Tuesday, July 23, 2013


I suppose by now you all know that I love antique furniture, last Friday my brother and I went to the NAADA annual antiques fair in Sandton, it is probably the antique fair with the best pieces on show in SA. Most of the dealers that exhibited are from the Johannesburg area. Actually thinking about it I guess there must be 50 plus shops within a 50km radius of me that sells antique furniture, most of them are in clusters in different area's, so you can really park your car in one area and spent the day browsing which is something that I enjoy doing every few months. By now I have learned to carry one of my miniatures with me, when I see a piece that talks to me most of the shop owners are quite happy for me to take photos and measurements once I show them my miniature, most of them have never seen any miniatures it is always so interesting to see their reaction.

One of the first pieces that caught my attention was this beautiful French carved cupboard. The drawers have no handles or knobs and never had, I guess so as not to detract from the carving.

A close-up of the carving on one of the doors.

A campaign writing table, the drawer has a writing slope that you can fold up when the drawer is open. The screen exited me the most though, last year when I made the sewing tables I could never find any info on how the back looked where the screen slides up and down, except for one table that just had a tiny strip of wood attached to the back leg, I didn't think that would be strong enough in such a small scale and cut a slot in the back of my tables.

Well, to my joy this table had a similar arrangement with a solid piece of wood going across the back and the full height of the sides and drawer front.

In the back is a beautiful apothecary cupboard with a lovely sewing/writing table in front of it.

I loved the British secretary in the back.

An Irish server, rather a different piece.

Another French cabinet.Update: One of my Castine friends that makes mini musical boxes just informed me that this cabinet would have housed a disc playing music box with storage below for extra discs.

My brother with a few pieces typical of the Cape Provence in South Africa, I am not sure if the Chinese chairs were made here or imported. The chair on the table is a child's chair, a lot of the 18th century chairs made in SA had caned or "riempie" seats, I guess probably because of the expense of importing fabrics.

Talking about Cape furniture, my brother recently bought this Cape Regency chair made from Stinkwood, a South African wood, as you can see the chair has lost it's cane seat and needs to be restored. Someone gave me a piece of old Stinkwood last year and I plan on making this chair in miniature, it isn't every day that I have the chance to work directly from a full scale piece of furniture. The cupboard that you can see in the back is one that we bought a few years ago at the fair, the first time I ever went.

It is rather huge, over 3 meters wide, is made of Walnut and dates from the 1940's, it was made in Germany and still has the manufactures label on the back. Originally the right hand side housed hunting guns, my sound system is in there now so the doors are actually open most of the time. The left hand side houses the television which I am tempted to throw out as we almost never watch anything (I can't do petitpoint and watch tv, I would have to switch glasses the whole time, not very practical, so I tend to listen to the radio) and put my ever growing pile of books in there as I have run out of space in my bookcases.

Remember that the highlighted words in the text are links to more info on the subject.

Have a great week everyone.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

All's Well That Ends Well

In a week that are filled with family commitments I managed to find a bit of time on Sunday afternoon and earlier today to finish the latch for the bone chest that I made in Bill Robertson's class at Guild school in June. The latch was certainly for me the most difficult part to make and it took four tries to get it right.

From left to right: the first one broke in Castine when I bent it, the second one I just couldn't get the last bend in the right place and eventually the bit where the lock is supposed to fit in broke off, on the third one the hinge barrel broke off. This caused me a bit of frustration as it was my last piece of metal or so I thought in any case until I found a piece on Sunday afternoon between all my left over bits of metal, at first I couldn't figure out why I had this last piece of metal and then I remembered making a new hinge piece after one of mine fell in class and a search proved fruitless. In the end though I am rather glad the third latch lost it's hinge barrel, I tried a bit of silver soldering on Sunday after I borrowed some solder paste and a decent butane torch from a local club member and it wasn't too difficult, although I did lose the tiny piece I was trying to solder, knowing how to solder opens up lots of new possibilities for future projects and this is something I want to practice doing. It was then that I found the leftover piece of metal when I searched to see if I had anything that I could use for the hinge barrel, for the rest of the afternoon everything worked out just perfectly and I had no problems and ended the day with a perfect latch!

This morning I had time to attach the lock and latch to the chest and here it is all finished and locked :-) The original chests dates from the 14th century, here is a link to one that sold in 2011 for $25000, gasp! And another carved little beauty, so much detail in such a tiny piece.

The back of the chest.

The bottom of the chest.

The inside of the chest.

