Roomboxes: There are several different size wooden roomboxes, but if you are going to make them yourself, I wouldn't be held to a standard size. I would make them the size that I needed for the project. The rooms in your house are not all the same size, so roomboxes shouldn't be either. If you make a project that requires little space, it would look out of place in a standard sized roombox. On the other hand, if you have a large, or very busy project, I have found that a little larger space so it is not quite as crowded looks nicer. I think that itis strictly up to the individual.
my first kit is a country store. I know nothing except I was trying to save money for stuff for my store so I scribed the floor to make it look like a real wood floor. Then I stained it and varnished it. It came out great. Then I scribed the ceiling to look like tong and grove with ceiling beams. The bottom floor looks like 2X6 wood decked plank floor. I put tiny hole for nails. Wish I would have used some of your ideas and made it look like real nails but I just put tiny hole where the nails went and stained it. It has thousands of holes so the "real nails" would have taken me forever. I really love the way it says "this kit takes 3 to 4 hours to put together." My next step is wiring. I am so afraid to start that project.
Height of Dollhouse Ceilings: If you're doing your own design, why let the dollhouse manufacturer's decisions affect yours? When I toured the Garth Mansion in Hannibal, Missouri, I asked what the ceiling heights were. They told me it went as follows:
Finishing Stair Openings: I thought you'd like to see some pictures of how stair openings can be finished. I remembered some from Carol of S P Miniatures' site: http://www.spminiatures.com/house/hallup.html shows from above, and http://www.spminiatures.com/house/halldown.html and http://www.spminiatures.com/house/entryway.html show from below.
Walls: what I do for making 'natural' walls: I use thick waterbased paint (wallpaint), sample pots for sale at the large do-it-yourself stores, use an old, hard brush and move it around, then put bird sand on it and you have a very natural effect!
Cool dioramas! While researching the tenements of NYC (just for my own interest), I came across the following website which features eleven dollhouse dioramas of a particular tenement. I found it very interesting! http://www.thirteen.org/tenement/logcabin.html
Efficiency Kitchen/Gardenscape: maybe you could use the fridge magnet appliances which are in slightly smaller scale -- that would make them compact versions for this scene. I remember a college friend who had such an apartment, basically a long room with dining/living and sleeping zones separated out. Pairs of louvered doors ran the length of one side wall and the efficiency kitchen, a tiny bathroom (shower, no tub), and ordinary closet were hidden behind them.
Floor Boards http://adamovminiatures.comhas the best selection I've seen.
Simulated brick: I had purchased a sheet of Rossco brick for my wine cellar in a deep red color. Then I bought more for the kitchen. I wanted to match (more or less) the terra cotta color of the tile floor to a brick wall. This brick product was just great for painting. I used the tip of a small brush to change the grout color and the flat or side of the brush to apply several shades of terra cotta, just grazing the top surface and allowing some of the base color to show through. The resulting texture and variation of color is just perfect! I think this product would be especially nice for used brick. Many dealers sell this, but if you want to see a picture, go to http://store6.yimg.com/I/suzisdollhouses_1643_20413388 It is flexible and has a vinyl like texture, but accepts both stains and paint
Kathy from Tustin
Flooring as Wainscoting: seems like leftover flooring would work well for wainscoting. Use some small picture frame molding or Houseworks or other brand decorative wall molding as a chair rail topper -- that will provide decorative detailing. Minimize the resemblance to the floor by using a different wood finish or painting the wainscot, and trim the wall woodwork so the seams between boards do not align exactly with the flooring seams.
Flooring as Wainscoting: Wainscoting usually has beveled edges, while flooring does not. I would take an icepick/awl, and run it over the joints between floorboards to make the edges slightly less sharp. Do this by sticking the point in the joint, and pulling the handle to drag the point while exerting some pressure in the joint. Don't push in the direction of the point, or you can gouge the wood. I hope this is clear... Since the wood floor is probably oak or cherry, and the baseboard and chair rail moldings are probably basswood, you should stain them separately. The basswood will take the stain differently than the flooring, so you should experiment with the staining. Maybe the moldings will need an extra coat or one less coat of stain, or you might have to try a mixing the stain with a different color to match the flooring/wainscoting. Of course, if you will be painting, color matching isn't a problem.
Jonathan in Israel
Wainscoting: I wonder if those sticks for stirring coffee would work for wainscoting. They are flat, thin and with the pens for staining could be stained easily before applying. If you are working in 1 inch scale they'd be about 3-4 inches wide, about 6 inches in half scale. Here in the states you can get a box of about 1000 for very little money - sometimes even in the dollar store.
Siding: There is no 'standard' size.
Thatch: I'm walking thru JoAnn's Fabric and Crafts a couple of weeks ago and on display was a bolt of white fake fur -- very hairy with fibers 1 to 3 inches long. I stood there and stroked the fibers down and sawthatch! Sure enough, when heavily painted with yellow and brown streaks and then combed with a fine tooth comb and left to dry -- it looks like perfectly scaled straw. After the paint dried, I cut out the roof shapes, glued them into place, snipped, trimmed and it just looks fabulous, darling. This was so easy and looks so great, I felt I had to share.
