With any scratch building project there are some basic rules to
remember. I will attempt to cover a few. There are tons of different ways of doing things
and what I am going to cover are things that have worked for me.
All of the walls of a structure will need to be as square as
possible. For this I use a tray that I
purchased from Micro Mark. This is a helpful
tool in that it has a lip all the way around that you can place walls against
and use magnets to hold them in place while the glue dries. I also cut 45 degree angles of wood or
styrene and glue them into the corners. This
helps add stability to your building and helps to keep the corners true. You will also need several clamps (Hemostats, tweezers,
or clothespins). Use the glue of your choice. If you like white glue get just that. DO NOT get Elmers School Glue. Since the School Glue is made to be washed out of clothes
it will let go in high humidity areas. If you are working with CA glues always keep a
bottle of nail polish remover within reach. Take
it from someone who had a leaky tube of Super Glue on his work surface and got his entire
forearm glued to the table. Try to use
gap-filling CA. It is thicker and
doesnt run as easy. I got a trick from Dave Frary about putting my glue on the bottom of
a shot glass. Find a shot glass that has a
small depression in the bottom. This keeps
the glue in a small area and makes cleanup easy. Several
Xacto knives with various blades are also a must. A
pin vise with several different drill bits will also be needed. There are other tools that
will come in handy at one time or another. If
is looks like it would work, try it. You
might be amazed at the outcome.
Try to work in the same light that the model will be displayed in. This will keep you from investing hours of work
only to find out the colors dont look right. (See
note about leather die later). If you are
going to light the building always paint the interior walls to keep them from glowing. Have them painted before you begin
assembling the building. Also, when detailing
the interior use real glass in the windows. This
can be done with microscope slipcovers. They
are thin but can be clearly seen through.
When painting the exterior walls I like acrylic paints for wood. Give the wood a light sanding first, not necessary
with styrene of course. The acrylics
allow you to dilute them easily (with distilled water tap water can effect the
paint) to create washes. This is a very
handy for weathering effects. Also coat
everything with the famous Alcohol and India Ink stain.
Use the ink and avoid shoe or leather dies. Some tend to give a purple-ish effect under
When working with strip woods you should always sand them to take the
rough edge off. Lay strip woods on
a piece of sandpaper Then fold the sand paper over the strip wood. Always pull them
through the sand paper. Never push
them through it will only break the wood. When
cutting door or window frames always measure and draw the opening on the back side of the
piece. Using a pin vise drill a hole in each
corner. Use the hole as a starting and
stopping point for the knife. This will keep
the knife from running away or if the wood should split hopefully it will stop at the
ending hole. Making cuts in wood should be
done slowly and never try to cut through the piece in a single pass. Make several passes cutting a little deeper each
time. With styrene you can make a simple
score in the plastic and bend it. It will
break along the scored line.
For the sub roof of a structure I use a piece of wood from Midwest that is meant for
making wooden aircraft. It is a thin sheet of
Birch but it is thick enough that doesnt warp easily.
I have built some roofs with cardstock and they have warped up on me at the
edges leaving a pagoda look.
For the hand cut shingles I cheat.
I learned this trick some time back and it works very well. Go to your local cigar store and ask them for the
cedar sheet from the boxes. Using an
cut the sheet into strips about six scale inches. Next
lay them next to each other. A little space
is OK if the building is going to be run down. Take
1/16 inch vinyl chart tape (white glue wont stick to the vinyl) and lay it across the
strips. Start about the width of the tape off
of the edge. Place the tape across the strips
with about an inch over each side. With each
additional row always leave an open space about the width of the tape. Once you have done this across the sheet then
take a pair of scissors and cut behind each piece of tape.
This should leave a row of shingles that are individual pieces. Each row should be half covered by the chart tape.
To glue the shingles on, first draw a few straight lines across the
roof to keep you rows even. Put the glue
down on the roof. Lay the strip of shingles
with the chart tape toward the bottom. With
the second and all other rows put glue on the roof and a little on the exposed edge of
wood from the previous row of shingles. Once
the glue has dried you can pull up the chart tape by the overhang. Remember to space the rows so that
no seams match from one row to the next. Look at the shingles on the roof
any house. If they are laid correctly the gap between two shingles should
be about in the middle of the shingle on the rows above and below it.
When making wooden storage tanks I use scribed siding and I get it
wet. This helps it to bend without breaking. I wrap it around the tube and rubber band it in
place until the wood dries. I then glue it in
place. Round tank hoops can be made from
small fishing line or small guitar strings. Flat
tank hoops (On larger tanks) can be made from paper and both can be put in place with CA
or white glue.
Small pinking sheers make great stair stringers. Pinking shears are scissors that make a cut
similar to the stripe on Charlie Browns shirt.
If you can find a pair that is the right size you can cut styrene to create
the sides of each staircase. Simply glue to
either end of the step and you have stairs. If
the stairs a very wide there would also be a stringer in the middle. If
you have ever built a Campbell kit that has stairs in it this is basically the
Look through books at pictures of buildings from the era that you are
modeling. Keep these pictures in mind when
you are designing buildings. You
wouldnt create building for a modern layout without wheelchair ramps but they would
be very out of place in the 1950s. Common
sense goes a long way.
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