How to build toy barns

Written by jane smith
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Whether you are completing a countryside scene on your model railroad layout or making a 4-H agricultural display, toy barns are the centrepiece. They are a great way to help your child make the important connection between the food on his plate and the plants, animals and labour it took to get it there. They are also a way to preserve the fast-fading architectural variety of barn types. Not all barns are the octagon-roofed, red-painted bank barns once used to house dairy cattle.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Your chosen barn design plans
  • Masonite or 1/4-inch thick plywood
  • Overhead projector
  • Easel paper
  • Carpenter's pencil or black marker
  • Jigsaw
  • Carpenter's glue
  • 1/16-inch diameter, 1/2-inch long panelling nails
  • Tack hammer
  • Two 1/4-inch thick, 1/2-inch wide wood strips the length of your barn sides
  • Two additional 36-inch wood strips
  • 36-inch long, 1/8-inch diameter dowel rod
  • Two piano hinges with manufacturer's hardware
  • Two pieces chalkboard rail or U-channel
  • Desired colour barn paint or stain

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  1. 1

    Decide what type of barn you wish to build. Bank barns, Mail Pouch advertising barns and round barns are three barn types found in Ohio and throughout the Midwest.

  2. 2

    Choose a barn plan from the Historic American Building Survey page in the Resources at the end of this article or find other barn plans that please your eye. Use an overhead projector to enlarge your chosen design to the size your toy barn will be. Sketch the design onto easel paper using a carpenter's pencil or black marker. Lay out the design of your chosen barn on ¼-inch plywood or Masonite.

  3. 3

    Cut all pieces using a jigsaw. Assemble the three fixed walls first, before assembling any walls with sliding doors. If all four walls are fixed, assemble the front, back and one side wall first, leaving one wall open. Use butted joints and carpenter's glue for a temporary hold. Allow everything to dry overnight. Use the thinnest diameter panelling nails you can find, and use a tack hammer to secure everything. Nails should be three to six inches apart.

  4. 4

    Nail wood strips inside the barn, flush with the top edge of the sides, to serve as supports for the hayloft, if your barn design includes one. Cut an access hole at one end of the hayloft floorboard and make a ladder using wood strips and dowel rods. Add the remaining fixed wall. Use the first piano hinge along the right or left side, depending which way you want your fourth fixed wall to open. Nail or screw the piano hinge into place according to manufacturer's directions, using supplied hardware.

  5. 5

    Make channels for sliding doors using chalkboard rail or wooden, plastic or metal U-channel, if your barn design includes them. Secure the top and bottom rail to the side walls and hayloft floor, if any, before sliding the walls into place.

  6. 6

    Make an accessible roof by attaching the second piano hinge between two roof panels. Nail all other roof panels into place.

  7. 7

    Paint your barn in your desired colour. The most common barns in Ohio use white and red paint and walnut or oxblood stain. Place your barn on your layout or make a display table from plywood and two-by-fours.

Tips and warnings

  • This project requires at least two semesters of wood shop courses at your local high school or community college or the equivalent experience in a wood shop under the tutelage of a master carpenter or dollhouse maker.

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