Monday, December 31, 2012

Tutorial: Cutting boards and knives

Making miniature dollhouse cutting boards and knives (scale 1:12)

As I said in my other post today, I'll be posting a fair amount of tutorials in January to kickstart 2013. You're probably looking at your calender right now, aren't you? thinking; "it's the 31st of December!"... No! I hereby declare this day January the 0st... ehem, so let's get started, shall we? :)

Cutting boards are very easy to make but I have gotten questions about where I get them/how I make them in the past, so I'll be pairing it up with a short tutorial for making knives and hopefully you'll find it useful :)

 Materials needed:
-Wood (explanation below)
-Metal sheet (explanation below)
-Saw, metal shears or small lopping shears
-Sandpaper or file
-Acrylic paint if you want :)

If you're interested in my tutorial for making miniature plates click here

1) + 2) - For the cutting boards you'll need some wood. You can use a really thin sheet of wood and cut it out in the size you want, or you can use things like wodden stirring sticks for paint, wide popsicle sticks (at least that's what I call them.. got them from a local craft store) - matchsticks can make some cool looking cutting boards as well. Saw or cut out the boards in the size/shape you want and smooth the edges using some sandpaper or a file.
3) - If you want to add a little extra detail you can use your blade or knife to cut some lines in the surface of the wood. This will make the cutting board look like it's actually been used.
4) - To make the lines stand out, make the cutting board look more worn and just to add a prettier color, I thinned out some dark brown acrylic paint with water and applied it to the wood. As you can see I made a areas darker than the rest - not for any particular reason, I just like that look.
You now have your miniature dollhouse cuttingboard.


5) - For the knife you'll need some sheets of metal. You can find this at hardware stores OR you can use what you probably already have - cans. Try to use cans where the metal isn't too soft (to avoid curly and bent looking knives).
Don't worry if your can has a golden color on one side and silver on the other - if you're going to glue this down to a plate, cutting board or miniature scene this won't matter :)
6) - for the handle you can use polymer clay or wood - I chose wood. For this knife I used a matchstick (toothpicks make great handles as well). You can also use larger wooden sticks to create handles with more detail and curves. I used a file to make the matchstick thinner/more flat, smoother and rounded at one end, then used my clay blade to make a small cut at the other end, where the blade of the knife will be attached.
7) - Cut out a blade for your knife. If you notice, the cutting side of my miniature knife has a 'wavy' look, almost like a bread cutting knife - this is the pattern that my metal cutting shears leave, great for miniature knives! I cut the rest of the knife with a regular pair of scissors (not recommended if you want to be good to your scissors) to get a straight edge.
Glue the handle in place, let dry and paint it if you want. You can add more details, this is just a quick basic knife that'll look cool on your small cooking scenes.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review: 'Olba Hobbybox' - paper punch set

Review of Olba 25 piece paper punch set

This blog has its main focus on polymer clay, but today I'll be reviewing a tool for a different category - paper, though still within the theme of miniatures (You can use it for other paper crafts as well).

Let me know if any of you are interested in miniature flower making and I'll make sure to have a post up this weekend, going through the materials and tools I use.. (And a couple of flower tutorials at some point).

I bought this set back in April when I was attending a miniature fair here in Denmark. One of my "neighbours" at the fair had a bunch of paper punches (and other things), and when I saw this set I just had to have it. The manufacturer is a dutch company, click to visit their website.

On the website this set costs 86,75€ not including shipping. It's a lot of money, and if I hadn't had a stall at the fair (thereby some extra cash for new materials), I probably wouldn't have allowed myself to purchase it without further consideration. BUT, you can buy the pliers by themself (+ 2 punches), and you can buy the  rest of the punches in smaller sets. Unfortunately you're not able to pick out the punches individually as far as I'm aware - which is a downside if you only want a few of the patterns.

If it isn't already obvious, I got this set for 1:12 scale miniature flower making, paper punches are not an absolute must, but I very much recommend them, if this is something you want to make (You can buy cheap, awesome punches in various stores, so you don't need this particular set to start out with).
I've only made a few flowers, so I don't have a huge collection of punches - which is one of the reasons why I decided to buy this set. I thought it was really convenient to a lot of the tools needed, gathered in 1 practical plastic case, and at the same time get a nice variety of punches.


