The Conservatory has a celestial motif in the leaded windows, which is carried through in the railing panel design.
I cut multiples of each panel from chipboard on the Cricut Maker. (Side note: I get the best results from editing the cutting presets, after a test cut on my chosen material.) I decided on a double, rather than triple layer, to lessen the alignment errors.
I used a lamination technique I learned from the talented Heather Tracy at Thicketworks. She uses thin cyanoacrylate on her intricate chipboard pattern pieces to seal, strengthen and stabilize the material. When dry they are easily sanded and very, very hard, and take acrylic paints beautifully.
To learn the nuances of the technique, I used one of Heather’s patterns she generously makes available free of charge. (She also has an Etsy shop, a YouTube channel of tutorials, and a maker club.) I made the blue wheelbarrow first, and then the red, slightly improving my results. It is a worthwhile technique, but messy. (Also, to me cyanoacrylate is one of those devil’s bargain products.) If you’re not familiar with Heather’s work, I encourage you to check it out!
After sanding the panels smooth — paying particular attention to the outside edges — I glued (using wood glue) them into post and rail surrounds.
These were then joined into the L-shaped railing.
I sprayed the assembly with multiple light coats of matte black primer + paint, to seal and increase attachment bonds. After the glue and paint cures overnight, I’ll finish sand it and paint a final coat, then give it a matte seal.
I like a good wide top railing, for cats to lounge, elbows to lean, and drinks to be set upon, so I used 3/4- by 1/8-inch basswood. Thinking now of bracket designs to be cut from card stock to attach the railing securely to the deck, but that’s for tomorrow.
Having just finished watching the Amazon series Tales From The Loop, I’ll leave you with this image of Point Montara Light.
Late one night I decided to dry fit the HBS contest base because I needed to look at something new. I like the kit, but am undecided if I can responsibly build it. Ideas abound, and it’s currently on a turntable next to the studio thinking couch. It also makes a grand morning coffee cup platform.
Here’s a glimpse of the under-pier, under-stair Sea House Conservatory setting. Barnacles by Keli, air-dry clay boulders, and flotsam from the natural and manufactured worlds.
When I saw just how much of the low tide water is in the shadow of the Conservatory structure, I thought some bioluminescence might add charm. This is four flickering LEDs set in the back corner, under the pier.
The effect is subtle, but smile-worthy, especially in the dark.
Here’s a shot of preliminary bulb placement. You can see some of just how much is unseen.
A night view of the mystery.
I indulged the rare decorative impulse to design pier piling hardware that echoes the Conservatory finials.
Oh wait, another what-lies-beneath shot.
This was one of my birthday views, taken from Point Montara Lighthouse in early March, on a day-long field trip with my Greater Farallones Naturalist class. There was a large pod of dolphins cavorting not far offshore, visible through the very many pairs of binoculars and spotting scopes.
The pandemic was already getting real, but that was the last time I sat by the ocean, side by side with my classmates, eating our bag lunches together in the intermittent sun and light rain.
Here’s an image from a series Keli and I have been punting about. It started when Keli found a scale model canoe builder in Maine who makes these beautiful 1:8 paddles. We each bought one and the challenge is on Instagram #littlepaddletales and #paddlehomage. It’s been fun.
Although this photo was taken during high tide, this is the water feature look I want to emulate on the Sea House Conservatory low tide build.
After watching countless hours of video demonstrations from a variety of sources, I started my experiment with a small area at the front of the Leadlights landscaping that seemed natural for a water incursion. I glued a 2-inch tall length of acetate to the project board to form a dam, several inches longer than the intended 4-inch-wide pour, reinforced with masking tape below and tape holdfasts above.
Several deep breaths and I poured a scant quarter-inch of Realistic Water ™ from Woodland Scenics into the prepared area. Recommendation is an eighth-inch, but hey, it pours fast. So far so good.
I did the same prep on the Conservatory project board.
One tricky situation encountered is when any element of the landscaping extends past the base, even a little. I had some time to consider ways I will do it differently next time, as I held the acetate to the base while the glue set adequately.
When the glue seemed set, I boldly — yet delicately — poured the first course of water into the prepared base. Altogether, five or six individual glugs into each tide pool and basin.
Unsurprisingly, as I looked and marveled at the swampy effect and the no-going-back-nowness, a few small, very slow leaks began to develop. I used wide painter’s tape to further seal — more on that later — the acetate dam to the base. Checking again about two hours later I added more tape, and also noticed a few small areas where the glue I had used to cement the gravel and boulders to the base seemed to be turning opaque white.
The recommendation for the water product is to let each layer dry at least 24 hours. It was very late by this time, so I called it a night very early morning and went to bed.
Next morning, not 24 hours later, I was encouraged to see the water was turning clearer, but the small white areas were still present, noticeably in the transition areas of gravel I had applied a few days earlier.
So I re-read the product label instructions.
Not for use with PVA glue. I’ll shorten my whole lengthy tirade — who doesn’t commonly use PVA glue? Why wasn’t this the very first caveat on the label, and why was this condition never mentioned in any of the company’s instructional videos on use of the product, etc… and lots of swears and unkind, rude assumptions and declarations. But then there was the offhand “Cure above 70°F.” Thankfully I have a wise and patient bitch buddy to vent to with whom I can vent. You know who you are are.
Then I calmed down enough to embrace that since there was nothing I could do about it now, I’d wait and see what would continue to happen. After all, it had not been even 24 hours yet, and it is a rather larger area and blah, grumble, blah.
I wasted more time did more research on pouring water, this time with a variety of mediums and preparation techniques, and even grubbed around in some forums, which I detest, and learned that yes/no there are some/not any problems with PVA glue that can be gotten around by sealing everything with — and here again suggestions vary — some sort of varnish, and, most valuably, some clever ways to build and seal dams for water feature success. One involved swamp water.
Time passed, and my watery problems with this product mostly resolved themselves. I continue to steep myself in the experiences of others.
I did a second pour on Leadlights, and a second and third pour on areas of the Conservatory. Above you can see the dam removed to reveal the fully cured water. (One of the plants bled a little color into the water, but I don’t mind.) I wanted a “live edge” to the water, and used an Xacto knife to carve away the lip. The project base itself will be edge-banded with thin basswood for a finished look :)
All in all, I am happy with and consider the results a success. I’ll know so much more on the next one.
Check out the light shimmer on the right pier piling, a reflection from the late afternoon light. Magical realism, which validates my efforts :)
I’ll leave you with this image found in Bolinas, on the estuary marsh/riparian transition on a winter afternoon hike at low tide. (Very low and long ago for this guy.)