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Tiki Bar


I began work on this project in 2022 and completed it in 2023.  Record time for a mini project! I was fortunate to stumble upon a tiki bar prototype at a multi-vendor miniature “garage” sale.  I later learned the seller was part of a group that helped design it for a 2021 NAME day project. I took the bare bones structure and add all the details.  This project was on the cover of American Miniaturist Issue 238 in 2023.

While I loved the bare bones structure, I decided it needed some pizzaz.  The original roof was fringed paper, so I purchased thatching for the roof, which is coconut fibre and fairly easy (but messy) to work with.  Earth and Tree Miniatures has a fantastic tutorial on their website.  Underneath the roof, I placed LED strip lights (similar to a thick flexible tape) sold at my dollar store.  LED strip lights are wonderful for mini rooms and underlighting because you can cut them to the length you need and no soldering is required.  I painted under the roof, shelving edges and inside the bar a neutral brown and trimmed it with a micro tassel. 

I added a simple fridge where there were previously shelves using a single rectangle of aluminum sheet and aluminum rod for a handle, simply glued to the front of the shelving.  The fridge does not open, but it looks as though it could.  The BBQ grill contains little aquarium rocks to look like charcoal and has three LED flashing bulbs to simulate fire, though your steaks may remain a bit rare!

Tikis in miniature are a challenge to find.  I located a ceramic miniature French “feve tiki” on eBay.  The other larger tikis flanking the bar and over the grill are actually necklace pendants I purchased on AliExpress.  I used my Dremel to carefully sand off the necklace loop, then I painted them brown.  Reworking necklace pendants is a great way to find niche items not readily available in miniature. 

At the same garage sale I purchased two bar chairs that were likely prototypes from Maggie Melinda Miniatures.  I recovered them in a tropical fabric, stained the legs and added tiny travel stickers to the legs. The stickers were the result of a simple Google search to find copyright free sticker images.

My favourite part of any project is accessorizing.  The tiki glasses, coconut and pineapple cups and the food baskets were 3D printed by Stewart Dollhouse Creations.  I used their 1:24 scale tiki glasses as 1:12 shot glasses. Many of the other accessories came from my collection, which meant they finally had an actual spot to be enjoyed.  I even managed to find a place for my Kitchen Aid mixer I made from scratch early in my mini years!  The two birds, Gouldian finches, were made by Nancy Woolmer.  I made the bird perch by soaking a bamboo skewer in water, bending it and using embroidery floss to attach it to a flat piece of skewer.

To provide the bar structure with a place to live, I went no further then my local dollar store.  The base is a wood craft canvas and the reed walls are small craft sheets of thin MDF.  I then used model railway supplies to finish the landscaping.  To simulate hedges, I painted the MDF walls a dark green then covered them with tacky glue and applied Woodland Scenics dark green clump foliage.  Between my paver stones, I used Woodland Scenics fine buff gravel, which has both the grey gravel and dirt.  I simply added glue between my pavers and sprinkled the product over top. 

I usually prefer to use card stock to simulate stone, but I decided to challenge (and frustrate) myself by using air dry clay.  I rolled out the clay to 1-2mm thickness.  Then I took a cake fondant press that makes squares and cut the clay.  To prevent curling of the clay as it dried, I first let it dry for an hour, then I put wax paper over top the tiles and pressed with a heavy book.  It did take longer to dry, but the tiles came out flat.  The stone effect was achieved first by painting them with a base coat of grey, then applying other grey shades with small pieces of sponge.


Some items are more difficult to find in miniature and on budget, such as bar accessories.  For those items I turned to Rement, a Japanese miniature brand.  While Rement often is not perfectly 1:12, its close enough in most circumstances that it can trick the eye.  The beer tap and kegs are Rement.  I printed my own labels to personalize them and ran a small piece of wire through the keg tube to ensure it would curve and connect to the kegs.

I had hunted for tiki torches and accessories for several months without luck.  I gave eBay and Etsy one last try, when I discovered Blackthorn Miniatures on Etsy, and their brilliant 3D printed torches and fire pit.  They arrive as white plastic, which allowed me to paint them to my own preference.  The torches, fire pit and grill all contain tiny LED lights and battery packs from Evan Designs.  All the lighting wire are under the wood base and batteries and switches are located just behind the big hedges. Pre-wired LEDS with resistors make lighting a less frustrating experience.

Despite having finished this tiki project, I think I still may incorporate at least one more tiki themed bar into a future mid-century project.  You can never have too much tiki!