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Buildings for Slitheroe - Scratchbuilding. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Wed Mar 20th, 2013 01:35 am
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Mythocentric
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When I decided to move out of the armchair and return to active modelling the choice was obvious. I was born and bred in Lancashire so it was going to be based on an ex-L&Y line in the mid-50’s which is the period I remember best! (Influence of a misspent youth and far too many hours by the lineside watching those beautiful steamers!).


Having decided to cross the border into West Yorkshire and base the layout on Rishworth one thing soon became clear; a railways identity doesn’t stop at the fence, and if you model a railway in its landscape as you should rather than filling the boards with track, the non-railways structures outside the fence are equally as important in establishing an identity. Now there’s really only one choice here. Unless you’re willing to wait for someone to produce suitable subjects in the form of kits or ready-to-plant resin models which is about as daft as waiting for them to produce your favourite loco to save you the trouble of renumbering, you’re going to have to scratch-build them! (Unless you model GWR of course, in which case ignore that last bit! ;-)) We are railway modellers after all, so here goes!
 
It’s much easier to research your chosen area these days so I spent many hours on Google Earth making virtual tours around the district studying the scenery and seeking out suitable buildings. I won’t need many besides the railway-built structures so each one had to be able to say, “this is Yorkshire”.
 
For my first choice I decided on a building which stands by Slitheroe Bridge on Oldham Road opposite Rishworth School which attracted me by its stepped roofline and simple construction, and the first step is to produce a drawing to work from. For this stage I use Photoshop and make use of its layers to produce a set of working drawings, which enables me to switch layers on and off to print out different versions. You can also use Photoshop Elements or Paint Shop Pro both of which are much cheaper than the full-blown Photoshop version I use, or better still, download Gimp which is free!




Drawing #1: I open a new document and overlay it with a grid measuring 1cm subdivided by 10 (mm). Erasing the background from the photograph of the building I then use a new layer to overlay the photo and use the grid to scale it using measurements taken from Google Earth, the size of known features (doors, etc) and counting the stone/brick courses. In this case there were two figures standing in front of the building which also helped.





Drawing #2: Once I’m happy with the general size I use the pen tool to produce a line drawing of the building showing the general arrangement and window/door positions. I also establish the end walls and roof pitches, etc. Note that I have also drawn the chimney on the end wall in its ‘flat’ state which will help in the next stage!




Drawing #3: The above drawings can be printed out at 100% and used to transfer the walls to plasticard either by measuring or, if printed on card, cut out and used as templates, but I also like to include a further stage and build a simple mock-up which I find makes it much easier to visualise the finished building in location and ensures that it will fit the footprint you’ve allocated. I duplicate the line drawing and apply a suitable texture (probably my artistic nature but I can’t resist!).




Drawing #4: A final layer to produce the intermediate walls and a suitable roof texture (again, not actually necessary!) and the whole thing is ready for printing.







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 Posted: Wed Mar 20th, 2013 09:34 am
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aberdare
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Great work Bill
I have photoshop elements but never thought of using it to make the drawings for any buildings, I still used the trusty pencil & rule, maybe I need to spend a bit of time back on the PC getting the hang of this layering.
Looking forward to watching this build as it could be something I'll want to do later.
Thanks for the post, very informative
Jim



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 Posted: Thu Mar 21st, 2013 01:16 am
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Mythocentric
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Hello Jim

I must admit that it took me a while to realise that I could use Photoshop, despite the fact that I've used it for years for post-production work in my art work. At one point I even invested in a basic CAD program which proved to be a right pain in the bottom. The only downside is having to measure the lines out by counting the grid spacing but you soon get use to it! The advantage is that by using layers you can produce all your drawings in one document and print what you need by simply switching them on and off! Another thing which springs to mind is that if you want to make any changes you can do so by linking the appropriate layers, after which any changes you make to one will be made to them all. Saves an awful lot of time rather than re-doing each individual drawing!

The only thing you have to remember is if your printer asks if you want to fit the drawing to the document (i.e. the paper size!) is to say no, even if it informs you that it may crop the edges, otherwise you will end up with an out-of-scale building!

Just about finished the mock up so I'll post that either later today or tomorrow.

