Thursday, 21 April 2016

Kitchen cabinet

I am getting bolder and bolder with my Chippendale kits, so I have now taken two kits that I have done before, closed cabinet top (the first I ever made) and hutch cabinet, to make something different. I felt I could sacrifice both these kits because they are rather common and could be replaced if I ruined them. I have more respect for some rare pieces I yet have to venture on.

The challenge was not so much combining these two bits, because the instructions actually suggest exactly this as a possible combination (my other top cabinet is placed on a desk). The challenge was the finish. I wanted this to be a kitchen cabinet for the best kitchen, where nice china would be displayed for admiration. I had various ideas, but finally decided to use wash technique. In case you don't know what it is: you dilute paint with water, and depending on the surface you can add some glue. I didn't, but just painted coat upon coat with diluted paint which was plain white with a few drops of green.

I used the same green to paint the inside of the drawer, the fronts and the top cabinet. 

I must admit that I had not anticipated it to be difficult, although I should have known better. It is extremely difficult to paint an even edge between two colours. I had to do it over and over again. Also because I painted before assembly I had miscalculated and painted the wrong colour in a few places, and it's quite hard to paint white wash over dark green.

For handles this time I used small nails.

But the most difficult task was still ahead. Thinking back on it, I feel I was very brave when I made the first kit because it isn't one of the easiest. The fronts have to be aligned:

Twice they broke. It's just starting all over again. Then gluing on the glass panels:

Hinging the fronts it quite a task. With the base cabinet, one door was really non-collaborative. I let it reflect over its lack of collegiality overnight. It usually helps. The top cabinet hinges went relatively easy.

I am very pleased with the result. I think the wash works fine together with the green, for an original look.

Comparing the two pieces, this and the mahogany cabinet, you'd almost never guess that they were made from the same kit.

I am not yet sure where the cabinet will be and what kind of objects it will be filled with, so this is just a test:

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Chippendale bachelor's chest

My next piece of Chippendale furniture is a bachelor's chest. As I have mentioned repeatedly, you learn a lot from making miniatures. I had no idea what a bachelor's chest was. It is smaller than regular chests because a bachelor gentleman would travel a lot and carry this chest with him (suitcases hadn't been invented yet). It has several drawers of various size and a pull-out so it could also be used as a desk.

There isn't a lot of challenge in making it once you have made half a dozen of chests, so what I wanted to do was make original handles. All there Chippendale kits have exactly the same handles, that are very pretty, but when you have many pieces in a house it starts looking a bit boring. I have already made different handles, from bead caps and paper clips, but this time I decided I would try to make interesting handle plates. I found tiny beads in my supplies, and then I used the provided handles, but bent them into a ring. I have exactly this kinds of handles in one of my 1:1 chests.

Here are the steps:

I am very pleased with the result, although I am not sure yet where this chest will go. I don't know why it looks so shiny in the picture because it is really nice and smooth. I used about ten coats of stain to have this effect.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Chippendale cupboard

Last weekend I started making a cupboard, and today I finished it. (Sort of. May need some further improvement).


This kit came with one of my big bargains, and since after the three-drawer chest challenge I now feel more confident about making something other than the prescribed mahogany (and also because I am running out of space in the main house), I decided to make a kitchen cupboard to replace one of my very first pieces, from the time I had no experience and no proper tools. The blog post is from 2012, but I made the cupboard in January 2008. So maybe I shouldn't feel guilty about replacing it. Even in a 1:1 world I may replace a kitchen cabinet after eight years.

Anyway, I decided to make this cupboard in dark oak, and it was quite straightforward, except that it turned out to be a REALLY difficult piece, with a lot of precision work and tiny details to align, and the glue had to set after each step, and with several steps I had to leave the assembly overnight, held by rubber bands. There are some cracks where I didn't get it quite right, but nobody will know.

