Thursday, 30 May 2013

Putting the ELF cupboard together

Once all the pieces of the ELF cupboard were stained and dry it was just a case of assembling them.

This was sometimes a bit fiddly but always very easy as everything is so beautifully cut and fits together perfectly.

You might notice here the tool of choice is a toothpick/cocktail stick and wood glue.  I have one of those tiny glue bottles with the metal top BUT it spends all its time bunged up and drives me crackers so I almost always resort to this method after the first half hour.

The stain is Colron Wood Dye in American walnut.  It has a high level of smell so if you can choose a good day and open all the windows it is a help.  

I loved the finished long doors with the cross bars.  Yes, the 'glass' is in them and is immaculate.

While the stain was drying I started the task of making the curtains to go behind the glass.

I chose some lovely fabric (only just enough) which I had bought as 'antique' muslin.  I don't believe everything I read (or pay for) and had no reason to really think it was antique.  I decided to wash the fabric first to get out any finish (the size).  It quite literally fell into holes!  Antique it was then!  Luckily I had only cut and washed a small piece and there was just enough left to cut in four to make the curtains - without washing them first!

I started by gathering them with a needle and thread but decided I had just as good a result (if not better) by simply wetting with spray starch and pinning to a piece of polystyrene packaging.

I have got a pretty pleater but that wasn't the sort of finish I wanted on these.

Luckily these were my last job of the day so my impatience wasn't tested to breaking and I  could just go to bed and leave them to dry overnight.

Next morning I put a little glue on the back of the frames and then pressed them down gently (but firmly) onto the fabric and I went off to do some gardening.  This is the only way for me.  If I am doing the 'wait for it to dry' bit of a process, I can't just get on with something else in the same room while I wait without keep 'testing' it and eventually getting on with the next step before it is actually ready.

I carefully folded the tops and sides back and trimmed them close to the glue line.

I was a bit concerned that they might not lie down neatly on the cupboard backs and that there would be a bit of a gap.   No such issue. the muslin was so fine it almost disappeared between the two pieces of wood.

All the pieces are ready to be polished next month and then assembled in their final home in a couple of months time.

I am really pleased with them all.

The tiny knobs are a joy in themselves.  If you want to see more there are extra photos in the album.

Feeling groovy

Here is clever old me making lighting grooves in the roof of my building ready for the wires to appear and go down the back to the power supply.

I 'll natter about the wiring aspect of this when I start on the electrics, for now I am in the 'woodworking' stage of the build and part of this is making a mess with my little Drill Master.  I have finally decided to give it its proper name instead of pretendy Dremel which is how it has been known so far.  It has earned its nomenclature as I now know what it actually does.

I wrote an earlier blog about finding an unspecified bit in my kit and thinking that it was the right tool for this job but it turned out not to be so.  I knew it wasn't a router but I thought it was a cutter and might do; now I have no idea what it is or does, even after trying it.

When that failed me I tipped out all these carving/engraving diamond burr bits!!  I know that's what they are because the Dremel spot-the-tool poster tells me so.  There are twenty of them and are often very subtly different.

I marked a line where I wanted the groove to go with a steel rule and box cutter and selected one of the very finely pointed bits.  It worked OK, but one about three sizes up worked even better.  It pretty much stuck to the line with only a very occasional wobble when it hit a hard bit of the MDF.

I finished off the groove with this weird and wonderful looking one which worked brilliantly.

I have no real idea of how these are supposed to be used or how long they will last hacking their way through MDF but for now I am doing cartwheels.... of the rotary variety.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Privy 0, Me 1

I decided I wasn't happy being beaten by the privy door which restricted my decorating inside and so I managed to lever it off.  Lets face it I can't store my bike and stuff in there unless it give it a good couple of coats of whitewash!

I then decided it was waaaay over-trimmed for an outside loo - you'd be lucky if the door even fitted properly, so I prised off the trim so that the door and its frame would just sit inside the gap.

I even intend to chip bits of the bottom of the door - rot?rats?
Thanks to Sussex Crafts for the photo

In truth all this was prompted by a lovely looking, really working, lever latch from Sussex Crafts.  This needs the door and its frame to be on a level with each other which mine now is without its grand trim.

This photo shows the back of the door.  it is perfectly neat and tidy on its front face.

The only down-side - and there always is one - is that I now have to shim up the frame as there is quite a bit of slack between it and the wall.  I am hoping a couple of shims and some wood filler and a rub down before the wall is painted might do the job.  I do keep saying grunge is needed.  All this because I want a latch.  Oh, and yes, it will need hinges and be made to open outwards so you can fully appreciate the latch from both sides and (incidentally) see the contents of what is now a store room.

There are moments of realisation in this passion when I recognise insanity.

Friday, 24 May 2013

In earnest...

The (re)build has begun in earnest at last. Now that I have the kitchen door and the cupboard surrounding it and the stairs for the back of the shop I could decide precisely what needed to be cut out of the back wall.

My detailed architectural drawing (hollow laughter was heard) conveniently fitted on to an A4 piece of graph paper!  This is know in architectural speak as A4 designs. (I just made that up!)  It is a notch up on back of envelope designs.

