Archive for the ‘Product Testing’ Category

open_house_miniatures_ christmas_2015_dolls'_house_nativity_set_umpainted

This week I borrowed a Daylight Company D45000 4 Watt Foldi LED Portable Lamp and I have to say that it has exceeded my expectations.

It is compact, solidly weighted and stable. It give a very clear light – don’t look into it, you will hurt your eyes. It makes painting by artificial light possible (not good, but possible) and in the photographs that I have just taken the colours that I see on screen are very close to the colours that I see in real life.

The lamp is available from Amazon (UK) and when I looked it was on special offer, which makes it very, very tempting as far as I am concerned, although I need to see if it can help out with photos taken in daylight before making a final decision.

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The nativity scene in the photos is probably going to be my 2015 set. I am saying probably because the figures illustrated are fixed to the stand and I would prefer them to be free standing. They are glued down because they are very small and light, especially the baby Jesus who goes missing despite all my efforts to keep him safe.


Varnished wooden base (gloss varnish)

Hand-painted resin / plastic figures and star. These are finished with a very tiny amount of gold, sealed and given several thin coats of matt / satin varnish so that they have a slight sheen, but are not too shiny.


The stand is -1″ wide (approx 2.5cm) x  just over 1″ tall (approx 2.75cm)

The tallest figure (Joseph) is 2cm – roughly 3/4 of an inch

As the stands are handmade and the figures are hand-painted, they are all slightly different.

UPDATE: 24th November 2015

open_house_miniatures_ christmas_2015_dolls'_house_nativity_set_daylight

As far as I am concerned, daylight is still best.

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Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower - Test Fabric

It is certainly possible to print onto fabric at home (See Bits and Pieces for an example) but it is not something that I would encourage anyone to do, unless they have a printer that can cope with fabric.

The printers that I buy are designed  to print letters and invoices etc, and they tend to jam if I ask them to print on anything much thicker than thin card.

This being so, I only attempt to print onto fabric when I know that my printer is about to expire and I am going to need a new one soon anyway.

There are other reasons for getting fabrics commercially printed. Here are some random examples –

  • Cost – believe it or not, given the price of ink, it is actually cheaper for me to go to a proper print shop and get my printing done there – and not have the bother of maintaining a very expensive piece of machinery.
  • Dust – fibres from fabric will inevitably get into the mechanism of the printer – even though I am scrupulous about No Loose Threads.
  • Size / quality of print
  • Guaranteed colour-fastness of a fabric print (Some people recommend using Bubble Jest Set – I haven’t tried this (yet) as I find that simply boiling cotton fabric works sufficiently well for me.)

However, generally speaking, I would say that getting a fabric commercially printed is a costly and time-consuming business – and very often you are expected to buy yards and yards of the finished product too.

Given all this, I have been eyeing up Spoonflower (rather skeptically) for a while and wondering if I could justify the time involved in preparing some files to their specifications.

In the end I had an “If Not Now When?” moment and uploaded a large design which I had ready. (This had not been tweaked to fit any of Spoonflower’s recommendations – which was very unfair of me.)

And the result was ?

  • I uploaded the design on a Friday and paid for a proof to be sent to me. ($6 in total for one sample)
  • My 8 inch x 8 inch proof was posted to me on the following Monday. (20.3 x 20.3 cm)
  • The proof arrived the following Tuesday. (I am in the UK and Spoonflower is in the US.)
  • I sat and looked at it and thought – This is pretty amazing. There must be something wrong with it.

But there isn’t.

The sample was folded when it arrived – and neatly creased along the folds.

So I washed it.

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower - Test Fabric washed

and ironed it on the reverse (I always iron printed fabrics on the reverse).

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower Test Fabric - Ironed

I had asked for a sample in the cheapest  fabric available and this is very fine and smooth (and slightly transparent).

It is also looks unbleached and is very slightly creamy in colour, and this does affect the colour of the print.

(The fabric on the left and the paper print on the right – again, this is an unfair comparison as I can only print in CMYK and Spoonflower prints in RGB).

