Bob Letterman

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(Gail) The Corner Curio.

September 17th, 2012 by admin

In December, 2009, I discovered a 47 year old daughter that I was never aware of. Many of you know the story, if you don’t and are interested, here is a link.

Her birthday is on December 8th and the following year I built her a miniature mansion for her 48th birthday and my first one as her father. I posted the build as an SBS on this site.

For 2011, I refurbished an antique china cabinet I lucked onto for her and also posted it here as well.…-what-ive-been-up-to

Well, another year has rolled around and I’m building another 1:1 scale birthday present for Gail, my daughter. Back in May, 2012, Gail and I took a father/daughter vacation to Kansas City. On our last day, we went to a very unique place that carried antiques, home furnishings and had an upscale restaurant on the top floor. While there, we walked into one of the many rooms and saw a corner curio cabinet that was striking and she fell in love with it. On close inspection, it was poorly crafted and even the finish, which made it unique, wasn’t done well. Here are a couple of photos. Click on photos to enlarge.

The price on this was outrageous, especially considering the poor workmanship. So, I told her I would make one for her birthday that would be much better in quality for far less money and still retain the dynamic that caught her eye, the bronze patina. Hell, I have been putting patinas on statues, roofs and gutters on my cityscape dioramas since the 60s. When I refurbished the antique china cabinet last year, I realized that working on furniture was definitely a lot like modeling and I could use many of the techniques I have learned or developed over all those decades in another field. This dio was began in the 70s. Note the roof and statue. Click on photos to enlarge.

You can see that the builder was trying to capture the Federalist style, but didn’t bother to use a finial, and the oval wasn’t cut evenly. It is higher on one side than the other. When I do cut the vault and opening on the top of the cabinet, I will cut one side first and then use it ,(reversed), as a pattern for the other side which in theory will result in a perfect opening. The finial will be between the two sides so there won’t be a seam. I am finding that all that math and algebra I learned so many years ago is coming in handy! The arch that terminates the shelf opening will be made with a large drafting compass that I just happened to have from my days in college when I attended a Technical Institute. Gail wasn’t even born yet. Here is a photo of a finial and a base that I will use.

Click on photos to enlarge.

As in the photo below, it will be placed dead center between the two sides.

With the Federalist style, the vault or pediment, (arch), at the top can be curved or straight. IMO, the straight, (As on the Kansas City curio), has a more proper federalist appearance as the curved ones seem to include a touch of Louis the 14th style. (Only natural as at the time the Federalist style came into existence the Louis the 14th style was dominant in Europe and undoubtedly influenced the Federalist style). See, I have already been doing some homework! Le Roy Soleil, the French sun king, had his own furniture designed and it is still being manufactured today. The Federalist style was elegant, but without the frilly stuff of a Louis the 14th piece. See example below.

Click on photos to enlarge.

One of the things I intend to include in her curio are tufted, padded interior walls. I have bought an earth brown suede-like material that will line the interior walls. I have never seen this done before, but I think it will soften the exterior patina for a less gaudy appearance. Note the color blend of the cloth with the patina on the exterior.

I bought the tufting buttons in the photo below. Click on photos to enlarge.

Here is some flexible molding I bought to go on the inside of the oval or circle I will cut into the top configuration as well as the arch that terminates the shelf section. The colors won’t matter on the exterior as it will all be painted with the patina, and, hopefully, a lot nicer job than the Kansas City curio cabinet. Click on photos to enlarge.

I want it to be personalized as much as possible, so, I am sculpting a profile of her and her husband, facing each other on the upper portion of the cabinet. I plan to use these two photographs in the ghilberti style, similar to flats you see at figure shows. An example of the ghilberti style.

Click on photos to enlarge.

As I reread this, I am starting to sound like an interior decorator. So, just for the record, I’m a devout heterosexual! OK! This will be a first for me, but I feel confident I can pull it off, especially after the china cabinet of last year. I have to order some foam rubber for padding off the Internet as well as some nail buttons for the tufting. I plan on starting it as soon as this damned heat lightens up. I’ll be building it in my garage. I’ll be posting the Step By Step here as it goes along. It’s amazing what a daughter will bring out in you, isn’t it?

