Thursday, 20 December 2007

Deck the halls.........

tra la la la la, fa la la la............

Countdown to Christmas, and today I forced myself to endure the dreaded Tesco food shop. Wall to wall tinsel, screaming toddlers and high decibel Christmas hits, combined with the traditional scrum at the fresh turkey section.

I positively reeled when I finally managed to elbow my way to the front...... fresh turkeys at up to £53! Has the world gone mad?

Finally plumped for a lovely fresh duck crown at a mere fraction of the price of a turkey, so all is well with the world.

Toyshop? Progress? Ah, well *clearing of throat and shuffling of feet* yes.........

Well I did spend a lovely few hours this week sorting out all my boxes of little toys into categories for the shop and I am absolutely committed to stocking the shelves over the Christmas holidays.

Just a few niggly, naggly electrical problems to sort out first though.

All in good time.............

Friday, 14 December 2007

Basement flat.......pack

Huzzah.....the basement kit has arrived!

I've already had it assembled in 'dry build' form, to see how I'm going to adapt it. Like the shop kit it is very cleverly designed, and everything fits together beautifully. However the front of the basement really needs some windows, as the only ones are two small fanlights, which I'll be obscuring by covering in the basement 'area'.

So, I've been looking on the internet for inspiration from actual shops with basements etc, and have found a few images which have given me some ideas. However I am NOT looking forward to cutting out the window apertures, which from experience, is a really tricky job and not for the fainthearted.

I've got as far as buying some new jigsaw blades which purport to give a fine cut, but until I decide on the windows, and actually buy them, I won't be doing anything much on the basement. I would really like to have arched windows but I just know that they will be difficult to cut without making at least one mistake.

So, for now, I will continue working on the shop, which is now nearing completion, and the basement will have to wait for the time being.......

Except perhaps for planning the electrics, which will have to be on a separate circuit from the shop.
Oh and the flooring, which I could lay while the kit is still flat-pack. However I can't decide on what to have.......I suppose flagstones would be most authentic, but really nice ones are horrendously expensive and the floor space is really quite large, including as it does, the area which runs into the basement front.
And I suppose I could paint the ceilings and walls to make life easier when it's assembled.

Photos to follow......

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Painting and decorating.........

I've managed several hours work on the toy shop over the past two days.

Finally got the grip with the mitres and finished the cornicing in all four rooms. Don't mind if I never see another mitre ever again! However I have to admit, despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the finished ceilings do look good.

Also got round to finishing the areas of wallpaper and paint which were outstanding.... lots of small areas which I'd been putting off as I knew they would take a lot of time and patience.

I've also varnished the wooden floors as they looked a bit dull and flat.


Next task is to hinge the attic roof, which will be tricky as is it impossible to wield a screwdriver in the available space.

I'll take some photos later this week to record the latest developments. Plus the basement kit is arriving sometime after Wednesday so lots of plans to make for that.........

Friday, 7 December 2007

Basement update.........

In the post before the mitre debacle, I mentioned that I had found a basement kit, designed for my shop, and that I was considering whether or not to get one.

My deliberations took all of a day, and after receiving confirmation this morning that the basement kit was indeed available as a separate item, at the remarkably fine price of just £45 including delivery, I have gone ahead and ordered one, which will be here before Christmas.


So, the two attic workshop areas will be relocated in the basement, and I can reclaim the attic rooms as two further display areas.

However, there is just one teensy, weensy problem which I spotted right away, and which I have been mulling over since yesterday.

This will be easier to explain with the aid of a photograph.........

Here is what the basic shop and basement look like. The front of the basement lifts away from the front of the building to give access to the two rooms, which are the same size and layout as those in the shop above.
There are railings, a set of steps leading up to the door, and two little arched windows below pavement level.

From a design point of view, this means that 'people' can't stand looking in through the shop windows. Plus as you may remember, I have adapted the windows in my shop so that they are large bay windows, so it would look a bit odd if they were sticking out way up in mid air on the front of the building!

So, I think I may opt to have a pavement covering the whole of the basement area, on which I can have a street lamp, postbox, a few children looking in at the shop windows etc.

However this means that I will be excluding all light from the basement, and I hate to think of the toymaker and dollmaker having to work in the gloom, even though I will be installing lighting. I might therefore, adapt the front and/or sides of the basement, to incorporate windows.

I'll reserve judgement on any alterations until I actually have the kit and can see how it is to be constructed. In the meantime I intend to push ahead with the shop and see how far I can get by Christmas.

I mitre known........

I cannot be the only miniaturist who understands the mechanics of mitres, but falls short when it comes to the practice.

Being fully aware of my shortcomings in this regard, today I set about the task of installing the cornicing in the ground floor rooms.

I measured the first room.
Double checked the measurements.
Drew a plan showing the direction of the mitres
Double checked plan
Pencilled in the correct angle on the first moulding
Double checked it in situ
Triple checked it against the measurements and the plan.
Had a cup of tea and a biscuit
Checked the mitre again
Gazed out of the window for a while.
Girded my loins to actually cut the mitre
Carefully set up my mitre cutting jig to the correct angle running in the correct direction
Came downstairs to check my emails and play with small dog and her squeaky ball
Finally, all displacement activity exhausted, picked up my little craft saw and cut the mitre.

And it was correct.

