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I make toys for kids who don't want to grow up. I'm on the lookout for new projects. If you're interested in commissioning me to build something ridiculous, shoot me an email.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Funbot's Neighborhood: a Set Building Project

 Over the past few years, I've built a handful of things for a local toy and hobby store called Fundemonium in Rohnert Park, CA.  It started with making glowing signs to hang from their ceilings and then desktop models of their "Funbot" mascot character, but none of the various projects I've built for them has been quite as big as the Funbot Neighborhood, a series of miniature houses for their newly reopened kid's play area.

Back when they first opened their doors at the Rohnert Park store, Fundemonium had a big area of the store cordoned off and set aside as a play area where, for a modest fee, parents could let their children run free and play with a bunch of the toys that were available for purchase there in the store.

In 2020, the area was closed and everything was put into storage for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.  But once things had started to return to normal, they decided to not only reopen the play area, but to give it a big upgrade as well. 

That's where my crew and I came in.  

For starters, we were given these rough sketches to work from:

Play Area Facade

Play Area Perspective
We were also told that the total width of the neighborhood was thirty feet and the buildings wanted a depth of approximately seven feet.  Armed with that knowledge, we started framing up some walls:
Each wall was framed in 1x3 pine and then skinned over with 1/4" plywood:
First Flats Skinned

In order to make sure we were keeping things straight, we numbered the buildings in the sketch, one to four from left to right.  We started by building buildings one and three, thinking it would be good to get the most complex ones out of the way first.  Here's the peak of the back wall of building one being framed:
Building One Back Wall Framing

For building three, we got to frame up some circular windows:
Round Window Framing
Building three also had a curved roofline.  Here's Tia prepping the surface for the skin to be glued on:
Framing Round Building Crown
A series of blocks was installed between the front and rear skins, and the cap was covered with a strip of "wiggle wood" to fair it back into a nice curve:
Wiggle Wood
Here's the front wall of building three once we'd set up the skin and cut out the door and windows:
Skinned Front Wall Mockup
The screw heads were resin cast with a platinum bronzing powder dusted into the mold for color.

At this point, it seemed like a good idea to size test the buildings:
Size Testing Doorway


With the wall pieces assembled and skinned, we started filling in all of the screw holes:
Round Building Front and Back Walls Maked
At this point, we started to run out of room in the shop, so here's Lewis filling screw holes and patching seam lines in the barn:
Lewis Spackling Screw Heads
In order to make building one a little more visually interesting, the outer faces of the walls were skinned with beadboard turned horizontal to simulate siding:
Back Wall of Building One

Since things were getting a bit crowded and we were still having pretty good weather, the walls were mostly stacked against each other at night:
Building Three Walls Stacked
Then moved outside so we could do more noisy/dusty steps in the field during the daytime:
Trimming Building Three Doorway

Careful carpentry work would be done indoors on the bench:
Building One Awning Mockup

Then the pieces would be moved outside for sanding and filling and other shenanigans.  Here's Diego and William, mid-shenanigan:
Building One Door and Window Test

And here's Sierra hard at work smoothing out the inside of the front wall of building one:
Smoothing Inside Front Wall of Building One

While the walls were starting to get ready for paint, the trim and other detail bits started taking shape:
Detail Parts Beginning
Here's one of the vent details for building three in the early stages of figuring out what it should look like:
Building Three Vent Detail Layout
And the awning for the doorway of building one:
Building One Awning Taking Shape

The interior faces of each wall was painted a smooth gloss white to make it easy to clean and compatible with whatever varying decor would be installed later:
Priming Building One Walls

With the gloss white side dry, here we can see Diego giving the exterior of the front wall one more filler and sanding pass:
Spackling Building One Walls Outside
We made some simple trim pieces to go on all of the corners and exposed edges:
Trim Boards in Primer
Then we decided we needed to focus on one building at a time, so building three got stacked against a wall outside while we focused on building one:
Building Three Front Wall in Prep

Since it was time for color, we went back to the owners at Fundemonium and asked what they had in mind for a color scheme.  They sent us four color chips, one for the base color of each building.  Then they left it up to us to decide which building would be which color and what corresponding trim colors would go with each one.  On the one hand, I'm thrilled when a client is able to trust me to make good choices for them.  On the other hand, it does make it my fault if things don't come out looking great.

Fortunately, I was able to tak my lead shop technician Rachel with pairing these base colors with metallic trim colors that would fit them best.  Given her formal art training, she has a better handle on color theory and was able to match these somewhat outlandish colors with trim and detail colors that would really bring them home.  Here's what she came up with:
Color Palettes Chosen for Each Building

So we started by painting building one with the base red color:
Building One Front Wall in Base Color

At this point, things started getting a little cramped in the shop:
Building One Side Walls in Base Color
Eventually we were able to rearrange things and brace the walls up to give them time to dry while we painted the trim parts:
Building One Walls in Base Color
Once the trim and other details were painted, it was time to attach them to the walls as much as possible prior to transportation:
Building One Awning Attachment

All four walls of building one were loaded onto a truck and delivered on the first installation day.  We showed up a little before closing on a Monday night to minimize the impact on store operations.  Still, we did have to move a few things to maneuver the parts into the store:
Building 1 Facade Moving In
Once the walls were in about the right spot, the corners were screwed together:
Building 1 Install

Building 1 Assembly
The edge trim was screwed on on site, then the screw heads were patched over and the trim paint was given one final touchup:
Building One Paint Touchup On Site

Building One Paint Touchup on Trim

And just like that, the first building was together:
Building One Assembly Complete

Steve, one of the owners, seemed pretty happy with it:
Building 1 Shenanigans
The final step was to gently slide it into place against the back wall:
Building 1 Placement

And with a tiny fence in place to keep people from messing with it, the first building was installed:
Building One installed

Back in the shop, we were well on our way with building number three, the round-topped building.

