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A Wagon and Carriage Works for 7/8ths

by Doc

There was a nasty area on the DLR that I never got round to finishing and that was a pity because it was very near to the entry gate and the area of fencing where the public stand and watch proceedings when we open the garden. Some of you may know that there has arisen something of a tradition that JSJ comes over and steams trains all day at Open Gardens, much to the delight of the assembled visitors. I was very grateful that JSJ stepped into the breech at the very last minute when I was stood up by a member of the 16mm fraternity not on this illustrious site. JSJ brings to the job a unique frisson, a "je ne sais quo" or perhaps a "ich weiss night was" and the huddled masses adore him. I quite like the big man myself but I'm renowned for my poor judgement.

Anyway, time elapsed and, most vitally, plants grew and needed thinning. What better than to replant them around the ghastly area to make it more photogenic, not to say, make it disappear from view altogether? But, soft, once this labour of love had been completed, one un-lovabl curve took on a different hue altogether. I can't say it gladdens the eye moe than somewhat, but it looks a darned sight better. Something was missing and something else was all too apparent. A blooming great picket fence had the nasty desire to get into any photograph you fancied taking. Oh yes it did. A filthy great building was needed and what do I like making on my dining room table? No, not that; far too hard. A big old barn is what!

This barn is the biggest single building I have ever made and fits the bill perfectly. I kept it simple. Massive rectangular with a pair of windows either side and double doors at the one end. I happened to have already bought the windows and knew I could make the doors. Onward!

The method

So enamoured am I with extruded polystyrene sheets as a building material, I buy them in great boxes. This means that I need not scrimp when I build and can be lavish about buttressing and supports. I knew I wanted to make this a stone building and I had already cut myself a large stencil from a sheet of mylar. Because of th simplicity of the walls, with no internal corners, it would be easiest to build the frame first and stencil second. Had this been a complex brick building, I would have built sections and stencilled then assembled the sections afterwards.

One issue I always have to overcome in any building is the roof. I had some plastic tile sheets, enough to cover even a roof of this size. It would have been smarter of me to have measured the tile sheets and designed the building to allow a single sheet to cover the roof sides. Did I have the forethought? Naaah! I would have to cut and join' never a good idea. One the other hand, I do have a tile stencil of the right scale. Now, this is an interesting thing. There is no way for a stencil to create an overlapping tile effect. It doesn't matter one bit. If you take a look up at any tiled roof, tell me if you can see that the tiles overlap? No, you can't, not with normal powers of sight. This woks in our favour for modelling. The only problem is that roofs jut out beyond the eaves, don't they? If I build the roof with extruded poly and allow it to jut out, it would be far too thick and look silly. What to do?

I had some 20mm by 3mm lime wood left over from wagon building so I incorporated full widths of that to create an overhang. It's not much but it's enough to allow for a gutter. The method of fixing was pre drilling a series of holes in the lath and glueing and fixing to the walls with cocktail sticks.

Cocktail sticks.

These are essential for building with extruded polystyrene because once thrust through any joint at an angle and hold the glued joint tight until the glue has set. I have in the past used Evostick Weatherproof PVA but Homebase seem not to stock it and I now use Gorilla wood glue which seems as good. I used to remove the cocktail sticks after the glue had set but that produces damage and I now snip them off flush and they continue to contribute to the integrity of the joint. I also use cocktail sticks to mount features such as gutters and downpipes. I choose wherever possible to make such additions out of wood mouldings or dowel and it is simplicity itself to drill, drill fix into the polystyrene until I like the appearance, then use the glue. In particular, I assemble gutter and downpipes on the building, glue the gutter to the downpipes (using a cocktail stick for added strength) and once the glue has set, I remove the gutter and downpipes unit, undercoat, black satin topcoat and fix back onto the building once dry. It works so much better than fixing naked wood to the building and having to paint it afterwards.

The stone finish

My experience of Homebase own Waterproof Tile Cement and Grout over some years has merely strengthened my confidence in this product. Well, if it works in my shower, it ought to work outside. Using one of my wife's kitchen implements ( a spatula thing for cutting cheese ) I spread the grout onto the polystyrene, fairly thinly trough the stencil. Next follows a serious piece of advice. Spread one stencil, set aside to dry and wash the stencil well. Do NOT allow grout to build up on a stencil. You don't have to wait until, the job is rock hard, though, if you do, you can fettle the overlapping areas easily with, guess what? A cocktail stick. What matters most is the mortar joints. They ought to run around corners and seem "all of a piece". You can obscure the joint between each application later but it's easier to do it when the latest application is still wet.

Now the render has gone off rock hard, it's time to decide where to site the windows then draw round them with a pencil and cut out the recesses with a sharp craft knife. I do this free hand because however crudely I cut, I can make good with the cement which, in any case, I use to fix the window in place.

The interior.

Now, I know it's silly but I get immense pleasure from tricking out the interiors of buildings. It begins with the simple obvious necessity of painting the inside to cover the very bright blue which would look silly if glimpsed through a door or window. I use a sludgy mix of the stone, brown and black coloured sample pots of masonry paint that I protect and colour the outside with. Once the blue has gone, I mess about with shadowy shapes to suggest internal structures, like beams, furniture, even people in silhouette. Cheap and simple and ought to be enough. Is it? No way! I then get into building shelving, benches, work surfaces onto which, naturally, stuff has to be cluttered. Now I'm building boxes and weird looking tools from scraps of wood and cocktail sticks, with short dowel length to represent bottles and tins. Later, out come the acrylic paints and it begins to get silly.

There was just something missing somehow.

Well, I looked at the building and it was OK but I kept looking at it and there was something not totally right about it. It was the expanse of stone at the ends. I needed a round window at each end but it took me ages to track some down online. The ones I found are made of MDF so who knows how well they'll last! They look fine though.