With the paint mostly done (there’s one more coat to go), I decided to tackle the dollhouse floor. And, by that I mean, figuring out how to place the balsa wood strips. I know I’m going to dye the balsa wood with Rit dye (eventually). But, because I’m going to have to cut a bunch of them to size, I figured it made more sense to plan the floorboards (I use that term loosely) out before I dye them. This way, I don’t have undyed ends. Theoretically.
But, Before I Begin
First things first, though. Here’s how the shutters turned out. The picture is kind of blurry.
Finally. One solid color. I know there’s a whitish haze on the shutters, but that’s only in the picture. Or, on my camera lens. Either way, I know it’s not on the shutters.
Second, here’s how the paint turned out on the upstairs and the downstairs.
Not bad. Again, really glad I added grey to the mix. I love the blue, but I know it would have been too much if I did the whole interior with it.
Lastly, here’s the back of the stairs. You’ll notice there’s a second brown. When I experimented with the stairs, I swiped a darker brown on it, just to see what it looked like. I hate it.
I do like how the other color turned out, though, so I think I’m going to go with that. But, thanks to everything I’ve learned, I’m going to prime them. Pretty sure I’ll be OK priming over the one part that’s already painted. If nothing else, the newly primed areas will need a lot less tinted paint!
Walls Go Wherever
The first step was for me to line everything up. By that, I mean, I had to put the walls and stairs in their final positions (without attaching them). This helps me figure out the exact widths of the rooms (so I get the amount of floor right), and helps me work around them (like the bottom of the stairs) when laying out the dollhouse floor.
Also, I want to see how everything looks.
Not bad. Clearly, I don’t have everything quite right (like the blue paint on the second floor), but that’s fine. Once I get the floors and walls set, I’ll cover that up.
Then, I realized something. And, I guess I always knew, but it never occurred to me.
Look at the picture again. What do you notice about the walls?
Yeah. The downstairs one is pushed back, and the upstairs one is pushed forward. I think they’re both supposed to be at the back. Maybe. I don’t know. I guess I could do it this way. Or, pull both walls to the front.
I tried it out with the upstairs wall toward the back.
Ah. That makes more sense now. The blue is less obvious (though you can still see it). And, it means I have to flip the bathroom layout, which is fine.
But, yeah. I think I like this better. If nothing else, with the upstairs wall toward the back of the house, there won’t be a toilet front and center!
Drawing a Dollhouse Floor Plan
I knew there was no way to layout the balsa wood strips on the dollhouse floor and get the measurements I need. I mean, I could, if I was in the mood to cut all the strips while laying them out, which is one way to go. But, that seemed a little scary to me.
So, since I’m a newbie, I decided it would make more sense to lay out the strips, trace their pattern, then measure and cut the floorboards using the tracing as a guide. Technically, I could lay the strips out directly on the dollhouse floor, trace them, calculate the measurements, then cut. But, if I don’t like the direction the floor is taking, I have no way to manipulate the layout. I’ll be stuck.
By tracing the layout on paper, I’ll be able to manipulate the balsa wood strips, adjust the pattern, change my mind, and move things around before I make permanent cuts in my balsa wood.
Cutting to Fit
I started with a regular old piece of paper like this.
As you can see, the space for the dollhouse floor is a little bigger than 8 and a half by 11. So, I’m going to have to make a template for my pattern!
I flipped the paper the other way, but it didn’t fit. It’s hard to tell, but if you look in the lower right of the picture, you can see the painter’s tape peeking up. That’s because that side of the roof comes in just a touch, and makes it so the paper can’t sit flush against the wall when I line the paper up with the outer edge of the dollhouse.
So, I shoved the paper into the space toward the back, to see what I’d end up with. I ended up with this:
That won’t work either.
Instead, I slid the paper under the wall then traced the line where I would need to cut.
For some reason, the line isn’t even. It’s hard to tell, but it gets progressively wider as the line goes down the page. Look. I measured:
It’s not much, but it is annoying. My guess is that I was moving the wall as I held it in place (since it wiggles when you touch it right now). Not a huge deal, but, still.
Make a Hole
In any event, this version works, so I placed it on the dollhouse floor and taped it down. Of course, there’s one problem with this. There’s no hole for the stairs.
I ended up flipping the dollhouse on its back then tracing the hole, so I ended up with this.
Then I cut said lines to get this stair hole.
I taped it in place on the dollhouse floor, but it wasn’t wide enough. There was a slight overlap on the left side (the long side) of the stair hole. I ended up pressing down on the paper until it ripped (which I wanted) and then folded that excess under the rest of the paper.
Then, I had to make a template for the front part of the floor.
That was pretty easy. I just cut off a bit of the end, following the line I drew on the other piece, then placed the new piece on top of the old piece. I slid the new piece back to the front edge of the dollhouse, drew another line, then cut and taped.
Now, time for the hard work.
Piecing It Together
I knew from the last time I played with dollhouse floor layouts that I need a random pattern. Or, at least a pattern that’s not so uniform. So, as I laid out the balsa wood strips, I varied their placement.
After a few of those, I took the whole floor template out of the dollhouse and taped it to my floor. Then I laid out all the pieces out and ended up with this.
