Friday, November 2, 2007

Here you see the home of Miss Ida Nutkin. It's fairly small, but big enough for one. Miss Ida, for I feel I can call her that, having worked with her so closely for the past several months, finds it cozy and more than adequate for her needs.

Here we see Miss Nutkin at her door luxuriating in the morning sun.
On the ground floor you'll find what she likes to call her nut cellar. This is the main storage area for her winter viands. At present it contains primarily peanuts, peanuts being the easiest nut to obtain in summer months. In fall, as tree nuts ripen, she will be able to gather acorns and fine walnuts from the grove at the edge of her home forest. Goodness, Miss N must have been in a hurry. She's usually so neat and tidy.

The second floor contains her living area, a sort of bed-sitting room and kitchen. It's exceptionally cozy in winter when the snow piles up around the trees and the bitter winds blow outside. Miss N is preparing tea, which she will serve in her apple inspired tea set.

 Finally there is her attic. There she keeps primarily her seeds, though at present she still has a few of last fall's acorns, the harvest having been exceptionally plentiful. In addition, this space holds guest sleeping quarters. Her occasional overnight guests enjoy the comfort of having a midnight snack so close at hand.

Next you can see how the Nuthouse was created.

That's it, THE GATEHOUSE, from The Dolls House Emporium. My original concept was going to be something a bit more conventional, but my imagination starting running amock and instead of a stone tower, I wound up with a tree stump.
It took me 22 days to complete this project. 22 working days, that is. In calendar time, it took quite a bit longer.

The kit pieces went together easily, however the instructions could have been a little clearer, but then I usually complain that instructions could be clearer on just about anything. If you're putting one together, note that the side panels with the grooves have a lip along one side that goes toward the back. The back panel fits into the lip, and the front panel will eventually cover the front ends of the side panels when it in place.
They give you a bottle of glue with the kit, which I used til I had to glue on the roof moldings that hold the roof up. The pieces kept sliding about as I tried to adjust them so that the corners would meet properly. I switched to wood glue, which seems to “catch” faster. I put a bit of tape on the corners to try to keep them from spreading.
I then painted the insides of the attic roof and when dry, glued the panels as directed in the instructions. You have to glue 3 panels together, leaving the 4th, the one with the window, taped in place to them. When the glue is dry, remove the panel with the window and glue the pyramid of 3 panels to their niche in the moldings.
The kit is pretty simple, but for some reason the instruction pages are printed in an oddball order. I keep having to hunt for the right numbered illustration. Check to be sure you’re putting on the moldings right. This is where it’s important to dry fit this baby first. I had dry fitted the pieces, but when I took it apart to start gluing, I sat there turning the molding this way and that for a while because I couldn’t remember how it went in the first place. Maybe I should have marked the things “up” or something?
You can see a picture of the pieces arranged on the table as I took them out of the box and also one of the structure with the 3 sides up taped together. The structure is 28" high without the little roofcap.

I sat a while and considered interior options. I'm kicking around a couple of ideas and I'll see how I like them tomorrow. My big hurdle is what size will I cut the little 2nd floor door. Do I need to trim out the threshold area or not? It sort of depends on how the "trunk" will take shape. I'll have to think about it.
I decided on what size to cut the upper floor door opening and cut it out .
Then I traced the arched lower floor back opening and cut a panel to fit into it, because I wasn’t going to use an open doorway there. I glued the panel in place and cut some strips of leftover MDF and glued them across the backside of the door and wall. I’m going to cover the whole back, so if it’s sloppy it doesn’t matter, it won’t be seen. By the way, I goofed and cut the panel even with the bottom of the wall forgetting that on both sides of the archway the wall fit into a shallow slot. I realized my error when I started to put the back panel in place and glue it. I had to rush down to the basement and trim off a bit of the doorway panel then glue it.
After this I painted the interior walls to simulate wood. I blended some white and ochre, brushed it on and while it was wet added some strokes of ochre and burnt sienna then streaked it all up. I used a 1 ½” rather full artists brush to do it. When I added the streaks of darker brown and ochre to the wet paint I applied them using a side stroke of the brush, rather than flat face on as one usually would. When the colors were quickly stroked on, I then wiped them in the flat regular held way to brush and blend the streaks with the wet paint. For the lower level floor I decided to simulate tree rings. I again painted it with the white/oche and swirled some ochre circles on it. I felt the burnt sienna was too fresh looking for a floor so I swirled in some dark chocolate brown. When dry I gave them a light smoothing with a fine sanding pad.

You can see from the pictures I wasn’t trying to be exact, just the suggestion of tree rings is enough to make one think of wood.
I got the 3 sides glued together and onto the tower base. I taped them to each other with some duct tape til dry. I also slid the floor panels in place to help keep everything steady til set. Later I’ll pull the floors out to work on the inside some more and on the floors themselves.

