More Pages

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sheer Determination?

The only way to find the limits of the possible 
is by going beyond them to the impossible.

Arthur C. Clarke

What a journey!  I've spent my last couple of weeks working on getting the kitchen doors designed and built. I probably have a couple more weeks to go to complete them.  But I thought I would share the progress so far, as for me, getting to this point has been quite an effort!

First, I have a very important list to share. 

My List of Nevers:

  1. I have never ever cut circles in wood with my new Proxxon Scroll Saw.
  2. I have never ever made anything resembling a door.
  3. I have never ever tried to work with tiny wood pieces smaller than my fingers.
  4. I have never ever tried to carve detail into wood.
  5. I have never ever tried to stain wood that I have carved. 
With that list of nevers, this project was a stretch!  However, I have arrived somewhere, and I have yet to determine if somewhere is where I want to be!  :0)   I feel good though, at having arrived somewhere.  

I am likely to redo these doors, using the many lessons I learned as I pursued the impossible.  But for a first go, I am actually reasonably happy with my results so far.  I say this with full knowledge that I am nowhere near done with the FIRST try.  I must be a masochist.  Yes, I am convinced I am a masochist.

The "Plan":

To explain myself, I need to show you what I am using as my inspiration picture.  Like usual, I go for gold, and have the talent to create dross, but that don't stop ME!  :0)

This door completely captured the feeling I wanted for the kitchen doors. It screams Steampunk to me, and I really love the scroll work in the windows and the black metal trim.   I knew going into this that I would not be able to completely recreate this masterpiece of a door, but I thought perhaps I could approximate the door, simplify it a bit, and get the basic concept in place.

With this inspiration in mind, I came up with a "concept" as seen above. There is SO much between a "concept" and "reality"!  You've seen that what I have so far is a long ways away from this even, and THIS is the dummied down version!

Curse my affinity for "unusual" and "artistic" expression.  Bah! Humbug!  I've had to continually simplify my design due to the limitations of my current abilities.  But I am still excited about the direction of the door, and know that with time, I will be able to create something that I think meets my standards and communicates a similar feeling.

You can see though, that I am FAR from complete with my little endeavor!

The "Reality":

I just wish I could communicate the comic events that have taken place to get me to this place in the process. I can think of no way to demonstrate the ups and downs without writing a TRUE novel, so I'll just give you an account of what I have done to get here, and let you fill in the blanks.

Almost immediately, I realized that I did not have "room" for all of my "unusual and artistic" concepts in the space I had left for the door in the kitchen room box.  After that rather disappointing realization, I "redesigned" the door slightly to allow me to keep the basic concept, while eliminating the problem of not having enough "canvas for my muse".  The basic change was to the window shape.  I narrowed the window space, turned it into four window lites leveraging the kitchen window design, and proceeded.

Even this simple change took me some time to figure out.  My original pattern (right) felt too "squished", with the top two windows looking out of proportion, especially when viewed in conjunction with the windows I had designed.  So I altered the pattern to make the top windows larger, and changed the shape of the lower windows slightly to give them more shape (left).  

Another side trip.  I spent 3 days at least on trying to figure out how to place the doors.  Which "direction" should the door jamb face?  Outward, or inward?  What IS the standard for that?  I found MANY articles on how to build a door frame and how to hang a door, but NONE of them told me how to decide which direction to face the door!  I think it is one of those details that those "in the know" assume "the rest" of us know.  Well, they were WRONG.  

I finally started looking at every door I could find, to determine what was "right".  I still don't know.  :0)  But I DID pick up on the fact that MOST exterior doors have the jamb facing inward, with the door opening inward.  So that is what I decided needed to happen.  Maybe someone out there can inform me whether I was right or not!  It would be nice to know!

After reaching this stage, I procrastinated for a few days.  (Actually, life caught up with me, and I've spent a good portion of my time dealing with "stuff" I won't bore you with! . . . but I ALSO was procrastinating!)  I knew I wanted the curved, carved profile at the bottom of the door, and that I wanted to stain the wood to create that warm, aged glow in the original inspiration picture, but I was just not sure how to go about it.

