Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pennsic House: The second story

After finishing all the bottom floor elements (less final paint) I put everything together and tested the fit to make sure I could move on, as well as get a sense of the overall look of what would be the main entertaining area of the house.

Up until this point I had only been working on the bottom floor as the ceiling height of the shop would not permit the entire structure being set up. To work on the top floor, I removed the 4x4 uprights and lowered the “ceiling” down to the floor structure and started assembly of the second story. The basic construction is the same using 4x4’s and the plastic skinned foam walls. However as there is a 16 foot height limit at the Pennsic site , the top floor is a bit shorter than the bottom floor and to keep the openness I used an open rafter style and a shallow pitch to the roof. (10 degrees)
The roof rafters are again of hollow box beam construction and light weight; in fact even with an overall length of 14 ft, one can be carried in each hand. (Although at 6’3” and 240#, I am a bit of a moose!)

Each rafter has a 1 ½” steel tube running through the wooden cross brace and welded to each end of this tube is a 4” square steel tube socket, just like the floor structure. These where foamed inplace with rigid urethane foam. These sockets drop down over the top of the 4x4 uprights. Welded across the top of each socket tube is a steel plate, this keeps the 4x4 from passing through the tube as well as allows a 3/8” stainless bolt to thread into a threaded insert in the top of each 4x4. This neatly ties the rafters down to each 4x4 upright.

 The roof is constructed from 10mm sheets of Coroplast. This is basically “corrugated plastic” Just like the corrugated cardboard boxed are made from, but polypropylene plastic. These sheets are very tough yet light weight. Since the material is like corrugated cardboard, it can be folded and “boxed” like it’s paper counterpart. I used a 4mm Coroplast to make folded box beams that drop down into the top of each rafter. These are pop riveted to the 10mm room material. These will be pinned into the box beams with a cross pin.

This drawing will better illustrate the construction.

To achieve a more period look, I used a vacuum formed “Spanish tile” roof panels over this that I bought from the Warner Brothers staff shop. Down the ridgeline of the roof, I constructed another Coroplast box beam reinforced flashing piece. Each roof panel is 7’x7’ and dovetails together with its neighbor to create a waterproof roof. Because I had around 350 sq. ft. of roof, I didn’t want any rain (often heavey at Pennsic) to shed onto our courtyard, or the neighbors. So I cut recesses in the tops of each end of the rafters and installed gutters. To keep them from looking like gutters they were painted to look like wood and the Spanish roof tile extended over them. But to drop the rain water into the gutters, the bottoms of the roof tiles were cut out were they extended over them.

For the arches I again fabricated the entire end of the house structure from the ¾” foam board and added vacuum formed arches. All bonded together with Weld-On. Since the floor needed to be light weight, it was made from the same foam board with a layer of 1/8” luan plywood. This was bonded to the styrene skins. Except for the “porch” area, as I knew this would get wet with rain and even with a urethane finish the luan would likely warp, I used a vinyl flooring. To make sure water could not find it’s way through joints in this floor section, I added raised “dykes” around each opening to prevent water from finding its way to the downstairs ceiling. I also pitched it towards the front so water would run off. At Pennsic we had some pretty heavy rains and even with the wide open arches the roof overhang (about 18”) kept most of the rain off the porch and any water just shed off the front of the house.

I knew that setting up a tall ladder to reach the upper walls and roof elements would be difficult. Setting up a tall ladder is unstable enough in grass but to make problems worse, the house would be very close to a canal on the back side, so a ladder there would be close to impossible. So I came up with a scaffold system that “plugged” into the houses frame. This scaffold would be 14’ feet long and the clips would plug into the metal frame elements at 12 foot increments around the house. The system consisted of a simple 3/4” diameter “Z” shaped bar made from tool steel and an additional 5/8” bar that when weight was applied, the whole assembly would twist and pin the scaffold board in place.

I tested the system (close to the ground) with 3 times the weight it would be supporting. I also put a long extension on the main bar and tested its stiffness, all was good to go. (This simple clever idea, that would come back to bite me!)

After completing the upper floor and balcony, I was down to the last couple of days. It was now time to paint everything. To give the walls a “finished plaster” look I needed a tough yet lightweight (also thin) coating that would stick to the styrene skin of the the walls and arch elements. Over the last few weeks I tested a number of things that came to mind, but I wasn’t really satisfied with anything. One day at Home Depot, looking at their “artistic” home finishes, I got to thinking, “What could you add to paint to give it a “plaster” like texture…” “What could you add to a Water based paint to give it a plaster texture….”

“Duh! Plaster!

So I went back to the shop and tried Plaster as well as Hydrocal and did some tests. The results were fantastic. The polymers in the paint kept the plaster from being brittle and the plaster set up because of the water in the paint. The result was it could be applied just like plaster with a trowel and thinly then, when it dried it was very tough. I settled on a 50/50 by volume mix of latex wall paint and plaster.

So over the weekend my wife and I painted all the walls inside and out. Exterior was white and the interior was a light mustard color. With help from a new shop employee, all the trim was painted a terracotta color. The plan was to hire a couple of motion picture scenic artists to give the entire house a complete “aging” to make all of the elements homogonous, but time was too short, so all that could be done was some scenic work to the fireplace and the ceiling.

The day before packing the house into the trailer, we set it up in the parking lot of the shop. This would be the first time the whole structure would be set up. With minor difficulties, it went together quite well.
I had planned on having period balcony railings but out of time I had to settle on just the simple bar railing.

I now knew I could assemble it completely at Pennsic. So with much help from the guys in my shop, we packed it into the 22’ enclosed trailer. Since we also had to pack all the furniture and some armour it was a bit tight, but we eventually got it packed. (It is about a 3 day drive across the US from California to Pennsylvania.) Finger crossed we hit the road.

No comments:

Post a Comment