Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Progress: staircase, fireplace, archway and windows

Hello my friends,

I hope you all had a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Mine was great! We spent time with family, had wonderful food, saw great movies, and I spent a fair bit of time on my minis. I did not comment on your blogs over the holidays. I make it a point to stay away from my computer during the holidays, but I am back at it now. Thank you for your comments on my last post. I was asked 2 question on my last post. The animal in front of the fireplace is a Pharaoh hound I purchased at the Montreal Miniature show last year from Karl Blindheim. secondly, I speak English, french and Italian...but I use Google Translate to leave comments on your blogs. I like answering in the language the post was written.

I had planned on spending the holiday break painting, but as I looked at that huge pile of lumber I decided it would be easier to assemble as much as I can before painting. Individual lumber strips are tiresome to paint and hard to manoeuvre. So, I spent my holidays building the elements for the library floor. Here is what got done. I have already covered most of these items, so feel free to skip anything repetitive.

View from the front of the structure

The staircase:

Staircases seem to worry many. The manor has 3 staircases built from scratch and while they are time consuming, they are not difficult at all. There are many ways to build the steps. For this staircase I cut 22 pieces of MDF to 4" x 5/8" x 3/4". Each one of these will be a 5/8 inch step. As I mentioned in my last post, I glued them together using a spacer I made a long time ago.

The spacer keeps the steps consistent and speed up the process immensely. I use carpenters glue to join the pieces with a drop of gel super glue on each end. I repeat, the super glue is just to keep the pieces together while the carpenter's glue sets. Sometimes the MDF drinks the super glue, so I just add a drop more.

The next step is normally to add nosing on the top of each piece. However, the saw I used left marks and I really did not feel like sanding each piece, so I glued a 1/16" x 5/8" x 4"riser on the front of each piece, then glued on the nosing over that, always with the 2 glues.

I used a small cove molding this time, but in the past quarter round moulding has worked well. These steps will be glued to the wall, but it will be difficult for me to make sure they go on straight because of the tight space. To help keep the staircase level, I used leftover lumber to make a support for the lower section of the staircase.

When this is dry the next step is to glue on the newel posts at each end and the banister. To do this, I start by gluing 2 balusters (spindles) in place

You can see one on the 3d and 14th steps. this enables me to make sure the banister follows the angle of the staircase. The next step is to glue the top and bottom newel posts. I made these from a piece of 1/2" x 1/2" lumber, but you can buy some already made. When the 2 balusters and the newel posts are solid, then I cut and glue the banister in place.

My staircase has 4 newel posts. The top and bottom ones are covered in fluted molding, the 2 middle ones will be left simple, at least until the staircase is permanently glued in place.

I applied the fluted molding onto the newel post after the banister was glued and solid. The banister being solid is the most important part of the build.

I use a porch banister with a groove that goes over the tops of the balusters. If you purchase round balusters, the banister will be thinner. If you use the traditional square based ones you need to make sure your banister is the larger kind. I always ask the shop I'm buying from to double check the fit before they ship them to me.

Each step will get 2 balusters. I will cut the tops of each one at an angle that matches that of the banister and paint them. When the time comes, I will put a bit of Ultimate Glue on the top and bottom of each painted baluster, slip it into the cavity of the banister, then hold them down on the step and line them up to dry. If any of this is unclear, let me know. I will try to show pictures when the time comes to finish the stairs.

With the banisters done, it was time for a test fit. I added 2 pieces of lumber to support the landing of the staircase.

These will be used to glue the landing in place securely when the time comes. I then put the 2 other parts of the staircase in place, one under the landing and the other one over, to see the full effect.

The top section of  the staircase is not properly installed, but it gives you an idea of the final effect
 Originally, the landing was going to be 4 inches deep. However, since I decided to make a bathroom underneath it the space is now closer to 6 inches. I will create a built in bench that runs along the staircase window which should fix it. And here is a glimpse of the staircase from the front.

I think reaching in to faux walnut the structure which will show through the paneling will be difficult, so I am considering filling the panels with a painting to look like a mural

And the above picture brings me to project # 2...

The Archway:

The archway was inspired by a Thorne Room I like. I thought it would be a nice way to separate the areas. I started by making the columns to support the arch. This was done with 1/2" x 1/2" lumber, once again covered with molding.

The bottom section is made with basewood lumber strips, this is capped off with a chair rail molding, over that is fluted molding, and just under the arch is some ogee molding

The left shows the base of the column, and the right side shows the top of the ogee molding which the arch will sit on.

