Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Clare Bell light

I am not sure if this is a show-and-tell or I am still just looking for absolution.

I am not even starting with forgive me, I have sinned....  not with this one.  When I very first began with minis we used to snow-bird in Naples Florida and it had the most glorious mini shop called Nancy's.  (Sadly no more)  One of the very first things in that shop that I ever fell in love with was a collection of Clare Bell lights and the one I loved most was a five candle Georgian candelabra.  It was beyond my budget and, anyway, my project was a modern house so of no use whatsoever.  That did not stop me from visiting Nancy's over the years to drool over it.  I have even checked it out now and then, online, in the years since then.

So on my recent spree I thought I would leave it in the lap of the gods and see if I could find one - they are almost as rare as hens' teeth.  If I could, I would have it..... and the gods were smiling and here it is.

I need to straighten the candles a little and it will be brighter when using electricity rather than a battery

It came from the USA.  It was pricey, plus huge postage, plus the risk of paying customs duty on it over here.  Luckily all that worked out OK once I had stopped blubbing about the hole in my bank.

Then...... dramatic drum roll....... this is what I unwrapped.  Four very winky-wonky candles and the fifth had no bulb

Flip! hate the idea/cost of returning it to the states!!

You're British, Don't panic....  I lifted the light and this was underneath.  

No idea what the bit of wire is for

So, with just a bit of fiddling around with the two-wire-plug-in nightmare bulb and we were good to go.  Ahhh, woops, still a bit of a problem as my music room hadn't been expecting a floor standing Georgian candelabra and it would make even less sense in the other two traditional rooms.  I decided it could go in the precarious corner sort of behind the door.  The (invisible) doorstop prevents it being knocked and it would be brought into the centre of the room any time the  quartet sets up to play.  I would tell myself any story to validate this piece. 😊

Monday, 17 February 2020

Masters Miniatures

About three posts ago I confessed to having the equivalent of a shopping-at-a-show spree, but on line instead.  Since then my thinking has been....  

For a few years I was lucky enough to get to six or more shows a year, in the UK and the States.  Admittedly I did not spend lots of money each time, being on a somewhat restricted budget.  The shows in themselves were much of the pleasure and we always turned the trips into little mini breaks of a couple of days or so.  I can't get to shows any more so it seems OK to spend what I would have done there ..... plus a bit more as we aren't spending anything on travel, accommodation, meals etc;  so my initial order with Masters Miniatures became two.  I only owned one of their pieces which I bought as a bit of a treat some years ago.  The haul that follows is quite a bit beyond naughty.

That said, I think their prices are excellent for those of us who can't afford Beith, Escutcheon,Tarbena et al, all of whom are the stuff that dreams are made of.  Masters Miniatures make many fine pieces and it is lovely to have something which is that bit above the ordinary.

The box came this morning and I was truly like a kid with a new toy (or toys).  I promise you my photographs do not do them justice.  I have made them look a bit clunky and they are certainly not that.  They are dainty and their finish is excellent.  I am thrilled.

I ordered four, then two..... so yes, I have six of these.  The braid trim is a row of exquisitely teeny tassels.

This is a Canterbury and was originally designed to hold sheet music.  Perfect solution for my music room.

I have a nice House of Miniatures kit for a music stand which almost cost me what this cost but their finish is much nicer than I can achieve.  This one also has little three little brass bars in the centre, so sweet.

Same again, I have a similar HOM kit for about the same price as this but this has been made for me to just drop in place and, again, made so much better

There is a lovely inlaid top to my wine cooler

The actual finish on this wine cooler is so much better than this photograph shows.

It has perfect little hinges and even the inside is finished beautifully

My Regency square piano

I need to add a little colour over the indentation for the stick to support the lid.  

Complete with tiny castors so my little people can keep it against a wall when it's not 'in concert'

If you happen to be worrying about such dainty things arriving safely

Sunday, 9 February 2020

How to..... make up HOM kits

This post is a bit of a shoo-in following some conversations on a Facebook Group I like for House of Miniatures furniture, so it won't be of general interest but it is part of my 'diary' for this build.  So apologies for folk who want to see how the actual Dalton project is progressing but I hope it helps a couple of people I have been talking to about making up HOM kits. (Facebook link: Chippendale Miniatures/House of Miniatures)


As always let's begin with the caveat - this is not an absolue how to make up HOM kits so much as how I make up HOM kits.  There must be as many methods out there as there are folks doing it, BUT, for newbies, this might give them a place to start until they find their very own method.

