February 27, 2010

Miniature real slate roof tiles

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

The photo above shows a real, full sized, slate shingle next to my newly made miniature slate shingles. A full size tile was cut up and split thin to make the miniatures. It is amazing that real slate stone scales into making a miniature version very nicely. But it is not an easy task to do. I have tried making thin miniature slate roof tiles for a dollhouse before and failed at the task so I have been putting it off. But today I was able to make them so I am very pleased with myself.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010
These slate shingles will be used on the shed roof over the box bed. It is a small roof so I don't mind making the small amount that is needed.

I will make a jig tomorrow to hold my splitting blade more safely; it is very sharp and I don't want to loose any fingers. I don't think it is wise of me to do a tutorial , it is a dangerous task to do. I would feel bad if anyone got hurt doing it. In addition cutting up the stone into small rectangles requires a water cooled, diamond blade tile saw. I already owned the tools because I have for many years done my own tile work on houses I lived in including installing slate flooring.

February 24, 2010

Brickology Part 5

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010
This photo is a closeup of the herringbone pattern laid brick inside my soapstone fireplace. I am pleased with the realism of it. These are the very same miniature bricks I have shown you how to make earlier in my blog. Brickology Part 5 is on how to mortar the bricks you have made.

After your bricks have been made and glued into position they need mortar between the joints. For a dollhouse you use a method similar to putting grout between tiles. For tiles most dollhouse builders use a lightweight spackle product (Polyfilla). But in real life bricks have mortar and mortar has a different texture than grout, it is much more coarse and has a lot of sand in it. I will repeat yet again how very important texture is to creating realistic miniatures. My handmade miniature bricks have the realistic texture of real life handmade bricks so my mortar must also have the realistic texture.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

There are several choices of materials to use for this miniature mortar. Sanded grout for real tiles works nicely for this application if you are using real ceramic dollhouse bricks. But I felt it would scratch up the surface of the miniature bricks I made from Activa Plus Clay. So I have used another material, Elmer's ProBond stainable wood filler. It contains tiny bits of wood fibers. Those wood fibers give me a nice, sand like texture that does not scratch the surface of my home made bricks. The wood filler is not the correct color for the mortar, I wanted it to be more grey in tone. Therefore I have added a few drops of black, acrylic paint to the wood filler.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I do not spread the mortar all over the surface and then wipe off the excess. That would make a mess of the project. The residual paint and wood filler would change the color of my bricks and I don't want to get water on my bricks to wash off the excess wood filler. My application tools are shown in the photo above. I use the knife blade to pick up a small amount of my mortar material and hold it over the joint I am filling. Then I use the toothpick to press the material into the space. Yes it takes a while but there is very little cleanup needed. A  toothpick can be used to finish smoothing the joint. Blunt the sharp point of a tooth pick so that it  approximately fits the width of the joint between the bricks, it should be just a little wider so it does not slip down into the gap.  for the final smoothing of the mortar line. Brick masons have special tools to dress the joints.

I did not want perfectly smooth joints. The mortar joints on my fireplace would have been subjected to the heat of the fire and the bricks would have shifted with time, the fire will have caused damage as well resulting in  some cracking and loss of  mortar.

A teaser of what comes next. As this brick is used inside a fireplace the last step for this particular brick project will be to create the smoke and soot patterns found in a real fireplace.

February 22, 2010

Miniature reward time

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I have been working on the fireplace and needed a bit of instant gratification. You all know how that works, you just have to try fitting the parts together before it is ready to be glued together so you can see how it is going to turn out.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

OK now it is back to being a stack of parts, my incremental reward break is over for the moment. My reward also served to give me a little something to post on the blog today. I hope you enjoyed it too.

February 21, 2010

Surfacing the soapstone

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I thought you might like to see a photo of the method I am using to smooth the band saw marks off the surface of a thin piece of soapstone. The tool in the drill press chuck is a 1/8" diameter shank, diamond coated bit. I do use a dust collector when surfacing the stone but I removed that so it was easy to see the stone and the bit. I only remove around a 1/16" of the surface in a pass, sometimes less when I get close to the final dimension. Too aggressive of a cut risks breaking the stone.

You can do this task on a regular drill press, even on a Dremel Drill Press if you have a speed control on your motor. Diamond coated bits are not rated for high speeds. Don't exceed the recommended speed stated for the bit you use. Only do this for soapstone, hard stones need to be water cooled while surfacing and you will ruin a regular drill press or Dremel if you get water in it.

