Tuesday, 30 August 2016

How to cut trims

This is a (long) footnote (aka additional post) to the previous post... Elizabeth asked me a question which made me go back to look at the piece and I realised the information was a bit thin on the ground.  Let's see if I can plug some holes...

Firstly - you need a mitre box and razor saw - you can often buy them packaged together.  Do try to have a good (new) blade on the saw - if you are rubbish at sawing (like me) you can soon 'blunt' the teeth.  Ideally a G-clamp is also a big help.  I absolutely can not hold the mitre box in place and saw well - there is always movement of some sort and the slightest wiggle on the wood and your cut will be off.  I suspect it would be good if you could also clamp your wood into the box - but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

These mitre boxes are aluminium and are soft enough for the saw to cut into them so a strip of wood in the bottom to cut into is a good thing if you are cutting thin enough pieces of trim like dado rail and picture rail.  

Right now I am cutting coving (wood not resin) which is way too big (and a complicated profile) for this small (model making size) sawing kit - I am too cheap and lazy to hunt out something better and I can fudge it enough to make it work OK.  I bet a bigger mitre box and better saw would make it easier though.  (Don't fret about the rubbish paint job that's the first ,not rubbed down, coat)

So, in the previous post I told you how to measure the strip when you need to cut angles at both ends and how put a mark on your wood so that you'd know which way those angles have to be cut.

In all honesty I generally take this to the box and cut through - top to bottom of the trim.  It is an utterly daft way to do it because (a) in this case the trim is too tall for the box and (b) I am starting the cut on the widest and thickest part of the wood.  Ideally it needs 'flipping'.  Now this is where I have a problem because I CAN NOT do spatial problems.  Turn me round on a road and face me the other way and I am on a new road!!  My husband can look at this and just flip it and say - what's the problem?  He can no more understand my 3-D blindness than I can grasp his 'clarity'.  

Sad story over....  to cut it the better way (brace yourself) I have to sort of look up at it from underneath like it was on the ceiling and imagine all over again which way the cut goes.  I then mark the teeny thin edge accordingly and cut it from the thin edge downwards through the thick wood which is now much easier and better for being well braced on the bottom and at the back edge of the mitre block.  I can even see that I could clamp it in place over the top this way round.

The smart cookies amongst you will be able to see that in the picture above this one the slit in the box is running from the top left diagonally to the bottom right whereas when I flip the piece it runs from the bottom left diagonally to the top right.  Perfectly logical I suppose.  Do be sure you are flipping the piece entirely from looking at its top plane to looking at its bottom plane.  If you decided to lie it on its back and look at its middle it it a whole other ball game and the angle is soooooo not right.  Don't go there.

I am showing you the final cut because you will see how raggedy the cut surface is.  This is the only time in this hobby where I do not knock off the roughness with a gentle sanding/buffing.  Two reasons (a) you really will change the shape of the cut you've just struggled to get so right and (b) the fuzzy bits on this one and the fuzzy bits on the other piece that will join up to it are usually a bonus as they help fill any teeny gaps that you are probably going to have

OK, that was the Dummies guide to putting the wood in the block and cutting.  PLEASE, PLEASE seek out something better for you if this is just too addled.  I honestly have trawled a lot of real life videos and instructions (there's not much in mini world searches) and many just confuse me more and others assume too much.  So this is the 'method' I am left with.

That said I am sure this nice simple Sue Cook explanation will do it for most people.

Start by making a mark on the coving on the side which will stick to the ceiling. Make sure this ALWAYS downwards when in the mitre block. To get the angles correct, look at the coving in the mitre block and imagine you are looking UP at the ceiling and mark the angle with pencil on the cornice. Check twice to make sure, and offer it up to the dolls house ceiling to triple check!

Sue Cook Miniatures

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Room trims

Most of us will be fixing some coving, and/or picture rail, dado rail, or skirting boards in our houses, so I thought I'd share how I do it.

First tip: before painting any trim or door or anything that has been routed with grooves of any kind is to clean up the grooves as much as you can.  I usually use a toothbrush and give it a good scrubbing to get out all the bits of debris that have accumulated in there.  If you paint the debris in, they will always look a bit rough.

I usually spend a couple of days painting all the trims and doors that I will need for a room that I am working on before even thinking about fitting them.  I don't want to have to flit between painting and fitting once I get started. 

For any interior woodwork I use a couple of coats of a silk finish emulsion (currently the Valspar sample pots).  They are water based so make for easy clean up and will go on easier and smoother than any oil-based paint.  I think gloss is too shiny - everything needs scaling down to 1/12th in a dolls house, even the shine.  

The wood will need denibbing between coats with the finest abrasive you can get hold of - painters sanding sponges are the best.  This is because wood is porous and when you paint or stain it will open up the grain and the surface becomes rough to the touch - these 'nibs' need sanding off - preferably without removing the layer of paint you've just applied.

An absolute must is two coats of paint,  sometimes more is needed for a good finish.  The deciding factor on trims is not to lose the definition of the grooves in the wood.  I actually also 'let down' the paint with a little water (mix well) so it doesn't go on too thickly.  You can always add layers of paint if you feel you need them but having to take any off a gloppy finish is beyond a nightmare.

 Ideally, before adding trims, your walls should be finished; all ready with their paint or wallpaper.  If you are papering the walls, leave a gap above the floor and below the ceiling so that the coving and skirting will have a bit of wooden surface to stick to rather than just being stuck on the wallpaper. It is not so easy to leave a gap for a picture rail or dado rail as they are so thin; generally, I just risk those going on to the paper.  You could attach all the trims to the walls first and then paper up to and between them as you would in real life but it is fiddly to do.

It is also probably best to have the floor in place too so that the skirting sits on top of it.

