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Friday, January 30, 2015

SITUATION WANTED: Working Butler; Quiet Family

Hi there folks!

As promised, I am here to drag you through the creation of my latest addition to the Steam-punk kitchens!  I had a lot of fun with this little project.   It was a fairly simple project, one that I think just about anyone could build with a little patience.    

A Little Aside

First, the obligatory photo of the Butler's Pantry as it stands now.  The Iron Sink now has six new legs (Newel Posts turned upside down!), and a new matte finish. Almost done now.  Just needs a faucet set and it will be complete.  The faucet set will likely sneak in unnoticed sometime in the near future!

A Little Bit O' History

Before I get into the making of the miniature plate rack, I would like to share just a bit of history I find interesting about the Butler's Pantry.  We have a modern day view of the Butler's role, and of the Bulter's Pantry as a sort of staging area for the dining room.  But the history of the Butler's Pantry is a continual merging and separating of the roles of various rooms and domestic service jobs that was shaped by social and economic history.

The Butler, by the Victorian Age, was both a butler and chief server.  The Butler's Pantry functioned in many capacities, combining the functions of many of it's predecessors, primary among them the Butt'ry, the early storeroom for casks and bottles of wine, and the Sewery, or Servery, which was historically used as the primary staging area for serving the dining rooms, and was the repository for fine plate, silverware and valuable service-ware.

Courtesy of The Queen's Scullery (SJ Alexander et al.) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

In the grander homes, the butler may have actually slept in the Butler's Pantry, as a deterrent to servants "of base character" stealing the valuable dinnerware of the grand home.   The Butler's Pantry of the Victorian age functioned then as an office of sorts, from which the Butler ran his household, managing the log books for wines, servicing the fine plate and the fine personages of the house. From this room, he staged fine dinner parties and managed, in wealthier homes, a large staff of servants.  

Photo Courtesy of "Cooking with Glitter" Under Creative Commons License

Serving as a butler in a fine home was a profession, by the 19th century, that became a science.  Butler's were coached and trained by their more mature predecessors, books were written about how to best serve, clean, and manage the furnishings and important tasks of the butler's service.  In one book written to transfer the important skills of the butler and footmen of the Grand Manors during the early 1800's, this writer admonishes his readers . . .

"Some however, have much injured the plate intrusted to them, 
by making experiments of different kinds upon it." 

'The Footman's Directory and 
Butler's Remembrancer', J. Hatcher and Son, London 1823

The writer goes on to provide detailed instructions as to how to best to wash, clean, and refurbish the plate. That quote made me wonder what kind of experiments would "much injure" the plate?!  Were they using acid?  :0)

If you find the tidbits above interesting, take the time some time to read up on these domestic servants, and the history of these erstwhile important rooms of the Victorian era.  It is fascinating, and in the case of the butt'ry, it's history boasts roots from ancient Egypt!

How Did He Do It?

I know you have been waiting with bated breath to find out how this plate rack, which will help our Steam-punk Butler discharge his duty admirably, was built.   Some of you may be ready to expire by now.  Well, wait no longer.  We've finally arrived!

Step 1:   

Cut and drill holes through the shelves.  Mine were about 5 inches long, 1 inch deep, and 1/8 inch width.  I used a 1/16 inch drill bit to drive the holes, and drilled all four shelves at once, so that the holes would align top to bottom.

Step 2:   

Cut the back to fill the desired space.  I used 3/32" mahogany lumber at 5 inches by 5 inches.

Step 3:

Stain or finish the shelves and the back to taste.  I used a Minwax Stain Pen called Golden Oak.

Step 4:

Attach the bottom shelf with Glue.  I used Arlene's Tacky Glue.  Use a toothpick to remove any excess glue.

Step 5:

Cut dowels that will intersect the holes through all four shelves.  My shelves were approximately 1 inch apart, so I cut my "dowels" at about 4 3/8ths inches, to account for the width of the shelves.  I used fake "blood grass" from Hobby Lobby for the dowels.  The natural appearing "wood" of the stem was 1/16 inch in circumfrence, and was reinforced with a strong metal rod inside.  It was perfect for the job.  I used tin snips to cut the metal rod after measuring.

