Prototype Kit Test – Day Three (Part III)

Adios 80s style doors! Hello open cabinets!

Huh….guess I must be on a roll here. Either that, or I should rethink about adding Ovaltine to my morning mocha. And having three cups of said brew.

The base cabinets are all set and installed in the kitchen. Now all I have left are the upper cabinets.

As you can see in the photo, I had a pair of narrow wall cabinets that are the same width as the base cabinets. I like the shape and color, but wasn’t too thrilled about the design on the door. If it has been more of a Shaker style, it would have worked great with my IKEA theme kitchen. Granted, I could have just build the doors myself, but found out quickly I didn’t have enough wood strips to build a pair (talk about a first — I usually have tons from Michaels and what not!). So with great resignation…I just ripped them out (but saved the brass pin hinges for future projects. Shesh, am such a packrat!).

The upper cabinets and wood strip glued and held in place by other wall cabinets.

Once the doors were removed (and the cabinets light sanded), I took the remaining scraps of the wood strip I used for my countertops and cut a strip with the same depth as the upper cabinets but as long as the total length of the base cabinets & the stove. After sanding that strip down and painting it white, I glued said strip to the tops of the cabinets, keeping the edges flush (the T ruler definitely helped with that task. Along with a dab of Quick Grip of course).

When it came to installing the wall cabinets to the actual room…I knew I needed something to keep the cabinets not just level with the top of the stove, but also provide an even clearance between the countertop and the bottom of the wall cabinet.  BK suggested that I use some spare wall cabinets I had in my stockpile and use them to hold the ones up while the glue dried. Pretty simple idea huh?

While the QuickGrip dried, decided to kill time by going ahead and shingling the roof (which went by pretty fast — especially if you have a bag of already dyed shingles you got from a fellow mini-blogger). Am pretty awful at applying shingles, so I tend to rely on alot of online tutorials  such as this one.  Though I might try this particular tutorial next, depending on what kit/house I’ll be tackling next.

Left: using the guides I penciled in to apply the shingles. Middle: the finished product. Right: side view of the roof. Had to trim any excess pieces that were sticking out over the ridge and the sides.

When I got to the top of the shingles, I used the remaining pieces and applied them perpendicular to create the illusion of a ridge. Not all the pieces were of the same size, so I had to use a craft knife to carefully slice off any excess that were sticking beyond the edge. Not too bad — though I made the mistake of making the first row stick out too much from the bottom ridge! Hopefully no one will notice that!

So all in all, did really good: in one day, the stove was decorated, the upper and lower cabinets were done, and the roofing’s complete. Excellent!

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Prototype Kit Test – Day Three (Part II)

The cabinets - not bad, but in need of a countertop.

Given how quickly I dressed up Betty with her new backsplash, I ended up just continuing with some items.  I went ahead and cut the baseboard and cornices I needed to install for the Prototype. After sanding and painting the pieces to my liking, the cornices were installed and clamped into place while it dried. For the baseboards though, I had to wait until I finished installing the base cabinets (since they’ll dictate how I’ll need to mitre/trim the baseboard).

Like I stated in my last post, the cabinets were a purchase I made. Granted, I had some kitchen cabinet kits that I could have used. But to be honest…I didn’t feel like making an even bigger mess in my worktable. Plus with the holidays around the corner…was a little worried that I’d be pulled into handling other things.

Anyways, when I put them against Betty…I found them to be a bit shorter than expected. Luckily, the solution to correct this issue was simple: installing a countertop. I had to dig around a bit in my bin to find a wide strip to accommodate the cabinet top.

Capital! A wood countertop!

Once I found a worktable strip, I took one of the cabinets and used it to measure the amount I needed. Wanted it to have a bit of a lip on the front and side opposite the cooktop, so I had to add an extra 1/16 of an inch on those sides. After penciling in the guides….had to resort to some jerry-rigging to make sure my little saw could cut through the wood. Stupid ass me realized that my mitre box wasn’t big enough to accommodate the strip…maybe something to hint to BK as a holiday present to give to his wife (yeah, talk about romantic).

