Building Kiki's Cottage... to be continued

Our family has an absolute fascination and love for all things Studio Ghibli, which has followed on the heels of our first viewing of Ponyo in 2010 when our youngest was just around 2 years old. We talk often of Ghibli on our Instagram feed and have our good share of Ghibli collectibles and memorabilia strewn around our home. Today however, I would like to focus on the Kiki's Delivery Service Cottage Set by Sankei. I almost passed out when I spotted this kit on Amazon. Sankei did not stop at Kiki's house either, they make a lot of different Ghibli scenes and I fully intend to purchase and construct other sets in the near future.

First things first, please note that this is a DIY project. You will need to commit A LOT of patient crafting time to make a final product that looks like the model on the cover of the packaging. We are only part way through but I am completely impressed with quality and durability of the parts. If you have the time and the focus.. and the eye sight (trust me, these parts are teeny tiny!), then you *should* end up with a cottage that looks close to the model when complete. Here's to hoping!
  • Craft Glue (I used Elmer's Craft Bond Tacky Glue and it worked fabulously).
  • Sewing Needle
  • Exacto Knife (I used a box cutter which worked fine, but an Exacto would ideal).
  • Scissors
  • Cutting Mat or Cardboard
  • Tweezers
  • Patience. Seriously. 
Also of note, the written directions are in Chinese so unless you can read Chinese, you will be constructing your cottage using only the provided diagrams. The diagrams are relatively clear, once you make note of a few things, all of which I will share here so that hopefully you can avoid some of the early mistakes I had made. After the cost of the kit and the time involved, you definitely do not want to make any big mistakes early on which could ruin your Kiki's Cottage!

Above is my progress after about an hour or two. The first mistake I made which presented some problems for me was right smack in Step 1. You will see that there are two parts, A-1 and B-1 shown upright. I was under the impression that these pieces would be ultimately across from one another, forming both the front and back of the structure. This is not true. These pieces ultimately will be sandwiched together, which creates a double wall thickness. This is important to recognize early. 

The second important tip that I can give to you is in regards to the directions that run along the right side of the page. The right half of the page has diagrams in a thin lined square. These diagrams often show a gray square somewhere inside. These gray shapes represent your window panes. You create these window panes from the clear plastic square provided with the kit. You cut through the plastic in the approximate size of the dimension provided and you will then glue the plastic to the area shown in the diagram which will create a nice shiny window effect behind your window pane cutouts.

In the first step, the dimension of the window pane is 38mm x 15mm. I never did cut the pieces precisely to these dimensions, and it presented no problems for me but please make note to NOT cover up the any of the slender little rectangles, which represent slots, when gluing your plastic onto the walls. These slots need to be free and uncovered and will be used when constructing your walls. Also, it is not real clear which side to attach the plastic to. I attached the plastic to what will be the inner most side of the walls. I did not sandwich them between the double walls. I tried that once and it did not seem right.

Next tip, do NOT cut out all pieces at once. Don't you dare. You will want to cut as you go or you will have a real mess on your hands. When removing a piece from the sheet, you cannot simply pop the pieces out. Each piece must have the tiny little tabs that are holding the pieces into the sheet severed so that the piece can be removed without damage. Be patient with this, which is hard by the time you get to your 174th piece. You can do this with a sharp blade and cutting mat. Please exercise extreme caution when using and storing your blade. If crafting your Kiki's Cottage with your Ghibli loving kiddos (which you probably won't be, but more on that later), be sure to keep your blade out of reach of those little hands! 

Moving on. Some of the tabs will be able to be 'popped' into slots. Your first experience of joining a tab and slot will give a satisfying little pop when the pieces grab together. Do not expect any of the other tabs to connect this way. I bent up one of the walls trying to figure out why the pieces wouldn't connect. I didn't realize that glue was necessary and naively I guess I assumed it all snapped together. It doesn't, so do not try. The slots most of the time will accept the tabs but ONLY for the purpose of giving you some grab when joining the pieces for gluing. Use glue and use a lot of it. The glue I used (noted above) worked pretty quickly and dried clear.

The best application for the glue is by squeezing glue onto a piece of cardboard and dabbing it with a straight pin and applying it by pin (see above for example). Yes, these pieces are small and the areas are narrow, so the pin method is ideal. How small can these pieces get? I am so glad you asked!

That is not a poppy seed on my finger. That little guy was impossible to cut out and even more impossible to build into the porch light that it was supposed to become. More on the porch light later.

As you build, you will find little triangles throughout the pieces. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to pop those triangles out or not, but ultimately decided they were there only to assist with identifying the correct orientation of the piece. The above picture will also give you a good idea of how the tabs are mostly there to help fit the pieces together properly, the glue is what will actually keep them together.

Here is the front porch. This little part was so fun to build! It is the part in the construction where you realize how precise and well constructed this kit really is. It constructs together beautifully. I am not sure if I mentioned this before ;) but patience is your friend throughout the entire building process. See the three tiers of gray in the photo above? Glue them one at a time and let dry for a few minutes before adding the next layer. For walls and other detailing, you will often find yourself working on two steps at a time so that you can let connections from one part dry before pressing other parts into it which could shift the newly glued parts around.

Above is a view of the glass effect that the plastic sheeting gives behind the window/door panes. Very cute detailing!

After you construct your pieces, and this goes pretty much for the whole project, you can use your pin to add beads of glue to the inner joints to help keep the model strong and solid (example above).

You likely will miss steps as you go. This happened to me a few times and almost every time I was able to go back and add the step in with little fuss. It would be a help though to stop every now and then and compare the diagram of the step you are on to your model. If you find any parts in the diagram that are not on your model, do a double check to see what step you missed and make it right.

On page 4 you will see a square of directions to the right, this is directly under the crease midway down the paper. Do not miss this step! I missed it and attached the porch prior to my pathetic attempt at crafting the miniscule yet totally awesome ultra tiny porch light. With the help of tweezers, I was actually successful at adhering the porch light on the wall by going through the front porch opening. Attach it first and you will save yourself some trouble.

Here is what the porch looks like attached... and this is where my day of crafting ends. I have worked for at least 4 or more hours so far just to get to this point in the model.

I mentioned earlier that your lovely little Ghibli fan might start out gung-ho to craft this project with you, but do not be mistaken, they will be with you for all of 45 seconds before they hightail it off to watch My Little Pony. I am 36 and this project has thus far challenged my patience and focus more than my recent foray into learning the language of G-code. Now if you are purchasing and constructing this kit for your adult self, that is a-ok and I absolutely will not judge. Do it, you won't regret it.

to be continued...