Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Altoid Tin Challenge Miniature and how I made it

Altoid Tin Challenge

Back in January I issued a challenge to the LittleEnoughNews yahoo group to make a miniature using an Altoids tin or similar tin.  Due to other real life and miniature activities I wasn't able to get mine done.
The challenge produced some wonderful project including a Wizard of OZ, ME theme, Boggy bottom, something with cupcakes, and several more that I can't think to name right now.  All of which are posted to the group.  If you want to see those photos, you will have to join the group as I don't own those pics.


My Challenge project

When the challenge was going on I pulled out a tin I had on hand.  I even pulled a few items to go in it, but just wasn't able to make it then.  This week I took the time and it went together fairly quickly.
I had already determined the arrangement of my tin on its end open like a book. I even found a plastic box for that I would use.  These steps certainly helped speed the project to completion.

Base and Floor

I measured the box and cut a piece of foam core board for the bottom.  I then cut a groove in it to rest the lid portion of the tin.  Next I cut a second piece of foam core board and this one I started marking it so could fit into the depth of the tin lid and bottom. 
Here are the results of the cutting of these two pieces, Base and Floor
 The piece on the right is the underside of the floor.  One can see the notches and areas cut away to fit the tin exactly.

Here is the floor with the flooring added.  The flooring was a sample card obtained from a home improvement store to show a crackle finish.
Here is the under side of the floor in the tin itself

Wallpaper

Once I was satisfied with the floor and base, I moved on to the wallpaper.
I have a book that I use to store wallpaper (a three-ring binder with plastic sleeves).  Wallpaper for smaller scales is so much easier to store.  But this book does have pieces of wallpaper that could be used for one-inch (1:12 scale).  I have one sleeve dedicated to raggedy theme or coordinating styles/colors.  I did find some to use so that helped speed the project up as well.
To fit the wallpaper into the tin, I cut a piece of plain paper the shape of the tin lid (used the lid as a template).  Then I pressed this paper template into the lid and cut away anything that was bent.  Once I had that, then I used another scrap of plain paper to determine the width the wallpaper needed to be for this tin.  Cut a strip wider than the tin lid template and then pressed it inside.  Repeat for other direction.  Then I could cut the wallpaper the approximate width and height needed.  
In order to avoid pressing the wallpaper into the tin and bending it unnecessarily, I placed the lid template on the wallpaper and made some cuts to the edge of the template.  Then I inserted in the lid and pressed into shape.
I learned that I didn't need so many cuts - see this pic shows the lid wallpaper and the box wallpaper after being trimmed.  Note how the one on the right has wings at the top and bottom, that was really what was needed.
When folded into the tin the wings go behind the sides or towards the bottom.
Once the wallpaper was ready - I decided to do something about the shiny edges of the tin for the room side.  I didn't want to paint as was concerned it would flake off before I got the project finished, although that might not have been the case.  Instead I used a permanent marker in a dark blue.  (I got this set of markers for a totally different craft project, but they are proving themselves of greater value more and more.)
 I test fit everything - tin, floor, base, wallpaper all at the same time.  Once I was satisfied this was all I needed to do, I added glue to the interior corners of the tin and added the wallpaper. 
I did trim the paper so it was just below the edge of the tin.
Then I set the floor in place, checking it.  Ok, good, the next step was to glue the floor in place.  After I was satisfied with the floor and tin together against the base, then is when I glued to the base.
As I looked at the project from all sides I realized I was premature of gluing the base to the floor.  I decided that I needed to add some of the flooring to the outer portion of the tin since it showed.  I pieced this together best I could - would have been so much easier to have that in place before I glued it all together.  I also added a piece back to the side of the tin where I had lopped it off.  This piece of foam core board was cut with a curve to fit up next to the box of the tin. 

This pic shows how that foam core board had to be added to fit up against the box section on the left and a small gap still on the right side.  Also shows how I pieced the flooring in the back and outside of the tin.  Looks like I need to fix a spot.

