Monday, February 25, 2013

Undersized Urbanite-The "Unfinished" Basement

First I'd like to catch you up on what's been going on since my last post;

I was briefly recruited to help finish a life sized redecorating project. It was planned for Wed. afternoon, but then it was moved to Thurs, the day I planned to write up, "Polymer clay, Part 2" (part 1 is here), and then still had to be finished on Sat. To make things more fun, my task was holding a decorative border up above my head until it was properly pasted to a wall, and then moving around furniture just enough to aggravate and old sports injury in my shoulder (I will never forget swim team). Add that to the awful coughing that started somewhere during that time-frame and you have all of my excuses as to why 'Part 2' has yet to exist. Aside from the cough, all is back to normal , so I'm hoping to get back on track this week.


Also falling behind on the Undersized Urbanite project, I spent most of Sunday working on that. Determined to make up for my busted blogging schedule by having something finished to show you, I focused the basement. I still needed to add the mortar to a side wall, which I did, and then I made the floor;

Left over egg carton scraps glued to a floor template to looks like packed stone. After this I painted it to fill in all of the white showing through the gaps (note self-paint template first next time).

Then I made the ceiling;

Basically the same thing, except that it's strips of balsa wood and Popsicle sticks this time.Gave it a few brown wash coats to make it look like aged wood after all of the glue dried.

Lined the room with doubled sided tape;

And finally slid all of the pieces into place;

It needs more tape and some touch ups, but I think I can cross this room off of my list.

The original plan involved a washer/dryer, but that was before I decided to go with the Steampunk theme. So the new plan is either storage, or, as my clever little brother (who will not openly admit to liking the dollhouse) suggested,  I can set up the room to look like the tiny residents are in the middle of trying to remodel their unfinished basement. That decision is going to come down to how much time I have after I put the rest of the house together. For the record, with basement in place, it currently looks like this;

The exterior pieces are almost done, started on the roof(but not the chimneys yet), and the main floor should be read to go soon. The plan for the second floor is a bedroom, while the the top floor gets to be a library/observatory-because that just seems like something my tiny fictitious Steampunks would have in their house.

It's far from done, but I like how it seems to be turning out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Feels Like First

A place online where you might be surprised to find miniatures; DeviantArt. Recently, the DA staff was talked into adding a miniature section (It's under, "Artisan Crafts", btw), but outside of that, I also submit my work to a few of the member formed groups.

One of the groups, Little Dreamers, had a holiday contest last fall/winter. I entered just before Thanksgiving with this scene (which you may remember);

It won third place! Since I've entered a handful of group contests, but had yet to get past semi-finals, I was pretty excited.

And there were prizes that came along with third, donated by some of the group founders (Thank you).

A brick of polymer clay, two tiny plates, and a pile of tiny fruit slices from Small Creations by Mel.
A pack of head pins, mini-plates (which were a pleasant surprise), and a cake stand from Bon AppetEats.

Thanks again, you two!

And on a side note, last weekend I went to a model train and toy show over at the Erie County Fairgrounds. It was mostly trains (which are neat setups to see), but there was also a table for a local dollhouse/miniatures club. Found out there's actually two local clubs, and that just a few blocks away from my house someone has a Bostonian, which I've been invited to go see for myself (might take them up on that if I run into them again closer to town). None of this was planned and I really enjoyed it. If you've ever been outed as someone with a dollhouse to someone who isn't into minis, and forced to then explain 'everything' (frequently), then you know how great of a feeling it is to meet someone, in person, who understands the fun of it already. It's like winning a game of Marco Polo, that you didn't know you were playing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Undersized Urbanite - Fridge & Fireplace

Here's where I am with the project;

Smoothed out the edges and added some detail to the fridge, with Paperclay,

 Painted it: The interior is a mix of white, clear medium, and pearl metallic paint. The exterior is Pratt & Lambert, "Bronze Gold", interior paint (25 cent sample sale at the local hardware store),

Glued in the wire shelves, and then finally glued on the back of the fridge.

