I shoulda stuck with my original plan and stained the window trim instead of painted it.
I made so many newbie mistakes finishing off that window (PS, it’s still technically not done). But, I’m not mad. Well, I’m annoyed, but not mad.
I learned a lot (which I love). So, next time, I won’t make these mistakes. Of course, now I have to redo a bunch of work. Which is fine. Sorta.
Testing the Roof
First things first. I hadn’t touched the dollhouse since I attached the roof. I’d love to say I was just letting the glue tack, but that’s not true. Life got in the way, so I let the roof “dry” for about a week.
When I was finally able to get back to it, I took off the tape and pulled the roof. As of now, no kids are going to play with this dollhouse (it’s mine mine, I tell you!), so, I’m not worried about a kid killing it. But, I do want to make sure it’s sturdy and will hold together for more than five minutes.
Yup. Looks like a house with a roof (and no shingles). But, it’s sturdy enough to hold, so I’m not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf dropping by and messing me up.
Also, that spot on the roof over the door? That’s from when I wasn’t paying attention when I put that roof piece down. I thought it was water. It’s not. It was something sticky. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that was, so, yeah. Whatever. It’s getting covered with shingles.
Testing Everything Else
Then it was time to dry fit the window (including the shutters) and check the colors. As you might know, I wasn’t thrilled about my color selection. But, since I hadn’t seen everything in a week, I thought maybe things might have mellowed: the colors or my perception. Either way, I was hoping I would like it.
I taped the shutters together with painters tape. Then did the same (kind of) with the window frame and flower box.
It’s hard to tell, but that’s a very loose fit on the window frame. I wasn’t trying to do a true dry fit. I just wanted to see how the colors look. However, when I put the frame in the window opening, it didn’t fit.
I figured it was because of the loose fit and the weird tape job, so I didn’t worry about it.
Then, I stuck the shutters on and the window box.
And promptly hated it.
It’s fine. The colors work. It’s just very cartoonish to me. It’s probably because I did bright and bright on the blue and yellow. Maybe a less bright yellow would have worked. I don’t know. Clearly, colors and color theory isn’t my thing. (Note to self, look into that!)
Trying to save It
I thought that maybe if I put the shingles on, I’d be happier with the colors. Everything together might look better than only some of it together. I did not want to glue the shingles on, so I dry fit them, too.
I took two shingles, held them to the roof using the guidelines then added the tape. Then, two more shingles, more tape, and so on all the way down the line.
It was fine, but I needed more, so I did a second row. I did not follow the guideline for the second row because I wanted to cover the painter’s tape. That said, the shingles look good.
But the house does not.
Crud. I should have stained this stuff.
Fixing it up
I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to redo everything if I could find a combo I like. First, I took some shingles and put them on the large yellow part of the shutter (like the small blue pieces go on) and tried it on the house.
Then I thought, what if I stain the large part of the shutter?
I grabbed some shingles and taped them to the yellow shutter.
Then tried it on the house.
Then, I added the small blue piece.
The colors are a bit off in the picture (and it’s next to the yellow window frame), but this is way better than the cartoon look.
Yeah. I should have dyed or stained the wood the first time through. But, lesson learned.
Speaking of lessons
Side, but important note, for us newbies.
I took the shingles off the dollhouse because, why leave them? As I peeled the tape off the shingles, I found this:
Yup. That’s dye coming off the shingles.
This is very interesting to me. First, these shingles have been dyed and dried for almost two weeks, so I know the color is in the wood. Second, all told I had the shingles taped to the roof for maybe 15 minutes. Call it 20 if you want. And that happened.
Good to know. Maybe painter’s tape and wood dye don’t mix? Or, maybe it’s because the shingles are so thin and delicate that the dye easily comes off? Don’t know. Whatever it is, I’m now kind of curious what will happen with the dye when I put the shingles on the roof. I know tape and glue aren’t the same things, but I wonder if I’ll get some color bleed.
Because I had trouble fitting the window frame in when I checked the colors, I decided to practice assembling and installing the window.
I am so glad I did that.
I would have done this step anyway because practice makes perfect. Also, the instructions say I’m supposed to practice putting it together before I actually assemble it. In this case, I was trying to figure out why the frame wouldn’t sit square in the hole.
When I identified the dollhouse pieces, I know I tested these pieces to determine that yes, these are the window parts. I even half assembled the window, and everything fit just fine. So, I couldn’t figure out why the frame won’t fit in the opening now that it’s painted.
I assumed it was because I had taped the pieces together, and the tape was in the way of the frame. It sounds silly that tape would cause a frame not to fit. But, it is kind of thick and it’s not like there’s a large gap between the frame and the opening. Plus (and you can’t see it in the pictures), the tape was curling up in some places, causing the sticky side to end up where it shouldn’t.
I started by testing the frame. I fit a frame piece into each side of the frame to make sure the piece fit, and the problem wasn’t the opening.
It worked just fine, so I tried each frame piece in each of the four sections, thinking maybe one of the pieces was a touch too long.
No pictures, but, that wasn’t it either. Each piece on its own fit into each side of the window opening without any problems.
So, I tried again to get all four pieces in, and I just couldn’t. So, I said, forget this. I’m moving on to another project.
Staining Painted Wood
Once I decided I hated the yellow, I Googled “stain painted wood,” or something like that. And it’s a thing! Cool.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t dig too deep once I saw results that said, yes, you can do this. That might have been a mistake, but, for once, I don’t think it is.
I started by sanding one shutter. Here’s a side by side of one sanded and one not sanded piece. It’s hard to tell, but the one on the left is sanded, and it really does make a difference. It definitely took off a layer or two of paint.
