Making miniatures: How to make a miniature painted chair (in 1/12 scale)
July 1, 2015
I have been having a look at other miniatures blog sites and those that I have seen (apart from those that are not just advertising sites for items they themselves produce) seem to rely a lot on purchased items and kits.
Now for some reason I always seem to feel the need to make most of my own miniatures, and I just buy things that I can't make such as small pottery items and metal pots and pans etc. Perhaps it is because of the cost of purchased items. Those little items sure do make a hole in your wallet. Or perhaps it is just my slightly Scottish heritage!
So when I made the little barrel organ I also designed and made the monkey and the cart and the organ grinder. The ladies in the group were astonished to think that they were going to be making things from toothpicks, and paddle-pop sticks and matchsticks!
I am always on the lookout for cheap ways of obtaining little pieces of wood. Cheap shops are great for packages of different sized paddle-pop sticks and tongue depressors etc. I have been collecting supplies for many years. Different things are available at different times.
Lately I have been collecting pieces of ply peeling away in layers from our old furniture that we are throwing out. Heaven knows if I will ever use it, but it does look a bit like the expensive, very fine plywood that I have been buying from our local hobbyshop. Years ago I bought several boxes of wood veneer edge stripping from Bunnings, very cheaply because it was remnant stock. Now that I am working on miniatures again I think it will be very useful.
So my advice is to keep your eyes open and save those popsicle sticks. You never know what sort of quality wooden furniture you might be able to make from them!
Now that I have made a miniature table for the Farmer's family (see earlier post), naturally they needed a chair or two as well.
To make the chair you will need a 250mm length of 5x5mm square wooden stick, 2 of the large sized tongue depressors (25x200mm) and 5 toothpicks (the sort that have a round profile).
If you don't have exactly the same timber that I have, don't despair, improvise! You could use paddlepop sticks for the seat, for instance - just glue more of them together. You could use matchsticks instead of toothpicks for the rungs.
You will also need white wood glue, and acrylic paint and clear sealer.
To make the chair:
To make the seat, glue the two tongue depressors together side by side to making a flat surface.
When the glue dries cut out two 40mm squares.
From one of the squares, cut 5 x 5 mm squares from two of the corners.
Making sure that the joins don't overlap, glue the two squares together, one on top of the other.
The layer with the cut-out squares is the underside, with the gaps providing spaces for the front legs.
To make the chair rungs, cut the pointy ends off the toothpicks.
Cut three of the toothpicks into 40mm lengths.
Cut the other two toothpicks into 45mm lengths.
To make the front legs, cut two 45mm lengths from 5x5mm square stick.
Drill a hole through each leg, 25mm from one end, using a 2mm drill bit.
Glue one of the 40mm lengths of toothpick into the two holes to form an "H" shape, for the front rung. The insides of the legs should be 30mm apart. Allow the glue to dry.
Drill two 2 mm holes through the legs for the side rungs, 15mm from the same end as shown in the photo. Note that these will be at right angles to the holes drilled for the front rung.
To make the backboard that goes between the top of the back legs, cut out a rectangle measuring 35x13mm from the waste tongue depressor.
Find the midpoint, and draw on the shape that you want for the backboard. The shape that I used is shown.
The two 5x2.5mm tabs on the ends are to fit into grooves in the back legs, to hold it in place.
To make the back legs, cut two 80mm lengths from the 5x5mm square stick.
Cut a groove 5mm long by 2mm wide, and 2.5mm deep, with its centre 10mm from one end, in each leg. I found the easiest way to do this was to drill a hole, using a 2mm drill bit, in either end of the groove and then to hollow out between the holes with a craft knife.
Use the 2mm drill bit to drill two more holes through each leg, 25mm from each end, for the back rungs.
Glue the two remaining 40mm lengths of toothpick in the holes, and the backboard in place in the grooves in the back legs, to form the back of the chair.
Cut a 3mm groove, 2.5mm deep across each leg, as shown, with the centre of the groove 45mm from the base of the leg.
Use the 2mm drill bit to drill a hole through each leg, 15mm up from the base, for the side rungs.
Glue the two remaining (45mm) lengths of toothpick in place between the front and back legs, to form the side rungs.
Glue the seat in place, by inserting the back into the grooves in the back legs, and the front legs into the square gaps in the undersurface. You may need to clamp it or weigh the seat down to hold it in place while the glue dries.
When the glue dries, sand the chair all over and paint on two or three layers of your selected colour. I used acrylic paint designed for folk art.
Sand lightly between coats of paint.
I used two different simple designs for the motifs that I painted on the backboards of my two chairs. They are pictured below. Or you could use the same motif as was used for the table (see earlier post).
When you have finished painting you may want to coat the chair with clear sealer, and dirty it up a bit with muddy brown acrylic paint.