Watson Mill - a pictorial review

by brae  

Just starting my usual recap post to make it easier to find things.  This post will change as I get further along in the build.  Many images in this post can be clicked to view larger.  To see a list of posts showing details on how I made things or what materials I used, click this link.

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Greenleaf Dollhouses held their Spring Fling contest for a number of years, including some years before miniatures became an everyday thing for me.  The 2009 kit had an arch roof and an interesting shape.  The kit is still available today, but I bought one some time ago for a someday project just in case they went out of production.  Jen Barrick's Loganberry Mill was one of the first miniature houses that drew me into the hobby.  She dropped the scale down to half scale and made the most amazing sail set.  It's truly an inspirational build from the inner mechanisms to the realistic landscaping.  So, that is where I started...with an idea for my own take on the kit...Watson Mill.

The initial dry fit:

I kept the full scale aspect and made this more of a fantasy build in the vein of Roland's Retreat.  That saved the hassle of adding a full kitchen and bathroom. :D  My plan was a mill rehab with most of the inner workings of a proper mill long gone and replaced with the cozy decor of its current resident, Gustav.  He was made by Johana of Rustles from the Meadow.

I added 4" in depth to the kit since there were things I wanted that the small space of the original kit would not allow.  I also moved the door to the side and padded the walls in preparation for working components.

I wanted an arched door to keep with the curved aspect of the facade.  There's a relatively low ceiling on the first floor at 7 3/4" tall, which knocks out the ability to use the lovely Palladian door that stands just under 9" tall.  I also didn't want to overpower Gustav's modest stature with an enormous door.  Enter the Designer Home Hogarth window with shutters.  I bought this new old stock window at a local miniature show.

I cut the inside bits on the scroll saw, and pieces of strip wood were added to fill in as needed.  I filled, filed and sanded (and sanded).  Since doors open in, the frame had to be reversed with the fancy trim on the inside.  On the outside, there is a nice deep entryway. There's a tiny round window next to the door so Gustav can see who's-a-knockin' at the door.  :D  This the 1 1/8" Simplicity Window from Heritage Laser Works.  To cut this hole, I used a 1" spade bit.  Here's a post on cutting holes for the various openings.

I've cut circular openings with the standard Dremel before, so that's what I've used for the bedroom window - a 2 1/4" Simplicity Window from Heritage Laser Works.  In my class with Tom Walden, I learned to make multiple passes with the Dremel to get a clean cut. That was my issue the first time I tried cutting circles -- cutting too much thickness at once.  My issue this time was not checking the knob holding the pivot point in place after the first cut.  The vibration loosened it, so it was cutting a larger circle than I wanted.  I didn't notice this until it was full on traveling outside the circle.  :\  This is a fairly simple fix, though, so I just shrugged.  I still swore, mind you.  :D  I filled the wayward hole with wood putty.  I'll wrap some cardboard circles to fill in some of the diameter of the hole.  It will all be covered by interior and exterior finishes in the end.

 

The Sails

The sails were a good deal of fiddly work (part one, two, three, four, five) with a few good mockups first.  I did some research on windmills and a fair bit of virtual sightseeing, but I am by no means an expert.  Watson Mill was not meant to be a precise model, though there are some remarkable works out there.  The first one I ran into is a 1:30 scale mill kit by Amati.  Another fabulous resource is Penterbak, where you find many different scale models with exacting details.  It's in Dutch and google translate works only so well, but you can see from the photos alone just how much work went into these.

Finally, I learned some terminology.  There's a wealth of information in the online publication of The Dutch Windmill by Frederick Stokhuyzen, though I admit I skipped around to parts I needed.  There's also this awesome website with a video by The Yorktown Windmill Project showing how to make a common sail.  (They also have a great page on the conical roof, which I have done in miniature in the past.)  After seeing this real life example, I decided to change my design to match.  My sails don't have the gentle curve of the true sails, but again I was going for the essence.  