Bill



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 Posted: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 12:44 am
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Mythocentric
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Right! I’m back! First, apologies for the delay! I printed the mock-up out on thin card. Too thin as it turned out, and in a bout of self-inflicted stupidity, assembled it without adding my usual backing layer. The result resembled a tent flapping about in a Force 9 gale which meant I had to start adding umpteen bits of mounting board to put it right. Following which, when I photographed it the natural-light photo bulbs I normally use decided to pack up and apply a brown cast to everything, which resulted in some hasty post-prod work to correct them. Who was it said that short cuts are often the longest way round? Anyway this is the result:

View of the front, left-hand end


View of front, right-hand extension end


View of rear


Everything appears to work together as far as the proportions and relationship between the various parts of the building are concerned. All in all, I quite happy with it and, with the exception of the rear wall which will lose some of the windows I’ve carried on and started the build which I’ll show in the next post!
 
Bill



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 Posted: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 06:30 am
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Mythocentric
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Two views of the building under construction in Plasticard. This shot shows the end and internal walls with the front wall under construction with the mullioned windows on the left to complete. For most of my stone buildings I tend to use Slaters embossed sheets for 2mm scale which I think looks much better than the ‘correct’ 4mm sheets which I think can look overscale, especially on a small building like this. There’s no particular significance in the black lintels (apart from looking like Groucho Marx eyebrows!), I ran out out the white 20 thou sheet I normally use! Note that the lintels are flush with the wall, not sitting on top of them!



The end walls from the back showing the inner lamination. Note the holes which allow any remaining solvent fumes to escape. The openings for the door and window will be squared up with a small flat file to remove any irregularities next. The inner layer is cut 5mm larger around the openings to allow for fitting windows and doors.


I normally use laminations of 40 thou Plasticard for all my structures with internal walls and floors of 60 thou.  The laminations are bonded with beads of Revell Contacta and each layer is weighted with books for a few hours to keep it flat while it cures. I’ll show this in detail in the next post as I build the rear wall.
 
Bill



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 Posted: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 11:02 am
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aberdare
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Hi Bill
It's looking good so far, I must admit I always worry about the plastic warping and still find I can end up with a very slight curve despite ensuring it sets flat. Not enough to notice really though thank goodness.
Jim



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 Posted: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 12:05 pm
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Hello Bill, enjoying following the thread. I like the look of the buildings you've kindly shown us so far, looking forward to the next post with the details.

Barney



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 Posted: Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 11:24 pm
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Hello Jim and Barney

I usually stick to the old adage about using odd-numbered layers, similar to plywood, and make sure they are similar in thickness. For my small to medium structures I use three, i.e. 2 layers of 40 thou and 1 (the embossed sheet) which is 20 thou. Warping usually occurs between the 40 and 20 thou laminations because of the size difference. Normally this happens in the direction of the thinner layer. Most times it will be corrected when the third lamination is added. For some reason warping occurs more when you laminate the sheets by applying small spots of adhesive between the layers then applying more liquid cement via the holes. As I mentioned above I prefer to run beads of Revell Contacta (the one with the fine metal tube) all around one layer before bringing them together, which allows me time to make any small adjustments with alignment before it bonds on the principle that when I stick things I expect them to stay stuck! The most important thing is once you've weighted it down is to leave it for at least 24 hours or preferably longer to give it time to fully cure! Also remember that solvent fumes can still be present weeks later so its important not to seal the release holes up which can make things much worse! Finally use ample weight. It's not unusual for me to use a few hardback books with a few 2lb fishing weights on top for good measure. The sheer application of brute force can work wonders! ;-)

Regards

Bill



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 Posted: Sun Mar 24th, 2013 10:31 am
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Thanks Bill, I'll have a go following your method, hopefully I'll have a bit more success than I usually do.



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 Posted: Sun Mar 24th, 2013 11:42 am
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You're right, Bill [Post 1]the varied roof-lines make this an interesting building. Have you thought of just sticking to the card and paper method, using, perhaps, Scalescenes TX44 Dark Ashlar? It takes only a few dents and dips here and there to fool your eye into believing the whole thing is textured.

