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.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Salt and Pepper and Removing Paint


Here is a project that will take a couple of blogs to finish.  I will begin with how to remove paint from plastic baby bottles (party favors).  Then in the next blog I will tell how to make the grinders.

I thought these baby bottles from Hobby Lobby looked just like salt and pepper grinders.  Problem was the pink paint!  I had to make 100 sets for an event (that’s 200 total!) so I needed a way to remove the paint.

I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to research paint removal for just one pair but since I had to make so many it was worth the time.  I am documenting what I learned in hopes of saving someone else the research time.

I should start by saying that there are many different kinds of plastic and many different kinds of paint.  I don’t know what kind of paint they use on these favors but it must be some kind of spray enamel.  It is very hard to remove.  I wanted the bottles to be crystal clear.

My goal was to find something that would take the paint off without fogging or etching the plastic.  Even though I am a Chemist by training, I mostly relied on trial and error (not being familiar with the paint industry).  I read lots of blogs on car modeling, plane modeling, etc. and tried many products.  You can see from the photos all the things I tried:

Some things frosted the plastic.  Other things either didn’t dissolve the paint or took too long (meaning I gave up not wanting to wait more than a full day to see if it worked).  Here is a summary of what I tried.

These products did nothing even after soaking:
  • Simple Green (full strength)
  • Paint Thinner (kind of worked but would have to be scraped)
  • Alcohol (70% Isopropyl)
  • Testors Brush Cleaner
These products etched the plastic:
  • Zip Strip paint remover (it DID remove paint too)
  • Nail Polish Remover (non-acetone)
  • Nail Polish Remover (acetone) -
  • Model Master “Acryl” Dried Paint Solvent
Winners! These both worked removing paint with no fogging but required soaking overnight:
  • Brake Fluid
  • Easy Off Oven Cleaner (requires some scraping) 

A couple of notes:
  1. All of these are solvents and require use of gloves (and maybe goggles!) and should be used only in well ventilated areas (like the garage with door open).
  2. Since I was doing this for 200 bottles, I did it in batches.  I put 20 or 30 into a plastic bag and set the bag down into a disposable drink cup.  I poured the brake fluid into the bag and sealed it up and let it soak overnight.  It was kind of messy. 
  3. The next day I drained off the used fluid (the pink-ish stuff in the baggie in the photo above).  Then I used paper towels to wipe off the fluid.  There was a pink film still on them so I gave them another quick rinse in clean fluid and swabbed the pink out of the inside of the bottles with a Q-tip.
  4. Disposal - I was left with the problem of what to do with the used brake fluid.  It can’t be poured down the drain.  I drained it off the bottles after they soaked and poured it all back into a plastic container.  Thanks to O’Reilly Auto Parts I was able to take the used solvent back to the store and they disposed of it.  You might have to ask around.  One other auto parts store I bought some from would not accept it.
  5. It takes a little scrubbing to remove all bits of the paint.  I had to sand the center tops of some of the bottles after clipping off the nipples. 
  6. There is one more trick I learned to solve the problem of fogged or scratched plastic.   Some of the car modelers coat the fogged plastic with Pledge Floor Care (Wal Mart) (I think this used to be called “Future” floor polish some years ago).  This helped where the tops were sanded to make them clearer.  Car modelers use it for scratched windshields. (you see I have marked my bottle "Minis" because I am likely to forget why I bought it and might throw it out!!)
 That’s all for this blog.  Hope this was helpful to someone.  I know I am indebted to all those car and boat modelers who took the time to blog about their paint removal problems!  Next time how to make the grinders!

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Dome Project - Mott Miniature Workshop Manual & Lithograph Dollhouse

This is the last installment of the "Dome Project".  This entire year, a total of 8 blogs for 2018, has been dedicated to tutorials from the two sided "Dome of My Own" club project - another SAM (Society of American Miniaturists) day long project (see links to join).  Next time (2019) I will have a new project to describe.

1/144 Scale dollhouse, “Patricia House” and Book Review, Mott Miniature Workshop Manual

This 1/144 scale dollhouse was a project found in the Mott’s Miniature Manual.  It isn't open in the back, and there are no furnishings, very simple and fit the need I had for being viewable from both sides of the window. 

