Refurbishing an old 4mm scale friend...and adding a tree or two.


Many moons ago, I wrote a blog entry about a surprise barn find and the traction engine I'd like to find within. The sentiments expressed remain the same, I'd still like to find something similar in a deserted farm somewhere, but it's unlikely, even though I am on the hunt constantly. I must learn to content myself with making models. This one was made for a customer who brought it back to me recently for refurbishment and possible use on the Greater Hemyock layout. I sat looking at it and became enthused again, thinking that it needed new doors, and that the textures of the wood were non-existant, while the rust textures and roof finish left a lot to be desired. I'm really glad I spent a couple of days tricking it up again and detailing it, to the point where the traction engine inside (a Matchbox Allchin) is a bit crude looking...but, a precious heirloom itself, it will stay now forever inside the crumbling edifice.  I worked over the wood parts, a mixture of veneer and card, with a dental burr, then dry-brushing, working back with meths and dry brushing again until the wood looked to my satisfaction. The rust on the roof was several mixes of Burnt Sienna and yellow ochre crafter's acrylics, with a little Humbrol "rust" added here and there. The rust holes were bored with the Dremel and filed off with various miniature needle files. Pastels were finally wafted over the whole lot in delicate brushing motions, then almost all taken off again, leaving a patina of age (hopefully). The new doors are from styrene, scribed to represent wood and distressed.

Here's the nearest thing I've come to finding a traction engine so far...a horsedrawn trap in a deserted farm in North Wales...just look at that lovely junk!


Roots and Branches
I could put off the evil moment no longer. Some trees were required for the Whitehall board and I had to attempt to make them. I had always been discouraged after seeing those wonderful trees by Bob Barlow in the MRJ, by Illiffe Stokes, by the Gravetts...and numerous other folk all better than me. I decided that while my attempt wouldn't be a patch on those masterpieces, I was going to have a go, otherwise I would be no better than the countless people on forums who talk a good model but actually make nothing. After all, the models by the greats are there to inspire, not discourage.

So. The first thing was to find some wire thin enough. I had bought a big pile of straight lengths from Ebay about two years ago, it was sold as fine jewellers wire and I found it useful for the wire runs you see on many of my models.  It's quite malleable and looks to be some form of mild steel, not jeweller's wire, but ideal for 4mm forestry operations. I took about ten of the lengths (they are 25cms long) and fixed them together with masking tape. I am sure you have seen this many times on the web and on forums, people solder them together, twist them and tease out clumps of branches five at a time. I won't teach you how to suck eggs or re-invent the wheel.

It was surprisingly easy and I decided to make a Sycamore shape with reference to my Ladybird book of trees, the one with beautiful illustrations by the great S R Badmin. I think the shape is the thing, as I wouldn't be modelling a tree in winter, that is an altogether different level of skill and artistry.  When I was happy with the shape, it looked something like this...


At this point I had teased up a load of rubberised horsehair and attached it to the branches with hot glue. There are lots of flyaway bits that need trimming before the "leaves" are applied. The paper protecting the layout is from the Ikea instructional sheets for flat pack furniture. Petra had been building some drawer units ( I am not allowed to join in as I am so cack-handed, being relegated to making coffee and passing the electric screwdriver!) The horsehair is teased out to within an inch of it's existence before being attached, the idea being to provide a fine substrate for the leaves.

You can use foliage clumps at this point, I have seen them used to great effect. I do have a couple of boxes from Woodland scenics, but prefer to make small shrubs out of those. You might ask, why did he attach this to the layout, why not make it off the board? That would have been a good idea, it just didn't occur to me!  I had the idea to site the tree in the yard, so that the roots were breaking up the surface, like this.

Looks like an out-take from a 50's sci-fi movie...the " day of the twisted wire trees", perhaps...
Perhaps my thought was that this would have been impossible after the leaves were in place, who knows! The surface damage was made with Milliput, as was the trunk of the tree and many of the subsidiary branches. Incidentally, probably blaringly obvious, but trees have grey trunks except when wet, when they are dark grey...sorry, you knew that, I know. I guess Plane trees are different, and Limes, and Spruce trees, and Larches...oh, heck. Best check with the type of tree you are trying to model. I have a Sycamore across the river from my workshop window, so I can be lazy!