Step 6:

Test for a good square fit.  If the fit of the shelves is not perpendicular to the rods to create a neat square, recut and redrill the shelves.  This is an important step, as if you miscalculate, your dowels will not look straight once assembled.

Step 7:

Once satisfied with the fit, glue the shelves into their intended location. Cut and stain supports if desired.  I cut my back supporting pieces out of 3/32" lumber, 3/4 inches deep, and mitered the corners.  Alternatives to this treatment would be to place 1/16" square pieces of lumber under the shelves.  They will need some sort of support, unless you know something about glues that I don't!

Step 8:

Glue in the dowels.  I used Arlene's Tacky Glue and a toothpick to fill each hole and then put the dowel through all four shelves.  As you can see, my method was a bit messy.  I am sure someone knows of a better method!  I used the toothpick to clean up the puddles of glue at each hole.  It cleans up nicely with a toothpick, and as long as you have already stained the wood, is not apparent once the glue dries.

Step 9:

Stop and allow the glue to dry thoroughly.  Failure to do so will cause the piece to go out of square.

Step 10:

Cut 3 additional pieces to finish off the top, bottom and backsplash of the shelf. Mine were 3/32 inch mahogany, approximately 5 inches by 1 inch. Sand and clean these well, as they are your finish layer.

Step 11:

Glue on the finish layer.  Here I am applying the finish layer for the shelf backsplash which I painted to match the wall behind the shelves.  Be sure to clamp or hold each finish piece until reasonably dry.  These thin pieces of wood will easily warp unless clamped.

Step 12:

Add molding in the front of each shelf, butting against the front of the dowels(not pictured).  Set the top piece back to be placed above the molding on the lower shelves.   I used 1/16 inch by 1/16 inch lumber I purchased at Hobby Lobby for this.  I also stained these molding pieces with the Minwax Golden Oak pen.

Step 13:

Prepare brackets, if you choose to use them.  I cast mine out of resin, using molds I made from Amazing Mold Putty.  Some of you will remember the clock my daughter had that I have used previously.  I used that same clock to cast these pieces.

Step 14:

Glue the brackets onto the shelves and hang them.  You are done!

Once I completed the above steps, I glued everything in, Wall, Sink and Plate Rack.  Time now to move on to the next project!

Until Next Time!

Doug S

P.S. Disclaimer:  I have not attempted to faithfully record exact dimensions.  I would expect that each situation would be different, and would require remeasuring. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

. . . But I Dream Things That Never Were, and Say Why Not?
George Bernard Shaw

Hi there folks! 

One year ago, on January 23rd,  I began the process of building the Steampunk Manor.  I spent some time today pulling out what I had done and getting it all set up just to see where I had landed so far.   My thought is that near the end of January every year, I will record progress with a post. 

A shot of the Grand Parlor . . . err . . .  our bedroom?  

Here is a shot of the Grand Parlor from the Exterior, and looking into our bedroom, where the house is stored when it is not being worked on.  Yes, those are my sweat pants laying on the bed.  No I did not really make my bed very well before taking the shot.  :0)   But I think the foreshortening makes for a very nice picture!

Grand Parlor

Here is the Grand Parlor shot in full.  Lots to do still!  I look forward to furnishing this room, and completing everything.  Nothing more so far than a few base colors!

Entry with Grand Staircase in progress

I have great plans for this Entry.  Nothing is complete in here, except the floor.  A LONG ways to go, but some exciting stuff to come, I think!

The Kitchen with a Surprise!

Just a bit of a reveal going on here!  Here is the Butlers Pantry, with a newly introduced item in work!  I'll post once I complete that, and share with you what it is. 

Exterior Shot

Here is the Exterior as it now stands.  Nothing too exciting going on quite yet.  But I think there is promise here. 

Interior Progress Shot

Interior with everything propped in and up.  :0)  Progress has mostly been toward ceilings, walls and floors for the ground floor to date. 

Closeup of the Oriel Windows

The Oriel Window on the Exterior in its partially completed state.   This is a feature I am excited about further developing.  It has so many possibilities!

