Eldritch Elf: 5 XII 18

…I’m starting to feel like I’ve got to get a move on. This is a more involved project than I had initially imagined, and a new baby sure cuts into your hobby time!

Anyway, I’ve finished the subtractive surfacing of the wall. The glue held without difficulty and the frames gave me a much better frame of reference for cutting the bricks. Score.

I should have snapped a pic or two beforehand, but here I am with my two primary tools at this stage. I’m cutting bricks with the razor. I’m not measuring or using a ruler, everything is by hand. This will give an interesting (I think) Hans-drawn effect. The worst (little turd-looking) bricks you can just pop out later and they won’t stick out too much.

I use the corner of the ruler to define the ragged edge of the plaster and simultaneously begin to push the brick surface down, creating the impression that the plaster sits over top.

I’ve gouged our a few bricks, reinforcing the visual flow of the plaster. For the texture I’m building up on the plaster I use two excellent tools: the ruler & your thumb nail.

With these little details, DON’T be fussy or you will make things unnaturally regular. If you add damage slowly you can always do more, but you can’t take it off once it’s there.

Here’s a shot of how different tools will affect your final product. On the top the bricks are cut with a toothpick, on the bottom with a burnishing tool. I’m going to go with the more cartoony/fantastical/exaggerated bricks created with the burnishing tool.

Little tests like these can be really useful and often fun. Here I learned what a toothpick would do, and I could see applications for it in the future. Sometimes these little tests become tiny, stress-free projects in their own right.

We’ve got the bricks gapped out with the burnishing tool.

I’ve also bashed up the plaster with a rock, applying different pressure and using different faces & corners on different sections of the plaster.

Looking pretty good, but still a little sterile.

Using something small enough to fit but big enough to work, we push a bunch of bricks in to different depths, leaving a few all the way up.

Even though it looks pretty simple, there’s a lot of distinct surfaces, different texture, and stank on it. These will all help it take washes and other weathering effects well, and we’ll exploit them in painting as well.

Eldritch Elf: 4 XII 18

Just a touch of structural work here. Soon we’ll tackle the details. Should be pretty quick work.

Create a hole to the size of the door. I just used a razor blade and then dug the foam out with a flat gouge-y tool.

Glue it in with wood glue.

We’re just going to frame it out a little with styrene. The molding on the top was created using the same techniques as that in the door. Sorry I have no pictures of the process, but this was left over from a previous project.

We’ll see if I’ve made the right decision gluing in the plastic before the detailing of the wall surface. I won’t be shocked if it all gets dislodged when I’m making bricks in the foam. Fingers crossed!

Eldritch Elf: 1 XII 18

A few extra touches to build the door up a bit.

We’re just using strips of styrene to build up on the original framework. This easily and quickly builds up a third layer of the door, with the little molding adding a couple more.

There it is. I wish I had thought to work a little Lovecraftian swirl into the central intersection, but I’m afraid I’ll damage it if I tear it apart now. I’ll need to make a handle for the door and then we’ll need to frame it into the wall.

Eldritch Elf: 28 XI 18

Welcome back to the Gilman House, friends. Here’s another living tutorial, sent from my relatives in Innsmouth.

Ok, I tried to cheat and grab a door and maybe a window from the realm of train lay-outs. It’s fun to share my minis-based hobby with my dad, who is a lifelong model railroad fanatic. Knowing about these things, I was hoping for something in O Gauge. I only found HO doors, though, and some O gauge doors that didn’t suit my need.

I was shopping at a truly great old school place in Pittsburgh, Esther’s in Millvale. It’s a time machine, but still vital. The man who runs it is Esther’s son, and he’s a treasure.

Esther’s didn’t have the parts I was after, but I picked up one of my special sanders. We’ll use that later.


Get your music ready. This is fiddly work, but I think it’s best done with a full head of steam. I listened to two of my favorites: Flower Travellin’ Band’s Satori and Magma’s Üdü Wüdü. Check em out.

I often use albums to give me a sense of pace as I work. I still buy & use CDs (I’m several generations behind in music technology, and now my car won’t play the music I want it to), so every 45 minutes or so I have to go stretch my legs, take a breath, and reorient myself to the overall direction of the work.

Here are some supplies we’ll need. I like these little metal rulers rather than a 12″ one. Use a sharp blade, change it often. On top sits the foamboard, for scale.

Then I just have a bunch of styrene scraps. Because everything is going to be so small, you don’t need big virgin sheets of expensive styrene. Keep these little odds & ends when you’re building big stuff.

I make a little door that looks like the right size. Then I figure out how deep the trim ought to be and cut some long strips. Using the door as a ruler, I make the outer trim pieces for the door.

We’re going to glue these trim pieces into place now. Building stuff like a door is about building up layers of appropriate thickness. You can do it with styrene, wood, board, and other stuff. It’s a really useful way of designing & building little custom bits for yourself.

BEST TIP OF THE TUTORIAL: Glue on coin. With tiny stuff, you can’t glue directly from the applicator. That gel stuff sucks, I don’t care what you say. Put the glue on the coin and apply it to your model with a toothpick. My English friends have taught me that this is called a ‘cocktail stick’ there. If you’ll be doing a lot of gluing (like when you’re building a door), it’s useful to glue the coin down, too.

To be frank, it’s pretty sloppy. I can sand most of that away, and anything that goes beyond dilapidation into implausibility can be hidden with weathering effects and doodads.

Don’t get bogged down on these details. You can deal with them later. Sometimes as I’m forced to surmount these little challenges I light upon some felicitous solution. Many a bad highlight has been hidden by a tiny paper butterfly.

