Tools of the Trade: Working in Miniature

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have been working exclusively on a 1:12 scale dollhouse that my dad built many years ago. After completing it, the dollhouse was initially given to my older sister (and oldest child) because she was local to my parents at the time (my theory). It sat in her basement for a number of years and literally did nothing to the house – although, to her credit, she purchased a few furniture pieces and supplies necessary to complete the house. I think it was her that laid out some bucks when it came to electric lights, something that I am not doing or using.

Anyway, I am guesstimating it sat in her basement for at least ten years. When she decided to sell her house and relocate, the dollhouse went back to my parents. At this point they were living in their retirement home, which was much smaller than the home they previously lived and raised their family.

So, eventually the dollhouse ended up with me. And once I had it, I wanted to work on it, but for such a small scale house, it was huge project. I got as far as painting the exterior, as well as replacing all the interior (homemade) doors with six panel/prehung/trimmed doors. This was the first that I realized that I would need some very specific tools (that I did not own) to make accomplish projects. The first tool I bought specifically for this was a Dremel. I have since purchased two more, one cordless and one that came with a shit-ton of accessories.

So, the purpose of this post today is to show you some of the tools that will come in handy in working in miniature. Let me preface that with statement with the fact that I didn’t see the use or need when I worked on the 1:3/1:4 scale dollhouse that I built last year, but working in such a small scale of 1:12, did I find the need for specialized tools.

First, I want to show you my work space. I have a specific room in the house for sewing and quilting and other fabric related projects. When it comes to working on the dollhouse, it went front and center in the living room. At one point, I needed to have it higher for comfort, it has since found its new home on the kitchen island!

IMG_4081Needless to say, the consensus in the house is that needs to go and as soon as possible. 🙂

So the workspace I have is on the right corner of the couch:

IMG_4095I have my computer and access to everything around me. To my left and all the way around to the right hand side of the couch…IMG_4089There isn’t a lot of planning on what goes where, it generally depends on what I am working on at the time. But you see my miniature tool box and glue and some of the bits and pieces in this photo.IMG_4090This is more required stuff. The basket is more miniature required tools (on top is my mini hack saw) and yet another organizer of ‘bits and bobs’.IMG_4091Normally this table is where the house sits. I used a couple of drawers from the basement storage unit for organization. It looks a complete disarray, but there is a method to my madness!IMG_4092This is yet another storage area. I had used it when I was just collecting pieces and it was a nice solution to keep this safe and dry. By the way, the trunk was one of about 20 or 30 trunks that I ‘upcycled’ in my early days of crafting (like thirty years ago). Most were given as gifts to friends and family, but I managed to hang onto two.IMG_4093The right side of the couch. With this much “stuff” it can be a nightmare putting my hands on the specific thing I am looking for. I organize and reorganize all of this a couple of times a week, to refresh my memory as to what I have left to install and remove what I know I know I won’t use in this particular dollhouse.IMG_4099Here are some specific tool sets that I have bought. When you’re working on this scale, it is important to ease of work to have small tools.

In the photo below is a hand drill which enable you to make very tiny holes in very tiny things. Absolutely is without a doubt one of the most useful tools that I have. It also came with another half dozen tiny drill bits.. So worth the $15 I spent on eBay (and I saw many cheaper).IMG_4098And this leads me to three of my most recent and favorite tools. You absolutely need short, well marked rules. My son found the metal ones (I had him get me three) and I love the transparent one for getting measurements within the walls of the dollhouse. And of course, it goes without saying that small scissors are a basic requirement. I have a bunch of these, but then they are the high grade scissors I use in sewing all the time.

IMG_4097This particular area on the floor in front of my couch is lovingly referred to as “my black hole”. Working with the 1:12 scale of objects for the dollhouse means little parts. And I mean little, tiny, small, almost microscopic pieces.  And it can be difficult to hang onto them while working with them. And of course, it never fails to fall and immediately sneaks under the couch.