The arch is made from 2 pieces of double thick illustration board into which I cut out the arch shape. I used leftover 1/2" lumber to join the 2 sides, and then I cut a half inch strip of single ply illustration board which I scored on the back to help it follow the curve (I show this better when I talk about the fireplace in the earl's office).

In the above picture you can see I built the arch piece to fit over the column. This will make it easy to glue on. This will not be visible to anybody. And here is what the front of the archway looks like...

...and here is what it looks like in place.

The bottom of the left column was notched to fit over the first step. This will make it look like one big structure...I hope.

The fireplace and chimney breast of the earl's office

This always happens with the small rooms of the manor! I think I subconsciously make up for their lack of size by making them more ornate. In this case the earl's office is  inspired by the dining room at my favorite house in Newport, The Elms. Here is what the chimney and fireplace look like

The chimney breast is a piece of 2 ply illustration board front with 2 1" x 1/8 inch basewood strips for the sides. To create the column effect on each side, I again used 1/2" x 1/2" lumber and covered it in fluted molding.

By the way, the 1/2" x 1/2" lumber is joint pine from the hardware store, and the fluted molding is actually miniature window frame molding. I used leftover pieces of basewood to make the back of the chimney solid

I used more joint pine, basewood and ogee molding to finish off the top of the columns

The arched pieces are made from basewood and topped with 2 layers of single ply illustration board, the top one being a bit larger then the first to create detail. In the picture above you can see how I scored the back of the cardboard to curve easier, and in the picture below you can see the structure embellished with and over door and a frieze molding from Sue Cook.

The longest step was the fireplace. I made it and the over mantel out of the 2 ply illustration board. It was again inspired b the one in the elms dining room and it took hours to cut out the details...but is was worth it. In the first picture of the fireplace you can see the fireplace was a flat piece of illustration board with several basewood molding strips.

I painted them to look like marble. The red "stone" goes behind the black. Yet again, leftover pieces of wood help make the fireplace sturdy and helps keep the red marble insert in place.

I had another dry run to see the full effect of the office fireplace...

The niche and cornice are from Sue Cook as well. The niche will remain a pale off white color. I am not sure if the cornice will remain white or will be faux painted, but everything else will be walnut. The paintings I used as "murals" are not final. I will definitely use works by Nicolas Poussin though. It will be a small room, but a bold room.

Yes, maybe we will barely see the archway through the office door, but I don't care...I'll know it's there.

Library windows:

I know I took pictures as I was building these, but I just can't find them. I will try to explain as clearly as I can. I have made every window in the manor because the ones on the market are just too small.

The first step is to build a frame with 1/4 inch basewood. In the past I built them free standing, but this time around I was lucky enough to be able to built them right onto the illustration board inner wall.

They are held onto the illustration board by the window frame molding on the inside of the room. In the library, I tried to create the illusion of double hung sash windows. these consist of a smaller pane on the bottom and a larger one on the top. each pane is made of 1/8'' x 1/16'' inch basewood strips.

It can be hard to get all the pieces to align properly, so I use the 1/8'' x 1/16'' as supports for each sash...

You can see my finger holding 2 strips of the basewood. The bottom ones goes all the way the the frame, and the top one does not. I hope the next picture shows how these strips glued on the side create supports for the window panes.

I will try to take better pictures next time...and there will be a next time. So far the manor has 33 windows and there are at least another 45 to go.

So, as I said, no painting got done over the holidays. I was a bit disappointed at first because I am dying to see the elements I've made so far finished, but I am thrilled because my pile of lumber that needs to be painted has gone down by about 30%

It's not that bad...really...

Christmas present:

And to finish off this post, my Christmas present. As usual, Jo got both families together to get me something in miniature. They got me one of Randall Zadar's newest pieces called Porcelain Set

It is 1'' tall and while you can get the 5 figurines on the top separately (the lady, the peacock and the 3 cupids) only 50 sets were made with the base so I am thrilled to have one.  The picture does not do it justice. I can't wait to finish the new wing and put it in place...either in the gallery or the new library.

And that is all for this time my friends. The next time I post, I hope to have finished the painting and started assembly. Until then, I will be reading and commenting on your blogs.

Big hug to all

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Holiday wishes and library progress!

