Saturday, August 10, 2019

Artichoke Sconces Tutorial – adapting battery type LED bulbs to sconce fixtures

This is the 5th in a series covering a mini kitchen project (going back to March, 2019).  This blog is a little more complicated than some of my other posts. I want so badly to use LEDs in my miniature lighting but some are so hard to fit through the typical tubing or beads that I want to make fixtures from. For these sconces I used some LEDs that were provided with the kitchen kit.
They are the 1.8mm LEDs wired for use with a 9 volt battery. They have a thick lump near the bulb that protects against high voltage. But this lump won’t fit through the brass tubing I wanted to use so I had to bend it. See photos further down for how I modified the bulb.

For this project, here is a photo of some of the supplies you will need:
  • polymer clay artichokes. You must be able to be cut through these (not resin or porcelain)
  • 3/32 outer diameter brass tubing, about 3 inches total
  • Sconce plate or base (I used a 3/8 inch square brass piece (JAR-JAF Miniatures Item #213) with a hole to accept the brass rod) 
  • Candle Cup (JAR-JAF Item 626 or 1579) 
  • Straight pin with a metal bulb on the end (dressmaker pin?) 
  • Aquarium type clear tubing for shades, 3/8 diam (about 1” piece) 
  • Fabric to cover the shade 
  • Index card 
  • X-Acto knife 
  • Razor saw and miter box (to cut brass tubing) 
  • LED light bulbs (Evan Designs) - I used the 1.8mm but smaller will work too.
  • Crafter’s Pick Ultimate glue 
  •  needle nose pliers
  1. Cut into the artichoke from the center top make a slice approximately half way down. Hollow it out if necessary. You will need to be able to fit two brass rods in the center. I had to remove a bunch of cotton stuffing from mine
  2. “Drill” two holes in the artichoke (using the pointed tip of a #11 X-acto knife). One hole at the center top and one at about halfway down the side. The holes must fit the 3/32 brass rods. (only 1 hole shown in the photo).
  3. Sand a little off the very tip of the bulb to make the light spray out (fine emery board). Otherwise it will make a kind of ‘cone’ pattern on the wall or inside the cabinet where you mount it. Don’t sand too much or you will damage it! 
  4. Bend the bulb in a “U” shape being very careful not to cut the wires or break the plastic. I used a small needle nose pliers. It must fit into your shade so that the shade completely covers it (see also photos, step 14).
    Close UP of bent bulb - I painted it gold to disguise the black
  5. Test your bulb after you bend it (hold the wires to your battery connector wires - red to red and black to black!) 
  6. If desired (to make the light warmer) paint the bulb with a yellow-ish paint. 
  7. Shade – Find some tubing the size you need. I found clear tubing (Home Depot) 3/8 inch in diameter. Cut it to the length you need (mine was 3/8 inch). 
  8. Cut a strip of index card to cover the tube and overlap about 1/8 inch.  Cover index card with fabric clipping corners and allowing one angled flap. Fold fabric over on both long edges to cover the card. Don’t fold fabric over the short edges or it will be very thick.

