Projects: Veneered box and Dora’s Little Loft

I want to share two little projects I did when the Westville grew too frustrating, and then I’ll turn back to the Westville build.

First, I finished up the box I started in the class with Geoff Wonnacott in Chicago.

I added the hinges myself, plus all the filigree and lock. Papered the inside of the box and then finished the outside with shellac.

The hinge pins were long pieces of wire snipped as close to the hinge as possible and then ground down with a Dremel. I was amazed at how well that worked! New techniques to know.

The second fun project is a kit called Dora’s Little Loft–almost 360 degrees different from the box above.

This is a kit by a Chinese company called Robo Time, which specializes in 3D puzzles and miniature scenes. I’ve seen these kits in various catalogs that come through my house (like Acorn and others), and I purchased this one because it was just cute.

It has a retro feel and is very colorful. The kit contains *everything* in the room–you make all kinds of accessories and little decorative objects, all out of paper, wood, wire, clay, and findings and beads.

Everything here I made from the bits of wire, paper, and fabric in the kit. It’s cleverly put together, even if some of the accessories are a little fiddly.

A tip: Superglue (krazy glue with brush applicator) saves a lot of grief when working with the projects made of wire.

I can put together another post with tips and tricks on this build.

Meanwhile, here’s details of the finished piece.

I used my own pink fabric for the chair, but everything else came from the kit (they include the chair’s fabric, but I liked my color better.)

I chose this kit instead of the plant shop, because I didn’t want to make so many plants. Ha! This one has 19 different potted plants, plus the rose vine and a tree! I cut out many leaves …

I love the details of the cat’s food bowl, milk, and enclosed litter box.

The light fixture with led light and battery box is included–battery box is hidden in a niche beneath the scene. It was one of the easiest lighting hookups I’ve done.

Scale? It’s sort of 1/2 inch, sort of 1 inch. It’s not really exact. But it looks fine. The finished scene is about 8 inches x 10 inches, maybe 10 inches high.

I enjoyed this kit so much (when not cursing at it), that I looked to see what else they had.

HBS ( has four–this one (Dora’s Loft), the plant shop, a kitchen, and a mini camper (I like that one and might get it too).

I searched Robo Time’s website for more, and there are many more. A bookstore, a coffee house, a porch, other shops, all kinds of them. I purchased another one–a music studio–because I play guitar and piano, and it looks cool.

You can purchase directly from Robo Time–they have a U.S. warehouse, so the shipping is from the U.S. (and shipping is free if you spend about $50). They’re also sold through other retailers, and Amazon. Prices are cheapest at the Robo Time site or HBS (

Anyway, a fun little interlude before I got back to the Westville.

Next post–Westville porch, bay windows, and starting the roof.

Westville: Bay Windows

Next on the list is to add the bay windows.

Right Bay Window Pieces (two of the long skinny pieces go with the front bay).

Bay window foundations.

The instructions have us glue on the foundation extension and let it hang in empty space to dry. I stuck one of the foundation pieces beneath (not glued) as a support while the glue dried.

Same case for the top of the right bay–it was to be glued on to the side and hang in empty space to dry. There are slots, but they’re not deep enough to hold an unsupported piece of wood.

My solution: Put the bay together with the bay top and then glue it to the house.

Used my can of tools to brace the bay as I glued it on the house.

Next the narrow sides go on like this. The top butts the bay roof, while the side of the bottom rests against the edge of the bay floor (I hope that made sense).

Second side glued on.

The front bay is a little easier, because the bay roof and floor are part of the interior floors. The window portions of the bays need to be wriggled on and into the slots.

Sides of the front bay glued on.

Bay foundations: Once again, so little support for these pieces. It’s difficult to glue them on and holding them straight to dry. They like to bend every which way.

I was getting so frustrated at this point I was ready to tear apart the house and throw it away. But I went through my scrap wood and found some pieces I could use to brace the foundations.

These are I think 3/8 of an inch square, but any sturdy pieces will do.

I cut these about 3 1/4 inches. I played with the measurement until the pieces fit without sticking out past the foundations (there are small end pieces to glue on). Note the teeth marks. My cat’s imprint will be part of this house forever.

The foundation glued on and the end pieces added.

That’s really it for the bay windows, exterior side.

As I mentioned, I was ready to tear this down, throw it away, and quit. I even searched for a different but similar dollhouse kit (eg. by RGT and others), but nothing I found was what I truly wanted. Which tells me–time to design my own!