Short lap of honour around the room and flushed with success, decided to omit the 40 minutes worth of checks and balances, and swiftly cut the first mitre for the back wall moulding.

And it was correct.

And element of over confidence crept in. Yes I did check the angle of the second mitre and yes it looked fine.

But it wasn't

Somehow, the mitre goblins intervened between my taking the moulding out of the room and placing it in the mitre block, so that when I cut it, it was indeed at the right angle , but on the wrong side of the moulding.

So I have decided to abandon mitreing for the moment, although I did manage to get the cornicing in one room completed.


Thursday, 6 December 2007

Horns of a dilemma.........

Yes, you're right, there has been no progress on the toy shop since my last posting. However, small packages have been arriving on a regular basis, with yet more fixtures and fittings so I don't feel I have been wasting time, as I have been unable to proceed without these essential bits and pieces.

However, whilst idly browsing on the internet today, I came across the website I bought my toy shop kit from.

And lo...... there is now a lovely basement which has been designed specifically for the shop.

Hence the dilemma horns of which I spoke.

Do I throw caution to the winds and get a basement.........or not.

If I do, I would be able to move the toymaker's and dollmakers' workrooms, which were going to be in the two attic rooms, down into the basement, and reclaim the attic rooms for another two shop display areas.

Very tempting.

Although much more work.

Although if I were moving the workshops to the basement, I could concentrate fully on finishing the main body of the shop and starting to put all my lovely little toys in place on the shelves.

And the basement areas would effectively be a completely separate build.

Anyway, I am waiting to hear if they will sell a basement kit separately, and if so the cost.

I simply don't think I can resist........

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A comedy of errors.............

I think that very probably, my last words on this earth are likely to be.......

"well it seemed like a good idea at the time........."

In my last post I mentioned that the two first floor windows were unusable in their current state and that undoubtably the easiest option would be to simply replace them.

How sage that advice now sounds.

Yes, spending around £18 (remember this figure as I shall be asking questions later) on two new windows, in retrospect, would have been the easiest, quickest and CHEAPEST option.

But fie on 'easiest'. I laugh in the face of 'quickest' and snap my fingers disdainfully at 'cheapest'.

There had to be a solution..........

I happened to mention my problem at my recent one day workshop, hoping to enlist the aid of several keen miniaturists who presumably had overcome similar problems with acrylic windows in innovative and inventive ways.

Lo, it was so and I settled on the idea of frosting the acrylic and adding lettering to advertise the shop's wares.

So far so good.

Found a can of window frosting stuff on ebay - check
Ditto peel off letters - check
Ditto fancy borders, corners for windows - check

Embarked upon mindnumbingly tedious task of masking all the wood on the window frames before spraying on the frosting. Took absolutely ages as no two bits of wood were the same length or width and kept sliding up and down.
Over the course of a day, sprayed layers of frosting over the acrylic, hoping to build up an opaque coating to conceal the clouding/crazing.
This was partially successful in that it did conceal one problem, but bizarrely highlighted another, which was a line of wood stain all around the edges of the acrylic, which hadn't been visible before.

Took a deep breath and congratulated myself on having had the foresight to buy some decorative border, corners etc, just in case.
Wailed silently when I discovered that using aforementioned borders would not leave enough room for peel off letters so back to the drawing board.

Flirted briefly with the idea of throwing the windows in the bin and buying two new ones but instead stiffened my upper lip, gritted my teeth and rummaged in my 'bits' boxes to see if there was any alternative.

Ha Ha. Perfect laser cut paper strips just exactly the right width and looking very victorian.

Set about cutting and mitreing the corners for four individual window panes on the first window in the sure and certain knowledge that I would definitely have enough strips to do all panes on both windows.

No question.

Probably even loads left over.


So, have ordered another two packs of laser cut decorative strips, from Huntsville, Alabama, US of A, as they are available nowhere else.

Total cost of all this 'money saving activity' - £18.09 (remember how much the two NEW windows were going to cost?)
Number of hours saved - 0
Number of hours spent - approximately 8
Number of gin and tonics imbibed in order to stave off mental breakdown - several

However. I am actually quite pleased.

Behold the result of the finished first window (second will have to wait until packet from Alabama arrives by carrier pigeon)

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Distressing Times............

So.........due to a viral lurgy which has laid me low for the past two weeks, there has been no 'actual' work done on the shop. However,while gradually recovering from my feverish state, and tucked up on the sofa in pyjamas and duvet, I was able to do some 'virtual' work, ie planning the display cabinets and working out the decoration of the exterior, now that the doors are finally in place.

This weekend, feeling much better, I indulged in some convalescent 'occupational therapy' and managed to complete the following tasks:

  • Solved the puzzle of the non-closing front door
  • Moved the lighting socket on the inside of the front so that not only does the door close properly, the lights in the bay window now work too.
  • Painted the base coat on the tiled roof section and two attic room dormer windows
  • Painted the entrance door and drilled holes for the brass door furniture.
  • Did the initial 'brick distressing' on the exterior front doors.......I intend to have bits of moss growing out of cracks in the brickwork, and around the windows etc to give it an even more distressed look.
  • Painted the fancy bits which will go above the entrance door to house the shop sign.
  • Found the various planted containers which will grace the tops of the bay windows and put them temporarily in position to gauge the final effect.
ThusLooks not bad I far.

