Jenn's Mini Worlds | A Dollhouse Miniaturist's Blog
I am an avid miniaturist. This blog will be devoted to minis! And where I am on my numerous projects. I hope to post tips that will help miniaturists and also learn from other mini lovers. I create minis for pleasure only, not for sale (thus far). I am always learning, so my projects are not picture perfect. But the idea is to have fun and try to create something beautiful along the way.
So many shutters! Every window gets a set, even each bay window. That’s nine windows, meaning 18 shutters to make.
Narrow shutters go around left side windows and bay windows. Larger shutters are for double windows on the second floor (one pair each). There is a shorter pair for the porch window.
I sealed the wood of the shutter backs with shellac, as I wanted to paint them. Shutter frames will be stained, so I don’t seal those (Minwax stain is great for sealing and staining at the same time).
The wood on the “good” side of a couple of my shutter frames was bad and beat up–even before I punched it out of the sheet. I am turning those over and using the “bad” side, which looks much better.
The shutters are easy to assemble. One frame goes over one back. Simple. I went with burnt orange on the shutter backs to lend color to the house, matching the gable trim.
I’m finding that old-fashioned wooden clothespins make terrific clamps.
Finished shutter is glued on the edges of the windows. Bottom rests on the window sill.
On the bay windows, the shutters that butt together cover the entire side of their window frames. Only way they fit.
Below–photos of the finished shutters in place.
The stonework and stain give this a kind of Olde Worlde feel, which is fine for the antique shop I’m planning. But I can picture this house sided and painted in pastel colors, like a painted lady, either as a bakery or shop or cute cottage. Many possibilities!
Next is the chimney, front door, and under-stairs closet, then I start shingling! (yuck)
The gable trim consists of two pairs of long pieces for the front and right gables, and a long and short piece for the back gable.
Notice that for the long pieces, each gable will have a long piece and one slightly shorter piece. This is because the slightly shorter piece butts against the long one.
I chose to paint these burnt orange (toned down with a light wash of stain) for a pop of color on my brown and white house.
The trim gets glued flat against the underside of the roof piece.
None of my pieces met at the peaks as they were supposed to because my roof never fit exactly right. That’s ok; I can cover that up later.
Next, the verge boards. Two sets of long and one short.
The verge boards stained and ready to go.
I found it was easier to glue them together at the top first (as the instructions indicate). The top of the pieces form a heart. Once they are thoroughly dry, it’s easier to position them on the house.
The verge boards go behind the trim pieces.
The verge boards give the house a cute, gingerbread look.
Because the attic will be much enclosed by the roof, I wanted to finish the attic floor and walls (including the windows) before I put the roof on. Much easier to do it while the attic is exposed.
I didn’t use the siding that came with the house, so I have this pile of very thin wood strips lying around. I decided to use them to make the attic floor. Why not?
Above, I’ve started laying out the strips and cutting them to fit.
I glued the strips in with hot glue to avoid warpage and then finished them with shellac.
The floor turned out so well I might use the wood strips on other floors in the house.
Time for the roof.
There are only four roof pieces. Here I’ve painted the undersides (which will show inside the house). The big piece is the left side. Slim L shape is the back. The piece propped behind that is the front left roof, and the larger piece behind that the front.
By the way, I sealed all the roof pieces with shellac before I painted to prevent warping.
I’m finding I like shellac as a sealer–I didn’t know it was a wood sealer before I took a class on finishing (I thought it just made things shiny). It can be diluted 50/50 with denatured alcohol. I used it straight from the can and that’s working well.
I fitted the roof on before I glued it. This is the left side piece.
Notice that one slot is very long, longer than the wall tab:
The chimney will go in the lower half of the slot.
Front left roof piece on.
Back piece in place.
Once I figured out how everything fit together, I glued it all in place. I did have to sand some of the tabs and use a round file on the slots before it went together smoothly.
With this step, the basic structure of the house is done. The rest is trimming.
From here on, the choice of finishing outside or inside first is up to you. I’m going to plow on through the instructions to the end.
