2016 Build: Messing Around


Enjoying sketching and roughing out little idea models for the lamentable 2016 HBS contest base kit. The concept above is very similar to 2012’s MiniTown Loft, my first-ever build, which became Loft No. 1961. For visualizing ideas I work in points and picas (six picas = one inch), because I am a graphic designer and picas are our native measurement system. And, one pica = one foot translates very handily for working in 1:12.

After building — and subsequently giving away, but not before I crated it and moved it across the US — one monster A-frame, I now confine my projects to 20 x 26-inch (51 x 66 cm) hollow core birch-ply drawing boards, with a turntable attached to the underside. They’re sturdy, lightweight, have a nice finished edge, and are reasonably priced. The size restriction helps me plan the site landscaping, which I enjoy as much as building the structure and furniture.

Another thing I’ve realized is that I like to keep a representative amount of recognizable original elements from the base kit. Not sure why. The contest rules are deliciously wide open, so maybe that allows me the freedom to embrace some pre-defined design limitations, and parameters of practicality. Plus, it’s just so amazing to see what everyone comes up with :)

As a wonderful kickoff for this project, a dear family member, who is a custom cabinetmaker, asked me if I wanted any of this stuff that his shop was tossing out:


These four-foot lengths of oak (cut to 1/4 x 3/8- and 9/16-inch, quite near standard dimensional scale lumber sizes :)


and all these veneer scraps, if you can call three- and four-foot lengths scrap. Only one is labeled (upper left, teak) but they look to be perhaps alder, koa, purple heart?, mahogany?, red oak, birch, spruce… I have a labeled sample kit somewhere, I’ll have to cross-reference to identify. Then he casually mentioned he’d be glad to look out for and save me miniature-suitable wood scraps! I see a yummy wood giveaway in the future to share this bounty. Many, many thanks, T. Happy boxing day.



9 thoughts on “2016 Build: Messing Around

  1. Barbara W. says:

    My goodness, you certainly don’t let the mini grass grow under your feet. It’s fascinating watching your creative process in action. I was gifted a wonderful Taschen book for Christmas about treehouses. The use of wood (and trees!) in very small spaces would lend itself well to the 2016 build. And now you have some lovely wood to work with..

    • Nancy Enge says:

      BW, you know we must always make hay whilst the sun shines, proverbially or otherwise. In this case, I know I’m slammingly busy with work projects, so any block of free time that miraculously opens up is devoted to heart projects. And the longer I can muse and marinate before the kit structure appears, most likely the fewer regrets I’ll have. (I’m curious to learn if HBS/miniatures.com has found merit in their sponsored build-along and will continue their support. Not that it will stop any of us from continuing if they decide they have not.)
      And yes! The serendipity of these wood gifts is a boon. How it all plays out… well, that’s what it’s all about for me :)
      So your next build is a treehouse?

  2. Barbara W. says:

    ‘Heart projects’ is a lovely expression. I may very well end up ordering the 2016 kit. I confess I was originally dismissive of it, but a second look and a day off resulted in an epiphany of sorts. I am rapidly filling a sketchbook and sourcing materials as if I were actually going to take part. ‘Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto’ as the song goes, but little houses have always been my idea of home.

    • Nancy Enge says:

      Oooooh! Heartfelt encouragement! Plus, if you order within… the next 45 minutes, it’s 25% off! (Use Coupon Code WPC35101 at Checkout) DO IT DO IT DO IT.

  3. spacecenturylane says:

    The 2015 kit was the second dollhouse project I had ever worked on. As soon as I saw it I knew what it had to become. My vision evolved, but it’s exactly what I wanted. The 2016 kit had me scratching my head. After declaring that it’s probably not going to be for me, I figured out what it wants me to make it. Isn’t that always how it works? I’ll pull the trigger sometime in the next few month. I loved watching your creative process.

    • Nancy Enge says:

      Thank you! I think I’m going to rough up the oak — well, some of it — to look like old timber beams and rafters. Won’t that be a fun carving project?

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