Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

Oh Lordy, what do I do with the stairs?

So back when I was still in dry fit for the side walls & 2nd floor I had to make a decision about which way to orientate the hole for the stairwell. The stairwell hole is 4.5 inches from one side of the floor/ceiling and 5 inches from the other.

The San Franciscan instructions direct you to place the floors with the 5 inch span towards the back. This is because this kit has been made to have the stairs facing towards the back.

Now, while this is great for playing, for realism, not so much. I’m sure in the old Victorians of San Francisco the staircases faced the front door. Like this one.


Of course, I figured I could just reverse this and I’d be able to fit the stairs in the opposite direction…. Wrong! When I assembled the Dura-craft provided stairs they did not leave any room between the front door and the first step.

Dura-Craft Stairs Forward facing.JPG

I mean there was a tiny space but it wasn’t a realistic space. Certainly not enough space to open the door or have a doorway to the kitchen at the front of the house.

So I sighed and decided to just go with the kit version and I glued my second floor in as per the instructions. I was disappointed to say the least. Because even in this version there was not a lot of space at the bottom of the stairs.


I went on my merry way and glued on the bay window floors. Now, I didn’t know it at the time but this was the point of no return for the staircase hole. Before that, I could have turned the walls around to the other side and changed to the 4.5 inches toward the back. Once the bay floors were in I was committed to the 5 inch set up.


A couple of days later I was still annoyed with the stair situation.

I’m not a fan of the Dura-Craft stairs, they are too big in my opinion. More like playscale stairs than 1:12 stairs. Also the ones in my kit are damaged (alot are missing the lip) and frankly a bit wonky. I decided to purchase a standard 1:12 staircase kit and see if that improved the look. Or even let me turn the stairs back around.


Ummm…. No…. These were even worse than the Dura-Craft stairs for the front facing option. I’m sure my decision to have 5 inches to the back didn’t help but I don’t think half an inch was going to help this situation. LOL

So I tried them rear facing.


These stairs look better than the Dura-Craft ones but there is still no space at the bottom of the steps. Even less than with the San Franciscan stairs! There has to be a better option.

Time to hit the trusty interweb 🙂 for some research. Trolling around on EBay I saw some more realistic 15 step stairs which I would have loved but I had a gut feeling they were going to be too long.

Then I remembered that Otterine had used a “Narrow”Houseworks staircase in her Haunted Heritage. I wondered if that would work for me also as the Heritage is also a Dura-Craft dollhouse, so I bought one.


Heaps of room rear facing. 🙂

Now the test of forward facing.


Oohh.. It’s tight, this is where I really could have used that 1/2 inch!


Yikes they just make it!


Narrow stairs it is!

I decided to try them with the kitchen door at the rear because this set up is feeling really cramped & crowded.


This is clearly the better option for the front of the house.



Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

Internal wall & what about doors?

I decided to try out some internal wall & door options today. I really would like internal doors between the rooms but this kit didn’t provide for them. I’m sorry, but no door on the bathroom & Bedroom just isn’t an option! 😉


As you can see I’ve propped a standard six panel internal door in the front door opening to help me decide the internal layout. I kinda like it. Might have to upgrade the doors from those ugly Dura-craft ones.


You can also see that I’ve attached the 2nd floor bays ceiling/floor pieces. At this stage the second floor has been glued into the side walls.


The first floor bay window walls have also been glued in, but everything else is still in dry fit.

I attached a standard internal door with trim to the internal wall and it looked great,but it left the wall overhanging the back foundation.


So I decided that the door would have to be altered by removing one side of the door’s surrounding trim.


It needs some sanding to even it up but this will do for now.

Now to test it.


I like it, but it is now a little bit short. I added some popsicle sticks between the side of the door and the wall to shim out a little bit for a good fit. This will all be covered by door trim so it doesn’t matter what it looks like.


Next step is to deal with the opening above the door. I will need to pack out the wall to fill this section. No point having a door with a void above!

I’m using a foam core/mat board combo for this. The only down side of this process is that these internal walls will need to be wallpapered or covered with panelling to hide all this modification. I prefer plain painted walls, so it’s a compromise.

