Friday, 28 August 2015

Handy hints & Tips #1 - Glue jig

My current flurry of workshop preparations is causing me to do a fair amount of lateral thinking, especially in terms of tools and materials for my students to use.

I have one of most things, a few of some other things and not enough of several things.

Gluing jigs being a case in point.......

I have two jigs, both of which are invaluable when making miniature toy theatres, Jack-in-the-Boxes, wooden doll trunks, 1/144th doll's houses..... anything which needs to be held in place, squarely, while glue dries etc.

 This is my oldest glue jig.  As you can see, the surface has seen better days as it has often been pressed into service as a temporary cutting mat.


Yes, I know.

Mea culpa.

I think someone made it for me and it must be approaching 30 years old.  It's strong and sturdy and has withstood no end of punishment over the years.  Jigs like these are easy to make and every miniaturist should have one in their toolbox.

However, it's main limitation is that apart from using copious amounts of Blu-Tack, it's difficult to actually hold pieces firmly in place on the board.

So, a few years later I invested in one of these.....

 I bought this around 25 years ago and at the time I remember reeling at the cost.  However, as barely a week goes by when I don't use it I expect that the cost per use must down to approximately  0.00005p by now.

The base is made of steel, which allows the use of strong magnets to hold pieces firmly in place.  It's strong and durable (no cut marks on this one!) and I can soak it to remove the glue which inevitably oozes out on to its surfaces.

However, the main drawback of this one, aside from the eye-watering price, is that it only has one 'corner', so I can only work with one item at a time.

During my Everything Alice one day workshop next month, my students will all be making an illuminated toy theatre, and it's vital that the assemblies are square.  
And I don't have enough jigs to go round.

Until I had an epiphany.

Ta Dah!!!

A quick bit of Googling revealed a seller of small square metal cake tins.  Perfect!
Although having tested out one of my own I found that the metal didn't attract magnets.


So, you can't use aluminium or copper tins.
However, I asked the cake tin seller if she would check to see if hers would hold a magnet and hey presto, they did!

So, finally, a cheap and cheerful magnetic jig, with the added bonus of having four corners so that I can glue multiple projects at the same time.

This one is 6" square and cost £2.30.  The cheapest modelmaker's glue jig I could find was £25 and would require shipping from the US.  So quite a saving.

Final tips..... before you buy, make sure that the sides are straight.  Some tins have slightly angled sides, presumably to make it easier to remove cakes.  However these are no use for our purposes.
Also, bear in mind that these are not 'engineered' tins, and they may not be forensically 'square'.  However, for the purposes of holding most glued components together while the glue sets they're perfectly adequate.   

If you do need absolute 100% accuracy then it's easy to set up a completely square 90 degree configuration of magnets in the base of the tin, using a try set square as shown below.

You can then place your assembly against the 90 degree angle created by the magnets and firmly support it in place with additional magnets.


As an extra bonus, your metal glue jig can also be used to store stuff in, so it really is a multi-function tool  

Friday, 7 August 2015

Sandra shaming is a thing.....

You'll undoubtedly have seen those dog shaming photos which proliferate on the interweb.....

You get the gist.

More recently, cat shaming photos and memes have turned up too.....

Well, it turns out that Sandra shaming is a thing too.

I normally rely on the annual 'Where Bloggers Create' shindig to spruce up the workroom and restore it to it's once pristine glory.  It's just over two years since my workroom makeover, which took up most of the summer of 2013.

Here's a reminder.....

Since then it's gone through phases of being messy, then tidy, then messy again.  Sometimes all three in the same day.

However, during July this year I was away on holiday, and missed the blog party, so my lovely workroom also missed its annual deep clean and reorganisation.

Which goes some way to explaining why it currently looks like this.....

As you can see, there is nary a nano-millimetre of clear space on any horizontal surface.  In my defence, it's been a very, VERY busy week in the workroom and I did at least manage to maintain a narrow pathway on the floor most of the time.

