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My Dura-Craft VM-800 first build questions and concerns

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So this is my first doll house, and I have read a good bit online but have been getting conflicting answers, so here I am for the experts advice!  I bought this set from a friend, and all the pieces seem to be in it and instructions as well.

On to my many questions!  Is it best to paint the set as I’m putting it together, and wallpaper the rooms as they go together?  Does that make it easier?

Also I am weighting the options of doing electric in it, I am an electrician so I kinda what to do that!  Any advice on the best system to install?

I am thinking about doing brick on some of it, how does that work, adhering it to the wood and does it require a type of mortar?  

Is there a good place to buy wood flooring, and the bricks? And the “glass” is aged, can I get new for it?

And lastly for now, what are the must have tools that make it easier to build?

Thanks in advance for answering my mountain of questions.  I’m looking forward to getting started!


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If you Dura-Craft kits walls are the milled in pieces of tongue & groove you will want to go ahead and assemble them first, and after the dry fit put a skim coat of spackle or drywall mud over the interior walls to fill those "seams" and when it dries, sand it flat & smooth so you have a smooth, even surface for paint or wallpaper.

I do not wire my builds because lights don't "do" it for me to justify the expense.  Were I to decide to wire I think I'd go for the round wire; that's JMHO.

The little clay bricks are going to add to the weight.  A lot of people use paper mache for bricks, I use sandpaper:

The sun changed the roof's color

There are also systems that use templates and a mixture of "brick powder", water & white glue.

I buy the iron-on wood veneer rolls at the hardware store, cut the strip into 6" lengths and split them lengthwise in 1/4" widths and lay them with small beads of white glue to place them, then iron them into place with a hot iron.  I save large flat transparent acetate packaging for cutting new panes for windows & doors; report covers also yield suitable supplies.

I built my first kit with lots of masking tape, wood glue, a utility knife and a carpenters square.  My most basic tools I still use after building dollhouse kits for over 25 years are masking or painter's tape, wood glue, the utility knife, a sanding block and emery boards and spackling compound or drywall mud.

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Wow, you've picked a large house for your first! Jump right in.. the waters warm. :D 

Ok, so you will at least need to prime the wood before applying any finishes unless you intend to stain some or all of the wood. I personally like to paint and decorate as I go. I'm not a very neat painter and so I prefer to be able to paint the parts (especially trims) while they are separate from the house and I can get them flat and paint all in one direction with good access. I also have learnt over time to at least prime with spray paint (or paint and prime with spray paint if you can get away with it and you can get your preferred colour in a can.) You get a thinner application than with a brush and I think this works better in scale with no globs or brush marks. If you can only prime at least you only have to do one or two coats of you main colour, which will be more forgiving. Oh and sand everything before you paint and in between coats.. unless of course it is MDF and then prime first then sand. This will stop the fibers standing up in the wood and making a rough finish. Wallpaper is a tough one.. You want it to go around the walls and join in unobtrusive areas, but if you haven't glued together how do you acheive this? Some like to install it after the walls are joined but before windows and trims go in to allow for minor boo-boos. Making a template out of cheap paper or card first and then cutting you good paper to this template is a good way to go. Try to match you pattern at the join and overlap it slightly to allow for any shrinkage over time. The other option is to paper before the walls go together but leave an over hang to allow seamless corners once assembled.

Holly makes good points about the dura-crafts that have walls that assemble in pieces. You are going to want to spackle those interior walls before applying any finishes.

If you are an electrician, I suggest the old school round wire option. Especially if your house is an MDF version as opposed to plywood. You will use many magic words trying to get brads or eyelets through your MDF if you go the tapewire option.

To attach brick use any kind of contact cement and spackle as mortar. I tried to use actual mortar once... believe me use spackle! You can mix colour into it if you want another colour than white.. or you can use paint washes to age it after it's installed.

You can use any kind of plastic insert office supplies to make new window "glass" or you could upgrade to a very thin plexi-glass product.

I can't tell you where to buy supplies as I'm in Australia, but there are many many online stores all with different price points depending on the quality of the product you want.

For tools, I don't have many but I do have a mini bandsaw which I find invaluable. An Easy cutter or chopper is useful  for mitred corners, but I just as easily get by with a mitre box and mini saw. Lots of people have dremels and scroll saws, I don't have a dremel and I'm yet to master my scroll saw so I can't advise you on those. 

What I can do is tell you, it's meant to be fun, so don't take it too seriously and do whatever floats your boat!

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12 hours ago, Samusa said:

ou can use any kind of plastic insert office supplies to make new window "glass" or you could upgrade to a very thin plexi-glass product.

My childhood dollhouse is about 70 years old. It has real glass windows, none of which have broken. If you decide to go real, use thin picture frame glass. One inexpensive picture frame will yield several window panes.

All good advice in the above posts. You should know enough now to get started. You will want to post photos of your work as you move along. (If you don't, we'll nag you incessently -- fair warning! :D ) With your next (5th) post, you'll be able to open an album in the picture Gallery. Put the photos there and include links in your posts in this thread. There is a limit to the number of photos one can post in threads, no limit to the number of photos in albums.

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47 minutes ago, Derektheelectrician said:

So much great information!!  

We're here to serve. :D Enjoy the holiday. We'll look forward to seeing you on the other side.

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I got my San Fran duracraft from a dumpster and I inadvertently tore out the copper tape wiring along with the old wallpaper.  I painted and wallpapered a constructed house and it was not difficult to do it that way.   As they are not completely level I think it would be difficult to paper and then hope it goes together seamlessly.   I used HBS Hobby Builder Supply for door, roofing, flooring, wallpaper and windows; but some wallpaper I used the internet for Wm Morris historical designs which I printed off my computer on cardstock paper and that worked very well. HBS catalog has good money saving coupons.  After an interent order you'll begin to receive the mail catalogs.  I bought different styles of windows, to mix the Victorian look.   I like Duracraft, is a very heavy dollhouse but STURDY!    My mother build an Artply Tennyson which has much thinner walls and contruction.


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That's a huge house! I have one to build someday, when I get to it. Real life gets in the way...

Everyone's different. I never know what color the house wants to be until I've built it, so I paint AFTER I build. Same with wallpaper, I don't know what it wants until after it's built so I wallpaper after it's built. Makes for some interesting angles sometimes, but... the only way I wallpaper BEFORE a build is if the wall that I am wallpapering will be inaccessible after it's put together (such as on the Glencroft).

For bricks (did you see my ears perk up? I LOVE BRICK!!!!), I use paperclay. If you look around on the forum, I'm almost certain I did a brick tutorial on a group build on the Orchid.

Wiring, I like the round wire as well. It's easily hidden behind wallpaper, etc.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Great advice here!

Stacked milled molding is a challenge as Holly mentioned... I use Liner Paper to bridge the seems on the inside as it holds up better over time than spackle, which will crack as the stacked molding expands and contracts seasonally.  I use Liner Paper over tapewire anyway if I am going to paint, but not if I am wallpapering.  I seldom wallpaper until the house is completed, but I leave out walls that hide spaces in front, and wallpaper in front first then add the screening wall.

I paint everything at least one coat before construction, as sanding after the first coat is the most important thing in getting a great final finish, and you can't really sand a fully assembled dollhouse.

I much prefer tapewire in new construction as it allows adding fixtures in the future... roundwire either feeds in-place fixtures or leaves an outlet so the fixture is energized by wire strung in the room, which I don't like.  Tapewire is easy and fast, and can be designed to be very reliable (see www.dollhousewiring.com)  and you can run it everywhere anyone will want a fixture any time in the future.


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