Here's a closer look at the tools included;

you get the pliers (thumbs up for the mm measuring part) and 21 different punches. You get a sharp exacto-ish knife with extra blades and you get a very fine pointed pair of tweezers and scissors.
And as you might be able to see in the first picture (first picture in this post) there are actually built in ball tools on the pliers at the end of the handles. I still use my regular dotting/embossing tools but I think it's a cool detail.

I don't feel like saying a whole lot of things about this set because it is what it is - paper punches. You can definitely find just as great tools by other brands, which are most likely cheaper and can be bought seperately. This is the kind of thing you have to consider whether or not it'll be worth it for you to buy. However, I'm very happy about this purchase and I'm sure this set will last me a long time. I have used it for a couple of flower projects and I like it a lot. I think it's a good quality product and if you ask me, it's worth the money.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cleaning,... my work area and a small haul

Cleaning,. my work area & a haul

I've spent the last couple of days cleaning my work area - it had been needing a good clean up for a long time! I'm very messy when it comes to crafting, and I can easily make my desk look like a warzone after only sitting there for a few hours. Usually I just put the stuff back into the different drawers, even if it doesn't really belong there, but this time there were no mercy! I've been going through all the drawers and every corner, throwing away a bunch of scrap clay/materials and some unfinished projects. As much as it hurts throwing so much stuff away, it feels really, really good! You suddenly feel a lot more creative and ready to make new things, when you have a clean desk with everything in its place - And it's so much easier to sit down, relax and immerse yourself in new projects, when your tools are not spread all over the place. 
I'll do my very best to keep everything nice and organized from now on, maybe have a weekly day for cleaning? One thing is for sure; I won't allow it becoming as bad ever again!

So here's my little corner where I do all my crafting. *Cough*, when I'm not sitting on the couch or at the dining table.. Nothing special really, but I like it. Of course I want to one day be able to have an etire room dedicated to crafts. But for now, this is what I have.
On my desk I keep my blades, knives, brushes and other often used tools + my box of scrap clay, pasta machine and a few random items. The 2 black units with many drawers are where I keep my polymer clay and miscellaneous bits and pieces. On top of the unit to the left of my desk I keep all my glazes, glues and liquid cays etc. The small units with 3 drawers in each hold all my ceramic plates, trays, cups and so forth.
Now, for the drawers in the larger storage units, I try to keep it as organized as I can - eg. there's 1 drawer for jewelry supplies, 1 for doll making supplies, 1 for doll hair, 1 for paint, 1 for ribbon, one for sof pastels and some for fabrics - you get  the picture, right? :)
The toolbox below the desk holds most of my paper and cardstock and the pink box on top of the toolbox holds my flower making supplies.

The three larger storage units I have (with drawers) are all from the same supermarket, but I bet many office supply stores carry them. Most of my smaller storage units are from the supermarket I work at, and the small containers are from a bunch of different stores, websites and ebay. I'm always on the hunt for new storage units because I never seem to have enough, and not buying new materials is not an option I'd consider.
It's ironic how the hobby "miniatures" can take up this much space..

I've also received a couple of packages; As you can tell by some of my previous posts I'm really loving the Efcolor enamel, and I decided to buy the Efcolor "oven/stove" set - again from It comes with the stove, 3 tea lights and a variety of stands/tools. I bought it for a few reasons; 1 - I can enamel anywhere at any time, 2 - I won't have to walk back and forth from my craft area to the kitchen oven, 3 - it's cheaper since the oven is powered by the tea lights.
I'll do some more experimenting before reviewing it :)

I also bought some more fabric - from a different website (though still danish). This time I mainly ordered fabric for miniature shoes and purses, but I also found some cute kids patterns and a few striped and checkered ones.
I love the 2 in the top right corner - it's a snake skin looking pattern (black and dark purple), of course it won't look exactly like snake skin in miniature but I'm sure the pattern will look awesome for a handbag!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Basics: Making polymer clay canes

