Hotel: Foldable Plywood walls

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My bad weather project has rehabbing a Grand Hotel by Mattel for Barbie.

Definitely an OLD NEW GREEN REDO, post.

Hotel: Making Grand Hotel  Permanent Walls with plywood.

I quickly realized, when I kept walking into the fold-out ends of the Mattel Grand Hotel
(now my GRAND VIEWshops and condos) 
and the foam core just isn't strong enough for
doing battle with my BODY.  I needed something that would fold all the way around so I could take photos and work on the interiors, and do my doll stories.

Hubby brought home 1/4"-one good side plywood, AC grade, the cheapest option. Plywood is lighter weight than hardboard and holds hinges better and nails!


Foam Core Walls: On the back side, you  can see where I had to make the patch above the lower right door. Too many openings weaken the foam core. Using thicker foam core would work but at $5-6 a for 20"x30" sheet, might as well use plywood. 


 The windows in the HOTEL...the reason I bought the totally wrecked hotel was the windows. No front door, but I thought oh, those windows! 


Since I already had the foam core walls, I had perfect patterns to make the new pieces. UPSIDE: I do have a husband that loves to putter in the workshop 
so he quickly made all the cuts for me. 
I could have done this myself, but Sh-Sh-h-h-h, we won't tell him that. 
This is the first floor inside wall with the doors/refrigerator in the bakery shop.
Before: A real challenge were these second floor window walls between the condos and the (hole) is the atrium. This is Colette's condo on the East side. Luckily I had used white duck-tape to attach the windows and door frame to the foam core. 

I simply pulled the windows/doors out and retraced the outlines. Curves are actually easier on a jig-saw then trying to cut curves in foam core.
I made a few adjustments for fit with hand tools. 


See how nice everything fits with this 1/4" plywood. I put the smooth side of the plywood to the atrium, The condos can easily use wallpaper to cover up flaws. 


Here are the new plywood walls in place. They are designed to fold up almost flat. Double check everything before attaching hinges. If you are working with a plastic structure, don't expect everything to be level or square.


Furniture or cabinets will all be able to be removed by attaching with velcro. This is Lara's condo kitchen which needs some shelves and cabinets, I can attach those with velcro also.

Hubby glued and screwed the hinges for me and sanded off the ends of the brass screws. A little glue in the pre-drilled screw holes keeps them from stripping the thin plywood. The screws will be invisible on the inside. I have no idea if I will finish the outside of the walls to look the building or not. If I ever drag it anywhere for display---maybe, lol.  Meanwhile the hinged panels will give me access for photographs.

Supplies and Tools needed to make wood walls for miniature 1:6 structures.


Paper, cardboard, or foam core for patterns (Since I work with Mattel original structures, I have to be flexible on construction because everything isn't square or level.) This is why I'm attaching these pieces with velcro. I've had good luck with gel-Gorilla super glue, I'm sure any would work for attaching even sticky velcro. 

1/4" AC plywood (has one good smooth side-most economical). Lumberyards sell 2x4, 4x4, and 4x8 pieces. Some lumber yards will cut pieces to your dimensions into square or rectangular pieces. Make sure you don't ask for this on a weekend.


Above: Small cabinet hinges- 2-3 sets for each set of panels. Thin plywood also needs to be painted on both sides to keep from warping. (Brass decorative hinges are the thinnest, but whatever works for you. I like these because they go both directions and make nice tight corners inside the structure.) 

Wood filler, Sandpaper, or foam sanding blocks 

Paint with primer-any wall paint will work a with a couple of coats, I prefer satin finish because it is washable and can handle sticky tapes and products. Craft paints are just wall paint in satin finish. I don't use spray paints on bare wood---if you want to spray paint, seal the wood with a primer/sealer, first. Remember to finish both sides at least with primer.

TIP: Tint smaller amounts of white wall paint with craft acrylics, lots cheaper than buying quarts of individual colors.
 I always peruse the reduced paint screw-ups for useable paints for projects. Quarts are sometimes only $3...or so. I use spray paints for anything plastic, and craft paints for details, then sealed with acrylic sealer (in winter) or clear spray sealer in warmer months.



Left to right Top:
Pencil, tack hammer(has a smaller head), measuring tape, square, hobby knives. 

Lower Left to right.
Screwdriver which takes different size heads, miter saw, coping saw, with aluminum miter box inside, wire clippers, small sharp scissors, pliers, lg. scissors, three files(flat, 3-sided, 1/2 round.) sandpapers, lightweight upholstery stapler. 

Here's another tool set-up: scissors, heavy wire cutter, awl (sharp point for making/starting holes), needle-nose pliers, long flat screwdriver, putty knife, pliers, coping saw, Dremel tool(grinds, sands, cuts, drills--just about any material at high speed, excellent for cutting plastic structures apart.)

Some of my favorite tools.
Power Tools:
I recommend electric saws for cutting large-wall sized pieces, or have the lumberyard cut your pieces to size for an extra cost.

Straight cuts can be made on a table saw or a circular saw with a steady hand. Use a fine toothed blades to get smoothest edges on thin plywood.

An electric band saw, jig saw or saber saw can do your curves, if you have any. 

