Friday, 15 February 2019

Glue - the magic trio

All you ever wanted to know about glue but were afraid to ask.

Well, more like the little I know about glue in hopes it helps.

Pepper asked me a couple of post ago if Fray Stop works.  Me, being me, set off thinking about all the various glues I have used over the years.... and there were many.  Now I use just three (if you don't count using up some leftovers of other things - hence the Fray Stop mention.

I will start with the ubiquitous PVA which pretty much does everything.

Image result for pva glue images
My first glue

The basic pot of PVA comes in all shapes and sizes so, clearly, if you are going to use it for just about everything buy a reasonable size pot...... not too big because over time it will begin to thicken.  That's not a tragedy as you can let it down with a little water but why make yourself work every time.

Poly Vinvyl Acetate (C4H602)n.

All the usual glues are PVA in various guises:

  • wood glue
  • white glue
  • carpenters glue - yes even the yellow stuff
  • school glue
  • Elmers glue
  • etc etc
The problem you will have is trying to decide if any of these have been tweaked in any way that may or may not help your project - have they been made waterproof? do they have added gloss? how thick or thin are they? do they have some sort of rapid bond added?  To be honest after years of buying a specific glue for every specific job I have come to the conclusion it really doesn't matter and an all purpose straight forward PVA works just fine.  I do tend to buy white wood glue as that is probably PVA at its thickest - after that I can let it down with water depending on its use,

So I use it for 

  • gluing wood as it is
  • let it down a little bit for paper jobs
  • mix it 50:50 with water if I want to prime a surface before painting
  • watered down for decoupage finishing like you would use mod podge
  • bit thicker for sealing floors and tiles (adding gloss if needed)
  • you can make your own Mod Podge with 1 cup PVA and 1/3rd cup water.  Add water based gloss varnish if you want a shiny finish.
  • the Mod Podge mix also works like Fray Stop and will glue fabric and stop frayed edges.  It won't be waterproof though and so will wash out if you wash the item.
  • I have watered it down a little to use as wallpaper paste but here is my exception to my rule I do prefer border paste already made up for wallpapering it seems to go on easier.

Image result for images B and q border paste
My second glue

Being kind I will give manufacturers the benefit of the doubt and assume they tweak PVA in subtle ways to make a glue for a specific job but as the ones I have used aren't inclined to tell us anywhere what their glue is actually made of I have my doubts and think I am buying PVA with differing degress of water content.

I do use super-glue in any circumstances where PVA won't bond a particular material or where I need an instant and strong grip - like putting up ceiling lights.  It must be gel - the runny stuff is fatal in mini settings.  Any make will do.

Gorilla Gel Superglue 15g
My third glue

If you do have a peculiar job to do - like sticking leather to glass (why would you???) and wonder what glue you might need then I recommend Deluxe Materials.  They have a huge range and their site is full of useful information and any glue I have had from them has been excellent.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Bedding kit from ELF

Like the mattress, I could make a duvet and pillow set from scratch - basically three stuffed bags - but rummaging through ELF's sale I spotted a set I liked and in an inexpensive kit form.  The colours worked well in my green apartment bedroom and I wouldn't have to lug out my sewing machine or, even worse, spend the days I know I would spend trying to decide which of my zillion fabrics to use.  I dread getting that particular box out.  Roll on making curtains and blinds  ....

So, here we are with ELF's bedding kit.  Firstly the fabulously written and illustrated instructions:

Here are the components.  One duvet stitched on three sides, with a small opening to enable you to turn it to the right side and fill it.  The gap is very small and turning it to the right side is a bit fiddly - just have a little patience when you are doing it and it will happen.  There are also two pillows in the pattern fabric and the plain red.  I might make two cream pillows some time as all my real beds have two plain ones to sleep on and two to complain about and chuck on the floor every night..... but the bed looks nice.

First job is to trim all the corners diagonally to remove some of the bulk when you turn the bag to the right side.  On the pillows you don't need to trim the corners at the open edge.

