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Mr. Spatula’s water cooler (finally!)

Almost a year ago, I started planning one of the most complicated elements of the Freelance Police office: Mr. Spatula’s water cooler.

I made the aquarium out of a glass dome with a cork base. The castle is a painted charm. After a failed attempt with resin for the water, I made this version with glycerin.

This didn’t have quite enough liquid in it, and it also seemed to have a small leak — sometimes I’d pick it up and it felt greasy, like glycerin was seeping out. I had used waterproof silicone adhesive around the inside of the dome where the cork stuck in, and this prevented a tight fit.

I made another attempt over the summer. This time I pushed the cork in tight first, and then used the silicone around the bottom edge. What I didn’t do this time, that I had done last time, was smear silicone over the bottom of the cork. I’m not sure why I didn’t do that… laziness, I guess. It didn’t seem necessary.

Turns out I was wrong! The aquarium seemed fine for a couple of months, but recently I placed it on the floor of the roombox, and when I moved it later I noticed a small wet spot underneath it. I wiped this up (luckily it didn’t damage the flooring) and set the dome on a tissue to see what would happen.

A week or so later I checked the tissue it was saturated with glycerin that had leaked out through the bottom of the cork. Could a temperature change in my workshop be the culprit? It was in the 90s when I made it, and now it’s getting down into the 40s at night. I glopped silicone all over the base of the cork and that seems to have stopped the leak, but enough glycerin has now leaked out that the water level is once again too low. Sigh.

So, I have to make *another* aquarium. I’m okay with this, because I didn’t like how this one turned out. I forgot to use gesso on the metal castle before painting it, so it has a metallic sheen, plus a few rogue pieces of gravel got stuck to Mr. Spatula’s belly when I turned the base upside down to insert it into the dome.

For now I’ve moved on to the base. This is the best picture I have of the full water cooler. In Telltale’s Sam & Max games you rarely see this corner of the office due to the camera position.

I started with four pieces of wood — the side pieces are 1″ basswood and the front and back are cut from basswood that’s scored at 1/16″ intervals. The score lines made it easy to cut down to the size I need it and to cut a hole into the front piece. (I also used this wood for the file cabinet.)

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Freelance Police office – file cabinet and stacks of paper

Big news! After a year and a half on preorder, my Sam & Max figures from Boss Fight Studio are finally here! But that’s not even the biggest news…

Sam & Max Save the World — the game my roombox is based on — is being rereleased on PC and Nintendo Switch!

Sam & Max Save the World Remastered will be out on December 2, and I’m handling PR for the launch. The new version was created by a small team of people who worked on the original and acquired the rights after Telltale (the game’s developer) shut down in 2018. Read all about it in this VICE Games article and feast your eyes on the trailer below.

If you’re just here for the dollhouses and have no idea what I’m talking about, my first post about the Freelance Police roombox has a crash course on the history of this series and my connection to it.

The Freelance Police office looks more cartoony in the new version — closer to Steve Purcell’s comics.

It now has lighting and shadows that the tech couldn’t handle in the original, and the color of the walls is more green. (But I will not repaint my walls!)

Here’s how my office looks so far:

This weekend I made the file cabinet to the right of Sam’s desk. I made this out of 1/16″ thick basswood, with 1/4″ square basswood as supports inside the cabinet. (The cabinet is hollow with fake drawers.)

I wanted to make the drawers square like they are in the game, but in order to have three square drawers I would have had to make the file cabinet shorter, and then it would have seemed too short next to Sam.

I assembled the cabinet by gluing the front and side pieces to 1/4″ square supports.


The support pieces are slightly shorter than the cabinet pieces. I lined them up at the bottom, leaving an approximately 1/16″ gap at the top.

The top piece sits on those support pieces.

My front, back, and sides weren’t all exactly the same length. I lined them up at the bottom, so the top was uneven. After gluing in the top piece, I cleaned up the top on the disc sander. Then I hand sanded the whole cabinet with fine grit sandpaper to make it nice and smooth.

Here’s how it looks next to Sam. Seems a little short, but as I mentioned above I was limited by the height of the drawer fronts.

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Screened-in porch — hinges and screens

People tell me they like my blog because I show when I make mistakes. This is going to be one of those posts, because today was one of those days when everything I tried to do went wrong.

The screen door on the screened-in porch is supposed to be glued in place, but I thought, why not hinge it? (Because hinges always go wrong, that’s why…) You might have noticed in my last post that the door is quite a bit narrower than the frame.

The kit came with two pieces of 1/16″ thick wood that are supposed to be glued to either side of the door, to make it wide enough to fit in the hole. I decided to hinge the door to one of these pieces, with the plan of gluing the pieces to the frame rather than to the door. I used these teeny tiny hinges left over from making the Rowhouse’s attic stairs.

Hinges are always tough to do, but I managed to get these in without too much trouble. But when I looked at it in place, I didn’t like the look of the hinges. They look fake.

It also seemed weird for the screen door to swing out over the stairs.

Then I noticed I’d accidentally put the hinges on the *back* of the door. The front of the door has more detail.

Problem solved!

I added one more hinge for good measure.

Then I glued the screen material to the back of the door. The porch comes with trim to cover up the edges of the screening, but the door doesn’t. Having it swing in will make this messy back less visible.

Here’s how it looks from the front.

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