  9. Wrap the shade around the tubing and overlap the fabric at the back. Try to keep it neat with no frayed strings. 
  10. Note: I use Crafter’s Pick Ultimate glue for the following steps. It seems to hold pretty quickly and grabs well. Depending on your sconce, size of your artichoke, and how much tubing you want to protrude through the wall, decide how long each ‘leg’ of brass tubing ‘elbow’ should be. Cut the brass tubing into two pieces using a razor saw and miter box. 
  11. Thread the bent bulb down through the top piece of tubing then through the other piece. Leaving a little wire showing between the two, bend them at right angles. TRY NOT TO CUT THE WIRE WITH THE EDGE OF THE TUBE.
  12. The two pieces will be secured at a right angle in the middle of the artichoke and held with glue. 
  13. After the brass tubes are glued inside the artichoke, glue the brass plate to the artichoke. Try to keep the plate parallel to the upright tube and hold it until it is somewhat set. 
  14. When the tubes are dry, glue the lamp shade over the bulb. It will not get hot since it is an LED so no worry about the glue melting.
  15.  One more thing I did was to make a finial for the bottom of the artichoke. I used a pin (painted the pin head gold) stuck through a candle cup finding and up into the bottom of the artichoke. 
  16. Attaching Sconce to Cabinet: Since the cabinets were cardboard, it was not hard to poke holes where I wanted to mount the sconces. I brought the wires to the inside of the cabinet then cut another exit hole through to the back of the cabinet and pushed them through to the back.  I glued them against the cabinet side using a piece of scrap wood and small clamps to hold wires. 
  17. I painted the wires to match the inside of the cabinets. (in this photo you can also see the very tiny LED glued to the inside top of the cabinet for interior cabinet lights – next post!)
    Finished sconce mounted on side of cabinet.
  18. Next time I will show how the wires are combined with the other lights (under cabinet in inside cabinet).  Also how I hid the battery and switch.
  I hope this post will give someone the inspiration to try to adapt LED lights to mini fixtures.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Faux Carving (Method 2!) - Embellished Lower Kitchen Cabinets

This is the fourth in a series of blogs describing a kitchen project.  The first blog started in March (click the archive link at the side to go back). Two blogs ago, I shared a method of simulating carving using nail jewels, wood scraps and hand fan blades (for link click here). In this blog I will share my favorite technique for faux-finishing – using embossed gold foil shapes to simulate carving.

Before I get to the cabinet doors, I want to make mention of another (similar) embellishment technique – metal stampings (like jewelry findings).  The fluted posts shown with the lower cabinets are actually laser cut wood.  They were provided with the kitchen kits. Here is what they looked like before adding the jewelry finding and faux finish:

Brass finding for embellishment

I cut the metal finding apart then glued the pieces on then faux finished them in antique pine as was done for the upper cabinets in the previous blog.  You can find these by searching Ebay for "victorian brass stamping".  See the photo below for "after" faux finish.  This idea was inspired by Sandra Manring's kitchen (see her full kitchen photo in this blog post)

Now for the foil paper embellishment technique.  The lower cabinets are non-functional.  The project kit included a backing board which I painted a pale green (photo above).  The wooden trim pieces and finished doors were glued to the backing board.  The entire board was not glued in but I made it to fit tightly so it could be removed to hide the wiring (a later blog).

The laser cut doors and drawers had an etched center frame.  I removed a tiny sliver – a couple of layers of paper – from the inner frame to give it a little depth.

After removing the layers just in the etched crack, I burnished it with the edge of a cardboard – so it would be a little smoother when painted.

This is my favorite embellishment hint – foil applique’s!  The gold foil shapes are called “Dresden foil”.  I cut them apart and used small pieces to fit into the inner rectangle of the doors.  The very narrow foil trim strips (bottom of photo below) I mitered and used around the center rectangle.  On the narrow ‘drawers’ I just used the narrow trim.

Supplies Used:
Gold foil appliques - "Dresden Foil" (Ebay, Etsy)
Gesso base coat - white
Light base coat acrylic paint (Americana Hauser Green mixed with white)
Darker color for glaze (Americana Hauser Green)
Plaid/Folk Art (brand) Extender - allows mixing paints without drying out quickly
Small paintbrush, preferably the width of the door frames

After gluing on the foil, the next steps are shown in photo below, but to summarize:
  • Base coat over the foil and cardboard with Gesso
  • Base coat over the Gesso with light green (same color used for the base that the doors will be glued to)
  • Glaze with a darker green mixed with “Extender” letting it puddle in the carved areas and wiping off the higher areas with a paper towel.
Let dry – extender takes a while and stays tacky for a while.

Finished cupboard doors.

Across the bottom of the cabinet base I put a narrow strip for a “toe kick” painted the same light green base coat.

