Friday, February 8, 2013

Dexter Loves A Good Dollhouse

I have been on a miniature hiatus from making miniatures, but I have been able to catch up on some of my favorite shows.  One of those is Dexter, a drama about a loveable serial killer.  Anyway, on the episode I watch watching last night, a dollhouse popped up.  I'm always excited when dollhouses show up on mainstream media.  Like the following Family Guy clip:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Making Miniature Vases From Wooden Dowel Caps

There's a section in most U.S. craft stores that carry unfinished wooden items in many varieties.  If you're building miniatures, this section's definitely worth a look because there are items that can fit perfectly in a doll house.  One of these are Lara's Crafts Finial Dowel Caps.  I suppose you could use them to cap your finial dowels, whatever that means, but all I see are mini vases.  The ones I used for this post are the 3/2in with 1/4in hole ($0.99 for a pack of 6, item #11042).  When you get them, they look like this:

Just like little vases, right?!  
You can use almost any method to finish: paint, stain, decoupage, etc. But I've found that an interesting trick is to use permanent marker.  The marker soaks through the wood and acts kind of like a stain, thereby letting some of the original wood grain show through, giving it depth.  Plus it dries almost instantly and, like a baby chick, it's cheap-cheap.  Haha, I kill me (and you may want to too after that joke).  

The first thing is to color the top and some of the interior of the vase.  If you're going to put flowers inside, you don't need to color the inside too much, but I always do a little just because:

After the top is colored, I stick a pencil with a dull or no point into the vase.  If you use a pencil with a sharp point, it won't fit all the way in.  After you jab the pencil in enough to stop the vase from moving around on you, color in the rest.

The final step (yes, it's that easy), is to seal it with a high-gloss, oil-based sealer.  Time for my spiel on sealer.  I seal almost EVERYTHING I make to the point of insanity.  Most of the time I use matte, water-based sealer or matte, spray sealer.  For this project, I highly recommend an oil-based sealer in high gloss because, let's be honest, the oil-based makes it shiner than a greasy baby's bottom.  You need to seal in a ventilated area and be careful of breathing it in, but it's worth it:

Eventually I will post a tutorial on making these bouquets, but here are what the finished vases look like with flowers in them:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

This Is What A South Jersey Snowstorm Looks Like

View from my 3rd floor a.k.a. workshop

I was SO excited about finally getting snow.  We hadn't received any all winter, and that's what we got.  Woot. 

...Back to re-runs of Little Britain.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Time Is it?! Time To Make A Mini Clock

Now, I previously posted about one of my miniature-making OCD behaviors/confessions ("eyeballing" everything; look in previous posts to refresh your memories), and it's time for another.  This is a stranger one, but I build my houses according to what I feel should be built next.  For example, I currently feel the next step in my build is to install the windows.  So until I do that, I can't continue forward.  It's all mental, and there are a bunch of other things I could do.  But I won't be completely satisfied until I install the glass windows, which I can't do until my dad brings over his glass cutter (frustration!).

That's enough of a trip into the odd recesses of my mind.  Don't be scared.  Anywayyy, I was super bored today, so I forced myself to work on something for the interior even though I keep looking at the bare windows and shaking my fist like an oldster on a porch.   It's rare that I buy anything pre-made for my dollhouse, but Tim Holtz's Idea-Ology has a line of industrial chic scrap booking pieces that are amazing for modern, steam punk, and/or industrial style miniatures.  One of their products are a bunch of metal clock faces (JoAnn's has some here for $4.99, but I'm sure you can do a search for cheaper ones) that I've had in my stash for some time.

First I had to make the hands for the clock.  I used to make jewelery (for about 2 months), but the wire-working skills I learned have been extremely handy for dollhouse/miniature-making.  I'll probably post some tips/tricks for working with wire in the future.  To make the hands, I took some basic sewing pins and flattened them using a regular hammer and jewelery anvil (paid about $10, and I've used it much more than I thought).  The anvil is extremely necessary for flattening metal.  Trust me; I've tried almost every other, less expensive technique (including using a brick), and the anvil's the way to go.

I chose the pin because of its sharp end, which would become an arrow shape when flattened.

I flattened 2 pins, and also flattened a crimp bead that makes a mini washer to put in the gap at the center of the clock face (this is also mentioned in the post about making the red door for the studio).  Here's what all 3 pieces look like inserted:
Now, you could be satisfied with the look of the clock as is, but not I.  The finish was too monochromatic for my taste, so I slapped on some DecoArt Metallic Acrylic Paint in "Dark Patina", highlighted the numbers and hands with a wood stain pen, and here you go:

As a disclaimer, this picture sucks, and the clock actually looks much better in person.  Also, I chose the time at random.  I guess it's always going to be 5:32 in my studio, and that's PM because it's wine time.  Speaking of wine time, here's your daily dose of crazy ferret:

His cup runneth dry

Don't worry, the cup was completely empty before he mistook it for the portal to Narnia.

Also, Peabody feels much better and a sincere thank you to all the funny comments I received. 

Oh, and a BIG congrats to Lyssa from for winning 1st place in the HBS Creatin' Contest. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

They Can't All Be Winners: Whine And Wine

I can't believe it was butter.
I had a terrible weekend.  I didn't get to see Mama because I wasted too much time goofing off, got sick Friday night which continued until yesterday afternoon.  It may have been, as one of my old professors used to say, the "wine flu," so please no pity, but it was absolutely no fun.

