Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beacon Hill Staircase Makeover [Step 2 - 2nd floor demolition]

The staircase remodeling is going slowly, at a rate of two days of thinking for every two minutes of actual work, but the thinking is beginning to pay off. I'm starting with the second floor run, which is straight. This is what it looks like using kit parts.

Looking at the backside, the new bits are staged. As you can see, I've started staining the new parts. I finally figured out that the stain is Provincial by Minwax.

Not shown, the delicate procedure needed to detach the flat bannister/rail piece from the staircase unit. The thinking part included a debate between salvaging the lower part and making an entire new surface.  The salvage idea won. Using a combo of sharp utility knife, mini saw, and emery board, the demolition began. I cut it away to line up with the risers and the underside of the steps. This, however, left a disturbing void between the edge of the step and the outside plane of the facing, which triggered more thinking.

The result of the thinking calls for a piece of strip wood to extend the step a bit beyond the facing. It will be rounded to a bullnose silhouette and stained to match the rest of the unit. The facing has not been glued yet. It may need some gentle sanding on one or more steps to fit the strip wood snugly enough so as not to be very noticeable. The stripwood has been ordered.

Meanwhile, the thinking has shifted to the railings that edge the opening between the first and second floors. I think the balusters for the upper run of the ground floor unit will actually be attached to the 2nd floor railings and simply hang down, so they, too, can be removable. Need to make a mockup to test the theory.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Beacon Hill Staircase Makeover [Step 1 ~ Staging]

The staircase in the Beacon Hill reminds me more of a Craftsman style, not Victorian. I see it used in other Beacon Hills and it works well, but in this Beacon Hill, I want a more delicate appearance. To that end, I've laid in a supply of Houseworks balusters, Newel posts and handrails.

Before cutting away the current details, I used a bit of poster putty to put some of the elements in place. It's obvious that there will be adjustments to be made, but all in all, I believe I'm going to love this makeover.

You'll notice that the tops of the upper balusters are cut off. That's because I want the staircase to be removable.  With the more delicate balusters, I may need to rethink how the pieces will fit together. 
Some of the balusters may have to hang down from the piece that fits above this one. I'll think about that while I prepare the components. I want to stain them prior to assembly.

This concept is not original to me. I saw pictures of this kind of staircase that someone else had done beautifully. I thought I saved the photos for reference, but now I can't find them. If anyone can point me toward them, I'd be much obliged.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 6) Time will tell

The vinegar-salt mix was applied to the copper sheeting three days ago. It has dried thoroughly and the excess salt grains have been gently brushed off. It also got a blast with canned air. The copper is still a bit light, but if the test piece is an accurate guide, it will darken in the next several days.  I like the light green verdigris. It may darken a bit as well. For now I'll leave it alone. Eventually it will be dry brushed with various shades of craft paint, which will add to the age.

There are a couple of shiny copper spots where I think there may have been some glue that didn't get wiped off completely. They are not big and may darken on their own. Time will tell. 

It is not very clear in these photos, but the greenish verdigris is very near in value to the green of the shingles. When both are aged, I believe the copper roof and shingled roof areas will complement one another. 

Notice the tower roof unit resting on top of the tabs. There doesn't seem to be any hope of getting them to fit together. I believe the tabs will have to be cut off.  Haven't decided whether to add some bits of stripwood beneath the roof unit to keep it from sliding sideways or use magnets to hold it in place. I'm thinking having it remain removable may be useful down the road. 

The window unit is not glued. It needs to be caulked and painted and won't be installed until the aging process is completed.

I should probably continue working on the exterior of the house, but the staircase is calling out to me. I want to replace the flat bannisters that came with the house with round spindles for a more delicate, refined appearance. The redesigned units will still be removable. Which way will I turn? Stay tuned!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 5) Aging the Copper Panels

Before applying the aging mix, the copper was cleaned with a window cleaner containing ammonia. The half-and-half salt and white distilled vinegar mix was painted on the copper panels, taking care not to let is drip. The salt did not dissolve, as is evident in the photo. The salt grains will turn greenish blue to become the smoke-and-mirrors iteration of verdigris.  (Click photos for larger image.)

On line discussion indicates that humidity will enhance the aging process, to the tower roof has been tented, taking care not to let the plastic touch the copper areas.

Coming soon, the Great Reveal! ♫♪♬

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 4) Installation of Copper Panels

The copper panels are glued in place. The photos show the sequence. The panels are paper backed. I dotted Aileen's Tacky Glue on the roof and pressed the panel in place with a pad of toweling, my fingers and a burnisher (seen at right).

