Wednesday, 30 November 2011

2. Main No.3 Gas Cooker c.1890

As I did say these information pieces weren't going to be step by step instructions (kits already have them) there isn't much to add in this second part of the 'notes' on building this cooker.  The pieces went together fairly well and there was a lot of scraping paint off to glue pieces together and then a lot of retouching the paintwork.  I also found the gas taps extremely fiddly to try and glue in place between the gas pipe and the cooker top and it was impossible with epoxy resin and I reverted to my good old standby - Super-glue Gel.  I love the brass finish from Martha Stewart's metal paint - the downside being it cost something like $5.99 and I've used three or four tiny dips with a fine brush.

I don't understand why a manufacturer makes something as daft as five teeny gas taps with two different shaped holes on either side which you can barely see, let alone tell the difference between a 'flanged' hole and a plain one.  These then have to be glued and held in parallel between two pieces of the kit.  Surely they could have been moulded in with the gas cooker top?  Looking out for these sort of issues when you are deciding to buy something would be nigh on impossible as you've no idea of the construction until you open the box.

Epoxy resin is suggested as best for these models as it is rock solid when dry but if the object in your house isn't going to be handled much I don't think this is an issue.  If I did this one again I would probably use epoxy (the five minute kind) for the main build as the material is so heavy and I think it might need a strong fix; but  I would certainly take my chances with Super-glue Gel for the fiddly bits for speed and easy application.  At this stage the paint seems to have gone over any Super-glue which might have escaped on to the surface.  This was my concern when I decided against using it initially.

I chose a Martha Stewart Satin acrylic paint for the black which I really do recommend.  I have used a few different makes of acrylic paint for things over the years and this one went on like a dream.  That could be, in part, to my having primed it first?  The original real cooker was a high gloss black enamel (?) finish but I never like a high shine at 1/12th.  It doesn't seem to work - maybe even shines need to be reduced to 1/12th?  So it has a very slight sheen.   I think it could stay like this as it won't be handled very much but I might give it a satin lacquer finish when I get it home to make it more durable.

I am disappointed that such a complex and expensive piece wasn't made with a door which opens and closes.   Like my modern appliances in the Wentworth I would have liked a pie in the oven and a door which opened.  You have to choose - glued open at 90 degrees or glued shut .  This creates a multitude of problems for positioning it in the house.  I decided at first to have it open as it was a shame to lose the detail of the interior and the racks and drip tray.  I thought Daisy could have left Ellen an apple pie cooling/keeping warm in the oven for after her cold supper.  She would have to leave the door open as there was no regulator in those days so you couldn't just turn the temperature down.  Then I realised which ever wall it went on it would present a problem.  On the right I couldn't see what's in the oven, on the left I wouldn't be able to see the best side of the door; it might work if it was facing me but I don't really want the cooker on that wall....  and so on. 

As the reason for writing this is to point out the problems/difficulties it does read like a long list of grumps whereas I quite enjoyed making it after the first half hour during which I would have paid anyone anything to present me with a finished object.   I didn't find it too difficult considering I wasn't using five minute epoxy which would have been soooo much easier and I am happy with the finished cooker.  The detail is excellent.  On which topic you will perhaps have noticed I haven't picked out the RAM initials  (door, two sides and grill front) in white paint.  I tested my potential for doing this by choosing my finest brush and tracing over the lines with it to see how good/bad I was - talk about waaaaay off.  To be perfectly honest it may not, therefore, be historically accurate but I do like the appearance of it better without the white letters.  That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

When it was finished I considered ageing it in some way as in this story it is something like 20 years old.  It came from the big house (see the narrative).  Then I remembered my mother's cast iron, grey and white speckly vitreous enamelled  gas cooker that she had for more than forty years.  It, quite literally, still looked like new when she reluctantly had to abandon it when she moved house. She never did reconcile herself to her spanking new modern one and she was quite right in that it wouldn't last a tenth of her previous well-loved and much used oldie. So Ellen's can remain her pride and joy until she exchanges it for one with a regulator some time in the future.

In summary I wouldn't recommend making something like this as a first try with pewter models.  Something small and fairly simple would have been better to get the feel of the materials and what I could and couldn't handle.

PS:  The doorknob needs some clear nail polish.  I used that for the black enamel grill pan (under the grill) and it worked well.

Two more to add to the collection

These are probably the last two bits I shall buy before returning to the UK for Christmas.  I do have something else in the post on its way to me here which has been hatching since last August but you'll have to visit Wentworth Court to see those when they arrive.  I also have a birthday gift from my sister and brother-in-law on the way to me in the UK and they are for LTP.  I'll tell you about them when I have them.