After cutting two pieces to act as the countertop, I sanded the pieces smooth (hurrah that it’s basswood) before applying some cherry wood stain. I thought about maybe trying to simulate a granite countertop (similar to how otterine did for her mini kitchen — pretty brilliant btw). But, since I’m trying to go for an IKEA inspired kitchen…figured maybe doing a wooden countertop was the best way to go. So after a few coats of the cherry wood stain (and sanding in between), and a good rub down of beeswax, my counters were done and ready to be installed.

Because the wood was relatively thin (maybe 1/4″), I avoided using any water based glue and went for the Quick Grip. While I love using this stuff (it really does bond things quickly), the smell never fails to make me gag. O_o  Then again, guess there’s no point bitching if the stuff does it job right?

After the countertops were glued and dried (I applied some small clamps to make sure the countertops were flush against the cabinets), I used the Quick Grip adhesive again to attach the cabinets firmly against the rear wall and the stove. So far, so good!

Woohoo! Bottom cabinets done!

Prototype Kit Test – Day Three

The Inspiration. Photo courtesy of IKEA.

After building the shell (and installing the wallpaper), I spent the rest of Day Two just figuring out what to do in regards to the interior. Since this is a test run of Monsieur M’s kit, I wanted to make sure that it makes a statement of sorts. But how does one go about that?

After mulling it over (and giving in to BK’s request to watch Holmes Inspection with him – telling you, we love Mike Holmes and that show, but damn, he’s scaring us away from possibly buying our first home soon!), I ended up going to bed flipping through my much-loved, though worn out, IKEA catalog. It was when I got to the kitchen section that I had my light bulb moment.

In my head, I envisioned a section of the kitchen – white cabinets with warm wood toned countertops flanking a sleek appliance. On the wall were matching white cabinets. But rather than having solid or even glass doors, they’d be open in order to showcase its contents – plates and mugs in bright, rich greens and reds, alongside sparkling glassware.  Of course, I’m planning to insert some special requests from my husband to have some pantry items on the shelves. Though sadly, I told him I can’t guarantee putting a canister of Ovaltine in the shelves. Maybe later, once this project is complete.

Luckily I had some cabinets that I bought from a local miniature shop (that alas, is no longer in business — that always saddens me to see a beloved miniature shop meet such an end). But when it came to the appliance – I needed something that can handle being the center of attention.  A thorough search through my mini bins resulted in this lovely piece (aka “Betty”).

The centerpiece of the Prototype's Room

The backsplash pattern

This was an item I bought from the Dollhouse Emporium many years ago when they still had in stock. I was initially hesitant to purchase this because Betty costed me an arm and a leg. But guess eating ramen for a month made it worthwhile — because 3 years later, she’s finally getting used.  Plus, she looks like the type of stove I’d see at IKEA….assuming they are planning to make one for the masses (hint, hint).  As you can see in the photo, Betty’s a very pretty gal to look at.  But when I set her up inside the Prototype room (see right photo)…it looked like she needed something to make her stand out even more. Or to be honest — that white area between the burners and the underside of the roof was making Betty looking blah.

Immediately the idea of a backsplash came to mind – maybe something like the Spanish mosaic tiles BK and I have always loved in homes.  That sounded great and all, but because Betty was made of plastic (especially the area where I’d have to do the backsplash), I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t trust myself in installing individual tiles against the plastic. At the same time, I didn’t want the backsplash to be bulky in appearance. So that meant that it needed to be something I can install like wallpaper.  Then it occurred to me that I made a mosaic pattern in Adobe Illustrator a few months ago for a training course I took. When I pulled it up and re-sized it…it was perfect.

Left: the "tiles" cut to size. Right side: My Xyron sticker maker to the rescue!

After measuring the area where the pattern will be installed, I applied the pattern on Illustrator and printed it out using some photo paper. Then I trimmed the area down to size and did a dry fit of it on Betty. Once I was satisfied with it…I pulled out my Xyron sticker maker. Not sure what prompted me to try this — I used this tool for my wedding to make labels. Guess it was one of those unexplained “why the hell not?” moments.

