Techniques & Tips

Need a little help or looking for something new to try? Click on the list of techniques and tips below for some great ideas. Whether you're a beginner or seasoned miniaturist, there's always something new to learn in the world of miniatures.

Bricking The Brentwood
Kristine Hanna from Paper Doll Miniatures shows how she bricked the Brentwood Dollhouse.

Crafter Tips from Fran
Helpful crafting tips from our resident miniaturist Fran Casselman.

Cutting Cast Resin
Cutting cast resin is a little tricky. Use this tip to make it easier.

Darrell’s Electrification Guide: Tape Wiring and More
Darrell Payne's ultimate guide in tape wiring your dollhouse.

Dollhouse Wiring Quick Guide
Real Good Toys presents a Quickstart Guide to wiring your dollhouse.

Faux Brick Fireplace
Create a faux brick look for an unfinished fireplace.

Faux Candles for Lights
Learn to alter modern lights to look like candles.

Finishing and Electrifying The Matchless Miniatures Lighting Collection
Learn to finishing and electrify The Matchless Miniatures Lighting Collection.

Glue Chart
Suggested glues for glueing task/applications for your minis.

Gold-Leafed Embellishment
Use this tip to add golden accents to your minis.

Kitchen Collection Cabinet Door Assembly
Pictorial assemble instructions or attaching doors to the Kitchen Collection Cabinets.

Hybrid Wiring
Instructional guide by Christine Errico in combining Round Wire with Tape Wire.

LEDs (light-emitting diodes)
LEDs open up all sorts of possibilities for small-scale lighting, so get ready to brighten your miniature world!

Marbleizing
Create the look of real marble with these instructions.

Perfect Window Trim
Install your window and door trim with perfect miter joints.

Replacing a Bi-Pin Miniature Light Bulb
Instructional guide by Fran Casselman to replace a Bi-Pin Miniature Light Bulb.

Steel Wool & Vinegar Stain
Make your own stain to give wood an aged look.

Snow & Frost
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

Stucco Finish
Give the outside of you dollhouse a stucoo finish with these instructions

Tile Application
Use these easy to follow instruction on how to lay tiles.

Using heat-shrink insulation tubing
An easy way to finish and insulate an electrical connections.

Using varnish on paper flooring
An easy way to finish paper flooring.

Weathered Wood
Learn how to give unfinished wood an aged look.

Hardware

Miniature hardware is the finishing touch for your dollhouse doors, windows, fences and furniture. Houseworks hardware is made of gold plated brass in exact replicas of many styles and period pieces.

Some of the special uses for the hardware are explained individually. For example, there are various styles of hinges each having a specific purpose for your dollhouse. The Butt Hinge and "H" Hinge are best for attaching doors to frames when a pin hinge has not been used. If the wood is thick enough, use longer nails to hold the hinge, and apply as directed in this section. Also, these hinges can be used for screen doors. The "T" Hinge and "HL" Hinge are normally used on gates to attach to fences as well as doors for log cabins and rustic, primitive or colonial houses.

Applying Hardware

All Hardware should be applied with glue that adheres unlike objects together such as metal to wood. The glue that I like to use us Bond 527 glue, which available in a tube or dispenser. One reason for my preference is that it dries clear.

For hardware with nails and nail holes:

  1. Instead of pounding the nails on the hardware, use a pushpin and punch a hole in the wood.
  2. Glue the hardware onto the wood.
  3. Use needle nose pliers to hold the nail, and push the nails through the hardware into the holes. This will glue them in, since the glue will go into the holes.

To make a miniature awl to use for making holes for the nails:

  1. Cut a 1/8" to 3/8" dowel, 2" to 3" long.
  2. Cut the head off of a dressmaker pin.
  3. Using needle nose pliers, push the flat cut off end of the pin into the center of one end of the dowel.

Several of the hardware pieces come with keyholes and keys. If you would like to put the key in the lock, carve out a vertical hole in the wood under the keyhole, deep enough to hold the key in place.

Should you want the key to be stationary in the lock and not stick out too far:

  1. Glue the plate and doorknob onto the door over the hole.
  2. Cut the end off the key.
  3. Glue the key into the hole behind the keyhole. You can make a tassel from embroidery floss for the key and hang it on a nail inside the door or add the tassel to the stationary key.

