Polymer clay: You might want to cook your clay a little bit longer so the plasticizers get time to react with each other and this will make the clay stronger. Unless you need to cut something you didn't do before let every thing cool and it will be fully hard. Some people like to cut their clay pieces when warm from the oven and still pliable but I do my cutting before hand. Good luck and I hope this helps a bit.
Hard Fimo - I haven't tried this myself but did watch a friend do it. She broke the hard Fimo into pieces as small as she could with just her hands and put it into an electric coffee bean grinder. Then added -just a drop at a time - mineral oil and turned on the grinder. After just a few minutes of this the Fimo was soft enough to use. As I said, I haven't tried this and have no idea if the mineral oil would damage the clay in any way, but it sure did work for my friend's project.
Room box idea for Dad: your dad doesn't have to have hobbies for you to make a personalized roombox for him. As Juanita suggested, if he watches TV, have an easy chair, a TV, some books, newspaper, perhaps slippers, a replica of the family pet (if there is one), and add lots of family pictures. The pictures is what wows people the most about any giftbag I made them. "How did you get the pictures so small" is the first question people ask. If he reads particular mags or newspapers, include a mini copy of that -- or favorite books, crossword puzzle -- whatever you can think of that would have meaning for him - -- as Juanita suggested as something that represented where he worked.
Fay in St. Louis
Crumbling clay: [after baking at 275 for 15 minutes, the pieces were stillsoft. Those tiny fudge squares crumbled when I squeezed one with my tweezers]
Yes, they'll still be somewhat soft and quite flexible when they're hot from the oven. Sculpey III will crumble if it's hot and is fairly brittle even after it's cooled. The weak end-product isn't much of a bother with things that are this tiny and that won't be played with and subject to abuse by children. For particularly thin parts, it's best to use Premo, a much stronger clay that's also very flexible when it's cooled.
The other cause of brittleness or crumbling of cooked and cooled pieces is under baking, which you can get when you don't cook it long enough or at a high enough temperature. If your oven's thermostat is off, for instance, you could be cooking at only 250º and that's not hot enough to complete the fusing process between the molecules.
Polymer clay: When you take your baked clay items out of the oven you might just panic and think they aren't cooked, yes they do harden as they cool and it is normal, don't worry. One way to help the process along is to plunge the baked clay into a bowl of cold water. This speeds up the cooling process and some polyclay artists believe it makes the clay stronger. Please remember that the clay is really hot when it first comes out of the oven (don't laugh, it happens) and it's very hard to work with singed fingertips.
Bending tubing: for bending metal tubing Micro-Mark sells a little set of benders, the one reasonably priced item in their catalog, as far as I'm concerned. You get five densely-coiled steel springs from a sixteenth to three sixteenths outside diameter. You slip the tubing into the appropriate one and bend. The springs keep the kinks out. I've only used them with brass and I anneal it first.
A method that doesn't require benders is packing the tubing with sand before bending to keep the kinks out and using a jig to bend tubing around.
Bending Tubing: You did not say if your bent tube had to be or stay hollow. Here are a couple of hints.
14 gauge solid copper wire is about 1/16 inch in diameter. Smaller number gauges are larger diameter. You can buy "Romex" by the foot at builders supply shops such as Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Suppose you wanted to make an old faciendo pipe frame headboard. For such in half scale, I would use 14 gauge (Scale 1.5" diameter) Strip off the insulation with a sharp exacto. Clamp one end of the bare wire into a small bench vise or have a friend hold it firmly with a pair of Vise Grip pliers. Fasten the other end into the chuck of an electric drill. Pull moderately tight and spin the electric drill. The wire will magically become perfectly straight as it twists. Cut pieces to size and bend over radiused corners in a block of wood.
A technique with hollow stock would be to use KS hobby brass tubing. Anneal the brass by heating it to cherry red in a gas flame and then allow to cool slowly on a pot holder. For very easy curves, you maybe able to slowly bend freehand or over a form after it is cooled. For tighter turns, kinks can be controlled by stuffing the annealed brass with fine salt. Cap the ends with solder and then form your corners. After bending, unsolder the capped ends, dump out most of the salt and dissolve any that may be "packed in" by soaking in a pan of water. Rinse away any residual salt, polish, cut, and enjoy.
Bending tubing: My method of bending a tube is cost effective. Fill the tube with sand, flour or anything that will fill the tube and remain fairly dense. Then I delicately (gently) bend the tube, By filling the tube a fracture is prevented.
DrBob...Delray Beach, FL.
Acrylic display boxes: Try here for these in various sizes, Buffalo Creek Miniatures and Displays. : Cases https://theseus.safe-order.net/bcminiatures/store/c2.html
Marilyn in Illinois
Spiral Staircase - Now I haven't actually tried this but remember reading itin the digest a couple of years ago. Use a wooden fan like the ones made in India. They are usually made of teak, I think (or appear to be) and usually have a tiny beautiful pattern cut out in them. Drill a hole in at desired point of equal distance in the thin ends of each section. Put a dowel with spacer in between each step. You now have a beautiful spiral stairway, already tapered, as tall or short as you want it. This sounds like a great idea for a fancy stairway. I can't remember who originally posted this tip but maybe it will jog someone's memory here. I can picture it clearly. It could even be painted to match a color scheme or painted chrome to get a metal stair effect. One of these days I will give it a try. Maybe when I do my Lighthouse. WARNING! don't wait for me to show you the finished project unless you have about 10 years to spare! LOL!
No Stairs: many people leave out the stairs to get more space; some houses don't have them anyway, like my Hall's townhouse. The traditional way of getting around this is to put fake, non-working doors along the back wall on each floor for the illusion that those doors lead into a hallway where the stairs are located. You can always use your imagination, too, and tell finicky viewers who ask about them that they are looking at the house the from perspective of the hall/stairway, which have been magically made invisible to allow them a better view of the rooms!