Then, while I waited for that to dry (so I could patch/paint the rest of it), I started on the fireplace;

If you've been following along, then you know about the small houseboat fireplace that I loved and wanted to make. The only issue is that the fireplace in the photo has a very nautical theme to it, but I'm trying for a Steampunk look. So I'm referencing the original instead of just replicating. A riveted brass fireplace, if that doesn't fit in with the Steampunk theme, then I don't know what would.

Once again, I drew up a paper template in Adobe Illustrator. After cutting up egg cartons for the exterior, I ended up with a couple trapezoid shaped pieces left over. The perfect shape/size for the hood of the fireplace, so I based my measurements around one of them. Then cut it in half (because I only needed half).

Using my template, I made the tiny fireplace out of scrap wood (leftovers from the fridge), polymer clay, paper, and of course, egg carton.

Glued it all together. Added some more paper to the sides, and some Paperclay to help smooth out the seams.

Painted it ("Bronze Gold",  again, but it's acting as a primer this time). The hood looked a little rough, so-more Paperclay!

Painted it again, and then glued on some, "rivets".

I gave it a very watered down wash of gold metallic paint, and here we are now;

That is the wallpaper for the room, 
but I am planning a back-splash for the fireplace 
(still, the colors seem to be working out)

It needs a few more coats of gold paint, maybe more rivets, and a back. I like how well it's turned out so far and I like how fast it's come together, especially since the fridge has taken sooo much longer than planned.

Speaking of which, it dried, so I've been working on the detail parts.

It could use some touch ups(a few more small bits too) and a magnet, or something, to keep the door from swinging open whenever it wants, but it's otherwise done and I'm really pleased with the end results.

So that just leaves the rest of the house.

I have started to plan out the counter that will sit next to the fridge,

The current plan involves using life sized glass mosaic pieces 
(We'll see how that works out)

But all I really have to show is a few paper rectangles.

The stonework is also progressing.

I've been working on adding in the mortar between the egg carton stones (I was calling it grout, but it's a wall, so it should be mortar). Another use for Paperclay, lots and lots of paperclay. This part has been especially slow work. A few days on it's own and while waiting for other things to dry, for two weeks, and I still have more than half of the walls to go. And then I get to paint it all again, hopefully for the last time.

And if you've been wondering, Yes I did come up with plans for all of the other rooms, but I'm not drawing anything else out until I can cross the current parts off my list

(May is welcome to take it's sweet time getting here, btw).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 1

I'm often asked what I use to make my miniatures, jewelry, and other craft work. The short answer is, "Mixed Media", but here, in what I plan on being an ongoing series with my blog, I can further explain specific products, and give recommendations based on what I use to do my own work.

This Week - Polymer Clay, Part 1

Polymer clay is some fun stuff. I used it once to make tiles for a mosaic project back in high school, but  didn't realize just how wonderful of a medium it was until I started using it for jewelry and miniatures.

  • Easy to work with. The heat from your hands makes it softer. 
  • It won't dry out over time, so you can take as long as you want on a project.
  • Oven bake. Low temp, all you need is a toaster oven to cure your work.
  • Comes in a ton of colors, and they're mixable.
  • Unlike ceramic, or most air dry clays, the end results are sturdy-don't break if you drop them.
There are some people that insist that you shouldn't paint this clay, but you actually can, no problem. Just make sure that you're done with baking before you do.

What I recommend;

If you know that you're going to want to use different colors, start off with a Color Sampler;

Or just white (and paint it later);

I bought a 30 color pack when I first started out. Most of the colors were just basic solids, but there were also a few metallic and translucent color types mixed in too. It's cheaper than going out and buying every single color, and you can always buy the individual bricks (which are larger than the sampler bricks), when you start running out of your favorites.

