Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Connecting two Barbie houses, part two

Unlike many other projects I have, I have actually been working on this since I wrote about it last. Mostly I've been thinking about it, what finishes I want, where I want the rooms to be, how to make it cute but withstand a toddler, etc etc.

I kind of got hung up on the wiring aspect of it. I would really like to have it as a house where you flip a switch and lights turn on, but after a lot of research, I've decided to stick with battery-powered LED puck lights that you push to turn on. Womp-womp, anticlimactic, I know. First, there's cost. It's not really expensive, or it doesn't have to be, but nor is it what I'd consider super cheap. The wiring supplies alone run about $35 (you can get them for 40% off at Hobby Lobby if you want to make multiple trips, of course) but the hardest part, in my opinion, is finding dollhouse lights that don't look ridiculous in a Barbie house.

Let's say you're doing round wiring, not tape wiring. First, you have to collect all your light fixtures, and it's much easier to find those in 1:12 scale (dollhouse scale) than 1:6 scale (Barbie scale). If you decide to make all your fixtures that's more time added, assuming you decide on something that's a little involved (always the path I choose). You decide all of your lights are going to be hard-wired--you can wire dollhouse lights to have little outlets in the room the light goes in, but you decide against that because you know this is for a three-year-old. You have to carve your channels for your wire (not the easiest thing in this house), take the tiny plug-ins off the wire on your light fixtures, run the wire, put the tiny plug-ins back on your wire, plug everything in to a dollhouse power strip, figure out a way to hide the power strip so your daughter can't yank the cords out, wire the power strip to a transformer lead-in wire with a switch (because there's a switch on the tiny power strip, but you don't want your toddler messing with that), wire it to a transformer, and finally plug it all in. Also, this particular Barbie house is open on most sides which makes wires harder to hide, though I do plan to change some of that. The thing that really decided it for me was when I realized that the only outlet in the room was pretty far away from the house and the cord would either be stretched taut or wouldn't reach at all. If you want to do it, I think this is a pretty good tutorial, and it shows you how to make pretty simple Barbie scale light fixtures.

Baby Girl has four LED puck lights in there right now. I think they all run on three AAA batteries, and I have worried about their lifespan. I need to change to rechargeables in all of them because some are starting to dim. They still have whatever cheap batteries they came with right now. If not rechargeables (they take three AAAs each and I'm 99% sure we don't have that many) then at least something better quality than what's in there. The thing I don't like, though, is that I bought different brands and the LEDs are obviously different color temperatures. Also, they're not the easiest thing to push on in the positions that they're in, and I had to kind of stick them in weird places based on where the ceiling was flat enough for the adhesive on the backs to work. Here's a shot of where they are in the kitchen. I forgot to get a picture of the other side.

The back one is pretty dim because the batteries are going dead, and you can see that they're just stuck wherever. I haven't decided yet if matboard would be an acceptable ceiling material or if I should go for some 1/8" plywood. I'm afraid matboard would crease when you push on it to turn on the light.

Here's a shot of the lights from the front. These pictures are all kind of deceiving and I'm a little shocked that they're as bright as they are. It's pretty dark in the toy room and these don't do a good job of showing that.

I'm getting way ahead of myself, though. There's a lot to do before we need to worry about lights. First we need to worry about setup. I never really liked the way I had it last time, so the best way to deal with that is to change it. I've been working on insulating the joist spaces in the basement and had a 30x96 piece of 1" rigid foam insulation left over. I put it on top of the piece of MDF the houses currently lived on and tested the layout I had decided on.

They might be a little too far apart.

I also toyed with the idea of multiple levels, like a sunken living room or a raised front yard so Barbie could have a pool. Raising the front yard would require raising the whole board, so I'd need to have almost another full sheet of insulation. Of course it should be easy to add later, which means it won't be. I still haven't decided which way I want to go on this. I do want to leave this side with two layers of foam.

I'm going to trim it down so it's not the full front-to-back width of the board, though. It's supposed to be a function of the house, not of the board. I'm not sure if I'll just have a step on the interior side or on both the interior and the front.

You can see here that there's already kind of a built-in step.

I was thinking about trying to recess the house into the foam so that little lip at the front is more flush with the "ground" and also as a way to keep the house in place, but I'd want the step and the foam to be the same depth, and I don't think they would be. I'll have to measure, but if I can't recess the house fully then I'll fill in under that front lip with some scrap foam and make that part of the foundation.

You may have noticed that one of the front doors is missing. I thought I had a spare, but I don't. At some point, the little tiny plastic piece that holds the door into its frame got broken off. I don't know how because it's seriously a tiny plastic dot roughly the size of a pin head. But anyway, it's broken, so I have to do something to build that back up. Maybe a cut-off pin head heated and stuck in there? That's another thing that I'll have to do some guessing on.

I'm going to have to put this on the back burner for a few weeks; my mom's birthday is next week so I need to work on her gift. I assume I will post about that sometime before June, but these days, who knows?

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