Monday, 31 August 2015

Basement roof

I will not share all details about improvements and repairs in the basement following new lights. I had to sand and scratch upper edges of walls to fit into roof grooves - something I didn't know six montts ago when I worked on the basement, but which I learned from assembling the main house. I removed the fronts to work more comfortably. I repaired the broken door posts and fixed wallpaper that had come off. Againt my principles, I attached jars, plates and other utensils on tables, shelves and dressers with sticky dots because they will keep falling off, and it's a lot of trouble to put them back in the limited space of the basement rooms.

(I believe the design of the basement does not presuppose the level of sophistication I am doing. The furnished basements of this model that I have seen feature, for instance, an empty garage with one car, an empty entrance hall without the back corridor, and a half-empty kitchen).

I also put up two new shelves that I bought in my favourite miniature shop in Stockholm a few weeks ago. They look genuine early 20th century to me, and I hope they are because they were quite pricey. They came with two lovely tin jars that say "Sugar" and "Coffee" in Swedish, but I will pretend that the master of the house bought them from a Swedish merchant.

It wasn't possible to hammer in nails without damaging the shelves, so I drilled holes and glued in nails cut to the depth of the hole.

Here is an interesting observation on perception psychology. Most of the tin and pewter objects in the working kitchen I made myself, covering plastic with metal paint. They look fine enough. But if I place a couple of "genuine" objects in the front, you will perceive all other objects as genuine as well. (It is like using dialects in theatre: an actor only has to speak in a dialect for the first five minutes of the performance; afterwards you will "hear" the dialect even though it's not there. The same with limping or other physical traits). In the second picture, only the coffee pot on the left is genuine pewter, everything else is painted plastic. But because you see the coffee pot first you will be deceived to believe that all other jugs are also genuine. This is great to know when you plan your rooms. One-two genuine objects will do the trick.  

After this I could no longer postpone the critical moment of putting on the roof. I considered turning the structure upside down as it might be easier, but decided against it because of all the hanging objects on the walls that I would have to remove.

To my surprise, the roof fit quite well, with some persuasion and a rubber hammer, but once it was in place, I didn't want to risk taking it off to use glue. So here it is. 


You cannot see the details, and there are no display lights yet, but now there is a roof. You can see details in my earlier posts, for instance, here.

The next step is to attach mouldings, and since I am now clever and know how to use full-size wallpaper for moulding this is what I am going to do. I have already put in wooden skirting so it will have to stay.

This is also the right moment to decide whether I want ceiling lights because I will need to drill holes and fix the lights before I put back the main house. They will be fake, and I am not sure I want any at all because the ceiling is low, and ceiling lamps will obscure the view. Perhaps I will just have fake wall sconces.

I have some time now before term starts so I hope to finish - I mean, really finish - the basement soon. Stay tuned.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Miniature-making and neuroscience

A lot has been said about how brain laterality affects creativity, but I have never seen it applied to miniature-making. It has just struck me how the two cerebral hemispheres collaborate when we are making mini-objects or planning a large project, and whether a miniaturist's general hemisphere dominance may govern the kind of projects we get involved in.

I don't pretend to know much about neuroscience, but I have read several books on brain laterality and the arts. In short, the right hemisphere is emotional, while the left is rational; the right is concrete, while the left is abstract; the right sees the whole in a context, while the left attends to details out of context; the right explores, while the left categorises; the right prioritises novelty, change, plurality and ambiguity, while the left prefers to keep to what it already knows. Iain McGilchrist suggests in his wonderful book The Master and His Emissary that the left hemisphere accumulates knowledge, while the right generates wisdom. Both are equally important in our perception of the world, yet each perceives the world differently, and we need to combine their views.

How is this relevant to miniature-making? For instance, we are obviously passionate about our work and connect to it emotionally. Yet we know, thanks to the rational left hemisphere, that our dollhouses, room boxes and scenes are not real, that they are models. The left hemisphere is very good at calculating numbers precisely, such as understanding what 1:12 scale means; but it has no idea of the implication, while the right hemisphere intuitively feels that an object is out of scale. The left hemisphere focuses on the surface, while the right focuses on depth. Isn't it fascinating? It means that the right hemisphere encourages us to work with three-dimensional projects.

