Taking the plunge – again

Things were v tight money-wise when lighting and heating of Great Hall was being planned.  I seemed to be spending up on things that kept me focused on the general theme.  These included figures to live there, food items and furniture as well as other wood finished items to complete other areas of the model.

Bad planning in the budget department, Malcolm!

Looking at images of late Medieval, early Tudor fireplaces along with various Tudor doll’s house blogs, I decided on the basic medieval lean back shape for chimney breast with the overhang above the hearth.

I had bits of wood, plenty of paints and chalks, cardboard pieces and an idea.

I’d already built the kitchen chimney breast – the first fireplace I tried – but that was a boxy shape with all the gubbins behind the scenes.  This needed to be a little more refined and adorned.

Rough shape I had in mind

After trying the same type of mock-up in cardboard as I’d done for the kitchen, it became obvious that it would need something a little more delicate than the cardboard thicknesses available to me.  “Balsa”, I thought.

I’d never worked with it before, though I’d handled it in completed models, so I didn’t know the joys of cutting it across the grain!  But that was to come.

Ten days it took, once the design was sketched out and the suitable wood located.  That’s ten days I’ll never get back.

To make the wood chunks look carved in an overhang shape I needed to go for kiddology.  Being as there was no way I could carefully cut the shape I had in mind.

It needed breaking into block shapes and then building up, I reckoned.

My carving being basic, it took some time before I felt that the two sides were anything like alike, without twists or obvious splaying of shapes.  Painting them took some restraint, as a tendency to over egg had to be sat upon.  (Now leaving us with image of egg on pants).

Front view of wood blocks stuck together and coloured to look a bit sandstone like

Side view of wood blocks stuck together - the blob on the bottom is a tile

Of course, the construction would not stand as it was top-heavy and the chimney breast needed attaching.

Working horizontally with occasional trips back to the final placement site to check measurements, I cut out the balsa.  It did, of course, need some triangular shapes, with top narrow points, to fill in the sides.  I think I stopped breathing whenever handling this balsa wonder.  It is reinforced with blocks and lollipop sticks inside and to attach it to its lower half.  Thank you to the Tudor Doll’s House Project for their images of building the Great Hall fireplace.  It not only gave inspiration for the possibilities but confidence to have a go.

When I painted the framework to roughly look like sandstone, I made it thick across the lintel.  This gave a good layer so that it could be scored to look like blocks.  They eventually were covered by the tiles.  Why did I do this?  You may well ask.

I did the blocks simply because of an image of a late Elizabethan one I’d come across.  It also has impossible block lintel construction and, although still standing, shows gravity having its way.  It just tickled and fascinated me all in one go.  Apologies for incomplete info on this fireplace and I will update with proper link when I run it to ground again, but here it is – great ceiling and plaster work walls too, isn’t it?

Interesting lintel construction!

The Hall, being long and high, has a lean and hungry corridor look and a tall chimney breast on one side was going to diminish the look of the width further.  To get over this problem the idea was to have a shorter internal chimney breast than appears in real examples.  I made it about single storey height, running up to where the dark panelling would be above it.

Fireplace having acupuncture


I covered the chimney breast with some of the lightly embossed patterned paper that looks like plaster work, in the hopes that it would add structural ‘oneness’ to the shape, fixed it to its base and offered it up once more.

Cutting tiles to fit was not going to work so in comes Fimo!

I’ve always had quite a collection of old buttons (now sadly depleted but used in good causes); so I rummaged and came up with various embossed items and tried them out on the Fimo.  1930s seemed to be a good year!

I used some oblong ones (just the right width too) for tiling around the fireplace, with added lengths that had been impressed by fancy beading.  This was stuff I’d taken off something else and which had looked too modern to my eye for use as wood beading, but gave a wonderful negative shape in the soft Fimo.

I over-baked the cream Fimo to give a colour variance – some came out with bits of bloom, which gave a richer effect.

Fimo buttons beading and stencil shapes - with a bit of a wobbly edge all round

The chimney breast needed a coat of arms or summat of that ilk.  A mixture of another button (1950s) and a gentle push of a stencil gave the floral contributions, and the edge of a ruler the bar lines.

1/12 scale eye level - walking the room. Ah, yes, and a balancing mural has over balanced

Firstly I dirtied up the chimney breast paper a little making the pattern show up a bit more and did the same to the tiling.  After they were all stuck in place they were grouted with wood filler, some of which I left in the hollows of the tiles, to give further contrast/highlight.

Now I had 2 corners that needed finials.  I’m afraid the finished results look like playtime with mother at the end of the pastry making, but they just about do the job, if you squinny at them.  I continued to fiddle with the fire back to dirty it up with black enamel and charcoal along with some red chalk for baked brick effect and spread a little of the muck over the inside of the fireplace and lintel edge.

Dirty tiles and Play-Doh finials

Gluing in place was not a time for sudden movements or heavy breathing, as the whole delicate item needed firmly spragging to the wall on which it was to live.  I glued it, spragged it and walked away, gently.

Spragging up and walking away - the balancing sconces were there for a look-see, but were never used.

The Fire

I’d bought a number of flashing light units that run off small flat batteries, and had fun setting one up for this fireplace.  They are very easy to do but the bulb wires are a bit determined and once you start building the fire itself over the top it becomes a bit of a balancing act.  I used real twig bits that I’d set fire to (and remembered to blow out and cool) and bits of charcoal and moss.  I UHU’d bits together like a demented bird’s nest and stuck the finished couture shape to the fire irons, balancing the lot over the light bulbs.  A bit of adjustment and swearing in a narrow space, and I finally had something I quite liked!

Fireplace at eye level - with fire this time. Because I couldn't carve, the wood blocks needed sanding smooth. I did this then realised, if they were rougher, they might take colouring better, giving a slightly more stone like finish. So, I roughed them up again!

Down the length of the Great Hall (as it was at that time). Does that floor looked dished to you?

Next problem was going to be the main, overhead light.  I didn’t want wire wrapping round a chain hung fitting, but wanted a chain hung fitting.  What to do, what to do, what to do?


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