I decided I wanted the look of beams holding up the floors of the upper levels. I could have wandered through the woods behind my yard, looking for sticks and branches, but I decided to make hand-hewed beams from scrap wood in my nice dry basement.
I drew out the right sized beams on a piece of 1” pine board. For those who are novices in the field of lumber, a 1” pine board is actually ¾” thick. I cut out the strips of wood to the right length then I started to give them a rough hewn look. I don’t advise my method for most folks, but you can achieve the look in other ways that I’ll mention later.

I used a bandsaw for my roughening up. I marked one of the smooth sides of the beam so I’d know which side to glue to the ceiling. I then cut a narrow band off the bottom of the beam making a very rough cut. The tricky part comes next. You have to be familiar with the saw and have steady hands. I hold the beam at an angle so I can whack off a rough bevel on all sides. If I used a wedge to keep the wood at the correct angle my cut would be too smooth for the look I wanted. I took a picture of the first 3 beams right after I cut them.
I’ve also done something similar in the past with a table disc sander and with the narrow belt sander before the darn thing broke. You can also have a go at distressing the beams with a dremel drum sanding attachment, or maybe more simply go outside and repeatedly hit rocks with the things.
The next thing was to fix up the lower level before I moved up to the ceiling and next floor. I thought of a good squirrelish way to store the nuts so I decided to go get some walnuts at the market since I needed a few things anyway.
There were no walnuts! They had oodles of peanuts, salted peanuts, unsalted peanuts, NY Yankees peanuts, Boston Red Sox peanuts, even red hot peanuts, but no other in shell nuts. I did eventually find some walnuts, but it wasn’t til fall that they showed up in my market.
I wanted to hang the nuts in a sort of cargo net rigging. I got some small cup hooks to screw into 4 corners in the wall and then hook a net onion bag full of walnuts over the back wall. Since there are no walnuts to be found I bought a bag of jumbo size peanuts.
Later I found some rope netting at a craft store and replaced the onion bag.
As for construction…
I cut wooden brace pieces for the beams, then gave the beams and braces a coat of paint to roughly match up with the color of the walls. Usually we see beams done in a dark brown tone, but in this case, I felt they should be light in color.
I screwed in 4 small cup hooks to hold the net bagging, afterwards, I glued in the floor panel, then flipped the structure and glued on a couple of beams and the braces.

When the glue dried I flipped the structure upright and hooked the net bag into place and started filling it with the peanuts. The peanut color blends with the walls……the look is all wrong….sigh….but ‘twill have to do for now.
Wait til you see what I’m going to do to the outside, but each thing comes in its own turn.

Next time maybe I’ll remember to make the door, then cut the hole in the wall.
I also planked Miss Nutkin’s parlor floor. I cut some basswood into strips and glued them down with wood glue, then brushed on some stain. When dry I gave it a light sanding, then I rubbed on a little lemon oil.

I wanted her beams to have a slightly more finished look as this was to be her living room, and I do mean living. I want to try to see if I can create a whole living space for her within this one room. The little brace pieces were cut from a piece of cove moulding I had laying around. The beams were from a bag of sticks I got once at the Walmart crafts department. I just softened up the edges a bit with a sander.

I haven’t decided if I want a little ladder stairway from the living room to the attic. It sort of depends how the furniture situation works out. I’ve got an idea for a combination box bed and cupboard which I’ll have to work on. After I draw out the plan I’ll have a better idea how the room will fit together.
I scrounged around to see what doodads and odd bits of furniture I had that might suit Miss Nutkin. I have several coffee tables that came with sofa sets and found one that could work as a table for her, seeing as how she's just about 3" tall. The table is one of those red painted glossy ones that are supposed to simulate mahogany. I thought I'd try using spray primer on it, then paint it in a more country squirrel style. I started sanding it a bit with a fine sanding pad while I was waiting for some paint to dry and wound up with a pretty "distressed" look.
I also had 2 small wooden kitchen style chairs painted in that same reddish stuff. They're just about the right height for the coffee table. I'll need to cut the legs down just a tad. The furniture at Dollar Tree is a smaller scale than 1:12, it's more like 3/4" =12". I have to make her bed, and then I can figure out the rest. I'm leaning towards a box style bed at this point.

The picture shows the distressed table I mentioned last time. I just used a biggish sanding sponge on it. I could have used a piece cut from a thin sanding sponge to get at the legs better if I wanted to. I'm planning on using this table for her dining table, but I think I want to paint it.
I spent quite a bit of time figuring out the bed and one thought led to another. I wanted a box bed and then started visualizing a ladder going up to the top of the bed, as though it was a little loft, then another short
ladder up to the attic. Maybe she could store stuff on her little loft.

