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Materials for model buildings

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What is your preferred material for making model buildings from scratch and why do you prefer that material above any other? 


• Plasticard

• Card

• Ply

• Balsa

• Other (specify)


Alternatively do you mix materials for specific reasons?

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Plasticard. Easy to work with, and suits the location of my garage (temperature, damp etc). Use a fair bit of Scalescenes printed on self-adhesive A4 labels, which are then stuck to plasticard. A coat of matt varnish seals them; cardboard would not easily be viable out there.



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Most of a building is in its carcass and goes unseen - such as kitchen units which all it needs to build a new look kitchen is a set of door and drawer fronts.The rest is essential but unseen.


Anyway, I always use card for the sub structure and plastikard for the facing and any detail work.


As a  guide, a large O Gauge building will soon swallow a 3ft x 2ft sheet of 2mm card and that compared to the cost of a similar sized sheet of styrene - which will also need substantial bracing -  is almost nil.


Also, almost anything will glue cardboard - even jam ! - or syrup if you run out of that....


Seriously though, what material you use should be what you are most comfortable with and Peter Leyland ( Gravy Train ) is an absolute master with styrene and seems to use nothing other and produces the most astounding work as a result - AND he don't use jam !!.




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As a beginner I find my preference is for styrene. That in no way negates your comments on using cardboard, but I did not get on very well using Scalescenes. That says more about my inexperience and lack of ability than any unlikely shortcomings in the product.



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Guest bri.s

I like to use mounting card for the shells and enbossed plastic sheets to finish . I find them easy to work with and paint .



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I always use styrene. 1mm is plenty strong enough for structural walls in 4mm scale, 0.5mm for the roofs. It is easy to file and drill and even goes in the milling machine. Styrene rod can go in the lathe for chimney pots. It can be bent with a bit of heat. It glues quickly and easily and takes paint well. The only drawback is if you get glue on your fingers and leave prints on it.



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I use everything & anything ! And often in the same building.


The buildings for Treamble are

End building - mount card covered in embossed plasticard,

Woodwork shop - scribed mount card & corrugated plasticard

Warehouse - mount card covered in Scalescenes paper with plasticard roof

Factory - Embossed plasticard

Military good shed - card covered with planked plasticard.


I enjoy using all materials, the end result is more important than the method.

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Cardboard for me - vastly underrated and very forgiving. Easy to cut, easy to glue. And, as Allan says - it doesn't need substantial bracing. But then I model in N/2mm.



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In the 1960s I would have said shellaced card in the 70s through 80s Plastikard but now use most everything. So I would second Stubby47.  Important thing is to happy with the medium yourself.

Around 1950 "Santa" built a station building with working signals for my Hornby Clockwork trains. This was built from balsa wood with dolls house brick / slate paper. Now "Santa" was really an aeromodeller  so the choice of balsa wood must have come naturally. I recovered this a few years ago when I cleared the attics at my late parent's house. An exercise in Model Railway Archaeology  really. The signals have gone (not likely to have survived the attentions of a small boy) but the main structure is still perfect. Not bad for something that has spent 60+ years in an unheated attic.

Currently building some "Builteezi" sheets for a 1960s retro layout based on some of the other attic finds.  Ahh nostalgia there is nothing like it.


best wishes,



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Basic structure in card - every January I went round our offices and asked to take away last year's calendars - almost all with a card back.

Covered as needed with pre-moulded plasticard or painted direct with Artists Gauche.

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Hi Folks ,

Alan is correct in that I model my buildings in Plastic, most of the time as its fast, you can move on from one application of the build and onto the next immediately without waiting for glues etc to set, in Alans situation he uses Super Glue which has a similar effect in the build process.


Although I model in plasticard, there situations were I model in other materials were it is practical.


The 1st building below was to a scale of 13.5mm for 3" gauge, it was made from 'Plywood' with timber bracing and plasticard overlays.


The 2nd building was constructed entirely from Plasticard.


The 3rd building was constructed from 'Mounting card'' with Timber bracing and plasticard overlays.


The 4th building was constructed from 'Grey Board' with timber bracing and plasticard overlays ;-)







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