Ok. Cool. I grabbed my tiny can of stain, shook it to death to mix it, then wet a foam brush with said stain. I applied the stain to the wood, then wiped it off. This is what I ended up with.
It’s still very yellow (which I figured would happen), but there are some brown streaks on it.
Ok. Well, it probably needs another coat.
I tried again, and it looked the same.
I realize I’m staining over paint and it won’t look like stain applied directly to paint, but something isn’t right, here. It’s almost like the stain is rolling off the paint, which it shouldn’t. I sanded that paint! And, it’s craft paint. It’s not like there’s fancy finishes or pigments in it. This shouldn’t happen.
Trying another approach
Since the back of the shutter isn’t painted, I’ve got a blank canvas. Perfect! I wipe the stain off the front, flip the shutter, and apply the stain.
Here’s what it looked like pre-stain.
It’s not totally blank. I sanded off the paint as best as I could then stained this side.
Here’s how it looks.
Yeah. That’s pretty dark, but it looks, well, wrong. I know it’s MDF, but now it just looks like dark MDF. If that’s what I’m going for, great. But it’s not. I want it to look like, you know, a wooden shutter. Yes, MDF is wood, but I want wood grain, not wood “stuff.”
Maybe paint really was the way to go?
Maybe it’s the stain
One of the things I noticed with this wood stain is that it’s very light. Translucent, even. That’s cool, but not what I want. I wanted a light brown tone, but not see through.
The window trim is made of solid wood, and there’s a “back” side I haven’t painted. So, I figure I can test the stain on that and see if the problem is the stain or the paint. I grab one of the pieces, apply the stain, then wipe. Here’s what it looked like.
No, I didn’t sand the excess paint off beforehand. I just wanted to see what would happen with the stain. As you can see, it’s very, very, very light. Clearly, that’s from the color I picked. I knew it was light, but I didn’t realize it was that light!
So, wrong stain color. Good to know. Going forward, I’ll have to pick up something way darker.
Either that or my technique was wrong. I suppose it’s possible I was only picking up the delivery agent in the stain and not the actual pigment. I mixed the you know what out of that can though before I used it, so I don’t know. I’m going to test that theory another time.
In the meantime, I still can’t stain MDF.
Looks like I’m headed back to the store for paint. I don’t see any other option here.
Fixing the Window
Since my paint and stain plans went out the window, I decided to go back to the window. I’ve got to figure out why the pieces suddenly won’t mesh.
I look at it from the inside and do the same thing with the frame pieces, fitting them in each side of the window opening to see if I can see a problem with anything.
It’s fine until I get to the last piece and end up with the same problem.
My next thought is that maybe the frame is supposed to go in the other way? Which doesn’t make a lot of sense but, maybe I’m wrong. I’m just a newbie, after all.
Here’s a screenshot of the Keeper’s House from Real Good Toys.
Nope, I’m putting it in the right way. The “large” part of the frame goes on the exterior. For fun, I try it the other way anyway, but I still can’t get the frame together in the opening.
What is happening?
Now I’m annoyed. The pieces fit individually, just not together. The only thing I can think of is that the frame pieces, when assembled, are a tiny fraction too large for the window opening. It’s the only thing that makes sense.
I decided to assemble the window frame (on the table), then measure it from outside corner to outside corner. I’ll compare that measurement to the measurements of the window opening and see where the difference is. My bet is that I’ll have to cut the opening a little bit to make the frame fit.
I am not looking forward to that.
Taking two pieces, I hold them together. I did not tape them this time. Taping the pieces is too loose and won’t give me an accurate measurement. Obviously, I’m not going to glue it. Instead, I pinch the corner together with two fingers and measure.
Lining one corner up with the zero mark, I make sure the corner connection is flush, then measure down to the other corner. The plan is to do this for all the possible combinations and see where the error lies.
The first connection is swell, and I measure. But, and I don’t have a picture of this, no matter how I line up and pinch the next corner, it will not stay flush. There’s either a gap at the corner fitting or the piece goes out (meaning it’s no longer a square opening. It starts to turn into a trapezoid).
Something isn’t right at that corner.
I flip the piece and check out the corner. This is what I see.
That’s one of the many layers of paint that dripped down the side. As you can see, it’s created a raised surface on the edge. Even if you can’t see it, trust me, it’s there. I can catch my fingernail on it.
This is why the corners won’t connect properly.
When I finished painting the trim, I noticed those raised areas and figured they weren’t a big deal. It’s just paint, right? Newbie mistake.
Fixing it up
Sanding the paint off is the only way to fix this. I started with 150 and 220 (fine and superfine grits) because I was afraid of sanding down the wood and ruining the edges. But, it just did not get the paint off.
Eventually, I got over my fear and used a larger grit. If nothing else, I figured I could just buy more trim. Not ideal, but that’s what happens when you mess up.
The paint sanded right off.
Much better. I ran my fingernail against the paint and sanded until my fingernail didn’t catch.
Trying again and again
With the paint drips sanded off, I dry fit the window again.
Three pieces in and I’m looking good.
Then, I hold my breath and put in the fourth piece. It slides right in.
Well, the biggest thing I learned this time is that dripping paint is terrible for connecting edges! I had no idea that the measurements on these were so exact. While, I should have expected that, still.
I also learned that I can’t stain MDF. Or that my staining technique sucks. I’m not sure. It’s something to play with going forward.
Beyond that, all of my mistakes were kind of expected. I knew before today that I wasn’t in love with the colors and my playing with the pieces confirmed that.
I’ll head to the store soon with the shingles to try and match the color with some new paint. Then I’ll paint the shutters (again!), only this time, I’ll wipe the drips!