The Iowan

Village Workshop

Caring Tips For Your Village

By Stephen Pepin

Whether you own a few pieces or a large amount of them, caring for your village buildings and accessories is an important aspect of preserving their beauty and their value. Some basic tips can help accomplish that.

Dusting and Cleaning Off Landscaping Material

At the very end of setting up my displays, I like to sprinkle my buildings and accessories with loose snow when I make Christmas displays. Similarly, for Halloween displays I like to sprinkle them with blended turf or moss material. 

Before boxing away my village after displaying them for a while, I like to give each building and accessory a little bit of a cleaning so that it is ready and looks perfect for the next time I display them. These landscaping materials of course tend to get lodged in hard to reach features of each piece. My favorite method to clear them is generally to use a can of compressed air. I find that it typically provides enough "force" to clear dust and landscaping material, without making damage or blowing away items that should be affixed (unless these items are already loose and about to detach).

Other methods may also work, such as using a feather duster or a mini-vacuum designed for electronics like computer keyboards. If you own an airbrush, you can also use it like a compressed air can, but it may not be powerful enough to clear off some of the well-lodged material. Now be careful to ensure that your airbrush is entirely clear of paint or solvent, or you will have an unpleasant surprise!

Protecting the Base of Buildings and Accessories

The buildings and accessories of collectors' villages are often placed on display platforms that I have painted or that have had adhesives (craft glue, spray adhesives, etc.) used on them to affix landscaping material like snow and moss. Often times, especially after a piece has been sitting at the same spot for a period of time, it may lightly stick to the display, leaving residue or even paint on the underside of the building or accessory. While the underside of a piece isn't anywhere close to being as important as the rest of the piece, most of the collectors I know would prefer to keep it as nice and clean as possible.

Even more crucial to protect the base is when placing a piece like a boat on a simulated water feature. Depending on the materials used to create the water feature (epoxy and resin mixes, Woodland Scenic® Realistic Water, or others), heavy pieces may stick to the simulated water feature, sometimes even to the point that damage will occur to the piece and/or the display platform when the piece is pulled off.

For these situations above, I suggest the use of thin foam pads. These thin foam sheets can be found at Michaels® or similar craft stores and come in a variety of sizes and colors.

Select the color that best fits a particular piece and trace its outline on the sheet. The sheet can be easily cut with scissors, to give you a perfect match of the footprint of you piece. Additionally, a hole can then be cut through it in order to pass a light cord through. 

These thin foam outlines almost always fit in the storage box of each particular piece, making it easy to use it year after year.

Storing Package-less Pieces

Occasionally we find ourselves owning pieces for which we do not have the packing material, like the custom-formed foam shell and illustrated sleeve for Department 56 pieces. Maybe they were destroyed by accident or it was a deal too good to pass, even knowing that the packaging material was missing. In any case, it is important to properly store these to minimize potential breaks in storage.

While it may be tempting to created custom foam shell pieces with carving tools, I find that a simple method works as well, if not better. Simply put all detachable items like building signs in a small zip-lock bag and do the same for the light cord or adapter as applicable. Then cover the building with a plastic bag and find a cardboard box (double-walled is preferable) that will allow for at least three inches of additional space around the building on all sides, including top and bottom.

Fill the bottom of the box with one to two inches of foam peanuts, then place the plastic bag with the building in it (this will avoid having static-charged foam bits everywhere on your building) in the center of the box.

Place the zip-lock bags around the edges of the box, away from the building, then fill the rest of the box completely with more foam peanuts, ensuring that all space around the building gets filled. This will give you protection as good as the original packaging and preserve your piece for years to come.

Until next time, have fun planning your 2013 villages and take care of your wonderful pieces!

If you have any comment or questions regarding this topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me at

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