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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Flower-Pot Lighthouse

This week's project is a both really fun and really simple. To top that off the item we are making seems to be the “big thing” this year in real landscaping. I say that because in less than one week I saw 6 (at least it could have been more, those are the ones that I remember for sure) posted either links to the idea on their Facebook page or photos of ones that they had placed in their own yards. I did a Google search of “flower pot lighthouse” and came up with a lot of examples to get some inspiration from too. I do recommend that you look at some pictures online before you start your project because you might find exactly the one you want to replicate in mini that way. I chose to make a fairly simple example for the video both because it would make it easier to film (and a shorter video) and because this is meant to be inspiration for your creation.

I looked through the wooden plant pots I had on hand and played with what I had, in the end I choose to use a 1 ½”, 1”, and I think the small one is a 5/8”. Those would be what the packages would be marked, I have never really figured out how they come up with those numbers. For the top I used one of the little plugs they sell to fill holes. After you look online I am sure you will come up with other ideas.

I loved the look of the blue and white lighthouses when I was looking online, they just looked so pretty and calm so I went with that theme. In the end I decided to add the accent of the red on the very top. Since the plug part is to be both the light and the roof I wanted something that would look shiny so I chose to use a silver for that area. Again you need to pick what colors you love.

If you want to know what colors I used here they are:

White (Ceramacoat)
Bright Red (Ceramacoat)
Silver Gleams (Ceramacoat)
Neon Blue (Apple Barrel)
Satin Interior Varnish (Ceramacoat)

I did try my best to get the blue to cover the wood but after several coats and it still looked really bad I painted the pots completely with the white and then used 3 coats of the blue over that to get a decent coverage. I think if I had used some of my Ceramacoat paint in a blue I wouldn't had that issue. In the end it looks good though.

I started out using a different Silver paint but again it just refused to cover even over white (I also tried a sample over some gray paint and it still didn't look good) so I dug out my ancient bottle of Ceramacoat Silver. I have no idea if they even make this any more, mine is at least 15 years old. For a substitute I would recommend the small bottles of brush on enamel paint that is sold for model making, I think the brand name is Testors. You will need to use a brush cleaner with that though because it is not a water based product. It is however the only silver paint I have found that really works other than the Ceramacoat one.

I am not sure if I mentioned what glue I used, in case I didn't it was just regular Tacky glue.

I coated this project with the satin finish for two reasons. I felt that if I made a real sized one I would have used a satin finished paint for both the durability and the look. Also the satin finish will help to hide any places that the tacky glue may have seeped out and left a tiny bit of shine.

I hope you enjoyed this project.

Be sure to check the blog later on this week. In addition to the normal posts there will be a special blog post on Friday, July 5.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dental Pick

The dental pick is probably the one tool I couldn't live without. I use it almost every time I sit down to make minis. It can be a wonderful texturing tool for clay, a dotting tool when painting, it acts as a very tiny extension to my index finger when holding things. I can use it to help pick up things, to make holes and to just move stuff into place.

The dental pick in the photo is my favorite one and it is showing the wear of time. I tried to scrap off as much of the paint and glue that was on it before I took the picture. I like this shape the best because it is the easiest for me to work with. I have a few that are curved differently and although perfectly usable I find them to not be as easy to use. The curve on this one is just right and the length of the wire part is also perfect. The other ones I have are a bit longer in this wire section.

The best part of this tool is price, I have purchased all of the dental picks I use at the dollar store as part of dental hygiene kits. These kits usually include the pick, a toothbrush and sometimes other tools. If you get the kit that has a dental mirror you have a bonus and I'll talk about that wonderful (and useful) tool another day.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Seed Trays

Well, this week things didn't go as I planned and I apologize that this video is not up to what I normally post. I had a migraine most of the week and simply ran out of time. If this had been a normal week I would have had time to re-film and take out some things. Since I didn't have the luxury of the time to do that I decided to just leave it as it was and let you see that things don't always go perfectly.

What you don't see it the first time I “filmed” the first steps of the project. You see I had been filming (or so I thought) for about 6 or 7 minutes before I noticed I had not actually pushed the record button. Oops, you would think I would at least get those basics down!

