Castle tower toy prototype

Throw Back Thursday – Castle Edition

wooden castle prototype

In recognition of Throwback Thursday we post this old prototype.  It’s one of about a dozen attempts at creating castle themed bookends.  I never figured out how to make them to the level of quality we strive for, and for the price we thought they could sell at.  The idea was for the bookends to be playable toys, outfitted with simple dowel people (much like the little peg people you see everywhere).

Perhaps we need to go back a little further.

Before Happy Bungalow was Happy Bungalow it was Kiddie Kottages.  When Liz and I were first dreaming up this business we were going to create playhouses for children (spurred on by the encouragement of friends, see the playhouse here).  We made notes and sketches.  We created 3D models of the playhouses.  We thought up just the right business name and registered domains (until recently and redirected to

And then we thought up some little products to accompany the playhouses.  The idea was that we’d make the playhouses and everything you needed to put in them.  So the original Happy Bungalow product line started out as accessories to Kiddie Kottages’ big playhouses.  But starting a new business and creating these multi-thousand dollar playhouses was too much, so we focused on the smaller pieces at first with the goal to move on to playhouses later.

We’ve pretty much given up on the playhouses for the immediate future, but some of those original products still hang on (our wooden animal toys being the most notable).  Much like the never realized castle bookends, the dollhouse bookends below went through extensive prototyping (and before that digital models you can read about here), but end the end it was hard to find a workable price-point for them.  It was also difficult to generate the level of quality (again at workable price point).  Though the shop has expanded its tooling, we might take another attempt at it.

dollhouse family

The simple little furniture did prompt a friend to ask if I could make some furniture for her daughter’s inherited dollhouse.  Well, that is a product line that has done quite well (read more dollhouse furniture posts here).

dollhouse bookends

So in the end the castle bookends never made it into production.  The corner joints (box joints) were the problem.  I was attempting to create a faux quoining (fancy architecture word for those stones that stick out on the corner of buildings).  Perhaps one of these days . . .

Miniature Kitchen Cabinets

Miniature furniture is perfect for my small shop.  Transitioning from woodworking as a hobby into a business the new tools, more wood, and project storage space has severely cut into the shop free space.  So full size furniture building is a trickier proposition.Happy-Bungalow-miniature-furniture-custom-cabinetry-kitchen-alt002-570

This is a kitchen I modeled on my own full size kitchen.  Except in real life I don’t have room for an island.  And I don’t have the nice walnut furniture piece you see on the left (though I do have an herb garden in a window box – not a bad trade).


The little brass knobs I bought, but the dark walnut knobs I made.  Tiny little suckers.  A bit more than 1/16th inch square.  I don’t have any dedicated miniature tools, but I’ve learned to cut accurate scale lumber on full size saws.Happy-Bungalow-miniature-furniture-custom-cabinetry-kitchen-alt001a-570

It was a real chore to come up with the counter-tops and have them look something like stone.  Real stone doesn’t come in 1/8 sheets (too brittle I suppose) and laminate isn’t at the right scale.  In ended up painting thin pieces of oak in multiple layers while the paint was still wet.  It has sort of a marbled look – I’ll keep working.


Yes, We Are Happy In Our Bungalow

People ask me if I live in a happy bungalow.  95% of the time.  Here’s proof:

A mixing of the toy worlds!  Not only are Happy Bungalow toys mixing with those rascally store bought toys, but if you look closely you’ll see cars taking a snooze on some dollhouse beds.  So here are some castle prototype parts, dollhouse bookend furniture pieces, a wood fairy, along with some old Legos of mine, and loads of toy cars.


The castle is built from Castle Bookend prototypes that predate the official launch of Happy Bungalow.  I wasn’t able to quite work out the mechanics of the castle.  Maybe we’ll take another look at it some time.Happy-Bungalow-wood-toy-castle-bookend-prototype-570

Making of Miniature Furniture

How is that cute kid-friendly dollhouse furniture made?  Not with stained basswood.  All of Happy Bungalow’s colors are natural wood.

