Saturday, April 12, 2008

What a Beacon Hill Looks Like Upside Down

Ever wonder what a Beacon Hill dollhouse looks like upside down? Like this.

It's the easiest way I've found to paint the ceilings. Wish it was this easy on a real house.

For now I am just painting them white. I would like to do some sort of ceiling treatment in the library and the Egyptian gallery, but I haven't found the right stuff for it yet.

Time: 1 hour

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Roof Supports

I'm working on the roof supports for the mansard roof now.

First the base supports went on either side. The roof panels will rest against these I guess. They went on easily and are pretty much held in place by the corner roof supports even before they were glued.

Next came the back roof supports. Neither of mine are flush at the bottom so they will need filled in with a little wood filler once they dry in place.

And then all the curved roof supports slid into place. There are eleven of these and they went into place just fine. I put lots of glue on these pieces because they will not show once the roof is on.

Found a few spots where my house was not quite "square" as I was gluing all these bits in, but managed to get everything into place.

The mansard roof top should be next, but I'm not going to put that on until I get the house all wired and wallpapered. I think it will make that job much easier without that part of the roof on.

I have also been working on more spooky little birdhouses (to sell this time) and a Corona Concepts Buttercup dollhouse that I will also put up for sale. I don't think the Buttercup will be spooky...I think it will be a cute little cottage...but you never know what it will tell me to do once I start working on it.

Time (on roof): 2 hours

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Third floor Walls

The interior walls in the third floor attic area of my Beacon Hill are in. The directions for these was a little confusing to me, so I took pictures.

Here is the first set (left hand) according to the instructions. Have to remember these instructions are like stage instructions and are left and right as looking at the FRONT of the house. These three walls slid together on long slits, then were tabbed and glued into place.

The second set (right hand) two walls went together in a similar fashion. Once I figured out what the instructions were trying to tell me to do, it was easy. These will support the mansard roof, which is one of the next steps, and then it will really start looking like a house. I think I need to get wallpaper in soon though, before I close it up any more in there.

My extra junction splices arrived today, so I can get on with the wiring, which will have to precede the wallpaper. They came from Earth and Tree Miniatures in lightning fashion, and the shipping was cheaper than anywhere else. Have a look.

Time: 2 hours

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More walls!

With the wiring on hold, I've been building instead. First I added the tower front wall to the Beacon Hill. I'm really starting to get an idea of how big this house is going to be.

Then on to some interior walls. In go the middle & back partitions for the library. These will have built in bookcases eventually, and the one closest to the back will be a swinging false door that will hide the stairway down into the dungeon.

Also added the left third floor partition wall. This wall has a closet in it. I might also make that a false bookcase to cover the closet as a secret niche. Don't know yet what I'll put in there. I guess the professor will let me know.

Time: 2 hours

A Wiring Debacle...

Okay, so much for my wiring going any easier than the stairs!

First I laid out the lines for the tapewire runs. So far all my fixtures are candle sconces, since I'm going for the Victorian look. I laid out lines six inches off the floor for all the sconces. I also laid out lines one inch off the floor for the fireplaces and additional lamps in the future.

I planned to work on the actual wiring in my Beacon Hill today. I studied my tape wiring book and I was ready to go. I laid the first run of tapewire nice and flat, no wrinkles! and got out my junction splice so I could hook up my transformer and test the first run.

Note: Those little brads are delicate! I bent the ones on my junction splice trying to hammer it in. Did I have more than one junction splice for this possiblity? Noooo, of course not!

So much for wiring today.

I ordered more junction splices. Three. Just in case.

Time: 2 hours

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Demise Of A Stairway

Okay, I admit it. I gave up.

When I started gluing the treads on my Beacon Hill stairway, I found a lot more little errors. Or miscalculations. Whatever. They would have taken more time to fix than I was willing to put in.

So, the staircase is out. All three levels.

Now I am back to building and I am much happier. Worked on some more floors today. Wiring will be next...another first for me. Let's hope this goes better!

Time wasted:????

Another Spooky Little House

I have added a fourth birdhouse to my collection of Spooky Little Houses. This one is the Lilac Cottage, and it looks more house-like than the others do. I hope I can find more similar to this one, or I suppose I will have to start building them myself.

