Make Opening Doors for Dollhouses and Other Model Buildings

  • 01 of 08

    Use the 'Sandwich' Method

    Simple dolls house door with window and panel trim.
    Finished dolls house door made with a three layer sandwich construction to set glazing and basic panels. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Make custom dollhouse doors using craft wood or bookboard/binder board and handtools. Use this technique to make doors for other model buildings too. You only need flat wood stock -- it requires no special molding -- to make a range of doors with glazing or panels featuring a variety of trims.

    With this method, you'll insert hinges between the center layer and the outer trim to hold the door in place. The weakest points of a dollhouse or model building door are the tiny pins that hold the hinges in place. Solve that structural issue using the "sandwich" method. While it takes a bit of concentration and planning, sandwiching the hinge between the center of the door and the trim will give your metal hinges extra support. You can also make door hinges using scrap metal from tins or cans, or from thin sheet brass.

    An alternative method is to hinge doors with plastic, fabric or thin leather hinges glued inside the door. View the technique in this example of a miniature stable, which will also work well for dollhouse door hinges. You can also build other parts for dollhouses and model buildings. 

    Continue to 2 of 8 below.
  • 02 of 08

    Gather the Materials

    Materials used to make dollhouse and miniature scale doors for model buildings.
    Craft wood and acrylic glazing used to make a miniature door in dollhouse or model scales. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    This door was made from standard-sized craft wood strips to fit a 1:12-scale room box. To make smaller doors, adapt the materials to suit the size of door you need. For doors smaller than 1:24 scale, use various thicknesses of card or binder board and construct the door with parts cut from the card instead of very thin wood. Use veneer tape to make doors for 1:48-scale dollhouses or 28-millimeter gaming buildings. For 1:12-scale doors, all materials should be 1/16 inch thick. For 1:24-scale doors, the materials should be 1/32 inch thick. Gather the following materials to make the door:

    For a 1:12-Scale Door

    • Craft wood, 1/16 inch thick by 2 9/16 inches wide by 3 3/16 inches tall
    • Glass or plastic glazing for a photo frame, 1/16 inch thick by 2 1/16 inches wide by 3 inches tall.
    • Strip wood, 1/16 inch thick by 1/4 inch, various lengths
    • Strip wood, 1/16 inch thick by 3/8 inch, various lengths
    • Strip wood, 1/16 inch thick by 1/2 inch, various lengths

    For a 1:24-Scale Door

    • Craft wood, 1:32 inch thick by 1 9/32 inches long by 1 19/32 inches tall
    • Glazing material, 1/32 inch thick by 1 1/32 long by 1 1/2 inches tall
    • Strip wood, 1/32 inch thick by 1/8 inch, various lengths
    • Strip wood, 1/32 inch thick by 3/16 inch, various lengths
    • Strip wood, 1/32 inch thick by 1/4 inch, various lengths

    To make the hinges stronger, use fabric or metal. If you want to use a pin for a hinge assembly, you can add that later when you make a door frame.

    Continue to 3 of 8 below.
  • 03 of 08

    Use Assembly Plans for 1:12 or 1:24 Scale

    Printable plan for the parts layout of pieces of a dolls house door with a window and panels.
    Printable plan shows the layout of the pieces to make a 1:12 or 1:24 scale miniature door. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    To make the doors easier to build in standard dollhouse scales, print these plans from the following PDF files. (You'll need Acrobat Reader to download them.)

    • Plans for a 1:12-scale dollhouse door
    • Plans for a 1:24-scale dollhouse door

    The plans are to scale, so you can lay out the parts for your doors and check that they are the correct size. All cutting lengths are included on the scale plan. You can adjust the scale by reducing the size of the 1:12-scale door if you want to have a printed layout upon which to build your door.

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  • 04 of 08

    Cut the Pieces

    Parts for a dollhouse door laid out on top of a scale plan.
    Parts for a dollhouse door with a half window and bottom panels, laid out on the scale plan. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Use the PDF printable file from the previous slide to determine what lengths you need to cut from the strip wood and plastic or thin glass. To make play scale doors for a fashion doll scene, double the size of the plan for the 1:12-scale door.

    Use a razor saw or craft knife and a steel ruler to cut the pieces of strip wood to the correct lengths. Be as accurate as you can with your cuts, using a miter box or a square to ensure that your cuts are at right angles with the edges of the wood strips.

    When you have cut all your strip wood to the correct lengths, lay the pieces out on the plan to check the lengths of the wood, and sort out where your pieces go in the construction of your dollhouse or scale model door.