It is also intended as a general guide so nothing is specific to the piece I am making. (My second huntboard)

First..... what equipment will you need to make up the kit?


If you use any pva white glue you will have problems if any gets on to your furniture where you don't want it - you can not stain over it.  Some people stain their pieces first and then glue - I have done this but I know the joints are not rock solid.  That's probably OK if stuff isn't going to be moved around much.

This glue is fabulous.  It gives you time to fiddle about before it sets, if any goes where it shouldn't it dries dark brown so it doesn't show and it fixes rock hard.  I always apply with a cocktail stick.  I use a glass tile but anything you like will do to put the glue on.  A tile or an old plate though is an excellent tool to have on your desk for glue and paint and all sorts and it will clean up like new. Mine has had six years hard wear.   Give it a bit of a soak in some a warm soapy water and a scrub or a scrape clean.

So you have your glue and you have checked you have all your pieces before starting.  If you buy unsealed boxes it is hugely exasperating to find something missing half way through a build.

Skip read through the instructions to give you a feel of what you are about to do but don't get bogged down or panicked by detail - all will become clear as you do the job.  

You might prefer to do things the right way and sand your pieces before assembly, I am all for shortcuts so I don't do mine until I am ready to stain.  Also I would argue these are very fine pieces and some have even finer detail and they won't take kindly to endless sanding without losing their lines.  

Carefully and slowly follow the instructions and do the assembly.  Try to line things up perfectly.  There are some strange angles on some pieces like splat backs on chairs for example and there is so much you won't be able to correct once your glue sets.

A right angled jig can help a lot when making mini furniture.  I invested in a small magnetic one right at the beginning of my sojourn into this game and have never regretted it one iota.  You can make a pretty decent one out of Lego and or just build one from wood - all of these will help you square stuff up nicely, but a magnetic one is the bees knees.  This little gem will keep things square and will also push and hold things in place while the glue sets up.  A quick Google search and I am seeing them for about £30 in the UK and $30 in the States (I got mine a bit cheaper than that at a show but it was six years ago!) 


Don't panic at the sight of this lot - there is no way you need all of them but I am showing you the sort of stuff than might be useful and you could select from this depending on what you can find easily .

There are two buffers/files used in manicures - white top left and blue and green on the right.  The beige sandpaper at the bottom is 400 grade so it is very fine.  The two grey pieces on the top labelled FINE and SUPER FINE can be found in the decorating section of the hardware store as they are used by painters and are brilliant for our work.  

When I am doing these HOM kits I have out a piece of 80 grade sandpaper for large scale sanding; to make drawers fit for example, a piece of 400 grade sandpaper for general rubbing down before staining along with my most used sanding tool - the white sponge nail file/buffer.  Brilliant tool and cheap as chips.  Mine came from Dollar store but again if you Google them they are easily available even if you can't get out to a shop.  I commend them to you before all else.

So there are only three bits of sanding kit that I consider necessary.  

Here are some more alternatives in case you already have these - all good and useful mini sanding bits and bobs.  The Norton stuff also known as Abracast (I think) is good because it is washable and never wears out unlike sandpaper.  Another nail kit piece in pink, basically anything fine and on foam.  The sanding sticks I have only seen once at a show and they are sometimes handy for getting into nooks and crannies but I wouldn't really say seek them out.  Similarly with the assorted shaped files - I just got them because they were silly price at Aldi or somewhere.  I do use one or two of them now and then.

So...... you have now glued and assembled your piece of furniture and you have carefully sanded everywhere with the nail buffer to get the best possible surface for the stain and finish to go on.  Only tip I can think of here is to knock off the edges a little to make it more realistic.  If you look at your own furniture you won't see an absolute ninety degree right angle sharp edge - they are all very slightly rounded off.  Don't over do this - just a couple of passes at about forty five degrees and with a curving motion and the sharpness will disappear.  

Use a large soft brush and lint free cloth to ensure you have been meticulous about removing the sanding dust - no good preparing a lovely silky surface for the stain only to lock in heaps of very fine sawdust.


