Friday, 25 July 2014

Such a surprising afternoon...

Deciding that Apple and Blackcurrant squash wouldn't cut it and a beer not quite right that time o' day, I had a fancy for a ginger beer, one of the very few soft drinks I can stomach.  Of course,we had none in stock, so we decided a trip into the village would be in order. Being still too damned hot and feeling a bit listless, I grabbed my camera to catch a shot or two of a mystery shed near where I live.
Turned into the drive of the place to find it is actually a shop, a flower shop, it seems. I never knew, even though I've lived hereabouts for 7 years or so.
It was locked and I thought I ought to seek permission to take pictures, so I strolled down to the house, called "hello", to be received by a delightful old lady who seemed to think my request perfectly normal and called me in to chat to her husband, an equally delightful old chap who said I should come and go as I felt fit!

Clearly the place had once been a serious producer of flowers and fruit.  Evidence of greenhouses was everywhere.

It was, in fact a modelmaker's dream of a site, full of semi and completely derelict buildings of the best kind.
Cop this little range
Or this mighty challenge!

But the one I'd come to see was this one.
I'd been seeing this shed for years and for some reason today was the day to photograph it.  I was intrigued by the large windows on the top floor, wondering if it had been for weaving or some craft, but no, it seems it was where the vast numbers of tomatoes once grown here were "brought on", hence the orientation of the building, to catch the sun. And proof that this site was all about growing stuff?  Look at the wall...witness marks of three earlier greenhouse gable ends.
The wreaths on the sliding door mark the fact that the people now mainly earn their livings from making up funereal and wedding wreathes and posies.  It seems this has always been a shop.
I prefer the older sign!

A pleasant chat with the old couple and another with a friend of theirs who had stopped to make sure we weren't up to no good and from whom we have bought many strawberries and off we went in search of the ginger beer once again.
Costcutters didn't have it but the newly owned Post Office shop did, so we thought that was that. Back the way we came, but as we crossed the bridge, we espied a lovely old wooden river cruiser going up the Well Creek. By the time I'd turned round and stopped, I saw he'd pulled up rather suddenly at the chip shop staithe. I got round there and spoke to the chap, who opined that weed round his prop had caused overheating. I assumed an old petrol engine, but no, this old girl had had her Morris Vedette side valve replaced with a modern Lynch electric motor, 3 Kv diesel genset and Li-Ion electric car batteries!  All completely hidden away.
By the time I'd tied it up for him he'd changed into his dodgy Speedos and walked into the freezing river to drag hands full of weed
off his prop, the usual cause of overheating on a boat on inland waters.

The really odd thing is that only an hour earlier, I had been speaking to a client who wants just such a boat mastered as his first foray into 7mm scale scenic products.
This one shot gives me all I need to know for sections of the hull and clerestory roof.
She was built by Banham's of Cambridge in 1938 from teak.  No wonder she is in such superb condition.  Teak goes on forever!

And so, finally, home, to eventually get my ginger beer and a cream cake that somehow appeared in Chris's shopping bag twixt sheds and boat!

Some afternoons are very surprising.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The green, green grass of home...

Quite literally.... These pictures are all within, or within 6 yards of, my home.

With so many ways of producing grass these days on a model railway or piece of scenic work, I thought it might be apposite to discuss just what IS grass.
I also can't work because it's just too damned hot, so I went for a brief stroll around where I live.  It's not all about grass, there's a bit about asphalt, margins, even brick bonds to keep my ol' mate, Rich happy over there in Florida.

The above well noshed field of bright green meadow grass is what most think of as "model railway" field grass, but it is actually only a small part of the scene.  That field is not that common.  The one next to it is as green, but closer cropped and with tussocks of weed which the sheep will not touch.
This is the very next field. Different owner, last year a heavily grazed and partially flooded quagmire in the winter. But here it is with coarse meadow grass round the edge, crushed by the ramblings of just one lone cow who only comes out at night!  The rest is part of our unusually heavy crop of thistles , everywhere this year.  I wonder if it's an omen about the Scottish Independence vote in two months time.  Separating the two fields is a widish ditch. Very much in need of a clear-out, but currently full of the biggest grass I have seen. It's almost bamboo.
This stands at about 5 feet high out of the ditch. Each leaf is about 18" long and up to 2 " wide, yet it is essentially the stuff that peeps out of your flower beds, just left to its own devices.  I would imagine that laser cut thin paper would be the only way to reproduce this.
And what of these damned things?  Nettles. Found in every garden, every lane margin, but very complex plants to reproduce in scale.
This is a path twixt my wife's recent memorial garden and the bonfire pit to the right.
In March it was a path you could walk down!  Just how can we even suggest these fiddly leafed stingers in scale?