Watching with interest,

Doug



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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 12:03 am
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Mythocentric
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Hello Doug and welcome along,

I have built card models in the past and to be honest, I just don't get on with it as a material although I do press it into service for window frames and doors at times, which are my least favourite part of the process. I do like texture and depth in a building and for me the part I enjoy most is painting it and watching it come to life, which usually takes longer than the actual build itself.

Incidentally, the mock-ups don't go to waste because they're usually claimed by my granddaughter's for the village on their Thomas the Tank Engine layout, although they do insist on me drawing the doors and windows in!

Regards

Bill



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 Posted: Mon Mar 25th, 2013 02:57 am
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Mythocentric
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A brief update. (I have a new picture to finish which means I've actually got to do some W-O-R-K for a change).

These are the layers for the rear wall. Its always a good idea to think ahead to how it all fits together to avoid mistakes, (guess how I worked that one out!), especially if it's a complex structure. I find it helps at times to make a quick sketch (see below) to remind myself.



Each layer is cut 2mm shorter (i.e. 1mm each end which is the thickness of the 40 thou card) than the one above it to form a stepped joint. I also allow a little extra on the embossed layer to allow for trimming when the building is assembled. The next pic should make it clear:


The next stage is to mark up and cut out the window and door openings in the embossed layer.



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 Posted: Thu Mar 28th, 2013 03:24 am
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Mythocentric
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With the wall layers cut (and edges de-burred), the next step is to mark out and cut out window and door openings on the back of the outer, embossed layer. Ensure that the top and bottom edges of the openings align with the mortar courses on the front by measuring up from the bottom (on the front!), making a small mark at each end of the appropriate course (I use a scalpel to make a small nick!), then transfer this line to the back. It may sound fussy but there’s nothing looks worse, even in the smaller scales than lintels or cills which don’t align with the stone or brick courses they’re supposed to be part of. While marking out the openings include the lintels above the windows and doors. It’s also a wise move to mark the parts to be removed with a pencil to ensure you get the right ones, especially if it’s a complicated structure (he says, speaking from bitter experience!)
 
I must admit I use two methods from here on depending on how patient I’m feeling. This is the preferred and probably more accurate method: Cut diagonally from the corner of each opening then using a straight edge remove the waste, using light cuts. With all the waste removed, place the piece on its backing layer and mark the position of openings with a pencil. This will help with alignment when you bond the layers. Finally remove the lintel areas by cutting in diagonally from the top corners into the window opening, removing the bulk of the waste using a straightedge. The small fillets in the corners can then be cut out to leave the final opening.
NOTE: Its common practice to recommend drilling small holes near each corner of the section to be removed, cutting between the holes to remove the bulk of the waste, then trimming back to the final shape. I use this method for plastic sheet 40 thou (1 mm) and upwards, but for Slaters embossed sheets which are generally 20 thou (0.5 mm) thick it’s unnecessary and the only problems I’ve encountered have been self-inflicted, usually by removing the wrong piece! The thicker (and harder!) Wills sheets are a whole other ball-game and not for the fainthearted; including me!

 
It proved almost impossible to produce a photo which showed the marking out with sufficient clarity so this is shown in drawn form which, I hope, is self-explanatory. Windows in red, lintels in green:


Cut out the windows (top), and then use the wall as a template to mark the openings on the backing layer (bottom):




Remove the lintels. Note the mullion window on the right also has stone uprights:





Clean up any burrs left from cutting and the  two pieces are ready to be laminated. As I mentioned previously I prefer to apply a substantial amount of cement (Revell Contacta) to bond the layers (see below which indicates how I apply it). It may seem over-the-top but I’ve never had a piece de-laminate yet with negligible warping if any. I also find that by using lines of cement it gives me time to align the pieces perfectly before the cement spreads and ‘grabs’:





Once you’re happy apply a couple of weights to keep things in place for a few minutes as it bonds, then  add more weight overall (books, etc) to keep it all flat and leave it to set hard (about 24 hours).
 
A slightly quicker method to the above is to leave out marking the windows on the backing sheet and cut out windows and lintels together before laminating the pieces. The choice is yours.
 
