Monday, 11 March 2019

Library room box, part 4

Read the previous posts about this project: part 1, part 2 and part 3.

As expected, I didn't have much time to work on this project during the week, but I made some progress during the weekend. My initial intention was to build a book case myself, and I even had a daring design involving a chocolate box, but I changed my mind and bought two unfinished units.

I didn't take pictures of every stage of the transformation, but it took fifteen coats of stain, sanding in between, and three coats of varnish. I am used to high quality House of Miniature kits, and even those need a look of work. These were cheap, but I didn't give up, and I am quite pleased with the result:

I put the cases inside the room tentatively, just to test. The books are also cut out in haste, so they will be improved.

What you see here is a perception trick. Because some books are real, single 3D objects (although they don't open), the eye is tricked to believe that the fake books are real too. I haven't decided how many books will be real. If I go for single books, I will need about a hundred. It doesn't take long to make a non-opening book, and they doubtless look better. And if I do a dozen every now and then it won't get boring.

I considered two option for the bases. It is now clear to me that there is no space for a filing cabinet, so it would be a good idea to make fake index-card drawers. But I also tested metal embellishment.


I even consulted a library assistant. She said the embellishment was pretty, but the drawers were more authentic. Drawers it is, then.


It was quite a lot of work. The drawers are fake, that is, they don't open. The fronts are made from coffee stirrers. I glued them on, trying to space them as evenly as possible - I am not very good at it. Then I drilled holes and inserted leftover metalware from House of Miniatures kits.

I obviously need a desk, and I have a Duncan Phyfe library table that I made some years ago. It was used in a different project, that, however, is not dependent specifically on a library table, it can be any sideboard, while I think this will be perfect. These drawers do open, so I need to think about what to put in them. What would librarians have in their desk drawers?



This is as far as I got this weekend. I will need library steps to match, and so far I haven't figured out how I can make them. I have some ideas about ceiling lights. And of course, books, books, books.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Library room box, part 3

I ended the previous post with a cliffhanger: how would I manage to attach the box to the cover? When I published the post, I genuinely didn't know. I was not confident that simply gluing on the box to the back cover would work, but I wanted to try, and if not, I would have to think of ways of solving the problem. So I glued on the box and filled it with the heaviest objects I have at hand: hardback Russian novels. I left the assembly overnight and allowed myself a short moment in the morning, before work, just to have a quick glance.

Did it work? Did it work? It did! Three cheers for PVA glue.

One issue that I had anticipated was, as you may remember, that the box is slightly smaller than the cover, so when I opened the cover, it tilted. But I was prepared for it and added two beads for support.

The next problem to solve is how to fix the left-hand corner. I don't want to glue the left side of the box to the spine because, as I learned in my book-binding courses, spines are never glued to signatures (which is the fancy word for the paper sections of the book). The cover would normally be attached to endpapers, but I only have half of the front endpaper so somehow I need to connect the front edge of the spine with the left-hand front edge of the box. I have an idea, but need time to test it, so it will probably be next weekend since I have a very busy week. When I have done this, the shell will be finished, and the real fun can start.

I have put some random furniture into the box, just to have a feeling.

Most of my miniatures are in storage at the moment so I have nothing that suits the environment. The books are too large for the shelf (or the shelf too small for the books), but at least it gives you an idea of what it might look like. In a library there must be bookcases, filing cabinets, a table, library steps, maybe maps on the walls, a tall-case clock, a globe, and perhaps a magnificent chandelier? (Oh where are all my supplies! I know exactly what would fit in perfectly, packed in a storage box millions of miles away). And books. Many, many books, and some will be fake and some will be real, with opening pages; and some will have secret messages for those paying attention. I am not in a hurry, I still have several months to play with this project.

I will also have display lights.

But so far, I am very happy that my design for the shell worked, and I am looking forward to working further on this room box. Come back soon!

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Library room box, part 2

In the previous post, I stopped at adding mouldings. For almost all mouldings in the past years, I have been using full-size embossed wallpaper. At first, I did what all miniature-makers do: took wallpaper samples from stores. But I noticed that this particular wallpaper was extremely useful so I decided that for the royal sum of £8 I could afford a whole roll that would probably last my whole life.


Since it is a small room box I only needed one long strip that covered all the three walls.


