Saturday, 18 February 2017


Here is how I wallpaper a room - in minutest detail......

 Bit of a note first.... MDF is thirsty wood.... I always coat all the surfaces with some ordinary household matt emulsion at the building stage to help seal it a little so that when I come to paint or wallpaper the project wood doesn't just 'suck off' the paint or glue.  If you haven't done this, you will need to prime the wood in some way before papering - watered down PVA is one way to do it -  otherwise the glue will soak into the wood and the paper can come away from the walls.

cut paper

Measure the height of the room and, if you are going to add a coving and a skirting, measure the width of those and work out how much paper you want to go behind them to give you a neat edge and how much of the wall you want left exposed for gluing the trim to securely.  If you use a fairly standard coving and skirting you are basically going to leave roughly half an inch of wood below and half an inch above your paper.  In this case my strip was - ten inch room height, less one inch (the two half inches), so I cut three pieces of paper into nine inch (tall) strips.

Preferably cut the paper with a knife using a steel rule as a guide; this will give you sharper and straighter edges than scissors do.  Now you are ready to start papering.   Always start at the back of the room.
cut oversize
[Try to imagine the chimney breast has not been papered!]  Cut a piece a bit wider than the area you are about to cover, in this case it is an alcove area.
fold one edge

Make a really sharp fold one quarter of an inch wide along one edge.  I actually mark the reverse side of the paper in a couple of places in pencil, put metal ruler along the marks and very, very, lightly score with my knife - this cuts some of the fibres in the paper and lets you make a really sharp crease when you fold the edge over.

trying the cut piece

Put the folded edge right into the corner, letting the little flap overlap onto the side wall.  Run your fingernails or tool of choice along the other edge.  If, as in this case you are joining to a chimney breast you would now add a little quarter of an inch flap to this side too.  Basically you want all the walls that face you to have little overlaps on to the side walls - these will be covered with the side wall (and chimney breast) papers and this will cover any nasty gaps in the dolls house walls.  I promise you there is no visible bump in the paper when its finished.  
Paste and stick the paper back in place.

unfasten the hinge

Because I like to put my main house doors on before decorating the inside I have to remove the hinge for papering or painting.  You want to avoid doing this too often (it should really only be necessary this once) as MDF is not a great wood for holding screws and they are very tiny.  You can always put the teeniest bit of superglue on the screw when you put it back in, but that's probably overkill.

The alternative, of course, is to work round the hinges.
border adhesive

I am using my usual border adhesive, fairly generously.  You can spread it with a brush or plastic glue spreader - or tool of choice.  I use my fingers - I can be sure it goes to (indeed, over) the edges of the paper and that it is a regular depth and I can feel any little bit of rubbish that may have escaped on to it.  Mystery where the bits come from!

dobbing cloth

Put the wallpaper in place, making absolutely sure you are running perfectly down the edges where the walls join and work your way away from there until it is all down.  Dab it down gently all over with a balled up soft cloth.  The action is called pouncing - I have no idea why

door solution

If you are papering a wall with a door already in place or just a door opening the aperture will need to be cut out first.  I have papered over the aperture (no door in place) waited for the paper to dry and then cut out the paper out from the space with a knife.  This works OK and is probably the only way to deal with a curved archway for instance.

However if you already have a door set in place you can run one strip of paper right along the wall having cut out the shape of the doorway first.  I have tried that only once..... expletive, expletive.....Now.....if I have a door to circumnavigate, I cut the paper the length of the wall.  I then I measure the length needed across the top of the door from its back edge to the front edge of the wall and cut off this strip.  Out of that I cut space for the door and the frame, measuring carefully.  I stick this upside-down, L-shaped piece in place.
can't see the join

The remaining rectangle is then just fitted in place.  If you have measured well, it will butt neatly up to the over-door paper and snug equally neatly into the back corner, covering the little flap of paper from the other wall.

all done

In this photo you can see that all the tops and bottoms finish all over the place, there is even a small gap above the door: this absolutely not a problem, the trims will cover all of these just fine.

One papered room drying out and waiting for its trims.


Saturday, 11 February 2017

Chimney and fire finished and in place

Here's a reminder of what real chimney breasts and fireboxes look like.  We don't need to construct the flue because we will never see it but the rest of this diagram gives you a good idea of how the rest fits together.