However, some niggly, naggly problems have arisen, to which I can find no obvious solution.
The first floor windows have developed a cloudy, crazed coating, which I can't remove with anything, not even plastic polish. I suspect that this has been caused by a reaction with the wood stain which I used on the window frames, despite being extremely careful to avoid any contact with the window acrylic. Probably the fumes from the stain attacked the inside of the acrylic when the windows were laid on newspaper to dry. Very annoying, and there is no obvious solution, aside from buying two new windows :-(

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.................

Monday, 8 October 2007


Some of the little toys which will eventually be on display in my toy shop have been stored in various boxes for almost two years, so I've been re-acquainting myself with some of my tiny treasures over the last few days.

I had forgotten quite how many I had!

However, while mooching around on ebay, I found a few more which were just irresistable, although I now realised that a Sopwith Pup aeroplane kit is rather anachronistic if my shop is set purely in Victorian times.

I've also seen some other wonderful toys, which would be more in keeping with a post Edwardian shop rather than Victorian.

So I have decided to have an old-fashioned Victorian shop, set in the late Edwardian period, simply so that I can have mechanical toys which are more in keeping with that era.
That, and of course I can have some lady customers browsing with their children, dressed in my favourite Edwardian costumes.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Very busy weekend but I did manage to put in a few hours on the toy shop on Saturday.

Good news and bad news.............

Good news is that I managed to get the inside of the door fronts wallpapered and hinged.
Bad news is that I couldn't wield a normal sized screwdriver inside the right hand room and therefore had to use a tiddly little thing to screw all 8 screws into rock hard MDF and have the blisters to prove it.

Good news continues in that when I plugged in the 'extension sockets' to the fronts, all the lights in the bay windows and the two coach lamps either side of the entrance door all lit up twinklingly.
Bad news continued when I tried to close the right side front and found that my cunningly placed plug wouldn't allow the door to close.


Will have to devise an even more cunning way of moving plug socket 1/2" to the right without stripping off the wallpaper or having the relocated socket show on the inside of the door.

Bit of a conundrum but I think I might just have an idea to save the day.

To be continued..............

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Be Prepared................

Anyone who has followed this blog from the start (and if you've come in at this late stage then I strongly suggest you follow the trail right back to the beginning and read every scintillating post) will know that when I embarked on this journey last December, I was extremely disorganised with regard to Christmas.

I apologise for raising the spectre of the (reportedly) festive season in the dying days of September but due to my reckless inability to 'get my act together' last year, I have solemnly pledged to myself that I will be a reformed character, and will sail into December in the sure and certain knowledge that all my Christmas planning is done, lists have been actioned, presents bought and wrapped, cards written stamped and ready to send and generally being smug.

To this end I have put a timer on my computer desktop screen, in which Santa gallops merrily across the little snowy window, waving gaily, while in large, friendly script there is a countdown of the number of days remaining till 25th December. I thought it would help focus my attention, assist in my planning and listmaking and generally galvanise me into action.


Only three days on, I now find myself sitting transfixed, like a rabbit trapped in the glare of oncoming headlights, regarding the large 'friendly' message with narrowed eyes and gritted teeth.
Somehow just knowing that I have all this time for preparation has rendered me incapable of taking the whole thing seriously.
So in all probability, once again I will arrive at 18th December, blinking in confusion and muttering incoherently about how the time has flown etc etc.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering...............

86 days
'til Christmas

Quite chuffed actually...........

I had some exciting news earlier this week.

After submitting a few of my tiny doll's dolls to the Kensington Dollshouse Festival appraisal process, I have been accepted as a showcase exhibitor at next year's Festival.

Woo and indeed hoo!

Not only that, they want me to offer a workshop on the opening day of the Festival!!
During the workshop session students will costume one of my latest style of little Victorian style dolls, just 1 1/2" tall, learning lots of hints and tips along the way and ending up with a miniature heirloom for the dollshouse nursery or toy shop.

My latest range now includes a toy doll with real glass eyes.
Now if you're saying 'so what.........." then I should point out that I have to work inside a porcelain head no bigger than a small pea, in order to set in eyes the size of mustard seeds, so it is a real technical challenge. I even use a special opthalmic micro-scalpel to excise the eyeholes, with the aid of a powerful magnifying lamp. Less than half a millimetre means the difference between success and failure.

It is one of these glass-eyed dolls which I submitted to the Festival organisers, along with some of my painted eye Jumeau-style dolls, which I must admit are my very favourite dolls of all to make and dress.

My idea of heaven is to spend a day in my workroom surrounded by drifts of silks and ribbons in every shade and colour of the spectrum, creating costumes for these little dolls.


Anyway, as I said, I am really quite chuffed.............:-)

Monday, 24 September 2007


Have just spent a jolly hour deeply immersed in the mysteries of electricity.

Happily as it is of the 12v variety there is little chance of me ending up frizzled to a crisp.

However I am very adept at burning myself with either the soldering iron or hot solder, both of which are extremely hot!

Nevertheless, the front sections of the shop are now 'live' so the little coach lamps either side of the door, and the lights inside the bay windows are twinkling merrily so I am mightily pleased with my efforts.

