Saturday, February 3, 2018

Spring Mansion - What I learned from crafting a prototype

Please join my on my new blog - where this project is included with more already added. Thank you. I hope to see you there.

Lessons Learned?

Lessons learned with the Spring Mansion, the putz prototype house? Many things:
  1. How to make a tower to fit a hipped roof
  2. How to draw a steeple pattern 
  3. How to make a second story porch or rather how NOT to make a second story porch
  4. How to cut small dowels to length
  5. How to make a solid porch floor
  6. How to make folded cardboard stairs
  7. How to make porch railings
  8. And most important, do the hard things first.


Most of these lessons I learned are really are what not to do. I listed the most important last. If you have challenging details for a project do them FIRST when you are the freshest on your project. The porches are the most challenging for me so that is what I worked on first for the real Wilkins House.

Base for the porch of the Wilkins Putz house
Base for the porch floor of the Wilkins Putz House


This took me awhile to figure out. I couldn't get the angle right because it wasn't what I thought it was. Finally I had to just measure against the roof to get the appropriate angle. That method always works. It's not based on geometry skills, but it works.


See the post on how to draw a steeple pattern. I wouldn't have figured this out if I didn't have to try out so many sizes of steeples for my various prototypes. And drawing the pattern is so easy. I am so glad I figured it out (not that I invented this method, it's really simple geometry).

Steeple roof for the Putz Wilkins House
I am so happy about how nicely my steeples work out now. I'm not afraid to make them anymore.


I made the second story porch on the Spring Mansion with just one thin layer of cardboard which was not sufficient. It looked flimsy and would not support the visual weight of the porch railing. I glued an additional layer of cardboard which helped but didn't completely solve the problem. Next time on the real Wilkins Putz House? I've glued 2 pieces of heavy duty cardboard together for the second story porch floor. The heavy duty cardboard was the backing board from a watercolor paper pad - very substantial cardboard.


Lesson number 4 was learning to cut small dowels to length. On my Halloween houses, the dowels can be wonky and it doesn't matter, but if you are trying to make a pretty house the dowels need to be the same length and the porch supported by the dowels needs to be level. That didn't happen on the Spring Mansion. I had been cutting the dowels with my garden clippers but that doesn't leave a smooth end. Now I am cutting them with a dremel tool and then sanding the edge to make a nice flat end.

Porch progress for the Putz house, Wilkins house
I cut these dowels with the garden clippers which you can see leaves a really messy edge. I just cut them to see how they would fit in the porch floor after I drilled holes. They fit nicely and will be very strong. I was going to push them through the top porch piece but I don't think that will be necessary. I think everything is going to be sturdy enough without that extra fiddly work. The final cut will be done with the dremel tool.


Part of the problem with the dowels was related to lesson number 5 - how to make a solid porch floor. I made the porch floor from folded cardboard which means that it flexed so the height at one end of the porch was different from the other end. This time I made it with layers of corrugated cardboard covered with thinner cardboard. I drilled holes the size of the dowels to make sure they are well anchored on the floor.

Side view of porch floor layers for the Wilkins Putz house
Porch floor made of about 5 layers of corrugated cardboard. I added another thinner, smoother layer of cardboard on top. I used painter's tape to hold all the layers together while the glue dried. It peels off fairly easily.


I haven't made these yet so I have to experiment some more. I will write a separate post about making stairs. The stairs on the Spring Mansion were made from a complicated folded design that leaves folded edges in prominent places which I don't want on the Wilkins House.

Cardstock prototype for stair on putz house
Cardboard prototype for stairs on the Spring Mansion. It is unnecessarily complicated and leaves a folded edge on the front sides of the stairs.
Stairs on Spring Mansion Putz House
Close-up view of the stairs on the Spring Mansion - kind of wonky with seams showing in the front. 


Porch railings are not really hard; they just take time. For the Wilkins house I  measured out 5/8 of an inch and glued the railings onto the balusters so that the entire piece was 5/8" high. Much, much nicer and it will be so much nicer to work with when I put the railings on the house.

Wilkins Putz House Porch Railings in progress
Porch railings that were measured to 5/8 inch. They aren't perfect but they are close and will look so much better than  on the Spring Mansion. 

Those are major lessons that I can think of right now. There are probably other subtle things I learned that I'm not even aware of.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you have a happy creative day today.


  1. I'm visiting today after you left a lovely comment for me on the Tim Holtz/Creativation blog hop (thank you). You, my dear, are the only one who noticed the blog title. But that should be no surprise as you are a master of details, case-in-point, your "lessons learned." You really have been on quite a journey with your constructions and I enjoyed stopping by to see your latest project. As a side note, I recently had to figure out a way to make an oval in a certain size. I found a you-tube video from a guy that makes commercial signage, followed his directions and, voila! It worked. Never stop learning is our shared motto...

  2. What an interesting post! Each project adds to your arsenal of techniques and isn't it fun to figure all these things out and see your skills progress?! Loving following this project.

    1. Laney, thank you. The skills required on this project are actually beyond my normal skill set. I hope everything won't look funny when I finish with it. Things are going together pretty well though. Thank you as always for reading and commenting on my blog.