Friday, February 13, 2009

Tools for Doing Miniatures

People often ask me, "What tools do you need to create miniatures?" The answer is: many of the same kinds of tools you need to do large-scale woodworking, only smaller.

I have a miniature table saw that I purchased from MicroMark. Prior to that, I wore out a Dremel table saw. It's one of the tools I use time and time again.

Another power tool I often use is my Dremel tool. I use a variety of bits with it to shape and create various edges on wood that I have trimmed and for roughing out items when I carve them. It can be inserted into a drill press or inverted and set up as a miniature "router table." It, too, is invaluable to me in this creative work.

The next most important tools for me have been my jeweler's saw and miniature drill. The miniature drill allows me to put holes into very thin pieces of wood. (I sometimes will cut pieces of wood that are 1/32 in thickness.) I can drill a pin-sized hole, and then insert my jeweler's saw blade through that hole. I can then carefully cut very intricate scroll saw patterns into the wood.

This step takes a steady hand, good eyes (or a good magnifying glass), and patience. You can't cut fast with a jeweler's saw. You must keep your fingers very close to the blade to hold the wood down so that the delicate pieces don't break with your upward strokes. (The downward strokes normally cut the wood, but upward strokes sometimes catch the wood and snap it off.

You'll also need a "bird's beek" to hold the wood you're cutting. This is a solid piece of plywood that is normally 1/4" thick or thicker. It is the platform you set your wood on to cut. This piece of wood has to be large enough to hold your piece of wood and still have an inch or two to fasten down onto the edge of your counter top, table or workbench.

The "bird's beek" is a narrow V that you cut out of this piece of plywood. You must center the saw blade close to the narrow end of the V so that very little of the wood you're cutting is exposed. This reduces the strain on the wood that usually causes it to snap.

Other critical tools include:
  • emory board fingernail files - they are an incredibly handy sanding tool
  • needle files
  • good woodworking and/or craft glue
  • a quality, steel ruler
  • a right-angle ruler - I have them in miniature, but I often still use my full-scale adjustable right-angle ruler
  • a good quality miniature saw - Exacto makes a good one.
  • a miter box - I have one that is small and plastic that I got from Micro Mark. Again, it's been incredibly handy for doing picture frames and other mitered projects
The above photograph is the study (still a work in progress) in the latest dollhouse that I'm building.

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