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Whether you're an experienced builder or new to the hobby, I've gathered material from all over the web to produce the most complete, tab and slot, dollhouse assembly blog you can find.
Tip: 1. Read through all of the instructions that came with your kit first. 2. Find your dollhouse in this blog by using the drop down menu below. 3. Read through the building process in its entirety before beginning your project. Happy building!

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Thursday, January 18

Displaying Your Dollhouse

The most important thing you need to be aware of before buying your dollhouse is its assembled size. Many dollhouses have been assembled in basements, and have remained there because they are too big. You must find an adequate location to display your dollhouse, far enough from windows and heavy traffic.

Display Tables
Where To Display
Back Covers

Display Tables

Turntable displays for your dollhouse can be expensive, but also a good investment if you will just have one dollhouse. A drawback to turntables is that your dollhouse may collide with neighboring objects while being rotated. For this reason, they must be kept in a spacious area to do their job as intended.

You can buy a separate rotating table top, which can accommodate your desired landscaping and miniatures.

You can buy an inexpensive, metal turntable to hold your dollhouse wherever you set it. If you decide to use it to display your dollhouse, you may want to add a sheet of felt underneath, so you do not damage your furniture.

The ideal is to have your dollhouse easily visible from any angle in the room you are in.

If you have power tools and some woodworking skills, you can make your own display table, though not a practical feat for most people.

Carts with wheels display dollhouses conveniently well. Plus, they are inexpensive, provide good mobility and can save space.

If the stands have an extra bottom shelf, you can also display a small dollhouse underneath because they can accommodate two dollhouses.

If you have a large enough furniture piece at home that can be used and you don't want to be bothered with a base, you might want to add stick-on felt pads to the bottom of your dollhouse to prevent scratches to your furniture. If your dollhouse has a front-opening panel, you may want to buy furniture glider tacks that are hammered to the base of your dollhouse. They prevent scratches to furniture while opening panels.

Tables for dye-cut dollhouses are very easy to find because these dollhouses are very lightweight. Stands for heavier MDF dollhouses are harder to find. Tables must withstand the weight and size of these dollhouses to avoid collapse, resulting in possible injury.

Some dollhouses are small enough to be displayed on folding wooden tables, even when fully furnished. These tables can be easily rotated by the legs for viewing of the dollhouses, and without touching the dollhouse itself.

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Where To Display

Dollhouses should always be kept indoors because attics, basements, garages, and the hot, moist outdoors are not good places to store a completed dollhouse. UV radiation and damp drafts from windows can damage your dollhouse and its finishes.

Wooden dollhouses are very sensitive to temperature changes and humidity levels. If the wood is affected by humidity levels and exposure, the glue loses its effectiveness, causing your dollhouse to fall apart.

Build your dollhouse when you have adequate space for it. If you're moving and have to store your dollhouse temporarily, make sure it’s a temperature controlled storage facility to prevent warping and damage to finishes.

Even though your dollhouse is made of wood, it's not generally susceptible to termites, because it's not ideal food. The plywood of your dollhouse is very thin and has a lot of chemicals like stain, glue and wallpaper paste, after assembly. Keep a clean environment to protect from other pests that can cause damage.
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Back Covers

This is a topic that is often talked about and debated. You would think it's a pretty straight forward option for a dollhouse but installing a clear, back cover, to keep dust out and miniatures in, is not as easy as it sounds. This is especially true for larger models like the Beacon Hill Dollhouse or L-shaped dollhouses, like the Garfield Dollhouse.

First, be aware, that if you would like to have a back cover for your dollhouse, you must make that decision before assembly. Because of the unique measurements and architectural details of tab and slot dollhouses, it is very rare for them to have perfectly square and even backs. You will, more than likely, have to modify certain features in the back of your dollhouse, in order for a back cover to fit properly and this can only be done during assembly, not afterwards.