The vase is much thinner and prettier than it appears here and a bargain.  Someone on E-Bay sells very beautiful wood and equally lovely resin turnings, but they start at $9.99 upwards so....   you must get fed up of hearing me say ''too pricey for me'' - so just take it as read if I like something and don't get it that it must be etc.  This one, and only this one ever, came up at 99 cents.  I do wonder if it was just mis-priced?  I ordered it and here it is.  

The desk wasn't a bargain and is a bit roughly finished and too shiny for my liking - I might give it a rub down with wire wool now I've discovered its magical properties.  I bought it because it should fit the space properly and offers nice opportunities for dressing it with papers etc as there are several layers to it.  Basically it will look much better when I've had a go at it.

1. Main No.3 Gas Cooker c. 1890

The picture is what I'm working towards, not my finished effort!

This is the crucial build for me.  Again I have never built any kind of metal figure or even painted one so it is all a first.  The worrying part is that (for me) this is a pricey piece of kit.  I first saw a picture of it built and painted and looking lovely on a site for £65 and started a search to see if I could find it for less.  Ultimately I found the unfinished kit with Phoenix Models.  I think they charge £35 for it.  I managed to pick it up at a show for £25.  So far, so good.   By the time I add in the cost of primer, acrylic paints, glue and a few basic tools there's almost another £13 to calculate in to the finished cost.  So DIY might save me £27 if it is successful or lose the same plus the cost of a cooker if not!  Fingers crossed.

I've scoured every place I can think of to get some idea of how to go about making this but the only half-way decent instructions are for painting action figures of various sorts.  From these I gathered that the process is usually: 

 - rub off the excess bits of metal from the moulding process
- wash in soapy water and dry well
- build the kit using epoxy resin (also new to me) and leave 24 hours
- prime with car primer (some say not to bother??)
- paint with acrylic or Humbrol enamels.  I chose to use acrylic as it is supposedly easier to get a good finish if you are new to painting models and also I can, worse case scenario, get all the paint off easier than trying to remove enamel.
- finish (or not) with a sealer coat

It seems,doing this stuff, each piece you read contradicts the next and, of course, people favour all sorts of methods which have worked for them but this doesn't necessarily mean they will work for you.

As soon as I started this kit the Phoenix instructions differed from the above list.  There was no mention of cleaning up the metal after removing the excess bits.  As pretty much everyone else had insisted (and common sense dictates) that if there is any grease (from handling for example) or dust from filing, the paint won't take very well.  So my bits of cooker got a good wash and brush up.

The kit also then says to paint certain pieces (and not others) before gluing and then it begins to tell you what to stick to what. At this point it then says to remove the paint in the areas you need to join!  This is a total impossibility.  The joins are only a little more than paper thin and there are occasional locating pips and holes.  The pips are little more than a pin point (literally).  I couldn't find any way to clean up such infinitesimally small areas successfully so I had to clean off more than I needed in hopes I can touch up later.  Already I think if I ever have to do anything like it again I will build it first and spray paint it afterwards and just hope I can reach all the areas I need to.  I had no idea of how much glue to use as it is new to me but I think the least glue is usually the best when building stuff, so I've spread it very thinly.  Already with the paint interfering and the teeny amount of glue used  I'm not convinced I will have any success with the bonding of the pieces but I won't know until tomorrow as epoxy takes 6 hours to firm up (24 to set solid) and I started this late this afternoon.  Big life does keep getting in the way of 1/12th.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The House of Miniatures fourth and final part ... to be continued

I went out today to buy wood glue and some sort of finishing product to complete the build BUT I've decided to take the bits home and finish it there (and the others yet to be built here).  To explain to those who haven't a clue what 'here' and 'there' might mean I'd better explain.  

I am English and live in the UK from April through September and then spend the other half of the year (October through March) hiding from the winter here in Florida.  My two doll's houses and loads of stuff for them are, of course, in the UK.  The first motivation for making these House of Miniatures pieces of furniture was to be frugal.  This isn't working out all that well:  I bought them at a good price from E-Bay and then I spent an arm and a leg on tools and products to complete them because everything I need is 'at home'.  

When I was standing, as always,  perplexed by 'foreign' products in Lowes and considering which finish to buy I finally absorbed that they ranged in price from $6 to $10.  I decided it was totally daft; I know I have a satin finish varnish that I am happy with back home, so the lowboy can just wait until I get back.  We have a short break in the UK over Christmas.  If I get a chance (visitors' and Christmas permitting) I'll finish it off and write up the last episode for you when I get back in the New year.  As I said it is a cost issue but it is also such a waste - so much stuff gets left here when I get home (and the other way round) because I don't want to be carting paint and glue and varnish and tools back and forth with me; it does make more sense to divide the work somehow, rather than keep duplicating and wasting stuff.  This peripatetic life does have its drawbacks. 

