Of course, this image (official AG website photo, used in the Wikia article) wasn't nearly enough to reference while trying to build the thing, let alone describe it in detail for the article itself. For the latter, I turned to the YouTube channels of agoverseasfan and americangirlideas, both of whom bought the $500 "real" bakery and did in-depth review videos. I am very grateful to both of them for publishing their content that tells so much more than a photo ever could--for instance, which knobs on that little oven click and which turn freely. To americangirlideas goes the most gratitude though...not only did she buy the set and review it, she measured every piece and uploaded free plans! Having the real deal, of course, I completely understand her lack of motivation in posting pictures of her replica--there are several screenshots of a detailed 3-D CAD model, but only one or two pictures of what the plans result in if you use real wood. And that's where I decided to come in.
Most of the bakery in americangirlideas's tutorial is made of 1/2" thick plywood. There was fortunately enough of it lying around my garage that I only ended up needing to buy one small (2'x4') piece and I just might have enough left to build Lea's Rainforest House as well. To make sure I wasn't wasting anything, I made paper patterns following the plans, then simply traced those onto the plywood. Here are two more shots of the "pencil stage":
|The smallest piece in the plans is the under-counter support. I cut it from a scrap.|
Then I used an ordinary hand saw (I prefer the more direct control of manual tools over the speed of power tools) to cut the pieces out. I'm a novice at woodworking, but once I found the right saw I could get it going pretty fast.
See that piece of chipboard in the middle? That's the floor. The plans call for a 3/4" thick floor, and I wasn't about to go out shopping again (I do have a job now, but why waste money?) just to cut one piece. Instead, I cut the floor from 1/2" chipboard, which we have a lot of, then cut another identical piece (not shown above) from smooth, thin hardboard and glued'n'nailed it on top. The result wasn't quite 3/4" thick, but it's definitely an improvement. After this picture was taken, my dad helped me cut out all six window holes with his mini jigsaw.
After the primer has dried, sand lightly with coarse-grit sandpaper. The brush is to sweep away sawdust or primer-dust that collects on the surface and makes it feel smooth when it isn't. Trust your hands, not your eyes, to tell you when a piece is smooth enough. I primed the wood first to sort of seal in the fibers and reduce the risk of splinters, but there's another benefit too--the primer fills the deepest gaps, partially smoothing the wood all on its own, so you don't have to sand so much!
|I've been told to hold nails in place with pliers so as to keep your fingertips away from the hammer. These pliers decided not to cooperate. Take from this what you will.|
Time to attach the walls! Either side wall will do for your first one, but I started with the right side (the one with the curved pickup window) because I'm right-handed. I glued first with wood glue, then added nails for extra security. Next comes the back wall, which in my case had decided to warp for some reason...
While I waited (and weighted) on the back wall, I decided to install the counter through the right wall window. This may have been a mistake--it would have been easier to turn the bakery over without the counter sticking out. Oh well.
I added the little support piece first and then the counter shelf. It was the same process--glue, clamp till the glue dries, then nail. HINGE ISSUE #1:You might notice that the notches in the edge of the wall are larger and less numerous than AGI's plans suggest--I just couldn't find hinges small enough yet sturdy enough to support both folds of the big front doors and still make room for three of them, so I opted for just two hinges per door. Don't worry though, the hinges I used are more than strong enough.
It looks like a lot has happened here, but all I did was install the back and left walls and rest the two smaller door panels in place. HINGE ISSUE #2 was the fact that the hinges I bought could not open in the right direction AND fit the center...axle?...in the notch while being completely on the inside of the bakery. So when I installed the doors I had to attach the non-moving halves of the hinges to the outsides of the bakery walls instead. Of all the trouble the hinges gave me, this single problem actually worked out for the better later on. But I'll get to that. Here's the small doors installed:
The doors don't open very far, but that at least is not the hinges' fault. The outside edge of the door is just bumping into the wall. Much later, I convinced my dad to shave those edges at an angle with his router (didn't take much convincing, he was eager for an excuse to use the thing). After that the doors opened much further. HINGE ISSUE #3 was a mess though--finding four dozen screws with heads big enough not to just slide through the hinges' screw holes but shafts short enough (unlike the screws that came with the stupid hinges) not to poke straight through the wood. THEN, due to future hinge issues, I only ended up needing HALF of the screws I'd scavenged in the first place!
Next came installing the "Door Stop", that little stick of wood that keeps the doors from swinging inward. Glue and a single nail on each end did the trick for the time being--once the top wall was in place everything would be much more secure.
And then came HINGE ISSUE #4, the most frustrating one yet. I set the large doors into place temporarily and picked up a hinge, only to discover that said hinge was so big that it intruded into the window opening near the top of the door! Here are the extra steps I had to take as a result of this:
1. Go back to Home Depot and buy four of their small "hobby" hinges. Either I had dismissed them for being "too expensive" the first time around, or (more likely) I simply hadn't seen them. They came in two-packs, and even buying six of those (for the twelve hinges recommended by the original plans) would still cost only about $25, give or take a few dollars. Four two-packs would have been sufficient for two hinges per join, which would have cost less than $25 and had the single, minor drawback of not looking exactly like the original bakery. Plus, their screws worked perfectly.
2. Take the small door panels off the bakery, rotate them 180 degrees so the too-large hinge notches were on the outside, away from where they would cause trouble, then carve out two smaller notches in the un-notched edge for the hinges I was using.
