February 24, 2010

Brickology Part 5

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010
This photo is a closeup of the herringbone pattern laid brick inside my soapstone fireplace. I am pleased with the realism of it. These are the very same miniature bricks I have shown you how to make earlier in my blog. Brickology Part 5 is on how to mortar the bricks you have made.

After your bricks have been made and glued into position they need mortar between the joints. For a dollhouse you use a method similar to putting grout between tiles. For tiles most dollhouse builders use a lightweight spackle product (Polyfilla). But in real life bricks have mortar and mortar has a different texture than grout, it is much more coarse and has a lot of sand in it. I will repeat yet again how very important texture is to creating realistic miniatures. My handmade miniature bricks have the realistic texture of real life handmade bricks so my mortar must also have the realistic texture.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

There are several choices of materials to use for this miniature mortar. Sanded grout for real tiles works nicely for this application if you are using real ceramic dollhouse bricks. But I felt it would scratch up the surface of the miniature bricks I made from Activa Plus Clay. So I have used another material, Elmer's ProBond stainable wood filler. It contains tiny bits of wood fibers. Those wood fibers give me a nice, sand like texture that does not scratch the surface of my home made bricks. The wood filler is not the correct color for the mortar, I wanted it to be more grey in tone. Therefore I have added a few drops of black, acrylic paint to the wood filler.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I do not spread the mortar all over the surface and then wipe off the excess. That would make a mess of the project. The residual paint and wood filler would change the color of my bricks and I don't want to get water on my bricks to wash off the excess wood filler. My application tools are shown in the photo above. I use the knife blade to pick up a small amount of my mortar material and hold it over the joint I am filling. Then I use the toothpick to press the material into the space. Yes it takes a while but there is very little cleanup needed. A  toothpick can be used to finish smoothing the joint. Blunt the sharp point of a tooth pick so that it  approximately fits the width of the joint between the bricks, it should be just a little wider so it does not slip down into the gap.  for the final smoothing of the mortar line. Brick masons have special tools to dress the joints.

I did not want perfectly smooth joints. The mortar joints on my fireplace would have been subjected to the heat of the fire and the bricks would have shifted with time, the fire will have caused damage as well resulting in  some cracking and loss of  mortar.

A teaser of what comes next. As this brick is used inside a fireplace the last step for this particular brick project will be to create the smoke and soot patterns found in a real fireplace.