Sunday, December 4, 2011

My first chair

Seen above are the drawn up plans for my chair assembly. That's one of many things I love about this project, is that I need to find a way to create objects and shapes based on photographs only. There are no plans pre-existing for me to go by so I create them myself.

Next, I start with the legs. I was very lucky to stumble upon excellent legs for my chairs at a dollhouse shop in Sacramento. They were a tad too long, but had the makings of perfect chair legs. By cutting out a small section of the pre-made legs I took care of the length problem and also took out additional patterns in the legs that weren't true to Titanic's chair legs. Once the two useable chair leg pieces were glued together, it was eerily close to the pattern of the originals.

A few more pieces of wood and I had all the parts needed to build a chair base. I checked the dimensions for scale's sake to an original chair from Olympic's (Titanic's sister ship) dining saloon chair and it was a perfect match. Yay!

With a photo of the dining saloon in the background, some glue dries on the chair back with the base waiting in the background. The chair back's characteristic wavy curve was cut using a jeweler's saw, seen on the table in the picture. I will be using that saw for the chair arms as well.

Once the base and backrest were assembled I needed to stain the wood. After two tries I found a nice color which resembles the color on Titanic's chairs...

For awhile I was pulling my hair out trying to find some type of covering for the chairs. The originals were upholstered in leather, so that was my first choice. However the hobby stores didn't cary much leather, much less leather thin enough... so I started to look into other possibilities... vinyl, synthetic leather, I didn't know what to use. I did almost ask local book binderies if they had some bookcovering leather they could sell, and I found out about "skiver" leather which is a very thin leather used to cover desktops. After searching for some time I came upon a leather shop. After less than five minutes I found what I was looking for... thin leather with the perfect shine and to-scale texture I needed! I bought the whole hide.

So I started to cover my first chair back. This took awhile because it was my first chair and I had no idea what I was doing.

Looking pretty good... slowly the leather gets wrapped around the wood. This is the prototype and I'm actually thinking of adding a piece of foam on the "production" chairs before wrapping the chair back to give it a more rounded plush look.

So I sat the covered chair back onto the base, and bam! Looks like a chair! The seat cushion is not upholstered and the arms are missing, but it definintely is looking like a Titanic dining saloon chair now.

At the leather shop I picked out a green dye that looks very accurate. The dark green color is exactly that as seen on the original leather upholstery. And it's SO easy to use... just brush it on.

And check this out! What a beautiful color! And the texture is perfectly to scale. I just love this color of green matched with the stained wood. These were truly beautiful chairs, and I'm very happy to reproduce them in miniature. The "seams" can still be seen where I had to cut the leather to fit the upholstery, and I very much want to make those dissapear. So I'm looking into a way to fill those hairline gaps and make the leather upholstery seamless.

Putting the dyed chair back onto the base was an amazing moment. The chairs were something I was dreading because I had no idea how to go about making them but it seems possible now! The photo below shows the chair sitting on a prototype of the floor that will be put in my miniature. The pattern was made from scratch by me on computer (the first part of my blog covers that adventure). I printed out the pattern onto slightly textured card paper which gives it a stunningly close look to old style cork linoleum flooring which is what I'm shooting for. If you look close at the picture you'll see what I mean. The colors may need to be tweaked a little on the floor before I print the final product.

A view of the back of the chair is just as impressive. I can't wait to see this prototype finished. And eventually there will be 44 of these beauties sitting throughout my miniature. I can't wait to see that.

A few more tidbits of progress

I have added two oval-shaped pieces of wood towards the bottom of the rear wall at the column bases. Every little piece of wood helps! Now I am starting more work on the columns near the top, where those head-shaped capitals are. I have added some wood to begin shaping the column structure underneath the busts...

