Craft project: Making a dollhouse is much like building a conventional house – it takes time and patience. While there are a lot of pieces to this challenging project, they are not overly complicated to cut and assemble.
In order to make it easier to follow the MATERIALS LIST, the parts are all identified as seen when facing the front facade of the dollhouse. Before you attempt this project it’s a good idea to study the illustrations. Labelling each piece as it is cut will simplify things when it comes to assembly time. I used 3/8″ Baltic birch plywood for most of the project; it is rigid, strong and provides sufficient thickness for the joinery. Hence, all the dados are 3/16″ x 3/8″. Along with a table saw, a scroll saw is indispensable for this project and makes it easy to cut the small parts safely. An oscillating drum sander will make it simple to bevel the edges of each shingle, and assembly will be easier if you use a 1/4″ crown nailer and 23 gauge pin nailer from grexcanada.com, kingcanada.com or busybeetools.com.
As this part of the project progresses, use a pin nailer to tack the pieces together in the proper orientation and confirm the actual size of every piece in place before cutting. This will allow you to accommodate any variances in your construction. The measurements in the materials list were taken from the actual parts before I assembled the house.
Preparing the four roof pieces involves making some bevelled cuts. Cut the main roof sections on the table saw. Make the bevelled cuts on the top and bottom edges of the dormer roof on the table saw, and then make the angled cut on the scroll saw. Tilt the table on your scroll saw and cut the bevels on the soffit edge.
Paint the Interior
To liven up the inside of the house and to provide some contrast between the floors, walls and ceilings I painted the interior plywood surfaces with a milk paint in traditional colours. With milk paint it is impossible not to end up with a great looking result, but more importantly excess paint will not obstruct the dados the way an acrylic or other film forming finish would. When the milk paint is dry, the excess powder is simply rubbed off the surface before sealing, leaving a clear full size dado for joinery. Apply a coat of Watco Natural Oil to the surfaces and then wax the painted surfaces to seal them before assembly.
Assemble the Shell
Headless pins are fine when holding trim in place while the glue sets and for temporary assembly and fitting operations. To hold the house together switch to a 1/4″ narrow crown stapler as it provides superior holding power. Use 1″ staples for the wall-to-floor and wall-to-ceiling joints. Because the material is only 1/8″ thick, it is imperative that the staples go in perfectly perpendicular to the surface, so take the time to make a ‘skate’ for the stapler. Assemble the pieces in the same order they were cut, but don’t assemble the porch section yet.
To give the exterior a harmonious appearance, carefully select your material so all of the exterior cladding (the logs) show tight vertical grain on the exposed face. The exterior cladding on the house is made from red cedar and to provide some visual contrast, the soffits and fascia boards are cut from lighter coloured quarter-sawn western hemlock. I have only included the cross sectional dimensions of the cladding materials and the method I used to manufacture the stock; on installation these will need to be cut to length to fit your project as built. Mill the pieces and install them in the order outlined below.
One option for the cladding is to run the logs to the end of the wall and then overlap each layer with the next one as in traditional log construction. However, for a cleaner look, make the corner posts frame each wall and then fill in the interior space.
Logs and Fascia
All of the log stock (AB) for this house was milled from cedar boards with a flat face grain pattern. When sliced into strips, the grain at the edge of the boards provided the proper pattern for the logs.
Ridge Cap and Roof
At this point the house is assembled and clad, with the exception of the porch area. Extra porch trim still is needed on the leading edge and the roof needs to be made and installed.
Clad the Porch
The porch must be finished and installed before cladding the porch walls. Cut trim pieces (AK) to frame the door and apply them with glue and pins. Continue filling in the area under the porch roof with the remainder of the logs. The only area where the cladding is not built up from the bottom is the section of wall above the porch roof. Begin cladding this from the soffit on down until you get to the last few courses. At this point you will need to trim one of the pieces to fill the gap between the shingles and the first complete log before fastening the remaining pieces in place.
It makes little sense to install a dado head on your table saw for the limited number of dados to be cut on this project. Instead, use a regular blade to remove the waste, readjusting the fence after each cut. This will leave a slightly irregular bottom to the channel which can be quickly and easily cleaned up with the Veritas small router plane, #05P38.50 (leevalley.com). This eliminates the tedious tuning required to accommodate the undersized plywood with a dado stack.
Wedge Cutting Jig
Cutting the small oak wedges for the shingles is best done on a bandsaw. Build this jig from shop scraps to make the job easy.
Place the blank stock on the jig and make a cut on the end of the stock. Throw this first piece away. Flip the piece over (top for bottom) and move the edge to the pencil mark and make another cut to make the first true shingle. Keep flipping the piece over after every cut until it is too short to work with, and then move on to another piece of stock.
To keep your crown stapler perfectly perpendicular to the surface, make a skate out of scrap 2 x 4 to fit the bottom of your gun. Place a spacer under the heel of the gun until the nosepiece is perpendicular to the surface. Rip a piece of scrap to fit under and behind the gun. Trace any irregularities on the underside of the gun onto the skate and cut it to shape on the scroll saw. Load the gun full of staples and then use some painter’s tape to temporarily fasten the skate to the base of the gun.
For those who find it difficult to read the fractions on the illustrations above, please view these illustrations: