Monday, May 28, 2018

Meet Gene

In an age where my contemporaries are writing letters to Santa about laser cutting machines and 3D printers, I'm dreaming of milling machines and a lathe.  I just can't conform.
These are the kind of toys one can't really afford to buy with one's pocket money.  It could also easily turn out to be that toy that one absolutely had to have, just to figure out it's not nearly as much fun as it promised to be.  So when Elga Koster invited me to spend some time playing in her workshop, I grabbed the opportunity without a moment's hesitation.  Not only does she have the coolest equipment, she's one of the world's foremost carpenters in miniature.  Learning from her is a privilege bestowed on very few.
Gene started out as a number of blocks of wood cut to length and prepared for the lathe.
After careful measuring, first cuts are made on the lathe to determine proportions and guide future shaping.  She looks like a little robot doesn't she?  At this point my head was spinning faster than the lathe.  So many calculations and adjustments, and does this thingy tighten clockwise, or the other way around?!
Some time later this...
... has become this.
A recognizable doll.  So thrilling!
The milling machine is used to create flat surfaces, drill slots and holes for the joints, and a groove where the nose will be attached later.
Robot girl no more.  I'm about to cut the doll free from the waste wood at the end of the limbs.
 A dry fit to make sure that everything is in the right place.
Then some fun painting her with enamel paints.
Inserting and cutting off the wooden dowels for the peg joints.
Meet Gene.  She's a fully posable 1/12 scale penny doll in the style of dolls made in Germany and the Netherlands in the late 19th century.  They are also sometimes called Dutch dolls.  I'm going to have lots of fun dressing her in future.  She will be Hitty's best friend (I'm going to introduce you to Hitty soon).  For now she sits on my desk and keeps me company.
Below are some examples of antique penny dolls I found on the Internet.
Understanding how these dolls were made, I have lots of respect for them.  Even though they are called penny dolls and were meant to be inexpensive toys, hours of work goes into the making of such a doll. 
Would I make more of them if I had my own equipment?  Undoubtedly.  Smaller and smaller too!  Until then I will be happy to work with clay and fabric and do simple carpentry and dream of dolls.



  1. I have an Even Greater respect for your building talents and skills after seeing you realize your new wooden Gene doll Megan, and now I am eagerly looking forward to seeing your Hitty doll too!
    And I can easily sense that it give you an enormous rush and a feeling of satisfaction having access to the tools you love, working with wood as well as producing a doll made with your own two hands, which already looks centuries older than anyone else you know! ;D
    WEll Done!

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! Elga was definitely the brain behind this project. The thing is just that once a small seed of possibility is planted, great things might grow.

  2. So happy to see her finished! It was fun having you play in my workshop and you are welcome for more playdays any time! :-)

    1. Thank you, Elga. I owe you a huge debt of grattitude for broadening my horizons, and showing me what is possible!

  3. Wow, so cool that you've visited Elga and her workshop and got lessons from her in making your Gene! What a gorgeous doll have you created, Megan, how exciting!
    Working with these professionel tools must have been a dream, which came true.

    1. It was nervewracking, and so much fun at the same time. If you ever decide to visit South Africa, we will take you on a tour of our studios!

  4. I'm totally impressed - Gene is amazing and a true beauty. Chapeau! You've made a wonderful job, Gene doesn't look like a first try at all. Thanks for showing the steps that were needed to create this lovely doll. I hope there will be more possibilities for you to work with Elga's "toys"... ;O)

    Birgit (who feels relief that your comment form is back to "normal" without forcing me (being the stubborn, reluctant, dumb technique dinosaur that I am) to join google+ anymore)

  5. Thank you, dear Birgit! I've been having endless trouble with comments on my blog lately. We are speculating that it has something to do with GDPR, but who knows, Blogger ignores my questions. Glad it is working for you though.