As for the sails, they had to actually spin.  :D  Bruce Hirst has some great instruction on how he made his working mill, so that was a great starting point.  I had the challenge of an open back structure so I needed to be creative in disguising and setting any mechanical details.  I had to close up the arch near the upper back and addressed the mechanisms fairly early since that determined many adjustments to the basic structure.

This motor from Winbell's Store on aliexpress is what I ended up using to run my sails.  It runs at 5-6RPM vs the 2.5RPM in the tutorial but it is also 1 5/8" in diameter as opposed to 2" in diameter for the Micromark motor.   It has two wires attached in the back and runs on 12V AC power, much safer to work with and the wires are small enough to feed through reasonably sized drilled holes.  I opted to skip the gears that Bruce used in his setup. Being AC instead of DC (no, don't ask me to explain the difference just accept that there is one), the motor runs on a separate line from the dollhouse 12V DC system.  I bought this transformer to power the motor.

Having a motor that turns counterclockwise made a difference in how the sails were built. Even though the wind won't power them, I built the sails to correctly correspond to direction. Here is clockwise, and here is counterclockwise.  You can see the difference in the lead edges and angles.  I built the sail structure first to make sure my motor could handle the work before starting the mill itself...a bit of reverse engineering.  :]  I didn't want to do all the work just to find out I needed a different motor in the end.

The sails are built from mainly 1/16" x 1/8" strip wood.  The adhesives used were Elmer's Wood Glue supplemented with super glue gel.  The Easy Cutter Ultimate was a lifesaver here.  I started with four 12" lengths of 1/4" x 1/8" strip wood to make the whip (center shaft of the sail).  This was longer than I needed, but I wanted extra just in case.   Instead of trying to cut holes in the whip to form mortises, I notched the pieces every 3/4" from the end.

There are 11 sailbars per sail at a length of 2.75" each and 3 hemlaths (outer vertical strips) per sail at a length of 9" each.  Since I was cutting by hand, there were some gaps.  I used Minwax Wood Putty in natural pine as filler.  Could I have been more precise?  Maybe, but I get in a hurry for tedious portions of a project.  Once it was all stained and aged, it all blended in.  :D  A corresponding piece of 1/4" x 1/16" strip wood enclosed the notches to make the mortises in the whip.  I cut and added the little blocks (don't know the term) that keep the sailbars uniform along the whip.

This might have been a bit of overkill for a model, but I also used nails in addition to the glue.  I don't need these suckers popping apart later on down the line, and since they will be motorized it's likely worth the extra time and effort.  I did drill pilot holes so I wouldn't split the boards.

I developed a hub inspired by the 1:30 scale mill kit by Amati and this windmill build by Penterbak.  It is built from styrene (plastic) instead of wood because I worried about longevity and solidity during operation.  I used square tubing from Evergreen, glued in a cross formation using Testors cement.  On the back, I glued a cap cut from round tubing to connect to the windshaft.

Shims were required to make the whips square where they entered the hub as was sanding to fit, my least favorite phrase in mini making.  :D  However, a tight fit in the hub means no glue or pins are required to keep it all in place.  If I need to replace anything, just pull it apart at the hub.

The shaft is a 5/16" diameter wood dowel with a hole drilled in the center on one end.

The motor has a threaded shaft, so my friend and I went to the hardware store to find a suitable screw to fit.  Another friend cut the heads from a few of the screws so I could attach one end to the wood shaft, and now I have a few spares for the future (or for the other motor in my stash).

 

The Main Room

The big feature of the main room is the circle library (part one, two, three, four, five).  I started with cardboard rings and built the library from there.

I then covered the cardboard with peel and stick wood that I had left over from the Model T Van build.  I used additional adhesive just to make sure the bonds will hold over time. Cyd helped me out by cutting laser cut circles for finishing.  I sanded away the charred edges and then glued it to the support structure.  My supports are not uniform circles, so the laser cut trims help disguise any imperfections.

The original inspiration had 18 dividers, but my version has only eight for balance and fit. The angled details for between the circles are cut from 1 1/2" trailing edge balsa, cutting it down to fit.  I don't usually work in balsa since it damages so easily, but this comes precut at a good angle and you can find it in varying widths.  I get my supply from my local Hobby Town USA.  I basically needed a skeleton for the final finishes.

