Welcome to my life . . . .

This is a blog about my passion: dollhouses and miniatures. This particular blog was started to follow my miniature dream: to create a Victorian Mansion. But work on my Mansion is slow. Very slow. Sloth slow. Ice Age glacier movement slow. Why? Because I am easily distracted by other personal miniature projects (I have 50+ roomboxes and 15 dollhouses in various stages of incompletion) and because I work for a miniature shop and am often up to my elbows in miniature projects that aren't mine! So, I thought, some artists work in a particular medium (woods, watercolors, clay, oils, etc.), I work in progress . . . .

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Just About Done: Brick House

I am waiting on house numbers and the outside coach light next to the door, but otherwise, the Brick house is all finished!
House Before
Another Before Photo
So customer had dropped off a house that someone had built for her to look like a real life townhouse.  She wanted it finished to resemble the house . . .
Real life house
Real life house
So, after magic brik and shingling and gluing on shutters and kickplate, the house is looking more like the photos the lady brought in:
House from front

House all done
The only difficult aspect of shingling this house was on the back.  The house was custom built and the builder had curves on the back of the roof.  Thus we had to trim the shingles accordingly...

So house will be done by next week...There is very little space between the front door and column so the usual house numbers we use on projects will not fit well.  My dad is cutting numbers for me on a laser cutter and once I get them I can make sure the spacing is right for coach light and install them.  This house will be ready ahead of deadline for the customer to get!

Friday, December 4, 2015

More Magic Brik'ing!

Okay, some updates to my last blog post (Brick House!): First, and most disappointing, the small amount of Magic Brik compound I had left over that I sealed in a container and put in the refrigerator hardened after one night!  Years ago I was able to store left over Magic Brik for up to a week.  There were at least two instances when I did that.  But this time it hardened.  So ignore that tip I gave a few days ago - I am saddened to say it may no longer apply.

Secondly, I had someone mention that they did not quite understand what I was talking about with regards to removing the stubborn left over bits in the template.  So this time I took photos of that while I use Magic Brik on the First Floor Front wall and the Porch Floor:
Peel the template sticker off the paper; some stubborn 'bricks' remain stuck in the template
Use your finger and press against the sticky side of the stubborn 'brick'
The 'bricks' will stick to your fingers (unless you use lotion frequently and don't have dry skin)
Remove and discard the sticker 'bricks' (or reuse them as labels on miniature glass jars/cans)

All stubborn 'bricks' removed and template is ready to be put on the house!
 So on Wednesday I bricked the First Floor Front wall:
Tape and goop are on the house...
Was not fun getting the compound between the window and top cornice
Also not fun getting the mixture between the column and the front door trim.
 In order to get the compound mixture into those tight, tiny places I cut up an old credit card and used it as a spackle knife to get into those little areas.

Tape template removed leaving beautiful bricks behind!

Once dry, I can move onto the porch floor!
Once the First Level Front Wall was dry on Thursday, I could brick the Porch Floor:
Porch floor is still wet so it looks slightly darker than wall brick
Again, getting between the columns and between the back column and door trim was patience-testing
 Overall the project is coming along quickly . . .

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

It's a Brick House! Magic Brik Systems!

One dollhouse due by Christmas is being made to resemble the little girl's real life house which is brick.
Real life house has brick everywhere: even on the front porch!
To have that realistic brick look and texture, we are using the Magic Brik material by Magic System.  No, I did not spell that wrong: it is called Magic Brik.  Although I did put it into our inventory as Magic Brick so if you are searching for it, try both spellings!  They also sell Magic Stōn, Magic Slāt, Magic Bloc, and Magic Stuccō.  They are available in different square footage amounts (1 sq. ft., 2-1/2 sq. ft., 4 sq. ft., 9 sq. ft.) so it is easy to find one that would work for just about any project!
This particular box is for Magic Stōn but we used the red brick for our project

So the first step is to paint the house the mortar color.  Do not use oil based paints (such as KillZ Primer or stencil paints) for this step!  It is extremely important that standard interior acrylic paint is used.  Interior acrylic paint can be found at home improvement stores, your local miniature shop, or hobby shops.  (What happens when you use an oil based paint for this part, you may ask?  Well, you cry; because once you get to the final steps of this process and remove the sticker template - the sticker template takes your paint and part of the bricking right along with it.  Your are left with a partially bricked project with no mortar anywhere.  Sometimes the wood shreds as the sticker is being removed; and sometimes the texture doesn't stick at all to the house and falls off in clumps as you remove the sticker template. What a waste of time, energy, and money.  Let's not discuss how I know this.  Just use interior acrylic paint!)

