Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Make Cafe Chairs for a Dollhouse

It costs about $20 to buy a bistro table and two chairs for a dollhouse, so I thought I'd try to make some myself. My first attempt at a table (not pictured) was a misshapen monstrosity that taught me the first rule of wire-bending dollhouse furniture: unless you can solder, you need to design furniture made from one continuous piece of wire.

The next day, a friend who had seen my dollhouse patisserie on Facebook (and who was unaware of my wire-bending attempts) suggested I might "easily" make some wire chairs and tables. So I didn't give up, and I think I've come up with a workable DIY design for wire dollhouse chairs.

The necessary tools include small needle-nose pliers, wire cutters and small, blunt, square-ended pliers. I had the pliers already (for beading). The needle-nose pliers actually have wire cutters too, so you could get away with just those, but I picked up the wire cutters (pictured in the centre) because they're more efficient. Each of these tools costs about $6. They really spare your fingers and make accurate bends.

The wire cost about $3 for a little coil from the hardware store that would be enough to make a couple of tables and at least four chairs. Apart from that, you need a very small amount of craft foam—or small disks of wood or plastic, some craft glue and some paint. I used white acrylic craft paint, which is available at the dollar store for $1 per bottle. So if you already own the tools, you could do two tables and four chairs for about $7.

Travelling from left to right, I began with a 3" tail, then shaped the wire as pictured above. The four legs are 2⅛" long, and I've left 1⅛" between legs. I left a foot of extra at the end; this will become the chair back.

Next, I bent the chair as pictured above, and secured the end of the 3" tail to close it. I then trimmed off the excess wire, leaving the extra foot of wire at the other end sticking straight up.

I used the needle-nose pilers to twist each leg. I found that 12 half-turns (like flipping a pancake) was just about right.

Then comes the tricky part: bending and shaping the legs and back. It can take a while. I slightly rounded out the sides of the seat square, then used the needle-nose pilers to curve the legs into gentle S curves. The blunt pliers are good for straightening and for making sharp bends.

Note that the back feet point backward and the front feet point forward. If the legs aren't quite the same length, you can change the height by bending the feet at a higher or lower point on the "ankle".

The back legs should be closer together than the front ones. I drew a template for the chair back to guide my wire-bending. It stands about 1½" in height from the seat. (It seems to work best to leave bending the seat back for last.) The end of the chair-back wire gets twisted to secure it around the place where the back leg meets the seat. I bent the backs to tilt just slightly backwards.

The final step is to glue on a circle cut out of craft foam or an equivalent paintable material as a seat. I've given these chairs two coats of acrylic craft paint, which really thickens the wire, glues everything together and fills in little holes like the teardrop-shaped opening on the feet. I'm planning to finish them with a coat of craft enamel to make them more chip-resistant and to give them a slightly glossier finish.

I think if I made a dozen of these, the last few would be really good. The thing that would make a big difference would be what my brother calls a jig: a folding guide that would ensure that all the bends and curves were exactly the same. But for now, I'm happy with the results.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the how-to lesson. I suppose when you start working on them, you realize it's not just a question of bending and twisting wire. It's about experimentation, trial and error and stick-to-it-ivness. But so is all building craft. You did make chairs after all. Size is irrelevant. You did a great job. They are adorable.