I covered the sides of the angled inserts with peel and stick wood.  To finish the front edges, I cut shapes from 1/32" basswood to match the laser cut circles.

To build the shelves, I cut 1/8" wide channels in the plywood wall using the Dremel Trio. The channels provide a sturdy hold for each shelf cut from 1/8" basswood.  I started with 1" wide basswood strips and cut them down to end up with a roughly 3/4" deep shelf.   I hand cut the angles around the circle supports.  Not easy.  :\

The two end boards are slightly deeper than the shelves.  For the top, I cut a piece of 1/4" strip wood for stability for the eventual final trim.  Since the plywood wall would stain different from the basswood and veneer, I needed to cover it.  I cut the liners from 1/32" thick basswood.  This thickness of wood barely reduces the shelf depth, and I did take that into consideration when I cut the horizontal boards.  

The curved edges sit under the circle, so the joins are not visible when the circle is in place.   I cut two curved shapes for behind the shelves of the circle.  The curves didn't need to be precise, so I cut them with an X-Acto by hand.  I cut Darice mirror sheet for the center section.  I will line the back of the mirror to bring it up to the matching 1/32" thickness.  I'll use layers of paper when I get to that part.  For now, I've left the protective film on it.

The original has what appears to be a light in the center, but I am skipping that part.  I will cut the vertical support under the circle after assembly just in case things shift in the process.  I'll also decide whether to add the long curved trim after assembly.  In the meantime, I plan to stain and finish these pieces separately in case of disaster.  :]  I can always recut, remake, redo, etc.  But, it would be a right proper pain to tear out once installed.  Besides, I have walls to prime.  Best to install the library later after the mess.

Here's my inspiration photo (no discernable source, unfortunately).

Yes, I made a lot of books!  :O

Not to be left out of the limelight, there's also a working dumbwaiter (part one).  I've had dumbwaiters in my idea file for some time now.  There's a great example of the mechanism here at Old House Online.  The basic premise is relatively straightforward with just a lot of wood construction.  The problem is, a fully enclosed dumbwaiter would block a significant part of the modest back opening, especially on the upper floor.  So, I compromised between a bucket on a rope and an enclosed dumbwaiter.  I built an open dumbwaiter car running on a track along the wall with a pulley system.  This way, the car will move smoothly up and down to carry milk (or Scotch) upstairs and yet take up less visual space overall.

The car should rest at counter height when on the lower floor, so I bashed a 1 1/2" Houseworks base cabinet by cutting down the depth.  This also gives Gustav some storage in his small home.  I built a fancy car from tiny turnings and basswood, then added a slider bar to the back.  The track was formed from strip wood to make two channels facing one another.   When I install the tracks after decorating, I plan to leave space enough at the top so I can slide the car off the track for cleaning, repairs or replacement.

Here are the model ship single sheave blocks I ordered from the UK from Maritime Models.  Yep, they actually work.  These will be perfect for my dumbwaiter pulley system.  :]  So wee.

To illuminate the main room, I used two new old stock ceiling light kits by Illinois Hobbycraft.

The light above the circle library is lovely for showing the detail.  The cat is Meeko made by JMDS.

There is not a lot of room for a wall sconce for reading, so the best bet is a floor lamp.  This one is by Ray Storey.

The other ceiling light sits closed to the door and compliments the layout I've chosen for the other side.  This includes a modest kitchen and a work area toward the front.  As much as we know he likes reading, I've always envisioned Gustav as a dabbler in minis.

Perhaps he works smaller -- maybe he makes birdhouses.

I purchased the settee from eBay.  It's so rare to see these in green upholstery instead of red.  I had to do a bit of repair work, but it blended reasonably well.   I think it fits the space and brings a bit of nostalgia to the room. Plus, what a great lounge chair for reading with that tall back support.