Then cover the project with the provided sticker template rows that comes in the Magic System's box.  I will admit this step takes a while as all the leftover little brick squares or stones must be removed from the template so that just the template is being adhered to the project.  Most of them pop right out, but a few stubborn ones like to stick to the template and must be removed before sticking it on the house.  I like to stick the stubborn ones to the edge of my table as seen in the photo below.  Overlap the rows!  And eventually it gets done!
Whole house is covered in the sticker template

Up close photo of sticker template on house
Typically when I do a house the windows and doors are removed and the sticker template goes right over the hole.  But this custom made house had the windows and door nailed in place so we were not removing or touching them!  The sticker template will stretch so keep in mind when doing a large project that the tape may not match up exactly right if you've been stretching it when applying it to the house.

Next mix water with the provided powder.  I used the red brick product so the color was already determined; but if using Magic Stōn, Blōc, Slāt or Stuccō add paint to the powder to achieve the color you desire as those only come in an off white color.
Mixing the powder with water

Once it's frosting consistency it's ready to go!
Then it is time to "frost" the project! (Yes, I want cake now.)  Apply it thinly, about 1/16" thick or else you will not have enough to finish your project.  If you want to apply it thicker, get more compound before you start!
Frosting the house
My special tool: a plastic knife!
I always use the best tools (I really need a sarcasm font!) and this project is no different: If I want a rougher texture I use a plastic knife to apply the texture; if I need a smoother result, I use an old credit card to apply the compound to the project.

When using the red brick material be advised that the red stains!  Do not get it onto any area that is not red as it leaves a red mark you will need to paint over later.  At this stage we could have sprayed areas with black or gray spray paint to age the bricks but we did not do that as customer is on a budget and that would have added more materials and labor time to the total.
Frosting the other side of the house
Up close view of the compound on the house
Once the whole project is "frosted" I wait a bit (about 10 to 30 minutes depending on how long it took to complete the project).  I want the mixture to be still squishy/wet so that the template can be removed -- if left overnight the compound would harden completely making it impossible to remove the sticker template.  On large projects, such as a dollhouse, where it takes time from start to finish for frosting, if parts I did first are already beginning to dry as I finish the other side, I remove the sticker immediately after finishing frosting.
Pull the sticker gently to remove it from the house
Removing the template
Once all the template stickers are removed allow the project to sit untouched overnight.  The bricks are still squishy and can be easily destroyed/mushed until they have fully hardened.
Lower level and porch still need to be bricked.  That's another day's project.

Up close view of corner
We were busy the day I tried to do this at work so in order to get it all done in a day I did not tape off the lower level or porch floor yet.  I will be doing that this week.  Yes, the mixture will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for roughly a week; but once you take it out to use it, it will harden fast so make sure you are only doing a small project that you can cover quickly with the leftover mixture.  But, for this project, I ran out of mixture and will have to open another box.  After the project has been left to dry for 24 hours, I run my hand over it (or lightly use a paper bag) to remove the odd bulges or pimples attached to some of the bricks.
Other than seeing that daughter needs to paint my nails again, this "sanding" removes bumps from the bricks.
Once complete, spray the project with a matte sealer to preserve it.

Some tips, hints, and tricks:
If you decide that you want a white wall of bricks with some red bricks showing thru (like the white paint is chipping off from age) . . .
This patio wall needs a power washing and new coat of paint!
. . . when painting over the red bricks, do not use a paint brush as that can deteriorate the bricks.  Sponge paint them instead.

If using Magic Stōn, after the project has dried for 24 hours, go back and paint the stones with different colors to make a more realistic look.  Create paint washes (1 or 2 parts paint to 1 part water).  I use about 6 different shades.  Then use a small paint brush and dip it in the paint wash.  Touch the brush to the center of a stone and the color bleeds out to cover the whole stone.  So randomly touch a few stones to create some variation of color.  It does not take long because you are not "painting" each stone; you are just touching the center of various stones briefly, like pressing the buttons on a microwave. Coordinate the color paint washes with your project (grays versus browns versus greens/blues, etc.):
50 shades of gray?  I think not.  This wizard's house only has about four.