Exterior from the side

I'm not sure you've seen the house from this angle before.  It may give you an idea of things to come!  I am excited for 2015, since by this time next year I should be well along on at least the ground floor!  2015 is the year that the Steampunk Manor turns a corner toward something "real". 

Something that never was before. Why Not?  :0) 

Its been a good year!  I have learned how to work with Foam Core Board, how to paint with Floating Medium, How to Carve, How to Work with Polymer Clay, and How to Inlay a Floor.  I have built 4 staircases, and three floors, built two sinks and gotten 3 ceilings started.  Oh, and built the the base for the house!  

Most importantly, I have made several new friends, whom I am enjoying building relationships with.  

Thank You to all of you who have contributed to my mini life so far!  It has been a wonderful experience!

Until next time!

Doug S

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Birth of A Miniature Steampunk Kitchen Sink

Greetings folks!

A couple of you guessed exactly what I was making as my next project! Thanks so much for playing my little game.  I hope you didn't mind too terribly much?

As you know, I had decided to make two kitchen sinks for my Steampunk Kitchens.  This is the second of those two sinks, the "clean" sink.  My little occupants, (the Lightstone family, I have decided finally, after the intended exterior of the house!) live in a very old and grand home that has been upgraded to keep up with the times.  They made a very good decision to keep their old stone sink and add the new fangled, iron sink. This just made sense, since they had the room, and everyone knows that sinks are useful commodities, right?

What the Lightstones DIDN'T realize when they had the sink ordered was that they didn't really have room in the Scullery for the new fangled sink. (Here is the coverup for my change of heart!)   They ended up putting the new sink into the butler's pantry, since after all, it was a MUCH nicer sink, therefore, it deserved a nicer location.  They did have to give up some storage space, and the Butler now has to join the other servants in the main kitchen, but he has accepted the slight as he enjoys his new sink.

Original Sink Shape and Size

The truth of the matter is that I just could not make the original (smaller) sink work in the space I had allocated for it in the Scullery, so as any good miniaturist will do, I changed my story!  I have to admit, I am still not sure I will use this in the Butler's pantry, but I am sure I will find a very good use for it somewhere, yes?

The sink is not quite complete yet, I am waiting on a couple of pieces on order from Hobby Supply, but I thought there was enough in this post to go ahead, and I'll share the final product in place in one of the next few posts.

The Camera Picks Out the Ugliest Little Details!
RL?  Not a one of them to be seen!

You WILL have to forgive my sad sack photography skills.  I took over 300 pictures of this sink in it's nearly completed state, and I just could not get a decent photo.  I guess it is the semi-gloss finish combined with the black color that made it so hard to capture.  So you'll have to imagine the inordinate beauty of the final product.  I have no way to show it to you!  :0)

In this post I'll share how this went from contact packaging,

and plastic packaging, 

to Steampunk Iron Sink.

Obviously, the process started with cutting everything to size.  I am sure your powers of deduction were sufficient to allow you to figure that out on your own, yes?  :0)

I then slid the cut down plastic into the "slots" that were already in the contact packaging and glued the pieces together.  This provided me a "form" to work with that would help me shape the sink.

I cut the sink counter surface pieces to shape out of 1/4 inch wood, and added the sides of the sink which I had cut out of 1/32" wide mahogany lumber. 

The entire assembly was glued together to create the basic shape.

The sides were reinforced with wood pieces, as the 1/32" wood would easily break over time otherwise.

The form for the backing was just cut from a piece of Mountboard and taped to the back and the plastic piece at the bottom to support the form while it was in work. 

Now for the fun part!  My FIRST experience with Polymer Clay.  This was Sculpey III.  It was easier (and harder!) than I would ever have imagined.   If you have never worked with Polymer Clays, they make it sound much harder than it is!  I went into this with my heart in my throat, SURE I was going to do something wrong (and of course I did!).  

The "conditioning" that they talk about is nothing more than kneading the clay like bread.  When it comes out of the package, it is literally almost like stone, fairly hard and not pliable.  "Conditioning" is just kneading the clay until it becomes soft and pliable.  So why did I have my heart in my throat?  I guess I just wanted something to chew on.   Once the clay was conditioned, I rolled it out into flat pieces about 1/8" thick.

