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The "Highwayman Inn" (from Sketchup and 3DS to Reality)

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  In this tutorial, I will show you how to digitally design and build a dollhouse using laser cut materials and resin-cast parts.  These techniques will allow you to reproduce your parts for limited run production if you are so inclined.  A little back-story: my father sells dollhouses built strictly by-hand and designed with pen & paper.  This was my attempt to replicate one of his houses by using modernized techniques to create templates that would allow us to rapidly reproduce his designs.

In many ways, the dollhouse was built like a prefabricated home.  We began with the foundation and assembled the house from laser cut facades atop it. This guide will take you through the process of:
  1. Planning
  2. Façade Preparation & Laser Cutting
  3. Terrain Modeling
  4. Terrain Molding & Casting
  5. Terrain Painting
  6. Façade Construction
  7. Chimney Modeling
  8. Chimney Molding & Casting
  9. Chimney Painting
  10. Final Assembly

Please note that the Materials and Tools listed at the beginning of each chapter will only pertain to that particular phase of the project. Keep this in mind as you budget your expenses.

 
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Step 1: Chapter 1- Planning- 1: Concepts and Measurements

Picture of Chapter 1- Planning- 1: Concepts and Measurements
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Tools & Materials
  • Pen & Paper
  • Ruler
  • Sketchup (Pro)
  • 3DS Max

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  Begin by brainstorming your design with thumbnail sketches of your house. 

  Take note of your edge dimensions and be sure to allow 1/4 inch of space for your walls around the perimeter of the house, the interior wall, and second story floor.  The floors, stairs, roof, and Tudor trim parts will be laser cut from sheets of plywood because we will want the grain to remain visible after staining.  The windows will be cut from 1/16 inch clear acrylic and the walls will be laser cut from sheets of 1/4 inch styrene because it is easier to obtain in “true” measurements (i.e. 1/4 inch of styrene is truly a 1/4 inch, whereas lumber is always slightly smaller).  Styrene can be painted any way you like, is strong, and has surface qualities that are amenable to most adhesives.

Step 2: Chapter 1- Planning- 2: Drafting in 3D

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  This phase of planning entails creating your floor plans in 3D and exporting the splines that will be used to laser cut your shapes.  There are 3 main areas of focus; the floors, the walls, and the Tudor trim.  Each of these areas will be laser cut from a different material and it is important that each of these areas be included in your 3D model.  You can do all of your modeling in 3DS Max but I highly recommend building the shape of your house first in Sketchup Pro since it features really intuitive tools for drafting with precision.  Begin by establishing the overall shape of your building.  Continue by drawing the window and door shapes.  Complete your Sketchup model by drawing in the Tudor trim pieces.  Leave the back of your model open so you can see the inside of the house. 

  It is important to remember that the house will be built from interlocking prefabricated parts.  The walls will slot together into the floors and the roof will be glued onto the tops of the walls.  Take note of where the prefabs connect. Design a 1/4 inch tab shape on one piece and create a slot that is 1/4 inch wide on the corresponding connecting edge.  Tabs that slot into the wood floors will need to be slightly shorter than a 1/4inch because 1/4 inch plywood is actually slightly thinner than a 1/4 inch.  The tabs that you design for your styrene walls CAN be a true 1/4 inch though.

  Once you are satisfied that you have drawn all of your shapes, you can then export your model to 3DS Max in .obj format where you will refine your shapes and convert them into splines.

Step 3: Chapter 1- Planning- 3: Preparing the Splines for Laser Cutting


  Once your model is finished you can start breaking out the shapes that you would like to have laser cut.  Consult the laser cutting service that you will be using to determine the size of their cutting bed before you arrange your shapes into a work space.  Select the edges of the shape that you want to cut and use the Create Shape from Selection option under Editable Poly.  This will create an Editable Spline shape.  Move the spline shapes away from your model and arrange them into a shape that approximates the space of the cutting bed.  In my case, the cutting space measured 18x22 inches.  Be sure to group your shapes by subject; floors, door, stairs, walls, chimney, and trims.  You don’t want your trim pieces arranged together with your floors, stairs, or walls since the trim pieces will be cut from a thinner sheet of lumber and your walls will be cut from styrene.  Also, make sure that your trim and stairs are arranged to follow the grain of the wood.

  There will be many pieces of trim to keep track of and apply as you build.  The best way to make sense of how to arrange your trim will be laser etching numbers onto the back sides of the trim and onto the wall prefab where they attach.  You can see in the pictures that each piece of trim has a number and that number corresponds to a number etched onto the point of attachment on the wall.  This “Build-by-Numbers” approach will make your life much easier when you assemble it all.  You’ll want to flip the trim splines as you arrange them so your designs are reversed before you add the corresponding numbers.  You want the numbers etched into the trim to glue against the numbers etched into the façade.

  It is important to note that laser cutting services will require that your splines be different colors for the cutting and etching.  You don’t want your guide numbers to be cut through your wood so be sure they are a different color before you submit your spline for cutting.  You can see in the pictures that the lines to be cut are green and the numbers to be etched are orange.  You will probably have quite a few work spaces to cut.  Export each space as a .DXF and name them accordingly (Floors, Stairs, Windows, Walls, Chimney, Trims, etc).