Hello everyone,

Happy holidays!
The week before Christmas is always a little hectic, so I wanted to take a minute and wish you all the a very merry Christmas and a happy New year, or any other holiday you celebrate!
May you be surrounded with people you love and who love you...

and may you always have enough of everything you need and your heart desires

Happiness, health, love, prosperity and comfort to all!
I was asked 2 questions  last time I posted. Firstly, I studied interior design which is where I learned about space planning. As for the rest, most of my miniature techniques were self thought through reading books, blogs and watching a few videos.
Secondly, I rarely listen to music when I work on my minis. I can't stay still when music is playing. However, I do have a collection of dvds that I put on as background noise: Royal Upstairs Downstairs, Treasure houses of Britain, Miss Marple with Joan Hickson, Waiting for God, The Uninvited and Rebecca. 


2 weeks ago I posted about the progress on the library. Since then I have been cutting out the wall panneling for the rest of second floor of the new wing.

The picture above is the wall paneling for the staircase behind the earl's office.

The staircase will lead to the new winter parlor and the banquet hall on the third floor.

The steps are 4 inches wide strips of MDF 5/8 inches high. I used a 3/4 inch spacer to get each step the same depth and glued the pieces with carpenter's glue and drops of gel super glue.

The door was a gift from Ray. It is a false door case, but I carefully cut out the door from the frame. The frame will be finished to look like stone and the door will be walnut. I will glue the door in place and you will just get a glimpse of a sink. This will give the illusion of a bathroom for guests. I have another bathroom on the third floor, but this way I will have one private and one for the public.

It took me a good day to measure and plan the staircase and paneling. Enjoy these pictures because once everything is glued down you will only be able to see this room through the doorway of the earl's office.

I decided to make the panel above the door a transom so as to see a bit more of the room and the staircase landing. The only other view will be from the library door.

The pictures above were my final dry run just to make sure I had cut out every single piece that needs to be faux walnut finished. I had planned to paint everything today, let it dry for a week, and assemble everything during the holiday break. I forgot one little, itty bitty detail....the lumber strips I which also need to be finished to look like walnut. This morning I took out my lumber and calculated everything I need to finish the rooms... and I was shocked!

Every single one of these pieces, including the staircase and door, with 2 coats of  water based paint and faux finished with oil paints. These are doorframes, baseboards, chair rails, crown molding, window mullions, panel detail... I have no idea why I did not realize there would be this much. It looks like my holiday will be spent painting instead of assembling.

And that is all for now my friends. Happy holidays from myself, Jo and Ozzy in real life...


 and from the earl and countess in mini life

Big hugs


Monday, 7 December 2015

Library panels and bookcases, new renovation and vacation.

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all well and getting ready for the holidays. Thank you for your lovely comments about the ballroom in my last post. I was ready to start work on the ballroom floor, but 2 things happened: First, I made copies of the medallions I had designed and put them into place for a test run...

What was I thinking!!!

...I hated it! I felt it was completely wrong for the room so decided to go back to the drawing board. At this point I decided to keep the floor project for cold winter days and to work on the second floor of the wing because it will all be faux walnut finish. The finish is made with oil paints and I'd rather paint now so I can leave it outside a few hours to dry... the smell is really strong. So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you part 1 of the second floor.

Library panels

The panelled walls for the library will all be cut out of illustration board and backed with leftover MDF strips to give it the depth I want. The first step was to draw elevation plans for each wall.

My inspiration was a French Library from the Thorne Rooms
The library is inspired by 2 Thorne Rooms and libraries made by friend Ray Whitledge. When I had an idea of the direction I wanted, I cut out double thick illustration board templates for each wall.
All will be walnut with an off-white plaster ceiling

The mantels are from Sue Cook
When planning the panels I took into account the thicknesses of every molding piece, down to the last doorframe, to make sure everything lined up properly. When I was satisfied with my plans, I spend a weekend cutting out all the panels.

Since I was cutting illustration board, I also planned the earls office which will be to the left of the library

The furniture was in the gallery, but will be moved to the office to make more room for sculptures

The panel over the door might become a transom glass to let the light through

The painting on the left wall is from a book of one of my favorite painters, Nicolas Poussin. I will use more of his paintings for the panels each side of the fireplace, which will be marble with a niche incorporated into the over mantel.


With the panels done, it was time to work on the bookcases which are all made to look like built-ins. In the past, I simply glued shelves into place. however, each time I have to clean I am afraid they might come undone under the pressure of my fingers. This time I decided to cut grooved into the side panels for each shelf. this is really easy to do with a craft table saw...but I don't have a craft table saw. So, I did it the good old fashioned way!

I used my metal square to draw lines for each shelf, then scored half way down the thickness of the wood with my utility knife. When that was done, I used a jewelers screw driver to chisel out the groove

I had to do this for 30 shelves, which means 60 grooves. It took half a day, but was well worth it. In the next picture you can see the bookcases and compare with my original drawing.

