Sunday, 30 October 2016

Dower chest

This is once again a project that I did with my miniature group. It was fun to make together, and there are always some small bits of advice you can share.


I will not show all the sixteen steps I shared with my group since they were mostly technical, but this was an interesting kit, not like any other I had made before.

I used the light teak stain that I had used on some other recent miniatures, and I stained all parts first. The front, back and sides then had trimming to be glued on, preferably aligned.


Assembling the chest itself was easy, and assembling the frame proved easier than I had anticipated.


Then I had to glue the chest onto the frame, and the frame had to go into the notches in the corners of the chest. I hadn't done anything like this before.


Up to this, it was smooth, and even though the drawer didn't fit and I had to sand it down, it all went well.

But then I had to make and hinge the lid, and for this I had recently bought a wonderful new tool:


Another tool I didn't know I needed badly. It is called pin vise, and it can drill the tiniest holes imaginable. Why didn't anyone introduce me to this marvel nine years ago!

With it, it was easy to drill holes for the hinge pins, and while I did make several mistakes, in the end it all went fine.

The final result was stunning, I think.


Then something went terribly wrong. When I varnished the chest it all went gray. Can varnish have a use-before-date? Or maybe I hadn't cleaned the brush properly. It took me hours to polish the gray away, and after that I took no further risks, so it is still unvarnished. 

I haven't yet decided where I will put it, because the house is getting crammed. So far I have put it into lower entrance. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Chair table

When I share my blog posts on Facebook, once upon a time I could choose the image I wanted to be visible as a link, but now FB just picks the first image in the post, and it is not necessarily the most interesting or relevant. Therefore I begin with a image of the finished piece and then tell you how I made it.


This is a chair table, and as I now know, is also called hutch table. They were popular because they could be folded away to save space when not in use, but, I guess, easier to set when needed than earlier trestle tables with fully removable boards.

This is a difficult piece, with several aspects I hadn't done before so I was a bit intimidated, but I was making it together with a friend, somewhere over the ocean, but in real time.

The layout sheet was, as usual, helpful, for instance, to identify drawers, but this model has a drawer and a drawer case that is glued below the seat.


I used antique pine stain, but very light because I wanted this piece to match the furniture in my "best kitchen".

The instructions were good, at least for the first stage, but when I assembled the chair frame it was wobbly and not quite square.

I needed advice from more experiences people, and meanwhile I made the drawer and drawer case, which was straightforward, except of course the drawer did not fit. It was too deep. My friend had the same difficulty so it wasn't just me making a mistake.

Then I glued together the three bits of the table top. You would imagine that it was easy to cut a whole table top in miniature scale, but these kits are very particular about authenticity. In full scale, there wasn't a piece of timber large enough to make a table top. (I remember discovering this when I made a Tudor table).

I had sanded the surfaces nice and smooth. The grain came out pretty.

Then my miniature friend shared her experience of making the chair frame. The secret was, as I had suspected, to enlarge the pre-drilled holes. In addition, I used the seat - also made from two pieces - and the arms to align and square the whole assembly.

This was the end of day 1, and I left the assembly to dry overnight.

Next morning I glued on the drawer case, after having sanded away the back of the drawer to fit. As I always do, I attached the knob before gluing on the front. In this kit, the drawer front is twice the size of the drawer edges because it covers the drawer case as well. This is a very clever design!

The table top brackets had to be adjusted to the chair. It took me some time to figure out, and the brackets were longer than required and had to be sanded away. In fact, I bit off two centimeters with scissors and then sanded.


The next set of instructions was scary because it involved drilling holes in the frame. I don't understand why they couldn't have pre-drilled them as every other hole, but I guess there is a reason. The instruction was confusing, and I learned a new word, shim. You had to use shims to lift the frame a bit from the top. I am afraid I didn't do it quite right. And I didn't have the right tool to drill those holes (I have just ordered one, but it won't arrive until next week). So I had to use what was at hand.

It wasn't the most efficient way, but I did it, and the hinges fit into the holes, and the table really matched the environment in my best kitchen.

Here I just put in in front of the room, for display. But it will most probably be placed against a wall, folded.

I will have to re-organise some things in the kitchen, but this happens also in the 1:1 world when a new piece of furniture is added.

I am very pleased with this project. It was a challenge, because there was so much new and some tricky things. But I feel I getting more and more confident with these miniatures.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Tilt-top table

This was a quick project that literally took no more than a couple of hours. Tilt-top tables were popular as occasional tables because they could be folded when not in use, taking less space.

The only difference in technique between this one and the various candle stands I have made is that there is a tiny mechanism for tilting. It was easy to make.

