Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A mini Family Crest - of sorts

Life has intervened to the point that I haven't done much in the way of mini work for the past few months. Part of that time we had the pleasure of entertaining some of Lloyd's French cousins here in New Orleans. One of the highlights of visiting New Orleans is the food, which was a total surprise to the cousins, who admitted well into the visit that they'd been apprehensive, since they expected to be eating nothing better than fast food.

The thought of bread pudding really put them off until Lloyd ordered it for dessert one day and asked for five spoons. The plate barely hit the table before the entire generous serving disappeared!

The happy cousins, Fabienne, Bernard, and Romain.

The cousins developed a new respect for American cuisine. By chance the spoons were arranged this way. From then on through the end of the visit, we ordered at least one helping of bread pudding wherever it was served. We recognized a symbol -- and a tradition was born.

Sometimes the design got a bit more complicated. The more wine we drank, the more ambitious the design. This one was done after a very relaxed dinner cooked by Bernard in the house they rented for their stay.

Others stayed true to form. We decided that this must become the family crest.

This one has six spoons to include another cousin who dined with us one night.

The crest became such an integral part of the visit that I felt moved to note it in some way. One day in an art supply store I found two 3-inch frames, each holding a 2-inch stretched canvas and about a half inch deep. Perfect! The frames were black resin, so I painted them red and then used a gold wax to spiff them up. I found the plates at the Black Butterfly in New Orleans, and the Chrysenbon spoons on line at the Miniature Market Place.

I love how the red, white and blue reflect both the US and French national flags. 

I can't wait to mail one of them to the cousins but I'm going to give the E-6000 glue that holds the spoons to the plate and the plate to the back of the frame a day or so to set. The other one will remain here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Working Ceiling Fan Tutorial

In an earlier post I shared the ceiling fan I made for the Quilt Shop Room Box and told you I wanted to make a working version. Later I posted a short (poor) video of the working fan. Here is a much better video of the fan in motion. I think the black bars in the earlier one were from the LED lights in the box. This time I didn't turn them on.

In response to several requests for a tutorial, here goes:

Here are the basic components of the fan itself. For a photo of the origins of the fan blade hardware, look at the earlier post. The clear plastic star is a mirror fastener that was replaced by a plain disc as the build evolved. The fan blades are cut from a sheet of frosted Mylar. I chose the Mylar because it was thinner than a credit card (so more to scale), wouldn't warp like paper/card stock might, and has a "tooth" surface that takes paint well. Note the tiny hole in the end of the eighth-inch wooden dowel that became the shaft. The translucent red bead serves as the motor. Because of the variety of materials that had to be glued together, I went straight for the E-6000.

You may have noticed the gloss black paint in the previous photo. I didn't use it. The matte finish looked more like "old fan" to me, so I used it exclusively. I gave the small end of the hardware bits a slight twist before gluing them to the center flat bead, so the blades are canted slightly, as in a real fan.

My apologies for the out-of-focus picture of the loop at the end of the shaft. I have a new camera and haven't yet figured out the close-up settings. I stripped the paper from a twist-tie to get a pliable wire to make the hook. I ran the two ends through the hole in the shaft from opposite sides and then did some simple twisting to get the loop you see. That slight bulge at the top of the shaft is a narrow strip of tape covering the hole. I'm not sure it was necessary, but the wire was a bit rough in that area and I didn't want it to get hung up while threading it through the base cap and ceiling.

This is a view of the ceiling cap. The clear star that you saw above was replaced by a plastic pull-seal from a carton of half-and-half. I cut off the ring part and cut a hole in the center. That is a wooden bead glued in place to form a bit of a sleeve for the shaft to keep it from wobbling. If you look carefully, you can see that the hole in the bead and the hole in the ceiling don't quite match up. I had problems with the shaft sticking when I tried to thread it through. As luck would have it, I had some plastic drinking straws that just fit into the space. A snip from the end of a straw became a smooth lining for the sleeve. Wobble cured.

There's no magic formula for the length of shaft or ceiling base. I eye-balled it and made several small trims to get it to the point where it all worked together.

This is the twirler that I ended up using. It is battery operated and came with an extra battery from Christmas in Prescott.  It is sitting over the hole that I drilled in the room box roof. The scrap bits of angle molding are glued in place to keep the spinner from moving from the vibrations. (You're right -- I don't throw anything away!)

