Build Your Own Inexpensive Dollhouse

Build Your Own Inexpensive Dollhouse

by E. J. Tangerman


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Monday, July 22


Anyone, even a novice woodworker or a child with adult supervision, can build this spacious dollhouse. All it takes is six basic tools (a folding rule, square, saber saw, rasp, sander, and hammer) and a single sheet of 4' x 8' plywood. The finished two-story model measures 36 1/2" x 26" (scale 1" x 1') and boasts six rooms, plus a staircase, windows, shutters, and a front door.
The easy-to-follow instructions offer advice on purchasing the appropriate kind of plywood and trimmings and explain exactly how to cut and assemble the pieces. Helpful tips include suggestions on sanding, which pieces to nail first, constructing the roof, and finishing the project with paint or siding.
The basic house design is simple, so builders have ample room to refine the house to suit their own preferences. Dozens of diagrams and instructions show how to add optical touches such as dormers, windowpanes, a fireplace, flower boxes, and much more. All instructions are clarified by illustrations — over 40 diagrams and photographs appear throughout the book, showing the dollhouse in various stages of completion.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486234939
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 06/01/1977
Series: Dover Woodworking Series
Pages: 48
Product dimensions: 8.25(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Build Your Own Inexpensive Dollhouse

With One Sheet of 4'x 8' Plywood and Home Took

By E.J.Tangerman


Copyright © 1977 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-16347-5


The Bill Depends Upon the Bill of Materials

This house is made from one full 4' x 8' sheet of ½? interior plywood. The plywood must be ½? thick, but the grade can suit your preference and your purse.

Fir plywoods are least expensive (nothing is cheap anymore). You can buy fir sheathing for about $10 per sheet. This will have knot-holes, splits and other imperfections on both sides, and will not be sanded smooth. AD fir, at about $14 per sheet, will have one good, clear side, but the other will have blemishes. AB grade, costing about $18, has one side of clear, first-quality wood, but the other side has had the blemishes cut out and patched. If you are planning to cover all surfaces with decorative materials, such as miniature siding, brick, wallpaper, etc., these inexpensive plywoods would be good choices. However, if you are planning to paint the dollhouse, a good deal of time and effort will be necessary to eliminate the blemishes by filling them with water putty and sanding them smooth. Surfaces to be painted will need a prime coat of Firzite or shellac to keep the grain from rising and showing through the finish as a result of variations in humidity. Fir-faced plywoods also tend to splinter easily, and thus require careful handling.

Much less likely to splinter are plywoods faced with either white pine or birch. These woods have less obtrusive grains and easy-to-finish surfaces; in fact, the surfaces look good even unfinished, and they can readily be stained to simulate paneling. The house illustrated in this book was made with AB grade birch plywood, costing about $34 a sheet.

It is possible to get mahogany or even walnut-surfaced plywood (at $58 and $70 respectively). In my opinion, these woods are an unwarranted expense. The only reason I can see for using such expensive plywood is to have the outside of the dollhouse match the furniture in the room where the house is to be displayed.

For decorations and panels, anywhere in the house, you will need thin wood. Coffee stirrers, tongue depressors (including the slightly narrower and shorter variety for children), paint stirrers and ice cream sticks are readily available and easily adaptable for use as trimmings. If you decide to use tongue depressors, ask the druggist to sort out flat, straight ones for you. Many tend to be twisted and warped, which doesn't make any difference to someone saying, "Ah!" but does make a difference to the dollhouse builder.

The table below shows the cost of building three different versions of the dollhouse. The first column gives prices for building the basic house out of fir sheathing with no chimney, dormers, windows, window box or other trimmings. The second column lists prices for a complete dollhouse, including all trimmings, made from AB fir, and the third column gives the figures for the same dollhouse made from AB birch.

