Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Making the Set

Constructing Flats

Before we were let loose on an unsuspecting new tutor, the whole year had a crash course in basic woodwork conducted by the ever patient Simon so as not to look like complete muppets! I for one was extremely grateful!

We covered how to use a chop saw safely!

Making a mini flat  and skinning with ply

How to get things square

How to mitre corners

In either direction!

Predrilling holes to fix securely without splitting the wood

Routing using a hand held router

The walls of any set are called flats and the first thing you need to do is work out how many of them you need and what size.  Basic size for us was 4ft wide by 8ft high as this is the size ply skins come in.  Windows and doors need to be constructed out of a seperate flat not inserted into a large one, this means you may need to make headers or footers to suit the size of your window and door opening and put the window and door frame into, above or below that.   Make sure any three dimensional elements in the room such as bay windows, alcoves or fireplaces have been included in any calculations.

Our rooms will not have a ceiling as we are hoping to suggest a greater height to the room than we have space for therefore neither our windows or doors will have a header but will continue to the top of the flats.    

Pre-cut lengths of timber and ply skins to size for the flats you need to construct.  Remember to deduct the width of the timber from the middle bracing sections otherwise all your flats will be too wide.   Screw these together into predrilled holes ensuring that your frame is square.

This shows a finished frame being coated with pva ready to have its ply skin put on.  The frames are braced every 2ft to make the flats very strong, once put together it would be possible to climb these.

The ply skin is then offered up to the frame, in an ideal world it would be perfectly square however ...... ensure one side and bottom is flush and use a nail gun to secure then push and pull to achieve a best fit.   Use the nail gun to fix along the 2ft braces, this is easier if you draw a line on the surface of the ply.

Any overlaps in the ply can be routed flush with a palm router - note the highly technical dust extraction!
Our finished flats neatly stacked and ready for assembly.

Before we assembled the flats we painted the bottom 3ft mahogany to create the centre of our wood panelling.  The paint effect was achieved with a coat of red oxide followed by burnt umber and a final graining in black from a stiff brush.
Putting the flats together requires a team effort as the screws need to be put in at the back working from the bottom up every 2ft while being held together.  The front needs to be checked at the same time to ensure that the ply is flush at the point the screw is going into the frame i.e you also work from top to bottom every 2ft. 
It helps to lay the flats out into an approximate position prior to joining as this saves time.  Always start in a corner and work out from there.
If you have any flats that are a little difficult to persuade flush a wedge can be used to raise the bottom while fixing.
This is the study assembled and I am touching up a  section of the alcove for the bookcase that we missed when painting.
The doorframe is a double thickness of two flats joined together, one in the study wall and one the living room wall.  This does not have to always be the case, frames can be double skinned to provide two surfaces or the depth can be increased with blocks of wood cut to size and screwed between the flats.

This picture clearly shows the short footers made for the base of the windows.
Once assembled the walls need to be further braced with long L shaped sections of wood (made by screwing two lengths together) at the top and the bottom of the flats. 

Wood Panelling

The panelling and skirting was made out of Mdf in different thicknesses to create depth.  The skirting was 20cm high and made of 12mm mdf with 6mm blocks behind when screwed to the uprights to create a look of 18mm thick. 
To avoid any screws showing we first countersunk the holes and then filled them prior to painting.
Next came the bottom section of panelling which was made from 12mm MDF this was screwed on directly above the skirting.
The spacing for the panels was kept even with a blank square 40cm x 40cm inserted between each upright.  The initial spacing was decided by working from the middle of a wall, starting from a square and then an upright, out to the edges to see which gave a better finish.
The top rail was put onto the uprights and the top and interiors were routed to create a bevelled edge. 
We painted the panelling with the same colours as the original panels.  A problem arose when the original paint ran out and we had to mix an approximation, this caused a deviation between the interior and surround of the panels.  After two coats of gloss glaze this was less apparent.
 The dado rail was the last to go on the panelling.  We made it ourselves as the budget would not stretch to further mouldings from Wickes.  When making dado calculate the amount you need for the room then allow an extra 10% for joining and accidents! 
First we cut pine into 1"x 1/2" 6ft strips to make routing easier.  To achieve a fancy moulding the wood was passed twice through the router with a different profile bit attached each time.  The technicians set up the router for me with a guide to prevent the wood slipping.
Once it was routed we painted it in the burnt umber and gave it a coat of gloss glaze prior to fixing with grab adhesive.
This detail of the corner in the living room clearly shows the finished panelling with the dado attached.  The colour difference is minimal and works successfully as wood.


The flloring was very simple if time consuming.  We painted 8ft x 4ft 3mm ply skins with a mahogany woodstain varnish and laid them onto the floor with threshold boards to join the rooms.  This was effective but proved to attract any dust that was around and had to be constantly dusted off.  Eventually we laid boards down for people to walk on.

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