I figured I would try out the Tribal Foxes rug for the main room.  No, I still haven't finished the edges...have to be in the right frame of mind for that work.  But, we can't have the coffee table blocking the center details of the rug.  Pushed to the side, it looks meant to be!  :D  In fact, this is how I would set up the room if I lived in it so I didn't risk stubbing my toe each time I went to sit down.

For the kitchen area, I made two Queen Anne Side Chairs from The House of Miniatures. These are simple chairs with just enough interest.

I have sanded the legs, but I never fully round them as the instructions or photos show.  I like a bit of structure to cabriole legs even if it is not in keeping with the true style.  They are painted Zinc by Americana.  What I like about this dark grey is the blue cast to it.  I finished with Delta Ceramcoat Satin Varnish and upholstered with a cotton print from my stash.

The table kit had plain white top made from some sort of porous material like cast plaster and wood legs.  I could not tell you where it came from, though.  :\  I bought it quite awhile ago.  I liked the small size of the table, 2 3/8" square, though I did cut a modest 3/16" from the top of the legs for better overall proportion while keeping the appealing tall, skinny profile.

A Greenleaf forum member suggested enamel tabletops, so after scouting around the net looking at examples I chose an open design printed in navy blue.  I painted the apron and legs with Zinc by Americana to coordinate with the chairs.  The tabletop material I opted for was water slip decal, using Testors Decal Bonding spray since I had that on hand. Because my design was so small, my intent was to cover the entire table with the film since there would be no way to cut around the tiny details.  This provided a uniform surface without a halo around the border design.

The decal had a lovely gloss sheen on its own, but I wasn't sure how delicate it would be without sealing so I finished with Testors Gloss Lacquer Overcoat.  I probably should have sanded the surface more beforehand.  Even after the gloss sealer, the cross-hatch painting imperfections showed through.  I guess it's just an old, well-loved tabletop.  I always trust the happy accidents, and the surface is not very noticeable in photographs unless you try to capture it.  I think it turned out beautifully.  :]

I cut down the depth of a Houseworks 2" kitchen base cabinet by 1/4" since it was a tad too deep and used Minwax Driftwood stain with satin varnish.  The knobs are wood painted black.  A beautifully rustic cabinet.  :]

The pitcher and bowl are from my stash of minis.  It's a favorite that I had been hoping to use in the mill but it wouldn't fit upstairs.  Problem solved.  It's now a kitchen wash set.

 

The Bedroom

The bedroom is limited to table lamps or wall lamps considering the barrel ceiling and the windshaft.  There's a black double wall sconce with replaceable bulbs for above the bed and a Chrysolite table lamp for the cabinet.  I think these fixtures give enough light right now, though I will be rewiring the Chrysolite lamp with an LED since the current bulb is non-replaceable.  The LED will brighten the room a little.

The gorgeous bed will likely end up in another house down the road, and I will make a replacement at that time.  But, for now, I want it where I can admire it.

It's a vintage bed with inlay and naturally aged bedding.  I won't cover up the existing fabric, but a folded sheet set ready to dress the bed might be lovely.  It's by Block House and came with the box.

The cabinet is vintage Lisa of Denmark (similar to Lundby) that I picked up a few years ago.  Being a slightly smaller scale, it has never worked well in any build to date.  The mill, however, provides a perfect spot for it.  Its hinge pins show on the top surface, but I can cover that well enough with a runner.

 

Landscaping and other exterior features

I want a relatively steep landscape for the mill, considering the base board is 20" square (part one, two).  I built up three layers of 1/2" thick builders foam and marked where the mill will sit on top.  I did use a freshly cut whole piece for the bottom layer, but the middle and top layers were made from scraps to use up the stash.  I used Weldbond glue to attach the layers and then pressed it flat with magazines overnight.  In the front, I want a bit of relatively flat land for some fun features to be revealed later.  :]

After looking at this for a bit, I decided to add a modest foundation covered in egg carton bricks.  I had egg carton bricks on hand, so I didn't bother to reinvent the wheel.  Most of the time, I will measure my board and determine how many bricks across I need and adjust the measurements accordingly.  It's a small foundation, so I didn't think it would matter much once landscaping is in.  Since my bricks didn't end well at the corners, I opted for corner stones cut to fit.  I chose brown based bricks instead of my usual brick red.  :]  

I added a couple of dark brown and black washes to tone down the grout, then finished off with a spray of Testors Frosted Glass to dull the finish.  There will be more aging during the landscaping process, but I love how it looks so far.  You can still see the subtle color differences.