I have gone through too many kinds of stains to even begin to remember them ....  from Minwax pens to tins of spirit based household woodstain .....  and many, many more.  Then I found these and I absolutely love them.  I confess to having put all three in a small glass jar and mixed them together.  I have ended up with what I wanted which is a 'mahogany' type colour with enough depth to cover the wood.

They pretty much go on like painting with acrylics and are water based so soap and water means an easy clean up of your brushes and you.  They dry overnight and don't stink.  Win, win, win.

There are loads of gel wood stains but I haven't ventured into trying another make as I was happy enough with these and the three have lasted me years; but if these prove difficult for you to get it might be worth a shot at another make.

OK, Gluing/assembly, sanding, first coat of stain all done...... here comes the hardest bit of the whole process for me.   Heaps of patience.

Leave as long as you can, at least until the next day, you want the stain to have completely dried out to allow the wood to shrink back to its absolutely dry state.

If you run your fingers over the wood at this stage you will discover it is slightly rough again.  When you paint or stain wood the moisture raises some of the wood fibres - nibs - so after any first coat of painting or staining you need to repeat the sanding process to denib the wood.  At this point you almost feel as though you are going backwards in your build but it is probably the most necessary step for any kind of decent finish - at this scale all those nibs will show in the end result.    

If you look at this picture closely you can see why I said it feels like going backwards.  The top three drawer fronts seem to be all nicely stained and then I go and sand them again (see the two other pieces) so they actually look worse.  They may look worse but they feel a whole lot better.  If your fingertips won't tell you the difference (my husband's don't for example) go across them with something like a cotton wool bud and see how it snags on the wood compared to how it passes over after you have sanded it.  The brush in the picture is just to show you the large soft brush I use to clean off the dust .... followed by fingers and a cloth.

Off you go now to do the second coat.  

After that the choice is yours - use your best judgement to see if it needs denibbing and be sure you have a nice even coverage.  You may be fine with just the two.

I do a sort of very slight sanding by giving it a good rub down with a scrumpled tissue.  All paper has wood fibres in it so even soft toilet paper and tissues are micro rough and it will smooth the surface nicely. (message to your nose and botty)


Ah, here is the stumbling block in my How-to.  This is still a work in progress with me I haven't yet found the perfect top coat.  The main tip here is that you don't want to use anything gloss in a dollhouse.  Be aware that everything is 1/12th even the amount of shine on something 😊 a satin finish will give you the miniature equivalent of a glossy shine on your furniture and painted wood.

I have tried a gazillion different 'varnishes' from small pots of various artists' acrylics through to tins of household finishes and am not happy with any of them.  The closest I got was a satin B & Q quick dry interior wood finish so something like that might be worth a go for you.  The issue I had was that it always seemed to have a certain amount of visible brush strokes in the finish; I couldn't get it perfectly flat.  I know some folks spray their final finish and that too might be worth considering.

I have tried all kinds of waxes for wood and even shoe polish and furniture polish - they will all give you a reasonable finish  but are a bit of hard work as you will have to do several goes at it.

Currently I am using this.... 

I don't think it is my final solution as it is not quite shiny enough.

I apply this generously with a brush and leave about an hour and then wipe off the surplus  I then do the same again and finally buff it.  It will give a slight sheen and a smooth surface.  Again if you want to try this I assume any oil wood polish will do.  I am just researching Tung Oil for my next piece, so watch this space.


PS:  This is my happy place for painted, stained stinky hands, it totally fixes that.  

PPS:  24 hours later and this is what I did  😱 

I thought I would try adding some varnish.... it went into a gloop that I tried to rub off quickly before it dried..........well that's a case of start again if ever I saw one.

In the wild hope that someone is reading this who has definitely conquered the glaze element of these builds PLEASE let us know here.  Until then ...............

PPPS:  .... will it never end..... I just got quite a nice sheen using a 50:50 mix of gel stain and acrylic varnish.  My actual mix was made up of three colours of Americana Gel stain (see above in the post) and the shiny bit was a mix of Delta Ceramcoat Satin and Gloss Varnish - so a bit of a complicated recipe to follow but it might be worth worth trying equal parts of any water-based gel stain and a water-based gloss of choice.  (NB: you can not mix water based things with solvent/spirit based things - set off on one path and follow it through)

Friday, 7 February 2020

Oh dear

In my last post I  left you in suspense as to what I might have ordered from Proops Brothers.........

