Sharing the Half-Scale Love
By Kathryn Rubidoux (aka CatColorado)
When I was asked to write an article on half-inch scale for the Gazette, I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I said yes. All surprise aside; this is my favorite scale to work in. In order to spread the love, I will write about some of the discoveries I have made while collecting, decorating, building, and creating in half-inch scale.
My goal was noble at first; I planned to make everything to fill my dollhouse. That didn’t last long, and soon it became a quest to find beautiful treasures to collect and display. Dolls were the most illusive to track down. My first doll purchase was a painted porcelain kit. The kit was a pile of body parts with the face painted. I felt challenged and a little hopeless when it arrived; what did I know about wigging and dressing a doll, especially one that was just a bit longer than my thumb? I persevered and combed the net, looking at finished dolls and reading tutorials. Encouraged, I assembled the kit, dressed the doll in scraps of cloth, and wigged her with embroidery floss. I chose to make her somewhat modern in appearance because contemporary clothing was easier to make. My second doll was a little girl, made much in the same way. She turned out better than the first. Both dolls were barefoot because I had not yet learned how to make shoes for them. I have since purchased several artisan made dolls, and created a few of my own. There is something satisfying about owning a finely dressed doll. For one, it gives one an example of what is possible.
My second kit doll:
Artisan made (Sue Atkinson?):
My first polymer doll:
I think inspiration is the main thing that fuels my collecting. There is the joy of ownership, but there is also the thrill of realizing “I can do this too!” I have a bed by Bespaq that uses Penelope canvas to simulate the wicker in a headboard; I cannot begin to tell you how excited I was by that discovery. I also learned a new way of making a dust ruffle just by looking at the piece. Part of the enjoyment for me, is to be educated enough in miniature making techniques that I can identify how something is made and what tools and materials were used. The point is not to use this knowledge to make a copy of the original, but to fabricate my own creations. Also being educated about the subject allows me to make smarter purchases, I can evaluate the value of the piece I am considering and appreciate the relative skill that has gone into its creation. There should be a direct correlation between the time and skill involved in making the miniature, and the asking price. There is also the rarity of a piece, how many of them are available? This approach becomes doubly important in 1/24th scale, it is too easy to miss out on buying something unique because it seems too much, and overpay on something else that is commonly available.
I think one of the most important aspects to remember, is that each of the common dollhouse scales have their unique challenges. It may seem obvious, but 1/24th is not 1/12th. A cat is not a rabbit, even if you do tie long ears on the cat. The challenges associated with ½” scale include limited availability and variations in furniture sizes. While I do not have the power to solve the variations between manufacturers on the manufacturing level, there are ways of working around the problem on an individual basis.
Bash it! We do this all the time with houses, why not furniture? Most furniture will come apart with a little heat from a blow dryer, or with nail polish remover applied with a cotton swab. After that… chair too short, add a thin piece of wood between the seat and the legs. Want a different look? Adding fabric and padding to all or part of a chair completely alters the appearance of the piece, just remember to use natural fabrics because synthetics will resist gluing. I’ve used synthetics successfully, but it can be more aggravation than it is worth. Mix and match various furniture parts to come up with unique combinations.
Borrow it! Small items in 1/12th scale work as large items in 1/24th. Kittens become cats, jewelry chests become bedside tables. Plants can often make the transition well; I have a small 1/12th geranium that works beautifully in 1/24th. Palm plants become indoor trees.
Group it! By grouping like sized pieces together, it becomes less obvious that there is a size discrepancy. Also these smaller sized pieces can be essential in populating tight spaces such as attics and hallways.
As always, look at things through the eyes of a miniaturist, because sometimes the cut edge of a block of wood really does look just like the pages in a closed book, the tiny square bead becomes a box of tissues, and those paper dishes look mighty fine displayed upon their shelf.
Bonus! Half Scale Refrigerator Tutorial
To end with, I thought I would share a simple pattern for a side by side refrigerator I made. While this is a bare bones version, it could look quite fancy with a little added detail.
*Editor’s Note: Cat is an accomplished miniaturist working in both half and full scale. Visit Cat’s gallery here to see more of her beautiful creations.
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