Basics for polymer clay caning + Pink Grapefruit/Orange/Lemon/Lime cane tutorial

*Tips til at lave frugt-stænger af Fimo/Cernit til brug i miniature og dukkehus-projekter, smykker, dekorationer og meget mere*

Polymer clay caning is probably one of the most popular techniques, you can make canes and beads for use in jewelry, fruit slices or deco for mini food and nail art and so much more. I mainly do fruit and food canes that I can use in my miniature food projects, but I've also made some for my charms. One of my favorite canes I've ever made is my Hello Kitty cane. I actually made 3 with different background colors; pink, blue and green. You can find the tutorial I made for it here: Click here, I've been using this cane to decorate mini cupcakes, mainly.
I often get questions about canes and how to's for avoiding a disorded pattern, crumbly slices and so forth. Hope this post helps. I know the citrus fruit cane is one of the most basic canes you can make from polymer clay, but we all need to go back to the basics once in a while.

I am planning on posting tutorial for other fruit canes on this blog as well, little by little though, :) I'll be making the tutorials as I need to make new fruit slices for myself. This time I needed new grapefruit slices - for my ham that I showed in a previous post (ehem, the ham tutorial has been delayed... havn't had the time to edit it.

Grapefruit tutorial:
I always find a picture ofthe real thing so that I have a refference to work from. For this grapefruit I used a picture from Google.
1) - The colors I mixed for the fruit pulp (from left to right) is; Translucent Fimo red, Translucent Fimo white, Pink Cernit. I also mixed in a tiny bit of red Fimo soft.
2) - Roll and shape into a rather flat cylinder shape.
3) - For the white I mixed about 70% white Fimo with 30% white Cernit, but you can use 100% white from one brand. I added a small amount of yellow.
4) - The thickness of the white layers will depend on the size of the cane you're making. For mine I chose setting #7 on the pasta machine for the inside.
5) + 6) - Devide the pulp into as many sections as you'd like and cover every second slice with the white. As you can see I left some excess clay - push this inwards to help "curve" the edge of the sections.
7) + 8) - After pressing the cane together a bit I measured the white for the outside. For this layer I chose setting #5 on my pasta machine.
9) - for the peel itself I mixed some of the white mix with yellow Cernit and orange Premo.
10) - It's now ready to be rolled into a cane :)
11) + 12) - I rolled mine to an approx diameter of 7-8mm. You now have 2 options; Either bake and slice afterwards, or slice and then bake. The second method is more time consuming, but it also allows you to add texture to the slices. Bake at the temp. on the packages of clay for approx. 5-10 minutes.

Basics/Tips for cane making:
The clay you use: Not all brands of clay are good for making canes - Some brands are more crumbly after baking, so if you want to bake the canes and then cut them afterwards, you need to take this into consideration. Fimo is the brand I find is best for cane making, BUT, I use Fimo, Premo, Pardo and Cernit for my canes. If you've tried cutting a cane and the slices turn rather matte/white, a dap of water or glaze will fix this and refresh the color.
It's a good idea to use clays that are of the same consistency - some that are equally soft/firm.
The height of the cane while working on it is important too. Don't work with a piece that's too thick before it's even been rolled to a cane - this will make it harder to control what the middle will look like; Having a pretty end piece is pointless if the rest of the cane is disorded and crooked. A flatter piece is easier to manage.
Packing the cane: Before you begin rolling out the cane, make sure that there are no holes inbetween the layers, that'll cause the inside to be disorded once pressed together. Fill in all gaps - take your time, don't rush. Most canes can be made into "circles" (eg. Citrus, tomato, my Hello Kitty cane after adding the background), try to get as close to a circle shape as possible to avoid getting a messed up image.
When you're ready to roll out the cane; Begin by lightly pressing on the sides all the way around using your fingers. This will both close any air pockets and extend the cane, making it easier to roll it.
It isn't unimportant how you roll out the cane - don't just roll it slightly back and forth so only half the cane touches the work surface. The cane needs an equal amount of pressure on all "sides".