Here's how it goes together. The fan shaft is passed up through the ceiling cap and the spinner hooks onto the loop. I wanted the fan to be removable to spar it from jarring in the event the box needs to be moved an appreciable distance.

When the shaft is hooked, the fan looks like this.

What would I do differently next time? I'd be sure I have hardware for both sides of the blades. It's not noticeable to the casual viewer, but I know it's missing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

So Close to Finished ...

A miniature is hardly ever finished. There's always some tweaking that can be done. The quilt shop room box is at that stage. More can be done, but it can wait. I spent a good bit of today inhaling rubber cement fumes as I arranged the quilts and sample blocks on the walls. 

The photos are a bit dark on the outside, as daylight was fading as I took these. The LED lights make the interior bright and cheerful. The bricks on the outside are printed cotton fabric. The raw wood box was primed with gesso. The fabric was glued in place with diluted white glue (two parts glue, one part water). When that dried thoroughly, it got two coats of satin finish clear polyacrylic. Although the bricks are a bit large for 1:12 scale, it makes a satisfying finish to the outside.

Inside, the  shop is shaping up. I discovered a nice open spot in the middle of the shop that is crying out for a round table heaped with sale or seasonal items. The customer with the shopping bag is waiting patiently!

Back in the corner, I found room for a wastebasket. Check the scene out the window in this and other pictures. Notice the shadow of the window on the sky? Bad news. Am thinking about putting translucent plastic on the window, as I did on the door. It will indicate light outside, but it won't be possible to see through it. Hate to lose the view, but shadows on the sky are annoying.

There is a channel that runs across the bottom of the box and up the two sides to hold a piece of Plexiglas. A fourth piece of channel slips over the top to complete the frame. I have no plans to do much dusting in this cluttered scene!

Now for the big reveal -- the working fan! I used Casey's idea for the ornament twirler. It rotates slowly, just as one would want. Wouldn't care to have bits of fabric blowing all over! For some reason, the camera kept adding rolling black bars to the picture, only while filming the fan, but I think you'll get the idea. Update: See a better video here.

So, still tweaking to be done, but for now, all is well in the quilt shop.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ceiling Fan

It's not a working fan, but still, I like what it adds to the room. I thought you might like to see the process. The first photo shows the jewelry finding that was cannibalized to make the hardware for the fan blades. As it was straightened, bits of the silver coating chipped off. That was okay, because I planned to paint it. Actually, it would have helped if all of the silver had chipped off, but it didn't.

Here's all it took. The five fan blades were cut from a piece of frosted mylar. The round beads are spacers. The big red bead is the motor assembly, and the star is a mirror fastener. The stick has a hole drilled cross-wise at the top end. The stick goes through a hole in the ceiling and a jewelry pin slips through the hole to keep it from falling back down.

It turned out I used only the flat black and gold paint. Saw no need for the shiny black.

I painted the motor bead and then scratched some lines around it. You can see the clear red bead inside in the photo, not so much in real life. I'm hoping that when the lights are on it, the scratched lines may look a bit like the copper windings that would be inside a real motor.

And here it is in place. The star is a bit showy, I think. I need to find a plain housing. In real life, it would be about 48" in diameter. It was hard to take a photo, but you get the idea. And remember, this is just temporary, until I figure out how to make one with a real motor.

Update: I did it! See the moving fan here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Mini Household Hint

No pictures today. I added the channel that will hold the Plexiglas on the front of the quilt shop room box. Not terribly photogenic. I stained the channels with the Minwax Early American to tie in with the floor. When I went to the sink to clean the brush, I totally forgot it was not a water based stain. What a mess when the water hit the brush.

I was near the laundry supplies, and a light bulb went on. I grabbed the Shout and gave the brush a few squirts. I figure if it dissolves spots of various natures, why not?

It worked! The Shout cut through the petroleum base, and that plus my favorite Lava soap got that brush as clean as nearly new with about three soapings.

So then I grabbed a brush that had been used for latex and accidentally left out to dry. It worked almost as well. Much of the paint came out with a little gentle massaging with my thumb, working in the soap and Shout. A few bristles were still stuck together, so I put some Shout in a small container and left the brush to soak in it overnight. I'm expecting come morning it will be easily cleaned.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Throw the Switch!

