Saturday, 12 February 2011

Building "Fort Kalypso" - Stage 1

The inspiration.
This morning I decided to ignore the distractions of a house chock full of children and get on with the business of creating my fortified trading post.  Over the past week or so I have looked at a great many Indian/Pakistani/Afghan defensive structures and I had a general idea of how I wanted the main tower to look.

My principal inspiration was a series of photos and drawings showing what is variously described as a Mosque or a Watchtower from a site named Hampi - located in South Western India.  The building has three shallow domes, an ornate window and a roof-top terrace.  I decided that some or all of these features would work in miniature and the structure could be used as a guardroom (ground floor) and apartment for the big cheese (upstairs)

Thus enthused, I unpacked the materials and tools and got going.

Nothing too unusual here...
In addition to the usual assortment of knives, geometry gizmos and a steel straight edge, you will see my rudimentary template and some blocks of floral oasis.  As I touched on before, wet oasis is a favourite medium of mine when I wish to create a structure that is less than perfectly built and weather beaten.  Oasis lends itself to creating the wobbly lines so often seen in old stone and adobe structures.  The downside of oasis is that it is very fragile and crumbly.  However my method does not require too much precision and your errors will be obscured in the later stages of construction.  Please note it essential that you chose "wet" oasis and not it's "dry" cousin.  The reason for this will become apparent in the next installment!

Determine how much oasis you will need.
When building this type of structure I like to "wing-it" improvising as I work.  This generally results in a more relaxed looking building and you lose that "regimented" and over-engineered feel of many Western structures.

The first thing to do was determine how many blocks of oasis I would need.  I was lucky and managed to cut the basic shape from just over two - approximate cost £2.00.  The beauty of my method is that you do not need one enormous and expensive block.  Rather you can pin together pieces cut from the smaller and readily available "bricks" to achieve the desired effect.  The readily workable nature of oasis makes the cutting and smoothing the blocks as you work a very simple process.

Doorway, marked then cut-out.
Once you have sorted out which blocks go where, it's time to mark the position of windows and doors.  To do this, I place pre-cut templates in the appropriate place and follow the outline with my scalpel.  When the outline has been cut into the surface, you merely insert a long flat blade into the oasis a quarter inch or so below the surface of the external wall.  This parallel cut creates an aperture of flexible depth and neatly indicates the thickness of the structure's walls.  Simple doorways can be countersunk into elaborate frames with multiple cuts, however, in this instance I wanted the structure to remain relatively simple.

Pinning the parts.
When you have finished the windows/doors on a couple of sections it is time to pin them together.  Simply use some cocktail sticks and a blob of PVA glue.   I prefer the "Woodworking" variety (Elmers/Elch/Evo-stik etc) as it is slightly tackier and dries faster than the stuff aimed at kiddicrafts.  At this stage the sticks take the strain but the stress is minimal due to oasis' lightweight nature.

After the pieces are aligned to your satisfaction, you can repeat the processes for the rest of the structure.  Using a finger or palm you should softly smooth the oasis to both round-off straight edges and create an irregular surface.  It will seem a bit odd to do this after carefully cutting the blocks to a desired shape but believe me the building will look better for it in the long-run.

The bare bones completed - stage one ends!  
Following the methods above I pinned the completed parts together and crowned with a Christmas ornament (not yet fixed) to give myself an idea of the basic structure.  As I said earlier, details have been kept very simple as the fort is a dilapidated structure in a fledgling outpost.  The only flourish I allowed myself was the upstairs window, which is a simplified version of that on the original.  The aforementioned ornament creates a dome more ornate than those on the original but I think it will work very well once properly seated into the roof.  You could easily add turned details, ornamental stonework or buttresses.  Really the only limit is your own imagination and skill with a knife and oasis!

Now, details such as exposed brick and/or stone work can be scribed into the oasis with a cocktail stick or pencil.  My structure is supposed to be stone so I opted for regular(ish) blocks as shown in the photos of the real structure.  Adobe bricks should be a good deal smaller and far more uniform in appearance.

Once the glue is dry I can move on to stage two - the first of the messy bits my children love!

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