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Basics: Keeping away dirt, dust and fingerprints

Keeping dirt, dust and fingerprints away from your polymer clay

We all hate it!, having worked on a piece for so long.. and there! right there! tiny specks of dust or discoloration! or a fingerprint, ruining the look of an otherwise smooth surface... Even though it's almost impossible to avoid having that happen to your clay, it's not impossible to remove.
These are my ways of dealing with it, but feel free to share if you have some different methods :)
Work surface & clean hands:
These are the first 2 things to consider. A work surface that's dirty or attracts dust too easily + dirty hands will result in a dirty clay creation. I work on sheets of glass - those glass 'trays' made for holding candles. It's simple but effective :) I have a couple of different ones, so that I'm able to work on lots of projects at once,. Or maybe I just got another because I'm very messy when it comes to crafting. Glass is easy to clean whether you've been playing with glue, paint or other sticky mediums. Clean hands are important as well - You can wash your hands with soap and water, but I honestly never do that, as soon as you touch something; a chair, your table etc. your hand will pick up dust again. Baby wipes are very useful to clean both your hands and work surface - especially if you've been using pastels or dark colored polymer clay, and they're easy to keep near you instead of having to go to the bathroom/kitchen multiple times to wash your hands.
My favorite item for cleaning both my hands and work surface though, is polymer clay. A white or light colored piece of clay is excellent for removing all bits of dust - roll it between your hands and on your wor surface. I usually mix about 50% Fimo soft (white or flesh) with 50% Fimo mix quick to make it extra sticky.
Keeping my hands and work surface clean (and cleaning it multiple times while working) almost takes care of any dust problems for me. But often when I sculpt dolls or use my pasta machine without cleaning it (which I never really do), the clay can pick up a bit of dust or small bits from other clay colors.

Removing dust and discoloration from unbaked clay:
- If I see just a few dust grains I'll use the tip of my exacto knife to pick it up. If you do this carefully it won't even leave any marks, but if you make a small nick into the clay it shouldn't be too hard to smooth out.
- If I've rolled out a thin piece of clay on the pasta machine and it shows specks of dust or discoloration, I'll use my clay blade; Holding it in a slight angle and scraping it across the piece, will allow it to pick up everything. You might need to repeat this a couple of times, but it's effective.

Removing dust and discoloration from baked clay:
- As for unbaked clay I often just use the tip of my exacto knife to remove dust on baked clay. Unless the grains of dust have been pushed further down into the clay, this should get rid of it easily.
- Sandpaper/Files For things like dolls (arms, legs, torso) or larger jewelry pieces and so forth, sandpaper and files are probably one of the best ways to remove dust from baked clay. Don't use a very rough grid though, as this will make the clay surface look scratched and uneven. You can buy a set of files from ebay, often used for doll making in larger scales to file between fingers or define nostrils, a set comes with 8 or 10 (I think) metal files in a few different shapes and they're worth the money if you ask me.

- In one of my first polymer clay videos on youtube (Where I showed how to make a chocolate dipped strawberry for use with deco den) I used a piece from a plastic bag and pressed it on top of the clay to create a nice smooth surface.
- Using your fingers.. This is what I do the most when making jewelry and miniatures, and you always have your hands.. well, on hand, so why not use them? :) Far most of the time I'll simply use my finger to smooth out any prints left on the clay.
- If working with very tiny pieces that I HAVE to hold to work on them (eg. miniature apples), I'll apply some potato starch to my fingers. This really helps, though it's still possible to leave prints in the clay.
- Gloves. You can always use a pair of latex gloves. This will keep prints from your fingers away for good, but a lot of latex gloves still have a very fine texture that might be seen on your creations, + latex gloves take away part of your sence of touch, and can make some things harder to do, so they might not be suitable for all projects.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tutorial: Making glass like polymer clay eyes

Making glass like eyes from polymer clay

The method I use + alternatives explained

Did I say something about posting a review?... I have got to stop predicting which posts I'll be doing! Hope you don't mind getting a tutorial instead. This tutorial will be showing you how to create glass like polymer clay eyes to use for your dolls/sculptures or even charms :)
You can buy glass eyes from various websites but they can be quite expensive and I honestly don't want to pay that much! So I thought, "why not make some eyes myself?"..