PS: as for my not having a clue what yellow wood glue is my husband looked at me as if I were certifiable and immediately produced the bottle we already have!  So I can continue to build and stain and seal and glaze to my little heart's content with no additional expense.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

3. House of Miniatures - wire wool and glazing

Three or four people who read this commented on how patient I must be fiddling around with these teeny pieces.  Here's a snip of a reply to one of them:

     - I am well known for chucking things (literally) when they've annoyed me for more than a couple of minutes - not advisable with small children! I want everything to go perfectly first time and instantly, that is wholly my temperament, so it is a huge surprise to me that not only do I stick this out but I get some sort of perverted pleasure from it.  It also does seem to be only minis that have this effect - for example I had a teeny banging-around-the kitchen mardy a couple of days ago when everything I touched I seemed to spill or drop and the lunch was one disaster after the next.  Patient I am not.

Those who know me well know this to be true.  I wonder if any of you who mess with miniatures have discovered the same?

So, to day three in the saga (!) - see what I mean about being patient - and at last I can crack on with the next stage.

The first step was to rub everything down with 0000 wire wool - aaargghhh! typing this I just realised I didn't do the drawer boxes!!!

Back to the plot;  I loved this process as the wood soon becomes deliciously silky and all the little bumps and 'gritty' bits disappear.  I know this was the point of the process but when you are doing something for the first time you don't quite appreciate what you've been told until you actually do it.

I mentioned Kris (from the new added blog I am following) and her excellent advice.  One of the things she mentioned was that tacky glue was not a good choice and it wouldn't really hold pieces firmly.  How right she was.  Two seconds into wire wooling and I had a detached leg and finial.  Yes, I did support them well and handle them carefully - just listen to Kris and not to me - do not use Tacky Glue to build your kit.  She suggests ordinary (yellow) wood glue - a mystery to me as yet but I'll let you know how much and where from when I find it.

Warning!  Wire wool makes a terrific mess.  Do not sit near a breeze when you do this.  You get a heap of very, very fine wire dust as you bowl along.  The piece of kitchen roll I wedged under the edge of my board (as the dust was escaping onto the table) was damp (ready to clean up) and it held on to the rubbish a lot better than the board - I'm going to try covering all the work area that way next time.

When all the pieces were silky I had a go with the tinted glaze.  The idea is to cover the piece, leave it a couple of minutes and then rub it off in a way which would make the piece look used.  I understand the dynamics of polished furniture and that you'd have a lighter centre on the top of the piece and lighter areas maybe on the sides (from exposure to light) and lighter areas on the drawers.  That said I found I didn't have the detailed know-how or dexterity to achieve this. I did my best but I can see where it falls short. 

If you are really going for authenticity when making these things I suggest you are cheeky and have a good look at life size pieces in antique shops (etc), even take pictures where you can, because when you come to replicate them I bet you'd be surprised how little detail you actually know.  Of course, you'll be fine if you are living with real 18th century Chippendale!

Here I am struggling with the artistic wiping of a side panel.

As you can see here I didn't glaze the drawer boxes as they aren't fully finished in real furniture (hence my forgetting to wire wool them).  I posted this photo because it shows how much better the furniture looks with the dark glaze applied - it knocks back that awful (cheap) orange finish that the mahogany stain gives the wood.  That colour is one of the reasons I don't like so much of the furniture you can buy, even at the top end of the market.  I hope that when this has its final semi-shiny coat it will look just fine. Kris mentioned a gel clear finish which I shall be hunting for tomorrow.  Watch this space.  Now I am up to the next frustrating stage...... 'leave for 24 hours to dry'...   speak to you tomorrow, decorators aside. (read Clavering for that!)

New Blog to follow

I've added a third Blog to my list of blogs which I follow called Dollhouse Miniature Furniture Tutorials/1inch Minis.   It is crammed with much more than that and, even better, does have wonderful tutorials for all kinds of things, so you can make your own stuff.  The owner Kris has just been absolutely brilliant ...  I sent an email asking if she had any tutorial (which I couldn't find) about finishing wooden furniture and immediately she wrote me three lovely emails absolutely bursting with help.  I can't wait to follow her blog to see what comes up next. She has even promised me a (mock) iron bed tutorial next year. (Yes, she is that booked up!)

I want to say a big thank you to Linda for becoming a follower  - I am so flattered as she is the owner of  Une Petite Folie which has to be the epitome of doll housing and a dream to aim for.  

It would be lovely to see other followers on all my Blogs and it won't leave Linda all lonely out there on her own!  Please sign up if you are a regular visitor as it is lovely to see who is popping in now and then.  From the Stats I collect I know readers (or visits to the sites) are in the hundreds and I even get emails from a handful of you so I actually do have names/personalities here and there but more would be very welcome.  Comments posted on the site too are always welcome

Saturday, 19 November 2011

2. House of Miniatures - staining and sealing

OK, day two!

