Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Great stuff

I don't usually bother to share 'ordinary' building stuff here but these things are just so good and such good value they need a mention.

They are from J & A Supplies ordered on the 22nd after business hours and in my hands on the 24th.

This first simple door is a false door - I used two in Bentleys and they really look the part.  Just finish them as normal and stick in place.  It gets a showing here because it is inexpensive (£3.75) and not easy to find. 

 This half glaze door is also a bit hen's teeth (rare as...).  I originally settled on a half-glazed exterior door from somewhere else but it is a bit over-sized and over-trimmed for indoors.  This turned out fine as I am actually going to use as an exterior door any way.  

Then I found this one on J & A's site when I went to look for stairs.... I always go for a wander round mini merchants when I am there.

Again a good price at £7.75 and, even better, it has glazing which comes out so you can paint/finish the wood without messing up the 'glass' and actually has proper hinges instead of those little pins through the frame.  The interior frame has even been rebated so it will cover one side of the hinges - all this for that price.

The stairs cost £5.95 so I was expecting the usual crude MDF block which was OK as they will be mostly hidden behind a wall.  It is a shame in a way that they are so nice.  They are well finished pine and the thing I like about them is they have the bull-nosed trim at the front so it looks like the risers have a proper tread on them.  Brilliant.  I actually had to by trim to make my last staircase look like that.  

I have saved the best 'til last.

I was going to have to make a winder as I want the stairs to start in the shop but turn a sharp right angle and then climb up behind a wall at the back of the room.  You will see what I mean when I get to assemble that bit.  So I would have had to buy two kinds of wood for the construction and am not confident that I would do a very good job.

No need.... J & A make a left-hand and right-hand winder. This is the left hand one for the princely sum of £5.  Just think of the hours of frustration that has saved.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Demolition complete

I have finished pulling O'Rourkes apart ready to create Chocolat.

The last two stages were probably the most nerve racking and the fiddliest to do.  I wish there was a way to make this picture reflect the length of time it needed to clean up each of these pieces.  The individual quoins and chimney pieces had a huge amount of glue on them, most of which is till there.  I got off as much paper as I could and scraped away some of the rock hard glue.  I will probably give them a good sanding before sticking them back on Chocolat.  That is after they have been painted, which is the next step in the proceedings.

 This was undoubtedly the scariest part of the whole process along with the rest of the shopfront.  Basically I needed to remove all the glazing.  Again the glue was rock hard and the perspex a good thick quality so couldn't be snapped out in bits.

I just had to be brave and gently but very firmly press around the edges and the corners of each window (five of them) until I could get some purchase on the 'glass' and gently pull at it a bit at a time until it was free of the frames.  

The doors were a double challenge as the glass is slid down some grooves in the side pieces and then topped off with another piece of the frame which was glued in place. Again I just gently wiggled the top frame back and forth like I was trying to snap the joint which is the very thing I didn't want to do.  Eventually I won and was able to remove the glass.  It is too badly marked with paint and glue from things that had been stuck on it to re-use it, so it is a case of finding something suitable to replace it and cutting it accurately.  Similarly with the rest of the  glazing.

My concern was that if I broke any of the shop front structure beyond repair I would be hard pressed to find a ready made shop front the right size and they are expensive when you can find them.  I had already decided if it came to having to have one made I would abandon this a buy a kit!  IF I ever do this again I must remember to do the hardest part first just in case that scenario ever happens, that way I wouldn't have wasted hours cleaning up a carcass for the bin!

So, finally after a couple of weeks of off and on work, here are all the parts of Chocolat waiting for their paint and paper and bricks and tiles.  Not much left to do then?

Photos in Chocolat - the Build

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Demolition continues

I did this work some days ago but RL has intervened.  I seem to have three full-time jobs as a retiree - a contradiction in terms?  Gardening, mini-making, writing could each occupy a full working day for me without being expected to actually do other stuff like eat, sleep and talk to folk.  Notice no house cleaning or other mundane chores listed there.

Any way here are some photos and explanation of the wrecking of the front of the shop.

I removed each individual quoin.  They are going to take a lot of cleaning up before  repainting.  I also prised off the upper windows and trims, inside and out.  I have bought new ones with a bit more about them.  The biggest relief was successfully removing the shop front and detaching its doors.  That should make it a lot easier to repaint them.

