Making a Doll House

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Forum topic by ellen35 posted 10-16-2013 11:17 AM 2982 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2740 posts in 3702 days

10-16-2013 11:17 AM

This is so out of my realm that I’m appealing to my friends at LJ for some guidance.

My landscaper and friend has asked me to help him (that should read – make it while he helps me) make a doll house for his daughter. She is designing it now and he is “sending the plans to Santa”. I will have the expert help of my friend Lorna (moonls here on LJ) but I’d love some advice on what to use for wood… 1/2 inch plywood, 1/4 inch ply ? What to use for the sides, what to use for interior walls, what to use for the roof?

I am trying to make sure this is a “ranch style” that won’t require a second floor as that would completely throw me into a panic! The kid wants a 5 bedroom McMansion but I told him nothing more than 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a bath and a living room. He can purchase the little toilets and sinks as I haven’t the slightest idea as to how to make them. He can also paint everything himself.

I’m conscious of the weight of something like this. She wants it Barbie size and he wants it for some of her smaller dolls. (Oh god… help me on this… I’ve never owned a Barbie!!)

So… if you can suggest the thickness of the plywood for each part and any other suggestions, I’d appreciate it… and no, I will not go out and buy a Barbie… I’d rather have a new saw blade! I know there have been many doll houses on LJ and I’ll be looking at them too. (I keep hoping that she’ll decide she wants a saw blade instead of a doll house too!)


-- "Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Voltaire

8 replies so far

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2859 posts in 3707 days

#1 posted 10-16-2013 11:46 AM

Ellen, I don’t know anything about this but here’s the thoughts that ran through my mind.

If I’m 6’ and my walls are 6” then if Barbie is 6” the the walls would be a half inch thick. Now, I’d think that 1/4 inch would be structurally enough for a doll house (unless your in a heavy snow area) Sorry bad joke. Connecting with glue and maybe routed mortise joints might be easier with 1/2” though.

overlapping veneer strips for siding? Same but darker for roofing?
MDF might be less expensive and look better painted after?
velour glued on for carpeting?

Hey this is sounding more and more like fun…

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View patron's profile


13643 posts in 3610 days

#2 posted 10-16-2013 11:53 AM

don’t panic ellen
this is your chance to catch up
on your own missed youth

as far as the sizes of ply
1/4” would be lighter
but would need corner cleats to hold it together

maybe 1/2” for the ends
and 1/4” for all other walls and ceiling

but what do i know
i’m making a ‘ken’ house myself
but i think the scale might be off a bit

maybe see if santa will give you the new saw blade
before the build
since you still haven’t seen the ‘architect’s’ drawings yet

you two will come up with something nice i’m sure

you always do

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View littlecope's profile


3072 posts in 3771 days

#3 posted 10-16-2013 12:01 PM

I’m no expert Ellen, but you have to begin with an agreed upon scale… The daughter wants Barbie sized, he wants smaller?
I never owned a Barbie either, but she is what, 10 or 11 inches tall? That would be a BIG house!
For Lumber size, 3/8” would work… 1/2” too, but it would be heavier…
If I were doing one, I’d try to replicate the house they live in for two reasons… #1) For future “Nostalgia” and #2) It’s easier to reproduce an existing building than it is to dream-up something new…
It has to open of course… A hinged roof that either folds back or removes entirely will work, and the front has to have a similar arrangement…
Good Luck with it! The bare bones of a dollhouse aren’t that bad, the amount of detail is where the difficulty lies!

-- Mike in Concord, NH---Unpleasant tasks are simply worthy challenges to improve skills.

View mahdee's profile


4051 posts in 2037 days

#4 posted 10-16-2013 12:16 PM

I made a fairly large one for a friend that was a kit. It took me about 2 months to assamble. I wuld suggest going to a toy store or online and get the specs from them. I recall the walls and roof being less than 1/4”. You can make it look really nice by making the shingles out of pin cones.


View jerrells's profile


918 posts in 3154 days

#5 posted 10-16-2013 12:46 PM

1/2 ply might be a little heavy. 1/4 ply had worked for me in the past just use proper bracing. The craft stores (Michaels) sells siding, roofing and other types of items. you can fins the size and scale of Barbie online plus the dimensions of some doll houses for starts. I have the plans for a “BARN” that I build out of 1/4 ply. if you message me with your e-mail I will send if, if that would help.

Best of luck

-- Just learning the craft my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ practiced.

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3573 days

#6 posted 10-16-2013 04:26 PM

well at first your title brought pictures to my mind that i was thinking….Oh No…it cant be, i thought , maybe she has new ideas for what she wants to do for retirement…LOL..LOL… ok enough laughter at your expense, im about to take a nap and my mind is so clouded right now that i can not rightfully contribute.. but i shall return…:)

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View wiser1934's profile


525 posts in 3416 days

#7 posted 10-16-2013 06:34 PM

check out baltic birch plywood. comes in a variety of thickness’. not bad weight wise and very strong. hope this helps.

-- wiser1934, new york

View BDY's profile


17 posts in 2116 days

#8 posted 10-16-2013 07:26 PM

I’m currently in the process of finishing up a dollhouse with my daughter. It’s not for barbie sized dolls but rather about 5 inch tall dolls. I am not sure of the exact measurements off hand as I’m not at home, but it’s about 12 inch deep, by 18 wide and 2×8” floors (from top of floor to bottom of ceiling), then a 45 degree angled roof which gave us enough room for a 3rd floor and a small attic.

Based on that size, I didn’t want it too heavy so I opted for all walls, floors, and roof to be made from 1/4” baltic birch plywood like wiser1934 mentioned, but for stability I used some 1/2” oak plywood I had in the scrap bin for the base. I used dadoes and rabbets to hold pretty much everything together and though I was worried at first it would not be sturdy it turned out quite sturdy and not too heavy.

We are going fairly simple, but I did splurge and get miniature wooden shingles for the roof. It took a lot longer than I expected to shingle the whole thing but it looks awesome. Basically I did one whole side while watching Sunday Night Football (took almost 3 quarters!), then did the other side watching Monday Night Football :)

I’ll see if I can get some pictures uploaded later to help foster ideas, though it surely won’t win any awards for beauty or skill.

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