But I think no more of this brand of kit for me. I’m tired of my hands full of splinters and very thin, bad wood that warps when you look at it. Any attempt to paint or seal before putting the house together ensures that the pieces will no longer fit. Modifying anything is a pain in the rear.

I asked my husband why on earth I kept going with this house, and he said, “Because you want to conquer it and make it into something nice.”

Which is true. Anyway, I am continuing. Next post–the window trim and porch foundation.



More projects in finishing stages


Another half-inch scale house I’ve been playing with is this one. I won it, unfinished, in a raffle at a miniature show a couple years ago. It was originally a rustic shack with a pot-bellied stove and a built-in bed–I believe the house was called “Possum Hut.”


I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue with the rustic look. The gallery had been on the right wall–I moved it to the back so the ladder to it didn’t take up the entire middle of the room.


I also decided to put in a few electric lights–you can see the tape wire I started here.


The outside I left alone. It’s cute and weathered, apple green and burnt orange.IMG_6595

Inside, I decided to wallpaper. I like the spattered-look floor, so I’m leaving it alone. I couldn’t find any wallpaper I liked in my stash, so I chose some scrapbooking papers, three different ones, to wallpaper the interior. I cut each to fit between the beams, which took some doing.




The gallery in its new place with new railings. I might redo the bedding, which is original to the house. I purchased the weathered sink on Etsy.


The distressed half-inch scale table/chairs and hutch I bought at a NAME show–it was made by Ron and April Gill’s daughter, Michelle (I think I’m remembering all this correctly).

I will add one or two more pieces of furniture and accessories, a rag rug or two, but this tiny house is done enough to put up on my shelf on display. I like how it’s turning out!

What I’ve Been Working On

Now that I’m finally settled into my new house, I’ve been able to get back to projects. I am nearly finished with the inside of the Real Good Toys Half-Inch Scale Bungalow. Scroll down for photos!




As you can see, I moved the staircase to the middle of the house, made this one big room, and put in a fireplace.


Needs pictures and other touches, but you get the idea.




Upstairs, I made the left side of the house one big room instead of cutting it up. I wanted more room for furniture. The staircase comes out in the middle of it, but why not?







I’m pleased with the way the scrapbook paper came out as a mural. Amazed too! It wasn’t easy.


I played with the interior a little bit, removing a wall on the second floor and moving the staircase on the first floor.


I have more finishing touches to make (pictures, rugs, towels, plants, porch furniture), but it’s come a long way from blank pieces in a box!


Thoughts on the RGT Half-Inch Scale Bungalow

Here are some thoughts I had while working on the half-scale bungalow kit, and some tips for those building it.

1. This is a good house for a beginner, in my opinion (though I don’t mean to imply more experienced builders won’t have fun with it!). The bungalow is small– fits easily on the corner of a table as you can see. It’s lightweight, easy to pick up and move, or turn over to work on.



2. The main section of the house consists of five or six simple solid pieces: ground floor; second floor; front; sides; main roof.


There are many fiddly little pieces, true, but most are trim, and easy to glue on once painted. My tip is to stick the the rafters and brackets on a piece of masking or painting tape, sticky side up, and paint them all at once. (Spray painting is also fast.)


3. Tape the house together first to get an idea how everything fits.


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4. Paint exterior before starting to glue the house together.

5. The instructions, while thorough, are for finishing the exterior only, no instructions for the interior (so you can choose your own decor). I think it’s important to finish the interior as you go, especially in half-inch scale, to avoid having to put large hands into a tiny space to paper or paint walls / ceilings. (My hands are huge!)

6. I decorated from the ground up. Starting with the first floor, I laid tape wiring, then papered / paneled over it. (See my post on wiring this house.)


6. I finished the underside of the second floor (first-floor ceilings) before I glued the second floor on. Then I brought the tape wiring up to the second floor, did the wiring, painted and wallpapered.


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7. I finished the entire interior EXCEPT trim and flooring as I went.

8. I painted / finished the interior of the roof and dormer window before I glued them on. Much easier than trying to do it after gluing.


9. Once the exterior was finished (all outside trim attached, shingles on), I then put flooring in the interior (measured flooring, cut sheets, installed with dots of glue–I never entirely glue down a floor in case I need to take it out for wiring repairs).