Gail wasn’t clear on what I plan this project to look like. So I made a rough sketch. An artist I’m not, but here is the sketch. Cut me some slack please? The rough drawings of the profiles are about double the size they will be and I made no attempt to create likenesses. I’ll have a go at that with the Milliput! Click on photos to enlarge.

I got a bit more done today, (9/25/12)

A short update on the corner curio. It is coming along. I’ve been very busy lately but managed to get this far.

I have most of the shelving itself cut and beginning to make the basic unit. Click on photos to enlarge.

Here is the unit with the shelves in place.

And here is the shelf facing material. Click on photos to enlarge.

I got in some progress yesterday. Here is an update. This is turning out to be fun!

I got all the electrical stuff to light it up. These will be concealed under the shelves and won’t be seen. Only the glow. Click on photos to enlarge.

I am putting this together with screws and carpenter’s glue. It is really strong and rigid. The screws are all counter sunk and the holes will be filled in with wood filler and sanded before painting. Here is a shot of the base.

Here I have laid out the pattern for the capital. I will use a scroll saw to cut out these details. I bought some ready made scroll work and cut them up and refitted them for a customized bit of work.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Another view.

All the shelves are in place and the shelf trim fitted. Click on photos to enlarge.

I have cut out the capital today, 9/28/2012. Lots of trim left to do on it but I think you can get an idea.

Remember, all the screw and nail holes are countersunk below the surface and will be filled in with plastic wood. If you see the pencil line going across horizontally, immediately below and centered in that arched area centered on either side will be the bas relief sculpture of you and forrest.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Note the plastic flexible trim. I have installed it on the upper circle surrounding the finial to give it a rounded, milled appearance. Then I used plastic wood to fill in all blemishes and when dry, will sand it smooth and it will be ready to paint. I will do the same to the large arch. A couple of months ago, I couldn’t figure out how I was going to get the rounded effect I wanted. I didn’t even know this stuff existed. The minute I laid eyes on it at a cabinet shop, I said, “Problem solved” and it is working great. Where that comes to a point, there will be fancy roof edge trim that will cover about a half inch. Then, just below the scroll work, there will be a huge running across the entire capital and extend beyond, as the one in Kansas City had. See below. In other words, the top will have the two strips like a peaked roof and just under the scroll work, there will be a 6 inch wide trim just like below. Click on photos to enlarge.

October 1, 2012

We have some friends coming to visit from Denver next week or so. I got quite a bit finished on the capital for the cabinet today. I don’t think it needs much explanation. When I get back on it in a week or two, I’ll get to the more fun stuff like the patina paint job, electrical and the finishing work.

This is the capital that will set on top of the cabinet. I used countersunk screws and finishing nails but it is all glued with heavy duty carpenter’s glue. This stuff will tear the wood before itself! I had to do some old fashioned whittling with an ex-acto knife on some of the trim, then finish the tips with a lot of sandpaper.

Click on image to enlarge.

Some details.

OK. another update. October 21, 2012

I completed the capital except for filling, sanding and affixing the flat sculptures of my daughter and son-in-law.

I am pleased with the way it has turned out so far. Keep in mind that when it is finished and attached to the cabinet, the entire thing will get a bronze patina finish similar to the one pictured previously on this thread. I have also added pieces to the base, enough to give it just the right balance esthetically.

Here are some pics of the capital. Click on photos to enlarge.

I have been sculpting the son-in-law Forrest first. He has clean even features and those types are always the most difficult to sculpt. So far, I have only added the hair and beard and those aren’t finished. It will take about four sessions, each with a fresh batch of Milliput to get this right and develop a true likeness. Before it is finished, there will be much sanding, sculpting in various features such as the ear, chin line, eyes and so on. Then I’ll start on Gail’s sculpture.

Click on photos to enlarge.