What you will see is that at various points I drop a freshly painted chunk of foamcore (why do they always land wet paint side down), I drop a bottle of glue onto the project, I glued my fingers to the project and then I glued my fingers to each other. Did you catch all of those? Were there any more I am forgetting? LOL At least I got a good laugh when it was all done with and I hope you can enjoy it too.

I think the point is we all have these kind of days and if we can laugh at our mistakes and learn from them it is all good.

Now onto the project-

The foamcore pieces are cut 1” by 1 ½” for 1/12th scale. You can adjust this size up or down as you want to go in your scene.

The cardstock is cut 2” by 2 ½” and then scored ½” and ¼” from all sides.

Also another lesson to be learned from the video (and I really do know this) be sure to dry fit your foamcore “soil” pieces in your trays before you put the glue on them. I have no idea why I missed that.

If you want to add some seed packet printies there are several sources online.

For the small sprouted plants you can use just about anything to give the effect of small plants. I used tiny pieces cut from plastic plants but you could also use small snips of paper, tiny pieces of yarn or string, green flocking (use sparingly) or whatever you have on hand. Just remember the spouts are tiny in real life so they will be even tinier in mini.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Salt and Pepper Shakers

This week for Trash to Treasure Thursday our project is almost a non-project. These are so easy because all you do is locate the right item and they can be ready to use.

I know a lot of us already know about this one but I'll bet there are just as many out there that haven't heard about it. And this project can't be simpler, you just need to find what the package calls “bullet clutch” earring backs. I got mine at Joann Fabrics for just a dollar or two. I also probably have a bunch at the bottom of my jewelry box too but I wanted to check what the name was and I can always use extra earring backs.

They do come in both the silver color and a gold color and I am sure they could be painted with either an enamel paint (like the ones sold for models) or with some nail polish.

There really isn't much I can say about this project except that it is another of the perfect examples of a Trash to Treasure in that it is already there to use and most of us can find them easily.

Join us next week for another fun project. 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Clothes Pins

This week for Tools of the Trade Tuesday I am talking about another item I have “borrowed” another use to use in my workroom. The clothes pin is one of the best cheap tools for clamping that you can find. They are available almost everywhere (grocery store, dollar store, hardware store as well as places like Walmart and Kmart. They usually come in a package with many of them for very little money. I know that Dollar Tree carries them in packages of 36 for a dollar!

I have a container of them that I have been collecting for many years and because of that I have some different varieties on this basic item. It is important to keep in mind we are talking about the type with the spring on them. I have both plastic and wooden ones. I do recommend you keep your eyes open and buy some different ones.

Here is what I have discovered over the years.

The wooden ones tend to have stronger springs, at least the ones I have purchased. They do however tend to get stuck to items when they are used to clamp for gluing.

The spring tension seems to vary by manufacturer so another reason for buying a variety of them.

I like to have some that have really strong springs for most things. However, I also make sure to have some that have weaker springs for clamping things that are delicate. In the picture at the end of this post the yellow ones have a pretty strong spring (almost as strong as the wooden ones) I use either those or the wooden ones for most clamping jobs. The blue ones don't hold nearly as tight and because of the wider clamping area they are perfect when I need a lighter touch.

So if you don't have at least a handful of clothespins in your toolbox I recommend you go pick up at least a few. I am sure you will find them handy to have around. 


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Pillows

This week I am showing you one way to make pillows for your dollhouse that will act a bit more like the real thing. I know we have made pillows that are stuffed with cotton before and I do use those most of the time. However, there are times when we want a pillow that looks a like it has been around a bit longer. You know that pillow, the one that no matter how much you try to fluff it up it still looks flat. The one that after the cat jumps down off the couch the pillow still has the dent in it from being laid on. The secret in mini is to leave out the cotton filling and use some sand instead. The sand will allow you to shape your pillow and because of the weight of the sand the pillow will act a bit more like the real thing.

These are also nice if you want to make a pillow and have a mini pet laying on it. The sand will allow the pet to actually sit down into the pillow not look like it is floating on top.

