Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Lockets, Snot and Two Sliding Barrels

One of the problems I have faced with the Mini House is where to put the myriad of lighting wires and electrical bits and pieces which allow me to light it up like a Christmas Tree, at the flick of a switch whenever I feel the urge.  The back of the house seemed the obvious choice but I wanted the Mini House to be able to give us a twirl like Brucie's glamorous 70's assistant and my childhood idol, the lovely Anthea Redfern, without showing its underskirts, once on its final castors.

I have a slightly roundabout way of problem solving. It usually goes in random, unrelated-to-the untrained-eye steps... And so it went something like this.

Last week I was off sick with an 'orrible fluey virus, wrapped up in a duvet, small brown dog deployed as a slightly farty hot water bottle, stuffing in Honey and Lemon Lockets, and gulping copious amounts of fluids like you are told to do, although am not sure a mug of medicinal Brancott Estate counts.

I had given up on daytime TV as there was nothing much on, apart from Jeremy Kyle shouting at the great interbred and unwashed, and therefore was slumped in the dining room, staring through a haze of snotty Kleenex at the Mini House, and trying to figure out where to put the wiring.

The real outside, outside toilet
And that's when I realised I needed a wee.  Now, No 1 Heatherside Corner is the place to be, when you need to visit the Littlest Room. We have upstairs ensuite; which used to be orange coloured and downstairs, an inside toilet which used to be outside until we changed the walls around a bit, and an original outside loo, which is still outside but is no longer used as a loo and is now home to the firewood, a nest of rats and several spiders.

Oh and there's the garden, but that hopefully is only for sole use by the small brown dog, and never again for the random stranger who once, unbeknownst to us, staggered through our front gate late one night, and having done his business, left his very used and baggy greying underpants on our garden path as a memento of his visit....

But I digress. It was while I was taking my pick of our Temples of Convenience*, that the idea of copying the outside, outside loo came to me as a way of hiding the wires.
*See Lucinda Lambton

The Mini House would acquire a "dunny", but it would look more like our now inside but used to be outside loo, which is actually attached to the house and not halfway down the garden, like our outside, outside loo.

Stay with me on this.

So, when recovered, I built an extension on the back of the Mini House. And added a fake outside toilet door to mimic the real thing.

Which in our world is a vivid pink colour with a large cut glass door knob. We are fully responsible for the pink (well, I am - Mr PJ was less than impressed initially but has agreed it has grown on him over the years - a bit like fungus).

But the lovely crystal knob is the work of an obviously like-minded or thrifty previous inhabitant. But it goes so well with the colour now it would be a sin to change it.

And it was while this thought process was churning away that I realised the fake door would need, not only a glittering doorknob, but a big black sliding bolt too.

A glass bead and an earring back were purloined for the knob but the bolt proved more difficult.

Trial and error and a heap of wrong-uns later I had produced two: one which was smaller and looked the part, but was non-working, and the second, a sliding one which really did work as planned, but was somewhat over-scale and since the door is fake and doesn't open anyway, is actually totally pointless anyhoo.

So to justify all the effort, I thought I would share the step by step instructions with you. Just in case you have the urge to make a sliding bolt which is really far too big for any 1:12 projects you may be undertaking.

Unless apparently it's a castle... (Mr PJ's suggestion).

So here we have it: Lockets, Snot and Two Sliding Barrels...

Or: How to make a working miniature sliding barrel bolt


The things you will need to succeed:

Cocktail sticks
Round-head dressmakers pin
Empty squirty cleaning fluid bottle - try to find one which has an inner tube diameter only slightly wider than the width of a cocktail stick. You want to be able to slide the cocktail stick into the tube but for it still to be a snug fit.
Strip of flat metal or card
Superglue or similar strong quick-set glue for metal/wood/plastic
Black acrylic paint
Black Sharpie pen or fine permanent marker
Point-nosed pliers / wire cutters
Fine tweezers
Craft knife or scalpel

The bits you will need include cocktails sticks, a dressmakers pin, the tube from a squirty cleaning fluid bottle and a flat piece of card or metal.

First step - take your flat piece of metal or card and mark a strip which is slightly wider that the plastic tube on your squirty bottle, and the length you want your finished bolt to be. (Chewed fingernails not a required step...)

Once marked out, cut along the lines with scissors or a knife, so you are left with a long rectangle. This will form the backplate of your sliding barrel bolt.

Take the plastic tube from your squirty bottle, ensuring it is clean and dry, and cut a section slightly shorter than the rectangle you have just cut out.

With a sharp knife or scissors, cut off approximately one third of the backplate. Retain this piece.  Then take the section of plastic tube you have measured and cut one end to match the length of the smaller retained part of the backplate. Cut the remaining piece of tube into three equal sections and discard the middle section. You should now have two pieces of backplate and three pieces of tube, as above.

Take a cocktail stick and cut a piece the same length or slightly shorter than the longer piece of backplate. Take your dressmakers pin and carefully push it through the cocktail stick as shown, about two thirds of the way along, nearer the right-hand end. 

Push the pin all the way through until the head of the pin is right up against the stick. Take your pliers or wire cutters and cut off the underside of the pin as close to the cocktail stick as possible. Don't worry if you still have a small end sticking out.

Tap the stick on a hard surface to gently hammer the tail end of the pin back into the stick until it is flush with the surface. This should push the pin head up leaving it with a small "neck".  Using another cocktail stick, smear a drop of Superglue on both the lower side and around the pin neck, where it goes into the wood. Leave to dry completely. This forms the actual bolt of the lock.