Wood trim around the base

Lastly I pulled out some wood veneer on a roll that I had been itching to use for some time. This comes pre-glued on the back. It works by ironing it to whatever is being edged.  Since this glue requires heat I made sure to test a sample of foam-core board first.  My test was very successful so I went ahead and cut my pieces. 
Wait actually I cut my pieces, painted them, trimmed them and then realized I should test.  After the test and then after successfully applying the pieces using my iron I would say that it would have been better to apply the wood first - aligning to one edge.  Then trim against the other edge.  Rotate to another side and repeat. 
The test that I did was really clean when I trimmed the wood and glue away, but having already pre-painted and pre-cut my pieces I was stuck with dealing with the glue that squeezed out.  It isn't the cleanest I would like even with going afterwards with my craft knife.  I also ended up repainting as my color was uneven.  If however I had been able to sand against the flooring edge then the glue excess wouldn't have been a problem.  
But I do love - love this product, how easy it was to use and the look I achieved even with my excess glue.  I even considered a separate blog post about using this wood veneer for edging.
So here is the finished piece with all the swaps added
To see more photos of the finished piece, check out my picture trail album.

In the shelf just under the house is even a piece of 'glass art' I made using plastic that I posted about here.
It really is a dish but not so obvious here in the shelf.  Below is a star shaped bead.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How to make glass art from plastic

How I made art for my glass studio in miniature using plastic

Recently I designed a workshop for MicroMini Online Convention with the theme of Art in Miniature.  My design was four art studios in matchboxes.  View photos of this here or view my prior blog post about that project here.
To fill up each studio I used bits and beads to represent the student artwork.

Please note pictures are not to scale - some may be greatly enlarged relative to actual size

Glass Maker Studio Artwork

For the other studios I had beads and fibers that I could use to represent the student artwork but for the glass one I thought of a how to I had seen using a tube and a flame to make a bottle in miniature.  I figured I could play with plastic bits and flame and see what I could get.  I was super pleased with the results and had the best time playing with this process.
Also I looked for plastic to use as the door and window glass, I ran across a package of Shrink Art.  I set it aside for working with later as it was too thick for the door and window glass - well I thought it was at the time and knew I would come back to it.  But it also got me to thinking of other plastic I might have and that lead me to the simple plastic beads I had from a prior ornament project.

The following process involves using a candle flame and extreme caution is recommended. An alternative to flame is the use of an oven.  However caution when handling once heated would still be very important.

The Tools and Materials

Here are the tools and materials I used:
Metal tweezers, pliers, scissors, candle, matches, permanent markers, shrink art, plastic beads, metal rulers, aluminum foil, hot pad or folded towel, phillips head screwdriver, wire, flat metal ruler for pressing against

The Process

Having seen the bottle tutorial, I knew that plastic would melt or become pliable if heated.  I really had no idea how that would work so I just played around.
I started with holding a plastic bead in a pair of tweezers.  I knew that the tweezers being metal that the heat could transfer and travel to my fingers.  However I didn't have any issue with that with my tweezers.  But please use caution to assure you don't get burned.  The bead begins to soften before the heat transfers.  Or the bead gets too much heat and catches fire.  But if that happened I just blew it out.  Sometimes the fire on the bead discolored it and sometimes I blew it out soon enough that it didn't.


Here is a bead before it has been heated - you can still see the facets of the bead.
Here the bead has softened over the flame - the green bead is waiting to be touched with the softened bead.  The green bead hasn't been heated, but it could have been prior to this step.
It was by accident that I discovered that a heated bead would stretch when it touched unheated plastic.  So that was my next phase of playing.
Once the bead has softened, is when it can be shaped, squished, twisted, pulled, and cut.  I simply played around here to see what I could do with it.
I even added a bead to a wire head pin.  The head keep the bead on and I pushed with my pliers to shape into a flower. 
Once I discovered the stretching process from touching a piece not heated I was off and running with that phase.

 Great potential here with the stretching.  This reminds me of glass art made by a famous artist.  But a project for another day.


The stretching process does require a bit of finesse - can't pull too fast or the plastic breaks.  Also the heated piece does need to be well heated (but not on fire).
Here is some flowers made with this process

The bits I made for the studio were mostly made from this process so far.
All the items on the shelves were made by just heating the beads and either stretching them or cutting them.  As in if the bead was too large, then I used my scissors while the bead was hot to cut off a portion.

