Introduction To Building Miniatures
Miniatures are everywhere. From models of appliances in department stores to architectural models to dollhouses you can actually fit in. Building miniatures gives you an opportunity to experiment with style and create innovative new buildings, all within the comfort of your home or workshop. Who knows, you might just create another great architectural wonder of the world.
Miniature building is an excellent hobby for anyone who enjoys working with their hands. Almost every hand building technique is used to make a single miniature building: sewing, woodworking, stained glass, framing, wiring, plumbing, and more.
If you are the type of person that can`t walk by a miniature building without dreaming of making your own, don`t be afraid to get started. The hobby of miniature building can be as simple or challenging as you decide. So, why don`t you break out your magnifying glass and your tweezers and get started?
History of Miniatures
For countless centuries, architects have created small replicas of buildings they design. Armies utilized miniature figurines of soldiers in a model landscape to plan battles. Miniatures of all sorts have entertained adults and children alike for thousands of years.
Dollhouses and miniature homes are everywhere today. However, there was a time when these tiny buildings were dreamed of by those not fortunate enough to afford their very own. The original miniatures inventoried royalty`s possessions. Today`s miniatures show off architectural designs, historical architecture, and spark the imagination of the kid in everyone.
You`re ready to build your first miniature. Before you begin, make sure you have all of the tools and supplies you will need. The Tools and Building Materials sections will cover your inventory in more detail.
Take advantage of the resources available online. From forums to free plans, you will find almost everything you need to begin your miniature building hobby. Sign up for free newsletters and register to participate in online discussions. You will access tips and suggestions from miniature building experts around the world.
Create a workspace for your new hobby. Building miniatures can be loud and messy. A designated space will prevent you from sending sawdust and paint fumes throughout your home. A specific space for miniature building will also help you stay organized. You will know where every tool is located, eliminating frustration over lost equipment.
As you work on a project, clean up after each session. You never know what you might bury under a stack of wallpapers or a sheet of MDF. When you begin again, you will start with a clean and organized workspace.
As you prepare to build your first miniature, decide if you plan to build it from scratch or if you plan to purchase a kit.
If you purchase a kit, simply follow the instructions to finish your miniature. If you plan to build from scratch, design your miniature and create detailed lists of all parts required to build your miniature. For dollhouses in particular, the style of your design might depend on your area. In the United States, most houses have an open back and a fancy front facade, while British houses are more likely to have a hinged front that opens to reveal the rooms.
When you build your own miniatures, you can use whatever building materials you choose. However, there are building materials that are tried and true in the miniature building world. Research the style of miniature you plan to build and choose your materials based on those most often used to make that type of miniature.
Children`s dollhouses during the 20th century have been made from a variety of materials, including metal (tin litho), fibreboard, plastic, and wood. With the exception of Lundby, 2/3-scale furniture for children`s dollhouses has most often been made of plastic.
Miniature objects used for decoration inside dollhouses include furniture, interior decorations, dolls and items like books and clocks. Some of these are available ready-made, but may also be homemade.
A simple search online results in hundreds of free printable building plans, wallpapers, floors, furniture, dolls, and accessories. You can even print old cereal boxes and magazines for an authentic period miniature.
If you choose to buy furniture and accessories, do your homework. Furniture ranges from two dollars to two thousand dollars a piece. You can also make your own high end furniture with a little effort.
Pick and choose your interiors with care. A black and white linoleum floor might not match your 18th century miniature. There are many resources online that will help you determine styles and accessories that match the time period of your miniature.
As you develop your own style, you will find tools that work well for you. In the meantime, stock the basic tools and add on as you need specific items.
These items make miniature building possible. Each plays a vital role in completing a project. The essentials will help you complete a project, the specialty tools will help you turn your project into a work of art.
• Scissors: assorted sizes and types allow you to cut different materials.
• Wire cutters: Save your scissors and cut wire with the proper tool.
• Tweezers: Reach into small spaces and work with tiny pieces with ease.
• Ruler & Tape Measure: Get your measurements right the first time. Clear rulers help you see through to small pieces.
