Saturday, 1 June 2019

Outdoor Brick Fireplace Tutorial

Image from miniatures.com


My mini scene in collaboration with Hobby Builders Supply and miniatures.com is still in the works.  I think I'm closer to completion on my scene then mother nature is to giving me a warm day (at least here in Ontario!).

One item I purchased from miniatures.com was their Outdoor Brick Fireplace and their Battery Operated Flickering Fireplace LED Set.  This fireplace is 8"Wx8"Hx2 3/4"D and made entirely of MDF.  It's a solid piece that feels substantial when you lift it.  I wanted an outdoor fireplace for my scene, and was pleased to find this one that lived up to the Pinterest images I was looking at.  

You do not need to worry about any warping with paint on this piece because its etched MDF, meaning, the bricks are part of the wall and nothing will curl up!


Products


I used paint that I already had in my every growing craft paint bin.  The colours were Americana "Desert Sand," Martha Stewart chalkboard finish "Gray," Americana 'Raw Umber," and Liquitex "Neutral Gray."

You'll also need a basic black paint and a clear water based acrylic clear coat in a satin or matte finish.

From the non-mini making shelf in my basement, I grabbed a tub of wall spackle and a putty knife.  Wall spackle, if you're unfamiliar, is the product you use on your walls to fill holes.  You could also use wood filler if you wanted!




The Paint 


I began painting "Desert Sand," "Gray," and "Neutral Gray" on to the bricks in a random pattern.  If you finish and decide your don't like an area of bricks (say, you have too many dark bricks in one area), then just repaint those bricks.  I painted the bricks then came back to it a few hours later to see it with fresh eyes.  

After your bricks are dry, you need to age them.  This task is a little more time consuming.  On the bricks painted "Desert Sand" use "Raw Umber" to age; on the bricks painted "Gray" use "Neutral Gray" to age; and on the bricks painted "Neutral Gray" use "Gray" to age them. 

The aging technique is dry brushing.  Put a little paint on your brush, then blot the brush on a paper towel until most of it is removed.  Then blot or stipple on the brick.  If you get a little too enthusiastic with your aging paint, simply dab on a bit of the base colour to fix it.  Or, if you get some on a neighborliness brick, don't worry, bricks are imperfect.

I will age for soot later, once grouting is complete, because I want soot on my grout lines.


The Grout


In my opinion, even miniature bricks need grout.  If this step terrifies you, you can skip it, but do consider giving it a try!

After all your paint has thoroughly dried, apply your acrylic craft paint sealer with a paint brush.  I used a matte finish because that's what I had handy.  Once this has dried (and I mean really, really dried!) and you've ensured that you don't have any damp sealer in the grout lines, you can move on to grouting.

The sealer allows you to put the spackle on without damaging the paint with the putty knife or having the spackle discolour the painted areas.






I opted to tint my spackle using "Neutral Gray" by transferring a few large globs of spackle and a good tablespoon of paint into a separate dish and mixing.  Otherwise, you will have very white grout lines, unless that's what you want or want to add paint detail to them.

I put the spackle on a bit thick, using the putty knife to press it into the grout lines.  Then I carefully use the putty knife to scrape away the excess.





Once you can again see brick through the spackle, get a damp (not wet) paper towel and wipe the surface.  This might take a few wipes and use a clean slide of the towel with each pass.  I work small areas to ensure I can get the bricks clean before it dries.  When wiped, I then give one pass with dry paper towel to ensure no moisture is left sitting on the brick surface.

Keep going with the process until all your bricks are grouted.  Then let dry according to the manufacturers directions.

The Ledges


I initially painted the fireplace ledge, the top cap and the arch around the opening with "Neutral Gray."  If just painting is fine with you, then skip this step.  But, I had to keep going with the spackle.

I wanted a concrete/stone appearance to the areas that were not brick.  Using the putty knife I slowly and carefully applied a thins coat of spackle to all these surfaces.  The spackle was again tinted with "Neutral Gray."

When the spackle was dry, I gently sanded the areas with a 320 grit sand paper to get rid on some of swirls and awkward spots and get it to the appearance I wanted.  I then applied another coat of "Neutral Gray" to finish it.

Voila!  Two different surfaces (concrete and brick) using the same products!


The Fire


Before I completed the soot and detailed work with the black paint, I went to install the LED fireplace lighting.  The miniatures.com Battery Operated Flickering Fireplace LED Set consists of 3 lights (red and orange flashing lights and one solid orange.  All you need to do is drill a hole through the base of the fireplace (from underneath) and feed the wires through.  A feed the shrink tube over your wire, and a few wire twists to connect them and then pull the shrink tube over the connection.  A blast of heat from a hair dryer shrinks the tubing and your light is now connected to its battery and switch.  


One good hole and one boo-boo hole!


Hole at the back and in the middle

Once the hole is in place, you can paint the inside of the fireplace with black paint and dry brush a bit of "Neutral Gray" for soot effect.

I raided my lilac bush for delicate branches to use for my fire.  I prefer fresh, delicate branches over larger ones because they look realistic and are to scale.  They also let more light peek through.

I start by glue a few branches to the base of the fire and let them dry thoroughly.  This gives you a good foundation to work with.  Then I lay in my other branches and play around a bit (no glue yet!!) to see what works and what doesn't.  

Before gluing down the bulk of the branches, you need to secure your 3 fire lights.  Add a dab of tacky glue at the hole (both ends) and let dry to ensure your wires don't move.  Then glue down your branches.

I also dry brushed black paint on my branches after the glue dried and added a few tiny decorate grey vase filler stones to look like embers.




Back To Paint


Now that everything is in place, you need to dirty up this outdoor fireplace!  A good dime size glob of raw umber and a few table spoons of water in a dish make a wonderful aging wash.  It catches all the grout and sits on top of the bricks.  

If you don't do the wash, even the tinted spackle grout looks incredibly bright and the bricks look very bold and vibrant.  I admit I was a little panicked by the brightness!  The wash, applied with a paint brush, and blotted off in areas tones it down.  I did 2 coats of wash in total.

No fireplace is complete without soot.  I again dry brushed black paint along the opening of the fireplace and onto the bricks and grout.  I added soot to the very top of the fireplace vent too.


The Grand Reveal



Front View - Fire Glowing


Top of Fireplace


Fire with Embers


Rear view


Close-up of Bricks



I hope you enjoyed the fireplace process.  If you have any questions regarding the steps or products just ask me in the comments!



Images courtesy of miniatures.com.  This post received support from Hobby Builders Supply and miniatures.com

6 comments :

  1. Great tutorial, Kat! I love the fireplace colors, how it turned out with all the finishes, and can't wait to see the outdoor scene you create! It's a neat piece and I'd always assumed that it was plaster or resin!

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    1. Thanks Jodi! I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered the fireplace. But its heavy and very well built. And because its solid MDF painting and finishing was really easy.

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  2. It looks great! I can't wait to see the whole project.

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  3. This is great thanks, I am going to apply a version of your instructions to the brick pattern I have put on the outside of a roombox I am working on. I wanted it to be yellow brick but it is too monochromatic as is. Thanks for the colour tips.

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    1. Awesome! The best part about paint (as I well know), if it doesn't look right, paint over it till you get it where you want it!

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