Step 4: Chapter 1- Planning- 4: Window Leading

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  The leading design that appears on the windows will need to be designed in Photoshop.  The end result will be printed to a transparency and glued to your acrylic window.  Using the dimension of each window, create a simple diamond pane design.  Try not to overdo the detail since you do not want the windows to detract from the rest of your house.  Reserve any ornate designs for the upper floor "showcase" window.

Step 5: Chapter 2- Facade Preparation & Laser Cutting- 1: Preparation Staining

Picture of Chapter 2- Facade Preparation & Laser Cutting- 1: Preparation Staining
Tools & Materials
  • Wood Stain for exteriors
  • Wood Stain for interiors
  • Brushes
  • Blue masking painters tape
  • Cloth rags
  • 1/4 inch sheets of plywood
  • 1/16 inch sheets of plywood
  • 1/4 inch styrene sheets
  • 1/8 inch sheet of clear acrylic

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  You will need to stain your wood prior to cutting since hand staining every little part after cutting is needlessly time consuming and yields inconsistent results.  Select a stain that is slightly duller and desaturated for your trim and a warmer and more saturated stain for your interiors (floors, stairs, and ceilings).  The idea is that the trim will be weathered by exposure to the elements and the interiors are preserved by the enclosure.  Stain the 1/16 inch board with the color you’ve selected for your trim and stain the 1/4 inch boards with the color that you’ve selected for your interiors.

Apply the stain with a brush and then use a rag to wipe off the excess to even out the application.



Step 6: Chapter 2- Facade Preparation & Laser Cutting- 2: Cutting

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Now that your boards have been stained you should be ready to have your parts cut out.  Use the following materials:
  • 1/4 inch plywood for floors, stairs, and roof
  • 1/16 inch plywood for Tudor trim
  • 1/4 inch styrene for walls and chimney shape
  • 1/8 inch clear acrylic for your windows

  Make double sure that your .DXF files are appropriately labeled to avoid any confusion when you submit them to your service.  If you do not have a local service available to you I would like to recommend TouchStone 3D in Cary, NC.  I’ve done many projects with them in the last few years and their quality, price, and turnaround time is first rate.

  Once you get your parts back from the cutting service, you can prep your styrene wall facades by masking off the tabs and trim areas with blue painters tape and spray them coat of white primer.  You can then set them aside and prepare for building the foundation of the dollhouse; the terrain model.

Step 7: Chapter 2- Facade Preparation & Laser Cutting- 3: Leading Print

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  After you've got your parts laser cut you will need to print the design of your window leading to a sheet of transparent plastic.  You can either print this yourself at home or have it printed at a local Fed Ex Office/Kinkos.

Step 8: Chapter 3- Terrain Modeling- 1: Terrain Base

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Tools & Materials

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  The terrain will form the foundation of the dollhouse and will need to be completed before the house is assembled.  Begin by drawing a shape that approximates the extents of your terrain onto a 1/2 inch sheet of wood.  The shape should be about 8 inches wider on the front and sides of the house.  The shape extending away from the front and sides should be somewhat rounded and organic.   The back of the house should come up to the edge of the terrain.   Cut out this shape with a jigsaw and sand the edges.  Draw a second shape onto your remaining 1/2 inch sheet of plywood that is smaller than the first, cut it out and sand it down.  This second shape will be the upper portion of your terrain and should loosely follow the contours of the lower terrain board with some variation in the topology.  Glue this upper board to the lower board with some wood glue and hold them together with clamps.  Trace the shape of the ground floor board of the house onto the top board of the terrain to define the placement of the house.  Cover this portion of the terrain with masking tape and scrap paper to keep this space clear.

Step 9: Chapter 3- Terrain Modeling- 2: Making Rocks

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  Now that you’ve established your wooden base you’ll need to build up the terrain itself.  You’ll do that by casting a set of rocks from a mold and super glue them to the base.  These will add the “broad strokes” that rough out the features of your terrain.  There are rock molds available from Woodland Scenics and are commonly used for building train set terrains.   Find a set of molds that you like and fill them with Smooth-On’s 65D casting resin.  This resin is typically used for rotational casting but is great for general purpose casting because it mixes with a 1:1 ratio and cures very quickly.  Begin by spraying your molds with Ease Release spray and set them aside.  Mix a batch of resin, pour them into your rock molds, and leave them alone for 20 minutes to set.

  Demold your rocks once they’ve cured and use a utility knife to cut away the flashing.  Situate the rocks around your base to find an arrangement that works for you.  Apply super glue to the flat undersides of the casts and affix them to the wooden base.