The balconies that go on top of the porch and each of the bay windows are fairly easy.
Pieces for the porch balcony. Note that while the instructions say there are “wide” posts and “narrow” posts (see eight pieces in back), the posts are all the same size. I checked and double checked. The layout sheet doesn’t differentiate the sizes. I suspect they were made all the same size but the instructions never got changed.
Anyway: Three posts go on the front of the front fence. One each on the front of the two side fences.
One post goes on the back middle, and one each on an end of the back of the left and right sides.
The instructions are a bit unclear as to whether the post ends of the sides go against the front fence while the bare backs are against the house … like this (above).
Or whether the posts were on the ends (below)
I decided I liked the posts at the ends–looks more finished. Here I’ve glued the fences together and upside down on the L shaped railing.
The porch balcony in place on top of the porch.
Bay window trim and balconies were easier.
Left: The balcony pieces. Right: Trim for the top of the bay windows.
I debated whether to use the trim over the top of the bay windows, with the stucco, but I thought, what the heck. Here it is stained and glued on.
The balcony pieces stained and glued upside down onto the V-shaped railing.
After making sure the paperclay was thoroughly dry and gaps filled in, I started painting the stonework foundation by giving it several dirty gray water washes.
The wash is mostly water with two drops of hippo gray and one drop of black. I went over the stone work three or four times with this, letting it dry between washes. Gradually building up a base of very light gray.
Next I started painting in colors, keeping the paint very watery.
I used Burnt Umber, Hippo Gray, with a touch of Black Green. I later added a color called Latte (which looks like very milky coffee).
I added the colors one at a time: First wetting the brush, dabbing in paint, wetting brush again, dabbing off excess on waxed paper, and then applying that color to individual stones, choosing them at random. I didn’t so much carefully paint each stone as simply dab dab dab with the brush (sometimes more like smoosh smoosh smoosh).
If any one stone color seemed too dark, I’d rinse the brush and use the dirty water to tone it down.
I did a lot of trial and error, wiping off with a paper towel before it dried if I really didn’t like the result.
I went over the stones I’d say four or five times until I liked the look. I still might go back over them and smooth out the colors, making sure none of the white shows through.
It was fun to experiment. The house is taking on a rustic, old-world feel, but that’s fine as I’m doing an antique shop.
Now that the foundation is done and the porch is finished, the rest is going pretty quickly and easily. Next, the bay trim and balconies, then it’s time for the roof.
I worked on the porch while I waited for the paperclay stonework to thoroughly dry. I’ll show the porch build here and then how I painted the stonework next time.
The many pieces of the front porch: Railings, trim pieces, and columns.
I roughed out how everything will go. There are lot of similar pieces, so it’s a good idea to figure out what goes where before the glueing starts.
Pieces stained and sorted into their respective places. On the left, pieces of the main front railings and columns; on the right, the right side railing; bottom, the left railings / trim which will go on the top and bottom of the left side of the porch.
Long piece gets glued horizontally to the top of the front railing piece.
Adding the front posts. The layout sheets specify “left front post, middle front post, right front post” but I couldn’t find any difference in shape–they looked interchangeable to me. If there are differences, they are too subtle to matter.
However, the front and back posts are different. Front have shorter top parts, and backs have big slots for the left and right railings, as in the pic below.
Back posts affixed to the back.
Right railing slides into slot made by back post.
Left railing will fit here.
Right side porch pieces.
As on the front, the horizontal trim goes on top, flush with top and right side.
I want to share two little projects I did when the Westville grew too frustrating, and then I’ll turn back to the Westville build.
First, I finished up the box I started in the class with Geoff Wonnacott in Chicago.
I added the hinges myself, plus all the filigree and lock. Papered the inside of the box and then finished the outside with shellac.
The hinge pins were long pieces of wire snipped as close to the hinge as possible and then ground down with a Dremel. I was amazed at how well that worked! New techniques to know.
The second fun project is a kit called Dora’s Little Loft–almost 360 degrees different from the box above.
