Wrestling an attic


Beginning to get a bit of a flow

I can’t decide whether, over the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve brooded over so many different roof combos of ridge and dormer that the brain has fused, or may be it’s that I’m looking at the whole thing with a different perspective at last.  Whatever the reason the attic is beginning to take on shape.

Previous difficulties/problems with the mock-ups were that they all looked:

  • too high at the peaks
  • too low at the valleys
  • too squat and wide
  • top heavy for the rest of the structure
  • too far from reality.

You get the general drift.


working an idea out in light-weight cardboard and masking tape

Working out an idea with 3 front-to-back ridges and mini dormers in between.  So what would be holding what up there?  Sheesh!

This week, after many, many runs at it I may or may not have stumbled on a working hypothesis of a shape.

On the way to ‘here’ from ‘there’ I’ve tried out 2 front-to-back ridges with a small central cross ridge and a further forward flowing ridge with large rectangular dormer over the centre front of the house (my favourite) and 3 ridges front to back with no cross ridges.

I found that the first ideas kept causing dead areas where imaginary rain could not get away or the side walls were so low internally in most parts of the attic that they raised more questions than they answered. Where would the doors go, how useful would the remaining spaces be, are all the bits really supported by anything etc?

Trying it out

rough plan of areas

The back of the building is at the top.
The grey area is the cross ridge.
The dotted areas are the rooms

Going for shape and removability

The only way I can take it forward is to build a skeleton and see if it really works. At present I’m using balsa strips to construct a framework and trying it on for size as I go.

floating covers over wiring

The cross ridge line runs more towards the front of the building, overlapping the trays and I think it’s going to involve use of pillars here and there to ‘hold it up’.  Some of the central ridge will overhang the higher area towards the wiring.

I’ve divided the attic area into lighting control areas at back left and right with a small domestic area between. Moving forward, next there’s a central band across, partly as a corridor, that makes up the central ridge, off which the dormers flow forwards and back.   (see above diagram)

Still sticking with the idea of being able to remove the attic, I’m building the skeleton as tray sections. Some of the wiring of this rather large house travels a long way to get to the attic and damage en route will probably be inaccessible in many cases, but I would like this last long run of wiring to remain totally accessible if possible.  To enable this, some of the area has had loose box-style lids added and some ‘floating’ card covers where appropriate, all lightly held down with glue dots. The trays I’m building sit on top of these covers and I’m using as much reclaimed wood for to build them as possible, ie pieces already used earlier in the project and then rejected and hoarded.

Flying tea-trays

The front left and central areas I’m building as one removable section and the deeper back to front right-hand section I’m making as a separate tray. At the moment they work, that is they fit together and are removable but there’s a long way to go yet.

08_3637 2 trays 3 areas across front

Viewing from the side with the single, larger section nearest – 3 tray areas across the frontage

The wood

I still buy the majority of balsa strips from the same place as when I started the whole project. No doubt laziness on my part but back then the learning curve being so steep (as on most days it still is now I come to think of it) I found it easy to get totally confused with who sold what.  Even with a home-made data base, the relative prices of each width and type of wood etc muddied the already murky waters so that in the end I resorted to trying out  the internal beam kits sold separately by Maple Street for some of their selection of Tudor of dolls house kits. Each bundle of balsa that I’ve bought has a fixed number of 3 different sections of wood, the number for each size depending on the kit. The one I’ve just re-ordered is the Guildhall Internal beam Kit as I’m being cheap-skate and it’s the cheapest Maple Street sell. They now have 3 ready-cut beam kits, the Guildhall, Coach Inn internal beam Kit at £10 dearer and a new one, Antique Shop Internal beam Kit at a price somewhere in between. I find them very convenient, and although am still not entirely sure it’s the cheapest way to get a bundle of balsa strip, it feels like it is and saves me a great deal of hassle when ordering.

09_3643 Guild Hall internal beam kit

Bundle arrived from Maple Street and sold as Guildhall internal beam kit

The order just received appears to contain 50 pieces, about 18” long (45.75 cms) made up of 18 @ 12 mm x 5 mm, 28 @ 17.5 mm x 5 mm and 4 @ 12 mm x 12 mm. Presumably the instructions for the proper use of this specific number of lengths are included in the full house building kit for their Guildhall. I use them wherever I fancy and find the bundle of balsa a handy size and number to store, made up of easily adaptable widths and with a very quick turn-around on order to delivery time even out here in the wilds.

