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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My Recycle Project: Blue Corian, Singer Sewing Base and Metal Chairs

Whew! We’ve finally completed this project. It has been a long time in the making, but I finally was able to get it done with the help of The Kid.

DSCN2792So, you can see the starting point here, but I will give you a quick catch up. Months ago, I picked up several pieces of blue Corian countertops, including a smallish rectangular piece that I think was the counter surface for an island. Wasn’t quite sure of what I was going to use it for, but when something like that pops up on CraigsList, you get it while the getting is good.

I had the sewing machine base from one of our abdandoned house hunting trips and had spray painted it white, sort of as a primer. But once I saw the countertop, I knew it was a match made in heaven. Literally, all I had to do was set the top on the base and I could see something really unique.

Initially I was going to just make and sell the table, but I figured it would be cooler if there were a set of chairs to go with it. I kept an eye on CraigsList and almost like it was scripted, a set of four popped up. Now they needed work (of course they needed work, else they wouldn’t be on CraigsList for free) and I opted to pick them up, thinking I could get two good ones if I used the other two for ‘parts’. As luck would have it, three were salvageable.

DSCN2734After removing the seats, I then spray painted everything with high gloss white spray paint. This was not an easy task. It seemed every time I thought I was done, I would turn it upside down or stand at a different angle and would see areas that I missed. I think I have them completely painted now.

I used the seat that came with the chairs as a template and we used more of the Corian countertop for the seats. The Corian worked much like any hard wood, and we were able to route the edges and drill holes to attach the seats to the chairs.

DSCN2774The one thing that we did notice, however, is that working with the Corian results in a LOT of ‘saw’ dust. The workshop looked like it had snowed!

DSCN2775I didn’t want the seat to sit directly onto the base of the chair seats; since the previous seats were actually upholstered, the flat pieces didn’t exactly line up right with the exposed hardware on the chair.

DSCN2770By having and using the right tools for the job, the project went very well. Here is The Kid using our newest addition to the workshop, the drill press. SUH-weet!

DSCN2790Here he is in the final assembly. Note the nice, smooth, rounded edges. And interestingly enough, by routing the edges (top and bottom), it actually gave the edges a polished finish. Nice, happy accident!

DSCN2789By using some spare hardware(found when reorganizing the garage a week ago), I was able to give it a little more ‘polished’ look. And gave the necessary height for sitting at the table. The final detail was to add rubber ‘feet’ to the chairs, to protect the floors that the chairs would sit on.

DSCN2780More about the table: we had previously cut and glued a 1″x8″ on the back side of the table. Then two supports were added to the top of the sewing machine base, allowing the table top to be bolted onto the counter surface. This could be beneficial for the person or family that buys it, allowing for easier transport. Did I happen to mention that this stuff is heavy! And it has a nice solid feel as well.

The Kid’s help was immeasurably helpful in completing this project, and heck, I just like hanging around with him. 🙂

DSCN2779In between helping him, I was also prep’ing an additional 5 or 6 more projects… here are the drawers all being sanded and hardware holes being filled. The Kid has been tasked with putting the first couple of coats of primer on all of these now that I have gotten the prep work out of the way. All of these pieces of furniture are all wood and it makes the chore of preparation that much easier. Oh, and by the way, real wood pieces are light. I think a lot of people mistakenly think something is more ‘solid’ or more ‘wood’ if the piece is heavy and that generally is not true. What weighs so much is the glue and the layers of particle board or composite wood. Most of these pieces I can move by myself if I take the drawers out ahead of time. Another thing I really like is that some of the older pieces come with wheels attached and you gotta love that!

So, a few more photos as I close this post. If you recall, the third stall of the garage is where my sports car (you can see it in the background of this first photo) is stored once snow has fallen. And I’ve heard that there is an “arctic blast” predicted for the end of November, so I have to get projects done and sold (and delivered) very soon.

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DSCN2797Off to get this listed for sale on CraigsList. My kitchen is red (as you may know) or I might be tempted to keep this one for myself!

julie

 

 

 

31.5 x 39

The Finish Line!

Okay, I can say that this project is done. Well, done enough. I’m about two weeks over schedule, but we persevered and I think its close enough. Its really a project with no end, I will always be adding and subtracting as we work, to make it work best for us. But the basic structure is there now. And in a pinch, we’ll be able to get at least two cars into the garage.

DSCN2605I have some ideas for the other side of this garage… I want to move out some of the “stuff” and then reorganize the trash and lumber barrels along with the standard trash can and recycle tubs. I’m planning on buying a new table saw, as the one we have has a guide that can’t seem to stay tight, subsequently, you can’t cut a straight line. And once we get rid of the existing one, I will have the room on that wall that we need.

DSCN2609Look at that… its a whole empty wall!! That is just too inviting. Ha!