Nails

4mm Long Nails may be used with the hinges and doorknobs that do not come with nails. Use these nails for looks only. Attach these nails following the directions outlined above. When you have thicker wood and want a more permanent contact (such as hinges on a door), use the 6mm Long Pin Nails.

1/24 Scale Hinge

Cut the points off of a Triangle Hinge to make a 1/24 scale hinge. Use the small nails to secure as directed in Applying Hardware.

Hardware with Extensions

Many hardware pieces, like a DoorKnocker, Furniture Caster or Cabinet Pull, have small extensions on the back. In order to attach these pieces, you need to make a hole in the wood, and glue both the extension and the piece onto the wood, using Bond 527 glue.

Bell Pulls

A Bell Pull end is used as an end (s) on miniature embroidered bell pulls. These should be sewn on. You may use one at the top for a hanger and one at the bottom with a small bell, or attach a tassel made out of embroidery floss.

Americana Lock

Americana Lock is the type that is used on most of the doors on the buildings at Williamsburg. Attach the small piece on the frame and the larger piece on the door. These locks are used on both exterior and interior doors.

"S" Hooks

"S" Hooks are used at the bottom of the shutters, usually placed either near the outside edge or to the middle of the shutter. Glue them onto the shutter with Bond 527 glue. Since shutters were hinged to close across the windows to keep out cold and inclement weather, "S" Hooks were designed to keep the shutters open during nice weather.

Picture Frame

A double picture frame can be made from a Square Hinge by gluing a picture on each side. If you want some dimension, glue a gold jump ring over each picture. Then trim and glue to the square hinge. This results in a round picture on each side.

Doors

The saloon Swinging Door is two louvered doors set inside the door casting, which fits inside a standard doorframe. The saloon door works very well between a kitchen and dining room and adds an authentic touch to bars, saloons, taverns and bordellos.

Fitting Doors For Die-Cut Houses

Houseworks doors do not fit in die-cut houses because the frames extend too far into the house. You can trim the inside extension of the frame to fit the measurements needed and then reset the door or the door can be installed over the siding. If you install the door over siding, you need to add a shim of 1/8" x 1/8" strip wood around the interior frame on the back of the exterior trim by the door. This also applies to the windows.

Windows

The Bay Window has small pieces of cardboard that are glued on the inside top and bottom in order to hold the windows in. When you remove these pieces of cardboard to paint, a residue of glue is left. It is my belief that the manufacturer uses rubber cement to attach the cardboard. The only way I have found to remove the residue is with a pencil eraser. Work from right to left or left to right, going in one direction only. This will sort of roll the glue residue up so that you may remove it.

The Houseworks pediments Federal Circle, Federal Hooded and Deerfield allow you to trim the top of a traditional window to match your doors. It also enables you to trim the interior windows in the style of many houses during the colonial era (such as the Williamsburg).

Converting the Victorian Style From the 3 in 1 Planbook to a Back-Opening Dollhouse

To convert the front opening Victorian Style Dollhouse kit to a back-opening house follow the suggestions outlined below:

Note: you can reverse the construction of the house.

Front:

  1. The basic front piece will be cut in two pieces horizontally instead of vertically. This allows you to build the floors as per directions.
  2. The first and second floor pieces will have the 1 1/8" x 3/8" notches cut on the back instead of the front.
  3. Both the bay window section and porch sections will be added after the two floors have been glued together.
  4. On the second floor, you may want to put the interior partition for the bedroom and bathroom wall with the door to the back of the house. Thus, the bathroom is placed in the front section of the house with the opening to the back.
  5. You can leave out part seven (the arch in the dining room), making the stairway visible from the back. This allows you to put a closet, shelves or half bath under the stairway.

Back:

Note: the back of the house can be left open and trimmed out.

If you prefer a closed back on the dollhouse, you have two options:

  1. Construct the back in one piece and hinge on one side or.
  2. Cut the back in two pieces vertically along an interior wall line. Then hinge each piece to the respective side of the house.

Note: If you are cutting windows and a door on the back, cut the back vertically between the door and window. Then hinge each piece to the respective side of the house.