Right now the Spooky Little Houses live on top of my kitchen cabinets, waiting for October when they can come down and take center stage. I can't bear to pack them away in a box. I enjoy looking at them every day. A little spook in every day keeps the boredom away.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

More Stairs

Still working on the stairway. And though I've tried really hard to keep things level and flush, I've messed up already. I think I can work it around it. I hope so.

Next I added section D,which is parallel to F. It has a long portion which runs down to the floor and attaches to A & E. Still going pretty well.

Then I glued in staircase back H, which is the longer of the two. Make sure that you slide H down far enough, so that it is flush at the top with the right angle on the bottom of the stairway. This is where I messed up and I didn't slide it down evenly, or far enough.

Staircase back G is next. If H is not in place correctly (like mine), it won't fit right. I have a little bit hanging off the back of the stairway and it left an empty crack on one side of the stairway. I filled that with wood putty. Hopefully I can just trim the overhanging part of G and have it look all right.

I am not enjoying the nit-pickiness of stairway construction, but it hasn't been too difficult. If you go slowly and let each section dry thoroughly before adding the next you'll be okay.

Time: 3 hours (includes painting)

Sunday, February 10, 2008


This is why I'm glad to be working on two houses at once. While the glue and paint are drying on my Beacon Hill stairway, I've been shingling my Orchid cottage, Briarwood.

Some people don't like shingling. I find it rather satisfying. It gives me a nice sense of accomplishment. You can tell right away you've done something good.

I started with the back, in case I messed up. That went like a breeze.

But the front!

That would be more satisfying, I think, if my first shingling project did not have a gable and two dormers. It took me a VERY LONG time to get the roof ruled out just right, so that the shingles would line up across all those dormers. Grrrr! Geometry is not one of my finer skills.

I see mistakes, but overall it looks pretty good. However, I've run out of shingles, and have to order more before I can finish!

I'm Building A Stairway To...

...the second floor of my Beacon Hill, Ravenswood.

I've been delaying this. I am not the most precise builder in the world, and a staircase really needs to be square to look good. Just the thought of trying to get all those little stair treads and risers even and looking good (without clamps, mind you) has me a bit squeamish. But...

so far so good.

I ran through a dry-fit of the parts first. For those who are not familiar with this, I took all the parts I would be using, went through the instructions, and taped them all together with painter's tape to see how they would fit. I'm glad I did, because the instructions didn't make much sense to me, but by looking at the pictures I was able to figure it out. Then I pulled the tape off and started piece at a time.

Since I am working without clamps (need to go buy some, I guess!) I didn't follow the order on the instructions. Here is what I've done so far.

First I joined staircase sides B & C to staircase side A. B & C are identical and they fit really tight, so this part was easy.

Next I glued on staircase side E. This goes across the back of B & C, so it had some support while the glue set. This went on pretty well too.

I added staircase side F next. This piece begins the upper half of the stairway to the second floor. It was harder to get this section to glue properly, but I think if you clamped it everything would be okay. I had to hold mine until the glue set up.

I hope the rest of the staircase goes together this easily! (Fingers crossed!)

Time: 2 hours (not counting glue drying time)

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


the wood floor for the bedroom. Since there was a little more space between the boards than I liked, I rubbed the whole floor down with wood filler. I used a scrap wood stick to work the filler down into the cracks by stroking it across the floor like a long putty knife.

I then rubbed the floor with a dry rag to remove the wood filler from the top of the floor. I used a damp rag on the dark stained boards since the wood filler made them look lighter.

After that I sandwiched the floor between 2 sheets of wax paper, piled on the heavy books, and let it dry. Next day I began with the coats of glossy Mod Podge-5 this time.

Really came out nice. The wood filler matches the color of the unstained sticks so well you can't even see it unless you take a good look. The glossy Mod Podge made the unstained sticks look better too. All in all, a satisfying job.

Time: 2 hours, plus 2 days drying time in between

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Floors Galore

Finished the breakfast room floor with 7 or 8 coats of Mod Podge. I used glossy finish on this one so it would look more like freshly waxed ceramic tile.

Also finished laying the wood floor for the bedroom above. I like the way it turned out. Now I have to give it a couple of coats of sealer.

It was time consuming to cut and glue all those skinny sticks to the template, but not difficult. I didn't have any light-colored stain, but it would probably look better with a golden oak stain or something similar on the pale sticks. It took almost a package of skinny sticks, so for $2.99 I've got a nice-looking custom floor.

