Wrestling an attic


Beginning to get a bit of a flow

I can’t decide whether, over the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve brooded over so many different roof combos of ridge and dormer that the brain has fused, or may be it’s that I’m looking at the whole thing with a different perspective at last.  Whatever the reason the attic is beginning to take on shape.

Previous difficulties/problems with the mock-ups were that they all looked:

  • too high at the peaks
  • too low at the valleys
  • too squat and wide
  • top heavy for the rest of the structure
  • too far from reality.

You get the general drift.


working an idea out in light-weight cardboard and masking tape

Working out an idea with 3 front-to-back ridges and mini dormers in between.  So what would be holding what up there?  Sheesh!

This week, after many, many runs at it I may or may not have stumbled on a working hypothesis of a shape.

On the way to ‘here’ from ‘there’ I’ve tried out 2 front-to-back ridges with a small central cross ridge and a further forward flowing ridge with large rectangular dormer over the centre front of the house (my favourite) and 3 ridges front to back with no cross ridges.

I found that the first ideas kept causing dead areas where imaginary rain could not get away or the side walls were so low internally in most parts of the attic that they raised more questions than they answered. Where would the doors go, how useful would the remaining spaces be, are all the bits really supported by anything etc?

Trying it out

rough plan of areas

The back of the building is at the top.
The grey area is the cross ridge.
The dotted areas are the rooms

Going for shape and removability

The only way I can take it forward is to build a skeleton and see if it really works. At present I’m using balsa strips to construct a framework and trying it on for size as I go.

floating covers over wiring

The cross ridge line runs more towards the front of the building, overlapping the trays and I think it’s going to involve use of pillars here and there to ‘hold it up’.  Some of the central ridge will overhang the higher area towards the wiring.

I’ve divided the attic area into lighting control areas at back left and right with a small domestic area between. Moving forward, next there’s a central band across, partly as a corridor, that makes up the central ridge, off which the dormers flow forwards and back.   (see above diagram)

Still sticking with the idea of being able to remove the attic, I’m building the skeleton as tray sections. Some of the wiring of this rather large house travels a long way to get to the attic and damage en route will probably be inaccessible in many cases, but I would like this last long run of wiring to remain totally accessible if possible.  To enable this, some of the area has had loose box-style lids added and some ‘floating’ card covers where appropriate, all lightly held down with glue dots. The trays I’m building sit on top of these covers and I’m using as much reclaimed wood for to build them as possible, ie pieces already used earlier in the project and then rejected and hoarded.

Flying tea-trays

The front left and central areas I’m building as one removable section and the deeper back to front right-hand section I’m making as a separate tray. At the moment they work, that is they fit together and are removable but there’s a long way to go yet.

08_3637 2 trays 3 areas across front

Viewing from the side with the single, larger section nearest – 3 tray areas across the frontage

The wood

I still buy the majority of balsa strips from the same place as when I started the whole project. No doubt laziness on my part but back then the learning curve being so steep (as on most days it still is now I come to think of it) I found it easy to get totally confused with who sold what.  Even with a home-made data base, the relative prices of each width and type of wood etc muddied the already murky waters so that in the end I resorted to trying out  the internal beam kits sold separately by Maple Street for some of their selection of Tudor of dolls house kits. Each bundle of balsa that I’ve bought has a fixed number of 3 different sections of wood, the number for each size depending on the kit. The one I’ve just re-ordered is the Guildhall Internal beam Kit as I’m being cheap-skate and it’s the cheapest Maple Street sell. They now have 3 ready-cut beam kits, the Guildhall, Coach Inn internal beam Kit at £10 dearer and a new one, Antique Shop Internal beam Kit at a price somewhere in between. I find them very convenient, and although am still not entirely sure it’s the cheapest way to get a bundle of balsa strip, it feels like it is and saves me a great deal of hassle when ordering.

09_3643 Guild Hall internal beam kit

Bundle arrived from Maple Street and sold as Guildhall internal beam kit

The order just received appears to contain 50 pieces, about 18” long (45.75 cms) made up of 18 @ 12 mm x 5 mm, 28 @ 17.5 mm x 5 mm and 4 @ 12 mm x 12 mm. Presumably the instructions for the proper use of this specific number of lengths are included in the full house building kit for their Guildhall. I use them wherever I fancy and find the bundle of balsa a handy size and number to store, made up of easily adaptable widths and with a very quick turn-around on order to delivery time even out here in the wilds.

10_3638 area to work on next - bed and corridor

Central area to work on next. The white space at the bottom right and the step up next to it are planned to be an open box bed area once the other half of the platform is added to the floating white piece.

Next job is the central cross ridge. I’m more than a little worried about this expecting it to be a bit of a fight, but it’s a puzzle and I like puzzles so onwards and definitely upwards with the attic.

Sites illustrating styles that have floated through my head

Gainford Hall roof

Stratford roofs

Little Moreton Hall courtyard – roof

Row of houses Holborn photo 1927

The Old Wool Hall, Lavenham – photo link page

and the bottom photo on same site page 4



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