Thursday, February 16, 2012


100% Paper and cardstock
You may remember back a year or two ago I experimented a bit with paper, building an O-Scale barn using techniques I learned about in Troels Kirk's postings on the Railroad Line Forums.   Essentially, this was a scratchbuilt structure and I used a heavy pastel paper for the clapboards and the roof shingles.  I thought the results were excellent and it was a fun break for me.   The same fellow also began using paper  with architectural features, like bricks,...etc.. printed on them.  I was more dubious of this technique as my nature tends toward realism and to me this was a scam, smoke and mirrors, that would be fairly obvious.  The photos he posted, by the way, looked pretty good, but I still wasn't convinced - until - Rick Bickmore, Steel Mill Modeler extraordinaire, started messing, or "futzing about", as he puts it, with this medium.  He has used these paper architectural prints in conjunction with traditional structure models in a very convincing way.

Smoke and Mirrors?  (Put office wall on backwards)
Rick gave me a link to a free online site that will generate brick sheets for you in any scale - You enter the scale, and then pick the brick color, mortar color, and bond pattern- then click and out comes your custom brick sheet.   This site is here.  From that site I stumbled onto another paper modeling site - Scale Scenes.  This is a UK site so some of the buildings have a European look to them, however,  many would  pass for American structures, and usually you have about 5-10 choices for what to use for your wall texture - a half dozen brick patterns plus stone and more, plus a choice of accessories, ie different doors, signs, ....etc.  .  The above structure is a free download on the Scale Scenes site - they have four freebees.   I figured I would give it a try, other than printer ink and a few pieces of cardboard I wasn't heavily invested in this model.
All the parts - printed and some glued to different thicknesses of cardboard
Whether you pay for it or not, you basically just download the file, usually a zipped PDF.  The Scale Scenes site also gives you detailed instructions along with your structure prints.  The next step, of course, is to print out the file.  Now if you are using the Scale Scenes prints you need to first adjust your  print utility to print out the file at 87% .  The structures are designed for OO scale (1:76)  and also they are designed to fit on an A4 sheet of paper.  Scaling the print down to 87% will give you the correct size for HO Scale, and also allow you to print on standard American Letter size paper.   I didn't know much about OO scale and actually just assumed it was an European term for HO as it uses the same track.  What a screwed up scale to model in, although it is very popular in England, at least.  From what I could gather the scale was created as British Steam engines were much smaller than American types so it was harder to fit the motors and drives into these engines in HO scale - things were enlarged a little to OO scale to allow things to fit better, but HO track was still used.  This scales out to 4'1" between rails, well off the prototype.

Make the effort to print out the files to the highest quality.  Then spray the printed sheets with a matte varnish  - a few coats - to protect the image during construction.  There are notes on the sheets as to the desired thicknesses of each part.  You will need to glue the parts to either light, medium, or heavy cardboard, but sometimes just the paper only.  I used a spray adhesive for this.  I sort of jumped a step and printed out the parts on a heavy presentation paper, hoping to skip a step.  Ultimately I would have some difficulty making small folds crisply using this type of paper.  Once I got the hang of things, the model was fun to build and took maybe four hours total.   In part two I'll detail some of the construction pitfalls to avoid and tricks to use.

There is also an American company - Clever Models that make paper kits.  They are all American versions and some look to be quite nice, but if I had to compare the two, I think I like the Scale Scenes better - They seem to have more layers to them, with varying thicknesses too.  Their interiors are also excellent.  Look at the interior of the massive train station model they sell and you'll see what I mean.  The prices are a little cheaper than Clever but not by much for individual kits.  I think the Clever kits don't give you a variety of surface textures to choose from.  There were two things the Clever does that bothered me more than a little - first, on their Freebie page they ask for donations.  What? So it's free, but we are going to guilt you into paying us for the model anyway.  And secondly, they charge less for n-scale and more for o-scale versions - what's that about? Aren't we talking about a computer file?  I assume they just draw this thing once and then adjust the scale, or rather the computer adjusts the scale, so why does it cost more?    Don't get me wrong, I will likely try a few of the Clever kits eventually, but a little bit shady on a few counts.

I leave you with another project -  My wife interrupted my modeling (and dared to enter the man cave) to have me dry brush her shoe.  There was a very small scuff and I had to restore the leopard spots to their glory using some acrylic paints. I don't think I'll do a full blog on this one....

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