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Specialized Hand Tools for Miniature Woodwork And Dolls House Furniture


Miniature woodwork and dolls house furniture require some specialized hand tools. These tools are used for projects from from basic through to advanced skill levels. You don't need all these miniature tools at once. Look at the projects which accompany the information on each tool, and decide which tools you will need, adding tools to your collection as you develop or expand your miniature woodworking skills.

Five Simple Tools for Miniatures That Save Time and Frustration

A trigger bar clamp or quick clamp used to clamp wood models and dolls house furniture.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Some things make working with miniature projects much easier. These five are simple tools that you will use over and over again in your miniature career. Some, like the holder for glue bottles, may be tricky to track down. It is actually a tooth brush holder, but similar items exist and work well for the same purpose. In addition to these tools, some of you may like to work with glue syringes or precision tipped glue bottles to keep your woodwork neat.

Razor Saw and Miter Box to Make Straight and Angled Cuts in Wood

A razor saw ready to cut through a piece of craft wood in a simple miter box.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Fine toothed razor or gentleman's saws and a miter box which will work with them are the backbone of most woodwork in miniature. The razor saw can be used for straight cuts, veneers, and some joins. Make sure your razor saw has a deep enough blade to fit into your chosen miter box. Used with a block of wood to limit length, the miter box combined with a razor saw can cut several pieces of wood to the same length, useful for making things like miniature table legs!

The razor saw isn't designed to cut through large pieces of wood, so isn't practical for dollhouse builders, except for its many uses in cutting trim and moldings.

Simple projects using a razor saw and miter box:

Jeweller's Saws or Piercing Saws For Exact Curves in Wood or Metal

Jeweller's bench pin showing the position used for the saw and the material being braced.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

A jeweller's saw or piercing saw is essential for cutting curves in wood or metal. The saw must be large enough to allow you to make cuts into the center of your largest piece of work. Blades suitable for cutting metal and wood are available. For wood generally use blades from 0 up to 5 or 6. When you purchase a jeweller's saw you should also purchase extra blades (they break easily) and a bench pin a type of clamp on bench extension that allows you to easily manipulate your saw blade and your work.

Beginners Projects Where a Jeweller's Saw is Useful:

Miniature Drills

A brass Archemedian or push drill with a spring will drill small holes quickly using one hand.
Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Miniature drills, in the form of either "pin vices" or "push drills" also known as "Archimedes drills" like the one in the photo, are very useful for both wood and metal miniatures. Choose a miniature drill based on how you prefer to work and whether you will use it only for drilling, or if you will also use it to hold items. A pin vice can easily hold the wire for the base of a miniature figure armature for example, allowing you to clamp the pin vice into a vise to hold your project stable while you shape it. Push drills are generally used only for drilling. The other consideration for mini drills is the size of the 'chuck' or holder for the drill bits. If you work on larger scales, or need to drill holes for fine dowelling, you may require a drill that accepts larger bits than the standard mini drill.

Beginner's Projects Using a Mini Drill Include:

Choosing Files for Metal and Woodwork

Assortment of miniature metal and wood files for craft work.
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Miniature files, often available from rock shops, jewellery suppliers, or specialist hobby suppliers are useful for making even curves and recesses on small pieces of wood. If you want to work towards a particular shape, an assortment of files helps to keep your shapes regular. Depending on how fine they are, files are also useful for removing a fair amount of wood faster than a fine sandpaper, and with less 'tearing'. Although you can use sandpaper over a toothpick or other shape, or nail files, miniature files are useful to have on hand for both metal and woodwork in miniature.

These four beginners woodworking projects use miniature files to shape the wood:

Miniature Chisels

A miniature 1.5mm flat chisel from Lee Valley Tools shown with a clear flexible blade protector.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Miniature chisels are used like full scale chisels in miniature woodwork. Most often they are used for cutting lines with clean edges or cleaning out cuts. Chisels can also be used to 'grave' or engrave lines in metal and wood.

Miniature projects that help you learn to use a miniature chisel include:

Craft and Carving Knives

Veritas Carver's Knife for use with disposable scalpel and hobby knife blades.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Craft Knives or Knife holders that also accept scalpel blades are another staple of the woodworker's bench. They are primarily used to mark or carve wood, but can be used to cut thinner pieces of craft wood. Many craft knife handles will only hold particular sizes of blades, so buy a knife based on the blade types you think you will be using.

Projects that involve the use of carving knives or scalpel blades in a holder include:

Squares for Accurate Marking and Alignment

Engineer's square reveals an off square cut in a dolls house trunk lid.
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Squares are tools that help you layout and mark exact cutting lines for miniature projects. They also help you check that your corners are square and true when assembling miniature furniture. These are a tool many beginning miniaturists do not use. More experienced miniaturists know that using an engineer's square will make it much easier to cut exact lines for furniture, which cuts down on the amount of filing, sanding or other methods used to correct pieces that are 'out of square'. When pieces have lots of square corners where fit is important, a small engineer's square is particularly useful

Beginners projects where a square is useful include:

Gluing Jigs and Clamps

Magnets hold parts of a minature wheel in place while glue sets.
Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Many miniaturist use magnetic gluing jigs to hold things square while glue sets. Others use quick release bar clamps (see the section on tools which save frustration), or sometimes corner clamps depending on the size and shape of the miniature. If you don't have clamps, you can use weighted boxes or small grocery boxes, like rectangular salt or baking soda boxes until you get to the stage where you want proper clamps or jigs. Of some miniatures you can also use scraps of wood held against the miniature with carefully placed rubber bands.

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