Miniature wood furniture starts with big pieces of wood.  From left to right in the picture there’s hickory, red oak, maple, and walnut.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt001-570I joint and plane the boards smooth then slice the wood into thin pieces on the table saw with a shop-built resaw fence.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt002-570

It takes several passes to slice the boards leaving the wood a bit jagged along the cut.  The new thin slices of wood are smoothed on a planer and thickness sander.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt003-570Smaller pieces of wood are made even smaller on the table saw (ripping the wood into thin strips) and miter saw (cutting strips into short pieces).  After some sanding they’re sorted and ready for assembly.  In the center of the picture you can see my full size drawings for these 1/12th size pieces of furniture.  Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt004-570Below are some dining chairs during glue up.  In the background are their companion tables.  Half the chore at this stage is keeping all the pieces organized.  The rest of the process is patience and a steady hand.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt005-570

Full size clamps employed to hold together some shelves while the glue dries.  I’m also a big fan of masking tape for clamping.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt006-570

Beds, tables, chairs, and shelves are ready for finishing.  Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt007-570

Post finishing with linseed oil the grain and texture of the wood pops.Happy-Bungalow-wood-dollhouse-furniture-minature-process-alt008-570

Dollhouse Furniture

A friend asked me to make some furniture for her daughter’s inherited dollhouse.  The little girl is two while the house has furniture designed for adults.  These pieces are better suited for children.  See how this furniture is made in this post.

Happy-Bungalow-Wood-Dollhouse-Furniture-1-12-Scale-Hickory-Dining-Set-Table-And-Chairs-alt003a-570 Happy-Bungalow-Wood-Dollhouse-Furniture-1-12-Scale-Queen-Bed-Cherry-Mattress-Pillow-alt001-300 Happy-Bungalow-Wood-Dollhouse-Furniture-1-12-Scale-Twin-Bed-Hickory-Mattress-Pillow-alt004a-300 Happy-Bungalow-Wood-Dollhouse-Furniture-1-12-Scale-Walnut-Tall-Bookcase-alt003a-300

Happy Bungalow’s First Arts and Crafts Show

Happy Bungalow’s first arts and crafts show was this past Saturday. The show was around the corner and down the street from my house. This allowed the whole Happy Bungalow crew to attend (my wife, the kids, and I). There was a good crowd turnout and a there was a full array of vendors to buy from. Here’s how my booth looked:

Happy Bungalows first show booth

Not only was it my first show, it was my first day selling to the public as well. I was super nervous and for the past few weeks I’ve been focused on little else than the show. Months ago I planned to buy folding tables, but a few weeks ago changed my mind. So I made four wood tables that I could take apart for easier transport. I also made a sign, stands for the clocks, and business card holders. I wasn’t happy with the greenish buckets at the corners, but they kept the awning from flying away (bonus). I thought I could make some (nice) plywood containers and fill them with sand or concrete. We’ll see.

Happy Bungalows show display table

At the finishing stage of the sign I had an accident and before I could do anything the accident dried. My wife couldn’t spot it, so maybe it’s not so bad. Along with the sign I put a sample of all the products on the table. Quite a few people stopped to look. Everyone loves the cute dollhouses and the animals. People liked the knobs too. The tables were unfinished (not enough time) so the rest of the unfinished wood products blended into the table. My wife had the idea to put paper on the table – sort of like butcher’s paper. This worked well as I wrote descriptions of the product and prices on the paper. I like the concept, but I’d like to find a different color paper.

Happy Bungalows first show animals and knobs table

You can get a closer look at the tables – the legs are planed lumber and the tops are birch veneered plywood. They’re lightweight and universally interchangeable. The animals were a big hit – especially the walnut animals. I’ll be making more of those soon. This is where Happy Bungalow’s first sale came from. Not a dollar, but a twenty – I’ll frame it anyway. A super sweet lady at the next booth came over to congratulate me. I made more sales later, handed out business cards, and talked to a lot of people. I can’t wait for the next show.