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Make a Micro (N) Scale Halloween Shop In a Walnut
This 'micro' miniature or "N" scale shop built into a walnut gives a lot of room for details in a small scale. It can be finished with battery LED lights to light a finished interior if you want. Evan Designs now make their battery operated led sets in tiny pico and nano sizes suitable for this scale of project. The walnuts can be built with back opening viewing ports, or hinged with small hinges (set in epoxy putty) on the seam of the shell.
Materials Used to Make the... Witch's Halloween Shop in a Walnut Shell
I used a walnut, air dry clay (I used Delight), various glues, a bit of thin sheet plastic, and some industrial window/ doors in N scale from Grandt Line to make my miniature Witch's shop. (I used their # 8014 set and cut out the window dividers. I also used some 1:48 scale Halloween accessories from Jean Day's new line of laser cut miniatures to decorate the exterior and add some Halloween items to the shop window.
You could make some 'inhabitants' using the instructions for the tiny fairies or you can use "N" scale railway figures or accessories.
Some specialist miniaturist make "Micro" (1:144) scale furniture and accessories for these tiny scenes. You can see Nell Corkin's walnut houses and 1:44 scale resin furniture on her website.
This project is fairly 'fiddly' as parts are very small and walnut shells can be tough and brittle. Success may take a bit of practise, so plan on making a few attempts at this until you work out a system that works for you!Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Starting the Walnut Witch's Shop Project
To begin making the shop in the walnut shell it is easiest to crack the walnut. Use the instructions for cracking walnut shells in half for ornaments. It can be re-assembled later using epoxy putty or carpenter's to glue the sides together, or you can hinge the seam and add a catch on one side for opening the nut if you use epoxy putty to anchor the hinges.
Once you have cracked the walnut in half, remove the meat of the nut and remove any connecting membranes in the interior of the walnut... shell.
Decide how you will add doors or windows to your walnut shell. I decided to use the industrial windows and doors in N scale from Grandt Line to make a shop front bay window for my scene.Continue to 3 of 12 below.
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Building a Bay Window Shop Front for a Walnut Shell
To assemble the shop front for my walnut shell, I cut the window dividers out of an "N" scale shop front then separated two window sections from a window piece in the same set to make matching single window plus transom 'ends' for my bay window shop front.
I tested the window parts against the part of the walnut where I wanted the bay to sit, and then made a paper template pattern of a bay window floor to hold the windows at the right angles to fit against the outside of the... nut.
Finally I used my template to cut a piece of styrene sheet for a floor, then glued the front window/door section to the styrene sheet and glued the window sides across the angles of the bay as well as to the corners of the front window.
Leave the bay assembly to dry completely before continuing.
If you wish, you can make a simple flat window which is easier to set into the walnut.Continue to 4 of 12 below.
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Mark Out the Opening on the Walnut For the Shop Front
With the bay shop front assembled I set it against my walnut and marked where I needed to make the opening. If you have a rotary tool or a flexible shaft tool, this is a good time to cut the opening with a power tool!
If you don't have a power tool, you can cut the opening in the walnut by hand, or you can use a mini drill, ore better yet an archimedean drill / push drill to drill a series of tiny holes very close together, then file the opening. I drilled two sides of my walnut opening,... and used a razor saw on the other two sides so you could see the difference between the two methods.
If you are using a mini drill, use a small bit, and drill carefully up and down, as close together as you can to make a series of connected holes. In the next step I show how to use a razor saw to cut the opening.
NOTE: Walnut shells are very tough and brittle. Make sure you wear safety glasses and take care when cutting (or use protective carving gloves). Craft knives should not be used. There is too much danger of slipping on the rounded surface.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Using a Razor Saw to Cut an Opening in a Walnut Shell
To use a razor saw to cut an opening for a micro shop front into a walnut shell , carefully use a mini drill (pin vice) to drill holes in the corners where you want the opening to end. Clamp your walnut into a miter box (you can support it with a bit of modelling clay or blu tack).
Note: for the purposes of the photograph, I'm not showing the miter box in this photo, just the angle of the razor saw.
Carefully saw the side of the marked opening, taking care to remove your saw blade once it... reaches the drilled hole in the marked corners where you want your opening.Continue to 6 of 12 below.
