Part 8 - the stone sink

I finished the stone sink a few days ago, and added a little more plaster, I wanted to smooth the plaster a bit, and fill in some gaps, but I haven't had the a chance to do so, so the area around the sink is a bit rough. Just ignore it, ok?

The sink is a box made of basswood, covered all around the sides with a strip of Rigid Wrap. I've used the product in several projects. Here's a link to the manufacturer's page, with information about the product.
I wanted to be sure the box stayed firmly glued together, and also thought the Rigid Wrap would be a good base for the faux stonework.
Here's a closeup of the sink. The bits of white you see are from the plaster, I wanted to take the picture before it got dark and I didn't have time to wash the plaster bits off.
I covered 3 exterior sides of my sink with a thin layer of plaster. I also added a thin layer to the top edges and inside walls. I left the sink base bare wood.
When the plaster was to my liking, I stippled it a little with a small stenciling brush, then I patted it a bit with my finger so it wouldn't be too dimpled or lumpy.

When the plaster was dry I began to paint. - Remember, as long as your plaster,(drywall compound, stucco, etc.) is unpainted, you can smooth it or fix any cracks, or add more plaster with no problem.
The colors I used to create the stone look were: Payne's Gray, Medium Hauser Green, a dark brown and a warm white.
I described Payne's Gray in the timbering section. You can use any kind of off white when you need to lighten a stone color, just don't use plain regular white. It just doesn't give the right effect.
Terre Verte, or Green Earth, adds a nice touch to painted stonework. I didn't happen to have any handy, so I used the Medium Hauser Green instead, which worked very well.

I squirted a bit of each color onto my palette, which happens to be a foam plate. I took a dab each from my Payne's Gray, warm white, and half a dab from the green and brown, then I swirled them together till they were somewhat mixed, but splotchy. I could then see what color I needed more of, and I added more of the warm white, then a little of the gray, etc., always keeping the color on my plate not quite mixed. Having the color all smoothly mixed on the plate is bad, so don't do that. if your color has been over mixed, add more of the colors so it'll be splotchy again. If you try it, you'll see what I mean.
Next I started putting paint on the sink, adding dabs of color, then spreading the color around with a stippling movement - never brushing it on. I'dd more paint as needed, sometimes adding more green, brown or off white to my mixed swirl of paint on the plate.
The stone effect you see on the sink is more the result of the paint than the plaster, the plaster just helps a little.

Stone sinks come in different shades, grayer, browner, greener, whiter. Some are smooth, others rougher. My wash house sink is supposed to have a rougher surface than perhaps some stone kitchen sinks.
Don't be afraid to experiment with faux painting techniques. Use scrapwood if you have it, paper or cardstock if you don't, but plain paper will absorb the paint differently and sometimes results will look different than they would on wood.

Continue here......

part 7 - a lattice window

I wanted a lattice window. I've used Gallery Glass to make dollhouse leading. I also have some fabric paint by Tulip that I got years ago, that works similarly to the Gallery Glass, but I didn't feel like using either of them for this project.
I found some nice screening and thought about using that, but it wasn't quite the right size, so I'd have had to go to the hardware store and maybe the builder's supply store to see if they had what I wanted. I remembered that I had seen plastic mesh at the crafts supply store, and wondered if it would be in the correct scale. I really didn't feel like going to stores and hunting through them for maybe hours (including driving time) when I remembered the clear dollhouse tile sheets. I was pretty sure I might still have some leftover from another project, and here it is.
I measured out the size of my window opening, and cut a piece of the plastic sheeting to size.
I then took out a marker, and started drawing atop the lines. You could also draw them on a sheet of plain acrylic if you wanted to. I wanted to have a bit of texture on my "glass", and drawing with marker over the raised areas of the plastic "tiling" gave me that, without the worry of the Gallery Glass or Tulip fabric paint clogging or blobbing. I hate it when my hand shakes a little. It always seems to when I need to draw a perfect straight line.
It also occurred to me that you could stick 2 sheets back to back and have the raised leading on both the inside and outside of a lattice pane window if you wanted to.
here's a closeup of the window, framed. I still have to fill in a few little gaps with putty or plaster, then paint the trim.
All of the molding on the window is made from bass stripwood.
Here's a picture of the room so far. There's still a bit of plaster on the sides of the timbers. I can either wipe some more off with water, or even better, since the plaster is smooth, dab some paint over it.
Ooops, I forgot about the plastering. I wanted lots of texture to the wall, so I needed to plaster.
Usually I'm inspired by a picture of a house or part of a room and take off from there, but this time I wanted to reproduce a picture of a room I found in a book. Later I'll show you the picture of the original wash house.

