Pine Rose Village
Constructing a miniature
1. Start with a plan.
Decide if your village will be seen from
one side or all sides. Will it be in a
dollhouse or a cabinet, or under glass in
a covered display case?
2. Set out all the houses
you plan to put in your village and
arrange them in a pleasing manner. Decide
where the hills and valleys will be. Make
a rough sketch of this plan for future
reference. The plan will probably change
a little as you work.
3. To create a hilly
landscape, I recommend you start with a
large 2-inch-thick sheet of Styrofoam.
Transfer the plan you have made to the
Styrofoam and carve out the valleys. The
Styrofoam can be carved easily with a
serrated knife. If you need a higher
hill, glue another thickness of Styrofoam
on top of the first piece. Use Tacky glue
and hold the piece in place with 2 or 3
toothpicks. Place the toothpicks so that
they will not obstruct a light hole (see
step 7) as they will be left in the
Styrofoam when the glue is dry. Allow any
glued areas to dry before continuing.
4. When you have roughed
out your terrain, flatten the areas where
the houses will sit. Smooth out the
surface of the terrain by sanding the
Styrofoam with another piece of
Styrofoam. This is extremely messy and
unpleasant. When you think you have the
desired shape, set the houses in position
and make any needed adjustments to the
5. Once you have the
desired shape, turn the Styrofoam over
and hollow out the underside a little to
make room for the light bulb wires. Be
careful not to break through the top of
6. Now you are ready to put
a coating over the Styrofoam. It makes a
difference what you use here. I recommend
Liquitex Acrylic Modeling Paste. An
alternate coating material is
Elmer’s Redi-Spack Acrylic Latex
Spackling. The key word seems to be
Acrylic. I have tried other spackling
compounds and found that they dry to a
chalky, brittle texture. The Modeling
Paste is a craft store item and the
Redi-Spack is available in hardware
stores. Both dry to a hard smooth
surface. Follow the instructions on the
container and cover the landscape. Two or
three thin coats are better than one
thick coat. The key here is time and
patience. If neither of these products is
available, check your local craft store
for another alternate sculpting
7. When the coating is
completely dry, you should make the holes
for the light bulbs. The easiest way to
do this is with a drill. Select a drill
bit that is the correct size for the
lights you plan to use. If you are using
12-volt lights, a small hole just large
enough to pass the bulb through is
sufficient. If you are using a string of
Christmas tree lights, select a drill bit
that matches the base of the light bulb.
By making the hole a tight fit you can
push the bulb in place and the edge of
the hole will hold it.
Place each house in position and draw
around the base with a pencil. Remove the
house, mark the center for the hole.
Drill the light hole from the top down
using the slow speed on your electric
drill, or a hand powered drill.
8. Once the light holes are drilled,
paint the landscape with a coat of Gesso.
Liquitex Acrylic Gesso is my favorite.
Paint the first coat of gesso on the form
with a brush, making certain to work the
gesso into all of the pits and gaps.
Paint on the second coat of gesso with a
sponge, dabbing to leave a fine texture
all over the landscape.
9. When the gesso is dry,
paint the landscape with acrylic paints.
I suggest you use the sponge to paint the
landscape white. Painting with a brush
leaves brushstrokes. I recommend you add
other colors such as pale blues or
yellows in dabs over the snow surface to
give a more natural shaded appearance.
Paint in roads, footpaths, rocks and any
other features that might enhance the
appearance of the landscape.
10. Let the paint dry and
then spray the landscape with a
non-yellowing matte or satin acrylic
11. It is now time to
finish your scene. Push the lights
through the holes. Glue the houses in
place over them with Tacky glue. Turn on
the lights and check to see if light
shows at the bases of the houses. If this
occurs, use some of the caulking material
you originally used to coat the landscape
to fill in around the base. Remove any
excess with a damp Q-tip. Once the houses
are in place add trees. Bits of dried
weeds can be used for bare trees.
© Sylvia Pulver Mobley
Part Two: Lighting a
The simplest method is to light the houses
from underneath with a single light bulb.
This method can be used on small or large
villages depending on how many lights you
use, but does not work well for a hilly
a. The base should be thin, no more than
1/2 inch thick, and will probably have to
be flat or only slightly hilly. Plywood or
foam core will work.
b. Cut a hole in the base under each house
almost as large as the open center of the
c. Attach the houses to the base.
d. Place a small light bulb under the
landscape. 2 or 3 lights may be used if the
scene is large.
e. Be certain to provide adequate air
circulation and use a light bulb that does
not get too hot.
f. When turned on, the light will shine up
into the houses and show through the
Method 2. Another simple
method is to use a short string of
Christmas tree lights. This is my personal
favorite for large Styrofoam landscapes. I
have seen these lights in strings of 10
with a battery hook up and in strings of 20
that plug into a regular electric socket or
a. After you build your
landscape, drill holes for these lights in
the landscape using a drill bit that
matches the size of the light base. Be
gentle. Remember you are only drilling
through Styrofoam. (see Part 1, step 7)
b. Push each light far enough
up into the hole so that the tip of the
light will not touch the top of the house.
On some of the smaller houses the light
will only be half way out of the hole.
c. If the hole is the correct
size the light should stay in position. If
it slips out of the hole, cut off a U
shaped portion of a paper clip and insert
it into the Styrofoam over the wire to hold
the light in position. Do not glue the
lights into the holes.
d. Fold the wires up into the
space you have made under the landscape and
place the scene on a wooden base.
e. Extra lights can be hidden
under the base as long as there is some air
circulation to dissipate the heat of the
bulbs. In a cabinet or shadow box, the
extra lights can be used to light the front
of the village.
Note: You may be able to find
smaller lights in a string of 8 or 10 in a
florists shop or bridal boutique. These
lights use a battery pack. They work very
well but do not last long. Install these
lights using Method 2, only making the
The third method is very complicated and
requires a good understanding of 12-volt
electrical systems, transformers, and
dollhouse lighting techniques. If you have
access to the proper equipment and supplies
and can find a good dollhouse lighting
handbook, I recommend this method as the
best and most versatile.
You will need grain-of-wheat bulbs, wire,
and a 12-volt transformer rated for the
number of bulbs you plan to use.
The method of installation is the same as
in Method 2, using a smaller drill to make
These supplies are available from many
dollhouse building suppliers. I recommend
you follow the instructions available from
the dealer as the systems vary.
Suppliers for 12-volt
Hobby Builders Supply
P.O. Box 620876
Doraville, GA 30362-2876
Web site: www.miniatures.com
( I found the following book listed on
their web site, Dollhouse Lighting
Electrification In Miniature.
The description sounds good but I have not
personally used this book.)
32 Woodlake Drive SE
Rochester, MN 55904
Or check miniature shops,
shows, and publications. © Sylvia
Pulver Mobley 2003