Saturday, April 25, 2009

Video: How to Make a Cabriole Leg

I'm just learning how to use the new Flip camera to do Web-posted videos. It's pretty cool!

Here, in video form, are the steps to making a cabriole leg. Whether you're building a table or a chair, the steps are pretty much the same. The video is about 7 minutes long. (Sorry it's so long, and filled with so many ums and ahs!) I cut down the video as much as I could, and in the process, when the software condensed the video even more for Web production, it cut off some of my words. Oops! Obviously I have still more to learn...

Friday, April 24, 2009

My Fancy Victorian Bed Is Finished... or Is It?

At last, I've nearly finished the Victorian bed I've been building for Sara's dollhouse. I knew I wanted a fancy Victorian bed; so I went on to the Internet and "shopped" for full-size, Victorian bedroom furniture. I found many examples, and downloaded several retailers' pictures of antique beds. Next, I began to work with those pictures to develop my own set of shop drawings.

What you see at the right is my "interpretation" of many design elements I pulled from those examples. I liked the idea of the tall pyramid tops to the posts. I considered doing pineapples, and then decided that I didn't want to take the hours and hours it would take to carve four pineapples for each bed post, although it would have been a cool touch.

The bed is made of cherry wood. I didn't have any good burled wood to use for the insets; so I used painting techniques to create the faux burl. As you may recall from a previous post, I stitched the coverlet and pillows for the bed. The "mattress" is balsa wood cut and shaped to the size of a mattress. Using the off-white silk for the coverlet prevents any color clashes with the carpet and walls, but it's a bit bland.

I welcome ideas and suggestions for how to add a touch of color to the bed now that it's almost done - a colorful nightie laid out on the bed? A dog and cat sleeping together on the bed? Perhaps add some delicate ribbons and some bows to the bed coverlet? What's your idea? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Walls Go Up!

It's not much to look at yet, but this is the start of a new roombox. In an earlier blog, I showed a picture of a PowerPoint slide where I had drawn out the floor plan.

Since this was my idea to make an old-fashioned barbershop, I'm leading our miniature club in this project. I hope it turns out well!

As you can see, we glued a framework very much like what you'd see in a real building, except for one thing - these boards would be 4 x 4's if they were in full dimension. I discovered when I built my last roombox using this methodology that gluing up a scale 2 x 4 wall was flimsy. When 2 x 4 frames are built in real life, builders use big honking nails to hold the pieces together. But in miniature, I used only glue. End result? My walls weren't very solid - they fell apart on me a couple of times when I moved the frame around. This time, I've used a heavier base wood (3/8" x 3/4") and 3/8" x 3/8" timbers for the uprights. As a result, the walls are far more sturdy.

I will change the photo in the back wall. I didn't like the angle, and there were too many cars in the photo. I took a different photograph from First Street in Salida, Colorado, did some photo shop work to remove two cars, and now have a wonderful set of Victorian store fronts with no cars!

We'll add acid free matte board to the front of the framework above to create the walls for this old fashioned barbershop. Next month we'll be adding the revised "view" out the front window, walls with wallpaper, a wall of bricks outside the shop door along the back, and maybe even the tin ceiling and if time allows. It will be a busy day of building!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Layers of Wood Make an Impression

At the left is the newel post of my latest dollhouse. I turned the ball portion of the post on my miniature, Dremel lathe. Once I had turned the piece, then I used my Dremel tool to rout out the side of the post near the base.

Next, I took a 3/32" piece of walnut and rounded the edges of the wood using the Dremel tool again. Once I made the half-round edge, I ran it through my miniature table saw to cut the molding that protrudes just above and below the flowers on the post. I had to carefully miter these pieces to fit the post. (I cut this wood extra long so I had plenty of wood in case I made any erroneous cuts, and I did make a few bad cuts.)

Last, I took out my trusty jeweler's saw and cut out three very tiny flower appliques from 1/16" walnut. I then used my carving knives, rifler files and emery board to add the detail to the center of the flower and the flower petals. Then I glued the appliques to the post.

The finish started with some clear stain applied to the post to bring out the wood's natural color. I finished it off with several coats of Deft spray varnish, rubbed down with 4 ought steel wool between coats of varnish.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Whimsy in a Box

This jack-in-the-box is in the baby's room of Pam's dollhouse.

I made this piece a number of years ago. The teddy bear in the box is made of Fimo. The box itself is cherry wood that I cut on my old Dremel table saw (which I wore out completely over the years).

The B on the front of the box and the raised wood on the edges surrounding the B help to give it an old-fashioned building block appearance. (I used my jeweler's saw to cut out the B on the front.)