Step 10: Chapter 3- Terrain Modeling- 3: Backfilling the Terrain

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  Now that you’ve roughed out the general shape of your terrain you will want to begin the process of filling the gaps between the rocks.  This will refine the topology and smooth out the elevation to make it look more natural.  Begin by filling the gaps between the rocks with joint compound.  Scoop out large dollops and apply them with a pallet knife.  It doesn’t need to be pretty or particularly nuanced.  You just want to fill in the space around your rocks.  Make sure however that you leave the top portions of your rocks exposed since it will give your terrain some character when you paint it later.  Daub the surface of your joint compound with a sponge after applying it.  This will break up some of the liquid smoothness of the compound and give the surface some “tooth” to better accommodate your next steps.  Allow the compound to fully cure for about a day in a dry place that is at (or above) room temperature.

  Now you will begin layering on Extra Coarse Pumice Gel to create the more pebbled aspects of the terrain.  Use a pallet knife to extract it from the can and use a wet brush to apply it to the stone and to the surface of the joint compound.  Apply this across your terrain with a focus on the gaps and allow it to dry.

  The terrain should now have a more pebbled texture after the Extra Course Pumice Gel has dried.  Coarse Pumice Gel will be used to add the last step of refinement; the soil layer.  Scoop some Gel onto a plastic pallet and lightly dilute it with some water.  Use a brush to apply the Gel with a focus on the joint compound and the remaining flat areas.  The logic is that you want to soften the feel of the filler and pebbles and diffuse the flatness of the board while preserving what remains of the visible rock. 
Construction of the terrain will be complete at this point.  The terrain will be very heavy and I recommend that you mold and cast a version that is much lighter.  You can make it stronger and lighter with the added benefit of being able to cast copies.

Step 11: Chapter 4- Terrain Molding & Casting- 1: Mold Prep

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You can skip this chapter if you are okay with the weight of your terrain and/or have no desire to reproduce it.

Tools & Materials

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  The mold for the terrain will be a relatively simple one-part piece of silicone.  The jacket mold (the fiberglass shell that supports the silicone) poses a greater challenge because of its size.  Mount the terrain with some glue to a larger sheet of 1/2 inch plywood that is about 2 inches wider than the terrain.  Make sure that the base of the terrain is firmly sealed by glue to prevent any silicone from curing beneath the terrain model.  Add some wooden walls to the base to keep the silicone contained.

Step 12: Chapter 4- Terrain Molding & Casting- 2: Silicone Molding

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  Begin this stage by generously coating your model with Ease Release spray and prepare your impression coat.  Mix your first batch of the Rebound 25 silicone.  Rebound has a 1:1 ratio that makes it easier than most silicone to quickly measure and mix.  After you’ve mixed parts A & B you’ll want to pour in a small amount of Silicone Thinner and use this mixture of rubber as your impression coat.  The diluted rubber can be applied with a chip brush and will run into every area of detail. Apply this mixture until you’ve covered the entire surface.  Don’t worry if the rubber is filmy and only semi-opaque since you’ll be reinforcing the coat with subsequent applications of thicker silicone.  Allow this to cure undisturbed for a minimum of 8 hours.

  After your impression coat has cured you will want to begin layering on additional coats of the Rebound 25.  As before allow 8 hours of cure time between each coat until the terrain model is no longer visible through the silicone.  Your mold will need to be strong as well as flexible because of its enormous size.  To achieve that you will add final reinforcing coats of a stronger and more rigid silicone; Rebound 40.  Rebound 40 is green and easy to tell apart from Rebound 25 (which is orange).  Before you begin adding the coat you will want to prepare the registration keys that will lock into the jacket mold.  Mix a batch of the Rebound 40 and pour small portions into 4 of the small 50 ml mixing cups and allow them to cure. 

  As before, you will use a 1:1 ratio to mix the Rebound 40.  Apply 2 coats of this rubber until you have adequately covered the Rebound 25 (with 8 hours between coats).  Mix a third and final batch with the Silicone Thickener and have your rubber registration keys ready.  You will need to use heavier duty paint stirrer to apply the silicone since it will be too heavy and thick to apply with a brush.  Stick the registration keys into the thickened rubber at evenly spaced points across the top of the mold.

Step 13: Chapter 4- Terrain Molding & Casting- 3: Jacket Molding

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  Now that you’ve finished the silicone mold for your terrain, you’ll need to build what is called the jacket mold.  The jacket mold provides rigid support for the flexible silicone rubber mold.  This prevents the mold from bending during the casting stage and ruining your model.  The jacket mold will need to be light, strong, and rigid so you’re going to want to use fiberglass.

<<SAFETY WARNING>>

Before we get started you should know that the fiberglass resin is highly toxic and should only be used in well ventilated areas. The fiberglass mat cloth is also unsafe to handle with unprotected skin. I use disposable vinyl gloves. It is quite literally fibrous glass and can irritate the skin and damage the eyes and the lungs. Make sure you use a respirator and not a dust mask. A simple dust mask is not adequate. You do not want fiberglass in your lungs, in your eyes, on your skin, or in your hair. I like to wear a ball cap and hoodie to keep it out of my hair and use goggles instead of safety glasses to keep it out of my eyes. I've had flakes of fiber float over the edge of my glasses while cutting cured fiberglass with a Dremel. Rinsing glass particles out of your eyes is NOT fun. Also, do not try using fiberglass resin in the cold, since low temperatures will impede curing.  As a rule, I do not ever work with fiberglass in temperatures below 60 degrees.