I would also recommend getting a "clay conditioning machine";

With every craft, there are things you'll need and things that are just extras, but I was really being stupid for waiting so long to get one of these. A, "Clay Conditioning Machine," aka pasta machine (which is really what these things are-except you use them for clay), do all sorts of handy things.  Makes mixing clay colors super-easy. You can roll out the clay into flat pieces in just a few seconds. And because you can control the thickness of the clay that rolls out, you can easily measure out the same amount of clay for each piece that you're working on. It didn't take me long to see how much time I saved when doing the annoying parts of clay work, and the quality of my pieces noticeably improved.

At some point I will be doing some clay tutorials, but if you're in the market for more how-to books, there are plenty on Polymer Clay. Haven't bought any of these, but after some browsing here are some neat ones that I found (and now want);

Next Week - Polymer Clay, Part 2 (How I use it)


Looking for more Tutorials and other useful info?

Mini Wire Shelving Tutorial


Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 1 

Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 2

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mini Wire Shelving Tutorial

Almost immediately after posting my progress on my miniature fridge, I got a request from one of my readers to explain how I made the shelving inside-Which means that it's time for a tutorial;

Aluminum wire shelving.

Making the fridge itself is a little complicated (and still in progress), but the shelving is pretty easy to put together as long as you have the right materials and a little patience (there is a good chunk of drying time involved).

I measured everything out ahead of time and drew up a paper version of the fridge, including a template for the shelving. I'm not specifying exact sizes because the shelves were just "eye-balled" for size based on the template I made up for this specific project.

Template's just a rectangle, pretty simple (labeled so it doesn't accidentally get thrown out, or something).

Once I got the main part of the fridge put together, it was time to actually start on the shelving.

(it's still drying here)

First, I checked to make sure that my template would still fit inside because copy paper and basswood do not have the same thicknesses (turned out that it needed to be trimmed a little).

Next, wire and wire tools;

I used 20 gauge aluminum wire. If you have other types of wire, they might work with your project. Just remember, for realism, these shelves should look like they can hold a fridge worth of groceries.

The tools you see are jewelry wire clippers (also called, "Nippers"?) and jewelry pliers. You just need something that works to cut and straighten out the wire.

What to do;

Start with the outline of the shelves, use the paper template as a guide to cut each piece of wire to the correct length. When put together on the template, the pieces of wire should  just touch each other at the corners.

"Gluing" the pieces together;

Because making miniatures involves a little trial and error, I use water soluble glues ("school glue"), so I can still pull things apart if I need too. That's not going to work out too well with aluminum though, so instead I used Polycrylic.

(Clear Satin, because I think glossy makes most miniatures look weird)
You will also need wax paper and either a paint brush or Q-tips for this next part-I recommend Q-tips (because Polycrylic has wrecked a couple of my brushes). The wax paper is a must though, dry Polycrylic will peel off of it, and that's pretty important here.
Polycrylic is actually a sealer (similar to Polyurethane-without the yellowing), but it worked really well as an adhesive for this project.

 What to do;

Set the template down on your workspace and lay some wax paper over top of it. Take the wires that you just cut, and using the template (you can see it through the wax paper), arrange them on top of the wax paper. Then use a Q-tip(or brush) and drip some Polycrylic onto the corners of your shelf frames. It needs to completely cover both wires (just at the corners though), right down to the wax paper. Don't worry about extra drips or puddles around the wire. It can be trimmed off (exacto knife or even just scissors) once the Polycrylic has set completely.

If you are making 3 shelves at once, like I did: Tape your template down and use separate pieces of wax paper for each shelf. That way you can make a shelf, slide it off of the template (as shown, above), and out of the way, letting you continue on with the next one.

This is the waiting part: Polycrylic takes around 2 hours to dry, but up to 12 hours to set at full strength. You won't need full strength to keep working on the shelves, but if the Polycrylic would rather stretch instead of peel apart from your wax paper-It needs more time. Don't worry though, if at any point you accidentally pull something apart, just put it back together, re-"glue".

