Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Official!

I walked through the Iowa State Fair last night with a big smile on my face. As I carried my roombox away from the display building, a blue ribbon hung from my entry. It didn't win best of show. (A woman from West Des Moines won that with her dollhouse that she'd been working on for the last 20 years.) Nevertheless, I was a very happy guy.

Out of a possible 100 points, the judge gave my entry a 100. The judge commented that he/she liked the case I built for the roombox. The case includes stained glass panels on each side of the box, which are lit with rope lighting inside the box.

The rope lighting is fastened just below the top of the mountains in the background, which creates a strong source of light just behind the mountains. It helps create the sense that the sun has just set. Winding the excess parts of the rope light around to the sides helped me do two things. First, it allowed me to create some light to come out through the stained glass panels on the sides. Secondly, I was able to bring it back across the top of the stained glass to add a little more light for the orange stained glass.

I made the mountains using 1/8" thick basswood. After I cut out the mountain shapes, I used some of my small files to add some shapes and details to the hills. The weeds in the foreground are sisal rope that I took apart. I'd take a tiny hank of the sisal, bend it in half, twist it and add a little glue to hold it together. Then I drilled holes into the floor board of the box and glued the "weeds" into place. There are a few lonely saguaro cacti out in the background, too, which I cut from wood, sanded and painted.

The judge also liked the floor in the room, saying "The way you created the tile floor is wonderful." I made the tiles using digital photographs and PowerPoint software. On one of our trips to Tucson, I purchased a floor tile and a baseboard tile. When I got home, I created a grey background that looked like grout, then inserted the picture of the tile, sized it to scale and then copied, pasted and adjusted the placement of the tiles until I had a complete floor. I also used PowerPoint to create the entry floor tiles, too, which are plain terracotta tiles.

The camera has no lens in it. I took a digital picture of the roombox, then reduced it to the size of the screen in the camera, and printed it upside down and backwards (because that's how it would look in a real camera). A tiny light helps the camera picture show up a little more. The wire to the light runs up through one of the camera tripod legs. I made the camera from scratch, using some parts from a hobby store that were intended for remote control airplanes.

The fireplace is made of wood. I used a compass, and drew a half-circle on a piece of 3/4" pine wood. Then I set my Sears jigsaw table at a slight angle and cut out the semicircle. This made the bottom edge of the semicircle slightly narrower than the top edge. I next set the narrow edge of that semicircle on top of the board and traced the shape. Then I cut out another piece.

I repeated this step until the piece was very small. Next, I cut out the fireplace itself, using the jigsaw once again. Then I glued all the pieces together. There were places where I hadn't cut perfectly. So, I used my Dremel tool and sanding drums on the tool to smooth out those imperfections. The mantle is a piece of walnut that I inserted at one of the layers of the fireplace. It was the easiest way to mount it to such an odd-shaped object. The final touch was to paint the wood, smear some drywall compound in various places on the walls and the chimney, then paint again. I used charcoal pencils to blacken the fireplace to a level that satisfied me.

I made the box as a lamp. You can't see it from this photograph, but there's a stem area atop the box where the light fixture comes out. To hide the brass stem, I inserted a couple of four-inch round pieces of wood, and then affixed pieces of saguaro cactus ribs to it. (I noticed in some of the places in Tucson, people have created shutters using these cactus ribs in their shutters.) I intended to do that on the sides of the box, but realized it was too difficult to make with the glass insets.

I hope to publish an article one of these days about how I matted the pictures for the room. For a little more information about other techniques I used in creating this room, I had a post about this room on February 6, if you'd like to read more about it.


julie campbell said...

Congratulations George, so well deserved :0)
This is so beautifully detailed , it is absolutely perfect !
julie xx

Evelien said...

That's one beautiful roombox you made there!! Indeed the price is very well deserved.

Love the light and background idea and your fireplace is a beauty also.

groetjes evelien

kimsminiatures said...

Congratulations!!!! You do beautiful work. Mini hugs~ Kim

Texas Belle said...

Congratulations! I really love this roombox, and it's so great to hear all the details about how you created it!

Sans said...

Thank you for the very detailed explanation. It's always so enjoyable reading your post and looking at the results of what you have accomplished. The tile floor idea is so easy but effective. I love it too. Thanks for sharing

Tiffany said...

Congratulations- I'm shocked anyone beat your work at the fair! :) I love the background.

MiniMaker said...


Tiger and Lily Boutique Blog said...

Hurray! Congratulations George! We knew you would win. That is wonderful news. I'm so sorry to hear about your back though and that you couldn't enter Sara's dollhouse. There is always next year. :-) I see you have a few new followers - hopefully you'll get more since our (Tiger and Lily Boutique) newsletter went out this weekend.

Have a great week!
Make it! Buy it! Sell it! All in one place. Tiger and Lily Boutique.

Tony Watkins said...

Great roombox. I really enjoy hearing about the desigh and build process as well as the improvisation that occurs.

Margaret Blom said...

My dream is to enter the Miniatures contest at the Iowa State fair. I live in Colfax. Are you the only other miniaturist in Iowa???? I was excited to see a blog by an Iowan!

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