by Mike Rieth
The Hebert House, circa 1835, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The house was located on the Mississippi River in Brusly, La. When the US Army Corps of Engineers was building the levees from up North to the mouth of the river, the house was moved (rolled using cypress tree trunks) away from the river bank to its present location within the levee protection system.
I had been asked for several years if I would build a model of the Hebert House by my wife’s sister’s father-in-law as a “thank you” present to the homeowners for allowing him and his wife to stay there for months after Hurricane Katrina.
I declined knowing the amount of time it would take and the expense involved. After I bought my laser cutter and finding out that there were complete blueprints drawn by an architect from measurements made by a LSU Professor and his students, I thought it was feasible and a good test of the laser cutter, so I accepted the offer to make the model as a commissioned job.
I traveled to Brusly, met the owner, got the history of the house and took hours worth of measurements and pictures to help me make the model.
I took all measurements from the ground knowing that I had the blueprints to work from and that I could use the photos to calculate other measurements.
I compared the photos and measurements I took to the blueprints and there were some differences. The blueprints were made in the 1970s prior to renovations made to the house.
The front had a room removed extending the porch, the rear had a porch enclosed, the rear roof was raised and room additions were made to both sides of the house. I confirmed these changes with the owner.
The laser cutter requires vector drawings to cut, so using all the info, blueprints, my photos and measurements I used my CAD software to make the vector drawings. I made adjustments for the kerf of the laser cut, the parts were cut to fit like a 3D puzzle at the corners and I included the renovations done to the house after the blueprints were made. I created CAD drawings of doors, windows, railings, lattice work, clapboard siding, shingles (which were cut in single rows, not individual shingles to save time and my sanity).
All materials (except paint and picture frame) were bought at Hub Hobby Shop. These included 1/32″, 1/16″ and 1/8″ plywood, basswood strips of various sizes, clapboard siding, plastic sheet brick material, clear styrene sheet and grass mat.
After arranging the parts to be cut to reduce material waste in the CAD drawings, I pressed start and Presto! (which actually took some time for all the layers and pieces needed), I had the pieces to assemble a model. I was ready to build. As I laid out the pieces, I could see some problems with the second floor windows and the room addition made to the house, they did not match the photos, but the measurements for the windows came from the blueprints, huh?!.
After much checking, measuring and re-measuring, I called the owner, he said, “Oh yeah, all the second floor windows changed when we did the renovations”. The old adage, “Measure twice and cut once” didn’t apply here. Back to the CAD drawing board, draw new windows, move the window placement, send to laser, press start and Viola, a second set of laser cut parts. From this point it was smooth building.
The 1/8″ plywood pieces were covered with the clapboard glued with Elmer’s white glue. The model was assembled with cyanoacrylate glue. The windows were inserted. Krylon Satin White spray paint was applied. The doors were stained and inserted. The 1/32″ plywood rows of shingles were left in their natural color.
The roof was made to be removed in case an interior was to be made in the future like a doll house. The lattice work was spray painted with Krylon Satin Forest Green. The brick piers were glued to the bottom of the model. The picture frame was covered with grass mat. The model was screwed to the picture frame through the brick piers.
I brought the model to Lafreniere Park and took pictures. The owners, who are writing a book about the historic house plan to use the model at book signings and fairs.
Photos by Mike Rieth
Mike is a professional model builder and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504 715-6775
Rieth Creations also does custom Laser Engraving/Cutting and Model Restoration