Dollhouse built from laser-cut plywood
I wanted a dollhouse for my daughter. But, as it often happens, I couldn't find anything I liked. I wanted it to be tall, with multiple floors connected with stairs. I wanted every room easily accessible, with few external walls. And I also wanted it built in a way that would allow four kids to comfortably play together.
I ended up designing my own dollhouse in a CAD program, then laser-cutting it in 5mm plywood. The structure is held together by mortise-tenon joints, with just a little glue so that it doesn't fall apart when picked up. It's amazing how precisely you can cut plywood with a laser.
This is my second design in laser-cut plywood (the first was an Art-Deco inspired Nixie clock) and I feel I've learned a lot. My main discoveries so far:
- Plywood will warp. Not as much as wood, but expect large surfaces to eventually warp. You can either ignore it (it might not matter), or design additional support structures.
- Laser cutter is incredibly precise, but your plywood often isn't. You can't rely on the "official" thickness. I found 5mm plywood to be anything from 4.75mm to 5.25mm (and that is supposedly pretty good). Measure your particular batch and design your structure for the measured thickness. It really helps to use a parametric modelling CAD program, so that you can change the thickness anytime.
- It is easy to design a structure, but more difficult to design a structure that you can assemble. I discovered the hard way that some designs simply can't be assembled (parts block one another and there is no order of putting things together that will allow you to complete the structure).
- Your mortise-tenon joints will fit even if you make both the hole (mortise) and the peg (tenon) the same size. Cutting laser thickness provides enough room. Still, unless you have perfect quality plywood, it is better to offset your hole edges and make holes slightly larger.
I'm quite happy with the results so far and will certainly use this method for other projects.