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Making miniatures: How to make a miniature painted table (in 1/12th scale)

On a recent trip to Sydney we visited the huge Konikuniya bookstore and in the course of an hour or two I selected about six books that I wanted to buy. But to buy all six would have been extravagance and so I started to cull them. In the end the only book that I felt I really couldn't put back on the shelf was Brian Long's "The Authentic Tudor and Stuart Dolls' House", and so I bought it.

Then a couple of weeks later we went to the woodworking show in Brisbane and I bought two more books on miniatures, "How to Make Your Dolls' House Special" by Beryl Armstrong, and "Dolls' House inspirations " by Jean Nisbett.

I felt there was a message in there - maybe it was time to start making more miniatures!

I don't own a dollshouse, at least not one that is designed for display rather than play purposes, and have always thought that to make one might be too big a job for me, since I already have a great many unfinished projects. But for the last ten years or so I have run a small miniatures group that has made projects that I have designed, including a barrel organ on a cart with an organ grinder and a monkey, a "one horse open sleigh" with a horse and people, and a working street lamp on a section of pavement. Unfortunately I haven't yet taken photos of them to put them in my miniatures gallery, but in time I will.

I have a group of small porcelain dolls called the "Farmer's family" that I have painted and started assembling in 1/12 scale, with embroidered clothes. Since I felt the urge to try a bit of folk art I thought it might be a good idea to make a few items of furniture as props for this family.

If I just committed to making one item at a time I could work on this project for as long as my enthusiasm lasted without necessarily being committed to making a dolls' house, therefore avoiding the "unfinished project" syndrome. On the other hand, I have always intended that this would be a poor peasant family, so they wouldn't need many possessions, and maybe one day I could progress on to making them a small house of their own.

So I have begun with a small table, and being a very generous person (tongue in cheek!) I am posting instructions for making it here, in case you want to make one too.


To make the table as I have done it you will need a wooden tongue depressor, about 3 or four paddlepop sticks (usually available at craft stores), a 30cm length of 5mm x 5mm stick (which I bought at our local hobby shop), and four match sticks. You will also need white wood glue, a ruler, a cutting implement such as a stanley knife or a small saw, sandpaper, acrylic folk art paint and a clear sealer.

To make the table:

Step 1. Tabletop - cut the tongue depressor into two pieces each measuring 25mm x 85mm, and glue them together, side by side.

Step 2. Legs - cut the 5mm x 5mm stick into 75mm lengths to make four legs. Sand both ends of each leg flat and smooth, making sure they are all the same length. Cut a notch 10mm long by 3mmx3mm deep in one end of each leg.

Step 3. Cut the paddlepop sticks into two 70mm lengths, and two 37mm lengths. Glue the two 37mm lengths into the notches in the legs, to make the two ends of the base, making sure that the pairs of legs stay flat and square.

Step 4. When the glue has set, glue the other two lengths of paddlepop stick in place to complete the understructure. Make sure that the whole structure remains square as the glue is setting.

Step 5. Glue the understructure to the tabletop, making sure that it is centrally placed and squared up. When the glue has set, glue matchsticks against the inside of the understructure where it contacts the tabletop, to make the whole structure more solid.

Step 6. When the glue has set, sand well and paint the whole structure a couple of times in your base colour.

For the folk art painting, I used variations of the design on the left.

The design for the tabletop is on the left, ends and sides below.

After I finished painting I coated the table with two layers of clear sealer.

When the sealer was dry I "dirtied" the table up a bit so that it could look as if belonged to a peasant family, by painting over the sealer with a very dilute coat of muddy brown coloured acrylic paint, and then quickly rubbed it off the flat surfaces, leaving the debris in the corners and at the base of the legs.


Below is a photo of Mutti from the Farmer's Family casting a proprietorial eye over her new table while thinking that it was high time that Papi, who is legless ( literally), got his trousers on and started doing some work around the place!

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