Diary of a Dummy Board-Cutting a Stylish Figure

After our “dog digression”, which I will ‘trail off on’ now and again…let’s return to dummy boards.

Belle is dry and is now ready to be cut out.

Let’s remind ourselves of how she looked last we saw her.

The third and final coat of paint on Belle

So she is painted with three layers of oil and now has a protective layer of PVA.( Prevents Violent Accidents) πŸ™‚

The next job is to cut away the backboard and you can see that this is not as simple as it might seem for, looking closely you’ll see that there are two sticky out bits! If things don’t go our way, they could pose a problem. The ears of the horse and the stirrups ( which poor Belle is too small to reach …A h h h h!) πŸ™‚

The stirrups are not a problem really because they go the ‘way of the grain’ of the wood. However it would be too dangerous to cut between them. The ears of the horse have to be carefully watched ( don’t they always?) in cutting, as they are against the grain, but we are used to this sort of thing and you will see how we overcome this problem later. We shall also cut out the white parts inside the rockers and the smaller bits for example, between the horse’s front legs.

The real thing, the full sized wooden dummy board, would have been cut out with hand tools and it’s often possible to see the saw cuts on the edge of the figure when examining them. We shall use a tiny electric saw.

There has been an argument raging amongst dummy board aficionados both past and present as to whether this type of figure was cut out first and then painted or painted first.

It is hard to tell. When looking at the historic figures, each individual one has to be examined at the edge so we can get a clearer picture of the working practices of those far off makers of Saffron Hill ( in London) and other places.

Having been making dummy boards for twelve years or so both large and small, I can say, categorically, that I find it is much easier to paint first – cut later…both the larger and small figures.Why?

If you make a mistake in painting ( too large for example ) you can cut out your error. If you make it too small you can add. In miniatures, when the subject matter is really tiny…like this 1/24th Jack Russell dog below, it is possible to paint a background around your subject to allow for error in cutting. No white edges will appear then.

The tiny less than half an inch Jack Russell dog

To help us…let’s take look at the 17th c. Sulgrave Boy.

( These names are all mine btw…. simply for ease of identification I name them mostly for the places where they reside. ) This one lives in Sulgrave Manor in Northamptonshire U.K.

This figure is a mass produced one ( you remember those from A Bit on the Side?) and he has lost his girl! He is only about three feet tall, as you can see from this photo, where he is seen standing next to a spinet. We think he was probably cut out first – painted later.The overall shape would have been drawn in and then the painter would have given the board ( known as a table) to a carpenter to cut and he would get it back and then paint it in.

Paint spill on the edge of the 19th c. Zeeland Girl . Reverse. Dutch.

The late 17th c. early 18th, Sulgrave Boy, 3 feet.

There are paint spills on the edge of this figure telling us that it was painted after it was cut and if we look closely, we can see that his arms are a bit flat and his legs are a bit weedy. He is altogether a bit thin!

This is where the painter has tried valiantly to fit the figure in to the carpenter’s shaped wooden table. Some are painted in a better manner than others but it’s figures like this one that give us the impression that it sometimes might have been a struggle to make a realistically shaped figure out of that table. There are very many which are a little squashed in.

If we want to make sure that the figure we are making, is a good shape, is painted well and is going to give us a good trompe l’oeil effect..better to paint first and cut later.

Mind you….you are in the hands of the person who does the cutting. Who is to say that the carpenter when he gets the painted figure back…actually cuts to the lines eh?

One gin too many and w h oo ps…there goes an elbow or two!

We shouldn’t have that problem with Belle. Gin is banned in our house!


5 Responses to “Diary of a Dummy Board-Cutting a Stylish Figure”

  1. Debbie Says:

    I’d be frightened I’d chop something off. Good Luck with cutting out Belle..x

  2. pastmastery Says:

    We shall probably do it tonight Julie. The only thing I’m likely to chop of is a finger end…Stephen does the cutting- thank heavens. I will document it all tomorrow hopefully. Warts and all!

    By the end of the week she will be with you.


  3. julie Says:

    I cant wait to see her cut out and ready ! I would find it a totally nerve wrackling experience but have total faith in you Sue…..( no pressure there then ~LOL)
    julie xxx

  4. Maia Says:

    I really like this little figure and like Julie am feeling a wee bit nervous about reading the post. But I’m sure everything will be just fine. πŸ™‚
    I have cut out arms or legs from my tiny paper dolls sometimes and it feels very terrible! Then one must start all over again!

  5. pastmastery Says:

    Thanks for your comments girls. ( J&M)

    Sorry to disappoint you…but we shall cut out Belle this evening…meanwhile..I’m eating Humble Pie… πŸ™‚

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