During the Christmas season, a good friend asked if I’d like to help build a carousel fair box set she bought. I said, “sure!”, because I love Christmas, carousels, making stuff, and how difficult can assembling be, right? Boy, were we wrong.

We started by laying out the contents of the set, and some first hints to the challenge we were up for were (which didn’t quite hit us hard upon first impact):

  • #1 Every piece was tiny – but we didn’t realise what tiny meant until later
  • #2 There were many pieces to be cut out from paper – implications only noted later

Prior to the exercise, we imagined it would mainly be assembling parts together, but we realised that these parts had to be assembled themselves, too. Here’s an example below:

The centre section / pillar of the carousel had to be painstakingly put together from a sheet of silver paper folded, held in place by a thin nut-shape (as in nuts & bolts) piece of wood at each end. You can see the light yellow & blue panels in the background (of the photo on the left above) that we stuck on. The embellishments were also glued on patiently, bead by bead.

We thought that was intense, and then we met the 0.6cm street lamp:

The “lampshade” was made out of a tiny piece of paper in a shape of a 4/5 pie chart, rolled into a conical shape, with a single bead as the bulb.

The microscopic surprises didn’t stop there! We then met with the challenge of making a 0.2cm present:

It started out with a little tube-shaped eraser we had to cut into a cube, and then glue on tiny strips of red paper as ribbons. Yes, we rolled / curled the paper into a ribbon shape right on top.

We were pretty delirious at this point – laughing in disbelief at what we had to do, and laughing when we actually managed to complete it.

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Partially assembled shop – the little present was to be placed on the windowsill
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Carnival game store – each balloon was a bead. Note the additional 0.2cm presents on the right we had to make

After going finally putting everything together, it was way past midnight (and we hadn’t had a proper dinner yet), but it was all coming together so beautifully:

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It didn’t end here – included in the set up were:

  • A music box movement
  • A few LED lights planted around

We connected the very thin wires and attached them to the battery box – almost felt like we were putting together some sort of bomb, having to deal with connecting the right coloured wires together and all.

The final step was to get some batteries to test if they worked (thank goodness for 24-hour convenience stores). With bated breath, we inserted the batteries and magic happened:

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We decided to test it at a hotpot place (since it was already past 2:30am), so that we’d have food to comfort us in case it failed

Here’s the entire set-up in action:

(Horses has some difficulty leaping over the LED lights because the golden “bar” holding them were a little too long – will fix it someday)

We also had to assemble the glass box that covers the set-up – didn’t remove the plastic film for fear of scratching the glass. So pretty, right?!


Details of the DIY exercise

Duration: Two of us took 7.5 hours to complete this together
Price: The DIY set was purchased for ~SGD30 from Qoo10

Level of “fun”: 4/5

Having to build a lot of the pieces from scratch was quite fun (albeit a bit painful) – seeing how little pieces of paper & beads get transformed into the beautiful piece was incredible.

The variety of types of techniques also made things interesting – the snow on the floor was done in a “sand art” manner (by putting glue on the surface and pouring white sand over it). We were also working with a music box movement and had to attach LED lights, and that was pretty cool.

Level of difficulty: 4.5/5

This is one of the more difficult projects I’ve worked on. The microscopic nature of the parts was the biggest challenge. One has to be really patient and nimble with your fingers to put the tiny pieces together (and try not to breathe to hard / sneeze at them because you might not be able to find them if they get blown away from your sight).

I would advise NOT starting late in the day like we did (we started at 6:30pm due to lack of foresight, and ended past 2am). If you’re doing it alone, you can pace yourself by doing one section a day, and build the entire piece over many days.