I started on the bed, using a scrap of leftover ¼”birch plywood to cut the sides, the board the mattress would do on and the top. I used a piece of dollhouse crown moulding to trim the front sides and I’ll use a different piece along the top. I had initially thought of bed hangings in the front, but now I don’t think I will. The actual sleeping area is so small, that once you put a pillow and comforter or something on it, it would fill it pretty well in. I also think I won’t finish off the back, either. Beds can take up a big chunk of a room and in this case every fraction of an inch counts. I thought I might glue it in place with the ladders, but that might be a pain later. I’ll have to think about it some more.
I primed the table with white. I also sanded some of the decorative curving off the apron so that the chairs would slide under it better. The chair legs have been shortened, I think I'll leave them the red color. The two ladders for the loft/bed are in place. Have you noticed how once you start putting furniture into a room, the room suddenly seems to shrink? I had a comfy easy chair for her, but now it looks too big for the room. Maybe I can come up with something else.
I didn't like the way the stain on the bed came out and with each passing day I grew to hate it, so I sprayed it with white primer. I also glued on a little trim to the top. I think it's a decided improvement already.

I also made her a small stove out of a stamp roll holder (I knew it would come in handy someday, that's why I bought 2). The stove pipe is made from a section of dowel pushed into a piece of copper elbow connector I found in the basement. A cast iron stove should have something under it to keep the floor from getting to hot, so I made a platform of bricks. I'll get around to doing some detail work on it later.

I need to make some more shelves or hooks to hang things on. Miss Nutkin lives in a very cozy space (translated into real estate jargon, meaning small). I have to make her a chair. I recently found a site that has a tutorial on making a clay sofa, maybe I'll give it a go, only shorten it up to chair. I'm about 95% sure I'd never find her the right kind of chair if I shopped for one. Of course, there's always a rocking chair......yeah, maybe a rocking chair.
We'll see.

I had a Michael's hutch I had split in half and thought I might make a cabinet to hang on the wall. It's on the left hand side propped up in place by a piece of scrapwood.

I had an annoying time with the stove door. You'd think drawing on a simple stove door with Gallery Glass leading paint would be simple. A quick outline and you're done. Nah.
The paint kept spurting and going where I didn't want it. I tried the Tulip puff paint too, but it didn't want to cooperate either. I had considered silver foil thin cardboard, but it was too shiny, I really wanted a black sort of clunky looking stove.
I finally fit on the idea of cutting out a small rectangle from my Red Rose tea box and gluing it to the side . When it was dry I used the edges of it as a guide for the leading paint. It still clumped up a bit but that was ok, after all, I'd like to know just how many competent little blacksmiths a squirrel could know in the woods anyway.
I used a small section of small L corner moulding from the basement wood stash to make a bracket for the ladder so it could have the option of being hung on the wall. I didn't bother to paint it, it sort of blends in with the background.
The storage cabinet atop the bed is the bottom of the Michael's hutch that I had used for the wall cabinet. I measured it and realized that if I cut the overhanging edges off of it, it would be the perfect size.
Otherwise I spent my afternoon giving the bed and the wall cabinet another coat of paint. On the whole, I don't really enjoy making furniture. I'd like to be able to find a suitable chair or one that was almost suitable that I could adjust, but I don't feel like perusing catalogs and online shops and then waiting a week for it to come. When I'm on a roll I like to keep rolling.
DAY 10

Today's picture shows Miss Nutkin with her new chair, a decorated china cabinet to be hung on the wall and a painted cabinet in the loft above her bed.
Firstly, I had planned on staining the loft storage cabinet and just having the green painted top. Don't you think sanding those little things is a pain? I really wanted to avoid any further sanding that I could. By itself it looked nice, but it just didn't seem quite right once I put it in it's place. Right now it has a white prime coat. I'm not sure if I'll leave it white or make it off-white.
The china cabinet is shown atop the kitchen table for now. I've been wondering what to do with the kitchen table color-wise. I'm thinking maybe I'll paint the apron and legs a color and leave the top white. I tried a couple of blues on the legs, but didn't like it and rubbed it off. I might try another blue shade or a green or perhaps a mottled or rubbed technique. I can't quite decide, I guess it'll come to me sooner or later.
So we come to the chair....Of course I couldn't find anything suitable. I would have been surprised if I had. Everything was too big and half scale would have been too small. I glued together a wooden toy block and some scraps of wood into a chair the desired shape and size. I then covered it with paperclay. I could have tried the traditional way with cloth and padding, but I didn't feel like it. I think I'm more comfortable working as a sculptor than a seamstress.