When you look at the photo if you imagine the cut out bits stuck back together this would be the left hand side of the back wall as you are looking at it in reality.  To do the woodworking mark-up I needed to remove the 'door' as the paper would have to be flipped over when it got to the back of the building.  The end piece got cut off when I came to mark up the doorway for the other side of the wall as I needed to have a space between the outer wall and the doorway.  Even with all this I managed to mark up two three inch wide doors when the stair doorway is a quarter of an inch narrower.  Spotted it in time thank heavens.

The whole point of this cutting out is to give the illusion of other areas behind the slice of shop frontage that we are looking at in this 'model'.  In the film the stairs going up from the shop on the right are set in a square stair well and turn around on themselves.  The frosted glass door on the left leads to a short flight of stairs down to the kitchen which is in a kind of half basement.  Maybe in our English building it simply leads straight through into the kitchen.  I would love to be able to screen shot (from the movie) a wall of the kitchen and paste it on the 'wall' of the room box behind so that it can be seen vaguely through the glass but I do think that is a wish too far.

We had to buy half inch MDF for the construction as this was the thickness of the base of this property rather than the usual 3/8ths.  This meant it was more expensive, heavier and probably slightly worse to cut.  I can't attest to the latter as I got a man in - husband from the next room.

I am not afraid of power tools and even owned a couple of them in my time but they have long since disappeared and my husband's kit is roughty, toughty man size stuff and pretty unwieldy for me.  So, I am constrained by the kit not the know-how.

Using my trusty plan I marked up the cuts.  This is doorway two where the stairs will be.  Ignore the fact that it has a cupboard drawn to the right of the door; this is the kitchen door/cupboards plan being chopped down and used as a template for the stair doorway.

All three metal rulers have been a godsend at various stages of this hobby.  I really, really recommend you break down and buy these if you plan on any paper crafting or thin woodworking or anything requiring accurate cutting with a knife or saw.  I really gipped at the nine dollars the little right-angled ruler cost and I had to go back a second time to actually get it and part with the money.  I am so pleased that I did.

My faithful chippy cut a circular hole in the wood which was to be removed as near to an edge as possible.  This is the gizmo he used..... do I detect rust on that gizmo?

This was then attacked with this kind of saw - notice all the technical terms coming into play here.  

Yes, I know, these are hand tools and I could have done this but he has muscles and I don't.

He decided this saw was too flexy, so....... 

when he had a good start on the line he switched to this kind of saw.

Two holes and a lot of sanding later - I did do the sanding - it was ready for a dry fit.  So was I - that sanding is thirsty work.

There is a bit of a wobble on the top edge of the stair doorway.  I want to leave it as it is because the shop is supposed to be a fairly bashed about place with just a lick of paint covering a multitude of sins but I am totally useless at doing none pristine buildings/rooms.  Can't do grunge in life or minis... must make a mental note to work on that.  The wiggle is there for now as I was just fed up of sanding and doing that edge would be a major task.

I did actually use my pretend Dremel to do quite a lot of the sanding.  It was less physically wearing than the sandpaper round a block of wood effort and it was a good way of practising using the rotary tool.  Not as easy as you might think.  It works brilliantly when you have got the hang of enough but not too much pressure.  Enough or nothing happens, too much and the tool stops.  Also, in this case, I was sanding MDF so every so often the sanding drum hit a hard bit and skated off all over the place.  As it forgot to give me a ten second warning I usually still had it pressed against a wall somewhere.  There are a few 'carved' patterns here and there.  They are very superficial and will cover easily.  What did I say about grunge - there's an easy way to dint walls.

Ken then went on to make the back box, otherwise known as other rooms.  He used two kinds of electric saws for this.  This one which is clearly labelled as a mitre saw he called a chop saw and said it cut straighter than the circular saw, even if he had to turn the wood around. 

We ended up with another set of flat pack pieces ready for assembly at a later date.  

I don't want them fixed on the back of the shop yet as I need to be able to turn the building every which way when I come to paint and decorate next month.  So, for now all the woodworking part of the job is about getting stuff ready to go when it is needed.  I always think this hobby is a bit like cooking, the job goes along much better if all the 'prep' has been done first.  That is easy to say, harder to do when you just want to crack on with something.  If I could fix in my tiny brain that all the less exciting prepping doesn't make the job take a second longer than doing it as you go along and remember the pleasure of just being able to have everything ready to hand I might manage it more often.

When it comes to be assembled it will look something like this, plus a back piece.

I planned on putting the power centre for the wiring inside this box so it would all be neat and tidy at the back for once but it is an individually switched one which creates access issues.  The top flap can't be hinged because it is a narrow aperture and the stairs will be in the way.  The back flap could be hinged but the house would need to be pulled out miles from the wall to allow it to open so, at this stage, the plan is to screw the back panel on when the lighting in the 'corridor' is finished and have the power centre on top of this added construction.  I can't wait to show you the new (to me) power centre I have for this project, courtesy of Small World Products

Lighting is due for doing in July, meanwhile...............

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

To stain or not to stain.......

