Sunday, 30 August 2015

New south wing - The structure

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all doing well and that you have all enjoyed a nice summer. Yes, it has been a long time since my last post. I really wanted to post more often, but once again I underestimated how long each step of the new wing would take. Warning! Some of you may find this post redundant, but I often get comments by miniaturists who are afraid to tackle a scratch built project. I love it and since I am building a brand new section I figured I would explain step by step how I get it done. For those of you who know all this, I hope you like the direction the manor is taking.

Now, I have done a few crazy things in my time, as many of you know. When I don't like a room I have no problem ripping it out and starting over. but the following picture shows you exactly what happens when I am left to my own devices...

In the back you can see the current Dewell Manor, and on the floor, next to the table and covered in mdf and books, is the new south wing. No, it did not look that big on paper. Just to be clear, that mdf structure on the floor is replacing this,

Contrary to what many people think, it will not be huge, it will be just the right size.

Painting the architectural details

 In my last post I showed you the pieces I purchased from Sue Cook. It took me 4 weekends to paint all of them.


It is much easier to paint elements like these before assembly. The architectural elements were quite detailed and It took 2 coats of white as a base, 2 coats to fill in the blue areas, 2 coats of white to highlight the detail, and a final touch up coat of white. In spirit of those new to the hobby, here are the materials I used:

I only use Delta Ceramcoat and Americana craft paints. There are cheaper ones on the market, but they are too watery and you need more coats which can fill in detail. I used a half inch angled brush for the larger surfaces and a 6/0 and 10/0 detail brushes. Make sure you have water to wet the brushes and control the consistency of the paint...I often add just a drop of water to the paint to make it spread easier.

South wing construction

I have searched many times to figure out what is better to build with, plywood or MDF. The honest answer, it is a question of preference!  I like MDF. It has a smooth surface and is less expensive then plywood. It is much heavier though, so take that into consideration when you choose your materials. I use 5/8 inch thick. Most dollhouses are 3/8 but I could not find it in stores and I like having the thicker walls...more durable and it thicker walls are appropriate in an old manor. It is very hard to cut so I get my pieces cut at the hardware stone.

I had to plan how to fit all the pieces I needed on 3 sheets of 48 inch by 98 inch MDF. The hardware store can only cut straight lines and the cuts must go from one end of the piece to the other. If you have a hard time figuring this out, I'm sure they could help you plan the cuts or you can get help from someone who knows about carpentry.  My cutting plans looked like this

I tried cutting the MDF myself when I started the Manor, but I do not have a great selection of tools and the MDF destroyed the blades of the jigsaw. I double checked all the measurements of the pieces (when I started the Manor I asked for 1/2 inch MDF but they cut it all in 5/8. I could have asked them to recut everything, but I was able to work around it).

The next step is cutting out holes for windows and doors and fireplaces. I drew the openings on all the pieces first, then I followed the lines drilling holes every inch or so. The MDF uses up blades fast...I used 4 Dremel multipurpose bits which all ended up dull. The drilled holes make it easier to cut and the Dremel does not heat up as much.

I did not use a guide this time. Since the walls will be covered in illustration board to create paneling there was no need to have these lines perfectly straight...if it does not show, it doesn't matter! when the opening were cut it was time for a test fit to make sure everything lined up.

Test fits are, in my opinion, incredibly important and several should be done just to make sure everything is well. It is much easier to correct errors on flat pieces then on an assembles section. When I was sure everything fit well I started gluing the section together.

As you can see I use books and hand weight to weigh down the pieces while the glue sets. I use regular yellow carpenters glue. I put a good bead of glue over the surface to be joint and go over it with my finger to smear it and wipe off any extra. Too much glue will make it hard to keep the pieces in place and will make a weaker joint. What you are looking for is this

When you weight the pieces down just a little glue should push out. You can easily wipe it with a piece of lumber or cardboard. If you see glue dribbling down, that's too much. Do not wipe with a wet cloth. MDF soaks up water and can swell.

The glue makes a strong bond, but just to be safe I also drill 1/4 inch holes and use 1/4 inch dowels on every glue joint.

Once the hole is drilled, put a bit of glue in it. Take the dowel and using a cheap paint brush cover it in glue and hammer it in. I use the dowels that have ridges in them. They make it possible for extra glue in the hole to come up so the dowel goes all the way down and makes a really strong joint because it is glued to both pieces.

I still have more assembly to do and then the entire piece has to be primed, but here is the structure now

It measure 38 1/4 inches wide x 39 5/8 inches deep and 30 inches tall. The layout is as follows:

The right side of the top floor is the library

Front of the library

The original library was deeper and narrower with a nook for the earl's desk at the back. This one is big enough to be a double room.

back half of the library

The left side of the top floor will look like this:

The door on the left leads to the Gallery and the Mains staircase to the ground floor. This space is 10 inches wide, so behind the gallery door there will be a U shaped staircase that leads to the 3d floor which will house the winter parlor and the Chinese dining room and butler's pantry. The door in the back was a present from a dear friend. I will cut out the door from the frame and you will just get a glimpse of a ladies powder room. facing the gallery door is the door to the new library, and the front part of this area will be the Earl's private office which will measure 10 inches wide by 15 inches deep. I took the office furniture from the gallery which will clear up more space for sculptures.