The past several days have seen my hair get thinner as I wrestled with getting the lights on in the quilt shop. There are only four connections that have to work: front beam, back beam, lamp, and outside lights. In an effort to keep costs down, I'm trying to use materials I have on hand. There was a power strip in the box of electrical components that I thought I could use.

The first photo shows the components. The transformer is plugged into the extension cord. The power strip is attached to the transformer. The little plugs get plugged into the power strip. The glass tubes are fuses, one in play and a spare taped to the strip. Apparently the power strip is old enough that the insides are a bit corroded. In any event, each light element worked fine if I pressed the plug into the socket, but when I let go, it either flickered, dimmed, or went out altogether.

This is the first time I tried using a power strip. I recall that a friend who has a large dollhouse rigged this way generally has to wiggle some plugs when she lights it up for viewing. I'm thinking that unless the new power strips are a whole lot better, this isn't the optimum way to go.

So, on to Plan B, one I've used successfully before. Here are the supplies, which I also found in the electrical component box.

And this is how they work. The cord with the on/off switch is connected to the transformer and plugged into the junction splice. The junction splice is hammered into one end of the tape strip. The tape strip has a sticky back to hold it in place. I cut a piece long enough to accommodate the four lights without crowding. The tester is a handy gadget. When the power is on and its sharp prongs pierce the blue and copper strips, it completes a connection and lights up, announcing that current is flowing nicely.

Because I planned to solder the connections, I used a very sharp eXacto knife and cut away bits of the protective plastic, one on the blue strip and one on the copper strip, for each light element. I used a needle nosed pliers to grip a tiny brass brad, which was pushed halfway into the wood. The plugs were removed from the lights and more of the covering was removed, so that there would be adequate bare wire to wrap around the brad to make the connection. The wire was wrapped, being careful not to let the wires touch (one reason for the offset), and the brad was pushed in the rest of the way to secure the connection.

I started with the front beam (at the left) and worked my way toward the end of the tape. After making each connection, I tested by turning the power on. When the light went on and the tester indicated there was power beyond the element just added, I knew all was well and to go on to the next element. You'll notice an extra flap cut out of the plastic just to the left of the back beam light. The wood beneath it was so hard that I could not push the brad in securely. Rather than risk tearing up the tape, I cut a second opening that worked just fine.

In this photo, the brads are wrapped and soldered. The wires are lightly held in place with masking tape. I don't expect they'll get wiggled very much, but it's a precautionary measure.

And now, what you've been waiting for: lights on! I like the effect. It sends a soft light through the room without being glaring. The only problem I see is that the lights on the back beam create window shadows on the background picture. Definitely not realistic. I suppose I could add another unit of LED lights outside, but I'm afraid it will be so bright out that it will appear the sun has exploded. I'm pondering a solution--maybe a very sheer curtain? Or it may be that once the room is filled, it won't be as noticeable. (The new view through the window is the Marshall, Missouri, courthouse, being auditioned for the role. Not sure this will be the final choice.)

Speaking of lights, as I was installing the outside light, I pulled away the foil that had been glued behind the original light bulb and was shocked to see the scorch marks. Scary to think what might have happened.

After the mini electricians left for the day, I stained some channel molding with the same Minwax Early American used on the floor. It will be attached to the front of the box to accept a Plexiglas panel to protect from dust and inquisitive visitors.

I was going to put a picture frame over the channel, but I think I'd prefer it to be very simple. The question now is how to handle the outside of the box. I'm being pressured to shingle the upper part like a mansard roof and do a mural showing the outside of a decaying brick building, but I've been slow to warm to that idea. It won't look like a building, because it isn't. And there are access doors that ... well, awkward is the word that comes to mind.

I see this more as a geode -- a rough exterior with a jewel shining inside -- am am leaning toward painting it all one color. I wish there were a selection of "make it invisible" shades!

Sorry this ran on so long. I'll try to keep up a little better after this!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Setting the Stage

The floors went in this morning. In order to determine where the stairs and railing should go, it was necessary to put the furnishings back in. I had a grand time moving everything around and settled on what you see here. I was a little concerned about the tall fabric bolt shelves, as they block the work area, but I think when the work light is on, that area will be visible enough.