After inspecting some wrinkles and bumps on the inside wall I realised it was painted paper and would need to come off.  I wonder how the 50:50 fabric conditioner and water will do on that.

I hate to be beaten but the inside of the privvy will have to stay as it is.  There is no way I can get in there to do it without removing the door which would require wrecking it.  I might paint over it, as in a 1950's white wash, and try to do something with the floor but there is no way I am attempting to scrape the paper off first.  To be honest right now it may remain closed.  I have bought a padlock for it (seriously).  By 1959 it probably was no longer being used as an outside toilet any way and would have ended up whitewashed and filled with junk and a bike!

More photos in the album

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Brick by brick

stopped counting at three thousand
 Only three thousand and fifty bits of card to stick on then?

Here is one of my favourite things - you can keep the whiskers on kittens - Richard Stacey versi-slips are for me.  I used them on Bentleys and think they look terrific. 

I am sure the actual brick slips would be even better but (a) they are beyond my pocket money and (b) they will increase the weight of the house.

I also like the Bromley mesh and the  mix-it type of finish but I just don't feel confident about doing the processes involved super successfully.

great colour and texture
As you can see from this photo their versi-bricks are two-sided, so you can choose spanking new or a weathered finish on the tiles and have a mix of tones for the bricks .

As I had red bricks and slate roof for a near Birmingham establishment last time I thought I would have a change and have yellow/buff bricks and red tile for a sort of country village look.  Not sure yet as to where the village is.  I have the fictitious name of Honeychurch (in memory of the shop I didn't do!) and sounding like Honeybourne which is in Worcestershire.  There is a real Honeychurch but it is a tiddly parish in Devon so, hopefully, I can only offend a handful of people.

I am itching to get on with it, but I still have to finish stripping the original building and priming it and working out what to do when.

Stacey's service is excellent - fast delivery and loads of help if you need it.  I would recommend you buy their catalogue and sample box if you are considering extensive work.  It is always good to see and handle the goods before deciding.  The samples also give you inspiration for stuff you hadn't thought of.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Pudsey, 13th April

was destined to go to Edinburgh this weekend,  taking in a dolls house fair up there which I have never been to. The trip got cancelled.  Never fret, my 'regular' Pudsey one was held yesterday (13th April).  For those not in the know this is at Pudsey Civic Hall (Leeds area) and  is run by Doreen Jeffries.  With about 70 stands there is enough to go at.

We got there half an hour before it opened as I was 'working' (doing a review for DH&MS magazine) and needed to check in with Doreen.  I was very well-behaved and waited in the foyer (after speaking to her)  so I was out of the way while people finished setting up, but the ladies running the charity stall said it was OK to buy from them.

The next three pictures show my treasures from the Children in Need stall.

I snagged these great little plates - nine of them in a bag for £2.  I am trying to pick up all my dishes for the shop whenever I see a bargain.  Mostly they will be stacked so they need to be thin to look right which is the problem when you want to pay as little as possible for them.  These just fitted the bill.
As you can see from the photo, the anti-macassars (I just love the word!) were £1.50.  They may go in Chocolat.  I know they were around in my fifties childhood but is it a very English thing or did the French have them too?  I am sure macassar oil would have been replaced by Brylcreem by then, but I  know my mom always had them on my dad's chair.

The little turned cake stand (?) was also £2 and made by the man helping on the stall.  He was described as 'the muscle'. It is thinner/daintier and straighter than this photo suggests!

The two saucepans set me back 30p!

I don't feel guilty about snaffling these bargains as I do always take a bag of stuff for them to sell and I saw some of it up for sale and then saw that it had gone when I looked in to say goodbye, so I helped a bit.

Here are some of the treasures I bought.  You will have to check out Bentleys and My Quarter Life for the others.  Most of my finds turned out to be for Chocolat.  I won't post every picture here; you can always see them in the Chocolat purchases album if you want to.  A lot of the stuff consists of the basics needed for building, such as skirting, coving, windows, door handles and doors.  But to start you off on the rest .......... here's a little sweetie....

It is a very tiny set of scales.  I suspect it would have been used in a chemist shop but as chocolate was sold in apothecaries originally and this shop would only be selling such fine chocolate in small 'doses', these scales are perfect.  Not to mention that anything larger won't fit nicely where I want them to go! 

