Saturday, 28 November 2015

Putting in lights, fires and anything else electrical

On my videos I showed various ways of drilling holes for wires and making grooves for them; here's my absolute definitive way to do it as far as I am concerned.

Not all ceiling lights will just be in the centre of a room.  You might want a hanging light over a dining table for example.  The first step must be taking time to be absolutely sure you know what you want where.  

One way to help you position the lights is to draw an accurate floor (ceiling) plan to scale and plot out where the light should go in relationship to your needs (furniture etc).  I have seen a ton of low hanging chandeliers that no human could walk under in many dolls houses, maybe you want to avoid that in some way.  If your Georgian house doesn't give you a ten inch or more ceiling height then your powdered wigs would very quickly catch fire when moving around the grand salon.  Equally candles can not be too near the ceiling or the walls for the same reason.  My sitting room, for example, won't have a single hanging light as it is only an eight foot high room.  Deduct three feet for very small chandeliers - the grander they are the lower they hang - and I am only left with a five foot walk space beneath.  Clearly daft if you are aiming for any kind of realism.  Like many real Georgian rooms it will rely on wall sconces and candles on stands and candelabras on tables even if they are now electric!

If you need to see your room in 3D rather than in plan form and have the furniture already - put it in place and think about where your light should go.  Failing that make a really rough mock up to give you some sense of what's needed.

utility room

My utility room needs a light over the 'work area' but not too near any wall cupboards.  My plan of putting the lights in the basement area to enable me to get up to start the second floor may be delayed again as it would be better to get the cupboards in and the floor and ceilings trimmed in this room without a light in the way when I am working.  Curses - I hadn't thought of that.  Quite literally it is back to the drawing board for me to draw up plans for the utility room and then order up the flat pack kits from ELF.

test wire

It is useful if you have some spare wire to test in the grooves as you make them so you don't maul your actual lights around too much.  I have a roll of it but any little snip will do as long as you test it down the full length of the groove to make sure it lies in there nicely.

Ironically the other thing that is handy is some sort of light in the space that you want to light!  It is decidedly dark in most dolls house rooms.  Here I am using one of those lights you wear on your forehead when working in such restricted spaces but it is more useful just plonked on the floor of the room than on my head which doesn't actually go inside the room when I am working there.  An ordinary torch works just as well.

These two photos show two different ways of going about the job of making a groove.

manual method

After drilling the hole for the light and the wire exit hole I used a steel rule and box knife to cut two slits, close together from one hole to the other.  I then gouged out the wood in between with the file.  Easy peasy. It took a matter of a couple of minutes and gave me a nice straight line and tidy groove. 

power tool method

Here I used a steel rule, box knife and Rotary tool.  Ended up with a wobbly groove which even had differing depths and it took longer than the manual method.

Seems like a no-brainer to me which method to choose.  I cut my third groove (and all that will follow) by hand.  Forget investing on a rotary tool for the job like I did unless you are a tool fanatic....  they do exist.

However, I would recommend a power tool for the drilling part of this exercise. It is in no way essential but it was so easy with a right-angle power drill.  You can get an attachment for any power drill I think if you don't want to buy a separate right-angled drill.  That said, mine came from the internet cheaply and is battery powered so gives me easy access.  Hand drilling takes a degree of muscle power or it takes forever.  Slight pressure on the head of this drill, over the bit, and it took a couple of seconds.  Six holes done seemingly instantly.  Works nice and vertically in the centre of the room (for the light fitting) and works fine at an angle at the back of the room (for exit holes).

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Promo - not really

My time this week has been spent making half a dozen videos for the You Tube efforts I put out.  I am trying to assemble some notes/tips for newbies about putting in electrics.  However, I thought I would share some thoughts here too before showing you any actual work done on my house .....  truth is there isn't any actual work done..... but I swear, now all the kit is out, I will be adding lights to the basement tomorrow.

Image result for copper wire system for dolls house wiring

First decision when wiring a house is which system you want to use.  Round wire v. copper tape.  In discussion with a real expert and all round gentleman of wiring we did agree that round wiring is probably slightly better than copper tape.  His thinking was that in the hands of the average person copper tape can be fraught with issues.  He also said that it is not as long-lasting or easily repairable as the wired system is and really needed to be assembled with some good soldering.  You should also avoid acid wallpapers as they can have an effect on the copper wires over time.  If you do have a problem with it you will have to locate the 'break' (not so easy when covered with paper) and then you you'll probably have to strip a room or rooms to get it sorted.  With the other method if you sit your round wiring in deep grooves under the floor covering (make sure the floor covering is easy to remove) it is not such an issue to deal with a single light that has gone out for some reason.  It also means that you could just replace a light or fire with something you like 'better' at a later stage.

For round wiring you will need to be able drill holes where the light will hang and make a groove from there to the back wall with a further hole through that wall to allow the wire through to the power source at the back of the house.  All of this, of course, assumes a front opening house with wiring going through to the back.  You may need to vary this depending on what you're building.

