Compromises for compression and time
A couple of detail shots of the courthouse reveal some great classical motifs. This stone work with the architrave, engaged pilasters and Corinthian columns are fantastic - but hard to carve in a reasonable amount of time. The model has always been thought of as a background piece that lends flavor to the museum layout, so I swallowed my fanatical tendencies towards exactitude in design and execution in order to get the model done without going any more crazy than necessary.
So the main features with as accurate flavor as I could get out of a chisel was the goal. A student of mine started the process on the side panel doing a tremendous job at transferring the depths of the original to the scale model. She nailed the overall feel of the detailing so that there was no doubt what the building was, even though several bays were omitted and prominent details like the capitals had to be generalized.
A jewelers scroll saw and wood hand saws were used to cut the blocks of Balsa Foam to size. (A piece of cardboard was used as a drop cloth to make cleanup easier.) I used several different Dremel tool bits to grind down the major shapes, and smaller carving bits to do some of the details. Chisels were employed to make the cuts and evacuate material for the relief items like the windows and pediment as well as various dental picks and odd tools that had different sized pointy ends. A metal ruler was used as a guide to scrape the straight lines of the rustication and main features with a sharp pick.The detailing in the architrave was accomplished by cutting a round wood dowel in half and sanding to size, then just poking the end into the Balsa Foam (see below). The image above shows the two stages of doing the side walls as well as the roughed out dome.
I jumped in to complete the model after the first side was done, and tried to do as good a job as my student. (I came pretty close, but I think her efforts were better.) Her side is shown below:
As you can start to see in the lower left of the above image, working with Balsa Foam is pretty messy. The material is very fine and the shavings are powder, which means they float around like orange dust. Wearing a mask when doing any sanding is a must, and don't have a fan blowing on your work surface. There is still a fine layer of this orange dust covering everything in my workroom, and it will take some time to get it off all the books, and equipment in the room. It cleans up really well, but you should wipe any metal objects fairly promptly to keep it from rusting. I had to sharpen the chisels once during the process because of the grittiness of the material. Next time I plan on using some plastic sheeting hung from the ceiling around my work area to keep the dust better contained.