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Which Doors & Windows Do I Need?

It's amazing how many neglected and abused cardboard Christmas "putz" houses we come across every year. It's even more amazing how many of them regain their original cheerful appearance with a little elbowgrease and a few replacement parts.  Of course what most of these little "diamonds in the rough" need the most are doors and windows.  The late "Papa" Ted used to say that restoring doors and windows to a damaged putz house is like sewing buttons back onto an old teddy bear's face - the thing just "comes to life."  In fact, Ted considered the replacement doors and windows he sold online as one of his most important contributions to the hobby. 

Fortunately, the generosity of Ted's original suppliers has allowed fellow collector Pete Oehmen to continue offering those doors and windows for sale at a reduced price (although I’ve advised Pete to have a shipping fee for small orders so he doesn’t get overwhelmed with $2 orders like Ted did.)  In addition, we have recreated a number of the original doors and windows in our own graphic pages, which we offer as free downloads on our Resources page.

But there are so many kinds, newbies are often "get lost" trying to decide which kind to use.  This article is our way of helping you get to the windows you need you need with the least hassle, depending largely on which kind of house you are trying to restore:

  • Little Illuminated Houses
  • Big Illuminated Houses
  • Non-Illuminated Houses

Little Illuminated Houses

On this page, "illuminated" will mean that there is a hole in the back to stick a C-6 lightbulb into and some sort of openings on the front of the house for light to come through. (You’d be surprised how many putz houses have holes in the back for lights but no place for the light to come through unless you count the cracks along the roofline - those were made as ornaments - they just used the same stamp/die as the illuminated versions.)

In addition, Illuminated houses can't be really tiny, because they would overheat and catch fire.

When we say "little" in this context, we're referring to the most common putz houses, which are 5" or less in all directions, and they usually only have 2-3 windows and one door.

Windows

Most small illuminated houses have either red cellophane or printed paper windows, although there are a few exceptions.

Red Cellophane - Most small illuminated putz houses we come across started out wcel-13_100ith red cellophane windows with gold printing. If you want a direct replacement for those, the easiest thing to do is to measure the openings and visit Pete Oehmen's Cellophane Replacement Window page. If one of your windows is still intact, try to choose one that looks like the one you already have. If not, try to find one that will fit the opening with just a bit of gold showing around the edges. Don't feel nervous about your replacement windows turning brittle like the old ones did. The mylar on the windows Pete sells is way more durable.

If for some reason, you can’t order windows from Pete, or you just want something to experiment with or use in a classroom project, you may find our Cello Sheets helpful.  ryp_2_185_64

Printed (Paper) - The most common exception to the red cellophane windows is printed paper windows that are mounted so that the light shines through.  We have a downloadable collection on our Printed Resources Page.  Although you can print them with an ink jet in a pinch, they work the best if you print them on acid-free paper with a colored laser printer.  If you’d rather not print them yourself, and would prefer to have them professionally printed on 100-year-old paper, Pete has a great selection of windows on his Printed Doors and Windows page, so take a look there.

Also, several of our friends are graphic artists who are creating restorations of other common printed windows as well.  So if you don’t see what you need either place, take a photo of your house (especially any surviving windows whatever the condition), measure your window openings, and get in touch with us - we’ll e-mail you instructions on how to upload your photos.  Someone we know may have what you need "in the works," or they may take your project on as a challenge.

Other - Less common are windows with flocked "fuzzy" frames, different colored cellophane, or different colored frames. For those, please jump to the “Special Cases” section at the bottom of this page.

Doors

The most common doors on little illuminated putz houses seem to be either red cellophane (usually an arched window pattern), or printed doors that are may be glued into an opening or right to the front of the building.

Red Cellophane - If you have red cellophane doors, the easiest thing to do is to measure the openings and vsingle_blue_and_red_doorisit Pete's Cellophane Replacement Window page.  Alternatively, you could try the graphics and recommendations on our Cello Sheets page. 

Printed (Paper) - If you need a printed door that is glued into an opening, check out the downloadable door sheets on our Printed Resources page.  If you’d rather have Pete print your doors professionally on century-old paper, check out Pete's Printed Doors and Windows page.

Less common, but still seen are Stick-On Doors that are glued right to the face of building with no hole cut. Never fear, we have a page of these, too, on our Printed Resources page.  Pete has a page of these as well: his Stick-On (Candy-Box) Doors page. If you can't find what you're looking for there, check out the Paper (Printed) Doors page Pete's) - some of those patterns were trimmed and pasted onto the front of buildings as well.  In fact the printed door shown just above was used both ways on countless houses.

Other - Less common are doors with flocked "fuzzy" frames, different colored cellophane, or different colored frames. For those, please jump to the “Special Cases” section at the bottom of this page.

Big Illuminated Houses

For this page, we'll say that a "big" house exceeds 5" in at least two directions and has more than three windows. "Papa" Ted had the classification "giant" for houses that are even bigger, but we won't need a separate classification for that, since even the giants used common door and window sizes.

Windows

Most large illuminated putz houses and churches we come across started out with red cellophane windows with gold printing, though a few have printed windows or other exceptions:

Red Cellophane - You can cheer your house or church up quickly by measuring the openings and visiting Pete's Cellophane Replacement Window page. That page also has an example of a large church that "comes to life" after its windows are restored.  Alternatively, you could try the graphics and recommendations on our  Cello Sheets page. 

