Saturday, 25 March 2017

Take a breather

I am not alone in mini world in believing that 'thinking' is a huge part of 'doing'.  I suspect I spend as more time 'off' the project thinking about it, researching for it, problem solving, shopping, seeking inspiration than I am actually hands on doing.

Now and then I gather all my thoughts and clobber together and see just how much of the house I am able to complete.  I dress each room as much as I can, using the furniture I will keep for that room and other stuff as stand-ins just to give me an idea of what's to come.

From this I can figure out what I might need to complete the room and the order of work.

So this is where I am up to:

The basement which has the Rec Room, the Hive and the Mud Room, is finished other than collecting a gazillion little bits and pieces to dress the three rooms.

The ground floor which has the Dining Room and the Vestibule and the small Sitting Room, is fully decorated and lit except for a couple of lamps and one ceiling rose.  I also have most of the furniture.

Dining Room using some stand in furniture

Sitting Room using stand in table and mirror

The upstairs which has the Music Room and the Library is where I am working now and has some furniture waiting for it, which is helping me find where to put the fire and lights etc.

Music Room - a mix of keepers and chuckers

Library with proper table and chair and some stand ins

The attic level which has the Bedroom (bathroom off there) and open plan Kitchen and Sitting Room seems a long way off right now, but I need to be working towards it in case I find things at a show that would be useful for it. 

kitchen and sitting room - paper cupboards

bedroom - paper bed and cupboards and borrowed desk

Doing this dress rehearsal has the benefit of clearing up my work area and, being a bear of tiny brain, I need a clear pathway to enable clear thinking.  I can keep my perpetual shopping list up to date and order anything practical that I am going to need to let me get on with the step after the one I am currently working on.  I hate being held up for a door knob or something silly like that.

Hope you had fun deciding which pieces are staying in which room and which things were stand-ins.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

I thought I might just do a post scrip in case it helps somebody.

While I was having my grand tidy up I dropped a plaster ceiling rose (aaarrggghh).  If you are lucky and it breaks leaving you all the pieces you can fix it and use it.

two pieces broken out

the solution

I peeled off one side of double sided sticky tape (it is very, very thin) and stuck the pieces carefully in place.  I then trimmed off the surplus tape.  The fine cracks will fill in perfectly if you want to put a coat of paint over it.  I am not even bothering to do that - they really are not visible when its on the ceiling.  When I come to stick the rose in place I will remove the other covering from the tape and the exposed double sided tape will help in the process of sticking the rose to the ceiling.

Moral of the story is don't bin something in a temper (as I nearly did) put it aside for a while and see if you can find a solution.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

A cautionary tale

I have heard about mini folks chopping of various bits of appendages whilst working on some project or another and wondered how they did this.  Surely, when concentrating on something small you know exactly where your bits are in relationship to a sharp implement.  It is a curse being smarter than everyone else!

I was cutting 1/16th cardboard and managed to slice off the top right corner of this digit including finger nail.  Received wisdom says if it is still hanging on by a thread stick it down with superglue so it can heal.  Why this is a step too far for me I have no idea, so mine is fastened back on to my finger with two tight Bandaides and my other fingers remain crossed that it joins back up again.

So, please, please..... if you do lots of steel ruler (yes mine was steel) and sharp knife cutting do not be a cheapskate like me - buy a proper one..... with a protective edge (or any other safety feature), like this one .......

Image result for cutting ruler images

Here's what I was doing before slashing flesh stopped play.

I've messed about with a ton of notions for the small library but in the end I decided to keep it simple.  Firstly, put the door at the back of the room so we can see into the corridor behind.  Then have bookshelves on that wall and the two adjoining side walls.  The dolls house hinge impinges on the right hand wall so I don't want to bring the shelves right to the front edge.  this gives me the opportunity to add in a little furniture.  There will be two corner chairs (actually corner shaped) and a small work table and chair and bob's your whiskers.

Being unable to visualise stuff in 3D, I decided to mock up the shelves to see how they looked in terms of volume - hence the cardboard/finger slice disaster.

This is just stand-in furniture and won't be used here.

There will be a four foot wide (RL measurment) bookshelf either side of the door with a shelf and trim running over the door connecting them.  On each side wall will be a six foot bookshelf, probably divided down the centre into two three foot wide sections.  All with cupboards underneath.

