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Jim & Harriet Jedlicka

Profile of a Craftsman
The Scale Cabinetmaker: 2:4 (April, 1978)

(Editor's note: In February. 1978. I spent several afternoons with the Jedlicka's at their home in Los Altos, California, discussing the content of several articles on house wiring and scale lighting that will appear this year in TSC. Later, they responded to a series of questions that I had posed. The following excerpts from their responses tell us not only about these imaginative miniaturists but about the hobby of miniatures craftsmanship as well. - Jim Dorsett)

Q. How long have you been involved in miniatures?

H. Actively, three years. I saw miniature furniture for the first time five years ago and was enthralled with the possibilities for it as a hobby. I began making Realife kits d e n Jim and I retired four years ago.

J. When Harriet says "actively," she means with a burning, all-consuming interest which youth today would describe as "turned on."

Q. But why miniatures?

H. I simply love creating room senings in miniature.

J. Prior to our involvement in miniatures, we were antique restorers (just for ourselves). We would go to the flea market and buy for a few dollars an old chair, perhaps missing one leg, covered with several coats of paint. and with a piece of plywood maliciously nailed over the seat portion. which was once covered with hand caning. It was great fun to restore it to a mellowed but ohenvise near original condition. Many antiques were beyond our pocketbook, to say nothing of our house. when we see an antique now and are struck by its lines and its overall artistry, we are inclined to ask permission to photograph it from two directions and take a new principal dimensions. Then at home we can construct drawings and reproduce it to scale. The antique may be one of a kind with a price tag in the thousands. but we can enjoy it at 1/12 scale in our home. And at 1/12 scale, we will new run out of room in our small house.

Q. Are there background interests or life-long vocations or avocations which make this an appropriate hobby for either or both of you?

H. Both of us have always worked with our handa As a teacher in elementary school. my favorite subject was art. Each year I had my students create a shadowbox scene, usually historical.

J. I worked as an engineer for NASA for 25 years, and much of the time was concerned with models and problems of scale. In the laboratory, it is uneconomical to make tests on full scale airplanes or space ships Instead, models or portions of models are tested, and I spent much of my time wrestling with fluid scaling laws. Each time I had to ask myself "What are the most important scale effects? and then design experiments to measure them.

The same sort of question can be asked in the miniature field. What are the most important considerations in producing a 1/12 scale replica? I think realism is what we're after. Imagine a Governor Winthorp secretary done in glazed ceramic. For the sake of argument, assume that all the dimensions were preserved at 1/12 scale, and that the correct color of wood was achieved. It would not have the texture and light reflectivity of wood. The hardware would not have the appearance of brass. Whether or not he is aware of it, each miniaturist makes scaling decisions in the direction of maximum realism.

Q. What are your views of the miniatures field? Where is it headed?

H. The miniatures field is headed toward greater realism and historical accuracy. Many of us refer to the buildings as miniature houses, rather than as doll houses, which they are not. At least we don't call them baby houses!

Mass manufactured miniatures, which I eagerly bought five years ago, would embarrass me to display today. The gap between miniatures and child's play furniture is growing. I think that's good. I hope that the two, so widely varying in their requirements, become even more broadly separated. As time passes, the miniatures field is steadily gaining respectability as a serious adult hobby.

J. The field is moving toward more research, planning, and more directed effort. The total effort to build one display is increasing. For the majority of us who have limited artistic talent, say compared to a good writer or painter, we are beginning to express ourselves in miniatures. The scale clock says not only that I put a great deal of work into it, but also that I believe the original is worth noting. An onlooker can hopefully appreciate it as I do by looking at my miniature. In fact, I can direct his attention to it better by displaying it in miniature than in full size.

Q. Why is scale important to you?

J. First, the truer the scale, the lesser the amount of imagination demanded of the viewer to project himself into the room setting. Second, the truer the scale, the more precision by whih the miniaturist can convey to the viewer the mood he has in mind for the room setting. Thus the miniaturists goal is identical to that of the writer or artist, the only differencebeing the tools of their trade.