And finally, the main cause of this renovation, the ballroom:

My next post will be about the ballroom so I won't talk about it too much. I cut the illustration board walls and test fitted the architectural elements. Since it will be about another month...or more...until it is done, I figured you deserve to see the test fits:

I think I will need another week or 2 to finish and prime the structure, then the next step me...the ballroom parquet floor

No, I am not crazy...I've done worse!

I will try to post by October, but we have a very busy month coming up. September is always a busy time, but a happy one. Last week Joe and I celebrated 10 years as a couple, and next weekend we will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.

And that is all for now. I hope everything was clear and once again I apologize to those who have heard it all before. I'll see you in a few weeks for the grand ball.

Big hug to all, old friends and new


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Real life bathroom renovations are over, back to miniatures!

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all doing well. I am so happy to be posting again and I have a lot of catching up to do. I have not worked on miniatures since December. Since then we spent every free minute working on our bathroom renovation. We did most of the work and it was a difficult experience. We only have the one bath/ shower in the house, so we had to go shower at my mom's every night for 12 weeks in the middle of winter. At one point the toilet in the basement powder room broke and we went 24 hours without a toilet. I could go on and on, but yesterday, except for touch ups and little things, the bathroom renovation came to an end.
Before (I swear it was like this when we bought the house)

We got rid of the 3 piece acrylic shower because it felt like a cave, we knocked down the closet for the washer and drier which we moved fact the only thing that did not change was the placement of the toilet...

It is hard to tell but the cabinets are a dark shade of purple. I designed the cabinets so it was great to see it come to life...however I don't ever want to tile or use epoxy grout again!!! At one point I think I had a bit of a mental breakdown. I was feeling quite flat which is when I stopped commenting on your blogs for a while. Sorry, It was a really bad patch but now I am feeling great and ready to catch up!
Back to Miniatures
The last miniature related work I did was getting the manor ready for an article in Doll's House magazine. I was so proud of the beautiful article which was in the June issue. Thank you again everyone who participated in putting it together.

Now that real life renovations are over, I can finally get back to the important things: my new wing for the manor. I have been working on the plans since it was all I could do, but I will talk more about that in my next post. I have been saving up to purchase the elements I wanted from Sue Cook, for the Ballroom and Library, and last week my order finally arrived safe and sound!

The 2 rooms will have over 180 plaster items: 17 in the library and the rest in the ballroom. I asked poor Sue Cook so many questions and she sent me many answers, suggestions and pictures to make sure I was happy with my purchase. It was a real pleasure to do business with her. If you read this, thank you Sue! I prefer waiting until a room is done to show you pictures, but since it will take a while to build the structure and get the floors much flooring to do, sigh...  I figured I'd give you a sneak peak:

These are the library items:

And here are a few set up pictures of the ballroom walls and ceiling:

For now, that's all you'll get to see. They are big rooms and there I say it, a little complicated in design, so it might be a while before my next post...but not as long as last time I promise. Wish me luck...and patience!

Birthday Presents
The first week of May was my birthday. I ate an obscene amount of cheesecake and I was spoiled more then ever. One of my favorite miniature artists is Randall Zadar.  Jo and our families bought me the second one in the picture below, Indian Lovers. I pre-ordered the third one, Center Stage, for myself. When the time came to pay for Center Stage I decided at the last minute to add the fourth figurine in the picture, Mother and Firstborn. I was told they did not think they had any left. when I walked through the front door that evening Jo said "you had to be greedy, didn't you?" He had contacted Shoalts Collectibles and asked them to put the figurine in the box with my order as a surprise. He won big husband points! Being a gentleman, I let him pay for it and replaced it with the first one in the picture, Music Lesson!

 I have several of his pieces throughout the manor, but I think I might assemble them for display in the new library.
Montreal Miniature Show

The end of March was the Montreal miniature show. Martha, Julie and Brian came over on the Friday before the show and we had a lovely visit. It really is my favorite part of the show. I was watching my budget for my Sue Cook order, but I still wanted to enjoy myself at the show and found some great pieces.

This is my first purchase from Karl Blindheim. I did not plan on purchasing any pets for a while, but this one just kept staring at me every time I passed the table and I had to have him. I named him one of my favorite names, Mathias.

These I found at Martha Mclean's table. I love her flowers (Daffodils are one of my favorites)  and she always has amazing pieces for sale.

These I found at Julie's table, Westwinds Miniatures. I can never get great pictures of Julie's work! The painting on the glass pieces is phenomenal!

These I found at an estate sale table and thought they would be perfect in an English manor.

and these were presents.

And that is all I have to say for the moment. It was a hard 6 months but now when I look at the bathroom, I think it was worth it. I need another 2 weeks to clean my much dust... and then let the manor renovations begin!