Another thing I want to mention is that I never drill holes in the layer immediately behind the embossed sheet. The first reason is that any cement present in the holes can cause the surface layer to sag inwards where it’s unsupported. This can also happen if you introduce more cement via the holes, all of which means either some unnecessary filing to do or, more likely, starting again! The second reason is if, as I do, you prefer to light your building interiors light will invariably find its way out through them, even if you paint the insides (Hold an embossed sheet up to the light and you’ll find that its semi-translucent rather than opaque!). This results in some interestingly strange glowing areas on your building walls. Fine if your layout has an X-Files theme, otherwise not recommended.
 
Finally! If anyone would like a copy of the drawings for this building, drop me a PM or e-mail me and I’d be happy to send you a copy of the original file either in PSD format (for Photoshop) or TIFF format (most other graphics programs), both of which support layers.
 
Bill





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 Posted: Thu Mar 28th, 2013 11:42 am
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I've only just found your thread Bill and I'm well impressed with your excellent work.

I usually build in card but it's interesting to see how others use Plasticard. I really must try to get to grips with Photoshop 'layers' as it seems to be a vast improvement on my comaparatively crude methods of making scale drawings. I will now be following your progress with great anticipation so keep up the good work.



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 Posted: Thu Mar 28th, 2013 11:15 pm
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Mythocentric
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Hello Trevor. Thank you for your kind endorsement.

In truth, the only real reason I stick with Plasticard is because that's what I've always used. The same reason for painting with enamal's (although I have nasty experiences with acrylics and airbrushes to use there). I know I should apply myself more to card having seen the exquisite results produced at Pendon and of course from our own Allan Downes. To make matters worse, when I produce prints from my artwork I mount them on mounting board so I have reams of the stuff in 1, 2 and 3mm thicknesses. Also because I produce my own textures for my 3D models in Photoshop I shouldn't have any problems there either. So no excuse. In the end it all comes down to me being a lazy so-and-so!

Regards

Bill



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 Posted: Wed Apr 3rd, 2013 02:53 am
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Mythocentric
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After being distracted by the arrival of some superb Monty’s Models figures from Dart Casting’s I managed to get back on track and laminate the back wall. Having done so I soon realised I’d over-trimmed one of the upstairs windows too deeply, so I decided to try out an idea I’ve had in mind for a while and add the window cills by inserting them into the wall in a similar way to the lintels rather than the more common method of adding them later as an overlay. A bit of a pain removing the appropriate areas but far easier to carry out at the marking-out stage for future builds. The cills were added using 40 thou plastic card which gives a near-to-scale projection from the wall face of 1.5 inches:



I must admit that I’m very pleased with the result, with the cills embedded in the stonework as they should be rather than looking like they’ve been added as an afterthought. A subtle change but very effective! So much so that I’ve backtracked to bring the other walls to the same level. As a bonus it also made removing the waste from the window openings easier by providing a thicker edge to work from, ensuring that the cills are level with the openings:



REMOVING WASTE I’ve included this illustration to demonstrate the most accurate (for me) method of removing waste plastic from openings. Nothing new, however if you’re new to scratch-building you may find it helpful:


Next step is to make a start on the window frames and doors which is far easier done while the building is still ‘in-the-flat’. I have to confess that this is not my favorite part of the process. In fact I’m already seeking more expert advice. Meanwhile this is a small plea for model fidelity in advance of the later painting stage:

Until the advent of uPVC, windows on domestic. and other buildings almost invariable had wood frames, and wood needs protection from the elements. That’s something we as modellers seem to often forget and I’ve seen many otherwise excellent buildings let down by the fact that the window frames are all gleaming white, often unpainted (in model form), examples, whereas in reality they were commonly painted in the same colour as the other woodwork. By far the most common colours (up to the mid-1960’s which produced a, sometimes outlandish, colour explosion) were various shades of green or brown, followed by shades of beige and cream (the last two colours were also frequently applied to cills, lintels and other supporting stonework!). An interesting variation on brown was an effect known locally (in the north-west) as ‘scumbling’ which involved painting the woodwork with a dark brown followed after drying by a coat of light brown (similar to teak!) which was immediately combed to reveal the undercoat and give a faux-wood grain effect. When dry this was then clear varnished. The effect was very impressive; however I’ll leave it to someone else to try it out in 4mm scale! (I’m a natural-born coward!). White, unless the owner had just primed the woodwork, was very much the exception!
 
