Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Bookcase doors, balusters, marble floors, and test runs

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all doing well and surviving the winter months. Overall we've been quite lucky in Montreal, except for the past week. As many of you have noticed, blogger is acting up again and people seem to be losing followers. If I am no longer following you, please let me know.

The past few weeks have been spent on preparatory work, but I am starting to get a good sense of what the rooms will look like.

Bookcase doors

As you can see I decided to make doors for the bookcases in the library. Doors are simple: you build a frame thick enough to accommodate the "glass" and cover it with molding. However, I try not to use hinges whenever possible. People just love playing with opening doors which often leads to breakage. I decided to make the doors non opening, but removable.

When the doors were done I glued them to a piece of lumber that would sit on the top of the bookcase. In the picture above you see me adding lumber to cover up the different levels of construction for the doors. It just looks more realistic when painted. Next, I drilled a hole through the door piece and bookcase. I took a dowel, cut it just long enough to hold the door piece in place, and glued it to the top of the door structure.

This permits the dowel and the hole to line up perfectly and slide into each other.

And this is what the finished bookcases look like.

The doors for the library were just pieces of 2 inch basewood with simple lumber strips to create the paneling. When painted I will add quarter round trim.

Faux wood graining

The next step was one I have been dreading...painting! I really do not enjoy painting. It took 1 weekend to paint an antique gold acrylic paint base to the 33 assembled part and about 200 strips of molding and architectural details...

...then it took me another 3 weekend to apply the walnut finish. This is made by mixing liquin (a quick drying medium for oil paint) and burnt sienna oil paint. I usually mix the 2 about 50/50 then adjust the mix until it coats the way I want it to.

You apply it using an old angle brush. I dip the brush in the mix, dab a little off, then paint lines in the direction I want the wood grain to go. You can make your hand shake, wiggle, drag the brush, swirl it a just practice until you get the look of wood you want. This is a technique from
Ray Whitledge and I just love it. Normally you also use a bit of liquin mixed with burnt umber to give it the richness of walnut, but I wanted the graining to be very subtle so I opted to use just one shade of paint.

I want the earl's study to be impressive and I had an amazing doorframe for the bathroom that would be so far back it would be hard to see, so I decided to highlight some details with gold oil paint.

The walnut is dry to the touch after 48 hours at most because of the liquin. The gold was just oil paint and took 10 days to dry. How I wish I had more patience! All the elements were now painted and I could move onto the next step...literally.

Staircase balusters

Last post, I explained my method for building stairs and gluing on newel posts and banisters. When the glue has cured completely and the banister is solid, you can install the balusters which have been pre painted. Each step of my staircase has 2 balusters so I had to cut off about 1/4 inch from the front balusters. The angle of the banister means they have to be shorter to fit. The next step is cutting the tops of each baluster at an angle that fits under the banister.

Put each one against the banister, mark the angle, and cut. In the picture above I just cut off the painted layer so you can see how high to cut it. It has to be just high enough to sit in the groove of the banister. When the angle is cut you slide the top under the banister, in the groove, and then position it on the step.

I like to cut all the balusters and see what they look like in place.

I was happy with the result so I removed them, keeping them in the order they fit, and glued them by applying The Ultimate crafters glue to the top sides of the baluster and to the bottom. Just make sure the glue holds onto the banister.

- It is tempting to cut all the balusters before fitting them, but you never know when there might be a slight difference in the depth of a step so I like to cut them one at a time.

-Paint the balusters before you install them. It is so much easier then trying to get a brush in the tight spaces. It also permits you to have fun with the colors. In this case I painted the step and banister with the dark umber, so the lighter dark sienna balusters and risers will stand out more.

-When fitting balusters do not force... ever! Some of my balusters (which were all from the same manufacturer) were a bit thicker so I sanded and shaved off the thickness that needed to go. If you force them in too tight you risk disassembling the banister which is a big pain in the butt!

Marble Floors

I decided the earl's study and the staircase area would look very grand with marble floors. There are many methods for making miniature marble. Ive tried several and here is the way I prefer to do it.

The first thing I do is find pictures of the marble I like, then make a sample board of the colors I think I see in the marble.

I love the colors, but I don't have the skill, or patience, to replicate the pattern

I noticed quickly that the coral color (second on the board) was way too pink. It is sometimes hard to know exactly what colors will give the right effect, and this step helps me figure it out.

When the colors are chosen you need to put down a base coat. Some people start with the darkest color, other start with the palest. In my opinion, it depends. In the case of this red marble, when I looked at the picture it seems to me that the darker colors are layered over the paler ones, so I started with the paler orange color as a base. When I make dark green marble, it seems to me in the picture that the paler greens are layered on the darker ones, so I started with a green that was almost black. Just look at the pictures and try to figure out what works best. There is no wrong way to do it.

I use the flat side of the sponge brush

I apply the base coat with a sponge brush as it leaves the least amount of strokes. I've used hair brushes in the past and the texture kind of makes it look like painted wood. Some people sand between coats, I do not. Every time I try to san, I rub off too much paint.

The next step is to sponge on the next colors. I like to use 2 to 4 additional colors for my marble. I've tried using regular inexpensive kitchen sponges and sea sponges. Both can work, but I prefer the sea sponge because I can control the amount of paint I apply better. I encourage you to try both and see what you prefer. Either way, take the sponge, wet it thoroughly, and squeeze out as much water as possible.

As you can see above, I take the sea sponge, dip it in a little bit of paint (the dab of yellow on the right), and dab most of it off on paper towels. If you look on the left of the sponge you can see the yellow paint sponged over the red color. That is how much paint you want the sponge to deposit. Just keep dabbing the sponge over the base coats, but rotate the sponge so the pattern is natural. Wait for each color to dry before applying the next one. When I was happy with the look, I spray on about 4 coats of triple thick crystal clear glaze, then buff it with an 0000 steal wool. The last step is to make the veins. I usually put a little drop of 2 colors on the paper towel, dip my 20/0 brush in both, dab it on the paper to remove excess paint, then very gently create the veins (I hate this part)! When the veins are done, spray on another 2 layers of triple thick glaze and buff with a 0000 steel wool.

these were painted on single ply illustration board

Here are the 4 marbles I created for my floor. I plan on using the black for a boarder around the rooms and cutting the other 3 to create a cube pattern on the floor. Faux marble is tricky, so if I'm not happy with the look, then I will just make a wood floor.

Panel trim

The step I'm currently working on is adding the trim to all the panels of the walls.

I cut the pieces using an x-acto knife and the grid on the cutting board. I have angle cutters, but I've noticed they often crush the small molding strips, so the x-acto gives better results.

And that is all my friends. I'm not sure when my next post will be, but I think it will be the finished library, study, staircase and the bathroom. I leave you with pictures of the many test runs and dry fits I've been having.

Library wall with door to staircase

staircase and bathroom door


The earl's study. The stained glass at the back of the structure is a window in the bathroom

murals in the staircase area

elements from the study staircase and bathroom

Until next time. I wish you all the best and thank you for your friendly support. It means a lot to me.

Big hugs

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