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Written by Howard Lamey and Paul Race for Big Indoor TrainsTM

Note from Editor: Project designer Howard Lamey has made whole villages of vintage-style cardboard structures. He started out by building replicas of the little glittered pasteboard "putz" houses that were popular between world wars. Since then, he has made replicas of many other kinds of vintage houses, and even started his own web page I've been helping him publish his plans and instructions on this site and his site both. So whenever Howard comes up with a new building style, I get excited for readers of both sites.

The "loggies" are a variety of putz house made from corrugated cardboard with the "sheath" missing on one side. Some are built to standard putz house proportions, while others are shaped more "creatively." This example is relatively conservative, but you can see that once you've built this one, you can apply what you've learned to many other kinds of structures. - Paul

Building a Vintage-Style Cardboard Log House

People who collect vintage cardboard Christmas houses have come up with names to help them classify the various kinds of buildings. This one is called a "loggie," for obvious reasons. They appeared some years after the basic "putz" houses with smooth walls and glitter. They were also more likely to be "skewed" on their bases than most other kinds of putz houses - that is, to say, they look "right" from the front, but from the top you can see that they are anything but square. For this loggie project, however, I chose a more traditional profile, although I set it at an angle on the base. Most of the construction is similar to building a smooth-walled glitterhouse, so we will refer to articles on glitterhouses in general from time to time.

What You Will Need

If you are going to build 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. In addition, for this project you'll need:

  • Corrugated-style cardboard with one side exposed. You can occasionally find this used as a packing material, in paper cup-holders from coffee shops, or in craft stores. I found a "lifetime supply" in an in-store display that the store was going to throw away.
  • A sharp mat knife or Xacto knife
  • Elmer's white Glue-All. A glue stick would also come in handy.
  • About a cup of sawdust (if you want a "lawn" look for the base)
  • Clear glitter (if you want snow or frost)
  • Several sheets of acid-free white bond paper
  • Brown acrylic paint for the walls
  • Very small quantities of yellow, dark red and other acrylic paint colors for the chimney
  • A flat white paint that can be used to prime the base. Flat latex interior wall paint is good. So is flat acrylic.
  • Some means of spraying different colors of green or brown paint on the base. This could be paint cans, or a spray bottle you can use with acrylic paints.
  • Other paint as desired
  • Some scraps of corrugated cardboard for the base and foundation pieces.
  • A scrap of 1/4"x1/4" wood for the step. You can also use a scrap of 1/4" foam core board.
  • Access to the Internet and a black and white printer for the plans
  • Colored paper, vellum, celophane, or similar translucent medium, for the windows and door. I used yellow paper that I drew windowframes on with a straightedge
  • Greenery for trim. As you can see in the photos in this article, "bottle brush" trees, like you get from the Dollar Store, work nicely. For a more "organic" look, I take greenery from old Christmas garlands and trim it into a conical shape. You can decide what to use after the house is painted, so it's not urgent that you have it the day you start. However, you'll want to keep it on your list.
For a more comprehensive list of tools and supplies that come in handy on any cardboard house project, please refer to our article What You Need to Build Glitterhouses.

Print The Plans

This project has a structure pattern that you print out and transfer to cardboard.

You may print the structure pattern on any sort of paper, since you're simply using this to transfer the plan to your cardboard medium.

Double-click on this image to see the full-sized graphic.Double-click on this image to see a higher resolution pattern.

  • If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer:
    • Click here to open the pdf version of the first sheet. Select the print option, tell it to "auto rotate and center" or whatever else you need to make it go to Landscape mode. Don't select the "scale to page" or "shrink to fit" option. Print.
    • Click here to open the pdf version of the second sheet. Print as you did the first sheet.

  • If you don't have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your computer or for some reason that doesn't work, click on the pattern illustrations above to open a big .jpg version of each pattern. Choose the "file, page setup" from your browser. When the page setup menu comes up, select "landscape mode." You should also disable the "print to fit" option if you have one.

