Saturday, June 26, 2010

Making a dresser

Welcome to my 2 new followers, Alafosca who has the most delightful little people she makes as well as a host of other gorgeous minis.  
I plan on following Alafosca as soon as I can work out which password I need to use!

The other I doubt needs introduction in the mini world, being Mags from Magsnificient Miniatures. I knew her name from magazines when dollshousing was just a dream I never expected to eventuate so this was a particular thrill!

It is such a small world, this small world and I have noticed a few familiar 'faces' with the same interests following the same blogs as I wander around blogs. Strangely many of those faces are cats, so I suspect miniaturists also have a fascination with the most inconvenient animal in existence for those wanting to work on something fiddly!
I will introduce some of my older followers as well in the next few posts, so don't feel forgotten.

As happens when you look at your long weeks of holiday ahead of you, free to do as you wish, nothing goes as planned. However I have had odd moments, while waiting for full size house paint to dry, to duck out to the back shed and play with my dollshouse. While I should be working on getting the stairs done so I can secure the middle floor and get onto the outside, this week furniture making had more appeal. I have made a few bits over the past year, but wanted to start on some kitchen furniture, so the obvious piece was a dresser. By rights it should have been a 1930/40s drop front style, but I was in a romantic mood and decided to go for the traditional type. I'm sure my family would have had pieces they had inherited so that is still in keeping.
I used a wide selection of materials, pine strip, lolly sticks, tongue depressors (or is that depressers?) pieces of an old wooden blind, obeche, commercial spindles and commercial knobs, all stirred together with tacky craft glue. As I didn't have plans, I worked out rough measurements, partly based on our real life built in 1930s dresser. Height had to be fiddled with - we have 10 foot ceilings here while the cottage has a bare 8 inches, possibly only 7 1/2. I wanted an open style to save having cupboard doors open for display. I think the style is known as a Welsh dresser?
I began by making up the drawers (pine strip front, obeche base and lolly stick sides) and lots of lego blocks then made a top with legs, adding a bottom under the drawers to fit (obeche, square stripwood and comercial spindles) Next I added the bottom shelf (obeche) and taped it in place to set, realising when it was dry that the sturdy rubber band I had used to hold the top together was trapped and had to be cut off. A couple of drawer dividers and commercial knobs and the base was done. The top (pine strips, old blind and tongue depressers) was a bit more challenging. I rebated the shelves using my small hand saw and a needle file and 'carved' the top and side pieces with sandpaper, emery boards and files. Once glued together I was pleased with the effect.

The back boards were glued together and sit nicely in place at the back of the dresser while I decide whether to paint or stain. I have left them long and they sit against the back of the bottom half where it has been rebated to fit, just like an antique.

One day I may have to make it more secure. Despite careful measuring, remeasuring and double checking measurements, it is taller than I had planned, but thankfully, as you can see, it just fits!

Friday, June 18, 2010


Hurrah! After several months of overnight shifts, working weeks of up to 100 hours and being called in everytime I expect to have a free day, I have 3 weeks holiday!!!!

I have a million things to do and go from one to another in excitement but hope to be able to report some progress here.

Now what to do first...!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

From the floor up

This post is to try and get the blog up to date with the house so lots of pics and a few basic explanations.

 After gluing the beams in place I plastered between them using a mix of water, PVA and standard hardware shop plaster. If you are doing this, use masking tape as if you own shares in a tape company! I found the only way to clean it off was to sand it (although as I had used outdoor cement grade plaster at first this may be why) It was then I discovered that I had placed the beams the wrong way around.  For anyone interested in historical accuracy, they should be put in 'flat' so that the widest side is against the structure they are supporting, not the modern way which positions the beam on its edge using the width of the beam as its strength. This is why floors sag in older buildings.

Next were the fireplaces which were bricked using this wonderful tutorial:  I remain in awe of the talented people online and how readily they share their ideas. After a few false starts with the kitchen fireplace (I had cut the hole too big and too close to the scullery door way for a solid effect, the walls were ready to be papered (in the sitting room) and timbered in both downstairs rooms. The paper I chose was Acorns which seemed fitting for an 'oak'framed cottage and was bought from who is my favourite online retailer for price, variety and service for DIY.

The timbering is being made from a stained and damaged set of wooden venetian blinds which had been destined for the tip. Each slat is about an inch wide and about 2mm thick, so is really easy to work with. Because of the water staining, after cutting, I have restained the slats with oak stain which has come up darker than I planned but I think in the 30s dark oak was fashionable so that is okay. Papering with timbering is the easiest thing I have done so far. You don't have to cut the paper perfectly as edges will be covered. Papering after timbering is a different story! I did one wall of having to trim paper to fit between wonky timbers before realising that.  I cut each slat in half lengthwise, (can be done with a ruler and craft knife) roughed up the edges and stained, trimmed to fit and glued into place. Unlike cornices and architraves, you don't have to worry about angles.

The kitchen however was another plastering job, so it was slats first then plaster again with lots of cleaning up, retouching the woodwork (it had gone a beautiful weathered finish which would be perfect for outside but looked unloved and faintly 'haunted' inside) and painting the plaster ('Double Glaze' by British paints) As it was a bit pristine, I have given it a dirtying teabag rub which shows in real life but disappears in a photo.

While working on these bits I started the 3 doors off these rooms, scullery, sitting room and larder. I decided these would be painted so was able to make them from 3mm MDF,  scoring the boards and using craft sticks as bracing.

Flooring was the next step. Again I wanted to use the egg carton method but as we have hens and no egg cartons, I had prudently saved the packaging from Mr 13's electronic pride and joy. Cutting the random flagstones (with help >>>) was reasonably easy. I had charted up an eighth of the floor with plans to make 8 panels and just rotate each around for effect. In theory that should work perfectly, in practice I ended up with piles of miscellaneous shaped cardboard blocks and had to fit each one in place individually. Gluing them down was my first indication that this wasn't going to be as easy as the egg carton bricks. The edges curled, the middles swelled randomly and they began to split. More glue and a flattening with an old flatiron helped. Work got in the way, so I only had brief half hours to play with the house, no time for troubleshooting.
The day of painting arrived. A special trip to buy some slate grey paint held the disastrous moment up. As soon as the entire floor was coated, I noticed that as it dried the packaging was splitting away in layers. There was nothing to do but let it dry and hope for the best. The split layers peeled away giving a touch more 'rusticity' but didn't look too bad I thought, until my daughter told me (with no softening platitudes) that it looked cold and institutional. Sadly I could see that she was right, so out came more paints in brown shades and I wondered if there would be any flag stones left when these split too.
Miraculously they painted beautifully! Grouting was fiddlier. Because the surface was so rough, I knew I couldn't just smear grout (made from watery plaster with paint added) all over, so I carefully found a used cliplock bag for a piping bag, only noticing after I had started and the grout was oozing over my hand that the bag had a number of other holes. It was easier by then just to smear it over, clean up what I could, touch up the centres of the flagstones and walk away!
A couple of coats of flat folk art varnish and approximately 6 hours (total) of working on it and the downstairs floor was finally finished!  I am tempted to add a metal ring to one of the flagstones, but as there would be no mystery about it, won't.

My neighbour and friend, Cherie, then gave me something she thought I would like because she was pretty sure I wouldn't have one: an egg carton! Little did she guess what a welcome and multipurpose gift it was.

To finish off, I have been playing with the doors today so that they can be hung and putting a brick floor in the larder. Satisfaction has returned and the house is once again online.