Here's the trim boards in paint:
Building Three Trim Boards Painted
The walls were braced up and spaced apart so they could be painted indoors:
Building Three Walls Base Color

Building 3 Base Color

Sierra was happy to roll on the paint, even if it was a bit cramped:
Sierra Rolling on Paint
Then we installed all of the trim and detail pieces:
Building 3 Facade
And loaded building three up for installation:
Building Three Loaded up for Delivery
This time around, installation went pretty quickly:
Building Three Install
This building was designed with handy screw heads to cover the actual screws that were used to hold all of the trim in place:
Building 3 Screw Head Installation
With that done, we could call building number three installed: 
Building Three Installed

And then there were two:
Building One and Three Installed
Building two was the first square-topped building we had to make.  The framing for that was much simpler than the first two.  The only thing I was worried about for this one was the paintjob.  That's because the colors for building two were these:
Building Two Color Selection

Rachel assured me that these colors were going to look good together.  Sierra had doubts:
Cheeto Color is Bright
In no time at all we had four walls that were the most amazing shade of Cheetoh orange:
Building Two Bright Cheeto Color
Sierra was very proud of them:
So Much Brightness
Meanwhile, Tia was prepping the trim parts for paint:
Tia Priming Trim Boards

Building Two Window Frame Primed

The door and window trim were painted a dark brown metallic shade and then installed.  This time we only had two big cosmetic screw heads for each window frame, so we had to cover and paint over all of the screw heads that were actually holding the window trim in place:
Covering Screw Holes on Building Two Trim
Once the trim was all finished, it was time to do another on-site installation:
Staging Trim for Bldg 2
At this point, we were getting pretty good at this:
Building 2 Erection

Building 2 Staging
The four walls were connected in no time at all.  Then we installed the corner trim:
Attaching Trim
And the trim for the top edges:
And slid building number two into place:
Moving Building 2 into place
Then there were three:
First Three Buildings in Place
And I was able to put to bed any concerns I had about the color scheme for building two.  It looked pretty good:
First Three Buildings in Place
With the first three out of the way, it was time for the fourth, final, largest building of the lot.  Here's William helping prep one of the walls for gluing on the skin:
Building Four Walls Framing
Tia and Sierra got to paint all of the trim:
Painting Trim for Building Four
Meanwhile, Rachel was trimming out the door frame:
Rachel Smoothing Trim for Building Four
Then Sierra got to roll out some amazingly green paint:
Sierra Painting Building Four
The doorway trim was masked off and painted in place:
Sierra Priming Trim for Building Four

Meanwhile, Rachel made up all of the little vent details that would go along the top of the front wall:
Rachel Assembling Detail Bits for Building Four
Once the paint was dry, Diego installed the trim on the walls:
Diego Installing Trim on Building Four
Then installed the cosmetic bolt head details:
Diego Installing Bolt Head Details on Building Four

After a long day, we had some pretty great walls made up:
Building Four Side Wall Complete
The front wall still needed something else:
Building Four Front Wall Trim Progress
So Tia got to making plinth blocks to go into the joints where trim pieces met up:
Tia prepping Trim Blocks for Building Four
While I focused on making the marquee:
Building Four Marquee

Which looked pretty decent once it was all painted up:
Building Four Marquee Complete
This was the last piece we attached before loading it out for install:
Building Four Marquee Install
While Sierra and I were finishing that up, Rachel got to paint all of the corner brackets:
Rachel Painting Courner Braces for Building Four

The next day we transported the fourth and final building for installation:
Building Four Arrives for Installation
We had to slide building three out of the way in order to have room to work on all four sides of building four, but it went together pretty quickly:
Tia Patching Trim on Building Four

Here's Sierra screwing one of the plinth blocks into place:
Sierra Installs Trim Blocks on Building Four

And finally, here's the fourth building fully assembled:
Building Four Installed

At just over ten feet tall, it's the biggest of the four buidings in the play area:
Building Four Installed
It also has the most little details.  Here's a close-up of the bolt heads:
Building Four Detail Closeup

We cast over 250 of these bolt heads for this building alone.

In the end, we were pretty proud of this build:
Final Building Installed
Here's all four buildings in the lineup:
All Four Buildings Installed
The last few details included these struts to hold up the awning on building one:
Building One Detail Closeup
And the gold sign bar over the door of building three:
Building Three Detail Closeup
So here's what it looks like now that it's fully populated with toys and ready for countless children to enjoy:
Kid's Play Area Complete
Stay tuned for more exciting projects from Thorsson & Associates Workshop.

(Seriously, I'm way behind on bloggage).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much Shawn and crew! We love the neighborhood you built for Fundemonium. Kids love it too.