I don't want corner shelf units as they eat up the space and they don't accommodate books very well; so mine will just have a simple butt join.  Right now the idea is to top them with small plain coving which will then continue round the room.  The bottom edge will be trimmed with skirting board and also continue round the room.

I am pretty sure I want them painted rather than the usual brown wood.  This would be in keeping with their original incarnation..... here's my two year old description of this room .....

This room was originally a service room for the dining room (now the music room) and had built in shelving around the room for dishes etc.  It seemed an ideal place to store Elizabeth's massive collection of seventeenth and eighteenth century books.  There is no fireplace here and the room now has a sophisticated system to control the temperature (constant 70 F), light (automatic shades at the window and individual 'spot' lighting where needed) and humidity (50%).

This is more a book repository than a working library.  Elizabeth tends to do most of her work in her office which is located on the ground floor in one of the old service rooms. However, there is a small table and some chairs in case books are just being used for a short while and don't need to be taken out of the room.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Great storage tip.

Where do you keep your wallpaper and flooring?  Mine has been stored, gently rolled, in some very nice under-bed boxes.

they have castors and they stack nicely

the wallpaper box

This worked OK other than the paper is not flat so they faddle about when you are cutting it and every time you want to look through what papers you have, they all have to come out and be mauled around to find the one you want.

Thanks to mini-chum Irene, who is always full of good ideas, here's the brainwave she came up with.

Under a tenner and no postage, from EBay.  This particular Tiger brand does books with 10, 20 and 40 pages.  I considered ten pages, being a cheapskate, but pushed the boat out for a twenty page version.  The theory being it will be useful for years to come as I acquire a bit more wallpaper here and there.

I settled down to happily stuffing  it full of favourite things!  Twenty full pages later I am now wondering whether to open a dolls house wallpaper shop.


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Ground Floor finished

Well 99.9999% finished - I still have to buy a ceiling rose for the dining room and (at the time of writing this) I am still a couple of days away from a dolls house show so I am hanging on for a particular one.

Before showing you the three rooms on this floor, I just want to add a little bit to the stuff I wrote about doing the trims in a room a few posts ago.  When I do the coving that wraps round the chimney breast I make that as a 'finished' wrap-around piece.  That way I can get it as good as I can before it goes in place because I think that these coving joins are the ones that show up the most in a room.

I glue the pieces together on a right-angled jig to make the corners as good as I can.

glued in place - first fit with all its rough bits

after a bit of a buff and paint touch up

three-sided piece ready to go in place

With that in place the dining room is pretty much done - as I said I want a subtle and thin ceiling rose like the one in the sitting room for this room before I fix the light in place for real.

So, here are the three rooms on the ground floor waiting to be filled.

Dining Room

Entrance Vestibule - remember there is an inner hall and stairs beyond the door at the back

The Sitting Room

I am so excited to be moving upstairs and starting on the (largish) Music Room and a small Library. 


Saturday, 25 February 2017

Some painting tips

Just a reminder - lots of stuff I yabber about in the blog also has 'supporting' videos.  The link is over in the left hand column labelled:  My U-Tube Videos - just click the link below.  There are currently twenty-seven from Dalton House and twelve from a previous project.  They are very far from professional but sometimes it is easier to understand something when you see it being done rather than written about.


As I am still busily painting the trims for the dining room I thought I might take a break and show you how I am going about it in case there is anything of help to someone.

love it

Like many people in this hobby I have worked my way around a ton of different paints and all I would say as a recommendation is just find something you like..... bit obvious....but you do get people insisting this or that is absolutely the only way to go.  

Personally I want easy soap and water clean up so I only use water based everything - paint, stain, varnish, whatever.  The photo above shows my current paint of choice: three reasons - (1) you can choose from 2,000 colours or even have bespoke made for you.  (2) The tester pots are very generous unlike other manufacturers and only cost £2 (something?) (3) you can have the sample made up in satin or mat finish.....Oh, I also like the lovely plastic pots which are easy to keep clean round the top so you can actually open them in a month's time.

