There is something quite Gothic about old lighthouses. Their lonely positions and the weather conditions that they were built to withstand create a somewhat romantic image that I have exploited on a number of occasions with my photography.
Most are now automated and the lifestyle of the lighthouse keepers is a fading memory now but it is something that appeals to me for a modelling project.
I’m not aiming to produce an authentic representation of any particular light but I will take interesting ideas from wherever I can find them and add my own creative elements too. I’m also hope to transport the viewer into my dark and gothic imagination along the way.
Like the Vardo project and “Fingers End”, I will post progress pictures as I go starting right from the design stages. As the Covid-19 pandemic moves into it’s second wave, I’m hoping this should keep me busy in the workshop for a few months.
8th October MMXX
Today I have been mainly waiting for the post and "coopering".
I'm waiting for a large graph pad to arrive so I can get on with the drafting of my next project. I've done all I can on A4 pads, I need larger plans now.
I'm also waiting for bits to arrive for the build. Most specifically the lighting controller because The Lighthouse is going to be a lot more complicated than anything I've done so far and I need to check how the lighting rig works before I can plan where the wiring will be built in.
The only thing that arrived today was a bag full of barrels.
I've used barrels in both of my earlier builds but this one needs a few of them.
They start off as cheap and fairly crude turned wood "toy" barrels but with a bit of carving, a bit of kolrosing and a bit of lead flashing tape they end up looking a bit more realistic.
I'll fit the bungs and taps another day. My fingers are tired now.
Hopefully the pads or the controller will arrive tomorrow...
9th October MMXX
Still no sign of the pads but the controller arrived today along with a few other envelopes.
I have found key rings to be a very useful source of miniature lanterns.
They come unilluminated of course but a bit of work soon sorts that out. A small hole drilled through the back to just behind the lens allows me to slip an LED in and hey presto, let there be light.
Pleased to say the controller works even better than I had hoped. It has a flickering mode which can simulate candle flames or fire but I could not determine from the instructions whether they were independent or in sync. I suspected they would run off a single chip and therefore be in sync, which would result in all the candles flickering in the same rhythm. I’m delighted to find that all 20 channels are independent.
I was also intrigued to discover that the flickering modes also stack up with the in built modulation of a flickering LED which creates a third and fourth option which may be useful.
I will write more on that when the electrics start to go in.
The contents of one of the other envelopes was this little fellow.
10th October MMXX
Still no sign of the sodding pads. Patience is not my strong point and I cannot progress the drafting which in turn holds everything else up.
For the construction of the main shell I need to measure from the drawings and reducing it down to fit on A4 paper will simply not be accurate enough.
A3 will be barely adequate, I will probably spread it across two vertical sheets of A3 for the final plan.
What I can do at least is make a set square for the job.
There are two angles that will reoccur all the way through the build.
The lower walls are angled in by 3° from the vertical or 87° from the horizontal depending how you look at it.
The tower is octagonal so there are also eight internal corners of 135° in every room.
As the furniture will have to be built specially to fit, having these angles readily to hand will be a job that pays for itself back many times over.
I guess this is the first teaser of the overall shape for you. It’s going to have a lot more going on of course by the time it is finished but there will be three floors in the tapered section, One in the section above and the gallery and lantern above that.
The motor and gearing for the lens carriage should all fit in the roof section.
When I produced this early drawing, I was planning on a spiral staircase. That idea has been replaced following a bit of research and there will now be a central ladder well instead which can also be used as an internal winch way.
At least it hasn't been an unproductive day.
More "coopering", this time a few buckets and I've been converting non working lanterns to receive a "Grain of Wheat" bulb for lighting the store room and the boat house.
Some of these will be connected via wiring running up through the surface they are sitting on. I discovered while building the Vardo, that it is also possible to replace the bail handle with wiring to supply a hanging lantern as well so I’ll do that for some of them. too
12th October MMXX.
It is traditional when starting a new building to hold a ground-breaking ceremony sometimes even with a brass plaque.
Well, I’m still hampered by the late arrival of my drafting pads but there are at least a few features I can start on and one of those is the floor plates that I know the size of.
This will be the internal size at the base of the lighthouse. This size is also the floor space in the operations room just below the lantern but all the other floors need to be measured from the drawings to be accurate.
You can see that it will be a compact space to furnish. Approximately 10” wide, so like the Vardo it will be a test in the practical use of space.
I’ve added the rope bucket handles and the barrel bungs now. The taps will be added when I am sure of their final positions.
By midday when the only thing to arrive in the post was the starboard navigation lantern key ring I got fed up of waiting for the mythical A3 drafting pads to arrive and decided to make a start working from the smaller drawings and a bit of dead reckoning.
There is a limit to what I can do working from A4 but there is also a limit to my patience.
Fortunately, the way my mind works I imagine objects in a conceptual way, almost like vectors, The design fits together remarkably well considering.
I will measure in the floors tomorrow and fix in the sills that they will rest upon.
I still need the bigger pads as they will help me position the windows and external fixtures.
The lamp globe is just there sitting on a polish tin to give an impression of where the real lantern will be built.
There will be three rooms in the lower section and a boat house to the right of the tower with a slipway leading to the "sea" of the window sill.
At least I feel like I’ve made a proper start at long last.
