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Experimental Roofing




In my previous entry, I 'mocked up' photos of various styles of roof that I could apply to some of the existing buildings on my layout. My aim was to re-create the appearance of traditional Cotswold roofs, such as would be found in the countryside around North Leigh.



Houses in Snowshill, Glos


That initial survey led to me replacing the roof on one my buildings with plastic sheet cut from the Wills 'dressed stone' pack (SSMP202). The sheet replicated the way in which the stone courses are widest near the eaves and then diminish towards the apex of the roof After painting with a mix of acrylic colours, chosen to portray the characteristic appearance of real Cotswold roofs, the model took on much of this regional style:




Nevertheless, I felt that the plastic sheet looked rather 'flat' and homogeneous, compared with a real Cotswold roof. I happened to read an item on Julia Adams' blog, which showed photos of some buildings at Pendon museum. These buildings are made from card, with each tile applied individually. As readers of my blog will know, I like to look for short-cuts and, in this case, my thoughts turned to the Silhouette cutter.


Details of the construction of a Cotswold stone roof can be downloaded as a PDF from http://www.stoneroof...ate roofing.pdf From this reference, the lowest course uses the longest slates, known as 'cussoms', with a visible length of about 357mm. The next rows are called 'followers', with visible length 216mm. Much smaller slates, known as 'short cocks' are used higher up the roof, with a visible length of only 127mm. My first step was to take a photo of such a roof and then to select individual rows of slates, in the various sizes used for the construction of the roof:




I adjusted the size of the image to 4mm scale and then opened the file in the Studio software supplied with the Silhouette cutter. I then added 'cut' rectangles around each row of slates and duplicated the rows to make a sheet of parallel rows of slates. [EDIT - after drawing the 'cut' rectangles by hand, I realise that I could use the 'Trace' function in the software, to do this automatically.]


After adding alignment marks in the cutter software, I printed the sheet onto card, using my colour ink-jet printer. On placing the printed sheet in my Silhouette Portrait cutter, the machine first found the registration marks and then cut out each row:




I had thought of using the Silhouette to scribe outlines of individual slates as well but decided that it was easier and quicker to do this by hand, using the tip of a wax carving chisel to emboss the joints. Then I laid the strips on the plastic roof of a building, starting at the bottom of the roof and using the grey bands that I had printed, to set the overlap of each successive row:




The finished roof has the advantage that the rows of slates overlap each other, as in a real roof. This is most clearly visible along the edges of the roof, as seen in the following photo of this type of roof applied to my saw-mill:




While I quite like the result, it still has a rather 'regular' look and really needs the dedication that is required to cut and fit each slate individually!


I decided to try one final method, which is similar to one I used many years ago, when I first built some of the other structures on the layout. For my final roof, I applied a thin coat of plaster filler to the surface of a plastic roof, using a spatula plus a wet finger, to achieve a smooth finish:




I then scribed horizontal courses into the plaster, using a wax-carving chisel and made vertical indentations to mark the individual slates. Finally, I painted the surface of the plaster with a mix of acrylic colours, to achieve my desired effect.




I have to admit that, although this is the least 'accurate' of my three attempts, it is my favourite, largely because the texture of the plaster has reproduced the appearance of stone much more effectively than plastic can do. I guess it is a case of 'artistic impression' versus 'technical merit' :)



Finally, I show an overall view of the 'quarry end' of my layout with all three roofs visible. The narrow gauge (009) line that meanders between the buildings is largely invisible between the various stone walls:





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Great to see how you try to create a good looking roof.

Instead of card you could try a good quality of water color paper.

This gives more texture than card.

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Thank you for your suggestion, Job.  I think you are right that a textured surface would provide a better result.  I may also introduce a little irregularity into the cutting pattern set in the Silhouette.


While you are busy re-creating the grimy streets of London, I prefer more bucolic pleasures :)

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  • RMweb Gold

Very interesting. I don't think the pictures show the differences that well no doubt it would be clearer in the flesh. Texture is hard to model. Often you cannot see it at the scale viweing distance but the eye expects to see it. So the artistic compromise can work better because the brain/eye are happy.


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Thanks, Donw.  It's inevitable that the photos don't show the 'depth' very well.  Sometimes that can be an advantage - photos of the flat back-scene always look much better than the reality :)

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  • RMweb Gold

Hi Mike, funny how each of these techniques have their merits. I like the shape and pattern of the stone/slates on the Wills sheet; the colour on the silhouette cutter roof is very good; and the plaster method gives good texture. If only they could be combined!


Job's suggestion makes good sense I think. Alternatively: Comparing with your (rather nice) prototype photo, I wonder if it would be possible to add moss effect to the Wills sheet, or some other form of texture? Maybe a bit of polyfilla/putty on a brush, stippled on lightly/intermittently across the roof and then given a bit of paint/dye.

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Hi Mikkel - I'd been thinking along similar lines to yourself and may try 'texturing' the Wills roof.  The accumulation of moss is very characteristic even though it is apparently bad for the roof, since it retains moisture and leads to decay.  I might try something like N-scale ballast. 


There are all sorts of areas on the layout that need remedial treatment.  I may try some of the Wills sheets for the retaining wall, where the narrow gauge meets the main-line sidings.  It was difficult to scribe the plaster in situ and the stone courses have sagged a bit. 


I find it quite therapeutic, pottering about with these scenic details - much less demanding than building engines.  I really must provide some people, to bring things 'to life' a bit. 


The sun finally broke through today, so good weather will bring more distractions from indoor modelling.



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  • RMweb Gold

Yes very inconvenient this good weather, tends to distract one from the really important things in life :-)


I look forward to seeing a few more people on the layout, although come to think of it I hadn't noticed their absence until you mentioned it, which is interesting.

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