I used a new stain for this piece, antique pine, and I applied at least ten coats before I was satisfied. I used gold paint on the edge, just for variation. At the moment, the table is in the drawing room. You cannot have too many tables in a Victorian drawing room.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Step by step: smoking room

In my step-by-step tour, that so far has included the reception room, music room, drawing room and dining room and master bedroom,  I have come to the gentlemen's smoking room, which is on the second floor, to the right. The smoking room, that I have also frequently referred to as study has a long history. It started in my very first house in the bookshelf. There is very little left from that study, except the concept and the tile stove. But I started by making a chest of drawers and a writing desk from jenga blocks. Then I made a book case. It survived until quite recently. I added many interesting objects in the study. This is a picture from maybe a month after I began my hobby:


At this stage, I used Christmas lights.

When we moved, and when I re-created my house in a cabinet, I didn't put up any walls between the drawing room and the study so it was just one large room

But you recognise the tile stove, the book case at the back, the desk in front of it, and the chest of drawers is by the left wall, obscured by the clothes hanger.

I added, removed and replaced some objects, but the room remained the same until I started Womble Hall. Then I knew that the drawing room and the study would be separated, and although it made sense to have the study next to the dining room, it didn't work, so from the dining room the gentlemen have to go into the corridor and up the (non-existing) stairs to the second floor.

Like dining room, this room has a rear corridor and a pretty valve opening. I didn't make a chimney breast for this room because I was going to use the tile stove. It may be a wrong feature in a Victorian house, but I wouldn't part with this stove. I knew more or less how I wanted to decorate the room, so I tested it early, with low-resolution printed wallpaper. 

The partition is simply inserted, the floor is paper, the door leaned to, and so on. I had by that time made the Chippendale desk and cabinet, but the other desk is the same, and in the corridor you can see the old book case.

Before I started assembling and gluing the shell, I painted the back wall of the rear corridor and hung wallpaper on side walls and partition. It needed some clever calculation because I had to finish the corridor before I could put in the partition. This is also when I added a light in the corridor.

But this is also where I made an epic mistake and had to tear everything down and re-build it. Then I made a proper floor to replace the adhesive shelf lining. In this blog post from late April 2015 I say that the room is finished. But of course is wasn't. Nothing is ever finished. Less than a month later I replaced the old faithful book case. Then I added a rocking chair in the rear corridor. Then I made another Chippendale desk, and the old one was reluctantly removed. By the way, the coffee table in front of the sofa is a genuine Carin Backlund. And there is real whisky in the bottle!

Then I started making Adam ceilings, and the smoking room was among the first.

I added curtains. I changed the chandelier. I added some more objects.

Here is what it looks like now:

Maybe looking at the pictures only, you might say that this room has changed least of all. But if you read the blog posts you will see how much work happened between each stage.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Chippendale breakfront

All this past month my miniature group has been making one of the most magnificent House of Miniatures pieces: the breakfront.


It is a rare piece, and I have paid more for it than I will admit, but I fell in love with it at first sight. I bought it last spring, knowing well that it would take years before I was bold enough to start on such a complicated kit, but here I am, encouraged by the group.

I will not show all 29 step-by-step pictures because some of them involved technicalities only interesting during the building itself. The number of parts was intimidating, but practice makes the master, and after all cabinets and chests I had made it was easier to identify parts and decide where they go.

But the first thing was, of course, sanding all parts and then staining. I had recently bought some new stains, including Light Teak, and that's what I used. To my surprise, it turned out much more like the Swedish red mahogany that I used for my very early furniture. But it worked well. I am very patient these days, so I painted four or five coats of stain before I was satisfied.

As I was doing this I noticed that a tiny bit of the magnificent top cornice was broken and realised that I had just thrown away this very tiny bit. Fortunately, I hadn't emptied the wastepaper basket so I could find this bit, no more than a centimeter long. I glued it, sanded and hoped it would stay. It did. Nobody will ever guess it was broken and mended.

There were several points in the instructions that I found confusing and did things differently, with no worse result. Patience was the keyword, particularly with doors, letting the glue set properly.


But the difficult part turned up to be the shelves. It was a completely different technique from all previous cabinets and chests, because the shelves had to be assembled directly on the back, left to right:

It looked easy and straightforward, but guess what happened when I came to the right side? Exactly:

Since I had been patient and let the glue set it was all firmly fixed. I had two options: take it apart again, by putting it into a microwave oven to melt the glue, risking that the delicate pieces might break. Or insert a tiny strip of wood into the gap. Which I did. As it turned out, I wasn't the only one having trouble with this assembly. It is really strange that some of these "precision-cut" kits lack precision. My group mates dealt with this in various ways. But I was brutal. I inserted a strip into the gap, and somebody who buys this piece on ebay twenty years from now will hate me and the seller. But from the front, you cannot tell, can you?


The rest was easy. I was most anxious about hanging doors, but it went smoothly. You never know. Eventually, it turned out to be easier than some other kits I had made.

This piece is far too large to fit into any of my rooms. I tried it here and there. It needs to be displayed nicely, but most of my rooms have fireplaces at the back. I have temporarily placed it in the upper corridor. I haven't decided what to put inside. The description doesn't say what the owner would display in such a cabinet. China? Silver? Ornaments? Books?