Buildings scratch vs kit-built
QI’m starting a new layout and want to hear your thoughts on scratchbuilt, kit-built, and ready-to-plant buildings. Gary Lloyd, Birmingham
Mike says: Some people will tell you that real modellers scratchbuild everything, but ultimately this is your layout; build what you find most enjoyable and rewarding and you won’t go far wrong. On a more practical note, if you’ve only ever used proprietary resin buildings but would like to start building your own structures, then kits provide something of a halfway house – no pun intended… Then again, if you’re not one to shy away from a challenge, there’s plenty to learn from building your own structures from scratch. ‘Ready-to-plant’: We’re all familiar with the Bachmann Scenecraft and Hornby Skaledale ranges; these proprietary resin buildings are good to go straight from the box. And if you’re partial to getting the brushes and paints out, there’s no reason why you can’t paint or weather them to suit. Things can get difficult if you’re building a specific prototype (although some prototype ranges are available) but the quality of each product and the relative lack of modelling experience needed to put them to good use are attractive prospects – particularly if your sole focus is operation. Kit-building: Kits are both rewarding, slightly quicker to make than scratchbuilds, and easily customised or adapted. Back in MR232, Paul A. Lunn demonstrated just how versatile even age-old kits can be – so long as you’re willing to get creative. Some kits, such as Metcalfe’s card or 4Ground’s laser-cut structures, come already finished and are made specifically to be constructed quickly and easily. Laurie Calvert’s ‘Terror St’ (see image below) is a fine example of a layout that’s made almost entirely using Metcalfe structures. In fact, Laurie purchased some of the buildings ready-made at an exhibition. Scratchbuilding: It’s the most advanced method of populating your layout with structures. It’s time-consuming, difficult to master, and (at times) frustrating, but it’s also highly rewarding. Best of all, you’re only ever limited by your imagination – no prototype is ever out of the question. Scratchbuilds can even be a necessity, should you choose to build in a scale that isn’t well supported commercially, such as 3mm. Allan Downes is the undisputed king of scratchbuilding and is famed for his beautifully detailed 1:43 scale chocolate box cottages (see main image). His skills have been honed over the years, and his tried and tested methods are proof that scratchbuilding needn’t be overly complicated, time-consuming or difficult. Bespoke commissions: This is almost certain to be the most expensive option. But it does provide the luxury of ready-to-plant buildings that can be tailored to suit any prototype. Bespoke kits are also available from etched metal and laser-cut specialists, giving you the satisfaction of building (and sometimes finishing) finescale structures. Mix and match: A lot of modellers choose to populate their layouts with a mixture of scratchbuilt, kit-built, and ready-to-plant structures – you don’t have to stick to just one method! When mixing building styles, modellers often place the most detailed buildings at the front of the layout, saving the rest for the back. If you’re new to scratchbuilding, for example, it might be a good idea to practise your skills on building the less prominent buildings at the rear of your layout, where imperfections won’t be quite so noticeable, and keep your more expensive buildings for the foreground. As always, experiment and find out what you find most enjoyable. This is your hobby and it should never feel like a chore.
This fishing village might look photorealistic, but Allan Downes’ techniques aren’t as complicated as you might think. CHRIS NEVARD