The floor surface is also small, so I decided to invest in an elaborate parquet. I have used this pattern before, but again, I don't think it matters, because the people who are getting the library will not have seen my other projects. Anyway, it's fun to make and only took a couple of hours. I used various stains on coffee stirrers. Mitre shears are a must. I sanded the floor thoroughly and used a drop of cooking oil for the final finish.


The floor is assembled on a piece of card and inserted into the box. Normally I don't glue on floors in case I need to take them out later. But I don't think I will need it here. (I hope I am not wrong).

So what next? I need to attach the box to the book cover.


As I mentioned before, the box is slightly smaller than the cover, which means there will be edges visible around it. But the endpaper was torn, so I had to do the same as I did with the front endpaper: use a spare one.

In the process I discovered that the front endpaper needed trimming, which I of course should have done before I glued it on. But it was easy to amend.

You may wonder why I am showing you all these boring steps that don't take the project much further, to the exciting bits. The thing is, unless all these boring steps are accounting for, it is easy to forget how much work there is behind even the most elementary tasks. This step had to be done, and even if it wasn't complicated and didn't take long, I could not move on without it. People who only see results have no idea how much effort goes into every piece. (You, dear reader, being a miniature-maker yourself, don't need to be persuaded).

But now comes the really tricky phase. I need to attach the box to the back cover, and I don't think simply gluing it on with do the trick. I should have thought about it before and used staples or something before I added wallpaper. Well, too late now, I am not ripping off the wallpaper now (and I don't have another large piece of this paper).

So how am I going to do it? How am I going to do it? I will keep you in suspense until tomorrow.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Library room box

I want to make a farewell gift for my department librarians when I retire, and the most natural thing is of course to make a library room box. I had planned to make a library for a long time, but I didn't have a clear idea about what to put into it, apart from the obvious, books.

As I was clearing out the house before the move, I found this:


And I thought: Wouldn't it be a great idea to have a library inside a book? I have seen various miniature projects inside books, and I always wince at books being mutilated. But in this case the book was definitely going to the garbage bin. Yes, I did ask a librarian. Nobody wants old dictionaries these days.

My first plan was to cut a square in the middle, but you probably need a special tool to cut a straight square through two thousand pages, so I gave up on that. Instead, I tore off the cover to build the box inside. As you see, the book had been well-used.


I found a box that fit the cover almost perfectly.


I still decided to use it rather than building a box myself - I would never be able to do it neatly. I wanted to keep the endpaper so I used the back one that was whole.


Next, I covered the "edges" of the book with pages. Of course, the real edges wouldn't look like this, but I wanted to keep something of the book, and anyway, I had to cover the box with something, so I actually think it looks nice. And you get the idea: the cover will be the closing front of the room.


I first thought that I would use book pages as wallpaper inside the room as well.


But it did not look natural. I had consulted a website called The World's Most Beautiful Libraries, and although I won't be able to make anything even remotely as grand, I still wanted it to be pretty. Therefore I decided to use one of the Adam papers I have left from Womble Hall. I have used this particular paper in the servant quarters, but I don't think it matters.

However, before starting on the walls, I had to add a back:


Still, it is always hard to hang wallpaper. I didn't have paste so used PVA glue, and it catches very quickly. You can say that the pattern is too large for walls, but imagine: it is huge marble panels.


Of course the ceiling will also be Adam:


Now I need to add cornices, and if you want to know how I do that you'll have a come back soon. This is as far as I got today.

To be continued. 

Saturday, 26 January 2019


I have been silent for long while, and for a reason. Two weeks after my last post I unexpectedly and hastily had to move from my large house to a small flat. Apart from the physical stress, the emotional part of it was so strong that I almost threw away all my dollhouses, room boxes, unfinished projects, tools and supplies. It could have been a disaster.

I had occasionally considered what I would do with the dollhouses if we for some reason decided to or needed to move, and even what I should write in my will concerning the dollhouses. Even without considering all efforts, there is a fortune hidden inside that people might not realise. (I make most things from trash, but I have a few really valuable pieces). Yet it was of course rather abstract, something I could dismiss for a while.

