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, January 28, 2014

Filling in the Blank

The large, empty hole in the back wall of the Hall has been filled by the installation of a truely massive fireplace/surround.

The entire structure is about 30cm high (just under twice the height of the average 1/12th scale doll) and as ever is constructed primarily of balsa wood.  The hearth and firebox are cladded in the same paper tile as the floor.  A pair of laser cut brackets (from Fairy Meadow Miniatures) form the arch at the front of the firebox.  Inside the firebox is a firebasket made of mesh with bead and jewellery finding andirons.  These still need to be painted and filled with "fire".  Cotton lace trims the top of the fireplaces first and second tiers.  Flat jewellery findings decorate the central panelled section while the top tier boasts a blue and purple dragon pendant.

Given the beams, a single, central chandelier hung from the ceiling wouldn't look right and as the ToM is inhabited by magicians, why would they need to rely on candle light?  So instead they have eight glass marbles hung from the beams which the resident magicians can use a spell to make them glow with a bright, steady light.  The marbles were decorated with some faux leadlighting outliner in gold and a blue flat backed crystal at the bottom of each.

On the side walls between the beams, faux windows have been added.  These are simply done using more faux leadlighting paints directly onto white cardboard cut into window shapes and glued onto the walls.  When you look at them head on like this, they are highly unconvincing as windows, but when you view them from the front of the Hall, all you can really see are glimpses of colour between the beams anyway.

With the central table in position, there isn't much room left for other furnishings.  I've made a simple balsa and chess man bench for the left wall and flanked a pre bought side table with two of the chairs along the right wall.  Now I just need to decide what colour to paint all this furniture . . . . .

 You may have already spotted Orville among the rafters, proof that pigs really do fly!  Orville is a Schleich brand piglet (with a highly inappropriate name given his undercarriage is definately not that of a male) with a pair of butterfly wings glued onto his back and is my first step in the campagin to make the blank areas of the rafters more interesting.

I have also spent some time playing about with the Mystery Tower.  Ex-blogger Linda who now follows my blog through Facebook suggested a steampunk-wizard theme for the tower.  As this was one of the ideas that had already passed through my mind for the tower, I've decided to go with it.  At least until I change my mind again.  Not having a great deal of 24th scale furniture on hand to play with to get an idea of what to put in the tower and how to arrange it, I pulled out my trustly Lego blocks and put together some crude sample furniture.

 Downstairs will be the wizards office with a kneehole desk at the back with a small stove beside it and a pair of comfy leather armchairs in the centre of the room.

The upper floor will be the wizard's lab with a central worktable surrounded by smaller tables, hanging shelves, a long case clock, small chaise and stove. I'm not particularly happy with the layout up here and may need to rethink this.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hammered in the Hall

I've been promising it for weeks and finally work has started on the next room in the Tower of Magic, the Great Hall.   The Hall is where the various magic workers (wizards, sorceresses, etc) who live in the ToM assemble for meals, hold meetings and generally get together.

 The Hall's main feature (so far) are the hammer beam style ceiling trusses.  There are a total of four separate trusses, each made from hand carved pieces of balsa wood.  Traditionally, trusses like these would be used on angled (a-frame) ceilings.  Adapting them to a flat roof leaves a large blank area in the the left and right top corners . . . . the perfect place for a domesticated dragon to settle for a nap perhaps?

Below the beams the lower walls have been panelled using a celestial blue fabric overlaid with balsa wood.  The floor has been 'tiled' using the image of a tile found on the internet and printed out.  The large empty area in the back wall is where the fireplace will be positioned once it is made.

 The table currently in the centre of the floor was made for the original Bellerose House but didn't make it back in there when I renovated it last year.  I like the size and shape in the space, but I don't think glass black is quite right.  Should I repaint it to look like wood?  Or with wooden beams and panelling would that be too much wood in the room?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mystery Tower

I always wanted a "Toll House" by DHE, but the silly people there discontinued the kit before I got the chance to buy one.  So when a few months ago I found a cheap knock-off of the original on ebay I decided it was possibly my only chance to own a Toll House style house and I took it.  Unlike the original kit, this Chinese copy is in 1/24th (or 1/2") scale.  It lacks the quality and ease of assembly DHE is known for but it really is quite reasonable for what I paid ($55 including postage).