Turn the bags to the right side.  Initially the corners will look like this which clearly won't do.

Use some smooth small object to help you poke out the corners into a sharper shape.  I have sewn for years so I do risk using the points of scissors but you need a gentle and practiced touch to do this without damaging the stitching.  I tried to do this as if it were my first experience of sewing so I pushed out and shaped the corners (from the inside) using the rounded end of a pair of long tweezers.  It worked just fine.  If you had a mini iron and attachments this would be a cinch to do.... more of this later.

Quite definitely iron your pieces flat making sure you pull them gently into the shape you want and that the seams are lying nicely.   A mini iron is perfect for this!!

 I wish I hadn't been so mean throughout all my dollhousing years and had invested in a mini iron; time and again I wish I had one when doing something.  Here's an example of one.  If you aren't mean like me, just Google 'mini iron' and you will be able to find them for under a tenner right through to forty or more pounds.  This is the one I would like because it has loads of attachments for doing all kinds of nifty jobs.

Image result for mini iron images

When you have the pillows turned and ironed you will need to fold in about a quarter of an inch at the top.  This is fiddly.  The only tip I can give you here is....... if, like this one you have two different fabrics (cotton and cotton/polyester) decide which is the worst one to iron and then crease in and fold the top over with that side uppermost.  So, for this project, the red side was polycotton and is a bit of a pig to get a crease in, so I folded my quarter of an inch edge over with the red side uppermost and pressed hard with a steam iron.  I then opened up the bag, turned that red edge inwards and then worked the cotton side of pillow to turn inwards the opposite way to the way it had been ironed.  I hope that doesn't sound too convoluted.  Oh how I would have liked a mini iron that would just go round round the whole inside top edge of the bag. When you have succeeded in wresting with small pieces of fabric, catch it quickly with the iron before it all springs undone and press well.  The one of the left in this photo is ready to fill, the other is awaiting three falls and a submission.

I mentioned in the previous post That I have used sand before to fill cushions and they make terrifically posable objects but mine were prone to leaking a little sand now and then if I messed about with them.  I moved on to preferring micro balls - styrene ones from a cheap plush toy from a pound shop.  The very best answer is micro beads.  They are just perfect but I am out of them right now.  Google 'no-hole glass micro beads' and you will find a ton of them at all sorts of quantities and prices.  Believe me they are the absolutely perfect solution.  They are easy to handle - the styrene ones just want to fly everywhere as they seem to be always elctrostatically charged.  With the glass micro beads just work over a tray to catch the odd rogue and you'll have it cracked and will end up with a reasonably weighted, nicely 'stuffed' cushion or pillow etc which can be pummeled and poked into all sorts of shapes to lie naturally on furniture.  Terrific for a bean bag for your little people or for smashing a dent in the top of your settee cushions which seems to be the latest (RL) fad.

Sand...... and all other fillings......  is easy peasy if you have a small funnel (three in a set, very cheap from a cookery shop).  Can also make a funnel from paper, foil, card, whatever comes to hand.  Decant the sand into something sturdier and spoon slowly into your funnel, testing all the time for the amount of filling you want by lying the pillow down and gently flattening the sand inside.

Repeat with the other pillow and the duvet and then stitch up the small gaps carefully.  Very small stitches and pulled tight.  Dress your bed.

This picture is just to show how you can lob them down so they look rumpled - took about two seconds of flinging them in place.  Simply won't do for Mrs Freaky Tidy though.  Even if my PhD student wants to live like that I can't stand to look at it, so she will jolly well have to make her bed like the rest of the household.  Actually, being French, it is more likely she would (quite rightly) leave her bed turned back neatly to air.

It's getting more and more like a bedroom.

PS:  I have just ordered a mini iron.... just now I can't think of a thing I might use it for!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Singing ELF's praises again and a mattress

I have no shame in praising ELF Miniatures once again....