DSCN2599So, there’s a shot of the work counter. We added extra direct lighting on the underside of the shelf. The space above will hold minor stuff that doesn’t get used much, as its not really easily accessed. Lots of room for more tools, too!

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Everything is so nice and clean right now. I love it. But I suspect it won’t last long when we dive head first back into projects.

DSCN2602I actually changed out the shelving on the end, again to take advantage of the height. Scored the cabinets off CraigsList for $15!

DSCN2604Did some organizing and cleaning, like yesterday’s post said, we set out a ton of stuff on the curb yesterday and it was gone in less than an hour!

DSCN2600Another photo of the organization, lots of open space for more stuff. I am really happy with the paint station, I expect to utilize this often. DSCN2608This is the emptiest that I think I’ve ever seen the garage. From the day that the movers backed up to the garage, this space has been cluttered and unorganized. And it is so funny, considering just how much time I spend out there an how much work I’ve done here.

 

DSCN2610Here is a shot of the garage with one car… just a few things have to be moved and a second car could fit easily. Now I will just have to work on the other side! Ha!

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At least I have it narrowed down to a manageable few projects. At least for now. 🙂

Well, now that I feel like I accomplished something, I am going to post this and then going to enjoy the last few hours of weekend. And then its back to work. Some day I am actually going to relax on the weekend. Ha! Who am I kidding? If I don’t have at least three times more to do than I have time, I get worried and start looking for more. OCD or ADD or something.

And speaking of, I haven’t check CraigsList in a few hours…

julie

 

Going Nowhere Fast!

I swear, the more confident you are about something, the more likely that it will soon become undone.

I titled my last post, “entering the final stretch” just in time to have a major monkey wrench thrown into the mix. I bought a 1″x8″ piece of pine 10 feet long and gave it 3 coats of polyurethane after routing a nice round edge. We had it attached as the backsplash to the butcher block top but due to not having exacting finish with our DIY wall, it was a little bit wavy. So we opted to put caulk in the small gap, just to keep things like screws and drill bits from rolling to the edge and down behind the cabinets. The built-ins aren’t exactly made to get behind or move easily, so I opted for filling in that space instead to prevent just such a need.

Unfortunately, what we thought was tan grout turned out to be ‘liquid nails’ and suffice it to say, that it was nearly impossible to get rid of. Each time we would wipe a little, it seemed to just get everywhere. We ended up removing the backsplash and having to actually sand down about a third of the butcher block top including nearly all of the extension piece to get rid of this stuff. Talk about going backwards! Of course, then it had to have the four coats of poly re-applied and that all just takes time. So, what did we accomplish in a week? Absolutely nothing!

But we made up for that today. The backsplash has been reattached, the lighting has been installed and is even on a dimmer switch and the shelf has been installed. We put up hardware on the pegboard to hang all the yard tools and reorganized project pieces. I sorted through about half of the existing cabinets and reorganized tools and equipment and materials. On top of that, I cleared out a huge pile of ‘stuff’ that has been accumulating and gave it away on CraigsList.

FREE STUFFI always seem to have more plans and projects queued up than I have time and money and space! But isn’t that always how it goes? When the opportunity for materials and furniture are presented, you just figure you will make time. But after moving it around about 3 to 6 times, I can be quite ruthless and just put my foot down and chuck a bunch of things that I know that I will never have the time to complete. Sometimes it seemed like a good idea at the time… know what I mean?

Between me and The Kid, we are just beat! Time to put up our feet and do a whole ‘lot of nothing.

I’d really love to be done with this thing tomorrow and be able to take our “after” photos. I had no idea when we started this that it would take this much time and effort! Maybe it is just old age catching up with me.

Okay, now let’s just hope some good stuff has been uploaded to Netflix. I don’t plan on moving much in the next few hours.

P.S. I once had an asian person (Chinese I think) tell me that my name in their language would be JU meaning standing or staying in one place and LEE, meaning quickly; making my name literally mean ‘going nowhere fast’. Ha! I love it!

Entering the final stretch…

I had no idea that this project was going to take this long. It seems that this particular project has just had the wrong timing, what with two new jobs and everything else that has been going on.

I’ve had The Kid doing the coats of polyurethane on the work surface and the very last coat went on last night. Okay, so I know that the extension doesn’t exactly match, but it is close enough considering that it will be getting dinged, dirty and resides in the garage! I am more happy that it is done.

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So, the butcher block top that was given to us is on the right and my 30″ extension on the left. This photo was taken when both had been sanded down to raw wood.

DSCN2574A closer look and you can see that the raw wood doesn’t even match. Again, I am okay with it even though it would have been much cooler if I had actually gotten closer to matching, but what are you gonna do?

