Saturday, January 19, 2013

The World’s Smallest Model of the World’s Biggest Bookstore*: Making a Start

I was looking over some pictures I had taken last year and started to wonder if I could manage to build a model of Toronto’s World’s Biggest Bookstore. With its long, low shape, bold red and white paint scheme, huge sign and traveling lights, it would be quite striking. It’s also a Toronto icon that opened in 1980 and is possibility slated to close at the end of this year – a casualty of Toronto’s building boom and the changing ways books are bought these days. It’s been one of my favourite places in the city since its opening. Streetcar service doesn’t run in the road in front of the building – the store is located on a side street, Edward Street, off Yonge Street - but using this building as a backdrop for streetcar operations might be quite visually striking. 
The model is going to be a compressed caricature of the real thing in order to keep the size manageable. I got things started with a trip to Michael’s to see what they had in the way of lettering that might be useful for building the sign (on the Fortran building I eventually settled on printing out some letters from my computer and using those on the façade – we’ll see how this one works out, but since nothing panned out at Michael’s,  I’ll likely use the same method in this project), and by trying to draw out the front façade in HO scale to understand component sizes and how this thing will go together. I guess this should be done with a computer drawing application, but I must admit if I don’t draw things old-school style with my own hands, I don’t have a sense that I understand what I’m doing. I don’t make a formal drawing, just some sketches of pieces that I think are key to understand. They are tools instead of products in and of themselves.
I’ve been wondering if I’m finally abandoning E. L. Moore style buildings and techniques with this project – and maybe with some others I might try this year. I’m thinking, yes and no. Yes, in that they are in a different genre than Mr. Moore worked in, and they won’t use his mainstay materials like balsa and card (well, maybe a little card :-) ) in preference for sheet styrene and plastics. No, in that he built things he found interesting – and often unusual things - just as I find this an interesting and unusual subject. And again, no, in that he used simple materials common to his time along with manual construction techniques. I’ll be doing the same with simple materials that are readily available these days. This year I plan to write some posts on Mr. Moore’s legacy and relevance to today’s world, but I’ll need to find some quiet time to pull my thoughts together. Maybe this project will be a demonstration of some of those ideas.
To get going, I started with the entry doors. I figured that if I could manage to get them drawn and cut out without too much difficulty, I could manage the rest of the build. I find modern glass framed doors a bit intimidating to model because they are unforgiving structures in their preciseness (I had both good and bad experiences with the McGregor Park Library project – main entry door, good; back service door, bad).
I drew the outline of the door unit on 0.020 inch styrene with a ready supply of sharp HB pencils on hand. Each pair of doors is a little under 7 feet wide by 7 feet tall. In HO scale, 7 feet would translate to 24.5 mm. To keep measurements easy, I knocked that back to an even 24 mm. The divider between door panels is 1 mm, and the doors themselves have a 1 mm wide inner frame. 
To cut out the glass openings in the unit, score each of the window outlines with a sharp knife. One or two passes with the knife is all that is needed. To punch out a scored window, take a wooden cocktail stick and use it to apply pressure to a window corner until it snaps free. Once free, it is easy to ‘unzip’ the remainder of the window by gently pulling from the freed corner along the scoring.
Once all the windows were cut out, I used a scribing tool to demarcate the borders of the individual pieces and door frames in the unit. When completed, the door unit itself was cut free from the remaining styrene by scoring its outline with several light passes of a sharp knife until it broke free. Use caution here because the outer frame elements are thin and can easily tear. Once the door unit is cut out, have a look at it under a magnifying glass and use a file to clean up any rough edges.

Voila! I was quite happy with the result. I decided to paint it black. I believe the prototype is a very dark brown, but I chose black as I think it will give a little stronger contrast to the building’s red and white paint scheme.
To finish off this stage of assembly on the door unit, I cut a piece of thin clear plastic backing and glued it to the door frame unit. Some additional clear plastic pieces were cut for the sides and ceiling of the entry area and then glued up with the door unit. I’ll add door handles and other details later. Right now I’m going to concentrate on major assemblies. And the next major one I have in mind is the letters for the sign.
I’m having some difficulty getting back into building and blogging this year. I hope this project will help move things along – so far the ‘signs’ are promising.
*Yes, the title indulges in hyperbole since the model is going to be HO scale and not N or TT or Z so it could be smaller, but in HO, it’s likely the world’s smallest if any do exist :-)

No comments:

Post a Comment