Paint inside the firebox and the back wall where the fire will be.  This can be finished in any way you like - add bricks and dirty them up for a real fire, or paint in any colour or finish for a modern gas fire.  My fires are supposed to be gas fires not coal fires but I opted for a simple dark grey (my slate undercoat) paint.

inside the firebox

Cut out the wallpaper to fit the shape of the chimney breast.  Paste the chimney breast with wallpaper paste of choice - for me its this border adhesive right now and I use my fingers for the spreader.  You could paste the paper instead, but this way round is probably easier.

paste wall rather than paper

Some papers (just like real life) will tend to bubble.  Don't panic; just gently dab the surface all over with soft cloth.  Don't rub and don't over do it, papers can be frail when wet.  Be sure they are air bubbles and not clumps of paste (or debris!).  If the bubbles are now small like these they will disappear when the paper is dry and shrinks back to proper size.

scary bubbles

I decided on a marble slab trim.  I had some left over from when I trimmed the fireplace ages ago.  I got it by typing 'marbled paper images' in a Google search - found what I wanted, copied and printed it.  You'll see a yellow version on the fireplace in the music room when I come to work on that level.  Marbled paper gives a smaller pattern to go at than  sample pictures of life-size marble.

first 'slab' in place

I folded the edges over so they look like marble slabs just in case anyone decides to look around the fireplace edges with an endoscope any time - just one of the daft things we do - no-one will ever see this again!  I coated them with a layer of Mod Podge just to take the fuzz off the paper surface.  Mod Podge is sold for decoupage so is ideal.  It doesn't run the inks and is very see through.  Mine is mat so doesn't catch the light but 'hardens' the look of the 'marble'.

folded over to give illusion of depth

I digress a little here to show you one of my HUGE favourite things.  Our B & Q has a little rack of Rustoleum's Painters touch specialist paints at the end of one of their paint rows.  There are tiny pots of all sorts of things - my favourites being their metal finishes and their chalk paint.  This one is the Pewter finish.  It is water based (easy clean up) goes on thinly so doesn't cover details, dries quickly and leaves no brush marks.  It's the bee's knees.

big favourite
This is a Phoenix fireplace - they are made in a sort of pewter but they look much better when painted with the pewter paint!

So here we are fireplace lit and in place - tick!  Not very brightly lit as I am using a 9v. battery just to check its OK.


In summary I confess that if my budget stretched to it I would prefer to get someone to cut my chimney breasts to order.  There is no 'worry' about wood bending in any way and it is robust enough to shove in and out if necessary when you are wriggling the various components in place.  I think Jennifers of Walsall can offer this bespoke service.  

Dolls House Cottage Workshop do some pre-cut ones.  I used one in the sitting room and it proved easy peasy.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Carboard chimney breast

It has been weeks since I touched the project - this happens to me sometimes.  I don't actually go off it I just seem to reach an impasse and find myself making all kinds of excuses for not moving forward.  This time it was how to deal with the back wall of the dining room.  I had an idea I wanted something like this but without the jib door.

It is a pretty easy construction to copy so I fiddled around with cardboard to see what I would need to get the cupboard cut for me or to buy and fiddle a ready-made into place.  Ultimately I decided I didn't like how much space it ate up.  You need a minimum of 1.5 inches from the back wall to the front face of the chimney breast, plus the one inch of hearth and fire surround in front of that so, in effect you lose 2.5 inches from the depth of the room.  My rooms are 15 inches deep so it seemed like they could sustain that - but - add in a large dining table and chairs and we are now decidedly squeezing past the chairs if we want to move around the room.  The other issue was the chimney breast needs to be 5 inches wide so the cupboards either side would need to be less than 3 inches wide if I wanted even a smidgen of wall around them.  Basically this idea was kyboshed and I went back to the notion of a simple chimney breast taking up 1 inch depth, plus the hearth and then furnishing the alcoves either side with something....??????? to display dishes and silver.

It did do me a huge favour though as I have ended up with what I hope will be a usable chimney breast made from cardboard.

front view

I was wondering about the stability of cardboard but two things convince me it should be OK.  Firstly I follow three wonderful miniaturists who build almost entirely with card-stock and mount board and there isn't a hint of any future problems with their work.  Secondly if I think about it just about every inch of my project is damp vulnerable from the MDF used in the house construction to the cardboard tiling and bricks and all sorts of paper products inside the house.  I have no intention of putting my house anywhere where it could be damp so I don't think there will be an issue with any of it, chimney breast included.