As you may be aware, I had both knees replaced last year, and with it went the ability to kneel. I have to try and fish the object with a long rule or wood dowel that I might be working with. Usually, it requires The Kid to come down with a flashlight to retrieve it. And no sooner does he do that and head back upstairs, than another pieces drops and disappears! Gah!

Come back soon for an update on the dollhouse work! I hope that this is beneficial and as always, I love comments!

julie

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Slow but steady progress…

It seems that I have so little spare time these days that I have to make a decision between doing projects and writing about them. It seems incredible that it has been a whole month since my last post. Not a good way to building a blog following, huh?

Anyway, have been making some progress, although as I told the Kid earlier, it seems like I can’t seem to get anything completed, only started. Let me give you a quick update on the doll house.

The interior walls have been painted and the floors in the kitchen and bedroom have been stained. I knew using a nice grade of plywood that it would be beneficial in the end. I am leaning towards staining the entire outside of the dollhouse, make it kind of a nice piece of furniture. Not completely sure, as I had thought about making it look more like a house with windows and doors and siding and such, but then, figured that the sheer size of it would require it to sit against a wall or in a corner of two walls and then you wouldn’t even see the outside of it. I guess it will depend on how I feel when I get to that point.

I’ve also got the upper cabinets installed in the kitchen. Wow, had a bit of an issue getting them in to look good. I actually made the cabinets a single piece, gluing them together and giving the back and underneath support rather than installing each piece individually. Did the same with the lower cabinets, and they are ready to go in now that the floor is done.

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Its a bit funny but it almost looks like a real house with construction going on in the kitchen… with the appliances having been moved to a different room. The floors hadn’t been done in this photo, but shortly after this, we moved the house to the garage and three coats of an oak color were applied.

The other project worked on was a sofa for the living room. I started with the dimensions of 24″ long, about 10″ tall and a seat depth of 6″. We first cut all the pieces and layed them out. Then we used a piece of leftover plywood for the frame and with the pneumatic nail gun and Elmer’s glue, we made quick work of piecing it together.

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Here is the finished frame. Got done about 11:00 on Saturday night and figured I could work on it today (Sunday). But each time I walked by it, there was just something not right about it. It measured over 24″ once the sides were added and then there is the dowels on top of that. I had an epiphany that at that length, it wouldn’t even fit sideways in the house, which is only 24″ deep. It was simply too long.

We could make it shorter, but since I am a staunch user of both glue and nails, I knew it would not come apart easily. Then it dawned on me, we could just cut it exactly in half and make two! So that’s what we did, recreating the sides/arms. Now they are both ready for foam and upholstery. (See? One more thing started but not finished. Sigh!)

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A while back, while the Kid and I were out abandoned house hunting, we ran across an old barn full of those old telephone wire insulators… and we managed to find about a two dozen in pretty good shape. We cleaned them up and I desperately tried to figure out something to do with them. I had been experimenting with paint that made glass looked like stained glass (I *think* that I forgot to write about it… I can’t seem to find it in my previous posts.). Anyway, each insulator got three coats of the stained glass paint to get nice even coverage. Thought that they would be interesting sitting on a glass shelf in front of the large window in the office, but I’ve yet to get to that either! Sigh.

But they are sitting in front of the window near the floor, waiting for the shelf. Eventually, I am thinking that the light streaming will make nice colorful splashes around the room. In the meantime, here are a couple of photos:

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Yesterday I ran across a ‘how to’ for using these insulators in wall sconces, which I am excited about trying. But I’ve vowed not to start anything else until the dollhouse and accessories are finished. Whew!

Okay, that’s about it for now. I do have a few more things to share with you… things that had been completed some time ago. I re-did this beautiful dresser and vanity with a mirror, but it took ages to sell. In fact, I couldn’t sell it for the longest time painted only in pink, so I reached back into my magical bag of tricks and the Kid and I painted multi-colored dots on it. Finally, it sold. Had to drop the price twice though. Must not be the right time for selling furniture on Craigslist, at least not in Kansas City.

Okay, so tomorrow is another work day, so am going to say good night and thank you for stopping by. And as always, keep making beautiful things!

julie

 

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