Introduction: Miniature Popsicle Stick House
Making a miniature house as a craft project, or buying one as a way to spice up table-top gaming can be expensive. Most instructions that show you how to build your own require power tools or a large work area. Here’s one way that uses cheap and easy to use craft supplies, that can be changed to fit your own design. Most supplies used can either be found at dollar stores, such as the popsicle sticks, or Walmart for the paintbrushes and paint.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
For this project, you’re going to need
- Around 200 popsicle sticks
- A pair of sharp scissors
- A small paintbrush
- Wax paper
- Small pieces of balsa wood
- Access to a sink
- Pencil and paper for notes and math
It’s recommended you also have
- A craft knife
- Wood Glue
- Acrylic paint of your choice
- A bowl (for mixing paint)
While not necessary, the wood glue can be helpful in cases where the Mod Podge doesn't seem to be strong enough. If you're having difficulties gluing pieces together, swap Mod Podge for wood glue. Be careful though, as wood glue tends to dry with an orange color.
Step 2: Cut the Popsicle Sticks
To prepare for the project, you must first cut all the rounded ends off of your popsicle sticks using your scissors. Cut from the back of the blade for an easier time cutting. To save time, cut roughly half of the popsicle sticks now, and then cut the rest while waiting for glue to dry.
If you're having a hard time cutting down the popsicle sticks, use a craft knife to make a small guide cut, then cut along this line with your scissors. If this is still too difficult, swap out popsicle sticks with wide pieces of balsa wood.
Step 3: Build the Side and Back Walls
There are two options when building a wall. The first option is to place the sticks next to each other until you reach the height and width you want, trimming the excess off of the side. The other option, which is displayed in the example house, is to cut some popsicle sticks to different lengths before placing them. This creates a more interesting wood paneling effect, and seems to make the walls more stable.
Whichever option you choose, decide on what size you want your house to be. The example house will be 6 inches wide by 6 inches wide, and will be roughly 3 inches tall (or 8 popsicle sticks tall). Try to think of height in terms of popsicle sticks. It's very difficult to cut popsicle sticks lengthwise without causing splintering.
Place the first set of popsicle sticks to the desired height. Make sure the edges of the sticks are all lined up. Once ready, glue the sticks together using the paintbrush and Mod Podge. Dip the paintbrush into Mod Podge, and then paint the Mod Podge onto the popsicle sticks to attach them together. Because the popsicle sticks are light and move around easily, use your free hand to hold them down while you apply the Mod Podge.
Lay out popsicle sticks until you reach the height and length of the wall that you want. It’s okay if some of the popsicle sticks go a bit further than the length you want, you can trim them down later. Once all the popsicle sticks have been laid out, glue them together.
Once the glue has dried, trim the sides of the wall down. As shown in the picture, it can be difficult to line the popsicle sticks up perfectly. Simply use the scissors to trim everything down, and it’ll be a nice even rectangle.
Repeat this process twice, changing the sizes as necessary to get walls at the dimensions you want. It’s important to note that there are two pairs of walls. The side walls are both solid and exact copies. The front and back walls have the same width and height, but the front wall will have a gap for the door and windows.
Step 4: Build the Front Wall
This step includes a little bit of math to figure out popsicle stick sizes.
Decide where you want your doorway and windows to be, and what size you want them to be. The example doorway will be 1 inch wide and 4 popsicle sticks tall, and the windows will be 1 inch wide and 3 popsicle sticks tall. I want the doorway to be centered in the middle, and the windows to be between the edge of the wall and the edge of the doorway.
Because the doorway is 1 inch wide and the wall is 6 inches wide, there needs to be 8 popsicle sticks cut out at 2.5 inches wide. These will make two rectangles 2.5 inches wide and 4 popsicle sticks tall. Glue these together and set them aside.
To simplify cutting, I want the windows 1 inch in from the edge of the wall. This means there needs to be 6 popsicle sticks cut to 1 inch wide, to form two rectangles 1 inch wide by 3 popsicles tall. Glue these rectangles together and put them aside.
Because I want the windows to be 1 inch wide and they're both 1 inch in from the edge, the 2 inches between the windows have to be filled. Cut out 3 popsicle sticks at 2 inches wide and glue them together. Glue these together and set them aside.
Finally, there's the top of the wall. Because there's no more gaps, simply lay popsicle sticks down side by side until you reach the width of the wall. Glue these pieces together, and set aside.
Now everything comes together. Use your ruler to measure the window width and door width, place the glued together popsicles together, and glue them all together.
