Friday, 31 January 2020

House of Miniatures Cellarette (plus windows)

As I have thirteen windows still to do, and I am not really enjoying it, I decided the best approach was do do one floor at a time and then take a break and make up one of the kits that I have waiting for the house.  Well, I managed to do three out of the ten parts needed to complete the top floor of the house before getting fed up and turning to a kit.

Make paper template for half a window

Cut out (at least) ten for the top floor windows.

Dry fit... one will go on outside window at the top.....

one will go on inside window at the bottom

This is the glue I use for fixing windows.  You need very little, it is super strong and dries absolutely clear if some does 'escape'. 

I managed to complete three half (inner) windows before I got hugely bored.  Pretty ugly right now but they will have window sills added.  I did buy a ton of trims to go around the windows and the realised I would cover them all with curtains so it seems a bit pointless.  Every time I come up with one of these brain waves I discover it has a knock on effect which then creates more jobs.

The Cellarette
Here is the delightful House of Miniatures Hepplewhite cellarette

Check all the parts are there

I have discovered a jolly good glue for any wood that will have a dark finish.  If you stain parts and then glue it doesn't always make for a good strong joint.  If you glue and then stain (my preferred method) you have to be super careful with the glue as the stain will not cover any areas that have the slightest bit of glue on it.  As you can see this is a tinted glue which purports to solve that problem in that the glue will be brown and so not show as a bare patch.

There was a momentary panic when I realised the glue was a silly wishy washy pale colour when it left the pot (see top right blob).  This was soon allayed; as you can see it dries pretty much mahogany coloured.

I had a real issue with the stupid hinges for the lid.  They are teeny tiny and the screws almost microscopic so I realised I was on a challenge with them. 

It began with being instructed to cut out 1/32th inch (!!!!)  grooves to take the hinges in the lid and in the back edge of the box.  Much fiddling around with a couple of different shaped Xacto knives and it was done - not a work of art - but done.  The instructions also stated that the hinges were to be flush with the back of the box, not sticking out.  I spent a jolly half hour screwing the hinges to the lid - four teeny tiny drill holes to give the teenier tinier screws a purchase hole and then moved on to the back of the box.  Quelle horreur! the wood wasn't thick enough to allow me to screw the hinges in.

Three options as far as I could see.  (1) Remove the hinges and make a pair out of ribbon or leather strips, (2) glue a thin batten of wood to the inside top edge to make it wider, (3) set the hinges back so the actual hinge part was outside the box. 

Seemed a shame to go for option one when I had these cute little hinges, if I did option two there was a possibility the screws would land almost between the proper wood and the added batten and wouldn't hold well enough so it looked like option three.

I unscrewed the hinges from the lid, reset it in the new position and put the screws back in...... that was tons and tons of fiddling about and superglue came into play as the wood just wants to splinter here there and everywhere.  This basswood behaves remarkably like balsa.  I then fixed the other half of the hinge in the back of the box which is just about thick enough to allow the screws in without splaying out and splitting every which way too much ....more superglue help here.  OK, I had a fastening - not very good looking by now but probably the best of a bad job.  I closed the box and thought there was movement, this was confirmed when I lifted the lid and the hinges just pulled away, breaking out of the wood and glue easily.

I cut the hinges in half and reglued each half to the original place best I could and made an actual fastening 'hinge' across the back (inside) from a piece of gauze ribbon which has taken the woodstain very well and barely shows.

Here is the built piece.  There is a drawer for any drink implements you might need - wine coasters, corkscrew etc.  There is also a sweet pull out tray at the top for you to stand your glass on when you are pouring the drink.  The internal cabinet measurement is about an inch so it is possible for it to contain wine though this one, for this period, was much more likely to contain 'digestifs' such as fortified wine, brandy, liqueurs etc for the gentlemen after dinner.

 This shows the first staining.  I now use gel stain and am very happy with it.  It goes on nicely, not smelly and is water based so makes for an easy clean up.  I did a fine sanding and a second coat the next day and decided that was enough.

 I always struggle to find a successful top coat to give a subtle polished wood sheen and have used many different silk/gloss products including various acrylic forms and wood finishing varnishes.  They all have varying degree of success.  In the main they don't go on smoothly enough and don't lend themselves to rubbing down and doing a second coat.  I thought I would have a go with this.  I suppose any similar oil would do - we just have this in our real life cleaning cupboard for some natural oak furniture.

It did an OK job; no worse than the other things and at least there are no lumps and bumps with this.  I may add some brown shoe polish some time - we don't have any right now.

I was hugely lucky a couple of years ago to come across these transfers.  They are made for this cellarette.  Basically in England the piece of furniture would have remained plain but the ones in America often sported fine inlay - especially Southern furniture.  I imagine this was to differentiate itself from the English.  By the time of this piece in 1790 the Americas had only just begun to recover from the revolution and, I imagine, were determined to eschew all things English; or, at least, to make it their own.

Sadly, I soon discovered this was a skill beyond me.  I tried just one tiny transfer and gave up.  

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Roller blinds on show

Well the 'bit of a breather' (my previous post) seemed to turn into five months but here I am again, hopefully, back in the game.

