Projects: Veneered box and Dora’s Little Loft


I want to share two little projects I did when the Westville grew too frustrating, and then I’ll turn back to the Westville build.

First, I finished up the box I started in the class with Geoff Wonnacott in Chicago.

I added the hinges myself, plus all the filigree and lock. Papered the inside of the box and then finished the outside with shellac.

The hinge pins were long pieces of wire snipped as close to the hinge as possible and then ground down with a Dremel. I was amazed at how well that worked! New techniques to know.

The second fun project is a kit called Dora’s Little Loft–almost 360 degrees different from the box above.

This is a kit by a Chinese company called Robo Time, which specializes in 3D puzzles and miniature scenes. I’ve seen these kits in various catalogs that come through my house (like Acorn and others), and I purchased this one because it was just cute.

It has a retro feel and is very colorful. The kit contains *everything* in the room–you make all kinds of accessories and little decorative objects, all out of paper, wood, wire, clay, and findings and beads.

Everything here I made from the bits of wire, paper, and fabric in the kit. It’s cleverly put together, even if some of the accessories are a little fiddly.

A tip: Superglue (krazy glue with brush applicator) saves a lot of grief when working with the projects made of wire.

I can put together another post with tips and tricks on this build.

Meanwhile, here’s details of the finished piece.

I used my own pink fabric for the chair, but everything else came from the kit (they include the chair’s fabric, but I liked my color better.)

I chose this kit instead of the plant shop, because I didn’t want to make so many plants. Ha! This one has 19 different potted plants, plus the rose vine and a tree! I cut out many leaves …

I love the details of the cat’s food bowl, milk, and enclosed litter box.

The light fixture with led light and battery box is included–battery box is hidden in a niche beneath the scene. It was one of the easiest lighting hookups I’ve done.

Scale? It’s sort of 1/2 inch, sort of 1 inch. It’s not really exact. But it looks fine. The finished scene is about 8 inches x 10 inches, maybe 10 inches high.

I enjoyed this kit so much (when not cursing at it), that I looked to see what else they had.

HBS ( has four–this one (Dora’s Loft), the plant shop, a kitchen, and a mini camper (I like that one and might get it too).

I searched Robo Time’s website for more, and there are many more. A bookstore, a coffee house, a porch, other shops, all kinds of them. I purchased another one–a music studio–because I play guitar and piano, and it looks cool.

You can purchase directly from Robo Time–they have a U.S. warehouse, so the shipping is from the U.S. (and shipping is free if you spend about $50). They’re also sold through other retailers, and Amazon. Prices are cheapest at the Robo Time site or HBS (

Anyway, a fun little interlude before I got back to the Westville.

Next post–Westville porch, bay windows, and starting the roof.

Chicago Show–Workshops

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I had hoped to finish my workshop projects before I talked about them, but um … I will finish them but I’m waiting for the cool magnifiers I ordered to arrive. That’s a good excuse.

I took four workshops, and learned much!

Workshop 1) Mold making with Michael Yurkovic

This was the basic process of making a silicon mold and then casting. We brought a piece we wanted to replicate.

I took a ceiling medallion, because I’m always looking for them, like this one, and it’s not always in stock (I purchased at Hobby Builders Supply some time ago).

This is how the bottom half of the mold turned out. He taught us how to press the piece into clay, build a moat, and pour the rubber. I did make a top half, but for this piece, since it’s flat on one side, I really only need the one half.

We then poured resin into the mold, let it harden (didn’t take long), and voila!

The original and the cast piece side by side. I lost a tiny bit of detail, but not much.

The biggest worry in this process is air bubbles. You have to go slowly and carefully or bubbles happen.

The materials come from a place called Reynolds Advanced Materials, and I have seen the casting silicon and resins in my local art supply store (Arizona Art Supply, which is an awesome place). Reynolds also has showrooms in larger cities and they do mail / website orders.

I hope to use this method when I do stone work for the Westville–I have some stones I can lay in a wall shape, then make a mold from them, which I’ll use with Creative paperclay to made a stone wall facade. (These are good intentions).

Workshop 2: Artist’s atelier by Eric Goddard

This was a two-day class where we finished and decorated this roombox. (He nailed together the very basic box before the class). We did the window, the faux stone wall, the closet, and started work on the accessories.

