Monday, July 28, 2008

Free Sketchup rendering system

For anyone else that is using Sketchup and wants to have a more advanced rendering system for free, I've started using su2pov. You'll need the su2pov file from here and the Pov-Ray file from here. The combination works with the free version of Sketchup, no need to buy the pro version. I've tried several of the other renderers; IRender, Podium, VRay, and Kerkythea. The first 3 are only for pro and are not free. Kerkythea is free, but it is somewhat advanced for the rookie. It does do very good renders, though. I'd also recommend Indigo as a renderer,it's a step up in complexity from su2pov, but the quality is better too. su2pov isn't the best quality system, but it is simple and relatively easy. You can put lights in a building, sunlight through a window... Lots of possibilities to get that nice-looking picture of your project.

The top render is from su2pov (only took a minute); the second render is from indigo (took over an hour, you can see that the foil is "shiny", and a few other goodies); and the third is Kerkythea, which took about a half hour and did a nice job too, but it takes more work to get realistic textures.

EDIT: After playing with su2pov or a bit, the right-click menus are no longer working. I can't assign or change material characteristics. I've tried reinstalling the plugin, tried different models, but it just doesn't want to work. It may just be a peculiarity of my system, but I can't say that su2pov would be a good choice to download if this is a recurring problem.

Wall system

Well, reading all those masonry and construction books has paid off a little. I've finally come up with a standard wall system that is readily available and will fit the bill as far as DIY construction is concerned, and created a representation in my trusty Sketchup. It uses standard CMUs and foamboard insulation. To attach the rubble wall, a truss-type anchor system is employed that allows flexibility to prevent cracking of either wall due to different expansion rates. The cores of the CMUs will be reinforced laterally and vertically when/if required, insulation will be in the remainder of the cores.

The interior is the only remaining question. Due to the standard system, it could easily be wallboard and 2x4s or stone facade. The question is about the second or third floor, how would a heavy stone facade be applied and supported by the wall or floor? Still more research to do.

If interested, click on the picture and it will take you to the 3dwarehouse download.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yet more...

Yep, still working on the same design. More pictures. Finally got some windows right on the hall, now the rest of the building needs attention.

Click the picture for a much larger version.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Still working on castle model I did a while back. If you check the older posts you can see the iterations it has gone through. The model's square footage is now considerably larger, but that's mostly due to the modification of the great hall. Too bad there wasn't a simple way to make a time lapse of all of the changes, it would be pretty interesting.

So far, in my opinion anyway, the structure is looking better and better. It has more interesting features and several questionable structural designs that would have been difficult and expensive, if not impossible to build, have been removed. As usual, the placement of doors and windows as well as the window design is turning out to be difficult.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

CMUs are the way to go...

After sitting down with a pen and paper alongside my Sketchup castle design with the purpose being to calculate costs per foot of wall, a clear winner showed up immediately. CMUs are by far the least expensive and most forgiving material to use to build the shell of a structure. I don't mean "fancy" split faced or other decorative type blocks, I mean plain-old flat faced standard blocks. A quick look at a 1' thick wall 1000' long full of cement 8' high at $2.78 per foot is over $22,000 at $75/cubic yard of cement, and I've seen many prices for cement over $100/cu yd. Take the same dimensions using $1.30 a block and the cost comes out to be considerably less, even if you raise the cost to $1.50 a block it still wins. Throw in concrete core reinforcement on top of the CMU construction and yet again, the CMU is still cheaper.

Now, folks will argue that one needs to throw insulation in on top of the CMU cost, and I want a stone interior/exterior for the most part, so now we're approaching the costs of ICF. The decision here isn't too difficult either. Due to the unusual design of a castle and the height of the structure, most ICF will not work. Many of the sites only allow for 2 floors of standard height (from the limited information I could find), none mentioned 3 floors of greater height. Gridwall ICF is right out the window. To have these companies engineer something, or to find a specialty ICF, that would meet my needs plus the cost of poured concrete, exterior and interior finishing, ICF gets taken out of the running.

So, in a nutshell, the basic structure of the building will be reinforced CMU with a stone exterior facade; and on the inside, something along the lines of foam board insulation with a stone facade tied in to the main wall. That's pretty much it. This method will allow for rapid construction of the shell and the decorative extras can be added later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Castle on Little River

I came across this site while doing a state-by-state Google search for castles:

The Castle on Little River in Buckholts, Texas.

I fired off an email to Mr. Greiner to see if I could get some information about his castle and construction; he kindly replied and pointed me to a rather obvious button that I failed to see on his site that gives a pretty good summary of the construction of his castle. While I wish I could provide an"interview", I hope the information contained on the site will be found informative and maybe a little entertaining.

Thanks to Mr. Greiner of The Castle on Little River for the reply and information.

Direct link to construction information.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lost another one...

After checking the links to verify if the targets were still alive, I discovered that Rittersburg's site no longer exists. I don't know if the site has been moved ( a quick Google search reveals nothing ), or if the plans and ideas have ceased to be.

Until something comes up to indicate the castle plans are still in motion, Rittersburg is removed from the lists...

Small update

Changed and updated links at bottom of page. Also, there is now an store featuring the books I've mentioned on this site as well as a few others that we own or hope to soon purchase.

Wing's castle has moved to a new site and hints at a new project as well.