I found it easier to cover the chair partially and let it dry then cover the rest. The paperclay tends to mush under your fingers or stick to them when you try to cover the whole thing at once. I sanded the chair when it was dry with a combination of a circular sander, a sanding pad and an emery board, I also did a bit of smoothing with wet fingertips, but I was afraid of cracking so I didn't use much water. Then I had to apply some more paperclay to build up certain areas and sand and smooth again.
When it was dry I painted it off white, then I started painting on the "upholstery" flowers. I used a piece of cloth I had to guide me in the design.

DAY 11
Do you recognize the new unfinished cabinet? I wanted something to fill in the space on the back wall next to the hanging ladder and I didn't feel like making one from scratch so I sat there in my chair just letting my eyes wander over the jumble in my studio when I saw it. It was right there, broken, in a box on the floor. Yes, friends and neighbors it was a Michael's Hutch. I do believe it was the same kind that I used atop the bed-loft. The upper cabinet was pried off and part of it was badly gouged and one of the doors had popped off. I cut off the bottom legs and sanded the top and bottom smooth. I then sanded the 2 lips on the side so I could get it to stand on its side without wobbling and voila, there it was, a shelf with a hinged flip-up door in the top section.
I also decided to paint little flowers on the sides of the cabinet atop the bed to match the wall cabinet which is now glued in place. Then I decided that the doors on the little cabinet needed a little something too, and then of course I realized that the green color I had used for the top was all wrong so I repainted it a different shade.

Also painted the top of the bed more floor-like. I used a green, then, rather than try to get it to come out all nice and smooth and have to do 2 coats, I decided to use a crumpled bit of paper towel to give it a little textured look.
About the kitchen table....I tried a couple of colors on the legs and didn't like the look, so I opted to use a red. I then looked at the table and decided that the top of it looked pretty
good as it was with just the primer spray. Now I know the can said Primer on it, but it left a very smooth glossy finish when I used it on the red varnished made in China Dollar Tree table. You can also see just a little of the undercoat in spots and you know, I thought it looked nice, sort of a distressed well used table finish.
I temporarily removed the ceiling because I've been turning the structure sideways to glue on the cabinet and start working on the side steps. It looks like the outside tree trunk will be constructed of papier mache on a styrofoam base. I've got some styrofoam glued on and I just realized I should figure out the steps before I start building up that side of the tree. I keep having to visualize each step of each step as I go along. I need some wood and some Weldbond glue.
By the way, I still have to cut the opening in the ceiling for ladder access to the attic floor. I've been putting it off. I always get nervous about cutting holes. It seems as though I always wind up cutting them just slightly off and then I have to spend a lot of time fixing everything so it all fits.
DAY 12

The steps in the photo are made of Jenga blocks. Jenga was a much advertised game on TV years ago. You made a tower with these blocks, then each player had to take turns removing a block. If the tower fell during your turn, you were the loser. has the game, I think it’s $12.99 if you think you want to make stairs from them. I happened to have an old set that no one had played in 10 years.
The Jengas are nice in that together with a thin piece of basswood as a tread, they make a perfectly proportioned stair. I checked. They match the steps in my front hall. You do have to sand off the word “jenga” though.
Because the rebuilt steps are narrower than the steps I was originally planning on building, I had to use some spacers between them and the wall. It turned out that another Jenga block fit perfectly in there. I glued a couple of blocks to the wall, then glued the stairs in place.
The outside of the Nuthouse is to look tree-like. I happened to have a lot of foam board of various thicknesses laying around. We had made some purchases lately that had lots and lots of that packing material, so I figured why pay to throw it out? I had enough to fill a trash can if I broke it up, and in my town it costs $4 to toss out a canful of trash.

I glued the foam onto the sides of the structure. You can use hot glue if you squirt the glue onto the MDF, then attach the Styrofoam piece. If you squirt the glue onto the foam, it’ll melt it and you wind up with holes and nothing gets stuck together. As you may surmise, yes, I did that and that’s how I know. I had a tube of glue made especially for Styrofoam but I couldn’t get the darned stuff to squirt out. I bought it sometime last year. Maybe it has a short shelf life, or maybe it’s just pain in the fingers to squeeze out glue. I don’t really know, but I got mad and tossed it out. I checked the glue this to that website and bought another glue, Weldbond.
I thought that perhaps I should build up the trunk with the Styrofoam til I get the general dimensions about right. Then I’d use the papier mache to start filling in the spaces. By the way, I use an old electric carving knife to cut foam. My knife came with 2 sets of blades, but I found that I only used the long set and never the short one. Many years ago I was having a hard time cutting up a cardboard tube for a kid’s school project and I tried the short blades in the carving knife. I’ve been using the short blades to cut all kind of things since then. Gee…I hope the papier mache sticks well to the Styrofoam….(by the way, my program is capitalizing Styrofoam, I guess it must be a patented brand name or something. I don’t feel like readjusting it so we’ll let it go.)

