Thursday, October 22, 2020

Can't Trick or Treat? Make a Halloween Party Table!

It’s getting late and close to Halloween but here is a Halloween tutorial!  Two little Halloween party tables.  Many years ago I used to make and sell miniature party tables.  These were small occasional-size tables with themed party items on the top.  I would sell them at a miniatures shop – “Through the Keyhole” in Dallas (before Ebay, before Etsy…).  The owners, Gayle and Dorothy Harrison (mother and daughter) owned the shop which was housed in a very unique rustic, even Hippie-type indoor craft mall called “Olla Podrida” (old rotten pot?) in Dallas.

I miss those days and that wonderful shop.  But before I get to the Halloween tables, here are a few of my original (1980s era) party tables.  Note that the first picture below was taken probably with an old camera with 110 type film (grainy and you can’t see details).  I loved putting lots of little details on the tables -- there are tiny rhinestone rings in the center of the birthday tables!  I also used a lot of glitter.  This was before we all had cameras in our phones – and actually before anyone had a cell phone!! (I’m showing my age!)

Here are a few more taken when I had a better camera (but still a camera, not a PHONE camera!)

But – on to the tutorial…
To make the basic skirted table, you can download these instructions.

For the Halloween decorations on each of the tables, see instructions below.

Table #1 (purple overskirt and orange underskirt)

Jack-o-lantern on a pedestal – this was a “Christmas Village / Halloween Village” resin Jack-o-lantern (not lit).  I added some details with paint and two seed bead eyes so they would “pop out”.  I added some leaves to the stem and moss to the base and a few candy sprinkle orange balls.  The pedestal is a metal miniatures item, #441 (fruit bowl and stand).  I painted it a tan color.

Cake – this was a purchased cake sitting on a pedestal made from a cardboard circle and a bead cap for the base.

Witch’s Hat – I don’t have a pattern for this.  I just rolled up a small square of giftwrap paper in a cone shape to the size I wanted and cut it off straight at the bottom.  I glued it to a circle of black painted index card then wrapped a piece of green silk ribbon around the base.  I topped it off with a silk ribbon bow and a gold oval doll buckle.  Don’t use construction paper – it does not age well and will fade in a year or two!!

Jar of eyes – this is a small vial (maybe a canning jar – Farrow Industries?).  The lid is a Halloween scrapbooking brad with the long tabs cut off.  The eyes are white seed beads with small black glass no-hole beads glued into the holes.

Candy cups and banner – see pdf file attached HERE – you can download and print the designs for the candy cups and flag banner.  The candy cups have thread handles (purple and orange thread twisted together) and are filled with Fimo lollipops, Fimo candy sticks and orange and yellow candy (cake decorating) sprinkles.  The sprinkles and Fimo candy are all sealed with a Fimo sealer but you can also use clear nail polish.  This protects the candy sprinkles from attracting insects.

Note that there is an extra pattern on the pdf file that was not used on either of these tables.  But it would make a cute bag of candy with a Halloween label – foldover type label.

Table #2 – Green top
Table Runner – instead of a square tablecloth I made a table runner for this one.  I cut a green fabric strip about 1-1/4 inch wide by about 4 inches long and cut it to a point at both ends.  I glued it on the tablecloth then trimmed the sides with silk ribbon and the front with some “buds and bows” type trim (sometimes called “rococo” ribbon trim) – look on Etsy or Ebay (see photo of trims below).  I put an orange silk ribbon bow at the bottom point.

Table #2 Trims

Jack-o-lantern on a pedestal – Same as above but I used some different looped ribbon trim (see photo above) and a silk ribbon bow inside the jack-o-lantern top and a pedestal made from beads and bead caps then painted black and white.  I also used the looped ribbon trim around the base of the pumpkin (with some added moss and punched paper leaves).

Witch’s Hat – This was the same as the one described for Table #1 above except for a small paper punched flower replacing the buckle.  I used some tiny red railroad fruit (Woodland Scenics is one brand) for the center of the flower.