Open House MIniatures - Spoonflower Test Print - colour comparison

I would say that, on this fabric,  the print quality is excellent, with very minimal colour bleed.

(The ruler is showing millimeters).

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower Test Print - minimal colour bleed

But what made me smile most was the one of the nicest compliment slips that I have seen for ages.

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower fabric compliment slip

This fabric by Khandisha is here

And the thing that made me laugh when I saw it…?

(You will need to take a look at my previous post to understand why.)

Open House Miniatures - How big is this

I really must see if I can get some American coins, mustn’t I?

***   ***   ***

In conclusion, am I planning to see if Spoonflower can handle some very small prints?

I am very tempted to, and if I do I will report back – with a sample book of the various materials available and a ruler !

***   ***   ***

If you would like to visit my Spoonflower page in the meantime, it is here –


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Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

This type of clock is sometimes called a Cartel Clock. Cartel Clocks are usually made from gilded metal and designed to fit flat against a wall.

There is quite a story attached to the making of the clock, and the book that inspired it deserves a blog post of its own (which it will get shortly) but here (very briefly) is what happens in my version of Cinderella –

There is no big, booming clock to signal midnight because, in my experience, most drama happens quietly, and there is never a beautifully timed clap of thunder when you need one. Anyway –

The Prince and Cinderella were sitting on a gilded sofa and one of these clocks was on the wall, above their heads.

The Prince had just begun to say,

“Mysterious and Beautiful Maiden, will you marr …”

when the little clock started to whirr and then to chime – chinging, ting, ting…

“Oh !” exclaimed Cinderella, jumping up…

And the rest, as they say, is history.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I don’t know if you have noticed, but I have just done two things that I usually avoid doing on this blog

I have used a richly coloured back ground and I have indulged in story telling.

Why have I done this?

Well, you know my boring, boring photographs and my long-winded explanations? Even I get fed up with them sometimes, however let us consider the alternatives…

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

Does this photograph tell you
how large this clock is?


Does this photograph tell you
what the clock is made from?


Does this photograph tell you
anything at all?


All this says to me is – STRIPES !


Oh well…

***   ***   ***   ***

As a matter of interest it has taken me about 6 weeks to get from here –

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella Cartel Clock

to here –


– and now I am not at all certain that I like the metallic finish and I am going to have to look into alternatives.

So what about this clock?

I made the original clock from DAS modelling clay. I then made three moulds from this original, and I then cast three clocks from the three moulds.

I did think about making a slideshow about the whole process and then decided that Life Is Too Short.

The essential, minimum details are as follows –

I cast the clock in resin, rather than metal, for two reasons.

The main one was weight – in my experience, miniature metal clocks fall off walls with depressing regularity. Araldite seems to be the only thing that will keep them in place.

Secondly, if I had wanted a metal clock, I would have had to make my master in something like Milliput. I would also have had to send it away to be cast, because I do not have the equipment to do this myself. This would not necessarily have been the more expensive option, but I would have had no control of the process and making changes would have been difficult.

The finished clock is 2 and 1/8th of an inch long, just over 1 inch wide at the widest point and just under 1/4 of an inch deep at its deepest point (54 mm x 25 mm x 7 mm)

The clock dials are reproduced from antique scraps.

(By the way, did you know that most modern clocks are photographed with their hands at 10 minutes to two? This is supposed to give them a “smiley” face.)

***   ***   ***   ***

I bought the mould making and casting supplies from MB Fibreglass   If you are interested in casting (on any scale), I can thoroughly recommend checking out their product range. Their service is excellent too.

I used –

Polycraft GP-3481-F General Purpose RTV Silicone Mould Making Rubber for the mould – http://www.mbfg.co.uk/rtv-silicone/gp-3481-f.html


Polycraft SG2000 Paintable Fast Cast Polyurethane Liquid Plastic Casting Resin for the clock – http://www.mbfg.co.uk/liquid-plastics/sg2000.html

This was the first time that I had used either of these and I was very impressed by the performance of both.

