Seeing pics of amazing gingerbread houses and various Food Network Challenges inspired us to try our hand in it. Neither of us like the taste of gingerbread, nor had we ever built gingerbread houses, but we thought this would be a fun mini-project. Although, it was our first try, I think we did a pretty good job considering the difficult design we chose.

So what was the design? Jessica grew up in Forest Hills and used it for inspiration, but when she picked the Forest Hills Station of the LIRR in Station Square as a design goal, I almost fainted.

Forest Hills Station - Front

First thing I did was hop on Google Maps and begin looking at satellite and street view images of the station. I had only ever walked past the area with Jessica, but hadn’t otherwise been in it.

Forest Hills Station - Top

To get a better idea of scale and sizing, I did some image manipulation to hack together various images to see the full front of the building. In this image, I overlaid edges with turquoise to help determine specific shapes.

Station Square Front

Then based on a scale Jessica selected, I began documenting the length of dimensions to scale. Then outlined edges with turquoise that aren’t otherwise visible.

Station Square Blueprints

All of those edges were then translated into piece templates, which we printed, cut out, and then used as guides for carving the gingerbread. Jessica had read that it’s best to build the bottom structure first, let it dry overnight, then do the roof. So this set of templates is just for the base:

Station Pieces

So why did I almost faint? Because of that roof! In building lingo, it’s called a hip roof. If it’s not immediately obvious why it’s so hard, check out the math of hip roofs. It seems from the map images that the eaves overhang, but there was just no way we were going to tackle that on our first attempt at a gingerbread house, hip roofing is hard enough without overhangs.

While it took many uses of Pythagorean Theorem to calculate the hips, they were pretty straight-forward. The long roof length had a height (from gutter to ridge) of 1.5 inches, while the shorter roof length had a height of 1/2 inch. The hard part was creating a 3D model of the valley and conjuring some 7th grade trigonometry to figure out the angles. Mostly this was done doodling on paper with a calculator. But I translated the critical model here, for you to get an idea of what I was doing:

Valley 3D Model

Here’s the gist, the grey/black represents the roofing. The blue triangle represents where the hip would end if it didn’t have to form the valley with the main pitch. Therefore the red triangle represents the area to add to the hip so that the ridge of the hip met the main roof field. So my end goal was to determine the adjacent length of the red triangle, labeled a. To do this, I started with what I knew, the green triangle. I knew the height of the main roof, which is all I needed to calculate the theta via some trig, result: 41.3 degrees. In roofing terms, that is known as a 10.54/12 pitch.

Then I applied that to the red triangle, where I already knew the opposite length, which was the height of the hip. A little more trig, and the resulting a was 0.57 inches.

After all of this, we had what we needed to start baking and building. Continue reading in Part 2.

posted by Lon at 04:36 PM Filed under Basics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.