A Thousand Minutes Of My Life Well Spent.

As soon as I found this illustration of a castle (that’s my trusty tea bag along side it, for scale) I knew immediately that I wanted to build it as a tutorial. It’s from a book that has been languishing in our used book store for months and months, ever since I started to co-manage the shop in February:

As you can see, the illustrations for this book border on being creepy which is why, I think , nobody has bought it even though it’s only a dollar. I took it home last Friday, but I just couldn’t cut it up. So, instead, I’m using a book that is vey cut-up-able, one of ten that I bought accidentally on eBay:

The best thing I can say about these old Horizon magazines-in-book-form is that they are cheap, their pages are sturdy, and they are usually so boring that you don’t mind cutting them to bits.

I am also going to use pages from a previous book that I have vandalized:

And I’m using pages from that old German almanac that I used for my Rapunzel tower (see last week’s blog):

That old german almanac has lots of interesting doo-dads that I am dying to use as decorations on future castles:

Getting back to this week’s inspiration, I made a few thumbnail sketches to figure out how to interpret this flat illustration into a 3-D castle:

I am going to make all the elements — the various towers — as stand-alone structures, and link them up as I go along. But first, I have to re-inforce the more fragile pages from the old books. I like the way they have aged, but I need to glue them onto regular old typing (bond) paper in order to use them for construction:

Just a note on how I measure stuff: I don’t think in inches, or fractions of inches. For instance, as shown below, when I have to measure a legnth, I put my see-through 6-inch ruler down, and tick off the increments as “Start at 4 and go to one before the 8”. I build, mostly, by eye, and use the ruler to draw straight edges and to keep measurement uniform…I do not think in eights-of-inches.

I don’t usually have to draw out my plans, but for this tutorial I drew the plan for the first tower that I am going to build so I can show you how I think:

I put very light pencil lines on the re-inforced page and I use an exact knife to cut it out:

And I end up with this:

Which I can tell, right away, is the wrong proportion for the castle I want to build. You read that right: from the get-go, I have to rescue this thing. So I add height to it this way:

Yeah. This is more like the tall, skinny rectangular tower that I want:

For the crenellated top of this tower I have to make a tray, so this is how I will mark it out:

The pink lines indicate where I have to make a little cut so that when I fold it, it will have tabs:

I will glue the tabs:

Crap. I dont have a photo of the tray  — but here it is, in a crap photo, poised on top of my “tower”:

To this tray, I will add the crenellations (using the margins of the sturdy Horizon magazine pages), measured and marked through trial-and-error because, at this point in my castle-making carer, I don’t know how to anticipate the correct intervals between the “downs” and “ups” of crenellation:

I slather the glue onto the upright edges of my little tray and wrap the crenellated strip of paper all around it:

There’s the finished tray, and next to it are small flaps of paper that I have glued for a nefarious purpose:

I glue these into the interior of my rectangular tower in order to give the tray, which will sit atop it, some support:

I hope you can see that I have put the tower upside down on top of the tray:

I am using my long, needle-nosed tweezers to tap down the glue flaps so that they touch the tray:

I am sure that the previous few photographs were not in the least helpful, but in the end, this is how the tower comes together as a nice, stable, heavily-glued structure:

All it needs (according to the illustration) is a roof. I hope you can see the pencil lines that I made here (in the raking light):

Those lines help me make two triangles, comme ca:

Glue these triangles in place:

I took over 100 photos while I was building this castle. I could not possible bore you with every detail of the craft (ha! I said craft!) so I had to edit, but the kind of thing that I edited out is the part where the paper pieces need a little weight to get them to glue together properly. My staple-remover thingy comes in handy as a weight to set on these delicate objects while the glue dries:

Voila: Here is my first completed element of this castle, the rectangular tower:

By my count, I will need three rectangular towers and three round towers for this castle, so let’s now do a round tower!

Round towers are much more fun and harrowing to make. In preparation, I like to roll my re-inforced paper a bit, to get it in the mood to become a tube:

I would be nothing without good old Elmer’s glue:

I order to make certain that your tower is rolled properly you have to make the ends meet exactly, or else the tower will not stand up straight:

As this is the fourth castle that I have built, I have learned that using my circle-drawing tool to size the road towers is extremely helpful (for reasons that will become apparent very shortly). So, while the glue is still wet and fungible, I “size” my tower by pushing it through one of the apertures:

I can hardly believe I am saying this, but the good thing about knowing the size of your round tower (by making fit in the circle-drawing tool — what is this thing called, any way?? — is that you also know the diameter of your tower!

