Build­ings scratch vs kit-built

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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

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