Thursday, 28 May 2015

Grand stairs

Now that I had made the upper staircase I felt more confident approaching grand stairs. Obviously, I glued on the steps, and glued on the rails (and had to trim them, just as the instructions promised I'd have to). Then I had this problem with the large steps. I did, as I considered in the previous post, stain the edges, but since I had been so clever before and primed the steps, the surface couldn't be stained. I tried various wood strips, but none matched so it was just getting worse and worse. Finally I cut two pieces of white card and stainted them. I was hugely dissatisfied with the result and put the whole project aside.

Then yesterday I happened to be near Poundland and went in to buy more tea lights, when I saw another roll of adhesive shelf lining. I didn't have the steps in mind at all, but it was a darker shade, and for a pound you can afford something you don't need immediately but may find useful some time in the future. However, when I got home and had a better look, the shade was just right for the steps. So I had to back on my solemn promise never to use shelf lining. This time, I was really pleased. Judge for yourself:

Possibly, the large steps are a but too shiny, but I can dull them with shoe polish.

But - just as I mentioned in the previous post, I now saw even more clearly that the floor was wrong. It distracted the attention from the stairs which I want to be the central feature of this room. Also the colour of the darker parquet bits was wrong. Just wrong all the way. First I thought I'd make another similar floor with darker bits, but it seemed a shame to throw away a good floor that simply didn't fit in this room so I tested it the drawing room where I wanted a better floor anyway. And see, in the drawing room it looked just right.

This just shows you that you shouldn't keep stubbornly to original plans. So that's decided - I just need to add a couple of rows in the back, since this room is deeper.

Back to the grand hall then. I tested to make a floor with the shelf lining, using a fancy-ish pattern.


It looked good in itself, but I don't think it works in the room. It's too dull. So the old floor was too bright, this is too dull, and I need something in between. Also, the two rooms on both sides of the hall have real hardwood floors. The music room to the right has herringbone parquet, and for the reception room I have started making a very elaborate floor that I haven't shown yet since it isn't finished, but here it is anyway:

Next to this, a shelf-lining floor, pretty as it is, doesn't look good enough. I will of course finish it and use elsewhere. But what shall I do with the hall floor? Come back soon! 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Upper stairs - and consequences

This weekend I decided it was time for a major break-through. I have been making floors with my new tool, but nothing finished yet; and I have made some furniture for a change, a desk and some tables, but I haven't moved on with any larger features of the house.

Time to put in the stairs. At least the upper flight. Start small. I have the grand staircase to cope with. I haven't done anything with upper stairs since I tested the wooden steps. I now trimmed them with my new favourite tool and glued them permanently. Then I glued on the rail. When I tested the assembly I discovered that the pretty moulding I had added didn't fit into the stairwell. I could have anticipated it, but I hadn't. I had to cut off two centimetres which was quite a job since I didn't want to damage anything.

Then I realised that before I put in the stairs permanently I actually need to put in the floor in the room upstairs. It is the servants' room, and I hadn't done anything there except the wallpaper. There probably wouldn't be any elaborate floor in a servants' room, but I still wanted to make something interesting so I went back to the self-adhesive shelf lining and made a decent floor that didn't take more than a couple of hours.

When I started testing the stairs again I realised that there are two doors in the room and that I probably should put in at least the door to the right before I put in the stairs. This is something that the instruction manual does not mention at all - that doors will have to be put in at some point, and which point exactly might be best.

Have I mentioned that of all the ungrateful tasks in dollhouse building the most ungrateful is putting in doors? I am sure I have, but here it is again: of all the ungrateful tasks in dollhouse building the most ungrateful is putting in doors. They just never fit the openings. And in this case, it was an opening at the back of an attic room. I had to use kitchen steps, and I am not repeating all the dirty words I kept saying for the two whole hours it took me. I didn't even bother to invent interesting door knobs, just put in two nails with large white heads.


I had no energy to do the other door, but at least it won't be obstructed by the stairs.

Finally, after all these preparations I took a deep breath and glued in the stairs. 

And a close-up:

Then I added the railings in the room upstairs.


As I said, this room hasn't been properly furbished yet, so I will add some objects now that I see where the stairs are.

Finally, I glued another moulding on the wall along the stairs. It is not mandatory, but I think it makes a huge difference.


I am enormously pleased with my progress. The staircase looks great, and it feels that two rooms are now almost finished, And it will be less intimidating to make the grand staircase.