The green statue in front of the shelf was my next phase.

Shrink Art

The shrink art comes in plastic sheets.  I knew it could be heated in the oven, so I experimented with the candle flame.  That worked.  I also knew that to add designs to the shrink art could be readily done with permanent markers.  Luckily I have a whole set in my stash.  (Bought those for a totally different project with a 40% off coupon.)  Plastic sheets meant trying to cut them with scissors - works, and with punches - works but far more difficult as the plastic is thicker.
Here is a star shape I cut out with scissors, although the one in my studio was done with a punch.



This second pic is after it has been heated.  The one disadvantage to shrink art was that it tended to thicken.  That's fine for some projects but not for all miniature ones.
Sorry these are blurry, but maybe it is clear what I want to show.  The star on the right was a punched one.  The streamer tail was made because holding it in my tweezers while heating it didn't shrink.  I played with the tail with another pair of tweezers or pliers to get the stretch.  The blue pointed shape on the left was the outside of the punch shape from the star.  It squished on its own due to the uneven heating.
The roundish thing at the top was just a roundish piece cut with scissors, marker squiggles for design, then heated some to shrink and shape it.

The green scuplture above in front of the shelving - that was a scrap from punching.  I added color and then heated and shaped it.  A similar item was made same way and added to the front of the studio.
It is the clear sculpture next to the door between door and window.
When twisting the plastic, it was important to hold it in place until it cooled.
Here is another example of the before and after with the markers

Another way to heat and shape

So I decided I also wanted to make somethings in 1:48 scale for a swap I needed to do.  I had already experimented with the beads on a head pin so I knew I could make something like a bowl like shape with the shrink art, but when I tried it I was not so pleased with the shape and also it tended to become too thick for my liking.


These bowls were all made with shrink art that I colored with the markers.
I was also getting tired of holding the pieces with tweezers - not that the tweezers getting hot was a problem, just the squeezing.
My solution was to try heating the plastic in aluminum foil.  This I did have to hold with tweezers as the foil transferred the heat far too quickly.  Secondly the foil had a tendency to make the candle go out - too close to the mouth of the jar.  I experimented with adding holes to the foil so air could flow in, but was too crudely done so for a bit I just held the foil with tweezers.
however for making swaps, I decided that I should add a wire holder over the candle so the foil could rest on and above the candle.  This worked very well.

Once I used scissors to make my plastic piece smaller - heat then cut, I was able to heat nicely in the foil.
Although I could also heat in the foil and then cut after it had melted, but only after cool and held over the heat separately.  The plastic while melted tended to stick to the foil, so couldn't cut it while melted if in the foil.
 Bead before melting
In this second picture, maybe can see that the plastic is really melted and in a puddle.

The wire holder allowed me to rest the foil above the flame and then I could use the tweezers to pick up the foil and quickly rest it on a hot pad.  The hot pad wasn't necessary although I figured it gave me the ability to press and have a rounded surface with the foil.  I pressed the heated plastic with a phillips head screwdriver and rotated to make a fluted bowl.
The smaller blue bowl was made from half of what the larger blue bowl was made.  So to make the 1:48 scale art bowls for my swaps, I used a third of the beads I had. 
One thing that happened while using the screwdriver is the fluting sometimes had flashing (excess thinner plastic).  To get rid of that, I just held over the flame using tweezers - for a short time to let the flashing absorb back with the rest of the plastic.


The first pic shows with flashing and this second without. 