This is extremely exciting because, for the first and only time in my 62 years of life, I need to know the diameter as indicated on this circle-drawing tool of a circle!! Because now I can figure out the circumference of my round tower!!

I need to know the circumference of this tower because that is how I will make the crenellations!! As before, I draw a strip of “ups” and “downs”, but I cut notches into the bottom part of it, as shown here:

Putting crenellations on a round tower tray (which I cut out to be larger than the tower itself) is like, I hope there are sewers reading this, setting a sleeve into a shirt or dress:


The bottom of the round tower tray looks like this:

How cool is that?

Ok. Truth to tell, now that I’m a few (three? four? five? ) hours into this project, is when I start to question if this is the best way a person my age should be spending the precious minutes of her life. Making paper castles? Shouldn’t I be composing sonnets, or learning sign language, or day drinking, or something? Instead of cutting out itty bitty bits of castellations? Is this really how I want to spend my ever-dwindling days on Earth?

Hell, yeah!

Dear Readers, I know that it feels as if we are making this castle in real time, but let me assure you that castle-making is a much, much  s-l-o-w-e-r process than shown and we have oh, so much more to do on this project.

Now I know, Dear Readers, that you are not me; you do not have the type of idiocy that makes you spend a thousand minutes making a paper castle FOR NO GOOD REASON other than it fun and rather soothing, in these times of peril, to make your own 3-D puzzles while listening to NPR.

So let’s take a break and consider the heartening news this week that makes me think, and hope, that the end of right-wing putrescence in America is nigh. Paul Manafort is going down — it looks to me that the gummint has an open-and-shut case of tax fraud and money-laundering against him. Everyone says that this is Robert Mueller’s  opening shot at Trump; if not to show cause for swift impeachment, then to expose the fake, filthy, and flimsy pretexts of Trump’s businesses. I would rather see Trump forever and truly bankrupt for now and all history than see him hounded out of office (reason: President Pence).

SDNY: Southern District of New York.

And how about Rudy Giuliani running around laying the ground for the inevitable by spreading the word that “collusion is not a crime”?

And then there’s the NRA cozying up to a known Russian spy, and the Kock Brothers funding a multi-million dollar campaign against Trump, and the two civil trials against Alex Jones (the conspiracy theorist who claims that the school shooting at Sandy Hook, CT was a government fake and that Hillary was running a child sex ring out of a pizza joint in DC, etc)…

Friends, the arc of history towards truth and justice is drawing ever tighter, into a noose, against the throat of evil. I hope you have your victory party champagne chilling.

Back to castle building.

Now that we know how to make our two main elements (rectangular tower and round tower) of this, and every other, castle, I should say that the next bit gets a little wired. But first, let’s complete our facade by constructing this:

See? I smarted-up and cut out my box tower to include flaps that I can glue down to support whatever roof or castellations I might need:

I use these itty bitty bits as braces to secure the castellations on either side:

Putting the braces in place with tweezers:

Facade almost complete:

For the roof here, I found this illustration of Queen Elizabeth and am using the pattern of her skirt for roof tiles:

DONE (so far):

This photo shows that I’ve already jumped ahead and put in that tall rectangular tower that backs up the facade (see reference illustration below).

The complete front of this castle won’t be complete until I figure out how to make a short tower that has a wrap-around porch that connects the front of the castle to the back. I’ll show you the original illustration again so you can see it:

It was difficult to envision this, since I’ve ever made one before, so I did indeed draw up a plan:

And this is how you do it:

To make this nifty feature look nice and clean, and to give it a bit more stability, I made a little strip that I glued all along the inside castellation:

And here is where things get weird. This round tower in the very back must fit into some kind of platform structure that will kit into the nooks and crannies of back end of the facade…

And here is where I will leave you for this week because this has been a very looooong post and I know some of you Dear Readers who are making this castle along with me are dying to sweep up all the bits that have scattered themselves all over the floor…

…and it’s FRIDAY and we deserve a big stinking glass of ice cold Chablis for having lived through another week of the Trump Atrocity, or maybe just for making it through another week.

We will finish this castle next Friday, Dear Readers, when we are one week closer to the end of our national nightmare.

Have a great weekend, everyone. May all your thousands of minutes be spent in joyful contemplation of towers and turrets and castle of your dreams.



27 Comments, RSS

  1. I love seeing your towers, but seeing how you make them both increases my admiration for your skill and makes me want to jump out of my skin! What patience and determination you have — and I don’t!

