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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.
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Custom Rehab Week 01

This upcoming project is a little different from my usual ones. This is a rehab. This custom dollhouse belongs to a neighbor and she was ...

Wednesday, July 14

Custom Order 01 The Pierce Dollhouse Week 1

Click on Newer Posts at the bottom of each page so you can see each day of the construction.

I am building this dollhouse for a client who will gift it to her daughter.

It took me about two days to label and punch out all of the wood pieces. I then sanded them and bundled them together according to component.

I decided that I can make some headway by building components seperately that will be needed later. That way I can just glue them on fully assembled and finished without the need to wait for assembly later. All of the components that I'm going to build, can be built before the dollhouses walls go up.

This week I assembled the base of the dollhouse. Make sure you always go over the seams with wood glue. Your dollhouse will only be as strong as it's base so make sure yours is nice and sturdy. This base can be completely painted after assembly.

I had forgotten just how difficult this staircase is. The staircase is made up of so many different small parts that will fit together to create a three dimensional structure.

I assembled this staircase using tacky glue and I did make a mistake on the top steps but I was able to easily repair. I accidentally put in the wrong riser at the top. Riser #9 is actually shorter than the rest of the risers to give room for the wall that goes against the top side of the staircase. To make a long repair short, I basically just cut the top riser to the correct size and added a piece of balsa wood to the riser that had to be longer. The staircase was dry by the time I saw the mistake so it would do more harm to try and pry off the wrong riser and put it in the correct place. So no harm done, you will never be able to tell where the repair was made.

After the tacky glue was dry, I made sure to go on the bottom of the staircase and apply wood glue to all of the seams. Staircases in tab and slot dollhouses have to be reinforced well with glue and allowed to dry over night because they usually have to go into the dollhouse with quite a bit of pressure from the surrounding walls. If your staircase is flimsy and not glued correctly, the pressure of wall assembly will crush your staircase and you will be left having to go back to it for repairs or reassembly.

If your fingers can't reach the interior of the staircase joints to apply the wood glue, let the glue bead run down the seam on its own.

I applied the railing punch outs as decoration around the staircase so it's not so plain and flat looking.

After everthing was dry over night, I sanded again to make sure no glue was around the structure and then I began painting it.

I suggest you paint ONLY with flat paint. It finishes better.

Give it a good first coat and then wait for it to dry completely. Usually a good quality paint will finish perfectly with one coat but this staircase will have to take two. I have talked about this before in my other builds. You really want to push for that one coat coverage on your small detailed parts, like windows and railings, because the more coats of paint you apply, the more blobby your small parts will get and they will loose their detail but the staircase is an exception to this rule and you will soon know why.

When you apply the first coat, you will see that the staircase will be full of little gaps, cracks and imperfections everywhere. You need two but before you apply the second coat, you will have to spackle every little imperfection. Your fingers will never fit into the staircase to be able to do this so I recommend a Q-tip. It works wonderfully for covering up tiny holes and cracks in tight places. You will need several of them as the cotton starts unraveling with the rough wood but it applies spackle right where you need it and without excess.

After everything is spackled and smooth, sand a little and then apply your second coat of paint. Be generous with it too because you want to make sure that every area is covered. There are some areas where you will need to insert your brush between the railing openings.

You do not need to paint the underside or the side that will have a wall against it.

After it's perfect, let it rest. Wood never looks good when you just finish painting it. It becomes swollen with the paint moisture and you will see little almost micro splinters in certain areas. Let it be for 24 hours.

When it's completely dry the next day, rub with your fingers around any areas you want smoother and you would be surprised how well this works. Your fingers will act almost like an incredibly fine sand paper for paint. With the paint dry, you will see all of the edges become sharper as the wood is no longer swollen.

I know it may seem easier to paint your staircase before assembly but unless your painting it two different colors, don't do it. It's always best to paint your components AFTER assembly, whenever possible, especially a staircase, because you want the glue to bond with raw wood so the structure is as strong as possible. This staircase is accessible in every area for painting or staining after assembly.

You may spray paint your staircase for easier paint application if you wish to.

I built both fireplaces and they will be painted all white. I plan on using sandpaper for the backs, painted gray but Ill do that after they are painted.

I decided to add a fleur-de-lis decoration to them. I had the stencil and the spackle to create it so even though this is a basic build, if I have the materials to add a little details to the kit, I will. I think these little designs will enhance the fireplaces once painted.

I assembled the chimney as well. Once the colors are decided on, I will paint it with spackle so it has a rough texture to it.


Kathi said...

Looks great and thanks for the tips too!

Ann said...

Your staircase looks great. I've been thinking about getting the pierce and am very surprised from your post how difficult and time consuming the small details are.. yikes! But judging from your pictures, it looks to be well worth the effort.

Minnie Kitchen said...

wow that is wonderful. I will come back to this post when I make my very own :) thanks!

Bethann said...

I just started on the Pierce, my first dollhouse ever. Your pictures of the staircase were very helpful!

Anonymous said...

Unless you are a pro at this, I wouldn't recommend these kits to anyone. Also, they say you get what you pay for!!!! Well, for what I paid for the kit, I am very disappointed in the quality. I would love to build another dollhouse, but I hope there are other companies who make the kits.

Gina said...


It takes a lot of work, dedication, patience, and practice to assemble a wooden die-cut dollhouse kit. These kits do not come together like a "puzzle", the way a lot of novices believe. The word "kit" can really minimize the amount of work that these dollhouses require and I suppose this is what leads to the initial disappointment. You are not alone. My first try at building these dollhouses resulted in the same feelings you are having now.

I recommend to all newbies, who have never assembled a tab and slot dollhouse kit, to avoid disappointment by getting as much information as you can about the amount of work that a project like this requires.

Real Good Toys makes plenty of dollhouse kits that are very easy to assemble. You might have to settle for less details with a cabinet grade dollhouse but you should try your hand on one of those before you give up on dollhouse building!

Anonymous said...

I am starting on a Pierce kit for my Grandaughter. I have been a model bilder for nearly 50 years including 1/3 scale radio controlled airplanes.I have discovered the key to a successful build is patience , planning and research.Only focus on one component at a time. "dry" fit all pieces before glueing and paint or cover(wallpaper) before assembling components. I am really looking forward to this build and wish I had discovered dollhouse building years earlier. I had no idea there were so many house kits and miniatures to decorate with and mostly I don't have to worry about crashing a dollhouse ! Ha Ha Mike Thomas Sainte Genevieve, Mo.

Zookeeper said...

Thank you for these helpful pictures. Without them I couldn't build the stairs just from the instructions. The Pierce is my first dollhouse build. It is so fun! I am taking my time and reading as much from master builders like you. Thanks again!


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