My first big problem was that the House of Miniatures Finishing Kit box didn't contain any instructions.  Another issue which concerns me is that it is probably something like twenty to thirty years old and that might mean the various chemicals are way beyond their usable time.  Hey ho, I bought it I'm going to try it.  

I found something like the instructions on line almost accidentally.  I was looking at some instructions for another kit which someone had copied and posted and within those was a section called Final Finishing which seemed to cover what I needed. I copied it with my computer snipping tool (if you don't know what this is - ask me - just brilliant - it means you can copy anything from any page you are looking at, even ones which don't allow any other sort of copying) and I printed it and Bob's your uncle, I was off.

First complaint - the print is teeny even after enlarging and the instructions verbose - for me to say that you know it must be bad.

It begins with three more sessions of sanding - none of which I did.  It then suggests you go over all the end grains with a thin coat of sealer to prevent them sucking up stain and being darker than the rest.  I did a quick inspection of my piece and decided I could live with the areas which would be darker - so that was another thing skipped, especially as you would have to be very dexterous to avoid any overlap onto the other areas.

Finally (many paragraphs later) we get to where I want to be - applying the base stain. This was easier than I thought.  I did it with a paint brush and wiped off the excess as I went along.  In this photo you can see that the stain won't cover any glue (as warned) but I absolutely stick by my decision not to bother with the fuss and expense of tinting glue.  It might be worth it if you can buy it ready done(?).  Just be really careful when  you are gluing the pieces together; use the absolute minimum amount of glue and choose something which has less tendency to run or squeeze out. I put on the tiniest bit of tacky glue on both pieces, smoothed it out with my finger so there wasn't any excess sitting on the surface, waited for it to go tacky and then pressed the two pieces together.  I deliberately wasn't as careful with the drawers as I wanted to see what would happen if I did it more quickly.

This isn't the most flattering photo of the piece so far but I wanted to show you that if you are careful with the glue there really isn't a problem.  The wood itself takes colour in different amounts so you get light areas any way.  I don't see any glue patches in or around the joins or any glaringly dark end pieces of wood.  It all seems pretty even to me.  

When the base stain is dry you have to go over the piece with wood sealer.  This was done in a similar way - applying a thin coat with a brush.  I thought this might be the slightly glossy finish I am looking for but as it dries it seems to disappear, so it is obviously performing another function.  This photo is to show you a handy tip for gluing or painting small bits and bobs which you'd like to twist and turn and do the edges etc.  A blob of Blu-tack, a golf tee and some styrene solves the problem beautifully.  I'm actually using plasticine here but maybe not a good idea as I can see colour from it on my gloves - I may have drawer fronts with a strange yellow tint on the back, we'll see.  I can't remember what Blu-tack's called in the USA but I'm sure you know the sort of reusable 'putty' I mean. The 25 golf tees cost me 50 cents from a dollar shop (and it came with a bunch of golf 'tools').  The styrene discs were two for a buck from the flower arranging section of the same shop but any scrap packaging styrene will do as long as it is nice and steady.

Finally, the worst instruction ever to someone like me - allow to dry for at least six hours.  So here it sits on the kitchen table until tomorrow.  I might even do some sanding then.....

Friday, 18 November 2011

1. House of Miniatures - building the piece

This is not so much a how-to-do-it as how not to do it.  I thought there wasn't much point in showing you how to make a House of Miniatures piece of furniture as the step by step instructions are in the box (if you are lucky!).  That said, I did think it would be useful to see the sort of snags encountered by someone doing it for the first time.  It might give you a better idea of whether you want to try one or not.  

My rationale for buying them was that most furniture I can afford is not very good and even some of the stuff beyond my purse isn't that great, so I thought I'd have a go at (part)making stuff myself.  I was also curious to find out if (a) I can do it and (b) if I enjoy doing it.  In addition I thought it kind of makes Le Tout Paris feel more mine somehow than if I'd just bought everything.  So, the only big warning I have for you, if you are considering these kits (or similar) for the same sort of reasons I had, is don't do what I did and buy loads of the things because if you do one and hate the whole process itself and then the finished object, you will have a bunch of stuff to get rid of. After only about three hours at this, I think I should have stopped at one; maybe it will get better.