After I’ve seen how the papier mache looks, I’ll use my carving knife to round off the Styrofoam edges. I’m exploring several possibilities for the bark. I’ll check them out and see what works best.
My rebuilt steps had a landing with a turn, so I had to pop them apart there so I could make an adjustment to get them to fit the nuthouse. I’ve had to make a few more angled steps to fit in here and there. I’ve glued the treads to the Jenga risers and they’re drying right now. When dry I can then start gluing them into place to finish the stairs.

About 3 weeks ago I also shredded up a pile of newspapers to make some papier mache. I simmered and soaked them and squeezed the excess water out of them and had to stop. I figured I’d get back to it in a few days and I stuck the bowl of wet paper in the back of my refrigerator to keep it damp just in case I couldn’t get back to the project soon. The wet paper looked just fine after its long wait and I figured it was ok to add the glue once it warmed up a little.
DAY 13
Today I attached more styrofoam. The Weldbond glue seems to be working ok. The structure is beginning to look like a cliff. I've been rounding out sections here and there with my electric knife. I figured I'd better stop for the day so that the pieces I just glued would have time to dry well before I started layering on others.
I started rethinking the papier mache. The wet paper was mashed into little balls and I got sick of playing around trying to recrumble them. I started wondering of drywall compound sticks well to the foam and I remembered a product I saw online somewhere a while back that might work for the final layer. I need to do some thinking again.
I wasted a bunch of time on the stairs yesterday. I had a little accident. I'm not sure what happened but a section of steps fell off. A basswood tread just snapped in two so I couldn't just reglue it all. I had to figure out a way to glue the lower section and the upper section from underneath. Of course, for some reason nothing wanted to fit the way it did the first time, but I finally got it right.
DAY 14
I was able to glue on some more styrofoam pieces to the outside. I'm at the point now where I can't put on very many pieces at once. The glue has to have time to set or the pieces shift as I attach others. Since I've been cutting some angled shapes with the electric knife they aren't exactly accurate cuts, so I find myself trimming and shaping pieces to fit to each other.

I still wasn’t quite sure what I was going to use to form the bark on the exterior. One of the things I bought to try was 5 pound bag of papier mache mix. I still think papier mache may be at least partially the way to go, but I haven't any spare paper laying around, and I've had way less time to work on this project than I expected to, so I used the premade shortcut stuff. A 5 pound bag cost @$21 if I recall correctly. The intructions say to mix it with warm water and knead into a clay. It's called CELLUCLAY. I'm wondering if it'll have similar properties to paperclay. They say it will take and keep impressions, etc.
The other thing I bought to try was RIGID WRAP. I saw something about it online somewhere and it caught my fancy. It looks like a gauze bandage, but it's impregnated with plaster. You dip it into warm water than lay it over a wire aperture or mold, etc. You
can make masks with it by coating a person's face with petroleum jelly then laying the strips over their face. It dries pretty fast. I cut off about 5" to try it out. I just let it sort of fold over forming a bit of a loose pleat. It looks like the sort of thing that has many possiblities.
In any event, all these items will be useful to me at some point, whether I use them all for the Nuthouse or not.
The outside of this structure is turning out more complicated than I initially thought it would be, but I'm visualizing it rather clearly now, so it's mainly a matter of getting the styrofoam pieces up to fill in the top. Inside I just need to cut a hole in the floor for the ladder up to the attic and finish off the area that needs some trim where the walls and angled roof meet.
DAY 15