Drilling holes can't be done with a normal power drill once the house is built as, usually, you only have a 7 to 10 inch space between floors and you can't get a drill in there vertically.  You can buy a right angle drill attachment for your power drill or even a specific right angle electric drill and these will do the job beautifully.  Most people will find that they can manage very well with various manual drills - again not in the usual size but there are small drills for tight spaces if you look around the web.  A pin vice will do but needs a lot of pressure.  An Archimedes or screw drill is a bit easier and you can get the little old-fashioned sort with a winding handle.  I did say a pin vice needs a lot of pressure but to be honest I find all drilling is best done by someone with muscles.  It takes me about three times longer than my husband to make a hole in MDF even with a power drill.

Cutting grooves is a bit more fraught especially if you are going to be doing a lot of wiring.  One way round this (I haven't done it) is to surface lay (no grooves) all your wiring across the ceiling or across the floor above and add a false floor or ceiling to cover the wires.  In effect you are making a sandwich of the kit floor along with a piece of card or foam-board or maybe thin ply (?) and a few strips of something between to make supporting spacers.  I wonder how much that layer would show from the front of the house when it is open?  Maybe you could add a trim?

If you do make grooves the most basic way to cut one is with a steel ruler and a knife.  Cut the line you want using steel rule and knife and then a line in parallel nearby and then gouge out the wood between using the knife or lino cutter or v-shaped chisel.  It is much easier to use a rotary tool with a carving attachment.

cut lines with a knife, channel with rotary drill and tidy up with a file

When you have the required hole and groove, thread the wires through the hole, lay them down in the groove, exit through the back, tug gently to make them lie neatly in the groove and then tape them down with some masking tape to make sure they stay that way.

don't remember now why the hole and groove aren't in the same place, but there was a reason

Most lights come with a plug attached; this will need to be removed by pulling out the two pins, releasing the wire and removing the plug.  You then replace the plug by reversing the process at the back of the house if you are going to plug it into a gang plank type socket.  This will then go to an adapter and then the power source.  I don't use these power strips but this is one I had in the beginning of my mini life.

I don't like putting plugs back on - it is a fiddly job and the power strips are generally cheaply made and not wonderful.  The whole thing can also be extremely bulky if you have a project with a lot of lights and fires.

I'll show you an alternative method when I get to that stage.  For now there is enough here to get you started - along with the videos if you want them.  I warn you they are rank amateur and are not to be taken as an instruction - just sharing.

Friday: Have posted the first 'electric' video - just click on the YouTube link at the top of the left hand column. 

Monday, 23 November 2015

York Show

I am one weary woman, even the day after the York Show.  Four hours solid mini shopping is about my limit it would seem.

Go to the Show Blog if you want to know about the show itself.

I am hoping that my latest purchases give me the much needed spur to get started again on my project.  To be fair much of its languishing is that I really haven't had time since we got home to settle back into it but, looking at my diary for the coming week (busy today too!), I may be able to get going again.

The show was also a part-excuse for not getting anything done as I would have liked some unusual lighting and thought I would hold off until after the show.  I was hoping to 'fall across' some lights that would please me but, in truth, I didn't have high hopes as I pretty much know everything that is out there.  I was right - either I have them already or I don't want them.  So, I will definitely have to use whatever I already have and get the basement lit as my next step to allow me to travel on up a floor and get started on the ground level of the house.

Here are my treasures arranged in groups from the five vendors I bought from.  You can see each item separately in the Purchases Album if you want to.

Mini Mcgregor

Lovely scale and detail on her stuff.  You have to pay a visit to the opening matchbox that she makes...knocks me out every time.   The Christmas parcels are actually in her 1/24th area so they make beautifully wrapped small Christmas gifts.

The Ironworks and Black Country Miniatures

I have no idea what I will do with the Christmas decorations but they just had to be had.  As for the others - yet more stuff I once owned and have had to buy again.

The Craft Pack Company
Did I mention I have chosen pre-Christmas as my moment in time - not sure if the decorations will be up or just being sorted - right now think I prefer the latter otherwise the house with get 'swamped' and I don't think I want it to be frozen like that.
Delph Miniatures

These Delph creations were bought in two goes as my first attempt was well-disciplined and I knew my spending limit.  About ten minutes later I went back and bought the rest.  The sort of logic is - I have to have them some time, so...

Maria's Fabrics

This is really gorgeous silk at a really good price - £1.80 a piece and 11 x 13 inches.  I also got some very nice cotton fabric for 90p and some cute chenille fringing (no idea what for!) which was in her 1/24th range.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Don't raise your hopes

Apologies that this is still not a post showing any progress on the house.  We have been back nearly two weeks but the real house and friends and family have taken up our days.  I am itching to get back to playing.  Hopefully now my real life jobs list is decreasing....