Prices will vary depending upon supplier and area, but relative costs will probably remain constant. These are mid-1977 prices in a top-flight East Coast cabinetmaker's shop and are probably higher than prices at a commercial lumberyard. If you have the yard cut the plywood sheet and the staircase, you can expect to add $15 for labor to these estimates. Costs for finishing the dollhouse are not included because of the wide variations in individual requirements.


Six Tools Are All You Need

In designing this house, I have consciously avoided screws and drilled holes, grooves, mitered corners and other special techniques of the skilled cabinetmaker, so that this house can be built with six basic tools. These tools are: a six-foot folding rule or steel tape, a carpenter's square, a saber saw, a hammer, a medium rasp or coarse file, and some type of power sander, such as a power drill with a sanding disk.

The large folding rule or steel tape and the carpenter's square are used for laying out the parts. Shorter rules make it necessary to add lengths, and this can result in a series of minor inaccuracies that gradually add up to big errors. The carpenter's square is helpful in making 90° corners and is often long enough to compensate for small edge irregularities in the plywood and to insure straight, long lines.

The best tool for cutting out the parts is a saber saw (some makers call it a jigsaw). It is inexpensive, some makes selling for under $15, and is a useful tool to have around the house. The saber saw will cut wood up to about 1½? thick, fast and cleanly, along any reasonable line with minimum kerf (width of the blade). The saber saw will also cut interior shapes started from holes. By adjusting the shoe surrounding the blade, the saber saw can also cut angles. A keyhole saw can also be used, but it is extremely slow and hard to use on plywood because of the glue and other inclusions. You can, of course, have the lumberyard cut up the plywood sheet, but their usual equipment—the circular saw or the bandsaw—cuts too wide a kerf. The lumberyard will charge you from 25¢ to 50¢ per cut, and this could very easily add $15 to the cost of building the dollhouse. For that amount of money you can buy your own saw, or, if you don't want to buy a saber saw, rent or borrow one.

If you have never used a saber saw, spend a little time sawing scraps so that you learn how to use the saw. Like any tool, a saber saw can be dangerous if mishandled, so a few basic rules should be followed:

1. Never remove the blade from the cut while the saw is still running; you'll get surface dents or a broken blade if you do.

2. Make sure that the work is settled solidly on a level surface, well held, and that there is clearance under the line of the cut for the end of the blade.

3. Be aware that the saw cuts on the upstroke, and that there is some danger of splintering the surface of the plywood along the stroke, especially if you are using fir. This damage, however, can normally be readily repaired with water putty or plastic wood.

The entire house can be assembled with a hammer and about ½ lb. of 4-penny finishing nails. (Don't use 4-penny brads; they are too fragile.) I recommend a good carpenter's claw hammer rather than a tack or upholstery hammer.

A medium rasp or coarse file is useful for chamfering edges and for smoothing the edges of the window and door openings. For sanding larger edges, it is faster and easier to use a power sander of some kind. A small belt sander is probably most accurate, but I've never owned one. The reciprocating type of flat sander can also be used, but the paper on it tends to tear on edge sanding. I find that a sanding disk on a power drill works well, although it is, perhaps, a bit harder to control than flat or belt sanders. The drill can be applied directly to high areas and it removes wood rapidly. Be careful to avoid sanding to an angle or rounding the ends of pieces. If you use the drill with a sanding disk, hold the board steady with a bench vise, a heavy weight or a clamp. Use fairly coarse sandpaper with all types of sanders because your aim is to remove wood, not to get a fine finish.


All Major Parts Come from One Plywood Sheet

The one job that must be done with great accuracy in making the house is the laying out and cutting of the plywood. Before beginning, spend some time studying the floor plans and elevations (figure 4) and the layout plan (figure 6).

Gather together the materials you will need for laying out the house: the carpenter's square, the six-foot rule or steel tape and a sharp lead pencil. Find an area for working that is large enough to allow the entire 4' x 8' sheet of plywood to lie perfectly flat. If you do not have a large enough work space, you may want to do some layout and cutting at the lumberyard. Be sure to take your saw, your carpenter's square and your rule with you to the lumberyard.