Here you can see the Celluclay being applied.
I've glued styrofoam to the two backsides and to most of the stair side. I wanted to see how the Celluclay worked on the larger sides first. I mixed 1 pound of the powder with 1 quart of warm water and kneaded it into a dough. It turns dark gray and is pretty sticky. I had run out to buy more Weldbond glue after dinner tonight because I thought that perhaps I should coat the foam with it before I applied the Celluclay just to be on the safe side, but the clay seemed pretty sticky as it was.
I started filling in the crevices and adding Celluclay to open corners, etc., not too thick so that it'll dry faster. I'm going to add some clay to the top tonight and hopefully it will have dried by morning so I can layer on some more. If the clay seems loose anywhere, I'll coat the walls with glue before adding more celluclay.
After I've got more clay on it, I'll most likely find I need to carve off some more foam here and there. There's a couple of small MDF protrusions where the roof meets the walls toward the front. I think I might need to cut or sand them off, but I'm not doing that till I'm pretty sure it's a good idea. I'm still not totally sure of how the front should look. That's why I want to get the back of the tree trunk fairly done, it'll help me visualize the front part better.
DAY 16
We've entered a strech of damp, rainy foggy weather here. The celluclay I applied yesterday afternoon was still a bit spongy where it was a little thicker when I checked it this morning. In other places it dried pretty well. I therefore decided to lay some Rigid Wrap over the deeper areas. I cut off sections of the gauze, dipped them in water then laid them carefully over the gaps, keeping them fairly tense so as not to dip into the hole. I smoothed out the edges and pressed them against the styrofoam. I had one section where the crack was up to 1"wide, so I layered a few across then one up and down over them. It worked quite well. I tried it last week when I got it home from the store, and it dried and got hard very quickly. I applied strips to the styrofoam last night and when I got up they were pretty firm, but still cool to the touch. I let them dry for most of the day. Now that it's raining, I figure drying time will be really long for the celluclay.
I decided to try rolling the celluclay between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. It worked pretty well. I then peeled one sheet of plastic off, applied the sheet to the styrofoam and gently but firmly started pressing it into place. I then got a rag, folded it up and used it to press the plastic covered clay down some more, streching it out a bit as I thought I left it a little thick. Then I peeled off the plastic and smoothed down the edges with my fingers. I was a little worried if the rigid wrap would buckle when I pressed down the clay, but the section I covered held up ok.
By the way, the Celluclay has a certain simularity to Paperclay, but not nearly as smooth. If you want some to play with, I advise you buy the 1 pound bag for about $5. It should be available at most arts and crafts shops. I got mine at Michael's.
Finally I thought I'd try one more thing before I packed it up for the day. I used a piece of wood to carve out a rough shape for the bark in one section. The Celluclay should be sandable if I recall the label correctly. When it's dry I'll have to see what I can do.
DAY 17
The next subject is more or less Rigid Wrap and Celluclay. I took a bunch of pictures to explain how to use the clay. The Rigid Wrap is pretty self explanatory once you buy it.
Yesterday I glued the last pieces of styrofoam on near the top so that I could carve a more rounded shape on one side. Would you believe, 24 hours later and I found the glue still wet???? I carved it anyway, sliding the pieces back into place.
I used Rigid Wrap to cover any larger crevices, and I cut a piece of mat board for the flat top. I used more rigid wrap here and there where the board didn’t quite meet the Styrofoam around the edges. I really do like that Rigid Wrap. I think it could be quite valuable in castle tower building to make those curved walls and in any project that could use wavy walls like a witch’s house for instance.
Have I inspired any of you with that thought?
I also got most of the surface covered with Celluclay. The package says 1lb. Powder to 4c.water. Today I mixed 2 lbs. powder with 6 cups of water and it was really sticky and still rather wet. Humidity counts for a lot when you mix this stuff.
After I mixed the Celluclay, I plopped a handful or so of it on a sheet of plastic wrap, then I covered it with another sheet and rolled it out with my new “old roller”. Fortunately I have another roller for rolling pizza crust, but I guess now I’ll have to buy a new regular roller. I rolled the clay out to @ 1/8 to 3/16” thick, then I peeled off the top layer of plastic wrap.

I found that the best way to get it onto the surface was to slide my hands under the plastic, palms down, so that the stuff rested on the tops of my hands. I then picked it up, moved it up to the wall and flopped it into place. I then patted it down a bit with my hand, then I grabbed by bunched up rag and started smoothing it down and spreading it a little. Don’t use too much pressure, or you’ll wind up pushing the clay around and making lumps and bumps.

The next step was to feather the edges, by which I mean, gently but firmly press down and pullout the clay onto the adjacent surface to adhere it to the bare sections and to blend it into the previous section of clay. I found that a metal flat putty knife was perfect. The stuff stuck to my fingers and to any plastic tools I used, but when I grabbed my metal artist’s knife it worked great, no stick, so I ran down to the basement to find the putty knife.

