending an email from the email link on her profile, but still have no response.  Does anyone out there know Cyndy and how best to get in contact and let her know she's won?   I'll give Cyndy a few more weeks to make contact before I either send the prize to the second place entrant or hold a new draw.  Anybody know the protocol for unclaimed giveaways?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Castle Starcaster - Week One

Well, what can I say? Pressing a mould into clay over and over and over and over and over again for hours on end is rather boring. In fact it is incredibly, mind numbingly boring. The results, however, are worth the effort.

I use a mix of paperclay and ordinary air-dry clay, one pack of paper clay and half a packet of air clay. Once thoroughly mixed the clay is rolled out into a thin sheet (about 1-2mm thick) and large enough to cover the entire wall. PVA glue is then spread over the wall and the clay sheet pressed over it and trimmed to size. I then added the stone effect using Impress Moulds made by Malcom's Miniatures. Each set of stone moulds consist of half a dozen individual moulds, each creating a stone of different dimensions. The stone moulds look like little plastic mallets from side on, but when the end is pressed into the clay the result is a single stone block. By using the moulds in random arrangements a random stone pattern is achieved but it takes time. To give you an idea, the wall in the foreground of the above photo took about three and a half hours to complete.

Despite the many times I paused while working with the moulds and thought "Wouldn't it be better just to buy some stone look paper?" I persevered and worked slavishly on the outside walls of the castle until all the side walls of the castle were finished. Now all I have to do are the three front panels and those funny little round tower bits on either side. And some of the inside rooms. Maybe. The finished stonework is not perfect but never the less looks good. The effect of the moulds and clay is much more realistic than either paper or stencils and probably only bettered by genuine stone slips. Once all the stonework is finished, the stones will have to be painted to complete the effect. At the moment the plan is to make them light grey.

For those of you planning to use air drying clay, I'll share a few tips. When rolling the clay out, use a plastic rolling pin (a piece of PVC pipe works well) or a wooden rolling pin covered in plastic as the clay tends to stick to wooden rolling pins. Approach the clay like a baker. When you roll out dough you dust the table with flour first to prevent the dough sticking. Do the same with clay, but use talcum powder instead of flour. If you find the clay sticking to the moulds, use more talc to dust the moulds the same way you might use flour to dust biscut cutters. Measure and mark out a horizontal line every 10cm to help keep your stonework level. Use cling film to cover the areas of clay you're not working on to keep it moist until you're ready for it. If the clay starts to dry out, use a spray to lightly mist the clay with water, but be sparing. The more water added to the clay, the greater it's tendancy to crack.

Finally for today, welcome to the 77th follower, sophie appleton. She is another follower who doesn't appear to have her own blog, but as ever, if you do have one Sophie all you need to do is let me know and I'll add the link.

P.S. Is Cyndy out there? I'm still waiting to hear from you so I know where to send your giveaway prize.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Starcaster Layout

I was going to show you some rather poor quality diagrams of my planned layout of the castle in this post but when I try to upload the images all I get is a white box with a little red cross.  So I'm going to have to try and explain in words alone what I have in mind.

Let's start on the ground floor.  There are three rooms.  The room on the left is connected to the central room by a large open archway.  The room on the right has no direct access to the adjoining room but does come with a fake door to give the impression of access.  The front door opens into the middle room.  This makes the logical uses of these three rooms (from the left) Dining Hall, Entry Hall and Kitchen.  Most Cumberland Castle kits I've seen pictures of have used this basic layout.

The next floor is also three rooms.  The left room is connected by a door to the central room while the right room depends on fake doors for access.  I've cut a hole in the floor of the right side room to allow for stairs up from the kitchen.  These three rooms will be (from the left again) bedroom, library and a mystery room.  As it is connected by stairs directly to the kitchen, the mystery room will be something domestic like a laundry, a buttery, servants quaters, storage, etc.

The top level consists of one central room.  The will be the workroom of the castle's resident wizard.  A hole has been cut in the floor to allow for access to the room by a spiral staircase from the Library below.  A hole in the side wall gives access out onto the roof of the bedroom where I may add a roof garden.  A trapdoor cut in the roof of this room give access to the high roof where the wizard may have a telescope set up.

This is the basic plan I had for the castle until this morning.  Now I am considering re-arranging it all to something like this:

Ground floor from left: kitchen (block off open arch), Hall, solar
First Floor from left: bedroom, wardrobe (add wall to divide middle room), hallway/stairs up, Library
Top Floor: Magic Workroom

Or possibly leave the kitchen out entirely and make the ground floor: Dining, Hall/Entrance,solar
Or maybe have two bedrooms at either end of the first floor, one masculine, one feminine.