Open House Miniatures - Cinderella clock miniature mould and unfinished cast

Last, but by no means least – I would like to thank Susan Mortimer (I am so very, very deeply jealous of her photographs) for bringing David Neat’s WordPress blog to my attention.

If you are interested in casting or working with paper / card to create models, I would urge you to take the time to visit it too – http://davidneat.wordpress.com/

His tutorials are clear, well-presented and full of essential detail and his (mainly London based) list of suppliers is truly impressive.

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Open House Miniatures - Theater Bilderbuch - one scene

I haven’t seen many copies of the Theater Bilderbuch, and the (very few) antique ones that I have seen usually resemble the one on the V & A website.

[ Lucia Contreras Flores has an edition on her website that I have never seen before – you may need to scroll down the web-page to find it. ]

There are two modern editions that I know of –

  • a German edition (ISBN 978-3480131631)
  • an English language edition (ISBN 978-0722655368)

and these have been  re-engineered to work on a smaller scale, and using much thinner materials, than the original publications.

In order to make my miniature version work (to my satisfaction) I had to re-work the original construction too.

Open House Miniatures - Theater BilderBuch - construction of one scene

My version was designed for 100 gsm paper (I use the smoothest, best quality that I can find.)

90 gsm paper (in my experience) tends to be a little bit too thin and “soft” and, with repeated opening and shutting of the book, quickly loses its crispness.

I am mentioning this here because I have been experimenting with some paper that was recommended by the printers who do most of my printing.

It is 90 gsm, comes on a large roll and is designed to go through a printer “under tension” – in other words it is thin, smooth and relatively tough. It also gives a superb print finish, with excellent colour reproduction.

The printers call it “proofing paper”.

I still don’t know much about it, but I am quietly excited by the possibilities it seems to offer.

In the following slideshow I am using that “proofing paper”.

I would still say that most 90 gsm papers are probably unsuitable for this project, but you may know of a paper, or discover one, that will work better for you than the 100 gsm that I recommend.

It is definitely worthwhile experimenting !

***   ***

The pdf for this is here –


– and there is a page for those who like to Make and Do here.

I am going to repeat here what I have written there –

  • Simply click on the link to open the pdf on-line. You can then print it without downloading it.
  • If you want to save the pdf to your computer / a CD / data stick etc. you may do that too.
  • You may use the contents of the pdf for yourself – and if you would like to make 10 of something and try selling them please go ahead, but do think first of all the other people who will be doing exactly the same thing.
  • You may share these projects with your friends and family, and miniature club.
  • You may link to them from your website / blog / satellite station, if you have one
  • You may customise them.
  • You may use them / the design ideas, in whole, or in part, as for inspiration for making your own things.

You may not copy the pdf, or the contents of the pdf, in whole, or in part, and re-sell them.

***   ***   ***

I found the method used to construct the modern German edition of the Theater Bilderbuch very interesting.

The background scene, the text for one play and the front of the next theatre in the series are printed on one sheet and the various sheets are then folded round each other and glued together.

reproduction theater bilderbuch structure

Technicalities aside, the way that the front of the theatre frames the scenes, so that the edges are hidden – even when viewed from an angle – and the way that the overall scene changes depending on the viewer’s position make this (for me) not only an extremely good example of paper engineering, but it is also a wonderful piece of “theatre” – in every sense of the word.

reproduction theater bilderbuch side view

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Open House Miniatures - Papier mache easter eggs with mould

These papier-mache Easter eggs are an “iceberg” thing to make – there is a great deal hidden below the surface of the metaphorical water.

I knew that the process that went into making these was not going to be easy to explain, so I made a short list to begin with.