If neither of those work, contact Paul and ask him for help - that's his department. :-)

Building the Base

The base is a rectangular "box" that is decorated before the building is installed. It should be about 4" x 5" x 1/2".

  1. Make the base from four layers of corrugated cardboard glued together in a sandwich.

  2. Wrap and glue a strip of cereal-box cardboard all around it to camouflage the rough edges of the corrugated cardboard.

  3. Click for bigger photo. When the base is built, 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: For more information about building bases for vintage-style cardboard houses, please see our Glitterhouse Bases article.

  4. When the glue has dried, apply a coat of white primer and let it dry.

Building the Building

For sanity's sake, make certain that all of your measurements are good before you glue the patterned paper on.

  1. Transfer the patterns to cardboard for the building. For the walls and roof, I used the single-faced corrugated cardboard. For the chimney, I used the cardboard from the back of a writing tablet.

  2. The pieces as cut out and scored.Score the fold lines of the walls and roof, then cut out those pieces and fold on the score lines.

  3. Trim the edges and cut the openings for the windows and door.

  4. Carefully remove the wavy part of the cardboard from the surfaces that are needed for gluing, as shown in the photo.

  5. Glue the walls of each building together, using paperclips or clothespins to keep the pieces in place until the glue is completely dry (usually overnight). While you're waiting for the glue to dry, you can go ahead and make your windowpanes (below) if you wish.

    Click for bigger photo.Click for bigger photo.

  6. Click for bigger photo.Glue the buildings together and the roofs on top. Again, you'll want to use paperclips or clothespins to keep the pieces in place until the glue is completely dry. Do NOT glue the house to the base yet.

Make the Windowpanes

Your windowpanes can be made from colored celophane, cereal-box lining with colored paper behind it to give it a tint, "vellum" for printers, or colored paper. All of these looks are true to various originals. I chose to create my windows for this house from "craft store" yellow paper. Further down, you'll see a loggie in which I used red celophane.

  1. Using the original plans, outline each windowpane, leaving at least 3/8" all the way around for glueing. Do not cut them out yet.

  2. Using a straightedge and permanent parker, draw the "mullion" patterns on the windowpane material. The windowpanes for this project is ver small, so this won't take much material. Try several patterns and see which one you like.

  3. When you are satisfied, cut out the windowpanes you like and set them aside.

For my doorways, I used reproduction graphics from Papa Ted's Place the Internet's largest resource for putz house collectors. Warning! If you're checking this article out at work, mute your speakers before you click on Ted's link - Ted likes Christmas music, and almost every page has a song that starts automatically when you jump to that page. Some are loud. :-)

Building the Chimney and Cap

  1. Transfer the pattern for the chimney and cap to cardboard.

  2. Score fold lines, cut out the pieces and fold on the score lines

  3. Click for bigger photo.Glue the chimney together.

    I finished my chimney by painting it. If you wish, you can download a brick pattern you like, print it off on non-acid paper, and use it to wrap the chimney as follows:

    • Find and download a brick pattern you like.
    • For this project, try out the smallest pattern available first. Print it on quality non-acid bond paper. After the chimney is dry, but before you put on the cap:

    • The brick version of the chimney after it is glued together. A very fine dark red marker might help with any white areas that the creases reveal. Click for bigger photo.Apply the printed graphics. Only do a section at a time. Measure carefully, make crisp folds, apply a thin layer of glue, and press in place.

    • The white edges of the paper may show. With an appropriate color felt-tip pen, marker or acrylic paint and a very tiny brush, carefully coat just the edge of paper and touch up as needed.

  4. When all of the glue is dry, glue the cap onto the chimney.

Assembling the House

  1. Glue the roof to the house body.

  2. Glue on the chimney.

    Click for bigger photo.Click for bigger photo.

  3. Lay the foundation pieces on the base where you think they should go.

  4. Click for bigger photo.Set the building on the foundation to check the position. When you are sure the foundation is in the right place, glue down the foundation ONLY.

