Friday, October 24, 2008

Wood Floors

The time period I picked for Myrtlewood is the mid-1880s. For that reason, and also because I don't really care for the look of dollhouse carpeting, Myrtlewood will have wood flooring throughout. This is a big project, as I am cutting and placing each plank individually. Here you can see how I made the parlor floor.
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First, I pre-conditioned and stained several pieces of 1/32" basswood a deep walnut color. I chose to stain the wood first, rather than laying it all and then staining it, because I like to take the wood grain into account when placing each plank, and I can see the grain much more clearly when it's been stained.

I cut planks 3/8 inches wide by 12 inches long and began laying them onto the plywood base, staggering the end joints, as you can see below.

As I glued them down to the floor, I weighted them down for a few minutes to keep the planks from curling up on the ends. Some people use contact cement instead of glue to keep the thin wood from curling, but you can't really move the pieces once they've contacted the base, and I'm just not skilled enough to lay everything perfect the first time! I need to be able to adjust each plank slightly after I've laid it down on the base. So I just use regular wood glue and a very sophisticated weighting system:

Here's what the floor looked like once I'd laid all the planks:

After I was sure that all the glue had dried, I sanded the entire floor to smooth it out, wiped up all the sawdust with a damp cloth and then restained the entire floor. Once the stain dried, I gave the floor two coats of a polyurethane sealer, sanding lightly in between coats. Here is the finished floor:

One floor down, only eighteen more to go!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Inspiration: The Thorne Rooms

I am a perfectionist by nature, so of course as soon as I decide to do something, I have to do it as perfectly as possible! I hadn't been researching miniatures too long before I stumbled onto the Thorne Rooms, incredibly detailed 1/12 scale miniature rooms designed by Mrs. James Ward Thorne and built by master craftsmen in the 1930s. Many of them are on display at the Art Institute of Chicago. They are absolutely breathtaking.

Of course, once I'd seen them, I knew I had to try to achieve their level of perfection. I never will, of course; I don't have Mrs. Thorne's resources and will be doing almost all the work myself, rather than hiring master craftsmen. But this is the level of realism I'm striving for when building each room of my house. The challenge lies in seeing how close I can get to perfection!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Laying Brick

I wanted the long front porch of Myrtlewood to be made of brick. But the individual bricks sold at dollhouse supply stores are expensive and too thick for my purposes, and the bricks that come in sheets just don't look realistic to me. I've seem some fantastic results from people who sculpt bricks out of clay, but I haven't worked with clay much (yet!) and needed something more foolproof. The most realistic results I've seen have resulted from a technique using cardboard egg cartons (yes, you read that right!). I found a great tutorial online and was eager to get started.

So I started cutting up the egg cartons I had stashed just for this purpose. I cut, and I cut and I cut some more. Then I rested my hands for a few days and then I cut some more! I cut out each "brick" by hand, and even snipped off each corner of each brick for a more realistic look.

When I had a fair number prepared, I started gluing them, one by one, directly onto the plywood base. As the porch runs the entire 60-inch length of the house, I had a lot of brick to lay!

Don't worry; it's going to look really good once I finish!

After I had glued down all the bricks, I sponge painted them, first using a burnt sienna base and then layering several other colors over the top until I achieved a more realistic brick color. Then I sprayed the whole thing with a matte sealer. Once that was dry, I spread grout with my fingers over the brick, pushing the grout down into the crevices between the bricks and wiping off the excess with a damp sponge. Here's how it looked once I finished:

Bricking the front porch took me two entire weekends to complete, so I don't think I'll be bricking any other large areas of the house (although I do intend to use this same technique to brick the insides of all of the fireplaces). It was totally worth it for the porch, though. I think it turned out great and am so pleased with how realistic it looks!