OK, the next step was to fix the leaves, and I did this in two stages. Firstly, I sprayed the tree's canopy with Display Mount, while wearing my trusty respirator and having the window open for good measure. I then scattered Noch 07154 Laub, mittelgrun...leaves, to you and me. I note that they are also called "follage", "feuillage" and enigmatically, "loof". I thought the result was rather nice and after an hour, hoovered off the excess loof. Then my nearest and dearest came in and gave the tree an unimpressed look. Now, Petra has a great interest in trees and herbage of all sorts, so this was depressing. She reckoned the leaves were too small, and the wrong colour. Darn. Well, there was only one thing I could do, spray over the top again, fix new, different loof and hope the delicacy wouldn't be lost. I wasn't hopeful.
I used a packet of larger leaves from the now defunct little leaf company...how I wish I'd bought more. They seemed to sit on the tree just fine and looked even more delicate- this was a result! The colour was still not right, though- so once I had allowed the glue to dry, I sprayed the tree lightly with the airbrush using designer's acrylic inks, these are made for airbrush artists and don't clog the machine, unless you are particularly careless or clarty. I mixed up a high-summer olive green shade which again, matched the tree across the mighty Afon Teigl from my window.

And there it is...


Meanwhile, the hut still had to be bedded in. I worked on the scene for quite a while with various iterations of Noch meadow and Silflor materials until the area around the shed looked as if it only ever saw the attentions of the occasional sheep. I wanted it to contrast with over the river, where a herd of pesky Ayrshire milkers grazed.


I then added another tree, this time a birch...


The cows are painted with reference to the Puffin Original "Our Cattle" and from some photographs of my own small herd of Ayrshires back in the last century when I lived on my parent's farm, appropriately, in Ayrshire. Incidentally, cattle have a habit of all facing the same way when contented; they are always found in relation to their status in the herd, unless the herd is stressed or disturbed. When I used to check on them at mid-day from a handy drumlin, I could tell instantly whether anything was wrong by the relative positions and demeanour of the beasties.
The small stream in the photos, I imagine, to be crossed by an old road, now out of use...it used two slate slabs as spans, something I've seen a lot here in Wales. Two chunks of Das, carved and sanded did the job. Hedges are mostly rubberised horsehair sprayed as before and coated in various fine leaf mixtures and colours, then wafted with the airbrush to give a little homogeneity.
I hope you've enjoyed this little rural excursion...I'll close with a view of the shed which isn't seen on the layout, (as it's the other way round now) and a photo of the whole Whitehall board ready to be whisked off to my customer.
The original post about the shed is here.


24 comments:

Geoff said...

Crumbs Iain, were you a bus driver in a past life I wonder, I mean we wait weeks for an update then two come along together? :-)

So nice to see the completed section of layout, your customer has to be very happy with that. I don't remember having seen a slate bridge modelled before, though I've seen plenty on my travels, its a lovely touch, as is the cow that is lying down.

The barn is a real masterpiece, the sort of thing which can be seen almost anywhere, held together with spiders webs, rusting nails and gravity:-) As for the tree, well you know what I think of it from my previous comment. They are the very devil to make, but you've pulled it off with that specimen.

Thanks for sharing so many useful techniques, I'm sure they are going to come in useful for a good number of modellers.

Iain Robinson said...

Ha ha! Thanks, Geoff! Well, I was struggling with the GWR wire and post fencing which I am finding almost impossible...tried fitting it on the board, tried fitting it off...two packs wasted now. So I felt another blog post was the path of least resistance :-) I never fancied bus driving, trucks are much more fun...well, they used to be, before everything became computerised.

I'm really pleased that you like the trees and the barn, and that you found the slate slab bridge to be believable, I was slightly worried about that. As for the techniques, most of them are stolen from a certain Mid Wales series of layouts... :-)

neil whitehead said...

Luverly stuff. Just up the road from us is an old garage workshop with lots of old tools, cans and stuff plus a 1950's lathe and vertical drill. on the other side are a couple of very old cars maybe from the early 20th century in a decrepit state. I've photographed what I can through a broken window but I'd really like to get inside . I've asked the mayor and locals but no one knows who it belongs too. One great find is an old barn down a winding track with a Peugeot which is falling apart and covered in various growths that I will get around to painting one day or maybe modelling.