Just outside the garden is the lane and its ditched edging. This one connects underground by a culveted section, to the earlier shown overgrown ditch.  It is a very popular hunting ground for Barn Owls and Falcons of various kind, which round here, we get all day.
Next to the ditch can be seen a bog standard telephone pole as witness the thin single wire. This pole is in the side of the ditch, believe it or not and that ditch is a good 10 feet deep!
Note how light in colour is the lane. This is nowhere near black (so often used on a model), it's not even battleship grey it's much lighter.  I don't fiddle with colours as I don't have the software, so what you see on a clear sunny day is what it is...light grey.
Only last week (Friday), a couple of tubby, sweating road operatives from the Norfolk Council, tumbled out of their Transit flat bed and shovelled two shots of "tarmac" into the potholes that had previously smashed a few car springs on the edge of our one car wide lane. Note where a suit had sprayed them white with a certain flourish, in order that said sweaty overweight roadmen should recognize a pothole when he sees one and know where to fill an 8" dip.  These potholes are where the neighbour and all other overly heavy and wide farm and transport vehicles use our lane as a rat run between destinations and pass a parked vehicle squeezed against our fence, which actually leaves plenty of space for a conventional vehicle, but not the rolling towns that the local farmers bring in to do 10 mens' jobs with just 2 screaming diesels.  But the roadmenders have injected tarmac only for the section of pothole which goes to the official edge of the lane, beyond which, the farmer is responsible.  This means that with no proper edge to hold the tarmac in, the edge of it, that they put in, falls into the unfilled part of the hole and therefore averages the original hole out at a bit less than the original depth!  The constant hammering of lorry and Fastrac tyres will soon have that flattened out and when the cold and wet gets in it will look like it did last Thursday and start smashing car springs again!  This is what is known as full employment.  Or rather, giving nicely mechanised pointless tasks to fat, incapable idiots who could do with the exercise of pushing a barrow round our lanes and back to the depot.  But it does make for interesting model features.  It also shows that a jet black tarmac pile is getting towards light grey in just a few days from installation.  You will rarely see a whole new surface on a country lane.

Where the fat men haven't had to visit, the margin of a country lane looks, more often than not, like this.
Here's where the road becomes the field of malting barley. It goes from loose pebbles and dust, to short, driven on, lighter coloured, dust filled grass, to longer meadow grass, leaves about 8 inches long, to thick weed bushes of about 3 feet width and height, usually this time of year, thistle or nettle. Back in April/May the Cow Parsley , full of that rather sad off white blossom would have stood all along there.  There is no ditch this side, so the rougher grass jut imperceptibly runs into shorter (less healthy,) and finally, taller, sturdy, barley, ready to harvest next month. I have actually harvested that very field , year before last.  There is no demarcation, no clear lines, just one surface becoming another over the width of about 8 feet.  32 or 56 mm , depending on OO or O gauge. Or 2" if you model in the far more sensible American O scale of 1/4" to a foot, a fine and sensible Imperial scale.

How often do you see the tarmac really well modelled?  How well observed are the road margins on even the better layouts?  
When did you last espy "marbles" down the middle of a country lane, eh?
Don't try to pretend the traffic won't allow it.  This lane, incredibly, sees 40 ton artics., huge tractor/sprayer outfits, even bigger twin diesel hydraulic powered, 10 wheeled beet lifters, boy racers in flattened Mk 2 Golfs and Scoobies, you name it.  The septic tank emptier in the background rejoices in the legend, "You make it, we take it".
And if ye be tempted to take a short cut with modelling roads properly, there's always this!
The only danger of death with this pole is that it's clearly rotten and was last inspected by Eastern Electricity, (defunct for years) in 1996!

And for Rich, who is a rare American gentleman who loves his bricks, here's our place with an unfathomable bond system best called "lazy English" I think!
Note the correct kind of insulated receiver for the electricity. Oddly, with no real voltage, exactly the same fittings were used for telephones, as here. The power comes in on the extreme right of the picture. Note also the wonderful old outdoor telephone bell, which I've never heard, but one of which used to ring out across the gardens where I grew up as Dad had one for his workshop at the end of the garden.  That ridge tiling could ONLY be done with photo-etching!

