Building a Dollhouse for the First Time
Yesterday, I talked with a first-time dollhouse builder who was pre-reading the instructions (super!) and asking about the details. I am always touched by the excitement of the first-time builder. It’s filled with the dream of the finished dollhouse and, sometimes, it’s also a dream of the process; the hands-on delight of doing something together with a child or grandchild. There’s often a story of a doll house “when I was young”… It’s really dazzling! I usually get involved when they see all the pieces and wonder where to start. Here’s my 5-step plan for making dollhouse-building easy for the first-time builder:
Prepare your workspace
- Worksurface: the table must be flat and safe from paint, glue, and banging. Keep waxed paper around for painting and gluing protection.
- Sorting: space to lay out the parts for identification and boxes to keep the sorted parts organized will keep things from disappearing under the sofa. I sort things into assembly-order so nothing gets lost and I don’t have too much in my way at any moment. I also want some box-lids with waxed paper in them to hold things I have painted while they dry.
- Tools: I keep tools and supplies in a snap-lid bin so I know where things are between building sessions.
Identify the parts
- Look at the parts list for a description of the dollhouse pieces. Pick up the parts and measure them for identification. Some kit’s parts lists are organized by the order of packing – parts in those kits should be identified as they are being taken out of the box so you’re only looking at a few parts at a time. Other kit’s partslists have the parts in order by what they look like so you can sort the parts easily and then identify them.
- Label the parts so you only have to identify them once. I use sitcky-notes so I don’t have pencil marks to erase later
Read the instructions
- Now you know what the parts are called and what they look like so the instructions make sense. As you read the instructions, hold the parts in your hands. It makes a huge difference in how things come together if you’re touching and testing while you’re reading.
- Plan the painting order: Some things will be painted before assembly and some things are painted after assembly. Look for tips in the instructions and read “Dancing with Paint” in the Techniques section for help planning for painting
- Sort the rest of the parts in assembly order and keep them grouped in boxes so they don’t get lost
Take it one step at a time
- Do the assembly in order once the planning is done The order that’s in the instructions is sometimes important so things come out square and lined up, and leaving out a step is never a good thing!
- Taped-assembly: If you get confused or if you want to do things a little differently, do a test assembly with tape-only. I have assembled entire houses to test the parts using only tape. You can go as far ahead as you want by taping the parts to see how they work, then start again when you see exactly what is in store.
Use your resources
- Construction Techniques: There is a lot of dollhouse building information in the Techniques section of this website. Look it over for information about planning your paint scheme or dying your shingles – even on how to take things apart when something didn’t go as planned. More info is being add all the time, so come back and see what’s new (and comment on what you are doing… the comments add support from the whole community of dollhouse builders)
- www.dhbuilder.com has support for many Real Good Toys houses as well as information on tools and supplies. This is an amature website by dollhouse builders for dollhouse builders.
- firstname.lastname@example.org is always there to make your dollhouse building process a joy. Most technical questions are answered the same day or first thing the next morning, Monday thru Thursday.
Most importantly, take your time and have fun.