A little about the Mott Miniature Workshop Manual.  I recommend this book for anyone who likes to build and wants to learn a lot of techniques.  It is a wonderful old book chock full of awesome, unique scratch-built furniture projects.  My copy was published in 1978 but I know there are newer versions out there.  There are no photos of finished projects, except for those on the cover but there are very nice diagrams and patterns along with instructions and nicely printed brightly colored graphics for decoupaging several of the pieces.  Some projects are more involved and require some un-common woodworking techniques (such as lathe-turning and scratch made cabriole legs).  Among the projects is a French Harpsichord (with strings and lovely graphics to decoupage).  If you happen to find a copy, make sure all of the graphics at the end of the book are un-cut.  I photo-copied the graphic for the little dollhouse so I wouldn’t have to cut it out of my book.

The little dollhouse is called “Patricia House”.   Instructions start on page 193 and the graphics for it are all found at the end of the book.  Most parts are cut out of 1/16th inch thick basswood to which the graphics are applied.  I left off the 'tower' on the left side so it would fit on the window sill (see diagram below):

I will warn you that I had to read through the instructions a few times and mark the pattern pieces so I could understand it.  There were more little pieces than I anticipated.  Here is what the original graphic looks like in the book (section marked “10-B” in photo).

I modified the dollhouse to be shallower to fit in the window sill (photo below, I used only the narrow portion of the side pieces).  I also eliminated the “tower” section (since it was too wide) and the porch posts since the back of the love seat would interfere with them.

For my final step, I added some gold highlights with a fine paint pen to the scrolly sections of the dormer and door and window frames.  I think it turned out kind of cute, something like those old Bliss litho type houses.

A Little Bit About the Other Items in this side of the dome:
Settee / Love Seat – this was made in a workshop taught by Jeffrey Steele back in (eighties?). 
Draperies, shelf niche cutouts – see links to my January (shelf niche) and April 2018 (draperies) blogs.

Dolls on shelves – Three of the four are by Angel Children.  The one with the little bed was a recent show purchase by Almundena Gonzalez.

Dolls on sofa – three on the left were estate purchases with no known artisan.  The knitted doll is actually a topsy-turvy doll, one that turns inside out with a different character inside and was made by Helen Palenski.  The pink sock monkey was by a dear friend, Janice Shaw, with whom I recently was a member of a swap club.

Doll on floor under sofa in a crocheted basket – purse was by my bestie, Karen Haggard.
The little teacups are Chrysnbon, painted by me (maybe a future tutorial??).

Next blog – hmmm.. I want to start another multi-installment project but maybe something short and quick in-between would be best?  Here are some options for the next blog.  I will see if I get any comments that suggest which should be next:
  • Skirted party table
  • Mini-kitchen
  • Teacup Pincushion with painted Chrysnbon teacups

I will probably not blog again until after the new year so Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year to my followers!


Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dome Project - Silk Bolster Cushion Tutorial

Almost done with the Dome project.  I have another group of related projects that I am excited to start when I have wrapped this up.   Below is a tutorial on making the silk bolster cushion on the couch.  Next blog I will describe how I made the 1/144 scale dollhouse in the window behind the loveseat.

This project involves a little hand sewing (but not much!).  You will need:
  • Small piece of aquarium tube 1/4” diameter by 1-1/8” long.
  • 2 Piece of flannel or white felt, about 1-1/2” by 2-1/2” long for padding
  • Fabric scrap, about 2” by 4”
  • Ribbon for bows, thread, needle
  • Fine needle-type glue dispenser/applicator with Sobo fabric glue or Crafter’s Pick Ultimate.
  • Scissors
  1. Roll the flannel around the tube.  Overlap and secure with overcast stitches.  Trim off even with ends of tube.

  2. Make a glued hem by folding up one short end of cover fabric and securing with a fine line of glue.  Roll the fabric around the tube starting with the raw edge (unhemmed) and ending with the hemmed edge on top.  Glue the hemmed edge down.