Part of the procrastination, on the days when I could have cracked on with my project, is that I have reached the 'doing the windows' stage which I always find pretty tedious.  We all have our mini bete noires. .  I have made it even more difficult for myself by deciding to add another dimension to the, already boring, window chore by trying to make them into a more realistic version of sash windows.  This involves adding fifteen pieces of fiddly wood to each of sixteen windows.   Two hundred and forty bits of wood to be carefully measured, cut, some ends shaped, lined up and glued in place..... over the glazing!  Maybe if I stopped doing the maths and just cracked on with it, it would seem less daunting.

The other challenge I have given myself is making roller blinds for these sixteen windows.  Mostly their ends and tops will be hidden by curtain or pelmets so can be simple rod and roll of fabric.

My real life house has ivory blinds (different fabrics) in every single window and we don't, in fact, draw any curtains in the evening - we just roll down the blinds.  They are all one colour because I like the idea of 'uniformity' when viewed from the outside.  A tad OCD probably, especially as I roll then up completely when open and they are never seen from the outside in the daytime.  Generally the fixing part (each end) is hidden by a curtain and they all fit inside the window rebate.

The bathroom, kitchen and workroom ones don't have curtains softening their impact and the blinds can be seen ...fixings and all.

In Dalton House my three apartment windows are pokey and shoved in dormers in a roof and they won't take curtains very easily.  The four basement windows are in my workroom, a mud room and the childrens rec room; so none of those require any curtains either.  This gives me seven windows where the ends and tops of the blinds will not be hidden by curtains or pelmets, so they need to look a bit more realistic than a roll of fabric on a stick - why, you might ask...... and how wise you are.  Off I went on trying to make realistic-looking roller blinds.

Here's how I did it.  If you are as mad as me, enjoy ...... otherwise just skip to the finished picture and I will see you again when seven of these have been made and fitted to their windows.  It might be a while.....hopefully not five months.

The rods are cut from bamboo skewers.  I discovered they are a pig to cut.  Knife and fine saw worked but not easily then, guess what, I discovered I could cut them with large scissors.😂  Tidy up the ends with sanding and paint just the ends white.  I forgot this and had to do it when I had finished the whole thing.  Make them a tad wider than the finished blind will be as you should be able to glimpse a bit of them between fabric and bracket.

The Fabric
Measure your windows and cut the fabric slightly larger than you are going to need.  I wanted my finished blind to have an eighth of an inch overlap each side of the window: scaled up that would be only be about one and a half inches in real life so you could be a bit more generous with that . 

For the attic windows I needed a strip three inches for the window, plus quarter inch (two lots of one eighth) plus another quarter inch to allow some trimming later.  This gave me a width of three and a half inches.  

The length of your blind is really determined by the fabric you are using.  In real life of course it needs to be longer than the drop from your blind rod to below the window.  Here, though, if your fabric is a bit bulky (and it is best that it isn't!) you won't want to roll a huge amount round your rod, so finding the best length is about trial error or good guessing.

My fabric was too thin for blinds so I cut strips twice the length I needed.  I folded them in half and ironed in a sharp crease.

To stop fraying I mixed 'Fraystop' 50:50 with water and pasted it generously on the inside of one half.  I am pretty sure Mod Podge or any PVA glue will do the same job - but do a small test piece first to make sure it doesn't affect your fabric in any way.

My real blinds have a wooden bar added in the hem at the bottom to give them weight.  I cut a one eighth strip of photographic paper (thin card would do) and pushed that tightly in place and folded over the dry side and carefully rubbed the whole thing down to remove any pockets of air.

Now here comes the hard part.....  leave them alone and let them dry completely. They will be as stiff as a board and no fraying when you cut them.

Next, they need to be squared up perfectly so they don't hang winky wonky.  I use my marked up with guide lines cutting board for this but you could use any right angle and ruler or even make a nice cardboard template exactly the right size.

I am no way a fan of superglue for all sorts of reasons but sometimes it is the go to place.  Put a few dots of superglue along the top edge (I use a toothpick and squeeze small amounts of glue onto a glass tile for easy clear up and good control)

Place your rod carefully along this edge and hold in place until its fixed.  

Roll the blind to where you want it to stop - this takes many flittings in and out of the windows to decide.  Put a few dots of superglue a bit behind the stopping place and roll your blind very tightly and hold in place until its set.

Making the brackets and assembly

I made the brackets by cutting strips of photographic card into three sixteenth inch wide strips and then cutting these into three eighths of an inch long lengths (top left)   

[I chose to use photographic paper because I wanted the outside elements of the fittings to be a bit shiny like the real ones.  I have a feeling I am just proving my 'madness' with everything I write....😊]

The end discs (top centre) were made just using a normal two-hole paper punch.

The bracket arm was stuck to the round end cap; again with superglue just for speed of assembly. (top right)

For the plain end of the roller another cap was stuck on top (bottom left)

For the control end a piece of cord was glued in place and then the cap piece glued on top. (bottom right)  I took a long time finding a cord that was in scale and had some texture.

Bend a little of the bracket end at right angles to create the fixing part to the wall.

Fix each of these finished ends to the ends of the rods - superglue again and hold in place each time.

Et Voila .......

.......... and there we have it one roller blinds that can be seen 

one blind for the use of

inside the apartment sitting room


Only the people reading this will understand the self-satisfied glow of being able to replace the attic flap for its very last time after having the attic rooms exposed and the sloping roof lying on the mansard for five months.  Happy day.  This is what minis do for me.