Saturday, 24 June 2017

Beware a pretty face

Finished at last!
This pair of flipping (unplanned) lights have been a nightmare from beginning to end.  I saw them at a show and, bedazzled, I bought them, then I tried to figure out what to do with them.  Off to the music room....  but I already wanted a mirror over the fireplace to reflect light from the windows (as in real life!) so they couldn't go on the back wall.  Three mirrors in a row would be distinctly odd.

Glumly, typing this,  I now think I should have settled for a painting over the fireplace and each of these lights either side of the chimney breast - they would have lined up nicely with the windows. Especially as the original mirror which was bought for the music room  is now in the dining room!  Hey ho.  Any way ....

Off to the side walls....... you have suffered along with me already as I went though these trials and tribulations so, finally, you'll be glad to hear this is the day they can actually go in place, but they still had two nasty surprises in store for me.

When I drilled the holes for the wires I obeyed my real life rule of all paintings and mirrors should have their centre about five feet (plus a bit if you like) above the floor so that the viewer is looking pretty much into the centre of piece and so has the best viewpoint.  I drilled the holes accordingly.

When I came to thread up the first lights/mirror it was miles too high on the wall.  Only then did I realise that the wiring in the mirror was 3/4 inch below the centre so they had shot up nine inches in real world terms. Why did I ever assume the wires would be in the middle - truth is I didn't,I didn't even consider where the wires were - ten points for stupid.

wires at the bottom not the centre

First task then was to drill another hole in each wall three quarters of an inch below the current one.  This time I did have enough sense to check that the mirror would hide the original hole when it went up.

As always, I tested that the lights were working by touching each wire to each terminal of a nine volt battery.  Test at every single stage of the following process then, if something goes wrong, you only have to back up one step. 

test, test, test

 The wires were threaded though the upper hole and the fixture glued in place; the wires were then taped in the groove on the back of the wall and threaded back through the second hole near the floor, ready to go down the groove in the music room and exit the back wall.  That was the plan.

now have three holes where there should be two

No points for spotting what I didn't think about in advance again!!!  The wire isn't long enough to reach the back wall.


So here comes a lesson in how to extend round wiring.... preferably before you super glue a light to a wall.

Favourite tool is this....

adjustable wire stripper and cutter

It is a lovely little clean nipper of wires and even better the adjustable v-notch strips the plastic off the wires in one clean swoop every time.  No nails, no teeth involved.

Firstly cut the new extension piece of wire off the roll, carefully checking it is the required length.

Split the ends of the wires into the two channels.  You can just about see the separation.  Use a sharp knife or razor blade, scissors won't usually do it.  Make sure each set of wires is still plastic covered.  Usually just need to cut a little to get it started and you can then gently pull the wires apart.

cut carefully to split wires into two

These two wires will now be cut into two different lengths.  You will need one long side with wire exposed and one short side with wire exposed.  Do the same on the piece of extension wire.  You will be joining a long side of one wire to the short side of the other piece each time.  This ensures that when the wires are joined up they will lie alongside the plastic sheath of its neighbour and no exposed wire will touch another wire and short out your light.

long side and short side on each wire

Join the short side of one wire to the long side of the other wire and twist the wires together really well.  This is probably the most important step, you don't want the wires to separate further down the process.  Ideally at this stage you should solder them.  I have never, ever soldered a wire in my life and, as far as I know I have three working houses out there somewhere - they were when they left me.  I have also heard about coating the wires with nail polish.... again I can't vouch for it as I have never done that either.

twist carefully

Fold the twisted wire back on itself against the plastic covered flex

fold back on itself

Do that in the other direction with the other wire.  In the picture below I hope you can see that the bare wires can not touch each other.  The red wire is the wire from the light and the white wire is the extension piece.

no wires touching

Generally at this point I just lay my wires into their grooves and tape them down.  I work on the notion that no one will be fiddling around with them as they will be going under a wood flooring eventually.  This time I decided to do the 'right' thing and cover the join with shrink tubing so I could show you how it is done.  This is just a clear (ish) plastic tube like a flexible straw.

can be bought in one length or cut in pieces
Measure the length you will need to cover the join and cut off a piece.  Thread the wire through carefully.  this is a test of your good twisting and folding back, everything should stay as it was as it slides into the tube.

cover the join

You then heat the tube with a hairdryer - be brave and use it pretty close up to the wires and, with luck, the tubing does what its name implies and it shrinks over the join making everything secure.

melt to fit

The end result is only marginally thicker than the original wiring and should still fit in your grooves unless you were very skimpy with them.

