Make a Simple Roombox from Baltic Birch

  • 01 of 10

    Make a Simple Dolls House Roombox from Baltic Birch Plywood

    A group of different sized roomboxes laid out to make a simple dolls house.
    Simple plywood roomboxes can be joined or placed in a cabinet to form an expandable dolls house. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Roomboxes have a long tradition amongst dolls house miniature collectors. They are a simple way to show off a collection as you build it. Less expensive than starting with an entire dollhouse, they are also a good way to build up a child's dollhouse collection as their interests change or develop. A childs doll house collection can be built room by room, to be housed in existing furniture until the entire collection can be linked in a single case.

    If you plan for the future when you build your...MORE first roombox, you can create a collection that will fit in an existing bookcase, or be built into a complete house. As a collection of roomboxes grows, it can go into a special baby house or a particular piece of furniture. If roomboxes are designed to be a standard size, you can create a village of one and two story shops or houses by attaching the roomboxes together.

    On their own, roomboxes can be left without fronts, fronted behind standard picture frames, or build with sliding glass tops or fronts to protect them from dust. As your skills grow, you can create opening fronts with windows and doors for shops or simple buildings. All are built on a simple box plan.

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  • 02 of 10

    Assemble the Materials for a Plywood Dolls House Roombox

    Baltic birch plywood pieces and a picture frame ready to make a dolls house scale roombox.
    Baltic birch plywood and a picture frame are two of the materials needed to make one style of a dolls house scale roombox. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Materials for a dollhouse roombox:

    • Plywood I used 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) Baltic Birch plywood as it is lightweight, sturdy, good on both sides, and is easily cut with little splintering for the insertion of windows and doors. Available from craft stores and online suppliers in small sheets or in full 60 x 60 inch or part sheets from a good lumberyard / scroll saw supplier.
    • PVA Glue White glue or carpenters (yellow) glue.
    • Clamps Corner or framing clamps hold the sides at right angles, but you can use...MORE quick release type bar clamps if you make sure the joins are square.
    • Dolls House Scale Windows or Doors If your project requires them
    • Picture Frame if you want to finish the top or front of the roombox with a frame, choose one which has a deep enough reveal to cover the edge of the wood you use, or you may need to insert a piece of mat board to cover the room box edges. The frame, with glass inserted, should also be deep enough to allow you to friction fit it over the front of the box, then hold it on the box with a hinge or clasp.
    • Iron On Veneer Edging to finish exposed plywood edges.
    • Wood Mouldings If you will not be using a frame and want a sliding glass front, you need wood mouldings which will create a channel to hold a piece of glass in place. You can cut down an L shaped moulding for this purpose, or use a square molding with a narrow piece of rectangular strip or picture molding glued on it to cover the glass edges, yet allow it to slide.

    Useful Tools

    • Table Saw to cut wood pieces to size. If you do not have a saw, you can buy plywood in pre cut sizes or ask a lumberyard to cut it for you.
    • Jig saw, jeweler's saw or coping saw to cut out areas for windows and doors if you want to install them
    • Drill or rotary cutting tool, to cut starting holes for saw blade when cutting out windows.
    • Flat file and sanding block to square corners
    • Steel square or protractor.
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  • 03 of 10

    Plan The Design and Measurements for A Dolls House Roombox

    Two sizes of roomboxes laid out to make a dolls house that will fit in a bookcase.
    Two sizes of roombox can be laid out to create a simple dolls house. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Do you want a single roombox or a collection? - If you want to give a series of roomboxes to a child which will grow into a house, plan the full size collection. How many rooms wide and high? Will it need to fit a piece of furniture? Most standard dolls houses have two large rooms separated by a stairwell or smaller room on each floor. Townhouse designs may have a large room with a smaller stairwell. A house can be up to three floors high.

    I am planning for one main room size, with a smaller size...MORE for a stairwell. These will allow me to collect either a townhouse or a full house depending on how many rooms I build.

    Planning for location - If your roombox will need to sit in a bookcase, what is the depth and width of available space?. My box will have a plain front frame. I need the box to sit on a standard Swedish modern bookcase shelf, 10 1/4 inches (26 cm) deep. A front façade or picture frame must be part of this overall depth measurement when the box is complete.

    Using pre built components - If you plan to use standard picture frames for the fronts of your roomboxes, your measurements will be dictated by the available frame size. I want my boxes to fit standard 9 x 12 inch interior frames. This lets me use precut 9 x 12 inch glass for fronts or lids. The smaller box size will be 9x7 inches to match the main box, and allow me to work inside the box. I will cut the stock picture frames to fit if I wish.

    Other measurement issues to consider - What will the contents of the box be? How much space do you need for special miniatures; a piano, a four poster bed? Do you need doors or windows on interior walls? Will that leave space for large pieces of furniture? How high will your ceilings be? Although modern houses often have 8 foot ceilings, these seem small in a dolls house. Something closer to 9 inches usually works better in scale.

