Friday, 17 July 2020

"Wat er op de vloer omme-gaet" All that goes on on a floor. (encaustic tiles)

Hello my friends,

The title of this post 'wat om die vloeren omme-gaet' refers to the title for an article written by Eloy Koldeweij. It can be found on the site of the Dutch national Library and a very interesting read. (‘Wat er op de vloer omme-gaet’: poppenhuisvloeren en de realiteit

Medieval encaustic tiles
It focusses on Dutch flooring materials and fashions from the middle ages into the nineteenth century. The emphasis lies on the question if the cabinet houses from the 17th and 18th centuries are reliable contemporary sources for the variety of floors and (simulated) materials that they have. A very interesting read indeed! I have used this article as a reference while choosing the types of flooring for Huis ter Swinnendael.

My first attempt at encaustic tiles
If you have read my blogpost on the start of the build I start with the east wing of the house. The cellar of this wing will house the Stewards office and the cooking kitchen. Both rooms will have tiled floors with clay floortiles. All the rooms on this floor of Huis ter Swinnendael will be tiled. Only the servants entrancehall will have white marble on the floor.

While the stewards office will get a floor in two tones, grey and red, the kitchen floor will only consists of grey tiles.  But which pattern will I use for the Stewards office? As you can see in the picture above I have narrowed the choice down to four types of arrangements. Feel free to give me your opinion. 

 I made the different tiles out of terracotta or grey coloured airdrying clay. I rolled out the clay between two spacers to get an even thickness and let it dry until the clay is leathery but not yet hardened to a point where you can't cut it. It is a tip I picked up in one of my books on miniatures. Cutting the airdrying clay when still soft does not give clean lines because the thin sheet of clay tend to cling to the knife and come up of the table when you lift up the knife.

When all tiles are ready I will place them on the floor arranged in the chosen pattern. When the pattern is made to fit, I glue them on the floor of the room. When all has dried I will grout them quickly with filler and clean the excess filler right away as to not damage the tiles.

The fireplace in the rentmeesterskamer (Stewards office) will get small glazed tiles on its floor. These tiles will have slipware decorations and are called encaustic tiles. By 1675, when the house was built, this type of tiles were no longer fashionable and therefore no longer made. So these are likely to be recycled from the previous house which was destroyed in 1672. Encaustic tiles are best known from floors in churches and grand house from the midle ages and grand houses.

Various designs of encaustic tiles
Truth is that I like the real ( medieval/ renaissance) slipware tiles/ encaustic tiles so much that I wanted to include some of them in Huis ter Swinnendael. But I remained hessitant. 

When I found the posts of Daydreamer in her Blog ( I saw that encaustic tiles look great in miniature. I then knew that I simply had to make some myself. She has made over 1300!!! encaustic tiles for the floor of the Great Hall of her castle. I have made a much smaller amount of tiles. 

I may make more though. I will likely use some of them for the floor of the larder too. But the larder lies in the West wing and will have to wait for now. 

First I drew some decorations to scale after some original tiles on pictures I have sourced on the internet. It helped me to make a choice between the many possible decorations that were made through the centuries. 

The encaustic tiles are made out of airdrying clay in the same way as the other tiles. They are 1x1cm in size. For the decorations I used white paint. The original tiles would be decorated by pressing it into the clay and then filling the indentations with white clay, sometimes coloured with pigment. 

Finaly the tiles are glazed with a satin gloss glaze with some cadmium yellow mixed into it. This gives them a realistic yellow hue. You can see the difference this glaze makes. For this picture I glazed only a small part of them and placed them between the still unglazed tiles. As these are recycled tiles I do not make all matching decorations but a nice range of different decorations. And not every tile is decorated. I am very happy with the result. I will glaze all of them twice berore installing them. That will deepen the colours even more. 

By now I also have made most of the larger floortiles for the rest of the floor. But that is for a next post. I hope that you have enjoyed reading this one and till next time. 


Friday, 10 July 2020

Cleanliness is next to godliness? I am too late for spring cleaning!

Hello my friends,

Today's topic is somewhat different from the previous ones. I wanted to make some cleaning materials for Huis ter Swinnendael for some time now. Last week I suddenly had the inspiration to do so. But it is begin july so summer has arrived. This means that it is too late for spring cleaning. Oh well, spring will come again next year. ;-)

A house like the one I'm building had a score of servants to run a smooth household. But to succesfuly clean a house they need more than a pair of hands and some elbow grease. They need tools to do the job! So here are a few that I made following several instructions/ tutorials that I gathered from various sources.

The buckets.
In the baby cabinets in the Dutch museums you often see wooden buckets in the attics and brass buckets in the kitchens. The brass buckets @were not used for cleaning the house. The are called "marktemmers" (market buckets) and were used to buy things as fish or meat and such. The metal of the buckets made sure that oils and juices from these items could not get into the bucket itself like with wood or cloth. And the metal was easlily cleaned afterwards. The general image of those periods is one of omnipresent filth and unhygienic circumstances, but that image should be nuanced quite a bit. They did not exactly understand how it worked but they understood more than period movies let us believe. ;-)

Most buckets were made of wood. Some were made of leather. The latter were mostly but not exlusively firebuckets. Filled with sand or water to be on hand when a fire had to be contained. Now I had some leather lying around that was too thick and tough to use for miniature upholstery. When I found an 18th century leather firebucket at an antique store in The Hague, I knew that was something the thicker leather would be ideal for.

So I started sketching, made a few patterns for the different elements out of cardboard and cut them out of the leather. Then I punctured a hole in each flap for attaching the handle for the bucket.