Roof:

  1. The front roof will be cut in one piece instead of two and glued in place. Then the dormers and dormer roof can be added.
  2. For an open-back section of the roof in an upside down "U" or arch shape to trim the back section. This piece would be approximately 2 7/8" from the top for the center with side extensions approximately 2" to 2 1/2" wide. (Use the dimensions for #33 and add the side extensions to complete the size for piece #32.)
  3. To close the back, cut #32 in two pieces. The top piece will be equal to the size of piece #33. Then hinge the roof.

Bookcases

The various size bookcases available can be used as book shelves for a library, wall shelving for a store, as a room divider, etc.

To light the upper shelves to set off special objects:

  1. Drill a hole in the upper corners of the back of the bookcase.
  2. Thread a Grain of Wheat Bulb on White Wire or a Bulb with Socket on Wire through the hole.
  3. Put a piece of tape over the wire on the back to hold the light stationary.
  4. Plug into a wiring system or direct wire to either tape or hard wire.

To achieve a different look for a gift or candy shop, glue small mirrors in the back of the bookcase on each shelf. A more formal built-in look can be achieved by trimming the top of the bookcases with Crown Dentil Moulding.

An architectural design bookcase may be created by adding Federal Hooded Pediment, Deerfield Pediment or Federal Circle Pediment to the top of the One Unit Bookcase or the Three-Shelf Corner Cabinet. One pediment can be added in the middle of the Three Unit Bookcases. For a design or one pediment with fancy trim.

Fireplaces

All Houseworks fireplaces are made from a quality grade of wood that allows for the application of a very nice stain. They may also be painted. There is a new marbleizing kit now available on the market that can be used for miniatures. Small feathers can be used for streaking as well as brushes, sponges, etc. to get the finish that you want on your fireplace. You can also use this kit for a faux marble finish on furniture, baseboards and trim.

Transformer

The Houseworks 12 Volt Transformer is protected with an automatic circuit breaker and has 1333 milleamps output. It illuminates up to 26-50 m.a. bulbs or 10-65 m.a. bulbs. To determine the number of light fixtures you need, count the number of bulbs and check the type of bulb you will be using. Then add all of the m.a. together to get the total. Be sure to include fireplaces, porch or coach lights and Christmas tree lights.

Coach Light

The Colonial Coach Lantern has a replaceable screw base candle flame bulb. Use replaceable candle flame bulbs. To change the bulb, unscrew the top of the brass lantern.

Trim

Because Houseworks Large Crown Moulding and Small Crown Moulding are angled on the back, they do not fit completely into the corner on the ceiling. This allows hard wire to be run and hidden behind the moulding. The Dentil Crown Moulding fits flush into the corner.

Houseworks Baseboard is grooved on the back which allows hard wire to be run and hidden behind the baseboard.

Christmas Lights

To make your own string of Christmas tree lights for less money you may use a 1.5 Volt with 8" wires. Purchase 11 of the bulbs.

  1. On nine of the bulbs cut one lead wire 1-1/2" long and leave the other lead long.
  2. Strip the ends of each lead wire about 1/4" exposing bare copper wire.
  3. Wipe the surface clean.
  4. Take two bulbs. Twist one short end of the exposed copper wire of the first bulb to the long end of the exposed copper wire of the second bulb.
  5. Dip the resulting twisted end of the copper wire into neck of tube of GE Silicone sealant to insulate the connection.
  6. Continue connecting the remaining seven bulbs in the same manner.
  7. There will be two bulbs that still have two long lead wires. Connect one long lead wire from one bulb to the long wire on the second bulb. Then connect the long lead wire from the other bulb to the short end of the first bulb.
  8. Dip in Silicone.
  9. Leave the string of bulbs for the silicone to dry.
  10. After they have dried take the two remaining long lead wires from both bulbs and attach to a Male Plug.
  11. These bulbs will draw approximately six milleamps per bulb.
  12. This string can be attached to your existing system.

H-Scale (1/2" to 1') Components

The H-scale components are a full line of the most popular styles of windows, doors, stairs, dormers, accessories and hardware in 1/24th scale (1/2" to 1').

All of the instructions for applying, painting, staining etc. for the 1" scale can be used for the 1/24 scale.