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  • 04 of 10

    Measure and Mark The Pieces for a Baltic Birch Roombox

    A simple picture frame encloses the front of a dolls house scale roombox which fits on a bookshelf.
    A dolls house roombox made from Baltic birch plywood fits inside a picture frame on a bookshelf. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Determine Measurements

    Your decisions from the previous step will determine what measurements you will need for your roombox. Here is a sample of my measurements in case you need help.

    The height and width of my roombox are set by my decision to cover the front with a standard size picture frame. The ceiling and floors will take up 2 x 1/4 inch which is 1/2 inch of the space inside my frame. This means the sides of my box will need to be 8 1/2 inches tall.

    To fit on my shelf with the frame on the...MORE front, the box sides will be 10 1/4 inches deep. I need two pieces of plywood 8 1/2 x 10 1/4 inches for my roombox sides.

    The width of the box needs to fit inside the 9x12 inch picture frame. The overall width available is 12 inches. (my frame has 1/8 of an inch extra width and height which gives me room to fit the frame over the box front when it is built) I need two pieces of plywood for the floor and ceiling which are 12 inches x 10 1/4 inches.

    The back of the box will fit inside the sides and the ceiling and floor for strength. The back needs to be 8 1/2 inches tall by 11 1/2 inches wide.

    Mark your cutting lines

    Make sure you mark your measurements square and accurate. Use a steel carpenters or engineers square if you have one, or check your lines with a school protractor if you don't. Your room box will be joined with a simple butt joint , and your sides must be square. Plan on cutting on the waste side of your measured lines (on the side you don't need!) Saw blades will use 1/16 to 1/8 of wood as they cut through it. You don't want to lose that width from any of your measured pieces

    If you intend to use a glass top, you will not need the same number of pieces I used.

    If you plan to use sliding glass fronts or tops, see step ten before you complete your measurements, especially if you will be using pre cut pieces of glass from a framing shop.

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  • 05 of 10

    Test Fitting Roombox Walls Into a Picture Frame

    Side and base of a dolls house scale roombox test fitted into a picture frame.
    Test fitting the pieces of a dolls house scale plywood roombox into the picture frame which will cover the roombox front. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    When you have your pieces cut, test fit them inside your picture frame if you are using one to make sure the pieces will fit the opening. If you are not using a pre built frame, proceed to the next step.

    If necessary, sand the pieces to fit.

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  • 06 of 10

    Test Fit the Baltic Birch Roombox Pieces

    Plywood sides, top and floor of a simple roombox, test fitted by taping them together.
    Test fit the walls by taping them together before you glue up a plywood roombox. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Test Fit Your Roombox Walls, Roof and Floor

    To make sure everything is square and ready to glue together, use masking tape to hold the pieces in place for a test fit of the room box pieces. You don't want to prepare to fit the windows or glue the box until everything is a tight, square, fit.

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  • 07 of 10

    Measure For Windows and Doors In Your Roombox

    Center lines for a dolls house window and door marked on plywood sides of a 1:12 scale roombox.
    Locate the center for any dolls house scale windows or doors you want on the exterior of a roombox, then mark the cutting lines. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    If you are going to install windows or doors in the walls of your roombox, measure the center line of the window or door back from the front wall. I eventually want my roomboxes to join together to form a house, so I want two doors in the smaller hallway boxes and a window on side of the roombox, which is centered on the door. I have set my doors and windows so that the edge of the doorframe is two inches in from the front of the box, leaving space for a piece of furniture. Using the door, I...MORE measure the opening needed for the door , and mark the door's center.

    To make the window center on the door on the opposite wall I use the door center measurement, and mark the same distance back from the front of the side, on the window side of the box. Now the window opening can be lined up with the same center as the door on the opposite side.

    Check the height, remembering that the base of the box will be up against the side, so your door opening needs to be at least 1/4 inch taller than you expect, when measured from the base of the side piece. Take care to mark the openings for the windows and door at the correct height for the floor. To get the door height, you will need to know what thickness of flooring you are likely to use, and mark the door opening so that it will allow for that thickness of floor. Some doors already allow for that height by the thickness of the frame. If you will need your door adjusted higher or lower, make sure you mark the correct opening size. Windows are often set so the top of the window is level with the door, or so that the window is the equivalent of 30 inches from the floor. Mark only the size of opening you need to set the door or window in place. Do not mark the door or window openings to include the surrounding trim. Any uneven edges will be covered by the trim after the door or window is in place.