I've even made a start on the cat's cradle of wires which run from the lit display cabinets and have installed some extra connection points so that I don't have to run wires from one room to another.

All in all, quite a satisfying episode, so if I can keep this up over the coming weeks it might..... just might, be finished by Christmas.

Woo and indeed hoo!

The scale of the problem................

Thanks to Mrs Mop's untiring industry in my little hobby room yesterday, I do now have space to move around in and have spent a dispiriting few hours trying to assess what to do next with my toy shop.

Why dispiriting?

Well I am now re-acquainted with the reason why my enthusiasm for the project had waned somewhat.

There are lots of things to do which isn't the problem.

The problem is this
Before I can move on I need to sort out the electrics for all the display cabinets. If you read way back in these posts, you will recall that I was very excited about my idea to light every display case.

Great idea. No question.


The shop has three floors with two rooms on each floor
There will be a total of 14 display cabinets, a variety of double, triple and some corner units. Not content with simply lighting each cabinet, I decided to light each individual bay in each cabinet.

A grand total of 30 bays. Which means 30 individual bulbs, each with 24" of wire ending in a little white plug.

Which means an unholy tangle of wires running behind the cabinets and converging on a long connector strip tucked neatly in the corners where they will be hidden behind the angled corner units.

So I have no choice.

I have pondered long and hard, aided and abetted by small dog, who helpfully brought her squeaky ball along to help my deliberations.

I now have the tedious, repetitive task of taking off every plug, meticulously measuring the distance to the connector, accurately cutting the wire to length and refitting the plug, soldering each wire to ensure a good connection.

It'll take hours, days, weeks even........... :-(

Friday, 21 September 2007

Cavalry arrives.............

"By 'eck! Look at the muck in 'ere! This'll take more than a squirt of Ajax."

*sighs heavily, lights her ciggy, and sets about putting the blog to rights*


Look at the dust in here..........
*runs a finger along the windowsill and recoils at the trail of dust and debris*

See, this is what happens when a blog is neglected
*ducks to avoid abseiling spider the size of a dinner plate*

I really must knuckle down and give it a good going over
*steps sideways to avoid hibernating marmot* ........gosh, wonder how that got in here...........

Perhaps I should get a cleaner in...........
*startled by rustling noise behind the cupboard*

Yes.......good idea. I'll get someone in to give it a thorough clean and come back later
*backs slowly towards the door*

Friday, 15 June 2007

Mea Culpa

Yes, yes, I know.

Tumbleweed has been rolling though this blog for ages.

I can plead mitigating circumstances.


Work being done in the real house since February has played havoc with my leisure time. I'm so far behind with just about everything that my little toyshop is now gathering dust.

What I should do is take it out in the garden to work on. In the sunshine. With a glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc.

Sounds like a plan.......................

Friday, 20 April 2007

Palely Loitering.....


Yet another month since my last post.

Where does the time go?

Aside from poking my head round the door of my little hobby room to reassure my negelected toyshop that I'm still here, there has been no progress.

That said, we are still in the throes of major refurbishments to the full-size house but I do feel guilty that instead of falling into bed exhausted at the end of each day, I haven't found even the odd 10 minutes to do anything to my shop.

I can't even claim that popping into our local dolls house shop for some wallpaper is progress, except that now I have it, I have no excuse to at get at least the insides of the two front opening doors papered.

But that will have to wait until next month as the next two weeks are absolutely manically, frantically busy.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Tempis fugit.......

........or to put it another way, time flies.

I can't believe it's a month since my last post. You could be forgiven for thinking that I have made no further progress since this time last month, when I was so buoyed up with success.

Well not strictly true.

Certainly I haven't had as much time as I would have liked to press on with my little toyshop, but we have been having some major renovation works done to the full-size house, which means that everything is in complete disarray and stress levels are sky-high. So many times over the past few weeks I would have given anything to take myself off to potter with the toyshop, but other than sneaking the odd 10 minutes I have resolutely applied myself to life scale problems.

However, this past week, I have managed to progress a little......nothing major to engender whoops of delight, but small tasks have been ticked off the list so it has not been completely neglected.

A few things are being held up because I haven't quite decided what to do. For example, the inside of the two front opening panels. I think that I will use wallpaper to cover the electric tape runs etc. To that end I ordered some sheets of paper from eBay but they are much too small and now that I have them I don't think they're quite the right colour.

Then there's the areas above the display cabinets which will line each of the rooms on the two shop floors. I'd quite like to use a wallpaper border, and again bought some very lovely Victorian children borders, but they are too wide and I can't be bothered to go through the rigmarole of scanning and reducing them, then printing them myself. They never look as good as the originals anyway *sigh*

On the plus side, I have painted the last of the display cabinets and stained all the floorboards inside the shop. I think I will have to varnish them to bring out the colour better and give them a bit of a sheen.

I have also added some further electric tape runs, both inside the shop and on the insides of the door fronts, as I want to install lighting in both the bay windows. This is going to be easier said than done, as I have to run the electricity from the shop interior, to the doors. I think I may have cracked that particular conundrum though, by wiring two plugs to each end of a short length of wire, and putting sockets both inside the shop and inside the door fronts, so that when each end is plugged in, electricity will flow through to the bay windows.

Well that is the theory anyway. I haven't tested the circuits yet, but I have soldered all the joints.