H. Perhaps an example will help. When I first began in miniatures, Jim was supportive but not impressed. He was always spurring me on to achieve greater realism. I would tell him of a miniature setting that I had seen, or we would see one together, and his usual comment was "humph!" Until we saw Guy and Tom Robert's French bakery kitchen. "Now, that's a true miniature," was his opinion. The door was scuffed, cobwebs were in the corners, the pots were smudged, the floor worn in the right places, and all was accurately scaled and authentic.

Editor's note: Jim Jedlicka became the Tool Editor for The Scale Cabinetmaker early in 1982 (TSC 6:2) and remained in that position through the published issue of the journal. In his closing essay in the final issue of The Scale Cabinetmaker, Jim Dorsett wrote of Jim Jedlicka's contributions to TSC:

No single individual has had a greater or more lasting impact on TSC's continuing content than its Tool Editor (contributing since 1978), Jim Jedlicka. An engineer by profession and retired from NASA, Jim began contributing articles (2:3 ff) on electrical wiring (designing in the process a routing jig for the Dremel Moto-tool, that would cut channels for hidden house wiring) and the use of resistance to produce different lighting effects. From those beginnings has treamed a torrent of tool ideas that are now standard on hundreds of miniatures workbenches. When a needed tool has not existed, Jim has filled the void with his own creations that have been within reach of those lacking his design and tool skills. The hallmark of his uncommon talent has been common sense solutions to vexing problems, a gentle and straightforward capacity to teach complex things with clarity and without condescension, and a limitless, patient willingness to share his knowled with others.

In 1978 there was no such thing as a lathe copier or duplicator commercially available, so starting in TSC 3:3 Jim designed one. And then he went on to add indexing, fluting, and helix-cutting capacities to it. When it became clear that (with the exception of basswood) no scale hardwood lumber was being supplied to the hobby by vendors, Jim adapted an old tool idea (the use of a tapered disc to create the hobby's first scale lumber thicknesser (TSC 4:4). (And he accompanied it with an article on cutting scale lumber.) From this cornucopia has emerged shaper table designs, jigs of many varieties, tool modifications for hand and power tools, and sawdust collectors. Mixed in has been the whimsy of a 1" scale toy train and operating pull draperies in a miniature setting. He has taught us how to use a hack saw, a bastard file, and a center punch. And in a host of other ways, he has made the daily round at the workbench easier and more effective.

He has certainly helped to amplify TSC's tool review policy. It had been decided at the outset that, while we had no intention of setting ourselves up as a consumer goods testing organization, we would not ransom our judgment as scale modelers for the sake of advertising revenues. All the tools to which we made reference in TSC or which were evaluated in the product review have been tools that were purchased from a vendor (not accepted as gifts for promotional considerations) and then used on the workbench until we were familiar with them. As scale modelers, we remembered how many times we had purchased hobby tools that looked great, offered much but delivered little, and ofte at a cost. In many cases, drawing from Jim Jedlicka's expertise, we have reviewed a tool and then devoted additional space in the same issue to the modification of the tool in a way that corrects its design deficiencies. In these matters, we have tried to remember that TSC's client is its reader, not the product's manufacturer. (This standard, coupled with TSC's small readership, seldom promoted advertising revenues, but it tried to keep faith with those who depended on us for reliable information.) (JHD, TSC 20:2)

TSC Articles by Jim and Harriet Jedlicka

  • A Build It Yourself Wood Surfacer: 4:4 (20-28)
  • Combating the Burned Out Lamp: Voltage and Resistance in Miniature Lighting: 3:2 (11-15)
  • Copy Attachment for Your Lathe: 3:3 (15-24)
  • A Disc Sander for the Miniaturist's Workbench: 4:3 (44-52)
  • Helical Fluting with the Copy Attachment: 4:1 (39-47)
  • Installing a Small Fluorescent Light: 4:3 (33-38)
  • Lathe Copy Attachment: Turning Slender Spindles: 4:2 (9-19)
  • Making Flutes With the Copy Attachment: 3:4 (17-22)
  • Making Your Own Scale Dowels: 3:1 (51-52)
  • A Mounting Table for the Dremel Moto-Tool: 5:1 (22-27)
  • Now You See It, Now You Don't: Hidden Wiring in the Pre-Fab Miniature House: 2:3 (30-36)

Editor's note: Additional article titles will be added as we finish parts of the index. (mhd)


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