The Den of Slack

Stacking ring toy in half scale

This year the Half Scale Miniatures Group‘s annual swap had two themes — Toys and Plants. I was especially excited about the toys because I have three kids’ rooms to fill up in the Victorianna. My contribution was a stacking ring toy.

I got the idea for this after stumbling across rubber jump rings on Etsy. They come in lots of different colors and sizes, but it was a challenge to find the right colors in the right sizes. The rings on these toys go in rainbow order, and each ring needs to be slightly bigger than the last.

I spent a long time looking at available sizes of jump rings (also called o-rings). Not only did I need specific sizes in specific colors, but I only needed 40-50 rings of each color and didn’t want to overpay for larger batches, or pay too much for shipping by placing orders with multiple stores. I contacted one or two stores to ask if I could get smaller quantities for a discount and they said no.

In the end I placed an order with MyELEMENTS for blue (6mm), green (5mm), black (4mm), and orange (3mm). Black was the only color I could find anywhere in the 4mm size. I also had a hard time finding 2mm rings, but another store had 1.5mm in red.

Okay, a few problems. That red ring is much too small! I took an orange ring with me to a local craft store and was able to find a red seed bead to use instead of the tiny red rings.

Also, the blue and green were supposed to be one size different, but they looked exactly the same. I put them on a rule to confirm it — the inner diameter is different, but both of these are 6mm wide.

Here’s my first prototype. I wish the red ring matched the others, but since it’s the top ring, it’s okay for it to be a little different. (In fact, Melissa & Doug makes a stacking ring toy with a red ball at the top instead of a red ring.) But it’s obvious that the blue and green rings are the same width.

I emailed the store and it turned out they’d accidentally sent me 6mm green rings instead of 5mm. Replacement green rings arrived in the mail a few days later. Crisis averted!

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Seaside Villa with Majestic Mansions windows & doors

In December I got an email from a woman named Sue who reads my blog. She was downsizing her mini collection and offered to sell me a half scale Seaside Villa dollhouse shell. This house used to be available from Rocky Mountain Woodcrafts, a line owned by Norm’s Dollhouse in Colorado, which shut down in 2017.

For a while after that Norm’s son David continued to sell the Rocky Mountain Woodcrafts houses (and Sue told me that David built this one). But according to his website they’re no longer being produced.

The Seaside Villa — actually named the Sea Side Villa, but I can’t bring myself to break “seaside” into two words! — was originally a 1:12 house. The design is based on another dollhouse, the Visalian, that was available in the 70s/80s as a 1:12 kit by One-of-a-Kind Wood Shop, and later as a 1:48 kit by Debbie Young.

The Visalian dollhouse was based on a real house built in ~1902 in Visalia, California, that burned down in 1983. There’s a snippet of info about the house as well as a photo from another angle on Historic Happenings, a Visalia history blog.

Here’s a comparison of the two 1:12 dollhouses. On the left is a picture of the Visalian taken from the instructions (I grabbed it from an old eBay auction), and on the right is the model from Norm’s Dollhouse / Rocky Mountain Woodcrafts.

The Visalian and Seaside Villa have a few noticeable differences: the Seaside’s tower is taller/steeper and it has windows on the third floor. The Visalian has bay windows on the first floor, a chimney, and a peak on the porch roof. You can find a lot of pretty pictures of both houses by searching Google or Pinterest, as well as a beautifully built 1:48 Visalian on Cynthia Howe’s website.

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Bathroom tile rehab

Once upon a time the Victorianna had a pretty peach bathroom. This was the first room I finished (four years ago!) and I was really happy with it. The tiles were from Elf Miniatures and I loved the color.

Fast forward a year. About six months after moving into our new house in San Francisco, I noticed the floor tiles had become discolored. The Victorianna had been sitting in the garage with sunlight shining on it through a window, and it hadn’t occurred to me until it was too late that this might cause damage. I suspect the tiles were ink jet printed.

Only the floor was faded — the shower surround still looked okay. I replaced the flooring with a plastic sheet of hex tiles and hoped the shower tiles wouldn’t fade since they were tucked back in a corner.

No such luck. It started with the upper right corner and gradually spread. With the house is almost finished, I didn’t feel good about leaving the bathroom in this state. And after fixing a similar, much more complicated issue in the Queen Anne Rowhouse, I figured if I could fix that, I can fix anything!

I started by removing the shower door. After a minute or two of unsuccessfully trying to pry it off, I got annoyed and punched it with my finger. The channel molding holding it in place broke, and the door fell into the shower. Almost too easy!

Next I peeled the tile off of the right wall. I was pleased to see I’d had the foresight to wallpaper almost all the way to the wall. This way I didn’t need to worry about a transition between the wallpaper and the new tile.

This is the scrapbook paper I picked out for the new tiles.

Like with the backsplash, I used 1/16″ thick basswood as the backing, and painted it with my Tuscan Beige trim color to make the grout. Then I glued on the tiny 1/8″ x 1/8″ squares one by one. It took a long time!

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