A couple of turns on the crank later…I made my backsplash into a permanent sticker that I slapped onto Betty. I was pretty suprised how it turned out. Based on the last photo, it gave that “oomph” that I needed.  To see additional photos, please visit my gallery.

The finished product

Prototype Kit Test – Day Two

With the framework now built (and the floors installed – woohoo!), I immediately hit with my first wall regarding the prototype — figuring out the walls. I knew I could delay any calls about the exterior walls, but I knew I needed to finalize the interior before I could continue.

One of the beefs I have with miniatures — okay, mostly regarding building dollhouses — is the limited variety of wallpaper. If you’re doing a Victorian theme (mainsteam or steampunk), or country theme, there are plenty of 1:12th designs to choose.  That’s great and all — if you’re going for a period theme. And in period, I mean Victorian.*

*Note to Victorian miniature fans: I am not dissing this period or fans of it or anything. I like it and all, but not all of us mini fanatics are into that period. Just sayin’.

Never understood why it’s so difficult for manufacturers to, I dunno, make solid colored wallpaper. Or stripes. Or wallpapers you see people use today.  Alot of times, you either have to make do with painting the walls or utilizing cardstock to achieve a solid colored or modern printed walls. For something like this prototype, I probably could get away with that. But principle wise — that’s unacceptable if I plan to build more larger sized homes.

I guess BK noticed the annoyed/sour/murderous look on my face because he suggested the most brilliant thing:

“Why don’t you make the wallpaper instead? I mean, how hard can it be?”

Apparently, not too hard — assuming you got good cardstock, a printer, and Adobe Illustrator at your disposal. Oh yeah, and knowing websites offering tons of free vector seamless graphics if you’re not up to making the patterns yourself (guilty).

Three patterns....there can only be two I will use.

After digging through my bookmarks (and saved files — I saved a ton of patterns when I was making my wedding invitations and all), I found a couple of vector patterns that I liked. Using Adobe Illustrator, I had to tweak the colors and sizes before creating them as a pattern swatch. Since I wasn’t sure what I was planning to do with the kit, was hoping the wallpaper will give me some ideas to work with…

From there, it was just a matter of apply my new pattern swatch using the selection tool (see tutorial). It was pretty easy — so easy, that in a few minutes I had narrowed it down to three patterns that I printed out using leftover cardstock.  As you can see, I made a white and blue floral piece, a cream and rust floral piece, and a black-white geometric piece.

Once the sheets were printed, I started putting them up against the walls. The attic was pretty straight forward — the cream and rust paper made the most sense in terms of creating a rustic feel for that area. For the main room…I was actually stumped. The black and white screamed something very ultra modern and chic, while the blue and white called for something dainty. But rather than agonizing over it, I threw the decision over to BK. Without skipping a beat, he chose the blue pattern for the ground floor. Crisis averted!

Thanks to the small size (and only papering two walls per floor – yay, Monsieur M!), cutting the wallpaper to size was pretty easy. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I ended up not screwing/gluing the attic walls permanently since I needed to cover the walls somehow. Thank god for that last minute decision – don’t think I could install the paper if the walls were already up. Luckily, this went quickly for me – just used the wall and ceiling pieces to trace out the patterns I needed. The ground floor’s walls were even easier – a quick measure of the walls lead to me cutting out two rectangular sheets.

Once the papers were cut out, the challenge came in terms of what paste to use. Most miniature shops I frequented sell containers of wallpaper paste specifically for dollhouse scale wallpaper. Am sure most mini fans like them all…but somehow I can’t. I’ve bought them and used them in previous projects, and while they definitely do what they’re suppose to do. But I always find them to be too messy to use – either they slop all over the paper (so I have to buy more sheets), or on myself (not fun when you have to dish out your laundry card and wash your clothes at the communal laundry room).  Lately, I tend to use Yes! Paste  (the kind used for scrapbooking and basic crafts) because I like the jelly consistency – much easier to spread on delicate papers or onto the dollhouse walls.

