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Understanding Doll Scale: 1:6, 1:4, 1:3 ; 1:12 & 1:2

alimcj
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I sell scale items for dioramas, items I find and using my own "rule of thumb" or "eyeballing" or "guestimation," pick them up, bring them home, and do the math on them to be sure that I am offering items of the correct scale to go with different dolls. The items I have are designed for adult collectors, and the most common scales are 1:6 or 1/6 scale, often referred to as "Barbie-sized;" the 1:4 or 1/4 scale, or "Gene and Tonner Scale;" and 1:3 or 1/3 scale or "BJD scale," more specifically Dollfie Plus and other 60 cm or 22-inch dolls. I want to stay focused on furniture and accessories in discussing scale. First, though is the math: although I want to put the whole explanation first, the reader's eyes will glaze over long before he/she gets to the simpler explanations of the three scales used with fashion dolls, so scroll down to * at "Replicating accessories at one-sixth scale" for the math behind 1:6 and 1/6 scale after you read the basics just below. Scroll down to *** for a more extansive explanation that relates to 1:12 and 1/12 dollhouse scale (which is an easy scale to do computations with, as 1"=1' [1"=12"]) if the following explanations for 11-1/2" - 12" dolls, 14-16" dolls, and 22" dolls leave you wondering how I came up with the numbers I did. 11-1/2" - 12" Dolls -- 1:6 scale Not everyone is as careful with scaling accessories to dolls; the sixth-scale modelers are, and it is this attention to measurements that gives dioramas their versimilitude, their realism when photographed. Many items purchased in play sets for dolls are not to scale, just something like it. Do some of the math on it. That's what I do with items I find and list as 1:6, 1:4, and 1:3 scale. If it is not true to scale, it should not be listed as a scale item, but rather a "Barbie-sized item." Have you got any Barbie furniture? cars? Measure them. Which ones are totally unrealistic? Which ones work? My My Scene (?) Volkswagon looks completely realistic -- and I just eyeballed it; I also still have a VW and am familiar with its size, especially in terms of interior space. It may not be exactly to scale -- it's close enough. My Military Jeep, however, is very true to scale, and the Humvee -- OH YEAH! If I put all on a sixth-scale street, I might see some inconsistencies. That's my next photo project. The one-sixth scale, or 1:6 scale is actually the "G.I. Joe Scale." He is 12" tall. 1" in his world equals 6" in ours (which is why one way it is expressed is as the ratio 1:6). This means that to find out how big he would be in the real world, we simply MULTIPLY by 6. 12" x 6 = 72", or 6' tall. When we use the fraction to express the scale, 1/6 or one-sixth scale, we take something in the real world and DIVIDE it by 6. *Replicating accessories at one-sixth scale: For example, if we want to make something for our doll to use that is just like something we have, we measure that item and then divide it by six to find out what its measurements should be. I'm sitting here without a yardstick and can't think of a standard sized item that will give us easy fractions. Well, here. Let's say we want to provide our doll with a nice 18" x 24" drawing tablet so he/she can go to Art School. We divide both measurements (width and length) by six, and come out with 3" x 4" as being the sixth-scale equivalent to that standard-sized drawing tablet. Let's say we want the doll to have some photos to show, some 6" x 4" photos. Easy, 6" divided by 6 is 1" and 4" divided by 6 is er, ah, now you see where we run into the math bit ... well, first we need to convert our 4" into quarters, eighths, sixteenths, or thirty-seconds of an inch, well, no, we might find an easier way to approach it. Decimals, right? well, we have rulers divided into 4-8-16-32. You could do it all in metrics ... or just multiply 4 times 32 to see how many 32nds of an inch are represented by 4" and have a number that will accommodate being divided by 6 (we already know that the larger fourths, eighths, sixteenths won't give us enough leeway). 4 x 32 = 128; o.k. we have something to work with. Now, we divide that by 6, and come up with 21 and a remainder of 2. 2 what? 2/32 of an inch. Set it aside. The 21 is what? 32nds of an inch -- this is where things get dicey on standardized tests and measuring things for scale (you see, studying it really did have a purpose): we often think we are done after doing that division, and we need to complete the task by remembering we are dealing with less than a whole number because six won't go into four. We have 21/32 as the answer to how many times six will go into four. We also have 2/32 left over. We can round 21/32" up to 22/32" (and still have one more 32nd left over), reduce that to 11/16", scratch our heads and round it up one more time, making it an eeentz over exact scale, but on something we have been this careful on breaking down into the smallest measurements that still make the math manageable, that eeentz off is not going to matter. Let's then, round it up to 12/16", which we can then easily reduce down to 3/4", giving us the final size of a 5" x 4" photograph at one-sixth scale as 1" x 3/4". Next: 1:4 scale (which I refer to as 1:4.25 scale, for reasons to be explained later) and the 1:3 scale. **1:12 SCALE: Most dollhouse people work in 1:12 ("one-to-twelve")or 1/12 ("one-twelfth") scale, which simply means that one inch equals twelve inches or, more simply, one inch equals one foot, which certainly makes the math easier. Let's look at an adult doll in a 1:12 dollhouse. A six-foot man would be 6" tall (six inches = six feet, or more obtusely, six inches x 12 = 72" or six feet). A five-foot tall woman would be 5" tall; a woman 5'4" tall would be 5' + 1/3 of an inch (4" into 12" = 3; that's how we get 1/3 of a foot). Since we can't exactly divide an inch into three parts, we come up with between 1/4" to 3/8", giving us a figure that is 5-1/4" to 5-3/8" tall. For the highest degree of accuracy, convert that extra inch that we only need a third of into 32nds: 1" = 32/32; now we divide that by 3 (4" in the real world is 1/3 of a foot, right? One inch equals one foot in the dollhouse scale, so we need to take a third of an inch, and the smallest fractions of an inch that are practical to work with are 32nds). 3 into 32 goes approximately 11 times (10 with a remainder of 2, so we round up to 11), giving us the fraction 11/32; 11 is still uneven, so we look at 10/32 on the low side and 12/32 on the high side to convert it to ruler measurements that are easier to see and to work with. First, divide numerator and denominator by 2: 10/32 reduces to 5/16 of an inch and 12/32 reduces to 6/16 of an inch. Divide both by 2 again because you still don't want to be measuring by 16ths of an inch with your ruler (you can, but it's not necessary). 5/16 won't reduce, but 6/16 will reduce to 3/8 of an inch; go a little lower again on the 5/16, and you will get 4/16, which will reduce to 1/4", which is how I came up with a 5'4" woman being between 5-1/4" to 5-3/8" at one-twelfth scale. Double check it: multiply both 5-1/4" and 5-3/8" by 12, and you come up with 60 + 12/4 and 60 + 36/8 in inches in the real world. 60" = 5', right? Now all we do is divide the denominator into the numerator to see what the inches in full scale ("real world") would be. The 5-1/4" doll will be 5' + 12/4"; now 12/4" divides down to 3", so that doll would be 5'3" tall. The 5-3/8" doll would be 5' + 36/8"; 36/8" divides down to 4" and we still have 4/8" left over, which reduces to 1/2", so that doll would be 5'4-1/2" tall. See what I mean about your eyes glazing over? Print that long explanation of the 1:12 scale out and work it out on paper; challenge yourself with a few other things, and it will all become clear. Believe it!