A mini friend gave me some foamboard (she does terrific stuff with it) but I haven't done all that well with it.  I can't seem to cut it with a decent ninety degree cut and I do seem to ravel up the foamy insides between the sheets.  I will persevere now and then when it seems useful but for a wall that I wanted to stand up straight, heavy cardboard seems to be the way.

I bought a large (22" x 32") sheet of stiff grey card - is it called ticketboard? - for £2.15 from Hobbycraft - in their mountboard section (mountboard is more than twice the price). Probably 1/16th inch thick and quite rigid. It cuts OK with a Stanley knife/box cutter as long as you remember the golden rule of making lots of small cuts and not trying to get through it with one or two slices.

I measured the fire surround mantelpiece; it was 4.75 inches wide. I didn't want the chimney breast to be much wider, so I added a smidgen to that making a five inch width piece of card.  The room is ten inches high but I don't want to be struggling with a tight fit between floor and ceiling so this time I knocked off an eight of an inch.  The ensuing gap with be covered with coving.  I made sure that any edges that would be standing on the floor were the already manufactured straight edges so that I would get a nice even base for the piece.  

I then lay the fire surround and fire on the chimney breast front that I'd made and worked out how large I wanted the fire box opening to be.  Measure, draw and cut out.  After that everything else was pretty much one inch strips of card.

gubbings behind

The exception being the piece that goes under the fire so that it stands level with the hearth.  This needed to be one inch deep plus the 1/16th thickness of the card so it could be shoved forward inside the front edge.

not a pretty sight

I used some off-cuts of wide coving just to ensure the sides were glued on at a neat 90 degree angle to the front.  At some point I realised they would be even more useful glued into place to do that job and would give the chimney breast some weight and substance.

Whilst making this I have also become a convert to Mod Podge. (made by Plaid)  Best to google it as there are so many variations.  I have just used the bog standard Mod Podge Mat finish and it glued great and sealed any hairline gaps really well and coated the edges of the cardboard and then it went on to be sanded down brilliantly.  Lovely medium for putting (cheap fuzzy) cardboard together but wanting a wood finish to take paper and paint properly.

People claim it is watered down PVA but I am not convinced.  PVA - the normal white craft glue - goes some way towards what this can do but I'd claim this did what I wanted much better than PVA would and for the small difference in price you may as well get the real McCoy.

Come back next week for the finished article.


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Some EBay bargains

Google +, which I never wanted but seem to have acquired (????) has messed with my links and photo albums here there and everywhere, including one on this blog.  It is currently 'repaired' (24/07/16) so if you ever want to know where I got something you see being used on this project just click on the Purchases Album link in the margin of the blog and it will be there along with the vendors name.  The exception being anything I buy on EBay of course.

Here are my latest bargains from there:

Jim Coates mirror

Ladies Mile rose

Dollhouse Flooring Decrastone Hearths

The above three are 'proper' traders and can be found via EBay or a web trawl.  The two purchases below were from (no repeat) private sellers.

Anything I have blogged about to do with purchases ca be found by clicking on the Purchases Link under the Labels heading in the margin


Saturday, 21 January 2017


I always think rugs are one of the hardest things to find for your project.  I know you can buy fuzzy paper and clip photo images from the web and print the rugs yourself but I think you need a pretty good printer to get a decent result.  That's what I am telling myself as I didn't do very well at it.

I decided to take a break from actual 'building' work and messed about with the rugs I have for this project.  Since buying them - the historical period has changed, the room usages have changed, the colours of rooms have changed etc etc etc, so I actually don't really have the rugs I need for this project any more!!

I began by fiddling around with a small rug for the library.  It is one of those easily found woven 'Turkish' dolls house carpets.  I never like the fringe on them so the first thing to do is get rid of that.

This is as easy as painting the reverse side with a generous amount of Fray Stop along the line where you want to cut it and gently pressing (rather than rubbing) it into the fabric.  Let it dry well (overnight is best) and snip away.  

I am pretty sure Fray Stop is just a clear drying white PVA glue.  Used judiciously on most fabrics it won't show (too much) on the other side so you can 'hem' with it and 'join' with it and just use it for its intended purpose of making an edge that you can cut and leave because it wont fray. This really useful when making fabric items at this scale as sewing isn't always the answer.  I am pretty sure you don't need Fray Stop per se - there are other clear drying glues out there that I am sure will do.  So give what you have a try - test it on scrap fabric if you can.  Obviously silk may not take kindly to it - but again it will depend on the silk and how much glue is needed for what you are doing.  It is always worth a go. My logic for having some actual Fray Stop is that I have to buy more glue ow and then, so one of them might as well be this one (no more expensive than any other) and I have a 'dedicated' glue for the job.

