My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #157: Improving on a Good Thing

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 11-07-2010 01:06 PM 3953 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 156: Last Trip to the Wood Store of the Season Part 157 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 158: Almost done, but not quite . . »

I already know that it is going to be a great day. I only realized last night that we will have an extra hour and that this is the weekend we change our clocks. I always loved that extra hour. Even when I was quite young I enjoyed the advantages of it. Apparently I was even busy as a child and had little trouble trying to fill it.

I decided yesterday that I am going to proclaim a “jammy day” today. I ran my errands yesterday and have no reason whatsoever to leave the house today. It is cold out and still raining as expected. I have mostly painting work to do and several good shows and movies to watch later on as I work. Right now however, I am listening to some Beethovan Bagatelles which I find quite soothing. I used to play a couple of them on years ago when I had my piano and I was happy when I stumbled on a collection of 27 of them. It is perfect blog writing music. I also have a nice hot cup of coffee with just a touch of cinnamon added. I love cinnamon and just a bit in my coffee is a wonderful treat. Finally, I have my autumn scented candle lit and it completes the nice atmosphere I have created here for myself (along with my ‘cuddling cat’ named pancakes, who is curled up at my side). It is nice to start the day with so much comfort and contentment.

I love making my ‘nest’ here. Especially with all the days I spend here working and such, it is important to me to have an environment that I find pleasant and comfortable. It doesn’t take a lot, but I feel it makes a huge difference to my emotional well-being and productivity. Things like smells and music and even small things like my beautiful little box from Brian Meeks which I treasure seems to bring so much peace and happiness to me that it makes it a joy to work and create. It is the simple things that are often the most treasured.

I had a wonderful day of working yesterday. After spending much of the day catching up on the house and running to the store and such, I settled down to work on the stands for the skaters. They were at the point of all being completely dry, but needed to be painted and attached to the pieces.

Did you ever have a project where each time you made it you made an improvement on it? That is how this project seems to be heading. I liked the initial set very much, but it seems that by re-doing it, I have found many little improvements which will make the overall presentation much easier and better. I am quite excited.

We left the stands all lined up on my granite board drying in the oven. I was glad that I was away on Friday, as it gave everything a chance to thoroughly dry. I found that there was some very slight shrinking in using the Paper clay. Not much, but enough to make a small difference. I remembered that from way back in January when I made the initial set. There was also some very slight fitting discrepancies from turning the pieces over when they were partially dry. Although it did distort the shape ever so slightly, it wasn’t going to be a problem. If the channels were slightly too short, it was very easy to take the tip of a paring knife or an exacto knife and slice out a bit of material to lengthen them. I felt it was more important that the pieces fit snugly rather than be too loose.

I went through the entire set and fitted each piece into its respective stand. For some of the taller tree pieces, I was slightly worried because they wanted to tip due to the slight cupping of the clay on the bottom. I was afraid that I would have to re-make the stands for these pieces and provide a wider base. When I was molding the stands, the clay was slightly sticky and held the pieces up perfectly. But now that they were dry, some of the pieces wanted to rock slightly and I wasn’t happy about that at all. I didn’t want the stands to overpower the pieces though. so I didn’t want them too big. I then had an idea.

This product that I used for the stands is called “Paperclay” and is made of paper-like fibers. It air dries and is very light. Part of me was wondering if I should have used “regular” clay, as the extra weight would be beneficial to balancing the pieces. But I felt that it would be hard and brittle and difficult to sand if adjustments were necessary. And I wasn’t sure how it would accept painting and the finish. The Paperclay was supposed to do both quite well. I was not disappointed.

After fitting all the stands with the proper pieces, I went back and painted the tops of the stands with Blue Mist paint. The base color that I used under the pond and all the snow was Blue Mist. I didn’t want to use White because I felt the blue gave a bit more depth and color to the snow, and it looked more realistic. Blue Mist is a bluish-gray color that quite resembles the shadows you would see in real snow. I only painted the tops for now because I didn’t want to paint close to the bottoms of the figures and risk getting the blue paint on them.

