Friday, May 29, 2015

A Tale of Two Chairs

If you have visited my gardening blog, Welcome to Ann's Garden Spot, you will have read my laments about our crummy May weather. Today we were able to do some badly needed weed spraying and weed pulling. Oh there is plenty more to do, but we did make a bit of progress. While we really must be thankful for all of the moisture, we would love some sunshine.

So while I am not gardening, I am downstairs working on the dollhouse house. Today I stained some of the wood trim that will finish up the living room, bedroom and downstairs hallway.

But first let me show the chairs that I made this week, too. Last week I compared the 3 furniture kits that I have been working with. I thought that it would be nice to make up the XACTO chairs to let you see the difference in the quality of the kits. Below you will see the finished chairs. They went together very easily and quickly with fewer parts, no sanding, and very good instructions.

You can see the light pencil marks on the chair arms where the support pieces for the back are placed. The instructions gave a template that I could place the pieces on to accurately place my marks.

The kit contains two chairs: the front and back views.

Now here is a comparison of the two different kits, with the XACTO on the left.

With fewer pre-cut pieces that did not require sanding, the XACTO chairs went together quickly and accurately. 

With fewer seams, the XACTO chair has a cleaner look and requires less clean up work when it comes time to paint or stain. The chair on the right might be suitable for a shabby chic look. I haven't decided how I will finish those chairs or which house they they go in. Not bad chairs, they were just really frustrating to assemble and they were a lot of work.

The blue farm house requires a lot of work. Here I have stained the trim for around the windows and the baseboards before I cut them to fit. I also had a new door to stain and I stained the stairs for the main floor hall. I use a small artist brush to apply the stain instead of a cloth, as some may use. I can get nice coverage and don't waste as much stain.

Other supplies: 

  • Wood Stain: I had to have stain custom colored to match the current woodwork in the house that will not be replaced such as doors. The stain is a close match, but not exact. I will do three coats then use polyurethane for at least two coats. I may also look for a finish that will give that professional, shiny look to the finish.
  • Gloves: I purchased these plastic gloves at the super market in the food selections. They come 100 to a box. You'd be surprised how often you will use them for things other than food prep (I use one to mix meat loaf--can't stand the feeling of the cold, raw ground beef) and for painting to save my manicure. (LOL). 
  • Painter's Tape: I use a lot of blue tape. 
  • Wax Paper: I use a lot of wax paper, too, to protect the surface that I am working on. I am doing the staining the garage instead of downstairs. Hubby has aquariums and we fear the fumes will make the fish sick, so I am now working in the garage, too. He bought and assembled a very nice wood work bench for me. I'll show it some time.
  • Artist brushes: I buy cheap artist brushes that come in packages of various sizes from Hobby Lobby. If one gets too icky or worn, I just throw it away.
  • Turpentine: I keep my staining brushes in a small water bottle of turpentine to keep them clean.
The weather is supposed to warm up and dry out next week. We have lots to do outside, like plant the garden. I have been taking a lot of photos as I work, so if work stops, I still have things to share and I can keep the blog going.

I about have the bedroom and living room nearly done, ready to work on the bathroom. Here is the wallpaper that I picked up at Hobby Lobby. I am trying to match the color of pattern. I think it is periwinkle. 

Or a blue-ish gray. I am thinking of putting wainscoting in the bathroom that will be painted. I have looked for periwinkle paint, but haven't found a match in craft paint, so I mixed my own: equal amounts of light blue and lavender, then I added white. I painted a tongue depressor. We will see what sort of match I have when it dries.

So that's about all for tonight. Did you notice the new header? I also added a PIN option to my photos. Let me know how you like it. If you want to add a Pinterest option to your photos on your blog, here is the link: Click here: Add A Pin It mouse-over button.

Have a fabulous week end. And thanks so much for stopping by. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Miniature Furniture Kits

Building your own dollhouse furniture gives a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It also give you a lot of control over the creative design and decorating of you house. I have spent countless evenings in my craft space, radio music playing, assembling furniture from kits. I thought that I would share my favorites and what I am learning along the way about eBay bargains and thrift shop finds.

