Friday, 5 October 2007

The start (finally)

My Willowcrest has been sitting in its box, leaning against the wall of my bedroom, for almost four years now. I asked a friend to mail order it to me from the States, when I heard that it had been discontinued. I have always admired this house since I was very young (I am now in mid-40s) and I panicked at the idea that it might disappear forever. However, having got my hands on it, fear set in. I felt very intimidated about the idea of the zillions of pieces, the splinters, the terrible wood, the complex do-it-yourself windows, and the more I looked at other people's Willowcrest blogs, and the excellent Greenleaf Forum, the more intimidated I felt.

So I have been procrastinating for four years, and I am finally going to do it. In that time I have printed off many many tips on how to do it, preparing the wood, etc. etc., I have also purchased the three 'Dollshouses to Dreamhouses' books and the Schleicher 'Creating Dollshouses from Kits' book. I've even collected a whole bunch of furniture, kitchen and bathroom sets, and a big bunch of lights - most of which I am now not going to use because I've decided to do a shop instead of a house.

So I have commandeered the kitchen table and told my family (dh and ds) that it will be at least until Christmas (3 months), ordered a felt backed vinyl tablecloth to protect the dining table, set up a temporary table to eat at (brought the patio table indoors) and I OPENED THE BOX. Scary scary.

What are my credentials? I've been into dollshouses for about 20 years now - I built my first house from scratch when I was 18/19. Since then I have built a few more houses, many room boxes and vignettes, and done up houses built by other people. I live just west of London in the UK, and belong to my local dh club. I've only built one other Greenleaf house before, it was a Fairfield, and I made a right old mess of it when I was about 24 or so. I foolishly believed the instructions and used hot glue (this was in the pre-internet days before you could get so much good advice from other people) and wood filler and lots of other bad stuff - I sold it at a boot sale (flea market) in the end.

So, what have I done so far? (this is Day 2). I have taken all the sheets out of the box, and gone through every one and labelled every single piece in soft pencil. Compared to some of the stories I have read, I have been lucky: I am not missing any sheets, and I had very few 'floaters' come loose from their sheets. Most of the wood appears of relatively good quality. I say relatively because this is not great wood. The wood is not warped (something I had worried about as it sat there for four years).

And I have a plan. I am going to make a three-floor craft shop, so I am going to open up the front like they did in Book 3 of Dollshouses to Dreamhouses, but unlike that shop I am going to try to retain more of the front detailing. I am going to keep both staircases, but lose the wall between the stair and the living room, lose the chimney stack on the 3rd floor, and cut down part of the kitchen wall to turn it into the counter. I am not going to punch the two left side windows, to give me more display space. The kitchen will become the sales counter and office, but the bathroom will stay (for customer use only!).

I went out shopping today (Day 2). I am in the UK, so the nifty products I read about on the internet like Krylon or Deft sealer, or Quickgrab glue, etc. are not available over here. I had to go to two different stores looking for sealer. The first store had never heard of it, the second had a choice between Humbrol 'acrylic spray coating' in Crystal Clear, or Hardboard polyvinyl sealer, or sanding sealer for use under cellulose laquers (?). I went with the Humbrol and have conducted several tests on a scrap of ply (actually one with the fireplaces in it because I am not going to use those) and it doesn't seem to warp the wood. I am waiting for my emulsion paint to dry to see if it goes on over the sealer.

The total damage so far is £19 on a Black & Decker Palm Sander (a neat little gadget called the Mouse, how could I resist), two sample pots of Dulux 'Almost Chalk' paint at £1.29 each, a 3 for the price of 2 offer on filler which netted me Polyfilla 'No Sanding' (good for filling deep holes), Polyfilla Fine Surface filler (fills only up to 2mm) and Polyfilla Woodfiller (you can stain over this); 3 rolls of masking tape, and a can of Colron Wood Dye in Georgian Medium Oak. Total bill: £39.33. Then I went to the other store for the Humbrol spray and a small filler knife and spent another £9.50. Note to self, do not tell dh about this blog (I've hidden the palm sander already).

1 comment:

Sandie said...

Oh, you so remind me of myself when I started about 20 years ago on my first kit - I bought the same books and not having the internet I too agonized over each and every thing. I read all the advice I could find, and spent endless hours sanding and filling to get perfect surfaces. It took me forever, and even when I left it for a while and did a simple roombox that took me forever too! I'm still not speedy on the 1:12th scale kits, but have learned a lot. And I know I will enjoy this project of yours as much as I enjoyed your Fairfield.