December 21, 2009

Light check = OK to go

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

My lighting for the box bed seems to be good enough that I can go ahead and put a roof on it.  I can see into the box bed from a dark dollhouse interior;  it won't be overly bright once there are lights in the rest of the dollhouse and there are still shadows inside the box bed.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

There is enough light to see the carved baby bed looking into the little window in the box bed.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

I can also see the carved baby bed from the outside the dollhouse looking through big window on the front of the dollhouse.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009
There are some white light bright spots on the walls up at the top of the room from the spot light but that won't be possible to see once the roof goes on.

For my test I took one wire from each of the lights, twisted the bare ends of wires to form a pair of wires. That made two pairs, you could call one a positive pair and the other negative if that terminology makes more sense to you. I then put one of the pairs under the screw on a small terminal block and then the other pair went on the strip next to it. The other side of the terminal strip has a wire under it that comes from a 12 volt transformer. If you look closely at the terminal block you will see that there is a divider in the middle that prevents the negative and positive pairs from coming into contact with each other. If they contacted it would create a short circuit and blow the fuse  in the transformer. As long as you keep your pairings from getting mixed up you will find that dollhouse wiring is very straight forward and very easy to do. One wire from a light bulb goes to one bundle, the other wire from the light goes into a different bundle. You can color code those wires coming off the light bulb, just make one of them black with a felt tip marker if you like. If you enlarge the photo you will see where I have used a black marker on the ends of one of the pairs.

So wherever you make joins all the wires in one bundle would be black, all the wires in the other bundle would be white. They must never make bare wire contact between white bundle and black bundle. Color coding will make visible and simple to understand what is happening and very easy to avoid mistakes. Just remember you never want both wires coming from a light bulb ending up in the same bundle on its way to the transformer. If you can keep that very simple rule straight in your head then you can successfully wire a dollhouse and get everything to light up. White to white, black to black, never mix them up in the same bundle.

December 19, 2009

Little by little

The box bed room is now glued to the side of the main house wall. I have finally made a commitment that says no more major changes can be done to the inside of the box bed.

Still fighting that chest cold and it is really limiting how much energy I have for working on the dollhouse. But I am making some progress if only 10% of what I would hope to be doing. I hesitate to bludgeon my art work with a cold's huge deficit of patience and lack of the required imagination that drives the creative process. I don't have the whole project planned out in every detail, I let the house "speak to me" as I go. I know the general direction I am heading but make thousands of decisions along the way.

I was complaining to Don about how long it was taking me to create this bed shed. He replied, no longer than building the real thing which is  what you are doing. That is a valid point as there are just as many pieces of paneling, just as many window trims and such. Also you have to consider I need to create my own paneling, it is not something I run to the lumber store and buy needing only to be cut to length. I have worked on projects like this in real life houses and Don is right, it takes about the same amount of time but the illogical part of me says it should only take 1/12 the time.

I had a funny little shed room like this on a real life house I lived in a few years ago. It was part of a bedroom but I never thought to turn it into a box bed. It did not have a sloped ceiling  as it was built under a deck for the room above. It did have a salvaged window in it. That was also the house where I setup my first workshop for making miniatures buildings. It was an interesting home, there was even a widow's walk up on the roof for viewing ships passing by out on Puget Sound.

Back to work, the photos above have shown me some things I need to touch up.

December 18, 2009

Christmas Village Lighting

My client who commissioned the Santa's Workshop specifically wanted a place to display a 1:12 scale ceramic Christmas village that was created by "Sylvia Mobley". They really are special little houses and there are openings in the windows that allow the light to shine through. It is difficult to see that in this photo but this really is a lighted village.

Creating a mantel piece over the fireplace was straight forward but how to do the lighting to shine out the windows? I did not want wires strung along the top of mantel, that would have been clunky looking and the houses would not have sat flat and secure. So I came up with a different idea. First I decided on a location along the mantel for the various pieces my client had purchased. Then at those locations I drilled a hole through the wood of the mantel that was the same diameter as a "Cir-Kit Concepts candle socket".  I also cut grooves in the underside of the mantel to those holes to handle the wiring for the lights. The candle sockets were mounted so that the top of the socket was flush with the mantel in case anyone should ever decide not to have a Christmas Village up there. The bulbs are replaceable which is another nice feature.