There has also been some minor progress on the exterior. The herringbone brickwork is now finished on the two exterior door fronts, and I have been gradually adding Tudor-style timber beams. I've also fitted two coach lamps either side of the entrance door.

Actually, now that I come to write it all down, these little 10 minute pockets of time all add up. I'll take some photos tomorrow to demonstrate the progress so far.

The next major tasks are
  • Painting the roof tiles and dormer window roof tiles
  • Hinging the opening door panels
  • Hinging the attic roof
More anon..............

Friday, 23 February 2007

Don't stop me now.........

.........I'm having such a good time.... I'm having a ball. (with apologies to Queen!)

I have successfully slain the time-wasting displacement activity goblins and have been forging ahead on all fronts.

Multitasking? Ha!

Problem solving? Tish!

Lateral thinking? Pshaw!

I am positively riding the crest of a creative wave and boy does it feel good!

And the reason for this surfeit of joyous declarations???

Well, everything shop-wise is going swimmingly. Yes I'm having the odd wobbly moment when things look like they might start going a bit pear-shaped, but so far, all problems have been successfully, and more importantly, quickly solved.

Since the weekend I have finished constructing the dormer windows, which will sit in the hinged front section of the roof. They are painted and the roofs are tiled. I've even made proper wood-framed windows to put on the front of each dormer. Each mitre cleanly cut and NO MISTAKES.

Yes I know.

I can almost hear the gasps of disbelief.

But I promise's all true.

Moving on......... the tiling of the main part of the roof is continuing smoothly. I am not having a perfectly tiled roof, having decided that as the building is so old, the roof would probably be in need of some work, so I have been 'distressing' lots of tiles but cutting corners off, or slicing ragged, zig-zag slashes into them, to simulate cracked and crazed tiles. I've even put some slipped tiles on a few sections of the roof. Goes against the grain a bit but once I'd done one, the others followed more easily. I'm using little pre-cut cardboard tiles, which are very easy to distress. When the tiling is finished I will paint them in various slate colours, with some green, mouldy bits where the water runs down. I'll be adding little bits of moss, growing out of the holes where the tiles have slipped, as well as clumps of greenery blocking the guttering.

Moving even further on....... I have started the brickwork on the shop door fronts.
I'm using stencils and brick powder supplied by Bromley Craft Products and have decided on a herringbone brick pattern, which I will divide using oak beams to give a Tudor-style effect.
I have used a similar system before, on my Gothic Baronial mansion. It was sold as Magic Stone, and involved sticking a self-adhesive grid all over the area to be covered, then the powder was mixed with water and spread over the grid. When almost dry, the grid was pulled off, leaving the stonework intact, but the grid itself was then thrown away as it was not re-usable.
The system I am using for the toy shop utilises a re-usable stencil, which must be temporarily fixed in place on the wall using a stencil mount spray. After the brickwork compound is spread onto the wall, the stencil is removed, leaving neat bricks with mortar lines in between.
The stencil must then be washed and carefully dried before using again.

I spent ages yesterday trying to decide which was the best place to start and how to achieve the pattern I wanted, but the herringbone is so confusing that in the end I just trusted to luck and started at the bottom and worked my way up, carefully leaving gaps so that I would be able to glue the bay windows in place later.

Here are the results so far......

Pretty good eh?

After I have finished bricking both fronts, and have all the wooden beams in place, I will then distress the brickwork. I want some cracked bricks, and will be painting individual bricks to give some colour variation, rather than just a flat, brand-new brick look. After they're painted they will have to be sealed to protect the finish.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007



I have hit a snag.

Not unforseen but more of a snag than I had anticipated.

Having finished my lovely, big bay windows, which are to grace the front of the shop, I now have to work out how to run electricity from the body of the shop, to the two fronts.

I had a 'Eureka' moment over the weekend which involved running the copper tape right under the door hinges, which I had already checked were conductive. The electric current from both tapes would then flow through the hinges to pick up the tapes on the inside of the door fronts.
However, as the electrically literate among you will already have spotted, there was a rather drastic flaw in an otherwise damn fine plan.
In my enthusiasm to solve the problem, I completely failed to realise that if I carried out my 'hinge experiment' I would effectively short-circuit the entire house. Happily I hadn't actually fitted the hinges so disaster was narrowly averted.

Back to the drawing board then...................

Tuesday, 20 February 2007


Fired up by my success over the weekend, I have managed to squeeze in a few odd hours out of my working week to crack on with the toy shop.

The rest of the wooden flooring arrived this morning so I have managed to finish the first and second floors. I've also completed the construction of the bay windows, and finished the glazing.

The next major step is marking out the fronts, ready for the brick stencilling. I keep changing my mind about the layout which isn't helpful, but I need to have it all carefully planned before moving forward otherwise I will get in a terrible muddle and have to start again.

I almost wish I hadn't decided to have a herringbone brick finish......all those angles :-(

Sunday, 18 February 2007

The tedium of the long distance painter......

Am I glad THAT'S over?!

I knew that painting all of the display units would take a while, but ALL DAY?!

Ready to return to the fray this morning, I surveyed the large pile of display units, and my small sample pot of paint, and decided to go straight to the DIY store to purchase another.

Of course, as I had hinted at yesterday, the lovely deep crimson red is no longer available, so I had to resort to plan B and choose the nearest match.

