Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tutorial: How to Etch Bricks

Though there are many ways to simulate brick on a dollhouse --beautifully printed papers, embossed wood or latex veneers, intricate stencils, and many other methods-- perhaps the most realistic way is by etching individual scale bricks into paint.  Nothing can quite compare to a "brick" surface finished in this manner.  It is a cost-effective, but highly time-consuming, labor-intensive process. It is the method favored by the dollhouse deities, Mulvany and Rogers.  And if it's good enough for them, well then certainly it's good enough for Merriman Park!   
                                 (The dollhouse Holy Bible)!

 Deborah Knight of my dollhouse miniatures chat group asked how I do it and I thought, "How funny, didn't I already explain the process in my blog?"   Guess I'm spending too much time blabbing on and on about Dark Shadows, and not enough about the nuts and bolts about Merriman Park.               

How to Do It:
Step One:  With any project, surface preparation is key.  Seal your surface with a quality primer.  I used to be on the enamel-primer-only team, but recent improvements to latex primers have brought me around.  (Cleaning up with soap and water, as opposed to chemical solvents was a big factor in my change of heart). 

Step Two:  Two coats of gesso make up your mortar base.  Be sure to tint your gesso with acrylic paints --the au natural gesso is a bit too bright for most projects.  I used a drop or two of burnt sienna for Merriman Park.

Step Three:  On top of the gesso, apply two coats of your brick base color.  Bricks come in many colors and I mixed mine from artist's acrylic paints, but any latex paint will do.  Keep in mind that your finished bricks will look considerably lighter once the bricks are etched into your base coat.  Let base coat dry for at least twenty-four hours.

Step Four:  With a ruler, mark the horizontal mortar joints.  I used 3/16th" for Merriman Park.

Step Five:  Using a small woodworker's gouge, etch the horizontal mortar lines.  I found it helpful to go up two or three inches at a time.  That is, mark your lines for two or three inches and then go ahead and etch them in.  Continue marking and etching.  If your lines are off by even a little, it will show.  You can always paint out any mistakes and do over, but that is such a drag!  The gouge will leave miniature curlicues of acrylic paint all over the place, so be warned!  Use a small, stiff paintbrush to keep them at bay.

       (One of the first brick mock-ups for Merriman Park.  Always     experiment on a piece of scrap before tackling your project)!

Step Six:  Mark your vertical lines.  This creates the "individual bricks" so take your time and be accurate.  Merriman Park is an eighteenth-century house so they would have used the flemish bond, which is what I reproduced.
              (Photographs do not show the detailed, 3-D effect that etched grout lines produce).

Step Seven:  Have a cocktail, rest your eyes and appreciate your work! (Most important step).

I haven't done Step Eight, yet, which is to go back and highlight individual bricks in a random pattern. I'm working on bricking the chimneys right now.  (Chimneys with pots, I might add, thanks to Karin Corbin!


Karin Corbin said...[Reply]

Nice tutorial, thanks. What brand and size of gouge did you finally settle on? Being a tool junk with a spring birthday coming up I think I will make it the item I ask my workshop mate for. We do tool gifts!

Karin Corbin said...[Reply]

You will be wanting to research the subject of lead roof very soon. The link below will probably give you everything you need to know to detail your roof surface.
Look at the links to the contractors and look at their images as well as website's as award gallery images. The very first image on the opening page will show you how to flash around the chimneys you are bricking.

Karin Corbin said...[Reply]

Oh I forgot to mention if you would like to have some real thin lead to flash with I have a box of the old fashioned wine bottle lead seals. I found it at a local recyling place. Someone was cleaning out the basement of a relative who passed away and dropped it off. I sent a bag of them to Noel and Pat Thomas who loved using them for dollhouse flashing as they are so malleable. My email address is my name with no spaces, send to gmail.

John said...[Reply]

Karin, I'm sorry, I can't read the numbers on the gouge. There are four ineligible numbers followed by a dash and a "10."

I'm sure you could make your own gouge, anyway!

Thank you for the tips on flashing!

Glamorous time traveler said...[Reply]

Cheers. Thanks for the tutorial. Is etching an option when working in half scale? Or is it just plain too small for this process? : )

Glamorous time traveler said...[Reply]

Oops. Forgot to leave email for you. ; D