Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Word About Scale

1:12 Scale Dollhouse
The majority of dollhouse miniatures are created in 1:12 scale, also called 1 inch scale.   With that scale, 1" equals one foot in real life.   Half-inch and quarter-inch scales are also very popular but far too small for our project!   There's also "Playscale" (also known as 1:6 or 2" scale) which results in houses and furnishings twice as large as 1 inch scale.  A 3-story house can be very large...over 4 feet tall!   This is a scale generally suited to small children or to fit  fashion dolls (ie, Barbie or American Girl).   However, for the $5 Dollhouse Fixer-Upper, I'll be making a dollhouse for a child using 1" scale and all my notes will be for 1" scale unless I say otherwise!

Read What Scale's Right for Me? at Jim's Printables for more information.

Even though Playscale is for children, many dolls and furnishings can be found in one-inch scale which would also be suitable for children (over 3).   The Loving Family dolls and the Melissa & Doug dollhouse furnishings are two reasonably priced product lines that come to mind.

You might ask:   "I bought a used dollhouse at a yard sale, how do I know which scale it is?

Don't worry....checking for 1 inch scale is simple math (other scales can be more complicated...LOL).

 My $5 dollhouse, for instance,  has a ceiling height of 9" for all the first floor and the 2nd floor rooms.   This corresponds to a 9 foot ceiling height in a real house.  Good!  Many older homes will have a 9 foot ceiling height, although modern homes usually have 8 foot ceilings.   Also, the rooms are 12" deep, which corresponds to 12 feet in 1" scale.  A 12 foot wide room is a fairly normal (but small) room dimension in a real house.  Based on those dimensions, 1"scale furniture should fit well in my dollhouse.

Dollhouse scaled to fit IN a dollhouse!

If your dimensions are anywhere close to what I've described, you probably have a 1-inch scale house.   If the ceiling height is a much bigger number (say 12"-16"), you might have a "Playscale" house.   If ceiling height is a much smaller number (such as 6"), then you'd be working with 1/2" scale.   An even smaller number could mean 1/4" scale, which is probably too small a scale for a young child (pieces will be more fragile).

The dimensions don't have to be exact for a child's play dollhouse.  Many wood dollhouses made for children by Dad or Grandad don't fit any exact scale.   As long as it comes fairly close to one of the standard scales, you can make small adjustments.    Of course, if you were working with a collectable dollhouse, you'd want to be more precise.

So why is all this "scale" stuff important?    It means, when shopping for dolls and furniture that will live in your house, pay attention to height dimensions so any dolls you buy will not only fit in the rooms, they'll fit in the chairs that you bought or made.  In one inch scale, a 5" tall female doll is a 5 foot tall woman.   A 6" male doll would be a 6 foot man.    You wouldn't want to sit a 6' man in a 1 foot tall chair, would you?   LOL

Scale also applies to the printables that you might be using to decorate your dollhouse.   At Jim's Printables, for instance, he offers everything in your choice of 1", 1/2" and 1/4" scale or in Playscale.   Knowing which scale you're working with  makes selection much easier!

Sometimes you need to make corrections to the scale, even for printables that are already properly scaled.  If you're having problems printing to scale, read this excellent article on how to print true to scale:   How to Fix Scaling on Printables  

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