Thursday, October 25, 2012

Blasting beats like a roombox

I've been making slow progress on the roombox. Glacially slow. But things should be moving along steadily from here-on-out. I hadn't decided on a final design when I was out for materials, so I grabbed what I thought I'd need for the basic structural idea in my head. I have about 4 brain cells and they're all fighting with each other, so you know how that goes.

I knew I wanted it to be sturdy, versatile, electrified to my specific needs, and easy to photograph/work in. I figure I'll likely spend equal amounts on electrical components (or more, 'cause that shiz'expensive) as I do building materials.

The foundation plan was/is pretty simple. The base is a piece of carving wood from my late-grandfather-in-law's abandoned woodshop. I wanted it to be semi-self leveling, and raised off the work surface. I already had some big bolts with plastic covers that I'd picked from a guy's storage unit (my inner pack-rat knew I could use them someday). All I needed were matching nuts (for the leveling base) and handles so I could pick it up and move it anytime, anwhere, and in any state of use. I picked up the 4 nuts and 2 handles at Lowes, along with a short 3/4" poplar board, a small sheet of 3/8" birch ply,  and a chunk of 1/4" acrylic for the walls, ceiling and windows respectively.
I didn't have any larger scale wood products at home to work with except for the 1/2" x 4' x 8' ply that we couple with sawhorses to play beer pong. Wouldn't dare slice into that precious piece, as I've got a party in the works. So I figure my materials purchases were justified, totalling about $30-40.

Here's how I make stuff. I draw a pathetic sketch, like such:

Narrow down measurements/angles/details on graph paper... real professional-like.

Then start cutting stuff with reckless abandon.

I was going to leave the carving block foundation rough to retain the character of the wood, but ultimately decided I should sand the big burrs off and smooth the top surface. This needs to be an easy space to work with, and I don't need splinters snagging on any area rugs. I used tung oil (100% unprocessed natural tung oil, 1:1 mixed with citrus solvent) to give the wood some soul back. This is a very old piece of wood, from what was once a very big old tree. Wouldn't want it looking too fresh. This is a TinyFixation original after all. We (me, and all of the voices) like things to look warm, worn, 'lived-in', yet polished and put-together. I love the way this came out. Now I have to try not to screw it up. No pressure.

The side walls will be made with the 3/4" poplar. I would've gone with a nicer hardwood, but the walls are getting painted for utility's sake. And it's already going to weigh about 500 lbs. as is. Poplar is light as air, compared to walnut. I plotted out where I wanted the height of the walls. I wanted some lofty ceilings, but not so high that they trump 1:12 scale. Since the ceiling would be slanted, and my poplar board came in a convenient 24" length, I decided on a 10"/14" split. That makes the lowest point in the ceiling 10", which is the lowest that my humongous hands can handle, and is the same as in the dollhouse.

I figured the angle for the tops of the walls, and set the table saw blade. Skimmed through the board. And boom! Friggin' walls, dude.

Ceiling was next on the punch list. Less precise on the measuring, though. Totally eye-balled it. I used the lovely 3/8" birch ply for this. Sure I could have used something thinner, but there's going to be hella-electrical up there (so much, that even I'm dreading it). It probably won't be as bad once I get started and make some diagrams, but I'll admit I'm nervous. Here's why:
In my grand vision for this place, the ceilings are going to be natural wood. And I use tape wire. And I need 9 ceiling outlets (to accomodate any space-plan/furniture arrangement/room type). So all of that will be hidden in a coffered-style treatment. Kill me now. You can read about that future debacle in the coming weeks (I think it will be disatrous enough to warrant a separate post).

Anyways, back to the ceiling. I kept the angle consistent on the side edges, just so it looked more finished/planned. Although it is a craft project, I'd prefer if it didn't look like one in the end. The basic style of the project is glam-modern-rustic-industrial-cabin. Whatever the hell that means.

But for lighting and aesthetic reasons, I really, really wanted a 'glass' wall. You know, like this:


I wanted a seamless realistic look where the window wall is concerned. So I went with a routed channel in the poplar walls so the acrylic could slide right in. No sloppy glue.