Sometimes, you just have to jump in the lake and hope you learn to swim.  So I traced my pattern on 3/32" lumber, and then tried to figure out how I would cut the windows in.  I had a jigsaw, a scroll saw, a fret saw and a utility knife.  Each had their liabilities.  

I tried first with my new scroll saw.  Remind me sometime to tell you about that.  It involved figuring out how to change the (too long) saw blade with no decent instructions, and very little experience with a scroll saw that was more than a toy.  Not pretty. 

I finally gave up on getting the the scroll saw set up, and tried a fret saw.  I broke the wood several times before I decided THAT wasn't the "correct" procedure.  Then I tried the craft knife.  That worked, but the curved edges were just not up to snuff, and I was unable to come up with a solution for that.  So I THOUGHT about the hand held jigsaw, but since I am such a smart cookie, I remembered my LAST encounter with that on small cuts. Rejected out of hand.  No way that was going to work.  So back to Square One.  The new scroll saw, which by this time I had already learned to hate!  


I knew the first step was to drill holes, which I did, and then I began to break things.  LOTS of things.  After many tries, many more broken scroll saw blades, and many more frustrations, I finally worked out a solution that actually worked.  But to do it, I had to perfect my skills at assembling and reassembling my Proxxon saw. 

I brought in the "big guns" to help me with that learning curve.  My very mechanical son.  Lo and behold, even he had trouble with the saw!  Yea, it wasn't me!  We perfected a method that worked (and definitely NOT the way the instructions identified!), and I proceeded to cut windows holes into the doors.  

Once I got all of the windows cut out, I tackled the carved "detail" (not so much!) at the bottom of the doors.  I began with a 1/8 inch thick piece of wood, cut to the general shape with the scroll saw.  I drew a circle to define where I wanted the "bulges" in the base trim to be. 

I then began to "carve" (something more like TEAR!) the wood out where I wanted the profile to be thinner. My first try was atrocious.  I am wise enough not to post that!  No one will ever come back if I do! 

This was my second try.  A bit better, but still too much "tearing out" going on.  It only "marginally" resembles the inspiration door.  But it was close enough that I thought perhaps it could be an "old" door, that had been damaged.  For the moment, we moved on. 

I used a golden oak stain to stain the wood, and carved my second door trim piece, which turned out rather better.  (minus the amateur look!)  After adding an acetate window, I ended up with this (yes, you've seen this before!

Then of course, we had to "check" to see if it was "going to look good".  Yes, it looks great we think.  Then we watch the beautiful tile fall over from its precariously balanced position directly onto my (BRAND NEW) expensive, specialty reading glasses. (Yes, I need them!)  Smashed to pieces.  Luckily, they were SO new that they were still under warranty, and my eye doc (did I tell you he is GREAT?) replaced them free of charge.  Whew!

So now you have heard only the SMALLEST bit of the trials and tribulations I have gone through in the last two weeks.  Do you feel sorry for me?  NO??!!  Why!  I think it is a great sob story!

Here are my halfway completed doors (propped, No, we did NOT learn our lesson) in their frames.  

The "Challenge":

My challenge going forward is to add the additional details to both the doors and windows that help to take them from their current, somewhat amateur state, to the Grand, Glorious, STEAM PUNK doors and Windows I envisioned.  Still a long ways to go!  I need to add black painted metal trims and add the metal art noveau details.   I MAY decide to do both doors over again, as mentioned before, so that I can improve the final look.  I would like to do a "better" job with the carving details, and I think I would like the wood color on the door to be a bit deeper.  Much depends on what things look like as I progress further.  