Stepping back to take a look at the whole rear wall... it's starting to look like the real thing!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

At work again! Additional details on the rear wall

So I have taken quite a break from this project, but I'm back at it. One big change I have made to the plan is to omit the front wall section from my project. There would have been an opening to see in the room with my original plan, but opening up the front of the project all the way will allow for a better display. I am attempting to finish my project by the Centennial of the Titanic disaster but I'm not sure if I'll make it. There are still quite a few details to finish before I can say I'm done.

The last week I have started adding more detail to the rear wall, including wainscotting and more work on the columns.

Here I am beginning wainscotting along the bottom of the wall section. These balsa pieces were cut to size and then carefully sanded on each edge to create a routed look. Every step of the way I check to ensure that the pieces are lined up correctly and that they are straight. I'm a little uneasy about using balsa wood on this model because of the challenges involved in painting such a soft porous wood, but it makes it so much easier when I need to shape wood like this. I went to a hobby shop a few weeks ago and talked with a guy in the model plane department, seeing as how many model planes are built from balsa. I asked about the task of painting a model containing balsa wood and he gave me a sander sealer and explained I will need to sand the model surfaces, then apply a coat of sealer. I will most likely need to repeat this at least a few times before the surface is paintable. NOT looking forward to that step, but seeing these walls fully detailed and with a nice bright white coat of paint on them will be well worth any effort spent.

Looking pretty good eh? Now I begin adding the tiny pieces of trim around the edges of the panels that are now glued in place. The trim is cut to length and glued into place, one piece at a time. This went pretty quickly...

HOWEVER, you never want to go TOO quickly as I quickly found out. My first safety incident during my project involved shoving a razor blade fitted exacto knife into the side of my fingertip. But the results on the wainscotting were beautiful. :)

Finally the wainscotting was done. All of it being unsafely completed in about an evening's time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My greatest achievement thus far

Along Titanic's outer dining room wall were architectural details made of plaster which were very cool. They resembled columns which narrowed as they fell to the floor, and at the top were busts of a woman's head and shoulders. On top of her head was what looked like a column top. Now how does somebody make that??? Well I figured the lower part that slopes down will be done pretty easily with hobby wood. However the top with the woman's head and everything would be a different story... don't think I can carve that by hand! So of all places I went to Target, checked out some action figures and found the perfect head of a woman to build my model from... which turned out to be a star wars action figure. This little plastic lady went through some pretty greuling torture in my hobby room... I had to cut off her body at her chest and then sand down the back of her head flat. I then used some small wooden dowels and a flat piece of balsa wood to build the "column-top-looking-thing-a-ma-jig" onto her head, and then I carved some lavish hair coming down on to her shoulders and sticking out the top from clay. Finally I made a little paper "T" on her necklace. I then formed a silicone mold from this model and duplicated some finished pieces in plastic. And - WOW! I was so excited about these because I had no idea how I would pull this off when I started this project. But there they were lined up on my work bench, all done. I recently glued these to the rear wall and they are fabulous. By the way they also look EXACTLY like the originals on Titanic, down to the expression on the face.

More molding is applied to the rear wall

Next a strip of molding is applied along the entire length of the rear (outer) wall. At different locations the molding must stick out a little further from the wall to allow for even further paneling which will be installed on the lower half of the wall. Here in the photos is what I have put together so far. The white parts are embossed paper with superfine detail.

Detail begins on the rear wall

The rear wall detail began by inserting the bottom window supports into place. I simply cut some pieces of wood to length and then got an angle by holding them against my belt sander.

The "spades" as I like to call em'

These appliques which are fitted onto the side walls took up a lot of time in my brain. For a long time I was looking for something to create these, and at a craft store I found some little plastic hearts that had a lot of detail on them. So I used one of those hearts by cutting the edges to turn the heart into a spade shape, then filled in any imperfections with clay. I also formed the bases out of clay. Then... again using homemade plastic I duplicated the shape so that I had all the pieces I needed. Then a little sanding on each piece to get them just right. I was thinking about how to make these little things for a long time and it was such a relief to finally see them up on the wall where they belong.