You can get the clear tile sheets from Model Builders Supply. You can see if there's a store in your country who carries their products by checking their 'retail stores' search feature under their information section. also sells these sheets. I have to admit I'm not sure if they're the exact same product. I think I bought mine through a few years before I started New England Miniatures.

Fran Casselman left a comment saying that yes, the tile sheet sold by is made by Model Builders Supply.
Thank you Fran! Thanks also to everyone who commented on the wash house so far!

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part 6 - some timbering

Sorry, I got sidetracked this week, didn't get as much done on the wash house as I'd hoped, but here's a picture with the side wall timbered (still one to add), just to give you an idea of where I'm going. There's still more to do to the wall. I plan on adding plaster between the timbers, and an extra layer of thickness to the lower section. For now there's just a coat of white paint.

I took pictures to show how I applied the final paint to the timbers, but I was in a hurry to get done and didn't notice I had the focus set wrong on my camera, so they all turned out fuzzy. I did take a couple of pictures of the last timber this morning.
Yes, it's pouring rain of course, supposed to rain all day today and tomorrow.
I used a dark brown, in this case it happened to be Bittersweet Chocolate by Americana, though any kind of burnt umber type brown would do. Burnt umber, by the way, is a basic dull brown.
I also used streaks of Payne's Grey, which is a mixture of black and blue, sometimes with a bit of red in it. I've been using one made by Americana paints that actually looks rather like a deep, very dark purple. I also used a little raw sienna to lighten up spots where I felt I used too much Payne's Grey.
The photo above and below show the same painted stick in different lighting. I had to use a flash in the lower picture, so the colors aren't right, but you can see that the paints are sort of streaky.
If you're going to try and use several shades of color on your timbers, don't be afraid of streakiness. You don't want long wide streaks of color, but little streaks are good. If you hold the stick away from you, you want to see slight variations in color, just as you see in wood products around your home.

I have to do some plastering next, and paint the sink to look like stone.

Continue here.....

part 5 - Timber!

The subject is timber - miniature dollhouse timbers, how to cut, shape and age them.

In the past, I've cut timbering strips from scrap wood or even scrap plywood. The plywood timbers give a satisfactory look if you're going to paint them a dark brown, especially if people will be viewing them straight on, so there's no chance of seeing the wood layers on the sides. I've tucked plywood timbers in here and there in Miss Frobisher's Cottage and Tall Chimneys. Nowadays I've become a bit lazy and prefer to use square dowels, and I don't have very many 2 x 4 board scraps anymore anyway.

So - for this demonstration, I'm using 3/8" x 3/8" square dowels. I got these at a craft and hobby shop, though I've also bought them in hardware stores and at places like Home Depot and Lowes.
Hobby shops carry dowels made of basswood or balsa, I like to use the basswood ones. Hardware and lumber dealers tend to have dowels of pine, oak, or other hardwoods.