From there it was quite straight forward. I glued the bucket wall together, added the rim along the bottom and the one along the top. These rims have to be a bit larger of course. The seam is quite thick and visible. But that is rather realistic than a problem. The old bucket that I saw, (but was not allowed to make pictures of alas) was nailed together with large hobnails, just like the chairs with stretchers I showed you in january of this year.

To simulate these hobnails I used the same mini stickers I used on the chairs. Finaly I painted the inside of the bucket light blue and added No. 1 and No. 2 on them. (The antique firebucket had the number 4 painted on it in very decorative letters. When talking with the antique dealer I  learned that although firebuckets were more common in the 19th century and were more popular in Great Brittain than on mainland Europe, they existed in the Netherlands in the late 18th century. So I feel confident to use them and add them to the cooking-kitchen of Huis ter Swinnendael.

I also have an idea for wooden buckets. But my first attempt failed. So I will come back to you all with that one as soon as I get the result that I am after. :-)

The carpet beater/rug whip
Is that the right term in english? In dutch we call them "mattenkloppers" and as the name suggests, you beat carpets and rugs to get rid of the dust they have collected while lying on the floor or table. Before the age of the vacume cleaner every household had one. And into the late nineteen eighties they were still common in houses albeit used less and less. Now they have more or less become museum objects.
In the 18th and 19th centuries these objects were a nescessity. And with a house like Swinnendael... one rugbeater will not be enough.

The strength of a "mattenkloppers" is determined by the number of canes used to make them and the amount of interwoven loops that they have. 2 loops are for the light beaters, used for small rugs, 3 loops for the larger rugs and small carpets, and 4 loops for the  large and heavy carpets. those also often had 3 or four strands of cane instead of 2. 

I found a very useful tutorial for two types of mattenkloppers made with two strands and three loops. I made them both. And then  made one more. This time with three strands. Because this one already looks quite 'fat', I will not make more of those with three strands in the future. 

By the way, getting the loops right with every strand lying paralel and not folding over or switching places is at the same time relaxing and frustrating. And with three strands you certainly need a good dose of herbal tea to relax! ;-)
When you have a satisfying result for the beating part, you fixate it with a bit of woodglue diluted with water. When the glue has dried, smear the same mixture on the remaining strands and twist them together to form the handle. Let the glue/water dry to fixate the twisted wires in place. On both ends of the handle you wind some (cotton) thread in a matching colour and presto!

Brooms and Brushes
Could I forget these? Ofcourse not. Brooms and brushes exist since the first ancient civilisations. So we need several here too. I just made a few types. No conscientious choice or reason. I just made these as was my fancy, combined with the materials at hand. I used pictures of the museum dollshouses and several tutorials as a guide. The result is a nice start. But more will be needed. There used to be different (types of) brooms and brushes for floors, hearths, tables, upholstery, carpets et cetera. So there is still a lot to play with.

The long handled brushes are made of thootpicks and hemptwine. Here the twine is 'forked out' with a needle to seperate the strands. The tutorial for this one I found on facebook. The white twine could be soaked in strong cold tea to give it a used look.

The twig brush is copied from the babycabinet of Petronella Oortman in the Rijksmuseum. This type of tough brush seems to be used to clean out the hearths or cleaning pavements. So we definately need one in the cooking kitchen for sure! The 'twigs' are dried stalks bound together with some twine and ruffled a bit to make it look used instead of new. In the Petronella Oortman babycabinet there are also twig brooms in the cellar. These brooms are for a next post though.

Well that is it for now. I hope that you enjoyed reading this post and hopefully until next time. 


Monday, 29 June 2020

A great occasion for a miniature occasional table

Way back in 2018, I tried my hand at wood turning. I did not have a lathe back then but used an old machine drill to work on some beech roundwood we had lying around in our shed. One piece came out like this. A balustre shaped table leg meant for an occasional table.

But before I could make the rest of the table I moved on to another mini project and a lot of other things followed in suit. In short I forgot all about this table leg. Not every line on it is straight and I can probably do better (and I will, there is a lot more that I want to make on that lathe.) but I simply can't discard it. So a table it will become.

I drew a little scroll shaped leg on a pièce of beechwood. Then glued two more pieces onto it and cut out three legs with my fretsaw.Since glueing a straight surface on a round one will not be very succesful, I put each of the scroll feet in my vice and with a round needlefile I rounded the surface in order for them to fit the turned leg better when glued onto each other.

I also drew two different shapes of table tops on a piece of softwood and cut that out. I decided on using the round top. Then I used a file to smoothe the top edges of the table top and the scroll legs.  Now the 3 scroll legs, the balustre leg and the table top are all glued together and we have a table!

It is a small table which is used as a candle stand or something like that. In auction catalogue this size of occasional table is also called a wine table. Probably because it is large enough for a glass of wine (or port) and a good, albeit medium sized book. :-)

After aplying two coats of gesso and sanding it, it was time for some decoration. After the Brown wooden pieces it is time for a splash of colour. The basecoat is a mixture of cadmium yellow which is mixed with titanium white into a soft, creamy yellow. When it had dried I used alizarine crimson for adding details. 

After painting the table I still had a lot of paint on my palet. A shame to let it go to waste, now would it not? Next I took the candlestand I had put together earlier. It is a 'The House of Miniatures' kit that Mrs. M. had kindly given me. I turned the colours around and added pale yellow decorations on a crimson base. 

I am not sure yet if the occasional table and the candle stand  will end up downstairs or upstairs . For now the Steward may have them. speaking of the steward, his office is progressing but very slowly. Making around 800 tiles for the 2 floors is taking a lot more time than I thought. Here is a little 'sneak peek' though. The arches will be filled in with raised windowseats and behind that wil come the outer wall with the windows inserted into it.

Well thats it for now. I hope that you have enjoyed this little post and till next time!