December 14, 2009

Ready to install

The Celtic knot carved panel is complete and ready to install as soon as the finish is dry.  Now I had better get all the support pieces that hold it in place glued into the box bed and painted.

This is a sneak preview of the type of details I will be putting on my line of  furniture for dollhouses that  I will eventually make and sell. It can be used in cabins, bungalows, cottages, fairy houses, witches cottages, Santa's workshops, castles and houses of many other eras including Arts and Crafts and today's homes. Timeless is a good description for it.

December 13, 2009

Quick start carving

I have started work on the front panel of the box bed cradle. Continuing the theme of sailors and ropes I selected a Celtic knot design from a Dover publisher's pattern book that came with the images on a CD. I resized the image to fit my cradle.

The photo above shows the carving work as it is progressing. Some areas just have the pattern incised, others have the background removed and a few have the "ropes" just about finished up.

I am very fortunate to have access to a friends laser cutter and I used it to transfer the image I chose to my piece of wood. Now most people stop there and use the laser carving as the finished carving. While pyrography, a word meaning writing with fire, has been around since the days of the cave man that was not the look I wanted for the cradle. I wanted a hand carved panel with deeper detailing.

I could have used a piece of carbon paper to transfer the design to wood and then used a hot knife to cut in along the edges of the pattern. I have used that method on carvings before and it works nicely to help prevent broken carving details.

So here are the steps, transfer the detail and cut along the edges straight down into the wood with a knife or laser. Next remove the deeper background areas with a small knife and chisel. Jeweler's gravers are terrific micro chisels that fit into small spaces. Remember those diamond burrs I showed you a couple of postings ago? I am using those as hand held sanding sticks and also using needle files as the abrasives to help round over the roping details and also to smooth the background.

I hope you all find time for a bit of creative fun today.

December 7, 2009


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, click HERE to go to the website.

The photo above is from Wiki, it is an old box bed from a windmill, the Langerak de Westermolen in the Netherlands. I was sent to this web site by one of my followers, Evelien, her blog is to be found at  thank you Evelien for taking the time to share this with me. The photo above  does have that quality that makes one think it might be a picture from a dolls house but it is a real building.

I think the crib very inspirational and I am going to put one in my own bedstede (Dutch for box bed). That is what I am working on today along with hopelessly trying to catch up on other neglected work.

Work and the blog have been slow this last week as I have caught a cold. I know why they call it catching a cold as I can't seem to get warm. It does not help that the weather will be lucky to get above freezing today and for several more days to come. Little work gets done when all you really  want to do is go back to bed and snuggle up with the cats to comfort you. Oh well only another week of this misery to go before I get back to normal. At least it is not a severe cold, I dosed it with zinc right away and that seems to have made a difference. Anyway enough about my little bit of misery it will soon be over.

I added that tiny extra window I showed you how to cut out just so there would be a glimpse of the little baby's crib in the box bed. That window is the only way to view into the far corner of the  little shed addition. You can reach your hand in there to tuck in some blankets and arrange the bed linens but you can't see it other than through the window. I have thought about making the roof removable but I don't like the potential that would create for damage to the roof section and it will make it hard to create realistic lead flashing details.

I hope to make real slate shingles for that little bit of a shed roof. However it remains a mystery to me if that will happen or not. We shall see sometime soon if that will happen or if I will make imitation slate. I have purchased thatching material for the main roof. But this shed was a later addition to the building and I think a change of materials is interesting. Also it will work color wise as the slate is grey with slight brown, blue and green undertones and that ties in with the timbers, the trim colors and landscaping.

Perhaps it seems a somber color scheme to you but I think it will evoke the mood of the coastal shoreline with weathered drift wood, water, mist, rocks and sand. There is not a lot of brilliant color along the shores other than the blue of the sea and sky and the occasional wild flowers or brightly painted boat and brilliant sunrise or sunset.

The inside of the house will have some sparks of color. The box bed walls are a nice golden yellow, a small ray of sunshine peeking out of a dark corner under the ladder to the upstairs. For the bed coverings I hope to find a tiny French Provencal print in a happy blend of colors, perhaps a hint of red or orange in the pattern. There is a fabric shop for quilters just up the road a short distance. I have yet to set foot inside the store but now I have a good excuse to go and see it.

