this feature we have enlisted the help of two of the oldest (that's
in time we have been friends and not age) friends of Dolls House
Parade - Roy & Mary Sherwood. Roy has been making fine English
furniture for a good many years and - believe it or not - was
the very first supplier to be "signed up" for her new
venture when Lyn opened Dolls House Parade in 1992. Not a bad
way to start off - with one of the countries leading makers as
Roy & Mary have kindly provided the guidance for this feature
and agreed to pass on some of the secrets which they use in creating
such sought after furniture pieces.
The following information applies equally to hardwoods and softwoods
Furniture Finishing can be split into the following stages:
Roy's Golden Rule ­ "the finish
is only as good as the preparation"
The first thing which must be done is to fill in the grain on
the wood. We would recommend Rustins Grain Filler (available at
your local DIY store). This comes in various colours such as natural,
oak and mahogany. It is obviously ideal to choose the colour that
best matches the wood you are using and the finished colour you
require. However, this is not vital as the colour can be altered
later in the process.
Roy's Tip: If you are building your
furniture from scratch it is a good idea - and much easier - to
fill the timber first, i.e. when it is in plank form.
The filler is best applied with a lint free cloth. Always rub
ACROSS the grain (not with it). This ensures that the filler goes
deep into the wood.
it until it becomes dry (it will have a powdery texture). The
drying time should be given on the tin of the product you are
Roy's Tip: Be patient - let it dry
Once it is dry the surface can be rubbed down - always with the
grain - with a piece of silicone coated rubbing down paper (approximately
220 grit). Do not use glass paper or sandpaper, as this will leave
a fine layer of residue on your work which is difficult to clean.
Roy's Tip: The numbers on rubbing
down paper work on the basis of the higher the number the smoother
the paper (and the finish) - so 220 grit paper is used for preparation
whereas 400 grit is finer and used for finishing.
Continue to rub down until silky to the touch and then remove
the dust. A tack cloth can be used after each sanding to remove
dust. These can be purchased from Dolls House Parade or your local
Roy's Tip: To remove the dust use a
vacuum cleaner with the brush attachment. Simply blowing it will
not be good enough.
Repeat the process if necessary until you are completely happy
with the finish of the surface.
you are ready to stain the wood. The stain and varnish should
be applied in an area, which is as dust free as possible. This
will reduce the amount of work you have to do
Roy's Tip: An easy way to create your
own "dust free workplace" Go to the bathroom and soak
an old newspaper. Then lay the sheets out on the floor. Turn on
the shower (on full hot) and shut the door and windows so that
a good level of steam builds up. Then switch off the water and
let the steam clear and as the steam particles sink to the floor
(they are heavier than air) they will soak up dust and deposit
it on the newspaper. You will then be left with a relatively dust
free environment - ideal for staining and varnishing.
Once again we would recommend another Rustins product - this
time Rustins Spirit Stain. Various colours are available and can
be bought at your local DIY store.
Spirit stain should be used because it penetrates deeper into
the timber and also dries quickly.
Roy's Tip: Do not use water based stains
as they will warp the timber and raise the grain of your wood.
Mary's Tip: Stain should be applied
with a good quality flat paint brush. The best type is an artist's
brush and not a household or round child's brush.
Always build up the colour with several thin coats of stain rather
than fewer thick coats. This produces a better and more even finish.
Wipe off any surplus stain between coats with a soft brush or
tissue. Let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next
Roy's Tip: Be patient - let it dry
When you are applying stain it is difficult to cover the whole
piece in one go because you must hold your item while you are
working. The best way to deal with this problem - without leaving
finger marks - is to divide your job into two. Stain half at a
time. Wait until it dries then stain the other half. However,
always complete a full coat, i.e. 2 halves, before starting the
next, otherwise you will find it difficult to get a match over
the whole item.
Mary's Tip: Set yourself a routine.
I always split my item into two as follows: firstly hold the sides
and stain the top, bottom, back and inside; then hold the top
and bottom and stain the sides.
Two or three coats of stain should be sufficient.
Roy's Tip: Be patient - let it dry.
If the final coat does not dry before you begin the next stage
you will move the stain.
We would suggest using a small pot of modelling varnish, i.e.
Humbrol, as your sealer. Either a satin or semi-matt finish will
work well and give a clear finish. If you prefer - French polish
can also be used (available from a DIY shop), but if this is used,
remember your finish will be slightly darker than with the varnish.
Both varnish and French polish can be applied with a clean soft
brush. It is always better to use different brushes for each stage.
However, if you are using the same brush it must be cleaned thoroughly
Lacquer can be used but is not recommended. This is because it
dries too quickly and may lift the stain if not allowed to dry
in the correct environment. The professionals use lacquer - but
it does require the right, specialist tools and conditions.
Once the piece has been allowed to dry properly the "nibs"
must be rubbed down before applying the next coat.
"What's a nib", I hear you cry. Well, a nib is a small
particle of dust or an air bubble trapped in the varnish, which
if left, will result in an uneven surface to your finish. Use
a piece of 400 grit paper to rub down to a smooth finish. Once
again use the vacuum cleaner to clear the dust.
You are now nearly there!
a soft (lint free) cloth apply a small amount of good quality,
wax furniture polish - not spray polish. Let it dry and buff it
up with a cloth. By applying further coats of polish the level
of gloss can be built up as required.
Your piece of furniture should now be ready to take pride of place
in your dolls house.
Roy's Tip: Don't forget it can take
just as long to finish a piece of furniture as it does to make
We hope this feature has been interesting and for those who make
their own furniture pieces the tips will enable you to achieve
better results from your work. For those who prefer to buy their
furniture maybe next time you look at a piece of Roy's work (or
that of any other craftsman) you will now appreciate the amount
of skill and work that goes into creating the finished article.
Don't forget - the work of Roy and Mary can be seen in our shops
and if you have any queries that have not been answered by this
feature please contact us on
Tel: 020 8295 0688
or Fax: 020 8295 1061
We will do our best to answer your questions, but if necessary
we can, once more, enlist the help of Roy and Mary.
If you need any more help or advice, or have any suggestions
for topics you would like to see featured in the future, or you
have your own hints and tips you would like to share with your
fellow miniaturists, please e-mail us at:
|Sadly Roy Sherwood is no longer with us - however I am sure he would have approved of our continued use of this article, to enable this legacy to his many fans from the dolls house world to continue after his death. In his life he liked nothing more than helping others to enjoy the hobby he loved. We feel that it is only right that this article will continue to be shown - in his cherished memory.