Back home and I settled down to paint the units, a task which I estimated would take around 2-3 hours.


6 hours later I wearily laid down my brushes and practically crawled downstairs on my hands and knees in search of liquid refreshment. Happily however, I did manage to paint every unit using the contents of my original sample paint pot, although it was touch and go towards the end.

I did get into a sort of mindless rhythm, painting the insides first, then sides, top and fronts, but it was tedious, tedious work. My only compensation was that they would only need one coat of paint. I intend to pick out the dentil mouldings and fancy fronts with some gold Rub'N'Buff so that they look gilded. Might get onto that tomorrow.

I had hoped to get started on marking up the front sections of the shop today, drawing out the brickwork plan directly onto the fronts. However after my marathon painting session I thought better of it.

Still.........all in all..........a very productive weekend and I really feel I'm getting somewhere.
Time permitting during the following week I will
  • Assemble the two dormer windows for the attic rooms
  • Mark out the brickwork sections on the shop fronts
  • Begin tiling the roof

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Let there be light..........


Progress over the past week or so has been minimal, limited mainly to serious displacement activity
historical research on the internet, on toy-related themes. Today however, I determined to 'get on' and have spent several hours drilling, soldering, taping etc and am now basking in the knowledge of a job well done.
I had already put in the main copper tape runs on all three levels, but today fitted the transformer connector on the back of the shop, and connected all the tape runs to it.

There is always then a moment of fear and trepidation, when it comes time to test the circuit. Apprehensively I stuck the prongs of my little bulb tester thingy into the first run and was rewarded by it lighting up.

Et voila!

Each soldered joint was tested and all were found to be fully conductive, so the nerve-wracking bit of the electrification process is now over. It is extremely dispiriting to spend many hours painstakingly soldering and each joint, only to test and find that nothing works. However today I was spared that disappointment.

Emboldened by my success, I then set about working out how to illuminate each section of every display cabinet with the least amount of stress and pain. Each room will be lined with these cabinets, which I only recently discovered and fell upon with cries of delight. Because they have little removeable perspex shelves. Which means, dear reader, that I can vary the height of individual shelves to suit the displayed wares. Bliss.

In addition to this wonderful innovation, the perspex shelves mean that a light in the top of the cabinet, will shine down through all the shelves giving maximum illumination. Wonderful.

So another few hours were spent painstakingly working out the centre point of each display area, and since I am using single, double and triple units, this was not as easy as you might think. However, everything was eventually marked up and I did a trial run with a mid-size drill bit. Naturally the bulb unit wouldn't fit through the resulting hole so I briefly toyed with the idea of disconnecting 24 individual plugs so I could poke each wire through the hole and reconnect the plug at the back of the unit. I say briefly. If you have ever carried out this process you will realise why it took mere nanoseconds for me to discount this idea, and instead rummage furiously through my mini toolbox looking for a bigger drill bit.

Happily, I did have one which seemed custom made for the job (must be my lucky day!) and shortly thereafter I had one cabinet beautifully lit (see below).

Buoyed by success I then quickly drilled the other 21 holes and double checked to see that the bulb units all fit snugly, which they do.

This smooth progress, although wonderful, is a bit disconcerting though. Even a casual glance through previous postings will reveal a myriad mistakes and setbacks, which beset the DIY miniaturist. I keep wondering if I've missed something out, or done something out of sequence.

No matter. I have had a lovely relaxing day, playing with my project and everything going swimmingly. It surely won't continue.......

Tomorrow, I am planning on starting painting all the display units. There are an awful lot of them and I only have a little sample paint pot so I may be forced to visit the DIY superstore for a few more. Unless they've discontinued that particular colour of course *worried look*

Still, I reckon just one coat of a lovely deep red emulsion paint will do the job nicely, and of course being able to remove the shelves, which don't need painted, will make the whole process much quicker. However, as a veteran of jobs 'quick and easy' jobs like this, I can already foresee a potential problem. I think that perhaps, when I paint the insides of the units, the paint which is in the shelf grooves will prevent the shelves from sliding back into position. *even more worried look*

I do of course have some spare perspex, as I thought I could make additional shelves for very tiny toys, but having cut it before, I'd prefer not to have to recut every shelf * so worried that I'm reaching for the smelling salts*

However, I'm just being a pessimist and very probably tomorrow everything will continue with no hitches or disasters at all, just like today. *closes eyes in certain knowledge that tempting fate can have only one consequence*

Watch this space................

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Proof of progress

Despite my best intentions, I have had no time at all to do anything constructive in the toy shop today, aside from taking a quick peek to check it hadn't all fallen to pieces.
I have set aside a large chunk of tomorrow afternoon to try to get the oak ceiling beams installed, and make a start on the gargantuan project of drilling dozens of tiny holes to take the electric sockets for all the little lights which in my mind's eye will twinkle fetchingly and illuminate the darkest recesses of the shop.

Of course in reality I will probably break the only drill bit which is the perfect size, set the house on fire with the soldering iron and get a splinter in my finger from the ceiling beams which will go septic and require the application of a poultice.

But I digress. For now all is calm and since I have managed to find the camera lead, I now present for your delectation and delight, a record of progress to date.

Exhibit One

Small dog 'helping' with the construction of the bay window sections.