So here goes with the problems so far:

After listing the tools you will need, which included a knife that never got mentioned again and I never used once during any part of the make, the first construction instruction tells you to sand all the pieces.  This simple chest has 35 pieces.  You are supposed to use 220 grit sandpaper followed by 280.  I read somewhere else that it takes about 20 passes on each surface (with the grain).  I decided I was cleverer than that and I'd only do the surfaces that would show.  I left them good side up so I'd know which I'd done.  This was a rubbish idea as it all got 'lost' when I was actually handling the bits to stick together.  I already had paper on a 2inch block which was a fine grade but I had no idea what grit it was (Ken guessed about 200) so I decided that would do.  As for 20 passes and a follow up with a finer grit  I'll leave you to figure out whether I actually did that.  So - in my case - off to a bad start.  The useful tip here is - put your sanding block down and slide the piece across it.  Try to apply even pressure right across the piece (hence three fingers pressing it down). I quickly discovered it doesn't take much to deform pieces this small.  There is no way to explain what amount of pressure is needed it is just trial and error but remember you don't have any practice pieces.  If you are really well organised and want to do things properly you could buy the same sort of wood from a hobby store and practice every technique on that before attacking the real thing.  You will have gathered by now I am bash-on-with-it type.

This Chippendale Lowboy has cabriole legs and you are instructed to (quarter) round off all the edges and round off the foot.  This was a challenge for a first timer too.  As I said before, on this scale, it is very easy to under or over shape something and these legs have very slim ankles!  I did an OK job on the finished shape and all fours legs seemed to match but I am concerned that the grain seems roughed up here and there and this will matter when I come to stain and finish the wood.  You are also advised to use tinted glue so if it shows up anywhere on a good surface and refuses to take up the stain the glue will sort of match and will look like glued furniture joints used to look in real life.  I'm sure Mr Chippendale would not agree to this theory.  To do this you need a glue which won't go off too quickly when exposed to air.  I used Tacky Glue which solidifies very quickly, so that's no good for that for tinting.  To tint your glue you need to buy a sample piece of wood and stain it and then mix acrylic paints in with your glue until you are able to match the colour.  How you manage to keep any kind of consistency of colour, as you'll have to do this several time throughout the make, I have no idea.  So I kicked that idea into touch.  There will be tears tomorrow when I find I have a yucky patchy piece of furniture because the stain won't go through any rogue glue leaks.  Watch this space.

Another early instruction was to make sure all the pieces fitted together properly and adjust any bad fits with a little judicious sanding.  I skipped that!  The first three pieces I tried to assembled didn't fit!  Luckily before applying glue I did try to slide the  vertical drawer dividers into the groves of the  horizontal dividers, out of curiosity not cleverness.  They wouldn't go in.  The debate now was - do I widen the slits or narrow the wood?  I started with a folded piece of sandpaper and started on the slits - don't do this!  It wouldn't be long before you cut through  the slit and there's no way to keep your sandpaper away from the bottom of the groove if you want to widen the gap.  I thought it must be easier to make the bits that refuse to slide into the too narrow groove a little thinner; if you aren't very careful the nice square edge gets rounded and that doesn't make for a good final fit.  I'll leave you to figure out a better way of making these micro-adjustments.  I confess I struggled and didn't do a great job at improving the fit as you'll see in a couple of pictures time.

I don't think there is any way to apply glue without there being the occasional bit appearing where you don't want it.  I have had a very fine glue syringe in the past and it is good to use but useless to wash and dry and put away for next time and if you leave the glue even for a couple of hours or so it completely dries up and you can't get the pin out.  Even if you do manage to extricate it with pliers, much cursing and sometimes breaking it you'll find the glue  has set inside the tip of the syringe and so refuses to let out the useful stuff.  I might have been doing something wrong (?) but I never really got on with it.  I have a new one waiting for me in the UK so I'm determined to have another go and see if I can improve on my method sometime.  Meanwhile back to old faithful - the toothpick.  I guess your method of applying glue will depend on what glue you decide to use.

OK - here's what happened to my bad fit pieces.  I reshaped them, applied glue and then found I still had to shove them very hard to get them in the slots and in doing so I snapped piece three.  So, here I am very early in the game, and ready to quit.  Deep breath, calm thoughts and here I am gluing the broken bit together. It certainly isn't perfect but it should be almost hidden when the drawer is in place.  It's a good job I don't mend fractured legs for a living.  The other two grooves were a bit more forgiving.  I tried to push the whole piece in rather than slide along.  If you slide the pieces in, you force the glue out ahead of the piece being slid in place and you end up with a lack of glue where you actually need it and an excess blob of glue where you don't.

Worth noting here is that the instructions I had for this kit actually had quite a few vague areas and even some mistakes.  For example, at this stage of the build, it blithely told me to glue four pieces of kit together all of which were mis-numbered.  Not a lot of use telling you to glue piece number 2 to piece number 97 when neither of those pieces is in the kit you are assembling.  Fortunately the diagrams are excellent  and you can pretty much build it just following those.