Building & decorating dollhouses is a labor of love for me. I've really learned to enjoy the process and not just race forward toward the completion of the project. My *Dollhouse Zen* thought for the day.

Time: 2 hours on the wooden floor (after the sticks had been stained & dried.)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More About Floors

Took a couple days off to be sick, so I haven't gotten much more accomplished. I've gotten the paper floor for the morning room (eating area) glued down to its cardboard template, and I've started layering on the Mod Podge. I like to do several layers to make sure it's well sealed.

I've been playing with wooden skinny sticks (from W*****t)for the floor of the room above, which will be the professor's bedroom. Small, but he spends most of his time in the library anyway, sometimes dozing off in a comfy leather chair before the fire. Anyway, I'm planning a very simple floor out of light colored sticks, with a border of darker-stained sticks.

I'm planning a very elaborate floor for the Egyptian gallery, a pattern of light and dark sticks in a pattern similar to a log cabin quilt block. It should look like a step pyramid!

Make sure to weight the cardboard floors with heavy books after the glue dries and between coats of Mod Podge so the floors don't warp. Harry Potter comes in handy here too.

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Making Paper Templates

I am making the paper templates for the floor.

Here's how it works. I like to use notebook or graph paper so I can keep the edges pretty straight. Push the square corner of the paper into the farthest square corner of the room.

Then fold over the paper to make corners or to make the template smaller.

And tape on as many extra pieces as you need to follow the shape of the room.

Here is the large sitting room (the professor's library) in the Beacon Hill with paper template matched to the window bays.

After the paper template is finished, you can trace it onto posterboard or thin cardboard. Then you can glue the actual floor to the cardboard. After the wiring is done, you can glue the cardboard into the house, or use double-stick tape if you want to be able to remove it easily later on.

Am I avoiding working on the stairway? YES.

Time: 1 hour

Monday, January 21, 2008

Third Floor In

The third floor is now in & glued.

Time to start on the stairway. The stairway is scaring me a little. I've never done one before. I thought about leaving it out, so I would have more room, but I like the way this one looks.

A note about tab-and-slot houses: Don't expect the tabs to always fit! Be prepared to cut them down a little with a utility or Xacto knife for a good fit. The die cuts aren't perfect, and some wood sheets are more warped than others, all of which affects the fit.

My warped sheets are straightening out somewhat with the gluing. I think the second floor is still going to be uneven, but it's supposed to be an old house. I can live with it.

Time: 1/2 hour

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Shaping Up

Added two more walls. The library is framing in nicely.

I have started debating about the interior decoration. A note here to those new to dollhouse building: it is much, MUCH easier to paint/wallpaper/lay flooring BEFORE you enclose the house! Forget how you would do things in a Real Life house. Here you are going to decorate as you go along.

Since I am going to wire this house for electric (my first wiring job!) I can't wallpaper or paint while the walls are flat, which is easiest. Instead I will make paper templates of all the rooms when the walls are up. From the paper template I will cut thin cardboard (think cereal box) and wallpaper or floor these. After the wiring is down, the false floors and walls go down.

I am also planning some fun touches such as a secret tower room, a hidden room or hallway beneath the stairs, and a moving bookcase with secret space behind it. And the dungeon, of course! What do you think the professor keeps down there???

Time: 1 1/2 hours

A note about my time: I don't work very fast! And I do most of my work in the evening, so the glue can set up overnight. I am just interested in how long it takes ME to complete the build, compared to the Greenleaf estimate of 40 hours. Your build may go much quicker than mine.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Walls Are Going Up!'s so exciting when the walls are up and you can start to see the real size of everything and check out all the nooks and crannies close up!

Here is my Beacon Hill with the first sub-assembly in place.

And with the hall-living room partition added. No free advertising intended...Harry Potter is just weighting down the warped floor!

Ravenswood and I have been having a slight disagreement on color. For a long time I thought the house wasn't speaking to me about the color it preferred, but then I realized it was, and I just didn't like its choice! The house keeps telling me it wants to be green...dark, dark green, with lighter green and terra-cotta trim.

Time: 1/2 hour

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Solved the Foundation/Base problem

I had some styrofoam that was just the right size to use as supports under the first floor. I cut them down and glued them all along the back edge. Then I glued the foundation pieces to the edge of the first floor and the styrofoam so it would hold a 90 degree angle while the wood glue set. This has the added bonus of supporting the first floor.