A note on 18" girl dolls, such as the American Girl. One bewildered dad asked me about the scale for these dolls.  First, since they are considered "play scale," not all of their accessories are in a strict scale.  (I sometimes use accessories listed as for these dolls with 1:4 scale 14-16" dolls, as they are more suited to that size).  These play scale dolls are at either the 1:3 or 1:2 scale, depending on how old you figure the doll to be.  At 1:3, an 18" girl doll is just about the height of a 5th-grader (though chubby): 3 x 18" = 54" tall, or 4' 6" tall (why obese? a 12" waist at 1:3 = 36", which is what makes these a "play scale" rather than a true 1:3 scale).  At 1:2, the doll would be 3' tall with a 23" waist, more a large toddler to a small kindergartener in size.  Taking 1:3 as your rule of thumb for accessories, play food, furniture and so on, you will do well to have these things in the proper visual scale for the doll, and you can easily eyeball items in stores to see if they would be adult-sized if you increased them by 3, which provides you a pretty good buying guide for "unofficial" items for your playscale doll.

Fashion dolls have the same relative scale problem within their bodies: Barbie's feet are bound and her poor little hands would have a hard time applying makeup.  Barbie accessories, furniture, and so on are also out of scale in relation to a 5'9" lady at a 1:6 scale if one plans to use the doll for photographs in dioramas: they tend to run small, which is not a huge problem for girls playing with dolls.  For the collector, it poses more of a problem -- the doll is obviously a doll precariously balanced on furniture more suited to a 1:6 scale child -- like parents' night at kindergarten.  True 1:6 scale items are to be found in the GI Joe section.

I list items, doll accessories, generally by the scale they fit, rather than saying "for Barbie" "for Super Dollfie" "for Tyler" and so on, for people who are looking for items in a realistic scale to their dolls; however, the scale terms and the scale figures of their dolls is not something that most people think about, so I have had to resort to using these terms in titles as well, to reach a greater number of people.  Hopefully the information here has opened up a wider field of possibilities to you in your search for suitable accoutrements for your dolls.

 
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