An odd little detail that might not be apparent from the first picture is that I decided to chamfer the walls in the opposite direction from what may seem obvious, in effect increasing the gap on the outer angles of the walls.
The reason for this will become important later because where most people would see a gap, I saw an opportunity to build in wiring conduits and create corner buttresses at the same time.
With the walls in place I was then able to measure up the floor spacing and glue the battens in place that the floors will rest on.
From there it is a simple job to measure out and cut the floor plates.
Putting it back together again, this time with all the floors installed.
the view of the other side shows you the conduits which will form the corner buttresses.
14th October MMXX
I have an old friend who is an architect and he once said to me that a little architectural detail goes a long way.
The Victorians were not particularly known for moderation in ornamental decoration but I love the little details they incorporated into otherwise quite functional buildings.
For what I had in mind I needed arched lintel beams and with a little thought they were a simple build.
Holes drilled on a grid and then cut though the holes to create the arches.
With the addition of some cut sections of coving, this is the sill that supports the overhanging masonry forming the upper part of the tower then.
I will fettle it up a bit more when the wall plates are finally glued into position.
A wider shot showing the whole tower, again with the lamp globe to represent the lantern house and also you can see the central ladder well and the reinforcement of the base.
The post brought a couple of items for the boat house including the star of the show.
I did have my eye on a beautiful kit that was supposed to be on the market soon but when that was withdrawn from the listings I fell back on this replica of a two man skiff.
Like many miniatures, it needs some work doing to it to bring up to scratch but it's a good place to start from.
The other arrival was another key ring, ripe for conversion into a working lamp.
I think I shall be spending the afternoon in the company of some sand paper.
15th October MMXX
Started the morning with a bench test of the optical system for the main lantern.
There will be four Fresnel lenses in a carriage suspended from the top, rotated by a hight torque motor running at about 3 revolutions per minute.
That should produce a flash interval of twelve per minute or one every five seconds.
The bench test is important so that I can work out the best position for the lenses. I had calculated it according to their focal length from a point source but in reality they worked better with a diffuser around the bulb which added ¼” to their ideal spacing.
Very glad I made the test.
I still have room for the carriage rotating within the lantern housing but it is going to be snug, in keeping with the rest of this build I guess.
I started looking at the base today. It needs to accommodate the lighting control box so I built up a floor and raised the boathouse a little to match.
This will give me access from underneath when needed, which hopefully will not be often.
It also allows me to put a ramp in on the right hand side and build a quay at the front which will overhang the windowsill. I have left some excess board in place because I am waiting for another element before I decide where to put the edge of the terrain.
Fitting the roof was interesting. Where it meets the lighthouse you have two surfaces each sloping vertically meeting the roof at two different angles and one is at a horizontal angle as well... I really should have paid much more attention to three dimensional plane geometry at school.
Nevertheless I am pleased with the structure as it has come together. I’m starting to get a sense of where the windows will fit now.
17th October MMXX
Mostly been working on “invisibles” today. Stuff that does not show but still needs doing.
I did board and rafter the inside of the boat house roof though so that’s a nice job done.
I don’t drink coffee but coffee stirrers do have their uses.
A useful little discovery I made today was in connection with the wiring.
As I mentioned before, the lighting controller runs twenty channels which it does using twenty five wires.
These are organised into five buses of five screw down connectors consisting of a common positive and four individually controlled negative connectors..
My plan until today was to use a four core telecom cable to carry the control current and a separate wire for the common current.
Whilst bundling up some lengths of cable ready for this job I noticed that there was a bit of extra space in the sheath of the telecom cable and with a little experimentation I found that I could actually run the common wire inside the sheath.
While this makes no difference to the performance of the wiring, it does appeal to my sense of neatness and order.
You can see the extra brown wire in this picture ready for connection to the controller, which I have also built a box for to protect it at times when the diorama may be dismantled for transport.
My intention is to have the controller and the sensor permanently connected to the lighthouse but hidden under the base of the boat house.
The boat house electrics will be connected with a four pin connector allowing both the lighthouse and boat house to be removed from the baseboard.
This should make construction and maintenance much easier.
17th October MMXX
The drafting pads finally arrived yesterday which meant that I could plan the layout at last, which meant I could position the windows, get them cut and finally glue the main structure together today. Huzzah.
The top section is still loose for ease of working but it feels like a solid object at last and I should be able to proceed to some of the more interesting stuff soon.
Sometimes, inspiration comes from the oddest of places.
I was wiping the bench down with a wet wipe to remove a spill of glue when I realised I had the answer to one of my problems in my hand.
19th October 2020
I had been looking for a way to provide a good key on the metal conduits that I could stick to with PVA. The wet wipe is made from a synthetic non woven textile that is remarkably strong and of course absorbent.
I decided to rinse a few out, dry them overnight and recycle them as a base covering for the MDF and of course over the conduits. This should produce a good micro texture between the masonry, provide a key for gluing over the metal and reinforce the hot glue joint between the MDF and the aluminium. Hot glue is great for a fast grab and gap filling but not so good for long term joints.
I’ve turned the tower around here to give you a better look at the effect. It doesn’t matter that it looks a bit patchy here, It will be painted and very little of it will actually be visible when the stonework is in place.