I actually printed an image the exact size of what I wanted, then used that to get the general shape. It has hardened and that will make it easier to add features. In the first session, each time you add something, it is so soft, it moves something else. You will note the nose is too straight. It wasn’t until I shifted the nostril but no matter, it will be shaped later.

Here is where it will go on the capital and the sculpture of Gail will be opposite and they will be facing each other. Excuse the photography. I took this where I am working and with the little camera. It is out of focus but you can at least get an idea. Click on photos to enlarge.

Then a shot of the entire cabinet. Note the two additional components on each side of the base for balance. It didn’t take much. Just beyond Susan’s helpful thumb is where the sculptures will go on each side of the capital.

Various shots of the cabinet. Click on photos to enlarge.

Of the capital in place.

Compare with the curio found in Kansas City that inspired this build. It is always difficult to pinpoint flaws in photographs, but note the fit where the capital meets the two flat ribbed columns. Aside from not being symmetrical, the arch was cut about a half inch too small making it overlap it’s base about a quarter inch on both sides. Those type flaws were what made me decide to build one rather than buy the original. The flaws were plentiful throughout the cabinet. It was the overall impression that gave the piece it’s dramatic appearance, especially the bronze patina.

Click on photos to enlarge.

See the difference? This arch was cut to center on it’s base. I suppose that after all these years of dealing with the fine details of modeling have made me develop an overly critical eye, but I think that comes with the territory and can’t be avoided.

And one more overall for good measure.

I’m in good shape time wise. I still have 2 months before her birthday. Should be no problem finishing it on time. After the patina, I will insert the button tufted panels on both sides between each set of shelves, then affix the Formica shelf tops, a Granite pattern that will match the other colors.

Much of the fine detail lost in these photos will emerge after the patina is applied.

October 22, 2012

Thanks James, here is what I did today.

I sculpted in more features on the Forrest face. You can see it beginning to take shape. I still need work on the eye and just below it, (That makes him appear older than he really is), the nose, the beard and adding the shirt with button down collar. Plus some other fine tuning here and there.

I only get about an hour at most to work with any one batch of the Milliput. I think one, maybe two at the most, more sessions and I will wrap up the Forrest sculpture.

I did the profile cutout today of Gail. Not much to see at this point. I use both wax paper and talcum powder to keep the epoxy from adhering to the work table.

Click on image to enlarge.

October 23rd, 2012.

I cut the wooden panels today to fit the inside walls. I covered one with foam, then the suede material and then inserted the buttons. There are no wrinkles emanating from the buttons as they are not nailed into the walls as yet. That will happen later. It has to have the patina finish before I start the upholstery. But, these will give you an idea how it will look.

Got some more done. It won’t be long now. The most difficult thing for me on this was sculpting Gail’s image. Forrest’s was a piece of cake. With Gail’s, I had to start over three times. Anyway, it is the best I could do.

Here is where they will eventually be on the cabinet. They will be painted the same as the cabinet.

Then I painted the base coat on the capital. The relief images will be added tomorrow and painted then. I have to let the epoxy dry overnight before using contact cement to attach permanently to the capital.

Here I have cloud painted the bronze base color. After all the cabinet has had the base black and the bronze, I will begin adding the patina such as you can see below on some samples.

Here is what the finished patina on the cabinet will look like, (Hopefully).

And like this on the flat areas.

Here are a couple more updates.

First, the lighting installed. You won’t be able to see the lights themselves, only the glow from them.

The lights working.

And the embroidery that will go on the two upper and the two lower panels.

I’m moving right along now.

I’ve attached the profiles permanently and added in tiny letters the words. “No Beginning” “No End” and “Soulmates Eternal”, in reference to her and her husband’s 30 years of marriage.

Then they get the black/bronze treatment.

Finally, an overall shot, ready to begin the greenish/white patina.

I began applying the Patina today. I’m using a flat Forrest Green and a Flat White to achieve the Verde Gris color. Then I am using artists oils Raw Umber to shade and streak. I have really only got started. It takes me quite a while to play with it until I get the colors and shading just right. I’ll tweak it some more tomorrow and when I like it, start doing the entire capital, probably a full two day job. When complete, It will get two coats of flat clear sealer. That will effectively eliminate any sheen left and give it a uniform flat appearance.

