The catch to the hidden door

This is really so simple. You could have a statue which flips or pivots or anything you want, but I chose a book. Here’s how it works:

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The books around it have no purpose other than to keep the hinged book company, they are loose and just sit there.

I had to add a block of wood to stop the gate latch from going too far back or it wouldn’t close automatically. It’s not the prettiest but it works beautifully. I first tried to add a bracket on top as a stopper, but it had no effect at all. The book has a tiny hinge attached.

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Plywood walls

The last room to be fixed up is nearing completion! It has been a long time coming but I am in no hurry. There seems to be a fashion to put plywood on walls at the moment. Bare and raw, that is. Though I have no intention of having raw ply anywhere I find it a useful material. These walls are ply top to bottom. I added 90mm pine framework with carefully cut quad as a trim on the bottom half of the walls, and glued hessian to the top part. Is it a good idea to glue hessian on your walls? Definitely. Is it hard? Absolutely. I used plenty of Aquadhere to make it stick, but still it bubbled and wrinkled. If it looks good when you do it but return the next day to find bubbles aplenty, just briskly brush on water and more glue and it will flatten out. Because of how heavy it is you will need to tack it at the edges to stop it from falling down until it dries. Some persistent bubbles I tacked flat also to keep them down.

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The hessian will give a nice texture. I wanted to paint mine like wallpaper so I had to give it three liberal coats of paint first. I can assure you that hessian is a thirsty beast to paint, so I went to the recycling station and picked up several free leftover paint tins to completely seal the hessian before I painted the base coat I wanted for colour.

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I used acrylic paints for everything but the white flowers, house paint was fine for them. Basically you could do whatever you wanted, stripes was an idea I had at first before I realised how hard it was to glue the hessian totally straight. With the weave being so coarse it would be very visible if my stripes went over the lines. Hence organic lines and shapes. Nobody will notice a crooked line if everything is crooked already. It takes quite some time to do all the flowers and leaves so I work on all the walls at the same time, adding a little all over. This way, as your style changes subtly over the course of the work it will change evenly. The plywood at the bottom half of the walls is getting a woodgrain effect. This has to be the easiest and quickest effect I know. One undercoat to seal the ply, lightly sanded, one coat colour (I used Raw Umber) and one coat of Walnut stain and varnish in one. There are more complicated and more convincing ways to do it but I am pretty happy with this rapid way for large scale covering. Brush on the coloured varnish with a bad streaky brush, comb it with a graining comb, brush again to soften, distress it a bit, soften again, move on. You have to work very quickly if you use a waterbased varnish, a few minutes and it is starting to set. If you can paint badly, you can woodgrain. It is all about being uneven!

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Some more flowers added and more woodgrain. There is a secret door in this room. If you move the first of the standing books the door will open. That standing book is a gift, given to me by past guests. Thank you very much. I really appreciated your kind contribution and I hope you see this blog entry! The book is actually a vintage metal book safe. Any book can of course be used but I felt this was a sturdy and attractive option.

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The door is an ordinary flat hollow-core door, like this:

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Add bits of wood like this. You can’t buy a ready fireplace unfortunately because they will never be that narrow. Unless your door is enormous, of course. Having a good saw is essential for presicion cutting.

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Add paint. I undercoated the fire part with gesso, and painted the bricks and shadow with oilpaint. This is a fun idea I used once before, I loved it so much I just needed to do it again. There is something about hidden doors which appeals to many people. Bookshelves, woodpanelling, fireplaces. Anything.

A thing to think about is not to paint flames if you want it to look more realistic. Not because you cannot paint flames, but because the eye needs the flames to move. Bricks or tiles are easy because we expect nothing further from them than to be simply what they are. But flames, we need them to crackle, move, smell. So we are not deceived.

Incidentally, did you know plywood was patented in 1797 by a British naval engineer called Samuel Bentham? Fifty years later the father of Alfred Nobel made it better and stronger and more easy to make by using a rotary lathe to peel the wood in the thin skins needed and laminating them in threes. By 1865 plywood reached America and industrial production began. I used to think of it as a modern material, but it isn’t really.

 

Model landscape much later

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Have finally made it to installing the landscape I started in November over a year ago. No rush. A lesson I have now learnt is not to make it so big that I can’t reach the back wall without climbing into it. Or at least make more room in the centre so I have somewhere to stand. As it were I had to crouch with a toe on each side of a little island, feeling like Gulliver. ”…the said Man-Mountain shall have a daily allowance of meat and drink sufficient for the support of 1728 of our subjects.” Man-Mountain! That’s me.