The addition of a foundation made the landscaping too short on the door side, so I pried up all but the lowest layer of builders foam and cut new pieces to create the steep grade to the door that I had always had in mind for the build.  These pieces will stay loose until later on so I can further shape them for the final landscaping.  There will be more modification, but I think this is a good start, very tall and stately.  :D

One of my weaknesses is new old stock lighting.  I often rewire or use for parts.  Outside, there will be a coach lamp.

This is a vintage lamp by Miniaturelite.  I bought a grouping of these, two with posts and two without.  I'll take this apart and rewire with an LED.

to be continued...

Watson Mill - first floor plan

by brae  

Ok, so I rummaged through my stash of furnishings and kits and played with the layout.  Keli had suggested moving the micro mill to the back, but that unfortunately creates a dead space in the front to keep the view clear.

I have a large corner hutch that would need refinishing and new hardware, and I could move the washstand downstairs.  There are two chairs as placeholders, but the final pieces would be something smaller and shorter.  The loveseat is a Bespaq piece that fits relatively well but may or may not stay in the end.  As you can see, the micro mill still overpowers.

So, out with the micro mill.  Not to worry -- it will find a home even if it's on its own under a cloche.  :D  Adding a table and chairs and shorter bench seating up front opens the space.  Again, many of these pieces are placeholders and the final colors and finishes might change.

As much as we know he likes reading, I've always envisioned Gustav as a dabbler in minis.

Perhaps he works smaller -- maybe he makes birdhouses.

I do have this marvelous kit from Art of Mini.  :]

I haven't given up on the tall corner shelf since the enclosed cabinet is rather squat for the space.  I could add a larger washstand or short cabinet next to it.  The tea trolley is also out.  I think I will stick with the lighting like this...two ceiling lights and one floor lamp.  I don't have to pick the exact ceiling placement yet.  I'll prime and decorate the first floor before making the final decision, but this last photo seems like a winner.

I do want to display Jane Graber's animal plates in a grouping, and they would be more visible on the back wall instead of above the table.

Watson Mill - lighting plan

by brae  

I can see the end of dry fitting in the not-so-distant future, so I need to address the lighting plan.  One of my weaknesses is new old stock lighting.  I often rewire or use for parts.  I also tend to buy interesting lighting even when I have no firm plans for it.  :D

Outside, there will be a coach lamp.

This is a vintage lamp by Miniaturelite.  I bought a grouping of these, two with posts and two without.  I'll take this apart and rewire with an LED.

A Greenleaf forum member suggested moving the bed to the other side so the ladder opening would be visible.  I hadn't considered it since I liked the bed where it was, but I gave it a shot.  I don't like the dumbwaiter gate blocking the view of the foot board, but the room does make more sense this way.  It also makes it easier for the lighting plan.

The bedroom is limited to table lamps or wall lamps considering the barrel ceiling and the windshaft.  I have a Chrysolite table lamp for the Lisa (Lundby) cabinet.

There's a black double wall sconce with replaceable bulbs for above the bed.  I think these fixtures give enough light right now, though I will be rewiring the Chrysolite lamp with an LED since the current bulb is non-replaceable.  The LED will brighten the room a little.

Downstairs, there doesn't seem to be room for anything besides ceiling lamps, and they have to have a low profile at that.  I have a stash of new old stock ceiling light kits by Illinois Hobbycraft, so it's just a matter of choosing how many.  :]

I wired up three since I thought I would need at least two but wondered if three would make more sense for the space.  The one above the circle library is lovely for showing the detail of the library, but it's not especially cozy.

Here is a photo with all three on.  Often having one light fixture in front of another can cause them to compete visually, which is why I went with three identical fixtures.  This is too much light for a small room.  It looks more like a showroom than a living space.