3. Then mark and drill pilot holes for the large hinges' new positions, and screw THOSE back into place.
At last, the large doors were attached...and they wouldn't close. This was less of a hinge issue and more of an I'm-clumsy-with-a-saw issue, but it still meant taking the doors off AGAIN to shave down the offending lumps with a chisel (a tool I wish I'd "discovered" sooner due to its efficiency!)
FINALLY, I was able to attach the top wall above the doors. In this photo, I've also started work on the paneling that decorates the doors and the exterior of the side walls. The "real" bakery just has painted lines to indicate the panels, but making mine out of cardboard does three things. First, it looks more realistic and fancy. Second, I can trim the thin-cardboard panels around the big hinges so as to disguise their shape somewhat. (This is what I was talking about for HINGE ISSUE #2...there's no paneling on the interior side walls, which would mean no way to disguise the hinges!) Third, it conceals some imperfections in the very wood of the walls, stuff that a) wasn't my fault and b) showed through the primer. Here are some more shots of the paneling.
|Left wall (glue still drying)|
|Doors wide open (thanks Dad!)|
|And doors shut.|
I hadn't planned it that way, but the position of the garage workbench light worked out to illuminate the interior of the bakery as if there were ceiling lights inside. The AG bakery doesn't even have a ceiling, let alone ceiling lights, but it does have two nonfunctional wall sconces. But with a couple of $1 LED headlamps from WalMart and some luck, I hope to make my bakery's sconces functional. Before that, however, I needed to add the last few details of this stage.
Inexpensive molding strips make the top of the bakery look so sophisticated. They were also really easy to cut--I suspect they're made of something almost as soft as balsa wood. I was even able to use an ordinary Xacto to shave the 45 degree miters down just right.
|Button, button, who's got the button?|
Lastly come the little medallions that AG lazily decided to paint onto their bakery. I don't know where I got the big bag of wooden buttons, but I've had it for years and they worked perfectly. Once they're painted, you won't even be able to tell they're buttons, since the hot glue I attached them with filled in the holes.
Phase One of the bakery project is complete! Grace hasn't even seen it yet (I don't want to risk getting any of my dolls dirty or damaged by taking them to the garage). And speaking of Grace herself, there's an interesting quandary when it comes to the AG bakery and her stories: Which bakery does the AG set represent? Here are the facts from the books:
The cover of Grace (the first book) shows her seated outside a patisserie painted red, with a dark gray stone patio. She's feeding Bonbon the dog, whose lack of a collar indicates that she and Grace are still in France.
In that same book, Bonbon visits Sophie and Bernard's bakery (simply called La Patisserie) to be fed by Grace, basically confirming that the patisserie on the cover does belong to Grace's aunt and uncle.
The cover of Grace Stirs it Up (the second book) shows a kitchen painted light robin's egg blue, the same color as the AG bakery's interior. There is a white cabinet visible. However, the "marble" countertop shown is tan, not black like the one in the set.
In that same book, Grace and her friends do all their baking at Grace's house, in her kitchen. Therefore, the matching wall and cabinets can be seen as just a coincidence--or an oversight in the visual department.
Though the cover of the third book, Grace Makes it Great, does not show any bakery buildings inside or out, the story reveals much more. Grace and her friends must find a new kitchen, one that does not house any pets, to bake in if they want to make their business (called La Petite Patisserie and currently consisting only of an online ordering website, blog, and the little cart faithfully represented by another AG set) official. They end up borrowing the kitchen of First Street Family Bakery (run by Grace's maternal grandparents) on afternoons, when there are few customers there. Ella's father (who lost his job previously) hangs around as their primary adult supervision and delivery driver. Grace panics when she hears that her grandparents are getting so few customers that they've decided to sell their building and retire. She's inspired to give the place a makeover when she realizes how old it looks, hoping that a fresh new look will bring in more customers. Her grandparents agree (if nothing else, the place might sell faster) and Grace calls her French cousin Sylvie for advice. Sylvie suggests a color scheme of red, pink, and light blue. After the big building makeover, rumors start that La Petite Patisserie has taken over First Street Family Bakery, to Grace's exasperation and her grandparents' amusement. Eventually, Grace suggests a business merger--she and LPP gain premises, two experienced bakers with all the official business licensing taken care of, and Ella's dad as a true employee. Her grandparents gain all the customers Grace's business has generated, plus four new co-workers. The building is renamed La Grande Patisserie.
Here are the facts from the set:
Most obvious, of course, is the exact color scheme Sylvie told Grace to use while decorating the building that would soon become La Grande Patisserie. Just like artistic Maddy directed, the exterior is cherry red and the interior is light blue, with small accents of pink here and there.
The signs, however, all read La Patisserie. This was the name of Sophie and Bernard's bakery in France.
|Click on this picture for a closer look at the fake money.|
Most important, though, is the pretend miniature money included in the set. The notes are not in US dollars, but in euros. The bakery, therefore, represents a patisserie in France and not Grace's own business in America.
So why does it look just like the description of La Grande Patisserie? My conclusion is that Sylvie told Grace to use the same colors her own parents' bakery was decorated in, as yet another connection to her American relatives. Maddy might have hit on the same uses for each color (red outside, blue inside, pink accents) as La Patisserie used by accident, or she may have looked closely at the pictures Sylvie sent of patisseries all over Paris--including her family's own--and decided to copy La Patisserie on purpose. What do you think?