Building Jerusalem

It took years and years for Jerusalem to be built and rebuilt in ancient days. It also took me years and years (okay, a year and a year) to complete the most intimidating material in the level 1 atrium: the City of Jerusalem. But I did complete it last summer, so I am going to share my building process with you.

And if you have Matisyahu's song 'Jerusalem' stuck in your head the whole time, you're in good company!
Jerusalem, if I forget you
Fire not gonna come from me tongue
Jerusalem, if I forget you
Let my right hand forget what it's supposed to do

I had purchased the movable pieces from The Catechists's Husband and had Jeremy (local woodworker) build the control base. He also built the Calvary piece, the large hill where the Mount of Olives is, and a layer to distinguish upper and lower Jerusalem.

I had already painted and poly coated the pieces, so I wrapped them in aluminum foil and laid them out on the base. Then I (along with help from Nicky) started to add clay to mark where the pieces would set (so there was a lip for every piece).

I had spent some time asking other catechists what they used and searched for what clay would be best, and decided on DAS air dry clay, which I picked up from Michael's. Overall I am pleased with how it worked. I would recommend that when trying to add this clay to wood, start with a very thin layer at first and let it harden. After it's hard, then add more layers and build up as desired. If I attempted to start with a larger chunk of clay and shaping it right away, it liked to pull away from the wood.

Once I was done building up the terrain layers and upper and lower parts of the city, I let it dry for a day or two. Then I put down the first layers of paint, marking the water, and ground. Since it's been a year, I can't remember if I did two or three layers of paint.

Then came time for the details, which was just adding dabbing different colors of green outside the city walls, and white to the river. When it came down to poly time, I used Minwax Polycrylic in matte. I have used this brand many times, and typically I love it. However, the matte finish was not matte at all, which I was unhappy about. So back to Menard's I went to purchase the 'ultra flat' finish. As you can see above, that finish still has a sheen to it. I was frustrated, but decided to let it go (as well as a perfectionist like me can). If you have any suggestions on an actual matte finish, please share it in the comments!

And here is the final result, at home it the atrium. I do have one thing to finish and that is to drill a hole in the Calvary piece to hold a candle. I would like to add more building pieces to both upper and lower Jerusalem that are not movable, but it definitely works as is!