Thursday, 2 April 2015

Medieval Buildings, Cardboard Scratch Build

Being reasonably happy with the results of my previous attempt at converting a papercraft model into something a little more robust (details here), I then looked out for another building to construct using similar techniques. The obvious choice was to attempt the 'Seedy townhouse No1' model seen in this previous post (here). The only tricky issue appeared to be the first floor overhang. 

Using the papermodel as a template the basic pattern was cut out of an appropriate sized piece of corrugated cardboard and then glued together, minus the roof, using PVA glue. Triangular off outs were when glued into the internal corners to add more stability to the piece and then a suitable piece of cardboard was glued into position to form the roof. 
View of front - WIP 
Left overnight to ensure the main body of the building was dry I then glued the wooden coffee stirrers into position in a suitably irregular pattern. 
View of back - WIP
The next consideration was then how to finish the roof. I had initially thought to use cardboard tiles but after the results of a previous model I decided to try the thatched option again. 

There are various options to create the look of a thatched roof, which I may try in future, but I decided to use DAS modelling clay mainly because it was readily to hand.

The clay was applied as a thick layer and scored with a cocktail stick. One particular feature I wanted to add to these models was the additional thatch that covers the apex of the roof . I had assumed it is a purely decorative feature but as I was making it I thought it might simply be to give extra protection to the most vulnerable part of the roof. I had left this feature off the storage building as I wanted to give that a more utilitarian appearance. 

A small detail I have noticed on medieval buildings (such as can be seen at Avoncroft museum) is the construction of windows. Glass was a rare and expensive feature only normally seen in well to done structures (owners would often take their glazed windows with them on their travels between homes). On normal housing window gaps were simply covered with shutters (a form of window could be made be placing a sheet of stretched material across the gap). The majority of peopled worked outside on the land so decent indoor lighting wasn't actually required anyway. The vertical window frames are often triangular in section (I bet after reading this, people will notice this small feature for themselves). To replicate this look cocktail sticks were whittled down to form a triangular section and placed in the windows. 
I initially planned on sprinkling sand to give the walls some texture and provide a surface that could be highlighted by drybrushing. Indeed I had already applied a few grains of sand to one side of one of the models and left it to dry in order to see what it looked like. However it was whilst looking through various photographs for real buildings that I realised that wattle and daub walls are generally very smooth, especially when the panels are relativity small such as seen on a small house. Therefore I decided to try and scrap off as much of the sand as possible, there are a few left on but I'm not that concerned, I really didn't want to waste time and effort removing every last grain.

One thing I did notice is that the watered down PVA glue I had used had made the corrugated cardboard wrinkle slightly but thought this was actually a bonus. The generally one dimensional surfaces and features is one aspect I don't particular like about laser cut buildings, another is that smell (that distinct whiff of burnt wood is one that I've come to associate with wargame shows - I suppose it helps mask some of the strong body odour that you sometimes walk into - the fug of war).

After seeing the result of applying watered down PVA glue to the one wall I then painted all the over surfaces to achieve a similar look. 

A quick final word on the finish of the model. Medieval buildings were probably originally painted one colour all over (i.e. the timber frames and walls). There are some striking examples in the village of Lavenham in Suffolk including a number that are painted in a colour appropriately called 'Suffolk Pink'. One method believed to have been used to create this colour was to add animal blood to the whitewash although I've also read that berries could be used (I believe the stark black and white image of timber framed timbers is largely Victorian concept). Interestingly the buildings of Lavenham only survived because the village became an economical backwater; the homeowners couldn't afford to update or improve their property so the village became a timber framed time capsule. 
Lavenham, Suffolk
Lavenham, Suffolk
Guildhall, Lavenham, Suffolk
Little Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk
Lavenham, Suffolk
These models were painted using small tester pots that are available from most from DIY stores. Almost endless supplies of relatively muted colours such as creams and browns (plus some of the more unusual colours such as the pink mentioned above) are available for only for a couple of pounds. 

Discounting the time (and effort) it takes, this type of model is very cheap to make, providing you have all the materials to hand (a tile roof version would be practically free). Although not as simple or quick to make as a papercraft model the nature of its construction makes it (I believe) a better investment of your time and effort and ultimately a more rewarding exercise. 

I don't recall seeing anyone use cardboard in this manner to create a building so if I've given anyone else the encouragement to attempt a similar project, please let me know, I'd love to see the results.


  1. That's very impressive work, Matt!

  2. agree with Ray of course ! nice building and thanks for sharing all those informations.

  3. Great building Matt! I have made a few Western buildings in Foam Core and Icy pole sticks (coffee stirrers) for weatherboarding. A mate of mine sent me some bundles of very fine natural bristle they used for some sort of brush making, I might give that a go for thatch.

    1. Thanks Col, interesting to see how the bristles turn out.

  4. Very impressive, Matt. Better than off-the-shelf products.