Exhibit Two

Demonstration of the use of nose as 'third hand'

Exhibit ThreeCompleted bay window, firmly clamped while glue dries.

Exhibit Four
Main body of shop completed and three wooden floors in place. Ceilings are also painted.

Since these photographs were taken I've installed the first copper tape wiring runs in all the rooms on the ground and first floors as I will be putting in lights to illuminate the display shelving, rather than ceiling or wall lights. I will also have tiny directional spotlights pointing into the four main display rooms to pick out the tiniest details.

More updates tomorrow hopefully.........incidentally, you can leave comments directly on this blog, just by clicking on 'Post a Comment'. I'd be really interested to hear what you think, or if you have any helpful ideas or suggestions.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Work continues apace.....

In response to all those of you who have badgered asked me for information on the lack of progress on the toy shop, here is a brief anguished cry update on what I have achieved thus far.

Actually I spent ages and ages this past weekend secreted away in my little hobby room, finally going from dry build to glued build, with only a few panics in between. I have finished building the bay windows, installed wooden floors (until I ran out of wood), painted ceilings, and installed the initial runs of copper tape for lighting.

I have proof of all of this industry in the form of photographs, carefully documenting my meticulous and painstaking efforts to achieve perfection in minature form.

Sadly, however, my camera connection lead has gone mysteriously astray and I will have to interrogate the usual suspect (ie small dog) to ascertain its whereabouts. As soon as I lay my hands on
the little beggar the missing cable, I will upload all manner of photographic wonders to delight the eye. Ahem.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Law of irrevocability

This will surely hit a chord with many miniaturists who experiment with 'kit bashing'.

I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to turn the ground floor flat windows into large, square bay windows, in order to add interest to the front of the shop and more importantly to give me large areas of window display space.

I bought two extra windows, identical to those included with the shop kit, and set about cannibalising the spare windows to make side windows for the bay. The top and bottom of each bay will be solid wood.

So far so good.

I am sure you are all familar with the old adage.

"Measure twice
Cut once"

Sage advice I'm sure you'll agree. And advice which I take very, very seriously. You see I have nigh on 20 years experience of doll's house building, from kits and from scratch, and over the years I have made every mistake in the book, and even more which aren't. In fact, if I were ever to publish a book of my own mistakes, it would run to several volumes. I say this merely to illustrate the point that many years of miniature experience does not confer invulnerability when it comes to getting things wrong.

Not only do I measure twice.... I usually measure at least half a dozen times.
Then I make a cup of tea and gaze out of the window at the fence panel which blew down in the gales a few weeks ago and ponder on whether the neighbours will fix it (it is their boundary) or whether we will have to "get a man in"...........

But I digress. I think that is called displacement activity and it is something to be guarded against *cough*


I have two windows. One will be the front of the bay, and the other will be cut and cunningly fashioned to form the two sides.


Easy peasy.


I will gloss over my FIRST mistake, which was very minor and which anybody could make.
In my defence, I am absolutely 100% positive that my craft saw is ever so slightly bent. Extraordinarily useful for cutting curves but not so hot for straight lines.

No matter.

Back to the job in hand, and bringing side A to front B reveals yet another minor, but unforseen and therefore extremely irritating hitch. The edges won't butt neatly together as I have omitted to take into account the 'framing' around the edges of the window, which would normally allow it to slide smoothly into the cut-out in the wall and stay there as if by magic.

"Easily done" I can hear you say.
"Something anyone could have overlooked" I expect you are thinking.

Plan B.

Wander forlornly downstairs with both pieces of window in order to seek advice from perfectionist partner, who, as I had secretly hoped, offered to perform a very nifty bit of excision so that the two parts miraculously come together perfectly. Even small dog is impressed enough to stop chewing some mdf offcuts in order to admire the now wonderful symmetry of the window.

Et voila.

The first window is very nearly ready to assemble, barring a few bits of sanding. I will also stain all the components before glueing, on order to avoid unsightly white patches, where the stain won't penetrate the glue. See, I sometimes do learn from my mistakes.

Just the other window to do now..............

Calm reflection......

Final DIY packages have now been delivered, unpacked and mused upon, then added to the growing pile of items in the optimistically named 'hobby room'. Should I suddenly be overtaken by the urge to swing a cat I would be severely hampered. The room is very small, and even with a single bed, work table, swivel chair and bookcase the only items of furniture, the floor space is negligible. I have resorted to putting everything on the bed, in neat piles......wooden mouldings, electrical gubbins, exterior finish materials, roofing materials etc, which leaves no room for small dog to snuggle down, much to her disgust.
Practically all of the table is taken up with the 'dry build' carcase of the shop, leaving me no flat surface to work on. As there is no room for another table I will have to be creative and have settled on the following solution.

Move the mattress off the bed, into one of the other spare bedrooms. Lug a piece of mdf down from the shed at the top of the garden to cover the bed base and serve as a stable platform to take the shop, neatly freeing up the table for working on. Problem solved.


I now have to move all the stuff off the bed to get to the mattress.

And even worse....
Then brave the hordes of enormous garden spiders who have taken winter sanctuary in the shed and probably have woven gigantic webs right under the bit of mdf I need to get at, each web containing millions of tiny spiderlets, primed to scatter and attack with lightning speed.