Spider in Jar – this is a small glass vial (Hobby Lobby bottle earring?).  The lid is made from jewelry findings painted with green and purple metallic craft paint and topped with a seed bead and no-hole bead.  Inside the jar is a spider made from a tiny craft pom-pom with thread legs.  He is sitting on a paper-punched orange fall maple leaf.

Hope you can find something here to work on in case you (or your kiddies) can't Trick or Treat OR in case you need something to do because you HAVE no Trick-or-Treaters this year!  Keep Safe and Happy Halloween!

Monday, September 28, 2020

tiny house light fixtures - Pendants (from earrings!) and Sconces

I love to make one of a kind light fixtures from brass parts and beads because they can look very unique and custom.  I buy my LEDs and battery holders from Evan Designs (see links throughout this post).  The main thing to know when making fixtures using LED bulbs is to use the 3 Volt bulbs if possible.   They have the tiniest wires (no lumps) and can be threaded through narrow beads and tubing – making the most nicely scaled lamps and fixtures.  Another benefit of the 3 volt LED wires is that they can be drawn through holes in the foam core using a draw thread after the walls are papered (more about this in a later post).

The LEDs use so little energy that you can power even 10 or more bulbs for several hours with a coin cell battery – enough for exhibiting at a show.  The 3 Volt LEDS can also be powered with two AA or AAA batteries which can handle more bulbs than a coin cell (30 per Evan Designs) and last longer.  (Watch for an upcoming post on how I hid the batteries for this project).

**Click on "lighting" in the sidebar "Blog Keywords" for other posts about LED lighting hints.**

But, back to the 3 Volt lights -- will they be bright enough for a 1 inch scale room?  That depends on how many you use and which type.  The “Mega” give off a lot of light.  They are harder to hide in scale lamps and fixtures (I used Mega in the kitchen pendants and a floor lamp).  If you are just wanting a “glow” for effect then the tiny ones are fine (Nano, Chip).  I used the tiny “Nano” size in the bathroom sconces and they give off a nice glow.

Following is a tutorial on making the wall sconces from the Tiny House bathroom and the kitchen pendants.

Bath Sconces

  • LED bulb – 3 volt “nano” size from Evan Designs.  I always use warm white and order the extra long wires (14 inch). 
  • Brass tube 1/16th inch from Hobby Stores or Ebay (K&S is one brand).  I bent it with pliers protected with a folded piece of craft foam.  It can be cut off using just an X-Acto knife. Make sure that the tubing is cut long enough to extend through the base and poke into the wall a tiny bit to provide a more secure gluing base (for gluing into foam core).
    Bath Sconce Supplies

  • Cord End - Brass or gold colored cup shaped jewelry finding with hole in the end – I enlarged the hole with an X-Acto knife to fit the brass tube. This is the “socket” that the crystal bead fits in.
  • Plastic or crystal bead (large hole if possible).  I just pushed the LED up as far as it would go but it wouldn’t go inside the bead.  Since the Nano bulb is so tiny it won’t really matter that it isn’t entirely inside the bead (unless you can see it up close in your room).  Acrylic beads work great because you can usually enlarge the hole enough to embed the tiny “nano” bulb using just an X-acto knife or drill bit.
  • Brass hexagon shaped piece (Etsy – Brass Kicker) for wall mount base (drill hole in center big enough for tubing).  But you could use any brass disc that can be drilled – or disc shaped bead spacer.

Assemble in this order: thread bulb wire through Crystal bead, cord end, brass tubing.  I didn’t use any glue, the wire sort of just stays.  If you need to glue, use bead glue (the kind that doesn’t frost beads – like GS Hypo Cement).  I poked a hole in the wall and pulled the wires through to the outside of the building then glued the fixture to the wall (probably with Crafter's Pick Ultimate Glue, can't remember).  On the outside of the wall I hid the wires under some wood trim.