The trickiest panel was the front, as it had to be gently worked behind the window sill.  I don't think I mentioned earlier that these adhesive-backed copper sheets are made for copper foil stained glass projects.They are a sturdy 1.25 mil thickness able to take the rubbing and pressing. If it were any thinner, I'm afraid there would be danger of tearing.

I placed the tower roof on the house to dry overnight. I'm planning to use the salt/vinegar aging mix and will tent it with a plastic bag, so I want to be sure the glue is dry or at least well set before subjecting it to the humidity. 

The shiny copper is a bold presence. The lighting was not the best for the photo, but you can get an idea of how it will work with the green shingles on the lower mansard roof bits when it takes on its own veil of green. 

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 3-a) More Verdigris Testing

Several days have passed since the first salt/vinegar test patch was made. I wasn't too excited about it at first, but as it has developed, I'm liking it more and more. The undissolved grains of salt have formed some nice bits of verdigris, and the background, which I first judged as being too pinkish, has deepened in color.

The bit on the left is the salt/vinegar test. The darker sample on the right is the result of a test with bleach. The bleach aged the copper to the dullish brown found on naturally aged copper but did not produce any verdigris. I'm sharing it here in the spirit of science.

For comparison, here is a photo of the salt/vinegar mix after about one day. Notice how the background has darkened and the patches of verdigris have developed.

I am leaning toward the salt/vinegar mix. I'm going to glue the panels in place on the tower roof while I think about it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 3) Verdigris Tests

Here are the results of the first round of testing finishing techniques for the copper roofing material. The raw copper sheeting is way too shiny. A darker shade of copper, like the oxidation that occurs naturally -- think the brownish look of older copper pipes -- would be much better, as well as the introduction of some of the green verdigris, which forms in humid climates. [Fun fact: research revealed that Verdigris isn't just a color change; it is a compound formed on the surface of the copper and can be scraped off. The resulting powder can be mixed with oils to form a unique shade of blue-green that some artists use in painting.]

Two aging methods were used in the first test session. The first uses a half-and-half mix of salt and white vinegar. Several web sites suggested using non-iodized salt and some suggested adding ammonia, but I didn't have either one on hand, and not wanting to venture out into the sauna that is New Orleans in the summer, I used what I had. The second method tested uses Tabasco sauce. Every New Orleans kitchen has a supply of Tabasco sauce.

Yet another website recommended urine for aging, but that is so not going to happen.

Here's a photo of the overnight test lab. Humidity was recommended as a way to enhance the process, so a twist of paper toweling in water was included under the tent, which is a piece of plastic grocery bag. The Tabasco test at upper left was not tented. A relatively big puddle formed and I figured it would take all night to evaporate; I was right. (Click the pictures for a closer view.)

Below is the original test piece, which was first wiped down with a bit of window cleaner with ammonia to remove any oils that would interfere with the aging process.The section to the right was painted with the salt/vinegar mix. The first application dried rather quickly. It received another coat before installing the plastic tent. The result: it has formed a few grains of verdigris, but mainly turned the copper surface dull and pinkish. I'm not loving the look, but I'll keep an eye on it to see if there are further changes as it dries.

A member of the Greenleaf Dollhouse Forum suggested I soak a piece of paper toweling in the salt/vinegar mix and leave it on the copper to see what would happen. When I took it off this morning, some of the verdigris stayed on the copper, but much of it pulled away, having soaked into the toweling. Maybe if the toweling were not quite as wet, more would stick to the copper? This needs more experimentation.

Here is the most intriguing test result: the Tabasco sauce. The right side shows the lovely deep green verdigris that formed. It is relatively thick, as thick as the original puddle. As far as I can tell, the copper turned the sauce green. The oval fingerprint shape is where I touched it. That bit was still wet and it pulled away very easily. Where the edges are dry, the verdigris clings very well. The left side of the test piece was lightly coated with sauce on a cotton swab. It has darkened somewhat without turning green. The bit in the middle is the untested copper. 

Of the tests done so far, I'm leaning toward the Tabasco sauce. It is mainly vinegar and salt with hot peppers, so why wouldn't it work? Used sparingly, it can take the edge off of the shininess, and used more heavily along the seams, in corners, etc., it will turn that lovely green color. And once dry, it clings very well, so I can lay the panels flat to age them and let gravity do the puddling. Will the left side continue to darken? Only time will tell.

The plan is to let all of these tests age for a while to see if there are additional changes. Meanwhile, I believe I'll go add a large bottle of Tabasco to the shopping list. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 2)

Well, six months later ... the Beacon Hill has been calling out, and today I got back to work.

