This time I tried to loosen up a bit, and…
Joshua Elek Posts
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How to build stairs.
I said before that this is not a blog about how to build a dollhouse, and for the most part, that’s true. But I think I found the ‘right’ way to build two elements: stairs, and egg carton stones. I’m not saying that there are no other ways to build these ‘correctly.’ I’m just saying I think if you follow these how-tos, you’ll end up with stairs, and stones that you can be proud of. There are a number of ‘right’ ways to build these things, this is one of them.
There’s no extra-credit for doing it the hard way.
This was easily the most important lesson I learned building this dollhouse. While details are (almost) always a net positive, that doesn’t mean you have to build things the hard way.
Focus on the windows.
On my first two dollhouses, the windows weren’t much more than holes in the walls. For this one, I wanted to frame them up a little more. This turned out to be a really great feature, and I think it makes the whole house stand out a lot more than it would if I hadn’t done this.
Craft Paper is Your Enemy.
I’ve talked about some things that are sticky, and that I found very helpful… so how about a sticky something that ended up being a PITA throughout the project? I wanted to wallpaper the rooms in the house this time instead of just painting the walls like I did in my other dollhouses. Apparently you can buy ‘dollhouse wallpaper’ but that seems frivolous to me, so instead, I found some craft paper that has small prints on it. I cut that paper to fit the walls, and glued the paper directly onto the walls (yes, with wood glue.)
This is a bad idea.
Primer is Your Friend.
Priming your dollhouse. This is something that I did not do on the other dollhouses that I built because I wasn’t sure it was necessary. This time, I painted the whole thing white as I went, which ended up being a really great idea.
Masking Tape is Your Friend.
In order for the wood glue to really work it’s mojo, you have to clamp your join well. But in the world of miniature dollhouse things, unless you find itsy bitsy clamps, this can be a challenge. Enter… masking tape. Instead of relying on expensive tiny dollhouse clamps (do those even exist?) to hold the wood firmly together, just ‘clamp’ it with some masking tape. You’ll get the ability to clamp odd angles and tiny pieces, and when you’re finished the result is almost as solid as if it had been clamped over night.
Wood Filler is Your Friend.
The other great tool I use for building the dollhouse is wood filler, wood putty, plastic wood, miracle Minwax. This stuff fixes pretty much everything that I do wrong.
Don’t measure everything first.
I am cheap, so I build my dollhouses from scratch. That means I either draw out the plan before-hand, or I have to improvise as I go. This time, since I was using a plan that I had found online, I decided to draw out all the panels, and cut them first. I figured this would allow me to make the best use of the plywood I bought, and it would be faster in the long run. It turns out, this decision took a considerable amount of time, and I wasted most of the wood.
A handsaw can be just as fast as a table saw.
After I printed out my plans, and measured everything out on my plywood, I brought the plywood into the garage to cut all the panels at once. I figured, I have a table saw, I have a cross-cut sled, this is going to be faster, and more precise than cutting by hand. Turns out, it took longer, wasn’t any more accurate, and ended up creating a lot of wasted wood.
Wood Glue is Your Best Friend.
I have stumbled on a number of posts on the internet discussing what kinds of glue to use when building a dollhouse. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me – plain old yellow wood glue has been the go-to adhesive
There are no useless details.
When I started building the dollhouse, I knew I wanted to incorporate as many details as possible. When I’m working on a painting, or print or web material, I frequently find that I have to dial it back a bit when it comes to adding stuff to the design. With dollhouses, I have found the opposite to be true.
So I decided to build another dollhouse…
A few years ago I built my first dollhouse for my daughter Norah, complete with handpainted stones, and a wooden shingled roof. I was proud of it then, but I knew there were a lot of ways it could have been better. Then, I built one for my niece. That one was much better than the one I built for my daughter, it was more architecturally interesting, and had a lot more details than my daughter’s, but there were still a bunch of things I was unhappy with. This year, when I decided to build one for my other niece Ruthie, and my nephew Truman, I told myself I’d document the process better this time, so I can keep track of the lessons I learn along the way.