I fell in love with Victorian ornamental ceiling and wall plaster as a young woman. The sight of it, the elegance of it, could bring me to my knees in a heart beat. And now you can do real plaster decorating in your home for pennies per piece.
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A few years ago, I visited San Francisco, where ornamental plaster on both interior and exterior walls is so commonplace that it’s like visiting a never ending museum of elegant plaster detailing. Being an avid “do it yourself” enthusiast, I did extensive research on the history of ornamental plaster application. What I was amazed to find is that in very early applications, actual plaster was used as the adhesive. What a novel idea! So I did some testing.
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Where many of the plaster masters across the universe today use construction adhesive, I wanted to apply the plaster pieces so that they could someday be removed by the home owner if need be. Joint compound to the rescue! Joint compound mimics plaster in many ways, such as durability and strength. But its greatest attribute is that it remains moist and workable much longer than plaster of paris and doesn’t begin to set up (harden) if the lay out and application require time.
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In a test, I applied an ornamental frame around my crystal chandelier. Using joint compound as the only adhesive, I attached the cast plaster pieces from a mold, directly to the painted ceiling surface. Low and behold, that beautiful, ornamental frame hasn’t budged in the 4 years since I created it. Each piece remains stuck like glue and completely stable with no cracks or evidence of separation. With the love of plaster Victorian wall frames in mind, I created a mold that combines an arched corner piece and straight frame rail. From this, I am able to create Victorian plaster wall or ceiling frames as tall and wide as I wish.
Much easier than creating architectural frames from wooden moldings, there is no need for angled cuts or corners. Joint compound is used as the adhesive between pieces and the frames are installed in minutes. Filling any gap between the wall and the plaster piece with joint compound seals the pieces to the wall but also makes them look like part of the wall itself and ensures a high quality installation.
Plaster of Paris is cheap which makes it an exciting decorating medium in today’s tough economy. A large plaster wall frame can literally cost under $10.00 in plaster to make. Yet the resulting beauty can add thousands of dollars to the homes resale value with “custom moldings” now listed as one of the homes features.
Drywall specialists and home builders can benefit greatly by offering ornamental plaster moldings as part of their service line up. The profit margin for this specialty work is incredible since costs are minimal. But real plaster wall frames are not limited to the professional. The average home owner can create this high end look with no experience what so ever.
How do you create ornamental plaster wall frames? It’s easy and requires absolutely no practice. For each frame, I cast 4 corners and 4 straight moldings using Plaster of Paris and a Plaster Wall Frame Set Mold.
Applying them was a cinch. I pre-measured my finished frame and marked the wall in pencil. Beginning with the upper corner piece, I simply butter the back with joint compound and hold to the wall for 60 seconds.
Line up the additional 3 corners with the penciled line corners and do the same. Now, add the straight pieces between the corners. Plaster of paris can be easily cut to size once the piece has been removed from the mold and still in its damp form. Simply score the piece on both the top and bottom then snap apart.
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