So far I have worked with three different kits: Realife Miniatures Heritage Collection, Houseworks, Ltd., and Xacto

Kit 1: Realife Miniatures, made in the USA, 1980, manufactured by Scientific Models, INC (New Jersey). I really want to like this kit.

I purchased this kit at local antique market for $20. When I Google the kit, a few showed up in the search. eBay also has good selection. This kit has three pieces of furniture: the table, the hutch, and the dry sink, along with 4 chairs.

The pieces are punch out and numbered for easy (?) identification. They punch out easily, but sometimes the wood splinters and the edges are not smooth and require sanding.

Good instructions are essential for theses tiny kits. You can see that the instructions begin with a list of pieces that must be punched out. Some of the pieces will be on the same board, but I had to sift through the several boards to look for all of the pieces and then check them off as I located them. While the instructional images are clear and fairly easily to read, they don't always demonstrate exactly what the construction will look like.

There could be more instruction on how to align the pieces to get accurate assembly.

While the legs (the curved pieces) are nicely punched out, they require sanding to remove the splintering. The support bars for the chairs were not pre cut. They were cut to a certain length from an 18 inch length of wood then had to be sanded down to size, which I found to be very much of pain as I tried to get them all the same length, which is really important if the piece of furniture is look right, nice, and professional. As this photo shows, the side piece connecting the front let to the back leg does not fit. I also had to figure out how to get the legs even, so I taped a piece of wood to my work surface to give a straight edge for the legs to fit against.

I work on a piece of styrofoam so that I can use pushpins to keep pieces in place, if necessary. I also used Gorilla wood glue. It does not dry clear, but it does bond quickly and nicely. You must be careful to clean up glue that oozes out of joining surfaces. 

Finished. I am hoping that whatever finish I decide on--stain or paint-- will cover up the imperfections. Then again, the rustic look might just fit the farm house. And I still have more sanding to do to smooth out the rough joints.

You will find these 1980s kits available on eBay, I honestly think that unless it is a piece that you absolutely cannot find any other place, move on, look other places: eBay, Etsy, Amazon, craigslist, garage sales, thrift stores. 

The balsa wood is not the best quality, not all of the pieces are pre-cut, and pieces require a lot of sanding. Of course a fine quality wood finish does require sanding, but these punch-out pieces require more. The kit did come with the stain and finishes, but the liquids had all dried up. I have to decided if I will use stain or go for the shabby look. 

Another American company that has been in business for a long time (1975), has a fine line of both assembled unfinished 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture and kits. The company has everything from accessories to building supplies. You will find some of their items in Hobby Lobby and other craft retailers. You can also order online as I did this piece:

This piece came in a zip lock bag, each piece cut, and required little sanding. The instructions were not quite as specific as they could have been. This little table comes with the hardware--tiny, tiny brass drawer pulls. (I have compared these first two kits to final kit, Xacto).

I made the mistake of inserting the drawers all the way before really testing to see how tight they would fit. Well, they fit very tight, so tight that they are in place for good. I like this kit because as you can see I cut out the template to mark where the hardware will be installed.

(Sorry. I should have rotated the image). The instructions have each piece diagrammed so that you can easily identify each piece by laying it on its image. The diagrams and illustrations could be more specific. Instructions aside, the wood quality is better than Realif but not quite a good as Xacto pieces. The pieces nicely cut and easily identified.

Despite the weaknesses, I will buy from this company again.

Kit 3: House of Miniatures by Xacto: 

No longer made, these kits are by far the best. I am thinking that perhaps Houseworks purchased the rights to this company because the kits are so similar and the instructions so nearly the same. 

This company produced quality furniture. With very specific instructions, exceptional wood quality, and authentic design, these kits certainly are worth the effort to search them out, which really isn't that much of a challenge. eBay always has a nice selection, as well as Amazon. I have a large collection of pieces that came for different sources. My daughter found the first batch, 20 boxes or so, on in Denver for $90. I have not assembled all of the pieces yet, but I have such fun building furniture. 

My other daughter scored the next great find of 10 kits at ARC, an local thrift store that has locations all over Colorado. These were priced at $6 a piece and on half price for the day. I have some duplicate pieces that I will share with either of the girls as they build their houses.

High quality wood, neatly cut. I don't think they are laser cut as that technology was not available then. Accurate and authentic design that allows for easy assembly.

