Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Hepplewhite serving table

This was a very easy piece to make, but I put a lot of effort in the finish. I used fifteen coats of stain (brown mahogany) before I was quite happy, then two coats of varnish. I think it is a magnificent piece. The curves make it look delicate and elegant. The drawer can be opened.

The dining room is now so full that there is no room for another table, but for the time being I have replaced the side table you can see in this post with the cellarette. The side table can be anywhere, but the serving table doubtless belongs in the dining room.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Chippendale cradle

I will show the cover of the original box for this kit because I made the miniature differently.


I like it this way, but I am getting a bit tired of mahogany (I must buy some more different stains). I first tried to stain it light oak. It felt wrong somehow, and I also thought that if I were to put it into the master bedroom, to replace - reluctantly - the cradle I made from a fan, then it could match the wardrobe and some other furniture there. So I painted it with the leftovers from the wardrobe and decorated with the same stickers.


It was a joy to make. Not that other miniatures are less joy, but it is such a delicate little thing. And it fits nicely in the bedroom.

I have removed some objects (including dolls) for a better view. You can see the dressing table in the foreground. I have repainted it to match the wardrobe as well. It is just a very slight change of shade, but makes a huge difference. The table and chairs to the left will also eventually be replaced.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Queen Anne firescreen

This wasn't a hugely challenging project, especially after the Chippendale firescreen. More precision leg-gluing, but I am really getting better at it.


It was my serious intention to cover this screen with a pretty cross-stitch piece from Ely cathedral, but as I tried it felt much too crude. I may find something else, but actually I think it is so pretty as it is that I may leave it like that. It looks great in the room.

I find it remarkable how, when you have added a nice detail to a room you cannot even image how it could have been without. If you look at my previous post showing the same room you may notice the old firescreen that had been there for a long time and done a good job. But you see the difference, don't you?

Friday, 24 June 2016

Tudor bathtub

Among many small details I have wanted and never got round to in my Tudor house is a bathtub. The excellent book by Brian Long explains how to make an authentic-looking bathtub, but for some reason it just hasn't happened.

Yesterday I had another successful round of charity shops. (They are all in the area where I have my hairdresser and my dentist). This is what I found:

Not sure yet what I will do with the metal things, most probably candlesticks. The glass jar will join other jars in the larder. The handbag I will give to my friend the happy shoe shop owner. Every now and then I give her something to add to the shop.

But can you see what the napkin rings will be?

I think they look very, very authentic.

But do I really need two bathtubs in the Tudor house?

One can go into Victorian kitchen. Among many other things.

In any case, two very nice objects that took me about five minutes to make.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Nursery cabinet

I wanted to make a cabinet to match the nursery bed, and I decided to combine a hutch cabinet and an open cabinet top.

I have made the hutch cabinet twice: one is in a rear corridor, the other as a base for a kitchen cabinet. 

I have made two closed cabinet tops, but it seems that the open top is less common. Now I have one.

I will not show step-by-step pictures. The top cabinet was probably the easiest Chippendale piece I have made, and I have now made more than thirty.


I painted the outside with the same paint as the bed, a plain acrylic from a kids' paint set. The inside I painted with the remains of paint from the wardrobe. It is not plain white and I think it goes well with blue.

The base proved easy too, because this was the third time, and I almost didn't have to check the instructions. Not even the hinges were evil this time - both sides went in at first attempt.

For handles, I used small silver beads. I left both the inside of the main cabinet and the drawer unpainted.

As I tried to put some objects on the shelves I realised that the shelves were much smaller than my original nursery shelf made from Jenga blocks ten years ago. Even then I remember that some toys were too big.


So now most of the toys will have to lie scattered on the floor. As they do in nurseries.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Utensils makeover

I have shared several examples of making over various plastic and wooden things, for instance, wooden objects, jars and pots, adding labels to wooden bottles, and in fact if I think back, my very first kitchen things were plastic Barbie pots and bowls that I painted metallic.

A couple of weeks ago I bought a set of plastic kitchen things in a charity shop.


Because I have learned some lessons, the first thing I did was check whether there were any marks signalling rare collectibles, but there weren't any. I also checked with my miniature group, and nobody recognised it. (If you tell me now that it is rare collectibles, it's too late). I also consulted my group concerning the question of whether leave them as they were or paint them, for instance, copper. Leaving them as they were, I could put them in my retro house, where the kitchen is already filled with stuff, including rare collectibles, and anyway, there is more challenge in upcycling things.

It was quite clear with the bucket: I simply painted it metallic. I will probably add some rust to it. I painted the frying pan black, and after some considerations I painted the roasting pan black too. I can't remember seeing a copper roasting pan. The two other pans I painted copper on the outside and metallic on the inside, because that's what my copperware looks like.

Now all these things can go into my Victorian kitchen. It is also full of stuff, but there is room for more. The "real" copper pans, made of copper coins, are in the best kitchen, but these can go into the working kitchen. In any case, I am pleased with the result.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Chippendale firescreen

A quick and relatively easy project resulting in a stunning piece. The only difficult part was the legs, but I am getting better at them.


