Dolls' Houses Past & Present

A website and ezine about dolls' houses: antique, vintage and modern. Plus furniture and accessories.

Fire Screen Tutorial by Sharee Sayers


The fire screen for this tutorial will be a bit different from the one pictured above but that is the great thing about them, you can make them to your own taste and change the details such as the feet and the top ornamentation to suit what you have to hand.

The size of your fire screen will vary depending on the size of your fireplace, so take your fireplace and work out roughly the size you want your fire screen to be. I want mine to be approximately 9.5cm wide by 7.5cm high.

Then cut out a piece of 2mm dense cardboard approximately 1.5cm smaller than you want your finished screen to be both length and widthwise, so in my case 8.0cm x 6.0cm. You could also use wood instead of card but as I am going to cover it in paper I find a dense cardboard the best option. I use a cardboard that I also use for book covers. It is strong and can be sanded if required.

When you have cut out your piece of cardboard trace around it on a piece of scrap paper and put the scrap paper away for a later step.


I like to seal my cardboard with a gesso primer. (When painting on the gesso it showed that one edge of my cardboard was very rough so I let it dry, sanded it and then touched it up with gesso again). The good thing about gesso is that it is quick drying. If you know what colour you want to paint the wooden border of your fire screen you might want to paint that colour on the edges of  your cardboard now also. Most of the edges will be hidden but I like to do this just in case a bit of the edge shows. I just ran gold pen around the edges of mine once the gesso had dried as there is gold in my design.

While your card is drying take your scrap of paper (or thin card might be more ideal) that you have traced around the card on and cut out the inside making a 'window' to view your wallpaper. 



Hold the window over your wallpaper, wrapping paper, fabric or whatever you choose and when you see what you want put a dot on the four outside corners and cut out the paper. Do the same for what you are using for the back of the screen.

(When working with antique papers especially please ensure your cutting blades are always sharp. For some of the more fragile antique papers careful cutting with scissors is a better option.)

You can then carefully place your cardboard on the back of the wallpaper ensuring it is in the correct position for your design and trace around the card. You can then cut out the paper right on the line (or just fractionally inside the line).



Once your pieces are cut you can glue them to the card. I prefer to put the glue on the card and then press the papers onto it. Take particular care the paper is glued well on the edges. Let dry.

Once it is dry if there is a slight overlap of paper over the card I find an emery board will remove any excess. Also, if you find you have cut your paper slightly smaller than the card, once everything is dry it is easy to trim a little off the edge to tidy things up.

You have now completed the front and back centre of your firescreen.




Of course regarding any of these instructions many of you will have your own methods. You may decide to leave out some steps or do things a different way. Please do what works for you. This tutorial only shows my way of doing things after some trial and error and to be honest I am constantly changing my techniques as I learn new things.

Now, on to the next step of putting the side edges on the fire screen.


See that wonderful wood on the left? That is what I used for the finished firescreen at the  top of this article, but I don't have the right size left and not everyone has this wood, so I am going to deal with the edges another way. I am going to use 3mm thick wood for the sides (by now your 2mm card with paper added to both sides is closer to 3mm) and in my case a piece of card (1mm wood strip would be preferable but I don't have any to hand).

You want to measure two lengths of 3mm thick wood exactly the same length as the side of your firescreen centre. The width of the wood can be whatever you feel will look good for your firescreen. I made mine 10mm wide. Then you want to measure two pieces of 1mm thick wood the same height but just a little wider than your 3mm thick wood (say an extra 3mm in width). That made mine 13mm wide. Glue the 3mm thick wood on top of the 1mm thick wood with one side lined up (as below).



Paint both pieces the colour you want your surround to be. You don't need too much paint on the inside 'L' as your card will be glued into that or on the ends as they will be glued to other pieces of wood.

As my antique wallpaper is a little age marked I also wanted an aged look on the wood surround. To achieve that I painted mine with a coat of gesso and waited for it to dry, I then painted on a coat of Tamiya Gold Leaf paint and when close to dry I put another coat of gesso on it. Before that dried I rubbed a toothbrush over the surface to bring out some of the gold and even took some back to the first layer of gesso. I then finished off with a little dry brushing of gold paint here and there for emphasis.

You now have three pieces for the main part of the fire screen:


Glue them together:



The next step is to work on the bottom of the fire surround. This is one of those projects where you can rattle through your scraps of wood to choose the wood pieces for your surrounds. The bottom piece of wood could just be a straight piece of wood or something really fancy if you want. If you are a scroll saw guru you could even create a shaped piece of wood for the bottom and top of the fire screen. I like to use a piece of dolls house architrave. Cut the piece of architrave the same width as your fire screen and hold it against the bottom of the screen to check it fits well. If you find the bottom edge of your screen isn't as straight as it could be just run it over sandpaper to get an even surface. Then paint your choice of wood with the same paint treatment as you have done the side pieces and finally glue it on to the firescreen.




Just a note: While for efficiency of time when making these screens it would be sensible to cut all pieces of wood and paint them all at the same time, I have a tendency to sand and sometimes trim the screen as I go. That is just the way I work. I prefer to cut pieces to fit as I move from stage to stage. It gives me the freedom to choose the wood and make any changes as I go (or to tidy up bad cuts or inaccurate measurements!).

The next step is the top of the screen. The possibilities for this are endless. You might like to look at fire screens on Google images for ideas. For the screen I did for my giveaway I used a Kaisercraft Wooden Flourish. I don't have any of those to hand so I am going to improvise and design a different top for this firescreen. I've looked through my wood bits and pieces and this is what I am going to use - a 5mm x 3mm strip of wood and a strip of tiny turnings. 


Once you have made your choice paint the wood pieces. Now glue the wood strip to the top of the fire screen to give it a tidy finish.  


I then cut the two ends off the tiny turning and trimmed the centre length of the tiny turning to fit in between. Glue together and attach to the fire screen. 

Lastly for the feet I use little laser cut brackets. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph them before I cut pieces out of them but I took this picture from the internet - they look like this: 


I then cut a slit out of the right angle corner to slot the bottom of the fire screen into.




And there we have a (an aged) fire screen using antique wallpaper and scraps of wood:





As finishing touches, I would touch up the paint work a bit and give the screen a spray of protective matt varnish.

And just to finish this tutorial here are more pics of the finished fire screen at the start of the article, for another version:




You're welcome to visit my blog or contact me through my profile (12Create) if you have any questions.

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