Introduction: Build a Doll's House
Building a doll's house is something fun to do and is a cherished gift for the little homeowner.
I credit Jennifer with the base plans, which I tweaked a little bit in this 'ible:
Tools you will need:
- paint brushes
- caulking compund gun / glue gun
- sharp knife (stanley knife / box cutter) and extra blades
- drill and drill bits
- set square
- wood clamps
parts and consumables (note some of these are different to the parts list from Jennifer)
- 1 sheet of MDF (standard 1.2x2.4m size, 6mm thick)
- carpenter's pencil
- balsa wood for trimmings and staircase
- sandpaper of various grades
- two-part 5 min epoxy for gluing trimmings
- primer paint
- finishing paint (coats)
- brass ornamental hinges and screws
- 1300mm or so of 4mm square dowel for window fittings
- 12mm plywood block for lintels
- easy screw wood screws
- liquid nails or similar slow drying clamp required wood glue
- 3/4" square dowel for gable, stairs and floor supports
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Step 1: Cut Out the Parts
I am copying the basic plans excluding window frames from Jennifer's website which I am referencing below:
I've converted the plans to metric / SI units (mm). This is because I had just come out of hospital and needed the wood shop to cut the basic shapes for me as I couldn't lift wood working tools. They couldn't do the conversion, so I swapped an excel spreadsheet with a conversion chart for their time to cut the basic shapes. Fair trade!
Mark out and label the shapes with a pencil and a set square. I could make the parts with 1/16" error and it still fit together ok.
Use the jigsaw to cut out the shapes and mark them in order. Sand off the edges so that they are nice and smooth.
To cut out the windows, mark the windows in and drill a hole first. Then poke the jigsaw in the hole you have just drilled, in orderto cut around and sand the edge so that it is smooth.
Cut the 4mm dowel to fit snugly inside the windows with about 4mm overlap. Use the chisel and knife to cut a recess for both the connection to the window and the cross member in each window. This takes some getting used to but it is worth it once it's complete, as little fingers will poke through the windows in the house. Glue the window frames to the cutouts with 5min epoxy.
Cut out little triangles out of balsa wood for the window capstones or ledges. You can use a stanley knife for this part. Glue them to the MDF with 5-min epoxy.
(1) Cut out the gable from the square dowel, using the jigsaw. Sand off the rough edges. The gable will be as wide as the base.
(2) Cut out some little triangles out of 12mm ply offcut. Use the set square to make sure these triangles include a 90 degree angle.
(3) cut out the square dowel to the width of the house sides, using the jigsaw. These parts are to support the floors.
Step 2: Prime
Paint as much as you can with primer (several coats). This will water and stain proof the doll's house and make it easier once you have assembled everything. Make sure you use non-toxic paint and paint both sides.
At this stage you might hear little feet pitter patter into the shed to find out what is happening.
Step 3: Attach the Doors
Cutout doors using excess plywood and little balsa frames. Use the brass hinges to create the door hinge. This takes a bit of sanding and fitting, and remember to make the doors fold outward, or if you have them fold inward, ensure they are shorter by at least the thickness of the base of the house.
The balsa frames are purely decorative and you can attach these with epoxy after cutting them out with a stanley knife.
Prime the doors with primer paint as well (both sides).
Step 4: Build the Frame
The way I assembled the house is a little different to the way Jennifer did it with gaffer tape.
Glue the floor supports to the dowel using liquid nails, and ensuring that there is enough space to fit the floor thickness (6mm). Wait for the glue to dry.
To assemble the house frame:
I used the 90 degree plywood sections to frame the house by drilling pilot holes and screwing in the panels with easy screw wood screws. This made a more durable frame and I didn't have to wait for the glue to dry. I used masking tape to help a little bit, but the structure came from the 90 degree plywood offcuts, screwed into each panel to provide a righting moment for the house.
Use some clamps to hold the rear roof in place.
Use the liquid nails glue to fill and secure all of the panels, like caulking compound.
Wait for at least 2 days for the glue to dry, while fielding questions from the intended gift recipient eg. 'daddy, what's that?'
Step 5: Attach the Doors
You might need someone to help with this step (a grown up is better, you will get offers for help from the little people)
Attach the hinges to the sides (2 for each side of the house). Then mark and drill the front panels.
Attach the hinges to the roof gable, then screw in the front roof panel.
Holding the doors, attach and check for dead level each of the front panels. Screw them up only once you are sure.
A bit of glue might help here but I didn't try this.
It is starting to take shape as a doll's house now!
Step 6: Staircase
This is an optional step, but one that is worth the trouble. My daughter enjoys making the dollies walk up and down the stairs.
Cut out a piece of balsa the size of the staircase that you want, using a stanley knife.
Using the jigsaw, cut out diagonal 'steps' from the square dowel. Make them the width of the staircase.
Sand off all of the edges of these stairs and staircase. Use any offcut 4mm dowel to glue as supports behind the balsa.
Glue each of the steps to the balsa staircase in one go, use a clamp to affix the steps ensuring yoou don't get glue squeezing out the edges onto the clamp.
wipe off excess glue and wait for it all to dry. Sand off and prime the staircase and steps.
Glue in place into the house. You can allow for any mismatched dimensions with this step by adjusting the staircase angle from level.
add some magnetic catches with a screwdriver should your heart desire.
Step 7: Painting
Use many coats of primer until the house looks all one base colour. Lightly sand with 400/800 between coats and sweep any dust away or use a vacuum to remove dust.
Take the recipient shopping for paint, so that they can choose colour(s). This will make the gift even more special. Ensure the paint is non-toxic, kids will eat anything.
Paint coat after coat of your chosen colour scheme. The more the merrier. Use a foam roller or brush to get a nice finish.
It took about 500mlx2 colours of final paint and 1L of primer to complete (3 coats of each)
Step 8: All Done!
The doll's house is all done! All you need to do now is make or buy some doll's furniture and have the little dollies move in the night before your child's birthday or special day.