The drill press I am using in the photo is a Cameron, high speed, precision, deep throat. This drill press does not look like much, in fact it looks rather old fashioned and well let me be honest...ugly. But it was one of those very lucky finds of a lifetime that one hears about. There it was sitting all dusty and somewhat rusty, on a low shelf in a local consignment store selling used tools. It was the former property of a Boeing engineer who had it in his home workshop where he probably tinkered with making prototypes of his own inventions and made his own circuit boards. Once in very great while they show up used on Ebay. The Cameron drill presses run fast enough that one can use them as a miniature overarm router and the spindle is so precise in the bearings, with very minimal run-out, that you can use the smallest of drill bits without breakage. These are actually a three speed drills press and a speed controller can be added to take the lowest speed even slower. It certainly deserves a place on the wish list for a dream workshop for making miniatures. You can still buy new Cameron drill presses but they are very expensive and probably not in most miniature workshop budgets. Used is a viable option as the Cameron company has very good customer service should you need repairs or parts.

February 19, 2010

Cutting soapstone tiles

I am back to working on the fireplace. It has a lot of soapstone elements to it. For the apron of the fireplace I needed a few tiles that will be inset into the flooring. Like any fireplace hot wood cinders can come flying out and one needs a fireproof apron in front of the fireplace.

Making the stone tiles involved a number of steps. First I had to thickness the stone. I had previously cut some stone slabs on the band saw. I then made a smooth surface on the slabs with a drill press into which I mounted a diamond coated burr with a flat bottom. That milled off all the bandsaw marks on both sides and gave me a flat piece of stone to work with. Then I made the side edges square, the first long side was sanded smooth, the second side ripped square on the table saw and then it was rotated and I used the tablesaw on that first sanded side. I did not care that the narrow ends of my slab were irregular although I could have used the crosscut miter to square them off. I am stingy with my stone and keep the leftover pieces as large as possible for future use.

Now comes ripping it into thin strips. Relatively thin, too thin and the stone breaks apart. I will rout out some of the wood flooring to inset these stones and hide some of that extra thickness in the final installation.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

I wanted to rip the thin strips on the outside of the saw blade. If I had tried to rip them between the blade and the fence they would have shattered from the stress. To get all the strips the same thickness I created a quick and easy to make gauge.

My jig is just a piece of scrap plywood and a piece of scrap lumber that is double back taped to the bottom side of my purpose made jig. To use it you index it to the side of the table saw top, push your wood or in this case stone against it, then move the fence over to your material and lock the fence in place. Then remove the jig, rip the strip and repeat the indexing sequence for the next strip. You will see that underneath indexing position in a photo lower on the page.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

It takes next to no time or any special skill to make one of these jigs. I simply set the material I was cutting into the correct position for the strip width, locked the fence down. Then I butted the plywood against the material and reached underneath and stuck the taped wood under the plywood overhang making sure I had the strip right against the edge of the saw's table top. No measuring needed to make this jig other than making sure you have the right width for your strip. You can make this jig for any of the miniature saws. On the Proxxon or Microlux tilting arbor saws be sure to move over the plastic table  top extension so you can index to the metal table top. The miniature saw in my photos is from Byrnes Model Machines. Soapstone turns to talcum powder during cutting, it won't hurt the table saw or the blade.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

Once I had my long strips made I cut them into the right length using my miter box. Use a stop block so all your tiles turn out the same size. I dressed any ragged edges on the stones with a small file before cutting the next tile from the strip. If I had a projection of ragged stone or any saw dust against my stop block then my tiles would not have been the same size. One of my tiles cracked right after I cut it, that was lovely since old stone tiles do get cracked. Perhaps someone dropped a pot on it or a chunk of firewood.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

February 4, 2010

Dust covers

When you build an open back dollhouse it is wise to think out a scheme for installing a see through piece of plastic or glass to act as a dust cover. If you can somehow integrate it into the structure so that it is not visually intrusive that is best.

I just finished making the most complex timber I had to cut. It is a beam that goes against the floor beams of the attic. On the bottom is a rabbet to receive the upper edge of the dust cover from the first floor opening. On the top there is a channel to accept the bottom of the upper story dust cover. The timbers at the sides of the opening also have a rabbet for the dust cover to recess into. This way the cover won't project from the back of the dollhouse and all the edges of the plastic or glass are protected. I will make a small turn button to fix it into place but still allow it to be easy to remove.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2010

This one piece timber plays a trick, on the top side it integrates into the flooring of the attic with a smooth surface that will match the floor stain color. But on the other three sides it is one of the  structural timbers of the house. The timber is notched to allow the walls to slide into it. A lot of tricky cuts, the table saw did the rabbet and channel, the bandsaw made the receiving notches for the walls. I textured the surfaces that act as a framing piece.

Lots of timbering to do today on the inside walls of the dollhouse. The pieces around the opening are part of that job.

I will start gluing some of the walls in place today. The front wall will be the last to install as it is easy to see and reach from the back opening.