The wayback machine

by brae  

Though I had a dollhouse in childhood, my main interest for as long as I can remember has been cars.  I wanted an all-terrain vehicle for my second birthday, and grandpa bought it for me.  :D  I am not sure exactly when I got into building model cars, but I still have three completed 1:25 scale models - one showroom quality and the other two junkers.  These were made sometime in the late 80's - early 90's.

The first is a Jaguar XKE.  It's the most polished of the three.  It has a gold metallic undercoat covered by sheer deep green.  I used an airbrush on all the models.  Other than on the wheels where I was able to use a small brush, the chrome details were painted gold using the tip of a sewing pin.  That same method was used to paint the dashboard details.

The second is a Volkswagen Beetle in a lovely shade of oxidized army green.  :D  Of course, the kit body was originally pink.  Ech!

I cut mini vinyl floor mats to cover the holes in the floorboards.  It has broken windows, dents, rust, a missing rearview mirror, multiple city stickers and a now-missing CB antenna mounted on the back.  That's railroad paint called dirt as accent.

The third, and my personal favorite, is the Datsun 240Z.  It has a cockeyed suspension, which - if you have ever seen one of these on the road - should seem familiar to you.

Occasionally, I will see one that is showroom new and I just have to smile.  This model has the same issues as the Beetle - the dents, rust etc., but I did a few extra things here.

The spider web crack in the front windshield is done by poking a heated straight pin through the plastic then using a hobby knife to etch the pattern.

I upholstered the hatchback just to put a greasy tire mark there.

There are cigarette burns in the seats, a missing headlight and only part of the nameplate remains on the back.  I painted most of the car in a mix of gloss and flat black, but the hood and rear piece have a bit more gloss to represent replacement parts.  It, too, got a splash of dirt to finish it off.  Interestingly enough, the dustier these models get over time the more realistic they look.

Egg carton stone foundation

by brae  

I followed the tutorial at The China Doll with a few modifications.  Since the Newport is already brick, I opted for a stone foundation.  I cut my stones using different measurements from the ones used in the tutorial - 5/16" x 13/16".  I originally tried mimicking concrete blocks by doing a direct 1:12 scale conversion of the real thing, but the blocks looked too big in proportion.

The overall foundation with the two-story addition and the extended porch was a lot of surface to cover, but I lucked out with a chance sighting on freecycle of 20 cardboard egg cartons only 15 minutes from my house!  Again, the price was right, and there's a sense of accomplishment recycling something in a creative way.  I like a lot of the pre-made items available to finish dollhouse foundations, but I prefer making things myself.  It adds a more creative touch and is much less expensive.  Besides, most of the foundation will be obscured by the eventual landscaping.

I painted the foundation medium grey before gluing on the stone pieces.  Instead of breaking the pieces at the corners, I bent the pieces to follow the contour of the foundation.

I did use a spacer, but since the stones varied slightly in size there was no way to eliminate all irregular gaps.  The grout should make this less obvious.

I also cut the stones in half to finish the top edge for consistency, but the nosing along the first floor pretty much covers them up.

Once the glue dried, I used a stencil brush to dot on some white and medium grey paint mixed with glaze, blotting to keep the color application subtle.  I then sprayed the stones with two thin coats of matte sealer and let the foundation dry completely.

I applied the grout (Andi Mini Brick and Stone Mortar Mix) in its existing grey form with my fingers, wiping away the excess as I went along.  Doing small sections at a time, I pulled a round toothpick gently along the grout lines to enhance the realism of mortar between the stones.

I lost some of the darker tones with the application of the mortar, so I repeated the painting process I had done before the grout but with a much finer application of paint (more glaze than paint) and then applied one more thin coat of matte sealer spray.

I am glad I was able to do this process before the house was glued to the foundation; it made it much easier having the ability to flip the foundation in any direction I needed.

Garage mockup

by brae  

My surprise addition revealed: a garage!

Okay, maybe nothing special, but I haven't seen too many dollhouses out there with modern garages and having one goes back to my original hobby of building model cars.  I've tried a couple of car model scales during the planning phase - 1:18 and 1:14 - both have their issues.  But, I am sure I'll find something I like for it eventually.

I am building the garage out of the Foxhall Conservatory kit and a Timberbrook working garage door kit.  Perhaps not a very green thing to do - turn a lovely conservatory into a garage - but not to worry...there will still be a conservatory, on top of the garage.  :D

I had a bit of difficulty finding replacement 3/8" plywood for the front and side of the kit.  At Lowes and Home Depot, the plywood they had was rough and had a lot of cracks I would have to fill.  With the reduced, close-up scale of dollhouse building, I decided it just wasn't a good enough material.  The hobby shops near me didn't have plywood in a large enough size, and the basswood sheets in the right size were really expensive.  I ended up finding some nice quality Baltic Birch plywood at a local Woodcraft store, but you can also buy online.  I took the piece of plywood I bought at Woodcraft to Home Depot and they cut the length down for me free of charge.  Their cuts were pretty accurate, and the price was right!  ;)

I used the spacer boards included with the conservatory kit to make a lower floor base/foundation.  Having a foundation as high as the house presented problems for the driveway leading into the garage.  I am still mulling over some ideas for that, but I definitely needed a lower foundation.

Since I upgraded the main front door, I will use the front door that came with the Newport kit for the garage entry door.  I also plan to use the stairs, doors and windows that came with the conservatory kit elsewhere in the build.  Very little of the kits I bought will go unused.

Dry build and porch mockup

by brae  

Now that I have all the pieces I need to build the Newport, I decided to give it a test run without glue and amazingly, very little tape.  I am in love!  :D

As for the porch, I watched way too much HGTV over the weekend.  One show featured a curb appeal revamp of a red brick house with a large covered front porch including a seating area.  The Newport has a front porch but it's too narrow for any sort of comfy chair.  During the dry build, I took some scraps of wood, foam core board and some railing sections to build a quick and dirty front porch mockup.   These parts are in no way cut to fit together and it's missing the stairs and the second floor end post, but I rather like it!

Front door upgrade

by brae  

When I bought the Yorktown pediments to spruce up the windows, I also bought the Yorktown Front Door by Houseworks.  It is the same height as the door that came with the kit, but the opening wasn't wide enough to accommodate the new door.  Before making any cuts on the prefinished brick piece, I cut a mockup out of foam core board to try out the positioning.  I decided to widen the opening toward the outer edge since I didn't want the door any closer to the window.

I used the utility knife technique shown on  First, I scored the line on the brick side using a straight edge, cutting toward the opening to avoid accidentally scratching the remaining brick surface.  After reaching some depth in the brick surface layer, I flipped the board over and started cutting the back side, chipping out the mdf along the way.  Then, I continued working on the front chipping out the brick layer and mdf underneath until the section began to separate.  The small portions of brick that came off on the remaining wall will be covered by the door trim.

click image to enlarge

I kept the brick scraps in case I need to repair any damage done during construction or in the future.

The new front door fits into the enlarged space nicely.  I will most likely add pieces under the bottom trim to prop the door up in the space when it is installed; this will make sure the top of the door and the top of the adjacent window are level.  It might not be like that in real life, but in this small of a space the horizontal lines of the brick make any difference in height obvious.

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