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

This didn’t have to be a particularly ‘neat’ painting, as most of it will be covered by the Sno-Tex, so it went fast and was easy. Next, I mixed a small batch of 5-minute epoxy on a paper plate. I like using the epoxy because it is strong, dries clear and quickly, and is a gel-like consistency which will fill in any gaps that I need to. The trick is to mix small batches and work quickly. Again, it is important to have everything organized.

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

I simply dipped the bottom of the figure into the epoxy:

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

And then I gently pressed it into its corresponding stand.

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

It was at this point, I checked the balance of each figure to make sure that it would stand properly. This was especially important when doing the taller items such as the trees. I saved those pieces for when the epoxy was beginning to be gummy and almost ready to set, as it was much easier to work with at that point and balance the piece. I believe I needed six small batches mixed up to do all of my pieces. Remember however, I was doing two sets. I purchase the epoxy at the dollar stores by me, as it is the same size tube as what they sell in the hardware store for over six dollars. It is fast and easy to use too, as the tube has two sides that you squeeze out at once with a syringe type applicator which insures you get equal parts of resin and hardener even when using only small amounts. I probably didn’t even use half a tube for all of these pieces.

By the time I was done with the gluing, the first pieces were dry. At this time, I checked each piece and used a home-made sanding block to make sure the bottoms of the pieces were completely flat. I used 150 grit and it sanded the paper clay beautifully. The improvement in stability was incredible and I was very thrilled and excited to see this little set coming out so nice.

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

I think it is very beneficial to make a project such as this more than once. It isn’t that the first one is bad, but it is great to see how many improvements can be made on techniques and construction that will make it better overall. I hadn’t thought to sand the bottoms of the pieces with the first two sets. They sat fairly well, although I know that some pieces can be more stable. I remember picking and choosing through the two sets that I had done back in January and sending the best ones to the magazine for publication. However, I think that when I receive it back from them, I will re-check and perhaps sand the bottoms of any piece in question and improve them a bit.

I have a picture here of the bottom of a tree. You can see how the edges have slightly rounded up and there was even a small crack on the bottom of the piece:

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

After about 15 seconds of sanding on the flat block, you can see how improved the bottom of the piece is and how flat it is.

From SLDP103 Skating Pond Figures

The result is that the tree will sit much better on the set and it also looks much nicer. I am thrilled with the Paperclay and I will certainly be using it for other applications in my woodworking projects.

Today, I will finish painting the bottoms of the stands and also adding the Sno-Tex to the bottoms of the figures. They will then need a clear finish over them so I will be applying several coats of that. I will also complete the actual pond piece. At this point, I have base coated it with white paint and then after it dried thoroughly, I added a wash of the Blue Mist color. I will then add a wash of Metallic Silver paint to make it look icy and also perhaps some paint I have with some finely crushed iridescent glitter to look like skating lines. I want the effect to be subtle though, and not gaudy or harsh.

Perhaps then I can be “done” with it and photograph it all together for you to see set up. I am quite excited about getting everything finished. After all the pictures and explanations I have done here, it should be fairly simple for me to finish up the pattern booklet. (That’s an extra bonus I get for doing this blog!)

I realize that it may seem like a long time that I have been working on this, but the pieces were quite small and detailed and there are quite a few of them. I am happy that I devoted the time that I feel it deserved to make it as special as I feel it will be.

For those of you who I owe emails to – I hope to get to them today also. I was so involved yesterday that I didn’t do much computer work and my correspondence is piling up. I hope you forgive me. There are just some days when I am on a roll and don’t want to pull myself away from things. Sometimes though those are my favorite days.

I hope you all have a great Sunday and fill up your extra hour doing something you enjoy. It will make the day that much better for you and happier.

Until tomorrow then, have a great one!

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

2 comments so far

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3040 days

#1 posted 11-07-2010 07:26 PM

Put a magnet under each one and set it on a magnetic track that will move these things around on the ice in time with Christmas music? That will be wonderful to do! I have no idea how to do this but my imaginations run wild at times. I can envision this! You are doing a wonderful job with this.

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3138 days

#2 posted 11-07-2010 09:31 PM

great blog Sheila
very well explained

take care

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