Short Stories About My Miniatures July 2020
I am going to start posting on the my Blog some of the short stories and photos I have posted on social media. I apologize in advance if you follow me there and have read them before. These will usually follow a few months behind the original posting date and act as an archive to keep these stories together.
Turned and carved baluster
July 1 2020
A miniature baluster urn turned and carved in pear wood. This is from a Philadelphia Chippendale Needlepoint Top Game table I made a pair of back in the 1980's. More about this table in the gallery and a story about the needlework next month.
Turkish Coffee Grinder
July 2 2020
It's morning, that means thinking about coffee! Reminded me I once made a Turkish Coffee Grinder in miniature. Yes, those are full scale coffee beans! This grinder could grind them up if you broke them into tiny bits to fit in the grinder but it would take forever to get enough ground for a cup. But it would be a really FINE grind.
I taught this as a class in both the US and EU. It was a lathe class concentrating on making tiny parts that delicately press fit, baby knurling, making square shafts and holes, etc. It even had steel grinding discs and a folding handle. Oh, and it was about 1 inch tall.
July 4 2020
Happy 4th of July. My carved miniature of one of John Bellamy iconic eagles. Not only did John carve like no other, he lived in one of the most beautiful places I know.
From Wikipedia, "John Haley Bellamy (April 5, 1836 – April 6, 1914) was a folk artist of New England, USA, known for his highly stylized carved wooden eagles and other decorative items for ships and homes. Bellamy was born in Kittery, Maine in 1836, and stayed there for much of his career. Later in his life he lived and worked elsewhere in New England. Although carving was his primary means of supporting himself, he never considered himself to be an "artist," and he is not known to have signed any of his pieces. His eagles are highly desired in the collectors' market, with some selling in 2007 for over $100,000, and a large piece setting an artist-record price of $660,000 at an August 2005 auction. Bellamy died in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1914. "
Router Bits from Twin Manors
July 6 2020
In the 1980s I built a pair of miniature Georgian style houses named Twin Manors. You can read more about them on this website under Gallery. To make the moldings I made a set of 36 router bits used in combinations that could cut over a 100 18th century molding profiles. These 3 were for the cornice in the dining room. The bits have 1/4" shanks and were machined from 0-1 tool steel. I still use them sometimes. Sorry the photo is a little blurry, it was from a old 35mm slide.
Twin Manors dining room
July 7 2020
Yesterday I posted some router bits I made to make miniature moldings. Here is the room that molding was used in. It was the cornice of the dining room. The floor to ceiling height is 12". In the 1980s I built a pair of miniature Georgian style houses named Twin Manors. You can read more about them on my website under Gallery. This room is currently being upgraded with better furniture, I'll share photos when done. To tease you a little much of the new furniture is by my sort of mentor Paul Runyon.
1/6th Scale Surveyor's Compass
July 10 2020
While graduating the dial for my rose engine (someday I'll post more about that under "Antique Tools") I remembered I have done this before. Years ago I started to make a number of 1/6th scale miniature Antique Scientific Instruments. I only ever finished this compass. The face was engraved on a thin piece of silver on my Deckel model #GO pantograph that was made in 1928. The ball joint was fun to machine with an adjusting mechanism inside it for tension. The wing nuts were 0-80 size. I remember talking to the late Robert Baker (known for antique tool restoration) about how would customers react if they knew the price of custom made hardware. At the time these wing nuts came out to $ 80. each as I recall.
This worked but the needle had so little mass it wouldn't stay magnetized very long. The vanes also un-screwed so it would fit in it's case.
July 15 2020
A miniature of an apprentice size 18th c. tilt top table. Made of pear wood with a turned top and baluster shaft. The legs are dovetailed and end with slipper feet. I made some of these back in the mid 1980s. It can be seen on displayed on the window seat in the dining room of Twin Manors.