Photos on www.rustynutsandbolts.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/barn-and-garage/

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Neil! Thanks too for the link to your fascinating blog, it looks like there are a few good finds to be had in your part of the world. I shall follow your blog now.

Khris said...

Love that Sycamore Iain. Like you, I have found it hard to get colours that are really life like for foliage and grass. Hand not thought about rubberised hair for the foundation of the tree.

Rodger said...

Great work Iain!

Iain Robinson said...

Khris, thank you. The horsehair was a trick I learnt from an old "Railway Modeller" article back in the sixties...sometimes the old tricks are the best :-)
Rodger- thanks, glad you like it!

Ray P said...

Iain, you can make trees and old sheds for my layout anytime, amazing work as usual. Good to see you back and I can see why you weren't posting of late.

Iain Robinson said...

Ray- thank you very much, very pleased that you like my shed! Life has taken a difficult turn here, these days we have to look after my partner's parents as well as hold down our full-time jobs, so updates will be a bit slower. Thanks for keeping an eye on the blog :-)

Ray P said...

Iain, I just responded to your latest comment on my blog. Sorry to hear about your current circumstances I hope things progress well and things settle down. My wife is currently away visiting her 95 year old mother, my mother is 88 and my father is 91 but they all seem to be getting along reasonably well, fingers crossed.

Iain Robinson said...

Gald to hear that, Ray. Things are pretty much into a routine now, and I am glad to hear that your parents are coping well, long may it continue. 95 is quite an age! Unfortunately Petra's parents are both demented to a lesser or larger degree and her mum is now chair-bound. But we cope pretty well so far...thanks for the supp0rt, Ray :-)

Andy in Germany said...

For some reason my RSS feed ha been playing up aain so I just got to read about five updates back to back. I'm glad to see you are updating still, despite looking after family.

Just out of interest, will you be modelling the village of Hemyock? I used to live near the village as a teenager and it would be interesting to see it in model form...

Iain Robinson said...

Hi Andy, thanks for dropping in. Yes, I will be modelling Hemyock, I have the boards here and have modelled the staion building...the only thing is, the actual village of Hemyock is a couple of miles south of the real station, which is actually situated in Millhayes (?) work that one out if you can... I think I remember you saying about being in Hemyock as a teenager...a nice part of the world.

Geoff said...

You have done a marvellous job with the old shed. The two pictures on your Flickr page, which afford a really cruel close-up view, give a good insight into how you have distressed the woodwork. The treatment of the wiggly tin is also realistic.

Thanks for sharing your techniques - perhaps one day I will be able to find a bit of time to do some modelling again.

Geoff aka Tanllan

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you very much, Geoff :-) Yes, I'd forgotten how large those photos were on Flickr! I guess you are too busy driving narrow gauge trains just now, but I hope you get some time for modelling again soon.

Mikkel said...

Beautiful work, Iain. I like the rust effect on the barn. I wish I could have some of that on the corrugated iron building I'm making, but for an Edwardian railway environment it probably won't do (it would have been neatly painted and fairly new).

That picture of the horsedrawn trap almost gives me goose bumps. Must have been quite something to find it. It's interesting how well your real-world photos and model photos mix together when seen on the same page. If your mission is to put a little magic back in the world it's certainly working for me!

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Mikkel. Yes, that was a find...as you will have seen on Flickr, the old Land Rover and Tractor were almost as fascinating :-) I am always hoping to find something like that, and as you so astutely noted, modelling is my way of creating the joy of those finds for myself, and for those that appreciate them. It's fortunate that my customer is OK with it! Once the Hemyock work is completed I have a major project which is more "art" than modelmaking, can't wait to let you see it :-)

Mikkel said...

That sounds intriguing... So first Hemyock and then a mystery project. Life is good!

lnrmodels said...

Stunning Treework!

I love the tarmac being pushed up - such a great detail

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Lee! :-)

Phil said...

Spectacular pictures, thanks for sharing...Each detail is a real pleasure...

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you, Phil...I am very pleased you enjoyed the blog :-)

jason martin said...

Wonderful atmosphere you have created there; and I must congratulate you on your cow awareness(not surprising being a farm boy I guess)
I can seeseveral fields of cows from my eerie and they do indeed behave as you mention ;)

Iain Robinson said...

Thank you very much, Jason...I am very pleased that you think I have succeeded with creating a believable atmosphere. Cows are fascinating creatures :-)