I used watercolor paint to paint the toy horse on the side of the cube. There's a picture on the top, too, although, where it sits in the dollhouse, no one ever sees it. I added wood stain over the top of the watercolor painting, which gave the piece a somewhat aged appearance.

I mounted the bear on a toothpick and then inserted the toothpick onto a ballpoint pen spring. So, if anyone ever picks up the toy, the bear wobbles inside just like it would in a real jack-in-the-box. However, I didn't make it so that the bear pops up out of the box. The lid is permanently ajar.

(By the way, if you click on the photo, I think you can get a much closer/larger view of the box. This Web site works that way on my PC, at least.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Building Exact Replicas

This is a replica of the secretary desk my grandmother purchased from a second-hand store in Kansas City back in the 1920's. It's solid cherry wood, and it's cut out exactly to the dimensions and details of the old desk.

In fact, the flip-down writing desk has some ink stains on the original where someone dripped ink down the side of a bottle of ink - probably when they were filling a fountain pen. I duplicated that ink stain as well using a brush and some india ink. I didn't stuff the little drawer full of pens, however. (Whenever I needed a pen or pencil, I went to that top, right-hand drawer to get one.) Going to that extreme with the realism was just too much work for no visible reward!

I couldn't have made this replica without the use of the scale I described in my first blog. For those of you who didn't read that one, I've taken some pictures to show how this works. You can see in the first picture I'm measuring a tiny drawer from another full-size object.
Next, I take that measurement over to the 1" to 1' conversion scale and set the ruler down onto the scale.

Finally, I turn the ruler sideways on the conversion scale (see photo below) and then measure up to the mark I made on the scale. I now have a precise measurement of the drawer in 1/12th inch scale.

I created the conversion scale using PowerPoint and printed it out on a legal size piece of paper. If you'd like me to send you that file, please post a comment and let me know. I'm happy to share it. Thanks!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Waiting for a Home...

I saw this fireplace in a home decorating magazine and it looked so tasty, I just had to try to build it! Our club had recently learned how to make faux marble; so I used those techniques to paint the wood.

The hardest part of making this fireplace was to do the turnings on each side of the firebox. They still aren't quite perfect, but I'm not going to go back and do it again at this point.

On either side of the round inset near the top, there's a leaf pattern carved into the "marble." I used my jeweler's saw and simply cut out the effect and then when I painted it, I allowed the paint to settle down into the hole cut by the saw. That was probably the easiest part of making the whole piece!

Soon, very soon, this fireplace surround will find a home in front of a pretty, painted yellow wall with a window beside it and a view of the Collegiate Peaks in the distance. But I first need to finish the dollhouse and the barbershop!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tiny and Very Messy Workshop

Okay, I have visual proof that it's time for me to slow down, and spend a complete weekend cleaning up and reorganizing my workshop. There isn't a single surface that isn't currently cluttered! For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, here are two different views of my tiny workshop. It would make a very small bedroom, if I cleaned everything out of the room.

The top photo shows the cabinet I built to sit on top of my workbench. The bottom two drawers have small paint bottles in them. The area overhead holds all my miniature wood and various types of moldings. I used cardboard tubes from wrapping paper to create small, long containers to hold the various pieces of molding.

In the lower photo, you can see the start of a new room box sitting on my workbench with a picture frame on top of it. Michaels had a sale on them; so I bought one I liked for the antique barbershop I'm building.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I thought you all might enjoy seeing a complete view of one of the roomboxes I've built. This is the Scrooge! roombox I built a number of years ago. It won a blue ribbon and best of show at the Iowa State Fair. I did my best to incorporate everything Dickens described in Ebenezer Scrooge's bedroom, including the barely burning coals in his fireplace.

I also let my imagination spin free with adding details I think would have been a part of Scrooge's room, such as cracks in the walls, a broken window with a rag stuffed in it, a broken chair leg propped up with books and a board, a hole in the ceiling and items with IOU tags attached to them throughout the room.

This project started with my building the fancy bed and wondering, "Now, what do I do with this?" The bed had a fancy coverlet on it. Once I realized it had to be Ebenezer's bed, I took the coverlet off, created a sagging mattress and stained the sheets with tea bags. I left the bed unmade. That's how I imagined Scrooge would live. He never would have taken the time to fuss with making a bed - a useless expenditure of energy!