The left hemisphere categorises objects into beds, tables, chairs, lights and dolls. But is does not see the whole picture, does not understand how tables, chairs and dolls relate to each other, how they create a scene or how several rooms relate to each other in a dollhouse. The left hemisphere sees them separately. Does it mean that the left hemisphere is happier with making room boxes? 

The left hemisphere recognises a table, but it doesn't really care whether the table is Tudor, Georgian, Victorian or modern. It would not notice a mixture of incompatible styles. The right hemisphere would cringe. I guess that by developing our sense of style we stimulate the right hemisphere and perhaps suppress the left hemisphere a bit.

The left hemisphere does not like anything new and unfamiliar. If we listened to it we would just make the same things over and over again. Perhaps collectors are more left-hemisphere people because they want things that they have already seen: in a catalogue, on the web or in other people's dollhouses. The makers, especially the recyclers, are right-hemisphere people: they like to make new things, invent things, find surprising solutions, use found objects, make things over. It's the right hemisphere's doing that a dollhouse project is never finished, that we always want to change, to add, to experiment. It prefers the original, the unique. However, without the left hemisphere, we would never be able to learn from our mistakes! It is the left hemisphere that allows us to focus on minute details, but it is the right hemisphere that spots a door knob in a heap of rubbish. 

The right hemisphere finds pleasure in our tactile contact with wood, fabric, clay or paint. The left hemisphere is satisfied with a clever solution that demands a lot of thinking. But it will insist on the same solution next time rather than trying something new, while the right hemisphere immediately sees an array of alternatives. It finds no joy in making the same things twice. The left hemisphere want to be in control. The right is fine with trial and error. It is perfectly fine with changing plans.

Perhaps the most interesting trait, where the healthy competition between the hemispheres makes our hobby possible at all, is that the left hemisphere is optimistic, but unrealistic about its limitations, while the right hemisphere is pessimistic, but more realistic. So when we start on a grand project, the left hemisphere shouts: We can do it, we can do it! while the right whispers: Well, maybe you can do it, but it will take time and effort. 

 This image is from the web. There are hundreds of similar images, Don't take them too seriously: it is much, much more complicated 

Light replacement

If you read my yesterday's post you may be interested to know how I am dealing with the issues.

Firstly, of course, I removed the old lights and replaced them with LED strips. (Fortunately, I still had two left). I wasn't happy with the old lights because they were too dim. LED lights are stronger than a "normal" light would be, but I think it works better, especially in rear corridors. A bit of the mystery disappears, but you can see the details better.

A vertical shot of the rear corridor (roof removed) shows how I attached the strip and fixed the battery holder. It does not matter that the wires hang loose because they won't be visible with the roof on.

The door opens into the front corridor, and the light will thus be reflected from the back wall. I had to cut a groove in the back wall where the wires go. The battery holder is attached to the back in a fabric bag, just as I did with the lights in the main house. I may come up with a better idea, but so far it works fine.

The door to the right opens into the best kitchen, and it will be visible from the front. The corridor and the stairs are also visible from the side window. It is very difficult to take a decent picture through a window, so use your imagination.


From the front, the corridor looks like this:


Yes, I know the stair rail is crooked, but it's too late to do anything about it. The front corridor is, contrary to what I remembered, not at all finished, but this I can do after the roof is on. What I did add is a old box under the stairs. It was an empty space that just demanded something to fill it. It is casually shoved in.

The light under the stairs, only visible from the working kitchen, was both easier and more difficult to fix. It is a very small and awkward space. Originally, I worked on it before I put in the stairs, but this time I could only access it through the kitchen door. I had already a hole in the back wall which I just needed to make larger for the strip to go through. But because of the drilling, the wall was damaged. And the wire fully visible. There was no way I could hide it because I needed to place the strip behind the door.