This is a very poor photo and makes this gas fire look really rough and ready whereas it is an excellent reproduction of the sort of fire I had in my bedroom in the fifties.  I only remember it being lit on Christmas morning when my sister and I had got up pre-dawn to open our presents in the presence of our parents who had been dragged into the bedroom to see what Santa had brought us. 

The vendor sells 'used' items and there were just two of these - why oh why didn't I buy the other one!!  One of these days I am going to want two of them.

This is destined for Chocolat's bedroom.  I have my eye on a lovely Belling fire for the sitting room from Truly Scrumptious which I will pick up from Miniatura in September if I can resist that long.  Nothing like planning ahead.

I know this looks like general hardware but it is unusual (ish).  The coat hooks are not that easy to find: the black lift up-the-latch-and-walk latch, even less.  I bought the five brass, strange looking things as wall switches, but they look more like chunky door bells?  They are perfectly in scale and therefore super tiny, so they may look right in situ but, right now, I am struggling with them.  I assume the stump is so you can cut a piece of wood for a pattresss and drill a hole for them to go in.  This seems like overkill when a bit of glue would have done?

These four bells might seem a strange addition, but Vianne will have brought her French traditions with her and in France the Easter eggs that children search for are brought by the flying bells.  No church bells are rung from Thursday to Easter Sunday when they then ring out for Easter.  Children are told the bells are not ringing because they have been sent to the Pope and will return on Easter Sunday and drop eggs as they fly over back to their steeples.  So, Chocolat will have bells with wings as decorations and also chocolate bells.  Not sure which these will be just yet.

Vianne has inherited her shop fittings with the shop/bar premises she is renting and must make do with what is there.  There is a small bar with a shelf unit behind.  This is the shelves part of the duo.  Unfortunately I couldn't get the right size bar to go in front.  I can get Matlock to make me one.  Meanwhile I bought a too small unfinished bar to go in front.  I also got a display counter and the shelves and table I need on the other wall.  I am not too sure about any of those as yet but at least I know this is a piece I do want.

Again the photograph doesn't do justice to these little hand-made resin pieces.  I bought 1/24th rather than 1/12th because, like the scales, I wanted small pieces.  The vendor is Halls Miniature Clocks.  As you can see from the photo stand he does things other than clocks, such as lovely fireplaces.  Some periods really suit his materials.  The hearths are really lovely.  Check them out.  The clock, incidentally, is just 5/8ths inch tall, less than half the size you are looking at here.

The other thing I was happy to get was these lovely little knitting pins.  I had done Naples to death searching for a size 19 (UK) 1.0mm pair of needles.  I was greeted with disbelief, even in a very snotty knitting shop, over there when I asked for this size.  These were on a very eclectic stall and I spotted them at the eleventh hour, just before I left.

I knew I could order them when I got back to the UK from Lion Brand or Buttercup but that always entails postage and so bumps up the price considerably.  Happy find.

I hope to succeed in knitting a couple of shawls to hang on hooks in Bentleys.  Daisy's rough one in the kitchen and Ellen's better one in her bedroom.  I may even revisit childhood and knit potholders and dishcloths, who knows.....

I did OK on my two very long shopping lists but there is still a stack of stuff to get.  I didn't manage to get a single light I liked.  That was disappointing because there were maybe three people selling a range of lights and looking at them reminded me that their selection was the usual selection so how am I going to find what I see in my mind's eye?  Bottomless pockets would send me to Ray Storey and no problem but, as it stands, finding lights may prove difficult.

Buying furniture this early in the process was so I can establish exactly where the lights are going to go as the holes and grooves need to be settled very early in the build.  So, some time in the week I will be having a dry run with what I have and will be marking up what needs to go where.  There is a chance I can get the very small LED bulbs that are around now into the gas fire and light that too.

Photo album: Minis - Pudsey, 13th April 2013

Monday, 8 April 2013


Here comes one happy woman.  I attacked O'Rourkes today and did better than I thought.

A couple of days ago I began by emailing DHE and the DHE forum to ask what was the best way to remove paper. The official reply was to leave it alone and work over the top but  someone on the forum very kindly sent me to some pictures (and text) of a house she had stripped.  I wasn't happy leaving the paper on as I could envisage a myriad of problems.  So, yesterday, I went at it with tepid water, a 2 inch brush and a smidgen of soap.  The scraper was the thing you use when you defrost a freezer.

