Friday, 5 July 2013

Gnome House

Ok, so for those non quilt enthusiasts out there, this is something very different.

A couple of years ago I came across a wonderful blog called Wee Folk Art. It's a mother and daughter team who love crafting, especially anything gnome related and they make beautiful playthings for their children/grandchildren. They're not blogging quite so frequently as when I first started following them but they still come out with lots of gems. All their old tutorials and patterns are also still available on their blog - and these include a huge number of beautiful ideas, lots of felt, wool and wood ideas and all gorgeous, bright colours. I particularly liked their homemade gnomes and I fell in love with their Gnome House and all its accessories. Here's a link to their Gnome House, all decked out for Christmas (sorry, bit unseasonal I know)

I have long wanted to make one for my children but they don't have any detailed instructions on how they made theirs and, since I'm far from an expert in anything wood related, I've been scared to try. But I finally decided for this last birthday that I'd give it a go.

I'd been looking out for, and collecting, possible supplies for this for quite a while. We're very lucky to have some woods right next to us and a while ago lots of the trees were chopped and there was a fair bit of wood debris left lying around afterwards. I found several large slices of tree trunk, one was slightly on the thick size but just about OK for a base and I managed to saw off a couple of thinner slices for 2 more 'storeys' for my house. This was the only time my husband has ever helped with anything crafty, and he has as little interest (or aptitude!) in DIY as he does for crafts so I was very honoured! I think if he hadn't taken turns with the sawing I might just have given up at that point because it was arm achingly tedious, so I was very grateful for the help.

The rest of the supplies were much easier to find and cut (I've got a little electric hand saw but even by hand I think I would have managed) - just smaller logs and branches which I sawed into discs or kept as longer lengths.

Since I really am no expert with wood it's hard for me to give you a 'tutorial' or anything along those lines as to what exactly I did - I just sort of muddled my way through it! (Same with most things really, I'm not a 'follow a pattern' kind of person I'm afraid). But I knew I was going to start writing a blog when I made it so I did take quite a few photos during the making and I'll try and explain them a bit.

The most essential part is a drill with particular drill bits that make nice wide holes, rather than the usual screw sized holes. This is what the drill bits look like and I found these just in any old DIY shop.

So when you use them you get this kind of hole (see below) - making sure it doesn't go too deep so it doesn't pop all the way through to the other side.

This is my base
I decided I'd have 3 'branch' support poles for my 1st floor but, as you'll see later, I wanted another longer support that would go up past the 1st floor and be a support for my 2nd floor - so that's why there are 4 drill holes on the slab above.

Make sure you sand any rough bits on your wood after you've cut them
My 2 thinner slices of wood both split after we sawed them (I was chatting to a tree surgeon about wood generally after this had happened and he said the best way to try and avoid this is to bring your wood in the dry and warm and keep it in for a good while before you try and cut it - but basically it often splits anyway!). I decided to embrace the split and enlarged it with my little saw to make an opening for the 'stairs'.

The 'stairs' are made from discs of logs/branches graduating in size to get smaller by the top. I drilled just normal screw size holes in these and then glued and screwed them in place - starting with the biggest one at the bottom.

And then kept going with the drilling, gluing and screwing to add subsequent discs, getting smaller and 'stepped' all the way up. With each new disc I covered the previous screw hole so the screws didn't spoil the natural look. The last couple of discs for the highest of the stairs were too tricky to screw in place so I just glued them, but the very top stair disc I did screw, only this time I screwed it upwards to the underside of the 1st floor slab.

At this point I tried out my branch supports in the 3 wide holes on the base and holding the 1st floor slice carefully over the top of this I worked out where I'd need holes in the underside of this slice to slot the supporting branches into. I marked these with a pencil and drilled my 3 holes in there. Then I put a good dollop of my wood glue in all of these wide holes, top and bottom, and slotted in my branch supports (which I'd carefully chosen to be just the right thickness to fit snugly in the holes)

I thought it would be best to leave everything to dry at this point. I put a big heavy chicken doorstop on top to hold it all down firmly.