If you don't take anything else away from this heap of moans and groans do take away this tip.  Buy and use plastic clamps.  I got two 7 inch and two three inch Xacto clamps with some other stuff off EBay at a good price - just keep searching and you'll find them somewhere at a price you want to pay.  I made a fully fitted kitchen in my previous project and clamped all the cupboards with all sorts of things - elastic bands, masking tape, laundry pegs, weighted down with books - to name a few.  If I'd had these clamps life would have been so much simpler.  they are an absolute joy to use and do a great job.  For me (using Tacky Glue) by the time I had assembled the next bit of the project they were ready to remove and move on to hold the newly glued piece.

This photo is just to remind you of how fiddly small some pieces can be.  [I have even smaller stuff facing me at the end of thebuild]  The finials weren't that easy to get in exactly the right place.  I work better with fingers than tweezers but the natural oils on your skin are enough to cling on to tiny pieces like these so I ended up getting them in place with a combination of tweezers and manual dexterity. Again this is something you need to consider before setting off on these kinds of projects - how nimble-fingered are you will matter a great deal doing this kind of stuff.  As my husband says he wouldn't have a hope of messing with such small stuff and wonders how the chaps involved in this hobby mange it.  I am sure when we see wonderful pieces of miniature work we all wonder the same irrespective of gender.  As I said it is all about your fine motor skills.  I know because of doing this work I am no where near as skilled as I would have been thirty years ago, so (at least in my case) even age can make a difference.  My eyesight through glasses is not as good as younger unaided good vision and my hands don't seem to do precisely what my brain requires of them.

To mark up the holes needed on the drawer fronts for the hardware you are going to fit, you are told to use the layout pictures as a guide.  I realised that measuring the diagram and transferring those measurements to the 3-D piece would be a nightmare as the drawer fronts have very curvy shaped edges. I would imagine you could trace the pattern very carefully and mark the holes using that.  I didn't have tracing paper and wanted to get on with it so I just cut out the pieces from the instruction sheet and laid them on the wood and marked the holes through this with a pin.  Well actually it is the broken end of my paper scoring gizmo!  I then had to drill the holes with a number 65 drill bit - whatever that is.  Incidentally the drill never got a mention in the Tools and Materials Needed list in the introduction. Luckily I had a drill with the clamps I bought and it was fine - 65 or otherwise.

Again, more by luck than by design, before drilling the rest of the holes I tried to see if I could attach the escutcheon and bail (drawer handle) through these holes.  Well done kit maker they were very slightly too far apart!  If you look very carefully at the photo you can see that the holes on the escutcheon don't quite line up with the drawn marks on the plan.  teeny difference but all the difference in the world in being able to do the rest of the job or not.  I made my best guess where to bodge when marking the other holes and they seem to be OK.  We'll see tomorrow.

 So there we are for today.... all ready and waiting for its pre-stain, stain and final finish tomorrow.  As I said,  I'm sure there will be tears before bedtime!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More Goodies

 This is an unusual set of decorative plates perfectly in scale, made in copper and imprinted with a different animal on each plate.  They were made in Italy. I have no idea why I was the only person to bid on these but it meant I snaffled a bargain. I can just see them in my greenery-yallery (1912 expression!) kitchen on a decorative plate shelf maybe above the window?  Another thing to check out for historical correctness.  Picky, picky!

The pair of trios are a lovely birthday surprise from my brilliant other half.  I had seen them a while back on EBay and suggested he might like to buy them for me for my birthday (I give him endless suggestions of what I might want for weeks!).  Then I totally forgot all about it.  I had loads of other treats for my birthday and  the following day these arrived. He'd expected them to arrive days before the big day so was relieved when postie duly turned up with my teeny package. They are much finer and tinier than they look in my rubbishy photo.

This is an even more rubbishy photo; it is out of focus. If I weren't so lazy or it wasn't so late at night  I'd retake it.  As it is, this is a much better collection for a couple of dollars than it looks.  They are nicely made in pewter and can stay as they are or be painted.  I have searched high and low for a coffee pot, milk jug and sugar basin for Ellen's cold supper but, as always, I can't afford the ones I like and the ones I can afford are too clunky and always out of scale.  I was really pleased to find these and even more pleased to get them at the bottom bid price.  As there's no sugar basin Ellen will have to not take sugar with her French-style coffee - how very chic!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Fans and fan boxes