The sides are 1/8 bassewood, the shelves are 1/16 bassewood, and the backs of the bookcases are double thick illustration board. They were assembled with The Utlimate Glue and dots of gel Super glue

The bookcases will be quite sturdy. Also, I plan on making glass doors for the top of the bookcases (you can see this in my drawing above) so the shelves should be safe. Before I glued the sides, top and bottom of the bookcases, I had a test run to make sure the shelves looked straight and that I liked the spacing of the shelves.

It looked good, so I decided to put the furniture I am thinking of using in place to see if the room worked.

I love a successful dry run. I then glued the bookcases except for the shelves. It will be easier to faux paint the back of the bookcase before the shelves are glued in place. The last pictures were taken on Sunday. This evening, Monday, I cut and glued down the bottom panels of each bookcase. Now you get a real feel for the finished library:

The under the bookcases is to accommodate the flooring. Any remaining gap will be covered with baseboards

Jo really loves window seats, so these are for him.

And that my friends is all I have in terms of progress. And now...

New plans (another room to be gutted)

Jo and I had a wonderful trip. we were with my in-laws and we had a great time and saw incredible places. My favorite stop was the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. I could have stayed there all day. It is one of the top 3 buildings  I have visited (sorry, we could not take pictures. Naturally, this gave me many ideas and I did a lot of drawing on the cruise ship.

The first renovation plan has resulted in dirty looks from most of my family...I am redoing the kitchen.
Don't get me wrong. I love my kitchen and thought it was great for a smaller house, but since the Manor will now have a banquet hall for 14 people, I can't see the chefs cooking an elaborate meal on that small Bodo Henning stove. So, the new kitchen will look like this...

It will be 7 inches deeper. The left wall will have, from back to front, 4 baking ovens, room for a hutch, a centre range 8 inches long, room for a second hutch, and finally at the front of the room will be a 4 1/2 meat roasting range. The opposite wall will have a wider scullery and maybe a mezzanine style store room. The door on the back wall, which was a fake in the current kitchen, will become a working door to the Tudor hall

The other room I worked on is the banquet hall. After the Royal Pavilion, I have had a million ideas. I have not finalized my plans, no where near actually, but here are my first sketches of the direction I am going in:

Trip to Europe

Before I show you pictures of places we visited, here is a picture of items I purchased for Dewell Manor:

The tall statue at the back and the pewter pieces at the front were purchased at the British Museum and will go in the art gallery. The two thuribles are key chains from Santiago de Compostela which will hang from the arches of the prayer room. The rest of the miniatures as well as the red wallpaper for the new banquet hall came from Ananda in Barcelona.

I visited 2 miniature shops in Barcelona. First we went to Evolve. I was there for 45 minutes. the entire time I was there the lady at the cash said 2 things to me. She barely answered me when I came in and said ''hola''. I did not find much but then on the second step of a staircase which clearly led to a private loft above I saw molding strips individually packaged and priced which was exactly what I needed...yay! I went up the 2 steps and the lady yelled ''Hey...No''. I guess she thought I was going upstairs but when she saw me looking at the molding she didn't say anything. When I went down the 2 steps, Jo told me the woman had been glaring at me for the 15 minutes I was looking at the moldings. I put them back and walked out of the store. I cannot remember the last time anyone was so rude to me in a shop. I will never set foot in Evolve again.

Luckily, When I went to the second shop, Ananda, I was greeted by Felicidad who was kind, welcoming, and very helpful. They have beautiful pieces, many of which they made themselves, and she took my to the back room and let me go through all the wallpapers and building material they had. They can count on my going back the next time I visit Barcelona!

And now, since some of you asked, here are just a few pictures of the places we visited:

Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela

I was enchanted by this side of the building

Queluz Palace in Lisbon

A reception room in the palace. It felt like a cozy Versailles.

Cathedral of Murcia in Cartagena

A beautiful building in Cartagena

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

A view of Barcelona from the museum

We saw some incredible places, the sea was calm, the weather was good, The Royal Pavilion blew me away, but this trip just confirmed that our favorite city in the world is Barcelona.

And that is all I have for the moment my friends. My house is decorated and my Christmas shopping is done, but I think miniature time will be limited till the holidays.

I hope you all have a lovely month of December. I have a week off for the holidays and I hope to spend a good portion of it on the manor.

Until next time, thank you all for your great kindness and support. It means a lot to me and I hope I give it back,