Now, at last, we can fit the trims.  Start at the ceiling and and at the back of the room.  The first thing to go in is the coving.  It is nice to use it for any house because it will hide the, often, ugly join between wall and ceiling.  When the coving is in place carry on working your way down the walls with your various trims, preferably without the ceiling light in place.  

Measuring at the top of a wall and at the back of a room can be very difficult - a ruler often won't do it and a tape measure wont be as accurate as you'll need for this job.  This is how I get round that.....

Take any old scrap of paper - light weight and flexy like magazine paper is good.  Place its good straight edge along the join between wall and ceiling and make good sharp creases where the walls meet at each side.

.........sharpen the creases and trim off the ends

Cut the first  corner from the piece of trim.  The forty-five degree angles will be inward facing.  I actually keep the trim in the position it will end up in.  In other words, in this photo,  we are looking at the face that will stick to the ceiling and I have rough marked how I would want that face to end up.  Don't worry about degrees the mitre block will do that for you - just be sure you know which way is what.  If you are good at spatial stuff you can be much smarter at working out the easiest way to cut a piece but this works just fine for me.

When I have one corner cut I lay my template on top and mark where the other corner needs to start. 

 Take back to the mitre block and cut again. (wrong saw incidentally!!!  please ignore that)

Stick the trim in place using wood glue or anything else you favour.

Cut the side pieces.  This time you won't need a template.  Just cut the angle correctly and put the trim in place and mark where you need to cut off the excess wood at the front of your house - a nice straight cut.  Glue in the side pieces.  The join will always show however good you are - after all, these are cut edges through a complicated profile made in softish wood and covered in paint.  

before touch up

Touch up the join with some paint with a fine paintbrush: looks perfect at a distance.

after touch up

Here are the three coving pieces in place.  The doors need to go in next, followed by the dado and/or picture rails and then the skirting boards.

Oops the floor needs to go in!

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Pointers to me in other places

If you follow this blog you may be a bit of a blog addict (me too) so you may want to wander around more of my thoughts.  You can find the links to any active blogs here:  My Blog Addresses

If you already know my stuff you will be aware that I quit writing on the Garden one and in the Journal one, a while back.... but..... can't resist, so I am back into them again.  You can find these here: my haphazard journal is Clavering  and the garden one is Bury Gardeners.

I also have a blog where I sell the occasional bits and bobs I don't need and  currently I have a truly lovely house on there right now - it is in kit form, so it could be couriered to you (????) if you can't pick up:  Lilliput Sales

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Concealed light in second hallway

I have finally finished the basement rooms; barring any after thought tweaks they are now just waiting to be furnished and dressed.  It is a big thrill to be starting on the ground floor rooms.  

The first to be attacked is the hall.  Strictly speaking it is the vestibule or entrance hall as the real hall, giving access to the rooms, is a step beyond that.  We are able to glimpse the main hall through the open door at the back of the vestibule...... or that's the plan.

So, before I can even put in the walls of the hall I need to deal with the area which will be almost hidden behind them.  I found a photo somewhere on line which seemed to do what I wanted and I fiddled around with the size until it looked in scale, printed it and stuck it to the back wall of the house.  

There is also a strip of wooden flooring to fill the gap that will be between the real dolls house back wall with the photo stuck on and the back wall of the (to be created) inner hall.  It is only a couple of inches but that's enough to help the perception of depth.

I snaffled a bulb on a wire from one of my unused lights from a previous project and drilled a small hole through the back wall above the photo ensuring the light bulb itself would be out of sight.  

Hey presto ...  door roughly in place and testing light bulb theory ..... and we have a pretend hallway?  I swear it is much better in real life, the light is more diffused and  it is all about impression rather than reality.

At last, my hall walls can now go in place and get decorated...... again  and again and again.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Decorating walls

I really am the last person to give advice about decorating walls.  I have the same problem in real life and small life - indecision.  I go round and round and get no where.

If I tell you the tiny hall (vestibule) in Dalton House has ten coats of paint you might believe me.  Worse than that, the finished wall (attempt five)  is back at its third incarnation - by mistake!

The hall was originally white - far too boring - so it became white above the dado and a soft grey beneath.  Incarnation three was a bright yellow called Jasper cane - a correct Regency colour.  Far too bright for me so I softened it with white and went again.  Still far too yellow so more white until it was just a creamy sort of colour - very pretty.  Off we go again with the tenth layer of paint.  Next day - Oh, poop, I used the mid yellow mix that I had done on round three.  Pulled out some hair and decided I was past caring and it would remain as it was.

What I do that is actually useful and might be worth a mention is lay out pretend bits and bobs against various wallpapers to see how I might want them used - all over a wall, above or below a dado, with or without a border etc etc.  Placing doors and trims and even furniture on them and taking a photo can really help.

door and trims just loose laid on paper

still don't know which I like best

Something else I like to do is put wallpapers in their rooms and take a photo of them.  This lets me see if the whole house looks 'balanced'.  I don't want some particular room 'shouting' above the others.

I think the dining room paper (yellow, bottom left) is a bit too zingy and I am considering using it in panels in some way to dilute it - otherwise there is a nice calm greenery-yallery feeling running through the house and, for now, I feel as though I have actually made a decision or three..

Saturday, 6 August 2016


Another of Delph's products I really like and return to when I can is their radiators.

They can be used as in the above photo showing the in and out pipe going into the floor.

Lift them a little above the skirting board and they have a different sort of configuration.  I looked at the radiators in my house and they are different even to this.  They have a flexible water pipe hidden behind the radiator itself and so they sort of 'float' on the wall.

Being me, I just had to have this arrangement,  Simple solution..... I just nipped off a bit of the pipe and stuck it on the back of its remaining stump.

Here it is, in situ,  in the mud room.