October 25, 2009

Stop Block

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

I am cutting the side frame strips for another dollhouse window. They are too long to allow me to clamp a stop block to the side of the miter block and too short to extend past the edge of the miter box to reach a stop block clamped to the table. Notice that I am cutting with the part against the back edge of the box. That is because I am using a saw that cuts on the stroke pushing away from me, that means I am pushing the part against the fence as I cut. This means a more accurate cut that does not wobble all over the place. If I were cutting with a pull saw my work piece would be against the front fence. Use the force of the cut to your advantage. Simple trick but one a beginner might not learn without some frustration first.

Here is where years of looking at creative woodworking jigs in books and magazines brings up the easy solution. Put a screw into the stop block, oh so easy to do and it gives me a fine adjustment stop block. No need to loosen and move a clamp, just turn the screw  to move it a tiny fraction for the perfect length of cut.

Over the years in news groups I have had people write and say they don't know how to go about making jigs. Therefore I keep showing this type of everyday situation and easy solutions so everyone will realize jigs are not always complicated and they can be as simple as a scrap of wood, a screw and a clamp. These very basic items have just created a fine precision, adjustable, stop block for making fine miniatures in less than a minute of time. I will be using this one jig often.

I love that gold anodized Zona Miter Box and Razor Saw, they are so much nicer than the Exacto brand miter box. Just two pushes of the saw cuts right through the window frame. It is so fast and easy to use there is no point in setting up a power tool to do the job.

In-scale lumber knots

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

Yesterday a neighbor in the building pulled up in front of the dumpster and started tossing in pieces of wood. He was tearing out the railings from his front stairs. The contractor had built them with wood that was not rot resistant so indeed they had started rotting in our damp climate. The stairs were only a few years old so I knew the paint on them was not lead based.

Not wanting to see a tree wasted I snagged the spindle pieces to see if I could use them for a miniature project. I have been working on a design for a house that will have natural planked walls in a lighter wood than the cedar I normally use for miniatures. I am so very happy I took the time to get that lumber. When I cut off the white latex paint  I discovered in-scale knots just perfect for a 1:12 dollhouse. That is a very rare thing to find, I am thrilled with it. I could have haunted lumber yards for a long time finding just the perfect material. I did find a source for this lumber, it is Pine from Canada. The Home Depot stores in the Seattle area have it. But only the smaller boards such as 1 x4 and 2 x 2 have the small knots and small grain. Probably because this small diameter lumber comes from near the top of the tree where there are lots of tiny branches. I have to pick through the stacks of lumber, maybe, at best in a stack one board out of 25 or 30 has the small knots. I now have it on my list of things to look for when out running errands, Don takes the time to check for me too whenever he is in that store.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009

Here is a photo of how the exterior side of my door and one of the casement windows is coming along. It is sitting on top of the in-scale knotty timber I just cut. You can really see just how perfect that lumber is going to be in a dollhouse project. The aging on the door is getting close to perfect. It is a lot of work to get good aging, it is like creating a watercolor painting of an object. Most people just take sand paper to the edges doing that shabby shic thing. That does not create realistic aging on the exterior features of a dollhouse. Paint fades with a lot of variation in color, one color of paint for the door would not recreate that look. I have several shade of paint on the door plus I have grayed the natural wood and added a thin gray paint wash on top and splattered on some paint for splashed up dirt spots and bug splats.