Monday, 28 February 2011

A Birthday Project......Potter Style.

I have put The Leaky Cauldron aside for a couple of weeks because I am going to try to create a couple of special birthday projects for my two wonderful eldest children.
I saw these picture boxes in Hobbycraft on sale a couple of months ago and thought they would be ideal.
 They are quite sturdy and a good size with a depth of about two and half inches. I have taken one of them apart today and intend to use them as a bit of guinea pig in my attempts with paperclay.
All my children grew up with the Harry Potter books and they remain among the very few books my non-reading eldest son has ever read. So I have planned a little Potter surprise for him.
When he was trawling through Potter miniatures on Etsy at Christmas in an attempt to find me a Christmas present he came across this:
and she really made him laugh. He then discovered that there was a whole range of Potter characters and spent a lot of time trying to persuade me to include them in Diagon Alley.
They are a tiny two and a half inches tall so just perfect for a fun Potter picture box.
I am going to line the frame in paperclay in an attempt to create the stone walls of Hogwarts and then each character (I have ordered six) will have its own floating shelf of stained and distressed balsa.
I have never used any type of clay like this before so it will be a bit of a learning curve but I have been reading up on the pros and cons so I hope to avoid too many mistakes!!
It has to be ready by the 12th of March and the dolls haven't arrived yet, my fault I thought of the idea at the last minute, but Lin has been really helpful.
I will have to make the interior without the dolls and then hope it all fits together!

Friday, 25 February 2011

A Little Bit of Interior Planning.......

A few years ago I went to my first Miniatura and discovered just how many talented miniaturists there are and became totally hooked on this wonderful hobby. The Spring show is in a couple of weeks and being a list person I thought I would get the contents of The Leaky Cauldron together for a 'dress rehearsal'.
Then I would know what to look out for when I attend the show.
 The ground floor bar area looks busy! All my fabulous characters are by the wonderful Jain Squires and they look very comfortable.
 Mad Eyed Moody is enjoying his retirement propping up the bar.
 Ladies that Lunch? They certainly have a full spread with tasty treats from Mags Magnificent MiniaturesLinsminis and Kiva
 I hope to have a few baskets of groceries and fresh produce eventually for my Diagon Alley shoppers. This basket of apples is by After Dark Miniatures as is the produce board on the pub counter.
 I have tried the shelves out for size with some of the bottles I have collected. Not sure if I will use Nikki's coloured bottles here, maybe have one shelf full. I also want to have a small collection of pewter plates and bowls ( Miniatura List! ) on the shelves plus a few more tankards.
 These bottles are from Le Petit Monde d'Oiseau. They are perfectly scaled and come in a range of colours and shaped. I have also been collecting other glass bottles and flasks from Ray Storey which are hand blown and beautifully made. I will have another go with the scenic water and see what concoctions I can come up with.....
 In the bedroom my Hogwarts student is quietly dreaming of Gilderoy Lockhart! Exhausted after a day's shopping. This lovely piece was made by Julie of Bellabella Dolls and as soon as I saw her I knew she was perfect for this scene.
 I have a passion for the cats of Sarah Hendry and this little family are on their way to Hogwarts despite the one pet rule.
 The books are made by a company called A Novel Idea and they do a whole range of fabulous book sets. I bought these from a company in the US but for the life of me I can't remember what they were called. I will try and look them up and add the link later.
 Ahhhh! So sweet.
And like all good Hogwarts pupils she has been shopping for goodies to take back with her to school. A witch in the box by J.Dunn, sweeties by the lovely Silke and a tin of Halloween biscuits from Alliesminis.
There are quite a few things still needed for in here. All the kit for a Hogwarts student, a bookcase maybe, a wash stand or cupboard, a Hogwarts cloak and scarf, few bits of clothes etc, etc, etc!!!
A long list, but if I don't have a good idea of what I need when I go I get a bit "headless" and end up buying things willy nilly.....attic of the Cauldron springs to mind!

Problem Solved......Thanks Michelle.

 Put out and SOS yesterday regarding the join in the roof and Michelle came to my aid with lots of ideas. The ridge tiles were completely the wrong angle so Michelle suggested cutting them in half and laying them at the correct angle.
 I tried this but the two halves were a different size and too difficult to glue together. So then I tried the same idea but with two roof tiles but turned up a different side to that used on the main roof. These glued together much better.
 I then sanded them down to roughen them up a bit and grouted with the same basic powder grout I used with the brick slips but instead of water I used the PVA/water mix in order to firm up their gluing and prevent them from moving around or slipping. 
The grout was rather clean so I washed with the same grey mixture I have been using on the roof. 
The roof tiles have been weathering well and have lost that new look thank goodness. 
As I want The Cauldron to have a Tudor look I have boxed in the moulding around the edge of the roof with distressed and stained balsa. 
 This will also add a little edge for any extras I might want to add a later date to liven up the roof! I know its a street scene but I am sure Diagon Alley post "He Who Must Not Be Named", would have lots of cheery flowers! Plus, Kate you are so right, vines and greenery hide a multitude of bad things!
 The photographs make it look a bit top heavy but it looks better in real life, honest!
 I have also toned down all the wood work again to make it all seem a bit more weathered and worn. 
Plus a little finishing to the top edge of the roof. This stuff is great, Pewter Medium Foil Sheet, from Bromley Craft Products, very easy to cut and lay. Plus the colour is good, not too shiny. It seems quite expensive but the roll is quite wide so you can cut it into much thinner strips.
Cutting is not a problem, I used a very basic craft knife, so you can be as creative as you want with it.
Hoping to have a go at the top roof panel tomorrow and then play with the items I have set aside for The Cauldron.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Leaky Cauldron.....Finishing the Exterior Walls and Attic.