Another source of plastic I was recently made aware of but haven't used yet is plastic cutlery.   This might be easier to cut up into pieces first with wire cutters, but other than a different source for materials I don't know of any additional reason to source them if the plastic beads are available. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

1:144 scale MM Arts & Craft Center

Art in Miniature

In 2013, the theme for the MicroMini yahoo group online convention was announced.  The first thing that came to mind was my semester spent at Appalachian Center for Crafts (ACC).  At ACC they covered 5 different art media: Clay, Glass, Wood, Metal and Fiber.  I took an intro class in both Fiber and in Glass.  Although I really enjoyed my time there, I did decide that it wasn't for me so I didn't continue.  In hindsight, I wish I had pursued a degree in Fine Arts instead, but I digress.
For the convention I decided to offer a workshop, so I came up with this.  I did have to narrow the selection to four media - however I switched to painting as one instead of wood or metal.  I narrowed the selection only due to the size of the cover I wanted to include.  I really prefer having a cover anyway. 
Choosing matchboxes to house this is almost like second nature to me for micro mini or 1:144 scale miniatures.  They capture my love of using unusual containers to make things in for one.  For another they just have a good size for a simple building.  They may not be very deep but that also works if you don't want to get too in-depth into a subject.  Oh and they are also very cheap to use and very easy to work with.
Here is the result of that creation:

Sliders - oh the decisions

I don't know why I was obsessed with a means to open the drawers without touching them.  My last endeavor with matchboxes created a really simple extra end that made it super easy to open them.  See that project talked about on my blog here or just in photos here. I discussed this with my hubby as I really wanted a mechanism that allowed me to turn a knob and open all four of them at once.  Since I had already decided that I was going to do this as a workshop it was critical that it not be too expensive to do or to difficult to do.  Doing it for myself, I could have designed something I was happy with.  But I had decided it would be a workshop so simple won out.  What I ended up with was a single wire and groove for the wire for each studio.  Also each wire comes out an eyelet.  Those made a really nice cover for the hole. 
Here it is with all the drawers out and you can see the sliders:

Filling up the Interiors

 I work full-time and so my mini-time is precious.  I knew I could develop my own kits to go inside, but to make things easier on myself, I contacted Susan K. of sdk minis.  I asked if she would be willing to work with me on providing items to go in my studios.  I had already selected several of her kits to purchase but there were a few others that we worked together to come up with what I wanted.  She also had several new kits she had worked on as well that were right in line with my ideas. 
I ordered a number of kits and then it was time to put them together.  I haven't made that many 1:144 scale kits at once.  I might not have done them all if I hadn't wanted them all finished to show with my workshop.  My workshop was just the studios and artwork to go in them - leaving the actual furnishings to sdk minis kits.
For the student artwork I used a lot of beads and other bits.  I printed a few things for the walls.  I collected images from the internet and resized them down to suit what I wanted.  The most fun was making the Glass artwork.  I will cover that in another blog post.  I will say that I used plastic to make my glass.  Both the window and door glass and the glass artwork were made from plastic.

The Courtyard

In deciding that this was four studios and they were somehow connected, I designed a center courtyard that would be surrounded by the studios.  The matchboxes could then all be seen from the fronts to the outside.  Inside the courtyard I envisioned a place for the students to sit and also for people to visit and see the artwork on display at that time.  This type of artwork can be quite large so I allowed my choice of materials for these to be larger than what went inside.  Although when it comes to artwork, artists seem to love doing larger than life sculptures. 
One idea that I had and clung to longer than I should have was to have beads on the slider wires.  The idea was to have the beads as sculptures at the end of a matchbox.  These had to be such that the beads were sturdy as well as the wires.  While I worked on this, I also clung to the wire I had first decided on.  I choose it simply because I knew it was sturdy - not easily bent, but it was thin.  Unfortunately that thinness was really what wasn't working.  I discarded the idea of the beads on the slider wires as sculpture long before I tried another type of wire.  It was only someone else's suggestion (at my request for suggestions) to try something else that didn't work to pursue the other wire options in my stash.  I share this with you so that maybe you won't cling to an idea that it has to be this when it doesn't appear to be working.  Also it is a reminder to myself to be open to any and all options. 
Here is the results of the courtyard
My choice of cover did limit how the matchboxes could be laid out.  It narrowed the outer sidewalk area to just that.  Also the spacing between them was tight, but I am pleased with the results.  