The whole process has been that peculiar blend of frustration and absolute FUN.  There is something about working through the "trials and tribulations" of working out problems and coming out "somewhere" on the other side that really floats my boat.  I have learned a boatload as well, so I have a "fully loaded floating boat".  How many of you can say that?  :0) 

I hope you have enjoyed seeing my many mini travails.  There is a book called "Hinds Feet in High Places" I read once that follows two characters (as well as the main character 'Much Afraid") named "Sorrow" and "Suffering".  After many tragic and horrible events endured with "Much Afraid" in tow, they finally arrive at the top of a mountain, where their names are changed to "Grace" and "Glory".  I hope that is my fate when it comes to these doors. I've certainly earned it!  :0) 

I also want to take a moment to welcome several new followers!  I'm excited to get to know you all, and your "patronage" is most appreciated.  I hope you will enjoy watching me learn, and I hope that my mini endeavors leave you a little wiser than I.

Until next time!

Doug S


  1. Wow Doug, you've had quite a week. You have my sympathy because I think we've all been there. Tried a new technique - been frustrated - tried again. And smashing your glasses...=0( Glad you got them changed free of charge. Do you use a jewellers V slot bench when you use the fret saw? They're worth their weight in gold when cutting small designs by hand. I like your doors, especially the carved detail. You're very brave to try something so complicated when most people would buy shop-bought doors already made. In the UK, all exterior doors open inwards except for patio/French doors which open out. I'm intruiged to see how you do the beautiful metal work panels on the doors. Sending you lots of good luck wishes from across the pond =0)

    1. Morning Pepper! My little heart goes pitter patter to find out that someone out there understands my mini travails! :0) Too much fun to stop, too much "pain" to go on! What will I do? (I can hear it now . . . "drama queen", . . . am I right?)

      Considering I have never HEARD of a jeweler's V slot bench, I am guessing I never used one! It sounds lovely! :0) I MUST have one. Seriously, though, I think I may have to go find said tool. I, like any true man, must have a tool once I know about it!

      Thanks for the info on the doors! I seriously spent TIME trying to figure that one out. And you are not the only one that is intrigued with the idea that I even CAN figure out the metal work for these doors. This just may be one of those wonderful "public"' failures, which leave people infamous for life! We shall see!

      Good Luck wishes are the best gift you can give me! I NEED them! :0)

      Have a great week!


  2. Hi Doug! Welcome to my world!!!! hahahhah I so enjoyed your misadventures through out this saga and I had a difficult time trying to keep the smile off of my face as I read it. I HAVE BEEN THERE TOO, my friend! :D Your list of "Nevers" was quite comical! I think that you will be adding to your list as you continue to develop this property, but meanwhile let me tell you how IMPRESSED I am by what you have already achieved with your Beautiful Steampunk-ish doors. I have NEVER seen doors as elaborate as these either in full size or in miniature so you have done something Extraordinary already and they are not even finished! By setting your thinking cap as to how best to achieve it you have nearly done it. They are positioned well, within the room and in good visual relation to the existing windows. The weight of the bottom design of them can carry the weight of the exterior and is in perfect harmony with the style of your Manor House. Being a "Much Afraid" (of Power tools) kinda girl, I think that you are the hero of this story, for getting them out, putting them together and using them to great advantage and Achieving your Unique vision. As for the the swing of the doors; I believe that there is no hard and fast rule, however, what I have learned is that a swing in towards the interior is better, because it keeps the visitor from having to step backwards into traffic if it were to swing outward or sweep them off of a step. I personally have planned my interiors around the swing of a door fairly early on so that it doesn't interfere with the traffic flow, mess up furniture placement or block the view. Steampunk has more flexibility when it comes to the final design so just make sure that you are happy with how it looks and don't worry about "the Rules", because remember, you are the Master of the Manor, here! :D


    1. Hi Elizabeth! Well, I can tell you, if there is going to be anything consistent about my little project, it will be that everything is an adventure and a surprise! I am convinced my mind was inherited from the maniacal Dr. Frankenstein. My ideas are sometimes unique, yes, but "devilish" is a better word! At least that is how I experience them! lol