More anon.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Bricks are not cobbles

Now, this might be considered a bit anal, a bit, maybe, picky, but that's me, folks...picky, not anal.
I was looking through an excellent blog called Albion Yard and agreeing with the guy's many points about aspects of modelmaking, when I espied something that I see on so many layouts, which drives me nuts.  Used correctly, there is nothing wrong with moulded plastic brick sheet.  Organise the bond properly at windows and corners and it's a great time saver.  Get the corners filled so you can run a three square Swiss file round to continue course lines in the mortar, all that sort of stuff which should be obvious really.  BUT, why, oh why can't people see that the moulding of this sheet, perhaps by design, perhaps by virtue of worn moulds results in a very noticeable radius to the edge of the bricks, which renders them as odd shaped cobbles rather than bricks.  Bricks have a sharp cornered look, even when old.  In our scales, there is almost no appreciable texture to them, which is why brick papers can still work very well.  What we certainly don't want is any texture left to be pushed in our faces by that ghastly shiny highlight round every edge of every brick, made worse by so many peoples' lack of care about absolute mattness of their paint.
The answer is so simple.  Before you start covering your Foamboard, card, ply, whatever, with the plastic sheet, take a block of wood with wet'n'dry Evo-Stiked to it and rub down the sheet until the mortar lines are just visible. This will still be plenty to show beneath your chosen paint, but won't look like a wall of vertical cobbles, all rounded off and shiny edged. It takes no time at all to do.  It can even be varied to add a little texture, paradoxically, since you are after all, removing it!  Combined with careful painting in different tones with maybe different mortar shades where you change the degree of rubbing down it can make a wall so much more interesting and realistic.  And the rubbing down gives an excellent key to the paint, not normally found on untouched styrenes.

Here's a case in point, made about 30 years ago.
Rubbed bricks, scribed returns, microstrip window frames, sagging, rotten bottomed doors, soldier course in scribed styrene sheet the same thickness as Slater's brick sheet, 60 thou. capping stones, photo/etched name board from my artwork in those heady far off days when you could get a pair of negs made, emulsion side down for a fiver and send 'em off to Photoetch Consultants or Chempix for a single 18"x12" fret for £18!
Now you have to be able to master Corel Draw or Illustrator and pay about £85 for "graphic tooling" before they'll even show your 10 thou. any acid!  And we're supposed to call that progress, are we?
The above office from Tony Moss's country Garage in Upwell was weathered with ground down chalk pastel sticks and fag ash.  And so many years of dust and sunlight, which is something you just cannot fake!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

A quick Foamex example...

I have just had a quick go at showing what Foamex can do.  I was waiting for some Milliput to cook, so in no more than 5 minutes did this all round exemplar of what you can do with the stuff. I used a graver and an old craft knife, not even a straight edge!
This is all done with impression as opposed to cutting.
Just one piece of scrap 3mm. Foamex, pushed into different levels and impressed with the back of a graver.
The brickwork was first pushed slightly lower than the render and then impressed with the back of a craft knife, with the upper courses done with the edge of the knife, just pushed down, not drawn along...take your pick.
The render was then pressed with a new sheet of 80 grit emery cloth to give it more texture, although some texture is on the Foamex as standard.
The door and its frame were also pressed to slightly different levels, before being impressed with planking detail.

Finally, to make a corner to the building, the back has been cut away with a V to within an ace of the surface and then the corner merely bent in, but a mitred corner would be fine if you go through.
The back of this piece of Foamex shows that my samples came from a signage company!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Foamex offered for your experimentation..

My son sent me home with loads of the above to try out. Now I already knew it to be very good for model buildings, but am not sure that many others do.
I have embossed it with a variety of tools into patterns of brick, setts, tooled and rough stone and carr stone or flint and it takes any amount of treatment in this way. It is stiff and self-supporting, glues well with contact adhesives without melting and takes paint well.  Really, I can't think of any downside.
This was done in Foamex:-
QED, methinks.