Kitchen Pendants

I mounted the kitchen pendants on brackets because they couldn't be hung from the ceiling.  The ceiling of the Tiny House was a big clear plastic viewing window.  I made the brackets just long enough to clear the shelves, about 2-1/4 inches.

In the photo of the finished pendants, one looks brighter than the other.  This is because I didn’t get the LEDs facing the same way or one was slightly uneven when pushed up into the plastic bead.  Something to watch out for when you make your own.  The LEDs do have a front and back and need to be facing the same way when used in pairs. With the warm white ones, the "front" (light emitting) side is sort of yellow - like an egg yolk.


Evan Designs 3 Volt Mega LED Warm White

Kitchen Pendant Supplies:

The photo with pink background was a "trial" fixture using a different type of bulb and without the pony bead but shows the cage and cord end up close.

Pony Beads and Cord Ends

  • LED – 3 volt warm white “Mega” LED (Evan Designs) with 14 inch wires.  I used “Mega” so it would give a bright light.
  • Clear plastic pony beads to simulate bulbs, I enlarged one hole slightly with a metal file (sort of squared up the hole) so the LED would fit up inside the bead and shine straight down.
  • Cord ends (same as used for the bath sconces above).
  • Brass tubing – two pieces were used for each one, a shorter one inside the “cage” to disguise the wire and another longer one to hide the wire between the fixture and the bracket
  • The cage part of the fixture was made from some geometric earrings (Ebay).  There are several types of cage earrings shown in the supplies photo but the one I used was pyramid shaped.
    Pendant Supplies

  • Wall brackets were made from slices of crown molding (Ebay Seller Manchester Wood Works, item MW 12023) and basswood scraps about 2-1/4 inches long by 3/32 inch thick.  A hole was drilled at one end for the wire.  The corners on one end were beveled with sandpaper.  Glue the crown molding to the flat wood piece with wood glue.  I cut the crown molding on my table saw to match the width of the flat wood piece but you can also buy sliced crown molding pieces from the same seller (and glue two together if they are not thick enough).
  • Brass strips (from a K-S metal scrap bag) were used to hide the wiring on top of the bracket. These scrap pieces had a very narrow edge on both long sides providing a "track" for the wires to be hidden. But if you can't find these specific pieces, you could also sandwich the wires between two pieces of wood with a carved channel to cover the wires.

I threaded the Mega LED wires through the pony bead, cord end, then short brass tube.  Then I sort of wrapped the wire around the ring at the top of the earring cage.  Then through the long brass tube then through the hole drilled in the bracket.  I laid them flat across the top of the bracket and glued on the brass tracks covering the wires.

When dry I pulled them through a hole in the wall and up through the foam (inside the wall) to the top edge of the wall.  I used a big needle and some button thread to make a loop to draw the wire through the hole.  Since the Tiny House was still just a shell and I hadn't filled it with furniture I was able to lay it on its side to glue the brackets to the wall.  More on how I covered the wires and brought them to the battery area in a later post.

Hope you enjoy making pendant fixtures.  There are lots of earring styles that would make great modern "cage" fixtures.  Watch for the making of some more modern lamps in an upcoming post!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Tiny House Paneling (and some Foam Core tips)

Foam core – as a construction material for dollhouse structures – has its advantages.  It is light weight, easy to cut, inexpensive and available almost everywhere (Hobby Lobby, Office Depot, art stores), but some of its benefits actually become weaknesses.  Because it is lightweight and thin, it also warps when you try to wallpaper it.  Also, the light weight factor makes it hard to attach anything very heavy (shelves, siding, sconces).  I also find it hard to assemble walls together because any clamps that are long enough are pretty heavy. 

But most of these things can be overcome.  For this Tiny House project I chose very thin exterior covering so I could weight it down and keep it flat.  My goal was something like this inspiration photo – combination of painted and stained siding (source:

I loved the streaked wood grain from the inspiration Tiny House.  I will tell you how I simulated the exterior stained panels. 

