Wednesday, April 24, 2013

18th Century Drawer Construction

I thought I would share the rest of the steps for constructing a drawer as they did in the second half of the 18th century, the source for my information comes from this wonderful book.

Here you can see all the pieces for the drawer, the base, front and back, sides and inside dividers. The front and sides has a tiny 0.6mm groove along the bottom edge for the bottom of the drawer to slide in as well as grooves for the dividers. The base of the drawer is 1mm thick and tapers on three of the edges to 0.5mm.

I used a 3.1mm hart 70 degree bur for cutting the taper on the drawer base. Never try and cut the full width in one cut, you will put too much strain on both your tool and piece of wood. I normally set the full depth and then go wider until the desired finished width in a few cuts. Here you can see I started by cutting almost nothing, I increased the width by 0.2mm for each cut until I have gone in a total of 1mm. For the last 0.5mm I added 0.1mm for each cut, it sounds slower than what it really is.

Here I am doing the last cut, you can see on the top left hand corner that the wood has split a bit even though I was so careful, fortunately I measured wrong and they were too long in any case and I could get rid of the split :-), some mistakes counts in your favor, but that doesn't happen often.

Because of the way the dovetails work, you have to slip the sides into the back and front, here the first side is glued in place.

After the second side is glued in place you can slide the base in, the back has been cut lower so that the base slides over it. In real drawers the base is just slid in place and then nailed into the back, since the wood is so thin I didn't try and nail it, I used glue all around. Because of the taper the base is nice and flush with the bottom edges of the front and sides.

The last step was to glue in the little dividers, because of the blind groove in the front I glued in the small dividers first and then the big one after dry-fitting and making sure everything is nice and square before grabbing the glue bottle.

Finished drawers, the one on the top is just less than 5mm high and I used a 1mm inverted cone bur for these dovetails.

Enjoy the rest of the week

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Idske, this post is specially for you :-)

I have long wanted to try my hand at making dovetails and finally plucked up the courage, I basically followed Harry Smith's instructions in his book The Art of Making Furniture in Miniature. He however didn't have a compound table and had to mark the distance between each dovetail by hand. Well, let me show you how I made mine on my drill press that has a compound table. My subject is a tiny 7mm high drawer.

 I made quite a few practice pieces to get the spacing of the pins right, it will depend on the depth of your drawer and the size of the cutter you use. I used a 1/16" inverted cone cutter in my drill press, on this drawer there is only place for the two half pins on each end plus one pin in the center on the drawer front and two tails on the drawer side.

Here I am busy cutting the small little groove where the tails will fit in on the drawer fronts, you will see it doesn't go all the way through the wood thickness, normally one would use blind dovetails for the front of a drawer. I made through dovetails on the back of the drawer but forgot to take a photo.

In his book Harry Smith cuts the tails on the drawer sides by hand, but I decided to try it on my drill press and was quite happy with the results.

My hubby came home and took some of the next photos, of course you need to always hold your wood down very firmly or the cutter will just grab it and send it spinning away or worse into your face or eye. In this photo I have started cutting the tails on the drawer sides, to do this you need to hold the drawer side upright, I used a jig to keep the wood nice and square to the cutter. The wheel on the left moves the compound table from left to right or right to left and the front wheel moves the table backwards and forwards. I found that I had to cut very slowly otherwise the cutter would just break the wood as it is so thin.

Instead of moving the table the whole time, I just flip the wood to cut on each end, it gives you a perfect symmetrical cut-out on each side.

I did move the table for the central cutout between the two tails, once again I had to make a few practice pieces until I had the spacing perfect. When I make more than one drawer that is the same size I will do the first cut on each drawer piece before I move the table for the next cut, it just saves a lot of time.

The drawer isn't glued together yet as I still need to cut rebates on the bottom inside of each drawer for the base. You can see that the back dovetail goes all the way through. Oh, yes, of course the cutter leaves you with a rounded edge on the groove in the drawer front, I just gently file the tails on the drawer side on the inside until the side fits in nice and flush with the drawer front.

