Sunday, February 16, 2014

Room Box Tutorial - Building a foam core room box in a box to hide the wiring.

Is this not a cool frame?  I had to do some Wal-Mart shopping and I thought I would stop by the frames department and see what they had.  I didn't expect to purchase anything but when I saw this frame with its mat made this way I thought it was perfect for what I needed this month.

I had some questions about hiding the wiring and false walls to add dimension to the room.  I have to keep in mind that most of my readers don't have access to machinery and wood so I use 3/16" foam core.  It's easy to get and easy to cut.  My idea is to make a room box in a box.

This is the frame, it cost about $14.00 at Wal-Mart.  It's a wooden frame with a mat.  The mat has another frame, this is plastic but looks very nice.

You could change the color of the mat by gluing your chosen color over the existing mat.

This was just a happy coincidence. There were other frames the same size with regular mats that I could have brought home and used.

This is what the frame looks like with the back off.

I slipped the box I made last month into the channel of the inner plastic frame and was very pleased with the look.

Again, I mention that you could use a frame with a regular mat. You would measure the mat's opening and make a room box that the mat would hide the edge of the foam core.

I am measuring the outside of the frame, it measures 12" on the side.

I have the frame on table with the little room box on it.  I am measuring for the depth of the outer box, how much room do I want beyond the back wall of the room box for maybe a false hallway and wiring. 

I am making the outside of the box 9" deep.

The sides are going to be 9" x 12".

I am measuring what will be the top (and bottom) of the frame. it's measuring 15".

I want the sides to cover the open edges of the top's foam core so I am going to do a little subtraction of the 15".  The foam core measures 3/16" thick, we have 2 sides so that's 3/8". 15 minus 3/8 equals 14 5/8".  I am going to take a 1/16" from that measurement just to make sure my outer box is neatly within the frame. Final measurement is 14 9/16" long x 9" deep.

This is Tigger, Digger's sister.  I am taking pictures in the morning so she's on my table.  Digger is asleep on the bed, he'll be up in the afternoon.

I am using one piece of 20" x 30" foam core.  I have all four pieces marked out and ready to cut.  The shaded areas are waste.

I am using Crafter's Pick The Ultimate! glue.  It seems to work very well for gluing foam core together.

I've glued the outer box together.  Do you see that the sides cover the edges of the top and bottom foam core?

Please, please let this dry before you go on.

I am taking a picture from the open back of the box showing the little room box inside the outer box and frame.

As I do not like to butt glue I have drilled holes into the frame.  I drilled 3 holes on each side.  I started the holes with a "T" pin, small drill bit first and then a drill bit that is the size of my tooth picks that I am going to use as dowels. We are "doweling" the outer box to the frame for a more secure join.

I cut the points off and then cut the toothpicks in half.  Put a little wood glue into the holes and insert the toothpicks.

I snipped all the toothpicks to 1/2" tall.

After that, I made a little diagonal snip to give the dowel a bit of a point.

Carefully slide the outer box onto the frame pushing the foam core onto the dowels.

Raise the outer box a bit and apply The Ultimate! glue onto the dowels and frame and press the outer box back down onto the frame and let dry.

Looking good.

I got a little ahead of myself and I am glad I caught it when I did. Have you ever used the "glue dots" available in the scrapbook or glue isle?  I didn't have any, I wish I had but as I mentioned earlier I don't run out to get things.
I want you to clean your glass and use the glue dots to glue the glass into the frame.  I would just use one in each corner.  I didn't glue the mat in.

Now, we can go on.

I have the little room box in the outer box and I am measuring the distance between the two walls. Measure the space at the top and bottom of the room box.  We are going to cut supports to hold the room box up. This distance should be equal.

The little room box isn't glued in, yet.  It's just there for measurements.

I have cut strips of foam core and slid them between the outer box and the room box.

You see, I was gluing in the supports when I figured I had better get the glass and mat in!!

Glue the strips of foam core in and to make the join more secure cut a couple of more pieces to glue to the strips and the bottom (or top) of the outer box.

This is what it should look like.  Glue 2 more strips on the top just like the bottom.

Slide your little room box into the outer box.

At this point I thought you could make these room boxes interchangeable.

The room box from the front.

I cut a piece of muslin for a hinge.

I glued the muslin on the side of the outer box.

I cut a piece of foam core 14 7/8" x 12" for a back and glued the other side of the muslin to it.