I measured the foam core on the door/wall mock up. See my little cuts. 🙂


Then I cut two pieces. Messy I know but I oversized them a little bit so I will sand them into shape.


I taped them together and fit them in place.


I had to do some minor adjustments.


Then I tried it out. It fits!


And with some cornice held in place.


If I go with this option I’ll have to do something about the finish where the two door frames meet. I’m not sold on having the door to the kitchen right behind the front door but there is only one other option and that is to have the door right at the back of the wall.


I do like that position better, but have concerns about stability given that it wouldn’t have another wall to butt up against.


Also which way would the door open? Either way it’s going to impede the view when it’s open. Maybe it’s never open. Ha!

Any opinions are welcome but may not be listened to… lol

Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

First dry fit & Houston we have a problem!


So I decided to dry fit the first floor just to see how it all goes together. I know, I know, my left side wall is leaning dangerously into leaning tower of Pisa territory! I will have to do some gentle persuasion of parts (read forcing) when it comes time to attach the third floor. 🙂

I highly recommend this process, as it will show you exactly what you’ve missed. For example, I’ve now noticed that the wall with the front door cut out in it will have its sides exposed in the house so I need to paint those! Who knew! LOL

What it also showed me is that I have encountered my first “issue”.

This house consists of 6 bay window pieces that have a rebate in them to attach to the foundation. The dry fit was going swimmingly until I got to the sixth piece.



Looks fine right?…. Wrong!!

The miter angle for this part to fit to its neighbour is in the wrong direction. It should angle back behind the milled clapboard not out from it. This is what happens when you try to fit it.



It’s obviously a production error, it looks like it’s gone through the mitering process upside down. There is only one way for these pieces to fit due to the direction of the clapboard and the rebate for the foundation. Unfortunately because this is a vintage kit there is no way to get a new part. Let the problem solving begin.




It’s not only a problem because now the milled siding doesn’t meet up at the front of the bay. There is a flow on effect of it now overhanging the side wall area which means the sidewall then overhangs at the back and doesn’t meet up at the front with the rest of the building. You can see in the picture above the piece should finish at the join line on the floor.

Below is how the side wall now sits. Ummmm… No!


So I decided to start sanding the mitered edge off. I know it’s not going to solve the aesthetic problem but it will at least allow the wall piece to be shortened enough to allow the side wall to fit.


If this was the SF 555 there would be trim to cover these corners and this wouldn’t be a problem. I’ll probably just fill in these joins with some kind of wood filler/putty/spackle and then add some sort of trim similar to the 555 because I am not spackling in simulated clapboard! lol


Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

More painting and fixing parts

Remember these?


These are the trim pieces for the top of the tower and let’s just say, they’ve seen better days.

I have been attempting to make these look a bit better today. First I filled the holes with spackle.


I then sanded and painted them. And this is what they look like now. 🙂


This is the really bad one. You can see that it still needs some work, but it’s so much better than it was. I’m quite happy with it, given that my theme is an old Victorian with a shabby rehab. 🙂

Repaired Tower Trim 1.JPG

Here are all the Tower trim pieces together. They scrubbed up alright. You can see the badly damaged one at the bottom with the top right corner still missing. I figure this will get repaired in-situ as I’ll be able to spackle it to it’s neighbour and sand the join.

Tower Trim painted.JPG

I also painted the window gliders today, and some miscellaneous trim just to get me through the first floor windows.


Just realised my foot is in this shot! 😛

I haven’t decided whether to use the kit doors or not, so they got a coat also, just in case. 🙂

Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

Building the Foundation & Painting

So today’s tasks included building the foundation and painting all of the milled pieces of the dollhouse with undercoat/primer.


First order of business is a dry fit of the foundation pieces. Everything is there!

First glued piece. Whoohoo!… Dollhouse milestone!

Now that I’d determined I had all the pieces. I glued the front bay/veranda section to the main floor.


Then I glued all the side sections on starting from the back and working forward towards the bay (The centre strengthening pieces is not glued at this point). I then checked everything was square and left it to dry.

I umméd and ahhhed about this step because I really would like to build that basement garage and though I would be better off cutting new pieces of basement to the right height.


