More Pages

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sheer Determination?

The only way to find the limits of the possible 
is by going beyond them to the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

What a journey!  I've spent my last couple of weeks working on getting the kitchen doors designed and built. I probably have a couple more weeks to go to complete them.  But I thought I would share the progress so far, as for me, getting to this point has been quite an effort!

First, I have a very important list to share. 

My List of Nevers:

  1. I have never ever cut circles in wood with my new Proxxon Scroll Saw.
  2. I have never ever made anything resembling a door.
  3. I have never ever tried to work with tiny wood pieces smaller than my fingers.
  4. I have never ever tried to carve detail into wood.
  5. I have never ever tried to stain wood that I have carved. 
With that list of nevers, this project was a stretch!  However, I have arrived somewhere, and I have yet to determine if somewhere is where I want to be!  :0)   I feel good though, at having arrived somewhere.  

I am likely to redo these doors, using the many lessons I learned as I pursued the impossible.  But for a first go, I am actually reasonably happy with my results so far.  I say this with full knowledge that I am nowhere near done with the FIRST try.  I must be a masochist.  Yes, I am convinced I am a masochist.

The "Plan":

To explain myself, I need to show you what I am using as my inspiration picture.  Like usual, I go for gold, and have the talent to create dross, but that don't stop ME!  :0)

This door completely captured the feeling I wanted for the kitchen doors. It screams Steampunk to me, and I really love the scroll work in the windows and the black metal trim.   I knew going into this that I would not be able to completely recreate this masterpiece of a door, but I thought perhaps I could approximate the door, simplify it a bit, and get the basic concept in place.

With this inspiration in mind, I came up with a "concept" as seen above. There is SO much between a "concept" and "reality"!  You've seen that what I have so far is a long ways away from this even, and THIS is the dummied down version!

Curse my affinity for "unusual" and "artistic" expression.  Bah! Humbug!  I've had to continually simplify my design due to the limitations of my current abilities.  But I am still excited about the direction of the door, and know that with time, I will be able to create something that I think meets my standards and communicates a similar feeling.

You can see though, that I am FAR from complete with my little endeavor!

The "Reality":

I just wish I could communicate the comic events that have taken place to get me to this place in the process. I can think of no way to demonstrate the ups and downs without writing a TRUE novel, so I'll just give you an account of what I have done to get here, and let you fill in the blanks.

Almost immediately, I realized that I did not have "room" for all of my "unusual and artistic" concepts in the space I had left for the door in the kitchen room box.  After that rather disappointing realization, I "redesigned" the door slightly to allow me to keep the basic concept, while eliminating the problem of not having enough "canvas for my muse".  The basic change was to the window shape.  I narrowed the window space, turned it into four window lites leveraging the kitchen window design, and proceeded.

Even this simple change took me some time to figure out.  My original pattern (right) felt too "squished", with the top two windows looking out of proportion, especially when viewed in conjunction with the windows I had designed.  So I altered the pattern to make the top windows larger, and changed the shape of the lower windows slightly to give them more shape (left).  

Another side trip.  I spent 3 days at least on trying to figure out how to place the doors.  Which "direction" should the door jamb face?  Outward, or inward?  What IS the standard for that?  I found MANY articles on how to build a door frame and how to hang a door, but NONE of them told me how to decide which direction to face the door!  I think it is one of those details that those "in the know" assume "the rest" of us know.  Well, they were WRONG.  

I finally started looking at every door I could find, to determine what was "right".  I still don't know.  :0)  But I DID pick up on the fact that MOST exterior doors have the jamb facing inward, with the door opening inward.  So that is what I decided needed to happen.  Maybe someone out there can inform me whether I was right or not!  It would be nice to know!

After reaching this stage, I procrastinated for a few days.  (Actually, life caught up with me, and I've spent a good portion of my time dealing with "stuff" I won't bore you with! . . . but I ALSO was procrastinating!)  I knew I wanted the curved, carved profile at the bottom of the door, and that I wanted to stain the wood to create that warm, aged glow in the original inspiration picture, but I was just not sure how to go about it.

Sometimes, you just have to jump in the lake and hope you learn to swim.  So I traced my pattern on 3/32" lumber, and then tried to figure out how I would cut the windows in.  I had a jigsaw, a scroll saw, a fret saw and a utility knife.  Each had their liabilities.  

I tried first with my new scroll saw.  Remind me sometime to tell you about that.  It involved figuring out how to change the (too long) saw blade with no decent instructions, and very little experience with a scroll saw that was more than a toy.  Not pretty. 

I finally gave up on getting the the scroll saw set up, and tried a fret saw.  I broke the wood several times before I decided THAT wasn't the "correct" procedure.  Then I tried the craft knife.  That worked, but the curved edges were just not up to snuff, and I was unable to come up with a solution for that.  So I THOUGHT about the hand held jigsaw, but since I am such a smart cookie, I remembered my LAST encounter with that on small cuts. Rejected out of hand.  No way that was going to work.  So back to Square One.  The new scroll saw, which by this time I had already learned to hate!  


