What one piece of advice would you give to someone starting out?

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Hi everyone! My name is Emily and I just bought two dollhouse kits from a Facebook yard sale group. I purchased a house called "the whitney" and one called "heritage" both for $20!! I've drooled over the ones at Hobby Lobby and knew I got a bargain. The problem is that I know nothing about building a dollhouse! I'm a pretty good crafter and artist and am really getting excited about this endeavor! I'm building them for my daughter, who is 6 months old...She will probably be old enough to play with them by the time I'm finished! LOL! I'm enlisting the help of my father, who has built actual houses and hoping to pick his brain about things, too. 

I would like to know some tricks of the trade.

What has/hasn't worked for you?

Are there any products that you've used a long time ago and still holding up?

Are there any tools you swear by and why?

What brand of materials (glue, paint, paintbrushes, etc.) do you use? Why?

What is the one piece of advise to those just starting out?

These both seem like Victorian homes, is that more difficult?  

Thank you for your responses and wisdom! <3 

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Understand that the cost of materials and tools for the first build are investments toward future builds. Christmas and Birthdays are all about self gifting. My first two builds cost me at least $500 each in materials, tools and do overs (not including the house cost) After that, I had my stash of painters tape, paints/stains, wood trim, wallpaper, wallpaper paste, good Xacto knife and blades then onto expensive tools like my Microlux table saw, Dremel Trio and other tools for cutting plywood and real stone.

Glues are one item I run out of. Aileen's Tacky glue and Quik Grip (spelling) are my mainstays.

The hardest problem I have is the design part. so I usually end up copying real life rooms.

 

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You're lucky your father can assist. I had to take a night wood shop class at our local high school to feel comfortable enough to work with power tools.

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Congratulations! Great finds and great buy.

The Heritage was my first build and it took me about 2 weeks with minimal tools.

The Whitney was built a few Christmases ago for one of my DD's best friends. That took me a bit longer to build.

I use Quick Grip glue. It grabs quick and holds, yet for a little while you can move the piece if need be. I also use Aleene's glues. Do NOT use hot glue.

As Sable has stated, there are numerous tools that can be used. My carpet knife and multi-cut tool are used frequently. Sandpaper and fingernail files are also in constant use.

I would say, listen to the house. Let it tell you what it wants to be.

Also, let your creative imagination lead you. Look at every thing you see with new eyes. Egg-cartons can be used for bricks/rocks/stone and other materials can be used to make many wonderful items.

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I think you'll find the Heritage and the Whitney are going to be two different kinds of dollhouses. The Whitney is built by punching pieces out of wood and gluing them together. The Heritage, on the other hand (and I would kill for a Heritage at that price!), is put together by sliding the pieces of siding in between grooved posts.

Victorian homes can be a a little more complicated, but they're also more fun because you get to put all that trim on them. Remember, if you don't like what's included with the house, you can always change it around or sub windows and doors for what's in the kit. For instance, with the Heritage, I always wanted to replace the spiral stairs with a straight set and run it up in the living room, since there's a little room on the second floor for a hallway. That would include buying a new set of stairs, cutting a new stairwell, and then finding some pieces of wood to fill in the old circular stairwell in the kitchen (well, what I think of as the kitchen). For that, you'd need a straightedge and a good exacto blade. You might also want to consider investing in a small right angle ruler or right angle straightedge so you can make sure your walls are straight before you glue them. That would be more of a problem in the Whitney than in the Heritage, I think.

Eventually, you'll also want to invest in spackle and some white paint to prime your house, and then you get to decide if you want to electrify it or not. If so, then look on eBay for some electrical kits that won't cost an arm and a leg. Or you could ask for a transformer for Christmas (I actually tried that one year - it went over like a lead balloon). Then you get to do the really fun part - decorating! Your Heritage is already a house with siding, but you can do anything you want with the Whitney - stone, brick, stucco, siding, etc.

You'll have fun, though. Just be aware that dollhouses multiply very quickly, but you'll get used to stashing them under the beds or under the sofa. Some dollhouses even follow you home (at least that's what you'll tell your SO).

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Congrats on the find and welcome to the forum!

If there is one piece of advice I would give, it's this- Don't feel intimidated or overwhelmed by a project or any details/features you might want in your houses.  I use what might be considered an extreme form of scratch-building, but even kit houses require a lot of materials and details to choose and install.  Just look at each part of the build as a separate project to complete.  With my first house, I knew I was going to electrify it, but had no idea how to do it.  I wasn't worried because I had lots to do before I reached that step, which meant I had plenty of time to figure it out.  

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Welcome to the little family, Emily.  The one piece of advice I give all newcomers is to ask any and all questions you need to;  there is no such thing as a dumb question unless you don't ask it.  Second to that I advise people not to fear making mistakes.  Learning new skills involves solving problems (as Jeremy points out) and correcting mistakes (as any honest remembering of school experiences will remind us); mistakes are learning experiences.