You may have noticed the two holes drilled on either end towards the wall. Well, this is my system of getting rid of saw dust. Under the holes and behind the cabinets, I have tall plastic trash cans that will catch the saw dust. Once done working, simply sweep everything towards the holes. The trash cans can be reached on either end for dumping or what we’re likely to do is when the cans are getting full, we’ll just stick the end of the shop-vac into the holes and viola!

DSCN2577So, four coats of polyurethane and the pieces are becoming quite beautiful. But most importantly, the surfaces will be hard for all future work.

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The picture above shows two coats, the one below is with the fourth and final coat. Once we get the tools spread out over it, you’ll hardly notice the difference in woods.

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As you can see, I have kept collecting carpets (yes, free from CraigsList) for the garage floors. I occasionally will run out to the garage for something and I really hate having to stop and put on shoes. And it is easier to convince the kid to vacuum rather than sweep. Like rugs of the past, when I drop paint or stain on them, I simply roll them up and throw them away.

I am still working on a project that will house my extremely large collection of embroidery thread. I am also working on a thread that celebrates paint stir sticks and all the wonderful things that can be made from them.

Simply gluing them side to side creates a wonderfully thin piece of wood which has a nice wood grain… you can see it in the picture below:

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I created a template and then used to it draw the cutting lines for the drawer dividers. Luckily for me, it was The Kid’s job to make all those cuts! I will write a post from beginning to end on this storage cabinet that started life as a small desk. I love looking at something and seeing something different.

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Last quick update… Some time ago, I had purchased these wonderful cabinet knobs. I almost forgot about them as they did travel all the way from China. They arrived last night and so I had The Kid replace the knobs on the upper cabinets of my computer work office… and if you didn’t know it before, you will now: I am a huge Mac fanatic. This is just the icing on that revalation!
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A overall shot of the computer room… you almost can’t see the shapes of the knobs, but trust me, they are there. 🙂

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Okay, so that’s it for today. This weekend will be spent completing the garage project and getting it all in a post before I head back to work on Monday. I hope you’ll come back and see the grand unveiling!

julie

 

Garage Remodel: Workshop

As you may know, I have been putting in a lot of time and effort to making my garage a better place to work and be able to park my vehicles inside. I have started a new job and it seems that a lot of my time and thinking are spent there and not at home and in the garage.

We did quite a bit of work this weekend, but still not finished. DSCN2562From this photo, you can see that I was able to get at least one car into the garage. We’re smack dab in the middle of tornado season and I just finished paying off my little sports car, so I was happy to have it garaged.

DSCN2563I did pick up the grey cupboards and got them installed, along with the butcher block counter that came from a free work table. I loved the countertop, but didn’t want the open space below, it was much too easy for things to just get jammed in there and look messy and dirty and filled with saw dust.

The top wasn’t long enough to cover both cabinets, so I made an extension. I cute 2 x 2’s into 30″ segments and glue and screw them together. Then I used a concoction of glue and saw dust to fill into the spaces left from the slightly rounded edges of 2 x 2’s and let them dry. The pieces all assembled were a tad too shallow to match up with the existing countertop, so I glue the pieces to a sheet of 3/8’s luan, which actually stabilizes it as well. I bought another tool that I’ve been wanting, a belt sander, to make the job of smoothing it all a tad easier.

DSCN2564The piece was laid end-to-end with the butcher block and then glued. The entire top was bolted to the lower cabinet and inset to keep a smooth surface. I opted to cut off the corner as I could easily envision bumping it with my hip every single time I came into the garage. 🙂

This week, The Kid has been tasked with sanding the existing butcher block top down to bare wood and then I will put a few coats of polyurethane to give it a nice hard surface that should endure. And it should look pretty sharp too. I am hoping that by the end of next weekend, this will be completed.

DSCN2572At the right end of the work surface is a 10 foot high storage. The space not easily accessed holds less used items and the center I made into a paint station. The paint rollers are stored on a dowel placed end to end inside the cabinet and one cubby hole below holds brushes of all kinds and roller pads. The lower cabinet will house the shop vac and all of its accessories as well as some other materials that just are unsightly. Still room at this point to use to store tools and materials.

At the right of the photo in the smaller garage stall are two (free) shelving units, one holds tools boxes and the other holds the one gallon paint cans. The quart cans, the sample jars and spray paint are all house in one of the existing cabinets the line the back of the the garage.

DSCN2571At the end of the white shelving units are a little workstation. I picked up this smaller sized cabinets I picked up free from CraigsList a year or so ago. On top is a piece of salvaged Corian countertop and then collected drawers are utilized to create storage for much used materials, like sandpaper for the sanders.

DSCN2570This is a quick shot of the third stall, currently packed with projects and more materials. Once again, from CraigsList, I got the carpet squares free and it pretty much carpeted this side of the garage. It will serve as a nicer place to showcase finished items and they can be parked on once winter comes. Heck of a mess, right? I know it is driving me crazy to not have more organization here!