Regards
 
Bill



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 Posted: Sat Apr 6th, 2013 05:40 am
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With all the basic walls assembled take the time to check around for any burrs you’ve missed and ensure that all door and window openings are straight-sided and square. If they’re not a few minutes with a needle file will soon put them right. If you can’t get right into the corners, which often end up slightly rounded, slide a scalpel into them and carefully nick the offending material away.
Once you’re happy I find it’s a good idea to put the building together using Blu-tack, tape, six inch nails or what-ever takes your fancy to make sure that everything is as it should be. Remember that what you’re doing basically is making your own kit and like all kits it’s always worthwhile doing a dry-run to make sure the parts fit as they should before it’s too late. It’s far easier to remake one wall than a whole building! I also find that seeing the structure in this form gives me a boost to get on with it if my enthusiasms flagging!
There’s one other point to cover and that is continuing the stone/brick courses into the openings. I prefer to do this after I’ve used them to mark out the windows/doors for the simple reason that it’s easier to scribe along a smooth edge than a rough one, so I’ll deal with this after I’ve made the window and door frames!
 With a multitude of brass etches, mouldings, plastic and card laser cut items available today it’s fairly easy to find something close provided the size isn’t too far out and I always look there first while I’m at the early planning stage. No one but you is going to know the difference. Unless, of course, the building still exists and the owner happens to turn up which I experienced at an exhibition a few years back! The said building now resides on my granddaughters Thomas the Tank Engine layout.
However, this can often mean than you’ll have make the building to fit the windows rather than the other way round, and especially with older prototype buildings, which had frames made to fit each opening it can be a different matter.  An example which comes readily to mind is the next building I’m planning which has three windows on one wall, all of which are different sizes! Making your own window frames, etc. isn’t really all that hard, it’s just fiddly and provided you’re willing to discard any you’re not happy with its another scratchbuilding skill well worth developing! It's also a good way to get rid of those small offcuts which usually get thrown out!
 
The drawing illustrates the first steps for marking out door and window frames:




TOP: This is the door frame cut out alongside the wall its intended for. It’s a wise move to attach a label (I use a piece of masking tape) to indicate which opening it belongs to ensuring that it goes in the right place on assembly. Even with the most careful work you will always get slight variations.
BOTTOM: The frame test-fitted and held in place with Blu-Tack! (The wonders of modern technology!):





Cut a piece of 40 thou sheet the same overall size as the door frame piece, align them and scribe the frame opening onto the new sheet. This piece will be used to add the door panels. Using the scribed lines for reference mark out the panels as required. I measured my front door for this sketch!



If you have a steady hand and a keen eye, you can scribe the panels with a scraper cutter, which removes a fine sliver of plastic without leaving a burr, or you can use the following method which I prefer:
This method uses strips of 10 thou plastic card cut to fit the framing around the panels paying attention to the way the various pieces fit together. Starting with the side frames, followed by the cross-pieces and finally the central uprights. A word of caution; 10 thou equates to 0.25mm so apply cement sparingly! If you do get heavy-handed you may find it melting away quicker than a politicians promise. The outer framing is continued to the edges of the backing piece to provide a flat surface for cementing to the door frame. Leave it to set then cement behind the door frame. Finally add a weather strip using 30 thou square micro strip along the bottom of the lower frame, (it’s may help to temporarily clamp the door into its opening to aid you with this), then put aside to harden off before painting and adding any door furniture you want in the form of letter boxes, handles, etc. I’ve also made up the window frame which I’ll deal with in the next post!




That’s it! Job done! It actually takes longer to explain than to do and you can soon build up a range of types to suit your building and period. However, when it comes to more complicated examples with multiple panels and barred/leaded glazing, etc.  It’s probably best to do what I do. Cheat and buy them!





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 Posted: Sat Apr 6th, 2013 10:36 am
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col.stephens
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Bill, re your reference to 'scumbling'.  Here is a coach I did in 7mm scale using the same technique, although in this case the undercoat was lighter than the top coat, giving a teak effect.  I haven't tried it in 4mm scale but can't see why it shouldn't work just as well.

