Sunday, 29 June 2014

Junk jewellery clock

As the last project of this rainy weekend I made a clock from one of the many junk bits of my treasure chest. I was looking for something else when this piece caught my attention:

Of course it was a clock! I removed the stone - good jewellery-making tools are essential for this kind of work.

Then I cut a clock face to fit into the frame and attached it to the wire with masking tape. I cut the chains to have two open chains rather than two loops and added two beads for weights. Finally I glued a tiny ornament on top. Of course, mechanically it wouldn't work, but I think it was fun to use the original shape.

This will be a good addition to my clockmaker's shop.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Sofa makeover

You can tell it is Saturday and raining because I am finishing some of the projects I started a while ago. I bought this sofa in a charity shop, together with some other furniture.

I don't need another sofa; in fact, I have no space for another sofa, but I had to buy it of course. It had no legs, and I think the fabric is wrong: far too large pattern for a miniature. So the first thing I did was to strip it off.

I had a piece of fabric that I had bought several years ago in a hobbyshop in Norway. All these years I couldn't find a way to use it, but it was just perfect for this sofa.

Now, I have made several sofas in different techniques. My very first sofa was also one of my very first miniatures, and as I look at it now, I am still pleased with it. I have refurbished a modern sofa by simply glueing fabric onto it. I made a sofa from cardboard (now discarded). I made a wooden kitchen sofa from kit. I pained a plastic sofa to make it look nice. And I also made the Chippendale sofa. You would think that I was well equipped to make another one, but each miniature is unique (unless you mass-produce them of course). Therefore I made all the mistakes I possibly could.

I started by making the seat as the least complicated, but of course I should have started with the arms. I considered making padded arms, but gave up, since by that time I had made both the seat and the back, and there was no room for padded arms. I read my description of the Chippendale sofa carefully, and I had the sofa in front of me, even though it wasn't particularly helpful.

I took no more pictures of the process because it was all straightforward so I will just show the final result. I have nice wooden beads that would make good legs, but I decided that you cannot see the legs anyway so I just took small wooden blocks.

To compare, side by side, before and after:


It has occurred to me that I have never shown how I make candles, and since I was improving a candlestick I thought I'd share it. Some miniaturists make real candles according to the rules, which is fun, but too messy. You cannot light them in a dollhouse anyway. I make candles from dowel and candleholders mostly from buttons.

I cut a piece of dowel about 2cm and paint it antique white. For wick, I take a tiny bit of black string. Then I light a real candle and hold it over my minicandle letting small drops of stearine run down. It looks quite realistic. You can also let some glue run down the candle, but then you have to paint it over. My improvement of the old candleholders is that I have made handles from bits of broken jewellery.

Fan fun

Patricia King calls herself a fan fan, and I am becoming one too. Here is what I made from the rest of the fan that I used for the cradle:

It took me some time to figure out how to make it. King has a pattern for a hexagonal heater where she glues the fan bits onto card. I tried, and it wasn't neat, and also I wanted to keep the lattice transparent. Finally, I simply stuck it together with tape. The fourth corner was hard! The top is of course a button.

While I was at it, I improved my old fan palm (sorry, unintended pun) that now goes better with the pedestal.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Portable heater

Here are some materials I used for this project, once again inspired by Patricia King, but modified:

A cylinder match-box that I have been keeping for the past twenty years (I used to collect match-boxes, and when I started making miniatures I thought it might come handy one day). It is much easier to work with than metal cigar cases or lipstick tubes that Patricia King suggests. A link from a massacred fan. Two buttons. Beads and bead caps. A bit of caviar tube for door. Two bits of champagne wire for hinges. I also used lace from the massacred fan rather than junk jewellery. And I don't spray paint because I find it messy. Maybe I don't get as smooth surfaces as with spray paint, but I am still pleased. 

Victorians used portable heaters because their houses were cold, and coal was expensive. You brought the heater with you as you moved from room to room.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Servants' bells

A tiny - literally -  project, inspired by Patricia King, but actually something I had wanted to do for a while and that I did using bits of my treasure trove


The bells come from a hobby shop, the strip is a lolly stick, champange wire and bead caps.

I have seen in a 1:1 manor house a particularly clever kind of bell pulls which I am going to make for the drawing room.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

More junk jewellery

Here are some more things I made from the heap of junk.

A brooch, turned upside down, with two handles glued on, became a tea tray.


A funny little triangular three-legged table. And, as promised, a tea pot, spout made of air-drying clay.

And finally, a piece I am really proud of:


Inspired by Patricia King, but my own design. She has a cradle made of fan blades. But as I was about to cut them I realised that they had holes at the ends, just waiting for a pole. So this is a different model, and although you cannot actually rock the cradle it look as if you can. And I used lace from the fan.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Oil lamps

A small project inspired by Patricia King, who calls it a pile-up method, or "simply glue". I don't know what kind of glue she uses, but this is far from simple because the small bits won't stay. Nothing is ever simple. Anyway:

Left to right: the first one is Dutch pewter, bought at a carboot sale for 30p. The next is an expensive, but worthless LED lamp from an online dollhouse shop. The third is a lamp I made seven years ago, among my very first things. It's a chess piece and a pencil cap. Finally, the "simple pile-up", still a bit lopsided, as I now see (photos are revealing!). A button, a smaller button with the central bit removed, a bead with a watch winder glued on, a belt eyelet, a bead cap, a bead, another bead cap and a bit of a plastic tube from a soap pump. It took me about an hour to make, with several attempts and a lot of bad language. Worthwhile?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Just tiny details

I have of course known long before I read Patricia King's books that small details make a huge difference, but here is a very good example. I mentioned in my previous post that I might use the fancy earring for a headboard, and what I had in mind was my Tudor great bed. One big mistake that I keep making is forgetting that things can be improved, that once I have made something it doesn't have to stay the same for ever. Actually, when I looked at the bed today it didn't look that great, although at the time I made it I was really proud of it. But it only takes two bits of a plastic fan and an earring to make an improvement.