It always gets to a point in a project when you seem to be doing the same thing over and over again. So I have cut, distressed and stained more wood and completed the right hand exterior wall. This time I put a much thicker coat of the texture paste which allowed me to squidge the beams into place.
I am hoping that when it is fully dried the thickness will make that of the brick slips and I won't have to add an extra coat like on the left hand side.
 I have also toned down the walnut stain I used by rubbing them down with baby wipes. This has varied their colouring and given them a more aged look. I think I will also add a further brown/grey wash when I age the white walls. At the moment the texture paste is very bright white but they will be dirtied up.
 More wood, this time for the floor joists in the attic. I am glad I took the time to add these as they have provided a little bit extra to the look.
 The side walls have come out quite white in the photographs but they are actually the same shades as the floor, nice and dingy. This is definitely turned out much better than I expected and just as I had hoped which doesn't always happen when I have got a particular look in mind.
I have also been busy toning down the roof tiles which were quite a vibrant brick orange. Lots of random dark grey washes have dirtied them up quite a lot now. I think it's time for a bit of 'dry brushing' as suggested by Debbie, thank you for explaining Debbie, I might add some dark green to the grey now.
I am also having trouble deciding what to do with the roof join. I ordered some ridge tiles that I thought would do the job. Silly me, they are completely the wrong thing as the angle is much flatter. I think I am going to have to use something like lead flashing, perhaps cut in an interesting way. Or perhaps a row of roof tiles laid flat from top to tip........ Bit stumped by the problem at the moment.
This is the join I mean. Has anyone else tackled this type of problem?
Will have to sleep on it.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Leaky Caudron Exterior.......Tudor Style

After a lot of looking, thinking and trying to work out a plan of attack I began the first side of the exterior. I have done a Tudor type exterior before using polyfilla but this time I decided to use the texture paste I bought last week. The main reason for this was because I thought it would be quicker, far less messy and would take a wash better on completion.
 My plans were: glue the bricks on in random places, allow to dry; cut all the balsa beams and struts, distress, stain and oil; grout the firmly glued bricks, wash off and allow to dry; apply the texture paste all over the side and then while still wet glue on the balsa beams.
I was hoping that applying the beams while the texture paste was wet would allow me to squidge them into place.
 I applied the bricks free-hand, I wanted them to look a little bit out of kilter, the pencil marks show the final positioning of the beams. Marking out the beams was also necessary for cutting the right lengths too of course.
 The process worked well but I think the layer of texture paste is too thin and I will probably add another layer here and there. That means I will have to but another pot of the stuff which makes it slightly more expensive than polyfilla but I do like the overall stucco effect
 The balsa wood is 1/16th of an inch in depth, not very thick but easy to cut and it sits close to the wall hopefully looking like it is embedded in the paste.
Grouting the bricks was really easy, it is a task I had always avoided until my last project, although I forgot to coat the first ones with PVA before grouting, which meant they were harder to clean off. 
I will also have to rub down the paste around the bricks to stop the finish looking too frilly.
All in all quite pleased with this week's progress, time for the dreaded washings next but I have all my dirty water pots lined up and I have a new brush shaped like a fan which looks right for the job.
Oh but it is a scary thought!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Leaky Cauldron....Roof and Attic

I have been working on the main roof of The Leaky Cauldron this week. I chose conker roof tiles from Richard Stacey which I thought would be a good choice for the Tudor feeling of the building. They are much brighter than I expected but after washing them and adding moss etc I hope they will not stand out quite so much. I do like the textured effect of them, looking well worn.
 They were very easy to cut and shape, using my razor saw or simply sanding with an emery board. I usually use PVA for this sort of job, the brand that comes in a brown bottle, but for some reason I have a huge bottle of Elmers Glue-All, so I used this instead.
This was not a good choice. It was much too thin and the tiles tended to slip around a bit so you had to keep an eye on them and push them back into place every so often.
 I also thought about letting the odd tile slip for effect and even tried to curve the tiles in order to make the roof more interesting but decided this would have to wait until I am brave enough to try making my own paperclay tiles.
 This one edge will need some ridge tiles which I forgot to order so I will wash the roof with shades of grey to tone the whole thing down and by that time the ridge tiles should arrive.
My Diagon Alley project has a corner shop at each end and they will be decorated in the same style externally.
The main look I will be hoping to achieve will be like many old high streets in England. Very old shops which are inter-mixed with other more recent styles, or replaced completely in places. So my high street will have a mix of Tudor, Victorian and Georgian influences. I am thinking that all the upper levels will maintain their Tudor heritage while the shop fronts will have been 'modernised' at some stage.
That's the plan anyway!
 The washes have been added to the tissue attic and I am really pleased with resulting look. The tissue, despite being soaked in PVA/water mix, soaked up the wash which was fine as my dirty brushes water, thank you Sabs for that fabulous tip, was a little too dark. I have now added two washes one dark brown based, from painting wood, and one dark grey based, from washing the roof tiles. 
Extra wash in the corners and along the edges where dust and dirt build up more. 
These photographs make it look quite clean still but it actually looks much more grungy and dingy.
The little loft hatch in place for anyone wanting to brave the dust and the mice! 
You can probably see there are small white areas, these are where the tissue base was not applied thickly enough and when I added the washes the tissue broke up a little bit.
Tip for next time - build up the tissue base all over...
But I have left the little patches as the floor and walls will eventually be hidden by junk and other dust effects. No need to be too picky when there is so much still to be added.
Pouring with rain here and so grey. Definitely a good day to be playing with my toys!