Lots of work on the little details–we laid the bricks and cut mullions for the window, which was not as straightforward as it seems. The mullions are at a slant and an odd angle, as you can see, so math had to be done.

An LED strip outside the window gives it a soft glow, which goes well with the incandescent bulb in the closet.

I am not finished (still need to age / wash the brick wall, age and paint spatter the floor, and get my accessories together).

In the middle of this class, I came down with a cold (not because of the class but because of the cold weather, which I am not used to), and had to skip a few hours of the morning session, but I was still able to get this far. I’ll finish it now that I’m home with my own tools, lighting, etc.

Workshop 3: Box with Geoff Wonnacott

A workshop with Geoff has been on my bucket list a while. Finally got to one of his classes, which was the evening of the day I caught the cold. So I was a bit miserable, but I soldiered on.

A lovely little box with veneer. It was a short class, so he had cut the pieces, which we glued together to shape the box and lid. We added all the filigree, and I will hinge mine when I get the magnifiers I mentioned above. Need it for this!

Putting together the box is a bit trickier than you’d think, because the corners have to be just right, or it doesn’t sit square. Much trial and error. The filigree is tiny tiny.

What it will look like in the end. Geoff wrote very detailed instructions, and I’m fairly confident I can finish on my own (knock on wood).

Workshop 4: Aging wood techniques with Eamon O’Rourke.

We did not build anything here, but learned aging tricks and about French polishing (shellac diluted with denatured alcohol and poured onto cotton balls inside T-shirt cotton. This makes a pad which you then brush over the wood).

The top piece was aged via distressing the wood (spoons were involved), and staining and wiping and staining again.

Bottom piece was French polished when it was bare. Then stained a bit, wiped, French polished again. Looks beautiful!

These were ordinary pieces of I think oak, and they turned out amazingly well. Good techniques to learn. Again something that seems like it should be easy, but it was a lot of trail and error and plain work.

Eamon is such a fun guy, I recommend any class he teaches.

Those were the four workshops I went to (determined even though I felt crappy for a couple of them). I will be taking more! (As soon as I can find the time …)

Back to the Westville now. I’ve advanced through the staircase and bay windows and outer walls, and the next posts will catch up on all that.

Chicago International Miniatures Show


I got back from the Chicago show a week ago now, and I’ve only just now organized my thoughts. I want to give you my impression and some tips for going.

I came back creatively charged, tired, and inspired! I will share some of the beautiful things I purchased and saw, and talk about the workshops in other posts.

  1. The show is totally worth going to at least once. It seems to always be the last week in April at the Chicago Marriott O’Hare. Even if you purchase nothing, just seeing what everyone is doing is inspiring.

2. It’s worth it to take at least one workshop. There are workshops for all levels (most can be done by beginners), and cover a range of things from woodworking, to doll making, to lighting, to flower making, to creating scenes, and other fun stuff.

3. Buy the Friday preview ticket to the sales room. You get in before everything is open to the public on Saturday. Stuff goes fast, so if you have your eye on a piece by a particular artisan, chances are it will be gone if you wait until Saturday.

Case in point: When I went in Friday morning at 10 am (at the end of a long line), I went straight to June Clinkscales’ table, because I always want to get at least one thing from her. Half her things already had already been sold! The show had only been open about 5 minutes! So if you want a specific thing or something by a specific artisan, buy the Friday ticket.

4. The hotel is pricy. The room block price isn’t so bad, and you get a decent, comfortable room, if small. But everything else, from a bottle of water to the breakfast buffet ($22.50 a person), is expensive. However, there are plenty of hotels in the area, very close by, and the Marriott has a shuttle that goes between hotels. (Also it’s a quick and cheap Uber ride). The Hyatt, the Renaissance, and the Wyndam are near, and I heard some of them have free breakfast.

5. There is a grocery store on the corner in walking distance–large and well-stocked. I didn’t think much of their lunch food (soup was watery and bland, sandwich was terrible), but it is quick and cheap, plus a good source of food / drink for your room.