Stained Glass

To make stained glass windows for your dollhouse, you may either use the Lasertech windows or create your own. Consider using a picture of a stained glass window as a pattern. Choose a picture of a stained glass window and place it under a plain piece of Plexiglas. There are stained glass paints available in clear and opaque finish. Decide which colors you want for your window and how to paint the design.

Use a small artist brush to apply the stained glass paint. Be careful to stay within the lines, so the paint will not run together. Let the pane dry overnight before placing it into the window or door. When placing your pane in the window or door, always put the painted side to the inside. This will protect your handiwork, especially if your window or door has an acrylic window already in place. If you are placing the painted stained glass against an acrylic window that is already in place, put the painted side against the acrylic window. This gives you a smooth surface on both sides.

To give the window a leaded look, use the lead tape available at your local miniature shop. Carefully cut the lead tape into narrow strips about 1/16" to 1/32" wide. Run these lead tape strips along the line, and press them on firmly. You can paint the acrylic panes before or after leading. Liquid Lead can be used instead of the lead tape. Apply the liquid lead with a Monoject syringe, or a bottle with a pointed tip that has a small hole, to make a very narrow bead along the lines.

When you have a particular pattern for stained glass that you would like to use, put the clear acrylic pane from the window over the picture. Then lead along the lines and paint the sections as before. When you pick up the window pane, you will have your own stained glass window.

Screened Porch

  1. Use fine nylon netting for the screen wire.
  2. Paint the netting with a fine coating of silver spray paint.
  3. Make frames to fit behind the porch post and railing from roof to floor. Make two identical frames using 1/8" x 1/16" strip wood.
  4. Paint the strip wood frames.
  5. Glue the silver netting between the two frames.
  6. Glue the frames into place.
  7. Leave a space by the steps for a screen door. You can make or purchase a screen door and attach it with hinges (Brass Butt Hinge.)
  8. You can also replace the porch railing with solid wood or wood panels, and use the screen frames for the upper half only.
  9. When using the railings, the screen frame should go from roof to floor.

1/24 Scale Church Pews

Use 1/12 scale Fishscale Shingles for the ends of the pews. Finish the pews by using strip wood cut to the length and width necessary for the seat and back.

Reducing Pictures for the Dollhouse

By following the steps outlined below, you can personalize your dollhouse with pictures from your own home and family.

  1. Arrange your pictures on the ground in direct sunlight (even with glass).
  2. With a camera, stand above the arrangement on a chair or step stool.
  3. Frame the arrangement in the view finder for size, and take a picture of the arrangement.
  4. When you have the film developed, request a matte finish.

Magazines

To make miniature magazines, I use the same process as above for reducing pictures.

  1. Open the magazine and lay it on the floor with the front and back cover facing up. You can usually take pictures of two or three magazines at a time. Try to get the magazines as flat as possible.
  2. With a camera, stand on a ladder or step stool above the magazines.
  3. Frame the grouping in the view finder for size and take a picture.
  4. When developing the film for magazines, I usually get a regular or glossy finish.
  5. Cut the magazines out of the picture. Fold the pieces in half, making sure the front and back are even. This process might involve a little trimming.
  6. Cut plain white paper a little bit smaller than the cover and fold in half. I usually use three pieces of paper, which, when folded, result in six pages.
  7. With the Monoject Glue Gun, run a line of glue on both the inside fold of the cover and the outside fold of the pages. Press the pages into the cover and let dry.

Making Soap Suds

Carefully melt canning paraffin in an old pan. After the paraffin melts, take an old hand egg beater and beat the wax to make soap suds.

Wet Clothes on the Clothesline

For the look of wet clothes to hang on a clothesline, dip the clothes in a liquid resin and form into the shape and position you want. Then let them dry on the line. To make water drops, drip liquid resin on wax paper and let dry. Then place the drops around water buckets, water pumps, etc.

Draping Tablecloths

  1. Cover the table with plastic wrap.
  2. Lay the table cloth on the table.
  3. Spray the table cloth with hair spray until it is wet.
  4. Drape the cloth to your satisfaction and let dry.