Anyone who fancies some for experimentation, please, let me know.  I can get loads more.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

A shed for all seasons

I dare say readers of this blog will be aware that I am something of a shed fan.  I believe a man needs a shed.
And so do many trades, perhaps none more so than the small time fisherman.
Having been away for a week up at my No 1 son's place we used the opportunity to revisit a lovely area, where sheddery was at its finest, including, in my view, the best shed a man could have, though it's unfortunately rusting away.  Here it is on its one long leg!
I believe this was once the Harbourmaster's hut at St. Abbs, just o'er the border into Scotland.  I covet that shed like no other!

St. Abbs contains a good many sheds. In fact almost as many as cottages, since fishing was the main (indeed for some time the ONLY) pursuit.
Here are more, all concerned with the storage, repair and re-manufacture of creels, lobster pots and nets and gear generally. All of them have the most wonderful smell about them.  A young chap was weaving a new lobster pot in that open doorway when I took this shot.
This last has a quite complex structure, containing brick, block, rubble, wood and felt and fits onto a much earlier wall.

And when is a shed a hut?
Here's one with a very important purpose. Dishing up fresh-as-you-like shellfish and feeding the unwanted stuff to a group of seals who are always in Eyemouth Harbour.
Blue, again.  Seems to be a popular colour with sheds, boats et al. Indeed, there are private harbours where you are only allowed a blue or black boat and one assumes a matching shed.  Seals jump in the air for proffered fish bits just behind this hut (centre, distant) and live here all year round.

The model appeals of sheds are hardly needful of extolling.  Eccentricity, infinite variety, material choices, finishing methods, any amount of levels of deterioration and decrepitude, uses to which put, signwriting of names and trades, additions and modifications, salvation methods from the vicissitudes of the weather....and all small enough to model in any scale without breaking the bank of house-space or material cost.
What's not to love about a shed?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Look what I found!...

It's amazing what you find when you ain't looking.

Whilst trying to find a suitable receptacle for my Mum and Dad's ashes for the big scattering tomorrow, I re-found my old TVR Car Club bag, with which I used to travel back and forth to Germany when I was a peripatetic clay modeller for their car industry.
And in it were two items I thought I'd lost years ago.  One was a diorama base to display one of my lovely Fred Harris Replicast resin record boats, Campbell's K7 Bluebird.  We'd only recently been to Coniston at that time and I decided to model the team's temporary base, where now stands the Bluebird Cafe.  I wanted to show the old girl in the water, so I cut three holes in some perspex for the hull and sponsons.
OK, I am a bit of a dio. man. I have no room for a layout as such and in fact, I'm no big fan of that format really.  I just like to try out ideas when the fancy takes me.
I was struck when I was at Coniston that the water was ripply one side of the staithe, but completely mirror like the other, so I decided to have a go at rippling the Perspex with a spherical burr in the minidrill and to my amazement it worked very well. Took ages, of course, but I was pleased with the result.  Then we moved house and it got put away, apparently in the TVR bag!
Now all I have to do is find the boat model!

Under this one was another little set piece that I knocked up when I was playing around with the idea of R/C 1/32nd scale narrow gauge.  I'd made the brass masters for some chairs (I hate spiked track, looks so foreign!) and wanted to see how it looked on suitably manky old sleepers, so I made a small length of 3/4" gauge, pearwood sleepered track, ballasted with ash from our fire.  Looked good to me. I love roadside railways, so just ran it across the lane to run like a tramway next to the lane.  Now, lanes are NOT black, neither are they made of wet'n'dry sandpaper. They DO have some camber and often exhibit dips where the tractors and constant cars wear them down. This makes ridges which soon crack. Tiny cracks that fill with muck and show up.  This was hammered home when I used to do a spot of tractor driving for a neighbour which saw me travelling 9 miles by, largely, lanes such as these, at a maximum 13mph.  I had a lot of observation time to spend in my noisy cab.
Unfortunately the crossing timbers seem to have done a bunk somewhere!

This shot shows the cracks. And the kind of digs and scrapes that agricultural implements tend to leave behind.
On the left the grassy bank is in its basic shape form, prior to the application of medical lint, my particular favourite kind of grass.  On the right the grass has been stuck down and roughly coloured, ready for blending into the tarmac, teasing out, shaving and final detail colouring
I should point out that these cost nothing. Everything is off-cuts. The w/m chairs were part of a favour from my own Ffestiniog style brass masters.  
These set-pieces are straight from the bag... dust, crap of all sorts after years tucked away, but they seem unaffected by damp, etc. so are now in the new shed in the "arts" corner and will be finished...sometime.