Tribute to Charles Dickens

By Pat & John Ehrenreich

Here are some photos of the of the Dickens planter display we did during a seminar at the Green Bay D56 show.


Gerald Charles Dickens, the great great grandson of Charles Dickens, was at the gathering and he was very impressed. The completed display was donated to the gathering for their March of Dimes Charity Auction and Mr. Dickens signed the lit house. At the auction, the display went for $350 which was petty good for a small gathering.

The actual carving and painting was done at home. During the seminar, we explained and demonstrated the techniques used and assembled the pieces for a complete display. The gathering donated the Dept 56 lit house and accessories for the display. We provided the Styrofoam used and landscaping material.

The display base was done as an octagon planter. It consist of four 2″ pieces of pink Styrofoam and one 1″ piece. I made two cardboard octagon templates and attached to each side of a piece of Styrofoam, cutting each piece individually. The 1″ piece was used at the top and the interior was cut out, leaving a ring that would be the lip of the planter. After each piece was cut, they were aligned together and glued with spray glue. After the glue dried I placed one of the cardboard templates on the top and the other on the bottom of the assembled Styrofoam. The bottom template was than trimmed back about 1 1/4″. Then using the Bow Cutter, the entire assembly was cut as one piece resulting in the eight sided tapered planter. The Engraving Tool on a Sled Guide was used to produce the lines between the slats of the planter. The wood graining effect was created by using the Hot Knife. With the temp turned down, I dragged the knife across the surface, just enough to break the surface and leave a crevice. With all carving of the planter done, I “wet brushed” it with black craft paint, making sure all crevices were covered. When that dried, I than repainted, with a very dry brush, various shades of brown craft paint. The monogram was painted with gold craft paint. When all was dry, the entire planter was coated with about three coats of water based polyurethane.Model_VD_patjohne_b02The Charles Dickens’ monogram was scanned from a Department 56 box, blown up and printed. The printed monogram was glued to the planter. The area that I wanted to engrave was cut out, exposing the Styrofoam. Using the Engraving Tool on the Sled Guide, I than cut around the monogram, leaving the monogram raised. Because of the thin lines of the monogram, I coated it with a very thin mixture of Foam Coat that I was able to apply with a fine brush.


The backdrop wall partly carved and engraved as brick

The actual display that went on top of the planter was also constructed of pink Styrofoam. It consisted of elevation for the lit house and a backdrop wall behind it. The Hot Knife was used again to do the brink engraving because I wanted the bricks to be as small as I could do them to be in scale with the bricks on the lit house. Because of the inside angles, I could not get a straight edge in there. Instead, I marked where I wanted the brink rows and used masking tape for an edge guide, running the tip of the Hot Knife along the masking tape.

 The steps and road were cut using the Freehand Router. Again, I marked where I wanted the steps and road to be and used masking tape as an edge guide for the Freehand Router. The cobblestone areas were done with the Engraving Tool. After the stones were painted, potting sand was used to fill the cut crevices.Model_VD_patjohne_b10Parts of silk flowers and Woodland Scenics grass was used to complete the landscaping. The title of the seminar was “Make It Easy”. The approach was that with some very simple and “easy” techniques, a lot of detail and interest can be added to a display. Needless to say, it was explained that “making it easy” did not mean making it fast and that the detailing takes time. There were a lot of Ohs, Ahs and Wows when we finished. Melinda Seegers of Department 56 and someone from Village D-Lights came over to take pictures of the display.