Thursday, March 21, 2019

Do I Sound Frustrated?

In my last post I talked about wondering what I'd gotten myself into. I am still feeling that way, because it seems that everything I have touched lately goes wrong. I hadn't intended to wait three weeks to post about my progress, but it just sort of turned out that way. The first week I didn't have much to share. The second week I was having all kinds of trouble and forgot to take photos. By the third week, I was already doing such a lousy job chronicling the progress that I decided it may just be better to show the after photos. So here is where the exterior stands today...

I'm trying really hard to use up what I originally purchased for this house, even if I don't quite remember why I bought it or what the intention for it was. I am also trying to use up as much of the kit components as possible while still trying to make it have some unique character. Since I made the center dormer window into a door, I needed a door and frame. I used some of the kit's trim pieces and the dormer window pieces for the doorway.

For the french door, I used 1/8" x 1/4" basswood to make two panels with mullions, 1/8" x 1/8" for a lip, then sandwiched Plexiglas in between it. I made the door hinged, but was so liberal with the glue that the pin/wood join was stronger than the wood. Trying to coax it open just caused the wood to want to split out, so the door will be non operational.

I mentioned in my last post that I may make the balcony a little larger. I had a Walmer balcony kit that I picked up at Auntie Em's in Glendale, AZ in 2017, so decided now was a great time to use it. Below is what it is originally intended to look like. I wanted to replicate the New Orleans kit's plain, round dowel porch spindles so I replaced the fancier ones with ones I cut from 1/8" dowel rods.

I added an 1/8" x 3/4" trim piece around the second floor to add visual weight and give the balcony and large cornice trim an anchor.

I also installed pins into the balcony and holes to receive them into the second floor of the house for added durability. It will protrude and I know at some point it will likely get bumped into. This step may save a future repair! 

I scribed 1/2" wide boards into the floor to match the lower porch floor. The angled pieces on each side of the door are where the light fixtures will go. I had one, ordered another, received the wrong one and it did not match, realized the first one I had was really wonky so am waiting on two new ones from HBS.

I spent a lot of time waffling about how to finish the balcony railing. In the end, it felt like I needed to incorporate the copper from the dormers to unify the front. It's not attached or even assembled completely yet, and like the entire front needs to filled and have it's final painting done. The copper paint pen takes ages to get dry enough to do second and third coats, so it will be an ongoing and methodical process.

I also spent a lot of time debating about the front porch. The original kit pieces seemed a little too ornate to me so I knew I would not use those here. It seemed like white railing would have been too cold and stark. Copper would have been too much competition with the balcony. I made an upper piece with grills and fancy brackets, but it just began to look too Victorian and blocked the door and windows. In the end, I went with no upper and a simple lower rail painted the darker trim color.

Original Grill Too Busy?

Now we'll talk about the trim issues. I had four lengths of Unique Miniatures molding to use for the exterior trim between the first and second floors. This is where a lot of my struggles began. You see, even though all four pieces were the same product and were ordered at the same time, each one was different. Some longer, some wider, some thicker in areas and some that were completely crooked. I have experienced this issue before with Unique Miniatures pieces so was not shocked. The packaging said it could be heated and bent, so, I tried that with my heat gun. I didn't have any luck. 

I decided to try straightening them by drilling pilot holes into them and the house. I was hoping that driving nails in would hold and straighten the heated piece. All but one piece just ended up breaking and splitting. Instead of ordering something different as I may have in the past, I decided to live with the broken pieces and make repairs the best I could. I have used a lot of Unique Miniatures pieces in this build, and honestly, the next time I even think about buying them again I will tell myself two words: Sue Cook. I will have to live with them the way they are, and it is really disappointing.

To give the exterior knee wall some interest (between the first floor and where the mansard roof begins to angle), I employed the Cricut to cut some panels. In the centers of these I added some decorative resin pieces and some fleur de lis pieces made using wood and jewelry findings. I was able to adapt some of the kits trim pieces for wainscot rail. I also added corbel brackets under the Unique Miniatures cornices.

I used the Alessio Miniatures asphalt roofing strips I had purchased for the Beachside Bungalow. That poor project is having all it's materials pilfered! It was pretty easy to install, easily cuts with scissors, comes in strips of 34 shingles and does not curl up like wooden shingles do from wet glue. I used a hot glue gun after using wood glue on the first row as I realized it would be the quickest method. The only drawbacks are that a great deal of sand comes off during the installation and gets everywhere, and that it costs $15 per roll. I used just shy of 4 rolls on this roof. Luckily, I had 5 rolls for the BB.

The wonky rows on the sides are purely my own fault. Georgia, Woodson and Rusty like to be really close to me while I am working. Like having all three of their beds around and right under the table. Instead of disturbing them, I installed the side roofing while reaching sideways over them. Love and straight roofing rows do not go hand in hand, but I'd rather have a crooked roof than puppies who think a dollhouse is more important to me than being close to them. :O)  I was able to catch myself and mitigate the problem before too long.

Now that I am just about wrapped up on the outside, I can begin to tackle the inside. I have created a lot of challenges for myself in there, and I truly hope that it will become more enjoyable for me than the last few weeks have been. This is supposed to be fun, and I am supposed to look forward to doing it!

I hope life has been more gentle and cooperative with all of you lately. I know struggle is what makes us grow, and I am grateful. But I'd sure like my trials to come in smaller portions, thank you!

xo xo,

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?!?

