Christopher Brimley updated November 18, 2011


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  • Scrathbuild a "Scrap" Stone Building

    by James A. Powell

    Photos by the author

    No, the Fine Scale Miniatures building is not a Fine Scale Miniatures structure. This scratchbuilt structure was built with stones made from scraps of styrene, wood, plaster and cardstock from the authors workbench.
    Model Railroading - September 2003 - Page 22

    MODEL RAILROADERS are constantly struggling for just the right wall texture to break up the monotony of every other building on a layout being made of either brick or wood. Adding a stone building here or there on your layout can do just that.

    Over the years, many companies that have come and gone have offered stone walls in their kits. If you are happy with stone kit-built or kitbashed structures, a few are available. Most are of the craftsman variety and are usually out of production after the first run or are extremely high priced.

    If you want to build a unique building from stone, your choices are much more limited. Your options are to either hand carve your walls or build your buildings stone by stone much like George Sellios does on his Franklin & South Manchester. However, most of us do not have the ability nor the time to carve or build stone walls from scratch. That is why I have come up with the "scrap" stone wall method.

    My HO-scale town of Trevino on the Wiscasset, Trevino & Western is a fairly large East Coast coastal town with many industries and buildings. Because it is on the Eastern seaboard I wanted to find an easy way to replicate the cut stone or random stone structures that are so common in almost every city in New England. While working at my workbench, I came up with the concept for a new stone building. I like to build fast, so I knew I couldnt carve it. I also didnt want to use anything like styrene stone sheet, because I feel the grout line depth is not deep enough to be realistic. While my mind was wandering, wondering what I could use for my newest building, I noticed all of the very small pieces of scrap styrene, wood, plaster and cardstock I had accumulated on my workbench from many hours of building other structures. Being the slob that I usually am when building, I just brush the small pieces of building material off to the side of my workbench. I always feel I'll never know when I might need them again. Over the period of a few months, I noticed that they had accumulated into a rather substantial pile.

    Just then, a rare occurrence happened! A light bulb turned on inside my head. I thought, These scrap pieces of miscellaneous building material look a lot like unpainted small cut wall stones! Right then I knew I had my answer.

    I took out my handy modeling scissors, actually just an old pair of paper shears, and started cutting these small bits of scrap up into even smaller bits. I cut each piece randomly, but tried to keep somewhat of a square or rectangular continuity with all of the pieces. I collected all of these scraps in the top of an old peanut butter jar lid. You never know when old kitchen throw-away items can come in handy. Anyway, once the jar lid was pretty full, I set out to find something onto which I could mount these stones. They had to be mounted, as there is no way to actually stack them, because most of them are only about .050 thick.

    I chose to mount the stones on 1/8" Masonite, but I will probably use 1 / 32 " styrene for future buildings. Cutting window openings in the Masonite proved to be very difficult. After cutting the Masonite to the appropriate wall sizes, I drew outlines to mark the location of the windows and doors.

    The same technique was used to create this stone wall with circular arch openings.
    Model Railroading - September 2003 - Page 23

    Starting in the lower right hand corner of the front wall, I commenced gluing the 'stones' to the base with cyanoacrylate (CA). To speed up construction, I laid out five or ten stones and dribbled the CA onto them instead of gluing each piece stone by stone. This method of gluing worked out fairly well, but used lots of CA. I tried using full-strength white glue to bond the stones to the base, but it didn't set quick enough, so I went back to using CA.

    While I placed the stones, I kept them all about 1/32" apart to simulate grout lines. I also kept the stones about 1/16" away from where the windows and doors were to be placed.

    Once the walls were completely covered with the stones, I cut out the holes for the windows and doors. In hindsight, I should have used some common sense and cut the holes for the openings first, but as they say, live and learn. To cut the openings, I used a Dremel with a cylindrical boring burr and drilled out holes where the corners of the windows were marked. I could have used a drill, but I wanted the accuracy that the motor-tool affords.

    Painting the stone was the next step. I sprayed all of the walls with a flat, gray primer from a spray can. After that dried, I colored a few individual stones with Delta Ceramcote Sandstone. I also brushed on powered grayscale chalks to modify the colors of other stones. To set the chalk in place, I sprayed the whole wall with Dullcote. When the Dullcote had dried, I made a wash of sandstone paint with just a touch of black. The paints were heavily diluted in water. I coated the whole building with the wash, allowing all of the grout lines to be filled by the wash.

    I let the wash dry only enough to set up slightly and then I came back and wiped the wash off of the top of the stones with a paper towel. This left the mortar or grout only in the cracks.

    I placed Grandt Line windows and doors that had been spray painted white in the holes that I had previously cut out. Once everything had dried, I brushed everything with a watery wash of very diluted black paint. I feel water and black paint works just as well, if not better than the india ink washes many modelers use.

    I then added acetate for the window glass and shades. Once the window shades were in, I lightly sprayed the back of the walls with the same flat gray primer I used for the stones. This helps to muddy up the inside of the windows, as I dont like detailing the inside of my background buildings, and I didn't want anyone to see in.

    The roof trim was made from stripwood and painted green. The building has a tarpaper roof made from masking tape cut to a scale 4' wide and spray painted black and weathered with chalks. Roof details were added and weathered with rust colored paints.

    To finish the building, everything was drybrushed with white. I feel that drybrushing with white is one of the most important and overlooked aspects of model building. Details pop out in photographs when a model is drybrushed properly.

    Now that I have completed one of these "scrap" stone buildings, I am ready to do more! I think I have the process down to where I can probably create a substantially sized building in one nights outing. Give this technique a try. I think you will find it is easy, and the results are great. And remember, the next time your significant other tells you to clean up your work area, you now have an excuse!

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