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"Scratchbuilding a half-timbered house" Topic


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820 hits since 26 Jul 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Wheldrake27 Jul 2017 10:15 p.m. PST

Following on from the lake-town house I just finished making over (theminiaturespage.com/boards/msg.mv?id=458601) I have moved on to an entirely scratch-built half-timbered house that I plan to use in the same village, as part of a swamp village.

This current project began after using a number of commercially-available 2D terrain tiles (Rackham), some of which show house interiors. I thought, why not build the 3D portion of the house, based on what I'd learnt from the Lake-town house and from dozens of pictures of real and model half-timbered houses gleaned from google?

This is the floorplan I began with: a 5x5 shop interior with three rooms, on a one-inch grid to facilitate combat movement. I also thought that if I used the interior printed on paper, glued into the model, I could skip the laborious paintjob on the inside of the house. That meant I also needed to print up walls. So I looked for some nice half-timbered textures, some doors & windows, and prepared that as well, sizing everything to match.

So armed with a large bag of 3mm square basswood sticks picked up at the local craft store (Cultura) I began gluing the outer grid onto cardstock base, again from my stock of saved-up bank calendars. I tried to make the doors and windows of a size that matched the floorplan, but after looking at the finished result, I think the next house will need smaller doors & windows, if only not to dwarf the dimensions of my lovely Lake-town house kit.

After much gluing, measuring, cutting and careful size-matching, this is the result of the first-floor interior. I'm fairly pleased with the printed interior walls, and the lack of protruding interior beams is somewhat made up for by the 3D relief of the exterior. This picture shows the walls simply fitted in place, but the next step will be gluing them permanently, as well as cutting out the interior doors, for more visual fun during gaming use.

I still haven't decided if I should make a half-inch or full inch cantelievered projection over the front door or not, as one sees on many extant half-timbered houses. I think a full square will look goofy, and even a half square (half inch) projection might be too much. Might be best to keep things toned down, and do say a quarter-inch projection, despite not getting any more real playable space from that on the second floor.

Any suggestions as I proceed?

Xintao Supporting Member of TMP29 Jul 2017 9:15 a.m. PST

No suggestions,you are doing just fine all by yourself.

Wheldrake29 Jul 2017 10:02 a.m. PST

Thanks for the kind words, but I've been so impressed by some of the project I've seen on these boards that I was hoping for some ideas.

Things continue…

The first floor is close to completion. I've glued in all the interior walls, slapped some paint on the outside, and it's starting to look like something.

I tried to simulate wood grain, but even my thinnest brush was far too fat for the job. I kept at it though, with some burnt umber craft paint, and the wood beams are starting to look better. Though I seem to have missed one or two.

The interior walls are very thin, but not jarringly so. the worn-out wattle and daub motif I printed on them seems a little too extreme, though. I'm wondering if I should paint over part of it with a plaster color, leaving only a few corners showing the wattle and daub… but not sure whether it's worth the effort.

I experimented in the lower left corner of one facade to do a sort of trompe-l'oeil area where the plaster has chipped off exposing the wattle and daub lattes underneath. It's looking as if it might just work. If so, I intend to put three or four such patches on each fašade.

The project is progressing… but there remains so much to do.

I spent an inordinate amount of time on the door, especially since it'll be barely seen under the cantelievered overhang. But that's what obsession with details will get you. The door handle is a section of spring from a ball-point pen glued behind a tiny half-section of the plastic inner pen tube itself. Notice in the second pic that it… opens! I racked my brain trying to figure out how to mount the door so that it opens, and finally hit on this: two pins. One pin is cut in half & glued to the bottom edge of the door with about 1.5mm of the pointy end sticking out. A corresponding hole was made in the floor by the door jamb. A second pin is glued to the top of the door so that its head projects some 9mm above the door – the exact thickness of the wall above the door. A thin grove was cut in the underlying card structure to hold the pin, then another card was glued across the top (as the lintel) but *not* glued around the pin itself, allowing it to turn.

In the meantime I also painted the windows, using the card sections I cut out, trimming them slightly to fit, scoring where the mullions and muntins would go, then tarting up the panes with several shades of blue, and the mullions themselves with two shades of brown. Then, after all that work, I glued the side window in… upside down! Much hair pulling ensued, but I used enough superglue that I would destroy the window trying to remove it. It will remain an object lesson in paying attention when you cut or glue!

So, on to the second floor! I decided to have the front and sides lean out just slightly, like 2cm over the 40cm height of the side walls. I was a wee bit leery of expressly building something not to be square, but it turned out all right. I first glued the beams around the edge of the floor, then used them to help position the cards used for the walls. The other beams were only glued on afterwards, each time measured in situ so as to fit. I doubt I could've calculated in advance the exact lengths or placement of any of those beams, they just fell into place around the windows I'd cut prior to assembly.