Ta dah, finally, one light in the right (!!) place at last.  Repeat on the other wall and we are good to go.  

sigh of relief


Sunday, 18 June 2017

Dolls House & Miniatures Fair, York, 4 June 2017

Just thought I would share the few things I bought at the York Show - they are not especially inspiring and certainly not unusual but maybe there's something you haven't seen before.....

If you hover over the name of any vendor I mention you will see there is a link to their website - just click on the name.
There will be fitted carpet in the bedroom in the roof apartment.  I think the usual carpet fabrics you see around are usually very 'harsh' and there is a pretty limited in choice; especially for a lady who must have gone through fifty shades of cream/taupe/beige for her real life room last year.  Happily it turns out that Romney Miniatures does a nice line in what I presume is velvet.  The size is a generous 15 x 20.5 inches so would cope with most dolls house rooms - maybe even twice.

I am yet unable to go to a show where Maria's Fabrics has a table and not buy anything, York was no exception.  The two matching silks are for the library drapes some long time in the future.  The lovely soft, fine green wool was intended for a rug in the elusive sitting room but I am hanging loose on that AGAIN for now.

I have waited ages to get to Romney's at a show to pick up more shrink tubing ready for the big (eventual) wiring event.  The restraint was mostly because I love to save postage costs when I know I will be going to a show some time.  Romney's said they no longer sell it. Panic moment but then realised Ray Storey was at York and, yes, he does sell it but he didn't have any at the show.  I duly ordered six packs of five plus £1 pp which I had been skinnily avoiding for weeks and when I got back from Edinburgh this was waiting for me.  I am sure it will be fine but I have always used something thinner and clear so am left wondering  .......

Tee Pee Crafts do a decent range of frames for pictures or mirrors.  They are reasonably thin so are pretty much in scale unlike many others you find.  They are also a good price.  I picked up four pairs for starters.

Delph Miniatures is another vendor I can't resist and I always have a rummage on the reduced table first.  This show they had a very nice American Style fridge for £25 instead of £75 because the paint job was a bit flawed.  Much deliberation on my part (a) would it show? (b) don't student rentals have 'scuffed' stuff? (c) could I respray it?  Finally I left it, but that is my regret-no-purchase for this show - there  is always one.

The cucumber (!) and roll of rubbish bags came out of the 50p box - these and the wall phone are destined for the apartment.  That phone is looking a bit big????  The weekly planner is for the mud room wall or the hive.

The wretched rug for the sitting room has become a sort of albatross for this project.  I don't want to think how many I have bought.  Here I go again.  Too small and too bright but ii is in the room for now.  Thanks to Dream Home Miniatures for another attempt at the rug from hell.

Practical Stuff again but you wouldn't believe how many times I went round the Show trying to find the perfect dado rail - too wide, too skinny, not detailed enough, too detailed, poor quality wood.  I made that sound as though there was loads of choice - I found three vendors selling it.  After all that faff I fell back to my go-to vendor for just about everything - Jennifers of Walsall.  At least I can now finish off the music room build.

These ceiling roses were a nice find.  They are plaster and finely moulded - unusual - even some of the expensive ones can be 'lumpy'.  These were £1.50 each so an absolute gift.  The base and bust were a couple of pounds each and I thought he looked like a mad Beethoven so he'll do me nicely in the music room for 'inspirational thought'.  These were from Pandora's Box Miniatures

Many apologies for the lack of exciting finds but I confess that was how I felt about the fair.  I am sure that was more to do with me rather than the eighty vendors and their thousands of items.

If you want to read about the show click here:  Dollhouse Trips and Shows


Finally, and a bit of a cheat, as these were not bought at the fair because no-one had them.  This is some very mundane balsa wood to cut up to make inners for the rest of my books.  I know the quantity is overkill but again it was all I could find in the right two thicknesses.  I particularly want balsa so I can cut it easily with a knife and be able to round off the back edges for the spine of the book.  I am sure you will see me making them soon.  I got these from a Hobbycraft Store in Edinburgh.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Chimney breast - almost

Curses, curses, one very cross mini person!

