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!)