Another word about the interior: these Rackham terrain tiles were a real godsend for me when I first picked them up some years back, and they make for a very vivid interior, even without modelling furniture and interior walls. Of course I plan to do both, but they still look nice. And they only required a bit of editing to fit my project. For the walls, however, I realized I'd grown tired of the exposed wickerwork on the ground floor (a bit too extreme for a house that folks live in, especially since all it takes to repair wicker and daub walls is a bucket of mud!) and so searched the web for some other half-timbered textures. I finally found one whose plasterwork was very nearly the shade of ochre I'd chosen for the exterior, so that one it was. I planned the windows according to those shown on the Rackham tile, and just remembered in the nick of time *not* to cut out the windows in the back facade, as that's where the chimney will rise to the roof!

Speaking of the roof, I must have spent six hours perusing different methods for roof construction from various tutorials on the web. I thought about trying to recast the roof from my second Warhammer Lake-town house, but I've never done any casting and was a bit leery of jumping off that bridge just now. So I settled on the time-honored method of cutting out thin strips of shingles from some thin card (old medicine boxes I'd been saving and had already used on some scratch-built wagons) and then gluing them in layers to the underlying roof card (more bank calendars were sacrificed to this project than I would've thought!).

I know you're all eager to see the final painted-up results. So am I! Little by little…

So, what's left? I've got to add another 90mm of chimney to the bit I've got started. It's my first attempt at using a hot wire cutter. That thing melts polystyrene so fast! Some of the cuts were far too deep, but I think I'm going to keep this first chimney as is, and it still needs a few layers of paint.

I'll also need to do more interior walls, doors and windows, a stairway to upstairs (d@mn! I forgot to cut out the floor in advance!), the furniture, and then the exterior terrain around the building's base. I kind of wish I'd planned on doing a visible stone foundation, or even a stone first floor… but my planning hadn't got that far when I started this project.
Any suggestions or comments from you folks would be greatly appreciated.

Codsticker29 Jul 2017 6:52 p.m. PST

Excellent project.I think your use of the Rackham tiles for the interior is a great idea.

Early morning writer29 Jul 2017 7:34 p.m. PST

Nice, and nice write up. For the interior walls, if you decide to tone them down I'd recommend a very dry brush of a somewhat thick off white paint, perhaps adding some very fine grain sand (very fine!) but go lightly with it, both the sand and the wash – and keep it as dry as possible and still be workable. And, as always, test it in an area that won't damage everything or, better, on a scrap piece if you have it.

And, yes, I want to see the finished product.

Wheldrake29 Jul 2017 10:04 p.m. PST

Earl, I was thinking about… not exactly "toning them down", but doing something with the ground floor interior walls. You can see how they show exposed wattle lathes, with only a bit of crumbling daub remaining along the top. I'm hesitant to do anything with too much relief in it, like your sand suggestion, because since the interior walls are just printed, I'm afraid too much relief will show up the 2D beams. This said, painting over some of the wattle might just make it look like less of the daub had crumbled away.

Decisions, decisions!

Personal logo Zeelow Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2017 1:15 p.m. PST

Well, Drake this is fine modeling IMHO.

Redmenace Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2017 6:43 a.m. PST

Beautiful and extremely well executed.

Wheldrake04 Aug 2017 1:21 p.m. PST

The half-timbered house is progressing nicely!

Here you can see the completed roof with a dark grey paintjob. I gave the whole roof several coats of grey wash (with a hint of blue – but I should've used a bigger hint!) then painted several shades of highlights on each individual shingle. 4 hours of work there! Now it's done, I'm convinced I should've made it a lot lighter (and bluer) to simulate slate shingles… but I'm not going to repaint it. Next time!

You can also see in this picture a shortcoming of painting the two floors at separate times. The ground floor exterior walls are much lighter that the second floor. I'll need to give them another coat, using the same color.

On the rear facade you can see a design problem. I never thought about why chimneys usually rise to an off-center position next to the roof peak. Instead, I put my chimney right up the center, and it was only when I got to the roof that I realized I had the top roof beam coming out right in the middle of the chimney. Oh well. Next time I'll get it right! Again, the hot foam cutter made for really rough work. Next chimney will need to be carved with an xacto knife, I think. But this one will do, despite its deep, deep groves between stones.

Here you can see the interior walls on the second floor. All the interior walls were printed on paper and glued to the card base, and I like this texture much better than the one I used on the first floor. I learnt my lesson about preparing the interior walls, though, and did all the painting prior to gluing those walls in place.

In this view of the second floor interior, you can see the doors open. I decided to try a different method of hinging the doors, simply using paper hinges. It won't be as durable as the pin method I used on the ground floor front door, but it was certainly easier to implement.

So, what remains to be done?
- Add another coat to all the exterior walls so the upper floor and the ground floor have the same base hue.
- Scupt the interior fireplaces to correspond to the placement of the chimneys.
- Make a stairway from the ground floor and cut out a piece of the intervening floor to accept the rising stairs. I should've cut that gap out before assembly. Oops!
- Paint the upper floor windows and position them right side up this time. <g>
- Make all the furniture for both upstairs and downstairs.

