Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tall Guy Doing Small Things

I love to think big when creating miniatures. I enjoy challenging myself with creating a piece where people say, "How did you DO that?!"

Doing miniatures doesn't require fantastic woodworking skills. (After all, I got a D in woodshop in junior high.) It requires patience and a willingness to try more than once to get it right.

One of the critical miniature woodworker skills is to realize that wood joinery is not as complicated as full-scale woodworking. For instance, miniatures wood joints could never hold up in a full-scale piece. That's because the "real" furniture has to hold up under our weight or under the weight of many objects (like a bookshelf). Miniatures rarely hold any weighty objects.

Understanding scale and making SURE your miniature is truly in scale makes the difference between the model looking "real" and looking like a child's toy. Me? I prefer to make it look real. (The Thorne Rooms at the Chicago Museum of Art are the standard of excellence to which I aspire.)

How to Create Accurate Replicas
You can create a scale to measure any piece of furniture (or other fullsize object) and know instantly EXACTLY what that item's dimensions should be in 1/12th scale. Draw a vertical 1" line near the left-hand side of a piece of paper that is at least one foot wide. Now, set your ruler at a right angle to that 1" line and draw a horizontal 12-inch line that meets at the bottom of the 1" line, creating a right angle. Next, draw a diagonal line to create a triangle.

Here's how to use this tool you have just created. You can measure anything that is a foot or smaller, then take your ruler and set it along the 12-inch base of your triangle. Now find the measure of your object on the rule. Set a sharp pencil at that point on the scale and then draw a vertical line up to the hypoteneuse of the triangle. You can now measure this new line you have drawn. It will be exactly 1/12th the size of your object!

I used this methodology to create an exact replica of a small writing desk that has been in the family for years. That desk is pictured above in the background on the right-hand side of the photo.

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