Friday 20 August 2010

Scratch Built Hamlet

My gaming group, the Dagenham Dungeon Delvers, are a talented bunch. This week I discovered more evidence of this when one member of the group Derek posted pictures of a modelling project he has been working on in secret for some time. All the buildings pictured here are scratch built using a variety of recycled materials and novel techniques that I thought would be of interest to other gamers and model builders.

The initial inspiration for these models came from an article that Derek saw in an old copy of White Dwarf magazine (issue 143 to be precise). The article gave plans and suggestions for building a Coaching Inn suitable for 28mm scale models. Once he had completed this project he then took what he had learned and applied his new skills to building several more buildings in a similar style.

Incidentally there were a series of articles in White Dwarf around the same time showing how to build other buildings like a cottage and a town house. If you can get your hands on one of these old issues (there always seem to be copies sold on Ebay at one time or another) they are well worth a look and give plenty of ideas for further construction projects.

All the buildings are based on Foam Board for rigidity and use beams of Balsa Wood form the main framework of the structures. Last year Derek went around collecting the sticks from used fireworks after Guy Fawkes Night. We all thought he was a little mad but it seems there was method in his madness and these sticks also found their way into the models. As he puts it himself... "People often think I've flipped when I sit looking at odd things and wondering what I could make from it - hence the reason for finally revealing some model photos."

Another clever bit of recycling came from the use of the wooden stirrer sticks you get in coffee shops. These were ideal for wooden cladding, door panels and shutters. I have used these myself for making wooden floor model bases and as tools in model making (stirring glue, supporting armatures while they dry etc.)

Derek insists that all the sticks he uses have stirred coffee in a previous life, making this barn 100% recycled. Who says our hobby can't be eco friendly?

The thatched roof was made from fake fur taken from an old hat. Cut into strips it was stuck to the roof of the cottage and then heavily painted with Games Workshop paint to make it ridged.  For the buildings with roof tiles the shingles were simply cut from strips of card then painted in red and then dry-brushed.

"I try to take pictures of olde worlde type buildings when I'm on holiday and any nice scenic calendars that come my way help to give inspiration. Other than that what I make depends on what sort of setting I need."

The white plaster walls were made from... plaster. The ready mixed varieties are easy to apply and if applied roughly look very effective. I've used this material myself and found that some experimentation is needed to find a brand that works best. Some makes are flexible, fast setting and smooth grained but ultimately its down to personal preference and cost factors.

Derek also used modelling putty on occasion, particularly for detailing like the stone chimneys.

Most of the buildings are free standing because they have been built with gaming in mind however the Mill/Water wheel house has a larger base with some landscaping. Standard materials and regular acrylic paints were used throughout the construction process.

I asked Derek how he worked out the scale for those buildings he didn't have a plan for and it was mostly " eye". He used some of his regular 28mm models as a guide to door height and worked everything else from that point. The resulting lack of conformity I think works very well for a small hamlet and these models would look good on any games table.

I hope you find some inspiration from these pictures. I certainly find myself quite humbled in the presence of such skill and creativity. Derek describes the creative process as starting "...with a basic design, but quite often these things develop a life of their own during construction".  

Next time I need to build something from scratch I know who to go to for advice.


  1. Nice and I really like the Mill.


  2. Well done - I particularly like the waterwheel.


  3. All really cool...the wooden stirrer stick building I think is his best piece, very, very cool and realistic!

  4. Very impressive - I need to remember not to throw away my stir sticks!

  5. Apparently the water wheel was made from a coffee jar lid!


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