Monday, December 10, 2012

Hangin' out on the veranda

I do love the wraparound porch, but I don't love the fact that it's plain, smooth MDF.  Well, we can fix that.

All you need is some strip balsa wood, a pencil, a ruler (or other straight edge), a utility knife and a pair of scissors.  

At 3/4" by 12" (and 1/32" thick), the stripwood is both long and too wide, so it needs to be cut.  I measured and marked each strip into 3-7/8" sections, and I also drew another line straight down the middle of it.  Each strip yielded 6 "planks" with a little bit left over.

There's one thing you should know about balsa wood: it's very weak along the grain, but not so much across it.  Splitting it was easy; I used the utility knife to score a line down the middle, and then I simply exerted a little pressure on it to make it snap.  Kinda like cutting plexiglas.  Balsa isn't quite so fragile when you're going against the grain, though; attempts to use the score-and-snap technique resulted in… well, a mess.  I used scissors instead.  Worked like a charm (cutting along the grain with scissors is not a good idea; the wood will split in ways that you did not intend).

Next, I used wood glue to fix the boards to the MDF.  I used the glue sparingly but balsa will curl no matter what. I've been working a section at a time, weighing the boards down with wooden blocks until the glue dries.  This is what it looks like right now:

Interesting, isn't it?  I'm not sure if you can see it, but I drew guidelines onto the MDF to ensure that I laid the boards straight.  I'm nearly done the side of the porch, and then I'll work on the front.  The corner is going to be a bit of a challenge; I'll probably need to miter the boards there.  We'll see.

By the way, this picture does a good job of displaying the unevenness of the paint, doesn't it?

Once I finally get all the boards laid down, I can start the oh-so-fun process of putting masking tape all over the place again so I can stain the porch.  Minwax has a nice gray stain that I'll likely use on the shingles, too.  Then I can finally start working on the inside.  Woot!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's coming along...

So having (mostly) constructed the cottage, I've been slowly working on the exterior, seeing as how I'm a massive slob and know better than to do any decorating before the outside is done.

One of the things I love best about this hobby is the tendency for actions to have unintended consequences that actually work to my advantage.  For example, the first thing I did was give all outside walls two coats of KILZ Odorless Primer.  Much to my annoyance, the primer raised fibers in the MDF, giving the initially smooth (milled) siding a rough look (also, some of the primer made it inside the cottage but as I said, I'm a slob).  I grabbed my sanding block and prepared to give the thing a good going-over.


The raised fibers sort of looked like wood grain.  In fact, they looked a lot like wood grain, and I decided that it looked cool.  I put my sanding block away.

I then painted the walls with the lovely Valspar sample I bought.  I had two unintended consequences with this one:
  1. I forgot that paint tends to dry darker, so the house isn't going to be quite the color I expected it to be.  The actual color is still very pretty, though, so this doesn't bother me.
  2.  Despite the two undercoats of primer, the paint job was somewhat less than perfect.  I'd been hoping that I wouldn't have to use more than one coat for fear of covering up the cool wood-grain effect, but there was no other option.

I like the unevenness of the paint.  It's not blatant (I'll have pictures later, though I doubt that you'll even be able to see the "problem") but when you look at it closely, it's got that slightly-faded look that means that the thing needs to be repainted - not now, but sometime in the not-too-distant future.  Again, I decided that it looked cool, and abandoned plans to add a second coat.

So right now, the house is on its side atop my dining room table.  This is because I decided that a beach house should probably have a cement foundation, so I have been troweling on some slightly-diluted dollhouse mortar.  It looks fantastic; I hope it holds up.

In-between making messes, I painted the door, the windows and the ladder.  I also cut acrylic "glass" to fit the windows because, as previously mentioned, the door came with panes of acrylic but the windows did not.  This is the first time I ever cut plexi, which is a deceptively simple-appearing process that is nonetheless fairly time-consuming... although I'm more than willing to admit that my inexperience is probably to blame.

You cut acrylic by scoring it several times with an acrylic or glass-cutting tool, then exerting pressure along the cut line until it snaps.  If you don't cut deeply enough or often enough, the plastic will break where you don't want it to, and you will be sad.  Miraculously, though, I managed to ruin only one small piece of it, so I'm going to go ahead and declare this a success.

Monday, November 12, 2012

And now, the other cottage

Last month, Hobby Builders Supply offered these at an obscene discount:

Cute, right?

As I mentioned previously, a few of my friends bought these, too, and we all gathered together this past weekend to put them together.

If you want one of these cuties (HBS no longer sells them but they are still available elsewhere), be aware that it comes in two versions: one with a component kit (which includes 3 windows, a door and a ladder) and one without.  The one with the component kit has siding milled into the MDF, while the other kit has smooth walls.

This is a Houseworks kit so it's not only solidly-made, it was easy to assemble.  We were at it for quite a long time but if you exclude the amount of time we spent gabbing and goofing around (not to mention the very leisurely lunch break), I'd say we got them put together in about 2 hours (which includes time spent taping the pieces together and waiting for the glue to dry before proceeding to the next step).  I dry-fit the windows and doors but will not glue them into place until they are painted and finished (for some odd reason, the windows don't come with glass, although the door does).  I also didn't assemble the roof, figuring that the loft would be next to impossible to decorate with it on.  To make things even easier, the floor/ceiling slides out and does not need to be glued in place.

My friends don't know what they're doing with their cottages yet, but mine is going to be a shabby chic beach cottage.  I have already picked up several sheets of scrapbook paper (do people still shell out for actual dollhouse wallpaper anymore?) and picked up a really pretty paint sample to use for the exterior.  Behold Valspar's "Secluded Garden":

It's not quite as dark as it appears in the pic, but it is a super-pretty soft teal.  I'll be painting the doors and (shuttered) windows white.  I don't know what I'm going to paint the porch, though.  Gray?  Taupe?  I don't want to do white, but I want a contrast with the green.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

I'm back

And yes, I am properly ashamed of myself.