Any suggestions or comments?

Codsticker04 Aug 2017 7:36 p.m. PST

I think it looks great; very well done. My only suggestion would be to post more pictures from different angles.

I had the same problem painting slate shingles; when I was painting them i thought they were quite blue but by the time I was done with washes and dry brushing the blue was very faint.

Wheldrake12 Aug 2017 1:20 a.m. PST

Cardstock, woodgrain, braille and… rivets?

I've been working on this half-timbered house for something like a month now, and I'm up to interior furniture, doors and stairway. But what I'm really writing about this time is rivets. I'm sure some of you lads have far more clever ways to simulate rivets, say for door hinges or door bracing, but I ran across something I'd never seen before and thought I'd mention it here.

For cardstock I've been using 1mm-thick bank calendars and 0.2mm-thick (approximately) medicine boxes. The other day I noticed that all the medicine boxes had a notice in braille on one of the sides, probably the name of the stuff. I looked at that braille message – nicely embossed domes molded into the cardboard – and thought that I'd been missing out on an opportunity for ready-made rivets for ages!

A few hours later, I'd done up a batch of furniture, using the power-flex gel version of loctite superglue, and you can see here on the right the doors with rivets either on their hinges or on the cross-pieces.

The other thing I did for the first time (but which I'd heard about on some youtube video) was scribing a wood grain directly into cardstock. I'd been using an old ball-point pen to scribe board divisions for quite some time, but here I also used a sharp, sturdy pencil to draw a woodgrain with enough pressure to leave deep grooves in the cardstock surface (bank calendars, again). As it was an experiment, I only did the tabletops, not the benches or doors or stairway, but I think in future this'll be my go-to method for woodwork.

Here's the entire collection of furniture after 3-4 coats of craft paint:
1) a dark wash of burnt umber mixed with a little medium brown (half paint, half water)
2) streaks of light brown (medium brown mixed with white and a little ochre)
3) streaks of medium brown, unmixed
4) some pieces required a bit of touch-up with the original colors. And in fact, I think I missed a few edges all the same.

In this close-up of the doors you can see my hasty paintjob on the rivets. The top two doors are to retrofit openable doors to the interior of the ground floor of my half-timbered house. It's a bit cramped in there, so I knew the doors had to be pre-painted and ready to glue in place. The rivets at the far end of the hinge are braille, while the grouping of four rivets on the hinge itself are simply painted on. The bottom two doors are intended to add a backdoor to the ground floor even though I neglected to plan for one when assembling the walls. They are in thin medicine-box cardstock, and I cut the strips for the crospieces and diagonal bracing so as to include a maximum number of braille bumps. I only had to paint in 2 or 3 rivets where none existed to get more-or-less uniform results.

Most of these bits were pretty straightforward. But a few took careful planning, like the stairway. Even then, I had to revise things along the way, having made a few mistakes in the planning stage. Perhaps the biggest thing when assembling miniature furniture is to remember to take into account the thickness of the cardstock when planning which bits will overlap which other bits. Here's the unpainted stairway with my hasty sketch of a plan:

And here's the fully painted version, with an added non-functioning door which could lead down to the basement, or even a full-fledged dungeon…

I'm really glad to have scribed boards and board ends before assembly, but really should have done a woodgrain like I did for the tabletops – much more convincing than simply painting on a woodgrain. But if you don't look too close, it's passable. The doorknob is a pinhead and the frame around the door is more thin card. I considered simply painting the doorframe onto the stairway, but the slight relief from the card frame makes it more believable as a door.

Next, after some sunny hols in the Yucatan, will be beds, chests, windows for the upper floor of the half-timbered house, and then… ivy. So I've got a few questions for you lads:
- Does the 1mm-thick cardstock work for tables and benches? It's about half the thickness of the resin furniture from Dwarven Forge, but on balance I suspect the 1mm-thick cardstock is closer to scale for boards. It does still look rather flimsy in comparison, though. Should I have doubled the thickness of my card prior to assembly?
- I know there are many methods for portraying climbing ivy on the walls and roof of houses, but I'm thinking about using string for the vine base and ordinary white glue and some leftover clump foliage for the leaves. I've seen some work with birch seed cases (lovely leaves!) but don't know where I could find any round these parts. Any suggestions beyond clump foliage and flocking?

BTW, Codsticker, thanks for the suggestion. I'll try to do more angles (with figurines!) once the interior is done and the climbing ivy attempted.

The H Man12 Aug 2017 5:13 a.m. PST

Looks nice.

Try an old wrecked brush for wood grain. Let the random bristles make finer marks. Use several layers of different wood colors.

Wheldrake12 Aug 2017 6:36 a.m. PST

Sounds like a plan, H man! That's kind of what I was doing, albeit with a very fine brush and multiple strokes. Perhaps by adding more additional layers of various shades of brown it will improve the wood appearance of the flat pieces where I didn't have the foresight to engrave a woodgrain with a pencil.

Thanks for the suggestion!

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