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  • 08 of 10

    Fit Windows and Doors In a Roombox

    A dolls house window and a door set into the sides of a plywood roombox in 1:12 scale.
    Measured openings have been cut and a dolls house door and window test fitted into the sides of a plywood roombox before it is glued up. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Use a drill or a rotary tool (Dremel or similar) to cut a starting point for a coping saw or jigsaw. Insert the blade of the saw through the hole you made and cut the window opening. (make the hole just back from one of the window corners, and cut to the corner to make it square.) Use a file and a sanding block to make sure the corners are square.

    Cut out the opening for the door and square the top corners the same way. You can cut your door opening directly from the base of the side piece of...MORE wood. You do not need to leave a narrow strip of plywood along the bottom of the door.

    Test fit the window. If the opening is too large, you can shim the window into place from the wrong side. The trim will cover the shims.

    Test fit the door and make sure it swings through the opening, leaving enough space below the door to fit the flooring.

    Correct the fit if necessary

    Check the door trim Check the thickness of the door and window trim while you are fitting them to make sure they do not push too far into the room. You may need to trim back the unfinished side of door and window casings so that they are not too thick for the ¼ inch Baltic birch walls. The amount you trim back may need to be adjusted for the thickness of your wall coverings.

    Plan Wiring Runs If you want to have working lights in your roombox, plan how the wires will run. Will they come out the top of the box, run up the walls or along the baseboards? If you will be covering tape wire runs by putting your wallpaper on a piece of card to install it, you may need to leave a wider trim on your unfinished window and door casings to allow for the extra wall thickness.

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  • 09 of 10

    Clamp and Glue the Roombox Pieces Together

    Corner or framing clamps hold the sides of a dolls house roombox at right angles .
    Corner or framing clamps are useful for gluing the sides of a plywood roombox at right angles while the glue dries. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Run a thin bead of glue along the top edge of one of the sides and clamp the top of the roombox across the top of the side, lining up the front and back edges and making sure the corner is square. Use two corner clamps, evenly spaced along the glue join (as shown in the photo above). Repeat with the other side and the bottom of the box. Wipe off any glue that appears from the edges of the join with a damp rag. Set aside to dry.

    Run a bead of glue along all edges of the back of the box, and the...MORE unglued end of the box sides. Lay the back of the box on a flat surface and clamp the final edge of the sides to the base and top, holding the back of the box firmly in place. Check that all sides are square, wipe off the excess glue, and leave the box to dry.

    When using pva glue on plywood butt joints it is important to apply pressure to the join while the glue dries.

    Use an iron over a piece of silicone (baking) paper, or a teflon coated iron, to firmly iron veneer edging onto the unfinished plywood edges at the front of your roombox. Use a sharp craft knife to trim the edges of the veneer when it has set firmly.

    Set your roombox into the picture frame for the front and check that everything fits correctly. If your roombox will have a frame, it may need feet on the underside of the back of the box, to balance the size of the frame on the front. Measure the depth from the base of the box, to the bottom edge of the frame and create two feet for the back of the box from scraps of plywood or appropriate sized wooden beads. To protect a shelf surface, glue a small bit of felt to the bottom edge of the feet. Don't glue the doors and windows in place until you have finished the wiring and the interior (and exterior) walls.

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  • 10 of 10

    Add Channels for a Glass Roof or Front to Your Dolls House Roombox

    Wood trim ready to glue together to make an L shaped channel for glass on the front of a roombox.
    Fit pieces of wood trim together to make an L shaped channel to hold a piece of glass against the front of a dolls house roombox. Photo ©2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

    Determine which direction you want the glass to slide out. This section of the box will need only the decorative molding in place, not the narrower channel spacers.

    On the three sides which will support the glass glue a strip of 3/16 inch wide basswood which is slightly thicker than glass you intend to use. These strips of wood will be the channel spacers. The 3/16 inch width will be glued even with the outer edges of the plywood roombox, leaving a 1/16 inch ledge on the inner edge of the box to...MORE prevent the glass from falling back into the display. Glue these pieces so they line up with the outside edge of the box on all four sides. Only the end of the piece from the adjoining side will line up with the outer edge of the box on the opening side. Check your pre cut piece of glass fits between these three channel spacers, or measure the opening with the channel spacers in place to determine the measurements of the glass you will need.

    When you know your glass fits and will not fall back into the box, take a piece of wider strip wood or a piece of half inch picture moulding, and cut lengths that will fit together with mitered corners to cover the top or front of the box, if set even with the box's outside edge. These pieces of molding will cover all four edges of the box top or front and will hold the glass in place on the front like a frame. Test fit all four pieces to make sure they are square and line up properly. Glue the molding together in the corners to form a frame. When the frame is dry, glue it to the channel spacers, checking that the corners of the molding on the edge where the glass slides out are securely glued to the channel spacer on the top and bottom. If you do not need to add a molding to the opening side, you can cut the top and bottom molding sections square with the open edge, just like you cut the channel spacers.