Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day update

Just in case you find yourself here for the first time I thought I'd let you know how my blogs work.  I have one for each project.  Some are sold (!), some are finished and some are just ideas with maybe some bits of collecting being done for them;  but there will always be one blog with a project in process. 

I do one 'build' in the summer when I am in the UK and one in the winter in the USA.  

At the time of writing my 2013 summer project was Chocolat.  That project is finished and will appear in a series of articles in Dolls House & Miniature Scene magazine next year.  

I am now in Naples in Florida for the winter and my current project is one of a set of three, quarter scale, houses.  The blog for this is My Quarter Life.  So, until I return to the UK in April and begin my 2014 Summer project the quarter scale blog will be the active one.

I do sometimes nip in and out of the others for some reason or another but, in the main the two active blogs will be the current project and the Dolls House Shows blog.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

It must be Christmas

Day four of our sojourn in Naples and my parcels are beginning to arrive.  I have six orders 'out there' and this is one which was mailed to me last Friday and arrived today (Monday).  

It is from the marvellous Suzanne and Andrews Miniatures.  Go and have a look at their stuff if you are not familiar with them especially seek out Pickett Pond - a masterpiece, I kid you not.

Don't forget you can click on a photo to enlarge it.

Here we go:

The teaspoon is for anyone not familiar with quarter scale.

8 plates and a door mat

2 place settings
2 pairs of scissors
a comb
3 plates

 I love this set and it will be in the master bedroom.  

I hope to make my little people a glam bedroom and bathroom for their getaway home in the Cairngorms.

Stuart and Elizabeth are trying to collect a miscellany of arts and crafts style furnishings so I thought this would sit well with that.

This is a really nice collection of art work (and plates) and will probably be as much as I need for the gatehouse.  

All I have to do is figure out how to frame the pictures.  There is also a piece of mirror card in the pack which I know will be useful sometime.

I also bought some findings to make lights (ho ho ho!) and glue and Min-wax pens so I am probably ready to get stuck in......   maybe tomorrow?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Meet the McKenzies

This hobby certainly converts you very quickly into 'nutcase'.  This is the day before we fly, a couple of minutes before going out to do a load of chores and I decided - while my tea is cooling down a bit - I'd have time to photograph the inhabitants of the Gate House and share them with you.

Meet Andrew and Elizabeth McKenzie.  Mid thirties, high flyers, living in Edinburgh and spending Christmas in their holiday home -The Gate House - in the Cairngorms.

At this scale you can't be too picky about your little people.  Andrew looks like a mass murderer and Elizabeth should have had something done about that leg years ago.  They might not be beautiful but they're mine and I love them.

They were both blonde but Andrew got a hair dye late last night - far too Jimmy Dean otherwise.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Stair set two

This is what you learn after doing one set of stairs:

 Only colour in the pieces; that way you can see the wood for the trees.  Sloshing stain everywhere like I did last time meant I wasn't sure what was waste and what was kit.  If you do a colouring-in exercise it is much clearer when you come to snip them out. Saves stain too.   Also, please notice they have been buffed!
I don't know if this is good thing to share, but this time I snipped the pieces out (carefully) with scissors.  I find the wood hard to cut.  I started with a new blade on this one but I still wasn't getting through the tabs, so I resorted to scissors.  I thought it was much easier. The two bladed scissor action does want to twist the work slightly though, so be careful if you try this. Do the easy bits first and see if you think you are OK with it.
I hope this shows you the edges which need finishing off with stain BEFORE assembly.

As always I forgot to show you the end result - the completed set of stairs.  Hey ho: just refer back to the previous set of stairs and imagine a slightly better finish and done in half the time.

The big lesson learned doing the second set of anything is - the second is loads easier than the first!

Three roofs

This is an unusual project in that it is really made up of two buildings - the gate and the cottage.  This gives it four 'normal' roof sides plus the conical roof on the round tower.

I love Richard Stacey versi-bricks and tiles for finishing buildings and I have used them on my 1/12ths.  This photo is part of the roof on Bentleys.  Even the wonderful RS doesn't make 1/48th slates; no-one is daft enough to want to stick those on a roof, one by one.

Then there's me.  I just can't imagine finishing a roof any other way and liking it.

I took one of their 1/12th slates and divided it down to 1/48ths to have a little play with it.