Below is a photo of the finished doors with the wood trim pieces mentioned before. The area below the sink would later be covered with a skirt.  Green may not be everyone’s cup of tea for a kitchen but I happen to love the green/lavender combination!

Next month  I will cover some of the lighting I used in this project.  You can't see it in the photo but the entire lower front cabinet section is a removable panel (one piece).  Behind this panel I hid the wiring and 9 volt battery for the lights.  See you next month!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Faux Antique Pine Kitchen Cabinets - Paint Technique

Continued from the previous blog where we left off having primed the embellished cabinet doors with Gesso...Above is a photo of what the cabinets will look like at the end of this post.

The antique pine finish is made with acrylic paint and an "antiquing glaze" product which is usually sold in the same type/size bottles as the acrylic bottled paint.  Look for antiquing glaze products in the same aisle (with the paint) in Michael's or Hobby Lobby.

Here is another look at the finish I was trying to mimic.  This is a clipping from a magazine of an antique pine dish cupboard.  At the bottom of the photo are my trials in paint base coats.  At the bottom right is a laser cut decorative piece that was provided in the kit for embellishing the lower cabinets (future blog post):

So to continue with the faux paint technique, you will need:

400 grit sandpaper
Base Coat acrylic paint (I used a mixture of Maple Sugar and Desert Sand)
Plaid (brand) "Antiquing Medium" - Cocoa Bean (or any of the dark browns)
Ceramcoat (brand) Burnt Sienna
Plaid/Folk Art (brand) "Extender" - allows mixing paints without drying out quickly
Small, flat paintbrush, preferably the width of the door frames

Sanding - After the gesso was dry (last blog post), sand just a little on the flat areas using 400 grit sandpaper.

Pine Base Coat - I needed a base ‘pine’ color, like a yellow or tan.  I experimented with both Maple Sugar and Desert Sand and both seemed good.  I ended up using a little of both – not entirely blending them together but using a little of each here and there as a base coat.  Base coat the entire cupboard door.

Glaze – I practiced a lot on scraps of wood.  See photo below.  This was a lot of trial and error mixing the glaze product with a dark reddish brown (Burnt Sienna) and "extender", trying to get it so it was thin enough to flow and easily wipe off.  The practice piece with 'carving' (actually a scrap of laser cut fan blade) has dark splotches where I was trying to make 'knot holes'.  You can kind of see the different base coat colors under the glaze streaks.  Practice on a paper plate then something similar to your doors.

On the actual cupboard doors, I glazed sections at a time.  First one of the vertical frame sections then the other vertical then the horizontal. I dipped my paintbrush in a tiny amount of each of antiquing glaze and burnt sienna.  I then dipped the brush in a little of the extender and brushed back and forth on a palette (actually the flat area between the little dips in the plastic paint pan).

This diluted glaze mixture I brushed over the faux carved area and the flat areas of the mat board in long strokes with the “grain” (vertically on the cabinet door).  After lightly covering one side of the cupboard door, I then dragged the brush up and down (flat area only) making sort of a wood grain.  Then I just touched the end of the brush bristles sort of making a dotted design (like a knot or branch) here and there.  The extender makes it easier to go over it a few times until it looks like wood. 

When finished with one area of the cabinet door, move to the other vertical surface then do the horizontal frames.

It’s hard to explain the technique but I practiced a lot on paper plates before actually doing the cabinet doors to get a look I liked.  Here is an up close look at the doors.

When the cabinet faces were done, I did the edges of the doors and the edges of the window openings.  Then do the cabinet sides, bottom and tops trying again to use the brush to make streaks like wood look and knot holes (if you are ambitious!)
Here is a photo of the bottom of one of the cabinets (where I was cutting a hole for the wiring).  You can see the streaks of the wood grain. You can also see two different base coat colors where I changed my mind (but it was under the cabinet so I didn't attempt to fix it!)

I didn’t use any kind of top coat or varnish after painting and glazing because I wanted a sort of ‘dry wood’ look like the unfinished pine antiques I have seen.