The wash house needs a few timbers on a side wall, so here's how I make them.
First I cut the dowel to length, then, using my band saw, I cut a wiggly strip off the edge. A scroll saw would be great for this, but I don't have one - always meant to buy one, but just never got around to it.
And here's the future aged timber....
Below you can see the 2 pieces separated.-----Note----if you don't have a scroll saw or band saw, you don't HAVE to do this cut. You can make a perfectly nice old timber skipping this step. I just do it because, well, I'm me, and I have this need to do this split cut for this particular project.
A little tip, I like to jot down which side goes against the wall or ceiling, etc.
The next step is to beat up the poor little strip of wood with a vengeance. I have found that a rotary tool, like the Dremel, is great for this. I'll stick one of those little drum sanders on and start working. First I'll sand down the wiggly cut side till I can't see the saw marks. Next I'll round off the corner edges of the dowel, so they're not quite square.
After that it's time to attack. I pounce and swoosh my little rotary drum sander up and down and around the little dowel.  I heard the baseball chant "ssswing-batter-batter" running through my head. It's the playoff to the World Series as I write this, and my husband and son have been watching all the games. The way I work the sander is to do batter the dowel, then do a swooshing swing every once in a while and some more batter-batter till I'm satisfied. This is what I wind up with after I've sanded the dowel a bit with a foam sander (not too hard) to remove the excess fibrous bits. If you've never used a foam sander it's sandpaper that's bonded to a piece of foam. There are thin sheets and nice fat blocks.  They're great for sanding moldings or even just flat boards too. If you've used them to sand a painted surface, you can rinse out the paint, then let the pad dry and use it again.
Next I gave the timbers a base coat of brown paint. It doesn't really matter what shade of brown you use. In this case I used some raw sienna. This coat of paint is in effect, a primer. Once the paint is dry you can give the timbers a little more gentle sanding with fine grit sandpaper to remove the bits of wood fiber that have popped up.
As you can see, the timbers are looking pretty good, although in this picture they are still drying, and I haven't given them their final gentle sanding. Using a brown like burnt sienna will give a warmer, reddish brown color.
After this sanding, sometimes the timbers will look perfect for your project. They may have just the aged look you're looking for. That's great - stop right there and use them as they are. Sometimes another light wash of color may be needed to cover up a few bare spots that may have cropped up after the sanding.
For the wash house, though, I'll want mine dark, so I'll be doing some more paint and brush work on them.

PS: for a true, beat up aged look, stick to basswood or pine. Hardwoods are just too hard. Balsa is a fine substitute if you don't have a rotary tool, because it's very soft. You can get many of the same effects using a hammer, screwdriver, old dried out pens, etc. to rough up the wood.

That's all for today. This tutorial has been brought to you by New England Miniatures.

How's that for a commercial advertisement? Please, go - browse, and thank you.

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part 4 - the cottage wash house

It seems that the last time I posted about progress on the wash house was in early July, and I thought I'd get it done in no time. Boy, was I wrong.
Is it hard for you to get back to a project you haven't worked on in a long time? It is for me.

During the last few days I did most of the "brickwork".
What bricks? I don't see any bricks, you say, ah, but they're there - under the plaster.
Here's how far I've progressed.
I bricked up the set kettle (a.k.a. boiler) once before, but then ripped off all the brickwork because it looked all wrong. the "bricks" were a bit too small. Actually, they weren't REALLY too small, they just looked too small. The brick boiler would have been too messy and lumpy looking in the end. I had to cut a whole new set of bricks.

What did I use to make the bricks? I used pressed paper egg cartons.
Here's a well I made for of my Gnome's Cottage. I made the stones out of egg cartons.
Here's a plastered over stone fireplace from the Kitschy Kitchen. I used the egg carton to make stones
Here's a link to Connie Sauve's egg carton brick tutorial. Lots of pictures and a good tutorial on making bricks. The first time I tried it, I admit I was dubious if I'd like the finished results, but I was very pleased with how my stones came out on that gnome's well. Yes, that was my first egg carton work.

For the wash house I wanted the look of bricks that had been plastered over, but with a bit of brick color showing through here and there. There's actually a good reason why people used to cover bricks with plaster. Before the early 1800's interiors of brick fireplaces were often coated with plaster because the heat of the fire could cause the bricks to crack.
Some bricks, like those used in many old English cottages, were soft, and liable to erode from rain over time, so they were covered with plaster too.