I don't use these eyes for all my dolls (actually I havn't used them for more than a couple of babies so far. I'm not going to use them for my portrait dolls - I prefer painting those on instead, but I love these especially for babies because then you don't need to worry about painting something that fine and delicate.

Materials needed:
-White and black polymer clay
- Polymer clay in the color of the eye (iris)
- Liquid clay (preferably fimo deco gel)

The method shown is just the way I prefer doing it - I will be explaining a few alternatives to creating eyes as well.
This tutorial will show you how to make the eyes I used for my 'Sour Zombie cupcake pendant', if you want to use them for miniature dolls there are some steps you can skip as you won't need as many details for such a small scale.

Hope you'll enjoy the tutorial :)

*Dette er trin for trin anvisninger til at lave realistiske glas-lignende øjne til dine dukker, skulpturer eller andre polyler projekter. Du kan sagtens bruge Fimo/Cernit til at lave flotte dukkeøjne, fremfor at bruge penge på glasøjne*

1) - Start out by mixing the colors you want to use for your eye. There's no rules as to how many different shades you should work with, the larger the eye you want to make, the more shades you shoul probably use to make it look more realistic (depending on the eye color of course). Take a look at a picture or your own eyes and copy the colors you see. I chose to make blue eyes with green near the pupils.
2) - Roll out each of the colors. They don't need to be the same thickness, sometimes the darker shades will only appear as a very fine 'outline'. Stack them.
Now, if you are going to make eyes for miniature dolls like the baby sculpture I have a picture of above, you can skip the next 7 steps and go straight to adding the pupil. You can also do this if you're going to make larger eyes, but I recommend to follow at least the next couple of steps to get a more realistic effect.
3) + 4) - I'm using the dull site of an exacto knife to push into the clay - making that pattern you see in eyes. You can do as many cuts as you'd like. Using the dull as oppose to the sharp side of the knife helps to "drag" the clay and create a more defined pattern.
5) - To get an even more detailed design I decided to cut the piece into slices, then putting them back together in "zigzags".
6) + 7) + 8) - Push the pieces of clay even closer together. Keep pressing the sides and begin stretching it as a regular polymer clay cane.
9) - Cut the cane into smaller pieces and line them up next to eachother. Make sure that the new piece is long enough to go around the pupil size you want.
10) - Add a log of black polymer clay and wrap the iris color around it.
11) - wrap a few layers of white around it as well and begin rolling out the cane. Roll it as thin as the size of eyes you wish to make. If in doubt you can roll it out, cut off a piece and test the next steps in the tutorial to see what your finished eye will look like, you can always make the cane thinner.
12) - Cut out lots of slices. The thickness you should go for is the approx. height you want your finished eye to have :) Now use your fingers to flatten the edges and making a half circle (dome shape). I used one of my larger ended embossing tools to round of the edges on my tiny doll eyes though.
13) - Don't worry about the pupil or iris not being as round as you want. Of course it's best to get as close to the correct shape as possible, but you can use a rounded tool to push the clay a bit and correct it. If you have a ball tool in the size of the iris use it to press down the clay a bit, so you get a flat top.
14) - Now it's time for the liquid clay. Add a small drop to the top, covering the iris and pupil. Bake for about 5-10 minutes and you're done :) once you've finished your charm/sculpture/piece you can glaze the eye to give it that final touch.


Though the cane can be made in any size you want, you might just want to make a couple of pairs of eyes or use a different technique. You can as an example make the white dome shape in the size you want and flatten the top. You can then simply paint the iris and pupil on with acrylic paints before ading the liquid clay, this will make awesome eyes as well. Now, there's a method I've thought of, but I havn't tested (and I therefore don't know if it'll burn) but I'm imagining that you could print out some iris-pictures from your computer and place them on top of the flat topped dome shape, then add the liquid clay. If this works it'll save you all the trouble of painting pretty eyes... but I definitely think it's a lot more fun to make them entirely by hand.
For most of the dolls I've made to far I've baked small dome pieces of white polymer clay (without flattening the top), then I've sculpted those into the clay and painted with acrylics after baking - it works great as well :)

Hope you found this useful.
Ask if you have any questions! :)