To clarify what you’re looking at, these are the full-length balsa wood strips. Even though it seems like they could fit two across on the dollhouse floor, they do not. Also, that would look weird. The white space on either side of the floorboard is where I’ll have to cut balsa wood strips to fit.
But first, I have to figure out what that is.
I’m not too worried about getting these measurements perfect. This template is primarily a guide. It’s a way for me to estimate how much wood I’ll need, and how big or small I need to cut the other boards. Once I cut the balsa wood strips, I’ll worry about getting the perfect measurement.
That said, I’ve got to start somewhere. So, I traced out the full-length balsa wood strips to get a feel for how much additional balsa wood I would need to cut to finish the dollhouse floor.
It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard, either. Mostly, I had to make sure I held the balsa wood strips down as I traced them, so they didn’t slide away from the pencil. When they did slide, they’d knock the other strips out of place, so I’d have to stop and push everything back into position.
It’s tedious, but I’m pretty sure going this route is worth the extra effort.
Here’s what I ended up with.
Now when I go to cut the other balsa wood strips to fill in the edges of the dollhouse floor, I’ve got a decent guide for how long or short they need to be.
I’m not going to lie. I’m pretty impressed with myself.
Also, fun fact! I’ll need about 100 balsa wood sticks for this part of the floor.
Time to Replicate
Then it was time to attack the bottom floor.
I figured I could repeat what I did on the top floor and slide the paper under the wall then draw the edge line. However, and I don’t know why this is so, the downstairs wall is a much tighter fit than the upstairs one. So tight, in fact, I couldn’t get the paper under the wall.
Fortunately, the downstairs doesn’t have that “lip” like the upstairs does. So, I held the paper up to the front part of the dollhouse, measured to the wall then cut. From that point on, it was just like the upstairs.
And, just like the upstairs, there are the other half of the stairs to worry about, but no hole.
I put the stairs in place so I could see where the bottom was. That’s when I found out the hole for the upstairs half was still messed up.
It’s hard to tell, but I didn’t get cut enough out so, as you can kind of see, the template kind of overlaps a part of the top step. I folded said overlap under the template and will adjust my floorplan (ha!) accordingly when I cut the pieces for that part of the floor.
Down the Stairs
Here’s a close up of what the stairs look like where they meet the bottom dollhouse floor.
Narrow, I know. I sure hope real-life stairs aren’t like this!
I did a test measurement, and two balsa wood strips fit easily on either side of the stairs.
I think I can get another strip in between the two. If not, I’ll figure something out.
Then, I traced the stairs, but it didn’t come out right, so I decided to mark them after I laid out the template.
It sounds backward, I know, but this worked better for me.
I laid out the balsa wood strips again, marked them off and got this:
And, just like upstairs, the downstairs dollhouse floor will need about 100 strips of balsa wood.
When I say “100 strips of balsa wood,” I’m just talking about the full-size pieces I traced. I realize it’s going to take more than 100 total strips. My guess is it will take an additional 200 balsa wood strips total to complete my dollhouse floors.
I will tally that up and give you a final count.
Up next is cutting the tiny strips, laying them out on the template, and then likely recutting. Once I get that done, it’s on to dying the balsa wood floorboards.
Exciting times ahead.
Anyone out there done a balsa wood dollhouse floor before? I know some people use popsicle sticks instead? Any pro-tips I should know about?
Chuck McGaffin says
I recently built the Keeper’s Cottage and added “hardwood floors” using a technique I developed over 3 RGT kits last year. My personal preference is to have the floor boards running from front to back vice across the width of the house – that gives me the option of installing different widths and patterns in different rooms and, IMO, enhances the depth of the house. I close the exposed board ends on the finished floor with painted trim that frames the back of the house and also puts a small “stop” on the edge of the floor which my grandkids have told me helps keep furniture in place hear the edges. As to the floor itself, I measure, cut, and lay the boards front to back going from one edge to the other, room by room (I have found that the center hallways look great with full length boards vice cutting a random pattern). Once satisfied with the laydown I use green 3M painter’s tape to overlay the floor segment completely. I then remove it, turn it over and re-tape the bottom completely. The floor should now be stable and ready for finishing. Turn it over and remove the tape on the top surface and apply stain and acrylic top coat, etc. This process also does a nice job of darkening the gaps between planks for a more aged look. I then glue the taped floor into its room and install baseboard molding and the edge cap.
Thanks, Chuck! That’s great advice.
I didn’t think about running the boards from front to back. I have no idea why. I like the idea of making the Keeper’s Cottage look “deeper” with that technique. I haven’t cut the upstairs boards yet so I might give that a shot. I’ll let you know what happens.
Hi. What kind of glue did you use? I bought a cute Westville house second hand. The loft floor is balsa strips. The strips are lifting. What glue do you suggest?
Mini Newbie says
I tested wood glue and tacky glue. I ended up going with wood glue because it had better “stick” if that makes sense. I think it was because I was glueing wood to wood! I wrote a whole post about it (well, three posts, actually!).
I had a similar problem with the balsa wood lifting (warped boards). I ended up (as you’ll see) weighing the floors down as the glue cured. It might be worth a shot to try sticking some wood glue under the boards that are lifting and weigh them down overnight to see if you get a tighter fit.
There are other kinds of glues that would get you the “stick” you’re looking for, but the flip side is if you ever want to change the floors, unsticking them will be rough.
Good luck, and let me know how it turns out!