The four sides of the plywood sheet are perfectly straight because the edges have been factory-cut. I have tried to utilize the factory-cut edges as effectively as possible in planning my layout, and each house piece is designed to have at least one factory-cut edge. In laying out your house, measure from the factory-cut edge and use this to check the other lines for squareness.

Before you begin, a word about kerf. I have intentionally laid out the sheet without allowing for kerf (the width of the saw cuts) and therefore many of your pieces will be fractionally shorter than the dimensions I give. These differences are too small to matter, and you can easily compensate for them in assembly. To allow for kerf would require dimensioning in sixteenths of an inch, and that would cause more problems than kerf loss.

Following the layout plan (figure 6), begin laying out the house with the sides (Sides #1 and #2). Because both front and back of the sides are often visible, select the best corner of the sheet for these pieces. You may want to write the name of each piece on it for ease of identification later, but remember that anything you write on the surface will eventually have to be sanded off. Next, from the opposite end of the sheet, lay out floor panel #2.

Once you have laid out this section, the next step is to mark off the front and back panels. Now you must decide whether you want to go to the trouble of beveling the tops of the house front and back to match the angle of the roof line. If you decide against one or both of these slightly tricky cuts, your house will be a bit less workmanlike—but not visibly so— and your roof will have ½? or 1" more overhang. Because the danger of splintering is greater on angled cuts, you may not want to duplicate the roof slope even though it makes a neater job and provides a place on the back for a hinge for the roof. If the top edge of the back and front are not to be beveled to match the angle of the roof slope, each piece is cut ½? shorter, as shown by dashed lines on the plan. Next, lay out floor piece #1, then the roof. The slope of the roof is no problem because the side walls are 8" higher in the back than in the front.

Now return to the far corner and lay out floor #3, the partitions and the other small parts. There are two small areas of scrap wood and one large piece (shaded on the diagram). Save the large scrap piece for possible dormers and the bottom step of the staircase, both of which will be discussed later.

As you lay out the pieces, you may find that the carpenter's square will not be long enough for some of the lines. As even minor inaccuracies in measuring can easily become magnified, it may be advisable to measure the distance at several points and to connect these points using the square as a straight-edge. When you have completed the layout, check all of your dimensions again very carefully. The layout checks itself to a considerable degree, because if you make an error in measuring one piece, you will discover it when you measure the last piece in the section. The parts won't fit, or there will be too much wood left over. It is, however, a good idea to go over the entire layout and double-check all of your measurements before cutting.

When you are certain that the layout is correct, you can begin to saw out the pieces. Because this plywood sheet is laid out without waste, you must cut straight lines, "splitting" the lines as you cut. If you allow the saw to wander on and off the line, you will multiply the amount of edge sanding necessary, and you will increase the chance of pieces not fitting. In other words, don't try to saw and watch TV or the kids. Be sure that you can see the line you are cutting at all times. Begin sawing at the right-hand corner, between floors #2 and #3. There is a 1? band of scrap wood at this point into which you can cut with impunity while you become used to your saw and to the particular plywood you have chosen.

After the plywood has been cut into parts, make certain that matching sections fit. Sides #1 and #2 should be the same size; floors #2 and #3 must match, and the three large partitions must be equal. In addition, floors #2 and #3 should be the same length as the back and the same width as the partitions. "Shave-cut" and sand any longer pieces to match the shorter ones.

If you are planning to have a stairway in your house, notch floor #2 for the stairwell at this point. (See page 38 and figure 7 for instructions on constructing the stairway.)

Sand the sawed edges to smooth out the saw wavers and to get the edges square. You had better do this part of the work outside or in the basement, if you can. A sander will throw out dust that settles all over the vicinity, even if it has a dust-catching bag. You may also want to use the rasp or coarse file to chamfer edges ("break" the corners) a bit to remove tiny splinters.