The journey of 107 pieces begins with the first ten!  Yup, the cupboard at the back of the shop has 107 pieces - daunting?  You could say that.

As always I arrived at the conclusion that actually starting something is not only OK but it is actually pleasurable.  The days I spend procrastinating/mithering about it are a totally unnecessary torture of the soul.  So, why do I do it?

As usual ELF's flat pack goes together like a dream.  They are cut spot on accurately and so absolutely no corrective surgery is necessary.  Bing, bang, bosh - done.  I soooo wanted to carry on building (I did do the base cupboard backs too) but somewhere along the line I decided I would varnish the other pieces before assembling them.  Any problems with staining these back pieces won't show in the finished product.

The BIG debate is whether to stain first or after when building a piece.  Ideally (in RL) you build a piece and then stain it.  In human scale it is easier (?) to control the glue and not have any where you don't want it.  Working with such thin pieces as I am here it is nigh on impossible not to get a few bits and bobs where you don't want them.  I am a very tidy, pernickety worker and I can't manage it.  So...... if there is glue on a surface that you want to stain the stain will not cover the glue, not even over just traces of glue after wiping it off when wet.  There isn't enough material thickness to sand it back to wood so the only thing you can do is touch up with a little matching paint.  This isn't the happiest of solutions for all the reasons you can imagine.

If you stain first and then glue - the glue isn't happy about going over the stain and won't make such a good bond.  I still decided this was the least worst of the two options.  In an adult's dolls house the stuff doesn't get handled very much and so isn't prey to too many stresses and strains.  I am hoping the cupboard will stand there and behave itself.  Time will tell.

So after four cupboard backs I had to leave it for a couple of days until pensioners discount day at B & Q!  I had to buy timber  for the construction at the back and some paint and the afore mentioned stain.  Colron at £7.98 a tin, £12.99 for the MDF and £6.96 for two paints it is worth the wait to save £2.79.  Think of it less like £2.79 and more like nearly three quid towards some other mini thing!

This is a very rough taster of how it is going to look.  For a precise representation of the movie there should be a bit of a wall on the right of the cupboard (represented here by two bits of wood).  Strictly speaking even in the movie the cupboard isn't actually built in as it has a trim top and bottom of the base which extends slightly to the right and therefore the cupboard isn't flush against the wall.  At this stage I am a bit inclined to leave out the wall.  It isn't a difficult task but it doesn't seem to have a purpose even in terms of the actual shop building.  The cupboard will seem more 'true' just free standing and surrounding the door to the kitchen.

If you have eyes like a hawk and senses to accompany them you might notice the door has a bit of a list.  I showed you this door when I bought it and it had a sort of doorstep built in, which is fine if it were an outside door; it isn't.  It is the door to the kitchen and as an internal door doesn't need the frame at the bottom.  It lends itself to being sawn off because this particular door has proper hinges instead of rubbishy pins which need a top and bottom frame.

Guess who misjudged it?  Hey ho, piece stuck back in place - sort of.  Paint would have hidden a multitude of sins but sadly this door is going to be stained walnut.  An old shop (and later a bar) probably had wood-stained doors rather than painted.  The door is certainly wood-stained in the movie.  Be prepared to keep hearing that phrase.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Mock Dremel

Last April I bought an 80 piece rotary tool set for $10.  I hadn't a clue what the 80 things did so it has sat in the cupboard glaring at me.

Finally  I used just one tool once.  I tried to sand some paintwork with what has turned out to be a grinding/sharpening stone.  I thought the pink things might be for fine sanding.  It immediately clogged up with white paint.  As the whole thing turned white and smooth I thought I had just worn off the pink sanding surface!  I chucked it back in the box, decided the kit was rubbish - what do you expect for $10 and closed the cupboard door.  

This month,
 desperate for something to cut grooves in floors for wiring, I set off back on the sorting out the mock-Dremel quest.  I spoke to another blogger who showed me pictures of the grooves she cut and she said she used her Dremel and a thing on a stick.  Back to the trusty internet.  I came up with another useful blog explaining what did what and a fantastic poster from the Dremel site which enables you to identify your stuff.... bit like a Flowers of the British Countryside type of thing.  I'll let you know how I get on with the groove cutting stick - no it isn't an actual router; I don't have any of those.

Meanwhile here is a photo of the clogged up 'grinding stone' next to a sample of how it should look. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

I believe in fairies.... well, elves

This may not look very exciting but I am thrilled to bits with it.

I am trying as much possible to re-create the shop in 'Chocolat' and on the back wall is the door to the kitchen and around it is a built in cupboard.  I only have the vaguest, dimmest single shot of it from the movie.  I sent this and some very rough dimensions (not really measurements) to the wonderful Elizabeth at ELF and in a short space of time (despite some RL difficulties) here it is.

She has cut everything to order and added in extra trims to try to make it as close to the picture as possible.  She also wrote me a two page letter on how best to go about putting it all together.  Now all I have to do is build it and stain it!

Just look at the wonderfully detailed, exquisitely tiny door knobs.  They measure a quarter of an inch, top to toe.

How she managed to make anything from this picture and my scrawl I have no idea.