But for this project, I ran out of that paste. Was pretty bummed by it, then I found in my wedding DIY craft book this unopened canister of bookbinding paste from the Paper Source. It’s basically watered down PVA glue (think of Elmer’s white glue but not syrupy). Was hesitant to try it at first, but then again, I was a bit lazy to drive out to Michaels to get more of my usual paste.

Verdict thus far? It’s actually not bad. It spreads fine on the paper (no dribbles) and when I applied a thin coat on the walls, it actually worked fine. But I think I’ll need to get a good bristle brush next time I use this — the sponge brushes soaked up the paste fine, but you need to apply a bit more pressure to squeeze the paste onto whatever medium you’re applying it on. Also, after you apply the paste on the walls and paper, you need to be precise when you place the paper on the wall – the two immediate stuck on contact. So there isn’t much flexibility if you need to wiggle the paper into place. It’s possible I just need to put a thicker layer of the paste on the walls….will try that next time and get back to you all on the results.

Day Two Prototype - Completed!

Like the previous day, this went by pretty quickly. For the attic, I installed the wallpaper to the side wall and ceiling, then installed the walls permanently to the structure a few hours later (worked on this early in the morning).  Once the attic walls were secured (hurrah for Quick Grip glue and clamps!), started wallpapering the ground floor. Because one of the walls has a window opening, I had to wait until later that evening to cut out the opening (best to wait until the paper is brittle dry before cutting out the openings).

Overall, not too bad – the walls and floors are now done. Now comes the next dilemma – what should I work on next? The exterior or work on the interior trim?

For more photos of Day Two, please visit this gallery

Prototype Kit Test – Day One

The Prototype...Thus Far

Staying true to my promise, I cracked open Monsieur M’s kit and started to assemble it.  Assembly was pretty straight-forward and I was able to do a dry run of the parts. It consisted of a few parts — the floor/ceiling, two walls, and two panels for the roof.  Was very happy to see that  Monsieur kindly labeled the parts in red (very useful since I tend to have my “dim bulb” moments).

Another detail that I love with this prototype — the kit mimics how real houses are built. Maybe it’s from watching too many Holmes on Homes or Holmes Inspection, but it’s so neat to see how the walls are basically wood frames covered by a “drywall” of sorts (it looks like a very thick cardboard).  And seeing how it quickly assembles definitely is a plus when it comes to someone like me who wants to cover as much ground as possible.

Actually, I was REALLY surprised how quickly I was able to put things together during the dry-run. For starters, the parts are either installed in three ways – you apply the included screws into the screw holes (which Monsieur clearly labeled in red), attach parts via pegs (also labeled by Monsieur) or you do the traditional “glue and clamp” method. Luckily, almost 97% of the parts involved screwing things in. But just to be on the safe side, I used glue alongside the screws to secure everything. Granted, I used Quick Grip because it sets fast, but am sure using regular Tacky Glue or even wood glue will work – so long as you’re careful in the application. The last thing you want is to have the glue ooze out and dry in between the joints. Given the material used for the drywall, was too afraid of scuffing them even with the finest grit sandpaper.

Thanks to this observation, ended up deciding on installing the flooring for the first floor and attic floor before the parts are permanently affixed.

Since this is the first mini project since the wedding, I barely remembered what I had in my “bins o’ crap”.  Suffice to say, BK wasn’t thrilled seeing me tear through our coat closet to pull down the rubbermaid bins and digging through the contents. But the rummaging definitely paid off — I found I had a few wooden flooring planks left from old projects (ended up buying more on eBay later to restock).

Used QuickGrip glue to install the planks, then did a light cherry stain after sanding it down

For the flooring, figured it was best to keep it simple — the first floor would be sanded and stained a light cherry color while the attic was simply left as is. I wanted the attic area to be rough and imperfect to add contrast to the main room below.

I’m going to have to apologize though for the lack of pictures. Given this is suppose to be a test run, I am hesitant to release information (especially the schematic Monsieur M. provided). I know he wanted me to test to see if this is doable, but until I get his full permission, I’ll have to be careful with what I’m writing. For all we know, this could be the future of how dollhouses are gonna be built! Or, at least the kinds of houses crazy fans like myself will want. 😛

Okay, ranting aside…onto the work.