Once again, the pieces are easily identified by diagrams that aid in sorting the pieces.  I haven't assembled these chairs yet, but I am quite sure that they will be easier to assemble and will fit together much better. You can see the differences in design. Not extra cuts to make. Some pieces even have diagrams that you can lay the pieces on to get the alignment correct as you glue them together. You place the pieces on the illustration, pin them place once glued to make sure that pieces are spaced  and aligned correctly. Realife skipped that option, sadly. I have not assembled enough of Houseworks kits to know if they provide that feature.

These kits are worth seeking out. I have enough to furnish one house with pieces left over. I'll be sharing them along the way. Of course if the girls find them as they visit thrift stores, they know to buy them. I don't order much on eBay or Amazon. I have to really want an item to shop,  but I like garage sales and thrift stores and antique malls the best. Nice dollhouse furniture is hard to come by, so I am always looking. 

I have a large collection of furniture and accessories that I have found in various places. My little town is home to 6 antique stores and I know all of the owners who all know that I look for dollhouse furniture. I especially like Shackman furniture, another 1970s-'80 company that while it is still in business it not longer makes dollhouse furniture. There is quite a bit of their furniture out there and many pieces still have their little gold Shackman sticker on the bottom. Made in Taiwan or Japan, the pieces are high quality and the company made everything from dolls to pots and pans and pianos. You will find a very nice selection on eBay and Etsy. 

Part of the thrill of dollhouse building is not just building the house, but the quest for fine pieces to create the perfect imaginary miniature life.

You will be reading more about these two young ladies, the Pullip sisters who seemed to have grown tired of their place on the shelf. They have told me that they are looking at relocating. They want a place of their own. Frankly, I am not too sure what sort of tenants they will be. I am a pretty picky landlady and I think these two are bit too persnickety for the old farm house. We'll see. 

The bed, by the way, is a Houseman, Ltd. kit. I still need to stain or paint it, but it is so darn cute. I had a lot of fun making it.

Until next time, thanks so much for stopping by. If you have any questions about building miniature furniture, you can ask me, but truthfully there are some really good blogs out there where the hobbyists build their own furniture from scratch and offer some really good tutorials. I do encourage to go for it. Yes, Hobby Lobby has some wonderful pre-made furniture, but you want unique one of kind, don't you? Even if you build a piece from a kit, you can give it your own special touch. No two pieces will come out the same.

Have a wonderful week end.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Vanity Tutorial

Hello. Thank you so much for stopping by. I have promised myself now that I hope I have at least 4 faithful checking on the Blue Farm House that I will do a better job of updating each week the progress that I am making. So come along on a brief tour of this week's work followed with a quick tutorial on how I made a vanity--all by myself.

First, I want to remind you of the house that I am working on. I purchased it a junk/antique store down the road for $100. You can return to the original post to see what clean-up had to be done. I don't think I ever mentioned the dimensions so here they are:

  • From the side view: 18 inches wide
  • across the back side: 32.5 inches long
  • at the side peak: 30 inches tall
  • the center of the house where the hallways are located: 23 inches long
  • the rooms on either side measure 11.5 x 18 inches

So You can see that it is a very large house with large rooms. The upstairs has been primed ready for wallpaper. 

The living room is now papered and the wiring completed. I found these neat extension cords that are wired in on the floor underneath the carpeting. They will mount on the walls just above the base boards. The carpet will be mounted to poster board and not glue down so it will be removable to allow access to the wiring. I am learning a lot about wiring, knowing that I am making a mess of things. I need for the next house to have a very specific plan in place before I start wiring. Remember, too that this house was already wired so I had repairs to make.

This is the beaded chandelier that I made. I'll do a lesson on it, too. Soon. 

Trying furniture just to see how it will look. I love it so far.

The chandelier is wired in on the upstairs bedroom floor. This carpeting will also not be permanently installed. Just in case. 

I decided to locate the bathroom above the kitchen on the second floor. It is large and deep, so I am toying with the idea of putting in a false wall. I had seen a similar setup on another blog and since this is a large room, I like the idea. I made a paper pattern of the false wall first then cut it out of cardboard

While hubby made some cuts for the false wall on his skill saw, I finished the wood cutout with my scroll saw.

