The First Tower

Well, on with the nickel tour. This has got to be the slowest tour of a building in history. “If you’ll look to your right, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll see the first of the two great towers.”

I started this tower a year ago and wrote parts of this chapter through that time. This might explain why at times my tenses are a little erratic. A couple of interesting thoughts. First, I reread all of my chapters. The first thing that struck me was that I had already forgotten how I had created some of the things in the castle. Weird. This is why I started writing before I was finished. The second thought came as a combination of reading a sentence and realizing the weeks of work behind it. Saying, “and then I made 17 walls” truly feels like I’m not telling the whole story. I thought of asking the readers to read a sentence and then wait a week between each sentence, but if you were willing to go at my pace, you’d be making your own stupid castles. Still, I was often struck at how quick the process sounded compared to the actual reality.

This tower has three rooms; a solar, the master bedroom and a nursery. The rooms look tiny, but if I’d made them the size I wanted, I’d really have to consider moving my couch out of my living room. Not good. I had to make the compromise that this is not a palace, but more of an idea of a dream, or something like that. These three rooms took forever. Partly, this was due to the fact that I was working on three at once as opposed to the usual one at a time. This required making every piece (floors, ceilings, windows, walls, etc.) and then combining them together. This stretched the process out a very long time. It also made a huge mess because all of the pieces had to be made before anything could be combined. Reason #344 why it’s probably better that I live alone.

There are very few new methods here. I started with a spiral staircase and cut doors out of it for every level. The floors are polymer tiles. Of course, it would make sense that I spent hours on the floor tiles for the master bedroom only to end up covering 90% of them with a bed. Smack me, will you? I also made two of the ceilings to look like fancy plasterwork by pressing polymer clay into a fancy plasterwork looking plastic piece that usually is used as is and not as a mold. This was done repeatedly because for some reason, the clay liked the plastic piece and wanted to stay together forever. (I did not know about using cornstarch or anything at this time.) (Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bad idea later on. Towards the end of the whole project, I was going back and checking out the rooms. Well, these ceilings fell. Not a big problem in the solar. I just re-glued them. In the master bedroom, when it kind of fell, and some parts held on for dear life, the bed being immovable made it almost impossible to do anything with. So, even pulling out the old stuff was incredibly difficult. I ended up giving up and going with simply painting over the whole thing and hoped that it wasn’t noticeable once everything else was in place.)

There’s a fireplace in every room. The bases for two of them are made of marbled looking polymer clay. This was accomplished by combining polymer clay of various colors with metallic acrylic paints. It works remarkably well and fires bright, too. It won’t dry out either, much to my amazement. The other base is wood painted black with something called webbing paint on it. The stuff does what it sounds like, but has to be put on spasmodically, or you overdo it. Ask how I found that out. All three fireplaces are different. One has a hood, one is very plain and the other has “plasterwork” painted in blue and gold.

The outside walls are polymer clay rocks and the insides of two rooms are “whitewashed” clay stones. The master bedroom is draped in a rich red satin similar to what I saw in one of the castles in Ireland. There are stained glass windows in all three rooms and on the staircase. The stair’s windows are fairly plain diamond paned windows. The windows of the solar and nursery have simple pictures in them like a fleur-de-lis, fish, cross etc. In the master bedroom, I made a window of Cupid and Psyche. I tried to do a new method for the windows. I covered copper foil with solder, then patinaed it and then cut those foils into lines for the windows. Not only was it a royal pain in the rear, but also it restricted the complexity of the designs. Back to ink and transparent paint.

At this point, I had created all the components, and I was ready to start gluing them all together. I swear, I set them all out on the dining room table one Friday and really believed that I was going to put them all together that weekend. That was a month and a half ago and it’s almost together. Sigh. This is where it got a little frustrating. In a sense, it’s a little like chess. You have to think out the rest of your moves every time you touch a piece. After partial success and at least a week of denial, I realized I had to make all the wiring, lamps, etc., before this tower became one. Seventeen lights in all.

Nursery – 1 fire, 1 torch and 3 candles. The only tricky part was the candles. They sit on a trestle table. (First, you make the table.) They are candle lights set in translucent polymer clay. The wiring goes through the table and through a hole in the floor. And, yes, one did have bad wiring and the whole thing had to be pulled out and redone. (A note here – dollhouse wiring sucks. Nothing has given me more of a hard time than that.) The master bedroom – 1 fire, 1 candle on a stand which was made of polymer clay, carved up dollhouse house post and various pieces of brass filigree and a masthead light. This masthead light was very difficult. First, I had seen numerous masthead lights in drawings and in real life. There seemed to be two choices: virgin religious sorts and half naked trollops. You know, kind like America’s movies in the 90’s. Oops, sorry about the commentary. Well, given those two choices, sober reflection led me to choose the half naked trollop. Wouldn’t you? It was fun, but it’s already been noted that she’s more anatomically correct than any two real women could hope for. Not unlike those movies from the 90’s again. She’s made from polymer clay. Surprise! I swear I should buy stock. This time, the antlers she “supports” are reinforced with wire for strength. There are 4 candles on the antlers that seemed to short out every time I looked at them. She also made matters worse by being so heavy that I had to reinforce the wall so she wouldn’t sag, so to speak. The solar – 1 fire and 1 standing candelabra. This was based on a drawing from a book called Life in a Castle (another children’s book). It has a round wire base that has a tripod set on it. At the top of the tripod is a set of 3 candles. The wire base is painted black.

I had to attach the tower to the castle. The tower sat for months while I tried to figure out how to do it. The castle had been resting on 3 end tables. I had to get them all together. It would take two full-sized tables which I would want to match, but I didn’t want to use both now, because a) I only need one now and b) I’d like to have a usable living room for at least another year. Basically, I ended up buying two picnic tables because they had slots in them for the wiring.  One is still in the box for the future parts of the  castle. I then, with much anxiety, gasping and just all around general twitching moved the castle to the new table with the help of two friends. Even though the thing is modular, it’s still very heavy and fragile. Of course, once I got it all attached I had to rework a number of the lights in the tower. (Over a decade later when this had grown to two tables and was living in the basement, I went down after a period of ignoring it only to find the slats had started to cave in from the weight of it. The massive panic I felt cannot be overstated. I immediately ran out to the hardware store and got boards to put underneath the castle and church and just drilled holes for the wires. The church, being made much later and weighing considerably less was unharmed. The castle was not as lucky. The great hall which was over the major break was the most harmed. Not only was the end structure kind of wonky, but the entire wood screen at the end had to be taken apart and re-glued.)