Model Building,  writing

Trust the process

The process of building things

No matter how many times I get to the end of a project and reinforce the notion of trusting the process, I still get that terrible feeling of having just ruined hours, or even weeks, worth of effort because an intermediate step looks absolutely terrible. I am certain that imposter syndrome plays a factor in this mindset that I fall into. I have suffered from that my whole life, and still do. Perhaps that explains why the Fake it Till You Make it TED Talk by Amy Cuddy appealed to me so much: I always think I am faking it.

However, I remind myself I am not alone in those feelings and that if I trust the process, the end results will look good. And, even if they don’t, I’ll have learned something along the way and can refine my process for the next time around. Constant learning, refactoring, and building reinforce and cycle of improvement. That principle applies to so much of life, not just building models or writing books.

The tower

The primary focus of this post is Stephenie’s Tower. As you can see from the image at the top of the post, I’ve nearly finished with the first floor before Planet Comicon. Yeah!!!! I will be at tables 2245/2247 in the Artist Alley and will have the model with me. Anyone who wants to get a closer look will have the chance. However, for those who cannot make it, as well as to document what it took to produce the above model, I’ve included a bunch of photos I took while getting there.

What has gone into the model

Later this year I hope to have a much bigger, and dedicated, maker space. Having to tear down lighting and equipment after use eats up time, and as a result, too often I simply skip doing it. Which led to the brevity of blog posts (A Tower of My Own) and the one video Tour of Stephenie’s Tower. I am looking forward to having a permanent space to do the builds and shoot more video.

So, from the beginning of the build process to the end, I have done the following high-level tasks:

  • Built the frame for the model
  • Used styrofoam and SculptAMold to fill in the base and set the basic ground structure (Amazon affiliate link)
  • Started cutting the XPS pink foam into blocks and gluing them down to the base (I didn’t want to just texture the surface of a large sheet of foam)
  • Designed and 3D printed a support ring so that the walls could support the weight (big round white circle with four posts)
  • Tried to level the wall, though my work table is not entirely level, which made this hard
  • Filled the interior with excess form parts and SculptAMold (that took a while to dry)
  • Glued down the support ring when I got the base to the proper height
  • Poured a thin layer of Plaster of Paris to try and get a level floor (didn’t work exactly as planned)
  • Cut an EVA foam circle for a floor underlayment to cover some of the wavy floor issues (Amazon affiliate link)
  • Continued to work on cutting and gluing blocks for the walls, also poured in Plaster of Paris to the middle of the walls to strengthen them (generous infill of foam rubble as well)
  • Designed and printed a jig to do the front entrance
  • Built the external stairs using pink foam and EVA foam, created and printed some jigs for cutting the foam
  • Built the entrance out of EVA foam and pink foam and made it removable so it would be easier to paint and install a door
  • Decided that manually creating the stairs was too much work, and designed and printed a set of stairs for the interior wall (it made getting the curve in the wall much easier since I already had the white circle in FreeCAD)
  • Found the stairs were too steep, so I modified the design and printed a new set
  • Found I didn’t like the stair going all the way to the floor (I’d been arguing with myself on how to handle it) so I used my Dremel tool and cut off the bottom of the stairs
  • Continued cutting, fitting, and gluing blocks (the inside was hard to do because of limited space and a reverse angle)
  • Designed and printed a jig to cut the EVA foam stair supports (first design was bad and I cut myself)
  • Designed a new jig to avoid combing flesh with sharpened steel (much better results)
  • Designed the fireplace  out of EVA foam and glued it together
  • Cut out the back wall to make room for the fireplace
  • Designed and printed anther jig to cut the floor tiles
  • Cut and then used the Dremel tool to sand the tops and edges of all the floor tiles to give them character
  • Glued and fitted the floor tiles
  • Used very watered down Plaster of Paris as grout
  • Covered everything with a few coats of black primer using my air brush (I love my Iwata brushes) (and that is another Amazon affiliate link, it does help)
  • Put on a coat of grey paint with normal paint brush on the walls
  • Painted several bricks with various colors (blues, tans, yellow/browns and this is where things start to look weird)
  • Dry brushed on some tans
  • Dry brushed on the grey again
  • Dry brushed on limited white highlights (downward strokes only)
  • For the floors, put down a couple of coats of cream paint
  • Painted some tiles with various colors (purple, yellow/browns, tan)
  • Added some purple striping
  • Dry brushed on the cream
  • Dry brushed on a limited white highlight
  • Dry brushed on some soot and smoke stains to the fireplace
  • Coated the model with gloss varnish so the oil wash will flow better (back to the air brush)
  • Mixed up black and brown oil washes (little paint, lots of thinner) coated everything with black and some select places with brown (e.g. the floor)
  • Let the oil wash dry, then removed with small makeup sponges soaked in thinner (went through a number of them)
  • Let everything dry and then added a coat of matte varnish 
  • Let it dry and then got out the Scenic Cement, ballast, and various ground covers; loaded down the surface with the glue, added a mix of ballast for ground cover (light and dark brown) then added grass and foliage (affiliate link)
  • Dosed everything with more cement and let it dry
  • Started working on the second floor using the support ring and cut dowels to act as floor joists, which I had to drill holes in the ends so I can insert nails to hold the dowels in place as the glue wasn’t sticking to the plastic
  • For the fire, take dust from sanding, put it on a plastic square for easier removal, add black and brown ink, Scenic Cement, and then mix
  • Glue small strips of wood scrap and cotton to the top 
  • Paint yellow, orange, red, and grey with airbrush
  • Remove fire from plastic and glue in place

So, with the long list of steps done, below are some pictures of the process.