Printed - A very few large houses and churches use printed paper windows that are mounted so that the light shines through.  You might be able to find what you need on our Printed Resources page or on Pete’s Printed Doors and Windows page.  But you might need a custom window developed. If so, never fear: our graphic artist friends are always looking for a challenge. Take a photo of your house (especially any surviving windows whatever the condition), measure your window openings, and contact us with the details.  We’ll e-mail you and tell you the best way to send your photo. Someone we know may have what you need "in the works," or they may take your project on as a challenge.

Other - Less common are windows with flocked "fuzzy" frames, different colored cellophane, or different colored frames. For those, please jump to the “Special Cases” section at the bottom of this page. .cello_door_by_self

Doors

Red Cellophane - The doors on most very large houses are red cellophane with gold printed frame patterns. Sometimes they're the same pattern used for the windows; sometimes they're larger or slightly different. A few even use a door pattern similar to the one shown at the right. In all of these cases, direct replacements for most examples are available on Pete's Cellophane Replacement Window page. Measure the door opening and take a look there.  Alternatively, you could try the graphics and recommendations on our  Cello Sheets page. 

Printed - If you have a printed door on a very large house, it may be "custom." Check out the pages that include Printed and Stick-On doors to see if you can find something that will work.  The ones we know of are listed below:

If you can't find what you're looking for on any of those pages, take a photo of your house (especially any surviving doors and windows, whatever the condition), measure your window openings, and e-mail us with the details. We'll send you information on how to e-mail us your photo.  Then we’ll check with our graphic artist friends to see if anyone has something like it in the works.

Other - Less common are doors with flocked "fuzzy" frames, different colored cellophane, or different colored frames. For those, please jump to the “Special Cases” section at the bottom of this page.

Non-Illuminated Houses

Houses without holes in the back almost never have window openings - there's no point, since there's no light to shine through. Most of them were originally candy boxes; in fact the original cardboard putz houses wecandy_box_door_singlere all candy boxes. Also, most of them are pretty small. Some are much smaller than the smallest illuminated house.

Another kind of very small house continued after illuminated houses started to be produced - the "ornament house."  Usually less than 2" tall, these were made to hang on the tree and almost never had holes for lights.  Some of these actually had the door and window patterns rubber-stamped on the front of the house.  But, fortunately for collectors, the ornament houses that had stick-on windows generally had the same patterns as the candy-box houses that preceded them.

Virtually all of the Japanese-made candy-box houses used stick-on doors and windows. Unlike the later graphics used inside openings on illuminated houses, most paste-on doors had just windowframes with shaded windows. Some were brown only - they were probably printed with a one-ink process. Others had multiple colors, including blue shaded windows which were very attractive. In retrospect, the fake window reflections were a good way to make the house seem a bit more "open."

chopped_candy_box_doorsThe fake windows served another, practical purpose. The Japanese factories did not need to use separate graphics for the doors and windows. More often than not, they chopped up the door graphic to get "windows."

Consequently, the "replacement" pages for candy boxes contains only doors.

If you're making a putz-style craft that won't have actual window openings (say tiny house ornaments), you will find the “Stick-On (Candy Box)” doors very useful..

In addition, if you can't find what you need on our Stick-On (Candy Box) Doors page, (or on Pete's page), take a look at the Printed (Paper) Doors and Windows pages. A few of the patterns there actually turned up in a stick-on version first. In fact one pattern - the green, blue, and red door - is common both as a stick-on and a "stick-in" door.

Special Cases

As mentioned above, you will occasionally encounter houses with variations, such as flocked "fuzzy" frames, different colored cellophane, or different cdie_cut_squat_arched_100olored frames. Often the best solution for these involves Pete Oehmen’s Custom Die-Cut Windowframes.  But there are other approaches:

Fuzzy (Flocked) Windows

Tom Hull and Maria Cudequest have experimented with making their own fuzzy (flocked) frames and reported their findings on “Papa” Ted’s site.

More recently, Tom has used  Pete’s windowframes as a starting point and been very pleased petes_windowswith the result.

Different Colored Frames or Cellophane.

Again, the easiest way to accomplish these is probably to start with Pete Oehmen’s Custom Die-Cut Windowframes. Although Pete typically provides them on gold foil, you could paint them another color, or use them with another color cellophane. Since these have come out, new uses are being discovered all the time, so check back. 

In addition, Pete has a few sizes that aren’t on his web page yet, so if you don’t see what you need there, contact Pete with your requirements.

Conclusion

When Pete started trying to catalog every kind of putz house made, he soon realized that there were not hundreds, but thousands, of variations.  If you have a house type or need a door or window type we haven't discussed here, don't feel bad - our initial goal was to hit the 90% or so most common types and uses.  If this page hasn't helped you find what you need, or if you have questions about anything on this site, please use our Contact Page to get in touch.

Also, the CardboardChristmas.com forums are a good place to upload photos and ask questions.  To join the forum membership or to ask me  a question, please use the CardboardChristmas.com Contact page and make certain you fill out all of the required fields, including a nickname to use on the forum.

In the meantime, keep in touch, keep enjoying your hobbies, and keep enjoying the season,

Paul

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