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?

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