One of these days I think I would like to create a companion piece that can live next to this one.  It might have a shop for the students to sell their artwork or maybe a metal working studio....

to see more photos of this project - pop over to my picture trail and view its album
and stay tuned for the how to on making the glass art work - coming soon to this blog

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Pink Seahorse Gift shop - Souvenir from QC Conv Cruise 2013

In September 2013, I was a part of the Quarter Connection Online Convention for 2013.  The theme this year was a cruise.
Our souvenir was a gift shop kit that includes several other kits from the QC team.

I have posted full photos on my picture trail.

I only made a few changes to the kit. 
The kit included a couple of choices for the awning and I choose this one with the pink seahorses on it.  I used the colors from that to paint my gift shop.
I did not use the exterior siding - it was grey boards.  Instead I just painted the box pink.
I meticulously painted the seahorse on the trim pieces pink.  I was very careful to leave the laser cut details.
The roof is a printie from the kit but I used a yellow wash to change the color.
Then I used my computer to create my name sign. 

This was a truly awesome souvenir.  It was the first time I worked on a project during an online convention.  That was fun, chatting with everyone as I worked on the project.  I wasn't able to finish, but was determined to get back to it soon.  Considering I haven't finished any other convention souvenir kit, I think three months is very timely.

Monday, November 18, 2013

NAME day hutch gets a cover

Last week I moved my studio from my bedroom to my daughter's old bedroom.  I share more about that here.  Moving has inspired me greatly as I saw my things with new eyes.

For example, I had a black perfume gift box - nice finished wood with a sliding plexi-glass lid.  I got this at a tag sale earlier this year.  Since that time it had been sitting with my other "some day I will use this for something's".  I didn't use it right away because it was black lacquer and also the size wasn't big enough or small enough for any project I could think of.  Or so I thought. 

For no other reason than I had space for it, I had moved it to my desk area and left it empty.  Well it wasn't long and I thought of a use for it. 
In 2010 I made a 1:12 scale hutch as part of the NAME day.  Part 1 here and Part 2 showing the finished project here.  It occurred to me that the hutch needed a place to be protected from dust and this would be a great size for it.  Thinking I didn't want it to be permanent, I cut wallpaper and flooring to fit but used temporary double sided tape to keep it in place.  It was super fast and put that box to good use.

The wallpaper was some scrapbooking paper I had.  I actually purchased it several years ago to do a different miniature project that didn't work out.  The flooring was some paper I had from 1:12 scale projects before. 
It is hard to see in the picture as the box itself is so dark, but this picture is taken with the lid off.  The top piece of trim is attached to the clear plastic lid.  The box was stamped on one side sensi. I guess that is a cologne or perfume by designer initials of G. A.

Back to miniaturing...
Preble

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beginning Miniaturist

In any story of my history of being a miniaturist I have ever written before today, I would blame my parents for instilling in me the creative gene to make miniatures because they didn't buy me a dollhouse. 
Well, I need to correct all those stories, because I now have proof they did buy me one, I just don't remember it.  Now, I can say they are the reason I had those dreams of miniatures.  Actually the dreams aren't surprising as my dad is an O gauge train enthusiast.  I recall in one house he had a whole room (some would make a library/office he had a train room) for his train layout. 
Is there any wonder that when my adult children finally leave the nest that I am going to take over one room for my studio?
My mom has been scanning slides to digital format so that my husband can create a video/slideshow for their upcoming 50th anniversary.
Yesterday she emailed me this:
She labeled it Beginning miniaturist?

Well, she got that right, it really is too bad I don't still have that house.  Because I now I am going to be hunting a copy of it.  If anyone knows what it is, then by all means tell so I know what to look for on ebay.

This past week, my mom went with me and my daughter to the show in Nashville.  My mom didn't go in, but when we ate lunch we had show and tell.  (Show and tell at lunch is a required part of any mini show trip.)  Later in the day we made it to the Miniature Cottage and I picked out a Maureen Thomas rabbit doll and my mom paid for it.  Wow! that was cool.  Thanks Mom!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Storing and Organizing Minis: display units and covers

Displaying minis does not have to be a challenge – think of it as a way to be creative.  I really love sharing my minis with others, but I love looking at them myself.  So my ideas now are how can I show more in the same space?  Or how can I show more of the special items that don’t yet have a home?