The only real issue I had was handles. The originally supplied hardware goes well with a mahogany piece, but not with an oak kitchen cupboard. I tried beads. I tried nails and pushpins, painted in copper. I tried champagne wire. I even tried tiny chess pieces - pawns' heads. But it just didn't look right. I was rummaging through a box of clock parts when I found a set of clock hands that I bought some time ago in a hobby shop when I worked on the clockmaker's shop. I never used those clock hands, and they weren't much use as drawer handles, but the set included tiny clips to fasten the hands, and see - this was just what I needed.

I am glad I had patience and didn't go for something I wasn't hundred per cent happy with.

From the beginning I also knew that I wanted a top to go on this base, but I didn't have a kit for that. In fact I had never seen any such kit, although I eventually saw that the box for the base said it was to be used with a certain kit. So, reckless as I am, I decided that I could make a cupboard top. What gave me confidence was that the description for the base - they have these lovely historical explanations - mentioned a "Welsh dresser", and Welsh dresser was what my first clumsy cupboard was supposed to be. I said to myself: If you managed to make that one without experience, without proper tools, using bits of Venetian blind, surely you can make a top cabinet now, with your experience, tools and materials. I found a picture of the top on the net, studied it carefully and decided I could do it. I also found the instruction sheet for chest on chest because it seemed the closest to what I was aiming at. Rather than working with my eternal Venetian blind, which is very hard wood, I took some balsa pieces, staining them with the same stain I used for the base. I wasn't sure the stain would look the same, but it did.

Balsa is soft and easy to cut, but it crumbles and is difficult to sand even. One uncertain movement, and you have sanded away too much. Also there was no way I could make grooves for the shelves so instead I used matches as shelf supports.

I used the chest on chest instructions for the order of assembly, but because there were no grooves on the sides it proved more complicated. 

I was quite proud of myself until I tested the top with the base (at that point still unfinished) and realised that it was too high, too broad and too deep. 

In such situations I usually turn to my Facebook groups, which I of course should have done in the first place. It so happened that one of my miniature friends was making this very cupboard. First I asked her to share pictures. Then I asked for the exact measurements. Then it turned out that she was soooo much smarter than I because she took a picture of the instruction sheet and shared it. And I realised that I had made everything wrong. Not just the size. 

Well, I dismantled it and cut the pieces to measure and glued and had to dismantle it again and then cut a new piece because the old one crumbled away. But in the end I got it more or less the way I wanted it.

You cannot see it in this picture, but there is cutlery and other stuff in the drawers. 

I removed most of the objects from the room for better view.

I am very proud of myself for several reasons. Firstly, that I was brave enough to try it at all. It is psychologically challenging to combine a precision-cut kit with a few bits of balsa, but it turned out well, didn't it? I am also happy that I didn't cheat and leave the first attempt as it was, because I would have been irritated every time I looked at it. 

So now I have evidence that I can make a simple piece of furniture to match a sophisticated kit. I may do it again. Or I may replace my creation with the real thing if I get hold of it.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

More curtains

Curtain time again! I have fourteen front windows, and this is a very good occasion to decorate the inside of the fronts to create a sense of more rooms. So far, I only have yellow curtains on one wall, matching the one in the dining room. 

I will not show the technique because as was exactly the same as last time, and you can also see some other curtains I made. It was a while ago, and I didn't remember how I made them so I had to read my own instructions. I used a 50p silk scarf from a thrift shop. I pleated the main curtains, and I made very straightforward pelmets. For tie-backs I used ribbons from my stash. As with the other curtains, I used velcro-type picture hanging to attach the curtains to the wall.

I put a mirror between the curtains, and I will probably add wall sconces,  but because the wallpaper is patterned I will perhaps not hang any pictures or other ornaments - it won't look good. But on the green wall I will definitely add pictures.

This is what the front looks from the outside:

On the opposite front, I didn't want to have heavy curtains on the upper floor, and I also wanted more space for pictures, so I made fake roll-ups from a length of lacy border. I thought I would have the same curtains for all four windows, otherwise it would be to much. On the floors below, there are only two windows and a door.

It looks nice from the outside:

I took this picture before I added ivy.

Now all the remaining windows look bare. I will need to make more curtains. Come back soon.