I confess I was very nervy about slapping water all over MDF and wondered if it would end up shaped like the House that Jack Built.  I talked myself into it by realising that the two previous projects have been papered and painted and therefore made wet, why would this process be any different.

It was very hard work and unsatisfying, leaving a zillion bits and a load of glue behind and about half a roof done.  This was last night.  I got utterly fed up and quit.

Today I came back to it with a purpose and decided to give it my best shot before 'binning' and buying a new kit.

I started by removing the front (hinged) wall and the hinged section of the roof.  

I then moved on to demolishing the place.  I stripped off every trim, bar one- the door to the outside privy   Not too bad to do with a small chisel and hammer.  They also came in handy when removing the two chimney breasts.  Now I have to plan a project where I can use those - it would be shame to waste them.

There were a couple of bits of cornice where the maker had obviously had a problem and stuck it on with something like superglue.  I had to actually chisel that off a bit at a time but it wasn't that hard to do. 

After a bit of rootling round the web looking for any suggestions about removing wallpaper in RL or mini world the consensus seemed to be either half vinegar and half water or half fabric conditioner and half water.  I didn't fancy the vinegar one as it had to be followed up with a wipe down with some chemical or other which entailed wearing long gloves (thick rubber kind, not pale blue velvet) and working outside!  So, I went back at it with fabric conditioner and water.


Just brilliant.  The paper virtually drops off and most of the glue with it.  So, five hours later (!) and I had a near pristine carcass ready to go at.

The carpet removal was another pig and a half to do.  I had tried pretty much everything but wasn't getting far and was just making a gooey mess.  Eventually I ironed it.  No, it wasn't a desperate attempt to make it look better, I decided maybe the heat would melt the glue.  I covered the mess with a piece of paper and then steam ironed a small area at a time and scraped away like mad at it.  I suspect if you start with this method it might work quite well.  Unfortunately for me I just had loads of bits and pieces of scraggly carpet left and loads of paper and glue in various stages of removal.  I did eventually get it down to something acceptable

I still have the removed wall and roof to do.... but that's another day.  Right now I am just basking in the glow of a rotten job finished.

I must just say that the only reason I would ever do this re-make malarkey again is if I already had a piece needing doing (Starfish cottage!) or it was a building I just wanted and could no longer buy, like O'Rourkes.  I certainly wouldn't do it driven by cost.  This one cost me sixty pounds and something similar like Arkwrights is only eighty pounds;  it certainly isn't worth the work to save that amount.

More pictures of the process in the web album.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A Woman's Prerogative...

I came back into the Blog today with the intention of wiping the out the last post as I have pretty much demolished everything I said there but, perhaps, it is a good thing for some of you reading this to see how much chopping and changing and prevaricating goes on when I am doing this stuff.  It can only comfort you to know how clear sighted and calm you are about it all.

So, pretty much, forget everything I said three days ago.  This is where I am today.

I scrabbled around my stash and found 'stand-ins' for stuff to see what would and wouldn't fit in the rooms if I went with plan A........ Chocolat, the movie.... just not set in France.

Do not panic gentle reader most of the stuff being used in these pictures will not be used in the finished product and none of the walls and floors will look anything like this.

That said, the sitting room (with a front door entrance from the top of the outside stairs) will look quite a lot like this.

Right now I am happy with the furniture in here, other than the two pieces that need repairing and the one that needs cleaning up.  The only disappearing trick will be the little side table in front of the settee,  it will be replaced with a coffee table.

The bedroom.... furniture..... maybe?  Certainly the chest will stay.  The chimney breast will go but there will still be a fireplace.  The chimney is on the outside of the building and really doesn't need to come inside.  It makes for added interest but doesn't suit me.

The false door at the back won't be there like this; there will just be a doorway with a curtain across it.  In 'real life', Vianne found she didn't have enough room for her French Empire (sleigh) bed, so the door has been removed and a curtain stops the drafts and keeps the room private from the little landing outside.  The landing gives access to a small bathroom.  It also has another door which gives access to storage areas and back stairs to the shop.  This is a door which can be locked to make the flat self contained above the shop but, as the shop is hers, Vianne can use the space as she likes and have inside access downstairs to the kitchen where she and Anouk eat.  Anouk uses a tiny storeroom for her bedroom and she and Vianne use the cupboards and landing space for their clothes and belongings.