This fireplace got some brown to coordinate with the wood floor

This porch got touches of blue to coordinate it to the front door
Some people have mentioned that they have added glue to the mixture!  I am not sure what glue they added or how much of it was added.  I have never done that and have never experienced bricks breaking, falling, or flaking off.  But, there's a tip you may hear if you discuss this process with other people!

I have found that typically the manufacturer's recommendation for how much area it covers is an overestimation.  If they say 4 square feet, there's enough compound to cover about 3-1/2 square feet.  There is enough sticker template to cover the 4 square feet, but the compound mixture just doesn't cover it.  Or maybe I am just too messy when applying it or put it too thickly in spots.  I seem to find that there's about 15% to 20% more sticker template than compound so if you use all the templates be advised that you will need more powder mixture or else your entire project may not get covered!  Basically: buy more than you think you will need to be safe!  There's nothing worse than having your house covered in sticker template and partially frosted to discover you are out of compound!

But the end results are completely worth it: realistic looking and feeling bricks, stones, blocks, etc.!
This Work In Progress Hunting Cabin has an impressive stone chimney and foundation

Friday, November 6, 2015

Willoway is Away!

The 1978 Craft Publications Willoway dollhouse went home to it's owner!
When the customer dropped this dollhouse off in early summer it was a little sorry looking:
We were to do a full overhaul on it: remove all old fish scale shingles, fix up broken railings, reattach the back roof which had fallen off, paint everything, shingle the roof in new rectangular shingles, install wiring, coach lights, wallpapers, and flooring!
All Pretty!
The biggest repair work done on the front was the porch:
And although the porch was the biggest repair job on the exterior, the shingling efforts really improved the look of the house.  It is funny how a simple shape can change the look of a house: This house needed rectangular shingles!  The fish scale shaped shingles were too whimsical or soft and did not give this house the presence it deserved.
Removing old shingles
Although cute, those old shingles needed repair and the customer (or whoever had started the shingling) had shingled differently than I would have: I prefer the main roof to be shingled first and then the peak/dormers should be done.  The customer picked rectangle shaped shingles to replace the old ones and I am so glad because I think it made the house look more impressive instead of "cutesy".
The interior needed attention too:
Interior needed some TLC
Although it was looking a little rough, the bare bones were better than I anticipated given that the outer walls were merely constructed out of siding material (if you look closely at the photo above you can see the siding lines on the interior of the right wall)!  But the wood was dry and kept sucking up our primer -- several coats of KillZ was needed to fully seal the wood!
Room sizes were very nice but the haphazard priming job previously done was detracting from some finer details such as the crown molding all throughout the house which we did not fully notice until it was time to wire the house!
First Floor Before
First Floor After

Second Floor Before
Second Floor After

Third Floor Before

Third Floor After
The only issues on the interior were the electrical (see our Electrical Issues here) and how difficult it was to wallpaper some of the long, narrow rooms (such as the hallway and center attic room).
Hallway is 21" deep and only 8-1/2" wide
Hallway After
Tiny little space
The center attic room has a tiny space all the way at the end of the room.  This tiny space was roughly 4" at the highest point and 6" deep (and, like the hallway below it, 8-1/2" wide).  Very hard to get my hands in there to wallpaper....
All wallpapered!
Luckily the customer picked a solid blue paper so I didn't have to fuss with a pattern when fitting it in to the small space!  Flooring was no picnic to get in there either.
Overall the interior came out fantastic:
After, with back roof open
After, with back roof closed
I was so excited to work on this dollhouse because I have always heard of the 1976 Craft Publications Pepperwood Dollhouse (have customers who still come into the store today that are building one from the plans they bought), but did not realize the company had produced many different dollhouse plans!  I could not find any information about the Craft Publications Inc company (other than it used to be in Georgia) but I did find that the designer of their dollhouse plans was Jacqueline Kerr Deiber (who also designed those beautiful 1920's Roper Stove, Monitor Top Refrigerator, and Maytag style Washing Machine!).

So this wonderful dollhouse has received some proper TLC and will continue on for another generation or two of fun!