Dollhouse Blogs

Sunday 30 August 2015

New south wing - The structure

Hello my friends,

I hope you are all doing well and that you have all enjoyed a nice summer. Yes, it has been a long time since my last post. I really wanted to post more often, but once again I underestimated how long each step of the new wing would take. Warning! Some of you may find this post redundant, but I often get comments by miniaturists who are afraid to tackle a scratch built project. I love it and since I am building a brand new section I figured I would explain step by step how I get it done. For those of you who know all this, I hope you like the direction the manor is taking.

Now, I have done a few crazy things in my time, as many of you know. When I don't like a room I have no problem ripping it out and starting over. but the following picture shows you exactly what happens when I am left to my own devices...

In the back you can see the current Dewell Manor, and on the floor, next to the table and covered in mdf and books, is the new south wing. No, it did not look that big on paper. Just to be clear, that mdf structure on the floor is replacing this,

Contrary to what many people think, it will not be huge, it will be just the right size.

Painting the architectural details

 In my last post I showed you the pieces I purchased from Sue Cook. It took me 4 weekends to paint all of them.


It is much easier to paint elements like these before assembly. The architectural elements were quite detailed and It took 2 coats of white as a base, 2 coats to fill in the blue areas, 2 coats of white to highlight the detail, and a final touch up coat of white. In spirit of those new to the hobby, here are the materials I used:

I only use Delta Ceramcoat and Americana craft paints. There are cheaper ones on the market, but they are too watery and you need more coats which can fill in detail. I used a half inch angled brush for the larger surfaces and a 6/0 and 10/0 detail brushes. Make sure you have water to wet the brushes and control the consistency of the paint...I often add just a drop of water to the paint to make it spread easier.

South wing construction

I have searched many times to figure out what is better to build with, plywood or MDF. The honest answer, it is a question of preference!  I like MDF. It has a smooth surface and is less expensive then plywood. It is much heavier though, so take that into consideration when you choose your materials. I use 5/8 inch thick. Most dollhouses are 3/8 but I could not find it in stores and I like having the thicker walls...more durable and it thicker walls are appropriate in an old manor. It is very hard to cut so I get my pieces cut at the hardware stone.

I had to plan how to fit all the pieces I needed on 3 sheets of 48 inch by 98 inch MDF. The hardware store can only cut straight lines and the cuts must go from one end of the piece to the other. If you have a hard time figuring this out, I'm sure they could help you plan the cuts or you can get help from someone who knows about carpentry.  My cutting plans looked like this

I tried cutting the MDF myself when I started the Manor, but I do not have a great selection of tools and the MDF destroyed the blades of the jigsaw. I double checked all the measurements of the pieces (when I started the Manor I asked for 1/2 inch MDF but they cut it all in 5/8. I could have asked them to recut everything, but I was able to work around it).

The next step is cutting out holes for windows and doors and fireplaces. I drew the openings on all the pieces first, then I followed the lines drilling holes every inch or so. The MDF uses up blades fast...I used 4 Dremel multipurpose bits which all ended up dull. The drilled holes make it easier to cut and the Dremel does not heat up as much.

I did not use a guide this time. Since the walls will be covered in illustration board to create paneling there was no need to have these lines perfectly straight...if it does not show, it doesn't matter! when the opening were cut it was time for a test fit to make sure everything lined up.

Test fits are, in my opinion, incredibly important and several should be done just to make sure everything is well. It is much easier to correct errors on flat pieces then on an assembles section. When I was sure everything fit well I started gluing the section together.

As you can see I use books and hand weight to weigh down the pieces while the glue sets. I use regular yellow carpenters glue. I put a good bead of glue over the surface to be joint and go over it with my finger to smear it and wipe off any extra. Too much glue will make it hard to keep the pieces in place and will make a weaker joint. What you are looking for is this

When you weight the pieces down just a little glue should push out. You can easily wipe it with a piece of lumber or cardboard. If you see glue dribbling down, that's too much. Do not wipe with a wet cloth. MDF soaks up water and can swell.

The glue makes a strong bond, but just to be safe I also drill 1/4 inch holes and use 1/4 inch dowels on every glue joint.

Once the hole is drilled, put a bit of glue in it. Take the dowel and using a cheap paint brush cover it in glue and hammer it in. I use the dowels that have ridges in them. They make it possible for extra glue in the hole to come up so the dowel goes all the way down and makes a really strong joint because it is glued to both pieces.

I still have more assembly to do and then the entire piece has to be primed, but here is the structure now

It measure 38 1/4 inches wide x 39 5/8 inches deep and 30 inches tall. The layout is as follows:

The right side of the top floor is the library

Front of the library

The original library was deeper and narrower with a nook for the earl's desk at the back. This one is big enough to be a double room.

back half of the library

The left side of the top floor will look like this:

The door on the left leads to the Gallery and the Mains staircase to the ground floor. This space is 10 inches wide, so behind the gallery door there will be a U shaped staircase that leads to the 3d floor which will house the winter parlor and the Chinese dining room and butler's pantry. The door in the back was a present from a dear friend. I will cut out the door from the frame and you will just get a glimpse of a ladies powder room. facing the gallery door is the door to the new library, and the front part of this area will be the Earl's private office which will measure 10 inches wide by 15 inches deep. I took the office furniture from the gallery which will clear up more space for sculptures.

And finally, the main cause of this renovation, the ballroom:

My next post will be about the ballroom so I won't talk about it too much. I cut the illustration board walls and test fitted the architectural elements. Since it will be about another month...or more...until it is done, I figured you deserve to see the test fits:

I think I will need another week or 2 to finish and prime the structure, then the next step me...the ballroom parquet floor

No, I am not crazy...I've done worse!

I will try to post by October, but we have a very busy month coming up. September is always a busy time, but a happy one. Last week Joe and I celebrated 10 years as a couple, and next weekend we will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.

And that is all for now. I hope everything was clear and once again I apologize to those who have heard it all before. I'll see you in a few weeks for the grand ball.

Big hug to all, old friends and new