After you peel them from the wax paper and trim off the Polycrylic drips, Check to make sure that each of your new shelf frames still fit inside the fridge (or whatever you decide to make these shelves for, really). If  they don't, Cut (or just pull) one of the wires apart from the other 3 (you shouldn't have to completely redo the gluing part), trim down which ever wires are too long, and then re-glue the wire back in place.


Once you have the frames done, the rest is really just repeating the process a couple more times.

The frame is layer #1. The inside of my shelving is 6 evenly spaced bars(layer #2. the ends of these wires go underneath the frame), and one long bar running across the center(layer #3, goes underneath #2). The frame was the important, "structure", part. The other sections of wire just need to look good, so you can deviate a little from that part of my design, if something works better for you.

Ta-da! You're done, Enjoy your tiny wire shelves.

Other tips;

You can keep reusing the wax paper as long as you don't put Polycrylic in the same spot twice (you can easily see where it was).

If you're having trouble keeping the shelves lying flat while drying, use tape(avoid putting it directly on the wet Polycrylic).

(It should still be on wax paper, drying, when you do this)

 How did I get the shelves to sit in my fridge like that?

Just cut the pointed ends off of some toothpicks, glue them to the sides of the fridge(evenly spaced), 
And you have shelf runners!

Materials List;

If you're having trouble finding these things in stores, or you'd rather just buy them online-I've looked everything up and provided links to products on Amazon. When possible, I linked to the specific items that I have used, and would recommend. If I couldn't find what I was looking for, or it really doesn't matter what brand you use for this project (is anyone picky about their Q-tips?), links will lead to a general list of things, to help you find what works for you.

aluminum wire
jewelry wire clippers
jewelry pliers
Polycrylic, 1/2 Pint, Clear Satin
wax paper

 (Just a heads up. Regardless of where you get this stuff, if you buy anything on this list to make these shelves, you will probably have tons of left over materials. I use this stuff all the time but even a 1/2 pint of Polycrylic can last for months. Save what's left and use it for your next miniature project)

I hope this tutorial clears thing up, if there's something that needs further explaining-let me know (I'm kind of new at this tutorial thing)

And if I've somehow inspired you to make something because of this post, let me know, I'd love to see it.


Looking for more Tutorials and other useful info?

Mini Wire Shelving Tutorial


Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 1 

Wonderful Stuff - Polymer clay, Part 2

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Glad That's Done With

Hope I didn't scare anyone off with that last post (actually, it looks like I've got another follower-Hi! ). After about two weeks of working on this advertising thing, I found that I needed a privacy policy & a disclosure policy. So while I was at it, I threw in a Copyright notice too. I hope it wasn't as painful to read it as was for me to write it (Spend a whole day writing up legal stuff, and see how your brain feels, I dare you).

Now that that's done though, I can get back to the stuff I actually want to blog about. This post is just to say a few things to help make up for some lost time, and so I can jump right into my next post without rambling for the first two paragraphs;

1. Thanks to everyone (online and offline) who gave me their input in regards to blog ads.
I appreciate the encouragement and understanding (and yes, the third party ads are coming soon).

2. I'm behind on reading blog comments, but I'll get back to you all soon.

3. Next post will be a mini-tutorial! because I received a request and promised that it would happen this week. When I promised this, I was thinking Wed. , but that was before I found out about the need to write my last post, so Friday it is!...Assuming that Nemo doesn't knock out the power, of course.

Yeah, I know I just went off topic, but, "Nemo"? Who named the storm system, "Nemo"?

That's an adorable clown fish, not a snowstorm.

4. Undersized Urbanite-I did make some progress this week, but I don't think it was enough to warrant a post, so I'll just hold off on that this week.

Uh...I think that's it for now...stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Copyright Notice, Privacy Policy, Advertising Info, & Disclosure Policy

Hi everyone,

This is a friendly notice to all readers and followers of my blog, regarding some of the legal information that you should know about while reading through and enjoying my blog. My blog is always growing and changing, and this information will help insure that everyone can continue to read and enjoy this blog without any problems. Currently, there are no known incidents regarding my blog, and I would love to keep it that way.