That's it for the faux pine look.  Next blog we will embellish the lower cabinets using one of my favorite 'faux carving' techniques - to be revealed soon!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Mini Kitchen - Cabinet Doors - Faux Carved Embellishments

My goal for this kitchen project was to simulate the finish in the photo above, an antique French pine look. The photo is a magazine clipping of a cabinet.  Below the photo are my trial and error paint attempts to mimic the French pine colors. (paint finish will be covered in the next blog).  What is harder to see in the photo are the carved trim details.

In this blog I will explain how I embellished the cabinet doors to look like faux carving using pieces of wood, a fan blade and nail jewels.

You will need:
Cabinet doors to embellish
laser cut oriental hand fan blades
Half round trim – such as dollhouse chair rail molding (small piece)
Tiny nail jewels in different shapes
Coffee stirrers or thin scrap wood, about 1/16th or 1/32nd inch thick
Tools (X-Acto knife, wood glue or white glue, razor saw and miter box to cut molding)
Gesso paint primer
Emery board or sanding stick

Fan Blade Trim
The cabinet doors for the project were one piece, not separated in the middle.  I didn’t cut them apart and just glued the trim across the entire top.  The trim is a single blade from an oriental hand fan – these are sometimes sold as wedding favors and made of sandalwood.  Try the oriental grocery stores or gift shops or on Ebay.

Laser cut fretwork hand fan - used one blade for trim

  1. First, separate one blade from the fan - there will be an almost invisible knot of clear thread holding the blades together.  Just gently slide your #11 pointed knife blade under the knot and cut it.  There may be two knots.
  2. Cut the fan down the middle lengthwise to get two pieces that are mirror images (photo below).  Press the X-acto knife along the middle – don’t drag it.  If you drag the knife across the fretwork the small pieces will break.
  3. You may have to trim off some of the border also.  It won’t be exactly square but you are only using part of the design, that won’t be noticeable.  Use a straight edge and your X-Acto to trim the border (area with no fretwork).
  4.  Glue fretwork trim across top of doors.  Use tiny little dots of glue on the fretwork so it doesn’t seep into the open spaces. Let it dry.  Trim any that extends above the door with scissors or X-acto knife.

Tiny dots of glue on back of fretwork

Corner Trim
You will use these pieces: piece of coffee stirrer, piece of half-round (or chair rail), nail jewels.

  1. Cut the half round trim into small pieces wide enough to match the width of the cabinet frame.
  2. Cut the coffee stirrers into small pieces, about 5/8 inch long.  Round two corners as in the photo.
  3. Glue the half round to the top end of the rounded coffee stirrer piece.
  4. Glue on the nail jewels like the photo.  Glue the stack at the top corners of the door frame below the fretwork (photo below).
  5. When dry, base coat the entire piece with Gesso to prep for the faux paint technique.

Next time I will describe how to create the faux antique pine paint effect.  Here is a preview of what the cardboard cabinet doors look like after the faux finish.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Lil’ Bit o’ Kitchen

Each year, our organization, Society of American Miniaturists (SAM), holds an all-day workshop.  In February, 2018 it was a mini-kitchen room with the theme Lil’ Bit o’ Kitchen.  The room outer structure (walls, floor and ceiling) was about 10 x 10 x 3 inches and made of gatorboard.  When constructed it fit into a 10 x 10 inch picture frame. Here is a photo of the blank prototype:

Basic Kitchen Prototype Kit

The committee, funded by SAM made approximately 100 kits of laser cut card stock – sort of like framing mat board.  Included in the laser cut pieces were upper cabinets with two styles of door fronts (plain and with a circle design, both shown in above photo), lower cabinets, counter of thicker mat board, window frame and farm-type sink.  They also provided a 3D printed faucet and decorative laser-carved wood trim shown in the photo above between the lower cabinets.