I bought this plywood that is a similar thickness to the MDF in the kit & a handsaw. I have the first floor piece clamped to it in this pic because I was using it to measure the back and side walls I would need to cut…. This was a hopeless failure.. lol… I couldn’t even cut into this board with the hand saw, let alone in a straight line! Back to the drawing board….

In the mean time I finished the foundation as it was kitted. Trying to figure out the basement was holding me up and I can always add smaller extensions to the basement later if I can figure out a plan. One thing I do know is that if and when I do a basement it won’t have internal stairs. This is a bit of a bummer because I prefer realism in miniatures, but there is no way I could cut a stair hole in the main floor without specialised tools. I’m just telling myself that the garage would have been a later addition to the crawl spaces of these Victorian houses and not everyone would have gone to the expense of adding an internal staircase.. ;). It wouldn’t be unusual, I would think, to come out of the garage and up the front steps to access the house? No? The other room in the basement will now have to be utility or laundry or workroom I suppose. Or it could be a studio apartment that the owner of the San Franciscan rents out for extra cash. 😀


Wha – La! Finished foundation!.. We are off and running. 🙂


I painted all the milled MDF parts and most of the other MDF parts in primer because this is old wood and the paint is going to sink in. It took three coats to get decent coverage and even then there were a couple of dodgy spots. I have since put a fourth and fifth coat on of Dulux Antique White USA in a semi-gloss/satin finish. This was a compromise because I prefer a flat finish, but I did it with cleaning in mind. 😮


While I was building the foundation I also punched out and dry fitted the first floor windows (the second & third floor windows are a different shape so harder to punch and I ran out of steam..) and also the first & second floor doors.


I have a clamp on one of the windows because the wood has split and warped and I’m trying to flatten it out ready for paint.


The door instructions advise that you have to sand the pivots at the top and bottom into the semblance of a circle.

I’m not sure if I’m going to use these doors or Houseworks ones, but I’ll prep them anyway just in case.


The doors come as two pieces that you place the window pane in between. I taped them together as they would be when finished and then started sanding.


Not too bad. The intent is that the door will swing better with the rounded pivots.


I sanded them all and gave them a first coat of primer.


Some of them are still pretty rough though.


I’ll sand them again before the next coat but to be honest this is supposed to be an old house so the windows having seen better days fits with the shabby chic theme I’m going for. 🙂

Can you see that some of the windows have wider side walls than others? That’s on purpose. You put one of the skinny ones with one of the fatter ones and the overlapping fatter wall becomes the piece that slides in the channel trim to create opening windows. Ingenious method, but it means you have to be careful not to go overboard on the sanding.. lol


Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

Sorting the SF557

Time to start sorting my parts!


Here are some of the 557’s  MDF pieces. In this pile are the:

  • Internal room walls (top of pic)
  • The attic floor (long piece with bevelled edge)
  • The small front gable triangle front & roof pieces (with the routed section)
  • The Bay Window’s Floors/Ceilings & 2nd Floor Veranda Floor/Ceiling
  • The foundation edges
  • The Tower Walls
  • Some of the Bay Window walls

The large piece of ply they are sitting on is a piece I bought as a base for this project. So that I can add some landscaping around it. 😀


Here we have:

  • Most of the ply sheets containing the windows, doors & fretwork/trims.
  • The window vellums… not sure if I’m going to use these. I’m not a fan of the printed detail. :/
  • The two large pre-milled side walls.
  • The roof pieces hiding underneath the walls (note the routed edges)
  • The front walls with the doorway cutouts
  • And the main gable (under the front walls)

All of the channels and corner trims came in lengths that you have to cut to fit. They were just in the box like this! I hope everything is there! Well, if not there is an online shop called Manchester Woodworks that makes Dura-Craft compatible parts. Phew!


The rest of the items came loose. I haven’t counted everything in this loose pile because I may not even use some of it. I may upgrade to custom items… not sure. (Some items are not pictured below because I started to assemble a set of stairs as I’m dubious about the scale of them & their state of repair… lol)

Then there is this HUGE bag of shingles and that magic brickwork bag that scares the heck out of me!… Apparently you apply the stencil (not pictured) and then mix up the orange plaster and paste it over the stencil. Ummm… No…


Not only do I not like the “fake”brick look, but it strikes me as an incredibly messy process. I intend to use either egg carton bricks following a tutorial by Otterine or Andi’s mini cut stone.