On ‎8‎/‎11‎/‎2016‎ ‎7‎:‎28‎:‎20‎, unicorn_glitter said:

Hi everyone! My name is Emily and I just bought two dollhouse kits from a Facebook yard sale group. I purchased a house called "the whitney" and one called "heritage" both for $20!! I've drooled over the ones at Hobby Lobby and knew I got a bargain. The problem is that I know nothing about building a dollhouse! I'm a pretty good crafter and artist and am really getting excited about this endeavor! I'm building them for my daughter, who is 6 months old...She will probably be old enough to play with them by the time I'm finished! LOL! I'm enlisting the help of my father, who has built actual houses and hoping to pick his brain about things, too. 

I would like to know some tricks of the trade.

What has/hasn't worked for you?

Are there any products that you've used a long time ago and still holding up?

Are there any tools you swear by and why?

What brand of materials (glue, paint, paintbrushes, etc.) do you use? Why?

What is the one piece of advise to those just starting out?

These both seem like Victorian homes, is that more difficult?  

Thank you for your responses and wisdom! <3 

I constantly try out new techniques and methods to see what works better than what I'm  already comfortable with.  Following the instructions blindly the way they are written doesn't always work for me.  Doing a dry fit of everything before I glue things always does work for me.

Everything I've used is still holding up pretty well.  I have had to go back occasionally with my Elmer's all-purpose white glue for a corner of wallpaper that came loose, but usually the premixed wallpaper paste I use holds things nice & tight.

I swear by my Stanley utility knife with retractable blades because it'll cut almost anything, masking or painters' tape both for dry fitting and for holding glued bits in place (sometimes in conjunction with clamps), and my set of putty knives for loosening items I need to remove (as in rehabbing) or spreading spackle.  I love my Dremels for sanding & drilling & some careful cutting.  When I got started my husband told me I couldn't have too many clamps, and he is right.

I use white interior latex paint for priming.  Sometimes I use gesso.  As I mentioned, I use premixed wallpaper paste for hanging wall coverings.  I use spackling compound for stucco, stonework and pargets, and for a skim coat when I want a perfectly smooth surface.  I use all-purpose white glue to glue the clear acetate pieces to the parts of doors/ windows they go on (after all the trim is sanded & painted) because it dries clear.  I use any good carpenter's wood glue in small amounts to glue bare wood to bare wood, and I use masking  tape to mask off the places I will want to glue wood to wood after I've stained or painted.  Offhand the only brand I recall is Dap for the spackle, because that little red & black & white container sticks out in my mind.  I use whatever artists' brushes are on sale cheap at the big-box hobby store, although I have also found those in thrift stores.  I like natural bristle 1" paint brushes I find at Harbor Freight for painting large surfaces. 

I've already given you my advice.  Whatever period house you are building will have its own challenges and issues.  Take your time.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes, they are learning opportunities.

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Welcome! My advice is don't be afraid to try something. I have learned from all of my mistakes and there is always someone here with suggestions on how to fix something. Have fun!

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1 hour ago, amyole said:

Welcome! My advice is don't be afraid to try something. I have learned from all of my mistakes and there is always someone here with suggestions on how to fix something. Have fun!

Exactly what I was going to say!  Be willing to try out your ideas.  And come here for help.

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Thank you everyone! I am so excited to start the build...and that I found this site!

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A nice work area is good. Always tape sections to check fit before gluing. Wal-Mart has great deals on craft paint. Always buy double ( or more) of a paint color. Take pictures of the bottles in case you are out and forgot what shade you need. Wax paper has been useful for me. All kinds of uses. I would take a tracing of floors and walls before you put them together.  I am not the best at measuring and wish I had done this. Save the box picture to check out complete d house. When in doubt, practice on spare wood. 

That's  all I can think of now. Hopefully some things you knew already. If not, now you do. ;)

 

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Welcome Emily! You found a really nice deal, those houses are beautiful and look fantastic assembled ;)

I'm new to dollhouses too, started this year, thou I've been working with other miniatures for years and also an artisan of many trades. Wood is a material I wasn't familiar with until recently, so I had to research a lot about it when starting my first dollhouse. From what I gathered diferent people use diferent methods and what works for some might not work for others (diferent climates and conditions probably play a part in it as well). I can share a bit of my personal experience and what works for me, I live next to the coast in a humid climate with moderate temperatures. 

 

What has/hasn't worked for you?

One of the things that did not work for me was using papper or any soft/flexible material for templates. I have decorated my floors with many small bits of wood, which had to be individually glued and assembled into tiles or parket. This takes a lot of glue and if the template (base) is too flexible some bits might detach themselves when removing it (I have electrified my house). So what worked for me was using templates made out of wood, it's less flexible and a bit heavier, but unlike papper if it warps it can be fixed at any time. The only trouble I had with this was finding double sided adhesive tape that would be strong enough to keep them in place and prevent them from warping a bit during very high summer temperatures - now I found a stronger kind of tape that is used for house repairs, so far this works and even if I get a slight warping later I can always fix it without having to redoo the floors all over again. I've heard some people use plastic templates, I might give them a try later if I use floorboards. Another thing I would recomend when gluing many small components is to take it slow, do small portions at a time and let the glue dry well before continuing, I found this a lot easier as some small bits might try to warp before the glue is completly dry, so patience is key.