Paul Runyon Block Front Chest
July 17 2020
This chest is very special to me because it was made by Paul Runyon, who in one day taught me the basics of making miniatures. I visited Paul in his shop, perched on a mountain in NJ. in the fall of 1978. I was 22 years old and just starting what would become my lifetime career. What Paul taught me was doing miniature woodwork with a combination of woodworking, machinists and watchmakers techniques. Work to a .001" and doing set-ups with jigs that can produce identical parts. He also showed me how to make router bits. It was simple, If you needed a cutting tool, just make it because spending time searching for what you will never find is a waste of time. He made his own hardware, his finish is brushed on shellac and his drawers fit like no others I have ever seen. Paul Runyon was a true master-craftsman! One that shared what he had learned, he was self taught, grew up in an orphanage and did work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art among many things . Thank you Mr. Runyon! He was my mentor even if it was only one day!
That day I visited, the project he was working on was 3 or 4 (can't remember exactly) of these block front chests. One was cherry, it is now in the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. The others were Cuban mahogany. He worked for much of his career out of a huge piece, he showed me a photo of the slab, just over 4 feet wide and as long as the truck carrying it. Years later this chest came up at auction and I was able to own it. Imagine my feelings when I hold something so important to my education, that I saw in pieces on his bench over 40 years later.
It is shown in the upstairs hall of Twin Manors, a miniature Georgian style house I made in the 1980s. (more on that can be found in the "Gallery" on my website). Paul also made the chairs and I machined the candlesticks.
Candlesticks in Twin Manors
July 20 2020
On Friday I posted about this miniature block front chest made by my mentor Paul Runyon in 1978. Sitting on it are a collection of miniature brass candlesticks under 1" tall I made. To see how I machine these, cut and paste this link.
July 22 2020
A miniature thread box, my Great grandmother, grandmother and mother all were sewers so as a little kid I played with buttons and threads. I was, and still am, drawn to boxes filled with interesting things. I made this tiny thread box out of mopane and blackwood and for the lid I used an engraved gilt balance cock from a 200 year old watch. The spools are turned from old ivory and wound with fine silk thread. This is what happens sometime when I just "play" in the workshop, this was the only one I made.
Thread box to clamp on a table
July 24 2020
Another miniature thread box, this one clamps on the edge of a table and has a pin cushion. My Great grandmother, grandmother and mother all were sewers so as a little kid I played with buttons and threads. I was, and still am, drawn to boxes filled with interesting things. I just love strange looking and complex gadgets, that is why I collect antique tools. I turned this tiny thread box out of briar (best known for making smoking pipes out of) and old ivory. The tiny "port holes" are bushings for the thread to pass through and the balusters were just plain fun to turn. The clamp is cut out and polished from steel. As I recall the thread size is 0.8mm, about a 1/32". Ultra suede was used for the pin cushion. This is what happens sometime when I just "play" in the workshop, this was the first of I think 5 that I made.
Ladies Sitting room in Twin Manors
July 26 2020
The miniature upstairs ladies' sitting room in Twin Manors. I built this miniature house in the 1980s. This room, only 10" tall, contains some of my mother's needlepoint and the work of many well known miniature artists from that time. The shutters open and close and there is even a secret compartment in the window seat.
July 28 2020
Miniature English 19th c. Campaign Washstand. This 3" tall brass, copper and mopane traveling washstand can be taken apart, a tiny rosewood handled 2 pin spanner is included, and fitted into a dovetailed yew wood create. Campaign furniture was popular during England's colonial period where military officers on campaign could have all the fine trappings of a gentleman under a canvas tent. In some cases it took as many as 200 local laborers to carry the belonging of one officer. This is so they could enjoy fine dining, reading in a library filled with books, playing cards and games on mahogany tables while sitting in fine chairs atop plush oriental rugs.
Today making Campaign furniture is really fun, a challenge with the results being just plain cool looking with a history. @lostartpress even did a book on making campaign furniture. Over the years I have made a number of miniature pieces and hope to make more. In all my research on the subject, which I must add is about a different time period and has to be kept in historical context. My favorite quote is by H.O. Arnold-Forester, Secretary of the State for War, 1903, "The British Army is a social institution prepared for every emergency except that of war".
Spanner to take apart the wash stand
July 30 2020
Miniature rosewood handled 2 prong spanner wrench for taking apart the Campaign Wash Stand from yesterday.
Also check out @campaign_furniture
Christopher Clarke Antiques a shop that sells the full scale pieces, Great stuff on their insta page.
Till next month... stay safe, stay well.