As Violet Elizabeth would say, "I'll scream and scream until I am sick"

I know you are fed up hearing about the window saga but I really thought I had it sorted. I am struggling to cut up my gazillion strips of wood that I need to make the frames.  They are only one eighth of an inch square but absolutely solid.  Knives won't do it and the saw is slow and often splits the back of them - they are really too small to try to make a cut on the opposite side each time to help avoid this.

So, I ordered this .....

..... a little guillotine meant to cut strips of wood and plastic..... I watched the youtube and everything!  It chomped through strips of wood and bits of plastic but on my window frames it barely makes a dent. 

....... but well done to the company, not the slightest quibble about a post paid return/refund.  That is impressive these days.

Just so I leave you with a little up rather than down here is what I made whilst waiting for it to arrive.

Duncan Phyfe window seat circa 1810-1820

I am a great believer in placing something to the front and centre of each room and love the challenge of finding something appropriate but nothing that will prevent us looking into the room easily when we open the front of the house.  When I am making these little worlds I do imagine myself into the rooms to see if they actually work - can I walk round them easily?  is it a room my subjects could live with and have a life in?  with this in mind it would clearly be a nonsense to have a whole side of a room without anything there (our fourth wall).  Hence the challenge.  

This  seat will do the job nicely in my music room.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

On a spree

I have finally reached the stage in life where I think going to shows is probably beyond me now, especially since moving to Scotland.  Any UK shows are something of a trek from here and the thought of long haul flights to the American shows (sadly) brings me out in a rash (not literally 😊)  I did fifteen years of trotting back and forth across the pond and the actual travelling seemed to get worse and worse in all kinds of ways.  I have crohns disease and part of my condition is chronic fatigue.  I need say no more.

So!  I decided on a little online spree in lieu of the Miniatura show at the NEC next month. I keep a little show notebook with samples of paint and fabric that I have used in Dalton and photos of my project in its current state, some measurements and, crucially, my shopping list.  Out it came and I was off.

My first stop was at  Jennifers of Walsall's stand.   Jennifer and Andy have always been my go-to place since I started this game for a myriad of things.  My lovely real wood flooring, for example, has always come from them.  

This time it was a quick run through their fabric section as I am still struggling to get something I like even though I have a shoe box crammed full of pieces.  The silk Brodnax fabric was £5.95 a piece not the £10.50 shown on the packs.  I haven't the slightest idea why I bought the very pretty blue piece - really - I don't have a speck of blue in the place. 

The plaid is a very pretty combination for the sitting room; the colours are spot on for the cherry pattern wallpaper but it is decidedly a bit 'modern' for everything else that is going on in that room; so............ I am still looking.

Fray Stay is a tad pricey but it is the one I really like so, hey it's only money.  I am not convinced that PVA, let down with water, does quite the same job.

You know what it's like when you stop by a stall, your eye lands on something not on your list:  happily for me, it works the same way when I am trawling the net.  I have loved the teeny Phoenix condiment set for many years so that went in my basket and I know I want a tray for sherry or whiskey decanter on one of my huntboards. The cruet is so dainty I had to set it up with tweezers.

Another stall I always check out is Little Trimmings.  They won't be at Miniatura this year and I am pretty sure they are running down their stock, so I grabbed - yes, you guessed it - more fabrics while I can.

Eeeehhh, the lime green stripe is truly lime green.  I was living in hopes it might not be - how mad is that. The next one up in denim and gold has the perfect pair of colours for the music room but it seems too casual for a formal room.  The tiny floral will be lovely for covering some chair seats (I hope).  The next grey and gold piece, right now,  is the best I have for the music room.  I need grey and/or gold or combination of.  Ideally I would like a pale grey and white striped silk...... if anyone knows of one, please, please direct me to it.  The top two cottons are for curtain lining and sheets and pillows for the student bed.

I have also visited Delph Miniatures and Masters Miniatures - as I would at the show and did a bit of buying from them and will share with you when those goodies arrive.

My final bit of ordering is with a company called Proops Brothers Limited - that should keep you guessing.

Bye for now - off to start making a sweet little window seat.  The windows themselves are on guilt-free 😇 hold until Proops Brothers deliver.