And in case you were wondering how big the chest is, here it is with a small part of my huge blue and white porcelain collection in my kitchen and.......

gosh, are my thumb really that big? ;-)

I really enjoyed the class and learned so much. And oh yes, the broken hinges led to another discovery, a shop 20 minutes drive from me that sells all the tools that I can dream of, burs, escapement files, gravers, decent vices and the list goes on and on. On Friday I phoned around to find out if I could get some silver solder somewhere and one of the art shops referred me to this shop, now I have always kind of assumed that there are no such shops in my area because all my miniaturist friends here normally order from the USA or Cape Town, lesson learned, NEVER assume anything . I quickly stopped there yesterday morning on the way to my mom just to see what they stock and oh my goodness, I was in tool heaven, they have a huge selection of quality tools and they are all displayed on a huge pegboard on one wall and I have to say, it is a much neater and more organized shop than the one in New York, which rather surprised me as the shop is in a part of town where most people think twice about going now, crime is rather rife in the area and you have to watch your back. Fortunately there was a parkade close by, 30 years ago this was the main business area of Pretoria and as a teenager I knew this part of town like the back of my hand as we lived in an apartment in the area for most of my high school years, sad how things change, now I only go there if I have no other choice. I told the shop assistant that I am only having a quick look and will come back another day to buy, he was friendly enough to tell me that they are having a 25% discount sale on most of their stock for seven days from 31 July, well, I have already started to make my list and it is growing by the minute :-)

And just for fun, a few photos of my part of South Africa in midwinter, we have no rain in winter, just lots of sunny, mild days with cool mornings and evenings.

Most mornings my daughter and I take our little mutt, Anakin for a walk.

Passing a garden where the roses are still flowering, this was just after nine in the morning and already too warm for a sweater.

Our street, my house is hiding somewhere towards the back on the right side, our cat Yoda loves to play in the open piece of veld on the right side just after the house with the lions, it goes in quite deep. By the way, I have nothing to do with the animals Star Wars names!

And lastly, the view of my winter garden through my workroom window, almost pruning time as spring officially arrives on 1 September.

Have a great week!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Finishing the rococo mirror and cutting glass

So much happened since I last posted, two weeks ago I my poor little dog slipped outside unnoticed while we went out for an hour or so, in trying to get back through the gate, he tore his lip open on the one side, fortunately the vet was still open (it was about 7pm already) and had him stitched up in no time. He healed nicely and we took the stitches out ourselves on Saturday. In between I got flu and felt quite sick for a few days and it took me another few days to completely recover, felt alarmingly weak for awhile, I haven't had flu in years.

Flu or not it didn't stop me from working on the Rococo mirror, I was determined to finish my Castine projects before working on any of the other miniatures I am busy with. I finished carving the front on Friday. On Saturday morning I carved the leaves on the back side to give them some shape and thin them out.

View from the left side. 

View from the right side. As far as tools went, I didn't like using my Dremel much, it wobbles a bit with the small cutters in it. My favorite tools ended up to be the two chisels that Bill Robertson made for us in class and my craft knifes.

I am not too fond of scalpels but did use the one on the right to smooth the inside curves of the scrolls, the knife on the left is one of my favorite tools for slicing off thin layers of wood, the chisel blade are too wide for miniatures, my husband grinds them down for me until they are really small and you can get into all the small tight corners. And then the two chisels are the ones Bill made from drill rod, they were quite long and I cut them in half to try my hand at making some myself as I have no idea if I will find drill rod easily in SA.

On Saturday afternoon I started gilding the frame, I first painted it with an acrylic paint, and then watched Josje's YouTube video's on gilding, thanks Josje, they were a great help. I finished the gilding over the weekend. I wanted to use real mirror and that send me on another quest, I asked some of my South African miniaturist friends if they have any idea where I could find some thin mirror and they promptly said makeup compacts, ha, I don't use any makeup but went to an oriental mall close by and found a nice big broken plastic container full of eye-shadow with a lovely big unbroken mirror for dirt cheap. Since I haven't cut any glass before I first searched for a bit of info on the internet, this was going to be an odd shape too and I remembered Bill saying something about grinding the glass so I did a bit of research on that too.

As usual when I am having fun I forget to take photos, so here is the piece of glass already rough cut (broken would be a better description) showing how it fits into the original piece of mirror.

Our winters are rather mild and it was a lovely 21 degrees outside, so I took my Dremel out onto the stoep (patio) as I wasn't too keen on having glass all over my workroom. I used a silicone carbide grinder and had a bowl of water handy and kept on dipping the mirror into the water to keep it cool and create glass paste instead of dust and maybe some splinters while I was slowly grinding the mirror into the final shape. It took about three hours, I am not sure who was more happy when it was finished, me or the dog as I kept on going inside every now and again to rinse the mirror and check to see if it fitted the frame yet, he likes to lie close by somewhere when I work and gives big sighs if I move around too much :-)

And finally it fits, the mirror turned out to be 1.4mm thick, so it sticks out a bit, but since I am planning to hang it on a back wall above a fireplace it doesn't bother me too much. The backing did chip a bit here and there on the edges but you can't see it from the front.

I am quite happy at how the mirror turned out, this was a project with a lot of firsts and a huge learning curve and I enjoyed every bit of it.

And a side view, the size for the gold stays sticky for a long time and has peeled off a bit with all the handling, of course I should have cut and fitted the mirror first, but I kind of like it in a bit of an antiqued state, I will let it dry properly and then decide if I want to patch it up or leave as is.

Hope you all have a great mini week.