10_3638 area to work on next - bed and corridor

Central area to work on next. The white space at the bottom right and the step up next to it are planned to be an open box bed area once the other half of the platform is added to the floating white piece.

Next job is the central cross ridge. I’m more than a little worried about this expecting it to be a bit of a fight, but it’s a puzzle and I like puzzles so onwards and definitely upwards with the attic.

Sites illustrating styles that have floated through my head

Gainford Hall roof

Stratford roofs

Little Moreton Hall courtyard – roof

Row of houses Holborn photo 1927

The Old Wool Hall, Lavenham – photo link page

and the bottom photo on same site page 4


Guesstimates and the draping of cardboard


Trying the same thing …

Protective coverings over the running wiring and work on the different floor levels are almost done. Current workings are on triangles – of, and in, varying dimensions. Not so clear that. Well, some are bigger than others, some are two-dimensional and some are three. It’s involved me and a calculator.  And all the triangles are for the roof.

Img_3617  sm gable on LG lge over girls room

Workings of the last five days – when I’ve not been mixing sand and cement and laying cobbles in wet mortar

Expecting a different outcome

(attributions various)

Dressmaking the roofing

I’ve looked at and played with this numerous times over the past two to three years and postings regarding it have mostly been binned they were so bad. These earlier attempts were both too half-hearted and far too top heavy.

The problem

This is a large area to cover both side to side and from back to front, so a single ridge is impossible and a couple of ridges ditto.

I looked at three ridges running from front to back as being the simplest, with dormers added along the sides runs. On the whole that would be the best solution but it would still leave an area (just behind the central left-right axis) where the head room would need to involve limbo dancing dolls for a figure to get from one side to the other.

So I’ve thought about it and dreamt about it, drawn it and cut out card bits and kept some of the bits that I thought might come in handy and then generally put off the whole thing by doing something else entirely – like the porch and the street outside.

Favoured parameters for the job

  • gable angles, dormer ridges to be less than ninety degrees
  • head room for workable/usable spaces in the attic
  • two to three bedrooms (for an adult couple, a couple of young boys and possibly for a live in tutor)
  • overall look to be more or less proportionate to the rest of the building

What I’ve been doing is not, strictly speaking dressmaking, so much as draping cardboard over the body shape of the attic to get an overall look, like designing a dress.  Today’s trawl through recent activity further illustrates my daftness over working on the roof.  In order to overcome the headroom probs I’ve added complexity again.

It’s still a mock up and I’ve used many of the bits from the last attempt whilst cannibalising others.  Results show a rough look for one side of the house and a little of the central area.

It’s hard to judge how much of this draping and taping can be used as an accurate template for the final run as, to make it easier to work on, the light-weight card I’m using distorts and moves a bit. It may prove necessary to build some of this first half to give a firmer section to work to.  But it might just be possible to work it out all the way round at least roughly before really getting down to the final build.

Img_3621  gables all

Looking along the side – two large dormers and a little one on this side’s lighting controls

A lengthy period of prep


Sending a hasty scrawl from the scaffolding

Lighting checks all round

(the following 2 photos should click to enlargements – bit fuzzy as low light but bigger)

theinfill dolls house blog - the infill - Medieval, Tudor, Jacobean 1:12 dolls house - lighting checks all round

Front face lit up and closed (mostly)

theinfill dolls house blog - the infill - Medieval, Tudor, Jacobean 1:12 dolls house - lighting checks all round

and front face opened up

Followed by a run around the rest of the house

(click on a pic below to see the gallery and be able to read the larger captions as well as enlarge some of them using the link down to right of image in the gallery)

I’ve reached a stage of build where all the more ‘interesting’ bits of work must more or less cease, thinking caps must be worn and tidying must be carried out.

All the lights have been tested some of the candle bulbs need a little tap or twist for encouragement sometimes but all in all I’m pleased to report that only one (an LED with thick wiring) has dropped out.  That’s due to the use of a joint block connector slipping and my being unable to get it to reconnect adequately, so I’ve written that one off and will do something else, more accessible, in its place when I return to that area.