I decided to divide the framework into two parts — the main room (the first floor), and the attic/roof area. Ended up focusing on the main room since that will be the showcase of the kit. Plus, because of the way the roof was to be pitched, I couldn’t install it until I applied the wallpaper. Monsieur M’s instructions mentioned that if I wanted to paper the walls, I should do it now before assembly. Makes sense and all…but I had no idea what wallpaper to use. Heck, I didn’t have an idea what I was gonna do to decorate the prototype! Figured for now, just get the main room set up and the rest will sort itself out. I hope!

The first floor was straightforward – screwed the rear and side wall into the floor, then installed the long support beam. When I got to the attic however, I had a bit of a problem installing the small support beam. Attaching the bottom part of the beam was straightforward – there’s a peg you insert onto the attic floor that will connect the attic beam to the taller beam on the first floor (see photo on right). After you slide the attic beam into the peg (with some glue of course), now you’re left with installing the roof to the top part of the attic beam.

The challenge I found though was that because the roof is angled, how to make sure the sloped part of the attic beam stays square to the roof. If you look at this photo, you’ll noticed that the slanted part of the attic beam should be at the upper left corner of the room. My guess is that you simply glue it into position.  Probably not a big deal if you have the patience…but, if you’re reading this Monsieur M., maybe having this part connected either via peg or screws would be easier. At the very least, it will make sure the sloped parts will always stay in position.

Other than this little issue…it actually took me about an hour to set it up. It could have been longer if I had decided to permanently attach the attic walls – which I chose to not do at the last second (as I realized I need to wallpaper this space).  Then again,the construction time could have probably been less if I wasn’t taking photos of the construction. But hey, I just want to make sure Monsieur sees everything.

For more photos – please visit this gallery.

Some House-Keeping, and Updates

Now that the madness known as the wedding have settled (and don’t get me started on the whole last name changing thing – that’s alone is a saga not worth talking about), it felt awesome to clear my workroom (aka the dining room) of all the DIY wedding stuff.  While I was thinking of selling the items on Craigslist or various classified sites for brides, I ended actually donating the stuff to a friend who was helping another friend’s wedding. So hopefully the stuff I have will be of use!

Rambling aside, figured I can now start putting out a list of things that I had WANTED to have completed before this year is over:

1. Build the A Frame House kit. Have gotten emails from folks curious about this kit, and I definitely need to chronicle its construction process.

2. Attempt to complete in the HBS’s 18th Annual Creatin’ Contest. Each year, miniatures.com holds a year-long contest where people customize a specific kit in their inventory. Photos are submitted by the end of the year, and the winner receives a $1000 gift certificate to their store. I dunno about you, but I can seriously can think of a TON of stuff to buy with that amount!

BK knew I was going back and forth on participating since all my free time was devoted to the wedding. Imagine my surprise when he decided to get me the contest kit as a birthday gift.  But with today being early November…as much as I want to meet the contest deadline of December 16th, I don’t think I’ll make it in time.  Will see though.

3. Build the Newport Cape by Duracraft. I’ve loved this kit for a long time, and managed to score one via Ebay late last year. My dolls are in dire need of a home, and frankly, I do owe them a place to stay rather than the rubbermaid bin in the closet. 😛

4. Testing a Prototype 1:12th Scale Kit. This is the one I feel the most awful about. In one of the forums I participated in, a fellow miniaturist (whom I will refer to as “Monsieur M”) asked me to test. He built this kit using the same technique used in real life houses (creating a wooden frame then applying a miniature “dry wall” so to speak). His request? For me to build it and chronicle the stages.

Easy as pie right? Except he asked me this awhile back. Like in 2009.  God, I feel like a dingbat.

Hopefully, Monsieur M is reading this, and will forgive me for putting this off. Because as of this date, I am putting this as the PRIORITY PROJECT OF 2011.

There, I’ve said it.  Now if you excuse me, I got my workshop to reopen and jump start into operation.