Recently I enjoyed reading a webposting by an online friend Wanna Newman.  She had shared about her new display cabinet.  you can read it here.  It inspired me to think about my own display units and covers.  I share this post about the advantages and disadvantages of the different types I am using and also how I am being creative in displaying my minis.

Dust is not our friend
Any miniaturist will tell you that dust is not our friend.  Starting out due to cost, I often chose not to have a cover for my finished project and that was not a good thing.  I have several projects that I gave up trying to keep up with the dust.  These projects would get dismantled and some parts even had to be thrown away as they had become damaged.  It is my current attitude that any project I make from now on should have a dust cover of some sort.  Thankfully for those that I don't have one for, I do have some good shelving units and other covers that I will move to different ones as I like.

Keeping it fresh
Because of an increasing desire to display more of my miniatures I have started doing new things.  I have gotten creative with different levels and in layers.  It started with a cheesedome that I added a base (the black and white one) and initially had in my studio area, but I soon moved it to the living area.  I have talked about in a prior blog.  That dome holds items that may have a place to go, but it isn’t finished yet or it doesn’t have a home.  Putting them in the dome lets me see them instead being hidden away where I can’t enjoy them.  Since I blogged about it, I came across this dessert stand and it has stayed there ever since.  Note the black and white base has a turntable under it.

I enjoy rearranging things. For example, I used to rearrange the living room about once a year.  Moving to this house five years ago, I haven't found it to be that easy to do - so instead I rearrange my miniatures - usually with the seasons or holidays.  Rearranging them encourages me to dust and also gives them a new light - keeps them fresh.  One way to keep it fresh is to display them around your home.  I have cats and sometimes small children so they don’t sit out just anywhere.

My house has an open floor plan so my kitchen is open to the living room with a bar height counter in between.  At first we did not have bar stools so I have taken over this counter to display miniatures.  It is actually really cool as I can look at minis while I wash dishes.  Here is what that area looks like:

Another way to keep it fresh is to turn around a project that normally is seen from a particular side, like a dollhouse.  Switch the house so the front can be seen first or vice versa.  This is where a mirror behind is nice to have.

Store display designers know that variety and similar grouping will encourage the eye to look longer so I have incorporated that in my display areas.  I do usually change with the seasons or for holidays.  I may choose to set out things that are a similar theme or colors as well.  I use different heights to give focus or more weight to a piece.  Because I am rearranging some of the pieces to put them on more prominent display, it also means that I am rearranging other areas. 

Display units
I have two different ones plus a glass fronted secretary. 


This narrow one is a commonly seen unit in stores that I came by second hand (my mom let me have for my birthday a few years ago – thanks Mom!).  The advantages to this unit is that is enclosed and it has a light and the glass shelves are adjustable.  Also having glass on three sides is a plus.  The disadvantage is that the door doesn’t close well (there is a gap all around it) and the access is narrower than the unit is deep and it isn’t that deep to start with, but quarter scale items fit well. 
Because the light is at the top, I always try to arrange the items so that the light can reach the lower shelves.  Another advantage this unit has is a mirror back.  Now that I have a unit with mirror, I will try to have that in future ones as well.  The mirror allows me to display those four-sided projects (like a dollhouse) and the side turned to the back can still be viewed – often quite well.  The key to this is to not push the project too close to the mirror and also maybe set it at an angle so that it is a little easier to see.

My other shelf unit is actually an entertainment unit.  We splurged on this when we got the new house.  It has two towers that can stand alone, combined with the top – although it does have a bit of a gap even without the dollhouse (my daughter's) in between, or combined with the top and the tv stand that is presently separated.  When this unit is all together there is an additional shelf that goes between the two towers and above the tv stand.  But that extra shelf isn’t required to be used (that shelf is presently under the loveseat so it is out of the way).

 The tv stand has glass shelves as well, but it is all electronics. If ever we change to something else, this stand will be taken over for minis. 
Here is how the unit looks all together and how we had it for several years - well at least the unit not the items inside as they moved around.
 