I decided to make my bricks a yellow ochre color, instead of the more often seen brick red.
Once my egg carton bricks were glued on, I gave them a coat of yellow ochre acrylic craft paint.
Later I applied some plaster, also known as drywall compound, joint compound, or spackle. In some places it was heavier, in others, lighter, letting the color underneath show through.
I wanted the top of the brick set kettle or boiler to be smooth, so after the plaster dried I wet a paper towel and rubbed the surface to make it smoother. I also rubbed down some other areas that were a bit too lumpy. As long as the plaster hasn't been painted, you can wet it down and smmoth it out however you like. You can easily add another layer of plaster too, if you feel the surface needs it. I still have to fill in some areas with brick and plaster, and smooth down a few spots. I still haven't glued the insert I'm working on to the actual roombox yet either.

I want to leave the top half of the chimney piece fairly smooth. I rather like having the different textures.
Next I'll be making timbers for the wall and ceiling. I'm planning on using some square dowels for that.

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This and that

I haven't had time to work on the wash house this week. Amend that - I scraped off the egg carton bricks I'd glued onto it. I didn't like the way it was shaping up. Although the bricks were in scale with real size bricks, in place, they looked all wrong. I decided that I needed to cut them a bit bigger, and maybe use something smoother, like card stock. Another option is to score them into the plaster. Since I'm going for a look that's plaster over brick, I'm leaning towards trying the larger, card stock bricks.

I wanted to share this link to Rigid Wrap Plaster Cloth Techniques . It may give you some more ideas how you might want to use the stuff.

I bet you didn't know that the fly swatter was invented in 1905.

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part 3 the cottage wash house

The insert is outside of the box.
I decided to add a bit of curve to the hood. Did you know you can sand styrofoam very nicely with a power sander? I shaped mine on my disc sander. It gave it a nice smooth finish.
An additional word about gluing styrofoam. Some glues work better than others. I used Weldbond, which is an all around glue that will work with many items. I originally found it mentioned on the website  This To That. To glue wood pieces together, though, I pretty much stick to wood glue.
The next picture is a closeup of the oven area and the top of the copper.
To make the copper I chose to use a wooden unpainted napkin ring.
I covered the styrofoam and filled in gaps with drywall compound. I've smoothed the compound somewhat, may need to add more here and there.

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Part 2 - the cottage wash house

Today's first picture shows the hood over the oven under construction.
I built a box inside the chimney, creating a recess. I'm now working on the chimney hood. I cut a piece of styrofoam and glued it to the the wood section.I need to reshape it a bit because it sticks out slightly. At this point I'm not sure if I want to leave the styrofoam straight up and down pretty much as is, or shape it to curve a bit. I'll have to think about it.

If you've never worked with styrofoam, here's a couple of tips.
The best way to cut styrofoam is with an electric hot knife or hot wire cutter. When I first learned about hot knives I looked online for them, but they were expensive. Later I found out you could find hot wire cutters in the floral section of many crafts stores. I can't recall what mine cost, but it wasn't very expensive.
This is what mine looks like.
I plug it in, switch it on and within seconds it's hot and goes through styrofoam like a hot knife through butter.

The other thing I started working on was the stone sink.
I cut the pieces out of bass wood and glued them together. I always worry about things coming unglued, so I decided to wrap the outside of sink with Rigid Wrap, which is a gauze, coated in plaster.
You just wet the Rigid Wrap, then place it how you want it and let dry. I first used it when building the Nuthouse. Later I used it to make a curved section on the Gnome's Cottage hearth, and on the second Gnome's Cottage too. The picture below shows it after I covered it with drywall compound. I wanted a slight curve in the corner of the wall.
here's a picture of the Rigid Wrap by itself.
And here's the sink as it looks right now. I just coated it with a little drywall compound a.k.a. plaster, spackle, etc. Later I'll coat the inside and do whatever touchups are needed before painting.