I covered the entire form with Polymer Clay a piece at a time.   Here, in hind sight, I left things too unfinished.  Note the somewhat bumpy surfaces I was left with?  Doing this again, I would spend more time on smoothing out those places, as they fire up in just about exactly the same shape, no real movement of the clay while being baked.  Little details that make a difference in the long run!

The clay formed piece was baked in the oven at 275 degrees for 25 minutes.  I kept peeking at the thing the whole way through because I was afraid I was going to burn it!

Prior to baking the polymer, I had tried to make impressions along the front of the sink, to create a pattern across the sink sides.   That was NOT successful.  I have more to learn, yea!  :0)  Because of that, and because of my lack of attention to detail on preparing the surfaces before baking, I needed to sand the surfaces smoother.  I was able to do that for the most part successfully, but the piece still has some "inelegant" lines due to my learning curve.

My next step was to add some additional details to create additional interest for the sink.  Above pictured is the beginning of that process.  The additional polymer shapes were added on top of the already baked sink form.  Here I have added an architectural detail at the back and am in the process of adding a lip along the sink front. 

This process was accomplished by rolling the clay into small ropes, and applying them along the area I was adding detail, and then sculpting them into shape with various polymer clay tools.

Here I am shaping the lip along the front of the sink.  This is a totally staged picture!  I am right handed, I would never be able to manage shaping anything using my left hand.  But we must  have pictures to communicate, yes? 

Once the addition of new details was completed, I again baked the piece to harden the clay. 

The entire piece was painted black using a semi-gloss spray. 

The little details that were added were all resin castings I made.  The linear details are half casts of dollhouse furniture legs, and the other two details are castings of findings I had in my stash.  This picture is an example of the ugliness I was getting with most of my pictures.  Every little jot and tittle, every errant brush stroke, and every imperfection stands out in all its gory detail.  I swear, it looks SO  much nicer in Real Life.  :0) 

There is more to do before this sink will be done.  I will add legs to the piece, and will be adding the faucets and other details that finalize it into a full fledged sink, but the legs are on order, and the faucets, I haven't yet decided whether I want to make or purchase.  I figured this post was long enough without making you wait longer and adding even more text to wade through!

Well, I am late getting started for work, because I am finishing this up.  So I better hang a close on the post and get on the stick!

Hope you all have a great day!


Monday, January 12, 2015

Sink Update and a Puzzle

Very, very short post (for me anyway!).  I told folks I would post any updates to the sink texture.  I did make a few minor adjustments, so have to honor my commitment!

Remember I felt that the textured sides of the sink, especially on the end pictured above, felt a little too uniform, and not quite realistic yet.  So I took a fan brush, dipped it in acrylic paints with (wait for it . . .) floating medium, and dry brushed in a few lines in a more squiggly profile, and magic happened.  If you look VERY closely, you can see the exact brush strokes I made.  Basically a sideways S.  It made all the difference.

I did a very similar thing to the long side as well, and you can see that the variation is greater, and a bit more realistic.  I am happier with it anyway.  It may make absolutely NO difference to you!

Since I really CANNOT post THAT short an entry, I thought I would leave a bit of a cliff  hanger for you.  A hint about my "NEXT PROJECT".   Here are the base forms I will be using, if all goes according to my current plan.

Some Clear Plastic Packaging


Contact packaging!  
(FREE advertising for my optometrist!  He is very good!)

What would YOU make from these two items for a kitchen?  

I'll give you an open book to help you guess what I am making.  You can go to the post here to see what was going to be in the kitchen.  It IS one of those items in the list at the bottom of the post.  A second hint:  It goes in the corner by the door and window at the back left side.  (You see I am leaving this WIDE open, don't you?  Those are a couple of rather OBVIOUS clues, now.) 

With your guess, if you'd like, tell me what you might use to make the item!  I would love to see how everyone thinks, and see how differently we might attack the problem.  

Yes, I know it is unfair.  You have to guess before you can tell me how you would make the item, but since it is my blog, I guess I have to set the rules, huh?  :0) 

Looking forward to seeing how you might approach making whatever item you think it is!