Ok then…

  Begin cutting your fiberglass mat into a pile of 4x4 inch squares. Cut enough squares to cover your mold and allow for about an inch of overlap on each side. Once you have finished, you will need to mix the fiberglass resin that you will use to laminate the fiberglass mat. Fiberglass resin must be mixed with a catalyst (or hardener) before it will cure. You can make a mixture that is anywhere from 4:1 (four parts resin, one part catalyst) or 10:1. The working time for a mixture of resin is different from the cure time and is somewhat short. It will begin to congeal into unusable goo after about 5 minutes so you will need to work quickly. It will not completely cure however for another few hours. You can extend the working time of your resin by using less catalyst and by using a wide and shallow container. Tall and narrow containers will cause the resin to catalyze faster because it has less surface area to vent the heat of the reaction. A 10:1 mixture will take a long time to cure and will be sticky for quite a while. This can be good since you are working on a large area. 

  Place the fiberglass cloth and use a chip brush* to soak the cloth with resin. You will notice the fiberglass mat go from opaque to clear as the resin catalyzes the cloth.  Overlap and laminate your pieces of fiber cloth and continue working in your resin until you've covered the entire work space. Work the cloth and resin snugly around the silicone key shapes that you imbedded in your rubber mold. This will allow the silicone to register with the fiberglass jacket. Let this set for 2-4 hours. Fiberglass cures faster when using more catalyst (and in warmer temperatures). The result should be a hard, glassy shell.

* Do not spend too much money on chip brushes since they will be ruined by the resin after it cures.

  The fiberglass shell should be pretty rigid but will require some reinforcement since its surface area is so wide.  Place the steel rails in a track arrangement on top of the fiberglass and screw them together.  You’re going to use the Plasti-Paste II as an adhesive to fix the steel bracer to the fiberglass.  Plasti-Paste is a 2 part mixture of fiber filled resin that hardens into a tough plastic and adheres to almost any surface.  The mixture ratio is 1A:2B.  The A component is the plastic paste and the B component is the catalyst.  Stir the components together with a heavy duty paint stick and trowel it onto the assembly.  Neatness is not really a concern but you will want to be thorough and be sure that the paste encases the bars.  Try to get the paste into the screw holes of the steel bars as it will cure together and hold it together even tighter.  The paste will dry with hard points that are unpleasant.  Dampen a gloved hand with some denatured alcohol and rub it onto the paste while it is still wet to smooth out the points.  Let the paste cure for a minimum of 2 hours.  Afterwards, use a Dremel and cutting wheel to cut away the rough, fibrous edges of the fiberglass. Use some sand paper to blunt the edge so you do not cut yourself while handling the finished shell (cured fiberglass is very sharp).

Step 14: Chapter 4- Terrain Molding & Casting- 4: Demolding

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  You can begin demolding your terrain model once everything has finally cured.  Use a screwdriver or some other sort of wedge to pry the jacket loose from the silicone.  Flip the terrain model and mold assembly onto its own surface and peel away the silicone until the model is free.  Fit the mold back into the jacket using the registration keys to keep it in place.

Step 15: Chapter 4- Terrain Molding & Casting- 5: Casting

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  Prepare your mold for casting with a heavy spray of Ease Release.  Mix a batch of Smooth Cast 65D and brush it into your mold to create a sturdy impression coat.  You’ll want to fill the rest of your mold with a lighter weight resin and for that you’ll be using Feather-Lite.  Feather-Lite mixes with 1:1 ratio like the 65D.  The both Part A & B of the Feather-Lite will separate while they’re in their containers and will require a lot of stirring before you combine each component.   Mix a batch and pour.  The Feather-Lite will require at least 2 hours for it to cure.  Mix and pour as many batches as necessary until the mold has been completely filled with resin.  Also, and this is important, make sure that the mold is level when pouring your resin or the house will not sit right on the terrain.

Step 16: Chapter 5- Terrain Painting- 1: Priming and Base Coats

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Tools & Materials

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  Begin painting your terrain by priming it with Plastikote spray paint (it is the best paint on the market for priming cast resin).  Spray the rocky areas black and the flatter areas and slopes with gray.  You want the rocks to have a black undercoat because it will retain a sense of recessed shading after you begin to paint on the lighter colors.  After your primers have dried hit, give the gray areas a base coat of dark camouflage green.  I recommend using camouflage colors for foliage base coats because it is designed specifically for the purpose of blending with woodland colors.



Step 17: Chapter 5- Terrain Painting- 2: Painting

 
  Begin painting your terrain with subtle washes of burnt sienna, raw umber, and unbleached titanium.  The washes need to be super thin and allowed to gather and dry around every little crevice and pebble.  Allow each wash to dry for several hours before you layer on another wash.   Repeat this process until you get a variegated effect on the rock and soil.  The final effect should look somewhat muddy, which is good since this will be the base coat that underlies your vegetation and striates the stone.

