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Grand plans for my Willow


JuniperJenny
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I am just starting work on my first house, and while I think I'll mostly build it right to print (since it is my first one), I have noticed a few things I definitely want to change...trouble is, doing it is intimidating. Oh, well, I'm going for it anyway. Here is my list:

1) I don't really like the stairs or railings at all, and I want stairs to the third floor---preferably something with a nice cohesive look all the way up the house. I'd prefer to use a kit, as my woodworking skills are in progress, but I think I'll get a better result if I stretch a little and build more from scratch. A minis store in my grandma's hometown carries simple staircase kits by Houseworks, but they also carry the wood, posts, and banisters to do it myself. I could really use some advice on this one.

2) I want to cut another room divider for the attic, so that there can be three rooms up there, including an inconveniently placed bathroom. I've seen a lot of people doing the bathroom on the second floor, but the other room there would make a much better second bedroom/study and I have this whole idea of the family who live there I don't think I ought to ignore. I guess this one isn't terribly intimidating; after all, I have the other one to use as a template.

3) The trim on the chimneys isn't bad, but painted chimneys and fireplaces can definitely be improved on. I want to brick the exterior chimneys and the inside of the hearths, and I haven't decided what I want to do with the fireplace surrounds. The first floor one definitely needs some more elaborate trim on that whole built-in, and it would be neat to manage a ceramic tile sort of look upstairs.

I was going to try and electrify it, but I have limited funds, and I want to start building. I'd rather use what I have to get the structure the way I want it, and not worry about the electricity and lights.

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Stringers are the tricksy bit, IMO, to building stairs; I used corrugated cardboard to replace missing stairs in my Pierce rehab (Mildred) and used a William Morris-looking giftwrap to cover it and 1/4" stripwood to frame the panels and reinforce the cardboard; a friend with a new Pierce kit was kind enough to trace the punched out parts for me. I cut down wooden cocktail picks from $ Tree for the banister posts. I used tongueblade-size craft sticks for the treads and cut them to fit for the risers. One thing that will save some sanity is a gluing jig. I have a magnetic one from Micro-Mark, but before that I used a lid from a copier paper box, and if your kids had Legos, they also make terrific jigs, especially if you have a lovely, flat cookie sheet.

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hello jenny i am new here too ..but i have been making buildings for my train for over 30 years now.for a real looking chimney

and or fireplace ..you can use real stone from www.RRStoneworks.com it works great for buildings its real stone venere.

and you can get wood coffie stirers from www.staples.com very cheaply 1000 per box for about $2.50 i think.. and

www.discountschoolsupply.com for wood ice cream sticks or what they call it craft sticks in 3 different sizes all very cheap

in price ....

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@Holly: I thought about buying basswood stringers from Jeepers Miniatures, which has an online storefront but is also right down the street from my grandmother's house, and going ahead and using the stringers from the kit for one staircase. It's mostly the railings I can't stand, but I want the risers and treads to look the same on both, so I probably can't use those.

At some point, I'm going to have to buy craft sticks anyway; I've seen too many gorgeous floors done that way to pass it up.

I haven't got kids to have legos around, but my husband still has a bunch! How do you use them for a gluing jig?

@Ape? or Dolly? I'll say Boyd: Thanks for those suggestions for bulk prices! I can see how this hobby could get really expensive, really fast. At least I can rely on my husband's project leftovers for stains and varnishes. I hope no one asks me to justify my color choices on any aesthetic level.

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Hi Jennifer, I added a 2nd story staircase by copying the 1st onto basswood:

http://www.greenleafdollhouses.com/forum/index.php?app=blog&module=display&section=blog&blogid=82&showentry=2358

I also used egg-carton "stone" on my exterior, including chimneys, and also on my interior hearths:

http://www.greenleafdollhouses.com/forum/index.php?app=blog&blogid=82&cat=7

I still need to grout the stone and finish it up, but I just received a deadline on this house-- have to have it done and shipped by Christmas! :p

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Welcome, Jennifer! :) Sounds like a great plan.

rbytsdy - I love your Willow! I missed that somewhere along the line. Fabulous! :ohyeah:

I love egg carton brick for chimneys and fireboxes, too. :D It's very versatile and inexpensive.

http://www.greenleaf...ery&image=73658

http://www.greenleaf...ery&image=67518

http://www.greenleaf...ery&image=66726

http://www.greenleaf...ery&image=80176

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ok thank you holly... you could also use old selfsticking floor tiles ..thay make a great light weight stone venere.... with a very thin grout

to complete the look... i even have used bluestone gravel ..sold in 60 lb bags at lowes or home depot for about $5 per/bag depending

on the store.. i get the smallest size rock 1/4inch or smaller dose nicely for small projects with a nice grey grout

old gibsom board pieces ... crushed up and then add white glue and water to it ..makes a great mix for making bricks from a mold ....

after a few days of drying time ....you will have your bricks, make a jig out of wood and you can make cement blocks too... 8inches high by

8 inches wide by 16inches long ..works in any scale .........