When you are sure that the pieces are smooth and square, select (where you can) the better sides for walls that you plan to stain or paint. Try the two sides against the back to see if their height matches the height of the back. See that the front is the same height as the front edges of the sides. Check the partitions for length and squareness. If you are planning to bevel the top edges of the house front and back walls, do it at this time. The angle of the bevel should be the same as the angle of the sides of the house.

If you are using a borrowed or rented saber saw, you may want to lay out and cut the windows at this time as well. See the instructions on page 27 and figure 5.


Assembling the House

After all of the pieces have been square-edged and sanded, and you are certain that everything will fit correctly, you can begin work on assembling the house, following the drawings and photographs in figures 8-18.

First, pencil lines to guide in installation and nailing should be drawn on the pieces. Lines to guide installation of the partitions are drawn lightly on the inside of the pieces. These installation lines are indicated by double dashed lines in figures 8, 10 and 12. Guide lines for nailing are drawn on the outside of the pieces. These lines can be drawn in a single line spaced halfway between the two on the inside of the piece.

Because it is easier to install doors as you install partitions, now is the time to decide whether you want doorways, where the doorways will be placed and whether or not you want doors. You can follow my layout (figure 9), or place doors where you want them. If you decide to use doors and doorways, read the special instructions on page 34.

Before you begin assembling the house, there is one general rule that must be learned: Never finish-nail a piece until you are sure that the next piece fits as it should. In fact, never drive a nail completely through initially; always leave about ¼? projecting, so that you can pull out the nail if necessary. There are several reasons for this. Voids or hard spots in the core of the plywood may deflect the nail slightly, so that the part being nailed moves out of alignment, or the nail itself may bend and penetrate the side of the plywood. A nail started crooked or put too close to the end of the plywood may cause the wood to split, and then the nail is likely to break out. If you must remove a nail that has broken through the side, put a scrap piece of wood under the hammer head so that it does not mar the surface of the plywood. Generally speaking, a nail that has been withdrawn will be slightly bent, and unless you are skilled at straightening nails, do not re-use bent nails. Start the replacement nail a short distance away from the "bad" hole—a new nail cleanly driven into the same hole will only duplicate the trouble. If you do drive the nail home and then discover that it has penetrated a side wall and is projecting where it isn't wanted, you can still correct the problem. There are two solutions: you can place a nail set (which you may not have if you are not accumstomed to working with wood) on the point of the nail, and drive the nail back. The other solution is to painstakingly file off the nail point.

The house can be assembled in various ways, but assembly according to my direction makes nailing easier; there is very little room inside a dollhouse for swinging a hammer. There are two major steps to assembling this house: the shell and the core. The shell is assembled first, and the core, made in two sections, is placed inside the shell.

Begin by nailing together the shell (see figure 10). Place the first floor (or base) of the house on a solid surface. Center the back wall on top of it, and align the back edges. Ideally there should be ½? of wood on the base beyond each end of the back, but you may find that this is a bit less because of the kerf wastage. Just be sure that you leave the same amount at both ends. Now, try one of the sides for fit. Then remove the back, turn over the base and start the nails ¼? from the back edge of the base, at about 6? intervals. Stand the back top-down on the floor and position the base over it properly. Drive in several of the nails to hold the back, and re-check its position. (You may need someone's help for this; both pieces are rather large.) When you are sure you have the back properly positioned, drive in the rest of the nails to within ¼? of the nail head and invert the assembly on to your work table. In a similar fashion, start nails along the back of one of the sides. (Make sure that the single, dashed nailing lines are on the outside.) Set the side in place, making sure that it rests securely on the base. Drive the nails part way in as before. Next, do the same with the other side piece.


Excerpted from Build Your Own Inexpensive Dollhouse by E.J.Tangerman. Copyright © 1977 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of DOVER PUBLICATIONS, INC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents



Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Build Your Own Inexpensive Dollhouse 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
PawpawTM More than 1 year ago
This softback book is a good guide for building a single low-cost dollhouse. A novice wouldn't find this too difficult to build if close attention to the instructions are given.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago