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Brr! It’s cold outside! So I’ve stayed in and learning a new technique for creating wooden floorboards for my dollhouse. And the best part is, it uses something you see around you every day – coffee stirrers!
- wooden coffee stirrers
- I bought a 1000-pack from Amazon. Be careful to get coffee stirrers with square ends. I didn’t, and I gave myself a lot of extra work, cutting off the rounded ends 🙁
- hobby knife I also used a box cutter for a few cuts
- wood glue
- sandpaper or a sanding block
- a disposable brush
- wood stain or paint
- optional a fine-tip Sharpie
- a floor surface (either a room box or dollhouse) I had a length of plywood lying around that I decided to test my technique on
Step 1 – Decide on your floorboard lengths and pattern
I did a little research and learned that, when laying floorboards, you should avoid ‘H-joints’. Essentially, every other row shouldn’t line up with other, but rather the rows should be staggered in a much more cascading way.
I found this picture to help explain things:
Notice that in the 2 patterns, the top 2 rows are the same, but after that, the correct method has a lot more staggering going on. Of course, your method is up to you, but I like the authentic nature of having more staggering going on, so I chose to copy the top method. I printed off this picture to help me as a guide while I went.
To do this, I decided to cut 4-inch lengths of coffee stirrers for the main floorboards. My coffee stirrers were 7 inches long, including the rounded edges, so this gave me a few extra inches per coffee stirrer for smaller boards, which I would need for the edges of the board.
Step 2 – Cut the coffee stirrers
Coffee stirrers are thin and can be snapped easily by hand. But if you don’t give the stirrer a little guidance, they will splinter badly. I recommend placing an Exacto knife mark on each side in the spot you intend to cut and then gently snapping. This should eliminate the splintering.
Then sand down the newly cut edge. Voila! You have a tiny floorboard!
I needed 16 4-inch floorboards to cover my 2.75″x7″ length of plywood, as well as 11 smaller pieces. Presumably, if you are covering an entire room, you will need a lot more! Get comfortable with your Exacto knife. 🙂
Step 3 – Glue the floorboards in place
I ran a thin line of wood glue down the back of my first floorboard, spread the glue out with a brush, and placed the floorboard in the middle of the piece of plywood. I pressed down briefly and wiped away the traces of glue that seeped out. I then glued 2 smaller pieces on each side. They stuck out over the sides, but that was fine for me because I will be cutting off all the extra pieces later. If you are gluing into a particular room with walls, you should, of course, cut the side pieces down to size first.
I then prepped 2 more 4-inch floorboards. I placed them so that their seam was exactly in the middle of the first floorboard. They both extended slightly over the edge of my plywood.
I prepped another 4-inch floorboard. This is where it got tricky. Instead of placing it directly below the first row (which would create an ‘H-joint’), I staggered the pattern slightly, placing it a quarter-inch to the left of where the first row floorboard is placed. I then placed 2 more side pieces.
I then continued like this all the way down the work surface, being careful to stagger the pattern on every row.
Step 4 – Sand and Finish Edges
After placing the last floorboard, I let the glue dry for about 30 minutes. Then I flipped the work surface over and ran a box cutter down the edge of it, scoring the protruding edges of the floorboards. I was then able to easily snap off the extra edges.
When the edges were flush, I used a coarse piece of sandpaper to get the edges as smooth as possible. Then I used a finer sanding block on the floorboards themselves to make them satiny smooth. I don’t want my doll’s feet to get splinters!
Step 5 – Finishing the Boards
While these nice birch boards look good on their own, I wanted to go a little further and finish them! A couple of fun options are whitewash, wood stain, barn wood wax, or acrylic paint. I chose Gel Wood Stain in Walnut.
I applied 2 coats of gel stain with a small foam brush, waiting 30 seconds after applying each coat before wiping back with a clean cloth.
After I had applied and wiped the second coat, I took a fine-tip black Sharpie pen, and made 2 small dots, vertically, at the ends of each floorboard, to signify nails. I think this adds a nice dash of authenticity! If you are using floorboards longer than 4 inches, you may want to consider adding nails in the middle of each floorboard as well, as floorboards of this length would traditionally need extra hardware.
I let the stain dry for about a half an hour until it was no longer tacky to the touch. Then I applied 2 coats of glossy varnish, to give it a waxed appearance. If you prefer your floors to look more worn, you can use real wax or no finish at all, it’s up to you!
We’re done! Tell us what you think about the coffee stirrer floors. What other DIY dollhouse ideas should we explore?
Til’ next time!