    Finding A Back Cover
  • The best back cover, that will give the most protection, is aesthetically pleasing and will look professional, is a clear acrylic sheet. The problem is that they are extremely difficult to find. The only place you will find them is at a hardware store, in the windows and doors section.
  • These sheets are large and they will need to be cut to the size of your dollhouse. Unfortunately they do not have them thin enough to cut with scissors or a craft knife. The thinnest one they have still requires professional cutting, preferably with a tool designed for cutting acrylic.
  • Depending on the hardware store you go to, the cutting service may or may not be available. I recommend you call the store first to find out if they cut acrylic before you commit to purchasing an expensive acrylic sheet. Buy your acrylic from a store that is willing to cut it, unless you can find another option for cutting your acrylic elsewhere.
    Fitting The Back Cover
  • Tab and slot dollhouses have special measurements and architectural designs that cause angles and curves around their open backs. You will not have a perfectly square opening to fit your acrylic on. In the Beacon Hill Dollhouse, you can see the sides of the mansard roof are curved at the top, not square.
  • You will not be able to get angled or curved cuts done to your acrylic at the hardware store. They will only cut your acrylic piece in straight cuts. This means that the square sheet protrudes from the corners of the mansard roof but since it is completely clear, you do not see this when viewing the dollhouse from the front.
  • You have to keep in mind that you will be adding an acrylic back cover to your dollhouse during its assembly process. This will allow you to plan ahead and make modifications to the back of the dollhouse accordingly. I installed completely custom back edge trim to this Beacon Hill Dollhouse so that the sheet would sit on a flat and even surface. No other modifications were needed but other dollhouses might need much more modification so the acrylic sheet fits
  • Remember that acrylic sheets are heavy, even if you choose the thinnest one. Rest the bottom edge on the base your dollhouse is displayed on so the weight is not carried by your dollhouse. These are tab and slot, glue only, 1/8"th plywood dollhouses. They are not designed to carry large amounts of weight.

For the Beacon Hill Dollhouse I installed L channels along the top, right side and bottom foundation.

These channels will act as rails for the acrylic sheet to sit and slide on. Because I had created custom back edge trim, all of the L channels line up. This is why it is very important to keep your acrylic back cover in mind as you assemble the dollhouse. If the back edge trim is not an even thickness on all sides of the dollhouse, your L channels will not line up correctly and the acrylic sheet edge will not sit inside all three channels for a flat and even fit.

You can purchase miniature L or C channel trim from your miniatures dealer but I created my own L channels from strip wood from the craft store. I chose basswood for these channels, rather than the softer balsa wood I usually use. I painted them to match the dollhouses back edge they would be glued to.

The L channels do not have to meet at the corners. In fact, they mostly likely will not because of the architectural features of the dollhouse. All they have to do is sit evenly to one another, on all sides, so the sheet is not warped or stressed when slid in place. The side and top channels hold the acrylic sheet in place.

Notice that the bottom L channel is placed on the bottom edge of the dollhouses foundation, resting on the display base. Like I mentioned before, the acrylic sheets are heavy and should not be held by your dollhouse. Always rest the bottom edge on the display base. The function of this particular L channel is not to carry the sheets weight but rather to just hide the sheets bottom edge for aesthetic reasons. It also acts as a rail so that the sheet can be slid, evenly and without falling over.

Do not move your dollhouse with the acrylic sheet in place. Remove it first and then move and/or store your dollhouse. If you add a little beeswax along the bottom edge of your sheet, it will slide much more smoothly along this bottom channel. If beeswax is not available, you can use a little Ivory soap or clear lip balm.

Now the acrylic sheet can be slid to the left side and removed when I need to access the interior of the dollhouse. Once your miniatures are in place, you will rarely need to access the interior. Everything can be viewed perfectly because the sheet is clear. With the sheet in place, nothing can go in and nothing can fall out. This is great for dollhouse displays that are around pets or children. This is also useful if you have very expensive miniature displays but still want to show your decorated dollhouse to various visitors, without being paranoid. The sheet keeps hands out and expensive items in.

Depending on the size of your dollhouse model, you can add your channels for the acrylic sheet to slide sideways or slide upwards, for removal. It all depends on what would be easier to do. Back covers for larger dollhouse models, should slide sideways.

Creating channels for your acrylic sheet to sit in, is the ideal scenerio. You will have to plan ahead and modify your assembly to accomodate this feature but it is well worth the extra work. It gives your dollhouse a nice finished look, as if the acrylic sheet is part of the kit itself and it is a very useful feature to have. It keeps your miniatures clean and safe.

Avoid using Velcro to hold your acrylic sheet with. Velcro does not provide a strong hold to keep these heavy sheets in place and it is not aesthetically pleasing to look at, even if you find clear Velcro. Velcro is also difficult to work with. Though it does not provide a strong hold on the adhesive side, it sticks to itself very strongly, making it difficult to remove the sheet from your dollhouse. This will cause the dollhouse to move and miniatures to fall over. Below is a list of covers that are not recommended.
  • Fabric: You can use it if you want to but it will not give you the finish you might be looking for. Not only does it provide zero protection from pets or children reaching inside, hanging fabric on the back of a dollhouse, using the Velcro dot method, is not very aesthetically pleasing. You will have to continually move it out of the way to view the dollhouses interior and if curtains become dusty, you can imagine the dust on your fabric.
  • Clear, vinyl plastic: Like curtains, draped objects on the back of a dollhouse is just not a good look.
    You might be able to stretch the clear vinyl, using clear velcro dots, at each corner of the dollhouse so it's nice and flat but from what I described above about Velcro, I don't believe they will hold under the pressure. You will have loose plastic at each corner often and this does not make for good dust protection. Clear vinyl covers are also not clear enough so you might have to remove it for viewing details.
  • Poster Frame Covers: They sound like the "problem solved" option but they, unfortunately, aren't. They just aren't large enough for the Beacon Hill Dollhouse. The largest one they have is still not large enough and if you try to find them larger, like at a specialty home store, they can go up in price significantly. They will end up costing more than the acrylic sheet.

