Building a Miniature Chippendale Breakfront

I was lucky enough to acquire a very rare miniature furniture kit from a favorite collector on eBay (foxgolly –  This kit hadn’t been opened since the 1970’s when it was manufactured.  I had always wanted to build this particular kit and I remember when these were first produced when I was a kid.

Breakfronts such as this one dominated the room in which it rested due to the shear size of this massive piece.  This piece is modeled after a popular 18th century design that was primarily found in English Manor houses and later in wealthy homes in Rhode Island.  The glass-doored top of the breakfront was usually used to display fine pieces of china and statuary, while the lower portion provided space for table settings and linen.

I started four weekends ago with the basswood parts – sanding them and assembling them into units that would later be stained and assembled together.

I always like to reinforce my builds of miniature furniture with some 1/16″ dowels placed at what I think will be key locations to facilitate the later assembly after finishing.  For the breakfront, I inserted two dowels into the lower base piece and corresponding holes in the lower cabinet walls.  Then a set of dowels in the base piece that separates the top from the bottom cabinet – two pointing down into the lower cabinet walls and two pointing up into the upper cabinet walls.  This later proved to be invaluable to easily aligning and assembling when the doors were inserted into small brass pins in top and bottom cabinet sections.

The following weekend, I applied some original House of Miniatures mahogany stain that I still have from the 1970’s.

Not much time on the third weekend – it was devoted to applying the first coat of shellac and van dyke brown patina from my only surviving original House of Miniatures bottle of glaze stain.

This brings us up to this weekend where I applied another final coat of shellac and then it was time for final assembly with 2 part epoxy.  I begin by replacing the original keyhole brass plates that came with the kit with brass knob and plates because I think it makes the piece look better and the doors are much easier to open with knobs.  I epoxied the “cut glass” into the empty door frames for the top cabinet.

It was time for the most difficult part of assembly – aligning all the doors with the brass pins and gluing the lower and upper cabinet subassemblies together with epoxy.

Then I glued on the top broken bonnet and back boards to complete the piece.

This classic 1970’s rare House of Miniatures kit provided me with over 30 hours of enjoyable building and finishing.