I drew the image of Marley's ghost, then had it photographically etched into a piece of glass that now fills the doorway. The ghost "glows" because I placed a light that shines down on the edge of the glass. I also drew the fireplace tiles and stitched the fireplace screen. I carved Scrooge from a 2x4 piece of pine, and created all of the furniture in the room. (My Web browser allows me to click on the top image and view it in much greater detail. I encourage you to try that, since the quality and details are so much better when it's larger!)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Knot That Easy

"What," you say, "are these pictures!?!?" Well, it's the bedspread for the master bedroom. I thought I'd share the project with you in stages. I'm hopeful the entire piece turns out well in the long run! Because the room is already quite colorful, I chose off-white for the bedspread so that it doesn't conflict with the other colors.

I'm not the most precise person with hand sewing; so, I used graph paper to guide my work in inserting French knots into the top of the bedspread. Then, I transferred this grid to a thin layer of wood. I drilled holes into the wood, and then laid a couple layers of felt under this cloth. By drawing the fabric down tight in between the holes through the wood, I was able to create the above quilted appearance. (Once I had completed the bedspread, the wood backing looked very similar to the graph paper in terms of seeing long stitches stretching between the tufts/French knots.)

Next step is to add lace to the sides and to glue things down so that the bedspread conforms to the mattress (a block of balsa wood). I already have the headboard and foot board assembled.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Making It Look Real

This is the attic of Pam's dollhouse. It was made out of Gatorfoam; so the wood beams you see in the attic were not part of the construction of the house. I added them to create a "real" look to the attic.

Most wood in attics isn't smooth and nicely finished. It was really rather fun to do this part, since I merely had to run some boards through my table saw, and then could glue them up immediately onto the ceiling of the attic. Once the boards were in place, then I added the beams. I waited until I had all of the wood in place before I painted.

I wanted to make this look like an artist's garret. It's a bit on the rough side - perhaps like the character who does his painting and thinking up there...

We purchased the stove in Frankemuth, MI and the fold-up cot from Norm's Dollhouse in the Denver, CO area. The rocking chair was a gift my folks picked up on a visit to China.

You may have noticed the door to the room is slightly ajar. It leads nowhere. That back wall sits against the wall, since this dollhouse is only one-room deep. I designed the house to sit on a shelf on the wall.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Adding a Ghost to Your House

She's there. Unfortunately, she looks like a blur in the right-hand window of Pam's dollhouse. She's a proper Victorian lady standing sideways by the window.

When children visit, it's fun to challenge them to see if they can see the ghost. They usually find her after a little looking.

Since you're reading this blog, you obviously have access to a computer. If you have a colored printer and some overhead film compatible with your type of printer, (available at your nearest office supply store) you can create your own ghost! Here's how:

  1. Find a picture of a person that you like. It should be one that has a white background behind the individual and no added details. If you have software on your PC that allows you to crop out the background so that only your subject remains, use that to isolate your "ghost."
  2. Next, crop the picture so that it's in the same dimensions (roughly) as what you'll need for your window. Then save your ghost's picture in a place you can find easily such as your desktop or your miniatures file.
  3. Open a Microsoft Word document or a PowerPoint presentation - either works for this. Or if you have the fancy photo software I mentioned above, you probably can make this effect without having to use Word or PowerPoint.
  4. In the MS Word or PPT, click on view and select toolbars and make sure the drawing toolbar is activated.
  5. Draw a rectangle that's the same size of your window where you want to insert your ghost.
  6. Next, right click on this rectangle and select "Format Auto Shape."
  7. Select the tab marked "Colors and Lines."
  8. You will see three sections in this dialogue box: Fill, Lines, Arrows. In the "Fill" area click on the down arrow for color. You'll see many different colors, and near the bottom of this drop-down box, you'll see text that says, "Fill effects..." Click on it.
  9. You'll now see a new dialogue box with four tabs. Select the one marked "Picture."
  10. Click on the box that says, "Select Picture."
  11. Navigate to your ghost's picture and double click it. This should insert your picture into the box you have drawn. Then click OK in the dialogue box.
  12. You will have returned to the original dialogue box and you should see your picture in the box where you would ordinarily see a color. It will be badly distorted at this point, but don't worry about that.
  13. Underneath this box you'll see a slider bar and the word "Transparency." Simply slide the bar to the right until your picture becomes ghost-like.
  14. Since you'll use up a transparency page whether you print one photo or many, I suggest you copy the boxed picture and paste it several times onto the page, and then adjust the level of transparency to several percentages (10%, 15%, 20% and 25%) would be a good start. Then print the transparency.
  15. All you have to do is take your scissors, trim the ghost out of the transparency film and glue her to frame of the window (or just set her into the window). Voila! Your dollhouse is now a haunted mansion!
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