Take the smallest piece of backplate and Superglue the matching plastic tube end to it, as above. It can help to insert a cocktail stick inside the tube while positioning it, and use the tweezers to make sure it is straight, taking care not to get any glue on the stick itself.  Repeat the process on one end of the longer part of the backplate.

Once completely dry, colour the pin and stick with a Sharpie. This doesn't have to be exact but try to colour as much as possible now as it is trickier to paint when assembled.

Insert the longer end of your bolt into the remaining piece of plastic tube. DO NOT USE ANY GLUE AT THIS STAGE.

Now drop a tiny amount of Superglue to the blank end of the backplate you have made. Use as little as possible and make sure it is only at the very end. It must not cover any area that the plastic tube attached to the bolt will not touch. This is very important.

The aim of this stage is to only glue the remaining section of plastic tube, which is now on the end of the bolt, to the backplate but NOT the bolt itself.  Very gently and carefully, slide the short end of your bolt into the pre-glued plastic tube end, taking great care not to get any glue from the other end of the backplate on any part of the bolt itself.  Once you have the bolt straight, gently press the final plastic tube end in place and hold until the glue is set.

You should now be left with two parts of your sliding bolt as shown above. The bolt should slide within the plastic tube freely. 

With a fine paintbrush, paint the plastic tube and backplate, and any parts of the actual bolt you wish with black acrylic or similar. Make sure any paint does not cause the sliding part to stick by moving it from time to time as it dries.
Your bolt is now ready to glue in place and test.

Once in place, the sliding part of the bolt should move freely within the plastic tube "barrels".

Fix the short piece to the door frame and the longer bolt part to the door itself using glue or strong double sided tape. If the frame and door are not flush you can pack out either part of the bolt using thin strips of card or wood as a backing.
Somewhat rustic looking and maybe a tiny bit too large for internal Mini uses but would work on shed or barn doors or on older era Mini builds.  Or Castles.....
In situ, on the "outside, inside toilet", but originally inspired by the "outside, outside toilet"....
And now hiding all the wiring and socket strip for The Mini House.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Watch any series of Grand Designs, Kevin McCloud's house building show (where folk who profess to have hardly any money, yet always have enough dosh to hugely exceed their initial budget) and you can bet your bottom dollar at least one set of hopeful house builders will sell up and live in a caravan, while the building work goes on around them.

Home from home...
It seems to be the done thing, to decamp your entire family and the dog, into the smallest, dampest, coldest place you could possibly live, while your dream home rises above you. 

Forget renting. Far better to move into a tiny fibreglass airless box with deflated tyres, which previously housed chickens, and sit there with your 2.5 children and 1.0 pooch, bemoaning your lot, while flicking through the latest Fired Earth/ Farrow & Ball catalogues.

While your husband, who is now doing all the work since you fell out with the builders over door handles and they downed tools, dangles precariously off the half-finished roof, and tries to waterproof the house by nailing your vastly overpriced reclaimed traditional Welsh slates in place with a toffee hammer*.
*The builders really did take all their tools, and the children were given a Fortnum's sweet hamper to soften the blow of not having cable for a few weeks.

So, from the outside looking in, there they are, Mr and Mrs Middle England, ensconced in their little caravan, which has seen better days and will be unceremoniously dumped without a backwards glance at the end of the “build”.

While they wait for the day they can relax in comfort on their (very reasonable at £18,000) sofa, in the (£76,000) cinema room and whinge to the somewhat unmoved Mr McCloud just how awful it was living in a box on wheels for a few weeks.

Leaving the sad little van to carry on rotting away quietly, tyres slowly perishing, local poultry eyeing it up as a potential step up the coup ladder, until the time when it finally gets to light up the children’s faces. 

But only as they watch it burn on Bonfire Night, topped off with a home-made effigy of the now slightly crispy Mr McC (he was just a little too scathing about spending £40,000 on a bath tap).

What a sad end. And so unnecessary. For the little mobile home, and the lovely Kevin.

I’m lucky. I don’t have to live in a caravan while the work is carried out on The Mini House.  

Mr PJ, the small brown dog and I, are happy where we are in No1 Heatherside Corner. 

But I like to think, if we were to move into a caravan, while The Mini House "build" was in progress - something which could take months, possibly years even, this would be our temporary home of choice.
The next project, perched on a lovely blue pallet
(for which is there for no other reason apart from the fact it goes nicely with the red paint
and is as rare as Hen's Teeth; when did you ever see a completley blue pallet before now?)
Bit drafty, I grant you, but its little tyres are still inflated, there are curtains, of sorts, at the windows, a space-age Perspex roof, and it comes with a proper front door, even if it isn’t attached at present.

I found this little treasure at a car boot sale and borrowed the £5 to purchase it from my Father in Law, who exclaimed in a loud voice “That will go nicely with your dollies house”, making him and everyone else around me snigger.

But at 42 years, 51 and a half weeks old, I am a grown up and therefore I care not a jot for other folks mockery and derision, as I see potential - the next project, when The Mini House is finished.

I see a mini Airstream.  I see The Pod. I see a Teardrop trailer. I see a tiny retro interior, with a sleek silver roof. 

I have quite a vivid imagination , it has to be said.  

But what I don’t see is “kindling”. 

Which was the first word from Mr PJ’s mouth when I bought "Dunroamin" back home with me.