    I hope you are right about those trials and public statements by the Kochs and others. I think the admin will again bamboozle their minions and all will blow over again and leave them free to encourage pollution, to promote global warming, to commit atrocities on small children, to engage in crimes against humanity, and to profit from rampant corruption that goes far beyond ostrich-skin garments.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • Vivian

      The way you feel about castle-building is the same way I feel about crossword puzzles. I just can’t sit still for them. But I love [puzzzling out these castles. There’s no accounting for it.

  2. Leslie

    Castle-building is indeed a worthy endeavor for precious time, much more than, say, traumatizing immigrant families or selling out the United States of America for personal gain. Inspired art inspires others, and what could be more worthwhile than that? I am going to look for a copy of Alberic the Wise, which I didn’t even know about, because The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is one of my favorite books. Sublime!

    • Vivian

      I have heard good things about The Phantom Tollbooth, which makes me think that I should read this Aleric book I have. Maybe one day I’ll get around to ti, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s going to be too hot to do anything today, so I might get to it sooner rather than later.

  3. Casey

    Wha—-??? How??? I can’t believe my eyes. Your castle building is impossible! I can see exactly how it takes 1,000 minutes to make!

    Oh yes please please please, please let Mueller find a smoking gun. An actual smoking gun, please, with the Donald’s fingerprints all over it. And may it please be pointed at himself. PLEASE.

  4. Mary

    I was skimming through the photos without my reading glasses. I got to the second to the last photo and thought, “Ooooh, she built a dragon on top of one tower!” Then I put on the reading glasses and saw it was your staple remover:/ My Roseanne Roseannadana moment for the day!

    And not for nothing, I am sharing these with my middle school students. We have a paper craft makerspace area in my library, and I love to print tutorials for them. We have stacks of old dictionaries, encyclopedias and discarded books they can use. This would be a big step up, but I’ll bet my origami students would love the challenge.

  5. Becky

    The castle building makes my head spin. So much patience. I admire you for tackling these projects.
    Yes, the news is going in the direction we all are hoping for. I am not making castles, but getting the champagne ready. I think they should all move to Russia since they are so much in love with them…..the family …..and all of his cabinet …..and the supporters . Listening to this nonsense makes my head hurt. Which is why a loving pup keeps me sane….sortof….since playing ball before morning coffee tests your mettle.

  6. I admire not only your meticulous castle-building skills but your patient documentation. I count an astonishing 59 photos in that blog post — not counting the one of Trump! Seriously, I’m not sure I would have the patience to build something so detailed and requiring (ugh) mathematical calculations.

    And Bravo for not cutting up Norton Juster, which looks like a very cool book.

    I think there’s bound to be some rebound against the Trump craziness. I hope it’s enough to make a difference. The Kochs may be funding an anti-Trump campaign, but they’re definitely still not on OUR side!

    • Vivian

      59?? I knew it was going to be a long post, but thank you for quantifying it. If it weren’t for Mary’s middle school students (see her comment, above) I would feel really bad for taking up so much of the inter webs.

      I think all we have to do is stay tuned to Trump’s constant Twittering…it seems that he is burying himself and his sleepy son, one tweet at a time. Best use of that social media platform EVER.

  7. Sharon

    I have made paper cottages since I was a little girl . Now I want to move up to castles. So enjoying this! By the way, your circle thingy is called a circle template. You can find them with other shapes in your art supply store as well.

  8. ann

    Loved your post. I am amazed at the detail needed to construct the castle. I love the papers you chose. Can’t wait till next week. Thank you for your persistence.

    • Vivian

      The castle is finished. the cats. . . well, they may or may not consent to striking some cute napping poses. You know how cats are. They’re ultra cute when I don’t have a camera handy.

  9. Megan

    Ah bliss, I have my scissors out and a good supply of glue. Even though there are no cats at all in this blog post it is a corker!

  10. Kirra

    Vivian your castle building skills are truly epic! I’m afraid looking at the previous castles I didn’t realise how many small details there was in the construction process. I think it’s a great way to spend your time, all 1000 minutes!

    One could only wish that they did steal the tiger and then the tiger would finish them off and save us all the trouble, that’s the only thing I could get out of that ALL CAPS tweet.

    • Vivian

      I think Donald Trump might be his own worst tiger. His ego will eat him whole, and I want the meal to be as gory as possible.

  11. I absolutely love your play making the castle. Now this is something that I might have to do one of these days. It’s my sort of thing. And all the better because it is just for fun. Then of course your commentary on the state of our country always makes me smile. How I do hope you are right about being 1 week closer to the end. It is a nightmare.

    • Vivian

      Oh yes, castle building is fun, but one day I hope to be the Queen of the Paper Castles, with unimaginable despotic power to cut and paste whenever and wherever and whatever I choose.

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