This is a kit by a Chinese company called Robo Time, which specializes in 3D puzzles and miniature scenes. I’ve seen these kits in various catalogs that come through my house (like Acorn and others), and I purchased this one because it was just cute.
It has a retro feel and is very colorful. The kit contains *everything* in the room–you make all kinds of accessories and little decorative objects, all out of paper, wood, wire, clay, and findings and beads.
Everything here I made from the bits of wire, paper, and fabric in the kit. It’s cleverly put together, even if some of the accessories are a little fiddly.
A tip: Superglue (krazy glue with brush applicator) saves a lot of grief when working with the projects made of wire.
I can put together another post with tips and tricks on this build.
Meanwhile, here’s details of the finished piece.
I used my own pink fabric for the chair, but everything else came from the kit (they include the chair’s fabric, but I liked my color better.)
I chose this kit instead of the plant shop, because I didn’t want to make so many plants. Ha! This one has 19 different potted plants, plus the rose vine and a tree! I cut out many leaves …
I did flee home for a few weeks in June, but I discovered a new mini museum in the process. I will post an update on the Westville here–the following posts will cover the mini museum and a couple other shorter projects I did in June.
Before I left on vacation, I put a Creative Paperclay base around the foundation pieces. This gives the stonework some depth.
The paperclay shrinks and cracks as it dries, but as I’ll be covering all this, I’m not bothered.
Yesterday, I bought more paperclay (ran out) and started in making the stonework with the mold (see previous posts). (Darker spot is where the paperclay is still wet).
Once I covered the entire foundation and let it dry overnight, I went back and filled in gaps with paperclay balls rolled to the approximation of a stone and glued onto the dried paperclay.
One drawback of paperclay is the way it shrinks–keep in mind that has to be compensated for.
The darker stones are the ones I glued on to fill the gaps. They’ll lighten as they dry.
Once everything is dry, I’ll fill in any more gaps and then start painting.
Note: It took two and a half 16 oz bricks of Creative Paperclay to do the foundation base and the molded stonework. (Or two 16 oz and one 8 oz).
A tip: Keep any opened paperclay in a sealed plastic bag. Even so, use it up in a few weeks to a month. Longer and it will be too dried out. You can add a little bit of water to drier paperclay to make it useable.
Now that I have the stucco more or less where I want it, I’m working on the stone foundation.
First, I made a mold so I could paste on a paperclay stone facade fairly easily:
I have some nice clean rocks that I arranged to look like a stone wall. These are pressed into non-hardening clay (sulfur-free clay is key).
I cut the clay into a neat square then cut illustration board to go around the clay. Hot-glued the boards to the cardboard base. Hot glue makes a good seal so the mold material won’t leak out.
This is the silicon mold mix I purchased at an art supply store. You mix parts A and B one-to-one. I’ve poured B into A in the cup on the left and am mixing it.
Carefully pouring silicon material over the rocks.
Takes about 30 minutes for the mold to harden. I left it here while I had lunch.
Came back, took off the cardboard, and very carefully unmolded the silicon part from the rocks and clay. Voila!
Ready to start the foundation:
First, I’m applying a Creative Paperclay base–using yellow wood glue to glue a lump of paperclay to the foundation area. Making it thicker at the bottom so it looks like stones are shoring up the house. I let this dry overnight.
A thin sheet of Paperclay goes into the mold and gets rolled with the plastic roller. (Anything to smooth the paperclay will do).
Pulling the mold gently from the clay gives me this.
The “stones” glued in place on top of the foundation base. Letting it dry.
I liked how the stones look (I will paint them later), so I’m going ahead. Laying the base first.
This paperclay hasn’t been molded–it’s just glued on and smeared around.
The foundation will extend to the shorter area on the back of the house and also around the porch.
I will continue and finish the foundation, then I will paint everything at once. I didn’t want to paint my sample, because I’d get it just right and then forget what I did.
Next time, I’ll have photos of the completed foundation and how I paint it.
BTW: I learned how to do the mold making at a workshop at the Chicago show. I didn’t have this in mind when I took the class, but then I thought–hey, why not try it? It’s going far better than I feared!