Digging for treasure

My miniature life has taken on a completely new turn since I read books by Patricia King. As you may have noticed, I like recycling, and her books are all about making dollhouse furniture and other stuff from trash. Her favourite trash is junk jewellery with which she decorates everything, with splendid results. My tallboy makeover was inspired by her, but it was just the beginning. I thought I'd go to a carboot sale and see whether I could find anything useful, but instead I went on ebay. And got stuck! They sell junk jewellery by the kilo. I bought a bundle, for 99p plus postage, and it arrived this morning. I am working from home today so I could hardly wait to open it.

I am sure you can see that it is Ali Baba's cave, but it may not be immediately obvious what all these things can be used for. Decorating furniture, of course; tables, platters, bowls, frames, ornaments. And you can never have too many chains. Quite a lot will probably be useless, but even if I just use clasps and links it's a bargain.

It took me half an hour to make a few things or at least figure out what to do with them. Can you see which things from the picture above I have used?

Tables, easy. Just glue the large round pins onto chess pieces. Victorian houses are full of occasional tables. The round white apple will make a good teapot, and I have found a handle for it so all I need it a spout. The oval half-frame will be an excellent top piece for a hall mirror stand. Three bracelet links have become heavy platters for the Tudor house. Three more pins, turned upside down: platter, fruit bowl, fish pan. The red plastic pin can probably go up on a wall as it is, an oriental panel. Frames, two large and one tiny. I had to remove stones from them. (There are more in the bundle). A small oval piece fits well on one of my clocks. You can't see it well, but one piece, just above the frame, is a deer-head trophy, which will go right onto the wall in the Victorian house. The shell-shaped earring will make a perfect sconce. Two very elaborate handles, for a future bookcase perhaps? The round filigree pin will be great for allmost anything, and the big silver earring I think will look great on the Tudor bed headboard.

And I haven't even started yet, so watch this space.

I have also bought four fans. Patricia King uses fans to make fancy tables from the plastic bits. I will test it during the weekend.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

chest makeover

After the first serious attempt to tranform cheap furniture, I felt much more confident and started on another chest of drawers. I will not describe the whole procedure, because it was exactly the same:

What I will describe is how I made the finishing details. The simplest would of course be to do exactly the same again, but, firstly, I only had three more chain links, and secondly, I always want to try new methods. I am now in the mode of finding tiny details, because I think it looks neater. I am not very good at cutting, shaping and molding. It was all fine seven years ago when I was a beginner, but I have higher demands on my skills now. So I rummaged through my "Very Useful Boxes" (honestly, this is what they are called at Staples) looking for teeny-tiny things I could use for handles. What I found was an old watch bracelet someone gave me a long time ago.


I couldn't find any use for it, but knew one day it would come handy, and it did. It was quite a lot of work to take it apart, but the shape of the links was just right. For locks, I took the upper part of a press stud - I had to paint it to match the handles. I also found three tiny keys that fit in prefectly.

The chest is now replacing its predecessor of seven years ago. 

The problem is of course that when you replace a piece with a more elegant one, all the other, non-elegant furniture looks crude. I must make a new writing desk (and I know exactly how), and I must make a new bookcase (not sure how, but will investigare). It feels sad to throw away things that I made in the very beginning of my miniature-making; it almost feels like betrayal. But I guess this is what you do with your 1:1 life as well: successively replace old things with new.

For the moment, I put in the old chest into my antique shop roombox and arranged a row of vases on it. It serves the purpose well.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Tallboy makeover

My most recent expedition to Poundland yielded a bundle of chests and tallboys. As with other Poundland furniture, they are fine, but dull, just begging to be transformed. And it so happens that I have just bought four wonderful books by Patricia King on dollhouse furniture-making (highly recommended) from which I borrowed some ideas. Here is the point of departure:

The first thing I did was sandpaper all the rough surfaces and edges. As you see, there were two handles missing, but I removed all of them since I was going to replace them anyway. Then I painted the chest dark brown. I tried to mix a lighter shade, but gave up.  Eventually, it turned out just right. When it was dry, I first gave it a coat of mahogny stain and then a coat of varnish.


For handles, I took pieces of an old ankle chain. 


If you think it was a h-ll of a job to take it apart and assemble again, it was. Whether you think it was worthwhile is for you to judge: 

The decorations in the middle come from another chain. The difference between before and after is obvious. But I have also taken a picture of my old chest of drawers, which was among the very first pieces of furniture I made, seven years ago. I have learned a lot since then although it wasn't that bad for a beginner.

But now, with a mix of nostalgia and guilt, I have replaced my old piece: 

It is perhaps not as elegant as the Georgian chest made from kit, but I am still very pleased with it.