Also, if you try this stuff and find you’ve left some knife marks, etc., I found that a stipple, or stencil brush is good for flattening out those rises and blending in the creases. Just sort of pounce it up and down, not too hard.
I had experimented a bit with the section of clay I had put on previously. It took several days to dry, and I found that I could carve the lines of bark into it better when it had dried somewhat. I hope the air is less humid tomorrow, because I’d like to get more of the thing done.
I saved the stair wall for last. This is partly because I didn’t want to glue the bottom stair section to the stairs where it could break off again. I think a better idea would be to glue the structure to the base, then glue the bottom stair section to the base and then fill in the area under the steps so that I can “wood it up”.
The trunk is far from round. Well, it suggests roundness anyway. That is because I actually figured how to do it right once I was close to done, but that’s art for you. I knew I’d need to camouflage mistakes. I’ve never been able to make anything quite round or quite straight. Camouflaging is an art form, you know. I shall have to shop for ivy at the crafts store.
If you’re thinking of doing a castle, and I know many of you lust for a castle of your very own, you might find Celluclay just the ticket. As I mentioned previously, it’s rougher than Paperclay, and dark gray in color, though they do have a white Celluclay that is more expensive. The stuff is paintable, it’s papier mache, if you don’t want dark gray stones. You can either carve out stones while it’s damp, or press in a stone pattern. It can also come in handy for some landscaping uses. I made papier mache to use around Tall Chimneys, because the house had a step down and I needed to create a little rise around one section. If your time is limited, you can use this stuff rather than start shredding, soaking and pulping.
One reason I took on this project was to try some new techniques and I’m pleased with the 2 products I’ve tried.

DAY 18

I mixed up what I figured was enough clay to finish the coat. Of course, I ran out and need to mix up another small batch. I only needed about 1 more tablespoon of the stuff to finish down one side of the door. ...Figures, doesn't it?
Anyhow, I wanted to report that since I wanted the top of the stump fairly smooth, I decided to try wetting my fingertips and running over the wet clay to smooth it out. When I did this with Paperclay on another project the stuff developed little cracks all over. I'll let you know if the Celluclay does the same thing when it dries. I hope not..... By the way, you can smooth and press the paperclay with your fingers as long as your hands are clean. It's like working with bread dough. Once your hands get covered in the stuff everything sticks to them.
The clay did stiffen up ok since I worked on it yesterday. I can now turn the thing without leaving impressions on the clay where I touch it. I suppose the smart thing to do would be to put it back on the turntable. I had taken it off when I needed to move the structure to make room for the rolling pin.
Remember how I complained about the humidity, that stuff was taking forever to dry?
I started carving out the bark and as my tool moved onto the next section I discovered that the Celluclay had dried pretty well and I couldn't press in the lines. They said that drier air was moving in today and I guess it did. Not to worry. The drier sections were in the back because that's where I started. Of course, the last section I clayed was facing the sunny window when I went down for dinner and it dried pretty well too. Don't worry, I have a backup plan. IVY!! Besides, you can do a lot with paint.

The timing worked pretty well. I got everything clayed over and it can sit and dry for several days til I can get back to it. I've also glued the structure to the base. The base the Dollshouse Emporium provided was 2 pieces of MDF that you glue together. I did that and then I glued the building to it. I think I may get another 1/4" thick piece of MDF , a little larger, and put the Nuthouse on top of that. I'll see how it looks after I've painted the thing. Then I'll know if I want to add more roots or if I want more room for plants.
DAY 19

Here you see the Nuthouse with a basecoat of color. I had wanted to make the trunk grayish, but my son said that tree trunks should be brown. He said it didn't look right to him until I painted it brown.
When I look at trees in my yard and the woods across the street, most trunks do tend to be grayish in color, but when you think of tree trunks, you tend to think of them as being brown. Well, some are browner, some are grayer. I still have to finesse with top coats of color for both the bark and the "cut" portions.
Last night I fixed the bark. I wasn't happy with the idea of painting it barklike. I had a vision of more texture, so I spent hours adding Celluclay to the surface. I left the backside plain, I just painted it. Generally dollhouses that open in the front are plain on the back anyway. I figure I can add texture to the back if it bothers me at any date.
Today I also cut the trapdoor and planked the floor for the attic. I've cut a piece of wood the size of the trapdoor and I'll finish it off and glue it to the back wall to show an open door.
I'm going to finish up the inside next. I have to make up some bedding and see what kind of furnishings will go up in the attic room besides nuts.
When I get the inside done, I'll go back to the outside and do the landscaping. I was thinking I might add an artistic root here or there. I've got a couple of ideas mulling about in my brain, but they're not quite in focus so I'll let them sort of drift about til I know what's going on.