I love this bed which I bought as part of a complete bedroom set from Elizabeth/ELF ages ago - apparently it wasn't a big hit, so I  suspect there aren't many of them around.  It is beautifully made

Look at the amount of pieces used to make the base and the lovely joints

Just a little bit of shaping to the legs adds a mile of style

Gently waxed stain finish perfectly in scale, with just enough sheen to finish the wood.

.... and so to the mattress kit.

I am capable of making a mattress for the bed having done so a few times and in different ways.  I have used thin foam and cardboard rectangle covered with fabric; have sewn a box shape mattress and down filled it and buttoned it and have made other methods depending on the needs of the bed and the time in history.

This time I saw Elf's mattresses and bed linen sets in her sale (you can still snaffle a couple if you are quick) and thought why not reduce the labour and go for a couple of kits.  She also sells them ready made.

Here are the components of the mattress kit......

Lovely clear instructions as always.  They never assume any previous knowledge so are very detailed and helpful.

There is a balsa wood base, fabric to wrap round it and a piece of iron-on fabric to neaten up the wrong side when you have finished.  She also incorporated some webbing so you don't even have to use glue if you don't want to.  Iron the fabric.

Oops, my bad, never thought to check the size of the 'double', forgetting that I had a bit of a special bed......

Easily remedied, I just cut and added a bit more balsa - leftover from my bookmaking period.  A bit of wood glue added and a couple of clamps and off to put on a bolognaise sauce and throw it in a slow cooker so I can work on uninterrupted.  By the time that was done the two pieces were well glued and I was ready to crack on. 

Instead of balsa wood you could use stiff card and thin foam or, indeed any material which is firm and gives you the depth you want.

It looks a bit crude but works perfectly well.

I then picked up some soft 'wipes' of some sort that I had kept as a 'just in case'.  I have no idea what the fabric is - very light and soft and fuzzy and came in some sort of medical pack ages ago.

I had a notion that the wood edge might look too 'sharp' and though this might soften them up.  Take care if you add bulk that the end result will still fit the bed.  Mine was a very close call.

If you are any good at covering books or wrapping parcels this is as simple as that.  Basically you are wrapping the wood with the fabric keeping the corners as neat as you can.  Fray stop is excellent for doing just that.

I had a bottle of Fray Stop which is 'going off' - the glue is getting thicker and less usable so I stirred in a teeny speck of water, mixed well and used that to glue down the fabric, starting with the gauze stuff.

Glue down two parallel edges then trim off the unwanted fabric like this, ready to turn over the last two edges with no excess

Here it is from the good side, looking a little softer and more inviting to sleep on.  I did iron the cotton from the pack but clearly never ironed this!

Place this, right side down, on the bottom sheet fabric.  Ideally any fabric you use for minis should be washed first to remove the starchy finish in it so that it will drape better and always cut off the selvedges as they are very unforgiving when trying  to mould round things.  Fortunately this didn't matter in this instance as I was dealing with a straight edge.

Trim this top fabric in the same way to remove excess.  You can see the first cut here, the second cut would remove the excess fabric ready to make the turn.  You are basically cutting out the rectangle of fabric in the corner that is not needed.

This is the finished back with the fabric neatly folded around the base. You can leave it just like that as it will never be seen once it is on the bed or....

Glue on a finishing piece to cover the raw edges.  This kit has a piece of iron on cotton to do the job easily.  It is a bit too small as I had to enlarge the base.

Eh, voila, one Ikea type mattress in one Ikea type bed.

Thank you Elizabeth at ELF.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Purchases from Elf Miniatures

One of my favourite vendors that I return to time after time is Elf Miniatures.  They make lovely furniture and will do bespoke items for a really good price.  So, if like me, you don't have the sort of kit that allows you to cut wood for cupboards etc neatly and accurately this is your go-to place.

Right now there is a sale on as Elizabeth is cutting back on her not-made-by-her items.  It may be worth your looking, especially if you are doing a modern property.