6. Fortunately there are many good restaurants in the area, though you need a car, taxi, or Uber. We found a great Italian restaurant called Nonna Sylvia that we returned to another night–excellent food, friendly staff. But make a reservation! Many Chicagoans like it too!

7. If you fly, bring another bag for your purchases and carry it on the plane, or ship it home via UPS or Fedex. Between my husband and I both attending workshops, and me going nuts in the showroom, we went to a UPS store and shipped three boxes home! I have to say everything arrived intact–we had tracking numbers and insurance, but still it was a little nerve wracking.

8. Many international artisans attend–a great opportunity to see and purchase things that otherwise you’d never know about or afford the shipping from their country.

9. Bring cash! Many of the international artisans (and some of the US-based ones) will not take credit cards (though a few take checks). The ATM machine in the hotel emptied out fast–so stock up on cash before you come, or go out to a bank the day before to make sure you have enough.

10. The hotel does serve a fairly inexpensive lunch with a room to eat it in on the show days.

11. If you want to do tourist things in Chicago (e.g., visit the Art Institute, where the Thorne rooms and other great art live), plan a full day for that. It’s an hour drive (or an hour by train), one way, to downtown Chicago. We wanted to go on Saturday, but a) we had to ship things back and organize ourselves to leave Sunday, and b) it snowed!!

12. The Blue Line train (a block from the hotel), does go straight to downtown Chicago near the Art Institute. You never have to change. Once downtown, it’s about a four-block walk to the museum.

13. Weather in Chicago in late April is unpredictable. We had a couple nice sunny days of about 70 degrees, then the temperature dropped to 32, and it snowed. Because I’m from the Southwest, where it was already in the 90s, it was a shock. I was wise enough to bring long-sleeved shirts and a big sweater, but I wasn’t truly prepared for the cool weather.

14. Attend the IGMA presentation on Saturday night. Not only is it interesting (and might make you join IGMA if you haven’t already), but they have a free bar and snacks. 🙂

I think that’s it! I had a great week (took four workshops), caught a cold (dang it), shopped, and just absorbed the beautiful things people had made. It was very inspiring and energizing. Very glad I went this year and hope to go again.


Inside the showroom

Outside! April 27.

Shopkeeper Doll class


I took a little break from building and went first on a cruise, then came home and took a doll making class from Fern Vasi today.

Made this guy:

She made the armature and head and cut out the fabric pieces. We dressed him and did his hair and accessories.

Started with this:

Here he is with pants and shirt on.

And done. I made his eyebrows and mustache too!

I love him! I might put him permanently in this room box which is under construction.

This is my first-ever attempt at a doll, so I’m pleased. I realize I only dressed him, I didn’t actually make him. But it was a lot of fun! Three hours flew by.

Chicago Show–Workshops


To say I had a blast at Chicago International is an understatement. I hope to return next year.

I could not stay the entire week because I had to do a reader event in Milwaukee, so on Friday afternoon, I left (after shopping until I dropped), and drove from Chicago north.

Workshops I took during the week:

Magic of the drill press with Tom Walden. Who knew? You can use a drill press for routing, carving, shaping–all kinds of things!

We made a table, which I did not put together all the way. I need to fix and finish it. I took Tom’s beginning class, but would love to go to the advanced class another time.

A radio made by Tom Walden using a drill press for everything except the knobs. (An example he passed around in class). Behind it you can see the holly and ebony table I’m working on.

Second class: Electricity!! Carl Sahlberg (Creative Reproductions 2 Scale: taught this one. I of course went to his table the next day and bought all kinds of supplies to try out, including strings of LED Christmas lights.

We made a working fan with a light!

All the fun tools! We didn’t keep these–but all supplies for the class were provided. I learned to solder! Much easier than I thought, though I’m sure I’ll set the cats on fire if I do it at home.

The basic fan put together. The blades were laser cut for us. The board with electric tape was for us to practice laying and working with tape runs.

Bottom of the fan. The light socket has been threaded through (you can just see the tiny socket waiting for a light).

Lightbulb installed with globe over it.

It works!!!!

These two workshops were all day (9-5) with a short break for lunch. Intense, but I learned so much.

In my next post, I’ll give highlights of the show and things I bought. Before I went I feared I’d end up broke and having to sell the cats, but happily I found many lovely things without going over my budget.