One rug sorted

On to the music room.

I did have two matching rugs whose colours ought to go 'quietly' into the proposed yellow music room. 

 Using just one of them seemed too small for the space:

..... using two just looked weird with a gap down the centre

.... just as with Goldilocks... the third overlapping solution made the size of the rug (sans fringes)  'just right'

The answer was to cut off two of the edges and join up the rugs.  This time I didn't use fray stop before cutting as I sort of wanted the edges to 'fray' into each other when they joined up.

I lay the first cut edge half way across the sticky side of a paper-thin piece of double sided carpet tape and pressed it down carefully taking care not to stretch or crumple it in any way. I then did the same with the second rug, taking care to match the pattern.

The two cut edges matched very well until it 'ran out a little on both outside edges.  The rug's fault, not mine!  I am certain that when the room is furnished it will never be noticed.

I then did the Fray Stop fringe removal trick  - et voila - one large rug.  It needs some more judicious trimming I think but so far so good.

The off-cuts may very well make pelmets over the curtains and some trims for the blinds in this room - we shall see.

Finally I used the last of my all time favourite RL place mats to make a rug for the mud room - probably not very practical - and one for the Rec room in case I never find one I like for in there.  I simply used Fray Stop down each side and pulled some thread to make a fringe.

I know ......... I cut them off ones I buy and add them on to the ones I make.....  what can I say.

Mud room

Rec room - no fringe - want to tape the edges of this one


Saturday, 14 January 2017

Lighting - putting in the lights

First test your light using a 9V battery - nothing worse than putting in a broken light or one that needs a new bulb or a bulb tightening.  

all systems go

Straighten the wires to help them lie nice and flat in the groove.  Just run them firmly between your fingers a couple of times.

wire need straightening

If they have the sticky pad on them I take it off - entirely your choice - I don't like to be able to see them when they go up.  Just use very, very tiny dabs of superglue gel.  Use a cocktail stick or even a pin to apply it in tiny dabs on the inner rim of the mount.

removing sticky pad also puts the wire back in the centre

If you are using a ceiling rose there are at least three ways of doing it and I use them all depending on what works best for a particular light in a particular place.

You can glue in the ceiling rose straight to the ceiling on its own.  Locate the hole using a toothpick.

You can thread your light and ceiling rose up together and just put glue on the rose and pull both up into place making sure you get a good tension on the wire so they are snug against each other and the ceiling.  Take care not to tug too hard.

Less risky is to glue the light to the rose, as you would if it were going directly on to the ceiling - so using the sticky pad or some superglue gel.

Twist the ends of your wires together and thread through the hole.

Lay the wire neatly in the groove and cover with masking tape.  Press down well.  Don't glue the wire into the groove or cover with wood filler just in case you every want to remove the fitting.

flat as a pancake, no bumps

The three lights you've seen go in here took exactly two hours to do start to finish; taking my time and a mini cuppa tea break.  

sitting room


No picture of the dining room as that is a work in progress.  Come see me next week to see how that's going.


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Lighting - making the grooves

For those of you who follow my blog(s) and have a good memory I proffer my apologies as I am sure I must have blogged this before; but for my record of the build and for any newbies here we go ...

I think I have tried everything under the sun to make grooves for wires and have failed dismally with - lino cutter, or just using a knife, or using a rotary tool.  Many people will swear by these tools and have great success with them, so don't let me put you off trying.  I am just sharing what I do.

ignore the rotary tool - I forgot how much I didn't want to use it!

I draw a line from the hole straight to the back wall and drill an exit hole there.  I then use a box knife (Stanley knife) and a steel ruler and cut a line along this mark, two or three times.  I then budge the ruler a little and do the same again.  I then use any of the files (any pointy ended tool would do) to gouge out the material between the cuts - it comes out very easily.  These files were about three pounds from Aldi at some time so you can get them cheaply.  Being files I can then go on to enlarge the channel and tidy it up using pretty much any of them.  I then go over the top of the channel with a bit of sandpaper as it always raises a little ridge.

Use an old paintbrush to remove the dust and a very slightly damp cloth is good for finishing off the dusting - don't wet the MDF - it is just that a slightly damp cloth picks up the dust better.