Here at BRM we are big fans of card kits. They’re a cheap way to fill a baseboard with buildings for a start. Better still, if well designed, assembly is great fun. Although they aren't a five minute build, time spent is repaid with a lovely model.
We've decided to modify a corner shop kit to make it look as good as possible, using a few simple tweaks. By tackling those corners with readily available materials and working on the more obvious flat surfaces, we think the end result looks pretty respectable...
Metcalfe Models' Corner Shop is supplied on thick, pre-printed cardboard sheets. All parts are die-cut, requiring a small nib to be cut through to release them from the sheet. Additionally, there are printed plastic windows and comprehensive instructions.
The classic upgrade for any card kit is to colour exposed edges using a felt tip pen. Colour from the back of the sheet to avoid getting ink on the printed front
Fold the inner shop windows behind the front, trapping the plastic glazing. This isn’t what we expected, so trust the design and read the instructions.
There are two window sizes, large and small, but the holes in the wall don't look very different. The printed side is matt and should face out. Clear all-purpose glue holds the plastic in place.
Printed curtains are provided and should be fitted with a scrap card spacer so they aren't on the back of the glass. The downstairs windows also need net curtains. A single ply of tissue paper works perfectly.
Laser-cut sills and lintels are found on a separate sheet. Fitting these provides depth to the detail, which makes them an essential addition no matter how good the printing.
I like to add interior walls so that you can't see through the building. Card offcuts from the kit or old packaging are perfect for this job. Test fit everything - a little trimming was required by some windows.
Despite being angled, the shop door fits perfectly between the two sides. Decorative mouldings surround the windows. We made a mistake by not colouring the visible brick edges - black paint sorts this.
Assembling the shop sign looks complicated but once you fit the first spacers, it's easy. A small pink piece of card provides a guide to the correct distance for each above the window. It's not stuck but used as a jig.
Several shop names are provided printed on thick card. More are on the thin card sheet to cut out and fix over the originals. Check the fit. We've coloured the ends and sides of the old name with black pen to hide gaps when the new name is added.
Orange cellophane used to be stuck to the back of shop windows to protect the goods from strong sunshine. Unable to find suitable sweet wrappers, we're painting the inside with Humbrol clear paint.
Chimney stacks are built from plain card layers and wrapped with the thick card sides. A strong method of construction but one that relies on accurate alignment of the parts for a square result. A slow drying glue isn't a bad idea to allow for adjustment.
A couple of tabs in the main floor fold back to provide alignment guides when fitting it in the large sheet. Another layer is then added for the shop floor. You could print a different surface to add variety, although it's hardly obvious from outside the model.
Various shop interiors are provided although there are only two choices of back walls. A couple of small walls made from scrap card hide the gap behind the window displays when looking through the door.
With the main part completed, a gable end is assembled in the same way. The inner walls for the passage aren’t flush with the bottom of the wall but raised slightly to let the wall fit into a gap in the base.
Viewing a model from normal angles makes the roof more obvious than it is in the real life. Printed sheets look too flat to be convincing, but scribing along the courses and between each slate improves things.
Both roof parts fit nicely, but we should have bevelled the inner edges of the one on the gables with a fine sanding stick to have a less prominent join.
Bricks printed to match the Metcalfe range are available in Builder Sheet packs from the company. Each contains four thin and four thick brick card sheets, which include useful curved lintels and roof tiles.
We've cut out the castellated design, ensuring that only whole brick faces appear. All the edges are coloured with felt pen and the part is test fitted. A tiny smear of glue holds it in place.
We felt that fancy corners would be excessive for the chimney stacks so these are just wrapped in a single piece. While a join is still visible, it's not obvious and could be kept away from the viewing angle.
Chimneys get dirty, so a stiff brush and Humbrol Smoke weathering powder adds the all-important grime. As the card surface is very smooth, matt varnish, lightly sprayed and left to dry, helps adhesion.
Lead flashing stops rainwater seeping down between bricks and slates on real buildings. In model form, it's represented using 3mm wide strips of tissue paper and fixed with a tiny amount of PVA glue. A quick coat of paint finishes the job.
Printed pavement sheets and self-adhesive individual slabs are provided. The printed version matches the courtyard paving and the colours are superb, so we scribed the gaps between the slabs and used it.
No guttering is included, but it can be made by from 4mm-wide strips from the edge of the thick card sheets. Colour with black pen and then fix with the slightly curved edge from the die-cut sheet outwards.
Finally, the model is bedded into the ground with grass fibres blown into place from a bottle. Since this is a high summer scene, we're using mainly beige with only a hint of green.
The final picture shows that with just a few fairly simple techniques it's possible to make a card kit look so much more realistic. These techniques can be transferred to any card kit too. Try them, it's easier than you think.