Realife Country Store fixtures - part 1

by brae  

Realife kits are no longer produced, but they are fairly easy to find at mini shows and on eBay.  Some cost more than others, but you can usually find a deal eventually with some patience.  My post office will need a post office teller/sorter, and I love the one shown on the cover.

While not overly complicated, Realife kits are easier to work with once you've made a few other types of kits, like The House of Miniatures kits.  Realife kits require more patience and prep work.  The kits are usually die cut basswood with some other materials included depending on the kit.

This one includes a letter slot cover, brass wire and a guide for the window bars.

Love the printed detail, but it's a little sloppy.  I'll print a new sign.

The kit includes "strip wood" which are widths pre-cut from a single sheet.  For the trim, you cut the lengths you need from these various sheets.

The die cuts are rarely all the way through, as you can see here.  The wood will require lots of sanding.  The wood is raw at best, and the age can change the quality over time as well.  I don't usually bother sanding until I am assembling in case a part doesn't work and I need to replace it.  No sense in working to smooth a piece you'll discard.

You need to use an X-Acto blade to carefully release the parts and any openings.  Sometimes, the wood is fine, but the pieces are cracked, like this front piece.  Depending on trim placement and load that will be on that piece, sometimes you can just repair the broken piece.  In this case, I will repair the piece since it won't show in the end.  (The instructions even indicate this piece is prone to breakage and suggest repair.)

The parts are sometimes marked incorrectly, though it's rare.  In this case, I have four Part-3 pieces and zero Part-2 pieces when I should have a pair of each.  Showing them side by side, you can see they are not the same length.  So, one set must be Part-2.  I mark all pieces with their number in pencil as I cut them from the sheets.  Otherwise, you end up with a bunch of rectangles in a jumbled mess.

Dry fittings are a must.  As you can see, there are gaps that will need to be addressed during assembly with sanding to fit, clamping as glue is applied and/or replacing parts.

The old wood can sometimes be warped, so you might need to cut replacements from new materials using the pieces as a guide.  This is the front of the counter the post box teller will sit on, so I'm going to cut it from new wood instead of trying to fight the warp.  The same with the countertop which is warped and has a rather large wood grain that will be out of scale.

I will make the letter box that catches the mail larger to better fill the space.  It seems to me, you would insert the mail in lengthwise through the slot, but the box is oriented the opposite.  Don't need customers overshooting the box.

As for the pigeon holes, I think the kit pieces are a loss.  Die cutting doesn't work well for tiny details.

Then, cutting away the excess in the notches tends to cause a lot of breakage.

The pieces just don't fit, and sanding will likely cause more breakage.  I will need to re-cut these from scratch.  Time-consuming, but a better result in the end.

You might ask why bother with these old kits, but some are better than others.  The companion country store accessories kit has a lot of great parts in various materials.  The Realife Country Living Room kit has a fantastic daybed, printed fabrics, turned pieces, etc.  So, it really depends on the kit, the price, the condition it's in and the extras included.  Here, I have the patterns for the post teller and counter units, the metal letter slot and some usable parts.  For me, it's worth the effort.


Comment from: Carrie [Visitor]
I love these kits! I have the country store one as well. I know you will make them as beautiful as they can be......Enjoy!
03/04/19 @ 00:50
Comment from: Keli [Visitor]
Thank goodness for the advancement of laser cutting!
03/04/19 @ 02:51
Comment from: ann [Visitor]
I have mentioned that I bought a stack of Real Life kits, excited to have plenty to keep me occupied for a time or kits that I can share with my daughters. Now I am concerned. I've done House of Miniatures and love those kits. We shall see. I'll be following your every move. Good luck.
03/04/19 @ 05:43
Comment from: Sheila [Visitor]
At least with the pieces of the kit you have can be used as a pattern for replacements rather than having to figure it out all on your own.
03/04/19 @ 07:41
Comment from: Deborah [Visitor]
When I saw those die-cut pieces (and die-cut strip wood!), the first thing I thought of was those pigeon holes and how they were going to work with that wood. I'm sure the pieces you cut from scratch will work beautifully. You are always so meticulous with your work. Looking forward to watching them go through the Brae transformation.
03/04/19 @ 09:26
Comment from: Jodi [Visitor]
I love these old kits because they are truly an adventure! There are no modern versions that offer the same amount of items and detail. I always wanted them when I was little, seeing them in the catalogs, but only now have the chance to fulfill those dreams. It makes me wonder why, with all of the laser cutting machines out there now, we aren't seeing newly designed kits like these on the market. I hope someone with the resources to design and sell them will emerge.
03/04/19 @ 09:48
Comment from: Marilyn H [Visitor]
Sometimes, I buy older, lower quality kits just to have the pieces for patterns. I have a really great source for basswood, so if I have to replace pieces, I just have to make a trip to the hobby store.
03/04/19 @ 09:50
Comment from: Wendy [Visitor]
So interesting!
03/04/19 @ 14:01
Comment from: elizabeth s [Visitor]
I've always loved these Realife kits and still have a couple of them in my stash, but you are right about the warpage and the quality of wood and some of the components not fitting together as well as they should. Even so, they were a worthwhile bargain back in the day, since one box could furnish a entire modern or period room and who could ask for anything more than that! :D
03/09/19 @ 10:06
Comment from: Irene McCulloch [Visitor]
I'd never heard of these kits before you posted but I'm looking forward to seeing your progress with it.
03/16/19 @ 03:42
Comment from: Kamelia [Visitor]
These kits look very intresting, I have never heard about them before. And all your tips are super useful. Thank you!
03/16/19 @ 11:05
Comment from: brae [Member]
I think the value in these really are the patterns, because you do often have to replicate the parts. But, they are wonderful resources and some are better than others. :yes:
03/17/19 @ 11:16

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