Plug and PlayŚ Using the round wire method (and hiding wires)
By Deb Roberts
The easiest method for wiring a house is the round wire method (sometimes called hard wiring). The principle for this method is much the same as using lights in your real house. The lamps and light fixtures have an electric wire with a plug on the end. The plug plugs into a power strip under your house which attaches to a transformer that plugs into your wall outlet. A few plugs, some hidden wires and voila! Your dollhouse is sparkling with light! Sound easy? It is.
The positive aspect of round wiring is that if a light goes out, it’s easy to troubleshoot. Light fixtures are easy to replace if needed and if you change your mind about where you want your existing lights, you can move them. You can also add new lights at any time with a minimum of fuss. The biggest challenge to round wiring is hiding the wires and we’ll take a look at how to do that in just a little bit.
Let’s start with the easiest of round wired lighting………the table lamp. For this tutorial, I’m going to use a table from a Greenleaf furniture kit that I covered with a table cloth. Before putting on the tablecloth, I drilled a hole in the top of the table. (If you don’t want to drill a hole in your table you can take alternative action by just running the wire thru a hole in the tablecloth and then snaking the wire down under the fabric.)
To add the light fixture, turn the table upside down and use a pin to push thru the hole in the table, thru the tablecloth. The pin will leave a small hole in the fabric to mark the spot. Remove the pin and turn the table right side up. Use an awl to push thru the pinhole, expanding the hole just enough for the light cord to go thru.
At this point, you might notice that it’ll be a little hard to get the cord thru the little hole with a plug on the end. Time to take off the plug.
Using a pair of needle nose pliers, pull the brass pins out of the plug with a gentle but firm pressure.
Pull the wire up so that the ends of the wires lift out from the holes.
Pull the wire out of the plug.
Based on experience, I know that losing one of the tiny pins results in having to replace the whole plug, so I’ve learned to wrap the pins in masking tape, then tape them to the plug and put it in a safe place till I’m ready to reattach it.
Since the wire will have to be recut anyway, cut the split ends off so you don’t have to fight with that going thru the hole in the tablecloth. Thread the cord thru the hole and grasp it from the bottom and pull it all the way thru.
Gently pull the cord till the lamp sits flush on the table.
These tables will be sitting on the first floor of my dollhouse, so to get the wires down to the power strip under the house, I simply drill a hole in the floor under the tables where it will be hidden by the tablecloth. Run the wire thru the hole in the floor. It’s helpful to attach the table to the floor so it doesn’t move around and stress the wire. If you don’t want to permanently position it, tape it down or use a little museum wax to hold it in place while you’re working on the house. If you’ll be leaving the table in one place, just put a couple of drops of glue on the legs and position it in place. Gently pull the slack in the wire thru to the underside of the house.
Time to reattach the plugs! To reattach the plug, first gently pull the wire apart so it forks at the end. Strip the ends of the wires so you have a small amount of bare copper wire.
Run the wire thru the middle hole of the plug and twist the wires gently so they are wrapped together (no strays).
Curve the ends of the wires into a downward facing U shape.
Insert the ends of the wires into the side holes.
Using needlenose pliers, insert the brass posts back into the holes, being sure that all the copper wire is inside the holes. It helps to have a pair of tweezers and a very bright light for this process. Be sure that no stray wires are outside of the hole since that can cause a short.
After the pins are in place and secure, gently pull on the wire to snug the ends down.
Plug the light into your power strip and your table lamp is all done!
While I was on the first floor, I wired my fireplace embers. After selecting the positioning for the fireplace, I drilled a hole in the floor for my wires. (By the way, the floor in this house is the Greenleaf vinyl tiles in green marble and I loooooove the look!)
The bulb in my fireplace is an amber grain of wheat bulb with no male plug. There is a small hole in the ‘logs’ where the bulb is inserted. The wire from the bulb comes out the side and goes down thru a hole I’ve drilled in the bottom of my fireplace, then thru the hole in the floor.
I positioned the fireplace and gently pulled the slack from the wire to the underside of the house and attached a male plug.
Time to install the chandelier. Even tho this light is on the first floor, the wires will go up thru the ceiling to the second floor.
To begin, I selected the place I wanted my chandelier then drilled a hole thru the ceiling. After removing the plug from the chandelier wire, I ran the wire thru the hole. The chandelier has an adhesive backing on the top which helps hold it in place securely on the ceiling.
The wire from the chandelier is now laying on the second floor.
Before I secured this wire, I had a second light that I wanted to install. This is an exterior coach light that is place directly under a second floor window.
I glued the coach light to the exterior wall, then scored a small groove in the window frame for the wire to sit in so the window frame was flush with the wall. The wire went thru the window and the frame was glued in place. This window just happens to be at floor level making entry for the wire very easy. If there doesn’t happen to be a window handy at floor level in your house, simply drill a hole in the wall, run the wire thru and cover the interior entry point with baseboards.
At this point, both wires were laying across the floor. I scored a groove into the floor for each one leading to the point of egress and taped down each wire with electrical tape.
This is a good time to reattach the plugs and test your lights before installing the floor over the tape.
If you’re decorating while building, this is the point to install your flooring over the wires. Even if you’re not decorating while building, I recommend that you consider installing the flooring at this point and then testing the lights. If there is a problem with the lights requiring that you take them out, it’s a lot easier to do it at this stage then to have to unbuild part of a house to replace them.
I used Greenleaf vinyl hardwood floor strips for the second floor of this house. The strips installed beautifully over the wires.
The wires need to go from the second floor down to the underside of the house where the power strip is located. This house is the Storybook Cottage and I ran the wires down the back of the small load bearing wall on the front side of the house.
For other houses, I would hide the wires behind baseboards, run them to the corner of the house and down thru a hole in the second floor, then hide them behind corner moulding on the first floor.
In this house, I ran these wires down the inside corner of the wall next to where my fireplace is located and then thru a hole in the floor to the underside of the house.
I wanted to frame the fireplace to give it more emphasis in the room, so I used channel moulding to hide the wires inside it. Looking at this picture, you’d never know that there are wires hidden behind the wood or under the fireplace.
Sometimes fixture wires aren’t long enough to reach the power strip under the house. That’s where extension cords come in handy, just as they do for real life. In the miniature world, you can get single plug extensions or three plug extensions. Three plug extensions are a little larger and harder to hide, but which one you use is a matter of personal preference. (you also have the option of lengthening the wires using the method described in the hybrid tutorial in this issue of the Gazette, or by splicing the wires together and covering the splice with a heat shrink tube)
As an example, I’m going to use single plug extensions and hide them in a cabinet (Michael’s hutches are excellent for hiding extension cords). My first step is to drill two holes in the cabinet; one in the bottom and one in the back.
Remove the plug from the extension cord and run it thru the hole in the bottom of the cabinet, leaving the outlet inside the cabinet.
Remove the plug from the light fixture cord and thread the cord thru the hole in the back of the cabinet. Reattach the plug.
Plug the lamp into the outlet.
Excess wire can be bundled into the cabinet and hidden. Thread the wire from the extension cord thru a hole in the floor, reattach the plug and plug it into the power strip.
These are just a few examples of how to hide wires in your dollhouse. You can be as creative as you like when it comes to round wiring. Furniture, moulding, baseboards, inside towers and behind walls are just a few places to tuck wires out of sight. With round wiring, your options are wide open to almost anything.
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