  3. With needle and thread, run a gathering stitch around one end, just beyond the end of the tube.  Do the same on the other end.  Pull the thread gathering the excess fabric.  Poke it into the tube with the end of a paintbrush.  You can tie off the threads and secure with a little glue.  It shouldn’t show once you have covered the ends with a ribbon bow. 

  4. Make a bow with multiple loops.  I use myBitty Bow bowmaker (see link in the sidebar) to make a 6 loop bow.
    The ribbon used here is hand dyed, from “Trenway Silks” which I purchased at a local Austin needlework store (or maybe it was Dallas?).  The color is “Pink Peony”.   I love the hand dyed ribbons - they give a nice, variegated color. 
  5. In this last photo you can see how I assure my ribbon tails don’t fray. 
    I put a little glue on my finger and just brush the forked tails across it.  If using Crafter’s Pick Ultimate glue, I rarely see any discoloration or staining of the ribbon with glue spots.  To shape the bows so the tails face down I just pinch the loops in the direction of "gravity", so they all "fall" nicely toward one direction.  Do this while the glue is damp.  You might have to hold them in place for a minute or two.

Well, that was a short one!  One more installment then on to the next project!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Tutorial - Decoupaged Desk

More about the two sided dome project.  I won a blue ribbon at a S.A.M. (Society of American Miniaturists) event for this project (there were only 7 entries so good odds!).  In this blog I will describe the rest of the items in this side of the dome including the desk.  The painted rug, window shades and slipcovered chair were covered in previous blogs.

The desk is a modified Robin Betterley “Lydia Pickett” desk kit.  The original desk was too deep to fit inside the dome so I sawed off about ¾ inch from the back of the desk top and used the cut off piece as a shelf over the window.
I painted the entire desk with a pale shabby pink color then applied a wallpaper to the legs, desk top surface and inside of the hutch compartments.  The legs were pretty easy since I had a pattern in the area of the wood where the laser cut leg piece was punched out.  I just used the open area as a pattern to draw the shape on the wallpaper.

After applying the paper, I ‘aged’ it with diluted burnt umber paint.

Other items in this side of the dome (made or embellished by me):
The sewing machine is a 3D printed item from “Mini Etchers” (  I added painted details in blue.  This was very bumpy and I had to sand it a lot.  It still didn’t look very smooth after several sandings and coats of paint but the design was good and not too much like the common ones you find on Ebay (“Aztech”).

The framed bulletin board is a Metal Miniature frame (; their Catalog Item #461-A) which I painted.  The zipper and needle packet on bulletin board are from Vilia Miniatures
Pink clock is Metal Miniature #934a which I painted and added a clock face.
Left of the clock is a pill capsule dome containing two Ilisha Helfman ( buttons and belt buckle suspended on a piece of lace with green bow.
Right of the clock is a boxed pincushion in a Chrysnbon teacup.  At the right end of the shelf is another pill capsule dome with a silk ribbon rose on a metal stud base.
Left of the sewing machine is another metal miniature dish (metal minis catalog item #90) painted to look like Majolica with tiny ‘pins’ (no hole beads and short cut pieces of fine brass wire for pins).
Tote bins on floor – another kit from Robin Betterley.  I stuffed with fabric and trim scraps.

Other items from my collection:
Glass vase with beaded flowers next to pincushion (unknown artisan, a show purchase).
Bowl of notions at right of the sewing machine was made from mini Easter cards sewn together with thread by Karen Haggard.
Crocheted sewing basket  -unknown artist. This can be seen in the very first photo at the beginning of this blog.  I mounted it on a stand  (part of a House of Miniatures candle stand kit)
White and blue sewing basket on shelf – unknown artisan, estate purchase.
Petit Point picture “Sunbonnet Girl” above shelf – by Ligia Durstenfeld (in faux bamboo frame I made, here LINK)
Buttons in round frames above window – Ilisha Helfman (
Doily by Suzane Herget in wood frame.
In my next blog I will focus on the other side of the dome - the side with the sofa and tiny dolls. I will also include a tutorial on the silk bolster pillow and the 'lithograph' dollhouse in the window.  Hope you enjoyed these little tidbits!