Friday, 22 May 2015

More Hepplewhite tables

Inspired by the success of my Chippendale desk, I decided to make some more pieces. I made a beautiful Hepplewhite dining table a while ago so this time it felt less intimidating. These two lovely tables were quite straightforward to make.


The round table is not particularly remarkable, but what I did with it was stain the surface repeatedly - about ten coats - to make it really dark. The introduction says these tables were often made with different kinds of wood, but I wasn't sure how it would work and couldn't afford to make mistakes.

The table is preliminarily placed in the music room.


I will probably serve fruit on it. The problem with tables is that, on the one hand, it's natural to have a table cloth, but on the other hand, I want the surface to be visible.

Another problem is that with this delicate table, the chairs that I have now feel far too crude. I don't remember where these chairs come from, but they have been around for a long time.


I have a chair that fits better; maybe it even is a Hepplewhite chair or very similar, but I guess I will have to buy a couple more.


The corner table is a very interesting and rare piece. This is the first and only time I have seen it on ebay. It is slightly higher than a regular table, and the introduction suggests that it was used as a serving table or maybe a wash stand. If the manufacturers don't know, how would I know? I will use it as a decorative table in the grand hall. It has a pretty marble top, and I will put some ornament on it.


The floor in the grand hall is not finished, and the stair rail is still white-tacked. I start feeling I would like to move on, but I need to complete some other things first. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Chippendale desk on frame

Some time ago I made another incredible bargain on ebay: one more bundle of Chippendale furniture kits from House of Miniatures. If you haven't seen my Chippendale furniture, have a look at the cabinet, candle stand, canopy bed, night stand, desk, chest, another chest, chairs, wing chair, sofa, and not least the magnificent table.

I knew there were more pieces in this series, but if you buy them one by one it can get quite expensive, especially if you buy from the USA because the shipping will be more than the price. You can get a small selection of modern copies from Minimundus, but they are really expensive. I browse ebay every now and then, and here is what I found at a very reasonable price:

Of all these pieces, I only had the candlestands before, and you can have several of these.

Since I have been fully occupied with my big project I thought I didn't have time for cabinet-making, but suddenly I felt that the smoking room needed a proper desk. This will be another case of infidelity, because the old desk is one of the very first pieces I made. I was proud of it then, not least the tiny knobs, but now it looks crude as compared to the other delicate furniture in the room.

This is a very sophisticated desk, and if I hadn't made other Chippendale miniatures I would have been intimidated.

To be honest, I was intimidated when I opened the box and placed all details on the layout sheet. They were so many and so tiny!

Luckily, I remembered some of my previous experience. For instance, against the instructions, you must stain the wood before glueing because stain doesn't work on top of glue. If a minuscule drop of glue remains on the surface there will be ugly white patches. So I stained the parts and lay them out again.

The instructions for these kits are excellent, and if I made three stupid mistakes it was my own fault. I didn't take step by step pictures because I thought they weren't terribly exciting to look at, and I had shown the process before. Plenty of patience, sandpaper, waiting for glue to set, good tweezers. But now it's done, I think I should have taken pictures after all. With each step, the assembly became more and more amazing. Here is the final result.

 All drawers can be opened, and side slides that hold the writing surface can be pulled out as seen in the picture. I think it is still more gorgeous when open:

 The green fabric was not included, but this is what would be used for such a desk.

I think this is the most beautiful piece I have made. Or maybe it is like with so many other things: you love the most recent creation best.

Of course it cannot stand in the middle of the room like this, but I haven't yet decided where it will be best. Come back soon.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Rocking chair remake

Now that I have replaced the old book case with the new one that is just half as deep, I have some space in the rear corridor. I want as many details as possible in rear corridors because it creates a sense of more space than there actually is and adds to the mystery. What else is hiding there?

There isn't a lot of space though, and it must be something compatible with a book case (I already have a painting on the wall that is only visible through the side window). A rocking chair? Would the master sit down in a rocking chair occasionally, while browsing through books?

I have had a rocking chair for a long time, don't remember where it came from; one of those Made in China pieces that are of quite good quality, but poorly finished, too glossy, too edgy. Most miniaturists are familiar with them.