But first, for the UPPER EXTERIOR COVERING- I used poster board that I previously painted a dark gray.  The poster board was thick enough to disguise the seam from where I patched two pieces of foam core together (previous blog).  After the paint dried, I laid my wall shapes on it and traced around them. I glued this on with white craft glue (Crafter’s Pick).  Note that the poster board only covered the top half of the outside walls.

For the LOWER EXTERIOR - I had some very thin (1/32 inch) sheets of balsa wood lying around (yes, Balsa! Can you believe it?).  Very thin, cracked and dinged up but I did get it to work.  Photo below shows the label on the back of one of the sheets (after I had stained the front side so you can see the stain seeped through).  The piece under it is the front of another stained sheet.

I was able to get the streaky look by applying several swaths of different colors of wood stain using a rag.  I tried to dip the rag just in the top of the can so the color wouldn’t be too dark. The colors I use were:
    Minwax Natural #209 (almost invisible)
    PPG Penetrating Wood Oil in Oxford Brown (darkest stripe) and
    Minwax Colonial Maple #223 (kind of reddish stripe)

I had three or four of these 24 inch long balsa sheets.  I did a light / medium / dark strip and left a little unstained strip between each stain stripe.  I tried to repeat the pattern across the entire length so I could later match up the panels on all four sides of the structure.

Pics are kind of bad because they were taken in the garage with poor light.  I used wood glue to attach the balsa panels.

Trimming the windows - I used coffee stirrers to frame the windows.  I painted around the foam core edges so the white wouldn’t show after the wood trim was glued on.

One more foam core construction note - Assembly and Gluing:
There are three types of clamps in the photo below.  It was hard to find clamps long enough for this project.  The black and yellow ones marked "Irwin" and the silver aluminum one with blue (bottom right of photo) were borrowed from my husband.  These are probably from Home Depot.  The small, thin brass one at the top of the wall nearest in the photo was purchased at a Miniatures show.  I love these brass clamps and one I had was just long enough for the project.  I think Micro Mark also sells them.  I recommend them highly.
You can see the white stripes down the corners of the house - this is because I covered it with paneling before assembly (so I could weight it down).  I covered those exposed foam edges with trim wood later.

Gluing foam core walls is very tricky.  Here are my tips:
  • Use Crafter's Pick Ultimate Glue.  It is very thick and grabs quickly
  • Use pins or small nails to hold walls at the corners just until you can get the clamps in place (some people keep the nails in and just cover over them after glue is dry).  Since I had already covered the outer walls with siding, I just used very thin sewing pins and removed them later.  I added wood trim to cover the exposed foam edges anyway.
  • Get your clamps set ALMOST at the correct length before you put on glue.  This prevents the walls from falling apart while you are struggling to adjust the clamps
  • Get a friend (spouse, child...) to hold the walls for you while you get the clamps in place.  Since I had no one available I used large cans of soup to hold the walls vertical.
  • I glued and clamped the four outer walls with the inner wall in place (though not yet glued).  Sometimes inner walls (or even just a scrap of foam core) can be used to brace the outer walls while gluing so they don't bow up.
  • Floor - since this is hard to clamp (and there isn't much weight to the structure) - I glued each wall to the floor as I glued them to each other.  Then after all the clamps were set I used pins pushed up through the bottom to hold the floor to the walls.
Hope this was helpful to those who have struggled with foam core for building.  Next time something fun - Lighting (and making custom light fixtures).  Keep safe (and sane!) in these difficult times.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tiny House Nation

This may seem like a dumb question but how do you feel about the “Tiny House” craze?  Funny thing to ask since this is a MINIATURES blog and almost everyone reading has a tiny house or two…but I mean a miniature version of a “Tiny House” – the kind everyone is building to downsize? 

This tiny house project was designed by my good friend, Wilhelmina Johnson for an event our club hosted in February for Society of American Miniaturists.  Our club made 84 tiny house kits for a day-long workshop.  The project included a loft bedroom, separate bathroom with shower and a kitchenette with modern appliances.

