Monday, August 2, 2021

Patience and Persistence Pay

 It's County Fair week, so I'll be watching the 3 granddaughters participate and compete. They have worked so hard all summer to get projects ready and horses trained. Elinore has already competed in dog training competition, and her young healer-border collie qualified for state competion the end of August. What a shock that was for the novice dog and trainer in just such a short time to win a chance to compete at the Colorado State Fair. Ellie also has some amazing projects, including a leather , an entomology collection, and a wood project entered. Her sister, Lucy, has a leather project, as well. You can keep up with these adventures on my InstaGram.

I spent my free hours this week assembling the stairs for the Manchester Country Home. What a struggle. After assembling the kit's stairs, I cut the stair treads from 1/16" basswood with a nice hole to insert the spindles in to make their installation quick, easy, accurate, and uniform. Great idea, but I didn't cut the hole quite big enough, so I remeasured the spindle bottom and cut a second set of treads . The wood moved on the mat slightly or something went wrong and the cuts weren't straight, but the holes were large enough. I should have cut a third set, but didn't want to waste more wood. 

I struggled then to get the spindles to attach and hold since the hole reduced the gluing surface, using first wood glue that took longer to set. When I had to re-glue some spindles because they got knocked loose, I used Aileen's tacky glue, which grabbed and gripped more quickly.

I used sample sized latex house paint to paint the spindles and stairs white and Minwax walnut stain as the accent on the newel posts, the rails and the hand rail. When I first put the dark stain on the treads, I was really nervous because it was so dark. I applied it on the treads with a brush, which applied too much, wiped off the excess with a rag. Using a cloth to apply the stain was more effective and created a nicer finish. Still I felt that the walnut was too dark.

So I sanded the treads slightly to take away more of the stain to make them look used and worn with wear. Once the stain had fully dried, taking over 24 hours, I applied clear varnish to the treads, rails, and newel posts knobs. After the first coat of varnish dried, I sanded with 000 weight steel wool and laid down a second coat of varnish. The stairs look naturally worn and I've grown to love the dark contrast. While it is the look that I wanted, that dark walnut was really DARK. I originally purchased it thinking that I would use on the main wood floor, but is way too dark for an entire floor. 

To attach the hand rail to spindles is probably the biggest challenge in assembling the stair case. Julie Warren has such a simple and common sense technique: she installs the spindles and once the glue has cured and sent in place, she lays the stairs on its side with the spindles on the mat then she is able to place the hand rail next to the spindles, arrange the newel posts into position, and measure accurately the length that hand rail needs to be. You have to watch the video. While it looks really simple--and it is-- it still is a challenging task.


Now with the spindles securely glued in place on the treads, the newel posts can be positioned and the hand rail can be placed against the top of the row of spindles and on top of the newels posts. Julie shows where to mark the cut lines on each end to determine the length of the hand rail. 

With the hand rail measured, dab a bit glue on the top of each spindle to secure it in place then
apply  gentle pressure to each spindle to carefully it snap into place. 


Another problem comes with the placement of the newel posts: does the bottom one go on the floor or the first step? If you place it on the floor, does it go beside the the bottom stair or in front of it? And for the top of the stairs where will that newel post go? Next to the hand rail newel post? 

To answer that question, I searched through Pinterest to look for stair ideas and decided that the bottom newel post would be in front of the stairs on the floor. Julie positions hers on the that first step. 

I positioned to newel post at the top of the stairs on the top stair that blends into the floor. For me, those positions made attaching the hand rail easier.



The stair steps are not glued in yet because there is a lot of work left to do. I keep saying that tape wire will go in next--and it will--but first I have to figure where to attach the transformer so that it is out of sight and the base for house has to be fortified and painted and then the I have to attach the base of the addition and the addition to the main house. Won't that be interesting?!

The windows and exterior doors are painted and ready to glue in place. Before they were painted, the window fit securely in place, but with the humidity in the basement and the expansion of the wood and MDF the openings have swelled some, so before the window can be glued into place, I'll have to do some sanding.


Since I ordered upgraded windows fro HBS (Houseworks LTD product), the window film that comes in the kit won't work, so I cut new "glass" from Cricut acetate. It's a bit thinner than the kit window film, so  I am playing with idea of using plexiglass. I cut a new round window and then used a Cricut pen to draw the humming bird. Days later, the ink still has not set, so that will not be an option. 


I really love this house for its plain, simple lines and classic architecture, and while the addition is a bit of pain, I think it will make the Manchester Country Home a grand house.           


Thanks for visiting. 


  1. I absolutely hate doing stairs… not much I hate in this hobby but that is definitely one of them, so I feel your pain. Well done on completing the job and surviving the challenges. I hope you won't find this cheeky but I am passing in a link to my new project every time I speak to one of my 'contacts' because blogger has now stopped notifying readers by email. Sooo frustrating. I have finished with Dalton House and my next challenge is a series of room boxes.

    1. Thank you for including your new link. I've been missing you.

  2. Stairs are fiddly aren’t they! But good tips from Julie Warren, worth knowing. I love the Duracraft houses and I am enjoying seeing this being made. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of them around finished.

  3. There are not many Duracraft houses and this Manchester is a rare one, 1998 I think. It is MDF not that thin splintery plywood. It's a great house to work on.

  4. The stairs look amazing, Ann! What a great achievement! Stairs really are one of the most difficult and fiddly tasks in dollhousing, but you have taken Julie's tips and used them with successful and beautiful results! The house is looking so charming, and I hope you find the perfect technique to make the stained glass!

  5. Thank you, Jodi. I've done stairs in the other houses and I must admit that this set turned out the best. Julie does have a good plan for assembling stairs and while her video is perfect, she does admit to having the some problems.


Patience and Persistence Pay

 It's County Fair week, so I'll be watching the 3 granddaughters participate and compete. They have worked so hard all summer to get...