Do You Have What it Takes to Make a Putz House?
Putz houses are also called glitter houses or little cardboard houses. They were originally made in Germany in the early 1900s then by Japan. The little Japanese Putz houses from the 1930s are the most coveted by collectors. If you want to read more about the history of the houses - go to Papa Ted's website which is the best place on the web to read about the history of these incredible little houses.
Here are the 8 essential tools if you want to make your own Putz or glitter house. These tools are easy to obtain so you can get started on your miniature house-making creative journey.
- Cutting Mat
- Cutting Tool - craft knife, scissors
- Metal-Edged Ruler
- Cardboard or Cardstock
- Painter's Tape and Binder Clips
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A cutting mat makes it easy to cut your paper or cardboard, it is best to have a sturdy cutting surface so you won’t mar your crafting table. The two main cutting surfaces are the self-healing mats that are often found in the sewing section of the craft store or a glass mat. I use a glass mat most often now because I can paint on it and clean it a little easier, but either one will work for you. The glass mat does tend to dull your cutting blade faster though.
Common brands are:
- Olga Self-Healing Mat
- Fiskar's Self-Healing Cutting Mat
- Tim Holtz Glass Media Mat
- We R Memories Glass Mat
You need a good cutting tool commonly called a craft knife or Xacto knife used with an 11 blade. If you are going to be doing a lot of cutting, there are ergonomically shaped craft knives that are much nicer to use, much easier on your hands. This one is my favorite ergonomic craft knife.
Also you can use the back side of the craft knife (the dull side) to score the cardboard along the fold lines.
Important Safety Rule: Always get in the habit of putting your craft knife down with the blade end facing away from you and the edge of the table – it’s MUCH safer that way. You are less likely to bleed if you make that a habit. You need to make it a habit.
Scissors are useful too, but you really need a craft knife.
You can use scissors for cutting cardstock and thin cardboard, but it is difficult to cut as precisely with scissors. Making clean interior cuts of windows and doors is not possible with scissors.
A metal-edge ruler is a necessity that you might not realize you need at first. When you cut with a craft knife, you can cut right into plastic or wood and you won’t be able to cut a straight line. Your ruler must have a metal edge. It’s easy to overlook this particular tool. Remember this tool as one of the most basic and necessary for making Putz houses.
I like the cork backing so that the ruler won't slip. Here is an example of a good metal-edge ruler.
Cardboard or Cardstock
I usually make my putz houses out of regular cardboard (similar to the cardboard of a cereal box) because I want them to be sturdy and to last for many years. The cardboard you find on the back of a pad of paper is also very nice.
When I first made my houses I did make them out of cardstock. Your houses can be fairly sturdy when made with 65# cardstock (65# is the most commonly found cardstock, but you can also find 110# cardstock at office supply or craft stores). After you coat your little house with paint and glue and glitter, it will be sturdy, just not quite as long-lasting as when it is made with cardboard.
You could possibly use corrugated cardboard, but it can be challenging to fold and cut accurately. I use corrugated cardboard to make my bases for the houses or to mimic log siding, but not for the houses themselves.
You can buy sheets of sturdy cardboard or chipboard, but I just like the idea of using cardboard I recycle for these projects. This cardboard looks like about the weight I use for my little houses.
The basic glue to use is white PVA (polyvinyl acetate) glue – the regular white glue you used in grade school. There are variations in this type of glue some of which dry faster or hold better depending on the formulation. My current favorite is Aleene’s Fast Grab Glue that is very thick and holds the house pieces together a little faster.
You can make your house using a hot glue gun, but I don’t recommend it unless you are in a hurry to make the house, for example, at a craft party. Hot glue is not as forgiving so if you don’t line the edges up well, you are stuck - literally. It also can make a very thick seam that can affect the shape of the house. And finally, I don’t think it is as durable. If you store your little house in an attic (isn’t that where most Christmas decorations get stored anyway?) the hot glue can melt and lose its hold.
But one of the best glitter house makers always uses hot glue - Rhonda of Christmas Notebook so I know you can successfully make the little houses with hot glue.
Glue is also needed to adhere glitter. You can use diluted white PVA glue, specific collage medium or Mod Podge.
Common brands are:
- Elmer’s GlueAll
- Aleene’s Tacky Glue - easiest to find
- Aleene’s Fast Grab - my favorite but can be a little hard to find
- or Aleene’s Quick Dry - a little thicker than the Tacky glue, but not as thick as the Fast Grab
- Ranger Collage Medium
- Mod Podge -I actually buy it in bulk like this
Helpful Hint - When you finish a bottle of glue, save the top for the next bottle of glue because inevitably you will misplace the top one day. Well, that's what happens to me, anyway.
Paint for the surface of your little house – most acrylic craft paints work well. I’ve even used the little jars of sample paints from home improvement stores. I wouldn’t recommend watercolor paints, though, because they will run when glue touches them and also bleed into your glitter when you coat your house. My favorite brands are Ranger’s Distress paints because the color range is so nice and Martha Stewart’s Craft paints, but really any acrylic brand will work fine. You can apply glitter directly to your paint layer, but your glitter will adhere better if you let the paint dry completely and then coat it with dilute glue or collage medium.
Some putz makers mix paint and glue for the glitter layer.
Painter’s Tape and Binder Clips
Why painter’s tape and clips? Because you do not want to have to hold your house together while the glue dries. I mainly use painter’s tape, but often hold the parts of the house together with a binder clip while the glue sets.
I like the green Frog Tape the best because it rarely pulls up the surface of the cardboard. The blue 3M tape is a little stronger and a little more likely to pull up the finish if you have already painted your house. Other putz house makers don't paint their houses until they are all glued together then how strong the tape is wouldn't matter.
Or even clothes pins can work in some areas to hold you house together while the glue is drying.
For some pieces the binders won't fit so you do have to hold them while the glue dries.
The final detail that makes your little house shine. Pick out the kind of glitter you like. Some types of glitter have an iridescent sheen to them. Look closely at the bottle to see if that is what you want.
If your goal is a delicate, subtly glittered surface, then use clear glitter over your paint layer. If you want a really bright, vibrant glitter layer, then use the same shade of glitter over your paint. The shiniest glitter is called Diamond Dust – it’s actually tiny shards of glass. If your putz house is going where children might handle it, don’t use this type of glitter.
There is another glitter that I love - Rock Candy glitter. It is shiny without being in your face shiny and doesn't stick to things like the plastic based glitter does.
With these essential tools you can create a little house that will be treasured for years to come.
So now you know the simple materials needed to make your own glitter house.
P.S. Please let me know if you have any other questions about making the little houses. I will be glad to help. [email protected]