Sunday, 19 January 2014

1:12 scale Woodturning

I think, the sofa is almost finished! Since I last posted about it, it has had the sides ripped off and replaced, as one side had an edge that hung too low. That side is now almost perfect. However the other side, is now a bit bumpy. But I think it has got to the stage where the phrase "Shabby chic" comes in really useful. Every mistake can be dismissed with the excuse "shabby chic", "old" or "antique" or my favourite, "rustic". Also it is supposed to be 100 years old anyway....

I wanted turned feet on this sofa, as it was based on a late Victorian, early Edwardian Howard and Sons sofa, so I bought a lathe. I really needed a lathe :D I got a Proxxon one, DB250, and the Proxxon lathe tool set. I bought those quite some time ago,  and I watched quite a few lathe videos on youtube, mostly miniature related ones, but my first attempt was disastrous, mostly because I was afraid of it. Then about a week ago, I tried again. 

The only major problem I have with the sofa is the height of the seat, it is at the maximum, but only at the the edges. A seat height, is usually between 16 and 18 inches, and the sofa seat would be at the maximum, near the sides, but because of the puffy padding, it is sitting at 4.5 cm in the middle, that is 21 inches in lifesize! I could have left out the castors, but that was an absolute NO! For the time being, I am content with it as is.

Slightly wonky, but hey, it's an antique :D The castors are by Houseworks, and they are topped with a brass ring, that was cut from the brass tubing left over from the bed.

The first turning was the darning mushroom, then I turned a few more things, then I built up the nerve to have a go at making the sofa feet. I made the first one freestyle. When I tried to make the second one, the daunting task of a copy, I tried to do this by eye, and a few measurements, and it wasn't happening. I knew there was a tool for doing that kind of thing, I can't remember what it is called, but it works with the same principle as this crude needle contraption. 

So, this is the needle contraption against the copy, and those needles have the profile of the first foot, as you can see, it isn't fitting, but it was close enough for me :D I spent most of the afternoon on it, and IT'S FINISHED :D They are now sitting at 13.5cm apart, no one will ever know they are not the same at that distance! 

My first successful wood turning. And to celebrate, I had to take a photo. Then I got out some wire wool, to sand it as it spinned, and the wire wool wrapped around it, and broke it off, which is why the finished (brown stained one) doesn't have the little ball on the end. I don't think I have ever switched a machine off so quickly. It was terrifying, my hair was tied back, I had my goggles on, there were no sleeves near the machine, but when you are working with a lathe, it lulls you into thinking it is perfectly safe. Once you have found the true centre of the dowel you can no longer see the spinning, so the object you are turning looks static, so when something fast and unexpected happens it is a bit alarming. The machine is switched off in this photo, I could just imagine the camera cord getting wrapped up in those jaws to the left :D Am I selling the lathe? :D

Despite the fact that the lathe is TERRIFYING, you can make all sorts of great stuff, and you feel very proud of your perfectly symmetric objects at the end of it all. Each object took about half an hour to an hour to turn. I used wood files and sandpaper strips, to do the final shaping. It is incredibly satisfying. Though I will need to get a dust mask....*cough*

And at the end of the photo shoot, the sun came out........

There are many things you could make for a miniature house with a lathe, so despite it being a bit pricey, I highly recommend it. Once you get used to it, and take ALL safety precautions seriously :D, I think it is a great little investment. I am going to make a guard for the jaws though, with a plastic cup or something, as I tend to daydream......... :D I used various sizes of Birch dowel rods, which I bought from Cornwall model boats, which were used for all of the turnings.

One thing not to do when turning, is to remove an unfinished piece, as you would lose the true centre. If you were to put the dowel back in, the turned section would waggle. In order to make a symmetrical turning, there must be no visible waggling as the rod rotates, the piece should look static as you work. That is also when you start to shape the piece. I noticed the smaller dowels waggled a lot on the lathe, which meant I had to remove quite a bit of wood, thus making the diameter a lot smaller. The larger dowels waggled less so. I also had to work quite closely to the jaw end as well, less waggling down at that end, hence why I want to make a guard, and completely avoid the possibility of a tool bit sticking out of my head :D There is a device that holds the rod at the other end, which prevents the waggling, but I preferred to work without that. On the whole though, I think it is a great little lathe and I wouldn't be without it, I have a long list of what I can make using it.


  1. The sofa is absolutely stunning. I wouldn't have noticed any difference in the feet if you hadn't pointed it out. Actually I still can't! I'm so with you about the lathe. I was given a Unimat 3 from a friend and the first thing I did (even though I'd used lathes in the past) was hold the chisel too high on the rest and it flipped forward, hit the wall and bounced back at me. I was terrified to use it for months after that. It looks like you're getting the hang of it. Your turnings are fab! =0D

  2. Thank the heavens for Wikipedia because between language differences and complete ignorance from my side, I needed to find out what a lathe is. Got it. Respect!!!!
    I have no idea what differences you are talking about. They all look the same to me! Nothing shabby, used, antique about your sofa. It's gorgeous!!