Today's playtime was filled with making two little fans and their fan boxes.  It is hard to honestly assess the difficulty level for this one.  I skip read through stuff at great speed and then give it another cursory glance and think I know what I've read (a bad habit of a fast reader - useful sometimes!).  Any way, I did that with the instructions accompanying this kit and decided they were rubbish and it was best to go it alone. I then complained how useless the printing was because various bits and pieces didn't fit together and there were no tabs for gluing pieces together, etc. etc. etc.  When I re-read the instructions after the make I spotted a couple of things I hadn't really taken notice of some things then made more sense.  To be fair to me, I still think the instructions could be greatly improved and the notion that you can successfully join two pieces of cardboard without any tabs seems overly optimistic to me - although I haven't actually tried it.  All that said, this is a lovely little kit; the only thing you won't get in it is the embellishment I did on the right hand fan.  I have several of the tiny no-hole beads left over from the handbag kit so I thought I'd add them to the ribbon trim on the box and fan - waste not, want not.  The fan on the left actually folds up and will go in its box.  A nice idea would be to cut a split down the centre of the bottom edge of the bottom  of the box so you could pull the tassel through to the outside.  I think it might be a bit of a challenge to get it in the box with the fan.  The tassel is too chunky for my taste so I may return to this some time and change it for something else.  

They came from a glorious site which you really must visit called The Craft Pack Company.  I have an endless list of things I want from them.

I'm not sure where these will take up residence.  They were bought last year to finish Sally's fan collection in 38 Wentworth Court but they would be nice for a shop display in Le Tout Paris - first, of course, I have to find out if a fashionable shop would be selling fans in 1912 - I think perhaps not?  
NB: (This post is in Wentworth and LTP)

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Instructions for doing and making

I follow some wonderful doll's house blogs and am awed and often inspired by the lovely things I see.  Occasionally someone also explains how they did something which is hugely useful for a beginner like me.  Very, very rarely do they go back to absolute basics.  It is assumed that anyone messing around with doll's houses has some basic crafting experience at least. There must be others out there who have never tackled this sort of stuff before and find themselves frustrated by not knowing what sort of things to buy for the job you want to do and even more frustrated when you come to tackle it as you haven't really got a clue how to go about it.  I know there's a ton of stuff on the web which helps but, again, it often assumes all kinds of tools and expertise.  I thought it might be useful to have a one-stop place to follow a first-timer tackling all sorts of stuff to do with completing a doll's house project.

I've done the first instruction sheet to show me making teeny cardboard boxes for my shop.  I don't have fancy kit like magnifying lenses and daylight lights and goodness knows what else.  I have a dollar shop chopping mat (kitchen type) dollar shop small scissors (more expensive would be better!) and Tacky Glue and toothpicks and a $1.99 gizmo I don't even know what it is.  Any one out there who does - please tell me so I can christen it.

I can't figure out a way of listing the titles so you can just click on them to find them easily.  I'm going to add a page at the top and I'll list the sheets with their names and the dates where you can find them in the archives.  You can also do a labels search for Making.



Cut out very carefully.  The success of the finished box depends a lot on being accurate with your cutting.  I only use small scissors but you may prefer a sharp knife.  I find that unless the blade is brand new it often drags the paper when I’m cutting.  I also I seem to have better control with scissors; you can see in this photo they are often steadied by both hands when they are cutting a line.  Whether you cut inside or outside the lines is personal preference again.  Some people like to have a defined line showing around the edges of their boxes.  I think it is more realistic not to have this.

Score along all the fold lines.  I can’t emphasise enough that accuracy is always the key to success with small stuff.  Take your time.  I use a double ended tool from Michaels which cost all of $1.99.  I’ve no idea what it is called but it has a small ball at one end and a smaller one set at an angle at the other. They are like the ball in a ball point pen (biro).  I am sure a fine bone folder would do too but I love this little gizmo.  I crease edges with it, pick up spots of glue with it, press small tabs into place with it and just about everything else you can think of when gluing teeny bits of card.

When you’ve finished all the scoring and have checked carefully that you have done them all, especially on more complex layouts, fold along the creases on two opposing sides.  Lay it down on your board with the folded edges underneath.  Take care that everything is lying flat and that no small tabs have got crumpled up.

I then use my all-purpose tool to roll over the creases.  Find the method that works best for you.  It is important not to skip this step if you want sharp creases.  You could press them down with the back of your fingernail, or bone folder or use a pen or pencil in the same way as I am using my gizmo. Basically the folds need to be made sharp by pressing them down.  After I’ve done the lengthwise creases I unfold the card and do the same with the remaining widthways creases and then any other tabs that need doing (on more complicated constructions).  Every crease needs a good pressing.

Apply glue to the tabs.  I use Tacky Glue.  Again with practice you’ll find what suits you best. Here’s why Tacky Glue works best for me.  Unlike most paper glues it doesn’t soak into the cardboard too much, it is easy to control as it isn't runny, it's cheap to buy, easy to clean up (if you wait for it to dry you can just peel it off wherever it is) and, best of all, it is tacky!  I apply a small amount with a cocktail stick and make sure I cover the whole tab.  By the time I have done this with four tabs the first one will have gone tacky so when I fold it into place and press the two pieces of cardboard together it is ready to hold.

