Saturday, 16 September 2017

Making Books - updated version!!

I have finished making the books for the library and thought I would share how I got the process down to a fine art.  This instruction is for making books en masse just for filling shelves.  They will not be especially lovely and won't have turning pages; they are just library eye candy.

First I found free printies as before** and printed them up and 'glazed' them with matt Mod Podge.  No need to do this step, or you can choose to glaze them with your 'shine' of choice.  Leave until bone dry and cut out carefully.  Take it slowly - use scissors or knife whichever gives you the best result.  I find a very sharp knife gives me more accurate cuts than scissors.

By far, the easiest filling for books is balsa wood.  Ideally you want one inch wide strips in two thicknesses.  I used 3/16" thick piece and 1/4" thick piece.  I could only find three inch wide strips so I certainly bought overkill. I only needed one 5/8" wide strip of each piece to make 84 books so I still have a lot of wood left over.

I cut a 5/8" strips along the length of the wood - this is very easy as it is cutting with the grain.  I then rounded off one of the edges - I think this really matters.  I made up a book without the edges knocked off to see if I could miss this step out and it looked distinctly odd with a squared off spine.  This knocking of the edges with one of the nail buffers I've mentioned before literally only takes seconds to do.

At this stage you could now glue on your covers, wrapping them round the curved edge then cut each one free.  I do a slightly more fiddly version because I like the 'pages' to sit slightly inside the cover (top and bottom) as they do with a real book.

Here's the total 'kit' ready to go.  Use any glue you like - I found cheap old school glue is fine.  Use a fine bladed knife.  Don't use a box cutter/Stanley knife they tend to crush balsa as they cut - the blade is a lot thicker than a craft knife blade.  You also need the wood strip - obviously - and something thin and round to help pre-shape the cover - a thin paintbrush handle, kitting needle - whatever.

The width of most of my books was a little over 3/8" so I laid the balsa strip down and marked up where to cut, spacing 3/8" apart.  I did find I struggled a bit more cutting the thicker piece of balsa, but I really do lack wrist strength so I am sure a knife will do the job for almost everyone but, that said, it cut like a knife through butter using a saw.  I stood the strip upright and sawed downwards through it.

With the wood all cut, I rolled the cover back and forth a little round the 'shaper' to get a nice curved spine to fit the wood - you can probably skip this step without tragedy.

I then applied a little glue, not especially carefully nor up to the edges

I placed the spine where it needed to go ....

....wrapped the sides round and pressed them firmly in place.  Often there would be a small bit of the wood showing - all my printies varied quite a bit in the depth of the book.  

 This was dead easy to trim off with the knife as it was cutting with the grain.

Et voila... we have a book...

Very soon we have a lot of books.  I glued some sets of books together and then just mixed the others and glued them into fives to make them easier to stack on the shelves.

I think these quick and cheap books look great on the shelves and I will take a break for a while from making them as I am hoping to get a lot of interesting objects to fill the remaining spaces. The whole lot was only two 'afternoons' work.  My 'afternoon' being a couple of hours or so.

** Tree Feathers is a really nice free printie site but if you google 'free printies miniatures' there are a ton of them out there.


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Recessed lights in library

I finally plucked up courage to do a new kind of lighting.  I wanted to put some recessed lights in the library. 

First you need the narrative for this library before you think it is set in 1750.  This house is a Georgian house but being seen in 2016.  This small library would have been a service room in the original house but is now being used as a climate controlled space to take care of some valuable old texts.

air conditioning/temperature/humidity control unit in the ceiling

The lighting needed to be low (ish) cool lighting, hence my desire for recessed lights (aka down-lighters or can lights).  

The LEDs came from Elf Miniatures

The idea was to make holes the size of the eyelets and tap them in place (or glue if needed).  Then insert the LED light and bend it at the neck in the position I wanted.  After deciding where to put the bend, I slid the heat shrink tubing up to the neck and heated it. .  

I should have then laid the wires in grooves to exit the house as I normally do.  Right now they are just lying on the floor above.  I am hoping for once to get away with not having to make six grooves to the back of the room - no easy way of doing this and I will always duck actual work if I can.  The room above will be the only one in the house with fitted carpet and I am hoping that might be kind enough to go down on some cardboard false floor on 'joists' and not mind the wires??????  More of that when I get to it.