Are there any products that you've used a long time ago and still holding up?

Games Workshop primers are my no. 1 option for many years, never disapoint, tried other universal primers but some aren't suited for miniatures and end up covering smaller details. Also Winsor&Newton varnish and sealants for all purpose crafts and surfaces, easy to use, no stains or color change.

Are there any tools you swear by and why?

Yes, one is of course the hobby knife, I have a whole "arsenal" of them in many diferent shapes and sizes xD I use them for all sorts of miniatures. The other is miniature metal files in several diferent shapes, essential for carving and doing detail work. Those are tools that I cannot work without ;)

What brand of materials (glue, paint, paintbrushes, etc.) do you use? Why?

I have sticked to the same brands of glue for a while but I'm sure there are other suitable alternatives to these: Axton glue for wood, Aleene's Clear Gel tacky glue, Yes!Paste for papper (or diluted tacky glue for thick multi-layer papper parts) and Tamya adhesives for plastic and metal. The only thing I wouldn't recomend at all is any kind of "crazy glue" instant adhesive, I think it's one of the worst options for any kind of miniature assembly: it will eventually break and force you to attach those components again, and try as you may you'll have a hard time taking all the residue out and getting a seamless bond. For wood primers, paints and varnish I'm using Luxens water based paints and varnishes from Leroy Merlin, they have small tins for a nice price and I'm very pleased with the result so far. For smaller details and decorations I use Amsterdam acrylic paint and Ferrario enamel. Brushes I look for a decent quality affordable option as it's something you eventually have to replace. 

What is the one piece of advice to those just starting out?

To put it in short: plan everything you want to do ahead. Read the instructions carefully, identify and sort all the components before you begin, but don't be bound to them. Become familiar with the parts and how they fit together, but don't be afraid to try diferent things. You might want to modify your kit, customize areas that will be very hard to acess later (instructions usually don't alert you to this), or come into other problems that will hinder your progress or result in frustration. So my advice would be to think, plan and decide. You can also sketch or write down your plan and the construction steps in an order that you figure is best for you. After you sort all that out and get started, sand the components and dry fit your dollhouse as many times as necessary, and test your plan. If something doesn't work or a problem comes up don't stress about it, relax and think how you can solve it or look for advice. Also, sand your dollhouse components and make sure they are all fitting together well before you start gluing/priming them, this can be a bit tedious but in my opinion is well worth the time. And the most important: have fun!

These both seem like Victorian homes, is that more difficult?  

I love victorian architecture and lucky for me it's very popular in dollhouses :D I am doing a Victorian model myself, don't find it complicated at all and there are tons of beautiful houses to look at for inspiration. I'm looking at real houses like this and this as reference for my project, but it also helps to see what other dollhouses people built from the same kit, they are all diferent and both a great source of inspiration and ideas.

 

I'm in no way an expert in this, just my personal experience and what works for me so far. I think there is no "1 size fits all" when it comes to miniature building, and it's nice to try out diferent methods and materials to figure out what works for you. For example, Yes!Paste works for me and a lot of people but I've also read terrible experiences from others using it. Also, if you are building these for a small child I DO NOT RECOMEND the cement I listed above, it's highly toxic as are most plastic and metal adhesives. In that case I would suggest sticking to "safe" materials and water based glues and paints, and keep in mind smaller bits and components may break during play. It is perfectly safe to use lights if you want to, it was mostly thanks to helpful parents doing their kids dollhouses on youtube that I was able to figure out how to instal a roundwire circuit xD

I hope you share your progress and show us those lovelly houses, and wish you lots of fun building this with your family! 

 

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Micro Mark magazine is a great source for tools. Don't skimp. Only buy xacto knives. I love elmers wood filler. It hides lots of mistakes and sandpaper. Lots of sand paper. I've been playing lately with gorilla glue wood glue. It doesn't expand like the other gorilla glue and it dries quickly. I also love the gorilla glue super glue. I have the one with the green cap. eBay is your friend in this hobby. Also I use buycheapr.com to search for tools and make sure I'm getting the best price.

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My advice is this: take your time!    I tend to get excited to finish something and rush through steps, which quickly leads to mistakes -and fixing those mistakes can take longer than if I just slowed down and did it right the first time!  What's the old adage - "Haste makes waste." 

 

My go-to tools have been my EZ Cutter, X-acto knives, sand paper and sanding stix, painters tape and masking tape!  We keep those companies in business for sure.  LOL  I do mostly rehabs- houses that are meant as play houses, so I use interior paints for pretty much everything. Overall, I just think it is going to hold up better than acrylic craft paint (imho).  I have found that using soft bristle artist brushes give a much better finish that cheaper nylon ones.  I try to get them on sale, or use a coupon whenever possible.

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