Lace Curtains

  1. Pin lace in folds on a piece of cardboard.
  2. Spray with hair spray.
  3. Let dry.
  4. Glue on window.

Piano Hinges

You can find piano hinges at your favorite hardware store. They will both cut the hinge to the length you specify and file the end. Sometimes it is more economical to buy the largest one and cut several for various projects. These hinges are better to use on front opening houses, so the doors do not sag. They are also good for the roof-opening houses.

Victorian Corner Protector

This wooden protector goes over the wallpaper, on a corner, about 2/3 of the way up the corner of the wall and butts against the top of the baseboard.

  1. Cut three pieces of quarter round the proper length and glue together.
  2. Round off the top by sanding.
  3. Be sure to stain the pieces before you glue them together, or paint after they are glued together.
  4. Glue the protector onto the corner, after you have wallpapered.

Stone Fireplace, Chimney and Foundation

For field stone foundations, chimneys or fireplaces, I collect stones from a gravel driveway, beach or yard. Most all of these stones have a flat side that can be glued onto the wood. Sometimes I paint the wood a dark grey, then fit the stones on, one by one, arranging them about 1/16" apart. This gives the appearance of a real stone foundation, because the stones are different sizes and colors. If you so desire, you can mortar or grout between the stones.

To Simulate the Stone Look

We have come across a great product that can be used for miniature projects - Fleck Stone by Plasti-kote. It comes in six colors, and in both textured and smooth finish. Fleck Stone is great for making the old fashioned cement window frames. Take the wooden window frames, and spray them with Fleck Stone. Also, to make the stone top for the brick posts, spray the wooden block with Fleck Stone. For a gravel look for driveways or paths, glue wood shavings on a piece of wood or cardboard, and spray with Fleck Stone. Try it, and I am sure you will become very creative with the items that you can make, such as mouldings, picture frames, etc.

Flower Arrangements

Miniature flower arrangements or plants are easy to make using dried, silk, plastic or Fimo flowers and greenery. The containers for these arrangements can be as varied as your imagination. Some suggestions are: clay flower pots, ceramic pots, brass bowls and vases, wooden boxes or bowls, baskets, glass containers, etc. To fill the pots:

  1. Fill the container with white glue, silicone adhesive, floral clay, or Styrofoam.
  2. When using floral clay or Styrofoam, cover the top with white glue.
  3. Dip the top into "dirt" or sprinkle the top with "dirt." "Dirt" may be real dirt, old coffee grounds, or tea from a used tea bag that has been dried.
  4. To make the arrangement, place the flowers and greenery pieces one by one into the container.
  5. After the arrangement meets your satisfaction, place it in a safe place to dry overnight.

Miscellaneous Construction Methods

  • Combination Glue Method:

    This is an excellent method to use when plywood pieces are warped. Use a good carpenters glue, along with applications of hot glue, in the same joint.

    1. Using a Monoject Glue Gun filled with carpenters wood glue, run glue lines along the edges about 6" long leaving a 1" space between.
    2. Using the hot glue gun, fill in the 1" spaces.
    3. Quickly fit the two pieces together.
    4. Pull the pieces apart, and then press them together, until the hot glue takes hold.
    5. Tack the two pieces together with nails, spaced about 2" apart.
    6. While both putting the pieces together and nailing, use a piece of wood of equal height as a support, in order to hold the two pieces into place.
    7. Make sure each nail is going through correctly, before hitting the nail all the way through. If it is not going in correctly, there is still enough of the head exposed to be able to pull it out.

  • Blind Nailing:

    Sometimes you will be nailing into a part where both sides are not visible. Sight across the piece and draw a nailing line with a ruler. Drive the nails straight in, or at an angle when necessary. Check to make sure that the nails are not coming through below, before driving them in completely. This method is used to attach the roof on the porch kits.

  • Temporary Assembly:

    To hold a piece temporarily in place, apply two small dots of hot glue. When the assembly is ready to be separated, it may be knocked apart. If the glue sticks too well, use a hair dryer to reheat for separation.

  • Preparing Wood Surfaces for Decorating Later:

    On surfaces that will be painted, apply all nails with a nail set. The head will be driven below the surface, leaving a space. Fill the space with wood filler. Sand when dry. This method may also be used for gouges or knot holes. The smooth surface may now be painted.