I just snaffled these:

Desk and stool for the apartment.  I wanted something which takes up very little visual space as this will be sitting centre and front of the room as you look in - beneath the bay window in the roof.  It also makes real life sense in a smallish flat as it takes up very little space and the stool can be stowed underneath when not being used.

Tempted to let you try and figure out what this is.....  

It is a base board and mattress kit for the bed in the loft apartment along with a double duvet set kit complete with sand to fill the pillow case and duvet.  I have used sand in the past but it was a nightmare for leaking out of the cushions.  It is great for modelling realistic shapes but, as I said, a bit of a pain.  I prefer to use tiny micro balls.  That said they may not work hugely well with the duvet;  so, no decisions made yet.

Last but not least a boringly straightforward swivel mirror, but 'does what it says on the tin'. It is a better quality than this photo would imply.

Friday, 8 February 2019

How I fit a ceiling light

This is a post which the 'pros' among you can skip.  I do hear from the occasional newbie so I know this blog gets read by people new to the hobby or struggling with something for the first time and, though it is a detailed record for me about my project, it is also hopefully a help now and then for someone else.

So..... here is a very detailed account of putting in a ceiling light in Dalton House. 

This was probably not the least frustrating job to choose as my way back into the game.

My first challenge was actually reaching the top floor of the house!  It stands on a very useful Ikea, Kallax set of drawers with large trolley wheels added.  I am five feet six inches tall and the top of the roof is six feet from the ground.  Out came the little step stool...... then a bigger one.

When I opened the roof I discovered that one of my little visitors over Christmas had sneaked a body into the room and given her a book to read

So, yes, rather stating the obvious, if you are going to work on a ceiling light you could do with an empty room.

Locate where you want the light to be and then work out how to transfer that position to the floor above where you will be drilling the hole.  I often make a template of the ceiling, mark the position of the light and move that to the floor above, making sure it is in the right position allowing for various wall and trim thicknesses.  It is not as hard as it sounds as long as you line up the front edge of your template with the front edge of the floor and then just visually check that the thickness of side walls are allowed for.

On this occasion the position wasn't absolutely critical, so some careful measuring across the ceiling and then transferring that up top sufficed.

I used to have a right angle drill, sort of like the one in the photo - maybe not as posh/chunky  - but I decided in the move here that it was something I wouldn't use again, so it got given away.  It is super-useful when working between floors in a dolls house.  Luckily on the top deck I have all the space in the world to use any kind of drill.

If you can't snag one of these sort of kits on eBay for a good price there are small hand drills which will work in a confined space.  I can only suggest you google 'small hand drill' and find something like this that works for you.

Put the wire next to a drill bit and choose one that looks a little larger than the thickness of the wire. 

At last here comes the light.  The fan doesn't turn really but I thought my apartment dweller might find her bedroom very hot up there in the roof so she would be glad of the (pretendy) fan in the summer months.  Most lights come with a little two pin plug attached.  

If you are going to use a connecting strip like this one you will have to remove (or cut off the plug) to allow you to thread the wire through the hole in the ceiling.  Eventually, of course, you then have to re-attach the plug.  To remove the plug you need to use pliers (not teeth and cursing) to pull out the brass pins and then you can pull the wires free.  To put it back together it is a matter of putting the copper wire back in the holes and pushing the pins back in.  It is technically easy but, I find it pretty frustrating to do, especially if you are doing a lot of them.

Dolls house lighting connector

On my second project I decided to use this sort of connecting strip (photo below).  So much easier.  It is more compact and you can connect many more lights to the terminals.  It looks scary but I promise you it is much simpler.

I always bought mine from Small World Products.  They are now sold by:  Little House Plus

I will be writing a blog about gathering up all the wiring and attaching to the connecting strip and attaching the power supply when I get to do that but I am afraid that is probably a fair way off.  So if you are keen to get your lights attached to power before I do, the Little House Plus site can help you sort out how.

Mix brick compound ready for application

Meanwhile back to this ceiling light installation.