  Begin painting the rocks with a dry-brushed base of Adeptus Battle Grey.  This is a darker gray with a cool tone that nicely contrasts with the warmer greens and soil.  Be sure that your brush is dry so you are only lightening the upper portions of the rock.  You want the recessed areas to remain black.  Allow this to dry and then continue by brushing on the Codex Grey for your mid-tones.  Finish this by topping off the uppermost edges with high lights of Fortress Grey.

  Blend the rocks into the terrain with highly diluted washes of Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber.  This will tone down the high contrast between the rocks and terrain.

Step 18: Chapter 5- Terrain Painting- 3: Flocking

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  This step blends a little bit of the planting phase with the painting.  You’ll be adding what is called “flocking” to your terrain; a powdery turf that sticks to wet paint.  This provides a realistic base for the planting in the next phase.  Begin by applying a heavier wash of Hookers Green and Green Gold to the crevices and flat areas of the terrain (areas where grass and moss would naturally accumulate).  Heavily sprinkle the turf powder into the paint while it is still wet.  Allow the flocking to absorb into the paint and let it dry for at least 2 hours.  Afterwards, spray the terrain with some compressed air to remove the excess turf powder.



Step 19: Chapter 5- Terrain Painting- 4: Planting

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  The last step (and most fun IMO) in building your terrain will be the planting phase.  The terrain will be populated by shrubbery made of actual lichen, which very closely resembles small scale bushes.   Planting the lichen is easy.  Simply apply daubs of heavy acrylic molding gel into the crevices and turf areas and press the lichen onto it while the gel is still wet.  You can paint more gel onto the base of your plants if the hold is not sufficient.  Just make sure that you are using the matte gel since the glossy gel is distracting and unnatural.

Step 20: Chapter 6- Facade Construction- 1: Base Treatments

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Tools & Materials
  • O-Scale Styrene Rock Facades
  • X-Acto Knife
  • Pallet Knife
  • Coarse Pumice Gel
  • 10 mm Masking Tape
  • Plastikote Black Spray Paint
  • Black Acrylic Paint
  • Unbleached Titanium acrylic paint
  • Citadel Calthan Brown
  • Citadel Charadon Granite
  • Citadel Catachan Green
  • Citadel Adeptus Battle Grey
  • Citadel Codex Grey
  • Citadel Fortress Grey
  • Citadel Bleached Bone
  • Citadel Mechrite Red
  • Brass Hobby Hinges
  • Epoxy
  • Canopy Glue
  • Vinyl Gloves

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  This is the phase wherein you will paint and assemble the facades that will later comprise the finished house. Begin by masking off the Tudor trim areas with the blue painters tape and the 10 mm masking tape.  The trim areas need to remain clear of paint so you can read the laser-etched numbers and glue the trim on later.

  Use a sponge to apply undiluted Unbleached Titanium acrylic into the wide spaces between the Tudor trim.  This will create some subtle texture for the washes and final dry-brushing later.  After this dries, thin some Charadon Granite (or Raw Umber) into a mixing cup and apply it with a very wet brush. Let it spread and pool in overlapping patches.  This will be the earthy undercoat for the light plaster that you’ll brush over later.

  Next, you will need to create the panels of stone at the base of the wall.  Take some sheets of the O-scale styrene rock façade and cut them to the dimensions of the lower wall.  Prime these sheets of rocks with black spray paint like you did with the terrain stone.  You will want this dark undercoat for the shading.  Super Glue the primed panels to the lower wall between the areas of masking tape.  Mix some coarse pumice gel with some black acrylic paint and work it into the rock to simulate grout and moss.  Allow it to dry.  Mix a wash of thinned Calthan Brown and allow it to run between the all of stones.  Dilute some Catachan Green and wash it into the stones lower on the wall and onto the larger clumps of pumice gel.  This will add some variation and simulate the aggregation of moss near the ground.  These varied undertones will prevent the dry-brushed rock from looking too uniform.

  Dry-brush the rocks in 3 passes of Citadel paints (like you did on the terrain).  Begin with a base of Adeptus Battle Grey and then lighten it with Codex Grey after it dries.  Add your final highlights with Fortress Grey.  Paint the moss with a mixture of Catachan Green and small amount of Bleached Bone.

  Complete the plaster areas with a final pass of dry-brushing.  Lighten this area with Unbleached Titanium.  Focus this lighter color into the center of the plaster area while leaving the areas near the trim a little darker.  This will simulate the weathering that occurs where exterior details join and accumulate water damage.

Apply this treatment to all of your façade exteriors while keeping your interior details clean and white.

  The only part you will need to paint differently is your door.  Alternate the placement of masking tape around the laser-etched lines of each plank and lightly dry brush the Mechrite Red over the stain.  You want the door to look dark and worn at the edges of each plank so take care to limit your strokes to the middle of each plank thus preserving your dark edges.