I have a bad memory. It's a problem. Especially when I forget really important things, like why I put the New Orleans dollhouse on the shelf. When I finished the kitchen, I decided to keep the momentum going and continue solving some of the issues that had me stalled. There were a lot of them, and this week, they have all reacquainted themselves and re-reminded me that I might just be in over my head!!!

First, the electrical. My original plan was to run all of the ceiling fixtures via roundwire, in channels through the floors above, to a hub behind the fireplace. That was a great plan until I added some very fancy detailed ceiling molding and made it impossible, once I attached the ceiling,  for the chimney breast, with it's fancy crown molding, to slide past it any longer. The thought of coming up with a new plan, one that would surely force me to take off multiple plugs, add extension wires, add the plugs back and hope everything still worked, was daunting and easier left for "someday".

Old wire hub behind chimney breast.

Second floor with channels and wiring for first floor ceiling lights.

Obstructing molding.
Dreading it wasn't going to get me anywhere, so I came up with a plan and Just Did It. Honestly, the thought of doing it was much worse than the actual work. Now all of the first floor wires will be run down through an enlarged access hole in the floor behind the chimney breast, through new access channels in the floor joists and out the foundation wall to a new hub next to the kitchen window. I will have to build a small "garden shed" with hinged doors to hide the new hub or plug sockets, but that might be fun. Additionally, confirming that all the lights, even after sitting for so long, neglected, still worked!

Hub removed and larger floor access hole for exiting wires to run under the house.

New wire channels from the floor behind the chimney breast to new hub location.
New hub location and future home of a disguising garden shed.

The second floor lights will all lead to the bedroom closet, exit through an access hole in the wall and connect to the new hub. I can camouflage the wires in a downspout or some such when the time comes.

The next challenge came when I got the second floor wall and ceiling pieces out for a dry fit to refamiliarize myself with what I needed to do next. That's when I realized that unlike the first floor's wonderful 10" ceiling height, the second floor was only 8" high. That was not going to work for what I have in mind.

Stairwell and hall.


Bathroom in front, closet behind.
I really needed taller ceilings to make this house as grand as it could be. A serious challenge when you consider that the second floor is actually an attic with angled walls due to the mansard roof. Also, the walls in this Real Good Toys kit are either 1/4" or 3/8" plywood. I was going to need my Big Girl tools for this job!

Luckily, I had a bunch of 1/4" plywood. I ripped 3" strips until I had enough for the 96" of total wall length needed. Then I just cut the strips to length for each wall. The really challenging part was that the top and bottom edges of the original kit walls were angled for the mansard roof. I would not know how to use a compound miter saw if I had one, and I don't, so coming up with a way to laminate the new height extensions while keeping the angle true was a brain teaser. What ended up working was to add masking tape along the seam to hold both pieces together on one side, add the wood glue to the edges, press together, then add masking tape on the other side. Once I had all of the pieces taped and glued, I did another dry fit, taping all the walls together and keeping the correct angle while they dried. After they dried I went back and filled in any gaps, using the wood glue like caulking to fill them up. It worked!!!

After the walls with their new extensions were dry, I installed pins (nails with the heads cut off) through the second floor and into the first floor walls, then drilled corresponding holes into the second floor walls before gluing to add stability.

The center wall piece, which connects the two upper side sections, has a hole slated for a dormer window. With the taller ceiling it seemed like a perfect place to add a french door, so I enlarged the opening. The kit has a tiny indented balcony spot on the front of the house, so having a door there seemed like a great opportunity. I may make the balcony just a little larger.

New facade with added wall height, center french door and balcony location.

I'll have to make the french door to fit.

The new floor height, french door and angle meant that this piece also needed many refinements. Cutting away, adding in, figuring out how to make the door work with the angled dormer - a real head scratchier. The way the kit was originally laid out, this center wall piece stuck out past the walls on either side on the interior. The dividing walls on either side would butt up to the wall, creating a hollow on either side of about 1". I am eliminating one of the dividing walls and arranging the placement to maximize the bedroom space. Because of this, the center wall needed a lot of modification. I also moved each of the side wall sections out about a half an inch effectively adding another 1" of floor space.

Divider wall locations.
I also needed to have a mock up with the furniture to see where exactly the dividing walls would go, and how deep to make the bathroom. You see, behind the bathroom there will be a closet. It will only be visible through it's door, a mirror on the door and through a dormer window. I needed to know how deep the bathroom needed to be so I would know how deep the closet was and where to cut the closet door in the dividing wall. Then I needed to cut a new wall that would separate the bathroom from the closet. Another tricky job because of the angled roof. My bathroom wall still needs some sanding for a better fit!

One of the things I needed to do in order to figure out the amount of bathroom space was to get out the tile I have for the floor. It's been well over two years since I bought it, so I had completely forgotten what my plans were. It's the Marlike polished marble look tiles by Dollhouse Flooring. I bought three styles to create a central pattern, a border and then an edge, if necessary. In order to figure out how much I had and how I was going to lay it I did a mock up.

I settled on 8" x 10" for the bathroom, then cut the 1/32" subfloor to size, then began to lay the pattern. It's going to take me a while to get it done, but I think it will be fun!

So as you can see, I am definitely in over my head. Doing things way beyond my understanding, above my pay grade and beyond my skill level. But where there is a will, there is a way, and I am definitely willing to try!

Hope you are all getting to push for your mini dreams, too! 💗

xo xo,