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@rbytsdy, I love those staircases! That is probably definitely the simplest solution. Did you end up using the railings from the kit, or did you do something else?

Thanks Jennifer! For years now, I have been substituting my own stair banisters using railings, spindles and newel posts that I get separately from the kit.

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Well, I went to Hobby Lobby this evening, and I have all the things I think I will need for my staircases, as well as a few toys for other projects. I'm going to make some very simple (but much more attractive than those weird gothic arches) railings out of 1/8"x1/8" square basswood strips for posts, a 1/4"x1/8" strip for a railing, and 1/4 inch square newel posts. Not terribly true to the period, but I can dress the newel posts up with some extra trim later for that solid weighty look of old houses. I'm putting a modern family in it anyway.

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If you want really old-fashioned-looking baluster posts you could use coathanger wire cut to lengths and thread various shaped beads to get the appearance of the fancy turnings; you would probably have to paint them.

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@Holly: I'm actually pleased with the idea of plain square baluster posts. I think it ties in to my love of mission and craftsman style furniture. I plan to make it lovely and elaborate with stains and finishes...my husband has three or four different shades sitting around and I'm going to combine them for a finished look: a golden pecan on the floors, sills, and treads, and a rich red mahogany for the trims. I'll replace the trim pieces with basswood anywhere I can to avoid those exposed plywood edges, which will allow me (theoretically) to do more staining than painting. I'm doing some test staining tonight to make sure of my colors.

I have completed the dryfit of my Willow, or at least its main structure, and am moving on to the design of my staircase and floor. I have a box of popsicle sticks (they were really cheap), and am therefore spending my time cutting the curved ends off with my dremel so that I can make floors and stair treads with them once I take the house apart again. I'm sort of putting that off . . . I feel better about my progress with the house all put together, even though I know on an intellectual level that masking tape hardly counts as complete.

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Cutting with the Dremel still terrifies me! I finally got to the point (before I got my EZ Cutter) to use my wee miterbox and a flushcut saw to hack the ends off of craft sticks. Do be safe!

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My husband heard me opening the case (it was a present from him) and came in to give me a tutorial. I think he suspects I'm going to cut off a fingertip or something, but he got it for me anyway. Considering how many of these sticks I'll be going through, I think I will definitely be glad for its speed. The Dremel does have its limitations: I tried to cut out my new stair stringers with it, but the tool itself gets in the way of any cuts that aren't right on the edge. I need to learn other methods of cutting than the wheels if I want to use it for the third floor cutout or more general parts cutting.

The biggest trouble with making these cuts in basswood with the utility knife (which I'm sure will improve with practice) is that they aren't very straight. The lines are straight, but the angles aren't.

How do you like your EZ Cutter? Is it a good investment, do you think? I love Ken's window trim on his Westville, and have good access to the basswood pieces to do that, but if my cuts aren't consistent, it won't look nearly as nice.

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For stock 1/4" or less the EZ Cutter is a breeze! but thicker stock tends to get a bit crushed with the blade. I have two lengths of steel rulers with cork backs that I use for cutting with the utility knife, and DH thought of using my rotary cutter on curves (to start the curved cuts, which I then finish with the utility knife). For thicker stock and wood harder than basswood I like my miterbox & flushcut saw (also a Stanley). I got a Dremel Trio after reading Deb's rave review, and used it to cut doorways into the blank wall of the Pierce I'm rehabbing/ bashing the bejeezis out of, and I do love that!

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I stopped using my Dremel for cutting because of the cutoff wheels. The carbon fiber reinforced wheels don't shatter, but wear down quickly and are pricey; the other kind shatter easily and I'd recommend wearing a welder's helmet to protect your face, not just safety goggles to protect your eyes (you can guess how I know this...)

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Well, here's a weekend update. I mostly got drafted by my husband for some necessary work around the real house, so I didn't complete nearly as much on the Willow as I wanted to. However, here's a short list of accomplishments:

I did end up going to purchase the EZ Cutter, and I now have a considerable pile of squared-off craft sticks ready for my floors. I also started gluing the risers to both sets of stairs. I think these are going to turn out great, but complications in gluing and a desire on the part of my stringers to lean narrower as we go up means this is going to take longer than I had anticipated. My next good period to work on them will be tomorrow night, and I think at that time I'll be able to get the rest of the risers on all the way up. Then I'll need to measure off my tread length, and start staining some popsicle sticks.

We also got the furnace repaired, and the house grounded as it should have been done 62 years ago when it was built. Woo.

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