      I actually came to the same conclusion about the doors. There is no "hard and fast" rule, that I can see. It seems that the "standard" is to use what works best at the location. Pepper shared above something I vaguely remember hearing before (NOW I remember it, where was my devilish mind when I needed it before!), that all exterior doors open inward. I have, however seen exceptions, prime examples, the exterior doors in most glass office buildings open outward. Then again, most of THOSE have a canopy, so maybe that has something to do with it. What do you think the odds of a real finish carpenter being on my "architectural miniatures" site, and giving us a final answer are? My thinking is that the potential is rather small! Oh well, good thing Steampunk is a fantasy genre. As you say, I AM the MASTER of the manor! Oooo. that feels good. Never happens in real life! (just joshing, my wife is a saint, and that is NOT tongue in cheek!) :0)

      I'll be looking for you at the Seattle Miniature Show in a couple of weeks! I am the tall guy. That should probably be enough. I saw a video of the Seattle show on their site. Take a look. I am the guy whose head is two feet above everyone else at the show. I stick out like a sore thumb! It was rather embarrassing the first time I saw it! So you shouldn't have any problem finding me! :0)

      Talk to you soon, I hope!

  3. Hi Doug! I surely have enjoyed seeing your many mini travails :D!! Warm welcome in our world of 'mini lunatics', who want to create a mini world and want to die for the best results, no matter what they have to do for achieving this goal, hahaha, this sounds so familiar ;O!!
    So unfortunately your new glasses is smashed by a heavy mini accident....I'm sorry, but thankfully you have a great eye doc ;)!
    Your question about the doors make me go through my house (don't laugh, I really did) and I've opened all doors :0)!! All doors go inward, except for my garage doors, but that's for the Dutch houses. I know that in Sweden en Norway the exterior doors go outward, because of the extreme snowfall in winter?! So, conclusion: I'm afraid I'm not much of a help for you......;)
    Your doors are wonderful for a first attempt, I love the design for them. Yes, I think the magical word is: practising! At least this is for me....:D!
    Regarding your trouble with your scroll saw........don't tell anybody, but about 20 years ago, I also had my issues with the scroll saw. Seemed, that I placed the small saw blade with the teeth backwards and upside down, hahaha! The saw danced a happy dance on my work bench and my wood work was ruined :(!! But it took a while to discover what was happening, yes, I know: another woman, who thinks she can handle power tools.... ;)!
    Again, I've learned a lot whilst reading your blogpost, thanks, this time it was much extra funny........not for you, but for US....I'm sorry I had to laugh.
    Now I'm going back to my struggle for making a special sort of veggies for my chickens ;)!
    I wish you a good and nice week.......take care for your (new) glasses and especially for your fingers, cause you'll need them ;0)!!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Illona, I imagine everyone goes through times where nothing seems to work, One thing this mini endeavor is teaching me is how to gracefully "redo" my work. I don't know why we expect to have everything come out perfectly the first time. After all, we are not like 3D printers! So where do we get the idea we must be perfect right out of the gate? Still, it is a transition for me!

      I am sorry, I DID laugh at you . . . er, with you, about going through your house and opening and closing all the doors. I thought it was terribly funny. We take such things for granted, and never even think about them! It was quite a picture you painted, I can just "see" you running all over the house. Never fear, I did the same thing in my "quest for realistic fantasy". :0)

      Your story of teaching your saw to do the happy dance was just as tickling to me, and WAY too close to home. MOST of my last couple of weeks was spent fighting with that stupid saw! [By the way, I love that saw again!)

      Oh, and Illona, a little secret. I don't have to tell anyone about your story! You did it for me. Now I can just laugh and point! :0)

      It pleases me that I gave you cause for merriment with this blog post. :0) This is the sort of tongue in cheek post I always wonder how it comes across. I wasn't complaining (really!). At least not very much! I find it so comical the gyrations I have to go through to turn out something decent. I do hope others find it fun to see inside the "real" ups and downs of creating. It doesn't just pop out new born for most people. Certainly not for "this people". I have been considering my decision to redo the doors, and have about decided to do that. However, I plan to finish this set of doors as though I were not, because I want the practice on "the rest of the story". That way I won't [we hope] ruin the next version!

      As usual, I am so grateful for your comments. It is so wonderful to be able to share all of this with new friends.


