Sunday, August 28, 2011

Subdividing the 0-Gauge Zen Garden - Part 2, Douse That Light!

Original price: 89 cents. Fifty years later: $10.00. This
Plasticville Cape Cod house is not an extremely rare item,
but still one worth preserving, I think.
In part 1 I outlined the plan for adding on to my tinplate layout. The first problem had to dow tih housing. Since this is a layout primarily of toy s rather than models, I feel I have a custodial relationship to a lot of the items  I use for it.

As much as possible, I try to make any alterations non-permanent and reversable, so that at some future date (like after I'm gone), someone else can enjoy these things as much as I do.

For the mountaintop, I wanted to use two small Cape Cod houses from Plasticville. These houses were originally offered in 1949 and were one of Plasticville's most popular products (and still being made today).

What happens when a light is placed inside a thin plastic
structure. I wanted illuminated windows, not walls!
I wanted to put lights in the houses, but as you can see from the photo, there's a real problem -- the light shines right through the walls.

Now Plasticville structures per se are quite plentiful. I could glue opaque panels to the windows, spray paint the interior walls black and glue the whole thing together. And if the houses I had were from the 1970's or later, that's what I would do.

But the houses I do own have survived in their original condition -- in their original boxes -- since at least 1951. To permanently alter them now (I think) would be a shame.

So I achieved the same results with some reversable modifications. Using a sheet of opaque paper, I made templates for each of the four walls (the window patterns are unique for each side of the house). From the template, I then made black paper lining for the walls, cutting out the window areas (right).
 After that, I cut out squares from the opaque paper to serve as window glass. (It's a little bit of a fudge, but it lets me have light shine out without having to detail the interior of the structure. Remember, the goal here isn't a realistic model of a house at night, but a representation of a house at night.)

The next step was to place the black paper outlines onto the house sides. I used double-sided tape so everything could be removed and the house restored to its original condition. I left some overhang on both the sides and the top of the paper. This allowed me to have seamless corners, ensuring that no light leaked out.

As you can see from the photo at right, I had to make sure there was enough clearance so that the pegs holding the roof in place could settle properly. I cut a rectangular piece of black paper to make a ceiling for the the house, confining the light to a black box.

As you can see from the image below, I got the desired results. You might notice a little leakage at the bottom. This was a temporary location for the house -- I just placed it over an existing light installation to get the shot. When I put the house where it belongs, I'll seal the bottom with electrical tape to ensure that the only light you see is from the windows!

The prefab Plasticville Cape Cod houses are now ready to move onto their lots. The next step is to prepare those lots.

Subdividing the 0-Gauge Zen Garden
Part 1: The Plan
Part 3: Paving Paradise
Part 4: Rocking the Details

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