I frequently get asked questions about the scale of my designs, especially in regards to my kits. Sometimes this is due to people wanting to buy accessories to go with their houses. Other times they are concerned on whether the houses will fit well with a train layout, or vintage Putz Houses. With the release of the new Tim Holtz Village Dies, another question is how much to shrink my patterns so they are the same scale as the new dies. Here are some of the questions I get asked, in question and answer format:
Q: What scale were vintage Putz Houses?
A: Per Paul D. Race for Big Indoor TrainsTM , “Between 1910 and 1960, many families set houses, scenery, and other accessories around their train sets, Nativity displays, and/or Christmas trees. These displays paid little attention to scale, or time period.”
I found the following vintage photo posted in the Cardboard Christmas Forums by contributor Maria (no last name given.) She estimates the picture is from the 1920s or 30s. Note the disparity in the size of the houses.
Q: Tim Holtz’s Original big XL dwelling dies are what scale?
A: Since I started with the Original Tim Holtz Village dies, I have continued to to make my patterns in this scale. Except Tim Holtz didn’t design to a particular scale! I watched a video where Tim admits he didn’t really work towards a particular scale, instead just fit what he could on the XL dies. And if you compare his dies to patterns for dollhouses you will see that he is far from precise in scale. The door for his Village Dwelling is 1 5/16″ tall, the door for his Village Brownstone is 2 3/16″. So right from the beginning we can throw out the precision that dollhouse makers have with scale. Sometimes I will just increase or decrease my pattern until I think it “looks right” with the rest of my village. Trying to find a better starting point, however, and over quite a bit of time and with a lot of trial and error, I came to the conclusion that the Original Dies are closest to train S scale, 1:64, where 1 inch = 5.33 feet. The standard height of the modern American door is 80 inches, or 6 feet 8 inches. I got myself an S scale ruler and measured it against the door of the Original Tim Holtz Village Dwelling, which fit the door height for S scale. Now for the bad news: when looking for accessories, S scale is nowhere as popular as O scale 1:48 (or dollhouse quarter scale) or HO scale 1: 87.
If you are going to go shopping for accessories, I suggest cutting out the front of one of your buildings (including the door) and taking it with you. Don’t get hung up on if it is the right scale. If you like how it looks with your house, you will be happy.
When people are trying to determine if one of my buildings will fit with their existing village, they will often ask me the height of the building. Buildings vary in height depending on the number of stories, the slope of the roof, the style of the building, and the height of the chimney. A comparison of door sizes are a much better indicator of scale. Do remember that even doors can vary in size, however. Modern entry doors can go up to 96 inches (8 feet) in standard sizing, and custom doors could be even taller. I modeled my “wrought iron” door on my Victorian Painted Lady after an oversized real door I saw in a catalog. The entrance doors to a cathedral might be oversized while the doors to the Old English village church could well be undersized.
Q: What scale is Tim Holtz’ New Thinlit Village Dies? How much should I shrink a pattern to fit with the new dies?
The height of the original Village Dwelling cutout to the peak of the roof is 3.5 inches. The same piece cut with the new dies is 2 15/16 (2.9375.) Hence the new dies are 83.9% of the size of the originals. Apply this percentage to any of my patterns if you want them to fit the new Tim Holtz Thinlit Dies. That may be too small for some of the detailed trim on my patterns, however. For this reason I currently have no plans to make kits at this smaller size, though I may experiment with the idea in the future if enough people express interest..
As for the scale of the New Tim Holtz Thinlit Dies, 64 divided by .839 is 76.28. So I believe the closest gauge would be OO scale, which is 1:76.2. To doublecheck this, at S gauge, a 3.5 inch high house would equate to a full sized house that is 18.7 feet tall (3.5 x 64 =224 inches divided by 12 = 18.66 feet. In 1:76 scale, take those 224 inches and divide by 76.2, and you get 2.939. Very close to the size of peak of the new die. If you live in the UK, you are in luck as OO scale is the most popular scale in the UK. Unfortunately, it is not as popular in the US.
If you have bought the new dies and want to incorporate them into your village, consider placing the smaller buildings towards the back, thus creating the perspective of those buildings being further away. Joyce Gross’ entry to the 2021 Paper Glitter Glue Miniature House Contest is an excellent example of this forced perspective.
Q: I want to make your patterns in O scale. How much do I need to increase them?
A: Recently I have been contacted by several dollhouse makers wanting to know if I could make my kits in dollhouse quarter scale 1:48, which in the train world is O scale. More math! If S scale is 1:64, and O Scale is 1:48, multiply a S scale pattern by 1.333 to convert it to O scale. Conversely, S scale is 75% of the size of an O scale pattern.
A few more thoughts about scale:
If you are going to shrink your pattern, consider using a lighter weight building material, especially for the trim. If you have difficulties cutting very fine items like porch railings, cut the item multiple times out of a thin cardstock, then glue the pieces together to make it sturdier.
Which scale you decide to make your village may have a lot to do with how much space you have to store or display your village. I used to have an O scale Lionel train that had belonged to my mother when she was a child that circled my Christmas Tree for years. It eventually started to give off sparks and we decided it was time to retire it. I had several O scale buildings that went with the train, but couldn’t fit more than a few under the tree. The houses also took up a lot of space when I packed them away after Christmas. I then bought a new S scale American Flyer Train. By the time I started making aluminum can houses using the Tim Holtz Original Village Dies, the kids had grown up and I no longer laid out the train set at Christmas time. This post is inspiring me to dust it off next Christmas and see how much of a village I can fit under my tree.
If you make any of my patterns in OO scale to fit with the new Tim Holtz Thinlit dies I would be very interested to hear about your experience cutting the buildings smaller. And, as always, I would love to see pictures of your village. Please share photos with me by emailing me at Jackie@acottageintheforest.com.