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.

Continued here.....


  1. Wow that was a super tute... Thanks. Hugs, LadyJane

  2. Klasse Arbeit. Sieht schon wirklich toll aus.

    Liebe Grüße

    PuNo / Monika

  3. Just what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing