How-To: Build the Scale Model Masterpieces "Practice Wall Kit"

Posted by Richard E. Bendever on 9/20/2014 to Tips & Techniques

Great New Look for an Old Friend!

  Over the past few years, since we purchase the Thomas A. Yorke Ent. Structure kit line (now Scale Model Masterpieces), we have been slowly updating many kits, including this "Practice Wall Kit" (#3101 & #9101). I will confess that there have been a few individuals who have contacted us after receiving the kit, "Where's the rest of the model?" Tom's original version (image at right) lacked not only more comprehensive instructions, but also a few additional details to complete this model as something someone would be proud to display on their wall or shelf.

 For those not familiar with this kit, as well as those who have purchased/built this kit, we have added a number of items to this kit as well as updated the instructions. Items added as well as updated in this kit are a new roofing material & Doctor Ben's Precision Cut Shingles; Grandt Line lampshade & hangar; Grandt Line smokejack; and Doctor Ben's Precision Cut stair risers, with Doctor Ben's Rustic Lumber for stair treads. Obviously, the builder is free to add addition items as well as modify the details that accompany this kit.

  Many years ago, a longtime friend and fellow modeler, George Sellios (manufacturer of Fine Scale Miniatures kits) and I were discussing a photo of the G. Wilikers kit that I had built and sent a photo to him without much information in the photo. The first thing that George stated to me about the photo was, "Where did you find the prototype building of my G. Wilikers kit?" After I had explained to George that the photo that he was viewing was of my "modified" G. Wilikers diorama, George went on to compliment me by saying how much he appreciates modelers who build his models with their own creative influences and modifications. I was never happier that I had stepped out of my comfort zone to build this model differently than that of the FSM kit instructions than I was at the 1990 NMRA Pittsburg, PA National Convention. To my surprise, my G. Wilikers diorama sat next to three other G. Wilikers dioramas in the contest room. I knew from that point on that I would be traveling down a different modeling path.

So, back to the project at hand. Let's begin building this Practice Wall kit.

Casting Preparations

It is helpful to begin by reading the “How-To #2: The ABCs of Staining Castings” booklet (not included with this kit). You will find that the more times you read this booklet, the easier it will be for you to better understand the hows and whys of building a quality craftsman model.

Start by removing any flash from the gypsum casting edges using a small mill file and an X-ACTO® knife. Do this carefully, so as not to camphor the edges or any details. (Save the LabStone sanding dust and filings to mix with white glue to make repairs and/or fill in gaps in the castings.)  Check the Wall Section closely for any imperfections and small pits; and repair them, if necessary, with saved LabStone paste (or drywall spackle). Option: Very carefully, use a jeweler’s saw with a medium blade to cut out door openings. If you do not have a jeweler’s saw, use an X-ACTO #15 keyhole saw. Use the small mill file to square up the door opening, using care not to damage door frame details.

Using 240 grit sandpaper, sand the back, top and bottom of the Wall Section. Now would be a good time to drill a 1/8" diameter hole for the smokejack and a 0.020" diameter hole for the lampshade hanger. Refer to the above drawing to approximate the placement for each of these details. Now that the preparation is completed, it is time to begin the staining process.

Stain the Casting & Detail Parts

   The Doctor Ben’s Weathering Stains were initially developed, as were all of the other Doctor Ben’s products, from my need of readily available products to use in my personal and custom/customer model building. Back in the 1970s, George Sellios, in the opening instructions of his Fine Scale Miniatures kits, started recommending to first stain all the wood in the kit with Floquil Flo-Stain Driftwood. This quickly became a very popular and accepted technique—until the Floquil Flo-Stain product line was removed from the market. (In the 1990s, the Testor Corporation purchased the Floquil line of petroleum-based and water-based paints and stains. And although no one seems to know the actual truth as to why, Testor’s subsequently stopped producing the widely popular line of Floquil Flo-Stains.)

Anyway, I had already developed an assortment of solutions and stains for my own personal use, and I slowly evolved them into permanent, but non-petroleum-based, products that produced the same results that I use to get with the Floquil Flo-Stains. NOTE: The use and applications of the Doctor Ben’s Weathering Stains are described in detail in the "How-To #2: The ABCs of Staining Castings" booklet. The Doctor Ben's Weathering Stains used for this Practice Wall Kit include: Realistic Oak (DBZ1081) for the door; Depot Buff (DBZ1068) for the stones around the door; Nautical Teak (DBZ1084) for the bricks; Worn Concrete (DBZ1095) for the split stone & the door header; and Antique White (DBZ1091) for the wood board & batten.

  The technique used for this kit is more difficult to explain that it is to actually do. Typically, I will apply at least two or three different base stain colors. Since we cast all of our Scale Model Masterpieces structure kit wall sections in LabStone, the dried LabStone is already a warm, earth tone tan color (color #1), and for this Practice Wall exercise, I decided to keep it simple, so I only used Doctor Ben's Antique White. With a round water color brush about the width (or slightly smaller) than the wood vertical boards, I use the "dry-brush" technique to apply the Antique White (color #2) in long, irregular strokes. If you are not sure of what I am referring to when I say "dry-brush", I start by mixing some Alcohol (70% Isopropyl) or water with the stain in the lid of the stain jar. Then I wipe the brush on a paper towel to pull most of the stain off of the brush. This technique tends to leave just a slight amount of stain on the surface that it is to be applied. If you are looking to achieve the look shown in the image to the right, I suggest practicing this technique on the back of the Practice Wall casting first, and then to the detailed side of the casting. NOTE: You may need to practice with a different color than Antique White, since the Antique White is difficult to see after it dries on the Labstone casting.

   So, first apply the Antique White stain to the wood portion of the Practice Wall casting, beginning from the top down and then from the bottom up. NOTE: Don't forget the sides of the Practice Wall casting. Once again, the goal is NOT to cover the entire area with the stain. The look is for a natural, random application. If a second or third color is chosen (practice this on the back of the casting first!), go ahead and apply the additional colors in this same manner. There are many Doctor Ben's weathering stain colors to choose from, so don't be afraid to be creative. Now, clean this stain brush and find a slightly larger, not-as-good of a brush, to use in a sort of washing and scrubbing application. Since the Antique White Stain is already open, go ahead and remove the two roof sections (from the Precision Cut Roof & Riser Sheet-See below) and stain one side of them Antique White. If the stencil board starts to warp

    There is no reason to wait around for the weathering stain to dry. Using the second brush, apply a thinned (50/50) wash of Doctor Ben's Instant Age (color #3) and alcohol, using the bristles closest to the handle of the brush to sort of scrub at the Antique White stained areas as the Instant Age is being sucked into the non-stained areas of the Labstone casting.  You will notice immediately the "exposed" Labstone areas NOT stained with the Antique White Stain (bare LabStone) absorbing the Instant Age, creating the grey, dry-rotted color of the wood  shown in the above image. Allow the Instant Age to settle in the wood grains, nail holes & crevasses of the casting (color #4). When the Instant Age has dried thoroughly, you should recognize the magic of this technique. And that's it and yes, this technique works the same way on "real" wood with a slight wash of Aged Driftwood (DBZ1097) as well.

   The description of the staining/wash application of the board-n-batten area was probably the most difficult portion of these instructions. Staining the rest of the Practice Wall Casting will move on quite a bit quicker. Begin by applying a thinned Realistic Oak on the door and door frame. Also, apply the Realistic Oak to the stair risers (remove from the Precision Cut Roof & Riser Sheet-See below) and wood used for the stair treads. Next, dry-brush the stone faces around the door with Depot Buff. Avoid getting any stain in the mortar joints around the stones, but don't panic if this happens. Once again, don't forget the sides of the Practice Wall casting.

   Now dry-brush Nautical Teak on the brick faces only. Once again, avoid getting any stain in the mortar joints. Now apply full strength Worn Concrete to the split stone area of the Practice Wall casting, as well as the concrete door header. You may notice the slight "pinkish" tones of the split stones in the "In-Progress" image. I was afraid that the grey was too overwhelming, so I applied a very light, thinned (80/20) Black Mahogany Stain (DBZ1086) and alcohol to just the faces of the split stones.

Since the Worn Concrete jar is already open and the dry-brushed Nautical Teak has had time to dry, it is time to wash thinned Worn Concrete into the mortar joints between the bricks. Begin by dipping the round water color brush in Alcohol/water and then stick just the tip of the brush in the Worn Concrete to pick up the stain in the brush. Touch the brush tip to the brick area so that the Alcohol/water and stain mixture flows into the mortar areas. Dab off any grey stain that may end up on the brick faces with a cotton swab or paper towel and allow to dry for an hour or so.

 The final phase of the staining process is to wash the entire Practice Wall casting with Instant Age, as was done on the board-n-batten area, but without the scrubbing effort. With the casting lying flat, apply a liberal amount of thinned Instant Age, being certain to get the Instant Age into all the nooks and crannies. After the Instant Age has dried, repeat this process to both sides, allowing the one side to dry and then applying the wash to the other side. While the Instant Age is drying, stain and assemble the details for this kit.

Final Detail Construction & Assembly

   Now is the time to assemble the smokejack, the lampshade, and the stair set. The smokejack is stained with Doctor Ben's Durty Black Weathering Stain (DBZ1091). The lampshade and hanger are stained with Doctor Ben's Depot Olive Green Weathering Stain (DBZ1093).

   Test fit the two (2) roof sections for fit. One roof side of the Practice Wall casting is shorter than the other. Use scissors to shortened the one roof section so that the over hang is equal on both sides of the casting. Apply the Doctor Ben's Precision Cut Shingles and trim the front so that the shingles hang about 1/32" over the front of the roofs. Use CA glue to attach the roof sections to the casting. The shingles for this Pilot Model were then dry brushed with Aged Driftwood Stain (1097) and then very lightly highlighted with Reefer White Stain (#1071).

   Use CA glue to attach the lampshade hanger to the casting. NOTE: Cut a small rectangular pieces of leftover stencil board about a scale 4" x 6" & drill a 0.020" diameter hole through it to act as a mounting plate for the lampshade above the door. Give the mounting plate, lampshade and hanger a wash of Doctor Ben's Realistic Rust (#1150).

   Use CA glue to attach the smokejack in the 1/8" hole and then a wash of Doctor Ben's Realistic Rust (#1150). Be sure that the smoke jack is parallel to the wall.

   Trim the stair set so that the top tread is almost level with the door opening and that the length reaches the ground level planned for this model. Now add some scenery and some bushes and add a figure who can stand back and admire your finished kit. Good Job!

Purchase this Kit in HO & O Scale with and without How-To Booklet #2:

HO with Booklet / HO without Booklet

O with Booklet / O without Booklet

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