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Miniature models a passion for Ocean Grove native

Seabrook neighbor builds for fun, philanthropy

Created date

January 25th, 2011

While some may think that growing older means growing up, Claude Allen still satisfies his adolescent amusements well into his golden years. Walk into Allen s Seabrook apartment home and you ll find a treasure trove of model ships, planes, and cars, like miniature memories of his youth. The retired mechanical engineer and designer of printing presses says he build[s] them for the fun of it. From model mobiles, he s lately moved on to larger items houses, to be exact. First, dollhouses caught his fancy. Most recently, he s been building wooden birdhouses and feeders, which neighbors purchase to benefit a community charity.

Residential replicas

Allen built his first dollhouse eight years ago from a kit. Since then, he s built two more, one of which he custom-created for the Ocean Grove Historical Society, in the seaside town where he lived for seven years before moving to Seabrook. The robin s-egg-blue Victorian replica now resides in the town s Historical Society building, located at 50 Pittman Ave. According to the society s website, they aim to educate the general public regarding the historic contributions made by the residents, visitors, and governing bodies of Ocean Grove, on Victorian life and architecture, and on the restoration of the Victorian structures in the community. Visitors to the historic town can stroll through the largest aggregate of Victorian and early 20th century architecture in the U.S., then visit the Ocean Grove Historical Society to learn about these structures and life in the town s heyday and see Allen s contribution.

Blooming birdhouses

Following his exploration in architecture, Allen stumbled upon a new muse. I was walking through the halls of Seabrook one day, and I saw a wooden bird feeder in one of my neighbor s gardens, he says. I said to myself, I can do that, so I drew up plans and started building them in the woodshop atSeabrook. Allen spends a total of eight hours building each bird feeder, and neighbor Mary Ann Franke embellishes each one with decorative flowers and butterflies. I do it the simple way, laughs Franke, who also knits, crochets, and takes photographs. I buy transfers and adhere them to the birdhouse or feeder. It takes me about one hour to complete each one; I do it while watching TV. The pair has made 12 bird feeders and four birdhouses that Allen sells to their neighbors at Seabrook. Feeders go for $35; houses for $25. He donates a portion of the proceeds to the Benevolent Care Fund and the remaining funds to the woodshop. The Benevolent Care Fund is a campus charity for the rare circumstance that individuals living at Seabrook diminish their funds through no fault of their own. Thanks to the fund, no one at Seabrook need ever leave their home due to financial circumstances. Allen also donates money raised from bird feeder and birdhouse sales to woodshop upkeep. We purchase paint, sand paper, and other odds and ends like that, he says. But raising money isn t his sole purpose. Allen says he builds things for the fun of it. At Seabrook for nearly 11 years, he knows the benefits of living in such a community: more time to live life and more opportunities to experience the fun of it.

Doll house 101

Everything you need to know about buying a dollhouse kit Dollhouse kits come in every shape, style, and size imaginable. Before you make your purchase, consider whether you re building it for a special granddaughter or if you re looking for a personal hobby. Then, consider the amount of time and money you re willing to contribute to your project. Once you ve narrowed your focus, you ll be better equipped to have an enjoyable, successful experience building a miniature. Here are some guidelines to help you get started.

Kit styles

Most kits require sanding before painting, and almost all, unless otherwise noted, are 1 inch to 12 inches in scale. Precut kits.Most of the pieces are precut, and they are packaged with assembly directions. You will need most of the following tools: screwdriver, glues, 100 and 200-grit sandpaper, hammer, utility knife, paints, brushes, ruler, fine-toothed saw. Greenleaf Dollhouses are similar to pre-cut kits, but the pieces need to be punched out. Quick-build kits.These doll houses can be quickly built in under one hour and are usually affordable. You need just a screwdriver and some white glue to finish these pre-painted, wallpapered, shuttered, and shingled houses. Preassembled kits. Structurally built, these dollhouses require paint, wallpaper, and finishing touches. They may also require sandpapering prior to painting. Half-scale kits. These doll houses are the miniatures of miniatures, scaled to just 1/2 inch to 1 foot. Due to their miniscule size, they are more intended for the adult builder or collector, not children. Barbie-scale kits. Big enough for a Barbie doll, these houses are 1/6 scale (1 inch to 6 inches). Available as precut kits or quick-build kits, Barbie-scale houses are perfect for the little girl in your family.

Kit accessories and sources

From chandeliers and lanterns to drapes and doorknobs, doll houses can take on a life of their own. They require lighting, furniture, decor, and, of course, dolls. Kits and accessories are available at specialty stores, like Manhattan Dollhouse (, located inside FAO Schwartz, 767 Fifth Avenue, New York; online stores like; and local stores like Kmart. Kit prices vary from under $100 to more than $700, and selection varies just as widely. Styles range from Victorian to English Tudor to log cabin, and everything in between.