According to instructions, the screen could be covered by a price of fabric, for instance, the lady's needlepoint. I think it is so pretty as it is that I will leave it like this. I have tried some fancy paper, but haven't yet found anything I like.

I have said this about candlestands: a pity that these objects are less visible in the background. But everything cannot be in the foreground. Anyone looking closely will see how amazing this screen is and how nicely it fits into the room.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Candle stands

After last weekend's complicated wardrobe I decided to make something simple and chose candlestands. I made a Queen Anne candlestand three years ago, among the very first pieces I made. It is very delicate, and you cannot put much on it except candles. The Chippendale and Hepplewhite stands are more robust.


However, the intricate process of gluing on legs at 120 degrees is the same. I am not very good at it.

I will not show step-by-step pictures because they are not very exciting. I wasn't sure whether the pedestals and legs were exactly the same in the two kits, but they were, so I could make all four pieces at the same time. I used four or five coats of  brown mahogany stain on the table surfaces, plus two coats of varnish. Here is the result:

I have tested two of them in rooms, to carry lamps:


I am not quite happy because they are very pretty and you cannot really see them in the background (even when I have removed some objects to take pictures). I would particularly like the octagonal and the serpentine stands to be displayed properly, but haven't decided yet how, so you will have to come back and see.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Another stunning chandelier

As I have accounted for, I once again spent a fortune in a dollhouse shop in Stockholm, and I have already shown what I did with one of the three chandeliers I bought.

I was reluctant to start on the next because I knew it involved removing a permanently fixed wooden floor in the room above. But I also knew it was inevitable because what's the use of a beautiful chandelier if it isn't put up in a room?

So here is the story of how I replaced a 50p plastic Christmas ornament with a £150 19th-century pewter chandelier of exquisite beauty.

 Mind, there is nothing wrong with the Christmas ornament. I like it, it fits very well into this room, and I have had it ever since I started making dollhouses, ten years ago. It has served me well, and I will probably use it in another project. I always feel bad about replacing an old faithful object. But now I had this magnificent chandelier, and it was going into this room because that's where it belonged.

I have already described the procedure of replacing ceiling lights. First, I removed all objects in the room above. I don't fix small objects on tables because I don't want to spoil the surfaces, but every time I evacuate a room all the tiny cups and plates and cakes and fruit come flying all over. I tell myself that I probably should fix them after all, but I won't because I have seen what happens to a fine table top after a cup has been fixed with a sticky dot.

Anyway, I removed the objects and tried to pull out the floor without removing the skirting boards, but of course I had done the job well, because I was sure everything was permanent. I managed to lift the floor just enough to get hold of the wire from which the chandelier was hanging. Halfway done, the old chandelier removed.

The next step was to attach a wire to the new chandelier and feed the wire through the hole. I use very thin wire of the kind you get around wine bottles. It can then be threaded into a large darning needle and drawn through the hole. Only the needle was too long for the narrow space.

To make a long story short, it was a long story. I would have needed another pair of hands. But here is the result:

It is very difficult to take a good picture that does justice to this magnificent piece. Trust me, I have taken a dozen. Here is a close-up that at least gives a better idea:


I will need to fix the candles better as they tend to fall off. And I wonder whether this chandelier now demands a different ceiling rose. As always, each improvement demands the next step.

If you wonder how the floor in the room above fared after this, there were some problems which I don't even want to discuss. I went to bed desperate, after putting the heaviest dictionary I could find on the newly re-attached floor. It looked fine in the morning, and all objects went back again. I have lost count of how many times things have been taken out and back again in each room. But if I had waited until "everything was finished" I would probably still have had empty rooms.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Queen Anne wardrobe, part 2

Read the first part of the story here.

After leaving the project overnight with a really big problem I was reluctant to return to it in the morning.  I pretended that I didn't know anything about the doors and that I had intended all the time to start painting on the outside.

Now listen to this carefully: I keep making this mistake over and over again. I wanted the colour to be 18th-century white, which is white with just a tiny shade of blue. I mixed this colour for the dressing table, which the wardrobe was to match, but of course I hadn't kept the paint, and I hadn't written down the exact proportion because I had just mixed it. Moreover, I had completely forgotten how little colour you need to add to white. I poured about half a deciliter all-purpose white in a jar and added... hm, far too much blue. I blended in another half deciliter white, and it was still bright blue. I took a third of it and added more white. It felt like preparing a homeopathic extract.

What I got was, I think, a lovely colour, only it was nothing even near the dressing table (and I may repaint the dressing table now).

I was still pretending that I didn't know about the doors, and I felt really pleased with my project.


But I couldn't go on pretending forever, so I consulted my facebook friends. I had two options. I could sand the top and bottom of the doors, but the problem was that there were pin holes I was anxious to break. I could also try to take off the frame and glue the top and bottom trim half a millimetre up and down, which was risky, since the frame could break, and it wasn't certain it would work anyway. I was glad I hadn't glued the central divider, since my FB companion had warned me about possible complications. At least it wasn't entirely my fault: there was after all something wrong with the kit.