Advantages of this unit are for starters the flexibility of the different combinations, but it is also lighted.  Really cool the way it lights via a fingertip touch to the right hinge and it comes on – up to three levels.  Now the lighting does not always reach the lower shelves, so like my other unit, I do arrange the projects to hopefully allow as much light to each project and every shelf as possible.  That is a slight disadvantage, but definitely liveable.  (I have considered adding some led light strips to the sides of the door – it does have room and could probably be done fairly easily, I just haven’t gotten around to it.) This unit also has adjustable shelves so that is a plus considering how often I like to rearrange items.  I also really like that this unit is quite deep.  When I have someone to look at my minis I usually open these doors so that I can pull things out or let them get closer. 

This unit does have good fitting doors, but it also has holes in the back of it to allow for electronic items that have wires.  This allows dust in.  I don’t use them for my lighted miniature projects as those usually have covers or the big plug won’t fit the hole.  I would have to add a connector to the wire, which I just haven’t gotten around to.

The Secretary

I got this one for my birthday as well – back in high school.  I even used the drawers for clothes back then, but in my living room it is just for storing linen for my dining room table.  The top is all display.  The disadvantages of this are that it isn’t lighted and it isn’t very deep.  When I have people over and they look at my minis I do often open the doors of this as well.

Built in

This floor plan came with the built in shelf unit.  I was really pleased with that.  What I didn’t think about was having outlets put in the inside of it.  Then I would be able to plug in the projects that have lighting or have lights attached to the shelf.  I also have to make sure that items displayed here are covered.  The top shelf is a bit high so we keep my hubby’s penguin collection up there. 

Risers

Here’s a close up of the shelf I display minis on. 

This is a closer picture of the penguin display

In both these shelves I am using several risers to elevate some projects.  Risers can be tins, boxes, or parts of boxes.  Also other items to look for are dessert stands or candle stands or holders.  For example, I separated a photo cube – the kind that is U shaped and slide together.  This is one way to use a plastic box that has a scratch without interfering with the view of the item inside.
The biggest advantage to risers to me is that I can put things in front of them and showcase more things together in a smaller space. 

Below the mini shelf is a shelf of my scrapbooks.  In between these books, I have another display cabinet.  It doesn't have minis in it right now because of where it is and what I needed to display. This one is smaller.  It came secondhand as well so is missing one level of glass.  The item on the lower shelf would look better if I added a riser below it that raised it above the wood frame of the door.  This unit does not have any lighting and also would have the same issue with the narrower opening, but the door is tighter, but still dust can get in. 

 COVERS – COVERS – COVERS
As mentioned above covers are important and I would venture to say almost necessary.  Covers can take many shapes and I have many different ones.  I like to look for them in second hand shops.  I don’t skip over it if it doesn’t have a base as I have found that I can work around that.  If it is clear then I might just buy it. 

Domes - Glass domes of course are great option.   I like them because they can be easily cleaned and generally won’t scratch.  Domes are limiting in that not everything will fit.  They are generally round but I have seen oval ones.

Domes can be found made of plastic.  I have two that were intended as snow globes. Some online friends even talked about using plastic 2 or 3 liter bottles.  I did buy one, but haven't decided if I want to use it yet.
 
Here are two examples of domes that didn’t have bases – one I added just recently a dessert stand.  I made a foam base that fits in the dome – fine if the dome doesn’t need to be moved.  Previously I had used a glass plate for it to sit on.

For this one I used a foam board to make a base  - the glass rests on the lowest level (grey/beige one) and the other level (green grass) fits up inside the dome.
 
Other dome type options that I have seen are mason jars, bell jars (have a ball on the top) and vases.  I have a vase that has a curve to it.  It makes the inside smaller near the bottom what I would use for the top, but it could still be used for the right project. Really, any clear container can work but the challenge is making the project fit or being the size.  Something to keep in mind - will the way the container is made like its base that becomes a top block the view of what will be inside. 

One big advantage I see to a dome is that the project will be viewable from all sides.  I think it is great fun to make something that you want to look at all the way around.

Plastic containers
There are many shapes and sizes of plastic containers.  The disadvantage for me is the fact they are more easily scratched.  I have been told there is a product specifically made for cleaning plastic and it helps with the scratching but I have yet to purchase any.  I know I need to but I just haven’t yet.