I know that there are a great many people who swear by Greenleaf dollhouses but I am absolutely not one of them.  Give me a Houseworks or Real Good Toys house any day of the week but please, please keep the Greenleaf stuff away.

And then I bought the Sugarplum Cottage.

It was on sale on my club's sales table for only 5 dollars, and it was already mostly-constructed.  I figured that my friend's kids would like it, so I bought it (I later discovered that it was for sale because the previous owner hated it even more than I do.  In fact, she offered to refund my $5 if I agreed to come over and watch her set fire to it).

But I soldiered on… kind of.  I told myself that I would not be permitted to work on anything else until this thing was finished and shipped off.  This backfired severely.  See, I did stick to my resolve and quit working on my other projects, but it turns out that not working on anything else did not, in fact, motivate me to work on the cottage.  Ultimately, the only thing that worked was telling myself that I wasn't allowed to go to N.A.M.E. Day unless I finished the cottage.

I finished the cottage the night before N.A.M.E. Day.  Here it is:

Yeah, plastic roof.  I would probably feel bad about that if the adorable Tudor trim wasn't made out of cardboard.  I made up for it by making cushions for the settles, a mattress and linens for the bed, and interior window trim.  The butterflies are scrapbook embellishments and the wallpaper on both floors are scrapbook paper (I don't know why the 2nd-floor paper photographed so peach-y; I assure you, it's pink).

So onto stuff I actually want to work on!  As it turns out, though, I will not be returning to the MiniTown Loft just yet.  That is because had an insane sale ($20!) on these little cuties:

A few of my mini-obsessed friends and I are having a kit-building party this weekend.

The loft will not die, but I intend to build the vast majority of what's going in it by hand... and, well, my procrastinating over the Sugarplum has put me severely behind schedule.  I will not have time to execute my plans for the loft before the next show, but I will have plenty of time to do what I want to do with the little charmer above.

And none of it involves tab-and-slot furniture punched out of a sheet of wafer-thin plywood. ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A brief detour

A month ago, I purchased a mostly-constructed Sugarplum Cottage for a paltry $5 and decided to rehab and finish it for a friend's kids.  And then I got a new job, and have therefore not spent a lot of time on it.

The time I have spent on it has been... memorable.  First off, the lady that built it wasn't as careful as she could have been, so I've had to do a little patching and re-gluing here and there.  And then there are those spots where things just didn't fit right.

I don't mean to badmouth Greenleaf houses, but lets just say that they are not made of the sturdiest plywood.  Any attempt to separate any misaligned pieces will almost certainly result in their destruction.  Heck; I broke a piece while pushing it out of the plywood sheet and had to glue it back together, so there is no way I'm going to try fixing anything that's already been glued down.  I've had to swallow my pride and my perfectionist tendencies and shrug it off.

I stained the floors, and they turned out pretty well, but then I started painting the exterior... and the plywood ATE the acrylic paint!  I probably should have primed first but since I didn't have a problem with the stain, I assumed the paint wouldn't be a problem, either.  Ha!

So 4 coats later, it's finally acceptably painted and waiting for the application of the trim (which is made of cardboard, fml) and a coat of poly to seal it (I'm a bit worried about splinters).  Pics when I've got it looking decent.

An update on the loft: I got the doors done.  They're stained a lovely shade called "Jacobean"  and I put brass fittings on them: handles on the French doors, doorknobs and a kick-plate on the entry door.  I also stained all the interior window trim (same color), and painted the exterior trim.  It has also benefited from the laziest wiring job in recorded history... but when you're a noob, you need to keep things as uncomplicated as you can.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Know what this thing has?

Openings.  Lots and lots of openings.  It has openings for a door, a small window, two large windows, one very large window and two skylights.  Plus I, in my infinite wisdom, decided to add a powder room to the mix, so there's an additional door.

Oh, on an intellectual level, I knew that there were a lot of openings.  But it's one thing to know about them and quite another thing to work on them; I have spent the last two days painting and staining doors and door/window trim.  And remember, each door/window/skylight has both interior and exterior trim, so I've been having a great time.  No, wait... what's the opposite of a great time? Yeah, that.  That's what I've been having.

The doors are French doors, which means it has mullions.  These, thank heavens, are removable, so all I had to do was cover the plexiglass inserts with masking tape.  Yay!  Then, I will frost the glass on the powder room doors (I thought double French doors would look cooler, even though the powder room isn't going to be much wider than they are) and I'm done!

Sorry for the lack of pictures, but I didn't think I needed to illustrate the application of Minwax. ;)

Oh, and I also did some wiring.  More about that, later.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

And onto the next thing...

I bought the MiniTown Loft Kit from Hobby Builders Supply.

I've uploaded the stock picture instead of an image of my own because I've put the thing together and yes, it does look exactly like this.

I'm envisioning this as a 2-person office space, maybe for a start-up web publisher or something, and I want an urban/industrial vibe to it. The floor on the main level will be concrete, the floor of the loft will be wooden. The back wall will be brick; I will paint the other walls but I haven't decided on a color yet. There will be a small powder room in the rear right corner of the main level, and a kitchenette in the loft. The rest will be office space.

I also bought the component kit because I don't feel like cutting plexiglass and trim for all the windows and skylights. I think the staircase (which also came with the component kit) will take up too much space, so I will bash it into some kind of switchback arrangement.

Stay tuned...