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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 ...

Monday, December 29

The Beacon Hill Dollhouse Revisited Week 41

Finishing Touches

Shine
I gave all of the siding a coat of satin varnish. This gives the siding a nice soft shine and prevents fingerprints if you touch the walls. Use a spotlight to see where I'm applying the varnish so no areas are missed Do not apply varnish to any areas other than siding, since a shiny dollhouse causes imperfections to stand out. You also don't want to add the varnish before the dollhouse is finished since it can interfere with the glue adhesion and components could fall off in the future.


Shingling
You can find many Victorian shingle patterns online that you can use on your dollhouse. I decided to use alternating rows of square and fishscale shingles.

It is much easier to shingle before adding the dormers. Their installation, afterwards, will not interfere with your shingles. I was so caught up in trying to decide what color scheme I wanted my dormers to be, that I installed them before shingling and paid the price later when I had to cut shingles around them.

I did not create shingle templates for this dollhouse, since the dormers were already installed, so instead I had to apply the shingles directly to the roofs. There are a lot of angles to cut so you can certainly make templates so it's easier.

I did not shingle the backs of the mansard roofs, except for the tower top because you don't want to shingle very narrow areas. It is very difficult to keep the pattern consistent and impossible to cut the shingles too small. They will break and split if you cut them tiny. Adding shingles to small, narrow areas will also cause your shingles to bulk up, loosing their crisp details.

The shingle patterns should line up on every roof panel but keep in mind that some panels might have slight deviations, simply because of the way the flat roof sits. These dollhouses are not laser precise so even though it is not noticeable to the naked eye, some roof panels might sit taller than others. When you apply measurement precise shingle rows to them, this variation will become noticeable so just try to keep the patterns consistent but you didn't do anything wrong if you see slight differences. These differences will only be noticeable to you and no one viewing your dollhouse as a whole will be aware of it. In other words, don't stress. If you made it this far in the assembly, you succeeded so don't let shingles bring you down.


Spackle
I have said it before during this assembly and I will end with the same advice, use spackle sparingly. This is hard to do when you're new to dollhouse building but something you learn quickly the more you assemble.

This is not a real house. It is a dollhouse and most small gaps are not noticeable so they don't have to be spackled. Spackle should only be used for very large gaps and for repair work. Adding too much spackle, in small areas of your dollhouse, will create caking. The caking will cause the area to be noticeable. You are actually enhance the problem rather than hide it. Spackle needs to be sanded smooth and you can not sand properly very small, inaccessible areas of the dollhouse.

The only areas that you should spackle on this dollhouse are:
  • Corner notches in all corner vertical trim, including the mansard corner trim (even if you are applying thin trim to the notches like I did)
  • Edge between the flat roof and horizontal verge board
  • Top and bottom of the bay walls, so you can create a sharp corner joint by sanding
  • The inside edges of interior door frames
  • Any repair work you had to do
Do not apply spackle to your dormers, especially on the interior. Use paint to hide any exposed edges. Your dormers are very small and they are the focal point on this dollhouse, so adding spackle to them will make them loose detail. If you assembled the dollhouse correctly there should not be significant gaps in your dormers.

Never apply spackle to the brackets or the window sills. Adding spackle to these layered parts will cause them to loose detail. Only apply spackle to these parts before lamination, if the wood is crumbling or damaged.

There is no need to add wood filler to the tops of your dormers unless you have a very large gap between the dormer roof and your shingles. Try to be precise with the fit of your shingles so you do not have to hide gaps in this area, since it will be highly noticeable. If you do have to hide gaps, choose a darker shingle color so you can hide the wood filler better.

Always determine if the area in question could benefit from additional trim rather than spackle.

Mishaps
I had to fix several mistakes I made on this dollhouse. One of them was that I accidentally added the wrong top trim to the French Door. I had added one of the dormers top trim to the door so I had to gently chisel the trim off of the French Door, repair the area by filling in with spackle and then sanding it. I then repainted it and added the correct trim to it.


I also had to chisel off the dowel trims in the bay wall joints in order to straighten them. They appeared crooked because I applied them directly to the bay wall joints. Since these dollhouses are not laser perfect, don't guide yourself by the wall joints. You will have to install your dowel trim straight, even if the wall joints aren't. Use spackle to hide any gaps between the walls and the trim.


Back Cover
This is a topic that is often talked about and you would think it's a pretty straight forward option for a dollhouse. Installing a clear, back cover, to keep dust out and miniatures in, is not as easy as it sounds, especially for larger models like the Beacon Hill. I had several pitfalls trying to do this for this dollhouse and these are the issues you will most likely encounter if you want to do yours.


    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. Lowes has this service, at least at the time I did this project. 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 this dollhouse you can see the mansard roof is 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 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 meant to carry large amounts of weight.

For this 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. 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 wax along the bottom edge of your sheet, it will slide much more smoothly along the this bottom channel.

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, with the sheet in place, because it 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 from being stolen.

It is best to plan for your acrylic sheet to move side ways rather than up. These sheets are bulky and heavy so adding channels to both sides, for an upwards removal of the sheet, will not be practical. Large dollhouses are also very tall, making upwards removal, of the acrylic sheet, uncomfortable.

For the attic room, I placed a square, dowel trim against the back, inner side of the Victorian roof trim. I painted it dark brown so it would not interfere with the look of this trim and the small holes appear hollow. Placing this trim piece here, creats a channel between it and the top, ceiling edge of the tower room. I placed the acrylic sheet's, top edge into this channel and pressed it against the side walls so it sits flat, covering the attic room. The bottom edge of the acrylic sheet is resting on the flat dollhouse roof. The sheet sits firmly in place and does not move.



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.

Always opt for the channels. 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. I tried it on this dollhouse before I added the channels, just to see if it would be an easier option, but it failed miserably. If you have gotten this far in your assembly, then glueing channels to the back of your dollhouse shouldn't be too difficult.
    Covers That Do Not Work
  • 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 this back cover.
  • 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 experienced with the Velcro dots, 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. I just couldn't justify the money, especially when all I needed was the clear front cover, not the whole frame.
    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, if you do happen to have a smaller dollhouse you can use them on.
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. Unfortunately, they are very hard to find and I never came across any. If you look hard enough, you might be able to find online retail vendors for a product like this.

Browse through this dollhouses gallery here.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have just purchased the Beacon Hill Dollhouse. I know this is quite ambitious for a first build, but just fell in love with it.
I love the colors you used here.
Can you tell me how you did the "stained glass", looks great.
Looking forward to using your blog every step of the way.
Thanks.

Gina said...

The tutorial for the stained glass can be found here: http://moreminis.blogspot.com/search/label/Stained%20Windows

Sanna Kuusela said...

Hi! Thanks for your awesome blog! I want to ask what is the height of beacon hill from first floor to the roof (without the tower) so I can start looking for some material to do the back cover aswell.

Sanna Kuusela said...

The widht of your back cover would be useful, too, since I haven't got the house yet and Im anxiously waiting for the mail to bring it...

Gina said...

My back cover is 28" wide and 29" high. Remember that these dollhouses do not have universal measurements. There is always a possibility that there are minor differences in height and widths because of the assembly process. I recommend you measure your dollhouse to be sure the cover fits properly.

 

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