The Miniature Guide to Building Materials for Dollhouses

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Today I wanted to share a complete guide to all of the different miniature building materials you can use for dollhouses. This includes wood, paper, plastic, metal and more. Understanding the properties of these different building materials can help make your miniature hobby a LOT more enjoyable!

When I first got into building miniatures, I was lucky to come from a mixed media background – Over the years I’ve dabbled in all sorts of different mediums and I learned a lot from watching both my Dad and my husband working on the life-size scale items like building shelves or working on cars.

While miniatures are a lot less daunting than welding parts onto a car engine, it’s definitely important to know what kind of materials work for what, and of course know what types of glue and paint will work with different items.

In this post, I’m going to cover the basics for ALL of these, so hopefully this will help you when it comes to building dollhouses and doing your own DIY dollhouse furniture in the future!

Here’s All the Different Dollhouse Building Materials You Can Use:

Let’s get to this list and start understanding the many different properties of each!

Wood

Wood is one of my favorite things to work with when building miniature dollhouse furniture, such as this miniature potting bench I made.

Working with wood in miniature isn’t too difficult, but it’s definitely important you have all the right tools for getting started. My list of miniature tools covers most of the different items I use, but at the very least you’ll want to have a good set of clamps and some sandpaper!

You can use many different types of wood in your miniatures, but I typically stick with pine because it is much softer than hardwoods such as oak or maple. I most frequently use large tongue depressors, craft sticks, and dowel rods in my building projects.

Because working in miniature makes it very difficult to nail items, wood glue is usually the way to go when fastening pieces together. I most often use Elmer’s brand woodworking glue and Gorilla brand woodworking glue.

Wood is porous, so when painting it’s always a good idea to first coat it with a primer such as latex primer or gesso.


Paper & Cardboard

Paper is another common material I use a lot in my dollhouses. Whether I print out something from stock photo sites or I’m making paper books, you can definitely achieve a lot with paper! I’m also including common household cardboard under the category of paper as miniature building materials.

Another popular option is to use paper mache for making your miniatures. Paper mache is fun and simple and I’ve made a few paper mache houses that really came out pretty nice!

One of the secrets to making strong paper mache is to use Elmers Glue-All instead of flour in your paste. See my paper mache recipe here.

You can also use paper for making all sorts of accessories in your dollhouse. Thick cardstock or chipboard is perfect for decorative pieces or even making siding. You can also always make these miniature printable notebooks!

The nicest thing about paper? All you need is glue! I usually use Aleene’s Fast Grab tacky glue with paper, but I’ve recently really come to love Tombow glue as well for gluing paper items together. The pen tip is so nice for precision!

Paper, like wood is also porous, so when painting, use a primer to ensure a better


Foam

Foam is another favorite thing I use a lot of when building furniture and accessories for my dollhouses and miniature scenes. It is sturdier than paper, but a LOT easier to cut and shape than wood!

Foam core boards are also really helpful to use if you are building a paper mache dollhouse. The foam doesn’t absorb the water or glue, so it is much more sturdier and less soggier than using cardboard as a base!


Plastic

Plastic is another thing I sometimes use in my dollhouses, whether it is plastic lids or plastic containers I recycle. We as a society tend to use a LOT of plastic in our everyday lives, so I’m always trying to find ways to use it as a miniature building supply!

Gluing plastic containers can sometimes be a challenge, but I’ve found that most super glue works for almost any kind of plastic-to-plastic bond. If you are gluing fabric to plastic, spray glue can help you get a nice even adhesion without wrinkles.

When painting plastic, it’s helpful to use a multi-surface craft paint. I’m a huge fan of the folk art multi-surface paints!


Metal

There are many types of different metals, and the way I find myself using metal the most often in my miniature adventures is through using old costume jewelry and jewelry making supplies for items such as chandeliers and lamps.

While soldering is always an option, I’ve found that my favorite way to attach anything to metal is to use a metal epoxy such as J.B. Weld.

For painting metal, it can be very hard to get a nice finish. Using spray paint or using multi-surface paints is very important so it doesn’t later peel off.


I hope you find this guide to the different building materials for dollhouses helpful, and of course if you have any questions or would like to know more, just let me know! I’m always happy to help and continue adding to this site as a resource for miniature enthusiasts!

3 thoughts on “The Miniature Guide to Building Materials for Dollhouses”

  1. Hi
    I read all the articles you have on Minature ‘s, Amazing I loved it.
    There is only 1 big problem for me though, whilst you live in the USA, (I’m assuming you do), I am in the UK & we don’t have the same things as you do.
    Is it possible to order items from your list for delivery to the UK?
    An example is Glue, if we have the same Named Glue as the USA, ie,Gorilla Glue, it is Not as strong as yours like a lot of things here, we copy you but in the UK it’s always a case of the item is half the quality but twice the price, like our Glue Guns @ Glue Sticks, the Glue sticks we use are weak & go “Off” like rock & doesnt stick very well either.
    Can you you suggest anything please.

    Yours
    Gill

    Reply
    • Hi Gill, glue guns have never worked well for me either! Do you have Arleen’s tacky glue or wood glues you could use? Sometimes glue is worth paying extra for and a little can go a long way. I am not familiar with any UK products but hopefully someone will chime in with some ideas for you!

      Reply
    • Gill: If you can find Beacon 3-in-1 Advanced Craft Glue…. it is fabulous!! Clear, grabs quick, fast drying, acid free, waterproof…. I have used it on paper, wood, plastic, etc. Even small metal parts on miniatures, beads, and it works great so far on everything! I have to order it online because it’s usually sold out at the craft stores…it is that good! Hope you can find some.
      Christine
      Lewiston, Idaho

      Reply

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