The back view of the through dovetails, not quite perfect but not too shabby for a first try at making dovetails on the drill press. One last tip, I always read as much as I can on a new technique in full scale, knowing how they do it in full scale at least helps me visualize how it should look and then to figure out how to do it in miniature.

Enjoy what is left of the week

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Petit Point

Just a quick short post. I am busy stitching for the screen of a sewing table and have reached the halfway stage.

I charted this myself from an antique piece dating from the second quarter of the 18th century, you can see the original here. I am stitching it on 70 count silk gauze with Pipers silk.

Have a great week everyone

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dollhouse wiring

In Fi's newest post she mentions a desire to change some of her lights, well Fi, I know it is too late to change your lights now, but I thought I would tell you all how I do mine. When it comes to lights and copper tape, I am a BIG pessimist, I have heard too many sad stories about dollhouses where half the lights doesn't work many years later, and so decided to install my lights in such a way that they are removable and replaceable if needed, either because of malfunction or seeing a fitting I like more. Of course this all means careful planning in advance. One thing I have to mention is that I am building my house floor by floor, I first build up the walls and only when I am done with each room's decorating do I move on to making the ceilings and floor, I always make the channels and holes for the wires first, then the floor planks gets installed and lastly the ceiling on the underside of the floor.

Here in the parlor floor you can see the channel for the dining room light with the wire in the channel and exiting the house in the back, the center floor plank is loose.

The floor plank put in place, I just used veneer and it is curling up in the front a bit, I will just use very thin double sided tape to keep it in place, a rug will also cover most of this floor plank. You can see in this photo that the hearth stone is missing and the fire surround is floating in the air.

Well, here the hearth stone has been slipped back into place.

And now the fireplace is in place as well, but all loose and removable. I did exactly the same with the study.

In the dining room the top brass part of the light fitting is glued to the ceiling, but the chain hangs on a split ring and therefore makes it easy to remove the fitting and pull the wire out of its channel.

My house has a lean-to scullery, I made part of the roof removable to give access to the wire from the scullery light.

The roof in place.

The roof upside down and showing the gap to accommodate the wiring....

A close up shot showing the wire going up the brass tube and then entering the side of the house at an angle, just under the bricks you can see another wire, this is from the lamp in the study, they are both fed through this hole that goes at an angle to the back of the house. The scullery is loose from the main house and will be hinged to the house to give me access to the scullery.

And here is the back of the house, a chimney breast will fit into the unbricked part that you see here. The wires run in a channel to the center of where the chimney breast will fit in, I will have copper tape run up here to the roof of the house. The string course is loose here and kept in place by magnets. The black wire that you see here is coming from the kitchen light and the big hole above is for the light of the fireplace in the study.

The wires hidden behind the string course. Well, there you have it, my house will have two chimney breasts in the back, each one centered behind the main rooms on each side of the hallway, with all the wires going there by hook or by crook.

And I can just hear a few of you asking how I made the bricks, that is a story for another day.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I am still here.......

Just busy with both real life issues and working very hard on a few commissions that needs to be finished in eight weeks time.

I finally finished the back-sticthing on the back panel of the casket.

And here is the back panel before I did any of the back stitching just to show you how the detail pops after adding the back-stitching  One of the biggest challenges of working on 90 count silk gauze is the small amount of colors available to choose from, there isn't too many threads out there that are thin enough to use on the small counts. Although the back-stitching is a lot of extra work I think the results are worth the effort.

I am more than halfway with next side panel, I took the photo with an eraser just to give you a sense of how small the panels really are :-)

And this Shaker candle stand was our project for February and March at our monthly meetings of the South African Academy of Miniaturists in Johannesburg. The table is made from Jacaranda wood, the glasses was part of a Christmas swap a few years ago, the readable book is from Barbara Brear, her books are simply amazing, and lastly the ivory elephant candle holder is an antique loose bead that I bought a few years ago at a miniature show.

Have a fantastic week everyone