Hello! It has been far too long, and recently life has gotten calm enough for me to consider blog updates. I’m actually on vacation on Grand Cayman at the moment, with the following view just above my laptop.
The bunny café has been progressing, but it’s been so piecemeal I didn’t think I had enough for a cohesive post for a while. Case in point, I have twelve blog posts started on different aspects waiting in the wings.
I decided why not start with the foundation, and while peel-and-stick veneers are not a new thing, I found some really unique ones to share.
I thought to myself, “I used Hawaiian wood in the hideaway, why not use some Japanese wood in the café?” Finding said Japanese wood, or even the kind of woods used in the Land of the Rising Sun, proved a bit of a quest. I Googled every combination wood and the concept of thinness that you could imagine, and eventually found a company called BIG Will.
As best as I can tell from their Google translated website, they take trees being thinned in forests for conservation efforts, trees felled in the big tsunami, or old trees being removed from schoolyards or businesses around Japan. They then mill the wood into thin sheets and use them in products. On their Facebook page they also do a lot of outreach at schools, with photos of happy children and their handmade crafts.
I couldn’t help but notice the serendipity of using a company called White Rabbit Express for the bunny café, and felt I had reached a new level of Japanophile cred by using a purchasing service. Since many Japanese (or other international) stores do not ship beyond their country’s borders, services like White Rabbit acquire the item for you, then ship it to you, with a fee for their efforts.
I purchased hinoki, tamo, and birch, as well as some random mini sheets, which contained I think sapele, oak, and pine. They are giant stickers, which you can cut to size. Hinoki is a type of cypress that is aromatic and water resistant, and so it is commonly used to make bathtubs and spa items. My sheet was cheerfully pinkish, and I did seal it a bit of polyurethane, but not so slick that teeny bunnies couldn’t get traction.
The wood was so thin that for best results I pre-painted the base in matching colors. You can actually see the difference it makes in the second photo, before I trimmed off the excess in the white zone.
Tamo grows in mountainous regions and since it was hard to obtain, it used to be reserved for royalty. It is also resistant to the elements, so I used it on the deck. To make the planks look less perfect and more worn, I doubled up on the thin strips in some places and placed folded strips of it under other sections for a buckled effect. Varying dilutions of Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade and some sanding of the high spots worked better than I could have hoped. Every miniature nail I had was too big, but the deck wouldn’t have been held together by magic, so I used gunmetal-colored wire from some headpins and cut them into short stubs to look like screws. I still have a ways to go (as in everything except the five leftmost planks), but you get the idea.
I chose tile for the entryway because in my experience, rabbits dislike tile floors (Hanna won’t go on them), or they at least can’t move quickly on them since it’s hard for them to get good footing. Their feet are covered in fur and they lack paw pads, after all. I figured it was a good bit of insurance for keeping the staff inside.
The tiles are polymer clay, which I ran through a pasta machine to make thin sheets and used a hexagonal punch. To get them aligned properly, I printed the tile pattern on paper, then did an old-school pencil graphite transfer (cover the backside with scribbled pencil, tape where desired, trace the printed parts with a ball point pen, remove paper). It worked well enough to show me where the tiles were supposed to go.
With the tiles glued in, I used some 1/16” half round wood strip, soaked in hot water to make it bendy, to fence in the grout and transition from tile to hardwood. I thought that doing the grout would be a breeze, and used some Pebeo modeling paste I had around. But it was a messy business. I couldn’t let it dry on the tiles because it permanently adhered to them, and I eventually resorted to holding the floor sideways, wiping off the excess grout with wet fingers, and letting the mess drip off the edge into a trashcan. It took three rounds to get enough grout to look right, and then lots of sanding and buffing, to try to get back to their original shine. By that point, most of the clear polyurethane I’d delicately layered on had worn off.
The tedious tilework reminded me of that old Batteries Not Included move. (A quirky and endearing old gem, worth a watch).