I need a cup of hot coffee! Time to go and make one and give the cats a pet and perhaps crawl back under the covers for medicinal purposes. I will take along a reference book and finish planning out the roofing details.

December 5, 2009

Diamonds really are a girl's best friend

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

Diamonds, diamonds and more diamonds. I have lots of them and almost all of them are industrial grade and are not all that expensive.

From a large diamond coated blade in my wet cutting tile saw down to tiny diamond burrs I love them all for what they can do in the workshop. I use them to cut and shape, sand or carve and sometimes even drill stone, ceramics, glass, wood, metal and  foams.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

The items above are diamond coated  files. I love these for sanding small details. Much easier than trying to use an emery board or a grit coated sanding twig and also good value as they last a very long time. Good at shaping metal although I tend to prefer the standard metal, swiss pattern needle files for that particular material use. You can purchase them in different grit sizes and a wide variety of shapes, flat, round, triangular and more.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

The items above are diamond coated cut-off disk that I use in a Dremel Motor. They are not run at high speeds. You saw me cutting a window slot with one. I also cut small glass tubes with them and smooth the edges of cut glass with these. You can use the broad side front or back to sand items as well. They come in a wide variety of grits.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

The items above are diamond coated burrs. I use them in a Dremel Motor and sometimes even a drill press to shape, sand, carve and sometimes drill.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

The photo above shows a tapered diamond coated burr in an overarm router type of setup. I  just used this to create the small bevel on the edge of the wood panels that line the box bed. I tried doing this task with the router but it wanted to splinter the wood so I turned to sanding the bevel instead. I made several passes and ended up with a nice smoothly sanded, beveled edge. There is often more than one way to get a job done!

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

The photo above shows using a diamond burr held in a pin vise for a handle. Now they be used as a sanding file for rounded shapes in tiny areas such as moldings on furniture.

Almost all of the items in this posting can be ordered online from Widget Supply, many can be found at your local hardware (iron monger) stores or hobby shops.

December 4, 2009

Cutting a dollhouse window opening

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

I was part way through building the shed roofed addition to house the box bed when I decided to add another window in it.

No way did I want to start over again. No way did I want to loose all the hours I spent in making thicknessing, sanding, routing, painting and gluing on the wood paneling that covers the walls.

This situation is very familiar to anyone who has ever modified a dollhouse kit or purchased an old dollhouse and made changes to it after the walls are up.

So here is what I did. I marked out the lines for the window opening. I used one of my very well loved diamond coated cut off disk in a Dremel Motor to cut down through those lines from inside the dollhouse. It is easier to work from outside a dollhouse but I wanted to exactly follow those panel grooves for this window.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

Because the disk is an arc it won't cut all the way through the wood into the corners. In fact I only got a cut through right in the centers of the lines as I am putting in a very small window. But the cut through opening made with the disk was just long enough to feed through a small, razor sharp flush trimming saw.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

Oh how I love these little saws, the blade is thin enough and strong enough to flex a bit without a permanent kink it you don't force it too hard. That allowed me to sneak it inside the walls of this small space and follow the kerf of the cut off disk. Now I have very nice square corners in my window opening. Job done, ready for me to build a window to fit in there.

Hope this method helps you get in a jamb* some day when you want to add another window or door where there was not one before.

Widget Supply is a good place to purchase these diamond coated cut-off disk. Just do a search for diamond disk, be sure you get one with a mandrel so you can mount it in your motor tool. Just like sandpaper they come in different grits.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

My little flush time saw came from Hardwicks Hardware in Seattle, Washington, USA. It is important that this type of saw does not have offset teeth. A typical razor saw does not have offset teeth either. Lack of offset means it will follow along in a groove without cutting into the sides of the groove. You might find something similar in your area and sometimes people call them Bonsai saws as they are used in that hobby for trimming branches flush against the trunks. You can get a keyhole version of this saw too as well as folding handles. The blades are very thin and extremely sharp, they cut quickly with little effort.

*Pun intended, jambs are the wood liners that go against the house framing to trim out a window or door opening.