• Square & Level: Who wants a crooked house? A small level and a square will help you keep your floors, walls, and ceilings even.
• Pliers: Work with wire or hold onto small items.
• Paint brushes: Paint walls, stain wood, and apply glue with a variety of paintbrush sizes.
• X-acto knives: X-acto knives help you cut even edges and intricate detail.
• Magnifying glass: See tiny pieces close up for detail work.
• Pencils: Ink bleeds through paint. Mark your pieces with pencil for a quality finished product.
• Masking tape: Makes an excellent clamp. An upside down piece of tape will help you keep track of small bits you don`t want to lose.
• Hammer: Fit pieces together or hammer nails.
• Sandpaper: Smooth parts prior to painting or treating or remove blemishes. Emery boards are excellent for sanding small objects. • Rubber & Leather gloves: protect your hands from splinters and chemicals.
Specialty Tools & Extras
• Woodworking tools: includes wood rasps, wood burning tools, wood carving knives.
• Cutting mat: protect your work surface when cutting out parts.
• Pull saw: The smaller the better. X-acto makes a great little saw.
• Mini-lathe: Turn small table legs or vases for your miniature accessories and furniture.
• Small clamps: When masking tape won`t do, use small clamps to hold parts together.
• Jars for storage: Organize accessories and materials in storage jars.
You do not need to go out and buy every single item on this list. Many building materials are not even listed below. Start by purchasing the materials suggested in the plan you are using. Buy enough to complete the project plus a little extra to add to your inventory. Eventually, you will have a shop full of everything you could possibly use to build miniatures. At that point, you will simply need to restock as you use supplies.
New materials are always entering the market. Feel free to experiment with materials to find those that work best for you. If you find something that might work well in your project, add it to your collection of materials.
Keep your supplies labeled and organized. There is no point maintaining inventory if you can`t find it and have to buy new materials anyway. Organization will save you money in the long run.
• Super Glue Gel
• Elmer`s glue
• Tacky glue
• Wood glue
Each of the items listed below includes a general list of where each item might be used in miniature building.
Structure, Exteriors & Landscaping
• Plaster cloth: easy to mold for landscape features
• Styrene foam: can be molded to make features that are curved or round.
• Brick molds: make your own building blocks for foundation trim or fireplaces.
• Windows and doors: make your own or buy scale windows and doors.
• MDF (medium density fiberboard): Great for building walls, floors, and roofs.
• Bookboard: Makes great, lightweight, non-weight bearing interior walls and trim.
• Paper clay: Makes textured features possible.
• Paint: Outer walls and trim.
• Wood stain: Shingles, trim, and more.
• Lumber: Toothpicks, tongue depressors, coffee stirrers, and skewers, to name a few, work well for trim, shingles, stair wells, and anything that needs scale lumber.
• Iron on veneer tape: makes excellent floor and trim
• Flexible LED strips: interior lighting
• Papers: Wallpaper and furniture lining
• Fabrics: Carpet, furniture, curtains, and more.
• Paint: Walls, ceilings, trim, floors, and furniture.
• Wood stain: Furniture, floors, and trim.
• Map tacks and other tiny items: drawer pulls, curtain tie backs, and more.
Tips & Techniques
Miniature building experts rarely follow the step by step instructions provided with kits. Instead, they have eliminated innefficient or time consuming steps and replaced them with new, more efficient steps. These changes might be as simple as rearranging steps to save time later or as complicated as using an entirely different process.
Prior to assembling your miniature, label all of your parts. Not only will you familiarize yourself with all of the parts of your building, there will be no confusion about which part goes where. Always label parts with pencil. Some glues and paints will cause ink to bleed. Your finished product will not be damaged if you stick to pencil for every marking project.
Wallpaper & Painting
Once the walls are in, painting and wallpapering becomes more akward and difficult. Rather than wallpapering and painting you interiors after you install the walls, paint and wallpaper should be applied while the walls are not in the building. You won`t have paint build up in corners and your wallpaper can be properly applied. The same idea applies to ceilings and trim. Save yourself the backache and pre-paint/treat/paper everything possible.