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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!



  1. I rather like the black and gold of your sink and I think you're doing fantastically well considering you have never used polymer clay. It has character and a unique style =0)

    1. Hi Pepper! Thank You so much for your comment! The black and gold almost gives the sink a sort of spooky effect, doesn't it? That was my daughter's observation anyway! .

      Character and unique style is a great way to describe the final outcome! lol It has that great amateur look I SO wanted to achieve. :0) Seriously, though, given my first attempt, and the learning I had to do, I am reasonably happy with the outcome. I am sure as I move along and learn more, I will probably come back and redo, or at least clean up the original. But if I don't, I won't be trying to hide under the nearest bush either. It's passable!

      I am so glad you have decided to follow along on this little learning journey! I am excited to get to know you!

      Thanks Pepper!

  2. Hi Doug! You say that you've never worked before with polymer clay.....? I think that this sink is a masterpiece, sir :D!! Regarding the colors: they're chic, stylish and steampunk more than worthy :)!
    And you also 'complain' that your pictures aren't good enough....? Why don't you take your pictures at broad daylight and without using flash? I always make my pictures this way and it works quite well, even when it's a dark day I work the same way (I've posted a blog yesterday, as you can see: one of the pictures is a bit blurry, due the lack of daylight, but it looks better than using flash).
    You also can use a matte varnish instead of gloss, I think that will help too. Anyway, personally I surely can see what's on your pictures, so......I think you've done a great job on this sink :D LOL!!
    I hope you'll have a nice week :)!!

    1. Hi Illona! I really haven't worked with polymer clay before, but I DO live with a creative family, and my daughter has worked with it. So I asked a lot of questions and made myself a pest, so that helped me some. Glad you think the sink is Steampunk worthy! :0)

      I do complain, loudly! I actually have taken pictures in many fashions, and often without flash, but while my camera is decent for a point and click, I cannot seem to really get the kind of pictures I would like to have. I actually got the pictures that were halfway decent by turning off all the lights, while it was still dark out, and using flash! I would never normally even think of doing that, but in this case it worked. I really think that the black semi gloss is the reason for the poor pics.

      I used Semi Gloss because I wanted that sort of sheen on the "iron sink". And actually, in real life, I really do like the sink. It just doesn't translate very well into photographs with me at the helm! :0)

      I had fun learning with the sink, and I know I will use the polymer clay again. I did enough to see the "Power of Polymer", so I will do what it takes to learn!

      I wish you a nice week too! And as always, so very grateful for your taking the time to comment!


  3. Hi Doug! I have to commend you on your IRON SINK! You have not only made it 100% Unique but you have given it authentic visual weight! I love the black and gold combination as well, it has a Victorian feel to it and I am blown away that you made the whole thing they way you have outlined. I am really surprised that the plastic blister pack base form, didn't melt away in the oven, and disfigure the exterior. That is something new for me to have learned. WOW!
    And as for your photos, I was in Exactly the same boat as you, 2 years ago. It really just takes practice because taking photos of minis is a whole different ball game, isn't it?

    Just don't stop! :D


    1. Morning Elizabeth! Commendation received, and I thank you for it! The "inspiration" for this sink was the Victorian "Eastlake" style, so I am glad I was able to capture the Victorian feel of that style. I'm glad you get the sense of visual weight as well, since the idea was for it to appear as if it were iron.

      I was very worried about the plastic melting. This is one of the things that my daughter was able to help me with. She was pretty sure it would not melt, so I tried it. I think because of the low heat and short bake time it worked out. Also, you cannot tell from the picture, but this was no shrinking violet piece of plastic! It was a fairly strong, inflexible piece, so that may have been a factor too. There was only some (very minor) discoloring.

      I know I'll get better "some day" at taking the photos. You are so right that taking photos of minis is different. Mostly the way the light affects the pieces, and I am so lost when it comes to what lighting methods to use for various shots. I'll learn eventually! :0)

      Elizabeth, I don't think I will ever stop doing the mini thing now that I took the plunge. It does something for me creatively that is unique. I don't know where I'll end up focusing over time, but I am so enjoying the journey and learning I am doing. Stop? Unlikely!

      Thanks Elizabeth! Good to hear from you!


  4. Good morning Doug,
    Another job well done. the sink has so much character and just screams steampunk to me. Never worry about details in pictures, the camera is incredibly unforgiving when it comes to miniatures. You did a great job with the clay. I have used it a few times, but must admit I am not a fan of the medium. I can't wait to see what's next.
    big hug,

    1. Thank You Giac! I am glad it hit the mark in the Steampunk arena. I am loving having to think through how to make things feel that way. It automatically creates a unique outcome.

      I can see why you might not like the polymer clay in general, especially in the sort of application I used it on above. I've been thinking about how I might have achieved a more "professional" appearance for next time, and I can see that it might be very difficult to really get smooth, crisp lines with the medium. What I saw while working with it though is how versatile the clay would be when working with smaller items. I think there would be real power in it for those sorts of applications. And it worked well for this particular application, because an Iron sink does have a bit of that roughness.

      Have a great day, my friend!


  5. Hi Doug, I'm so sorry in being late with my comment! Yes!!! I was right, yippee, it was a sink. I'm so chuffed with myself for guessing correctly. Anyway, it looks a real showstopper. Don't worry about bad photos, I spend ages trying to get just the right one, but try being the word LOL. I think the sink looks amazing, you are always trying new methods and I think that is so commendable. Clay scares me! Your sink is fab and just has all the right ingredients for Steampunk....edgy and classy at the same time - as well as having a different look to the norm.
    I love it.
    All the best

    1. Hallo Vivian! Comments are one of those things where it is never too soon, and never too late. :0) They are always welcome!

      For me, one of the things that makes the miniatures world so attractive is that I really do not think anyone can ever learn "everything" about creating them! Learning new things is part and parcel with miniatures, you cannot get away from it, right? That really floats my boat! I am never happier than when I am learning new things (I am also never more insecure, but we won't discuss that!), I have made a lifetime of it. So I have a lifetime FULL of learning ahead of me, and only half a life left! :0) I'll never run out of new things to learn!

      From a newbie in the clay world. Don't let it scare you! If you can put on makeup, you can mold clay! (he says knowing how afraid HE was of it. but then again HE doesn't use makeup!). I really think clay is going to be part of what I continue to use as a medium. I like materials that are flexible enough to be used in many applications. Clay is definitely going to be one of those. You should take a look at and see some of what can be done using clay! That speaks for it more than anything I could say, right? Beautiful things.

      So glad to hear from you, late or not! :0)


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