Miniature Furniture Repair

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What do you do when a finished kit gets damaged? Chair legs are delicate and cats can make a shambles of a whole room at once. Is the repair process different than than building a kit? Let’s take a look at a few scenarios of miniature furniture repair.

Broken Legs

Cabriole legs are beautiful, but delicate. It is easy to break one when setting up or moving miniature furniture. Repair of a leg that has broken along the grain may look hard, but here are two quick tips.

  1. Place glue on both surfaces. I prefer Testors wood glue for repairs. It goes on and stay clear and excess is easy to remove. It also holds very well, even over stain. Use a toothpick to put a little glue on both surfaces of the broken part, wait about two minutes to let the glue get tacky, then pinch the parts together and hold for a few more minutes.
  2. Don’t sand unless absolutely necessary. Never sand the inside of the break. The rough surfaces will bond better and will align much better if all of the material is there. If there are more than two pieces, figure out how to fit them together so that no gaps or distortions are left in the finished repair.

Major Damages

Broken miniature furniture in need of repair

Sometimes the damage is more extensive. In the case of the Risley Collection there was a very active little kitten who took an active interest in the dollhouse and a few of the kits. Unfortunately, he did so without adult supervision and several pieces in the collection went back to their constituent parts.

However, this major destruction isn’t quite as bad as it looks. Thankfully, the glue was brittle and gave way instead of holding tight and leaving the wood to be the breaking point. Two points about this type of repair…

  1. In this case, the parts need to be assembled again. So having the instruction sheets would be helpful. If you haven’t saved the original instructions, you can get PDF copies of most of them from my The House of Miniatures brand web site at this link.
  2. In this case the important step is sanding to remove all of the old glue. Again, I use Testors wood glue because of how well it sticks onto stained, painted, or polyurethaned parts. It dries clear and holds for years.

Teeth and Claws

Sometimes miniature furniture repair is not so easy, however. What if parts are chewed or splintered or completely missing? Finding replacement parts isn’t always easy, but here are a couple of ideas…

  1. Straight or flat pieces can be remade. Hobby Lobby and Michael’s carry bass wood stock that can be used to make replacement parts. I keep flat pieces of bass wood on hand to use when kits parts are damaged, missing, or warped. I’ve even beveled a drawer front using a Dremel. It didn’t look perfect, but it was better than no drawer front at all.
  2. You can buy replacement cabriole legs. The House of Miniatures carried two different sizes of the fancy Chippendale legs, and Houseworks still offers them (as of this writing) on the Miniatures.com web site.
  3. If repairing isn’t possible and replacements aren’t available, bash it! There is a term among builders of many types of model kits, from ship models to car models to dollhouses: Kit Bashing. Basically, you start with the instructions and at some point you put the instructions away and do something different. It may involve combining multiple kits, or it may mean adding parts you create yourself. For instance, I once built the four-poster bed kit, but I didn’t want to do draperies or fancy lace to dress the bed, so I made a canopy top out of wood. It gave a more masculine look, but it was an authentic touch that I had seen on a Chippendale style bed in Old Sturbridge Village.

You Can Do It

When it comes down to it, it is hardly ever necessary to completely give up and throw away a damaged kit. You have so many options, including the option of passing on the broken miniature to someone else who may enjoy resurrecting it, as it old self or as something completely different. Who knows, you might be able to get two broken kits together to make one happy whole!

Have you done any miniature furniture repair? Do you have broken pieces that you would like some help with? Please let me know, either by leaving a comment below or by joining the conversation on the Facebook Group for The House of Miniatures.

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