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 .
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)