Step 21: Chapter 6- Facade Construction-2: Adding the Trim and Other Details


  This is the phase wherein you'll be gluing all of your details to the facades and making them ready for final assembly.  You'll want to complete the exterior details before you flip the facades and install the windows and interior details.

  Begin by removing all of the masking tape covering the numbers that you had etched onto your walls.  You will need to see these numbers to match against the numbers that were etched into the reverse side of your trim.  Match the numbered piece of trim to the corresponding numbered space on your facade.  Apply some super glue to the numbered side and affix it to the wall.  Continue building up your frame work by matching and gluing all of your trim pieces to the wall.  You'll be amazed at how quickly, easily, and cleanly your design will take shape as you "build by numbers".

  Take care to only affix the exterior window frames.  Do not glue the interior window frames just yet.

  After you’ve finished gluing on all of your trim, you’ll want to distress the edges.  Take a fresh X-Acto blade and lightly trace it along the edge of your wood trim so it removes only hair-thin slivers.  This will give your trim a delicately weathered appearance.

  Flip the facades to prepare the final touches to the interiors.  You’ll want the interiors to remain as clean and white as possible so try to keep your washes and paints clear.  The first step in finishing the interiors will be installing your clear acrylic windows. 

  Put on some vinyl gloves to keep your windows free of finger prints (finger oil can really damage the windows if it mixes with glue).  Begin by cutting the leading designs from the transparency and carefully gluing them to each piece of clear acrylic.  Use a very tiny amount of canopy glue.  The canopy glue is extremely viscous and can easily spread beneath the plastic and ruin your design  if overdone.

  Position each window into their respective frame and use a tiny bit of canopy glue to glue them into place.  Take your time with this and be careful not to use too much glue.  Find your interior window frame trims and glue them into place to cover the edges of the windows.

  The last step in your facades should be attaching the door.  Position the door into place find 2 evenly placed spots to attach the hinges.  Mix a very small amount of epoxy and affix the hinges to the interior wall.  Then fold them down and glue them to the door.  Leave your façade undisturbed while the epoxy cures and you should be ready to move on to the next phase.

Step 22: Chapter 7- Chimney Modeling-1: Assembling the Laser Cuts

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Tools & Materials

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  In this stage, you'll model the chimney that occupies the center of the house. The chimney passes through the first floor and the roof so you're going to want to build it is a single piece and then cut later at the points where it intersects with the aforementioned planes. Collect the pieces of laser cutting and begin gluing together your shapes. This part should be relatively fast and easy if you were vigilant about designing tabs and slots into the splines prior to laser cutting.

  Apply the Squadron Modeling putty to all of the seams or cracks that remain after assembly and sand it after curing (shouldn't take longer than 15 minutes for the putty to dry);

Step 23: Chapter 7- Chimney Modeling-2: Bricks and Masonry


  Take your sheet of O-Scale styrene rock and begin cutting away rocks that will fit onto the flat surface space of the chimney and super glue them on.  Continue this until you've covered the chimney with stone. 

Important! Take note of where the chimney intersects with the second floor and the roof and keep those areas clear of detail.  You want to minimize how much detail you'll be interrupting when you cut apart your chimney cast.

  After you've finished adding rock to the flat areas you'll need to build some rock onto the corners to hide the edges.  For that you'll be using Apoxy Sculpt.  Apoxy Sculpt is a 2-part modeling clay with a 1:1 ratio that will harden after you combine the components.  You can use a little bit of water to smooth out shapes before it dries.  Roll together some balls of the clay and fit them over the corners to hide the hard edges.  Be careful that your sculpted rocks approximates the scale of your styrene rocks since you don't want them to look too different.  Build up the crown of the chimney with "bricks" of Apoxy Sculpt and top it with wooden spools to create your chimney pots.

  Once you've finished laying up all your stone and brick you'll want to unify these details with some masonry.  Apply some Coarse Pumice Gel to the cracks between the stones with a paint brush.  Try not to cover the rocks, only the flat areas of the chimney.  Also, do not cover the parting lines where the chimney intersects with the house.

Step 24: Chapter 8- Chimney Molding & Casting- 1: Molding

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Tools and Materials
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  Now begins the process of making the mold from which you will cast your chimney.  The terrain model was relatively easy to make a mold of because it was a 1 part mold with a flat bottomed cast.  The chimney will require a 2-part mold because it features a lot of detail on its front, back, sides, and top. 

  Prepare your mold by tracing the shape of your chimney onto a piece of foam core leaving 6 inches of space on all sides.  Cut the shape away with a utility knife and nest the chimney inside of that space.  This will serve as your parting wall between both halves of the mold.  Fill in the gaps between the foam core and model with some Klean Klay and smooth it out.  You want to make sure that each side of the mold is sealed to prevent your molding silicone from leaking through.  Super glue some wooden hobby buttons to the foam core at even intervals around the model.  These will serve as the keys that will allow the 2 mold parts to fit together.  Super glue some low foam core walls to the parting wall to create a container for the silicone. Glue these walls to your foam core base about 3 inches away from your model and 3 inches from the edge of your base.  Apply Klean Klay to the interior corners of this foam core box to insure that no silicone leaks out.  Once you have finished you will need to create a Pour Hole and Air Hole for your resin.  Roll some clay into 2 tube shapes and connect them to the chimney pots and the foam core wall.  Make one tube wider than the other.  The wide tube will serve as your Pour Hole.  The narrow tube will serve as the Air Hole that will allow the air to escape your mold when you pour the resin.