You also can cut curves, window holes, and small trims with hand tools: a hand coping saw or a small cut saw, single blade with a handle works fine.
I also use a miter saw and box for cutting small straight edges and 45 degree angles. 

For cut-outs: Drill a hole in the middle of the wood---and insert your tool's blade and cut from there (coping saw or saber saw blade). Hand tool cuts will require extra filing, planing and sanding to get smooth edges.

More tools, Coping saw, wire cutters, putty knife and screw driver.
Other Hand Tools: 

I use some hobby knife sets for fine cutting, trimming, planing. These are made by multiple brands X Acto, Xacto, Gordon, Fiskars, and lots of store brands. They are often interchangeable. I have inherited tools from my dad so I have a bit of everything. 

This was one of my dad's sets. Blades are easily replaced. Most crafters would find this a good set. The different handles are for different sized blades and thickness of blades. Surprisingly, I have used most of these blades for one thing or another.


I purchased this set in an after Christmas Sale reasonable. It really is designed for the hobby craftsperson. The thinner blades are great for shaving off areas, even rounding wood.


It has a planer, which will shave straight edges and it's adjustable. It's tricky adjusting, but well worth it when it is set to the right depth.


The set also has a long serrated blade for small sawing. The handle is great for holding and accurate small wood sawing. To the right is a tweezers, I use several types for lots of stuff. Sometimes for a finger to hold glued pieces. 

I don't advertise, but I do use these products and re-buy them repeatedly. Not shown is Elmer's or Gorilla wood glue and velcro. The Goo Gone is a must for removing glue, stickers, old paints. The spray can version of Goo-Gone actually disintegrates superglued pieces apart. (Especially fingers---slowly spray several times as you pull fingers apart--no ripped skin.) Wash your hands immediately. 

An electric drill sure helps the arthritis, but you can easily use hand drills and screw drivers to do doll projects. The small vise was my dad's for fly-tying, perfect for holding tiny pieces of wood or plastic.

Back to the Walls. 


Hinges are pre-drilled and screwed in with wood glue. Then Hubby ground off the tips of the screws on the inside. (Using larger screws gave a better hold in the thin wood. 1/4" plywood is really thin but durable.


The west side bakery wall corner.

               The east side Salon corner, tiny gap. I'm really pleased with how the new walls firm up the entire structure.

I'm going to add some cove molding at the ceiling on the first floor. You can see daylight coming through, due to the slight warpage of the plywood. This is caused by the slight gap of the thickness of the velcro.

The double hinges here, allow me to open 1/2 or all of the left wall. In place I can also open the right wall, the hole is the 'door to the kitchen' in Colette's condo. 


The wooden Atrium walls on the second floor are working great. They will have a small molding on the floor to support them. The kitchen door hole again on the left, I have to hinge that, or tape it in place. 


Here is Colette's apartment from the first hinged wall open. It opens completely to be flat against the other piece.

You can see the Velcro lined up. I've used self stick which isn't happy on all surfaces, and then hot glued it again. So far, most pieces are working fine.

Lara's Kitchen wall all finished and painted. The wall shelves and cabinets need to be attached.

I will still use some foam core wall inserts for separating the bathroom in Lara's. This will easily lift to photo the all of the small studio sized condo.


The foam tape on the floor anchors the sink. I still haven't figured out now to anchor the door on the shower. This happens when you cobble parts from various structures. 


One thing Mattel doesn't do is make walls high enough in any of their structures. Dolls are up to 12" tall now--in heels, more. So, I've added an extra inch and a half---for my walls, for taking photos. This is the East side


And the West side, Lara's still unfinished studio condo.

Everything I do inside these condos will be temporary---as I will use the same footprint for the fictitious multiple floors for NEW owners. I hope to have 6 more condos from these two...and maybe even a Penthouse...I wonder who would want the Penthouse...Hmmmmm! 

Next post: Moldings and Trim: painting and touch ups! 

What Structures or Dioramas have you redone, even if it is just paint and paper? 

Thank you for visiting, I will try and respond to every question and comment. I will be doing further posts on tutorials for the Hotel and contents.

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  1. Thank you Sandi for sharing your behind the 'how to' you work on and finish so many Hotel interior scenes - looking forward to what you create next.

    1. Thanks, Joy. It keeps me out of trouble for sure. Have a great week!

  2. Absolutely amazing, so much work and attention to detail! I agree with you, the windows look great. I asked my son to make me one, but I goofed on the size and it's pretty small. Maybe with the virus he'll decide he's just bored enough to make a bigger one:@) Have fun Sandi, I can appreciate all the effort you (and hubby) are putting into these projects.
    PS-Happy Mother's Day Weekend!

    1. Hi, Lynn. 15" tall is a pretty good height for walls, and you need more than 12" in depth. I usually use at least 18-20" In order to fit furniture. Mattel rarely makes anything deep enough for a bed to come out. That is the reason I put the hotel on a new foundation, to get an extra inch and half height on the main floor. I still use the foam core walls to set up mini dioramas, so they can be packed away. Have a great weekend, and Happy Mother's Day!

  3. Love all the details, Sandi! Thanks for sharing at Vintage Charm!

    1. Thanks so much, Vintage Charm is always a pleasure to join! Sandi


Thanks so much for each and every comment, and I will try and answer any questions you may have.