This post may be edited/revised over time, with or without notice, and will be accessable through a link on the sidebar for future reference. I recommend periodically rereading these policies once in a while.

By reading and/or following my blog, you acknowledge and agree to the following;

Copyright Information

Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content is Copyright Kyle Lefort 2013, and may not be reproduced, "re-blogged", or otherwise redistributed without my permission.

That said, I do understand that the ability to communicate and share ideas is an important part of blogging, and the internet in general,

So, In the event that you wish to share something from my blog, for "non-commercial" purposes, you may post small portions of my content [no more than 2 images/1 paragraph-in quotations, per post] on your blog/website, as long as I am properly credited for my work AND there is a working link back to my blog(on the same page as the content). An email or posted comment to inform me that you're doing this would be nice, but you do not need my written permission as long as you follow these rules.

Please Note (this is Very Important): As a professional designer & artist some of my work posted online was created for paying clients[example: logo designs], and in most cases, either the client has paid for the rights to use my work as they wish OR the client is the copyright holder and has granted me permission to use the designs for self-promotion [as the designer/artist who did the work]. Most of this content is labeled as being client work within my blog and/or can be found on my online portfolio site. You Do Not Have Permission to use any of  this work, without contacting me first and getting my direct permission, in writing (an email usually counts as writing in this case). Use of this work without permission is Copyright infringement and you will be putting yourself at risk of a lawsuit or other legal action. So if you are unsure whether or not something is client work-Please Ask before re-postig it somewhere. Thank you. :)

In the event that I feel that you have misused, or used without my permission(read above paragraph), any of my blog content, You agree to do what is necessary to remedy the problem, and/or remove all of my work from your blog/website, at my request. As the content creator and, in most cases, Copyright holder of my work, I reserve the right to have any of my work removed from a blog/website, for any reason.

If interested in using any of my work for commercial purposes, either by licensing out past work, or by commissioning me to create something new for you, feel free to contact me by email, kklefort[AT] , or through any other sites that I'm on, such as Facebook, where messaging me is possible.


You are welcome to use any tutorials that I post to make DIY projects for your own personal use only please. I sell my work, that is part of what I do for a living. If I find that people are turning around as using my tutorials for commercial purposes, especially in competition to my own work, I will of course stop making new ones.

Privacy Policy

Nothing about this blog is meant to harm anyone, and to the best of my knowledge, the information automatically collected from you when you visit my blog, cannot personally identify you, beyond your general location (city/state/country) and/or your activity on this site (example: page views).

"Cookies" are small pieces of data that save information when you visit websites so you don’t have to re-enter it every time you return. Advertisers can also use cookies to deliver ads that are more relevant to you. These may be used in relation to my blog, but I am not implementing or controlling them myself. You can choose not to accept these cookies by making changes to your browser’s privacy settings, but doing so may prevent access to some sites and/or prevent you from using all of a sites features.

Personally speaking, any information I can collect, actually see, and use will either be information that you voluntarily disclose to me through your own actions, such as following and commenting on my blog, or falls inline with Blogger's privacy policy.  The information I receive from this site is used in relation to blogging, and nothing more.

There are also third party sites, that may also be collecting information in regards to how you use this site;

Click here to read about what information Amazon collects.

Disclosure Policy

In trying to comply with the FTC Ruling for Bloggers, I am disclosing the following information;

Both my actions as blog writer/owner, and your actions as the reader, may help to generate an income on my behalf. The content I provide to you on my blog is free of charge, but it does take my time and resources to create/produce. This potential income helps to off-set my costs and pay my bills, which in turn helps to keep this blog going.

Throughout this blog (including the sidebar) there are links to other sites. While I am the one who created these links, and would not intentionally recommend or try to send anyone to a bad site, I am not liable for anything that happens as a result of you going to, using, purchasing items from, or otherwise interacting with these other sites, because I don't own or run them (excluding the ones that clearly have my name on them, of course). Click on links at your own risk.