Meanwhile - how do you store stuff?

I had to have a grand clear out to put stuff away from the States and to free up cupboard space space for 'proper' household stuff.  Eventually I ended up with all the bits and things I have collected so far to go in the house sort of left over.  Maybe you have enough sense to build it first and then buy the stuff.

My solution for the time being are these five boxes.

Just to add to the collection, the rest of my little people arrived today courtesy of Minimum World.  I commend them to you - great service.  I ordered the figures and then realised I could have also ordered some lights I wanted to save on paying delivery from them and then delivery from DHE.  Swift email to them and equally swift reply saying they were added to my order which was being picked and that there was now no postage charge as the order was over forty pounds.  Next day the parcel arrived.

I have owned two of these three before!  How annoying.

Here's the final line up:

left to right:  

Elizabeth, mother and main protagonist in my head story.
Joanne, daughter
Simon, son
Eileen, housekeeper and surrogate grandma for the children
Annelise, French PhD student/lodger

I wanted you to see them side by side in hopes you can see the difference in quality.

Elizabeth and Simon are the cheaper range which I think aren't as well-modelled or well-painted and definitely run a little smaller.  Joanne, Eileen and Annelise are usually more than twice the price but are larger and better made pieces.  I am never comfortable mixing them so I try to stage the moment in time so they aren't cheek by jowl.

An inhabited or an empty house is always a dilemma and I can see virtue in both.  I also understand the desire for some of the lovely dolls/dressed figures that I see at shows but for me that does sort of make the house a dolls house (which is quite right!) but I sort of want a miniature more than a dolls house - hope that makes sense.  Currently these resin figures are the best compromise between all these tussles, for me.

While sorting out something for them to sit on I committed the ultimate in miniaturist sins and dropped a piece of furniture - one of its lovely legs broke.  My sin was compounded because I haven't brought any super glue back with me from the States, so it sits glaring at me until I can (hopefully) fix it.

Here's the light I bought for the Rec room - it will also have a couple of table lamps so it should do fine in there.  I need to have all the lights for the basement sorted so I can get up to the next floor.

Again it is something I already owned and gave away.

OK, here is something I hope someone out there is going to find useful.  No use to me as I don't have small boxes on display but if you do how about these already lit boxes from Ikea.  The light is coming from the bottom of the box but maybe they could be turned over if you wanted to light the project from overhead?

I am sure the label will alert you to the fact they are from Ikea.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

My lovely Linda Tulchinksy box and other stuff

I promised you a link to the photos I took of the lovely little box I won in a raffle at the Atlanta show, here they are:  LT Box

I haven't had a chance to take better ones or more of them but even with what I have here you can see what a great prize that was.

I did manage to get an address for the lady who made it, so I was able to write her a note to thank her.  I also am indebted to Kim Sher (organiser of Florida shows) for her help and kindness in emailing that to me.  Sometimes in life what goes round, comes round.  I was able to drop off an electrified turntable with her when we did our overnighter in Orlando before flying home.  Here's a snip from my Clavering describing that expedition:

Our next delivery of the day was a large electric turntable I had. It was brand new, cost around sixty bucks and would have been binned had I not had the brainwave of asking Kim Sher ..... runs the Miniaturia shows ...... If she knew anyone who could use it. She was going to collect it from us.

I gave her a ring and we decided to meet her and her husband in The Tavern in Celebration. So, off back to the car and a thirty minute ride over there. Guess what, they also had a festival on (Oktoberfest) with roads closed and no parking any where. Clearly the Naples Gods had hitched a ride as, by pure fluke, we pulled up behind the back of a restaurant where there was a tow truck to ask directions. The building turned out to be the Tavern. I asked the tow guy if he'd let my husband 'lurk' while I delivered a parcel. Deal done, I dashed round the corner only to discover the restaurant was pretty big, totally full and I wasn't all that sure I would know Kim in mufti. Indeed, I have no idea how I found her, or recognised her, but I did.

..........  and here's the article itself in case you haven't seen one of these - utterly brilliant but too big to take home.  It allows you to light your house but still turn it a full 360 degrees:

We have been back a week and there is still some sorting out to do especially as we intend to 'refurb' the house!  Hopefully this doesn't stop me returning to my mini project very soon.

First off, in my workroom, I had to find a place for all of these:

No wonder we couldn't bring much else back with us!  I also had my on-board case filled with the more delicate items.

I had to clear out the triple wardrobe in my work room as it was needed for extra clothes and linens from Naples.  So the best part of one day was spent having a huge sort out and tidy up and an extra piece of storage kit added.  Maybe now I am good to go.

This is a trolley from Ikea - not especially cheap at £49 but very sturdy and capacious and rolls around easily.  It was hard to decide what to put where but this is the work in progress.  Basically it holds stuff I'd like pretty much to hand rather than put away in drawers.