  4. Hello Doug,
    What a time you've been having. Firstly, it is looking beautiful. you are right in figuring out that the exterior door should open inward. If the doors went outward they would get soaked in rain or be pulled by wind.
    I'm sorry you had such trouble with the doors. I wonder if perhaps you should try using a different wood. I know a lot of miniaturists who do fine work and fine carving use specific woods for different projects. It might tear less and be easier to carve.
    A word of caution. I have often simplified a design because of my limitations, and in the end I have redone about 75% of my miniature house. Before you simplify a design, take the time to are an incredibly clever and capable miniaturist and I know you can figure things out, so don't bend to your "limitations". your design is incredible and the doors already look wonderful when in place. Good luck and remember, you can do more then you think you can!...after you get new glasses!
    Big hug,

      His advise of "Don't bend to your limitations", are SOLID GOLD! :D

    2. Hi Giac,

      I am glad you can find beauty in my humble little attempts. My doors are currently in that category of "just a little bit funny, just a little bit nice". There are some strong points, but in my mind at least, there are some pretty important Improvements to be made! :0) I am so glad I tried to go down this path though, because doing so has convinced me that I CAN [eventually] do some of those things I have rolling around in my head. That is a bit exciting to me. There is some pretty KOOL stuff rolling around in this old head of mine. grin.

      Thank You for your comment about simplifying my design to match my limitations. It is good advice (as he glares menacingly at Giac and Elizabeth!) Now I HAVE to redo the doors, don't I!? (just teasing you!) You have articulated what I already know in my little heart of hearts. So redo the doors, I plan on doing. And it really wasn't you all! I had already decided it needed to be done. While cool, the doors just are not up to the standard I want to finally achieve, and I know it. I promise I won't up and delete the post though! (grinning at Elizabeth!).

      I think that looking into the wood I use is a GREAT suggestion. I'll have to do a little research and see what works best according to the subject matter experts. I was also thinking after the post was made that I actually could have used a router for some portions of the "carved" detail. I will keep playing with it all till I am happy with it!

      Just an aside. You may be redoing 75% of your house, but I for one, LOVE that. It is SO much fun to me to see how your skills have improved, how your taste has changed, and how incredibly more "complete" your "remodels" are. Your latest work rivals any of the talented miniaturists I have seen over the years. You have become quite accomplished, and I love seeing that! I hope you don't stop! If you keep going at the rate you are, you'll be one of those [mini] household names! (not that you aren't already WAY down THAT road! :0) )

      Thanks Giac! Always love hearing from you!


  5. Hi Doug.
    When I saw you had a new post, I was so excited, then I saw the door and just went ooooo. I LOVE them, I love the shape and the 'folds' at the bottom are just amazing! Did I say I loved them????
    I can fully empathise with you and your trials and tribulations with design and practicality. But you have done a marvellous job. You are like me one way..... I take a notion of what I want then I try to figure out how to do it. I think I will always be stumped with the use of tools..... I am really not that brave yet :(
    I digress - the doors are a triumph in my humble opinion. The shape is perfectly steampunk and you haven't even finished them. I don't believe non-miniaturists would credit the time we all take in our designs and creations.
    All the best

    1. Vivian! I am so glad you like the doors! I do too, as a concept, and am busily reworking the concept to work even better. I am happy to say, (so far) it is going well! I'll post again soon with those updates. Don't worry, I haven't changed the look to much, just improved, I hope, the execution.

      I've gone on and on above, and in other posts, about the trials and tribulations of miniatures, but I would not give this up for much of anything at this point. This hobby has gotten under my skin (in a good way) more than anything I've attempted before, and I do think it is the "problem solving" that does that for me. So no [real] complaints! Part of the charm of taking on these new projects IS achieving something when you have no idea how to get there when you first conceive the project.

      Glad you like the doors! I hope you like the slightly revised version even better! I do, so far!

      P.S. Love your new avatar picture! Very nice!

      Have a great week!



Welcome to the blog! I appreciate your visit, and welcome your comments!