My first thought was, I just had to cut it into four.  They were fine but looked a bit large?  I realised 1/48th really meant dividing its length into four and its width into four.  In other words I would be operating with a sixteenth of the usual area.  The slate is something like 3/16ths by 3/8ths of an inch.

I am still up for it though.  All it needs is a lot of patience.  

The real challenge rests with the conical tower.

I did some research into the real life slating of such a construction and even on that scale it is a very skilled job. Each row of tiles has to reduce in size and be shaped correctly to take in the reducing curved surface.

Some site gave me a mathematical formulae to calculate the sizes needed.  I couldn't follow it in RL size and wasn't prepared to countenance it quarter scale.  I am cracked but not that cracked.

So I have the original (lack of) size problem plus re-cutting to accommodate the cone plus a very shiny surface to glue to.

I could cover or paint it to look like a lead or copper roof instead but then it is asking for a better model builder than me to finish the metal so that it looks right.  All that verdigris!  

I could do a complete cop-out and settle for snow!

Monday, 9 December 2013

One flight of madness

This is my first 1/48th moment and conclusions are drawn.  You have to be very nimble-fingered, patient and willing to persevere.  I am sure after doing this stuff for some time everything gets much easier, but for the first ever job in this scale these stairs tested my fingers, patience and perseverance to their limit.

Step one was to stain the pieces on both sides.  I have a great glue which will stick stained pieces and I can't imagine trying to stain the finished piece when it is as tricky a shape as this one.

Problem one was I found it quite hard to determine which were the bits I needed and what was scrap.  I can only recommend you do as I did and refer endlessly to any diagram you have with the kit and carefully identify each shape, one at a time.  Then, equally carefully, locate any tabs attaching the piece to the waste.  Check, check and check before picking up the knife.  

I am happy to say I got it right and ended up with all the pieces and nothing broken.

The tabs you see on these components are the tabs needed for construction - these increased the identification doubts a little more.

Again, learn from me, the next thing you should do is go over all these pieces again with your stain pen and touch in all the pale edges which didn't received stain while they were still in the 'frame'.  I didn't do this and spent ages fiddling around with the finished staircase, touching up bits and bobs here and there.

I decided not to put glue on the joints before assembly because they took so much time to get right and I was nervy about the glue setting up on something that wasn't at quite the right angle.

I assembled the lower stairs and then pushed glue into the joins.  It seems to have worked just fine.

Here they are (before touch-up) next to my glasses to give you some idea of size.  They measure about two and a half inches high.

The stairs below are the finished product after a bit of a tidy up.

Modern cameras are too 'powerful' for pictures of a lot of things I think.  My point-and-shoot is 16 mega-pixels and I don't like the resulting photos half as much as the ones I used to take with its predecessor (8 mega-pixels?).

I think they are far too detailed and show every little scar and blemish, especially at this scale.  They see more than the naked eye does and records it for posterity.  All I can say is that in real life this looks just fine.  Wish I'd buffed them though!

Come back tomorrow to have a look at my plans for the roof.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Testing stain pens

Those of you involved in this game know what it is like to have a half day on your hands and minis crying out to be made.  So much for leaving well alone until I get back next March.

I decided I might as well have a go at building the stairs. Absolutely every one of these processes are new to me.  I have never used stain pens, never nipped laser cut stuff from a sheet of wood or built a 1/48th anything.  Here we go....

First I tested the pens.  These are made by TJM Limited otherwise known as Home Bargains.  I have no idea of their price but I doubt more than two or three pounds if that.

There are six colours each in stain pens and touch up filler sticks.  I have no idea what you can do with the latter - they aren't made for staining wood for sure.

I tried the five wood colours - the sixth is black.

From the top:

If you do this remember to blank off the ones either side when you are judging a colour.  Seeing colours on either side of the colour you are focussing on will affect the result.  Choosing is never easy but I am not keen on the 'redness' of the middle three and the oak is just too light for anything that's been around for a couple of hundred years - so Walnut it is.

I gravitate to walnut every time it seems.

I then tested my usual walnut stain - Colron Wood Dye - American Walnut against the pen - this is a single coat of each.

I would probably prefer the effect of the usual stain (with a second coat) but, always being one for the short-cut, getting it done in one go with the pen seemed a good option.  After all, this isn't fine furniture, its just a couple of flights of cottage stairs.