I knew the first step was to drill holes, which I did, and then I began to break things.  LOTS of things.  After many tries, many more broken scroll saw blades, and many more frustrations, I finally worked out a solution that actually worked.  But to do it, I had to perfect my skills at assembling and reassembling my Proxxon saw. 

I brought in the "big guns" to help me with that learning curve.  My very mechanical son.  Lo and behold, even he had trouble with the saw!  Yea, it wasn't me!  We perfected a method that worked (and definitely NOT the way the instructions identified!), and I proceeded to cut windows holes into the doors.  

Once I got all of the windows cut out, I tackled the carved "detail" (not so much!) at the bottom of the doors.  I began with a 1/8 inch thick piece of wood, cut to the general shape with the scroll saw.  I drew a circle to define where I wanted the "bulges" in the base trim to be. 

I then began to "carve" (something more like TEAR!) the wood out where I wanted the profile to be thinner. My first try was atrocious.  I am wise enough not to post that!  No one will ever come back if I do! 

This was my second try.  A bit better, but still too much "tearing out" going on.  It only "marginally" resembles the inspiration door.  But it was close enough that I thought perhaps it could be an "old" door, that had been damaged.  For the moment, we moved on. 

I used a golden oak stain to stain the wood, and carved my second door trim piece, which turned out rather better.  (minus the amateur look!)  After adding an acetate window, I ended up with this (yes, you've seen this before!

Then of course, we had to "check" to see if it was "going to look good".  Yes, it looks great we think.  Then we watch the beautiful tile fall over from its precariously balanced position directly onto my (BRAND NEW) expensive, specialty reading glasses. (Yes, I need them!)  Smashed to pieces.  Luckily, they were SO new that they were still under warranty, and my eye doc (did I tell you he is GREAT?) replaced them free of charge.  Whew!

So now you have heard only the SMALLEST bit of the trials and tribulations I have gone through in the last two weeks.  Do you feel sorry for me?  NO??!!  Why!  I think it is a great sob story!

Here are my halfway completed doors (propped, No, we did NOT learn our lesson) in their frames.  

The "Challenge":

My challenge going forward is to add the additional details to both the doors and windows that help to take them from their current, somewhat amateur state, to the Grand, Glorious, STEAM PUNK doors and Windows I envisioned.  Still a long ways to go!  I need to add black painted metal trims and add the metal art noveau details.   I MAY decide to do both doors over again, as mentioned before, so that I can improve the final look.  I would like to do a "better" job with the carving details, and I think I would like the wood color on the door to be a bit deeper.  Much depends on what things look like as I progress further.  

The whole process has been that peculiar blend of frustration and absolute FUN.  There is something about working through the "trials and tribulations" of working out problems and coming out "somewhere" on the other side that really floats my boat.  I have learned a boatload as well, so I have a "fully loaded floating boat".  How many of you can say that?  :0) 

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my many mini travails.  There is a book called "Hinds Feet in High Places" I read once that follows two characters (as well as the main character 'Much Afraid") named "Sorrow" and "Suffering".  After many tragic and horrible events endured with "Much Afraid" in tow, they finally arrive at the top of a mountain, where their names are changed to "Grace" and "Glory".  I hope that is my fate when it comes to these doors. I've certainly earned it!  :0) 

I also want to take a moment to welcome several new followers!  I'm excited to get to know you all, and your "patronage" is most appreciated.  I hope you will enjoy watching me learn, and I hope that my mini endeavors leave you a little wiser than I.

Until next time!

Doug S

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Quest for Miniature Steampunk Windows

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

I've spent the last week dithering, trying to make the decision about what I wanted to do with the windows for the front of the Ground Floor of the Manor.  And figuring out how a window should look.  And trying to figure out how to build a window.  And questioning everything I did.  And taking a thousand [mostly unsuccessful!] pictures.  Sound familiar to anyone?

Needless to say, I am somewhat relieved to have arrived at the point that I have some progress to share.  I was able to finally make the decision as to what I wanted, but of course, it's me, so that may very well change!

I thought I would post about the process of getting there, more from the spirit of confession than anything else!  But perhaps there are a few things that can be picked up in the process.

As usual, I had a pretty good idea of the effect I wanted to create, but was not sure how I would get there.  I am drawing heavily on the Art Nouveau aesthetic throughout the design of this manor, and I knew I wanted the windows to align with that look but to still, more importantly, support the Steam Punk theme. 

So I drew out a rectangle that represented the size of the window, and drew in a pattern that I thought approximated what I wanted.  

I drew the pattern only on one half of the drawing, since I wanted the two sides to match exactly.  One trick I have learned over the years is to draw one half of the final design, and to fold the paper evenly in half.

Once drawn and folded, the paper can be cut to the new design.  This provides two exact, and reverse replicas of the design.  

