Scratch Build a Small Structure

Structures with Wood

(Intermediate to Advanced)

By Paul Templar

Paul posted this article on to promote scratchbuilding. He graciously granted permission to use it here. - Roger


  1. Craft (Hobby) knife
  2. plenty of blades (sharp angle and curved) the curved blade is especially useful for cutting the strip wood by just rolling the blade over the wood.
  3. 4H pencil and eraser
  4. Tee square (ruler)
  5. Tube of EVO STICK impact adhesive (contact cement or carpenter's glue)
  6. Plenty of strip wood and some pieces of 1/16 of an inch square balsa wood.
  7. Some thin but stiff card.

- Click for larger graphic -

- Click on any drawing or picture to see it full size -

I like to make structures using real wood, to my mind nothing can replace real wood for a wooden structure. To this end, I use in abundance (STRIP WOOD) this strip wood is 1/8 of an inch wide by 1/64 of an inch thick, and comes in two different colours. One is a dark rich red colour, and the other a light tan colour, I like the light tan colour for its natural look about it. The drawing is full size for HO, but for N-scale just photocopy it and reduce the size by 50%.


Once you have cut out the card, and the windows and doorways have been cut out, a start can be made with the strip wood on all four pieces.

Click for larger graphic - [Photo - All four pieces cut and a start with the strip wood made.]

Cut (just a little oversize) some strip wood, spread the EVO (or equivalent - see tool list) glue onto the card and spread it all over, now, one by one, place the strip wood onto the card, side by side and leave a small gap. You may have to apply more glue onto the card as you go along because the card tends to soak up the glue quite quickly, and dries out. Once you have gotten to the end, put it to one side to dry for an hour at least and do the next piece of card. Carry on until all four sides are finished.

Once they have all dried, lay a ruler across the edges and cut off the excess to leave a nice clean edge on all four sides of each piece. This is the time to use the curved blades and cut out the strip wood from the windows and doorways. Just roll the blade over the wood, and it will come off clean. Click for larger graphic -

[Photo - The four pieces complete with strip wood and a start made on framing the windows, note the doorways have already been framed.]

Cut a length of strip wood about one foot long and using the curved blades, strip it down its length. (Just roll the blade backwards and forwards moving up the length)

Now very carefully frame the windows and doorway. To finish off the windows inside, use black thread gluing first a piece vertically and then a piece horizontally. After all thread has been applied, place behind the windows some clear plastic to represent the glass. (I very often use kitchen towel) [Must be different in the U.K. - R]

For the doorways, cut out a small piece of card 1/16 of an inch larger than the doorways, and glue the strip wood to the card. Do not forget the 1/8 piece of strip wood placed at the top of the large door, do this first, and also cut out the small window on the large door.


Click for larger graphic - Now glue all four sides together, making sure that the structure is square. Cut out four tiny triangles of card and glue these into each corner to keep it square, and put it to one side to dry.

[Photo - The completed structure without its roof.]

When your structure is dry, now is the time to think about what colours you want to paint it. I painted mine a light grey with the windows and doorways brown. You paint yours what ever colours take your fancy.


Now, onto the roof. Cut out from a piece of thinner card the shape and size from the drawing. Score with the back of the knife the lines where the card bends. (you will have to turn the card over for one score mark) and glue it to the structure. (Which I hope is now dry.) All that remains to be done at this stage is to cut out from the 1/16 of an inch square, small pieces to fit under the roof. These are spaced every 1/4 of an inch. When dry, paint them a dark brown. Now a start on the roof shingles can begin.


There are a number of ways to shingle a roof, one is using Campbell's paper shingle which I have used in the past, another is cutting the strip wood into tiny pieces and applying them one by one, (This I like the best) and last but not least paper shingles made by cutting the paper with a pair of pinking shears. Shingles cut with the pinking shears are in fact quite nice to look at inasmuch as they have a diamond shape finish and look fine, so we'll use this method. Ordinary A4 paper (copy paper) will do for the shingles, just mark out across the paper every 1/2 an inch, and rule it across. Cut along the lines. You are then left with diamond shaped lengths on both sides of the paper strip, now cut these strips in half, giving you two pieces with a straight edge and a diamond edge. Do the same with all pieces cut. You are now ready to shingle the roof.

Click for larger graphic -[Photo - Shingle the roof.]

Starting at the bottom of the roof, (any side) start to glue the small lengths of paper shingle onto the roof. When starting the second row, cut the left hand diamond in half, and glue this to the edge of the structure first.

What this does in effect, is to stagger the diamond shape. Don't forget, every other row, cut the diamond in half, before starting the run. When the shingles on the roof have dried, you will need to apply some 1/16 of an inch square balsa underneath the door and both sides of the structure. Then paint the roof with a light grey paint.

You should now have a very smart looking structure, almost ready for the layout, all we need to do now, is weather it. By the way, don't forget to add a chimney or two, to give it a bit more character.

Click for larger graphic - WEATHERING
I don't want to delve into the art of weathering as for locomotives or freight cars, but a similar weathering job is needed for the structure you have just built. I tend to weather my scratchbuilt structures using a variety of coloured chalks, - Light Grey - Black - White - Rust and Yellow, plus a bottle of Indian ink (India Ink).

[Photo - The completed structure.]

If you want to weather your structure some other way, that's fine. If you want to use chalk and ink, here's how I did mine. (I made a small box approximately 6 inch's square, out of card , and placed some partitions into it, to hold the chalk scraping's.) Scrape some of the grey chalk into a container ready for use. With a pen and Indian ink, scribe (not too much ink mind) down the gap in the strip wood. This will highlight the wood effect. When this part of the procedure is dry, grab a small but stiff brush, (Mine is 1/2 an inch wide) and dip it into the box with the desired chalk colour. (I used grey) Now, brush it onto the roof of the structure brushing downwards. If you get too much chalk on the structure, just wipe or blow it away.

For the main structure I used a small amount of rust and gently brushed the sides, the ink between the strip wood brings out the details. When you are happy with what you have achieved, you will need to spray the structure a Matt varnish to protect the work done. Also the chalks won't come off on your fingers. Photo number five shows the finished structure with a walkway added out of card and strip wood.

Well that's it folks, how to make a true wood looking structure. I can tell you that the end results justify all the work involved.

Paul Templar is a British modeler who models the American logging scene. His website, the Badger Creek Lumber Company, is a Mecca of scratchbuilt structures and photography. We thank Paul for the use of this article and suggest that you pay a visit to his website. Paul may be reached at: paul [at] ( )

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