Spoiler Alert: I didn’t Use the Columns

It’s more fun to build along with you, revealing all the mistakes–and worse!–that actually go into creating a seemingly perfect result than to hold off until the end, pretending everything’s gone smoothly. Nothing ever goes smoothly. When I first started helping my husband get into making I told him: a fifty percent success rate is actually really good. The more you press yourself to try new things, the harder it’ll be; screwing up is how we learn. And boy, every day, do I learn a lot!

Blackthorn Manor is my first (almost) entirely Glowforge Pro-produced project. But, as you’ll see, any kind of CAD (which only means computer aided design, and can refer to a wide variety of programs) is just another tool. It’s AWESOME, but anyone telling you it’s a shortcut probably also thinks Jethro Tull made things a little too easy with the seed drill.

Whether we’re talking scrap paper or Illustrator, a design has its limitations and one of them, for me, always seems to be my ability to imagine columns in situ. I also–usually–end up way over-designing things. That wainscot? It’s awesome, I hope you use it, but it’s, for me, going in a different project entirely. Once I had everything fully assembled, into sub-assemblies, and placed together in the general shape of a roombox it just seemed way too busy. Your mileage, as always, may vary!

By sub-assemblies I mean: I assembled the benches, the pieces of the outer mantel, the walls of the inglenook, the walls of the roombox themselves. The floor, ceiling, ceiling trim, those previously mentioned sub-assemblies, they’re all still separate. Why? Ease of painting, friendo, ease of painting.

The next step, after this, is forming composite trims. I like to create my full trim, just like I’m going to use it in my project, before I start cutting and that’s a particularly good approach here as clean, unified cuts more closely replicate stone. Those scribed lines both represent the delineation between blocks of stone, as well as serve as our eventual cutting guide.

You can use a chisel, scriber, or–the safest choice!–a Dremel to unify the compound pieces. The only place they’ll really be visible, in the end, is on the outer mantel and since that’s a major focal point in the design I paid quite a bit of attention to it.

I used some putty over the seams, which I then sanded. These beginning steps are assuredly the most dull but, also, the most vital in achieving an excellent result. Power through! I, personally, like to throw on a record while I work. Sometimes, I switch things up with a podcast.

All the trims I’ve made, for this project, are simply combinations of the various trims I listed in the supply list, plus some 1/4 x 1/16″, and 1/2 x 1/16″ (also from NSL) for backing. I have a lot of random strip wood lying around. Above, I’m using some crown cornice and some double bead, fixed together with a scrap strip for backing. This provides stability! If you don’t have as many clamps as you need, well, they’re expensive so you can also tape your work right to your table with some masking tape until it dries.

And now…we’re ready for trim!

Here’s a closeup of where we’re going. I won’t bore you by showing you how I cut every single piece; you can figure that out. Rather, I’m going to show you the technique I used because that was, and is, the same every time. Before we begin, though, my best general woodworking tip, for any situation, is make your most difficult cuts first. You’ll save material, and sanity.

Starting at the center, because it’s your focal point, cut each piece of trim and GLUE IT DOWN before moving onto the next piece. You can, alternatively, tape each piece into place as you go but I personally find that unless I fix each piece permanently I end up with strange gaps and etc. What I’m doing is, um, slow but once you get over that hurdle actually pretty easy: cutting each piece of trim to fit the exact length of the block below it. These blocks, in real life, would’ve been carved separately and then assembled; the cove would’ve actually been part of the block beneath it.

Make sure every piece is as perfect as you can get it, before you fix it in place. I generally like to use a nail file to remove any burs I get from cutting. The only trim I’m NOT gluing into place is the columns, because I need to paint behind them before installation. Now, speaking of which….

Periodically, it’s important to sit back and reflect. Sometimes you’ll be really happy with what you see and sometimes…you won’t. During the building process, I take periodic breaks to step back and get the big picture. Errors, paradoxically enough, tend to become much MORE noticeable during this time. And, well, I hated those columns. They might’ve been fine on their own, but they didn’t seem to go with anything else. Which is how I ended up scrapping them and building new ones.

Cloverleaf patterns are emblematic of Tudor design and, luckily, they’re easy to make. I took a 1/8″ square piece of strip wood and glued three different 1/8″ half rounds to it. I left the fourth side flat, to fit snugly against the back of the outer mantel. I’m not cutting it into different pieces; instead, I’ll scribe it lightly, a little later on, with a saw. Generally, I’m much happier with the new look!

You might also notice that I’ve added some backing to the bench. I left a small gap there on purpose, for those friendos who planned on adding more texture to their stone (such as to replicate more extreme aging on the stone itself, or etc). That doesn’t matter; the next step after finishing up with applying the trim, which I’ll cover in the next post, is putty.

Putty, then gesso, then…paint!

FYI, for the walls, I’m going with plaster…and not for awhile. I tend to do the actual wall treatments after I’ve finished with things like fireplaces, bookshelves, etc. If you want to do plaster, too, then I suggest purchasing some appropriately (i.e. will cover the width, and height, of your walls without seams) sized either Bristol board or cold pressed watercolor paper. I like Bristol board, because it’s extremely easy to work with. It lies flat, doesn’t bubble, and can really take a beating. Alternatively, you can use wallpaper, or whatever you like!

See you soon!

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