Monday, April 30, 2007

Castle Mania

My daughter had a school project for history due today - build a model of a castle. Why is this such a big deal, you may ask? Well, here's a little background: I am a nerd. I am passionate about history, and I have fairly extensive experience in making crafts and building models. So when my son had this exact same project three years ago, I coached him into building a fantastic fortress. It was well-proportioned, intricately detailed, and meticulously painted and landscaped. By many accounts, it was easily the best one in the class. According to the teacher, however, it lacked certain minor features that we felt were unrealistic for a castle of that size and era. And there was no room for those features, given the project's recommended scale, which we used! He ended up with a mere B+ on the project. That really chapped my ass.

Fast forward to now. My daughter and I, both informed and enraged by this eariler outcome, were determined to outdo that castle. My daughter in particular, currently maintaining a better-than-4.0 GPA (due to the weighting of honors classes), wanted to ace the project. But she was hampered by design-anxiety, because the castle could be no greater than 14"x18," yet it had to possess a great deal of detail. The instructions suggested a scale of one inch for every six to ten feet, or about 1:108 scale. If you've made any study of models, that scale should be a red flag - it's for smaller things, like ships and rockets, not a large castle or fortress. Again, my son used it for his model, and look where that got him. So we abandoned that in favor of a more reasonable one inch to twenty-five feet, or about 1:285 scale.

Finally last Wednesday she had more or less finalized her design, and Thursday night we visited Home Depot to purchase our materials. We spent two hours there, browsing everything imaginable to find the right objects from which to build the castle. We spent more money than I'd care to mention. Damn kids, taking up my resources!

Anyway, I spent the entire weekend, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, coaxing her through the process of building the model. I helped her with some of the key details - the gatehouses, for example. I also cut the wood with the chop saw from her measurements (if it weren't so last-minute, I would have taken the time to teach her how to use the saw safely herself). Anyway, after many discussions, modifications, disagreements, failures, tears, and hugs, not to mention much hard work, the castle is complete. Click below for a larger image. And if she doesn't get an "A" on this project, I invite you to come kick her teacher's ass with me. It'll be my last act! My daughter made me promise that if she didn't get an "A," I'd commit seppuku.

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