Friday, 8 June 2012

Ten days more

There has been ten days work since my last blog and there's not much to show for it. The  brick process is very slow.  

When I'd top-coated the window frames and the bay window roofs I suddenly registered I had actually stuck the roofs on upside down - or had I?  On the one hand I wanted to see the moulding (and didn't it need the slope for the rain to run off?) and on the other I had a niggling feeling the moulding should be underneath.  I emailed Barbara's Mouldings asking them this and for advice on how to remove something which had been wood glued together if I had indeed done it wrongly.  They contacted their supplier (I thought they made them?) who said - yes, it had been designed for the mouldings to be underneath but most people like it the other way up so it can be seen, so ... please yourself.  Neither offered any suggestion as to how I could remove them.

I had a bit of a go at getting one off but decided it would just make too much of a mess all round and I have left them as they are.  I should have emailed someone I have been talking to about the Lyddington (she has done one) when I was dithering about - this way up or that way up?

The shop bays don't look too bad but I think the porch cover over the front door will look very odd stuck on upside down and even odder if I put that one the right way up - it will demonstrate that the others are standing on their heads.  Hey ho!  I just need to convince myself that only I will see it.

I am glad I added the little stone window sills.  I thought they might be a trim too far but I think they look good.  However, I wish I had stuck to my guns and not added the quoins, I still think they are odd/unrealistic.  That said I still don't see how I would have either filled in the gaps behind the bay window roofs or cut and routed some new roofs to fit and perhaps I wouldn't have been happy with the ensuing gap between the two doors - the left one does, at least, cover that.

If you are considering Richard Stacey's versi-slips I can commend them to you but only if you have a lot of patience.  It is certainly a very slow task and not an easy one. Having finished one dormer I began another but I soon got brain ache having to work out what size was needed where so I gave up on them for a while and started on the front walls of the shop.  At one point I calculated I was doing about twenty bricks an hour.  So just sixty hours work left then!  I lived in hopes of it speeding up considerably when I stopped fiddling round window openings and doors.  I then realised the whole of the area I was doing was around windows and doors.  Some people are very slow to catch on.

In the future I would certainly use them but I'd try to cut down the number by perhaps only doing the upper or lower half of the building in brick and would use masonry paint for the other half and I would certainly choose the half with the least windows.

A big problem is that the underpinning structures won't be designed for a specific amount of bricks, so it is impossible to line them up satisfactorily.  For example, these windows take 13 vertical bricks above them as a trim.  The bricks which will be in a line above them should have one brick lying across three of the vertical tops.  Clearly this can't be done with thirteen bricks.

Another issue was that the space between the two windows doesn't work out conveniently.  The edges alternate with a half brick and full brick (have a look at the photo above).  This leaves a space to be filled between the two windows that was just a smidgen wider than a normal brick.  A brick and a bit of a brick would have looked very odd.  I just cheated here and used a versi-corner (a brick and a half length) and cut a slightly longer brick.  I then just crossed fingers and toes and hoped it would not show when all the other bricks were distractingly in place.  I think I got away with it. 

On the right of the door I was left with a row of bits to fill in which were something like an eighth of an inch.  The gap was too big too ignore and too small to fill easily. I devised a method of stabbing a likely looking off-cut with the point of the craft knife and working my way up and down the row to find where it would fit without any more trimming needed. This was then very carefully touched on to the top of the blob of tacky glue (on a plastic box lid) and then pushed into place with a variety of tools - finger nails, cocktail stick, knife blade, edge of ruler - basically, whatever did the job.

Add to all of this the intricate cutting to size of almost every brick used and you might now appreciate why my work speed is twenty bricks an hour.

None of this is intended to put anyone off.  I love/hate working with tiddly bits of stuff for a doll's house and somehow having that frustrating pleasure is the very thing which gives me a great deal of satisfaction when the job is done.

I have completed the larger side of the front of the shop so the other side doesn't seem too daunting.

The dominant pale line of mortar on the right of the centre window will be over-painted with some mucky coloured wash and will look fine.  It is there because I managed to cut my template brick slightly too long and therefore all the rest followed.  I then also stuck them all in place before stepping back and having a look; at which point a loud aaaarrrgggh! could be heard.  It actually was solved by cutting off the surplus.  With a steel rule and knife it wasn't too bad a job but it removed the dirty based paint - hence the pale stripe.

As 'bricking', as it is now known in our house, drives you quietly nuts after a while I have interspersed it with bits of painting such as these trims.  The gold lining is not as good as I would like.  This is down to a few factors.  The grooves are a more complex cut than you would think and they have sloping side edges as well as the groove itself, so it is hard to keep a line just in the bottom on the cut without getting paint on the sloping sides.  Handling a very fine paintbrush and drawing straight lines with it requires a level of skill and practice which, obviously, I don't have.  Even if those two problem were overcome I am not sure how you can sand/smooth the cuts so they don't soak up the paint like blotting paper which gives a very rough finish.   I did try a couple of sanding passes but they didn't seem to make any impact. I ended up knocking back the gold trim by scratching over it when it was dry and it looks better for not being so in-your-face gold. Again it is a case of convincing myself I am being overcritical and am up too close to see it as others see it and that these various issues are acceptable or, even better, invisible to most people who look at the shop.

I am not sure if I mentioned that the green outside paint on this project is a Cuprinol outdoor wood finish - left over paint from my summer house/shed/workroom.  So far it is excellent.  Goes on very smoothly - better than any other paint I've used - leaves no brush marks.  I do three coats rubbed down between each.  It also has just enough sheen.  If it lasts well I intend to use it on all my wood (if I can find the colour I want!!).  I have just looked on their website and they offer one pound test pots.

I am also in the throes of messing around with an idea for the shop sign.  The signage is my biggest headache - how to get something which looks real.  So far I have looked at all kinds of clever, tricky and expensive computerised routes and even then they don't satisfy.  I can't find tiny brass letters any where and I would love some very small gold Lettraset which also seems to have dropped off the face of the planet.  My shop has two name boards - one over each bay.  I want it to say E. Bentley (in gold) inside some sort of frame/border on each and then on the fascia just below the bay roof the right one would say Milliner and the left one would say Dressmaker. Sounds simple.

I bought these one dollar items to mess around with to see how I might want it to look and I had a sudden inspiration that I could probably paint the white letters and they might actually do for the final job.  The sample one worked well.  The other packet contains all kinds of very fine gold trim which might make a frame of some sort around the letters.  I'll have a bash and see how they turn out.  I may just make them as a long term temporary solution until I find a better one.  A couple of hot glue spots to hold the boards in place would mean I could take them off later without too much damage.  

I can hold off until after Sunday and the York show where I just might find inspiration.  I have a heck of a shopping list and I really must try to stick to it.  I am dreadful for going armed with a very precise list of needs and end up buying wants instead.  I have the list in order of priority so I can see how my money goes and when to stop.  There are some things I must buy so the rest of the build can continue, such as a couple of black walnut wood floors and three fireplaces and the wood to make the chimney breasts. I really must do those.  To be honest that is pretty much my budget blown.  I'll probably stretch to a little treat so it isn't all just the practical stuff.  Choosing the treat will take all day!

I am also intending to say hello to Lucie Roper the editor of Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine.  I can give her my second article which I finished last night.  I am working months ahead of myself as I want all six articles completed before October.

Happy shopping to anyone who is going to the show.  I will be easy to spot as I shall be the old lady sitting on the floor blubbing because she can't have everything she sees.

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