The sorting and tidying


As you can see, there are obvious areas where, on first glance, you’d think it was probably time to finish the external walling and build the chimneys, but I need to hold off on them until the electric controls/sockets etc are fixed in position and are as tidy and as fixed as I can make them. All wiring on the larger part of the house runs upwards and the wiring to the mains from the socket strips will therefore run downwards, down inside the shallow chimney stacks and off to the mains, coming out at the bottom of the chimneys at table level. (The model sits on a wheeled table.)

theinfill dolls house blog - the infill - Medieval, Tudor, Jacobean 1:12 dolls house - lighting checks all round

My version of tidied and labelled on one side of the attic area. Many of those lights are LEDs whose wiring has been extended to reach this point, so hopefully there will be no overload

The Attics

This is quite a large house and these attics will probably be sitting at approximately 4’ 6” – 6’ (140 cms – 185 cms). Now, as I’ve harped on about before, I’m 4’ 9 ish” and I have no fancy to do the whole build of this section whilst walking the plank between two ladders, constantly getting up and down for the necessary items (which translates as whatever I’ve forgotten to take up there with me!)

The Master Plan(k)

Walking the plank tasks

  • finalise the measurements, proportions and angles of the roof shape
  • sort the electrics, protecting them and building the necessary walls to keep their areas separate
  • box off any necessary area where extensions or 3 way sockets etc are housed
  • lay down a removable but firmly held false floor over the remaining attic area, protecting all the cables lying across it and making any adjustments to the levels for the attic base to sit on
  • cut out the base to sit on the above separate floor for what I hope will be a removable attic section(s)
    —  this is the interesting bit, as I’m not yet sure whether to build it in a rather large ‘oner’ which will make it necessary for two people to remove it, or have it in more manoeuvrable sections –  sections make more physical sense but tailoring the bits to fit each other when in place is a little worrying.

Ground level

Once the attic base size(s) is/are “adequately fitted” and the proposed roof angles checked and rechecked, the hope is to then continue the attic build at floor walking level, ie on the workbench, with on-going checks as work progresses (or stalls).

Meanwhile up the ladder I go, from whence I’ll no doubt call down progress reports from time to time.  (“Rod for my own back” I know – and I don’t much like ladders :( )

Img_3550 sit and din plus steps and office

View from left

Img_3553 across the front

and right

Experiments with light


The jobs that time forgot #2

Long Gallery

Spot the differences
Aha! I can see the end wall now

(The lighting strip used above appears at the very end of the piece)

I do like playing with light. It is part of the structure of the scene and its setting and therefore is as important to me as the furniture. There are two main types of lighting in the scenes I make.  One to flavour and dress the period and the 12th-scale-world use of the space, and one to add mood and illuminate said period and space.

From the beginning of learning about miniaturing, all the little lighting bulbs and associated fixtures worried me:

  • my fingers aren’t nibble enough
  • so many small bulbs, shades etc needing attention
  • very little light offered by them overall.

I wanted scene lighting to punctuate some areas with more light and contrast which is why I became attracted to the LED strips, and I’ve used LED strips from very early on in my lighting of the model, the being first in the Great Hall area. That section is so deep and shadowed under the balcony that it has at least three strips in it, angled and masked or pointing straight down.

theinfill dolls house blog - the infill - Medieval, Tudor, Jacobean 1:12 dolls house - Great Hall lighting below the balcony

For example:  the young man amongst roses was in heavy shadow skulking below the balcony and the candle above him did very little, so have added a 3 cell LED strip, angled down a little, behind one of the support beams.

For a period of time I only used the ready-made strips bought from Micro Miniatures. At that time they seemed to offer the longest wiring.  They also sell rolls of LEDs that you can cut to length and solder, but my soldering is about as good as my wood cutting, and equally does not seem to get better with practice, so I’ve stuck with the ready prepped strips ever since, (and very good they are too), but also slowly added a little variety. Instead of the three cell ones used at first, I’ve also bought strips of multi heads and single LED bulbs from other suppliers. The singles I’ve used under the machinery in the Steampunk-ish, word churning machine project and the multi cell in the house model.

