... So there it was, all nice and pretty and waiting for the next inevitable step.
My heart was heavy with dread at preparing for the next phase of fabrication. It looked so beautiful as is, I really didn't want to have to mess it up. But the clients wanted the box to look very old and beat up. Of the three props, they wanted the box to show the most weathering and damage from age and abuse. So I grabbed my tools, took a DEEP breath, and started tearing into it.
First I started hammering dents into the surface with a small ball peen hammer, then I took some heavier swings at it with a claw hammer. Then I started raking the claw of the hammer across the surface. Then I started making divots and gouging small chunks out of it with the claw. I was making some significant damage, but it was not enough. I have done this kind of distressing in the past to simulate age, and usually, just a few dozen light whacks with the hammer to dent it up is sufficient to make it look old, but this project called for more extreme measures.
The claw hammer wasn't quite doing it, so I took a few more gouges out with it, then moved on to some other instruments of torture. I used an icepick and put scores of punch holes in it. They kind of look like old tack or nail holes, or possibly boring insect holes.But what really started getting the job done was the flat head screwdriver. I started off taking stabs at it with the screwdriver, just tearing off little chunks as I went. Then I started using the screwdriver like a chisel and prying into the grain of the wood, and using a hammer to help chisel off slivers and chunks in a very controlled manner. I did this all over, but especially at the edges where I could get at the end of the wood grain. I just had to be careful not to go too deep, as the walls of the box were only maybe 3/8 of an inch thick and made of soft wood. I didn't want the thing to lose structural integrity.Oh, I almost forgot. I also used a razor knife to plane down some of the sharp edges of the box, just in spots.
After I had thoroughly gouged the hell out of this beautiful box, I colored in all the areas of raw wood with a black sharpie marker. Black sharpie is great for making damaged areas of wood look ancient. Then I gave the whole box another coat of dark brown stain to blend it in. One of the problems turned out to be getting into all those little holes I had made with the icepick. It was hard getting a marker down there, and even getting stain down into those holes was difficult. You can still see lots of little light colored dots all over it in the pics below. You can't hardly see them in normal light, but the flash from the camera makes them show up like a soar thumb. I did my best to darken them all, but I'm sure I missed some. I hope they don't show up on camera when it is filmed. It kind of ruins the effect.
The client and I talked about how the box should open. I thought that letting the lid open fully (180+ degrees) didn't look right. The client agreed. I laid out several options for limiting the distance the lid would open and he left it to my discretion as to how to go about it. I had originally intended on adding a strip of wood (1x1/2x7) along the back side of the box as a stop. When opened, the lid would rest against it and stop at about 120-130 degrees. I went so far as to make the piece. I even rounded and tapered the edges (which took a lot of work) and stained and distressed it to match the box, but when I put it in place for attachment, it just didn't look right. So I abandoned the rail idea and decided to use some light chain, with a nice antique bronze finish, attached to the lid on the inside. I attached it with some antique finished upholstery nails, that I had to cut down so that they didn't stick through the wood. I also put glue under the upholstery nail heads. Here is a pic with the nail heads clamped in place waiting for the glue to dry.
As soon as we started talking about the design of the box, I had it in my head that I wanted to use these cast resin pieces as iron bindings. I carved these pieces out of clay and then made rubber molds out of them, years ago. I modeled them after some images I saw on the internet. I made them along with some corner pieces (bosses) that I have been using on some of my books. But these larger pieces never quite fit any of my book projects. They were just too big for most of them. But they were the perfect size for this box. The original castings didn't have nail heads, so I used some self adhesive "dots" that I got from the scrap booking section of the craft store. I debated for a while what type of finish to use and decided that my ubiquitous bronze finish didn't quite fit the piece. Besides, it would look suspicious if the finish on the Box matched the finish on the Tome. There were already going to be some similarities in style ( I was using the bosses that matched these pieces). Ultimately, I decided to try out a new paint kit I picked up that gave a rusted iron finish. It is a multi-step system that took a little getting used to, but did give a nice finish.
At first I thought I might use these pieces on the lid of the box, but then I decided to use them to wrap around the corners. Lining them all up was a real chore. These would be the only parts of the box appliques that would be cast in resin. The rest I cut out of chipboard.
I was using the original brass hinges that came on the box, but they wouldn't match the faux hardware I was making, so I painted the hinges flat black and then applied the rust finish treatment to them. Then I augmented them with chipboard cut outs that gave the appearance of cast iron hinges that matched the other ironwork, complete with self adhesive "dots" serving as nail heads.
I had toyed with the idea of using a hasp and a real lock on the front of the lid, but I didn't have a convincing antique lock that looked the part. So I decided to make a fake lock face that matched the rest of the ironwork and would give the impression of a built in lock. The fake lock mechanism was a simple rectangular affair consisting of two pieces made from several layers of chipboard. I would later add tiny rivets around the edges with small dots of the liquid leading used in making faux stained glass projects (like my open sign). Then, after sealing the chipboard with Mod Podge, I applied the rust finish. Before applying the lock to the box, I glued a piece of black card stock to the back to give the keyhole depth. I do think this lock works for this piece, but it is by far the weakest element in the project, in my opinion. It is the first (and possibly the only) thing I would consider changing.
The straps that would go across the top of the lid, flanking the lion design, were a much more elaborate affair to create. They too were going to be made from chipboard, mostly because they needed to be able to bend around the curved front and back edge of the lid. I took some time deciding on their design. I had thought about doing something more elaborate and "scrollie", but it looked too busy next to the lion design. In the end, I went with a design that was patterned very closely on the resin pieces being used on the box sides. I had to create these from scratch for this project, so I started by making a paper template that was the correct size I needed to fit the box. Then I drew the design out at full scale, taking careful note of certain measurements so that the design elements would fall into the place where I wanted them on the lid.
Once I was satisfied with the design, I used the template to cut out the pieces from chipboard. I carefully bent the chipboard pieces to match the curve of the box. Because the cast corner pieces had a hammered surface texture, I needed to give these one as well. To achieve this, I just placed them on a hard surface and gave them a few dozen whacks with the ball peen hammer. The chipboard held the dings rather well. The divots were more subtle than those of the corner pieces, but they did show up. Then I sealed the pieces with Mod Podge, added "dots" to simulate nail heads, and painted them flat back. Then I applied the rust finish. In the pic below, you can see the chipboard hinge embellishments laying on top of the lid, before they were glued in place.
Not until I had finished all of the embellishments did I glue any of them in place. Now that I had the corner pieces, the straps and the lock all fabricated, fitted, and painted, I was ready to glue them on with white glue. I used masking tape to hold some of the pieces in place as they dried, especially the straps, which had to conform to the curve of the lid.
At this point it's almost finished, and I'm thinking it's starting to look pretty good. But like my earlier tomes that looked too "new", this piece needed some more finishing touches before it would be ready for its big screen debut...
(to be continued)
The Black Duke - the Diary (part 1)
The Black Duke - the Diary (part 2)
The Black Duke - the Box (part 1)
The Black Duke - the Box (part 3)
The Black Duke - the Tome (part 1)
The Black Duke - the Tome (part 2)
The Black Duke - the Set (fini)
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