Choose Finishing Details

For this house, I selected a dark brown color and a "sprinkling of snow" look. However, it's possible to choose another color and a "deluged with snow" look. Both looks are common in the original. You'll also notice that the light-colored version is a mirror to the version in this article. Again, both are authentic.

Click for bigger photo.Click for bigger photo.

Paint the Building Your Desired Color

The deeper, chocolate brown I chose for this project is very common, and it helps your loggies stand out from a collection of other vintage houses. You may also use a darker color for the roof, then dab it with white paint for snow if you want.

Click for bigger photo. As you can see in a blowup of our project house blowup (click on the photo), I used little dabs of different colored paint to suggest a brick pattern on the chimney and to suggest a stone pattern on the step.

When the base coats were dry, I lightly dry-brushed the outside edges of the logs and roof texture with contrasting yellow and browns to provide a weathered look and make the texture stand out even more.

Paint the Base as Desired

How you finish the base depends on which look you are going for:
  • If you want the "lawn" look, as shown in the title photo, use the following instructions:
    • Apply a coat of green acrylic paint and let it dry.
    • Coat the top and sides of the base with white glue, then sprinkle on sawdust. Press the sawdust into the glue a little and make sure there aren't any major "holes" in coverage. Let it dry.
    • The finishing touch on the base is multiple coats of different colors of green, yellow, or brown spray paint applied in a random fashion.

Click for bigger photo. Click for bigger photo.

  • If you want the "snowy" look, leave the base coated with white primer, but swirl on pale blue "highlights." Later you can spread "white glue" and clear glitter, after the building and trees are glued in place.

Final Assembly

Click for bigger photo. Assemble your building before you start applying glitter.

  • Install your window panes and let them dry enough that you know they won't shift out of place once you have sealed the house by gluing it to the base.

  • Install the house on the base. The foundation pieces should provide a very nice surface for gluing your house down effectively.

  • Install your trees. You will probably need to punch holes in the base with an awl or shish-kabob holder or something. You will also need to glue them down securely.

You may decide that you like this look and want to keep it this way. Fine. I suggest you seal the building and base with several light coats of an acrylic satin spray. This will "lock down" the sawdust and keep the building from getting quite so dusty.

Optional ?Hint of Frost/Light Snow? Details

Click for bigger photo.If you wish to give your loggie a "seasonal" flavor, you may add a ?hint of frost/light snow? to the roof, walls, and base since a heavy coat of glitter and snow would cover the texture. For the project loggie, I dabbed on white glue (like Elmer's), poured clear glitter over it, and tamped it a bit to get it set into the glue. The glue dries clear. I even treated the trees to some glitter.

As an alternative, you could give the loggie "solid" patches of snow by dabbing on white paint, then when that had dried, spreading Elmer's or similar glue, and dosing with clear glitter. The result would be somewhere between the photo above right and the photo below right.

Next, seal the building and base with several light coats of an acrylic satin spray. This will "lock down" the sawdust and keep the building from getting quite so dusty.

Optional "Heavy Snow" Details

Click for bigger photo.If you wold rather give your loggie a mid-winter appearance, you can dab white paint on parts of the roof and base. When that has dried, spread a thin layer of "white glue" (like Elmer's) over the white paint, then apply clear glitter. In the version to the right, I didn't glitter the "bottle brush" trees since they already had "snow."


Because I went with the "light frost" version on this project, I can use the result both on my Halloween and my Christmas setups. It looks pretty good with our Spook HillTM Halloween community, for example. A nice companion piece would be the "frosted" version of our Click to go to this article.Barn and Silo project, shown at right.

Now that you've done one loggie, it will be easy to see how you can create enough variations to build yourself a whole town.

Semi-Commercial Announcement

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 "bid" on a cardboard house for you, or if you have any questions at all, please use this link, and Paul will forward your information to me.

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 site, and we'll be sure to give you full credit for your contribution.

Other Articles about cardboard houses include:

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