June 27, 2009

Finding Inspiration

Old Fireback

I am a book lover, always have been, always will be. Over the years I have collected quite a few books on old buildings from used book stores. A few of these books in my collection were printed before 1900. That means they are not protected by copyright. Google along with the Gutenberg project has taken to scanning these books and making them available as free downloads. I will give you a sneak peak here of one of the old books in my collection "Art in England" by Aymer Vallance. This book in my collection happens to be available for free as a download from Google. It contains many photos of old half timber buildings and a very good discussion on the design styles and details used on those old buildings. There are also illustrations of furniture, hardware and even needlepoint chair covers.

Here is a link to the free downloadable book from Google. Copy and paste it into your browser.

When I was browsing through the book at bedtime yesterday I was reading about the subject of firebacks. Firebacks are cast metal plates used at the back of the fireplace to protect the brick work so it last longer. This also helps prevent chimney fires from spreading through cracked mortar on the back wall of the fireplace. What I found interesting was that one method of making the mold for the fireback was pressing objects into a bed of clay then pouring the molten metal over the clay. The impressions in the clay become raised areas. Well how simple is that for making a miniature fireback? Of course we can use resin instead of melting metal. Get some clay, press some design by using metal stampings or other small objects, create a surrounding dam and pour in the epoxy resin. Trim off any flash after the resin is cured and spray paint it flat black. One of the items they pressed into the clay was rope. You can see the rope impressed fireback in the illustration above. Go to page 76 of the book for the discussion on the history of old firebacks.

I love being able to share a good book with all of you.

June 25, 2009

Santa's workshop under construction

I thought you might enjoy a little excursion into the past back to the time I was building the Santa's workshop. I don't have a lot of photos of that time but I do have a few.

This photo shows the balcony area over the main work room. The balcony rest on the hammer beam truss structure that supports the roof over the workshop.

Have you ever heard of a dollhouse built with two scales? You are looking at one. The the balcony, the box beds and the adjoining room over the kitchen are all sized for the elves. Mr. and Mrs. Claus could never fit into any of those spaces. As I recall the beds are only 3 inches long even though the photo makes them seem larger.

The major style intent was to capture the feel of Victorian era, German Christmas card featuring a snow covered building in a forest. The owner of the dollhouse has many such cards displayed at Christmas time in her Victorian home. The detailing on the dollhouse beams is meant to resemble the hand carved ornamental style of wooden toys or cuckoo clocks from that era rather than a hand adzed beam more typically found in real buildings. There is also a very strong Scandanavian influence in the carvings on the structure and on those built in elf beds. This building has a lot of carving on it and I will show more of that in future postings.

The underlying structure of the dollhouse is a metric plywood, just under 3/8" thick. You can see all the layers of materials in the construction photo. This is a specialty plywood, waterproof glues and almost no voids. I purchase it from a lumber company that supplies to the wooden boat industry in the Pacific Northwest. It is the same plywood I use for my birdhouse building. I feel it is a museum quality way to build a dollhouse although it does make for a heavy house.

The timber framing details are Western Red Cedar. I hand select for dark colored, old growth heartwood with very tight grain patterns. Most cedar is fairly soft but this wood is sometimes so hard it can be difficult get a carving chisel through it.

June 17, 2009

24 Rue St. Nicholas

Yes there really is a 24 Rue St. Nicholas, it is located in the fascinating, medieval city of Rouen, France. Located at 24 Rue St. Nicholas is perhaps the most charming dollhouse/doll/miniatures store in the whole world. Of course that is just my humble opinion based on my limited travels in the world. The owner of the store gave me permission to photograph, it was very gracious of her.

The photos speak for themselves. Wouldn't this make a great project to do in miniature including the crystal chandelier in the window?

Of course I adore the fact that it is located in a tall medieval timber frame. This type of building is called colombage or pan de bois in French.The old historic district of Rouen is filled with many buildings of that type so take your comfortable walking shoes so you can tour all the twisty, turning lanes they are located along.

June 9, 2009

Last day of school

I thought you might get a kick out of the contrast in scales I work in and the size of the machines versus the size of the parts they can make. I took the two photos shown above this afternoon, the last day of the spring quarter of the CNC machining course I am taking.

The photo showing only one machine is of a CNC lathe. The lathe is about 6 feet tall but the part I made on it the other day was less than 1/4 inch in diameter and 7/8" long.

The machines in the other photo are all CNC milling machines. We have been making parts on them as well. Obviously these big machines can make large parts but they can also make tiny parts with a high degree of accuracy.

I am really glad I am in the program but thrilled to have the summer off.