I have already given a few small tutorials from the Tiny House project (sink and faucet, coloring books and flat screen TV).  In the next few blog posts I will describe how I customized my particular Tiny House.  I won’t give all the instructions since the design really belongs to SAM, but I will just give some dimensions and my readers can figure out the particulars.  The finished "Tiny House" measures 15 inches long by 8 inches wide by 12 inches high at the back wall.  This would be only 120 square feet (excluding the loft) if it were full size!  Here is the original design (side view) finished by my dear friend, Harriet Turner.  Note the simple but functional wedge shape and sky-view window:

Over the next few posts I plan to cover these projects, all part of the Tiny House:
  • Modifying roof line
  • Exterior paneling, windows, and trim
  • Electrical and wiring, hiding the battery
  • Kitchenette
  • Loft “built-in” bed
  • Modified (and modernized) commercial door
  • Some Fun Accessories - tall floor lamp - loft cushions and bolsters- planters
First Subject:
Changing the Roof Line (or How to join two pieces of Foam Core)
The roof line of the kit was designed to be angled and straight, going from 10” at the front wall to 12 inches at the back wall.  There is a loft (partial 2nd floor) at the back where the roof is higher.
I wanted my roof line to have more room above the loft bed so I decided to extend the height. Since I had already made the angled cut on the two sides for the roof line (and didn’t have enough foam core to re-cut both of the biggest pieces), I had to join foam core using a “butt” joint (two pieces just 'butted' up together and glued edge to edge).  In woodworking, this is the weakest type of joint.  It was tricky.  Basically I used the wasted triangle scrap and re-sized it a little then re-attached it near the back of the house to make the ceiling a little higher over the loft.

To join the pieces of foam core, have on hand a large very flat surface (counter or table), wax paper, some T-pins, blue tape and wood glue (because it can be sanded).  Cover your table/surface with wax paper.
Cut the T-Pins into about ½ or ¾ inch pieces.  Tape the two foam core pieces together then mark with a pencil across the crack where the pins are going to go.

Then insert the pins into the smaller piece where the pencil marks are.  Now with both pieces against the wax paper covered flat surface (no glue yet!!), push them together lining up the marks.  This is to make holes for the pins when glued in.  Now pull them apart again.

Time for glue (this will be messy).  Take each pin out and put glue in the hole then replace the pin in the same hole.  Then put lots of glue along the entire edge where the pins are poking out.  Line up the pencil lines and push the pieces together again keeping sides flush against the wax paper.  There will be lots of oozing glue (this is OK if you are using the wax paper to protect your surface).
Smooth some extra glue over the seam so it kind of fills in the crack.  Weight down overnight (use another piece of wax paper on top of the seam).

Depending on your final wall covering (internal or external) you may want to use some spackle or Gesso and very light sanding to smooth the seam a little.   I used poster board on the exterior wall and it covered the seam nicely.  The interior side was slightly smoother and I just used wallpaper there.

There!  You now know how to join two pieces of foam core (will you ever use that information or will you have enough to just cut a new piece?).  Anyway...

Planning location of windows, doors, etc.
When building with Foam Core (or really, any material), before cutting windows and before trying to glue the sides together I do some planning:
  • Where will the furniture and kitchen go?  What do I want to be visible through the windows? 
  • Will there be lights and where?  If so, how will I route and hide the wiring (later blog on that).
  • Everyone is a little different in how they plan their project but before I cut any windows or doors, I have already decided what furniture I will have, what wall it will be placed on, where lighting will be and even some wall decorations (and colors to use!). 
To help with the planning phase – with walls temporarily taped together - I taped on possible window sizes and locations.   This helps to plan furniture arrangement, to see where windows might conflict with interior walls and envision where shelves will be, kitchen will be, etc. This is a tiny space so not a lot of room to change your mind after cutting openings.