Dollhouses were not my highest priority when I moved, and my first impulse was to get rid of everything, although I didn't quite envision how. I did throw away a lot of recyclables, I gave away boxes of quality supplies to a school, but since I didn't have much time to do the sorting and discarding, fortunately I didn't get through it all. A young colleague was concerned about my well-being, and although she quite realistically understood that I could not bring my dollhouses to my little flat, she suggested that I bring something: some supplies, some tools, to keep myself busy during long, lonely evenings. I am glad I listened to her, because bringing even a tiny portion of my miniature stuff proved to make a difference. And it turned out that, because I don't have a lot of possessions, there was plenty of room, more that it seemed at first.

I now live in a student accommodation. It has plenty of shelves. It is meant for academics who have many books. I have most of my books in my office, which is just around the corner. The few books I brought with me, books I re-read regularly and some I keep for sentimental reasons, took half a shelf.

The rest I could fill with miniatures. I brought four room boxes, having measured carefully that they fit into shelves. I feel happy looking at them. Declutter prophets say that you should only keep things that make you happy. I brought some of my favourite Chippendale pieces and some other favourite items, and although I cannot make proper rooms, they look nice in the shelves.

As you can see I brought all my Chippendale kits, about sixty of them. If I make one piece every weekend – which I don't – they will last until next September. I brought my tools, paints, stains and supplies. In my previous life, I didn't have a designated hobby room either, so there isn't much difference, just that my desk is smaller and generally there is less space. But there is enough to make some miniatures. Here are some things I have made since I downsized. 


This has not solved the problem of the dollhouses left behind, and sooner or later I will have to deal with them. But it is another story.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Dealing with treasures, cont.

If you are curious about what I did with all the treasures I showed in my previous post, here are some reports.

I was right about the unusual chest of drawers: it looks great in the yarn shop. The old table was, like in so many projects, a temporary solution that just hanged on, until the right piece turns up. I have put some stuff in drawers.  The cash machine is probably slightly too big, but I don't think it matters. It looks much better than the old, modern one made from a printie.

Removing the glass and putting it back was easy, so my glazing solution works well. (You can see the before-image of the shop in the linked post).

Replacing the chandelier in the reception room was surprisingly painless. I didn't even have to remove the whole floor above, just lift it a bit. I think I did the same when I put up the current one. This is possible because I always assemble floors on card so they are relatively easy to remove or lift.

Since the new chandelier has a hanging hook rather than a ring, I thought about a new way of attaching it. Rather than using thin wine wire as before, I made a loop from champagne wire, put the ends through the hole and bent the ends. It is a stronger fixture; it looks both neater and more natural. The whole operation took me about five minutes. In case you wonder, the ceiling rose is made from a cheese box lid.

Obviously, I had to remove all objects from the drawing room above, and when I was putting them back I thought that the new clock would look nice on the chest. And more period-correct.

This is what happens: adding and replacing all the time. We do this in our 1:1 life as well, don't we?

I planned to move the chandelier from the reception room to the upper hall, but it proved next to impossible. The floor above is firmly attached, with a staircase glued on to it, so that would demand serious reconstruction I am not prepared for.


After trying the chandelier here and there, I have decided to replace the one in the music room. I am doing it reluctantly and with a strong sense of guilt because this chandelier was among the very, very first objects I made, more than ten years ago. I still like it and will use it in another project. But at the moment this feels the right thing to do.

Again, I didn't have to remove the whole floor, and I used my newly acquired technique, although this chandelier has a ring rather than hook. So this time I did the opposite: made a hook out of wire, ran it through the whole and bent, then hung the chandelier on it. This way, next time I want to change the light, I won't have to remove floors. Why haven't I thought about it before? Seems elementary now.

So the music room now looks like this (I see I need to adjust the candles - they keep falling off). 

Wait a minute, you are probably saying now, what about the master bedroom that was supposed to get one of those grand chandeliers to match the mirror? Ah, do you remember the two-arm chandelier I was planning to put into the working kitchen? It is now going into the master bedroom. The room above is nursery which doesn't even have a hardwood floor (reminder to improve this!) so it was as easy as it can be. And here we are. Yes, the ceiling rose is a yogurt lid. 

Full view of the room:

I am sooooo pleased with all these changes, not least because they turned out to be significantly less arduous than anticipated. And as I am looking at the rooms, it feels they have always been like this. A good sign.