    Glue the glazing and center panel, along with the pieces that surround the glazing, for the center of the door, lay the trim pieces on one side of the door center and glue them in place. Set the plastic glazing and the remaining trim pieces as indicated in the plan to hold the glazing and the center panel in place.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Glue and Clamp the Center And Trim Sections

    Trim and center sections of a dollhouse miniature door glued and clamped together.
    Miniature door for a dollhouse, center and one trim section glued and clamped. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    Gently sand any rough edges of the door with fine sanding paper on a square-edged sanding block, and test-fit your parts on the printed plan. You will have one central section for each door and two sets of trim pieces, one for the inside of the door and one for the outside. Lay the pieces out on wax paper or plastic film overlayed on top of the plan, or set the parts up in a magnetic gluing jig and glue the parts together, leaving the window section unglued. If it helps, clamp the parts in place, set the window in its proper position, and avoid using glue at this point.

    Depending on your working style and how accurate your cuts are, either glue the trim sections that you have laid out on top of the plan or glue them to the center section once it has dried, lining up the edges of the trim with the edges of the center of the door.

    To fit the trim pieces to the door, line up the long edges with the edges of the door, then fit the top and bottom trim pieces. Next set the panel divider in place in the center of the panel, fitting it against the bottom trim, then add the center trim that will cover the base of the window, fitting it against the center panel trim.

    Glue the edges of the trim pieces where they fit against other pieces, and use a glue spreader to apply an even layer of glue to the base of the trim pieces to glue them to the center section of the door. Wipe any excess glue off the door with a damp cloth before it dries.

    Use white or carpenter's glue to glue the door parts together. Glue the wood sections for the center of the door, then glue the trim pieces to one side of the door only. Do not glue the final set of trim pieces on the back of the door yet. Set the glued sections aside to dry.

    Continue to 6 of 8 below.
  • 06 of 08

    Check the Fit

    A recess to hold the glazing for the dollhouse door is formed when trim is applied to the center.
    With the trim applied on one outer face of the door center, a recess is formed for the door glazing. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    With the trim applied to one side of the door center, you will have a recess to fit your window glazing into. Check that your glazing material fits into the opening left for it before you add the rest of the door trim to the final side of the door. If it fits, remove any protective film covering before you set the glass or plastic in place.

    Many plastic suppliers, photo shops or framing stores carry thin acrylic sheets suitable for dollhouse windows and doors. It is often sold in small sizes to fit in photo frames. If you want a slightly frosted effect, buy nonglare acrylic sheet. If you want it to resemble glass, choose normal acrylic sheet.

    If you are going to recess fabric or brass hinges, measure and mark the area for the hinge, trimming a small recess with a craft knife for brass or leather hinges. Fabric is usually thin enough so that you don't need to trim the wood to hold it. Fabric hinges are best if they run the full length of the door rather than just in the areas where you would find a traditional metal hinge. If you are using metal hinges, use epoxy glue to hold them securely into the door. Check that the barrel of the hinge will work freely -- especially when you apply the final trim -- and that the door opens in the correct direction.

    For standard hinges made with pins through the door surround, you will not need to do anything to your door as you assemble it.

    Continue to 7 of 8 below.
  • 07 of 08

    Fit the Glazing Into the Door and Apply the Final Trim

    Acrylic fitted into the window recess in a dolls house scale door.
    Acrylic glazing is fitted into a recess formed when trim is applied to the center of a dolls house door. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    If your dollhouse door window fits neatly into the recess in your door as shown in the photo, remove the protective covering from the acrylic and glue the final pieces of the trim over the glass and onto the door as you did on the other side of the glass and center panel. If your glazing section is too large, adjust the plastic by sanding it gently with fine sandpaper, or sand the edges of the recess where they push against the window. Fit the window into the recess as tightly as possible. If your glazing is too loose, use a bit of museum wax to hold the window in place. If the fit is very loose, you may need to cut another window section.

    Continue to 8 of 8 below.
  • 08 of 08

    View and Check Your Work

    Dolls house door in cross section showing sandwich layer construction.
    Dolls house door in cross section showing the three layer sandwich construction method that holds the glazing in place. Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

    When you have glued the final trim pieces to the back of your dollhouse or model door, you should have a door with a fitted window securely held in place in the door and neat panel trim defining the inside and outside edges of the door. You can see in the cross section view in the photo on this page. If you fitted metal or fabric hinges into your door, they will show on the edge of the door as well, glued to one side of the center section.

    Alternatively, lay sections of strip wood over the center door panel to make doors that look like they are made of boards. As long as it works for your particular scale, this is the easiest method of constructing doors. You do not need a wood with router cut channels to make these doors. You can use molding trims around the edges of the panel areas if you wish to add more detail to your doors. Experiment and see how you can copy traditional panel doors using this simple sandwich construction method.