Tuesday, December 31, 2013


May 2014 be a great year for you all both in the happy and sad times, as I grow older I know that each year will bring it's own joys and sorrows, I believe a positive attitude towards each situation makes a huge difference in our experience of life, so grab next year and what it holds for you with both hands and make the best of it. I pray for God's blessing on each one of my family and friends :-)


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Third and final floor plan

Well....after my last post, when I started working out some of the furniture sizes....I realized my house was still too small. One of the issues being that with a dollhouse you kind of loose your fourth wall since you have to look in from somewhere, and with all the doors and windows the wall spaces in between wasn't wide enough, with my husband's encouragement I made the house deeper and added the stoep (veranda). The front gable will open and the rest of the opening doors will be on the side walls.

The final plan, the rooms are now exactly to scale as they are in the real house.

The stoep adds so much character to the house with its build in seats.

They had so much space in the houses, notice the build in cupboard next to the double doors on the left hand side of the photo, I plan on putting one into my dining room.

A built in fireplace with doors to keep it closed during summer.

I want to make an armoire similar to this one, they are huge and the reason for needing wider walls.

Have a wonderful day

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Mock-up and some Changes

I decided to build a mock-up of the Cape Dutch home to make sure that I am happy with the dimensions...well, I wasn't, the rooms were just a bit cramped, I wanted to put a stoep (verandah) around the house but have decided to sacrifice that idea for big enough rooms.

The first mock-up, you are looking at the house from the back.

The kitchen.

The dining room.

And the bedroom, although the rooms aren't small, they are just not big enough for the furniture I want to put in them. I added only a few centimeters, but it made a huge difference.

The new floor plan, I also decided to put the dining room in the back as it was in the real houses, I didn't like the idea of having to walk through the entrance hall to the dining room.

The kitchen is wider and deeper and now have space for a concealed staircase up to the loft just as the real house had it. I am thinking of making storage space underneath the stairs for food, it would have been nice and cool in there.

The extra space in the bedroom means that the bed won't be crowded by the big armoire and four seater settee I plan on making.

Josje, how do you like the kitchen's stable door and those hinges?

And for all my Dutch friends who were surprised by the Dutch interiors and architecture, settling the Cape of Good Hope were the brainchild of the VOC, they needed a place to stock up on fresh food and water during the ship voyages to the east to bring back all those lovely spices, silks, etc to The Netherlands. So all the first Governors and farmers in the Cape were Dutch people, they set their mark on the Cape for the first 150 years from 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria came to the Cape with three shiploads full of people and supplies with instructions from the VOC to build a fort to protect them against the at times hostile natives and to start farms to supply the passing ships with fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. The VOC ruled the Cape for many years with an iron fist, it was quite difficult for a free man to start a farm or business in those first years.

Have a great weekend

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A long Absence....And a New Dream

Wow, it is more than two months since my last post, life has just been very busy and although I am continuously working on orders, there is nothing much new to show you.

I have always wanted to build a Colonial house and want to start on that next year. About two years ago I thought that it would be nice to build a typical South African Colonial house of the eighteenth century and when I stumbled across two very rare out of print books on the subject, one on the architecture and one on the locally made furniture of the time, I decided that I must have these books, well, I finally found copies in a good condition and ever since they arrived on Friday, I have done nothing but, dream, plan and scheme. During the Eighteenth century South Africa was very much under the rule of the Dutch and they had a big influence on the architecture and furniture of the time and the style is aptly called Cape Dutch, only the Cape province excited in those years, most of the others came in the next hundred years. Our family's first ancestor on my father's side Hendrik Oostwald Eksteen came to the Cape of Good Hope in 1702 as a twenty four old from Germany, he had three wives in succession, the first two died young and the third survived him for about 40 years, he had 18 children, many of them died young and at the time he was one of the richest men in the Cape, alas, none of that fortune has filtered through to me, although he was German, most of my blood line is Dutch. My middle brother loves family history and traced us all the way back.

Well, on to the houses, the townhouses was based very much on the ones you find in Amsterdam, but oh the country houses are just so different and magnificent, due to no lack of space, they generally only had a ground floor with a loft that was used for storage. To replicate this in miniature is going to need lots of space and building only a few of the rooms.

I am basing the general outlay of my house on this one, Stellenberg, a house that is in one of the suburbs of Cape Town and I think still privately owned.

The front of the house.

The back, showing the courtyard. You can see nicer photos of the house here and here.

The beautiful entrance hall.

The floor plan of the house from my book.

And my floor plan, with most of the back of the house gone, I need to fit this house on a table I have, as it is it is going to be huge, I had to reduce the rooms as it is a bit in size, but I didn't want to lose too much, as I don't want to lose the sense of space and grandeur. I might compromise and put a bedroom in the loft, I still have a lot of reading to do and it is quite possible that they did use the loft space as well, lots of the houses were build in a H shape with only six big rooms.

I will use other elements from other houses too, like this gorgeous gable from Morgenster.

The scale drawing of the gable in my book.

And I love the front door of yet another house Rust en Vreugde, my Dutch friends will understand all the names well.