The landscape is in two halves which had to be joined and finished (still not done with that) and then given a ceiling of clear stiff plastic. I gave it two layers of plastic with wadded insulation inbetween, creating a flat sky which could still be cleaned from the outside. But when I looked at it from the inside it looked too square, with visible edges so I glued wispy bits of insulation hanging down. This worked very well, and to my surprise catches the daylight in surprising ways, like this:

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So why this landscape and is there a point? Good question. I was given a round window from someone and could think of no better use for it than to build a large landscape in a wall, lit from above by daylight and lamplight by night. Just realise the actual window is not in the shot, it will come later. No, there is not much point apart from the fact that it is a peaceful scene where little of note happens. You can look at it for some time and discover detail, people, animals, houses. It is purely for pleasure.

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My next problem is going to be the framing, but no rush here either. The year is young.

Miniature landscape, again…

Seems I can’t get enough. I am now in the process of making my biggest landscape yet, 1,4m wide, 1,5m deep and 1,2m high. It will be attached on the outside of a viewless window, creating an illusion of something else altogether. Maybe a hint of Norway in the autumn? I made the base in two sections, otherwise they would not fit through doorways. I glued primed canvas to the walls, bending the corners slightly so as not to get sharp ”sky corners”. It will all make sense soon.

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Next I started to build up the landscape. I needed a lot of height, so mountains are the way to go. Boxes and chicken wire, covered in papier mache. The angled sticks are there to keep the front half square, as there is no back or front to that piece it is a little unstable until installed. fjord 26

I nailed the chickenwire as much as I could into place. The chickenwire is old and recycled, hence bits of leaf and grass!

fjord 25The basic shape is starting to appear. I am not really controlling it, just kind of letting it happen. I am aiming for a coastline with an island in the foreground, with lots of interesting detail. fjord 1I am painting the sky in oils, it is still waiting for more work but has to dry between layers. I can see now that I should have made the corners even more turned, but at least there is not a sharp edge. Too late! Never mind.

To make the rock, I mixed some old lumpy cement with water and Aquadhere (ordinary wood glue) and slapped it on. You could also use old tile glue, or similar. Things people have in their sheds… Here, I have also started making the bases for a couple of houses and bridges.fjord 54

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Looks like a load of rubbish so far, but wait! In order to give the rock some interest, I painted with the tiniest bit of paint on a dry brush. Just brush down with white for highlights, rub in some green and yellow for moss and lichen. A little brown maybe. Then, I painted on some wood glue and  sprinkled on some powdery modelling substances made to resemble grass, soil, or a combination.

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I am planning where the water will run down the rock, and laying down some mossy green in anticipation.

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The little house on the island is nearly done. The house is a plastic kit which I painted, rendered the chimney with caulking, and sprinkled on a grass roof. It had no windows so I put on cardboard shutters, giving the illusion that it has, hopefully.

fjord 50fjord4fjord11I have since removed the bird on the chimney and added smoke instead.

The grass roof is made with static grass and a Noch applicator. You can buy electric applicators for around $300 or so, but this works really well enough for my needs. Put some ”grass” in the bottle, shake for static, and puff it out on a bed of Aquadhere. It will land in the glue and set upright, more or less. When it’s dry, vacuum and the grass which landed where there is no glue will disappear. I use it on the ground too. Sometimes I sprinkle some earth powder on top to tone it down a bit.

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Here is another grass roof, with added longer bits from an old paintbrush head. I roughed the roof up a bit, was too smooth and even. Needs weeds and things.fjord 13

The trees are made from recycled copper wire. They are really easy to make. You can buy ready trees of all kinds, but I didn’t want anything readymade if I could do it myself. The houses, people, animals and fences are my limit. Trees? Piece of cake. Some cables have copper inside them, others not. This is why it is a good idea for recycling stations to strip all mechanical objects of metals. Why put copper into landfill when it can be reused? And they do. The local tip here in Daylesford has people stripping metal from things, sorting and making rather a neat job of it.

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Birches in autumn, yellow! The gravel is earthpowder and cooking salt. The stonewall is actual stones from the laneway outside my house, caulking and paint. The plastic house I fought with a lot, it was just so horribly plastic. I weathered the roof, rendered the walls, stuck flowerboxes and lupins and climbers all over it. Finished with an overhanging tree.fjord 48

It has a barn and a woodshed. The lupins are tiny pieces of wire, covered with superglue and flocking, painted. I have to admit that I am having a lot of fun, almost sorry that I am close to finishing.

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The pine trees are the easiest. I have seen people make extremely realistic and laborious trees, but these are fine for my scene. Wooden skewer, steel wool, fragment of scourer to act as a stopper.fjord 34

Spraypaint the trees black. fjord 35

Spray with glue, sprinkle with turf. I use a mix of green and soil colour to get lighter and darker trees. Products from Woodland Scenics. So useful for many things.

