Wednesday 11 July 2018
Dolls' houses are very popular with children or with the adult collector. There are plenty of types on the market, but they can be expensive. Making one yourself, however, isn't that difficult. It's largely an exercise in templating, and once the templates are finished, making identical houses is easy…maybe a business opportunity could be presenting itself…
1. The jig is most important for making the front of the dolls' house. We have door and window openings that the router can easily machine. Likewise, you could have a rooflight (window) in one of the roof panels, again routed.
2. Mark out each template with window and door openings. You can have more openings than you finally use, simply ignore the ones you don't want but machine out the others.
3. You need to calculate the difference between the cutter and guidebush diameters, divide it and add this amount to the size of all window and door openings.
4. Fit a fillet of wood on each edge underneath the template so the board you are going to machine is trapped in the middle.
5. Rout out each opening in one or two passes depending on how comfortable the router feels; don't strain the cutter or motor. Use a straightedge or a clamp-on guide for accurate slots. Sit the board being machined on battens so that the cutter can go right through easily.
6. The finished template can be used over and over again, and machining the dolls' house front will take just minutes to do, so you make as many as you like very quickly.
7. In cutter terms, this is one of the simplest projects because a standard 6.4mm straight cutter will do it all. You need a
guidebush as small as possible to use with it, so that the resulting openings don't have heavily rounded corners. It is worth keeping several 6.4mm cutters in stock as they are a universal item. The better grade ones are solid carbide throughout. The cheaper cutters have brazed on TCT blanks, but these are very thin and not practical
8. Start by working out the dimensions and style for your dolls' house; you don't need to stick with my design as almost any building style can be replicated. Most dolls' houses are scaled at 1:12th full-size and will suit a vast array of dolls and accessories on the market. The front will need a door and window apertures, known in the window trade as fenestrations, from the Latin with fenestra meaning window.
9. The baseboard is square, as are the roof panels. The back may also be a plain square, so all these can be cut very neatly with a saw, as can the gable ends of the building. Note that square meeting edges are important because these will slmply be butt glued with PVA.
10. Use each template with a small guidebush and a 6.4mm straight cutter so you get the squarest corners possible. Use an extractor to clear dust away and allow the guidebush to move tightly into the template corners without dust packing them out and spoiling the line of the cut.
11. Once all the components are machined, you have all the basic outer parts you will need. Do a trial dry assembly using duct tape, so you can make sure everything fit together properly.
12. Mark the floor and ceiling positions on the inside of the walls, and use a straight cutter and a router T-square to make shallow grooves for the floor and ceiling to slide into. Cut and fit the floor and repeat the grooving operation for the inner walls, ensuring you copy the marks across between components so the grooves will line up correctly. The walls will need door openings and the floors stair access, of course.
13. Butt glue the outer walls together, and onto the baseboard as well. Dolls' houses are generally done without more complex joints because of the relative simplicity. Slide the floor, ceiling and walls into place with some glue brushed onto the edges first.
14. Cut and glue a chimney stack in place and make a staircase from square section softwood and two thin strips of MDF, then install. Any mouldings can be fitted in the rooms as well. The windows need glazing bars and a front door. The front can be hinged or held on with swing-over clips. The dolls' house is now ready for painting and decorating, and lots of fun!