August 24, 2009

Timber framing for a dollhouse

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009
Lumber for the new timber framed dollhouse.

I am not going to be creating a real mortise and tenon frame for my dollhouse. That can be done but I have chosen a different method, one of overlaying timbers onto a plywood substrate.

The first task after the basic design is to choose the wood for the timbers. I am using Western Red Cedar. It is technically not a cedar tree, it is a member of the cypress family, thuja plicata is the proper nomenclature for this species. This is a plentiful, tree farm grown, local tree in the Pacific Northwest.

I was fortunate to find some fine grained timbers at the local home supply store. I was hand selecting for fine grain with a little curve running through the boards. They must have fine grain on both the top and side surfaces. My goal is to have it look as if the structure was framed with in-scale trees. You can't use branches for this kind of work, they might be the right width but they don't have enough growth rings to look authentic. The pieces I have just cut have between 25 to 35 growth rings per inch. That is fairly good for imitating old oak timbers, there could be more rings but that is very difficult to find without cutting down an old growth forest.

I started with 3/4" X 1-1/2" pieces and have split them on my table saw. That was the size of lumber I found that day with the right grain. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find 2X4 lumber. If I am going to have the timbers show on both the inside and outside walls of the house I will tape the split halves together before taking them to the bandsaw for further sizing. That way the inside and outside of the piece will be a match.

photo copyright Karin Corbin 2009
In the photo above you can see the way the grain curves within the piece of wood. I use a pair of dividers set to the width I want for my timber and follow along the natural grain lines. Then I take the piece to the bandsaw and cut on those lines. The next step in the process will be texturing the wood. I don't have to worry about table saw or band saw marks showing up as those will be removed in the texturing step.

If I want a straight beam I choose a piece of wood with straight grain. But all the beams being perfectly straight means that my dollhouse would not have a realistic look for the style of structure I am trying to create. See the photo below for an example of using narrow trees on a old structure.
photo copyright Karin Corbin 2008