Dolls' Houses Past & Present

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Sofa Tutorial (for all scales) by Pinch of Pepper

I've been asked a number of times to explain how I make a scaled down sofa. in order to explain how I get the sizes, I'll start from the very beginning.  

Building the frame

The simplest way to make any piece of furniture in miniature is to measure the actual life-size item. In the picture below, I've marked the measurements I've taken from my own sofa.

This is not my actual sofa. My actual sofa is plum leather and covered in cats, but it is a similar shape. 

A - the length from the back of the arm to the front (make sure you measure at the bottom of the arm)
- the length from the back of the arm to the front (this time measure at the top of the arm because this will give you the angle at which the back leans)
- the height of the arm
- the height from the top to the bottom of the sofa (without the feet)
- the height of the feet
- the width of the seat

I take the measurements from the real-life item and use a scale model calculator to scale them down. You can find scale model calculators all over the net but here are a few I've used.

Small stuff's print mini

For this tutorial, I am making a 1/6th scale replica but I could chose any scale. Once I have the full-size measurements, I can alter the output scale on the calculator to whatever size I want to make.

I then draw out a sketch with the scaled down measurements so that I know how much material I need and work out the cutting plan. There are four pieces to this sofa, (2x arms, seat and back) and for 6th scale, they fit onto a 300 x 320mm piece of wood.

For this tutorial I'm using 18mm MDF because the arm of the sofa (scaled down), is close to 20mm wide. I don't always copy the real-life model exactly, but I need to be aware that using thinner/thicker material could make the model look out of scale. For 1/12th scale, I might use 12mm and 6mm MDF. Use whatever is available to you to make the frame. Glued together bits of corrugated cardboard or foam board work just as well.

I start with the arms and cut a 90 x 300mm strip from the piece of wood. (
I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but if you're cutting/sanding wood or MDF, then PLEASE wear a face mask.)


I measure 135mm from the left edge at the top, 150mm from the left edge at the bottom, draw a line in between and rotate the chopsaw table until the blade is parallel with the line.

I then put the cut piece on top of the wood that remains and line up the straight edges so they are flush.

With the chopsaw still at an angle, I use the wood on top to guide the blade for the second cut.

What I'm left with is two identical pieces 135 x 150 x 90mm.

The next piece I cut is the back at 300 x 120mm.

The back lines up with the angled edge of the arms. I don't glue anything at this point.

Next, the seat at 300 x ?mm.

At this point you will notice that the seat is longer than it needs to be (not as long as in the picture - I cut more wood than I needed in case I made a mistake). The reason for this is so that I can cut it completely flush with the arms. I push the seat in between the arms until it touches the back and mark a line across (shown in the photograph above), and cut it.

Because the back reclines at an angle, there will be a small gap between the back and seat. This will be hidden under a cushion and all the upholstery. Once I'm happy that everything fits, I glue it together.

This is how it should look. 

At this point, I need to think about the feet and how I can attach them to the sofa. One of the reasons I use wood, and one of the reasons I urge anyone building miniatures to use wood, is that it is by far the easiest material to attach other materials to. Because the sofa will be covered with fabric, It's very hard to glue the feet in place and get them to stay there. I need something for the feet to hold onto so I use a toothpick as a dowel running through the foot and sofa frame to give it extra strength.  

 I drill a hole (the size of a bamboo toothpick) at each corner of the sofa. I will drill a hole the same size in whatever I choose for the feet. AFTER the sofa has been upholstered, I glue the toothpicks in place, and then glue the feet on the toothpick.


Upholstering the sofa

At this point, I have the sofa frame glued together, ready for the fabric. I would suggest a fabric that doesn't contain elastic/lycra and have at least 1 metre if you're making 6th scale or larger.

To start, I glue pieces of fabric to all of the side facing parts and overlap a little over the edges.


I then run double-sided sticky tape around each arm.

(Fabric glue can be used too.)


Then I make banding for the arms. The arms on my sofa are 18mm wide so I make the banding the same width.


Starting a little way in at the bottom,

I stick the banding on both of the sofa arms.


Next is a piece of fabric the width of seat, long enough to wrap around the sofa.

Before fixing the fabric in place, you can pad the back of the sofa so it looks more authentic .....

but leave a gap at the sides. You need this to stick the fabric to. 


Starting at the bottom, I use very strong double-sided sticky tape.

Start working your way up from bottom to top, making sure the fabric pieces meet at the edges.


Keep adding strips of double-sided tape (or glue), to keep the fabric in place.


Manipulate the fabric over the back, making sure it is stuck to the tape (or glue) at the sides, especially if you have padded the back of the sofa. Keep sticking the fabric until you reach the starting point, underneath.


For the seat, I use 1" thick foam. Measure a piece to fit, but leave about 2mm gap all around. This is to leave room for the fabric you are covering the foam with. (For 12th scale sofas, I often use foam from the 'kneeling' pads that you buy for gardening. It's soft-ish but keeps its shape. But you can use anything at hand ... upholstery foam, cardboard ... )


To cover the foam cushion, I glue a piece of fabric to the top and bottom. I then make another piece of banding, 1" wide and stick the banding around the edge of the cushion. Start sticking it at the back so that the join in the banding doesn't show.

Last thing to do is add feet. Remember when I pre-drilled holes for the bamboo toothpicks? I use the pointy end of the toothpick to find the hole in the base of the sofa. Dab a little glue on it and push it in to the sofa frame. Then get the feet you have chosen, drill a hole in them the size of the toothpick and then glue them into place. Once the glue is dried, you can cut off the excess toothpick and you're done.

I have found that this method ensures the feet and banding stay where they should be.


The finished sofa



Just add some cool cushions and mini people =0)


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