It really is a small world!

Tools

For a list of tools every miniaturist should have in the toolbox, click here

 

General Many of the techniques and products used in real-life building can be applied to the dollhouse hobby … really!  You don’t need  to invest in special miniature products.  Ready-mixed wallpaper paste works quite well (use a large paintbrush dipped in water first to get a thin coat); acrylic caulk is fantastic for filling gaps in wood trim (you can fill a monojet syringe to get a very thin line); regular paint, which is often more economical than miniature paint, gives great results.  Be sure to prime your wood first.  I always strain my paint through a sieve and add a small amount of water so that it goes on really smoothly.  I like to use 2-3 thin coats rather than one thick coat.  I’m hoping to purchase a small compressor eventually so that I can airbrush for the very finest results.

 

ClampsYou just can’t have enough clamps!  I especially like the ones by American Tool.  They come in many sizes starting at about 6″ in length and have heavy rubber pads on the clamp ends.  They can be tightened & loosened with one hand and really pull the parts together tightly.  Be sure to use a block of wood between the rubber pad and any delicate project to avoid marring the surface from the pressure!

One of my favorite tools you may have seen it in the home improvement stores) is a corner clamp.  It sells for about $7 and is mainly used to clamp picture frame molding together, but is wonderful for construction of cabinets where a good square joint is required (“butt” joint or a miter.)  Ever wish you had a third hand?  Check out the cool multi clamp (usually available where you get a soldering iron.)  It has multiple alligator clips mounted on a rod and each one pivots so you can hold an object while working on it. It really comes in handy to hold pieces together for gluing, drilling and lots of other small tasks.

 

Glue For assembling the major house components I get out the big guns.  I use an polyurethane glue (“gorilla glue” is one of the names it goes by).  This is an incredible bonding agent that, when dry, is stronger than the structure itself.  The catalyst is water, so you slightly dampen one edge and put the glue on the other.  Then clamp tightly and wait a few hours (overnight is best.)  The excess glue will literally be squeezed out of the joint and can be removed with a blade.   For other woodworking projects I use Elmer’s Pro Bond.  It should be applied  to only one of the pieces being joined together and then clamped tightly for 24 hours.  The bond is incredibly strong and will withstand changes in humidity … and worth the wait!  It also has great “tack” power to bond quickly while you work.  Alieen’s “Tacky Glue” or “Velverette” glue is another must in the workshop.  It is a lot like Elmer’s white glue only much thicker and can be used to attach asphalt shingles.  It seems easier to squeeze out if the bottle is stored upside down!  I just found a new glue called “Twice as Tacky Glue” … and it really is!  Another wonderful glue is E-6000 which comes in a silver tube.  It is quite viscous and looks a lot like silicone, but it has extraordinary bonding power for jobs like adhering bricks and laminate.  It’s even strong enough to bond metal to metal so I’ve used it for assembling light fixtures.  I also use “quick-set” epoxy (two tubes … mix equal parts).  This works especially well on small metal to metal and if you need to glue metal & glass together.  Silicone Glue is especially helpful for installing electrical fixtures, ceiling medallions and other components that you might want to remove in the future without damaging the walls and/or ceiling. The last one in my shop is Quick Grab.  I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this stuff for a long time, so I don’t rely on it much.   While it seems to be the glue of choice for attaching interior wood components (because it does what the name says — grabs quick) it must be used sparingly and with lots of care.  It dries very fast but if you don’t wipe off the excess glue immediately, it leaves little glue strings (like hot glue) that are often impossible to remove.  If you do get these strings, “pick” them off very gingerly with a pointed tweezers.  This glue can also damage your  wallpaper and the other surfaces it touches.  While I have not had the experience, I’ve heard from miniaturists in other parts of the US that Quick Grab joints can loosen with humidity changes!

 

Sandpaper Years ago I was a stone sculptor … and sanding with many grits of paper is what makes all the difference in achieving the smooth, highly-polished finish.  If you can get super fine sandpapers (250-400 grit) they will do wonders for your mini accessories.  Super-fine steel wool is also great for some projects, especially wood flooring and furniture pieces.  Emery boards are really just sandpaper on a stick — so don’t be afraid to try one!  The “buffing” stick yields a very smooth surface before a final coat of paint.  Look for the self-adhesive sandpapers … cut to the size of a block of wood and have a custom sander.

 

Hand Tools Some jobs just have to be done by hand so there’s really no substitute for a good-quality miter box.  They are available in metal or wood.  If you choose the metal one, put a thin block of wood on the bottom to protect and extend the life of your saw blade.

 

The Dremel Multi-Pro is the most versatile tool I own because there are so many bits and accessories available.  I keep purchasing new models as they come out and now have 6 different ones.  It can be used as a small sander, drill and grinder.  The flexible shaft attachment (pictured at left) is great for getting inside corners.  I keep one fixed mounted in a drill press for filing and routing!  See the projects section and how I used it to make a flagstone floor.  Dremel offers a right angle (90º) adapter and an attachment which takes small round sandpaper disks.  The high rpm of this tool makes it suitable even for stripping the finish off furniture.

A sander is wonderful for a multitude of tasks from floors to furniture.  The Proxxon detail sander does it all!

A jig-saw is the tool to own if you need to cut an extra window, widen a doorway or change a stairway opening!  I personally prefer the Proxxon line of mini tools das they are much easier to handle and made for small jobs rather than trying to manage a big tool.

A full size miter saw is great for cutting components of the building, but any serious hobbyist needs a miniature to cut molding or small pieces of wood.

I have a full-sized table saw (for the building projects I tackled before getting hooked on miniatures).  It was a great help in cutting wall & roof sections as well as constructing the foundation and steps.  Use it with the utmost of care and always wear eye protection.

I now own two mini table saws: the Microlux tilting arbor saw and a Dremel table saw that I found on eBay.  Until you’ve used one, you’ll never appreciate the wonders of ripping miniature wood and precision wood building.

For miniature furniture building, a scroll saw is the one to have.  I purchased one from Ryobi (factory reconditioned … but you’d never know it) and am enjoying it immensely!

For some of the heavier building work, one of my newest additions is the thickness sander from MicroMark.  It does an amazing job of planing down my hardwood stock for furniture making.