Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Dollhouse Kit Assembled

My 11-year-old niece is mad at me. What's the point of her old aunt (me) building a dollhouse if I'm not going to give it to her (the niece) to play with? Hard to explain that it is for her, really, but it may take me 20 years to "finish" it. Twenty years seems an impossibly long time when you're eleven going on twelve.

But for the moment, I'm done with construction... apart from a few paint touch-ups and a little bit of judicious gluing and wood-filling, that is. I've decided to leave out the shutters, the downspout and the staircase, as I don't like the way they look. On the other hand, I've added quite a bit of detail the kit didn't specify... particularly extra bits to strengthen potential weak spots.

The box label that promised "easy assembly" lied. It was a full work week for someone with a house full of tools, a lot of determination and a fair supply of DIY know-how. But I must say, the design is ingenious, and produces a pretty opulent effect for something that's almost entirely made of cheap, thin plywood and glue. (Lots of glue.)

Oh, and roughly 400 redwood shakes, which had to be glued on by hand, one by one. I had a momentary panic when I ran out of glue (this being a holiday weekend with nary a hardware store in sight), but a kind neighbour family helped me out. This is why it`s good to share banana bread when you have extra.

I've already collected a few bits and pieces of furniture, but doesn't this bedroom have the gloomy look of the summer home after everyone's packed up to leave at the end of the season? That 20 years of extras would include things like quilts and pillows, pictures on the walls...

...perhaps some brushes and combs for the dressing room...

...a stove in the kitchen (that's coming, actually!) The washtub needs to be hung on the wall. I could do with a few more jam jars too. I made myself a prototype for about 15 cents. More to come.

That cat plate on the little chest of drawers needs to be mounted on the wall. And what about some rugs and a curio shelf? Not to mention seasonal items like a Christmas tree. A loaf of bread would be nice with the tea, too, now that I think of it.

But for the moment, I`m feeling quite pleased with myself, despite the odd plywood sliver working its way back out of my poor fingers. This is my first try at a project like this, and although I wish I could apply some of the lessons I learned along the way (too late!), there`s nothing I feel too bad about to kill the satisfaction of looking at this pretty, sturdy little dollhouse and knowing I put it together myself (with a little help from my brother when my hands got too blistered to cut the last few sticks of trim).

And for now, back to my regular work as a writer instead of a doll contractor.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dollhouse Madness... It Begins.

Okay, so when I needlepointed that dollhouse rug for that friend of mine who collects antique dollhouses, she  thanked me by giving me a 1980s-era kit for a 1/12th-scale dollhouse that she had picked up somewhere along the way. It's been propped up against a bookshelf in a corner of my office for some months now. Every once in a while I've been looking idly through the listings on Kijiji or Craigslist in case I happen to see any cheap dollhouse furniture.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I spotted an ad that turned out to be from a lovely young woman who was giving up her childhood toys, and for a modest sum I picked up enough little pieces of wooden furniture to more than fill up this little kit house (which is a Dura-Craft "Lafayette" model, in case you're wondering). So a few days ago, I opened the box and started to work on it.

It's not quite as easy as you might think by looking at the box label. Clearly this is what the original owners thought too, because they assembled just the first few bits before packing it all in, one supposes, in despair. There's quite a lot of cutting and measuring involved. And sanding. And I've discovered that a liberal application of wood filler can mask a thousand ills. And I realize that to do it right, I would need an airbrush, a jeweller's saw and some micro-drill bits.

I expect the kitchen is destined to be my favourite room.
I splurged on a few bits of wallpaper and floor coverings at The Little Dollhouse Company (where it would be quite easy to drop a thousand dollars without thinking twice). But I also used some scrapbooking paper my mom gave me, and a lot of spare paint and glue and tools I already had around the (human-sized) house.

Really, the fun for me will be making little things to go inside, like rugs, quilts and cushions. And when I saw that the specialty shop charges $15 each for "full" jam and pickle jars, I picked up eight tiny glass bottles for $1 at the local dollar store, and I look forward to filling them with tiny "preserves". A stopper and label will be easy. I'm guessing that for about $5 I can make more miniature preserve jars than you can shake a stick at.

How do you like the oak floor (my single biggest expense so far!)
As you can see from this mini-tour, it's tiny by house standards (although enormous by tchotchke standards). It will have a dining room and kitchen on the main floor, with a sort of two-part attic bedroom upstairs. The imaginary family presumably has an outhouse. Jonathan is worried how they'll stay warm with half the house open on one side, and I told him it has an imaginary fourth wall... there's a long and noble tradition of those, after all.

I think I've done about half the building. We have a long weekend coming up, so perhaps I can get the basic thing put together within the week. Or maybe not... we'll see how it goes.