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 . . . .

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bits and Pieces...(Part 3 of 4: Flooring)

So, I've been working away on the Willoway!

This past week the house was wallpapered and flooring cut and installed.  The rooms were so deep that we had to connect two sheets of flooring.  I do this all the time, but a customer mentioned that he always had trouble matching them up and installing floors so I decided to do a blog post about it for anyone else who has issues.

First we polyurethane the wood floors.
Then we make a template of the dollhouse floor.  We do this by overlapping paper and taping them together until the floor space in the dollhouse is completely covered by paper.  (I know, we only use the best tools here at the store.)  Remember to write on the paper what room the template is for and which direction is towards the open end of the dollhouse as you want the nice manufactured edge (presumably the straightest edge) in the front where people will see.
By now the polyurethane is dry and you can match up the two floors.  Put them edge to edge.  They will not always match up great (i.e. there will be gaps):
Some gaps are visible which is why it is best to do this on a white table where gaps show thru the wood clearly.
If that happens, turn one of the floors around so the opposite edge is now against the other floor's edge.  Sometimes you will still see a gap in which case you will then need to rotate the other floor.  Basically, keep turning the floors as one edge will match up very nicely to the other floor's edge:
Butted up to each other and there are no visible gaps!
Now flip the floors over so you can tape the backs together where the seam is located:
Starter pieces of tape to hold the seam in place until the rest can be applied.

I go overboard with the masking tape to hold them together.
Now you have a large wood floor with no visible seams or gaps:
A 17" x 22" wood floor!
Pull your templates out of the dollhouse and arrange them on the large wood floor you have created:
I can cut two rooms out of this!
Put the edge of the template up to the edge of the wood floor and start cutting.  Actually, I freehand cut around the template but if you are feeling cautious I would recommend either pencil lining around the template and cutting along your line or taping the template in place so it doesn't shift while you are cutting.  Once the flooring is cut out you can test fit it in the house (usually there is a place or two that needs minor adjusting to get it to fit exactly right: paper is more flexible and forgiving than the wood sheet flooring so a few snips along the edge might be needed for a flatter, easier fit).

Use double sided tape or tacky glue to install your flooring:
Installed in the hallway and read to go! (Lower level has weights on that floor while the glue dries)
We also stained the stairs for the dollhouse.  But the pre-assembled stairs had a lot of glue that prevented the stain from taking to the wood in the creases:
Lots of raw wood gaps.
Customer wants to keep costs for this dollhouse reasonable (it is for a child to play with) so we did our usual "cheat" method and filled in gaps with a dark brown marker before we polyurethaned the stairs.  Doesn't completely cover all the gaps, but makes them less noticeable:
Some raw wood gaps are still there - may put another coat of marker on it
If there is time I will color the more noticeable gaps with marker again.  But it will be picked up Wednesday and I still have shingling to do.  Shouldn't be too bad except that tomorrow is Halloween, today are the kids' school activities relating to Halloween, and I don't work Sunday or Monday (and kids are off of school on Monday and Tuesday due to the end of the semester) so getting kid-free time here in the store to shingle will be tough, but I will get it done (or at least beg Mom to help and do some shingling)!  Interested in shingling with a hinge on the roof? Look for installment Bits and Pieces...(4 of 4) next week!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bits and Pieces from Everywhere (Part 2)

So the other thing I worked on this past week was a gift for a friend.  The last two or three Christmases I have made my two best friends something in miniature (miniature wine cellar, miniature bookstore, birdcage with a miniature tile floor, beach stalls, tiled roombox).  I told them that this year I was just buying them gifts because I run out of time every year and stress about getting their gifts done in time.  But, when my one friend mentioned that she was working on a witch's scene I got excited because I have a long-neglected witch's scene too!
My carved pumpkin has been waiting for almost 10 years for me to add witch's stuff to it
And I have always wanted to make a dead potted plant for that scene but have never "found" the time to do it.  But, if I convince myself that I am making one for my friend, I can make one for myself too at the same time and not feel guilty about playing with miniatures when there is so much housework and customer projects waiting for me!