  Mix your first batch of Rebound 25 silicone with some thinner to create your impression coat.  Apply the silicone with a chip brush to your model and make sure the entire assembly has been coated.  Allow this coat to cure undisturbed for 8 hours.  Continue to apply undiluted coats of silicone until your mold is at least a quarter inch thick.  Mix your final coat of silicone with some thickener to insure that your final mold is sturdy and will not tear.  Your mold rubber should be entirely opaque and the underlying model should not be visible through the rubber.

  Now that you’ve finished the first half of your silicone mold, you’ll need to build a rigid fiberglass jacket mold. The process of creating the jacket mold for your chimney will be similar to the jacket that you made for the terrain but since this is a 2 part jacket, you will need to take some steps to prevent them curing together.  Before you get started you will need to remove the container walls around your silicone.  Gently tear them away from your parting wall base.  Roll some clay into tubes and affix them to the base.  These tubes will serve as your registration keys for the jacket molds.  The fiber glass will be contoured over the clay into rounded humps that will allow the shells to fit neatly together.

  As before, begin cutting your fiberglass mat into a pile of 4x4 inch squares. Cut enough squares to cover your mold and allow for about an inch of overlap on each side. Once you have finished, you will need to begin mixing the resin that you will use to laminate the fiberglass cloth.  Mix your resin and begin laying-up your cloth.  Apply the resin to your cloth with a chip brush in dabbing motions that allow the resin to settle into the weave.  Overlap your cloth as you work until you've covered your mold with two layers of fiberglass.  Allow your jacket to cure at room temperature for at least 4 hours.

  After your jacket has cured you will need to Dremel off the sharp frayed edges with a cutting wheel before you continue.  Be sure you are wearing a respirator (not a dust mask), eye protection, and something over your hair to protect against the glass particles.  Sand down your edges after you've finished cutting.

  Flip your mold and gently remove the foam core parting wall and sealing clay.  Leave the clay that rolled for the Pour Hole and Air Hole. You will need that space to remain open for pouring and venting after you demold your model.  Build a new clay wall on the flat lip of the fiberglass shell to create a new containment wall for the other half of your silicone.  Spray the exposed silicone of the first mold with Ease Release to prevent the first and second molds from curing together.

The process of making this other side is just like the first mold:
  •  Mix and apply a diluted mix of silicone for the impression coat and allow it to cure.
  •  Mix and apply a second coat of undiluted silicone. Allow it to cure.
  •  Mix and apply a third and final coat of thickened silicone and allow it to cure.
  Once your silicone mold is finished, you will need to treat the surface of your fiberglass before you start the next jacket mold. Apply a coat of parting wax to the part of the fiberglass shell that will interlock with the surface of the other half of the finished shell.  Allow it to dry for 5 minutes and then brush on (or spray) a coat of the PVA solution.  You'll need to apply these both to insure that the fiberglass shells do not cure together.  You only want the shells to interlock- not cure together. 

  Once this is done, follow the same steps on the other side. Apply your fiber cloth and brush in the resin until the other half of the front is covered and resin has cured into a completely rigid shell.  Using the edge of other half of the shell as a guide, cut away the fibrous edges and sand it down.  Once you have finished, drill several holes along the seams of the interlocking shells, and thread the holes with screws and wing nuts.  These will hold your shells together while you are casting.  I used clamps to hold my shell together (as you can see in the pictures) but I really should have used screws and nuts.

  Now comes the process of demolding your model.  Unscrew the wing nuts, set them aside, and remove the jacket molds.  Try prying them off with your hands but don't worry if they stick a little.  More often than not you may have to use a screwdriver and rubber mallet as a wedge to pop them free.  Don't use too much force or you'll break the shell.  Your shells will reassemble and interlock without any trouble once you've separated them a first time.  Set your jacket shells aside.

  Now you need to remove the silicone from the model.  Be gentle but firm when removing the rubber since you do not want any snagging pieces to tear.  Take your time.  The molds should separate easily enough if you used enough Ease Release spray.  Use a clean knife blade to cut and separate any spots that may have cured together.

Step 25: Chapter 8- Chimney Molding & Casting- 2: Casting

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  Once you've demolded your model you should be ready for casting the chimney.  Spray the two halves of your mold with Ease Release, reassemble your mold, and screw the two jackets together.  Mix enough of the Feather Lite resin to fill the mold.  Pour the resin very slowly through an automotive funnel through the pour hole of your mold.  Pour until you start to see resin spill from the pour hole and air hole.  Tap the jacket mold a few times with the handle of a screwdriver to knock loose any air bubbles.