Actually, on reflection, I may leave that till another day. I still have soooo much planning to do, marking out the brickwork sections on the shop fronts etc.

Which of course would be so much easier if I had a clear workspace.


PS - thinking I needed a suitable graphic to enliven this post, I idly Googled 'spiders' in Google Images.

In deference to fellow arachnophobe's nervous dispositions, I chose the least offensive image from the dozens of frankly terrifying photographs which suddenly appeared on my computer screen. I urge you UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES to repeat my experiment.

You have been warned!

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Displacement activity.....

More exciting packages arrived today, but I haven't had time to explore the contents properly. However a cursory glance and rummage revealed more DIY items, tiny spotlights, roof stay so that the attic roof doesn't constantly clatter down on my fingers (voice of experience there! ) special adhesives and wood stains. Just a few more deliveries and I'll be all set to make a proper start at last.

Incidentally, I have inadvertently acquired a young assistant, who is very enthusiastic and keen, especially where wood is involved.

Perhaps I should introduce her properly.........

Monday, 8 January 2007

Decisions, decisions.....

Whilst nominally at work today, I have been musing over the adaptations I will make to the shop kit.

Firstly the stairs will have to go.
The kit has three floors and two long straight flights of stairs, which take up a lot of wall space on the ground and first floors which I desperately need for display space. As a concession to reality I will have a dummy door with trompe l'oiel 'corridor' beyond, leading to stairs in an unseen part of the building. I had wondered about a spiral staircase leading up to the attic workrooms from the first floor, but even that would take up too much precious space, so I will have another door, marked Staff Only, and under lock and key to prevent curious children taking a peek.
The downside of this is having to cut out two infill pieces to fill the holes in the floors where the stairs would have emerged. Luckily, the packing pieces with the kit included 4 long pieces of MDF, which will be cut to fill the holes, and also provide a pavement area to run the length of the shop frontage. Excellent.

Secondly, I am going to make the windows, which should fit flush with the wall, into large, square, bay windows, which will give me useful additional display space to create tempting window displays. This means buying another two windows to cannibalise for the sides of the bays. Still not decided how to finish the bay window roofs yet but that will be easier to do when the bays are in place.

Thirdly, no ceiling lights. With a ceiling height of just 8 1/2 inches (which incidentally is just perfect for the Tudor oak beamed period of the building) ceiling lights would hang dangerously close to the shoppers, and detract from the look I'm trying to achieve. Instead I have opted for concealed lighting on the first and second floors, hidden behind beams and inside the top of the display shelving. Since they will be hidden, I only need bulbs and not complete light fittings, neatly saving £££'s.
Having originally planned to intall a wired lighting system, I have now reconsidered, and will use copper tape instead. Almost all of the wall space on the first two floors will be taken up with display cases, so a myriad of connections running to and from the copper tape will not be seen, and I can solder the wires from the bulb fittings directly onto the copper tape, doing away with the need for plugs. With foresight born of experience (!) I will be using screw in bulbs with simple holders, so that I can easily change blown bulbs.
So far so good.

Exciting deliveries......

Got up especially early this morning for two reasons...

Firstly, back to work today after a lengthy rest. Shouldn't complain really as the commute takes a mere 10 seconds from breakfast table to workroom.
Secondly, to take delivery of several boxes ofDIY building supplies related to the toy shop.

Very exciting time opening the boxes and rifling through the contents. Naturally I just had to try out some of the things for size which could be described as displacement activity by those who think I am just trying to avoid starting work.

One rather baffling item which came with lots of wires, battery holder, switch, electric motor etc, BUT NO INSTRUCTIONS. I know what it is for, but not how to put it together or make it work.
So I put that aside for later perusal. I'm a bit worried that with all the electrical gubbins I'm planning on using, that the back of the toy shop will look a bit like this

Hm, might need a bit more thought on this, but I am confident that it will all be fine in the end.

Also aware that blogging is prime displacement activity and I really should be working.
You haven't seen me......right?!
*glances guiltily over shoulder and scurries back to workroom*

Saturday, 6 January 2007

Planning & Prep - Check

So the festive season (why is it called festive when it is so often far from it?!) has drawn to a close and it's back to work properly on Monday. The dull, grey days of January and February lie bleakly ahead forming the perfect backdrop to an engrossing project, which is all laid out in my newly acquired 'hobby room'.

Just a few last minute checks to perform then I can begin in earnest.

  • Small work table snaffled from caravan - Check
  • Extremely uncomfortable swivel chair snaffled from workroom - Check *mental note to self - look out for a better one in the January sales*
  • Selection of spotlights as the room gets no sunlight - Check
  • Assorted tool boxes, mini drill, mitre cutters, glueing jigs etc - Check
  • Radio so I can have my daily fix of Radio 4, especially The Archers (don't you just want to give David a good talking to?) - Check
  • Huge motley collection of DIY odds and ends collected over 15 years, including little bits of skirting boards, cornicing, oak beams, electrical gubbins etc, all of which will take many hours to sort through - Check
  • Barricade to prevent small dog from 'helping' by sorting through wooden mouldings with her teeth. - Check
  • Camera on tripod to record progress of the build - Check
  • Huge notebook to record sizes, sketches, ideas etc - Check
  • Toy shop kit, in 'dry build' form on the table - Check
Well so far so good.