The Big Think

August 3, 2012

And They Built A Tiny House

Filed under: Hobbies,Maker — jasony @ 6:32 pm

I love modeling. I was the kid who had every spaceship from John Glenn’s Friendship 7 up to and including a 1:72 model of the Space Shuttle. I’ve always loved disengaging the stressed out part of my brain and spending hours cutting parts, gluing them together, and getting the paint just right. So when I discovered Bruce Hirst’s Castlemolds series a few years ago I was hooked. I’ve since collected a small pile of molds and have fun casting pieces from Hydrostone and building the models that Bruce has plans for on his site.

But I’ve never yet built something original. Our recent trip to Ireland, though, provided Erin and me the inspiration to create our own Irish cottage, even if it was in 28mm scale. So I went about designing an Irish style cottage. I was going to keep it simple, but as with all things craftsman-ey I decided that I couldn’t scrimp. So two weeks later I have the finished product. I did most of the construction and Erin helped with the sculpting and painting of the accessories (as well as helping with the greenery and landscaping). I’ve done several of these “based” pieces so far where the buildings are put on a decorated base. This one is my best yet and I’m proud of the end result.

So in honor of our 2012 Ireland visit, I give you: our retirement home (small version):

Here’s a front view of the house. You can see the peat area on the bottom left where the farmer gets his fuel for burning. You can see where the peat is stacked into piles to dry in the sun before being moved across the yard to the storage area. The rock wall as well as all other rock pieces in the model were individually painted- meaning each rock was individually painted a slightly different color and then drybrushed with a couple of unifying colors to bring it all together. Before painting each rock, though, I went through with a very small brush and painted just the mortar with a slightly different color. It’s a subtle effect but I’m really happy with the way it turned out. It makes it look much more realistic up close. I probably used fifteen different rock colors and one mortar color. The process took several hours.

To the right of the gate is the garden where the Irish potatoes are grown, then further right is the blue and red wagon for transporting the peat. The wagon is 100% scratch built from balsa wood, bass wood, and Sculpey. It has metal rings holding the wooden wheels together. The metal rings are those small ring things that attach your keys to your keychains. Just above the wagon is the peat storage area with a wooden roof (all of the roofs and brick pieces are cast individually from Hirst molds (specifically, the Fieldstone, Wood Plank, Wood Roof, Slate Roof, and Small Brick molds). I cast the pieces using Hydrostone, which is a sculpture-quality dry mix that’s similar to Plaster of Paris but contains concrete for a stronger piece.

Just above the peat storage area is the chicken coop (with removable wood shingle roof) and then the main house is to the left. The entire model is based on a 12×12″ piece of 1/2″ plywood. It weighs about six pounds or so.

Here are a few more views of the outside:



Backside of the house. You can see the small bucket with some extra sunflowers hidden back there.

West side of the house and back of the peat bog.

I’m particularly happy with how the moss on the chimney turned out.

Love this shot:

Chicken coop with the feed bucket out front:

and here’s the coop with the top off. We’re trying to find some 28mm scale chickens to put in the model but haven’t found any yet:

Front of the house with sunflowers, rain barrel, and grain sack. Take special note of the door and window frames. I built them as very small version of the real thing, complete with correct frames and trim pieces. The windows are less than 1″ tall! The door is a typical dutch door that opens in halves. Also note the moss growing on the house. BTW, the top portion of the house is made from foamboard and the wood is balsa and basswood treated with a mahogany stain. Before I attach the wood I cover the foamboard with a coating of spackle to get that Tudor effect and then paint the spackle with several coats of different paint and drybrush the details.

The roof is also cast from Hydrostone from individual pieces, glued on, then painted and drybrushed. Here you can see the staining around the fireplace:

Opening the house, you’ll notice that I (of course) couldn’t just leave the foamboard exposed on the ceiling. So I cut out, stained, and built an open-beam support for the roof, then closed it in to more closely resemble an Irish cottage. All foamboard has been spackled on the ceiling though I left it unpainted since I liked the lighter color:

Here’s a better view of the support system of the house. I had to cut one of the supports to fit around the chimney. There are two more “A-frame” supports inside the attic (also stained) that you can’t see:

Here’s the inside of the house. Erin build the bed from cast wooden boards then she actually sewed a mattress (stuffed with cotton) and made a bed sheet, foot throw and pillow (also sewn). She built and painted the table as well and then made the plates, platters, mug, chicken, and chocolate chip cookies. Painted them, too. They look great!

Here’s the other half of the house. You can see the fireplace, peat bucket, log, and a prized cup on the mantlepiece. I’ve drybrushed black onto the floor to depict a common traffic pattern in the house. It’s messy by the fireplace:

View of the backside of the front wall with the carpet on the floor.:


Next up I’d like to build a blacksmith’s shop with tools, a waterwheel/mill with a grain silo, a working windmill, and a bunch of other stuff. Like I said, I really like building models. I only get a few weeks each year when I can drag the supplies out of storage and take over the kitchen table so I have to make the most of it when I do.

I’m extremely proud of the work we did on this model and happy that Erin wanted to help build our little Irish cottage. Hope you enjoy it!

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