Reasons for linking to other sites (so far);

  • I find that the products and/or information on these site may be of interest to my readers
  • Advertising purposes, which I try to keep relevant to the blog
  • Promoting the work of other friendly bloggers with interests related to mine
  • Additional promotion for my clients in relation to the design work I have done for them
  • Helping to generate more traffic to and increase participation in blogging related events & contests
  • A common courtesy to anyone that has given me gifts, awards, or has somehow helped me in relation to my  ongoing blogging projects.

Third Party Advertising & Product Placement Information;

Kyle Lefort is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

In closing, I would like to thank all of my readers and followers for their interest in my blog, I appreciate it, I really do. I hope to keep entertaining, providing useful information, promoting and encouraging other artists & bloggers, and sharing my experiences with you. :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Number Crunching & Some Good Fortune

Currently, I'm making enough to pay my bills, but not much more. I've been kind of down about it lately, thinking that I made more money at the job I left. In some respects it's true, but only because I'm paid through purchases and commissions now, instead of a biweekly paycheck. Although my job prior to freelancing was seasonal and only lasted for 6 weeks at a time, freelancing is year-round. I'll be fine, it's just that whole 'uncertainty' thing. That, and not being able to just spend money the way I want too;

I'd like to sell my illustration work online, "in-house", but there are start-up costs for that(printing, packing, shipping-in bulk). I want to start doing blog giveaways, which I will, as soon as I have a budget for it. And then there are ongoing projects that I am trying to fund, such as the Cupboard/Steampunk house for Undersized Urbanite (and my website if you consider that a project). I spent part of this week looking into advertising options for the blog, so we'll see if there's anything that will help to keep things going without shamelessly spamming my followers, because I really appreciate the interest in my projects, everyone is so friendly and encouraging. I'd like to think that I can return some of that.

Major concerns aside though, things seem to be looking up.

As I've said, I'm running low on spending money and my Undersized Urbanite entry, sadly, takes a back seat to paying the bills, but something really odd and wonderful happened last week that sort of fixed this particular problem (I'm telling you, "someone" out there seems to like me and my dollhouses a lot).

Once again, my mother showed up while I was working on my latest blog post, with something neat to show me-again. This time though is was glitter tape.

She told me Michaesl was having an in-store clearance sale(she got an email), and although she's never sure what I can use, she knew I'd like the tape (I do). Then she  told me that the sale would still be happening on Friday and that she wanted to check out what the other store location had on sale (we live inbetween several shopping hubs, which has it's perks). I went along to see if there was something cheap I could use.

We got to the store, there was a jewelry section-70% off lowest marked clearance price (wow, really?), and then a series of bins full of all sort of things I could use-90% off lowest marked clearance price (Wow, Really?). Yep it's true, someone out there must like me.

So I bought a pile of cool stuff that I'm 99% sure that I will use, including this scrapbook paper box (I now have some place safe to store my dollhouse 'wallpaper' while I'm still in the building stage)

The lid's finish is a little scratched up, but it only cost me a penny.

Everything in this photo, including the box and the corrugated paper in the background (soon to be Steampunk dollhouse roofing), cost me just under $5. (Good day).

To make the situation even better, there was a bin with $2 grab bags. Clearance, opened, and damaged items, I assumed. Found a bag that at first looked like it was full of kid's craft stuff (I blame the pony beads), but then I saw that someone wrote, " Use For Demos" on the bag,

I picked it up and saw what was definitely some nice looking jewelry and beading supplies. I figured that what I couldn't use can always be sold on Etsy, so I bought the bag, took it home, and dumped it out onto the floor.

Some empty packaging, but most of this is really nice stuff. Beads, ring bases, bead wire (the bead wire alone would've cost me $2), buttons-all sorts of things. There were also a few jewelry making tools I didn't have,

Although I'm not really sure how to use them yet (going to have to look that up somewhere).

It's hard to feel down about something when you have such good luck. Maybe I should just take it as a sign that things will be alright and I worry about nothing...That's usually what these things mean.