So I bought 2 small pots . . .
Scratched them up and aged them with a water/antiquing gel mix (1 part water to 1 part antiquing gel):
Waiting for water/gel mix to dry

All scratched and dented and aged
Then I mixed dirt with some water/glue:
And put some mud in the pots, along with a piece broken off from an old grapevine wreath...
Dead little plant
But it didn't look "done" yet.  So I added the most important piece that I had been dying to try to make for as long as I can remember: a miniature spider!  Using transparent thread I tied a knot in the bottom and them dipped the knotted bottom into black nailpolish.
Trying to get legs on my spider blobs.
As the nail polish was drying I used tweezers to gently pull bits of the nail polish off the knotted clump to make the spider's "legs".  It's much too small to get exactly 8 legs, but they have the appearance of having legs, so I'm happy.
Little spiders hanging from the dead plant
Up close view of 1 pot
Now I'm brainstorming for a little something I can make my other friend who is making a hunting cabin (I made one a few years back too!  And I know you are so surprised by this, but mine's not finished yet either!  It's still a "Work in Progress") -- certainly there is something our little hunters need that I can make for each of us!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bits and Pieces from Everywhere (Part 1 of 4: Electrical)

I've been working on several projects this past week, and today's blog will be about the electrical issues of two of the projects.  My frustrations with electrical hit new highs this past week.

Personal Project was going along great: the microjacks were finally working  (Installing Electrical in Library Ceiling) and I was ready to move on to the next room!  Music Room electrical went fine!  I was on a roll!  Guest Room electrical went . . . . well, that's it.  It went.

I tried to install the first set of microjacks and they did not go in correctly thanks to my heavy soldering.  I tried to remove some of the solder but the constant heat and cool from soldering application and removal must have compromised the integrity of the microjack because when I tried to put them in, they snapped in half.  By then the first holes I had drilled were looking fairly sorry; I was thinking they must have been enlarged due to the installation attempts.  So I drilled new holes and tried to install a new set of microjacks (using only a dab of solder this time!).

New holes drilled next to old holes
Success!  They went in beautifully and my tester chandelier lit up great:

New Microjacks are in!

It's Working!!!
Then I removed my chandelier, and the microjacks decided to keep the chandelier's adapter prongs along with the chandelier's wires!
Prongs and the wires from left side are gone - still stuck in Microjacks
So not only did I have to trash my chandelier (thank goodness I used a cheaper fan light to test and not my $150 chandelier!), but I had to rip out that pair of microjacks too since prongs were stuck in them!  So, I didn't want to do it, but I have decided to use tapewire in the Guest Room.  I will try using the microjacks without tails (so no soldering).  Microjacks without tails just push into my predrilled holes in the tapewire, so this should be easy.  I ran the tapewire into the Guest Room and put the microjack on the awl pin (as directed by the manufacturer for installing microjacks).  And pushed it into the 1/16" hole I had drilled.  And removed the awl from the room to discover the awl pin was still stuck into the ceiling with the microjack.  Are you kidding me?!?!  Using pliers I finally pulled the awl pin out of the ceiling, along with half of a microjack.

Yup, that's right: a third pair of microjacks destroyed!  WHAT IS IT WITH THE GUEST ROOM AND MICROJACKS?  The Guest Room must be cursed.  I have walked away from the project for a while so I don't throw it out a window.  My patience was exhausted.  And it was only Monday!

So, since I'm not working on my personal project, I will get lots done on customers projects!
The little blue Willoway needs tapewire put in it.  A simple 2 day project.  Nice and easy, straight tapewire runs across floors and ceilings (everything will get covered with wallpaper and flooring so no restrictions on where I put tapewire!).  Until I looked in the house on Saturday afternoon last week and discovered the customer had crown molding in all the rooms already!  And it was glued on solid; no removing it.  Might even have been part of the construction process.  And Dad primed over it all so it was also painted in place too (even if the glue had been weak, the paint would hold it tight).
Crown molding blends in with walls (Crown is where arrows are), but it is in every room
So I had to get creative with the wiring.  In order to get the electrical power from one room to the next, this dollhouse now has a hybrid of round wire and tape wire.  So first thing Tuesday I decided to tackle the electrical:
Some round wires can still be seen (see arrows) but will be tucked away once decorating starts
Many spots needed to be soldered - but trying to solder the wires behind the trim (where the arrows pointing up are located in the picture) was difficult: First, my head and hands couldn't fit into the space to see what I was doing or where I needed to solder.  The windows were too far back on the side for me to peek in too.  So I needed to use a mirror and solder backwards in the mirror.
Because holding a mirror, solder, and a soldering iron while trying to solder backwards is so easy to do.