Monday, 14 February 2011

An Attic and a Bar......With a Fab New Tool!

There is space in the roof of the Sid Cooke corner house which I have decided not to use to hide all the lighting bits and pieces. Like many of us I have a lot of pieces that I am unlikely to use or were just mistakes. So they are going in the attic in a number of different guises.
I have read in various posts about how to use tissue as a wall covering. This technique sounded ideal for the attic walls and floor.
 I started with toilet roll sheet which I split and then scrunched. 
 I edged the attic in terracotta as the roof tiles are going to be Tudor red and I thought it would be easier to add this colour now rather than later. I primed the interior with my new pot of gesso.
Then I had great fun squidging on the crumpled toilet paper a pieces at a time, over-lapping as and when. I glued it all with a 50/50 mix of PVA and water which made it quite wet but very easy to attach to the walls and floor.
I am really pleased with the look and texture. It reminds me of the old attics of my aunts' houses that I used to explore when I was very young. Very temporary looking, as if the builder couldn't be bothered with a room that would never be used. Now I will wait for it to dry.........
 ......and while it dried I played with my new toy. A magnetic gluing jig from MicroMark Tools. I saw it on Casey's Minis and thought it would be a good investment as I have quite a lot of woodwork to do in Diagon Alley. The only problem being I couldn't find anything like it on any UK sites so I had to bite the bullet and pay US postage. Ouch! But at least it got through customs without all the additional charges. Phew! So please don't leave me a post telling me they have one just like it for £2.50 in Tools'R'Us or somewhere because I will cry! 
 Anyway....the basic idea is very simple. You put your pieces in the metal tray and then they are held together to dry by very strong magnetic pieces.
 This is the unit for behind and over the 'bashed' bar of the Leaky Cauldron, and as each portion dried I added the next using the magnets to hold the main struts in place.
The shelves are quite narrow, about 1cm or a bottle width, with a few pegs to hold pewter tankards perhaps? I didn't want to make them too deep as I would like to get a jolly host to fit behind the bar, he will have to be a very thin bar man though!
They are standing up ok but I will glue them in place once I have finished the exterior decorating just in case I want to tip the house up.
I am hoping this jig will be really useful once I start making the Tudor bay windows as these were a nightmare to glue when I made the Witch House.
Last thing, does anyone know of a supplier of made to measure glass for dolls house windows?
I fancy trying out making stained glass windows.........

Friday, 11 February 2011

Furniture Bashing........

 My collection of houses and shops has grown very quickly and my projects have become more ambitious. This has forced me into learning how to do more things myself and also look to ways of cutting costs. Economising on furniture that is going to be hidden at the back and decorated with other minis is an area I am exploring at the moment.
 I bought this large settle quite a while ago on Ebay very cheaply but it was very highly polished. So I have rubbed it down to remove most of the varnish, added a paint wash and then decorated the panels with vintage maps taken from the Internet. 
 This settle will be part of my witch's lunch corner so not a lot of it will be seen, Jain's wonderful characters will be the stars of the show. 
 Maybe one day when everything is finished I will return to this corner and replace the settle with a more collectable piece. Ha! Ha! Do projects ever really get finished? Mine never seem to, there are always so many ideas to move on to!
 The Leaky Cauldron must have a bar but I wanted it to be 'l' shaped so I could incorporate the false door and Nikki's curtained shelf. I found a very basic one on Ebay but it was a section too long. With my new trusty saw I simply cut off the end and replaced the end panel. 
 I have jazzed it up a bit with some of Angela's useful decorative items. As the counter is too low for a pub I cut a thick balsa top which I am hoping will eventually look like a large piece of distressed oak.
It still needs quite a bit of work, distressing, painting and sanding but I hope it will come out half decent. Especially once I add the wall shelving and all the gorgeous pieces I have been collecting.
Plus is will be half hidden by the table at the front so it shouldn't spoil the whole effect of the room.
One question....should I have beer pumps in the Cauldron?