The only other thing to remember (and I didn't!) is to stain then let it dry for as long as possible and then rub it down - kitchen roll is good for this.  This buffing will remove excess stain, de-nib the wood and add a slight sheen.  If you look again at the five colour test (top right) with no buffing and the two product test (bottom left) with buffing, you can probably see the difference.

As I said my 'method' was to stain the wood, not let it dry thoroughly and forgot to buff it!  'Do as I say, not as a I do' might be worth remembering when reading my stuff.

Check in tomorrow if you want to see the stairs.  They are done but I don't want to 'overload' you.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Pause the build

We are about to make our third attempt at leaving the UK for our winter in Florida.  It has now become half a winter in Florida but, with luck, we will be departing shortly.  I, therefore, have to abandon the build.  I won't be giving up on the project though as I have six orders for things for The Gatehouse on their way to me in the States.  I will have lots of things to make to go in The Gatehouse next summer.

ready and waiting

This is a second dry build, done today, waiting to remind me in 3D what I am aiming for.  I feel a lot more confident about the actual build now as I know where everything goes and how.  

It would be daft rush it and try to get some done in the next few days before I go.  As I said I have stuff on order and it includes wallpaper and floor paper.  I need to decide what to use where and this will have a knock-on effect as to what paint colours I want to use, so I can't really start on the interior finishes over here.  I think the outside surfaces might be better done after the build (????)  The down-side to that is that setting in the windows and doors might be a bit fiddly working with a building rather than a wall.  I think it will be doable though. About the only components I could work on are the windows, doors and stairs.....  I am tempted.

I have lights and fires to install throughout and need to really figure out how best to do that.  I will need to drill exit holes for the wires even if I don't need to cut grooves for the wiring.  I can't do any of this until I have actually had a go at making lights and fires.  If they turn out to be rubbish then I won't be lighting this kit!!  Again quite a bit of those things are in Naples already.

So all I can do is get super-organised (I hope).  I have measured everything to within an inch of its life and annotated the component sheets to take with me ready for any shopping I do for it; plus the paint chart for the three colours I already have and so I can consider others.

I have taken photos of all four side of each halves of the building so I know where windows and doors are for when I have a brainwave like the one I had to reject today when I saw the build again.  I started to order some lovely step cupboards - those cupboards that fit beautifully under stairs.  Not in this house they won't.  There is a spiral staircase and two sets of stairs but even they turn about on themselves.

I might take 'Elizabeth' and 'Stuart' with me to remind me who is living there and to give me a sense of scale.  I manage that best against a human form.  Measuring a teacup or a slice of cake is one thing, putting it in a figure's hands is another.

So, for the next three months you will just be following furniture kits, lights, fires etc.  being put together and, hopefully, seeing lots of shopping and a couple of shows.

Au revoir for now.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Totally floored by this...

click on the photo to enlarge
This must be the best real wood flooring for quarter scale ever.  It comes in this lovely (American) walnut.  I know it finishes beautifully because I have used its big 1/12th sister in all my 1/12th projects and I just love the end result.  I usually finish it with a water-based B & Q silk varnish - two coats if I want a more polished look.  I am sure it would finish with any method you choose.

There is also a light version which you could (wood) stain any colour you liked.  I have used that too for painted wooden floors and it is equally brilliant.

It couldn't be any easier to lay: I use double sided sticky tape, needs to be the thin stuff like Sellotape,   This means if there is ever any problem with the lights or you want a change, it can be removed easily.

click on the photo to enlarge
This is waaaay over-magnified to show you a single width floorboard.  They actually measure one eighth of an inch giving a scaled up floorboard width of six inches which is historically perfect for the Gatehouse.

I just love it and can't wait to use it and show it you in situ, BUT, I have to figure out lights and wiring grooves first.  Not an easy task with 1/48ths because you can't just buy lights like you can with 1/12ths.

PS to the paint

I know I am going on about this paint company but for us 'little people' it is a good find.  This arrived this morning - a lovely colour chart (plus a smaller one).  

The 'clever' angle is they have colour chips that are only fastened down half way so you can slip stuff under each one when you are colour matching/blending/contrasting with other stuff.

I don't have shares in the company, honestly!

