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)


  1. I enjoyed your post. I am on the look out for that glue and the nail buffers. I love the HOM kits too.

    1. Thank you Carrie, you won't regret either purchases.....super useful. Enjoy future kits. I am going to miss not doing them when I have finished this project.

  2. The HOM kits do provide some lovely pieces of furniture but like you I am struggling to find the perfect final finish for the surface so the piece has a realistic sheen...the hunt continues! Thank you for a great post on the steps needed to finish a kit...well done! Sorry you needed to do a start over and hope it is now 'as right as rain'...Cheers, Alayne

    1. Hello Alayne, Well not as lovely as I would like, but acceptable. Tried yet another layer.... half acrylic gloss/satin mixed with half gel stain - not too bad. I am rock solid certain anyone wanting to stain their HOM stuff gets totally put off by it. They paint up nicely but that's not always an option especially if you are doing something historically correct. The crusade continues.

  3. This is great! I'll admit I end up painting my HOM kits more often than not.

    1. Hi Sheila, Yup, I totally know why you paint them. To be fair to us the wood is not the best quality (they were cheap in their day so that's to be expected. All the open grain lines don't help but my real bugbear is trying to get a decent shine - lump free. It's a work in progress.

  4. Oh my, I did miss your posts, so good to have you back😊 I know how real life interferes with miniatures but isn't it a pain! Great info as usual, thought I had looked everywhere for a jig, will search again, thanks.

    1. Ah, that is so nice. Happy to be back but only seem to have boring bits to go at right now so feel bad about the posts. I just did a scoot around for a 'small magnetic jig for model making uk' and came up with the perfect one on amazon which is, of course, out of stock and nothing else. So, if you are in the UK, I may have raised your hopes only to be dashed. Can find them by googling in the States. If there is any way you can get the metal plate and some magnets the rest is a simple block of wood and two strips of wood for the upstand and some very good epoxy glue. I will have a better rootle later.

    2. how about a baking tray or square cake tin and some magnets?

    3. Hi Judy, not sure where in the world you are. I just searched 'magnetic miniature jig' and loads came up.

  5. I'm sure none of us find anything on your blog boring. It's always fab to find more info on miniatures when immersed in this fascinating hobby. I am in the U.K. so I did find just the thing but as you said it's in the states. Will give the baking tray idea a go, thank you.

  6. Ps, love all your new treasures. Xx

  7. Thank you. Thank you. I have several HOM kits to make and have been very nervous about the finish. I have made several, too, and painted them rather than trying to stain them. You have given excellent instructions. I'm signing on. My blog is Right now I am roofing a large farmhouse. Any suggestions on staining or painting the shingles would be greatly appreciated. Now to take a tour of the rest of you posts.

    1. Hello Ann, only just found you in my machine???? no idea why. Welcome. Just popped in to your blog - lovely work going on over there. I am glad to have been of some help. Hope you find more stuff here when you have feet up time for a browse. Off to do just that...

  8. I love making kits and there is more than one very helpful tip in your post that must try. First and foremost the glue thing. I will admit to more than one irritating glue mark in finished pieces.. and the magnetic jig looks just brilliant.
    I too am trying different finishes. I have mostly been using French polish (and patience). What I like about it is that I can apply however many thin coats and get a slight sheen without that not so appealing glossy look.
    I also have used beeswax. No good for lots of tiny turnings or carved pieces but the finish, once polished up on more simple furniture is really lovely.
    Anna X

    1. Honestly Anna I have known from day one that shellac/french polishing is the real answer. I began by saying it isn't worth going to 'all that trouble', I am not that fussed about the finish', through 'there must just be an easy/lazy way to do this' through to my current stage of 'it is too late to bother learning french polishing technique now' as I am coming to an end of this...... so you see how I can avoid 'work' so professionally and yet I am totally untrained in idleness. Just a natural. 😁 I am in awe of you and your dedication to the mini craft world but I would expect nothing less from someone whose attention to detail is always the very, very best. Currently I have promised myself I will remove items and furniture polish them every so often and build up a nice sheen.... maybe....


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