It looked like this –


  1. Look at a full-size cardboard egg
  2. Make a miniature egg that is the “right shape” (Milliput)
  3. I need more than one egg!
  4. Cast more eggs from this shape (mould making and casting – Polycraft and Alumilite)
  5. Make bases for the cast eggs to sit on (mould making – Polycraft Hiflex)
  6. Make the papier-mache eggs on these moulds (papier-mache)

Then I began to think about all the things that I had not said, for example –

Please note –

  • All of the products that I used for mould making and casting can be substituted by others
  • The mould making processes and casting materials that I used for these eggs will not be suitable for everything
  • There are different sorts of mould making materials, which cure to different sorts of hardness and flexibility (shore)
  • If you are considering casting you must take into account what you want to cast and choose the mould / material to suit it
  • I approach CASTING as though it is a SCIENTIFIC PROCESS and I DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE INSTRUCTIONS on the packet / bottle / tub

Then I started to consider all the things that I could not show easily in a photograph, for example,

  • I can’t make a poured silicone mould, or cast resin, and hold a camera at the same time.
  • I use the lowest odour casting materials that I can find, but I still think they stink and so I only use them out-of-doors – and at the moment we are knee-deep in (unseasonable) snow.
  • I was hoping that the weather would clear up, so that I could, at the very least, make some proper poured silicone bases for the eggs, but it hasn’t and I had to cheat.

Due to this, what follows is very far from perfect.

Background Information 

Casting –

If you are interested in casting things for yourself, you might find it helpful to look at the following videos from YouTube for background information.

The first video shows exactly what I do when I make a mould – I don’t skimp, I am utterly painstaking, it is a hypnotically dull process. It works.

The second video is in two parts, and is not so dull. This person knows what he’s doing but he does not mention fumes once!

I enjoyed his website http://www.stormthecastle.com 

What I could not find on YouTube was a good example of casting a sphere.

Essentially, what you do is place the object in the centre of the mould and create feed lines – one for the casting material to enter the mould and another for air to escape from the mould.

Like this –


I made this half egg mould with Hiflex – not a good idea in my opinion, but the best I can do at the moment.


In order to get resin into the egg shape,
I need to cut two channels.
1). to get the resin in and 2) to let the air out.
At this size it was easier for me to cut the channels, rather than embedding them when I was making the mould.

Printing on tissue paper –

I stick my tissue paper to a piece of photocopy paper with glue – a very little bit of glue all round the edge. It has to dry completely before it goes through my printer. I don’t use it all at once and it stores better this way.

A “professional” print from my print shop –

Open House Miniatures - Easter scrap prints

I have an arrangement with my local printers. I supply them with 600 ppi, colour-separated, tiff files and they print my images onto a paper of my choice, using their exceedingly expensive, ink-jet printer. I pay them money to do this and they don’t laugh at my small pages crammed full of odd things. In fact, we enjoy surprising each other.

They had a roll of their own 80 gsm HP plotter paper and they printed a strip of Easter scraps on to it for me. I was very pleased with the results and held my breath when I made the paper wet with glue – the ink did not run.

Papier-mache ?!?!?!

I had a quick look for an on-line definition of “papier-mache” and the recipes vary widely.

I think all that I can say is that I use the method and materials that work for me.

Finally –

The eggs that I make in the slideshow are slightly smaller than the ones that I photographed before.

I have longed to make smaller ones, but have been thwarted by a lack of the “right sort of” paper. (It is astonishing how thick and unwieldy “thin” paper gets at this size.)

The plotter paper has allowed me experiment and has, I think, has produced a superb result.

Many, many, many thanks again to Sharon for mentioning it.


Press the Esc key on your keyboard to escape from the slideshow at any time.

Finally, finally…

I am fairly certain that commercially made cardboard eggs were never made by this layered paper process !

For one thing, I have tried my layered paper method full-size and it works (with many, many more layers) but the drying time involved is ENDLESS…

If you are looking for full size eggs to decorate, they are still available from a few places – the quality and price varies.

I have found the following on-line suppliers, but I have not bought eggs from them in real-life.

Great Art UK

Crafty Bugs UK

Blumchen USA

32 Degrees North USA

Pr moebel GERMANY

Panduro Hobby GERMANY

32 Degrees North had some (full-size) decorated eggs too. I have not seen these in real-life for years and years and years.

I am very pleased that they are still made somewhere.