I've made a few desultory attempts at tidying up this week but they've been a dismal failure. No sooner have I liberated enough space for a A4 cutting mat than it's been overwhelmed by a tsunami of tools and materials.

However, today it has reached tipping point.  

I cannot even find space for a waffer-thin mint.

So this blog post is by way of shaming myself into rolling up my sleeves, gritting my teeth and having a bloody good clear up and sort out.

I may be gone for some time.......  *sigh*

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Perfect 10...?

As a user of Windows 8, I have been longing for the new Windows 10 release, which Microsoft has magnanimously offered as free upgrade in an attempt to mollify the many millions of us who hate Win 8 with a passion verging on the psychotic.

I signed up for the upgrade several months ago, and since it's release a few weeks ago a little screen has been popping up offering to install it for me.  I duly scheduled the install but chickened out at the last minute and since then I've been rescheduling every few days.

However, the feedback from those with more chutzpah than me has been fairly universally positive, so this morning I decided to throw caution to the winds and go for it.

I started at 9.50 am and it finished just a short while ago at 11.45

Some time later.....


Nearly there.....!


Maybe not....


Losing the will to live now.....

Just as well I had this in my eyeline....

Eventually, after almost two hours, the install is complete and seems to be working.  I had a bit of a wobbly with the reinstated start menu (hallelujah!) when I couldn't find 'All Programs' but it turns out that 'All Apps' is the same thing.   

Who knew....?

The very bestest thing is that those annoying side panels which popped out when you moved the cursor from right to left in Win 8 have gone, and the random screen switching thing has stopped too, which is a blessing.

It does look and act differently but it's nowhere near as scarily different as Win 8 and I'm tentatively hopeful that we'll get on fine.  I have loads of work to get through today so I don't have time to play with all the new bells and whistles, so apart from resetting my default browser and ensuring that I can find my files I haven't taken it for much of a run but I'm giving it a tentative thumbs up so far.

After all.... what could possibly go wrong? 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Everything Alice! - One Day Workshop

Bookings are now open for our first one day workshop session on Saturday 26 September!

In the 150th anniversary year of the publication of Lewis Carroll's famous book, this workshop is, quite literally, Everything Alice and students will be making ALL of the miniatures shown, including the shop window display.

So, in detail, here's what's included......

Alice shop window display

Students can personalise their shop window....

Choice of tile panels

Customise the interior as you wish

Tiny 1/24th scale porcelain Alice doll, 
complete with a little arch decorated with red and white roses and playing cards.

Alice in Wonderland toy theatre in a choice of styles.  
The theatre has movable characters and is illuminated.

Set of porcelain toy characters, which you will paint in the colours of your choice.  
The set includes the Mad Hatter, March Hare and White Rabbit Messenger.
(Tea set is available as an optional extra)

Pull along cart, decorated inside and out with Alice illustrations

Play set with changeable scenery and characters.

Full set of double sided characters which can be used with the theatre and play set.
The illustrated storage box is also included.

Boxed set of 6 Alice nursery blocks

Set of Alice character masks for 1/12th children

Lots of additional items will be available to decorate your shop window.

As this is our first workshop of this kind, there will also be a few surprises.... of the Alice variety!

This is a humdinger of a workshop(!) and students will certainly not be able to complete everything in the time available.  During the session we will concentrate on the more complex items.... toy theatre, pull along cart and Alice doll, which we hope will be finished on the day.  

Full workshop notes will be available so that students will be able to complete any unfinished items at home.

The cost of this workshop is £100 and includes the complete workshop pack as shown, plus tuition and hot/cold drinks throughout the day.

A booking deposit of £25 is required (cheque or PayPal) with the balance payable on the day of the class.

In order to run this class, I need a minimum of 3 students. 

Classes will be held at my home in St. Leonards on Sea, East Sussex and run from 10.30am - 5.30 pm.

Full road/rail travel details and information on accommodation locally are available on request, if required.