A few cautions with this project. First off, use a piece of fabric with a tight weave. The tighter the weave of the fabric the less apt the sand is to leak out. Also use the smallest stitch possible with your sewing machine. This also helps to minimize leakage. If you want to use this method and place the pillows on a nicer piece of mini furniture I would recommend making the pillow from a plain fabric and then using your decorative fabric to cover the base pillow, by having 2 layers of fabric and 2 seams you will minimize the leaking of the sand.

I've been making pillows this way for a long time, and yes over time they will leak some of the sand. I feel this is still a good method to use in spite of the leaking and having to clean up the sand because of the way the pillows look in the finished scene.

A couple of years ago I did notice someone had posted a video making a similar pillow except they used salt to fill the pillow. I would caution you to not use salt to fill them. First off the salt will attract both bugs and rodents to your dollhouse neither of which you want to have as mini house guests. Secondly the salt will draw moisture from the air and ruin both the fabric and whatever it is sitting on. Sand is really the better option here.

Sorry this post is kind of short, this has been an incredibly busy week for me so I just didn't have the time to write more.

Talk to you all later!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Popcorn

This week on Trash to Treasure Thursday I show you a really easy way to create some popcorn for the dolls in the dollhouse. This is a little bit big for 1/12th scale but very workable. It also works really well for 1/6th scale so Barbie and her friends can join in the fun.

If you want to take a bit more time with this project you can use your thumbnail to kind of rough up the balls a bit more to make them more realistic. I just didn't want to take the time when I made the video.

Speaking of when I made the video, be prepared for a mess if you do this project. I filmed the video about 2 weeks ago and I am still finding little bits of that foam in my work room. I keep thinking I have it all cleaned up and more appears the next day. Did you notice the little balls scatter at the end of the video when I moved my hand near it? LOL

You will want to glue your popcorn into whatever your dolls are going to eating it from before you try to move it. Just be sure to use a glue that is compatible with the foam. I like a white glue like Elmer's or a Tacky Glue for this. If you have any doubts about the glue and the foam working together test it first. Many glues (and paints) will melt the foam. Best to be overly cautious than to have your bowl of popcorn melt.

This same popcorn makes a wonderful string of popcorn for the doll's Christmas decorating. Just use a really fine needle and 1 strand of a fine thread.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Golf Tees

This week for Tools of the Trade Tuesday I want to talk about golf tees, yes you read that right. I love golf tees for holding small items while I am painting them. Now let me say that the closest I have ever been to a golf course is to drive by one, so I don't know if there are different types of golf tees or anything else about them. I just buy the cheapest ones at the store.

I use the golf tees in conjunction with that poster tack stuff, you might know it by the name Blu-Tack, White-Tack, Sticky-Tack, or a host of other names. It is sold to put up posters on the walls without using thumbtacks. It is a putty like substance, if you aren't familiar with it use your favorite search engine to look it up.

Anyway, I use this method a lot when I have small pieces to paint. Especially if I am doing a bunch of them at a time. I use a small ball of the putty-stuff and adhere the mini object to the top of the golf tee. I can now paint it with out trying to figure how to hold it. This is especially helpful when I am painting the metal minis.

Last Sunday's project video was a drying rack that I made to stick the golf tees into. Before this I have just used a piece of Styrofoam to hold them.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Drying Rack for Miniatures

This week I am going to show you how to make one of the things that is always on my work table. It is a rack or block that I use for drying small painted items and for baking off clay flowers.

I know that I have shown this in use in at least one of my videos and I remember mentioning then that I would show you how to create one of your own.

I've had mine for at least 13 years probably at least 15. I know this because I remember explaining to my dad what I needed and putting our heads together to make it. He was great at doing things like that and I still miss him a lot. I know that it was the influence of my parents making things all my life that made me creative. It was just something we all did, if we wanted something or needed something we made it.

The rack my dad helped me to make was made from a 6” long piece of scrap 2x4. The one in the video is made from a slightly longer chunk of 2x7 lumber. Just use whatever you have on hand. I drafted 2 of my sons to help me did through the pile of odds and ends of lumber out in our barn to find something to use. My oldest son gets full credit for using the table saw to cut it down to size.