Terry




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 Posted: Sat Apr 6th, 2013 11:55 pm
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Mythocentric
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Hello Terry

That's a superb finish you've achieved. Its always a joy so see someone put as much effort into painting as well as the actual modelling. Actually you've just jogged my memory about an article in the Febuary 2013 issue of Model Rail by Sven Van Der Hart who deals with attaining this finish on plastic using enamels and oil paints. I've just dug it out and added what I need to my shopping list for Monday.

Regards

Bill



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 Posted: Mon Apr 8th, 2013 03:52 am
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Mythocentric
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Windows are made in the same way as door frames with the addition of appropriate cross-bars. See drawing below!
 
1.       Cut a piece of 20 thou card and, using the window aperture in the wall as a template, scribe the opening onto the card. Using the scribed lines as a guide mark lines 1mm inside all round. (Green).
2.       Mark out the cross-bar with two lines 1mm apart. Refer to your chosen prototype for positioning!
3.       The waste can be removed by first cutting along the lines indicated by the arrows (the cross-bar) which helps support the narrow bar and prevent distortion. The rest of the waste can now be removed in the normal manner with diagonal cuts from corner to corner followed by removing the waste using a straight edge for guidance. Note: As always a sharp blade, light cuts and a small amount of patience helps!
4.       Remove any burrs and add the opening window frame by adding a sub-frame of 30 thou micro strip to the inner edges which provides the relief visible on the prototype.



And that’s a casement window! I usually add any narrow glazing bars present by scribing lines into the glazing itself then filling with paint of the appropriate colour. Don’t forget to wipe away any paint which finds its way onto the surface before it dries hard!
Sash windows are a little more complex but still fairly simple to produce with a bit of patience and I’ll deal with them a bit later on!
 
Another advantage of making your own windows is that you aren’t tied to adding them individually. These are the four central windows for the rear of the building. It also simplifies glazing which is also added in one piece which gives a greater gluing area and provides an extra bit of structural support. The fact that this also helps avoid it all disappearing somewhere inside after you’ve stuck the roof on doesn’t go amiss either. The glazing material I use is 50 thou (1.25mm) clear acrylic intended for doll’s houses. It’s difficult to cut with anything other than a razor saw but it’s rigid with a better ‘glassy’ appearance than the thinner clear sheets from Slater’s, etc:



Another point I mentioned earlier was that of continuing the stone/brick detail into the openings. I tend to do this as I make the relevant frames for the simple reason that, if I don’t I’ll usually end up missing one (or more) which I then discover when I get around to painting. I know some people don’t bother, but I do for the same reason that I model all my buildings ‘in-the-round’, even when you can’t see most of it, with the exception of low-relief structures! The reason is simply that I know it’s there and if I don’t do it, it bugs me until I go back and put it right! In addition it also 'future-proofs' the building if I decide to re-use it elsewhere in a different position!
It’s a simple technique. Take a knife (a heavier knifes better than a fine scalpel) and make a series of nicks across the edge of the opening in line with the stone/brick courses. Remember to keep your fingers out of the way! For brick in 2/4mm scale that’s usually it, but for stone with its rounder edges I follow this by gently running a knife-edged needle file (the flattish, triangular one with one flat and one ‘pointy’ edge!) along the nicks to open them out slightly. What you end up with, even with the lightest touch, is something covered in plastic ‘furry’ burrs from the file. If you prefer you may like to spend an awfully long time trying to get rid of it with extra-fine sandpaper, etc. Or you can try my way for, “Behold, I have a cunning plan!” (Thank you, Baldrick!).
Liquid plastic cement works by melting the surface of the plastic to form the bond so take advantage of this property to remove the offending ‘fluff’. Brush it along the edge and immediately wipe ‘across’ in the direction of the courses. The ‘fluff’ disappears instantly with the added advantage that the liquid cement also slightly softens the corners giving a more natural appearance. Needless to add, avoid touching it until it dries, unless you want to add a bit of extra texture, and avoid the stronger solvents. Humbrol Liquid Poly and Plastic Magic work fine but I think I’d avoid Butanone unless you’re aiming for a certain post-nuclear effect!



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