The next day it was all still standing and, amazingly, all seemed quite strong and firm. So I sort of did the same thing with the 2nd floor, only without the stairs this time (they were the fiddliest part). And remember I already had the extra long support in place, so it was only a further 2 supports I needed to add. Before I glued the 2nd floor in place I drilled a slightly smaller hole on the top of it to stick an extra, smaller stick up there - just to dangle things from and look interesting really! I seem to have forgotten to take photos at this stage - I think I was probably a bit too excited that it was actually working and that it was nearly finished! But here it is finished:

There were no stairs to get from floor 1 to floor 2 so I just made a little ladder - a thin branch split in 2 downwards with little holes drilled either side at regular intervals and then twigs stuck through these for the rungs.

With all my branch supports I was happy to leave any firm little knobbly bits on them, cutting them shorter if they stuck out too much, so that children can hang things from these - there's a washing line hanging up below on some knobbles and there are plans for some gnome sized bunting I've been told.

We already had quite a few gnomes to live in the house:

I'd made these a while back (just with my little electric saw and some scraps of wood - the shape is all straight line cutting and then sanded down in a few places to soften the lines, so don't feel like these are impossible unless you have some fancy jigsaw machine (just watch out for your fingers!). The idea for these also came directly from 'Wee Folk Art' and I think they have a much better and more succinct tutorial for making these than I could ever write. And there are various other gnome designs they suggest, mainly out of peg doll shapes that you can buy cheaply (so no sawing required if that seems a bit scary).

I put a few other wooden dolls house accessories with it, as well as some other wooden creatures I'd made before and my Gnome House was all set. There are so many other accessories that my girls and I have in mind to make (we've already made some gnome sleeping bags - out of scraps, jumper sleeves and mittens) - I'm sure I could fill several blog posts with these, but you'd be much better off going to the Wee Folk Art website and having a trawl through all their ideas. It really is a lovely blog if you like this kind of thing.

Does all that make any sense? I'm very sorry if it doesn't! Wee Folk Art have said in the past that they've had lots of requests for a tutorial on their Gnome House and they may possibly do one if and when they build another of the houses from scratch. So if I've completely befuddled you then watch their space and hope!

It may all look scary, which is why I'd put off trying it for so long, but it wasn't actually anything like as difficult as I'd thought. The hardest part was probably getting the 3 slices of wood in the first place. I have seen another of this kind of thing somewhere on the web (sorry, no idea where now - but there was no tutorial there either) and they had used a round wooden table top as their base. If you haven't got any handy woods to scavenge in you could try to find a friendly tree surgeon who might be able to help or a sawmills perhaps. Or the other option that I did come up with, when I was really fed up with the initial sawing, was to cut up a wooden pallet and glue the planks together into a round shape, with 2 further planks running in the opposite direction underneath for some strength - not sure whether this would work or not but might be worth a try.

What I really took from this project was to not be scared to give something a try, you just don't know what you're capable of if you don't give it a go. I can't stress enough that I really am no expert at making things from wood. And I'll quickly finish off with an example of this. When I started this project and was initially trying to drill my first big, wide hole on the base I just wasn't getting anywhere, it didn't seem to be going in at all. I'd never used this type of drill bit before so I wasn't really sure how it was going to work.We've got some building work going on at the moment so I took my wood and my drill out to my friendly builder and asked him whether it was supposed to do what I wanted it to do. He was sure it should and my drill bit was all nice and new and sharp so he couldn't understand why it wouldn't work. He plugged the drill in to give it a go himself and realised immediately that I had my drill in reverse! I didn't even realise my drill had a reverse! So if you have children who would love a house like this, and you can get your hands on some wood then give it a go.

I'm not planning on posting anything tomorrow. I've got too many things to finish and the house is a mess but more importantly the sun will be shining and the beach will be calling! Good luck to friends running in the 'Race for Life' tomorrow and I'll be back on Monday.
Have a good weekend, Sally.

1 comment:

  1. I love this house! Thanks for the description. I have a large piece of log that is waiting for me to saw into pieces for this very purpose. Too many projects in queue I guess...


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