This is why I save all those sheets of styrofoam packing even though they take up a lot of space! The really big ones make good bases for gardens and landscaping also.

I plan to build a styrofoam/paper mache base for this house that will add two rooms to house the transformer for the lights, and the other a dungeon.

Time: 1 hour 15 min.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Construction Begins on Ravenswood!

As well as the sanding. I think priming & sanding are the keys to a good final fit & finish. My two favorite sanding tools are a flexible sanding pad, also called a sanding sponge, and an emery board. The sanding sponge can get around all those little curves in the gingerbread, and an emery board is perfect for sanding all those slots and tabs. Cheap, too.

I don't have any bar clamps, so I'm having some difficulty getting the right angles on the base to glue correctly. I set that aside and moved on to the first segment of wall construction.

Took me a bit of studying to figure out what the instructions were telling me to do on the first assembly, so I took a picture to make it easier for others. Another note-the instructions say don't glue these two together until the next wall piece is added, but I could barely get any glue onto these after they were put together. In retrospect I would apply the glue, then slide these two together and wipe up any extra glue. Would have been easier. I use a toothpick to apply wood glue since it's kind of runny.

My second floor wood is a little warped. I hope this all comes together all right in the end.

Time: 1 1/2 hours

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gotta Love FREEcycle!!!

I posted on our local Freecycle asking for wooden dollhouses in need of repair or dollhouse kits. A family that was moving called me to come pick up a kit out of their garage.


It's a Duracraft Farmhouse 505! They don't show up too often on Ebay, and the company is out of business. I guess it's a pretty popular model. Some pieces have been assembled & painted but it's mostly just waiting for me to work my magic on it.

AFTER I finish Ravenswood, of course!

Hmmm...wonder how I can spookify this gem???? I'm sure I'll think of a way...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

An Orchid Interruption

Before I pop off to work on my Beacon Hill, here are some pictures of my Orchid. This was my practice build before I bought the Beacon Hill.

I'm glad I did this one first, because I learned a lot of things NOT to do with the Beacon Hill.

1. Wallpaper BEFORE windows!
2. Varnish the floors.
3. Do more dry fitting.
4. DON'T try to paint inside the gables AFTER the house is built!

This little Victorian cottage will be home to Miss Emmaline Wood. She is a spinster lady, everybody's old maid auntie, the neighborhood cat lady. Her brother will own the big Beacon Hill, known as Ravenswood.

Miss Emmaline really needs some furnishings!

Still need to add the gingerbread trim, shingles, and trim up the inside. And landscape. I didn't electrify this house. Or spookify it, really. But Ravenswood may make up for that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Finally Done!

I'm finally finished priming the wood sheets for the Beacon Hill! Tomorrow I can start work with the building. And then the pieces will start to look like something!

Time: 1 1/2 hours priming. All together, almost 6 hours on the primng alone.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Still priming...

Yep, I'm still priming, but I'm probably 2/3 of the way through. It would go faster, but I can only stand to breathe shellac fumes for about 2 hours at a time before I have to take a break.

I use Zinsser B-I-N white pigmented shellac primer/sealer/stain cover. It is recommended by Barbara Warner in her book THE ABC'S OF DOLLHOUSE FINISHING:FROM KIT TO MASTERPIECE. It is also recommended by a master painter friend, who says "Time spent priming is never wasted."

Anyway, I pull out the full sheets (unpunched)and wipe off both sides with a soft cloth. Then I prime with a wide paint brush (1" or 2") on both sides of the sheet. After priming & drying they go back in the box to await further instructions.

Time: 4 hours (so far this weekend)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Those magic words on the paperwork inside the dollhouse kit box! Good thing they put that right on top. This stack of wood full of many many tiny pieces to punch out has frightened off many who would rather sit in front of the TV instead of DOING something.

My rant for the day.

I am not faint of heart. I look forward to the challenge and many hours it will take to build this exquisite house...the Beacon Hill by Greenleaf.

More details of my visions for my first big dollhouse build later, as well as reports on my nearly-completed Orchid, my practice run for the big one.

Two notes for right's going to take waaay more than the pint of primer I bought!!! And mineral spirits will not clean white-pigmented shellac out of your paintbrush. The voice of experience speaks.

Time: 2 hours, priming wood sheets (and I'm not halfway through yet!)