Another word about planning - I keep a lot of inspirational magazine clippings (and pinterest pins) and make a lot of sketches before I cut.  This helps to envision the finished space and not forget my ideas (since it takes so long to finish anything!).

A page from my Tiny House Sketch book:

 Well this was not the most glamorous subject, nor was it cute or even very fun.  I confess I really just suffer through the construction so I can get to the interior on most projects.  Next blog post – exterior covering and window trim (still not very fun but necessary).  You may be surprised at what the exterior paneling is made from!  Until next time!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Tutorial – Miniature Flat Screen TV and Remote

I needed a TV for my Tiny House project that would fit inside a set of shelves.  Hobby Lobby has a wonderful one (for a great price) but it was too big for my needs.  I will share how I copied the manufactured one in the size I needed with just a few simple supplies.  It took a little time but turned out nice.  Scroll down to see the small one inside the red bookshelves.
In the photo above, on the left is the Hobby Lobby TV and on the right is my homemade version.  The purchased one is made of a sort of metallic gray plastic and mine is made of wood, painted to look like plastic.  Here is the tutorial:

Supplies needed:
Thin wood scraps (1/16 and 1/32” thick) for TV frame
Narrow popsicle stick for TV base/stand
Piece of clear plastic cut from packaging
Small silver stickers (square shaped – try nail decals)
Paint: black, silver, red, white (and green, blue, yellow if desired for remote control buttons)
Flat Black spray paint
Clear gloss spray
Wood glue, tacky type glue (for stickers)
Basic tools: Sandpaper (300, 400 grit) X-acto, gluing jig, paint brush, toothpick

I created the TV frame from scrap wood that was about ¼” wide and 1/16th inch thick -  just butt-joined sides against top and bottom.  I made the bottom piece just slightly wider than the sides and top to mimic the purchased TV.  Glue in gluing jig.

Make a narrower frame and glue to back of first frame (top and sides. This will be to hold the ‘glass’ in place.  I added another strip to the bottom (which you can see in a later photo). After glue dried, I sanded corners slightly rounded.  Also sand the front so it is VERY smooth (like plastic) with 400 grit sandpaper.

Paint with mix of black and silver to try to get that metallic gray plastic look.

Metallic stickers for “controls” – I used some that looked like chain links.

I added a glowing red “power” indicator bulb with acrylic paint.  First make a tiny white dot with a toothpick and let this dry.

After the white is dry, paint on top of it with bright red, again using a toothpick.  Let dry again.

Some other parts needed: Cut a piece of “glass” from a plastic package (lower left corner of photo below) to fit inside the back of the frame and spray paint one side with flat black.  The glossy side will face the front of the TV.  I also cut out another very thin piece of wood (1/32”) to cover the back (also painted black/silver).  Also in this photo you can see the base made from a piece of popsicle stick which I cut off then rounded the cut end to match the original rounded end (also painted to match in black/silver).

Note that if you plan to coat with gloss spray, do this before gluing in the glass.  I think it makes the wood look more like black plastic.  Below is the back with glass in and extra scrap trim strip across bottom to hold glass from the bottom.  I don't have a photo of the finished back but I glued the very thin painted piece (from the photo above) over the entire back holding the "glass" in.  This makes the bottom a little thicker and you can then glue the base on (popsicle stick).

To make the remote, I cut another strip of scrap wood (about 3/4" long), sanded and painted black then added buttons with dots of white paint (later painted over with colored dots).  In the bag is the remote that came with the purchased TV.  It is made of plastic and has a decal for buttons.  A little smaller, thinner and looks nicer than mine but I’m sure my remote will not be visible up close. (you can see my trial and error button pattern on the background paper).

Finished TV front (before base was glued on) and in the bookcase where it fit perfectly!

Thanks for reading my blog!  I have many more Tiny House project tutorials to share.  There is the kitchenette, lots of tiny plants (in cute modern planters), the loft, a really modern floor lamp, hexagon shaped wall cubby.  Lots more to come…(sneak peek photos below).

A peek through the modern front door
Bookends from pushpins