I work my way around all four and press the joins together in all sorts of ways depending on the size I am dealing with, my fingers and finger nails are the most useful tools.  I might give it a bit extra compression with the larger ball end of my little multi-purpose gizmo and sometimes my tweezers.  Be careful doing this; only ever work on the wrong side of an item as it can put little pressure marks in the cardboard and your edges can look like the crimped edge of a pie crust.

One finished lid.  The next part also requires some patience.  The pieces need to be left to dry thoroughly before you put them together.  If it is possible, leave them overnight then you’ll know they are definitely dry. They also become more rigid as the glue dries so they are easier to handle (prevents squashing them) when you put the lids on.  Even better before you put the lids on, fill them with tissue paper and small objects.  (Some of) Mine will have shoes, gloves, soap, perfume, lace collars, wraps etc. for my Edwardian ladies emporium.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Buying, Selling and Making

That title just about covers it all.  

On the buying front I have several bids on E-Bay perpetually on the go, so it keeps trickling in.  I've just won a dower chest for example, which I'm really pleased with as it was a bargain.  It was a third of the price of the cheapest one I've seen and a tenth of the most expensive one on offer.  Today's postie brought me a few more tools, courtesy of EBay.  It was an incomplete X-Acto model woodworking kit but it had what I really, really wanted which was two seven-inch plastic clamps and two three-inch ones.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find them.  A big bonus were the three different shaped sanding blocks, then there was a double ended pin vise, three drill bits, and a knife and all for $7.50.  Oh, I forgot, a bag of steel wool.

A couple of days ago I got this little pair of House of Miniatures kits.  Neither of them are commonplace finds, especially the pier mirror and so they usually go for more than I am prepared to pay.  Both of these were a bargain. 

I was really please with the purchase but I am getting a bit concerned in that the wardrobe is filling up with unmade pieces of furniture all of which come in a million bits.  Even the mirror has more bits than you can imagine and the prospect of mitring the corners to within 1/16th of an inch first time is daunting.  yes, you do have to cut the frame strips of wood.

The mirror is for the fitting room and may well be painted cream rather than wood stained.  Can you hear Chippendale turning?  The corner washstand is for Daisy's little bedroom which hasn't even been built yet!!  Nothing like getting ahead of yourself.  

I may as well keep my eye out for the occasional bargain even if it is way ahead of the game.  Get it while I can is my philosophy.

On the selling front I have weakened my resolve and gone back to having a go at selling stuff on E-Bay again.  It is still as dire a site as it ever was; such a pain to get around.  I'll keep you posted as to how I get on. My best trick so far is to bid on an item on the English site and then outbid myself on the very same item on the American site!  Yes, I know....   

I am trying my very best not to sell anything until I am certain sure it is of no use to me.  The amount of stuff I bought for a project similar to this that I then decided I wouldn't do, and am now doing, makes me weep.

On the making front it is more a case of remaking so far - first the heater and a bit of paint improvement and then the plant pot and the same treatment.  This isn't the most flattering photo; it does look better in real life.  I think it is a great improvement on the brightly spotted original. It might need a bit of sheen on the leaves - I'll think about it sometime; its wrapped up for the journey home so I can't be bothered fiddling it out again.

I did discover that painting in three dimensions is considerably different to painting on a piece of paper.  I am quite handy with paint and brush but everything I ever knew flew out the window when my left hand is wobbly holding a wobbly object while my right hand tries to wobbly negotiate fine lines on a small wobbly leaf.  I guess there are some techniques I'm going to have to grasp, along with a lot of practice, if I am going to pursue the painted model route.  My efforts will do for this but  I am glad I didn't start with my expensive cooker kit.

I did a bit of box making too.  Would you believe each one takes about 15 minutes.  There's a couple of hours work here.  There are tops and bottoms to each box and so they do open.  I have no intention of filling them and the horror of how many I need for a shop is off putting.  The topless box in this photo is a waste paper bin which I hope will go somewhere in the building.  There's yet another Edwardian question - did they have waste paper baskets in their home?

 I have no idea what the strange thick card with two printed rectangles on it is for.  I might use it as a display screen/stand somewhere in the shop.  

I took this photo to try to show the size of the tags in the lid sections that I am cutting, folding and ultimately sticking.  This is a shoe box lid getting ready to join its friends.  I am rock solid certain their shoe boxes weren't fancy like this.  I am just hoping that with a bit of judicious mixing and stacking they will all have a use somewhere.  Having just said I don't know why they need to open I've had an afterthought; perhaps they would look and sit better if they were weighted down with something inside?  Now I just need to figure out what.  I have some sand (to go in the paint for exterior painting) but I'm not convinced it won't keep leaking out. Suggestions welcome.