Light strips I have known and loved

And what I did to them

The big thing about using LEDs is that it does matter which is the live and which the return.  So all blocks/sockets/plugs etc need a bit of marker pen on them to match up your wiring.  I usually use a Sharpie pen and just put an L where I can, often on a bit of a sticky label.

(click on an image to access the gallery and read the longer captions if you scroll down a little, as well as getting to the link – just down to the right of gallery – for larger image)

The only way the observer can see the oddly placed unit in James’ office is if they were to lie down on the floor, which is what I did to get the photo.

Back to the little light experiment

(The first three photos at the top of the piece)

Today’s experiment in the Long Gallery is with a new LED light strip design, at least it’s new to me and might just save me from all the faffing around I tend to do, trying to shield and angle lighting quite as often.

 As you can see they are set in the side of the strip, giving a totally different lighting effect. These lovely novelties come from the Top LED Shop who have a wide range of different possibilities.  Like all the lighting suppliers, I’m finding it a bit like being let loose in a sweet shop and may pick a different ‘flavour’/shape next time.  I’ll let you know how I get on using these particular ones elsewhere.  I can see them being useful around doorways as well as windows and at skirting level too.

The wiring question

These new ones also have the very thick, stiff wiring that all the suppliers I’ve tried so far seem to be using now.  The wiring is not very long at all and I do find extending them a bit of a pain, probably because I can never get these wires to stay in the connection blocks any better than the thinner ones they used to have.  Also the connectors come rarely in a convenient place in the geography of the building and so, for me, limit the choice of position.

I’m extending the wiring using ordinary medium grade doll’s house wire, splitting out the two sections, and wrapping the join with sheathing on top to get around this problem.  I use red coloured sheathing on the live join and red marker pen at the other end of the same wire (or a smaller piece of coloured sheathing) so the extension cable can be easily matched up to the live and return.

It still gives a bulky join but it seems more stable and does make it easier to play around with the positioning of the lights while leaving me with a wider choice of position for the lighting.


The jobs that time forgot


#1 Closing off the corridor

Working backwards – unravelling the tale of the 1:12 window

Most of the items listed in the captions are from the usual mix of suppliers, but the clock moulding is from Old and New Times.

For the rest of the back story here are some links re the making and decorating of the corridor and the building up of our Polonius figure hovering therein.

Feeling virtuous, having sorted one of the undone jobs, am considering moving on to the next!  I’ll let you know how I get on – assuming I do – get on, that is.

Just a little more drying time


From here to there

I’ve tried to make as many items as possible but have bought in the greenery (4D Model Shop for the bush greenery and the grass clumps are from Tajima 1 Miniatures on Ebay), the basket for stacked washing by the drying bank (from Tiny Craft on Ebay) and the bucket balanced by the water pump (from Oak Tree Miniatures).  The magnificently detailed washtub and the two other wonderful buckets are from Ashwood DesignsAll other items, including longer grass tussocks, tiles and slabs, hillock, hurdles, sheep, dolls, linens drying on the wall and hanging in and on buckets, are homemade.  The water effects vary according to where they’ve been added – the thick triple glaze gloss for a lot of it, a gloss clear acrylic on some of the textiles and Vallejo Textured Water to add rough bits near the pump, though the Oak Tree Miniatures bucket came with ‘water’ in it.

Round and round the garden

Sploshing and Splooshing

A wash day story

So that’s it.  Mostly finished, just waiting for some of the water effects to finally dry out completely.  Perhaps another week?

Now it’s back to fixing the things I haven’t finished to-date.  Yippee!

Gardening with any scale that works for me


Buying in supplies

I’ve been ‘out’ shopping and spent my pennies (and then some) on Mini Natur® supplies from 4D Model Shop.  I’ve gone for some Agricultural Strip packs in autumn colours, summer Ivy (LP00025) “suitable for models 1:45+” and garden flower strips (yellow) – “a continuous double-ended row of flowers, suitable for tall flowers at 1:87 to short flowers at 1:10″.

What do they look like and where


 (The photos were taken with the street section reversed.  The terracotta tiles and newly leaved bushes are normally directly in front of the family dining room and the washer woman would be facing outwards.)