Happy Easter

OHM Happy Easter

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Open House Minaitures - How to make an accordian fold book - Mcloughlin Circus Procession

It’s a very long time since I made any of these books and I was rather surprised when someone asked if I would demonstrate how they are made.

First many thanks are due to Q, who lent me the original book and gave me permission to use it here.

Secondly, many, many, many thanks are due to Sharon who, several blog posts ago, mentioned that she thought that HP plotter paper gave her a better print.

To cut a long story short, thanks to Sharon, I bought a large roll of 80gsm (21lbs) HP plotter paper from Amazon.

When I tried it out on my printer at home I was astonished by the results.

It is very difficult to show the quality of the print in a photograph, but I am going to try.

The top strip is 80 gsm plotter paper and the bottom strip is 100 gsm best quality inkjet (un-coated) paper.

Open House Miniatures - HP plotter paper, home print and professional print

The top strip (which is 12th scale and smaller in size) was printed last week on my home computer. My printer has an unreliable paper feed and does not reproduce colours particularly well.

The folded strip below (which is slightly larger than 12th scale) is a professionally produced giclée print from about 10 years ago. (Giclée = fancy word for ink-jet print done by a very, very good, exceedingly expensive printer – in this case an Epson.)

Sharon, I can’t thank you enough.

I have tried and, so far, failed to photograph the difference this is going to make. I can only say that a 600 ppi, professional print on this paper looks as though it is on coated ink-jet paper. It is that good.

***   ***   ***   ***

The book in the slideshow below was made using HP plotter paper but it should be possible to get a reasonable print on ordinary photocopy paper.

NOTE – the glue makes a difference as well as the printer, ink and paper on this project.

I used Evo-stick white wood working glue – this has a thick consistency and dries quickly.

The text in my 12th scale version (even on plotter paper !) are only readable to dolls’ house residents so,  please visit Project Gutenberg, where the book is reproduced in full, if you would like to read it.

I feel I ought to also mention that Paper Minis have a kit for this book (it is a long way down the page, so keep scrolling). This has a cover and readable text. There is also a tutorial on how to make it here .

I haven’t seen Paper Mini’s kits in real life and so I haven’t tried any out. They do have an enviable collection !

Finally, my version…

The McLoughlin Book that I copied was a simple accordion fold, or concertina fold, book.

In the slideshow I do not follow the usual instructions for making this type of book. (I was reproducing a book, not making one from scratch). There are some good videos on YouTube, if you want to see how one is usually made.

As the full strip of pages is 12 inches (30 cm) long, I have made two pdfs, so that there is a choice –

Print and join two strips – McLoughlin_Circus_Procession_A4_paper_20130322

Print one (very long) strip – McLoughlin_Circus_Procession_12_inch_strip_20130322

The pdf for the covers is here – McLoughlin_Circus_Procession_covers_20130322

NOTE – 23rd march 2013 –  from the comments there seems to be some confusion as to what “tissue paper” is.

In UK English, “tissue paper” is not a paper handkerchief (or “a tissue”), it is the sort of very fine paper that is sometimes used for wrapping small items before putting them in a gift box.

Have a look here on Amazon to see what I am talking about.

To escape from the slideshow at any time, press the Esc key on your keyboard.



The plotter paper is available from Amazon in A4 sheets too.

These would be much easier to store than the roll that I bought.


There is a page for those who like to Make and Do here and I am going to repeat here what I have said there –

  • If you want to save the pdf(s) to your computer / a CD / data stick etc. you may do that too.
  • You may use the contents of the pdf for yourself – and if you would like to make 10 of something and try selling them please go ahead, but do think first of all the other people who will be doing exactly the same thing.
  • You may share these projects with your friends and family, and miniature club.
  • You may link to them from your website / blog / satellite station, if you have one
  • You may customise them.
  • You may use them / the design ideas, in whole, or in part, as for inspiration for making your own things.

You may not copy the pdfs, or the contents of the pdfs, in whole, or in part, and re-sell them.