First step was to make my usual template.  I do realise all the marking and measurements that I labour to put down on paper could simply be done directly on the floor above the library but (a)  I am now working with a stool to reach that floor which isn't great ......

.........and (b) I like to see where the lights will go in relationship to objects in the room.  I can then position furniture to check out the usefulness of the light(s) and basically just get a better feel of how they will look in relationship to the finished room.  So I make a template for the floor of the room the lights will go in (the library).  I then mark up where the lights will go.

deciding where I want the lights and making the template

The template is then taken to the floor above and fastened down with tacky wax or masking tape so it doesn't move around and I drill through the marks.  This time using a larger drill bit than usual as I was making holes for the eyelets not just the usual wires.

drilling the holes
 I actually managed to guess the right size drill bit which was a brilliant tight fit for the eyelets so no glue was needed

no glue needed

I simply tapped them in place with a small hammer using a scrap of wood to protect the eyelet and the ceiling paint.

I got these LEDs from the terrific  ELF along with some steel eyelets but, being awkward, I wanted white so I searched the web and got some that way.  These are 5/32" eyelets: you will need that size to get the LED inside the neck of it plus they are in scale for most real ones, although recessed lights can, of course, come in all sorts of sizes.  

If you extend the bulb slightly from the eyelet it will give a wide spread of light.  I wanted mine subdued and decidedly recessed so I fiddled around with them for a while using a bit of wood and making a mock up to help me decide just how far in (or out) I wanted the bulbs to be.  Eventually they ended up completely inside the eyelet.  I didn't like how the very bright LED light caught your eye when any of the bulb was visible.  I thought that with six of those glowing at me in the library I wouldn't have looked at anything else.  You can get warm lights rather than bright so that might tone them down and I do know folk who simply paint over them to calm them down.

Unlike the usual dolls house lighting these LEDs have polarity.  It doesn't make for a problem when I come to wire them into the power strip as it is clearly marked with a plus and minus.  All that will be revealed very, very much further down the line when the whole house is wired.

The idea here is that much of the very utilitarian shelving was already in the room as it would have been a service room for the 'public rooms' on this floor and would have housed dishes and silver and all kinds of things that needed to be set out for different functions.  My Dalton House resident, another Elizabeth, had it re-positioned and repainted in its original colour (the same colour as the original linen press in the basement) so that there was still a nod to the 'old house'.  No-one actually works in this room but there is a desk and couple of chairs in case any visitors would like to look at something in her collection.

not at all finished but on the way


Saturday, 2 September 2017

Just tweaking

Nothing is so good that it can't be improved.

Interior door knobs

I posted ages ago about being peeved about door knobs and not being thrilled with the plain brass kind for the music room and library.  I managed to find ones I liked better and decided to do a swap.

For any door knob I do look for ones that are connected with a little threaded rod so even these plain, rather too large ones, were easy enough to remove and switch to something I like better.

unscrew the old

I held the finger plates for the new ones in place and marked up where I needed to put black ink to simulate a keyhole.  I already had holes for the rod of course so no drilling was needed.

mark up the keyhole and colour in a black area

 Then it was just a simple job of adding a couple of touches of superglue for the plates and screwing together the new knobs.

Large rug needed
Also a while ago I showed you how I had joined two rugs together to make a larger rug for the music room and I was reasonably pleased with the end result.  When I got it out again I saw how it could be improved on.

The white edges shouted out against the wood floor, especially as there was no white in the pattern of the rug itself.

so white

All it took to remedy this was a black permanent ink Sharpie pen .....

new black edges

 .........and a couple of minutes 'colouring in'.

half done, doesn't the black edge look better?


Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Great Book Challenge

A  while ago I mentioned that I calculated I needed 500 books to fill my bookshelves.  I realised that even if I managed to buy them at an average of 50p per book I would have to spend £250 - clearly that wasn't going to happen!!  So it was a case of knuckle down and make a bundle of books now and then.  