As I said, there will only be a lateral view of this space, through the kitchen window. One in a hundred viewers might look through this window, but this viewer will see the mess and think I did a poor job.

The white square on the wall is, by the say, a piece of velcro that will hold the dresser in place. Once I have sealed the roof there will be no way I can access the dresser. So here I have tidied it up. It almost looks as if the light comes from the fake lamp. 

From the side window, you have a view, and that's the only way you can see this space.


This done, I must now repair the broken door posts and make all the final fixtures before I glue on the roof.

By the way,  I checked the assembly instructions for the basement. The roof should be glued after the interior doors! So I haven't even made the mistake I thought I had.

Saturday, 29 August 2015


I have been away from my dolhouse for a while. I went to two conferences, and in between it has been gardening weather rather than dollhouse weather. I have been to Sweden and left a considerable amount of money in the miniature shop in Stockholm, but this is a separate story which I will be happy to share later. What happened today when I finally returned to my project was that I noticed that one of the basement doors, the one between the kitchen and the larder, was broken. Since the house hasn't been moved or even touched, this was a mystery. Then I realised what had happened.

I knew that I would have to deal with it sooner or later, so why did I pretend I didn't? If you have followed my project, you may or may not remember, and if you haven't, I'll tell you now. Almost half a year ago, when I moved the basement from the dining table and started assembling the main house on top of it, I didn't glue on the basement roof. I remember I was in a hurry because I had guests coming who would sleep in the room (and eat at the dining table). So I simply put the roof on top of the basement, and the house on top of the roof. I didn't notice, and would probably not think of it if I had, was that the main house was one centimetre de-centred against the basement roof. Which means that the weight was unbalanced, and finally, with the roof and the fronts added, the weight of the house crashed a basement door. Luckily, not beyond repair. Yet it reminded me that the basement roof needed to be glued on, for which purpose I had to remove the main house, for which purpose I had to remove all objects that could get broken during the move. Which resulted in this:

It isn't really going back half a year, because all rooms have floors and wallpaper, most of the doors and one staircase are in place, the rear corridors are done; but suddenly what to an inexperienced eye would look like a finished house was little more than an empty shell.

Moreover, when I tried to move it, I realised that it had become significantly heavier since last time, because of the fronts. So I removed them too.


My husband helped me to move the main house to a coffee table. It looked familiar.

It is now in the middle of the room, and the basement is behind it. No way I can have any guests in the near future.

So, with the basement I am really half a year back. There is another mistake I made, apart from assembling the main house before glueing on the basement roof. The roof should be glued on before the interior walls. It will be very difficult to do it now. However, I had a reason for doing it the way I did because it is extremely hard to work inside low-ceilinged rooms, and with my intricate rear corridor I wouldn't have been able to make it at all. So it turned our right although it was wrong. It will still be very, very hard to put on the roof.

Yet there are several unexpected advantages. Firstly, I can now replace the lights, which I was happy with then, but not any more, not since I used LED-strips in the rear corridors of the main house. I was going to do it anyway, but it will be much easier without the roof. I will also be able to re-arrange some of the furniture and add some stuff I had obtained since then. Again, it will be much easier while the roof is off. Repairing the broken door will be easy. I have learned some important lessons while working on the main house.

But glueing on the roof will be very, very hard.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

More door knobs

I have shown how I made door knobs in the basement. I could have easily made similar knobs for all doors, but there isn't much challenge in this. I have made some knobs from paper clips and other stuff, but I have been waiting for something special to come my way. And it has. On today's round of charity shops I bought this bracelet for 50p.

I didn't have door knobs in mind, rather chest drawer knobs. But when I came home and started looking around I saw that the pieces would be perfect for the double doors on the first floor.


That obviously took eight pieces, leaving me with a handful, and I realised that I could have these pretty, unique knobs on every door on the main floors. Here are some pictures.

I removed all temporarily fixed paper clips and even some permanently attached knobs, and it was worth the trouble, don't you think?