And lets not forget the instructions! Not that I’m likely to follow them too closely. 😉


Posted in Dollhouses, The San Franciscan

So the San Franciscan it is!

The Vintage San Franciscan arrived safely from the USA!

So I decided to build the San Franciscan 557 by Dura Craft first… I was in two minds about this as I really have some fun ideas for the Heritage and after reading Otterine’s blog on her amazing Haunted Heritage, I’m dying to get started on it (no pun intended  :D). But as this is my first dollhouse build, I’ve decided to use the San Franciscan as a test house of sorts.

There are several reasons for this …

  1. It is basically a square shape.. Not withstanding the bay window & tower at the front. Interior decorating & trimming should be relatively easy.
  2. In my mind at least this will be an easier house to build because it has MDF pre-milled solid sides (less prone to warping with age which hopefully means less wrangling.. lol). The heritage is also pre-milled (not MDF), but comes in pieces of tongue and groove that you have to slot together and then inside some corner guides/channels. From what I’ve read during my research, it can be quite challenging. The San Franciscan has just enough of this channel & thinner ply wood used on the bay windows for me to gain some skills but not enough to derail me… I hope.. haha!
  3. My intentions for the Heritage are a bit more ambitious and include a bash to make a third floor & perhaps some changes to the porch. I’m really more excited about the heritage build, but I fear my ambition outweighs my ability :)) so I think I need a bit of practice before starting that build. I’m hoping the San Franciscan will be fairly forgiving… Having said that, I have read the horror stories of Dura-Craft working windows though and the San Franciscan has a LOT of windows! I guess we shall see. 🙂 I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I want to be able to do what I want to build to the Heritage, to a good standard.
  4. This is a really pretty house with a lot of architectural detail, I think/hope it’s going to look fantastic once it’s complete… if there is such a thing in minis. I intend to build this kit essentially out of the box. I have no great plans for modifications other than to perhaps replace the doors with houseworks ones and maybe turn the stairs around/replace the stairs. Being a 557, it’s design doesn’t allow for a lot of customisation, so their won’t be any unique roof additions or extra windows & balconies. That is,  unless I can get the local Men’s shed to do my carpentry.(Might have to bake them some cookies 😀 ) I don’t have the tools or the skills to make cut outs in solid MDF.

Having said that I would like to add a basement to the house containing a garage and a basement room (use to be determined). So that this looks like the row houses you see in photos of San Francisco. Not sure if I’ll be able to pull it off though.

Look at these beauties! (source Wikipedia & Pinterest)

Don’t expect my San Franciscan to be a traditional painted lady like these above. Mine will be all white on white like this lovely house below.



Can’t decide if I want a Black roof, a grey roof or if I’ll leave the shingles their natural wood colour. But I will be having a stone foundation. I’m not using the magic brick that comes with the kit. First of all the kit is vintage so who knows if it’s even still good. Also from the look of the bag in the kit it’s a really messy process prone to error for a klutz like me so, I’d rather not, thank you! lol.

So I opened the box…

Wow! Lots of pieces… Mansion in Minutes?… I think not!

Some of the pieces are damaged, which I will need to address at some point. As you can see a couple of the tower trim pieces have some serious issues..


I most likely will try to fill these parts with wood filler/spackle and then rely on some heavy duty sanding to get them back into an approximation of their original shape.

The stairs in this kit come as separate treads and don’t seem to have any railings. The lip on the treads of quite a few of them has broken off.


I will probably replace both staircases with kit stairs, as although I could probably cobble together one staircase out of the “good”parts, they are a different scale to most 1:12 stairs and two different sized staircases would look weird. I also want my staircases to have railings so it’s probably easier just to get kits. On the up side, the front porch stairs seem to be intact, which is great because they are longer than your usual stair and I don’t know how I would replace them. I’d probably have to get creative and make my own out of foam core and kit scraps.. eek!