The kit came with all the parts needed to decorate and furnish the Tower inside and out in a very pink and girly scheme.  As you can see, I decided not to use the included wallpapers (or any of the other furnishing and accessories).  Instead I used rectangles cut from egg cartons to create a stone block effect on the outside of the tower.  The corners are covered by quion stones while the walls center's are filled in a random pattern.

Once glued in place the stones were painted a sandy colour while the corner quions were painted a slightly greyer tone.  Countless layers of different stone coloured paints were then dry brushed over this base until I was happy with the effect.  This was then covered with some Matte (yet shiny) sealer and a final coat of paint was dry brushed over the sealer to reduce the gloss look of the sealer.  Why can't you get matte sealer that is actually matte these days?

One fault of the kit was that the supplied windows didn't fit into the window holes in the walls.  After slicing sliver after sliver off the edges of the windows and still not being able to push them into place I eventually resorted to cutting the outside edges off the windows entirely and just used the Y shaped internal section.

The roof was covered in tiles of brown cardboard over which I lightly brushed some brown paint to give them some variation in colour for a more realistic finish.  A piece of cotton lace painted the same way as the stones finishes it off.  The front doors are made from balsa wood.  They don't open as the kit came without a door hole, just a fake door.

Inside, the tower has two levels connected by a staircase of balsa wood.  The stairs that came with the kit were painted gloss white and not right for the space I had in mind and they only rose about three quaters of the way up to the next level anyway.  My stairs include some angled steps to bend around the corner.  The railing is made with fan pieces (just like Preston House, but far less impressive).

The ground floor has faux wood panelled walls made from embossed paper painted to resemble wood.  The floor features a partqetry medallion printed from the internet surrounded by some herringbone paper salvaged from the floor of the pre-renovation Bellerose House.

The ceiling is decorated with a large ceiling rose surrounded by gothic 'arms'.  These were painted the same blue as the upper walls to contrast the pale ceiling.  A little white rub on paint highlights the details of the rose and arms.

Upstairs the floor is covered in a parquet pattern while the wall has a gothic panel around the lower half.  Both these were found on the internet and printed out.  I altered the kit to expose the vaulted ceiling which is painted a deep blue.  It's this colour as I am toying with the idea of sticking some flat backed jewels to it to make a sort of 'celestial map' on it.

At this point the tower is about ready for someone to move into.  My problem is I have no idea who that will be, what use they will have for the tower and what sort of furnishings they would want in it.  Wizard's Lair?  Victorian Folly?  Something Steampunk?  Medieval Hunting Lodge?  I really have no idea and would welcome any suggestions.  While I remain stuck on this tower, I'll make a start on the next room in the Tower of Magic, the Great Hall.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013 In Review . . . Part Two

This year I decided to enter the DHE Creative Competition for the first time.  The only problem was that I couldn't decide which of dozens of ideas would work best with the competition kit, "The Cabin".  As the kit was released days before my birthday so DHE gave me 5% off my purchases and my birthday present from Grandmother and parents was cash I decided all these factors combined into a good excuse to buy two Cabins and make two competition entries.  The first was the Steampunk Inventors Workshop (SPIW for short).

Initially, I had very ambitious plans to turn the kit upside down and make a steampunk airship.  After some time playing with the kit trying to nut out how best to do this I came to the conculsion that the only way would be to build it from scratch, so I shelved the airship for a future time and instead used the Cabin to create the far less challenging SPIW.  In the workshop, inventor Oscar is making some last minute adjustments to his latest invention and at the same time making an absolute mess of the workshop his wife has recently finished cleaning.  A potential investor has just arrived by flying chair on the rooftop landing platform.  However will they get everything tidied up?

I worked on the SPIW alongside the Dragon Wizard's Lair.  I used it as a way to use up some furniture and odd knick knacks that had been hanging about forever.  Where else was I ever going to use a fishtank pump valve?  See more of the SPIW here.

