I've been fiddling with miniatures this past week, making little things for the regular "raffle" swap at our meetings -- if you win something, you bring something to be raffled the next time (so usually everyone brings something!). There is usually an extended theme or project for the group, and the one we've just started is "nautical" -- not sure what that means, as I missed last month's meeting, presumably a room-box of some sort -- not that one has to bring swaps that go with the theme, but I wanted to practice my picture-making (since needless to say I have great plans for my own rooms, and happily I am not limited by silly things like money or somebody else owning an Old Master I like!), and so of course I thought, "I'll make some framed seascapes!"
My mitered corners are still a bit rough -- I said to David the other evening, "I'm having a bit of trouble getting the miters true -- and clean -- what's the secret?" and he looked heavenwards and said, "If you find out, let me know," so I guess I'm not the only one. And of course slight deviations that aren't really noticeable at full-size are really wonky at 1:12, but there it is. These didn't turn out too badly, despite my wobbliness, so on the whole I'm quite pleased, and I really like the pictures, all copyright-free so I can give them away with a clear conscience. On the left is "Maine Seascape" (1930-45) by the Russian-American impressionist Constantin Alexandrovitch Westchiloff, at top right is an untitled painting by the enigmatic Ken E. who has posted quite a lot of his paintings at PublicDomainPictures.net, and at bottom right is "Rolling Breakers" (1913) by the American realist George Bellows.
I laid out the pictures to a pleasing 1:12 size on a page in Publisher, then printed them at "normal" quality onto thickish smooth drawing paper. I have found that sometimes my printer kicks quite a lot at printing on anything other than regular paper, but this piece went through quite easily -- I've also found that "normal" is the best setting, as "best" tends to add too much black, and while a lot of old paintings are darker than they should be because of age, when they get shrunk down to 1:12 scale, they can lose too much detail, so I think the sacrifice in "realism" is worth being able to see what the picture is! I laid a coat of artist's gloss medium over the pictures, both to seal them and to add a bit of texture -- I tried to make the gloss look like it could be "brushstrokes" too.
The frames are experiments, frankly, but I think ones that turned out pretty well. The Westchiloff is in some generic molding from HouseWorks, stained with two coats of Dark Walnut from a Minwax pen (two coats was definitely better than one) -- luckily for me the dark frame pretty much completely disguises that one of the miters meets for only about half of its length.... The lighthouse is in just some plain 3/8" lumber from a scrap bag I bought years ago, painted with an undercoat of off-white and then two coats of gold craft paint. The Bellows is in off-cuts of mahogany from when David was practicing cutting that for the Arts & Crafts bed, wiped just once with the oily cloth I was using to apply linseed-and-beeswax finish to my NAME-Day armoire -- so I was pleased that not only does it work well with the painting, but it was thrifty and doesn't look it at all!
This charmer is the trestle stand (kit no.40072) from House of Miniatures. All the while the kit was sitting in my cupboard, I had pictured the finished piece in my mind as a dark wood, but when I looked online for images, I found that many trestle tables were a pretty golden sort of maple, so I thought I'd finish it with just the Tried & True, but after one coat thought it needed to be a bit darker, so it ended up having two coats of Danish oil in "Golden Oak" and then three more coats of Tried & True.
I also banged it up a bit on purpose, to make it look more like it has been around since "ca.1770-1790" -- this was surprisingly difficult to bring myself to do! But I softened the edges quite a bit with sandpaper (unevenly), then took a key to the top --
And after some weeks of working steadily at it, then a month or so with it sitting while I tried to decide what to do about the hardware -- I finished the NAME-Day armoire!
I didn't much care for the knobs and handles that came with the kit, and I didn't mind at all making my armoire a little different from everyone else's, so I changed out all four for a set of "brass doorknobs" from Houseworks. This involved quite a bit of fuss -- gluing a strip behind the drawer holes because otherwise they weren't nearly deep enough, and filling the door holes with wood filler and re-drilling holes the right shape. I didn't get the latter placed quite right, and I'm not sure any of them is quite sturdy enough -- one of the drawer knobs popped out after I had put the finish on, and I had to scrape the old glue out of the hole before I could reglue it -- but I do like the look of them.
The finish is three coats (just one on the inside) of Tried and True. This was a real pain to apply, with all of the nooks and crannies, and it seems to take a long time to stop feeling ever-so-slightly oily, but I think the results are worth the bother, and I really like the idea of using the traditional finish.
The inside of the wardrobe is something else! Look at all that detail! This is certainly the most fiddly kit I have ever done to date, and I had some problems with the kit itself (some unclear instructions, the shelves holding the three internal drawers not being wide enough) and some of my own doing (right angles not quite true, inexperience in thinking ahead, etc.), but I managed to either figure it out or come up with a solution that worked. If I had it to do over again, I would certainly center the two doors more by eye than by distance.
I'm not sure I really like the laser-cut kits unequivocally -- obviously, the amount of detail possible can be had at a much lower cost, but on the other hand, sanding off the scorch marks along every laser-cut edge is not only tedious but risky if one sands too much. (The door spacing might have been due to this, that the instructions didn't allow enough for removing the scorch marks? I don't know.)
The wood is very pretty -- I chose maple, and it has a lovely grain, which the finish really brings out. I could wish that the different pieces of the kit were matched a little better, as the frames on the doors are a slightly more silvery maple than the golden of the panels and the lower drawer, but there it is. The drawer front is an exceptionally pretty piece!
The paper in the background is a vintage wallpaper miniaturized and available free from Jennifer's Printables. After taking most of the photos, I lined the drawers with it! --