As I have arrived at the last fire to go in this house, I decided I would record in minute detail the processes involved in getting a chimney breast into the house.  So every little step of the way was photographed.  In a way this makes for a frustrating bit of work as you have to stop and do this, rather than just get on.

Eventually both jobs were done and content I had a zillion photos I put them in my computer to edit and discovered I had a scattering of photos taken throughout the process totalling six!  I have no explanation for it and spent the following day pithering around with camera and computer and could not replicate the problem.

So, verbally, this is how it went..... with the occasional not too useful photo.

I had a chimney breast kit purchased at a show for five pounds a while ago.  I forgot to note the vendors name. It is a good piece of kit, sturdy and had routed edges for the two sides to glue into which made a neat join and easy to keep square.  So I began by gluing the three pieces together to make the wooden chimney breast.  Make a note here - before you do that make sure you have checked the height of your room and the height of the chimney breast - no reason it should fit as it is made for a heap of people.  Guess who never thought about that at all and then later had to get husband, with chop saw, to lob off the excess.

I then made a cardboard hearth.  To do this I used the thick grey card I mentioned a while ago (ticket board?).  I stood the chimney breast on the card and drew around it so I could cut a piece that would fit inside the chimney breast but come to the front edge of it.  If you look at the second (front view) picture here you can see its shape.   This is to sit under the place where your fire will go. I needed the grey colour of the cardboard for this project so it was just a case of putting some spots of pencil all over it (like the marble I will be using for the hearth at the front of the fire, and then a gloss varnish.  I didn't want them to match but I did want them to blend into each other.

Then I made what would be the brick back behind the fire by scoring the same thick card and folding into a sort of screen shape, 

back of hearth brick walls

This was then covered in brick paper.  If you are making a 'real' wood or coal fire in your project, you would need to dirty this up with some paint, but my fires are in a modern house and are all, in fact, gas!! This piece was then stuck to the hearthstone.  You need to measure and mark carefully from each end to ensure the angle of the fold turns out the same.

front of hearth

At this point you can put this in place on the back wall of the house and drill a hole through the piece and through the back wall of the house, so they will line up perfectly, for the wires of the fire to go through.  I even pushed a cocktail stick through the hole to make sure I could locate it easily and that there was a decent size hole to fiddle wires through. What I didn't do however, is actually do it at this point.  Looking at my photos it appears I did the hole drilling manoeuvre using a piece of spare card and just the fire back.  Same difference though.

hole drilled and cocktail stick through back wall and brick facade
left the cocktail stick in place after removing the hearth
The brick hearth section was then glued into the chimney breast

back view of completed hearth and chimney breast

 I painted the front grey with a thin grey/black edge for inside the edge of the mantel.

front view, painted

We now have a fireplace and chimney breast which fits snugly to the back wall and has a smooth front edge waiting for the marble hearth to be butted up to it.  Now, for some choices.

It can be glued into your house on to the unfinished floor (and back wall) and any flooring can be cut to fit around it; this is probably the best way to go if you are wallpapering as you really need to get on with that before the finished floor goes down to ensure you have neat joins in the wallpaper and you probably don't want to be sloshing wallpaper and paste around a finished floor.  As I am painting this room I think I can do the three coats of paint on the walls and the chimney breast separately and they will look fine when the chimney breast goes in place. (?)

I have to have all the walls in a finished state so I can put in the wall lights - remember that saga? - and run the wires across the floor, then the floors can go down.  So, the order for me for this room is:

1.  paint walls
2.  put walls lights in
3.  floor can go down
4.  chimney breast in place and fire and mantel and hearth installed

Finally here is a mock up of what the finished article will look like when it makes it to the room itself.  The walls definitely look pale grey not blue like they do in these photos.

Hopefully lights going in will be my post next week.


I quite like my bargain pair of tables for the hall.  They were intended for the Dining Room but are far too 'busy' to go in there.  I am still not too sure if they aren't a bit too 'barge-ware'.
They only cost £3.90 each from Maple Street  so were worth a punt for a lick of paint and some decoupage.  I searched the web for 18th century inlaid table images, found something I thought I might like, copied it to word, shrank it to fit, cut out bits of the pattern and glued it in place.  I did give it a coat of matt Mod Podge afterwards to sort of smooth it over and they look just fine.  They wouldn't bear close inspection.  I am also a great believer in 'these will do for now' and when I see something better they can be switched out without a lot of guilt about money wasted.