For the wood trim in this project I have chosen 'Tidy White' with a satin finish.  I wouldn't use modern 'brilliant white' anywhere on any project - too bright for me.

jam jars

When your paint gets down to just a bit left put it in one of those little jam jars you get in gift packs and with your hotel breakfast.  You can actually buy the small jars of jam.  I got a life time supply of them in one go just by asking a hotel one morning if I could have the empties!  Do not forget to put the name of the manufacturer as well as the colour name on the label.  You never know, you just might want to buy some more.

coffee stirrer

Any coffee stirrers you collect in life - wood, plastic whatever - have clearly been made to double as mini paint pot paint stirrers.  Do stir all paint really, really well each time you open it.  I don't recommend shaking, it just makes a mess inside the lid and on the top of the container.  It is worth spending a few minutes on this to get the colour evenly spread and the right consistency throughout.  If the (water based) paint has thickened over time just add a dab of water and again stir very well.

be tidy
Put paper down to paint on - keeps your work area nice and importantly it makes sure you aren't picking up any bits of debris you may have on your surfaces.

paper two
Move the painted piece to another clean sheet to dry and safely away from your hands, elbows, clothes while you are working!  Smudging all that careful work is a no-no.

first coat
This is a close up of the first coat to show you that you definitely need more than one.  The wood is nibbed, there are little spaces, it is patchy.  You can even see here how two different woods show through one coat differently. The three skirting boards (on the right) are a peachier tone than the coving.  Incidentally there is an argument for painting the coving with the paint you used on the ceiling.  I have chosen not to as I like them to link to the rest of white painted wood trim in the room.  If the doors and skirtings and dado rail were going to be anything other than white then I would paint the coving to blend into the ceiling more.

strike one

I put some sort of pencil mark on the unpainted side each time I do a coat of paint then, if life gets in the way for some reason, when I get back to the twenty pieces of half painted stuff I can see easily which has one, two or three coats on it and I can pick up where I left off.

naked wood

Be sure to leave any areas that are to be glued free from paint.  This seems like stating the really obvious but it is astounding how many times I have been happily listening to the radio, picked up a piece of trim and carefully painted the nice smooth top only to remember that will be glued to the ceiling eventually.  Again, if you discover you are ditsy about these things, before you begin painting, just mark up those planes in some way to remind you to leave them alone.

Brushes - no advice whatsoever, I flit from brush to brush as the fancy takes me.  Generally I do use flat ones and not round but size and quality will vary enormously and I might work through several on a job trying to find the 'perfect' one.  I have a couple I favour but they are sometimes too big.

When my pet decorator was painting the banisters in the real house recently I noticed he used his fingers now and then for intricate bits and so I discovered the very best 'brush' for not leaving brushstrokes and for getting into nooks and crannies without globbing.

All the thin top and bottom edges of the trims are finger painted.  Put a few blobs of paint along the edge using a brush and very quickly smooth it along the edge.  Speed is the key.  If you fiddle faddle around you will start to drag the surface skin that forms as the paint dries.  I am making it sound difficult - it isn't - just be confident and get in there.  You'll get a lovely finish.  I have also done some of the ridges this way too.  The brush is fine for the larger flatter areas.  That said I did a couple of table tops with fingers and they look fabulous.

You need to sand/buff between each coat.  I hesitate to say sand because the action is gentler than that word implies.  The item will need a little rub down with the finest grade sander you can get hold of - must be above 400 grit.  Ideally a painters sponge (top two items here) are best as they are very, very fine (made for the job) and are spongy (hence the name) so they also follow the contours to some extent.  The mesh piece is also nice I think it is a plasterers material for smoothing plaster.  Under it all is a piece of 400 grit sandpaper.  I find this a bit too much and it is easy to end up taking off too much paint.  You are only trying to get rid of the nibs in the wood that the paint has raised.

This is my one inch all purpose dusting brush used for just about everything to do with dust.  So, after rubbing down the piece of trim I give it a flick over with this, then inspect closely using fingers and eyes to be sure all the debris has gone - you can use a slightly damp cloth to be sure but I don't - not fond of damp and wood!

current favourite

On a different note I have another current favourite in the 'painting area' - Americana's Dura Clear Gloss Varnish.  Any one who reads my mini stuff will know by now I am not a fan of glossy/shiny in a dolls house.  I really do think everything should be scaled down to 1/12th - including bright colours and especially shiny, glossy things.......  BUT just now and then I want something a bit shiny because they would have been!  One coat of this gloss is very thin and clear and has just enough shine for me to make the two demi-lunes look as though someone has been polishing them for four hundred years - or at least a quick wax and elbow grease last Sunday.

gloss applied with fingers

I dropped a couple of tiny drops from the bottle on to the surface and very rapidly smoothed it across the top of table with my fingers! and hey presto - no brush marks and a bit of a shine.


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.