I also have used many of the two part fitting plastic containers.  I bought a bunch of 4x4x4 inch cubes in addition to other sizes that I think might work.  I also have saved the ones from ornaments or other packaging - if they look good and are sturdy they are saved.
 

Doll protector cases – these are flimsy covers that have a lid that fits over the top to hold the sleeve like side in place.  The advantage these give is that the plastic can be shortened.  I don’t like the grooves on top but I still use it.  I put whatever project in it that doesn't have  cover that I want to display outside a display unit.
 
Custom cases - I only have one of those. This one was actually the wrong size for what I needed, but was my fault not the maker.  I use it to cover any project that doesn't have a cover.  Even the items that go under it get rearranged as this project fits in the entertainment unit towers not always under there.
 
I even use that cover for multiple smaller projects.  Here is an example I did once for a table centerpiece.

I made sure that everything I displayed that day was under a cover.
Here's a close up, see there are two houses under the cover

Collector car cases – I bought some matchbox size car cases and finally have started using them.  These are neat as the base fits up into the cover.  They are a bit short for a roombox, although could be done if the items aren’t tall.  I use them for displaying the odd item not yet with a home. Oh and for the last Quarter Connection convention we got one of the type cases that was bigger and the souvenir porch kit will go in it. 

Tins
What a tin as a cover you might ask.  Well yes, if the tin is cut open.  I did this for a half inch scale project.

 
The tin lid was cut open with my multi-purpose tool and a cut off wheel tip.  The box was fitted so a piece of plexiglass rests in front of the room and below the lid.  Course I rest the tin on one side and so the lid becomes the front.  I also have a tin that have as plexiglass window built in but I have yet to put anything inside it.  I will likely light it as it just has the one window in the side.

While I am talking about the insert I created – one source of plastic is packaging.  I do save good pieces of packaging for windows, inserts or other mini ideas such as a pond or sink.

Sports covers
Sports memorabilia is very popular so I take advantage of the covers offered for them to use for my minis.  Basketball covers are a good size for a bigger project like a house in quarter inch scale.  I prefer ones without the wood sides.  However for this particular project I think it works together.  These covers can be all plastic, custom made, part wood, part glass, part mirror and other choices.  Sometimes these may not be the way to go, but if the price is right, then I like it.
This project later had snow added, but the color of the house trim is still the same as the case trim.  It fits really well on the bar counter, and that makes it easier to see all sides of it when it is out.

Softball cases – I have two of these and I love them.  I got them for a real bargain as the bases were scratched.  But not after I was done with them.  Disadvantage is that they aren't tall enough for some of my projects that might otherwise fit.  Pic is not the best, but maybe it shows how nice the case is.

 
Small football helmet - My more recent pleasing find is perfect for many quarter inch scale projects and it is a small football or football helmet size.  Here is one I have.  It was given to me second hand so it does have scratches, but I use it anyway.
 

Turntables
Another element to consider in display especially for items that are covered and the viewer will want to see all sides is a turntable.  I have a few of my domes on turntables.  They are really nice to have.  I don't have any big houses so I haven't need to invest in larger table and turntable combos but those are out there if you need one.  The turntable does not have to be the same size as the base.  I am not sure what the rule of thumb but I would suggest half the size or just over half is fine.
Showing off
Now when I show guests my minis, I hand them a flashlight (got that idea from a mini museum I visited) so they can look at anything they can't see with the lights I do have.  I suggest a good bright LED one.  I also like to open up the doors of my cabinets and if they really seem interested I will pull out a project to let them hold or to show more details.  For all the display efforts I do have, the essence of a mini may be best viewed in the hand - if that is reasonable.  I do make a point to either glue down everything or use some good mini-hold which is a waxy substance that sticks and holds. 
This blog post shows pics of my many projects but focuses on the cases or display units to see more pics of a project check out my new picturetrail site.

Also I have created pinterest board just of display ideas I have found - some ideas mentioned here and others I found on the web and might use in the future.

Comments are always welcome...