  Allow your mold to sit undisturbed for 2-3 hours as the Feather Lite cures.  Demold your cast as you did with your model.  Rinse the cast with warm and soapy water to get rid of the oil of the Ease Release spray.

Step 26: Chapter 9- Chimney Painting

Picture of Chapter 9- Chimney Painting

Tools & Materials
  •     Plastikote primer  (Black)
  •     Unbleached Titanium Acrylic Paint
  •     Citadel Adeptus Battle Grey
  •     Citadel Codex Grey
  •     Citadel Fortress Grey
  •     Sponges
  •     Paint Brushes
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  The chimney will be painted very much like the rocky base of the exterior facades.  Start by priming your chimney with the black Plastikote spray.  After it has dried, apply several washes of highly diluted Unbleached Titanium and allow it to run into the cracks between the stone.  This will serve as the light colored mortar between the stone.  As before, you will be dry-brushing the rocks in 3 passes of Citadel paints.  Begin with a base of Adeptus Battle Grey and then lighten it with Codex Grey after it dries.  Add your final highlights with Fortress Grey.  Paint the wooden mantle over the fireplace with some Charadon Granite (or Raw Umber).

Step 27: Chapter 10- Assembly


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  This is the phase where it all comes together.  There will be little fabricating or painting in this phase except for the roof and stairs, which are the very last things you will be adding.

  Begin by fastening your ground floor board to the terrain.  You could glue it but I recommend that you nail it.  I also recommend using a nail gun since you don't want to risk denting the floor with a hammer.  Drive some fasteners into the perimeter of the floor and into the area that will be occupied by the fireplace/chimney and stairs.  This will keep the center of the floor from bowing upward and the nail heads be hidden by the fireplace and stairs.

  After you've successfully fixed the ground floor to the terrain you will want to cover it up with paper and masking tape.  Over the course of building your facades you may have had some paint discolor the white of the interior sides.  You'll need to be able to touch up these blemishes without getting paint on your nice stained floor.

  Now you can begin the fun part of gluing the facades into place.  Start by slotting interlocking the tabs of the largest facades (the front, the unadorned flat side, the upstairs floor, and interior wall) and super glue them into place.  This will provide the stability needed for affixing the roof and other details.  Once you've established a sturdy base of walls you can continue slotting in and glue the end wall, the upper stairs front facade, and bay window.

  The stairs will need to go in next.  If you have not already assembled your laser cut stair parts, do so now and stain them with whatever stain you used for your interior floors and ceilings.  Glue the final stairway assembly into place.

  The chimney will now need to be installed.  Measure the space between the ground floor and the second floor and mark that length on the painted chimney cast.  Measure the space between the second floor and the sloping ceiling off the roof and mark that line on the painted chimney cast.  After you've marked it off you will need to cut your cast into 3 parts (the remaining part being the top of the chimney that protrudes from the roof).  Cut your parts on a band saw or table saw.  Glue the segment featuring the fireplace into the ground floor area.  It should fit snugly into the space between the ground floor and second floor if you measured correctly so you should not need much glue.  Glue the second floor segment into place in the space over the first floor.  Hold off on placing the chimney top until your roofs are in place.

  Find your roof cuts and glue them into place.  They should have already been stained prior to cutting and should not require any touch up at the time of installation.  Find the point where the second story segment of the chimney connects to the roof and glue the chimney top into place. 

  Once the chimney top is place you can begin cutting and installing the shingles on the roof.  Big Ups to you if you made it this far because this is the cherry on the Sundae.   The shingles come on a roll that will allow you to cut lengths that match the measurements of your roof.  The shingles are affixed with staples driven into the top of the shingle strip.  Start at the bottom edge of the roof apply one strip at a time.  Each strip should overlap the preceding layer and cover the staples of the underlying strip.
Continue applying each shingle strip until all of your roofs are covered.

Congratulations! You're Done.

Step 28: End of Project Photos


  If you made it this far and followed all of the steps then you should have all the parts and know-how for building and reproducing the dollhouse.  It only makes sense to take some good pictures right? Why let all that hard work go to waste? Document the fruits of your labor and pass it on.



foobear2 years ago
Adorabrillo! I wonder what the total bill of materials came to? Timewise also? Did you have occasion to make additional copies of the house after having created perfect molds. Do you sell them online or something? Thank you
Josh, This is a wonderful step by step documentation of the creative process! What a charming, beautiful dollhouse. I'd love to live there!
Josh Jay (author)  IconSpring6113 years ago
Thank you very much! This was a fun project because I was elaborating on my father's own designs and kind of continuing a tradition. I just wish I had more time to build them.
Z0M8I33 years ago
Wonderful Job, One of my favorites in the contest!
megaduty3 years ago
Very nice Josh! The detail is bonkers!
A-ma-zing! That is the best and most unique dollhouse I have ever seen! I got to get me one :)
Josh Jay (author)  Penolopy Bulnick3 years ago
Thank you! I'd love to make an entire series based on my dad's other designs. I learned a lot about what worked and what didn't. I think I could produce it again even faster.