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.  


  1. That road surface looks brilliant. I had three goes at the last road surface I built and it still doesn't look very natural; any hints or tips on how you built and painted this one?

  2. Hi Mark. I usually model the surface up with Polyfilla (or any of the much cheaper equivalents you can get these days). Take it outside and sand it to a semblance of a camber and sand in the dips if you want them, or at least irregularities. Then put in the cracks from real observation. They're a bit like trees, you can't invent them. For the basic colour you can use those match pot things from B&Q or a suitable mid grey matt emulsion. Thin it a little with water, so it soaks into the filler, although the filler can be a little impervious in places so you might need two coats. Then detail colour with gouache paints. These can be found in Lidl or Aldi sales for a coupla quid for a set. They dry completely matt and are wonderfully miscible and opaque when dry. Don't forget to slightly darken the edges where all the crap is washed and blown off the top of the lane by traffic and then sits wet and murcky for ages. Sift some slightly larger granules of ash or whatever you use for general dirt down the edges, then blend the grass into that area with a much different shade of dirty green. I hope that helps, Mark, but as ever, observation is everything. As long as you've seen it, nobody can gainsay you.

    1. Thanks. I think my problem last time was using the wrong paints so they didn't colour properly and then getting fed up and using Woodland Scenics asphalt top coat which made the surface too smooth although the colour was slightly better. Current plan for the next layout has a road so I'll give it another go and hopefully will get a better result.

  3. I like to get absolute matt finishes on scenery, with the single exception of water, of course, so Gouache and the much more difficult to find Pelikan Plakka paints are my choice for finishing. I'm not au fait with Woodland Scenics road materials. Of course, the bigger roads have fewer cracks, but I have driven on motorways with grass growing out of the middle (Belgium and the never used M45). I think the number one feature for a convincing road/lane/even trackway is a camber, even the Romans built roads with a camber.

  4. Thats a masterpiece of a road, Martin. I always like to make cracks and mends in road surfaces, it adds so much to the believability of the thing. I agree with you about Gouache, too. I used to ponder about the great ridges of tarmac, like berms, beside bus stops in Glasgow. As the bus took off, it would have to surmount the ridge, throwing any standing passengers about. After a while, I realised that it was the constant stopping of the buses, making a very slow motion, tarmac bow wave!

  5. Thanks, Iain. I know it's 1/32nd scale, but you can do the same in any scale with care. It only needs observation, the crux of all we do.