Little Greene Paint and Paper 1773

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The stuff that excites some people!

Click on the photo for a better look.

Only another mini person will understand why this is exciting.  My three paint colours arrived this morning!  Yeahhhhh!

I think the best way to approach this quarter scale malarkey is to 'finish' as much as possible BEFORE building the structure.  I just can't imagine fiddling about inside those small rooms.  So, right now, I am planning on doing all the painting and decorating and wiring and floor-laying and sticking in of doors and windows before I actually assemble the building.  I know this means being careful about not going over any edges that need to slide or be stuck.  I will just have to try and work that out as I go along.  If it gets tough I will  renege and bash on with the build and see where I go from there.

Right now, I am waiting for paint, wallpaper and flooring to even begin.  

Episode one - three paints arrive.

Aren't they just dinky.  Lovely, lovely paint company called Little Greene Paint and Paper.  In spite of their name, they are a 'life size' company, of course, but their sample pots are beautifully packaged in little glass jars - nice for keeping for touch ups and remixing.  Boxed beautifully, mailed quickly and a free 1/2" paint brush.  Best of all they have the very best range of colours I have seen bar none.  Their wallpaper is glorious - what I wouldn't I give to have it in 1/12th, 1/24th and 1/48th!  It will be going in my real home next year.

Today, when my chores budge over, I will be making a start.  Bit naughty really as The Gate House is now my (back-in-the-UK) summer project for 2014.  Those who follow my 'life' will know all our routines are topsy-turvy right now, so why not this as well.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

So it begins

Finally after ten days ownership I was able to get started on The Gatehouse.  Life just kept getting in the way.  As always I began with a dry build and a big think, here's the results.

First of all I masking-taped three images to the wall where I am working so I can constantly check which way is up.

Opened the box and took out the first package.  The kit is described as having two buildings - a cottage and a tower.  They are built separately and then joined together.  So, this package contained the pieces for the cottage plus two tower rings - I have no idea what those are or where they go as yet.  Hopefully that will become clear further down the line.

A bit of jiggling and some masking tape later and this is the bones of the cottage.  I am really pleased one side of the material is already white - that's the ceilings sorted and maybe even the walls.  It does have windows in the side wall either side of the chimney.  I was going to be ambitious and cut out the roof for roof lights - off that idea now.  Hurrah!

The tower side of the building all taped together.  The fit is beautiful on this kit, just as I imagined it would be.

These will be lovely beams in the roof of the top room in the tower side - making a lovely bedroom.  Imagine lying in bed looking up at those.

Here is the building with the two pieces put together and the chimneys sorted.  Geoff Lewis uses a clever arrangement of aligning stuff with cocktail sticks through purpose-made holes - brilliant stuff.

Windows, trims, main door.  I have read the instructions for assembling the main door but haven't a clue.  Again I am living in hopes it all becomes clear when I get there.  Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

This is real fear number one - the stairs.  There are two sets - this is one of them - just look at how many bits and they are teeny, tiny.  Bit of a challenge.  I can see they are tabbed so maybe no too bad?

Close behind comes panic two - the round tower.  There are three bags of stairs which makes the tower. There were also a couple of mystery pieces in the cottage pack.  I am in love with the dinky little turret roof.  Again, who knows, actually making this tower might prove to be a breeze.

Doing a dry build and having a good sort out helps calm the jitters and makes me stop and think carefully about the order of build.  In this particular case I am pretty sure I will be painting and staining (and maybe wall papering) every little bit before I glue anything together.  This size is way too small for someone like me to be fiddling about around windows and doors and inside pointy ceilings.  What finish for what surface needs to be settled before its meets its neighbour.  My brilly bob 'rocket' glue can handle paint and stain, so no worries there.

Off to do a dry build on the tower if that's possible.  Whilst typing that the other half of my brain said, just go and play and hunt round the web for window glass and wallpaper and paint colours and flooring and and and.....

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Treasures galore

I have been having an after the show (Midlands show, Droitwich) photo album tidy up and realised I have an album of 48ths that I have been collecting for the projects in America.  Most, if not all of them, will now be used in The Gate House.  For the time being they are all being scooped up into that projects box and my on-line 'filing'.

The purchases album currently holds sixty-one items.  This would be a bit much for a single post!  There is a link on the left side of this blog if you want to take a look.