I like to have the block about 6” to 8” long because that size is big enough to make it worth while, meaning you have room to set out your project. And yet small enough that it doesn't take up too much of the valuable space on my work table.

Also because I need the block to be small enough to use it to bake off clay flowers. I do have a flowering plant that I want to show you how to make in a few weeks and I use the block to both dry the paint on the stems and to bake the clay flowers.

On the video I quickly stated the size of the drill bits I used but in case you missed it they were:

5/64th inch for the small holes
1/16th inch for the larger ones

The lines are drawn about ½” apart but this is totally up to you how far apart you want yours. One really important point is to not drill all the way through the board. That is why I use a thick piece of lumber instead of a thin one. I want the holes to be deep enough that what I put into it stays upright. If the holes went through the board the wire stems of flowers would fall through.

The larger holes are for golf tees, be sure to check back for my blog post about those on one of my upcoming Tools of the Trade Tuesdays. They are another of my favorite tools in my workshop.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Potato Chips

This week on Trash to Treasure Thursday I am showing a super simple shortcut for making some potato chips for the dollhouse.

This project breaks one of my longstanding rules for dollhouse items since it uses a real food product. I would not recommend leaving this in a display for long term but for a quick display it is okay. Just be sure to watch for insects or other pests that might be interested in the chips for a snack also.

In the video I just use the seed portion of some red pepper flakes from the spice cabinet, this saved me a step because they are already nice and dry. If you happen to be serving a fresh pepper go ahead and save the seeds from that. Just make sure to dry them out thoroughly before use.

I just placed the chips in the bowl for the video but if I were going to place the chips in a scene I would have glued them down. I needed the bowl for something else so I didn't want to glue the chips in.

This is such an easy project and still looks really cute. This is what Trash to Treasure projects are all about. Things that are really quick, really cheap and anyone can do them.

Monday, June 3, 2013


This week for Tools of the Trade Tuesday I thought I would discuss the simple toothpick. I always have at least one container of toothpicks on my work table. I use them on almost every project I make. I love that they are really cheap and disposable.

So what are some of the typical ways I use them.

They are wonderful to use as a glue applicators. The tiny tip means you can get into little areas. If you need to apply glue to a larger area you can use them sideways as a spreader.

Toothpicks can be used to apply paint to tiny areas and are really handy if you need to make small dots of paint.

I also use them as tiny dowels in a lot of projects. I love that I can easily cut them with many tools, they sand easily, and are usually already smooth.

Remember too that toothpicks come in more than just round. They come in flat and square too.

For everyday use I keep the plain round wooden ones on hand but for other uses I also have some that are plastic too. Those are in many wonderful colors and I am sure you will find other uses for them.

On the same line of tools of course are the many shapes of cocktail picks that are meant to be used in canapes for appetizers. Many of those come in very creative shapes. So be sure to check those out especially at the dollar store and the party stores. 


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Chocolate Fountain

This week I am showing you how to make a chocolate fountain that I really think will work in both dollhouse scale (1/12th) and Barbie scale (1/6th)

The project is really easy to make but it does take a few days (yes days) from start to finish because you have to let the steps dry before you can move on.

This is probably the first time I have ever went into a video without a firm idea of what the steps were and how I was going to proceed. I have been wanting to make a chocolate fountain for a while and I had a fairly good idea of the steps but I really had to improvise along the way.

This blog post will mostly deal with what I would differently if I made this project again.

First off, I would glue the two parts of the base together before I painted them. The main reason I didn't do that for the video was that I had already painted the lid portion before I decided to add the bowl under it to “house the works”. That part was a last minute addition. So definitely glue the lid and bowl together then paint them as a unit.

The next thing would be to be much more careful to pull that plastic smooth as I glued it to each layer. I ended up with a lot of wrinkles and they do show. I know it would be hard to get all the wrinkles out but I could have done better.

The main thing I would do differently, glue the structure together one layer at a time and allow to dry before adding the next layer. I am pretty sure that is why my chocolate fountain is doing an impression of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. LOL It looked a lot straighter before the glue set up than it did when I came back the next time. I think that was the biggest mistake.

Overall I really like this project and I really hope you will try it out too.

Let me know if you make one and how yours turns out.