I went with my initial thought, to use string to form the standing seams in the copper roof panels. I made templates with graph paper, the easier to space the seams and keep them straight, and used the all-purpose white string in the kitchen drawer. They're glued with Aileen's tacky glue.

I placed the template on the sticky side of the copper sheet and gently rubbed it out smooth with my fingers. I then turned it over, trimmed away the excess copper, and used a burnishing tool to smooth out the wrinkles and enhance the "seams".  I'm pleased with the result.

In the photo below, the panel is not pushed in all the way. I'm going to keep the panels loose until I figure out how they will be aged. Some of the aging may be easier to do it I can lay them flat. The white boards at the top will be painted black.

The next step is aging the copper. No way can it stay this shiny! I'm open to suggestions as to what methods to try. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Something Creepy at the Haunted Hangout

Today I was showing a visitor my miniatures. When I looked into the living room of the Haunted Hangout, I spotted a mini visitor. I've never seen this little sweetheart before. I have no idea where she came from. I phoned two friends and my sister, who I thought might have planted her there. They swear innocence.

I'm stumped. I can't think of any other repeat visitors who might be likely culprits.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Reorganized Workshop/Office & Museum

As some of you may know, my dear husband Lloyd passed away the beginning of February. I miss him. Looking through the rich body of work he left behind keeps him close and brings me comfort. I've been sorting through his art and art supplies and reorganizing the studio space we shared into one dedicated to my own interests, miniatures and genealogy. Thanks to the unwavering support of dear friend and fellow miniaturist NJ from Missouri, the new workspace is looking good. There's still a lot of sorting and sifting going on behind the scenes, but there is a lovely clean space to get the jobs done.

Two miniatures moved from our storage unit to the studio, so all of my houses are currently under one roof. Marie Laveau's Cottage, the Halloween House and the Christmas House are in other rooms one each in the living room, dining room and bedroom, with the remainder in the studio. (Click on the photos to see a larger version.)

This is the view into the studio from the hallway that leads to the rest of the condo. I love being able to see the Hemmerling print of the baptism from a distance.

The houseboat sits on a table with storage beneath. The houseboat came over from the storage unit. I was pleased to see that after its move from Missouri and a year in storage, the lights went on at the first click of the switch. I like that it is possible to see both sides of the boat, since it was bashed from a 1:12 kit to a 1:24 boat and has rooms opening on both sides. The orchids are perched on the end of the file cabinet in the south-facing window. From my desk chair, I can easily see out of the windows on either side and also out to the "back forty."

The next photo shows the view out the back door, where Lloyd enjoyed growing plants on the little patio space that he dubbed the "back forty" -- forty square feet, that is, not forty acres.  The Beacon Hill is close to the worktable. The skirt on its table hides dollhouse supplies. The quilt shop is beside it. The boxes by the door are on their way to the dumpster; they didn't get the clean-up-for-picture-time message. 

The corner opposite the desk holds the TV and bookshelves. They are the cheap chipboard shelf units that I sprayed dark brown. Cloth "drawers" hold office supplies and other items. To the right is a TV table on a dolly with rollers that supports the pottery shop. To its right is the beginnings of the Greenleaf Pierce/Bohemian Inn that came over from storage. Almost hidden in the bright blur by the window is Lloyd's most recent papiér maché sculpture, one of the Yoruba gods. The ceramic panel mounted on wood that is leaning under the pottery shop is a memorial made by one of Lloyd's former students and signed by several of them. They presented it to me recently. It will hang as soon as I get a sturdy wire attached; it is heavy!

In this long view of the room you can see the mix of artwork on the wall -- some of Lloyd's, some of mine, and a few other artists. The Pierce/Bohemian Inn is also handy to the worktable.

The worktable has a couple of lights, along with a couple of small roller carts that hold often used items. 

Then there is the adjacent storeroom, where most of the behind-the-scenes, yet-to-be-tackled challenges lie. Lloyd was never happier than when "organizing" his notebooks. Each one needs to be vetted for important papers, artwork, photos, and who knows what else. One day at a time, I'm telling myself. 

The new shelf unit below the notebooks holds a dozen tool boxes in addition to my own. They are labeled, but after opening a few, I realized that the label doesn't necessarily identify the contents. More one day at a time activity here. The boxes within the orange box hold more papers and photos, all of which needs to be handled one piece at a time. 

Across from the notebook shelves are some rolling arts and more boxes on shelves. The black bag hold empty boxes, primarily candy boxes, that Lloyd saved because "they are a good size for storing stuff." To tell the truth, I've been mining the bags as I reorganize, but I do believe most of those left will be heading for the dumpster.