I did manage to get the dead trees in front of the house replaced as well. Hopefully these will fare better than the previous ones, I even used Miracle Grow potting mix to plant them.

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The Kid has been working on his own project as well, this is going to be a metal forge. A couple of weekends ago, he and I walked along the train track near the silos downtown and picked up pieces of coal that had escaped from the coal cars. We ended the night getting what we needed, but was escorted off the premises by two of Kansas City’s finest. I guess that trespassing around large train cars is bad or maybe dangerous… but I guess I can understand it from the railroad’s point of view.

Once The Kid has made some progress, I will let him do a guest blog post to explain what he is making and how to do it. Again, for him it is good skills to have and to know that it isn’t something that he would want to do for a living. I keep telling him that he is better off working with his head than his hands and his back.

Just as soon as this garage project is done, I will have photos up here. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Work Continues on the Special Project

Once again, the temperatures in this part of the country have dipped below freezing. On Saturday, we enjoyed temps in the high 60’s, nice enough to work out in the garage with the door open! But as it is popular to say in this region, if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change! Well, I guess that works in reverse as well, so when the weather is good, you really have to take advantage of it.

I completed work on another beautiful dresser and there is quite a story behind this one. I was contacted via Craigslist by a guy who had been left high and dry by his girlfriend (and her five children) and left nearly everything behind in their shared rented house. But not before nearly destroying the house. Anyway, he was looking to try to recoup some of the money he was going to lose in deposits and damages and wanted to sell off whatever furniture had been left behind. So me and the Kid trooped off to take a look.

Most of it wasn’t of very good quality, but there were some salvageable pieces. The only problem was that he had caught me in a tight spot with money, I didn’t have much cash on me and wouldn’t have any until I made a sale. I told him I could come back in a couple of days, he even offered to trust me to take some pieces and come back with cash. There are some good guys still left in the world.

We had shown up with my little truck though, and to get everything that I was considering, we’d not only need the pickup, but maybe a big truck. I told him that I had a ten spot in my pocket he offered the big dresser from one of the bedrooms. I had a photo from our correspondence, but once again, I didn’t keep it or take a ‘before’ picture before jumping into its restoration. Just trust me that this piece had gone through some abuse before I was able to rescue it. (He had arranged for someone else to take the rest of it, when me and the Kid returned a few days later.)

I was really happy how I was able to replace missing trim that I saved from the other dresser that I rescued (you can see it here) which although not exactly the same, was the same style. I had removed the trim from around one drawer as it had disappeared from the top and one side of the top drawer, and it proved to be very helpful in restoring the trim on the top drawer. The finish had just been beat and scratched and dented and it took no less than 6 coats of primer to cover the marker or paint that had been used to draw on the top of it. I actually used the same antique white paint that I did on the other dresser and it, again, didn’t fail to impress.

So, without further ado:

2nd Draped Dresser

Didn’t it turn out gorgeous? I swear, most of these I really want to just keep! I would totally do this for my own room, if and when I get ready to redecorate.

Worked a little more on the special project dresser, fully primed:

SP1 Primed

…chalked in the outline for the flower:

SP1 Outline

…and the took out the top drawer and taped off to paint the top of the dresser. Using the ‘Begonia’ pink paint for the top and I think that the base cabinet is going to be the ‘Watery’ blue and flower shape in white. (See the color scheme here.) I will provide more detail as I get closer to reveal about the work with the flower and getting the shape onto the dresser.

I also primed and started work on two more dressers – one to be in yellow ombré and the other in a soft pink with a darker shade of pink on top. Seems I can’t keep any inventory these days and but trust me, I am not complaining!

The Kid had the day off for MLK Day, so last night and this morning we spent working on the doll furniture that we started a few nights ago. We’ve completed one bed and dresser – sized for 18″ dolls – and all I have to do is to make bedding (mattress, sheets, quilt and a pillow or two.

Here is the Kid working:DSCN1125

And here is a shot of the bed I am working on:

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We actually hauled out the big tools – a band saw and a belt sander – and it was well worth the effort. I enjoy having good tools to work with. I just wished I had a real workshop to work in, so I wouldn’t have to always be putting things away and then having to drag them out each time I want to work.

Okay, need to spend some time in my sewing/craft room working to complete the linens for the completed bed. We’re going to be doing some investigation as to the best way to market these pieces; we’re considering Craigslist, eBay and Etsy. Actually, I might also list on dollabee.com (billed as “Like Craigslist, but for dolls”). Hopefully this will be a successful venture in addition to the furniture. All I know is that I am keeping busy, busy, busy!

Thanks for dropping by and taking a look! Happy Crafting Y’All!

julie

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