|Written by Howard Lamey (with a little help from Paul Race)|
for Big Indoor TrainsTM
Note from Editor: Howard Lamey, in Jacksonville, Florida, has retired from a full-time job in advertising that included designing window displays for a major retailer. Now he has turned those artistic talents to designing and building vintage-style cardboard buildings for his family and friends. Howard is building his own site, but he has graciously agreed to share some of his craft knowledge with our readers.
Also, you should know that most collectors and builders of vintage pasteboard houses call them "putz" houses because they were often used in "putzes," the German-American term for Christmas villages of the 1930's-1950's. If most of this information is new to you, you can read up on these classic cardboard Christmas communities in our "What is a Glitterhouse?" article.
Building a GlitterhouseThe house shown in the photo is a good starting product for learning to build "putz" houses.
What You Will NeedIf you are going to build vintage-style cardboard houses, stop throwing away used, clean cardboard yesterday. Save cereal boxes, the backs of writing tablets, anything flat, firm and clean, that you can save. Please keep some corrogated cardboard on hand, too - it makes the best bases. In addition, for this project you'll need:
Note:: Our article on What You Need to Build Glitterhouses lists many other materials and tools that will help you work more quickly and effectively.
Printing the Plans
Double-click on the plans above to see the large versions. You should be able to print the big version at the size you need either of the following ways.
If neither of those work, contact Paul and ask him for help - that's his department. :-)
Building the BaseThe base is a rectangular "box" that is decorated before the house and trees are installed. For this project, it should be about 4 1/4" square, and about 1/2" high.
Note: For this project, Howard cut the base and fence pieces out at the same time. The fence pieces are made from card stock such as posterboard or cereal box cardboard. If you wish, you may use different materials for the fence, including miniature wooden snow fence from the craft store or a rustic rail fence you make from twigs.
Cut And Glue The Base - Usually the best method is to make a base from layers of corrugated cardboard glued together in a sandwich. You then wrap and glue a strip of thin poster-board or cereal-box cardboard all around it to camouflage the rough edges of the corrugated cardboard.
Wrap the Base - When the base is built, you then cover it with white bond paper just like you would wrap a gift, except that all surfaces of the paper cover must be glued down to the box. A glue stick works great for this.
Note: More details about building bases are provided in our article: Building Glitterhouse Bases
Attach the Fence - When the glue on the base has dried, glue the fence pieces to the base.
Prime the Base - When all the glue has dried, paint the base with the flat white paint. This provides an even finish that will hold the acrylic paint and glitter. If the fence is made of card stock, prime it, too.
Prepping the Structure PiecesThe house, roof, chimney, and chimney cap need to be cut from thicker cardboard, such as the cardboard from the back of a writing tablet.
Assembling and Painting the House
Adding Additional Scenery
Add yard accessories such as a small figurine and a bottle-brush tree.
I like to use miniature Christmas tree ornaments such as a Santa, deer and snowmen. You may even choose to make you own accessories.
[Editor's note: I have seen cheap party favors and cake decorations that were also suitable - it's okay if your accessories look a little "tacky." For trees, some folks cut apart a loofah sponge and dip it into deep blue-green paint, wring it out, and let it dry to simulate the lichen-like organic material used on some of the original houses. - Paul]
When everything is glued together and the glue has dried, touch up any place that the glitter hasn't covered evenly.
ConclusionYou can see that, when you get to the gluing, painting, and glittering stages, there's a lot of "hurry up and wait." That's one reason many people who build modern putz house recreations work on two or three houses at the same time - you can work on the second house while the glue is setting on the first one, and so on.
Bonus: Church Conversion Plans
When you're done with your first house, and thinking about the next project, here's an idea. Many glitterhouse sets had seven houses (often identical except for colors and accessories) and a church. If you want your glitterhouse collection to represent that tradition, you can use the plans below in addition to the plans and directions above to convert your next putz house into a church.
As always you have two options for downloading and printing the plan:Free Large Scale Signs and Graphics web page.
Also, if you find yourself looking for the old-fashioned celophane with gold windowframes printed on it, you'll find many choices at Papa Ted's Reproduction Parts page.
The following photos show the steps in building a church the same basic way you build the little glitterhouse above. Note that in this version of the project, Howard changed the shape of the windows and added two, but the basic process is the same.
Now that I'm in "retirement," this hobby has become a sort of avocation for me. Several folks have commissioned me to build specific houses for them. So if you'd like me to help you design and build a special vintage pasteboard house for you, or if you have any questions at all, please see my site, LittleGlitterHouses.com for more information.
Also, if you have a similar project you'd like to share with your fellow readers and hobbyists, we'd love to add it to our sites, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.
Other Glitterhouse and Related Projects
Other Putz House Resources:
Other Articles that Discuss Putzes and Christmas Villages of the mid-20th Century:
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