10. I then trimmed the interior (door trim first, then baseboards, then cornices. I also had to trim the ends of my living room front wall because my wallpaper was too short! (sheet came that way, and I didn’t want to piece it)

11. There are no trim pieces provided for the back exterior of the house. Those I painted and cut from 3/8 x 1/16 strip wood and 1/4 x 1/16 strip wood. I trimmed every raw edge I could find.


12. Latex paint is best for the house’s exterior. My exterior walls were milled plywood and MDF–latex was good for the MDF as well. Several coats are necessary, with light sanding in between coats.


13. I used craft paint (Americana and others) for the interior and back exterior trim.

14. Porch floor: I worried about laying a porch floor, because that would change the thickness of the floor, and the posts are cut to the exact height of floor to porch ceiling. I ended up painting with several coats of Folk Art Medium Gray (craft paint) to simulate a cement porch floor. I used the same color for the lower part of the posts (which I textured with terrarium sand mixed with the paint) and the steps.


15. Foundation: I could not get paint to look good on the foundation (textured with sand or otherwise), so I covered it with textured stone paper (model railroad supply).

16. One last tip–shingling is made more bearable if you listen to an audiobook or watch a video while gluing on the shingles … one at a time …


This house has a good look to the exterior and is relatively easy to put together. I am glad I chose the half-inch house–it looks great but doesn’t take up much space (which is at a premium in my house!). I had originally thought to do the 1-inch scale, but I’m glad I went small.


I wasn’t as happy with the interior (too chopped up, not realistic enough), but I managed to move things around until I liked it.


Now to furnish!

See my other posts on finishing this house:

Go forth and build!


Half-scale Bungalow–Complete!

The Half-Inch Scale bungalow by Real Good Toys is complete inside and out! I haven’t furnished it yet, but the work is done!



The interior has been trimmed and finished. I moved the staircase, obviously, from the end of the house to the middle. Also made this room the largest by having the partition to the right of the door (looking in from the back) instead of on the left as in the prototype. Added a fireplace too.


This will be the kitchen.


The biggest room upstairs will be the bedroom. I don’t mind the stairs coming out in the middle, as I was going for a “loft” feel.


Bathroom. I’m pleased with how the “mural” made out of scrapbook paper came out.


Overview of the back of the house.




There we have it! I started this house in June–for me, building and finishing the whole thing by September is good. (I have written several books and left town a couple of times since then.)

In my next post, I’ll leave some thoughts and tips on building this kit. I enjoyed it! One of the easier kits I’ve done.

Half-Scale Bungalow–Outside details


Probably what takes the most time on the RGT half-scale bungalow are the little details on the outside–trim, brackets, rafters, shingles, windows.


Painting all these fiddly bits is what I like the least. There are fourteen brackets (in pieces–you have to put them together), 20 (I think) rafters, and a bunch of horizontal and vertical trim.

Laying the pieces on the sticky side of painters tape and painting them all at once makes things faster. Spray painting also probably works, but I don’t have a good place to do it, and the fewer toxic fumes I’m around, the better.


Constructing the brackets. Each is three pieces, half are angled to the right, half to the left. Larger ones go on the ends of the house, smaller ones under the eaves of the gable. I sanded and touched up the paint after I glued them together.



The window frames. The instructions have you hold them together with rubber bands, which helps keep the joints square and tight.


Wasn’t as tricky as I feared. A key is to use a rubber band that’s not too small–find one that’s just tight enough to go around the inside of the frame to hold it in place, not so tight it will snap everything apart.




Gluing on the brackets. The half-scale house is easy to turn upside down for this step. It’s nice and light.


The rafters. These are small pieces that go under the porch about every inch, to simulate full rafters.


The brackets and rafters done, and the house ready for shingling.


An inside view of the completed windows. One frame goes on the outside, the pane of “glass” goes in from the inside, and the inside frame is then put in the opening. I’ve also installed the fireplace I built, and I’m starting the flooring.


The kitchen with window, inside door, and the “tile” floor I’m going to use. I purchased doors from Majestic Mansions (via Mountain Miniatures). The tile floor is a printie.


Upstairs room with gable window, door to bathroom, and flooring fitted (though not finished).


The interior so far. I will trim, put in staircase, and add lights to the bedroom after I shingle and put finishing touches on the exterior. I like how it looks so far!


Now comes my other least favorite part of dollhouse building. Shingling! I know there are now shingles you can apply by the strip, but I couldn’t find any in half-inch scale that would go well with this house.

So, it’s one piece at a time. A tip–use shingling to catch up on TV shows or audio books.

More when I finish.