Sally Cook Thomas
Downspouts: Cheapest solution, a straw with a flexible tip, just snip to fit, put on a little verdigris and you're all set.
Door Installation: I put my door in by using the little punch tool you use for inserting wiring brads. Light on the pressure and turning it (like a drill) it didn't split my wood. This way I had a tiny hole to start with and with a little glue on the end of the hinge nail they went in quite nicely. Those little tools are handy for a variety of things.
Hanging doors: Drilling wee holes; Get some dental bits from your friendly DDS. Drill the holes for the nails and notch the nail shank with a file and then put glue on the nail shank and set it into the holes.
Using pivot posts; Drill the hole in the bottom of the door deeper than the post. Place the post in the hole. It will slide in and disappear because the hole is so deep. Now when you turn it over so the hole in the bottom of the door matches the hole in the saddle area of the door frame, the pin will drop into the floor hole but enough will remain inside the door to make it functional. Then search and seek the top hole with the top post.
Sometimes the door must be "hung" prior to being put in place. This may make getting the pivot posts in place much easier.
Shingles on curved roof, I was putting shingles on a mansard roof with a complex curvature starting convex at the top, interrupted by a belt cornice, and then concave below that. I was using thin cedar, "geometric" shingles (i.e., fish scales, diamonds, half hexagons, and flat bottom rectangles)
On that project, I milled and shaped my own shingles to about 1/32" thickness, and shorter than usual top to bottom length so the ones above only barely overlapped the tops of those below. (Just enough for the highest point of the bottom edge shape to hide the top of those below by about 1/16"). It was necessary to hide the fact of such a small overlap so the side edges of each shingle were slightly beveled. That way, they could be very closely spaced and not appear like a long, continuous strip.
I pre-colored the roof plates with a NON-SEALING stain and then very precisely planned the position of all top edges, drawing pencil lines to follow. I ended up revising the sequence of shapes, vertical dimensions, and top edge positioning several times before arriving at a workable plan.
Installing the shingles, I laid a bead of white glue along the positioning line and along the top edge of the row below with a glue syringe. Let it set up just a bit then press into place. Where the roof pitch is very steep, you may need to put blocks under the house and tilt it while applying shingles so they do not slide downward out of position. Keep a fitch and a can of water at hand to quickly eliminate any glue runs from coming down onto the visible surface. In the case of my project, the shingles were to be painted rather than stained and weathered so extreme care was not essential. If I were doing a stained roof, I believe that I would have pre-stained and washed the shingles prior to putting them on.
An idea I considered for a while but ended up not using would have been to make long (horizontal) strips of shingles glued to gauze strips and then to a 1/16 X 1/16 (or thereabouts) wood strip which, in turn, would have ridden on the top edge of the course below.
Hiding Piano Hinges: If you bi-fold your side wall with piano hinges, the end hinge will be at the back of the house and may not need to be hidden if you leave the back featureless to be up against a wall. The middle hinge should have its pin plate toward the interior of the house and, again, need not be hidden if you align that fold with an interior wall so that, when closed, that edge of the hinge simply reaches into a milled slot in that wall.
If you mount piano hinges to the butt edges of all panels rather than flush on the flat faces of the walls - they will help limit warping. The screws, however, are likely to not hold well screwed endwise into plywood. I would strongly urge you to fully frame the plywood panels with a quality hardwood capping all edges. Use dowels and a top line wood glue such as Gorilla Glue and clamping techniques to prefabricate the hingeable plywood panels.
Install magnets into the shell of the dollhouse to align with iron slugs inset into the wall panels. This will help hold your walls closed and give some added stability against warping even though slight. If the panels are large, you may even inset angle steel the full length of top and bottom edges rather than just slugs. Wherever hinge pin ends are exposed and need to be hidden, make the architectural corner trim removable with inset magnets and slugs to hold it in place OVER the hinges. Lift off the corner trim before opening the hinged panels.
Finally, once your row house is to a point where it VERY seldom needs to be opened, I would suggest screwing the panels closed in several places to (again) provide maximum support against warpage. Hide the screw heads with gingerbread rosettes painted a uniquely different color and leave a note in the house's history log as to how it can be opened up by family archeologists of the future.
Wallpapering: This might be a solution to not wanting to have to paper all the rooms in a mini house with many rooms. You could paper some rooms and paint others. If you feel that paint alone would not look authentic for the period, how about papering only the top of the room and painting below a chair rail line. Chair rail lumber is expensive, so perhaps you could use some less expensive wood strips horizontally around the room, placed on the line where the paper ends. Chair rails are usually the height of chair backs (intended to protect the walls). Just use your mini chairs to determine the height to place the rail.
Another possibility is to use panels around the walls, You could frame wallpaper panels with wood strips or card stock if expense is a factor. Make sure to miter the corners for a nicer appearance.. That way you could use small patterned wallpaper from a discontinued wallpaper book.
You can also use fabric with a small design either for above the chair rail or for those panels I suggested.
Jeanette in Wisconsin
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