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Back-to-back Victorianna staircase

I decided to “save myself some work” by using Houseworks staircases in the Victorianna, instead of building the kit stairs. I don’t know if it really saved me any work, but the first floor stairs are finally finished and they look good!

I started by gluing strip wood to the side of the staircase, to make up for the prefab stairs being slightly narrower than the kit stairs. Then I glued the staircase assembly to the wall, using clamps to hold it in as it dried.

Possibly because the kit pieces are slightly warped, the staircase is not quite at a 45-degree angle and a little crooked. At the bottom, it overhangs a tiny bit into the space where the back wall will be, so I’ll have to sand down the strip wood there to allow a good fit. The crookedness shouldn’t be noticeable once everything’s put together, however you can see that the bottom four stairs are slightly off from the stair cutout built into the wall.

The bottom two were the worst, and I cut pieces of strip wood to add to the fronts to mask the discrepancy.

Next I got to work on the treads. I couldn’t use the ones that come with the stair kits, because the bottom four need to be slightly wider, and the rest of them won’t have spindles and therefore don’t need the pre-drilled spindle hole. (If I were painting them maybe I could have filled the holes with wood filler, but I’m doing dark stained treads.) I went to the dollhouse store looking for strip wood the same dimensions of the tread — 1/16″ thick and 7/16″ wide — and, guess what, that dimension doesn’t exist in commercially available strip wood. Bah.

I bought a grab bag of 1/32″ black walnut veneer off eBay thinking I could use it for both the staircase treads and the hardwood floors. Turns out it’s not going to work for the floors (more details here) but it worked for the treads. Since the wood is half the thickness of the original staircase treads, I cut two pieces for each tread and glued them together.

Then I stained the treads with Minwax Natural, which enhanced the dark color of the wood.

I cut these with scissors and ended up with some not-quite-straight edges due to the grain, but they’re close enough to being square, especially considering they’ll be very hard to see once the house is put together.

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No mess hardwood floors made from wood veneer

I’m almost done with the Victorianna stairs (the first floor, anyway) but here’s a quick post in the meantime.

Besides finishing the stairs, another task that needs to get done on the Victorianna before I can move forward with assembly is laying down the hardwood floors in areas that will be inaccessible once the back is on. In the past I’ve used coffee stirrers and skinny sticks, but my hardwood flooring of choice has become LittleWonders Lumber, which is basically packs of 1/32″ veneer cut into flooring strips. This stuff is vintage and impossible to find.

Okay, how hard could it be to make my own? I bought some 1/32″ black walnut veneer off eBay. There were two lots – five big sheets, and an assortment of little pieces. I used some of the little pieces for stair treads and planned to cut up the rest into strips for the floor.

It worked pretty well for the stair treads (as you’ll be able to see soon!) but for floorboards, not so much. I’m not sure if it’s just this wood or I’m cutting it wrong or what, but when I went to cut my boards, the blade got caught on the grain and I ended up with very raggedy edges. I tried it both with the paper cutter and with an Xacto knife, and my floorboards just didn’t have the clean edge of the LittleWonders boards, as you can see in the pic below (the bottom board is LittleWonders).

Disappointed, I revisited the idea of using coffee stirrers, but when I stained them with walnut stain (to match the black walnut stair treads) I didn’t like the color. Plus, the round edges need to be cut off each stirrer, and then the boards have to be cut down using a saw as opposed to using scissors with the 1/32″ veneer — much more labor intensive.

Now, this isn’t my first time buying veneer. I got some “micro veneer” last year that’s very thin and has a paper backing. It cuts easily on the paper cutter, and I’ve found some good uses for it — like the countertop in the artist’s cottage — but because it’s so skinny the “boards” didn’t have any depth, so I didn’t like it for hardwood floors. (That’s why I made a point of buying the 1/32″ veneer this time.) But since I had it lying around, I figured I’d give it a try.

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Back-to-back Victorianna: starting assembly

If I’m moving at a snail’s pace with the back-to-back Victorianna, it’s only because this house requires so much thinking! Once it’s put together, some spaces (like the staircase) are inaccessible, so I have to do everything I want to do there before I put the back on. But, some spaces (like the hallways that link the two sides of the house) need to be finished once both sides of the house are assembled, to avoid seams and obvious gaps where the two kits meet.

So, a lot of the time between my last post and now has been spent just trying to wrap my head around what needs to be done, in what order. Last time I closed with epoxying the piece that will allow me to alter the roof line. Here’s how it turned out. After taking it out of the jig, Geoff did some sanding to neaten up the edges where the epoxy squeezed through.

The other side, which was against a piece of wax paper, actually came out cleaner. It looks messy but the epoxy dried smooth.

Since this house is made to hang on the wall, the back piece has two holes to hang it from. In the regular plywood kit these are punch-outs so I left the pieces “punched in”, but in the birch plywood version the holes came already punched out.

To fill the hole, I found a dowel the right size.

I cut off a skinny piece, glued it in, and then sanded it flat. I would have liked to do this with the other hole but some glue had squeezed through when I glued the two back pieces together and dried there, so the dowel wouldn’t fit. On that side I used wood filler (which took several coats since the hole was really too deep for wood filler).

Now, time to defile my nice epoxyed-in piece by cutting it up! I wanted to connect the two sides of the third floor with a hall lined up above the hallways I cut downstairs, but that would have left the back piece with a big gap all the way up the middle and I was concerned about stability.

Instead, I decided to put a door farther to the left. This will be the master bedroom and the door leads to the master bath. I’ll probably make it a “Jack and Jill” bath with another door off the bathroom leading to the rest of the third floor on the other side of the house.

Geoff used the jigsaw again to cut the hole for me. I promised this would be the last one for a while.

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Back-to-back Victorianna: cutting pieces

Before I can start assembling the back-to-back Victorianna, I had to figure out where I wanted to cut holes for additional windows, hallways, etc. I scrutinized the dry fit from every angle and drew in the holes I wanted. The first one I tackled is the first floor passthrough from one side of the house to the other, which will be next to the fireplace.

(Note: this wall is technically going to be in the center of the house, but I’m going to refer to it as the “back piece” since that’s what it’s supposed to be in the original kit and I have to call it something…)

For some reason I thought this would be easy to do with a utility knife. But even after many slices, I hadn’t broken through the plywood and my hands were starting to hurt. The birch plywood is definitely stronger than I remember luan plywood being the last time I messed around with a die cut kit.

I finally managed to get the first hole cut, figuring I could clean up the edges with a file.

Here you can see how the hole will be positioned next to the fireplace.

I placed the birch plywood back piece on top of the luan plywood back piece and traced the hole, so it would be lined up correctly.

The luan plywood was a bit easier to cut, but it also splinters more easily. Besides filing the crooked edges I will need to do some clean-up with wood filler. But here’s how it looks now that you can see all the way through.

And from the living room side.

I was grumpy from cutting holes with the utility knife so I took some time out to play with furniture. Here’s what I’m thinking for the living room.

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