What I made at NAME


The number one reason I went to the NAME convention this year was for the opportunity to take workshops. I was happy with the ones I chose, though there were many others that would have been great as well (choosing was tough). But there are only so many days, so many hours. Below are photos of what I made, plus kits I bought that I’ve started to put together. (Click photos for larger versions)

Corner Cupboard (Class with Shannon Moore)

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The cupboard is made with cherry hardwood. We scalloped the shelves, fit everything together, installed the working door. It’s a lovely piece. I finished it with paste wax (though in these pics, it’s unfinished).

Arts and Crafts shaving stand (Class with Shannon Moore)

This Arts and Crafts stand was a half-day class, the wood again cherry. Drawers and door are working, mirror swivels on its stand.

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I finished this one at home, adding the final hardward and mirror, and finishing it with varnish and paste wax. The finish brought out the richness of the wood.

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Inlay hall table (class with Pam and Pete Boorum)

Probably the most challenging class, but I learned a lot and came out with this beautiful piece of furnture! We did the inlay of ebony and cherry on the top (mitering the ebony border and then the cherry border around that was…interesting). We also cut all the pieces for the table, including tapering the legs using a jig on the power saw. Drawers are working. The hardest for me was using the router (shaper) to put the lip on the table top. I’d never used a shaper before so I wasn’t sure how much pressure to put on it (or not put on it).

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Hepplewhite Dressing Table (class with Shannon Moore)

I signed up for three classes with Shannon Moore, and I’m glad I did. I learned so much! This class was a Heppelwhite dressing table, also a challenge. (The toiletries case on top is a separate kit I bought from Lisa Engler).

The table is made of cherry and mahagony. We learned to curve the drawers to match the curve of the table, apply veneer, and create the look of inlay by sandwiching. There was much sanding! I brought the table home and finished all the sanding then finished it with varnish and paste wax. Came out beautifully!

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I went a little kit crazy in the sales room. Found lots of nice kits for accessories in all scales. I started pulling out one kit a day and making it (time permitting–sometimes it goes to 2 days). I decided that there’s a difference between collecting and hoarding, so I started making the kits. 🙂

Regency era toiletries box

First, the kit from Lisa Engler called “Napoleonic Influence.” Because I write mysteries and romances set in this period, I was attracted to it right away. It’s a very cool little kit, making a leather box with bottles, hairbrush, powder boxes, shoe brushes, and nail and teeth cleaning. I can imagine this belonging to an army officer, looked after by his valet or batman.

I thought it would look great on the Heppelwhite dressing table, since the table is from the same period.

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Secret book and Vintage sewing display

These two kits caught my eye, because they’re so unusual. The “Secret Book” is by the Betterleys, and the vintage sewing display I bought from Dorothy’s Doo-Dads.

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The Secret Book is a cool little “I wish I’d thought of that” kind of thing. It makes a little box that looks like a book, with a tiny room that slides in and out. They come in two sizes, a larger one, and this one called “A Teeny Weeny Secret Book.” It’s about the right size for a 1″ scale book, and so can be a knick-knack in a 1″ house. (I put it on the fireplace mantel of the bedroom of The Blue House B&B). I bought one of the larger ones as well, which I’m looking forward to.

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The vintage sewing accessories shadowbox has a tape measure, scissors, a wooden spool of thread, ribbon, lace, buttons, and more. It all goes together in a little frame–I hung it on the wall of the downstairs hall of the Blue House B&B.

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I keep reaching into the boxes of kits–good stress relief on a busy day.

The number one thing I took away from the woodworking classes was–don’t be afraid to sand! I hear over and over not to sand too much in case you ruin the square of the piece, but I think it’s made me too timid. I sanded the heck out of the ebony / cherry inlay until it was smooth, smooth, smooth, and I bet I could have done even more. If I hadn’t sanded the drawers of the mahogany / cherry dressing table like crazy, I never would have finally made the curve it’s supposed to have. After all the sanding, the finish made the wood rich and smooth without coating it (if that makes sense).

I learned *a lot* in these classes, incuding things I didn’t know I didn’t know. I plan to take more classes in the future, whenever I’m able!

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