Then came the next challenge: the solder kept dripping down the soldering iron.  Yup, that's how gravity works.  Just because I want the solder to melt up into the place where the grommets and wires are, gravity insists it must flow the other way, down the soldering iron tip and towards my hand.  Wonderful. So the house had to be tipped onto it's side so that the melted solder would flow into the hole and not down the iron.
So I ended up having to solder, sideways and backwards in a mirror balanced on a spare piece of trim.  Very nerve wracking and used up a lot of my patience.
But it's done!
But I haven't tested it yet . . . because if there were problems I wouldn't have had the patience to fix it this week!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Newport gone, Willoway still underway!

One October project down, and one to go!

The Newport was an October 10th birthday gift (and not a Christmas gift as I had first assumed when I gave the lady the estimate for a finished painted Newport in the middle of September).  So, we had limited time to get this project together.  Luckily in the past year or so Mom and I had partially assembled a Newport kit and it was sitting in the store so that saved me a great deal of time!  Just had to prime and stain the interior, insert the interior walls, assemble and paint the majority of the exterior trims and stairs, and paint the roof panels as customer did not want shingles.

Assembling the rails and posts

All assembled, now to paint!
So after the many, many, many rails were assembled and painted (what a chore that was! Did I mention that there were a lot of railings?) I stained the floors and polyurethaned them.  (Yes, even though my computer constantly tells me polyurethane is a noun and I cannot add an "-ed" ending to it, polyurethane is also a verb!)  I think the floors turned out lovely, but Mom thinks they were a bit too dark.  Although she did like them better after the semi-gloss polyurethane went on them:
I will admit that they look brighter in the photo than they were in the flesh and they only appear that way in this photo thanks to the flash on my camera.  But I still like the contrast of the dark floors with the white primed walls though.  Even if the floors are dark.
Stairs were painted white (because they were MDF it was all we could do since Medium Density Fiberboard won't take stain nicely):
So, customer arrived yesterday and took the birthday present home for her daughter!  What a lucky little girl!
All Finished!

And ready to play!
So that October project was kicked out quickly.  But we still have another one . . . .
Recently we have been working on this little lady too:
Before Photo of Willoway
This is a 1978 Craft Publications Willoway Farm Victorian Dollhouse.  (That's quite a title!)  Craft Publications is probably best known for the Pepperwood Dollhouse which still pops up quite a lot these days.  But this is a Willoway Farm house and it is getting a complete overhaul.  Luckily the customer was flexible on a due date so although she dropped it off back in the early summer, we are only getting around to working on it seriously this past month.  Dad has been helping me on this one -- he is really good at demolition and prep work!  Shingles have been removed and the porch rails all repaired/replaced, and the exterior has been completely painted.  Interior has been primed too.  Now today and Tuesday (we're closed Sunday and Mondays) I hope to tackle the electrical and then middle to late next week I begin the wallpaper and installation of floors (floors were polyurethaned -- yes, it's a word, stupid computer! -- a week or two ago).

We were unable to get the porch railings off the house without the risk of breaking the posts or the siding of the house, so we painted around them.  Took a little extra bit of time, but Dad helped with the wall painting and I went around the small bits and posts and stuff: it was a fun team effort!

BEFORE: Walls painted, detail painting around post needed


BEFORE: Railing needs touch up paint and wall needs detail paint
Half the windows and the door are painted white, but we are still waiting on the other half of the windows which we had to order (they should arrive early next week).  This little lady is coming along and will have a blog post dedicated to her once she is completely finished (hopefully by the end of the month!):
In Progress
Also on Wednesday we have another renovation job being dropped off; October is turning into a very busy month for me!  I hope you are all having a productive, wonderful month too!