    These poster frame covers are clear when against a poster but once they are further away from an object, they tend to loose their clarity so you might have to remove them for proper dollhouse viewing. They are also easily scratched so do not expect for them to be long lasting. They might work for much smaller dollhouse models but keep the above in mind.
The only other option for a back cover would be clear acetate sheets, similar to the window sheets that came in the dollhouse kit but thicker and more flexible. I have seen these sheets as scrapbook paper and even though they are easily scratched, they would make fantastic dollhouse back covers. They are lightweight, completely clear and easily cut with scissors so architectural angles could be created with precision.

Unfortunately, they are very hard to find and I have never come across any. If you look hard enough, you might be able to find online retail vendors for a product like this but they might only want to sell them in bulk.
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If you have a dollhouse on display, provide maintenance and attention to increase its longevity. Usual wear and tear is remediated with tacky glue.

Your dollhouse will collect dust. Cleaning will be tedious but necessary. The best way to dust your dollhouse is using a soft bristled make-up brush. Use it only for cleaning miniatures because they are delicate, and can react to chemicals or powders. Do not use life-size dusters because they can snag and damage your dollhouse. The make-up brush will even dust off your landscaping wonderfully.

When you decorate your dollhouse, attach all of your miniatures to furniture using a repositionable adhesive. This is going to make your life easier when you dust. Since everything is attached to furniture, you just remove the entire furniture piece with everything attached on it, and dust with the brush. This will prevent very small items from falling and getting lost. Once the furniture is out and the room is empty, you can dust the window treatments and flooring. Shake off dust from miniature area rugs.

Miniature shops sometimes sell a very small micro vacuum cleaner to dust off dollhouses. Micro vacuums they sell for delicate electronic equipment, also work for dollhouses. A dust blower for electronics will work just as good as a vacuum for removing dust.

A soft bristled cleaning brush works best for dusting shingles.
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When built correctly and given the right maintenance, your dollhouse can last a long time. Whether it's made from 1/8th" or 3/8th" plywood, the secret to a long life span is how the dollhouse was assembled and how it was treated afterwards.

There are dollhouses that were built in the 1700's that are still on display and only minimally restored. Back then, the materials used to build a dollhouse were all homemade and natural. Imagine the advantage we have now with stronger and longer lasting synthetic adhesives and materials. A well built and cared for dollhouse can truly become a family heirloom.
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Anonymous said...

What does your cute kitty think of all your houses? Does she get into them?

Gina said...

Thankfully, my kitty is 13 years old and out grown interest in objects that do not move. She only likes interactive play. My houses are against the wall as well so she has no ability of getting around to the open backs. If she would have been a playful baby though, I can only imagine what my houses would look like....:)

Kathi said...

Thank you for this post. I "somehow" now have four almost finished dollhouses plus three kits to build! I like your ideas for displaying them. I have four folding "TV" tables that I don't use. Found them for a dollar each at a yard sale. :D Now I just need to figure out where to put them AND my dollhouses! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Where can you buy the metal turntable to make your own display table?

Gina said...

You can find it at HBS: http://www.miniatures.com/Search.aspx?k=turn+table

Amanda Davey said...

What about putting acrylic on the back of the house ? I've been considering doing it with small magnets in the corners.

Gina said...

If your dollhouse is pretty square and flat on the back, it is easy to put an acrylic panel so that the contents are protected and dust does not collect as heavily. You can have the acrylic panel cut for you at the hardware store. You can use velcro or magnets to hold it in place but my favorite method, which I have seen used on the Greenleaf Forum is actually glue a C channel trim around any three of the back edges of your dollhouse and slide your acrylic pain into it. That makes the panel easily removed when needed. The C channel trim can be painted to match your dollhouse.

Anonymous said...

love this site, thankyou for the input, im new to dollhouse collecting and bought the Paintedlady dollhouse and I love it.


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