Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Gasogene, You Say?

In the Sherlock Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia", Watson mentions that Holmes keeps "a spirit case and a gasogene in the corner.” A spirit case, otherwise known as a Tantalus frame, is a stand for decanters that allows them to be locked, so the servants can see but not taste them (like Tantalus in Greek mythology, who was doomed to eternal thirst).

A gasogene is a contraption for making fizzy water (the Victorian SodaStream, if  you will.) They came in quite a few shapes and sizes, but they all have two globes covered with a kind of netting (a big one and a smaller one), and a tap on top or in the middle. Here's what the full-sized ones look like.

From Bottle Books
To make my own 1:12-scale gasogene, I used plastic beads with a pearlescent finish. I enlarged the hole in one end of each and filled it with craft glue, then wrapped the bead in cheesecloth, trimmed off the excess and tucked the ends into the glue-filled hole. (The upper one looks a bit ratty, but you get the idea.)

Then I pirated a faucet from an extra dollhouse bathroom fixture and modified it slightly by trimming bits off until it looked closer to the correct shape.

After that, it was fairly easy to glue the beads and the faucet together with five little bits and pieces of jewellery findings. Now for the spirit case!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

"Your Dark Lantern Seize"

A dark lantern is something you'd only tend to hear about in an archaic context, as in the lyrics quoted in my title, above, from Pirates of Penzance, when the Pirate King is exhorting his crew to collect their tools so as to "vary piracy with a bit of burglary."

But for Victorian criminals and crimefighters alike, it was an important bit of kit. Essentially, it allowed you to see your way in the dark withouht being spotted, by shading the beam of your lantern.

For my Sherlock Holmes dollhouse room, I decided to make a dark lantern. It's  modeled after the one pictured in this wonderful informative post about the Dietz Police Lantern

Antique Dietz Police Lantern, full size

Dollhouse-sized (about 1.5" high) Dietz Police Lantern
Mine is a bit out of proportion: too tall, with a cap that's too large. I might redo it, but for the moment I'm quite pleased with it.

The body is a plastic spool from an emergency sewing kit from the dollar store (about $1.25 for ten or so spools plus needles and so on. The bulb is a cap from something like a tube of glue.

The bottom and top are made with the metallic tape you use to seal furnace ductwork and dryer venting hoses, which I normally have in the house. For the top, I cut out two circles of paper with foil tape stuck to both sides, and simply bent them with needle-nosed pliers.

The back is made with two short bits of tubing cut out of the inner working of a disposable ballpoint pen (which can stilll be used), three paper clips, a tiny rectangle of dollar-store craft foam and more of that foil tape. I actually did inscribe the words "DIETZ POLICE LANTERN NEW YORK U.S.A."on the back, but you can't really read it.

It's finished with a coat of silver enamel paint and some black latex craft paint on top.

I've been working on the room box (with the helpful of my capable and crafty brother), so I'll soon have a place to put the collection of Holmesiana.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Dolly Makeover: 1880s Edition

You can buy inexpensive porcelain dollhouse dolls (about $10 each) online, but the assortment isn't large. Say, for example, you wanted a doll to portray Sherlock Holmes' housekeeper Mrs. Hudson, Time for a dolly makeover!

On the left is the Before doll. I peeled off her apron (it was glued on) and "cap", and restyled her hair with a new elastic band and a little glue of my own.

I changed her face a bit with sharp coloured pencils (if you don't like what you've done, you can just wipe it off with a damp cotton swab and start over). I stitched the back of her dress to give it more of an early 1880s silhouette (straighter, with a bit of a bustle) and made a gathered petticoat out of sheer unhemmed ribbon, which gives the skirt support and body. I "ironed" it with a hot hairdryer.

For the finishing touches, I glued a tiny jewel to her collar (it was sold at the dollar store in a packet of items for fingernail decoration), sewed a ring of dollhouse door keys to her belt and made a pair of pince-nez out of a used staple (!) and some thread.

You'd hardly know it was the same doll.