Switching one off is better, but something is still off about it.

I changed the layout to one in the middle of the room.  There is not a lot of room for a wall sconce, so the best bet is a floor lamp.  This one is by Ray Storey.  The micro mill can't be in the middle then since it makes the centered ceiling light a spotlight.

The floor lamp is cozy, but I like the shot above with the light near the circle library.  So, I'd want to have both the floor lamp and the lamp over the library.

I need to face facts and remove the micro mill as much as I love it.  It's too large a piece for the space.  I can't fit much to the right of it, and what I can fit looks rather hodgepodge compared to the detailed layout on the opposite wall.  The micro mill also blocks the pieces behind it.

So, I need to address the right side of the main floor next...minus the micro mill. I have to figure out what that space will be. Time to dig through my stash of kits! :]

Watson Mill - landscaping base

by brae  

It might seem strange to start the landscaping with the mill in dry fit, but this will help me visualize how the mill will look in the end.  I want a relatively steep landscape for the mill, considering the base board is 20" square.  I built up three layers of 1/2" thick builders foam and marked where the mill will sit on top.  I did use a freshly cut whole piece for the bottom layer, but the middle and top layers were made from scraps to use up the stash.  I used Weldbond glue to attach the layers and then pressed it flat with magazines overnight.

This is the big knife I use to grade the foam.  It's not especially sharp, but it does the job.

In the front, I want a bit of relatively flat land for some fun features to be revealed later.  :]

I took the scraps of foam and added bits here and there to fill in angles and gaps.   This layout is good enough for now since I will fine tune the land later with stucco patch or spackling as needed.

I think this is a good start, very tall and stately.  :D

Watson Mill - cutting holes

by brae  

Time to cut the window, door and ceiling openings.  I started with the simplest of the openings -- straight cuts.  I centered the lower front window under the windshaft and positioned it relative to the circle library for balance.   I cut the opening with the Dremel Multi-Max using a 3" wood/drywall blade.  I like that it's a straight blade so the cuts are relatively straight, but you have to watch you aren't cutting at an angle.  The vibration is heavy, though, so it can be hard to hold a long time as it makes your hands numb.

I cut holes in the ceiling board for the dumbwaiter and ladder with the Dremel Multi-Max.  These edges will be lined with wood trim during finishing.

I positioned the arched door far to the back to leave as much space forward as possible while still having some room toward the back.  I cut the straight sides with the Dremel Multi-Max and then cut the arch with the scroll saw.   I made it larger than necessary to have some room to move it slightly.  I also decided to put a tiny round window next to the door so Gustav can see who's-a-knockin' at the door.  :D  This the 1 1/8" Simplicity Window from Heritage Laser Works.

For this hole, I used a 1" spade bit.

I've cut circular openings with the standard Dremel before, so that's what I've used for the bedroom window - a 2 1/4" Simplicity Window from Heritage Laser Works.  In my class with Tom Walden, I learned to make multiple passes with the Dremel to get a clean cut. That was my issue the first time I tried cutting circles -- cutting too much thickness at once.  My issue this time was not checking the knob holding the pivot point in place after the first cut.  The vibration loosened it, so it was cutting a larger circle than I wanted.  I didn't notice this until it was full on traveling outside the circle.  :\

 

This is a fairly simple fix, though, so I just shrugged.  I still swore, mind you.  :D  I filled the wayward hole with wood putty.  I'll wrap some cardboard circles to fill in some of the diameter of the hole.  It will all be covered by interior and exterior finishes in the end.

There will be interior lighting, but I wanted to see how these openings effect the natural flow of light inside the mill.  Back into dry fit.  While another front window would be lovely, it would cut down on wall space, which is at a premium as is. I'm planning some shelves above the trolley, which may be replaced since it is a rather wide piece for the space.

Since the white paper I was using for the roof allowed light in, I tested the dry fit with black paper this time around.  The bedroom is dark, but I think it's cozy.  With some added lamps, I think it will be just fine.  Plus, the ceiling won't be black in the end.  I'll skip adding side windows here.

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