After the SPIW, I started on the other Cabin kit which became Mill Cottage.  This was done alongside work on Bellerose House.  Mill Cottage was the more ambitious of the two Cabins and the one I expected to actually have a chance of winning something in the competition.  (This was clearly before I saw other people's competition entries).

I raised the height of the walls a couple of inches so I would have the height to add a mezzanine level so I would be able to fit in a bed space as well as a kitchen and sitting area.  I wanted the building to have a very homey feel both inside and out, something achieved in so small part by filling the house with cats.

 Like the SPIW almost everything that went into Mill Cottage was either dug out of my stash or made specifically for the cottage.  I'm really proud of the mill wheel.  Of course I always mean to make it slightly wonky.  Honestly.  More photos of Mill Cottage here.

After completeing work on Bellerose House, I decided it was time to break with reality and work on my favourite kind of project, a full blown fantasy project. The Crystal Garden is the first of a series of roomboxes that will stack together to create the "Tower of Magic".

The three main ingredients in the garden are glass tiles, faux leadlighting paint and beads.  The tiles line the back wall and paths while smaller tiles line the sides of the garden beds.  The leadlighting paint create the stained glass looking landscapes out the side windows and the decorated ceiling.  These areas are backed with mirror paper to bounce the light back through the faux leadlighting and give the impression of light coming in through it.  Beads of plastic, gemstone and glass form the flowers and foliage of the plants growing in the garden.

A slice of geode tops the central fountain.  It is the fountain that lets the whole scene down.  It just looks . . . messy.  Until I have a better idea for it though, the fountain will remain with it's geode slice.  Amy and Gemma have taken up residence in the garden, Gemma with a book to read while Amy admires the crystal blooms.

The next room in the Tower of Magic is the Library.  Almost everything in this room was handmade from the bookcases to the wizard Aldus whose fallen asleep while reading.  The room contains over 1000 handmade books.

My favourite part of the Library is the carefully placed mirror that gives the illusion that the rows of shevles continue on beyond the back of the Library.  I will definately be looking to use more mirrors like this in the future.   You can see more of both rooms in the Tower of Magic here.  The next room in the Tower of Magic will be the Great Hall which I will begin sometime soon.

Rushed through to be ready for Christmas was the Victorian Street Scene in 24th (1/2") scale.  This is built into a cheap Christmas gift box and is set somewhere around 1850.  The ladies skirts are made with wire edged Christmas ribbon, the wire of the top edge pulled up to create the gathers around the waist.

 This is another almost all handmade scene, the main exceptions being the electric stree lights and the brick sheet used for the upper wall of the bakery.  The bags and boxes carried by the ladies are cut outs from old dollshouse magazines.  More of the Victorian Street here.

Finally for the year, something you haven't seen before, my first 1/48th (1/4") scale house.  As you can see the house is shorter than 6" tall Harry.

 The house was made from this cheap kit that seems to be quite common in Australian miniature stores at the moment.  I Altered the kit by doubling the depth of the house and moving the part left open from the back to the side.

 Upstairs is the bed that came as a freebie with Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine a few months ago.  The bed kit was made by Petite Properties and I certainly reccomend their products.  Downstairs the furniture is all a cheap plastic set.  Although this house was fun to do I'm not sure I will ever be ready to make furniture from scratch in this tiny size.

The bed is a kit as I've said while the dressing table is scratch made.  There is a slight difference in quality I have to admit.

The wallpapers and upstairs floor paper are cut outs from a very old miniatures magazine.  The downstairs floor is polyfilla marked to form a stone tile pattern.

 Model railway trees and foliage flank the front of the house while a very tiny newspaper sits on the front step.

 The outside of the house has a Tudor timbered look.  Rather than use timber, this was done with a little brown cardboard.

 The roof tiles are balsa wood cut into strips and then notched to create a strip of tiles.  The strips were then layered on the roof to resemble real tiles.

The house sits on a small piece of mountboard about 10cm square.

Commenting on my last post, Daydreamer asked if Charlie the cat had finished chewing on houses.  Well, I haven't caught him eating any houses lately, but this is what he's done to the tower of Highcroft Castle:

 . . . . . . . Anybody want to adopt a cat????