Here are two more links to enjoy on Cape Dutch Houses, first up Groot Constantia and a variety of houses on this blog. Many of these houses are either museums or part of wine estates and so easily accessible to the public, only problem, I live 1600km's away, hopefully I will be able to visit there sometime next year.

In my next post I will show you some of the furniture from the other book.

Have a great week

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Federal Sewing Table and a Padlock

I have been working for quite a few months now on another sewing table, it is similar to the one I made last year.

Here is a photo of the original antique table that inspired my miniature table. I have researched many of these tables and this is the only one that I have seen with this shape table top that follows the leg shape, all other tables with six sides has the leg put in at an angle like this example here. Getting the table shape correct was quite tricky especially doing the inlay.....

but I think I managed fine : )

For this table I had to make a silk bag as well.

The screen slides in the back legs.

I am making a total of eight of these tables, for one of them I had a special request, to stitch the petit point as well, thank goodness most of my clients wants to do the stitching themselves.

And then, I told you in my last post about the chest I am making, three of my friends and I am working together once every fortnight on the chests, one of them is making a chest with a latch, well, a latch needs a padlock.... now, doesn't it, so I set out last weekend to see if I cant make a padlock based on the lock we made in Bill Robertson's class in Castine.

Remember the key from my last post, it has lost a bit of metal over the weekend, the padlock is far from finished, it is stuck with lace pins into the wood. I still need to do some final filing, polishing and putting it together permanently, in this photo it is locked.

Unlocked, this was great fun to figure out and make.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Petit Point, Turning and Carving

Lately I seem to function best when working on more than one project, as far as orders go I am working on caskets, I still have about seven of them to make. I am also busy with some sewing tables, different from the one I made last year, I will show them to you in another post. In between working on the orders I snatch a bit of time here and there to work on a few miniatures for myself.

I finally finished the back-stitching on the third casket panel, I only stitch on it in the evenings, for some reason I see it best then with my magnifying lamp, I think it is because the electric back-light is softer than the sunlight in the day. The panels are stitched on 90 count silk gauze.

Here is the link again to the original casket that I am copying, I am rather pleased at how close my panels represent the full scale casket.

I also do a bit of stitching in the mornings.

I started this rug about two years ago, at one stage I put it aside because I just had no time for it, I have picked it up again since Castine, it is stitched with French Knots on 40 count silk gauze and the chart is an original Victorian chart that I found on the Antique Library website.

I found a gorgeous little ivory pincushion on the internet the other day and couldn't resist copying it in miniature.

The top is actually a lid, there is storage space inside for more pins.

The turned ivory part of the pincushion, the original pincushion is oval, I made mine round.

I cut the lid out of a bigger piece of metal that I had prepared for hinge making with a syringe needle silver soldered to the metal. Because it is so tiny I decided to drill two tiny holes 0,3mm into the ivory for the hinge pin, it worked very well, by the way the squares on my cutting mat is 1cm square.

And here it is open on my sewing table, now I must just stick a few pins into it, I have an idea on how to make a few tiny pins, but haven't had time to try it yet.

And lastly I am busy making a Spanish Colonial Chest, I am practicing all the new skills I learned in Castine this year on the chest, hand cut dovetails, carving, metal work and a working lock.

Here is the back of the chest with a V-groove gouge that I made out of oil hardening drill rod, something that Bill Robertson showed us how to make in Castine.

The back and one side joined with hand cut dovetails, not perfect but not too bad for a first try in wood. The wood that I am using is South African White Pear, an ornamental tree and no relation to the European Pear. It was used a lot in South African Colonial days for wagon building and gun-stocks, it is a protected tree now so the wood is scarce.

In order to make a working lock, I needed a key, in Castine Bill Robertson gave us each one that he had cast. I turned mine out of brass with a big fat part on the end, which I then grounded flat with my Dremel and then drilled two holes next to each other to form the oval hole. Lastly I silver soldered a small piece of flat brass on to form the blade of the key, this part may still need a bit of trimming to fit nice and tight into the lock. Here is the link to the original chest, still a lot of work to be done, but it is a fun piece to make.

Have a great week.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Johannesburg Miniature Fair

This weekend we had our annual miniature fair in Johannesburg. A few weeks ago I told you that I was busy finishing up some of our local club projects.

Well, here they are all finished. the shaving stand was made from cherry wood. The hinges for the blanket chest was copied from a pair of circa 1770 Pennsylvania hinges that I found on a website.

I used dovetails and a slide in bottom for the drawer construction.

The carved door panel slides into the door stiles.

The mirror supports with tongue and groove joints.

The drawer knobs were turned from ivory, I found an old broken piece of a carved tusk awhile ago at an antique fair.

A comment from Josje on my FaceBook page inspired me to make the shaving set. The lathering bowl and brush was fairly easy to make, the old fashioned straight razor was another story though. I found a fair amount of info on restoring and making these in an internet search. The bowl and brush was turned out of ivory and I also used ivory for the sides of the razor.