Anyway, after some contemplation I decided that sanding the doors was the least evil. You have no idea how much time and energy it takes to sand away a millimitre of wood! I was cautious not to sand too much, and I had to keep the edge straight, and every now and then I wanted to throw the whole thing in the dustbin. But after what seemed hours - and probably was - the doors fit, and I could paint them as well.

I drilled holes for knobs and put them in. I even found gold stickers that I used many, many years ago on my first clumsy furniture.

I was prepared for a battle with pins, but to my surprise they behaved, and it didn't take me more than three attempts. I had almost breathed out, but a new problem was already looming: the central divider that I had been warned about. When I inserted it - cleverly without gluing - the doors wouldn't close.

Since I had been warned I didn't throw it in the dustbin. Instead, I took out more sandpaper, and after another hundred hours the silly thing finally fit.

Imagine: the doors opened and closed, everything was neat and fine. I could hardly believe it, waiting for the next trick.

And it came. There must be something wrong with this kit, because I have never before had so many problems with things not fitting. The drawers were at least half a millimetre too large on all sides. Or the drawer boxes too small. More sandpaper. But I had made up my mind to finish, and I did.


And with doors open:


And in its environment, the master bedroom:

To take the picture, I have removed some objects from the front for a better view. The wardrobe is so pretty that I'd like to display it better, but there is really no other place for it. Now I need to fill the shelves with clothes.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Queen Anne wardrobe

I have promised myself that I won't make any more Chippendale miniatures before I do at least some work on the house - not just putting up new chandeliers, but also finish curtains, hang pictures, find place for all small objects still in boxes. It will go on forever, but at least some progress...

Then my Chippendale group suggested another challenge, and we decided on Queen Anne wardrobe because it is an intimidating piece, and it's great to support each other as you go.

I knew I wanted to replace the old wardrobe in the master bedroom. Not that there is anything radically wrong with it. But it is plain. I got it in a bundle from ebay so I have no attachment to it.

But of course I wanted the new wardrobe painted whitish, and I wanted it to match the dressing table.

I will tell the story in detail because it is illuminating. It has been a while since I showed a project step by step, but I took lots of pictures for the challenge so I can just as well share them. And reflect on the process.

So the first thing to do is, as usual, lay out the parts. Because it is a large piece, there were two layout sheets, one for the base and one for the cabinet.

Since I wasn't going to stain I could start assembling at once, after sanding all outside surfaces. This is part of the skill: figure out which will be outside surfaces. I was planning to have two different colours on the inside and outside, and typically I would paint first, but in this case I knew that the inside of the base, where the drawers go, would be unpainted. Therefore I could glue it together right away.


You would think that after the numerous chests I had made this would be child's play, but each piece is unique and has its own intricacies. The drawer boxes are very low and hard to manipulate, and one shelf had to be flush with the back and the other two flush with the front, so it was less straightforward than a simple chest. And as you see, it had to dry held by tape. Sometimes I use rubber bands, but there were too many details to keep in place.

While it was drying I had a look at the other layout sheet.

It was frightening, until I realised that four panels and sixteen small parts were drawers, and if I assembled the drawers the rest would be much more manageable. This is the wisdom you have gained after you have made a dozen chests. Therefore I identified the drawer parts and glued the drawers, except fronts that I would add later.


Everything became clearer now. Also, I forgot to mention that I had sanded the legs first of all. This is another wisdom gathered after a number of cabriole leg chairs and sideboards. Sand a leg every now and then, when you need a rest from intellectual work. It takes ages.

So as I returned to the base I had legs ready.


This was best to leave to dry overnight, and I switched my attention to the cabinet. I knew I wanted to wash the inside with light blue, and now I could figure out which the inside was, sides, back and shelves. I have used wash on several pieces, including the kitchen cabinet, and the secret is, as with so many other things, patience. You may think that if you use diluted paint one coat will be enough, but it isn't. To have a nice wash effect you need three to four coats. But it's worth while.

This assembly also had to dry overnight, which left me with doors. Now, I know that I am profoundly stupid when it comes to three-dimensional thinking. Trigonometry was my worst subject in school, and I cannot do any 3D puzzles. So I spent a very, very long time trying to figure out how to assemble the doors. The instruction is very simple, and I looked at the picture, and I just didn't get it. I was about to appeal to my Chippendale group companion, but then I happened to turn a part upside down, and it all became clear. This keeps happening to me all the time.


Again, based on previous mistakes I remembered to check the pin holes so that I quite correctly ended up with one left and one right door.

The next step in the instructions was to assemble the front frame, which felt tricky, as I was sure it would break when I lifted it.


As you probably see I use a plastic chopping board as work surface so that the assembly doesn't stick. And I managed to lift it and glue on to the cabinet.


This felt good, until I tested the doors and found that they were a millimetre taller than the frame.  A millimetre is a huge error in this scale.


There could be two reasons for this. Firstly, the parts didn't fit. This does not happen with these kits, they are precision-cut. Therefore it was my fault; I had obviously done something wrong.

It was quite late in the evening, and I couldn't cope with it. Instead, I put the cabinet on top of the base and pretended that I had simply finished for the day.


Then I went to bed. And as a good storyteller, I will keep you in suspense so that you come back to read the rest of the story.

To be continued.