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Opening Cut in a Walnut Shell for a Miniature Shop Front
Here's a view of the opening cut in the front of a walnut shell to fit a shop front. You can see two sides have been opened using a drill and have rough edges which will need to be sanded or filed with needlefiles. If you wish, you can make a similar viewing opening in the other section of the shell so you can see the scene in the inside.Continue to 7 of 12 below.
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Make a Mushroom Roof For the Walnut Shop
Once you know where your openings are going to be placed for your shop front, you can begin to make a mushroom cap roof for your miniature walnut shop. I used air dry clay to shape a rough witch's hat shape, which I textured with a clay blade to resemble an inky cap or shaggy mane mushroom. These mushrooms often have dripping edges as they decay, which lends them to Halloween scenes.
Make sure you set your air dry clay mushroom cap firmly against the upper edge of your walnut so you can... set it down far enough over the walnut when it is dry.
Allow the air dry clay to dry. After it has dried you can dry brush it with taupe colored acrylic paint and add a bit of dark pastel under the rough texture. I added black acrylic paint to the underside.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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Add Windows to the Walnut Shop FrontThe easiest way to put "glass" in your miniature windows, is to cut a section of thin sheet plastic (you can use recycled clear food containers) to fit inside your window frame. I cut the door section free (after making a paper template first) then bent it to have the clear door come out of the shop front. The plastic should be test fitted, and then a narrow bead of glue run around the inside of the window frame, and the plastic set in place.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Add a Roof To the Miniature Shop Front
When you have the miniature shop front finished, you can set the bay across your window opening (I found silicone glue or epoxy putty worked best). When the shop front is securely glued in place, use a bit of air dry clay to make a piece of mushroom, and while the clay is still workable, apply white glue to the upper edge of the bay and glue the mushroom piece across the top.
Finish the bay roof to match the main mushroom roof.Continue to 10 of 12 below.
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Parts of the Witch's Halloween Shop
Here are the parts of the Witch's Halloween shop ready for assembly. I colored the mushroom roof, glued the shop into one half of the shell, and added a bit of a mushroom roof to the shop bay. I also dampened a tiny laser cut pumpkin garland (from jday minis) and set it over the shop front. You can see more of the 1:48 scale accessories on the sheet to one side of the walnut. I've used a laser cut owl on a glittered circle and set a section of toothpick under it to make a stand which... I'll set in the window as part of the display, and I've glittered the word "Boo" to add to the roof as the shop sign.
The shop interior should be finished (and lit if you wish) before you close up the walnut, unless you are planning to add hinges (and make the roof removable). If you cut an opening on the back of the walnut shell so you can decorate or fill it later, you can leave this until you finish the exterior.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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Test Fit the Roof on the Walnut Shop
When you have your shop more or less assembled, you can test fit the roof. Hold the two halves of your walnut together with museum wax if necessary (if you are not ready to permanently attach the roof yet).
If you wish to hang your walnut as an ornament, knot a thread or ribbon hanging loop and feed it up through the top of the walnut before you put the roof in place. You may want to use a darning needle or mini drill to make a hole for the hanging loop through your mushroom roof. Air dry clay... roofs are not strong enough to support the weight of the walnut on their own.
Set the roof on the walnut. If it sits too high, use a craft knife or modelling tool to gently hollow out the center of your roof. When the roof fits the way you want, glue it to the top of the walnut shell. If you will be hinging your walnut so that you can open it to work on the inside, leave the roof unattached to the walnut. You can insert some 'blu tack' or some museum wax to the underside of the roof to hold it in place.Continue to 12 of 12 below.
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If Disaster Strikes When You Are Opening Your Walnut
If something happens to your walnut after you have cut the opening, don't give up completely. Epoxy putty applied to the inside of the nut will fix most breaks and major cracks. If you don't have epoxy putty, try woodworking glue. If you use epoxy putty try to match the color of the putty to the interior of the nut if possible. Fit the shell back together, and use an embossing tool to spread a thin layer of putty on either side of the crack from the inside of the walnut shell. Apply... pressure to the top and bottom of the shell using a clamp, or a bit of waxed florists tape or something similar to hold the pieces together while your putty hardens.
In the case of this break, extra putty will be used to hold the window into the opening, so the break will be re-enforced once the window is in.