Months ago I made up two sets of Mini Mundus Books which I really liked doing and I liked the finished result but they are £25 for a kit yielding 84 books.  This works out around 30p per book; so not a financial possibility for the quantity I need.  Also, I can't have a library filled with the same sets of books.

If you want to see those books click on Mini Mundus which I hope will take you to the post.  Failing that click on 'library' label in left margin of blog and scroll through those posts until you get to it or find it by date order of posts - 25th August 2015 (wow, so long ago)

Off I toddled to search on line for free printies for 1/12ths.  I know there is ton of that stuff out there so I easily found and saved a few likely pages and I began mass production.   So off to step one of bookmaking as per me.

Download the printie and print on ordinary A4 paper.

I then coated the print with matt Mod Podge to stiffen the paper, protect the print and give a slight sheen to the covers.  I do find it makes the inkjet ink run but I don't think it matters for this purpose as nine tenths of the book will never be seen again - in reality this will be 500 book spines I am making!!

When it was bone dry I cut out the covers.

I began filling the first couple of books with long strips of copy paper which I concertina folded and glued into the book.  I find concertina folding fiddly at this size as it needs to be spot on accurate for a good result.  The alternative method was to cut double page size pieces, fold in half and glue those together to form the inners.

This worked fine but the process needed to be speeded up.  Thinking about the Mini Mundus set and the speed and ease of filling covers with balsa wood I searched around for something the right thickness for my printies.  Out came old faithful - the grey cardboard.

The appearance of the end result again doesn't matter for my purposes - loose pages obviously look better than the cardboard but neither will ever be seen.



There was also a downside to the ones with pages in - they stopped the books staying neatly closed.

I intend to glue sets of books together to make them easier to load onto the shelves.  They are not things of beauty but hopefully with some nicer books mixed in here and there they will do the job - Elizabth is collecting 17th and 18th century texts after all so scruffy is fine!

On my searches I also paid (!!) £1.91 to download this music book printout.  I am going to make a set of six to stack in the music room somewhere.

Concertina fold and glue

Mod Podged the cover

I made better corners on the next books

I came across a lot of nice maps in the free printies so I decided to do a page of those too.  This time no Mod Podge was involved but I did paint the back of the paper with a mucky coloured water colour wash to get rid of the bright white paper.  When bone dry the maps were rolled around a toothpick and relaxed a little, then re-rolled, not too tightly and not all the same.  The roll was fixed with a spot of glue and stacked (for now) in a book box.  They look good beside the library desk.

PS:  If you do ever have this book challenge - look forward to it.... no, really.  By day two I had found ways of speeding up the mass production process and found I could make little groups of books in very quick time as long as each book didn't need to be a perfect specimen which, of course, they don't.  Let go of that requirement and you end up with great looking little groups of books that look just perfect on the shelves of a bookcase.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Finishing the Music Room trims

I have written copious amounts about trims - painting them and cutting them etc so there isn't a lot I can add here.  If you have only just found me and want to know about adding trims just click on the link 'Trims' under the Labels heading over in the left-hand margin/column.

However there may be a couple of tips I can offer up about painting.

Brushes -  Over many years I have acquired a zillion brushes for various reasons

Even when they are decidedly defunct I keep them and use them for one-off jobs like gluing or staining.

These have been my two favourite all-purpose painting brushes for minis for years.  They are just cheap Chinese made ones picked up somewhere along the way but they have worked really nicely for a very long time.

I recently saw a set of Daler (good make) brushes in a sale and thought it would be nice to have some new kids on the block.

Since which time this size 8 Flat Shader has become my all time favourite.

Paints - 

The paint I use for white interior wood work is Valspar, Tidy White, Silk.  All my paints for everything are water based for easy clean up.

When I opened it, the top was covered in about half an inch of grey oily liquid - this is the silk finish element of the paint and rises to the top when the paint sits for a while.  It takes a lot of stirring in.  This is a really important step with almost every paint you use - elements will sink and rise and generally separate out from the base and will need a very lengthy stir - long past the point where you think it looks OK - if you want to achieve the best possible finish.  I use a coffee stirrer for this but I am on the look out for a very small whisk.