Take time now to thoroughly straighten out the wire that has been bundled up for packaging.  Usually it will be lying in a groove in the floor above and needs to do that without any bumps and lumps under the future floor covering.  I lay it down carefully and cover with a strip of masking tape.  That stage is a bit further down the line but that's why you want the wire nice and flat and kink free.

If you have decided to cut your plug off you will need to expose the copper wires to test your light is working OK. Look carefully and you will see that the wire has a sort of groove down the centre.  Gently pull and you will see there are two lots of wire each coated in a plastic covering.  You may need to nip between the wires with something like nail scissors to get it started.

You then need to expose the copper wire.  If you are proposing to put in lots of lights (large project) or you know this won't be the only house you will ever do it is really wise to invest in this precision wire stripper.  It cuts the wires neatly and strips off the plastic covering without damaging the hair -like copper wires beneath.  Again, Little House Plus sells them for about nine pounds.

It saves on dental bills and split fingernails.

Tidy up the wires by bending the ends over a little and twisting them to make a good contact.

All this is so you can check that your light is working fine before putting it in.  Using a nine volt 'square' battery touch the wires to the plus and minus terminals.  It doesn't matter which wires go to which terminal.  A round battery will do - using the top and bottom but is more fiddly if you don't have three hands.

If a bulb doesn't light up it is worth trying to tighten it in its socket before flinging the light at the wall and hopping off out to buy another.  They are notorious for wiggling loose.  It may even be worth changing the bulb if that hasn't worked - assuming you have a spare.  After five projects and as many years it has never happened to me, so clearly it is pretty rare.

Most lights you will buy have a spongy sticky pad where the wire comes though - I always remove these as I don't like the way it makes the light stand away from the ceiling or wall.  I then have a heck of a time gluing the light to the ceiling without making a mess with the glue.  I use superglue gel in very, very tiny amounts around the brass rim and then have to get the light in place very quickly before it 'goes off'.

On this occasion I was scuppered because the wire came through a hole in the side of the mount rather than (the usual) little nick between the mount and the sticky pad.  I was wary about having to remove the sticky tab and pulling the wire back through to the centre.  So, as the tab (luckily) was very thin I left it as it was and decided to use what I'd been given to stick the light in place.

When you drill down through the ceiling you almost always have a bit of scruffy wood that has been pressed out as the drill came though.  Don't worry about picking this off carefully to tidy up the hole and make the surrounding area flat.  The lights usually have fair size mounts on them which will cover up any mess.

The next step is one of personal choice.  You can twist the copper ends together neatly and tightly and push those upwards through the hole.  I find this nigh on impossible.  It is always hard to see where the hole is precisely and you won't have made a huge exit for the wire so there's not a lot of wiggle room.  I just sacrifice a bit more wire and trim back to where the wire is a single strip again.  This makes a nice rigid piece of wire to poke through the hole.

Remove the protective covering over the sticky pad or put super glue gel carefully on the edges of the mount - keep it to the inside edge so it doesn't squeeze out on to the ceiling.  There is an art to gluing tidily.  Practice makes perfect.  Whichever method you are using always make sure you put the wire exit hole or nick or any other flaw on the mount to the back of the room so you aren't staring it in the face when the light is in place.  You really only have one shot of sticking it in place well.  Gently pull on the wire, supporting the light at the same time, until the mount is where you want it and press it firmly in place.

I haven't cut a groove for this particular wire to lie in or a hole for it to exit through the back panel yet.  I am pretty sure I will be laying a cardboard painted cover over the wires on this level and may not need the grooves.  I will drill the back holes all at the same time when the three rooms are completed and I am ready to tidy up the wiring and attach the power supply.

Hey presto one light fitted and room furnished all ready for dressing.  The hangers, hair dryer and gel have found their way in and I have a bedding kit to make up along with a swivel mirror and other 'thoughts' to share with you next time.

For now, Nighty, night-shirts.