  3. Fantásticos trabajos en madera y las piñas me encantan, mucho cuidado en los detalles perfecto y precioso.
    Un abrazo.

  4. The sofa is absolutely stunning Sarah!! I don't think the seat is too high. And who could notice the difference between the different feet????.....nobody!!! :) I love the miniature items you made yourself!! Wow!! I love wood and as you said there are many, many things that you could make with a turning tool for a dollhouse and not only!! So looking forward of seeing more wood items created by yourself. I love them. Well done!!

  5. The sofa is gorgeous!
    I loved the small objects of wood turning.

  6. Congratulations Sarah, great job on the sofa, it looks wonderful. I would love to learn how to turn wood. You have made such sweet legs and look forward to seeing more.
    I was at Elizabeth's last Tuesday with Fatima and as part of our mini get together she brought out her amazing collection of beads and we made a set of bottles to go on a little tray. I used her crystal beads as I am a pushover for anything shiny.
    I hope to post pics of our projects.. We had such a lot of fun together.
    Regards Janine

  7. I'm impressed, it's all so well done. I'm a big fan of your beautiful sofa legs.

  8. Your sofa is stunning, Sarah, I can't see the difference too! Your miniature wood turnings are great, well done!
    About the lathe: precautions are very important to work with this kind of machines, I have experienced by myself. I nearly cut my top of my thumb with the buzz saw: I took all precautions for the work, even wearing a dust mask. I used a piece of wood for pushing the piece of wood that I was sawing along the saw, then it happened: the piece of wood was struck away by the saw and my thumb hit the sawing blade, ouch! At that time I already worked several years with this machine and until then never happened anything, but I'll never forget this. Nowadays I am very careful with those killing, but oh so helpful machines ;)!
    Hugs, Ilona

  9. Your sofa is just lovely and it hasn't gone unnoticed that the pattern is bang on all the way from the top of the back to the front of the seat - well done for that.

    After reading what you've said regarding the lathe, I think I'll leave that experience to other people! Well done on mastering it though, your little minis are excellent.

  10. I also love your beautiful sofa, it's perfect (even though it might have a minor imperfection according to you, it still is I think, and handwork is allowed to). I have ordered a lathe a few years ago, to use someday, but something to get the hang of I guess and learningcurves. Goggles don't sound crazy either, I see myself with something shooting away in my eye. And your bear turned out just as lovely, just love your work!

  11. Sarah, your blog is fabulous. You're a great artist. I've just come here and am going to spend a while reading everything back now. I'm absolutely enchanted with your work :). Lots of hugs, Gosia.

  12. je trouve ce canapé superbe, une différence de pieds ? Ah !
    Les petits objets en bois, sont très bien faits.
    Amicalement. rosethé

  13. Hello Sarah,
    Terrific work. The sofa is beautiful and your turning is superb. It might be a bit high by our standards, but I have seen older pieces of furniture that were taller then todays norm. It looks terrific.
    Big hug,

  14. I relly like the sofa. The small objects are amazing.
    Greetings, Faby

  15. Your sofa is gorgeous. the legs are fantastic. I love all your items fantastic work.
    Hugs Maria

  16. Привет Sarah!
    Мне очень нравится ваш блог и ваши миниатюры! Прекрасная работа!

  17. Beautiful and perfect work!

  18. Has hecho un buen trabajo. Las piezas son perfectas.

  19. Hello Sarah! I am always so Impressed and Amazed by your cleverness and your creativeness! Your sofa is simply wonderful and looks ready to have someone stretched out and reclining comfortably against those beautiful cushions, only needing a throw to keep them warm while reading a favorite book! The fact that you decided to turn your own legs for it, doesn't surprise me at all. It is total harmony with what you challenge yourself with all the time. And just look how it has paid off. Not only that, but the kitchen utensils( for which I am a sucker for), are not the work of a novice but an artist.
    If this is the beginning of your wood-turning career, then what will tomorrow hold!? :D


  20. Hi. Just found your blog. It's very very inspiring and you are super talented!

  21. Hola Sarah, he encontrado tu blog por casualidad,y lo tengo entre los favoritos para lectura. Gracias.

  22. Chris M. (aka Meezer Mama)16 February 2014 at 05:03

    Sarah, your work is great! I love it! I particularly liked your suggestion about using a needle contour tool; a lathe-duplicator can be pricey and difficult to set up.
    I am an avid miniature turner but I, too, am nervous of the jaws on my chuck (they are knuckle-busters for sure! Ask me how I know ... ) Anyway, I painted the edges of the jaws with bright orange paint so I can see them more readily. You might want to consider using the collets; they will hold small diameter dowels in place without using the chuck - safer, and wastes less stock.
    Keep on turning!


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