Or . . . . perhaps I could try making up my mind and sticking with it.

I still have time to debate the internal layout as my first task is to be the exterior.  Anticipating the arrival of the castle, I ordered some more of Malcom's Miniatures Impress Moulds from Silly Sisters webshop.  I bought some brick moulds for the Dancing Dragon and apart from the clay cracking, I was really pleased with the result.  This time I bought some stone moulds to create a stone castle.  I was expecting the moulds to be the same as the brick ones, a single square with raised bits in a brick pattern that creates a square inch of brickwork.  Instead, the stone moulds are a half dozen individual moulds, one per stone.  This is a good idea as it will let me randomise the stonework, but a bad idea because switching between separate moulds will take longer to do. 

Lastly, I'd like to welcome my newest follower minimariba to the blog.  Minimariba doesn't seem to have a blog of her own.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Giveaway Draw Time.

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway draw over the past few weeks.  It was interesting to see where you thought the prizes would look at home.  It seems that the faux window will find a home near the peak of a cottage roof and the candle sconces will either line a stariway or frame a mirror (unless the winner changes their mind).  Who is the winner?  I entered a list of all the entrants names at Random.org and then randomised the order of the list.  The name that came out on top (and therefore won) was . . . .


Congratulations Cyndy.  Please let me know your address and I will post your prizes out to you.  You can email me at celestial@y7mail.com or if you prefer, just leave a comment here.

For those of you who are interested, here's a copy of the randomised list:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Welcome to Castle Starcaster

Many months ago I had a plan; finish the Dancing Dragon Inn and then start work on a new project called the Tower of Magic (or ToM for short). The basic concept of the ToM was inspired by Heather's Wizard Lair which you can see here on her blog http://thislittledollhouse.blogspot.com/2010/06/wizards-lair-finally-furnished.html.  The original idea was to be simple, a series of roomboxes stacked one ontop of the other, each fractionally smaller than the last.  As for what the ToM would contain, I had half a dozen different ideas all going in different directions.

Then Fairy Meadow Miniatures added a Cumberland Castle kit to their website.

Cumberland is a kit I'd always wanted and the moment I saw it on their site, I knew it would be perfect to house the ToM.  I had just bought two other kits, but on the basis that I knew what to do with the Castle, had always wanted one and might never get the chance to buy one again I forged ahead and bought the castle kit.

It arrived early on Friday morning, so the weekend was spent assembling the kit.  First of all I unpacked the four boxes and checked that all the parts were present and undamaged, then it was time to do a dry build.  Despite it's size, the castle is pretty simple and was easy to assemble.  With the castle put together I pulled out some of the furniture I'd been collecting for the ToM (most of it made by Angela Downton and bought from her on ebay.  No, I'm not sharing her username as I can't afford the competition) and arranged it in the castle to see how it looked and how it fitted in the spaces.  Next I got out some lego blocks and made a very rough chimney breast to see how the furniture looked with a fireplace in the rooms.  Normally, I end up deciding to skip the fireplace because there just isn't room for it.  This time I am making sure to include all the fireplaces a draughty old castle needs.

One thing that disappoints me about Cumberland Castle is that the kit has no stairs.  One thing that came as a total surprise is that the East Wing extension comes complete with fake doors to make it look like there is access to this optional extension to the castle.  I spent some time considering different placements of the fake doors and where to add stairs while the castle was dry built and when I had a final decision, I marked the places I needed to cut holes for stairs and one extra "real" doorway before disassembling the castle.  I then made the appropriate cuts and looking at the piles of MDF parts scattered everywhere decided to permanently assemble the castle, then decorate.  I I tried to work the other way around, something would have ended up being damaged by falling, crushing or being stepped on.  So I assembled the castle yet again, this time with glue and then gave the whole thing a coat of sealer.

Now I had just one problem.  I could no longer refer to this project as the ToM as it was a castle and not a Tower, so just what did I call it?  I had no idea until the name popped into my head while driving home yesterday.  Castle Starcaster.  Many years ago when I was in high school and thus had absolutely nothing to do all day, everyday, except keep an eye out for stray spitballs and listen to the boys in the back row and their perpetual argument which consisted of two words (one side said "Ford", the other responed with "Holden" all day, everyday for four years) I passed the time by creating stories.  In one Zoran Starcaster was a magician, which is where the name for the castle originally comes from.  Unfortunately, Zoran never had a castle of his own and worse was one of the bad guys which makes me a little heasitant to name a castle after him. 

But once the name popped in, it wouldn't go away and I like it.  So Castle Starcaster it is, whatever it's connotations.