Here are a photo of the inner workings of the razor, sometime I want to make another one and refine some of the techniques I used as I was a in a bit of a hurry to finish this one in time for the fair.

And now I guess you want to know what I bought at the fair :-)

Some Proxxon cutters and a container for tiny stuff, I like the see through lids.

And the tool bargain of the day, one needle file and three escapement files at $5 each.

Quite a few people got rid of some of their stash and I found these two bargains.

A fireplace kit from Phoenix Model Developments in England for $5 and...

this wonderful fine tea set from Avon Miniatures, also from England for a mere $9, my lucky day I think. The wash set that is on the shaving stand is also from Avon Miniatures, I bought that set back in 2006 in a miniatures shop in Bath, England.

Have a great weekend everybody

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Silver Soldering and Hinges

In my last post I showed my progress on the casket panels and the items I bought for silver soldering, ever since Castine I have been thinking a lot about the hinges I made for the casket, I was never happy with them, knowing that although they were as thin as I wanted, I also knew they weren't very strong and that has bugged me all along. Just to prove it to myself I pulled on one of them just now and yes..... as you can see....

It didn't take a lot of force to pull that apart. Now in Castine, in Bill Robertson's class when we made the hinges for the bone chest, I saw that this time round, he used a technique that I haven't seen before, he silver soldered a tube of metal to a flat piece of metal. This makes for a strong joint and what I was after, a thinner hinge roll. Everything I know about hinge making I learned from Bill, two years ago when I received the scholarship for Guild School I took his hinge class (ha, it seems funny now but when I received the class brochure way back in 2010 and saw the hinge class and was interested in it, I had to Google to find some info on Bill as I have never heard of him before), in any case, in that first year I learned to make hinges with the basic fold over hinge barrel that many people use, but you are limited by the thickness of the metal in how thin you can go, especially when you are working on really small items like the casket or hidden hinges like the ones in my sewing table that needs to recess into already thin wood. I have never silver soldered before, but was determined to learn and so..... today I made my first hinge after a few days of experimenting, struggling, searching the internet and putting on my thinking cap, I love finding solutions for problems.

For the caskets I wanted a really thin hinge that would almost not be visible once the needlepoint has been attached. Now where to find a small metal tube.... syringe needles of course (some of my USA and Europe friends says you can only get them on prescription in those countries), well, here in SA you can buy a box with a hundred and no questions asked, in the pharmacy I bought them they are in one of the aisles, together with things like plasters, bandages, etc.

I bought a honeycomb solder block on Saturday, something I am really grateful for now, as it has holes!!! I am using a needle with an outside diameter of 0.6mm and an inside diameter of 0.3mm, keeping it from riding up onto the flat metal piece proved to be a problem, I think the flux just pulls it onto the metal when everything starts to heat up. In this photo the needle is tied down with some wire, the piece of metal (0.2mm thick tinned metal sheet from K&S metals that I had in my stash) is held in place by a piece of brass, the flux is already applied and three pieces of silver solder is on top of the flux. The tool shop gave me Easyflo flux together with an Easyflo 40 silver rod, ha, cutting that rod into very small pieces is another story, it is rather hard.

After the soldering is done, it needs to be cleaned, the instructions for this specific flux is just soaking in hot water and brushing, easy and no chemicals involved. Oh, yes, I did struggle with the heating too, this solder melts between 650 and 710 degrees Celsius, in doing some research a bushy, pulsing flame was recommended, when I tried that things got easier and I loved seeing the solder melt and run along the joint, in the beginning I also used too much solder, well, you learn a lot by trying.

All the flux leftovers has been cleaned off, now for some filing to get it nice and smooth, oh yes, be careful, that needle point is rather sharp, after all, it was made for piercing skin, as if I don't stab myself enough with needles when I do petit point ;-)

Two pieces ready to be sawed and made into hinges.

I used some jewelry wire for a hinge pin, since it bends fairly easy, I first put in a 0.3mm drill bit to line everything up nicely and then pushed the wire in. Tomorrow I want to find out if you get music wire in 0.3mm and if one of the hobby shops here carry them to use for hinge pins.

Tins are a great source of free thin metal, so far I had no luck in finding metal shim, except in bulk, when I need thicker I will have to buy a life time supply, every place I have phoned so far denies having any knowledge of where to find thin metal, you can almost hear them think "crazy woman"!!!

I made my hinge a bit bigger than needed, it is just easier to handle while soldering, here I have cut it down to the right size, the metal is thin enough to cut easy with all purpose scissors, I only polished the hinge barrel as the rest of the hinge will be covered and a scratchy surface will be better for gluing the petit point panels on.

I decided to make a recess in the casket where the hinge is going, I am really happy with how this turned out, I did tug on this hinge too and it is nice and strong. Thank you Bill for introducing this technique to me.

For all my British and European readers, Bill and some of the other IGMA teachers are teaching a few great classes just before the Kensington show in London next year, don't wait too long in deciding, I am pretty sure these classes will fill up quickly, go and have a look here.

Enjoy the rest of your week
PS: I am going to play with making brass hinges in this way too, found a 1mm brass tube in a hobby shop here.