Step 5: Determine Roof Size
Before moving on to attach your walls together, decide what kind of roof you want on your house. If you don't want a roof you can skip this step. If you want a flat roof, make a wall the size of the top of your house, and glue it on.
Use extra pieces of balsa wood to model your roof idea. As pictured, the example house is going to have a sloped roof, with a roughly 45 degree angle. Once you've decided on your roof style, use the ruler to measure the length of the roof you want, and write it down. Also mark down where the balsa wood hits the corner of the wall. There will need to be an extra piece of balsa wood at this point on the roof, to keep the roof from falling off.
Step 6: Attach the Walls Together
Before you can attach the walls together, you have to create a piece to attach them together. Cut 8 pieces of balsa wood to the height of your wall. These will form a corner to attach the wall pieces to. Glue the two together as shown in the picture. Once the glue has dried, you now can put together part of your house.
Take two of the opposite walls (so either the front and back wall, or the two side walls) and glue the balsa pieces to the edge of the wall. Once the glue has dried, attach your remaining two walls to the balsa pieces. Stand up the walls with the balsa attached and apply glue. Attach a wall without a balsa piece, using another object to hold them together (such as the Mod Podge bottle). Repeat this until you have the walls of your house put together.
Step 7: Make Your Roof
Using the measurements from Step 5, it's time to build your roof. Building the two roof pieces is very similar to building the walls, just on a larger scale. To make the roof look more interesting, the roof popsicle sticks will be vertical. This will contrast with the horizontal placement of the wall popsicle sticks.
Measure the width of your side walls, and place popsicle sticks until you reach just above that width. Then place popsicle sticks side by side until you reach the length measurement from Step 5. Glue the roof piece together, and make another roof piece following the previous steps.
If you're making a 45 degree angle roof, cut two balsa wood pieces as wide as the house. Glue these together to form a square. Once dry, attach one of the roof pieces to the balsa wood piece as pictured. Center the balsa wood piece so there is some open space on either side.
Once dry, glue the other roof piece. They should form a 45 degree angle. Hold the pieces together for at least a minute to let the glue dry a little bit. After a minute, you can place the roof down on it's side and support it with the Mod Podge bottle.
After the roof has completely dried, it's almost done. All that's left is to attach a piece of balsa wood so the roof doesn't fall off the house.
Take a piece of balsa wood, and cut it to the width of the house. Take your second measurement from Step 5 and find that point on the roof. Glue the balsa wood as you glued the roof piece, centered on the roof. Once dried, test out the roof on your house. It should now fit and stay upright on the house.
If you plan on leaving the roof on permanently, hold off on gluing the roof until after completing the rest of these steps. If you stopped here, you would have a nice looking popsicle stick house. However, there are a few ways to improve upon it.
Step 8: Painting the House
Painting the house gives it a little more character. First, mix up your choice of paints into a bowl. You don't need very much paint, just a little bit. The example house uses brown and black paint mixed together. Then water the paint down by filling the bowl halfway with water, and mix it using your paintbrush. The paint should now be very watery.
Paint the house and roof, using horizontal brush strokes on the walls and vertical brush strokes on the roof. Use straight brush strokes, or else the house will look less like wood and more like dirt. The paint will dry within a few minutes.
Once the paint has dried, cover the house with one more coat of Mod-Podge. This will protect the paint and give it a better feeling texture.
Step 9: Filling in the Roof Gap
It's not a very practical roof if there's still a gaping hole in the wall. To fix this, first create a very, very rough triangle shape by measuring the height and width of the gap. Then, lay out popsicle sticks that are as wide and tall as the gap, forming a rough triangle shape. Glue this together. Using your roof and a pencil, sketch out the exact shape of the gap, and cut along the lines. Repeat this process, tracing off of the cut out triangle piece
Now this triangle needs to be attached to the roof. Measure the distance between the middle and outer balsa pieces on the roof, and cut four pieces of balsa wood to this distance. Glue the newly cut balsa between the outer and middle balsa pieces, on the very end. This will form the gluing surface for the triangle piece.
Finally, attach the triangle piece as pictured. Your roof should now look completed, and there should be no more gaps in your roof.
If you've already painted your house, paint the triangle piece prior to gluing. It can be difficult to paint once attached, as there's no support behind it.
Step 10: Add Details
Now for some final details.
Cut pieces of balsa wood to form a frame around the door and windows. Take the roof off of the house and lay the house on the back wall, to give a flat surface to glue on. Apply glue to the area around the window and door, and attach.
Congratulations! You've now completed your very own miniature house made of popsicle sticks.