DAY 20
Miss Nutkin felt she should have a bed for any guests who might need to stay the night. She wanted a bit of a pastel look, but with a little visual interest. I painted the knobs and spindles in a deep red and a blue, then I did a color wash with an off white over that. I was a little in doubt as to whether or not I was going to like it, but Miss Nutkin insisted I press on. I also felt that the bed was a trifle high, that perhaps I should pare down the legs by 1/2", but m'lady said she could stash more nuts under the bed if it was high. Okay, so I couldn't cut the legs because the thing won't fit under the thingy in my bandsaw, and if I use any other method I know I'll cut them unevenly.
Today I also made a little trap door. I glued it to the wall in the attic in the open position. I thought this the most sensible thing to do.
I also painted a bit of MDF that seperated the sloping roof from the short walls in the attic. At first I had planned to apply a bit of molding to cover it up, but as I sat there looking at it, I figured that it would probably look good painted in a darker brown. I painted it, and I think it looks dandy.
Also, I selected the fabric for the bed and cut out the piece together with a nice thick rectangle of dryer lint .
I also felt we needed a little table next to Miss N's chair. I had to scrounge around my assorted parts for quite a while til I settled on just the thing. I used one of those wooden unpainted flower pots for the base and a wooden platter for the top. I painted the bottom part green, and I think I'll do a little stain on the table top.
I picked up some wooden turnings at AC Moore. They're called pickle barrels. I stained them in a couple slightly different shades and I think I'll glue some seeds to the tops so they'll look like seed barrels. I forgot, I also stained the attic floorboards. I forgot what color I used on the lower floor, so I just winged it.
While we're on the subject of storage containers, I also decided to make a few wooden crates. The glue is drying on them, and tommorrow I have to finish them off.
I've rounded up some odds and ends for household goods. Some time ago I bought a little apple tea set. It's just right. I also found some copper pots at AC Moore. They fit it nicely too.
One of these days I'll have to hunt out some more little baskets and bigger wooden barrels, because I stole some from Tall Chimneys and Miss Frobisher. "Cannibalizing", I call it.
Lastly, I gave the staircase a coat of grayish-blue paint. I've been feeling all along that I wanted that color, so since I'm going to have to sand the stairs here and there anyway I figured it would be a good idea to check out how it looked. I don't like the darker brown with the blue, but I stopped at the art supply store for more paint for my color washes for the bark, so when I'm done with that I can decide on blue or green depending on how the bark looks.

DAY 21
I took the Nuthouse out into the driveway today to recoat the exterior. My studio is far too dim in the mornings and I wanted to be sure of my light. I used a darker shade of brown over the first coat. In daylight I felt the brown I had put on before wasn't quite right. I used a blend of VanDyke brown, earth green and a bit of a very light cream the second time. I also used washes of Medium Hauser's green and a gray which was a mixture of the light cream and Payne's grey. Sometimes I added streaks of washes while the paint was wet, others when it had dries. Finally I stroked light washes of the green and gray on some of the higher bark and washes of black in hollows to bring the texture up a bit. The trick is all in the blending. My son felt it looked even more lifelike.

The trunk is quite a bit darker now. It looks more like it belongs deep in a forest glade. I painted the flattened top and the cut away area where the door is a gray, since cut wood grays over time. I decided to paint the cutaway wood in the front more of a golden brown similar to the interior walls, as if the front had just vanished to show the interior.

Then I decided the blue steps just weren't right, so I brushed a semitransparent green over them. Since I had gotten into a landscaping mood I started it next. I wish I had rounded off the back edges of the base. I guess I just wasn't thinking things through clearly enough. I may still dig out my jigsaw and curve them up a bit. As I started laying out plantings I realized I didn't need those spaces towards the back, and I didn't want to spend time and money filling them up.
For landscaping I used silk flowers and leaves, reindeer moss and two kinds of sponges.

DAY 22
By the way, to keep stemmed silk flowers in place, I use a block of wood into which I have drilled a hole. The block is painted green, glued to the base, then when dry, the stem is glued into the hole with hot glue. I then dab a bit of hot glue somewhere along the stem where I wish to anchor it to the structure's wall.
I gather silk flowers at times, looking for small blooms which I can snip off and use as garden flowers. Sometimes they have other goodies on them like the little green bunches of whatever the heck they are, buds or seeds? that I glued down together with some other silk leaves that caught my fancy.



Camille Minichino said...

What an ambitious project! From the tiny stamp holder to the serious construction work on the exterior ... thanks for all the detail.

Margaret Grace
author of "Murder in Miniature"

Sue Ellen said...

I am so impressed with your attention to detail. Truly super!!

tiny robot said...

Your project makes me smile. I've bookmarked this page and I come back to it every so often to appreciate your hard work and live in that imaginary place for a little while. Thank you!

hannajaleijona said...

Amazing piece!

Thank you for sharing how you accomplished this.

Lisa said...

So amazing! I love your details and all. I had to show my teenage son and he was impressed as well.

shannonc60 said...

This nuthouse is just so cute! I love what you've done to it and I love the gatehouse kit as is! Can you please tell me the ceiling height for the first two floors? I'd be very grateful. Thanks!

grazhina said...

Thank you, Shannon. I went and measured the ceilings just for you. Ground floor is @ 8 & 1/2" high, and 7 & 1/2" for the next floor.

Anonymous said...

This sooooooo cute! I love it.

D said...

I had seen this post before, but enjoyed reading it just as much the second time. Your work is amazing.