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19th century cottage wash house

I decided to work on room boxes for a while, mainly because they take up less room, and don't take as long to finish as a dollhouse.
Recently I ordered an unfinished roombox, and when it arrived last week I saw it was the perfect size for the Victorian cottage wash house I had been thinking about. I had found a picture of it in a book, and it really appealed to me.
It took a few days to figure out the proportions of everything, and I started working on it a few days ago.
Here's what it looks like right now.
Starting on the left is a chimney, with a bake oven inside. This particular wash house was also used as a bake house. The funny looking thing on the chimney wall that looks like an upside down steps is part of a "brick" bracketing for an oven hood. While gluing the pieces of the second section together, the clamp on the first section suddenly went sproing..... and shot into the air, taking the little wooden bits with it. I found one tiny block of wood, couldn't find the rest. I shall have to start over.

The next bit of structure is going to be a copper for boiling clothes. Although coppers are associated with Britain, Americans also had them, only they were called set kettles. Large metal pots, often of copper, sometimes zinc, were set into brick. A fire would burn below, heating the bricks. Coppers and set kettles were used to boil water for cooking or washing. They could also be used for simmering large amounts of soup or stew.
You can see an opening at the bottom, which was for sweeping out ashes. Fuel for the fire went in through a little door above the ash opening.

The next bit is going to be a large stone sink. Right now it's represented by a block of wood sitting on two other blocks of wood. I think I may put a draining board in the corner.

I wanted a window on the back wall, but didn't want my window framing to stick out, so I cut out a new back wall with an opening for the window. I think I'll paint a bit of sky or branches or something in the space before I install the window. I did this before in the Kitschy Kitchen.
Meanwhile, I've been gluing pieces to the back wall only. This way I can pull everything out which makes it easier to work on the structure. I think it will be very handy when I get started on the finishes I'm putting on.

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Not a dollhouse story

Sometimes I write little stories. As a matter of fact, there are 3 dollhouse stories on this blog.
I wrote this very short story years ago and just found it again. I still like it, maybe some of you will too.

I knew he was up to no good from the very beginning. Those eyes, shifting this way and that, the way he ran his tongue over his lower lip, yeah, I knew there would be trouble and trouble was his middle name.
I watched him as he slunk along the wall, peering around the corner towards the lighted room beyond. He’d make quick darting looks backward, as if he suspected that someone was watching. I thought that letting him make his move would be the wisest choice. I wasn’t about to let myself get into some disastrous situation without just cause. I had gotten into trouble about the Rowntree incident and wasn’t going to let myself get dragged down again.
I let him get further ahead of me. I could hear the scrape of a chair as he brushed past it. I knew just where he was now. I knew that room like the back of my hand, every inch of it.
He was getting closer to the cabinet now. Did he think I was that dumb? Stuff like this you don’t hide in some two bit wall cabinet. I heard the door shut softly as he heaved a disgruntled breath. I could see his shadow pass the wall in front of me, he was heading for the closet now. The hinges squeaked and I heard a soft gasp. I almost chuckled at that. I knew that leaving those hinges unoiled was a good idea. He started rummaging through the closet, I could hear boxes being moved and the rustle of papers. It was time to make my move.
Holding my breath I crept forward, not making a sound, though I felt for sure my pounding heart should surely give me away. I got to the doorway and peered around it. He was still leaning into the closet, totally absorbed in his search. I could see the tail end of his shirt out past the closet door. Suddenly I heard a whispered, “Yes!”. He had it, and I had him. That whisper and the crisp rattle of that distinctive paper was all I needed.
“I’ve got you, you little weasel! What did I tell you about candy before dinner?”
“Aw gee, Mom!!! I never get away with anything around here!”
“As it should be, son.”

Coraline kitchen photos

My sister was in LA during her vacation a few months ago, and she recently sent me pictures she took of a display at a movie studio. It's a miniature kitchen set from the movie Coraline.
Click on these pictures to open larger, click again to see in a larger size.