Literally the second I felt better, my dog Peabody (photo above) decided to break into the fridge and eat a stick of butter.  I found the greasy paper in his dog bed, but not in time.  So then he got sick (the ol' "butter flu") and I spent the entire night either taking him outside every 1.5 hours, or scrubbing the carpet.  Needless to say, I wasn't able to make much progress on my house.  But here's what the roof ended up looking after painting:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Finishing The Roof

It's time to get back to work on the structure of my house.  I want to finish the roof to at least have some progress, and the next step was to construct the part under the lip of the roof.  The seam between the roof and the brick wall looks like a mess because I knew I would eventually add  a strip of wood and some roof beams.  Note to readers: if something looks like a crap job, it's most likely because I know it's going to be eventually covered/fixed, or it's just because I did a crap job, but would neverrrr happen (yeah, right).

Anyway, I FINALLY got my butt into gear yesterday and made a trip to the craft store for strips of balsa wood.  It's been raining here for the past 4 days, and yesterday it was raining and sleeting, yay.  So I have had no motivation to do anything.  Also, I have an annoying habit of not buying more hobby wood than I need, which turned into a whole trip for $1.68 worth of 3 strips of balsa.  Regardless, I bought the wood and now could work on the roof.  The first step was to cut the wood strips to line the seam.  I then traced the strips while they were on the seam so I could carve out the clay bricks to make room for the strips.  I've tried to skip this step, and the wood always lies wonky because the bricks all stick out differently.  Plus, when it becomes inlaid, it gives it a much more professional look.  And I'm nothing else if not professional (yeah, right...again).  I painted the cut strips Raw Umber by Americana to match the rest of the roof.

Yup, that's a real Burberry box.  Turns out I'm only selectively cheap.

Laying the house on its sides was terrifying, but I carved out the spaces for the wood and glued it in using wood glue:

I let it dry over night, and now it was time to add the little beams.  Back to Cheap Town.  I bought a 1000-count box of America's Choice wooden matches at the grocery store for $3.00 to use for lighting candles and my stove top.  Needless to say, I have a lot of matches, and they're the perfect width for the roof beams.

If I thought putting the dollhouse on its sides was terrifying, flipping it upside down was epically worse:

I wanted to get a shot with Dorothy Zbornak in it.

But it was the only way to make sure the matches wood (I just noticed that typo and I'm leaving it on purpose) dry in place without having to tape piece-by-piece.  I cut the matches into pieces, got 3 per match, and glued them into place:

Get an eyeful of my fancy electrical work.

It's drying now, and then I can paint and age when I come back from seeing Mama.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Much Needed Lampshade Make Over

The Reza Floor Lamp I ordered from has been in my dollhouse for a while now, and I've always disliked the shade.  Why it’s named after my favorite person from Shahs of Sunset, I don’t know, but the shade is a cube with an unfinished wooden base, which just doesn't work for me or my project.  Seriously, when have you seen a lamp in real life with an unfinished wooden base?  Argh.  So, while I wait to buy square wooden blocks from the craft store for the exterior of the building (more on that in the future), I finally got around to making a new one.  

Before, bleh.  This is a stock photo so you can't see the wooden base.

First, I took off the yucky lampshade.  The only thing I needed to salvage was the tiny brass screw cylinder thingy (I'm sure it has a technical name but that’s the best I got).  Without it, I would have difficulty installing my newly updated shade and replacing the bulb in the future.  The shade was remarkably easy to break apart with my hands and a flat-nose plier, but now I had to decide what my new one was going to look like.  Originally I was thinking about making it torchiere-style (yup, I don’t know what the screw thingy’s called but a “torchiere’s” no problem); however, I looked through my miscellaneous supplies and found the removable base of an insulin needle that would be perfect for a cylindrical shade.  Now for the explanation.  I have a close friend whose grandparent has diabetes.  I had never seen an insulin needle before, and when I was helping her out one day, I noticed that the orange parts that cap the needle and base might be useful materials for future projects.  So, like the thrifty pack rat that I am, I asked her to save me some, and it finally paid off.  That's a winded explanation; I just thought it needed a little clarification on why I have random medical supplies lying around.  

Anyway...I wanted to match the cylindrical shape of the plastic cap.  I could have just used the orange plastic as-is, but it would look a little too retro mod for my project, so I bought a sheet of pearl vellum (which also happened to be 50% off at Hobby Lobby, bam!).  

50% off $0.59 = a happy me

I cut the base of the cap to use as the base of my shade and poked a hole in the middle to place the screw part.  The plastic was very soft, and all I needed to use was a needle tool.  Also, the cap already had a hole indented in the center so I didn't even have to measure (not that I would have anyway). 

The next step was to insert the screw portion and cut a small, rectangular strip of the vellum and glue it around the base.  I left the base orange to see what it would look like all lit up, and the results were just what I was looking for.

The Sharpie's only used to hold the glued paper together because I couldn't find a clip.  
So much for my resolution to stay organized.

What was once a weird, blockhead floor lamp is now a weird, cylindrical floor lamp.   

 Off / On

Note: If you don't have insulin needle parts hanging around, look for plastic pieces from household products.  Hair styling sprayers have great little caps.  Or just cut a round piece of mat board and paint it.  You can do anything with mat board.