I now have two nice lights to use somewhere else. I am sure I will think of the right place for them.

The outcome of this exercise is that I have discovered carefully suppressed flaws that need attention (not just the nursery floor), and I am looking forward to returning to Womble Hall after a long pause while I was occupied with other projects.

Come back soon.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Dealing with treasures

On my annual visit to Stockholm I spend incredible amount of money in a particular shop. It is only open a couple of hours on Saturdays so I always contact the owner in advance to make sure they are there. I plan to spend at least an hour in this teeny tiny shop because by now I know what I am looking for and how much it would cost, so I need careful inspection. First time I discovered this shop I was overwhelmed. I still get very excited going there.

Here is this year's catch:

It may seem unsystematic and eclectic, but it is fully consistent with my previous purchases. I buy things I cannot make myself; I buy things that match stuff that I have, I buy unusual things, and I buy things that are slightly broken and that I know I can mend. For instance, I managed to mend a brass chandelier (from the same shop) as well as pewter candlesticks and wooden wardrobes. Several things in this bundle (if it's appropriate to use "bundle" for expensive stuff) need mending.

The chest of drawers - I bought it because I have never seen anything like it, and I still need to find out where it comes from. If you know, please tell me. But one knob was missing. I added a bit of a chess piece.

It isn't a perfect match, but I have tried other options, and this was the best. I can always replace it if I find something better. I don't know where this chest goes, probably in the retro house. Or I may build a vignette around it, because it is really unique. 

The vintage telephone - we had one like this when I was a child - will obviously go to the retro house. I am in two minds whether to repaint it.

The clock was hopelessly broken: 

I managed to bend it back into shape and glue together with superglue. The pendulum can move, and I have added hands from my stash of watch parts. It will go into my clockmaker shop. (Scroll down a bit in the linked post to see it).

The lovely fruit bowl can go almost anywhere (except maybe Tudor), and I have filled it with apples. These are real berried and will probably wither, but right now they look perfect. 

I could not resist the cash register. I have been looking for it for a while. It is a pencil sharpener, and I have a number of miniatures in the same style, probably by the same manufacturer. Another thing to research.


I will try it in my yarn shop. (Again, scroll down; it's the same post). Wait, maybe the chest will look good in the yarn shop? This will need some testing, which involves taking off the glazing. Something for long autumn evenings.

The pewter teapot had no lid. I have exactly the same teapot from the same shop, with a lid and a pretty tripod. 


I know some people would make a lid from fimo or something like that, but I am not good at sculpting. I am good at saving things that can come handy. In this case I remembered metal buttons I got last year from a friend. One of those became a perfect lid.

The other pewter things I thought were straightforward - I also had some of these before - so I just put them randomly on a tray. 

But see, that was completely wrong. When I looked closer, they were two different designs. 

The sugar bowl on the left is smashed, and someone probably tried to mend it and broke it, so I will leave it as it is. After all things get broken in 1:1 world as well. I am not yet sure where these objects will go. They look great in glass cabinets. Or maybe the Tudor household needs more pewter.


The plates also turned out to be all different and not like any other pewter plates I have. One day I will do some proper research on these miniatures. Meanwhile, they are definitely going to the Tudor house.

The magnificent standing mirror has replaced the simple one in master bedroom. There was nothing wrong with that mirror, and I will use it elsewhere. But this looks really grand. In all confidence, it cost almost as much as everything else together. I couldn't resist it.

It now feels imperative to replace the chandelier with one to match the mirror. There will be a massive replacement of chandeliers following my new purchases. This chandelier has to go into the reception room.

Then the chandelier from the reception room can perhaps go to upper hall, and the chandelier from upper hall can move to the bedroom. To perform all these replacements, I will have to remove floors in rooms above, so it will take some time.

But I will start with this two-arm chandelier that will go into the working kitchen.

This will be a challenge because I cannot get the main house off the basement to use the drilled hole in the ceiling. (Sometimes I imagine the horror of having to move the house, and I stop quickly). I will have a think of some clever way to attach it neatly.

All in all, my annual miniature binge has resulted in many interesting objects most of which lead to new projects rather than just finding a place for them. Have I ever mentioned that a dollhouse or a room box is never finished?

Come back soon.