The wall between the notebooks and the roll-arounds has some build-in shelves that hold miscellaneous items as well as a set of books that I published years ago, when I organized and ran Rockbridge Publishing Company as a desktop book publisher. The seasonal front door wreaths are also stored here. 

Now that the studio is reorganized, I'm looking forward to getting back to work on minis. The residents of the Beacon Hill and Pierce are all clamoring for attention! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Beacon Hill Tower Roof (Step 1)

Today I put a second coat of paint on the roof shingles. They look much better and are probably ready for installation. I think I'll hold off on that until I have the four windows built and ready to install so the roof units can be dry fit before gluing.

Meanwhile, the copper foil arrived from Delphi. It's meant for copper-foiled stained glass work, but it's a good weight and adhesive backed, in 12" x 12" squares. Perfect for what I want to do. The first step is to cover the ribs. I cut a pattern and got two of the ribs covered tonight.

The black roof panel will also be copper. I'm going to make a template so I can apply the copper while it is flat on the worktable to avoid creasing. I still have to work out what to use to create the standing seams. I'm leaning toward string glued in place. A little experimentation is in order.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beacon Hill Roof Trim

The white trim was too bland against the pastel shingle colors, so today I painted it black.  I like it much better. I first tried out a dark hunter green, but that just didn't cut the mustard.

The trim on the tower roof was also painted black. I think it will make a nice contrast to the copper sheathing. Both the shingles and the copper will be aged.

The jury is still out on what color to paint the window frames. The side ribs on the tower will be covered with copper foil, so they weren't repainted. The underside of the eaves will be painted a nice light blue on both the tower and the mansard roofing. 

If you click to enlarge the photo below, the sketchy paint job on the shingles will be obvious. They're not all that obvious in person, but oh, my, what the all-seeing eye of the camera reveals! The shingles are due for a second coat of paint. I'm so glad I haven't glued them in place yet. 

FYI, the wonky color is the result of using a flash for this photo. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Beacon Hill Shingle Colors

Okay, friends on the Greenleaf Dollhouse Forum are supporting the copper tower top; the copper foil has been ordered. Now I'm wondering how to make the vertical seams, but that can wait until I have the foil to experiment.

The question of the day is what color to paint the shingles. Back in the day, I must have been leaning toward a light sage green for the house, as that's what color the chimney is painted.  I have a set of sample paints I got based on an Olympic paint palette; that green is one of them. Another of the colors is a creamy gray/green. I did a sample section (without priming). I'm thinking now that the larger shingles could be the darker tone, the smaller ones the lighter tone, and the main house siding could also be the lighter tone. The doctor is considering.  [Click to enlarge.]

The shingled panels are not glued. I think the next step is to prime the shingles with gesso and paint them. 

Here are the other colors in the palette. I can see the coral and blues as accent colors when it comes time to do the trims.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Raising the Roof

Work has begun on the mansard roof of the Beacon Hill. I like the mix of large and small shingles, so I worked out the pattern seen below. I don't recall if the roof pieces were black originally or if I painted them, but black they are. I want to paint the shingles in two similar shades of gray, so a band of subtly contrasting shade will create a band around the upper story. The first piece I did was the bit of roofing that will be tucked behind the tower wall, figuring that any goofs wouldn't be noticeable.

Gluing the shingles was tedious, but not difficult, as they were flat on the work surface. While working on them, the tower cap was staring me in the eye. I don't think I want to use the curved edge bits on the roof pieces (like the ones on the tower cap). When they're fitted into place, I'll use Spackle or caulk of something smaller to smooth the transition at the corners. 

I'm not sure I want to do shingles on the tower cap. I can make templates, so the shingling shouldn't be too difficult, but I wonder how the tower cap would look if it were covered with copper sheeting instead of shingles. I'd cover the curved white bits with copper, and maybe paint the top and bottom edges black. It's something to think about while the glue dries on the shingles.

Suggestions welcome!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The homeowner visits the Beacon Hill

This is the doctor, a free man of color (FMC), husband to the beautiful Sophia and as yet nameless, visiting his home under construction in the Garden District of New Orleans, a stately Beacon Hill. He is recently back from a trip to France, during which he studied under one of the preeminent surgeons of Paris. He is holding a copy of the plans for the house and wondering where the workers went. 

I happened to catch him standing on the front porch with sunlight from a nearby window providing dramatic lighting. He bears a startling resemblance to my husband's cousin Dave. :) 

Here is the beautiful Sophia, on her way to visit Marie Laveau for some kind of potion or gris gris. We don't know her purpose for sure, but after three years of marriage the couple remains childless, so we can speculate.