I forgot to take a picture of the paint I am using, but this jar of wood stain is an extreme example of what I mean.  It is a full jar and has 'split' into about 25:75.

 I decant paint samples into little jars - those jams you get in hotels.  The larger jars are ex Tesco Finest various, apple, cranberry etc.  They are good for larger quantities of paints and some 'finishes' such as varnish and wood-stain.  They are all much easier to use from jars rather than their badly made containers, they stay cleaner, tops go on and off easier and I can see what I have easily.  They are light protected as they reside in a drawer.

Artist acrylics stay as they are in another drawer

Add caption

My Valspar paints (sample size for about £2 something) already come in great plastic pots.  With a couple of thousand choices of colours and three finishes and good value and a quality finish they are simply the best for me.

Ooooh look, three tins waiting to be decanted into jars.....

and finally.....

Trims in the Music Room

Dental trim for the Ceiling

As always I don't want the hassle of trying to measure accurately the length of each piece of trim I need to cut.  I tear up paper strips from a magazine....

Press it carefully into the two edges where the trim will go making very accurate, sharp creases with my finger nail.  I then remove the strip and use it to mark where the cuts need to go on the trim. 

I always begin at the back of the room and, if there is a fireplace, I work across that by fitting a strip either side of the chimney breast first.

I then construct the three pieces needed to wrap around the chimney breast before gluing them in place

 And so the dental trim around the ceiling is finished

Dado Rail

First thing to do is mark up where the rail is to go.  I use a piece of cardboard I have now had for years.  It is a three inch strip that I slide around the wall, making sure it is sitting neatly on the floor and draw a pencil line around the wall, marking where the rail will go.

When I paint thin strips of wood like dado rails I do have a 'system'.  The top edge and bottom edge need to be painted first and I use my finger for this, brushes are just too large to do it smoothly.  I can then lay the piece flat down and paint its face.  All trims take two or three coats, rubbed down between each coat

showing the second finger painted coat along the top edge
They are measured and cut in the same way as the ceiling trim and in they go, followed by the skirting board.  

Skirting Boards

The secret of successful skirting boards is to make sure the top edge clings to the walls - it looks dreadful if there are huge gaps.  I use my favoured De Luxe glue.  Whatever you use let it go very tacky before trying to fix the trims to the walls - you want them to grab as quickly as possible.  With skirting boards I make sure all of the top edge has glue along it and I add a few drops of superglue here and there to give it an instant solid grab when it goes on.  You also need to push them hard down on the floor to make sure any kinks in your flooring don't shove the skirting out of place.

The room is finally ready for me to find all those chairs and a card table and paintings that it needs.

There will be two chaise lounge type window seats at the front edge of the room.  The idea is that this is a 'public' space in the house used for the occasional 'recital' so it needs to seat about a dozen people.


Penny pincher's footnote:

Most of my trims on the last couple of builds have come from a fabulous dollhouse (and trims/mouldings) maker - Doll House Cottage Workshop.  My introduction to them was at a show when I was working on Chocolat and I asked if they could make me some treads for stairs to trim up some pretty ugly MDF ones.  This was duly done at a great price and good speed.  The wood used for his trims are of much better quality than those generally around the place and his prices are pretty much the same.  What's not to love. 

A couple of months before the York show I was ready to do the music room dado rails and I went to my box of wood to discover I only had one DHCW dado rail left.  Being a cheapskate I decided to hold off and pick some others up at the show and save myself some postage.

I found three lots at the show and none were outstanding - eventually I settled on a vendor and bought eight pieces (to stock up a little).  When I came to use them I discovered they weren't long enough for my room.

Good old DHCW trims are 18 inches long and these were only twelve and I didn't even really like the profile of them or wood I saved a lot of money there then .....not!

my one good one alongside the 'good idea' ones

Off to order from Chris and the following day I had dado rails (five for £4.50) and a strip of board for stair treads (99p) which I want to make windowsills out of 

lovely stair tread strip

 and .......   here is the 'nutty' purchase.... some terracotta tiles for the porch of the next project that I haven't even bought yet and may never do so....  but I loved the tiles (£3.50)

Apologies for an overlong and rather disparate post this week.  I am trying to get back on track.