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open_house_miniatures_ppi_matters_sample_raspberry_pink open_house_miniatures_ppi_matters_sample_pale_pink open_house_miniatures_ppi_matters_sample_blue

Here are some examples of a decorative design that I created from sample of old fabric.

They are 300 ppi and they print on my Canon Pixma home printer (via Paint Shop Pro 8) at exactly 1.5 inches (approx 3.75 cm) square each.

The little thumbnails above have been compressed by WordPress and will not print very well and, especially if you click on a thumbnail to see the full size version, they may well look much larger than 1.5 inches on-screen.

If you would like to print a sheet of paper, so that the pattern is the “right” size at 300 ppi, the pdfs are here –




(The A4 sheets are enormously ink thirsty, so please do not waste your ink – print a sample to get an idea of the colour first.)

The photo below shows why I used 300 ppi samples and not 72 ppi samples.


ppi matters !

I know I always say this but – whether or not the papers print well and are useful to you (or not) will depend on the paper, ink and printing method used.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I had a chance to talk to someone who works as a commercial printer earlier this week and I asked him if there was any way to recreate, at home, the non-smudge result found in colour printed books.

SPOILER – Don’t get excited – according to him there isn’t…

After he had stopped laughing – he is a nice man, really he is – he suggested that I have a look at Shackell Edwards website, and then he calmed down and explained a bit…

The universal problem is, it seems, not only getting the ink onto the paper, and in the right place, but making it stay there.

The print finishes that we see in magazines, books, wrapping paper, etc are created by a combination of the paper, the ink and the finishing coating.

It is at this point that I am probably about to become temendously tedious to a great many readers so, dear readers, if you find the following dead boring please skip to the bottom of this post and vote for something more interesting.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I was asked, a couple of posts back, if I recommended using spray-on fixative to protect the surface of an ink-jet print.

I have heard of this being done and, as it seems to be a widely recommended method, it must work for some people.

I have tried fixative sprays in the past but, as the ones available to me are for fixing looses surfaces like charcoal or pastel to paper, they were not particularly effective on ink-jet ink.

This does not mean that fixative sprays do not work on ink-jet prints, only that I have not yet found one that does.

Anyway, after my conversation with the printer, and imbued (yet again) with the (mad) idea that there must be a way to “fix” ink jet ink to ordinary paper, I tried a little experiment this week.

I printed two samples onto 90 gsm photocopy paper and very carefully applied glaze of  –

  • Ronseal varnish (this would not smudge on coated paper inkjet paper)


  • white, water based, washable,”craft” glue for children (this would sit on top of coated inkjet paper and dry unevenly – it is good for crackle glaze and not much else).

With the following results –

open house miniatures

Glue v Varnish on photocopy paper

Admittedly I had chosen to work with a raspberry pink colour that I know, from past experience, runs and smudges far more easily than most other colours.

So nothing daunted I printed another sample and got out my favourite white, water based glue –


This is excellent glue.
If it has one fault it is that it dries very rapidly.

– and tried with that –


I wasn’t nice and careful, I simply wiped the thick glue over the print with my finger. This darkened the ink and smudged it a little bit.

Then I got creative with water proofing for clothing (if you lived in the middle of England, you would probably have a bottle of this under your kitchen sink too !)


The Nikwax effect was… interesting


although I have to say my favourite part was the crumbling, aged effect on the  back of the paper –


After the Evo-stick and the Nikwax had dried overnight, I tried the water test…


and came to the conclusion that –

open_house_miniatures_ppi_matters_still_ looking

I still hadn’t found the solution…

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***

A very big thank you to everyone who voted and left comments. I appreciate your help very much indeed.

Here are the results of the poll – equal first are the Circus Procession book and the papier mache Easter egg.

I will not, unfortunately, have time to make two slideshows next week, so I think it will have to be the Circus Procession next week and (if everything goes to plan) the papier mache egg for the Easter weekend.

open house miniatures poll results

Please bear in mind that, although I can run through how I make the papier mache eggs, I cannot do a digital download for the mold !

In case you are wondering, I did vote.

To test that the poll was working properly, I voted for the basket for an Easter egg!


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