There is enough room between the counter/shelf at the front and the stairs/short bolt shelves for a small display table as might be found in many quilt shops. I hadn't planned to make any new stuff for this, but something with a seasonal display, maybe?

With the tall shelf angled, it's possible to see that there are fabric bolts on both sides. You can't really tell from the photo, but the shelf of quilts on the upper level has triangular side pieces. I cut off the back angles. It now sits snugly against the window wall. I wasn't happy with it blocking the way, but now it's okay. And since it's way back there, it won't be as easy for the viewer to see that all of the quilts are fakes, made from folds of fabric printed with quilt patterns.

Look at all of the nice wall space for display. Deciding what to hang will be a fun challenge.

This photo isn't taken at a severe enough angle to see that the shelves behind the cutting counter are empty, but a person looking at the box will be able to tell. I see some tiny scraps of stuff in my future as those shelves get stocked and/or stuffed. :)

Now that I know where the furnishings will go, I can install the steps and railing and the work light.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ceiling Repainted & Some Lights Installed

I like the new ceiling color much better than that ugly, dirty gray. The photo distorts the color a bit. The walls are really a slightly deeper hue and the ceiling a little lighter. It's a nice, clean look.

In the photo above, you can see that the back light beam has been installed. It is glued to the brackets, but nowhere else. I think if the worst happens and the beam needs to be removed, a gentle wiggle of an eXacto knife will pop it loose from the bracket.

In the next photo, you can see the front light beam, mounted in the same way. Compare the clean look with the beam and spotlights in the photo of Marie Laveau's house at the top of the blog. When we get back to New Orleans, I believe Marie will be in for a wiring update.

I drilled holes in the ceiling and poked the wires up.* The socket strip and other electrical elements will hide under this lid. The extension cord will poke through the notch on the back side of the lid, so all that will show will be the cord.

There is one more electrical element to be installed inside, the floor lamp. Can't really do that until the floor is installed. A couple sections of daylight LEDs will be installed between the back (window) wall and the outside of the box. The lighting will be simple, but I think effective.

*There's a story about the wiring. I drilled the hole close to the back beam, so it would be hidden from view. Problem was, I couldn't see it to thread the wire through, and it is so tight that I couldn't get my head in far enough to be helpful. Thought about using a mirror, but there wasn't one handy. I switched my cell phone to camera mode and held it over the hole while threading the wire through with the other hand. I could hardly stand being in the same room with such a clever person!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bits & Pieces

You just never know when a scrap can be like gold. I didn't throw away the crown molding leftovers. They became brackets today with the addition of some 1/8" stock I had on hand. The magnets kept one side flush. I trimmed the other side flush after the glue dried.

They will be glued to the wall just below the light beams to keep them from falling. I don't want to glue the beams in place in case lighting needs attention on down the road. The beams are fitted so well that they stay in place simply from tension, but if the wood dries and shrinks at all, gravity will have its way.

While the brackets dry, I glued the window trim back on, including the little panels on either side. You can see part of the ceiling. I'm thinking I don't like it being so dark, but will wait until lights are in and it it staged to decide whether to change it. Would probably go with an ivory color, near that of the ecru walls or maybe a little deeper.  Why didn't I realize that a gray wash would just make it look dirty? *sigh*

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Ceiling is Up

Finished the lights, put up the ceiling, and added the crown molding. Whatta day!

Here's a close-up of the lights. I separated the sections and connected with extra wire. To run lights all the way across would have made it as bright as an operating room. There are four sections across the front and three behind the back beam. I did aim them downward a bit. They are more effective that way. I am going to make the beams removable. Need to find or make a couple of nice brackets for them to rest on.

The ceiling is in and the crown molding is glued. The gaps front and back are for the light beams. So much easier to do this with the box upside down.

I guesstimated the amount of crown molding needed. Just had to show you how close it was. Good thing I didn't mess up any of the angles!

Tomorrow the window trim goes in and I get to play with staging to determine placement of the stairs & railing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Roombox Lights!

Other than the one floor lamp in the work area, the lights for the roombox will be indirect LED lights. These are the kind that come in a strip. Some will hide behind a beam installed above the railing in back and the rest will be installed behind a strip at the front of the box. This is a new breed of lighting for me and took a little experimentation.