Moving right along. I have the entire capital base coasted with the Verde gris color, and the lower part finished.

I used a flat forrest green, Flat white, flat black, bronze metallic, Matt earth, raw umber with several mixtures of all the above in various layers to achieve the look. Once I have the texture I want. I use raw umber to feather around the sculptures and scrollwork, then raw umber applied with a 000 fine Winsor-Newton brush for the veining. After the lines are drawn, I use a larger brush slightly wet with thinner to feather it.

This is a very painstaking and tedious job. Now that I have the formula and steps down pat, it will go faster. I expect to have the capital finished tomorrow. Then I will seal it with two coats of clear flat enamel.

Only the lower part is finished.

Here is a cropped shot of the finished part only.

And here is the complete capital. The top portion only has two layers applied.

I also got the base coat of black and bronze on the shelf units themselves.

Here is today’s effort.

I completed the patina up the capital another 10 inches. It is a slow process, however, I’m sure I can finish the capital on Monday. I am taking tomorrow off. I gotta get out of my workshop before I go stir crazy!

Here are three pics.

I am still working on finishing the capital. There are so many steps in achieving the “Look” I want. More progress on the upper left side, but I think I will wrap it up tomorrow. If I remember correctly, there are 19 different phases, (Base coats, washes, drybrushing, stippling, blending, applying the veins and then feathering them, sponge stippling, more washes, more stippling, pin washes, and so on), to get the look that is across the lower section. Here are two photos.

This photo had a bit too much light when I photographed it, effectively bleaching the intensity of the patina. The photo above is closer to the real color of the patina.

I have also got the first 4 steps done on the shelf unit itself and have began the first wash.

I finally finished up the capital and gave it three coats of clear flat varnish to seal it. I can now set this aside and complete the shelf unit. When everything is complete, the capital will be the final part to attach. Here are close up shots of the sculptures.

Then various close up details.

And the completed capital.

I loaded the shelf unit onto the work table and will begin the aging process to match it with the capital tomorrow.

Finally finished the patina. All that is left to do now is the granite shelf-tops and the button tufted panels on the interior walls.

Here is a close up for detail

So far, so good!

Got the shelves finished today, plus a couple of other things.

Here is the capital with the brass trim across the top.

Then I applied the Granite surface material to the shelf tops and edged with K&S square tube trim across the front.

Close up to show brass trim.

I always like to go back to where I began. This is the inspiration curio that I told Gail I thought I could build a better one.

All that is left now is to install the button tufted panels such as the one shown, 8 altogether.

Well, Finally finished. I have to leave the capital off till I deliver it. With the capital, it is too tall to lay in my van. The holes are pre-drilled, when I get there, I’ll just spread some contact cement, put in place and tighten it down.

I really underestimated the work involved in this. Funny how it didn’t go together as quickly as the 1/35th scale furniture.

First, some close ups of details without the top.

Note the brass plates at the rear of the second shelf.

A close up of the plates.

The bottom shelf which also has the embroidered pattern of the top shelf.

Now, a full length shot!

I’ll be delivering it to Gail on Friday, the eve of her birthday. On Saturday, the four of us will celebrate her birthday in Branson, just a hop and a skip from Springfield. While there, I’ll get some photos of her and the curio and wrap up this thread.

Well, the curio is delivered and in her study. We had a great time over the weekend. Here are some pics.

She is shown here with Forrest, her husband and Terri, her best friend.

At Her birthday party with the cake. The staff all came to the table and sang Happy Birthday to her. She pulled that on me once so I returned the favor?

No idea what she was doing here but……. Getting ready to dive into a molten lava chocolate cake!

Gail with a Reindeer at a mall in Branson.

And…. here is the curio delivered with Gail and her husband Forrest. Mission accomplished.

Here is the curio where it will stay. In the corner of Gail’s study.

OK, that wraps up another birthday present. I told her that next year will be a bit downsized. I have to finish that damned diorama, Logistics! She understands. Thanks for watching!