I have improved several such pieces, although I have never tried to remove varnish with strong chemicals as dollhouse books suggest. I tried soaking it in white spirit, but it didn't work. I sanded as much as I could and then painted it with ordinary acrylic paint. Because of the paint undernearth it got sort of a distressed look without me doing anything about it. I tried to distress it further, but there was no point. Instead, I sanded all edges to make them more round and smooth. I coated it with oak stain. I know you are not supposed to use stain on top of paint, but I do and find it works well. I finished with a velvet seat.

I cannot say I am fully satisfied, and I probably wouldn't put this piece in a front room, but in a rear corridor where it is barely visible I think it will be fine.

Here it is in its right place. I added a bottle of wine and a glass for the master. The two giant books on the floor, that obviously don't fit into the book case, are a fascimile of the original Sherlock Holmes story from Queen Mary's dollhouse and a Latvian-English dictionary that I have transformed into a book of magic. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Every now and then I very reluctantly replace a piece of furniture that I made a long time ago with something better, either something I have have made better or bought. Each time I feel I am betraying an old friend. But sometimes it becomes inevitable. Everyone would agree that this:

looks better than this:


I mean the book case in the rear corridor of course. My old faithful book case that I made with so much care and wit eight yars ago and that I very recently attached to the wall with velcro.

But I cannot help it. I found some nice things at a charity shop today.

The lovely little perfume bottle will, I believe, make a nice table lamp. The case on the right is not to scale, and at the moment I don't know what I will do with it. But the one on the left I felt at once was going to replace the old book case.

There were some problems though. Most books in the old book case were too large. Before I had time to change my mind I took my new favourite tool and resized all books.


Some were too thick and looked unnatural so I had to tear them apart and remove some "pages". Some I had to throw away (weeping with remorse). Then I had to make some more, to fill the shelves. Most of the old books were bound in black, so this time I added green, red and blue, painting the spines with gold.

Here is the room with the new rear corridor:

Monday, 11 May 2015

Indispensable tool

I don't know why I was so resistant to mitre shears. Six years ago when I was making my very first parquet floor and swearing over cutting lolly sticks with scissors, a clever Facebook friend told me to get mitre shears. I guess at the time I was pretty sure it was a one-off enterprise, but of course I have made many floors since then, all the time using scissors and swearing, and I have also made picture frames and other things where mitre is essential. I do have a mitre box - one of the first tools I bought when I started miniature-making. But you cannot use a mitre box and saw for tiny parquet pieces.

Now the time has come to make some fancy floors for the dining room and the grand reception room, and I have found fancy floor patterns, which all require 45 degree cuts. Therefore I have finally got mitre shears. They come in various shapes and a huge price range. I bought the simplest and cheapest, after reading customer reviews on amazon very, very carefully.


When I shared my joy on Facebook most people said, yes, of course, have had it for years. Some said, yes, must get too. And some asked: What is it and what do you use it for? For the benefits of the latter, I will explain. Now that I have this tool, I cannot imagine being without it. A true revolution in miniature-making, as important as inventing the wheel.

So: I am going to make a fancy floor. Like this:


Looks easy? Anyone can do it? Go ahead and try!

I am using coffee stirrers, plain and oak-stained. For each aquare, I need sixteen mitred strips and one tiny central square. The strips must be cut at 45 degress and they must all be the right length. Then I build the square. It takes about 30 minutes. I will need forty-two squares.

When I finished the first row I sanded it fiercely and then tested in the room.

Right now it looks dull, but I will varnish it.

Two days later:

I cannot work on this for more than a couple of hours at a time because my eyes get tired, and my bad shoulder starts complaining. And although in a way peaceful, it is, frankly, quite boring after a while, so I must alternate it with something else.

I love my mitre shears. I may want to replace all my old floors. But not until I finish this one. Come back soon.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Another big disaster

To be frank, it came before the one I have already admited. It was so frustrating that I just went on to do something else, although it wasn't very hard to correct.

Do you remember the cupboard I got in my bargain about a month ago? I mended it to the best of my abilities, putting "glass" in the doors, and moved the pretty china from the old cupboard that wasn't to scale and generally unsatisfactory. (I know I am repeating myself, but it is remarkable how, when you make an improvement, you wonder how on earth you could put up with an unsatisfactory solution).

The cupboard was going into the rear corridor behind the dining room.

Clever as I am, I tested carefully that, unlike the bookshelf in the smoking room that had to be attached permanently before I sealed off the corridor, this cupboard went easily through the door.

Only it didn't. Not after the partition was in place. The corridor was too narrow.

