Dollhouse Blogs

Wednesday 17 February 2016

Bookcase doors, balusters, marble floors, and test runs

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all doing well and surviving the winter months. Overall we've been quite lucky in Montreal, except for the past week. As many of you have noticed, blogger is acting up again and people seem to be losing followers. If I am no longer following you, please let me know.

The past few weeks have been spent on preparatory work, but I am starting to get a good sense of what the rooms will look like.

Bookcase doors

As you can see I decided to make doors for the bookcases in the library. Doors are simple: you build a frame thick enough to accommodate the "glass" and cover it with molding. However, I try not to use hinges whenever possible. People just love playing with opening doors which often leads to breakage. I decided to make the doors non opening, but removable.

When the doors were done I glued them to a piece of lumber that would sit on the top of the bookcase. In the picture above you see me adding lumber to cover up the different levels of construction for the doors. It just looks more realistic when painted. Next, I drilled a hole through the door piece and bookcase. I took a dowel, cut it just long enough to hold the door piece in place, and glued it to the top of the door structure.

This permits the dowel and the hole to line up perfectly and slide into each other.

And this is what the finished bookcases look like.

The doors for the library were just pieces of 2 inch basewood with simple lumber strips to create the paneling. When painted I will add quarter round trim.

Faux wood graining

The next step was one I have been dreading...painting! I really do not enjoy painting. It took 1 weekend to paint an antique gold acrylic paint base to the 33 assembled part and about 200 strips of molding and architectural details...

...then it took me another 3 weekend to apply the walnut finish. This is made by mixing liquin (a quick drying medium for oil paint) and burnt sienna oil paint. I usually mix the 2 about 50/50 then adjust the mix until it coats the way I want it to.

You apply it using an old angle brush. I dip the brush in the mix, dab a little off, then paint lines in the direction I want the wood grain to go. You can make your hand shake, wiggle, drag the brush, swirl it a just practice until you get the look of wood you want. This is a technique from
Ray Whitledge and I just love it. Normally you also use a bit of liquin mixed with burnt umber to give it the richness of walnut, but I wanted the graining to be very subtle so I opted to use just one shade of paint.

I want the earl's study to be impressive and I had an amazing doorframe for the bathroom that would be so far back it would be hard to see, so I decided to highlight some details with gold oil paint.

The walnut is dry to the touch after 48 hours at most because of the liquin. The gold was just oil paint and took 10 days to dry. How I wish I had more patience! All the elements were now painted and I could move onto the next step...literally.

Staircase balusters

Last post, I explained my method for building stairs and gluing on newel posts and banisters. When the glue has cured completely and the banister is solid, you can install the balusters which have been pre painted. Each step of my staircase has 2 balusters so I had to cut off about 1/4 inch from the front balusters. The angle of the banister means they have to be shorter to fit. The next step is cutting the tops of each baluster at an angle that fits under the banister.

Put each one against the banister, mark the angle, and cut. In the picture above I just cut off the painted layer so you can see how high to cut it. It has to be just high enough to sit in the groove of the banister. When the angle is cut you slide the top under the banister, in the groove, and then position it on the step.

I like to cut all the balusters and see what they look like in place.

I was happy with the result so I removed them, keeping them in the order they fit, and glued them by applying The Ultimate crafters glue to the top sides of the baluster and to the bottom. Just make sure the glue holds onto the banister.

- It is tempting to cut all the balusters before fitting them, but you never know when there might be a slight difference in the depth of a step so I like to cut them one at a time.

-Paint the balusters before you install them. It is so much easier then trying to get a brush in the tight spaces. It also permits you to have fun with the colors. In this case I painted the step and banister with the dark umber, so the lighter dark sienna balusters and risers will stand out more.

-When fitting balusters do not force... ever! Some of my balusters (which were all from the same manufacturer) were a bit thicker so I sanded and shaved off the thickness that needed to go. If you force them in too tight you risk disassembling the banister which is a big pain in the butt!

Marble Floors

I decided the earl's study and the staircase area would look very grand with marble floors. There are many methods for making miniature marble. Ive tried several and here is the way I prefer to do it.

The first thing I do is find pictures of the marble I like, then make a sample board of the colors I think I see in the marble.

I love the colors, but I don't have the skill, or patience, to replicate the pattern

I noticed quickly that the coral color (second on the board) was way too pink. It is sometimes hard to know exactly what colors will give the right effect, and this step helps me figure it out.

When the colors are chosen you need to put down a base coat. Some people start with the darkest color, other start with the palest. In my opinion, it depends. In the case of this red marble, when I looked at the picture it seems to me that the darker colors are layered over the paler ones, so I started with the paler orange color as a base. When I make dark green marble, it seems to me in the picture that the paler greens are layered on the darker ones, so I started with a green that was almost black. Just look at the pictures and try to figure out what works best. There is no wrong way to do it.

I use the flat side of the sponge brush

I apply the base coat with a sponge brush as it leaves the least amount of strokes. I've used hair brushes in the past and the texture kind of makes it look like painted wood. Some people sand between coats, I do not. Every time I try to san, I rub off too much paint.

The next step is to sponge on the next colors. I like to use 2 to 4 additional colors for my marble. I've tried using regular inexpensive kitchen sponges and sea sponges. Both can work, but I prefer the sea sponge because I can control the amount of paint I apply better. I encourage you to try both and see what you prefer. Either way, take the sponge, wet it thoroughly, and squeeze out as much water as possible.

As you can see above, I take the sea sponge, dip it in a little bit of paint (the dab of yellow on the right), and dab most of it off on paper towels. If you look on the left of the sponge you can see the yellow paint sponged over the red color. That is how much paint you want the sponge to deposit. Just keep dabbing the sponge over the base coats, but rotate the sponge so the pattern is natural. Wait for each color to dry before applying the next one. When I was happy with the look, I spray on about 4 coats of triple thick crystal clear glaze, then buff it with an 0000 steal wool. The last step is to make the veins. I usually put a little drop of 2 colors on the paper towel, dip my 20/0 brush in both, dab it on the paper to remove excess paint, then very gently create the veins (I hate this part)! When the veins are done, spray on another 2 layers of triple thick glaze and buff with a 0000 steel wool.

these were painted on single ply illustration board

Here are the 4 marbles I created for my floor. I plan on using the black for a boarder around the rooms and cutting the other 3 to create a cube pattern on the floor. Faux marble is tricky, so if I'm not happy with the look, then I will just make a wood floor.

Panel trim

The step I'm currently working on is adding the trim to all the panels of the walls.

I cut the pieces using an x-acto knife and the grid on the cutting board. I have angle cutters, but I've noticed they often crush the small molding strips, so the x-acto gives better results.

And that is all my friends. I'm not sure when my next post will be, but I think it will be the finished library, study, staircase and the bathroom. I leave you with pictures of the many test runs and dry fits I've been having.

Library wall with door to staircase

staircase and bathroom door


The earl's study. The stained glass at the back of the structure is a window in the bathroom

murals in the staircase area

elements from the study staircase and bathroom

Until next time. I wish you all the best and thank you for your friendly support. It means a lot to me.

Big hugs