Friday, April 30, 2010

Which Is More Important: Looking Real? Or Being Fun?

I'm working on a slide show at the moment that is intended to capture the "realness" of miniatures. The photo at left is one of the pictures for that show.

Just this week, I was delighted to see that my daughter has framed and hung her collection of photos that she made of some of our dollhouse rooms. She has dedicated a wall outside of one of the bedrooms to this collection.

She shot this series of photos for a class she was taking at the time at the local community college. Her classmates were curious about how she had been given access to an old Victorian house. Once she admitted that the photos were of scale rooms, several said that something seemed just a bit odd about the rooms, but they couldn't put their finger on why they seemed "different."

I love the challenge of doing my utmost best to make scale miniatures. When something small looks absolutely real, there's something very charming about it. I feel like Gulliver in the land of Lilliputian's.

There is a faction of miniaturists, though, who would turn up their noses at anything that isn't absolutely perfect. For the collectors of fine miniatures, I can understand their thinking. Our hobby has a bigger base, though, than just the high-end collectors. Much of its origins was as playthings for smaller hands and bodies, and children played with these things for the sheer job of it.  I hope we never forget that our hobby should be first and foremost all about having fun.

Even though it's probably my least favorite dollhouse of the three that I have made, the one at right is the one that truly got lots of play from my daughter. Even though she's a grown woman, she occasionally will stop and make some decorating changes, or she rearranges a few things to suit her tastes at the moment.

There's a fourth dollhouse that I made and never show on this blog. It was very small - only two rooms to it. I made it for a TV commercial that I did years ago. The girls played with it and to a great degree destroyed most of the fancy stuff I had done on it. Again, it was a well-loved piece that the girls thoroughly enjoyed playing with. After I finished the one above and it began to get all of the loving attention from my daughter, I got rid of the little, beat-up house.  It had grown dusty out in the garage and it was covered with cobwebs. It was a disposable toy house. I hope the ones I'm building now will not end up in a trash heap - at least not for an extended number of years after I'm gone.

So, to answer my own question at the beginning of this blog - what's most important to me? My answer is simple: Enjoying this hobby and sharing it with others! And if what I make looks real, all the better!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easy to Build Furniture

It's been too long since I posted anything on my blog. I've been up to my eyeballs with work, and haven't had any time to write! So sorry. I'm still crazed with work, but I just HAD to put something out on my blog. I value your readership - all 150 of you!

I got to thinking that some of you might appreciate some ideas for some simple furniture pieces that shouldn't be too hard to produce. At the left is just such a project. 

I encourage you to click on the image and take a screen print of the drawing. Paste it into a Word document and then print it out. You may have to adjust the size of the picture. I marked the width of the back of the chair; so you should have an idea of how much to blow up or reduce the chair on your own computer. I made this storage chair for our Christmas gift exchange in our miniature club many years ago. It has no fancy joinery, and the only tricky thing is to make sure you drill so that you can insert pins into the chair seat.

Here are the instructions:
1. Cut out all of the parts from 3/32/" thick cherry or bass wood. Sand the pieces smooth.
2. Trial fit the parts to make sure they fit properly.
3. Glue the back to the base piece.
4. Glue the sides onto the base and back. (If you intend to stain the piece, be careful to wipe away any excess glue right away with a damp cloth.)
5. Glue the spacers onto INSIDE of the sides. Make sure there's at least a quarter inch of clearance between the back of the spacers and the back of the chair.
6. Trial fit the front onto the chair. Sand any excess wood at the base or sides that protrude from the bottom or from the sides. Then glue it into place.
7. Use some sandpaper or emery board to round the front and back top edge of the seat.
8. Set the seat into place. Put a business card between the chair seat and the chair back so that there's a small gap. Now drill a pin-sized hole on each side of the chair where it's marked with an X in the diagram. (If you don't trust the diagram, you can set the seat in, then take a try square and line it up with the protruding seat to have a sense of where to place the pin. 
9. Once you have drilled your hole into the chair sides and the seat, snip about 1/4" of the sharp end of a straight pin and gently push it into the hold you have drilled. If the pin is too long, you can pull it out slightly, snip a little off and push it in again. You want the pin to be flush with the surface of the chair sides.
10. Stain and varnish the chair or you may have fun tole painting it!

Hope this works well for you. If not, you know where to reach me! Enjoy!
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