Unless, like me, the movie is ingrained in your head the downstairs may be harder to imagine at this stage.  I will be building a false wall right across the back (using as little space as possible) so I can replicate the  cupboard at the back (on the left side of the room) and the doorway on the right side.  In the movie the arched opening at this side of the room showed a staircase.  I don't want to give it this much space so I will have a beaded curtain (very sixties) covering the space.  Bamboo would be even better. [I do like to set myself a challenge].  Basically I need a simple dresser/some shelving behind the counter arrangement.  The counter/bar might do but I would be happier if it were wood.  I shall be on the look out for a pub bar I think.

The chimney will go.  As I said the back wall will be bumped forward and a cupboard built in.  Not too sure if the curtained glass doors are on a dresser or just doors to a room in the movie.  I need to take a much closer look.  I might just go with my own (Englishy) thing any way.

I need a long plain dresser for the left hand wall with an open base and shelves above and a small glass fronted counter to run at right angles to it.

This side is the heart of the shop where all the chocolates are.  The bar area on the right is where the till is and is a place to share a cup of hot chocolate.  I must admit I always thought three stools (as in the movie) never seemed as though she was expecting much custom!  Depending on the space I may go 'off plan' and squeeze in more seating.

So I am more settled as to where this is leading and will be starting on the stripping down of the building tomorrow..........    Sunday lunch permitting.

P.S.  I have done the first draft of the narrative (see the page at the top if interested) so it feels more glued in place and time.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

It is all in the planning

Chocolat will be my third project and the biggest thing I have learned from one and two is to try my best to plan rather than just 'do'.

Wentworth began as Jane Austin's house, moved through to just any old Georgian and finally arrived at a 1980 house in Cheltenham with me and my children in it.  This created a lot of unnecessary work and expense. It was the only dolls house I intended doing and then I saw....

The Honeychurch shop and it was to be Le Tout Paris - an Art Nouveau ladies shop.  I created a blog and starting buying and stashing things for the project.  I then decided the rooms were too small to accommodate my ideas!  So, not only did this never happen but I sold the Honeychurch and a lot of things (at a loss!) and bought the Lyddington.  This became Bentleys a 1911 shop in Erdington (Birmingham).

Here comes number three - O'Rourkes Post Office, already made up as such, waiting to be transformed into Chocolat - the movie.  I wanted to make as close a replica as I could to the chocolaterie of that film (and book).  Now I am about to begin I can see a million problems.  The building style does not lend itself to a French village shop - probably the biggest problem!  I have no idea how to find things to buy which will give it a flavour of  late 1950's France.  If I am successful the characters should look right.  So, I have wriggled into the position of moving the story to a small English village.  They would encounter the same problems as in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain but then so do I.  They still bring their 1959 Frenchness with them and I am still stuck.

Some more very practical issues also get in the way.  I don't want to have to fill a huge shop floor with just chocolates.  It means buying or making zillions - either way I am outfaced by the challenge.  I also think they sort of get wasted as they are so tiny - about an eighth of an inch if I want to keep in scale - you can't appreciate the work/detail of hundreds of items at that scale filling a shop.

Another practical thought I have also rather changes the time period.  Each of my two other projects have been tremendous fun as I learned new stuff all the way along.  This time I would like to have a real go at the electrical stuff.  I have done the basics of central ceiling lights and fires, now I want to light a shop as it would be done today.  I want to figure out how to light a shop sign and how to do lighting in/over display areas.  My 1959 French chocolaterie in a small village is now becoming a 2013 chocolaterie/patisserie in a small touristy village in the Cotswolds.  

The narrative is essential to the actual physical planning for me.  When I know the story of what the shop is and who lives there I will know what I need to do it. 

So.... my plan so far, for what it is worth (!) is

  • Write the story - this will be a page at the top of the Blog.
  • Work out the actual construction of the shop - so far I have had a café downstairs and chocolaterie in one room upstairs and patisserie in the other.  I still quite like that.  The doubt I have with that plan is that a café means just a lot of similar tables covering the largest area so it doesn't seem to offer a big enough challenge right now.  Plan two and the current one is a chocolaterie/patisserie downstairs and a sitting room and bedroom above, with the suggestion of rooms behind.  Cliché?  aaaarrrgggh!
  • In April I need to start on the construction as I am writing an article a month on the project as it goes along - so far - stasis...........