Patience is a Virtue
Thanks to 1 man’s patience, 3 young ladies now own handmade dollhouses
Story and Photos by Shirley Brosius Additional Photos Courtesy of Tom and Kathryn Lewis
During a career as a carpenter, plumber and electrician, he learned patience. And Thomas ‘‘Tom’’ Lewis of Tower City needed plenty of patience as he created dollhouses for three great-granddaughters. Furnishings range from kitchen cabinets to tiny toasters.
Now 87, Lewis began work on the first dollhouse in the fall of 2007. “I always did the furniture first,” he said. “Then more or less made the house to fit. Kyla Hand of Wilkes-Barre was 2 years old when he built her dollhouse; she’s now 13. “I like that it’s original,” she said. “And that nobody else is going to have the dollhouse like I have.”
Hand uses dolls or makes up imaginary characters to play with the dollhouse. “The thing that surprised me the most was the roof. He made individual tiles for the roof; that takes a lot of patience,” she said.
Started with a Gallon of Glue
Lewis got the idea to build dollhouses from a paper attached to a gallon of glue he had purchased as he restored furniture. So he sketched out plans on paper and went to work. “I use all white pine,” Lewis said, “and plywood, usually quarter-inch plywood.”
His first dollhouse is patterned after an old Victorian farmhouse with extensions out both sides of the house. Shutters sport hand-painted tulips.
He built a second dollhouse as a 2017 Christmas gift for Isabella Aguilar, now 4, of Williamstown.
That more traditional style frame house features windows topped with triangular decorative molding and includes a front porch.
Brielle Hand, 8, Kyla’s sister, received Lewis’ third dollhouse, another Victorian-style home, this past Christmas.
Her dollhouse features a wraparound porch and a roof with 3,964 shingles.
On each house, Lewis glued the three-eight inch wide, three-quarter-inch long shingles in place one by one. As Lewis cut shingles for the third house from a four-foot-long piece of white pine, he also cut two middle fingers of his left hand when his saw kicked back as it hit a pencil-eraser-sized knot. But after healing, he continued working in his backyard shop.
“I really like the bedrooms, how the walls were and the pictures he made in there,” Brielle Hand said. “I really like the colors. The kids’ bedroom is pink and white. The grownups’ (bedroom) color is like an ocean color blue.” According to Brielle, her LOL dolls fit perfectly for play. “I really like the entire house,” she said.
Methods and Materials
All three dollhouses are about 36 inches long by 30 inches high and 12 inches deep According to Lewis, he makes everything by hand except for the chains for a swing, hinges and that kind of detail. “Everybody wonders how I put the hinges on. You wouldn’t believe it. The nails in it are that big,” he said holding his fingers about a quarter inch apart. “I have all different kinds of tweezers. I have to take a straight pin and start a little hole and push them in.”
Anything he can’t nail, he glues.
Lewis’ wife, Kathryn, sews drapes and bedspreads for the dollhouses from scraps of material she’s accumulated through the years from sewing clothes for her family, which includes four children.
See Patience • PAGE D12