Thursday, 22 December 2011

Plinth construction completed

Just in time for the Christmas break, the plinths for the two models are essentially finished.

After staining all pine timbers with Colron - Indian Rosewood, the surfaces were distressed with sandpaper and wire wool. After the removal of all dust particles, a second overall coat of Colron -Yellow Pine. Again when dry, the surfaces were lightly abraded to render a variegated and distressed appearance.

Next a light coating of Polyvine Acrylic Varnishing Wax was applied an allowed to dry. This was then rubbed flat with a medium grade wire wool. A second coat of Varnishing Wax was brushed on and, after drying overnight, the final burnished effect was rendered with fine grade wire wool. This process gives the lustrous appearance of natural wax, but without the regular commitment to upkeep of the surface.

After a final cleanup of all the dust and debris, all components were able to be re-assembled and the brass handle could be fitted.

At this stage I am happy to put the plinths aside, leaving the finer details of batteries, switches and other wiring issues until a later time.

But next I will get started on the actual model. As soon as we have finished eating turkey and mince pies, I will return.

The two virtually completed plinths with simple massing maquettes 
in place to give an impression of the models overall impact.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Winter drawers on

With the main carcasses now taking shape, it is time to fabricate the main plinth drawer that will contain the information map and artifact collection.

The process started by fixing the slide mechanisms in position onto the bulkhead panels. It was at this point that it became obvious just how, even the tiniest deviation for squareness and straightness, can cause problems with drawer fitting. Various small adjustments were necessary before the drawer would operate smoothly and without misalignment.

The precise nature of the internal design of the drawer is still evolving, but upon sliding the drawer open there will be a hinged lid with a hand-drawn period map of Littleport. This will identify the JH Adams & Sons property on Main Street, plus other sites of historic interest within the town.

Lifting the lid will reveal a collection of period artifacts found in the shop, forge and barn. The method of displaying this material is still to be decided, but I favour the idea of a wooden compartment system, much like a traditional typesetters' type tray. A clear polycarbonate cover could provide an unbreakable security cover to ensure that bits and pieces do not go missing. However, if we dispense with the clear cover, each item might somehow be "stitched" in position within its own compartment, they would be secure but would also e exposed to offer an added tactile experience.

At this stage it is easier to make provisions for possible enhancements. Even if not eventually adopted, I would like to have the option to route some internal lighting into the drawer compartments. Now it may later become evident that such provision is over-the-top-in terms of presentation (and expense), but it is so much easier to drill a few holes now, rather than have to hack it about later because of a change of mind.

The original pine shelf proved sufficient to produce all moulding sections and panel cladding for both model plinths and complete drawer assembly.

Although the original outer surfaces of the shelf had a wonderful, 150 year old patina, when sliced into over 100 pieces, the timber appeared all new, fresh and naked. It was necessary to recreate the surface appearance with the use of spirit-based wood stains of various colours.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Can you handle it?

Last night, the Family Adams Project creative group had their last meeting before Christmas 2011.

The weather was atrocious, gusty winds and horizontal rain. But still most members managed to attend the gathering at the ADeC headquarters in the Babylon Gallery, Ely, Cambridgeshire.

Each of the members reported good progress, but we agreed there was a huge task ahead of us to have this show on the road for April 2012.

Five of these nicely aged, brass drop-handles will be installed on the 
plinths of the 2 models.

For my part (as the model maker), I was delighted to take receipt of a small collection  of original Victorian, solid brass handles. These were donated to the group by Susan & David Porter, the current owners of the shop. These totally authentic fittings came from cabinets that are no longer required, but have been in the Littleport shop since c1880. They will provide the exact finished effect we need for the two model plinths - not just cosmetic, but very well designed and functional.

Sample wood tiles as used to clad the model plinths.
Top left sample shows the freshly cut, raw grain. The remainder show 
various shades of  spirit-based wood stain effects.

The exposed timber components that were cut from the antique shelf are all fresh and raw-looking as a result the slicing and dicing. I am beginning to experiment with wood stains and finishes to restore the appearance of the original shelf surface.

Although a natural wax finish would be very desirable, it is clear that the ongoing maintenance of such a finish would be hard to guarantee as the long-term venue and storage arrangements are not yet known. A low-maintenance option must be employed - for example, a water-based satin floor varnish may prove the best option. Who knows if solvent-based finishes will still be available or legal in 50 years time when this model is itself a heritage item?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Construction begins

I am very keen to incorporate something of the original Victorian shop in the model to render a sense of continuity. 

We were very fortunate in that David & Susan Porter (the current owners) presented us with an original pine shelf from the office within the shop. This 150+ year old timber is beautifully seasoned and sweet-smelling when sawn.

The original shelf, prior to cutting

With careful planning and cutting, I was able to clad the entire outer sections of both model plinths.
My approach to the styling was to reflect the tongue & groove panelling which features extensively throughout the interior walls and ceiling of the shop.

Some of the custom-profiled section required to form the plinth.

The larger plinth, for the shop and forge starts to take shape.
Note the display drawer slide mechanisms in position for a trial fitting.
Barn model - basic carcass construction completed
Detail showing tongue & groove panelling and the 
stopped chamfer corner features
Checking the joints for squareness.

Detail showing baseboard fixing method

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Survey

We have very few original, period photographs and there are no known existing plans or drawings of the JH Adams & Sons Littleport premises. Virtually every scrap of information has had to be recorded via a painstaking series of surveys.

Hundreds of photographs (both exterior and interior) of the shop, forge, yard and Cromwellian barn have been produced by Helena G Anderson & Myself. Every nook and cranny has been measured and recorded and translated into a series of sketches and architectural scaled drawings.

Shop front entrance
Shop rear elevation
Stairs to first floor sales room

Shop interior

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Brief

The Family Adams Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is an exciting event for everyone to enjoy.  It will save for future reference, a vital aspect of community heritage found in the history of J H Adams, Ironmongers, 17 Main Street, in the Conservation Area of Littleport, Cambridgeshire. 

The J.H. Adams Hardware store is an integral part of Main Street. It’s easy to assume it would always be there, with the great shop front dominating the street and its windows full of tools, house wares and gardening equipment.  Inside its like you have stepped back in time with its great walls of dark wood drawers containing nails, screws and who knows what else. At the heart of the community J H Adams is as significant today as it has always been. 
The Family Adams project intends to create a public archive of local and national historic cultural events from artefacts, records and recollections which could be lost if action is not taken before the sale of the shop, which has served local residents and Cambridgeshire-wide customers for more than 100 years.  
Major aims of the project include exploring the past, talking with young and older members of Littleport, collecting and recording memories, stories and images.  Activities of local people and associated objects, perhaps unseen since the 1900’s, still significant in the life of the Fens, will remind us of traditions upon which present day events such as children’s outings and skating on ice, have their origins.  Littleport has a truly original place in history including a mention in the Doomsday Book.   
Robyn Llewellen, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said, “We at HLF are delighted to be able to support this imaginative project.  Spending time together and experiencing a sense of shared history can help bring communities closer together, and this is a particularly creative way of collecting and preserving the stories that have helped define the character and history of Littleport”.  
A big thank you to the proprietors of J.H Adams & Sons, David and Susan Porter. Without their kind support and encouragement this project would not have been made possible.

The Family Adams Project team
Helena G Anderson - Photographer
Jean Rees-Lyons - Playwright
Adam Giles and Richard Millen - Film makers/Webmasters
John Lyons  -  Poet & Artist 
Cary and Ricki Outis - Professional artists
Nicola Power - Archivist 
Zoe Davidson - ADeC's Project Manager
Trevor JJ Vincent (me) - Model maker