Mini Plans - Mini designs - mini books: I am taking a few minute break to catch up on my e-mail and have a few more to climb up on my soap box Why does everyone seem intent upon finding plans for MINIATURES?????
Our goal (except for the fantasy contingent) is to represent reality in miniature. Right? I do appreciate articles, posts, books, and such that offer materials, techniques, and tooling that helps us to create our miniatures. As for plans, however, I far prefer to use authentic items or published plans for full sized authentic items. There are several advantages.
(1) My finished pieces are authentic and authenticated. I can show photographs of the original from which I modeled my miniature (or a copy of the article) In authenticating, my description is not what mini book the plans came from but, rather and for example, "Based on a 1937 Crosley, single band table radio in the collection of Mister Robert Page of Ventura, Ca. Number 3 of 12 miniatures by MCK"
(2) I have the fun of research and design plus the prestige of prototype ownership
Research from the real thing can be in private collections, antique shops, second hand stores, museums, or your own Grandma's attic. Research from plans can be from woodworking/upholstery/metal smith books and magazines including library micro film editions of OLD Popular Mechanics, Fine Woodworking, etc. Further research from photographs may be from old magazines, "captured" scenes from movies, or background glimpses in old family photographs.
(3) I enjoy a mini fan club beyond our miniature circle. It includes owners of the full sized prototypes who are very flattered when I ask to measure, sketch, and photograph one of their treasures for miniature reproduction. #1 certainly is my own. #2 usually has an immediate buyer (I throw in a display dome for good will)
(4) I am not limited to what others have discovered, downsized, and deemed worthy of drafting. The world is much larger than that.
(5) Real antiques frequently have stories. Miniatures carefully crafted after those full size prototypes automatically "own" the story also - for no extra charge.
'Nuf soap box for now. Some other break time I will get a bit into research measuring and drawing.
Leftover Minis: Extra miniatures you can't use make great Christmas ornaments, tie pretty ribbon on small chair or whatever and hang....very cute. Even an extra door or window....hang wreath on it, tie ribbon and hang.
Club Projects: Much like this digest, club members can do show and tell, share sources, and teach one another. But it is also fun to order kits and work on them together. Just having other people to share the hobby with is wonderful. You can ask school or scout type organizations about doing a lecture on minis or demos for kids. Senior citizen groups also often welcome this type of activity. Libraries are good places to put displays! Good luck on starting your club!
Alice Zinn- Pt. St. Lucie FL
Ice-look for the 'beans' that are in Beanie Babies. Walmart has them in the craft section. A friend made a replica of a seafood shop and used them in the display cases. Works great. They are really little bead-like thingies.
Removing Tool Marks on Plastic: [You are not going to have any luck drilling plastic because it will frost on you. ] The easiest way to get rid of the tool marks (frosting - if that's what you're referring to) is to dip it in acetone or coat it with clear nail polish.
Adjustable Work Surface: do you know that your ironing board makes a perfect work bench adjustable height so you can lower it down for good height etc & a washable cover too, what do you need to iron anyway just think another place to spread to. A perfect excuse not to iron. It takes up precious miniaturists time anyway. (don't forget, hide the laundry)
Adjustable Work Surface: I also use an ironing board as my work table. My reason is that because of back trouble, I can't sit for very long at a time. But I can stand and work at that table (at highest level) for hours. I do have another ironing board for if I actually break down and iron something. I got some pieces of cotton fabric in a box of remnants, and I put a piece over the board and don't worry about getting glue or paint on it. I just throw it in the wash after a while. I apply glue a lot with a needle, and to clean the needle, I just stick it into the fabric and slide it back out again. Works great. Because it's padded underneath, it's great for fragile stuff, almost like working on a long flat pin cushion.
Paulette in IN
Hiding Piano Hinges: If you bi-fold your side wall with piano hinges, the end hinge will be at the back of the house and may not need to be hidden if you leave the back featureless to be up against a wall. The middle hinge should have its pin plate toward the interior of the house and, again, need not be hidden if you align that fold with an interior wall so that, when closed, that edge of the hinge simply reaches into a milled slot in that wall.
If you mount piano hinges to the butt edges of all panels rather than flush on the flat faces of the walls - they will help limit warping. The screws, however, are likely to not hold well screwed endwise into plywood. I would strongly urge you to fully frame the plywood panels with a quality hardwood capping all edges. Use dowels and a top line wood glue such as Gorilla Glue and clamping techniques to prefabricate the hingeable plywood panels.
Install magnets into the shell of the dollhouse to align with iron slugs inset into the wall panels. This will help hold your walls closed and give some added stability against warping even though slight. If the panels are large, you may even inset angle steel the full length of top and bottom edges rather than just slugs. Wherever hinge pin ends are exposed and need to be hidden, make the architectural corner trim removable with inset magnets and slugs to hold it in place OVER the hinges. Lift off the corner trim before opening the hinged panels.
Finally, once your row house is to a point where it VERY seldom needs to be opened, I would suggest screwing the panels closed in several places to (again) provide maximum support against warpage. Hide the screw heads with gingerbread rosettes painted a uniquely different color and leave a note in the house's history log as to how it can be opened up by family archeologists of the future.
Installing Plexiglas on Back of Dollhouse: I use tracks top and bottom to slide Plexiglas onto the backs of my houses. If I can't find them sometimes, I make my own from square woodstock strips. If the top floor is a slanted roof, I drill two small holes through plexi and interior walls and use straight pins to stick in the holes to hold this piece on.
Fannye in TX
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