The event was hosted by our Houston member miniature clubs.  They designed the prototypes, made 100 kits, gathered tote bag favors from SAM members, taught all the kit parts and provided lunch.  The committee prototype rooms were so lovely!  Some even replaced the lower cabinets with stoves or mini-fridges. Here are some of the prototypes of the committee members:

Christmas Kitchen by Lori Howell (note the appliances)

Sleek, modern kitchen by Carolyn Denning

Modern with 'glass' tile backsplash by Carolyne Martinez

Modern Kitchen by Sandra Manring

The kitchen theme tote bag favors were made by many of the SAM members for the event.  It is always a great project and a fun experience (click Society of American Miniaturists and you can join and go to future events for a (mini) fee of only $25 per year!)
I was so inspired by these wonderful prototypes and couldn't wait to dig in to my own kitchen.  In the next few blogs I will give tutorials on how I customized my project including:
  • Faux-finishing the cardboard cabinets for an antique pine stain
  • Faux ‘carved’ embellishments
  • Embellishing cabinet doors
  • Wood veneer flooring with decorative inlay trim
  • LED Lighting (sconces, inside cabinet and under cabinet)
  • Custom made cabinet hardware

Here is a preview of my kitchen to be discussed in the next few blogs:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Salt and Pepper Grinders from Baby Bottles

As promised, here is the rest of the project to make Salt and Pepper Grinders.  Last blog gave instructions for how to remove the paint.

plastic baby bottles (shower favors – Hobby Lobby)
“salt” – Wilton Cookie Sticks (looks better) or white acrylic paint (less work)
“pepper” – black acrylic paint
silver flat sequins (party confetti)
tiny silver beads, I used cylindrical 15/0 beads (“delica”)
larger silver seed bead – these need to be a little bigger than the delicas
upholstery type staples – I used 5/16” light duty so they would fit inside the small beads
black seed beads for grinder knob
GS Hypo Cement (doesn’t frost glass beads)
Clear nail polish or Pledge Floor Care “finish”

Tiny pliers (helps to bend and hold staples while glue dries)
Flush cut wire cutters (to cut off nipples)
Regular wire cutters (to cut staples)
Sandpaper (220 grit)
Pin Vise and wire drill bit sized for the staple

  1. Remove the paint and clip off the nipple with flush cut wire cutters.  Sand the top flat or you won’t be able to glue on the silver disk.  After sanding flat, drill a hole in the top (center) using a wire drill bit big enough to hold the size of your staple.
  2. If the sanding leaves areas that are frosted you can coat the areas with clear nail polish or the Pledge floor finish.
  4. For salt, I used cut lengths of cookie sticks.  (You could also just paint the inside with white paint.)  Cookie sticks are actually very tightly rolled paper but you can peel off some if they are too thick for your bottles.  To do this, just soak a stick in water for JUST A MINUTE or so.  Scrape along the seam with your fingernail to loosen the paper and start un-peeling it.  I cut these on my mini table saw (since I needed 100) but you can use a razor saw and miter box.  Glue these inside the bottles and let dry before you try to glue in the tops.

  5. For pepper I ended up just painting the inside with black paint (took 2 coats).
  6. Use GS Hypo Cement (or other non-fogging bead glue) for all gluing of grinder tops.
  7. Pepper Grinder – Bend the staple in the center using small needle-nose pliers to a stair step shape.  Cut the staple just off center as shown in the photo (notice one side is a little longer – the longer piece is used for the pepper grinder). 
  8. Glue on the beads as shown in the photo below.  The black bead is used as the grinder knob.  Cut off extra staple extending past the black bead. 
  9. Salt Grinder top – Glue silver beads on the smaller piece of the cut staple, smaller one below the larger as in the photo above.  Cut off the extra bend in the wire above the silver bead.
  10. Poke a hole in the silver disk.  Glue the silver disk on the top of the bottle. Glue the grinder tops into the hole. 
  11. Paint the inside of the pepper shaker with 2 coats of black paint.  You can't tell from these photos but the bottom of the bottles are open so this can be done after gluing the grinders on, if desired.
  12. That's it!  Hope you like this mini-project.  Next time I will start on the rest of the kitchen.