Now let’s add some finer details. We’ll make little strips of molding. Take a super skinny piece of styrene thinner than the outer framing, use it to measure out a piece twice as wide, and cut these. You’ll need to cut through the styrene a good way before you can break off such a slender ribbon, so be careful.

Marry the two together with superglue. How do you glue one side of a piece of plastic that’s 1/16th of an inch wide? Use a toothpick to edge highlight it. Boom! Penny superglue holder for the win!

You’ll need to use flat surfaces & steady pressure to get these things glued properly. I’m not going to lie: it’s fiddly. Super fiddly.

You could do this much more quickly and neatly using precut styrene strips, but…

On this project I’m aiming for a sort of cheap paperback, run down look of things. I allow and encourage these these little wrinkles to proliferate. Not only can they be worked into the final product to serve the desired aesthetic, but the minor, almost imperceptible flaws help establish a slightly off kilter, vaguely wrong feeling about the space & geometry of the scene. This disquieting, undefinable oddness to places, people, and our own experience is essential to Lovecraftian horror. We’ll try to reinforce this creepiness later on as we add weathering effects, lighting effects, scenic details, and more.

If you are looking for a perfect facsimile of an actual door, this is not how you do it. You can buy really nice doors, and you can print them, I’m sure. This is how I make doors.

For what it’s worth, I’m also deeply committed philosophically to this kind of rapid adaptation to imperfection approach. Eventually in ToadChapel proper a philosopher will be born to put these ruminations into writing, and others will visit to challenge and disprove his theories.

Here’s where I got tonight.

I may leave it at that, or I may add the trim all the way around. There are options here, which you can read about below, as they ramble a bit.


At this point let’s take a step back and start really formalizing some (provisional) plans for the detailing of the building.

I’ve already checked some key passages from ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth,’ but now I’ll go back and reread the story. This is an integral part of the process of making it. Time must be set aside and the reading must take place in the proper setting with the appropriate mood. What comes out of that engagement with Lovecraft’s work is what needs to go into the scenic vignette. I need to find the particular atmosphere I want. I may want a very pulpy, EC Comics vibe, or a more sinister, repellent feeling. I may heavily emphasize the maritime [glug] culture of Innsmouth town, or just bloop some tentacles on there and paint em purple. When drawing inspiration from Lovecraft, I like to try to straddle that line between the ridiculous and the disturbing.

We’ll try to fit our methods to our desired aesthetic. It’s getting close to full commitment, construction-wise; for now, though, we can still replace the foam with another material, we can alter or replace the door, we can approach the foreground however we choose, etc. Before we advance too much farther, we must make a few decisions about how we’re going to pull this together.

Leave any feedback, questions, or advice in the Comments section below.

Eldritch Elf: 27 XI 18

Solstice time has come again, and that means the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society‘s annual gift exchange! This year we’ve begun calling it Eldritch Elf. I love this thing. Those who participate are given the name & address of another member of the Society to whom they must send a gift, etc etc. This exchange, though, is all Lovecraft fanatics. Like a good elf, I always make a unique piece for my unknown friend.

I have more fun, and I hope my gift’s recipient does too, if my creation goes all around the world, so I now request it. I’m spreading my sinister cheer across the globe! I’ve sent items to England and Argentina. This time it’s New Zealand! I’ve been warned it’s expensive!!!

For 2018 I’m going to make a street scene showing the entrance to Gilman House, a historic hotel in Innsmouth you really must try next time you’re visiting the coast.

I’ll document the construction process by way of a sort of living tutorial. If you have any questions leave them in the comments.

Start with a block of wood. Thanks, Bruno!

Mine’s 1.5″. I like my scenes ultra-tight, but you need enough room to add some actual details.

We’re going to use foamboard for the front. We’ll carve bricks and maybe some plaster, and recess a door and a (partial) window. This is just some leftover foamboard from my wife’s old job.

Get a strip of styrene the width of the block.

When you cut styrene, even thick styrene, just score it lightly and ease it into a nice snap. It will break very cleanly. Styrene is great stuff.

Make another, much narrower ribbon. It makes no difference how thick, other than altering the dimensions of the wall.

It’s gonna fit. You’ll notice I haven’t measured anything. I don’t know how high the bit of foamboard is, how deep the side panel, or anything. I don’t measure. The geometry doesn’t require standardized units, so I just allow the structure itself to dictate cuts, angles, etc.

This is a handmade object. It’s not supposed to be perfect. Just get in there and start putting it together!

This does not mean you can be imprecise or sloppy. Your work must be very exact. It just doesn’t need to be measured.

This openness to creative chaos is how I approach guitar, too. I’m never anywhere near concert pitch. Don’t need to be! What the hell is a middle C, anyway? Some arbitrary wavelength.

I have lots of thoughts on these sorts of things. Anyway.

Superglue the big piece. This will be the back of the scene. Put the glue on like your middle school art teacher taught you, then use a toothpick or something to spread it around even a bit more. You want it thin.

And run a fan. Seriously. That’s a decent dollop of superglue.

Brace it with square styrene.

Nice. I’m going to head to the train store soon to see if I want to use O gauge windows & doors, and I’ll pick a great tool I need to replace. It’s a super duper sanding block, basically. I’ll sand down any rough edges on the bottom and sides.

I trim up the sides of my foamboard and call it a day.

This was maybe an hour of quick enjoyable work. I find it useful to periodically impose a new perspective on myself, and this project requires a shift from what I’ve been doing lately. I’m enjoying banging out Dark Angels for Kill Team, but I feel excited to jump into something very different. Things like Eldritch Elf give me a great deal of inspiration as well as joy. Good luck in your search for both!