Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Tiny House Nation

This may seem like a dumb question but how do you feel about the “Tiny House” craze?  Funny thing to ask since this is a MINIATURES blog and almost everyone reading has a tiny house or two…but I mean a miniature version of a “Tiny House” – the kind everyone is building to downsize? 

This tiny house project was designed by my good friend, Wilhelmina Johnson for an event our club hosted in February for Society of American Miniaturists.  Our club made 84 tiny house kits for a day-long workshop.  The project included a loft bedroom, separate bathroom with shower and a kitchenette with modern appliances.

I have already given a few small tutorials from the Tiny House project (sink and faucet, coloring books and flat screen TV).  In the next few blog posts I will describe how I customized my particular Tiny House.  I won’t give all the instructions since the design really belongs to SAM, but I will just give some dimensions and my readers can figure out the particulars.  The finished "Tiny House" measures 15 inches long by 8 inches wide by 12 inches high at the back wall.  This would be only 120 square feet (excluding the loft) if it were full size!  Here is the original design (side view) finished by my dear friend, Harriet Turner.  Note the simple but functional wedge shape and sky-view window:

Over the next few posts I plan to cover these projects, all part of the Tiny House:
  • Modifying roof line
  • Exterior paneling, windows, and trim
  • Electrical and wiring, hiding the battery
  • Kitchenette
  • Loft “built-in” bed
  • Modified (and modernized) commercial door
  • Some Fun Accessories - tall floor lamp - loft cushions and bolsters- planters
First Subject:
Changing the Roof Line (or How to join two pieces of Foam Core)
The roof line of the kit was designed to be angled and straight, going from 10” at the front wall to 12 inches at the back wall.  There is a loft (partial 2nd floor) at the back where the roof is higher.
I wanted my roof line to have more room above the loft bed so I decided to extend the height. Since I had already made the angled cut on the two sides for the roof line (and didn’t have enough foam core to re-cut both of the biggest pieces), I had to join foam core using a “butt” joint (two pieces just 'butted' up together and glued edge to edge).  In woodworking, this is the weakest type of joint.  It was tricky.  Basically I used the wasted triangle scrap and re-sized it a little then re-attached it near the back of the house to make the ceiling a little higher over the loft.

To join the pieces of foam core, have on hand a large very flat surface (counter or table), wax paper, some T-pins, blue tape and wood glue (because it can be sanded).  Cover your table/surface with wax paper.
Cut the T-Pins into about ½ or ¾ inch pieces.  Tape the two foam core pieces together then mark with a pencil across the crack where the pins are going to go.

Then insert the pins into the smaller piece where the pencil marks are.  Now with both pieces against the wax paper covered flat surface (no glue yet!!), push them together lining up the marks.  This is to make holes for the pins when glued in.  Now pull them apart again.

Time for glue (this will be messy).  Take each pin out and put glue in the hole then replace the pin in the same hole.  Then put lots of glue along the entire edge where the pins are poking out.  Line up the pencil lines and push the pieces together again keeping sides flush against the wax paper.  There will be lots of oozing glue (this is OK if you are using the wax paper to protect your surface).
Smooth some extra glue over the seam so it kind of fills in the crack.  Weight down overnight (use another piece of wax paper on top of the seam).

Depending on your final wall covering (internal or external) you may want to use some spackle or Gesso and very light sanding to smooth the seam a little.   I used poster board on the exterior wall and it covered the seam nicely.  The interior side was slightly smoother and I just used wallpaper there.

There!  You now know how to join two pieces of foam core (will you ever use that information or will you have enough to just cut a new piece?).  Anyway...

Planning location of windows, doors, etc.
When building with Foam Core (or really, any material), before cutting windows and before trying to glue the sides together I do some planning:
  • Where will the furniture and kitchen go?  What do I want to be visible through the windows? 
  • Will there be lights and where?  If so, how will I route and hide the wiring (later blog on that).
  • Everyone is a little different in how they plan their project but before I cut any windows or doors, I have already decided what furniture I will have, what wall it will be placed on, where lighting will be and even some wall decorations (and colors to use!). 
To help with the planning phase – with walls temporarily taped together - I taped on possible window sizes and locations.   This helps to plan furniture arrangement, to see where windows might conflict with interior walls and envision where shelves will be, kitchen will be, etc. This is a tiny space so not a lot of room to change your mind after cutting openings.

Another word about planning - I keep a lot of inspirational magazine clippings (and pinterest pins) and make a lot of sketches before I cut.  This helps to envision the finished space and not forget my ideas (since it takes so long to finish anything!).

A page from my Tiny House Sketch book:

 Well this was not the most glamorous subject, nor was it cute or even very fun.  I confess I really just suffer through the construction so I can get to the interior on most projects.  Next blog post – exterior covering and window trim (still not very fun but necessary).  You may be surprised at what the exterior paneling is made from!  Until next time!

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