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To plant the tree, I hand drill with a fat screw. The cement gets much too hard to push a tree through.fjord 39Ready for planting. The back half has over 50 pines, haven’t counted the front.

fjord 46Hooray! My packet of Noch horse riders arrived in the post. I am also going to get a spring of seals, a brace of deer and a gang of moose. And a rowing boat. And And And… No, that should do it.fjord 40Nicely made figures, but why does that girl have to hold her arms up? At first I thought I would put a bear in her path so she would have a real reason. Then I considered cutting her arms off and regluing them in a down position but then I decided to just let it be. They are so far in the background. People are going to see trail riders, and not think more about it.fjord 32

I put some stairs and a cliff hanging path on one of the mountains. The birds are so small they are really a bit of a waste of time. I held one with the tweezers, and PING it flew away into the room, never to be seen again. The rest I held less tightly.

Making heather is easy. Just a dab of paint brushed on some clumpy foliage, I bought a bag. It lasts and lasts, good for many things. Treated lichen is great too.

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Made a couple of bridges from planks out of thin cardboard (cereal box is ideal), glued and painted on masonite. Or thick card. Whatever. Just Right!

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Though I had squirted some acrylic gloss medium for water dribbles here and there, I also wanted some water which flowed away from the rockface, like this:fjord 55

This was surprisingly easy. I squeezed out some ordinary silicon on grease proof paper, moved it around a bit with a toothpick, added tiny bits of white, also with the toothpick and let it set.fjord 59

Peel it off and glue in place, add a little silicon around it to make some water action happen. Bits of white paint work well for froth and foam.fjord 57fjord 56fjord 60

That is all I am going to do for now, will give it a rest and work on something else for a whil. It will be quite a long time before I can install it, but I don’t mind doing detail first and bigger things later. I once built a house which I started making from the inside of a two bedroom apartment. French doors, ceiling paintings, details galore. It all came to use eventually, and by then it was a pleasant thing to be able to add detail so effortlessly. I have absolutely loved making this view, if you feel in any way inspired, I can wholeheartedly recommend making one!

 

 

Room with(out) a view

What do you do with a wall without views? You paint some, of course. The ones in the picture above are just that. I find we see what we are expecting to see, so at a quick glance you simply assume these are real views through actual windows.

First, this was just a blank wall, no views, not even a window. I want views, however, and there are none behind the wall so I painted some on masonite.

fake view15Then I nailed my pictures to the wall. If you want to do your own, there’s info on how to paint a simple, fast and reasonably convincing landscape  further down. You could use a photo too, but I prefer paintings.

Add some strips of wood to rest the window on.

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Screw window into place. Looking better by the minute!

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Add timber to build up the right levels, then stick on some architrave to match the rest of the room.

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HOW TO PAINT EASY GARDEN VIEWS

To make my views I used masonite, rough side up. Five coats of gesso first, goes on quickly and primes the thirsty masonite wonderfully well.  Do not use undercoat, not good enough!fake view10I paint in oils, which is slow to dry between coats but nice to work with. First I roughed in where the sky will be. I used White, Payne’s Grey and Ultramarine mixed in with some medium to make the paint flow.

fake view11I was aiming for a sky which portrays no special season, just a dull plain sky. Fortunately you can’t see much sky from the real windows either so you will not be able to make a too obvious comparison, hopefully. It is all leaf.fake view12Next I blocked in the green mass. I used Black and Viridian, more medium. I didn’t mix on my palette, rather on the painting itself. Swirl and splash, rough and lively! Here are the two, they are the same, just bad light. The green mass has lots of variety in shade, but again, bad pic loses the detail.

fake view6fake view5The treetrunks are next, for this first layer I used Black and Vandyke Brown. Let it dry before adding leaves, or it will be a mess.      fake view7Add leaves of whatever kind, I am using the same leaves which are seen through the real windows.

fake view8I also added some flowers, this spot is so dark nothing would bloom there in real life but anything is possible in paint! If you want something, paint it. Oil makes flower painting a breeze. Just load a brush with paint and dab it on. It will look like a flower all by itself. I tend not to mix too much on the palette, but add more than one colour to the brush and it just does its flower thing.fake view2A crop of berries, not related to the tree itself but that’s ok.

fake view3Hydrangeas! Or something white and fluffy anyway.

fake viewWhen the paint has dried, you can add more shape and shade to the leaves and the whole scene. Keep building the layers until you are happy. Veins on leaves are good but certainly not necessary. You could go super realistic, or just give a general idea.fake view4Done.