I know this is a real cheap way to do this but it's easy and works.  You can cover the outer box with wall paper or paint and cover the muslin.

There's the box with the room box inside and the back on.

There's the space around the room box for wiring and false walls.

On to the wiring.

I am going to use 3 lights this time.

Remember from last month, if you use 3 lights, use 3 batteries.

For demonstration purposes only I have used a different light at the back of the room box, I didn't buy an extra light when shopping at Radio Shack last month.

I brought all my wires together, one for the lamp inside the room box, one for the light outside the window and one for the light that's coming from the hallway.  Please review last month's tutorial for more information.  I don't know much about electricity, this little stuff is about it.
What I do know is this is the first thing to do, bring all of your light's wires together.  I'm going to call this my junction box.

I have slid the room box into the outer box.

I also didn't have a battery holder that held 3 "AA" batteries, so for demonstration purposes only I have my 2 battery holder in place.

Don't have your batteries in the holder, yet.

I've cut a hole in the side of the outer box for the switch to fit into.  The part with the eyelets to attach the wires are inside the box and the switch part is outside the box.

Next thing you do is to cut some of the doll house wire, remember it has two channels that contain wire, cut between the channels at both ends.  Just a little snip will do, it pulls apart easily.  The length needs to be long enough to reach between your junction box and where your switch and battery holder is.  Last month I asked you to mark one channel with a black marker, mark this piece also.  Strip the plastic off the wire, long enough for you to wrap the wire together at your junction box (where all your light's wires twisted together). Twist the black channel wire with the other black channel wires.  Twist the white channel wire with the other white channel wires.  I can't solder so I cover the wires with black electricians tape.  Divide the other end of the doll house wire and twist the black channel wire to the black wire from the battery holder.  Hook the white side of this wire to the switch.  Hook the red wire from the battery holder to the switch.  Cover the joins with electricians tape.  Wires can't be touching or the bulbs won't light.

I have not taken a lot of time to explain fully all the electricity,  please review last month's tutorial.

Put your batteries in the holder and keep an eye on your lights.  The switch may all ready be on or you may have to turn it on.

I mentioned earlier about making interchangeable room boxes.  All you would need to do is to take the doll house wire off the black wire from the battery box and switch.

This picture is showing the switch on the side.

A Note:  I should have shown a picture of the switch in January's tutorial, look at the picture above and compare with this picture.  You see half the switch is inside and half the switch is outside of the box.  The difference with last month's tutorial is there would be wires coming out along side the switch to the outside.

I dug around in my hardware drawer and found this hook closure.  These can be purchased at a big box store like Home Depot.  Maybe Michaels has them in their wood shapes department, too.

There was a screw for the hook and I just screwed that into the foam core. For the nails on the other part I pierced the holes with a "T" pin first.

I would finish the outside of the box before I put on the hook and eye and switch.

I was surprised my lights worked even though I had three wired up.  They weren't bright, though.

I put a little piece of wood flooring at the door and pasted a piece of wallpaper on the back wall for a false hallway.

A little greenery at the right side at the window would finish the look.

I think it looks pretty good for a couple of hours work.

If you have the resources this could be made from wood and hinges used on the back and front to make it open from the front also.

The valance is from "No-sew Austrian Valance", the chair is "Make and upholster a 1 inch scale chair", the table is "How to make an occasional table from mat board" and the lamp is from "How to make a battery operated table lamp".  These are found in the "Things to do, Things to See" list.

I have two books for you to try to get.  I've mentioned this one before but I think it's good enough to repeat, "How to Build Miniature Furniture and Room Settings" by Judy Beals, this is a real good book.  Another one that is good is "Making Dollhouses and Dioramas, An Easy Approach Using Kits and Ready-Made Parts" by Robert Schleicher, I think this is available from Dover Publishers.  Dover is very good for sources.  I find myself going through this book a lot, too.

I want to thank the readers that contacted me to ask about hiding the wiring and how to make false walls or I wouldn't have thought about doing this.  I know this may not suit everyone's needs but as always anything I present is a suggestion and I want you to . . . .

Have fun, Expand on it, Make it better . . .

Just Keep Making Minis!!

Remember, if you have any questions please e-mail me at  When you finish a tutorial and want to have me put it in the Follower's Gallery please send it to the same address.

TTUL  Kris