Amazingly I have a perfect fit. I have not decided if I will use these vintage fixtures or if the tub will fit up against the right wall. Still playing. I will use a Hobby Lobby blue floral wall paper. The inside of the wall still needs some more sanding to straighten the line or wainscoting will cover up the uneven lines

Vanity Tutorial

I wanted a dressing table/vanity for the bedroom and decided to make one. 

As I child growing up in old farm houses, one built in 1890, I always wanted that frilly pretty dressing table. As it was, I did have my aunt's 1940s waterfall bedroom set from my grandmother's house. It had a pretty dressing table with a big round mirror on it and I loved it. When my daughters were little, I did find a vanity table covered in pink satin on garage sale that we used in one of the girls' rooms. 

My mother in law had a vanity table in her bedroom in her mother's old farm house that was our wedding suite when we first married. So poor that we couldn't afford a home of our own, we lived with hubby's grandparents for a while. The dressing vanity in that room was covered with hideous 1940s' floral fabric. And while on the outside it looked well assembled, the ugly material covered orange crates assembled to make a table. Rather ingenious. It was a very practical piece made out of whatever the mom could find to provide a girly piece of furniture for her only child. 

In my work area I set about designing my dollhouse dream vanity using bits and scraps that I had along with a couple of very special items. This was an easy project--had to be since I am much like Winnie the Pooh, a bear with a very little brain, especially when it comes to building from scratch.

First, I sorted through the doll house furniture that I have assembled from the vintage XACTO kits that I have to find a table that would give me the size for the dressing table.

I drew a pattern by hand to get a general shape. To make sure that the top was uniform and even on each side, I redrew the shape on the fold. After tracing the pattern on a piece of 3/8 thick base wood, I cut it out on the scroll saw. I used the Dremel to drill the holes for the spindle legs. The 1/8 inch drill bit was a bit small for the spindle to fit in so I had to work the drill around in the hole to get it big enough to work the leg in. The spindles are a bit long, so I placed them in the hole, marked a line to cut off the excess, then sanded them down once they were glued in.

 The table is 2.5 inches tall X 4 inches long. I used Elmer's school glue to glue on the skirt.

The skirt is made from a scrap of material and antique lace that I had purchased at an antique store to make vintage doll dresses. I sewed a bottom hem on the material, sewed the lace to material, stitched a gathering line to fit the skirt to the table then sewed on the trim. If you don't sew, many miniaturists use fabric glue. I am more comfortable at the sewing machine. 

The trim is very special. I have blog friend who lives in England. She had emailed me asking if I wanted some bits of lace that she was going to get rid of. Of course, I did. So I have use a little piece that she sent. Thank You, Barbara. 

I cut a cover for the top out of the same scrapbook cloth paper to match the lamp shade. I am now totally out of this sweet pattern. I can still order it on line. 

The stool is and XACTO kit. You can still find theses kits on Ebay. Daughter and I got lucky when she found half a dozen kits at a thrift store a few weeks ago, so they are still floating around.

Barbara's little package also had a little lavender sachet in it, so I put some of the lavender in a little jar. What dressing table is complete without lavender? I also made the perfume bottles from my bead stash.

I think I will look for cream colored cording to finish the edges and to cover the wood up to give a more finished edge, but I am otherwise very pleased with the dressing table. The bedroom is nearly wallpapered now, but I am holding off to add some more lighting.

Right now work has come to a bit of as standstill as I am trying to decide on wallpaper for the upstairs hallway which will be a library at the front of the hall. It will be so cute with a red leather wing back chair and a library filled with classic literature. (I am a retired English professor with an MA in English Lit., so of course I will have a library full of the classics). I am also out of the eyelets that I use to connect my lighting to the tape wire. Unfortunately Hobby Lobby does not carry them so I have to order then on line. I need to be working in the garden anyway. 

At night I will be working on accessorizing the the rooms already finished. So I will have more tutorials for you. 

Everyone loves the kitchen. It is cute, I have to admit myself, but is so nice to hear you tell me that you like it. Thank you. I am still waiting for the the sink. It seems to be out of stock not only at Norm's, but at the online sources, too. 

Thanks for stopping by. I love your comments. Have a fabulous week.