I used the cut pattern to trace the new design onto mountboard.  Please forgive the quality of these pictures! I think they are the worst set of pictures so far, and I am not sure if it is me, or if my camera is just dying. They will have to do though, since several tries have not produced better. 

After cutting the new pattern out of the mount board, I cut rigid acetate at the same size, and added the "frame" out of Foam Core Board as a mock up.  I reviewed my results inside and outside, and for me, they just fell short of what I was going for.  

So back to the drawing board!

Meanwhile, I did decide to take a bit of a side trip, and build the frames I needed for each of the 4 windows I needed that were this size.  I used 3/8 inch strip wood for the outside frame, and 1/8 inch battens for the inside. 

A little trick I picked up off of the Internet I think is worth sharing here.  You will notice above that there is a Foam Core "frame" around the frame in the above picture.  These are 3/8 inch wide lengths of Foam Core measured to fall just outside of the required frame size and glued to a Foam Core background.  I used this "jig" to ensure that all of my windows were exactly the same size.  It worked like a charm!  I always like to pass along those little secrets.  They make life so much easier! 

Here you see the original design I came up with placed in the wood frame.  I thought perhaps I might like it better with a "real" frame, but no cigar.  It still didn't meet my "exacting" standards.  :0) 

So we began the process of altering the plan.  First I tried taking out the center post, opening up the entire window to increase the ability to see through it, and to try another approach to getting "the look".  

Nope.  Still didn't speak to me.  

Third time is a charm, right?  I tried again, using another approach that was a blend of the two above.  I opened the center of the window up, but added two muntins to either side of the window. 

Better, but still no cigar.  

I was playing with the pieces, trying to figure out what to do next, and happened to place one of the cutouts over another, and lo and behold . . .  "THE LOOK".  It spoke to me.  Steam Punk.  Victorian.  Art Nouveau.  THE LOOK.

Yep.  It worked in the windows too.  Other than the fact that when I cut the window openings out months ago, I didn't get them level or straight, either one.  So I corrected that, which of course, leaves a gap to fix later.   But they are now straight and level!  So I can jimmy up something to "fix" the problem later. Enough covering up, and anything can look great, right?

I'm a long ways from completed on these windows, in fact, they are extremely rough at the moment.  I had to re-cut the window openings (and will have to for all four!) because I was just 1/32 of an inch too large for the existing window openings.  Sigh.  

More opportunities, right?  

Overall, however, at this stage, I am quite pleased with the overall effect. Above is a shot of the Scullery, with the new window cutouts in place.  It totally gives me that Steam Punk vibe.   Cleaned up and finished, it will serve well, I think.  Still dithering around on what color I want the window frames to be, but that can wait a while.  My purpose so far has been to determine window sizes and shapes, so that I can move forward on the rest of the kitchen.  

As a blog follower, this has to be a bit frustrating, I am sure!  Always moving on before I finish!  I promise I'll come back and finish it all some day soon! 

I need to determine the basics of any portion of the kitchen that is toward the back, because I plan to enclose a portion of the kitchen soon.  So it was important to work with the windows to determine overall shape and size, so that I could settle other questions I need to work through. 

Here is the Butler's Pantry, with it's new window as well.  I really am pleased by the effect, though it is a bit harder to see, due to the black mount board contrasted with the ivory.  But that is just paint.  The shape works well with the interior, and will fully support the eventual look I am going for on the Exterior of the Manor.  More on that later!

It is exciting to start seeing the windows begin to go in because things start to feel more real!  Someday, after about 5 more years, this is gonna be cool!  :0)

By the way!  I am TOTALLY open to ideas on color for these windows.  I bounce between black, white, ivory, and brown mostly.  Above you see the "stone" that I plan to use on the exterior of the house.  In a mad moment of minor revelation, I will also share that the window boxes will be treated differently, [think metal] and that the windows must set into that backdrop perfectly.  Any suggestions?  :0)

Until next time!

Doug S

Monday, February 2, 2015

And Then There Were Two:
Deux Egouttoir!

Everyone needs two dish racks, don't you agree?  One for the fine plate and one for the everyday ware.  At least the Lightstone family felt that need.  Their dinner parties and grand events are legendary, and their need was great, so I went about coming up with a new variation on the lowly dish rack.  I hope to have pleased them with my new offering.

When I went about planning for the kitchens for the Steam-punk Manor, I really liked both versions of a dish rack, and ended up, as any good collector would, deciding to add both versions to my kitchen.  After all, I had two sinks, why not two plate racks?  I've linked to the photo that inspired me to create this rack for the Scullery.

This is a much more humble version of a plate rack, and much more utilitarian.  And much more used!  Years of water and general neglect have left this cabinet in a rather dilapidated state.  The once fine metal has rusted and grime has built up over the years.

This humble cabinet offers very little in the way of new things to highlight in regard to it's origin, so I have opted for a very short post!  I know!  You folks who get your coffee and apple strudel before reading my novels will be quite disappointed!  But there it is!

I promise I will be back with future novels for you!  Until then!

Be good!

Doug S