Spaces are limited, so to book a place please contact me to check availability.

Please note that although a few of the elements of this project will be available to purchase as kits on the website at a later date, due to the complex nature of this project, complete home workshop packs as detailed above will not be available. 

Hopefully we will see some of you on 26 September.  Small Dog is looking forward to it!

Friday, 17 July 2015

RIP Good Printer.....

I suppose it had to happen someday.  After all, machines in general, and printers in particular have a limited lifespan.  There would never be a good time for my best, most favourite printer to give up the ghost, but why did it have to happen today when I have a barrowload of printing to do?

Long-time readers of this blog will know that printers and I have a chequered past.  For example, almost exactly three years ago I posted THIS, and a search for printer based posts reveals a staggering catalogue of invective-filled grief.

The 'bad', multifunction printer has been on borrowed time for longer than I can remember.  It's only because we have two that it hasn't been relegated to the great cartridge shuffler in the sky years ago.  In computer years it's very ancient and has been on death row for ages. It's bad-tempered, contrary and bears a grudge.  Not to mention it doesn't print, scan or copy without a hugely dramatic diva-like performance.  It's like the Sarah Bernhardt of the printer world

By comparison, the 'good', print-only machine has been relatively trouble-free, only occasionally coming under the malign influence of the bad printer, and even then it always apologised profusely and worked doubly hard to make up for any indiscretions.

There had been no indication that it was ailing.  Only the other day it turned out a batch of 12 page, double-sided, full colour instruction booklets without a murmur.  Which was why what happened this morning was so shockingly unexpected.

I needed to print out an invoice.  Single page.  Standard quality.  No colour.  Simple.
Everything seemed fine.  It switched on, shuffled its cartridges (as they do) and waited to print.  Drew down the paper, all as normal, then an odd error message appeared on my screen and the printer's lights started flashing all at once and then...... and then *sob*....

It died.

There was a sort of muffled bang, and a bit of a fizzle, and when I checked the power cord there were a few sparks.

I think it was a heart attack.  Or possibly a stroke. We tried to give it life-saving treatment... checked the diagnostics, fuse, plug, socket, leads....turned it upside down and gave it a bit of a shake.... all to no avail.  

It had gone.

I am bereft.

It doesn't help that the bad printer is now looking unbearably smug.  Although, to be fair, perhaps in deference to my grief it has stepped up to the mark and deigned to print a few sheets without throwing a hissy fit like it usually does.  

However, with no less than four workshops to prepare for I must have a reliable, good quality printer, so having done some quick research, we've ordered a replacement, which we'll pick up on Sunday.

I'm thinking of having a Viking funeral for my loyal Canon..... it's the least it deserves.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

In other news.....

I had an exciting parcel delivery today.....

Yayyy..... the wonderful kits for my 'Atelier des Poupées' workshop have arrived!

When assembled, they look like this, ready to be transformed into a dollmaker's workshop, filled with all manner of lovely dollmaking themed miniatures.

I'd originally intended to schedule this workshop for the autumn, but as the list of included miniatures keeps growing, and with three other sessions to prepare, I've decided to run it early in the New Year instead.

This will be a challenging session and requires careful planning with military precision.  I was just thinking that I could do with some help when who should appear to offer her services as Project Manager....?

None other than Smallest Small Dog and her faithful sidekick, Archimedes

Before I could gather my wits to say "Thanks, but no thanks" they were already checking out the vignette with a view to taking up the position.

SSD even had the foresight to bring her dish and lunch with her, although predictably things began to go downhill fairly swiftly when Archimedes stole her gravy bone and scampered up onto a shelf.


Their antics as erstwhile 'helpers' when I was building La Mignonette were anything but helpful but SSD is difficult to dissuade and I left her measuring up and muttering about rag-rolled vermilion walls teamed with eau-de-nil curtains.  I'm not sure where she got her interior decor qualifications but the term 'lucky bag' springs to mind.

I can foresee insurmountable artistic differences ahead........