I wish you all the best my friends and look forward to seeing your next posts. Keep the amazing work coming



Sunday, 8 March 2015

Christmas presents and South wing renovation plans

Hello everyone.

I hope you are all doing well and are happy. Thank you for your great feedback on my last post. It is always so wonderful to get hear from other miniaturists. I am afraid I have no new miniature work to share. Our real life  bathroom renovation has taken over our lives and I have not worked on miniatures since my last post, but I have been working hard on the plans for the renovated South wing. Before we talk about that I promised to post about my Christmas presents. Once again I was spoilt rotten.

Christmas Presents

I got this black and gold  Grand Estate Cabinet from Bespaq. I think it looks perfect in the Tudor hall.

 I always ask for Getzan chandeliers from my family, and this year I got the Antoinette on the left for the breakfast room, and the Sonata on the right for the grand staircase. I also have a Sonata for the entrance. It is one of my favourites.

Lastly I got a Bespaq Elizabeth chaise for the ballroom.

I am very lucky that Jo always asks for a list of the miniatures I want and he and our families get together and choose from that list.
 That is all the miniatures you will see in this post, the rest are my plans and sketches for the new wing. I apologize if this is boring for some, but it's all I have done.


The new ballroom will be much more Georgian in style. the room will measure 32 x 38 inches and be surrounded by a 5 inch deep colonnade. My biggest challenge, since the door from the Entrance of the Manor is not centered, was figuring out how to make the room symmetrical.

The left wall will have 2 doorways. 1 will be the way in from the entrance, the other one will be a fake door to balance the room. In between the doorways will be a dolphin fountain from Sue Cook. The back wall will have a fireplace and the right wall will be mostly windows and French doors. The piano will go in between the central columns on the right wall. All the architectural elements in this room will be by Sue Cook. Here is a look at the left wall:

The walls will be blue and all the molding and detail will be white. In the next drawing you can see the back wall and the side view of the colonnade.

The yellow on my drawing was supposed to be gold detail. I had one leftover piece of the cornice I will be using and put it on the drawing,  but I think I might just leave all the detail white, no gold. The blue rectangle on the top left corner is the paint colour I chose. I thought of putting 4 Versaille chandeliers in the room, but decided instead to keep the 2 I have and get matching sconces instead so as to light the colonnade well.


The new library will be the same size as the ballroom. I was afraid it would be too big and planned on splitting the floor into a library and  a loggia, but since the house sits in the corner of the room that was just an invitation for spiders to settle in so I decided to lose the loggia. Here is the New library:

It was inspired by the Thorne Rooms French library and the room boxes made by Ray whitledge and Scott Burgess. I decided to split the room in 2.

The back area will be a step up. It is a huge room and I am not sure how I will furnish it...I am thinking of a large central custom made table about 5 x 8 inches with a marble top and thin drawers for maps all around. The entire room will be faux walnut and I would like the furniture and drapes to be dark green. The marbled fireplaces and white cornices are also from Sue Cook.
Chinese dining room

I am taking full advantage of the larger section to make all the rooms bigger. The Chinese tea room will now be bigger then the Great dining room on the ground floor, so I have decided to make it a dining room used for important dinner parties...though I feel bad for the staff that will have to carry the food up 2 flights of stairs to the other side of the house. The room will have a 12 inch table which will seat 12. 

The room will measure 17 x 24 inches and will be 10 inches high. My original inspiration came from the lacquer room at Monplaisir Palace but were very square. Instead of my square chinoiserie panels I will try to make more ornate lacquer panels within the rectangular panels on the red wall (I hope you understand with the drawings).

The left wall will be covered in lacquered panels, the back wall will have a much bigger doorway so as to see more of the winter parlour (which will be almost an exact copy of the one currently in the house), and the right wall will have a fireplace in the middle with doors on each side which lead to an attic floor balcony overlooking the ocean. The ceiling will have a step design with more Sue Cook cornices. The room will either be the same red I used in the tea room or a slightly more orange shade of red with black, gold and yellow the chinoiserie panels.
Countess's bedroom
I tried to fix this room so many times but now I finally have a design I love:

I want a much more Neoclassical look for the room. Poor Sue Cook will be so fed up with me before I am done. I will use her carved pilasters to frame the windows and doorways. I will make the left wall thicker so as to create recessed windows, I have moved the fireplace to the back wall so the bed will be in the middle of the room, and I will top the room with a Georgian frieze and cornice. I fell in love with the Anastasia bedroom by Bespaq, but it does not have an armoire or large dresser so I am thinking of making closets on each side of the door to the earl's bedroom (right wall).

And that is all my friends. I hate to make a post without miniature work, but the planning has taken all my free time. I hope to start actual work on the new wing by the end of May. Right now I am still refining plans, working on my real life bathroom for another month, and I am saving up for the large order I will be sending Sue. The Montreal miniature show is this month and I might post after that. I have given myself a very strict budget for the show because of the new wing renovations, but I have a habit of losing control at the!

Until next time, which might not be for a while, thank you all for following my adventures and also thank you for sharing your wonderful work and ideas through your are all a great source of inspiration.

All the best and great big hugs to everyone,