Friday, October 20, 2017

Building Thresher's Mill - Addressing disparate materials and critiques

I’ve been trying to find a few minutes each day to make progress on Ben Thresher’s mill. I’ve also been posting photos of my progress on a couple of forums devoted primarily to craftsman structure kit modelers. Model railroading is really an umbrella for a number of widely divergent hobbies and interests – ranging from organizational politics (ie., the NMRA) to historians, to more traditional skill-related subsets such as electronics, carpentry, rolling stock modeling, and yes, craftsman structure building. 
I normally prefer to work in styrene, even when depicting frame structures. While I’ve certainly built wood models before I believe there's always room to improve one’s modeling and try different techniques. 
A few days ago I posted the following photo on both forums: 

and it wasn’t long before I received comments pointing out an issue. While the walls look good, those windows look newer, and freshly painted, compared to the wall. 
I could almost sense the hesitation from people posting these comments – like they didn’t want to come across as too harsh or seem to be one of those dreaded “nitpickers.” Actually, I welcome valid criticism. After all, I’d posted the photos on a forum for structure builders in order to learn and improve my techniques. 
I think the real issue is the windows looked, not like weathered painted or stained wood, but like painted plastic – which is exactly what they are. Placing them atop the weathered wood walls only accentuated the disparity in the two materials. 
I’m not at the point - yet - of scratchbuilding HO windows from stripwood. But I knew I had to do something. But what? Surely experienced craftsman structure builders have encountered this issue. How do they address it on their models? 
Luckily some folks offered not only the comment but added a path forward. One such suggestion: 

“… the windows just need a little weathering. Some A/I, or a light wash of black acrylic. You could also do a little scraping with a dull blade or a finger nail sanding stick...Overall it is looking very good.”

That’s precisely what I did – I got out of the fiberglass eraser and was a little more diligent in my scraping. I even dug a dull used Xacto blade out of the “sharps” container and used it to gently scrape a few areas of stubborn paint. Once the scraping was done, I used a small brush to carefully paint some Hunterline A/I stains in various grays and browns and allowed that to dry overnight. Last night I used a small stippling brush to rub – almost scrubbing - an assortment of red, brown, and gray Bragdon powders into the plastic windows. 
Finally, I'd received a couple of suggestions to darken the walls just a little more - so before I glue the windows in place I added another application of Hunterline Blue Grey wash to walls. This also helped the "weathering" on the walls, and the nail heads, pop. 
The result is shown below. 

Time to start assembling the clapboard onto the subwalls. 

Couple of lessons learned so far: 
1. The fact that I’d already glazed the windows made the additional weathering a little more problematic. In the future, weather the windows completely before glazing.
2. Priming the window castings in a wood tone will add one more layer of color to reveal with the scraping and buffing technique. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017 house, old house

I don't know if it's some sort of omen (and if it is I hope it's a good one!) that the same day we signed the contract to sell our old house (closing middle of next month - provided all goes well!) construction started on our new house. 
I went by yesterday to see if anything was progressing and the footers were being poured - and the house "kit pack" - essentially the precut lumber for the house and the floor "decks" were being offloaded from a series of flatbeds. No, I didn't try to measure the outline of the basement walls...I didn't have my tape measure with me (or my boots!) 

Friday, October 13, 2017

About that mill building

The mill building that's currently sitting on my modeling desk is a pre-production set of parts for a kit based on a prototype in Vermont commonly called "Ben Thresher's Mill." Photo shows the subwalls and foundation mocked up on the old layout.
More details can be found in this post.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

A quick update

Some of you have emailed asking for an update on the move, sale of our old house, construction of our new home, etc...
Briefly, our old house officially went up for sale two weeks ago tomorrow - we have received an offer, and are currently going back and forth with the potential buyers... anyone who's ever sold or bought a house will appreciate how much fun that can be! But I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll end up with a successful deal. (Someone told me once that a successful deal is one where all parties end up just a little disappointed with the outcome...)
Since we plan to sell the house well before our new one is completed, we rented a small apartment and moved just enough furniture, clothes and the like to make it work. I also brought along my modeling desk, and am planning to spend some time working on bench projects until the new house is done.
Speaking of the new house, construction has officially started - the excavators were hard at work yesterday, and we've graduated from being the proud owners of an expensive pile of dirt and rocks to being the proud owners of a really big hole.
I don't know where all the extra dirt went and don't care. It was great to see progress after several months of planning, permits, prepping the old house for sale, and the like.
On the modeling front, I plan to work on several half-started projects, including some resin freight cars. I also dug out the parts for this mill building, which will be the first project I work on in the temporary modeling shop a.k.a. the apartment dining room.
Before we moved, I added indentions for nail heads to the clapboards, roughed the walls up, stained them, and gave them a coat of paint. I also painted a lot of windows. The first step was to dig all the pieces out of the shoebox they were stored in and make sure everything was still there! 

The basic process I used to finish the walls is common with builders of craftsman structure kits (Finescale Miniatures, South River Model Works and the like). Frankly, I've not tried to use these techniques in years - and I really don't have that much experience with them. I'm going for a "rundown, but not dilapidated" look - a building that definitely needs some TLC but isn't about to be condemned.
I'll let you be the judge. Here's a closeup of one of the walls:

Then I started staining and highlight painting the New England Brownstone stone wall castings - some of these will serve as the foundation walls, others I plan to use as part of the mill dam.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Milepost .5 Million

I was checking the blog this morning, something that I haven't been able to do for almost a week, when I noticed the "Views" counter had tripped over the half-million mark sometime over the weekend. Even Beauregard was excited to hear the news! (actually, he never looks excited about anything...)

For the record I had nothing to do with putting this hat on my dog...
So, I thought a quick blog post was in order to (1) Let you know we're still alive and kicking and, most important, (2) Thank everyone for their interest in my scribblings. 
To say it's been crazy month would be an understatement - I will post a more complete update on where we are, how the new basement (house) is coming along, etc... 
First I need to catch my breath.