How to build a dollhouse: materials, tools, and floorplans

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Setting out to build a dollhouse can seem like a lot of work. Plan drawings, budgeting, measuring, painting, cutting, fitting, gluing — you may think you’re on an actual job site before long! Almost any dollhouse concept you can imagine — from Victorian-era opulence to postmodern minimalism — can be brought to life with the right materials, tools and floorplan.

SkilToolsMaterials and Tools

Before you build a dollhouse, you need to know exactly which materials and tools are necessary for the job. As a base material, particleboard is a solid choice if the goal is to simulate a ranch-style or other contemporary home.

The most popular scale is 1/12th, or a 1-inch scale, so be prepared to cut a full sheet of particleboard as much as it takes to achieve the correct dimensions. There is no consensus as to why 1/12th is the most popular size for dollhouses, but it likely relates to the ease of remembering that every foot in the real world is exactly one inch in the doll world.

A reciprocating or circular saw will save you time when cutting particleboard. In addition, a router is indispensable for a project like this. Routers are great for shaping thin pieces of wood that would splinter or otherwise be damaged if you were to cut them with a traditional saw. You can use a fixed-base version but a plunge-corded router is generally preferred, as you will likely have to adjust the depth of many of your cuts.

Basic tools, including a hammer, level, measuring tape, wood nails and wood glue, are a must. Also, having a few paint brushes (size 00, 0 or 1 should suffice) and some acrylic model paint on hand will help you stay focused on your dream house instead of running back and forth to the hobby store.

Floorplans

Dollhouse floorplans read more or less like real floorplans, with the noted absence of electrical and plumbing symbols. That’s not to say your dollhouse can’t have working lights, only that they may not be up to NEC specifications. Should you decide you want lights, look into specialized wiring kits.

The easiest way to come up with a floorplan is to leave the decision to someone else. There is no shame is ordering a pre-cut kit and assembling it yourself. However, don’t think that because most of the pieces are already cut you won’t have to do any work. Piece-by-piece, it can take anywhere from 35 to 120 hours to successfully complete a kit.

If you opt for an original design grab some graph paper and start brainstorming. If you remember that 1:12 ratio, you can actually convert the floorplan of your own home into a dollhouse version fairly easily.

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