This was one of those moments when I want to give up and throw the whole project into a garbage bin. No, actually I want to throw myself into a garbage bin, worthless as I am.

Instead, as I said, I switched my attention over to something else and for a couple of weeks pretended that the dining room didn't exist. But of course it did, and I could not postpone dealing with it forever. I didn't take step-by-step pictures because it was painful, almost humiliating. I pulled out the partition, tearing down wallpaper. I believe this is when my ceiling decoration fell off. I put in the cupboard. I redecorated the back wall, including the chimney breast. I trimmed the corners. I glued on door surrounds. All this was very difficult to do inside the room. All in all, it took me about twelve hours.

While I was at it, I repaired the crystal chandelier. To be honest, I merged two old chandeliers, simply adding six more threads in between the existing ones. It was a huge improvement.Then I had to tear up floorboards in the room above to fix the chandelier.

Here is the result.

No mouldings yet, and you can see I have just started making a new floor. I will tell you about it in the next post.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Great stairs

I don't even want to go back to the picture of the great staircase covered with adhesive shelf lining! Over and done with. Instead I will make steps like I did with the other stairs. Now that I know how to.

I wish things were simple. I had forgotten that I had glued the effing lining because although it is called self-adhesive it never, ever stays stuck. And as every miniaturist knows through bitter experience, stain won't cover glue. So when I stained the vertical parts of the steps they became patchy.

Well, there is not much I can do about it short of buying new stairs, which is not an option. 

As it turned out, together with the wooden steps it looked even more natural than on the other stairs. Lesson learned: if you want wood effect on MDF, cover it with patchy glue before staining.

Now that it looks so grand I am not sure I am happy with the floor. It's too conspicuous. I may move it elsewhere and make a more discreet floor. Or maybe not.

I have another problem. The two lowest steps are too large to be covered by a craft stick. And shelf lining is not good enough any more.

This is a tricky one, but I know I will figure it out eventually. Maybe I will cover them with patches of glue and then stain. Right now I am admiring my work.

And with the small stairs from the landing it looks like this:


Sometimes it gets really frustrating. Do you remember my splendid dining-room ceiling? As with all my ceilings, I very carefully made it before assembling the shell. But I have been messing so much with the dining room (more of which in due time) that the decoration came off.

I had good reasons for decorating ceilings before assembly. It's a h-l of a job to glue on decorations to a ceiling inside a room because of course they get unstuck under their own weight. And it isn't straightforward either, because it has to be centred for the ceiling light.

This is the point of departure, and it took me some time to get there because I had to remove everything from the floor above to fix the middle of the lace. Then I tried this and that. Both in terms of technique and glue. I didn't swear aloud because my husband gets anxious, but I swore violently inside. I was absolutely on the verge of giving up, just cutting the middle of the lace for ceiling rose and maybe some bits here and there. Then I remembered how gorgeous it looked. I didn't give up. I used masking tape, pins and wit. And tons of glue.

Now I am afraid to touch it. But I will have to, sooner or later.

Sunday, 3 May 2015


It is remarkable how, with a large project like this one, you gradually put higher and higher demands on yourself. Half a year ago I was totally content with self-adhesive shelf lining for my stairs. (You need to scroll down the post a bit). To quote myself, "I wasn't prepared to go to the extremes". Today, it feels out of the question to leave it like that. It looks unnatural and unprofessional. Maybe fine in the rear corrdor, but not at the front when it will be among the first details you see. Just as I am replacing all floors made of the same shelf lining with proper wooded floors.

As you may have noticed, I have no problems jumping from task to task, and yesterday I suddenly decided that I needed to make the stairs. I had an idea, and I went on to test it, using large craft sticks that I fixed - not glueing yet - on top of the plastic sheet. It's about a millimetre that sticks out.

You can immediately that it doesn't work, can't you? The stain emphasises the grain of the wood, and it looks stunning, but the plastic spoils it all. The solution would be to use the same sticks on the vertical areas, but when I tried it they were too thick. In my desperation, I did something that I had dismissed six months ago: used stain direct on MDF. And see, in combination with wooden steps it worked. 

Close up:

I still need to trim the steps before glueing, and I will possibly varnish them, but you can see what a huge difference it makes. 


The banister is only attached with white tack, and there will of course be a newel post. There will also be a rail on the wall. 

I am very proud of myself. No compromises! Go to the extremes! I have the large front staircase to fix now.