And I bought this super-thick acrylic, because I don't appreciate wobbly crap. It states on the label that it can be cut with their special knife. Bullshit. Maybe the 1/8" plexi, but not this thickness. Glad the knife only set me back $5 (and 3 precious hours, so far). Still haven't made it even halfway through the sheet (which is when you're supposed to be able to snap it along the line you've scored). They should re-word the label to read:
"Being that it's 10x stronger than glass, this shit's virtually impossible to cut. But you can try our dull knife to scrape through it, like trying to scrape your way out of a concrete prison wall with a plastic butter-knife. Should only take about two decades. May the odds be ever in your favor."
So I'm about to slit my wrists with this Godforsaken 'knife', but I want that acrylic wall so. damned. bad.
I ended up making it happen with  a tool I got on sale for $1. A new razor saw blade. It scraped faster. I got halfway through and then applied some pressure. The stuff snapped as advertised. At least the label said one correct thing.

Once that wall is in, I can attach the ceiling and start wiring.

Also, in the name of sturdy, quality TinyFixation construction, I doweled the walls into the foundation. Overkill might as well be my middle name. However... again, 'Look, ma! No glue!'
The walls have been primed pre-electrical install, to be formally painted once the wiring is laid down.

Pardon my goofy background. I'm having something better made. It's going to look awesome. I hope.

There's even an outdoor staging space.

The rear view. I couldn't bring myself to sand off the 'graffiti'. It just didn't feel right.

The C-channel trim on the acrylic wall will be painted to look like aluminum.

I want to do the tung oil finish on the ceiling, then shingle the roof and paint it with a gray chalk paint. The walls will likely be painted *gasp* gloss white. It will make them harder to photograph bare, but easier to wipe clean and put-up and take-down wallpaper options. Which is my preferred method of dollhouse wall covering anyhow. I'll make cardboard templates of the walls, so that papering is a snap.
The exterior will either continue the white gloss, or, as it turns out I have a bottle of dollhouse stucco lying around. So I might go with that. Too much shiny paint might send me over the edge.
I suppose it all depends on the amount of work involved. The exterior and roof are last on the priority list.

The entire thing will be held together with 6 screws. No glue, nails, etc. and it will all come apart into pieces easily for maintenance. The only parts that will stay permanently fixed together are the two poplar walls and the ceiling. I'm psyched everything worked out so far.

 If it all comes out as planned, it should be perfect for my projects. I'm dying to see it finished!

I just have to survive electrical. And trim.


  1. Oh wow, I love this, looks really professional. Love the view from the inside, even with that backround :D

    1. Thanks! I'm loving the view too. I'm basically building my dream cabin in the woods in 1:12.

  2. This is great. I love the details that make it easy to wallpaper and take apart. I use the 1/4" plexiglass frequently. I just cut it on the table saw and sand the edges. Those little "knives" are useless.

    1. Dammit! I asked my husband if I should use the table saw, and he replied: "You know dear, there IS such a thing as being too aggressive." From now on I'm listening to my friends. *facepalm*

  3. Be still my beating heart...I love it!

  4. Very cool! The handles are a great idea!

    1. Thanks!
      I think they'll really make things easier. I hate when I have my big dollhouse all set up for pictures, then have to move it for lighting. Clunky, heavy, mission impossible. It always looks like robbers ransacked the place after a 12 inch shift. I guess I'll have to build something to fix that problem too.
      I'm taking no chances with this roombox!

  5. Thanks for the tips about cutting "glass." I've scraped for hours myself and gave up. Now I will try again. :D

    I absolutely LOVE your design! The base and the roof are pure genius! You could sell these. Really!

    1. Glad someone could learn from my mistakes, that's why I write about this stuff! Awesome.

      And thanks, I might!

  6. omg. i love it!

    as for electrical, have you seen those little dressers/credenzas that you put batteries in? they have holes in the back to plug stuff in. it's worth a shot.
    They're not cute but you're smart enough to take all the stuff out and make your own from the bits.

    1. Thanks! Those dressers are definitely convenient. I might try tearing one apart, that's a great idea! I was planning to build a credenza in the coming months, so maybe :)

  7. Brilliant! I love the glass wall idea.

    And I was thinking of you and your mad skills yesterday. I just got a dollhouse kit at Goodwill, and it didn't come with instructions, so I just end up staring at the pieces like an idiot and then walking away. I need you to come over! :)

    1. I love Goodwill. I bought my entire wardrobe there.
      What kind is it? Big, small, colonial, victorian? Mail me that thing!

      You can totally do it. If you know the brand and model, you might be able to find the instructions (or at least pictures to work from) online. Worth a google :)

    2. It's a tiny Victorian...hopefully I'll get brave and make an attempt soon.
      By the way, I have something to ask you... Would you mind emailing me? christina [at] littlevictorian [dot] com Thank you!

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