Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Scratch-Built Thatched Storage Building

As briefly alluded to in a previous post the model detailed here was the direct result of attempting to make a paper building seen (here). After making a basic mistake with the papercraft model I was left with the basic shape of the building made from plain corrugated cardboard, I wondered if I could make it into something useful. So to start with I turned to the ubiquitous wooden coffee stirrers and clad the outside with them, following the same pattern detailed on the paper version.

Am I the only person sad enough to notice the quality of stirrers isn't as good as it used to be? The last time I mentioned this out loud (school boy error) I received an unusual look that was a mixture of scorn, pity and concern from my female companion in the coffee shop. 

Interior View of cheapo terrain
The original model had a basic printed representation of a thatched roof, so now I had the chance to try and replicate this in a more realistic fashion. I'd seen previously on the web suggestions to use DAS modelling clay. I had a 1kg block of this bought years ago from 'The Works' (a useful chain of shops in the UK that stocks cheap books and all sorts of random craft material). Having never actually used this stuff before I was curious how it would turn out.

After scoring the cardboard lightly with a craft knife (so that the clay would have something to adhere to) the clay was applied to the cardboard. Using the thick corrugated cardboard helped give the impression of the depth of real thatch. Some of the new laser cut buildings which seem very popular at the moment are supplied with teddy bear fur for the roof. This looks ok but always appears too thin to me. Real thatched roofs are at least 10" to 12" thick (in order to be waterproof), often a lot deeper, and it was this look that I wanted to reproduce.

It's useful to have a cup of water near to hand to help blend in the clay and keep it moist as you'll probably (like me) be applying relatively small portions of clay at a time. Unless you really wish to end up looking like a Chinese terracotta warrior I would highly recommend wearing rubber disposable gloves as the wet clay (or slip I suppose) can make a hell of mess of you, your clothes and your worktop. Once happy with the coverage of the roof, allowing enough time so that the clay wasn't too wet, using a cocktail stick I scored vertical lines to give the impression of the thatch itself.

Small details such as the hinge and plates where made from plastic rod and whittled down cocktail sticks were added before painting the model.

As the clay is air drying you simply have to leave it somewhere safe and allow it to set (you should notice the clay change to a slightly lighter colour). Once completely dry you can then paint the building as required. I used small tester pots of paint available from most large DIY stores.
As mentioned previously I had downloaded numerous free (you've got to love a bargain) paper buildings. These models are great but they don't withstand much handling even with reinforcing. As with the Tamiya storage hut I initially made a paper building and then wanted to make a more robust version using cheap materials that are easily available.
Completed model building
Although time consuming and obviously not quite as sturdy as laser cut or the plastic moulded buildings this type of terrain will be practically free especially if you decide to use cardboard tiles for the roof instead of modelling clay thatched version. Plus you'll have the real satisfaction of making something from scratch that you can show off on your table top.


  1. Great looking barn Matt - love the thatched roof!

    1. Thank you Simon, I was pleased that it actually worked how I had hoped (it doesn't always happen that way).

  2. Lovely piece Matt, authentic-looking thatch too!

  3. Great work Matt. Looks like a commercial model!

  4. That is really cool. Great work!

  5. That's an impressive build Matt, great job.

    1. Thanks Michael, if you liked this then I'm pretty sure you will enjoy the next buildings I've made using the same techniques.