Ask Phil: Scratchbuilding a useful hut


By Phil Parker

21 January 2021

With all the local model shops shut, and plenty of time on my hands, can you suggest something I can build for may layout that doesn't need loads of materials? Jason, Stafford.

It is tricky at the moment, but there are loads of shops providing an excellent mail-order service so not all is lost. Having said that, you still have to wait, so how about a little project to scratch that modelling itch?

Small huts are something anyone can find space for on a layout. In the steam era, they were everywhere, providing shelter or small offices in yards. More modern layouts could use one as an allotment, or even a garden office for your miniature home workers.

Whatever you do with the model, it's possible to make it out of the most basic materials.

The Plan

I'm assuming you are modelling in 4mm scale. If not, just adjust the dimensions - divide by 4 and multiply by the scale required. 50mm becomes 87.5mm for O gauge or 25mm for N.

You'll need some 2mm thick card, paper and a window and door - which you could make yourself.

The Method

Mark out the 2mm thick cardboard for the walls. Window and door sizes will depend on the ones you have chosen but you can draw around them. I marked horizontal lines for the planking to follow as well.

Test fit the window and door but don't glue them in place at this stage. I'm using parts from the Wills SS42 Windows and Doors pack, but you could make the door from scribed card. Windows are trickier, but a handy method is to stick self-adhesive labels to clear plastic and carefully cut out the panes, leaving the bars. Peel away the panes and you are left with a nice looking ready-glazed, window.

The weatherboard planks are cut from thin card, 4mm wide. Junk mail is often a source for the card - and a good use for it. These are glued to the walls with PVA with a 1mm overlap.

To ensure the planks line up at the corners, I stuck the walls together and worked my way around from one end to the other using the already planked front as a guide.

The window and door holes are cut out of the planking. A scrap of card glued over the back of the door will hold the plastic apart. Corners are tidied up with 4mm wide strip scored along the middle and folded to a right angle stuck over the join.

Strips of tiles are cut from thin card and overlapped by 1mm.

You can use this method to detail all sorts of buildings. I tend to nick paper from my printer to do this as it's nice quality and cuts well.

Simple guttering from 2mm plastic sheet is fitted to the front and a drainpipe made from thin plastic-coated wire.

A chimney is made from a length of plastic or brass tube poking out from a hole in the roof. The centre of a ball-point pen is perfect for this.