Maybe they are a bit 'clunky'

It was really just a matter of removing the frame around the pattern and separating the elements

The hall is plain enough to take them????

There will be two posts this weekend as I want to catch up on the York Show post from last week which I didn't do.  So the photos of purchases will appear here in this blog tomorrow and the show 'review' will be in my Dolls House Trips and Shows Blog


Saturday, 10 June 2017

York Show

This is just in case I don't get a chance to post on time.   The show is 4th June but then I am going on to Scotland for two weeks and am not sure if I will get to do the post on time so this is an apology note if I don't  and a promise to share the York show as soon as I can.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Choose the paint or 'all change'

I make no apologies for this piece just being a bit of mental meandering - I am trying to record (for me) all the processes involved in making this fourth project so, sometimes, I know they are probably of no interest to anyone else, nor do they help anyone.  Maybe there is one reader who prevaricates a lot who might find comfort here.

I have had a vision of the music room in my head since visiting The Georgian House (Edinburgh) a couple of years ago.  The inspiration room had correct-for-the-period green walls and a height and emptiness that I wanted to replicate.  I took a couple of dozen detailed photos and returned to them now and again to soak up the idea.

I ordered very fancy coving (beautifully made to order) and bought the over-the-door pediments and ordered wallpaper to replicate the walls and the trims in the room, bought small pots of paint - all ready for the work to begin.

So, the problem is .....  I hadn't noticed the rooms on my second floor are a paltry 8.5 inches high!  The lovely coving and over the door pediments won't go in.  The trim on the wallpaper can't seem to be squeezed in either.  I put a Jim Coates mirror on the paper and realised how yucky the gold looked against the green.  I tried other 'golds' with the same result.

Trying to stick to my 'greenery-yallery' theme for the house I tried a creamy yellow paint and that just looked wishy-washy and I thought with gold sofas and paintings it would all be a bit samey

So then it was a case of test and try for the next ten colours!

The gold actually looked best against grey.  Grey is very in vogue in real houses at the moment and has been considered for my real one but I find it so cold and depressing so it never made it.  Eventually I found myself mixing up a sample pot of white paint with a small amount of slate grey which I had made for the roof to make a very pale grey.

The walls were duly painted and, yup, I ended up with a grey prison cell, just as I predicted I would.  Deep sigh now what.....

First ,maybe I should just try some things in there ......

I actually don't hate that now.  Imagine white trims and gold framed pictures and lights and walnut  wood floor and (hopefully!!) a rug and maybe the 'cell' might become a simple, classy music room?

Footnote......   so I can pretend I have some tips for newbies ..........

Walls will always need two coats of paint plus the original primer.  Take a good look and decide if you want a third one.  It will depend on the colour chosen and the make of paint.  If you can afford to buy a decent quality paint do so as the pigment is better and everything covers easier.  I don't mean super expensive - I favour Valspar right now, just don't try and buy really cheap or thin paint down to make it go further.

If you take a photo of your finished surface you will be horrified to see that it looks like moguls on a ski slope.  Again you may get away with it never being noticed but sometimes you might just get a light catching it at a certain angle and it will show up.  Run your fingers over it and you will feel the ridges the paintbrush left behind.  Imagine if you had painted real life walls with a brush twelve times bigger than you just used on your project you wouldn't expect a great result.  Easy solution.  Take the absolute finest grade sandpaper (more than 400) or, even better, the buffer you can see in the following photo and just skim lightly over the surface, dust it really well and feel again - baby's bottom smooth.  Job done.

nail buffer, the sort people use for ridges on nails 
Just bought ten of the buffers from Amazon (free post) for £2.99


My second Jim Coates mirror has just arrived.  The one above and the one you see here were bought about a year apart.  By the time you have paid postage from the States they are not cheap.  This one cost $29.80 which, for me, is a lot of money for a mini so these purchases are very occasional and are usually funded by a (cash) gift for my birthday or Mothers Day.

This one is a perfect fit over the fireplace in the Music Room.