I might even have some more unphotographed items waiting in the States and in my suitcase destined for the States so I will have a grand sort out when I eventually get there. Meanwhile I thought you might like to sample the sweetness of these lovely little 48ths by looking at the ones I have bought since I knew about this project.

PLEASE click on each photograph so you can see the detail.

This is a perfect trio that I ordered from Jane Harrop.  One of the benches might go in the kitchen under the window to be used at the table when needed.  The other bench has a million possibilities.  Similarly with the two Sligo chairs - they will each tuck in a corner for the times the place is full of people.  I absolutely love the artist's easel.  This has made me decide on the cottage 'roof' floor being a studio.  I may have to cut into the roof to put in windows.  I am itching to do a dry build to think about all the ideas I have.

Incidentally I did wonder in a previous post about whether it had a roof at the back and, of course, it did.

This wonderful little finished (!!!) cheese board was a gift from Jane.  I simply can't believe how lucky I am.  

The object next to it is a cocktail stick.  Now do you appreciate her fabulous work even more?

I just grin from ear to ear every time I see it.

Please do click on this photo.  This is Jane's wonderful Christmas market stall complete with stock.  I am now the proud owner of all four packets of tiny wooden Christmas decorations that you can see here.  They are just perfect for The Gate House as I am setting it in 2013 and the run up to Christmas - pretty much now (!) in fact.

BIG thank you, Jane.

Go look at her stuff - Jane Harrop - better still try and catch her at a show as she has a ton more stock there to go at and every single item is beautiful.  

She will be at York on 24th November and that's a great show - one of my top three.  She is also at Kensington on 30th November.

This morning I got a delivery from Templewood miniatures and here are the 48ths that were in that order.

The detail on this chest is lovely. It just squats there, looking Tudor.  I know my Gate House people are collecting Arts and Crafts type furniture but, like any home, there is room for a harmonious piece from another time.  Actually there was a pretty big medieval revival in the arts and crafts movement so it will sit perfectly under a window in a bedroom.

True to form, Elizabeth and Stuart will sleep in a Rennie Mackintosh bed.  The Cherry wood is lovely to work with.

Like Jane, Kathryn is the sweetest person to 'work' with and, again like Jane, she was (silly) generous in sending me this table as an 'extra' because my order was a bit delayed.

How utterly serendipitous that it is one I would have ordered in the future.  My budget only allows me to buy in dribs and drabs so it was on the 'wish list'.  Tick!

This miniature world is full of some extraordinarily kind people.  Check out this one - Templewood Miniatures

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Second post already!

These photos are scanned from an A4 sheet enclosed with the kit so you can see what its giblets look like.  Quality is a bit iffy but it is the best we can do with what we've got.  Until I've built it!!! 

This is the front view - somehow the front comes off for viewing.  Gives me four rooms to go at - won't be able to do much with the courtyard as logically you have to be able to drive through there.

The back of the Gate House.  Not sure if there is a roof over what seems to be an outside area If there is a roof it would make a huge room but no windows??? I am inclined to think there is a roof as the stairs lead from the rooms below and you'd need dry access into the two upstairs rooms.  If there is no roof and it is a sort of battlement area, there doesn't seem to be any barrier wall and it would be awash with rain.............  "Curiouser and curiouser", said Alice.

Happy Birthday to me!!!

Just look at what I got for my birthday...........

......... well, not quite that............. more like this ...........

The list of components runs into three pages so, as someone who has never built the simplest of 48ths I am just a bit more than terrified at the prospect.

This is one of the creations made by Geoff Lewis whose work I found at Petwood back in August and this is the very one I wanted but decided I couldn't afford.  My lovely husband bought it and kept it for my birthday a couple of days ago and I am so, so thrilled.

If you have been looking at my Quarter Life blog you will have seen all the bits of 48ths I have been gathering together ready to go to Naples so I could get started on the four 'houses' I have waiting there.  Luckily most of it is Arts and Crafts style as I knew I wanted to create something that would house that.  They will be just perfect for this Scottish Gate House.

We are still stuck here in the UK waiting for an elderly aunt to leave hospital so I will have to be patient and resist the urge to get stuck in because this will be travelling to America with us as my project to do over there during our winter stay; the length of which is getting shorter and shorter as the weeks go by over here.