In keeping with my efforts to use what I have on hand as much as possible, I rummaged through the electrical toolbox and found a plug-in strip, brads, a bag of cords and plugs cut from lights used in other projects. (I soldered their wires to a tapewire, thus having plugs and cords left over.)

This is my test piece, one section of the light strip wired with a plug. The wires are just wrapped around brads for this test. I'll solder them for the actual installation. The lights have a sticky back back for mounting, but I didn't want this test to be permanent so I taped it to a short piece of the beam.

Here is the test. Can't tell you how excited I was when both the LED and lamp both lighted on the first try.  The beam will extend from side to side. The light here is from the three tiny LEDs on the test strip. I think two 3-light sections will be more than adequate to light this small area. The instructions say the lights are equal to a 120-degree spotlight. In the test they are aimed toward the back wall. In the actual installation, I'll angle them downward a bit. 

The socket strip is constructed in four sections, each with its own switch, so I could turn off the lamp and leave the overhead and/or outside lights on if the mood strikes. And the ceiling fan can have its own control, too, if it is linked to the 12v system.

Now that I know the electrical installation is within the realm of possibility, the ceiling needs to be installed. I tested a wash of thinned paint and like the effect. It is the same Ceramcoat Dove Gray that is used on the trim.

This is what it will look like against the beams and crown molding. The wash is still wet in this picture. I want to give the whole ceiling a coat of satin finish polyacrylic so it will have a metalic look, like a pressed tin ceiling.

Tomorrow the ceiling will go in, followed by the lighted beams and the crown molding. That's the plan, anyway.

Monday, August 6, 2012

More Wallpaper

Today I hit Radio Shack for a 12v motor for the ceiling fan. Unfortunately, the one clerk knew nothing about electricity, so it was truly the blind leading the blind -- and I was the one leading! I bought a motor and a battery pack to run it. I runs very well, at 8700 rpms. At that speed the fan would become a helicopter and take off with the whole roombox! My friend who suggested the motor says he'll help me rig a dimmer switch sort of something that will let me regulate the fan.

Next stop was Menards, where I bought some pine molding for a frame for the front. Eight feet for $2.47 -- much better than picture framing, and once it's painted, you'll never know the difference.

I also bought four 1:1 wooden post toppers that I thought could be used for feet. I'm thinking something like bun feet to raise it up a bit so it won't look as if it's being squashed by its "attic" piece. The proportion isn't quite right, though, so I'll return them and keep looking.

Back home, I went to work on the wallpaper. Remember how I told you it's easy to remove the paper when using rubber cement? Yup. I papered the section with the door, leaving a quarter inch to run around the corner to the narrow jog section. After I'd slid the door section in place, it became obvious that a much better plan would be to wrap that piece of paper clear around over the jog part and onto the main part of the wall. Done. This photo shows the flap hanging in space. I was careful not to put glue on the access door as it will be useful when installing the "outdoor" lights.

Here the walls are in place and drying. The  edges of the jog section are glued to the door and wall sections but not to the outer box. This seems to be a sturdy enough arrangement. The last piece of wallpaper is cut and ready to glue in tomorrow, when I'm sure the glue is dry.

Next step (I think) will be putting in the ceiling.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


The back and right side walls are papered with the ecru ceiling paper. I like the way it looks. I'm using rubber cement dry mount technique. Spread the cement on the paper and the wall, let dry, then press in place. It can be peeled back and reseated if not right the first time and pulled away even months later if necessary.

The first photo shows the box on its side. The part of the wall nearest the front has been glued into place with Aileen's Tacky Glue, forever sealing the access door on that side. It's weighted down to prevent it pulling away from the box as it dries. Notice all of the clamps in front? They are holding a quarter inch piece of wall in place. Even the best of measurements . . . Oh, well, the wallpaper will cover it up.

Here are the back and right side walls papered. I also papered the low wall below the upper level, although most of it will be hidden. It's nice to be able to flip the box on its side or upside down to work on it.

All three sections of the right wall are one piece of paper. The only seam is the corner with the back wall. I wrapped a quarter inch of paper from the back wall around the corner and covered it with the side wall paper for a nice, clean finish.

I'll have to do some planning before sticking things on the walls. I have a feeling tacky wax or poster putty or whatever I use will leave a mark on this pristine paper.