Posted: 1st, May 2009
(Editor’s note: Click on any of the images to see larger versions for more detail)
You may recall from the last post (Part 3) that I mentioned getting a bit ahead of myself in the construction process. I think the way I described it was that I got a bit “over zealous.” Went nuts was more like it. It was so cool seeing the “half-timber” strips go onto the surface of the walls that I kind of started sticking them everywhere.
So… the result is that this is to be a very text-heavy tutorial. In my eagerness to build out the front wall section, I progressed well past the point of being able to photograph the process. I promise I’ll have more photos for the next segment (Part 5) when I post it.
My sincerest apologies for dropping the ball on the detail level of this step–especially after complaining about the lack of detail that I’ve noticed in other online tutorials on this subject. I promise that I’ll closely document the next steps so that folks get a real good idea of how this process comes together.
The first part of the building process for the front facade was to trace an outline of the door and stoop on a piece of foam core board. I had already drafted my technical specs for the front wall of the building (three sections, each cut to 4″ in length by 2 3/4″ high) as outlined in Part 1 of this tutorial, so measuring and cutting the pieces of foam core went pretty quickly. Once I had my three front wall sections, I needed to cut out two smaller pieces that would flank the wall with the door.
I laid of the 4″ x 2 3/4″ wall sections flat and traced the rough outline of the door frame and stoop onto the foam core board. Then I went back and measure everything to make sure there was enough clearance for the door to fit. Even after careful measuring, the wall sat a little high on the door frame so I trimmed it down a bit. I never did get it to sit flush but that was OK–I would be gluing the “half-timber” Basswood strips to the bottom of the wall so you’d never even know that it was sticking up a bit high.
The next step was to mark out the lines for cutting an aperture into which I would fit the window casing. I stood one of the 4″ x 2 3/4″ wall pieces up before measuring to get a feel for how low the casing should sit so a miniature could peer into the window. Once I found what looked like a good position to place the window, I laid the foam core board flat and measured the distances from the edge of the window casing to the edge of the foam core very carefully so the window would be level once it was fitted inside of the aperture I cut. After the aperture was cut out, I fitted the first window casing into wall #1. I repeated the process for the other window casing as outline above.
Once the three wall sections were fitted with the window casings and the door, it was time to glue the pieces all together. I used white PVA glue (Elmer’s brand glue) to bond the pieces. I wanted to clamp the pieces together to assure a nice, tight fit, but the small clamps that I own would have crushed the foam core board, ruining them and hence ruining all of the hard work I had done to this point. Instead, I used makeshift braces by pushing heavy objects up against the wall sections to keep them from falling over or coming loose (kind of like book ends holding up books).
You need to have patience and let the PVA glue dry thoroughly before you start handling the front wall. I was too stubborn and impatient to wait and as a result, I kept popping one or more wall sections apart. I finally tempered my eagerness to get on with the next step and let the pieces dry completely. Even still, it’s easy to snap a section apart from another.
Once I was sure that the glue was dry I started measuring the length and height of the walls to start cutting the Basswood into strips to be glued onto the facade and interior of the wall sections. Because almost all of the strips will be glued to each other in addition to being glued directly to the foam core board, they also serve to really bolster up the walls. Look closely at the picture to the right and you’ll see how they become solid reinforcements to the otherwise precariously glued foam core board. I used super glue to adhere the wood to the foam core board. Because the inner foam core is covered with poster-board like paper, the super glue won’t melt the foam.
Word of caution on this step: You’ll want to make sure you measure carefully before cutting your strips and further still, make sure you align them as perfectly as possible when gluing them–particularly if you use super glue to adhere them to the walls. Try removing one after it’s super glued and you’ll rip the paper right off of the foam core. Another thing to make sure of is that your walls are square, or level. Otherwise the whole facade will warp out of alignment, making it difficult to glue to the sides and back, and ultimately to the base (see the picture below for a visual on what this looks like).
If you study the picture to the left you can see how I measured and applied the wood strips to the walls. I wanted the bottom strips to be solid all the way across, so they were the longest cut. It didn’t matter if the top ones were one long strip or if they stopped short on either corner–the second floor will jut out over them so you won’t be able to see them clearly once everything is finished.
When you glue the vertical strips onto the foam core, make sure you dab some glue on the ends as well to try to adhere them to the other strips of wood for added structural support–especially when you get to the corners of the walls. You’ll want those corner pieces glued together to help assure that the walls don’t pop apart at some point in the future. You could even tack then into place with the miniature nails used in the previous tutorial. (Notice the slight bowing effect on the extreme ends of the wall. The finished lower floor will be glued to the craft plywood base the wall is currently sitting on in the picture above, and will also be tacked in place with some miniature nails–most likely the same ones used to build the window casings in the previous tutorial–the 3/8″ miniature brass nails).
That wraps up this segment of our project. Next time we’ll look at assembling the side and back walls to the front wall section, and then mounting the entire first floor to the base. Until then..!