Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Dark Deranged Structure: Old School Fantasy Cottage Tutorial: Construction

My original cottage. Built and painted using advice from Phil Lewis and Dave Andrews from an ancient WD article. I have since repainted the stone work though, as I wasn't happy with the brick colour.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a little article about the cottage I made inspired by the old Modelling Workshop articles that Phil Lewis was involved in. After reading his account, I found myself flicking back through the White Dwarf archive and pulling out the old issues that contained his work. He didn't do it alone though, for much of the work was done by Dave Andrews. Together, they produced fantastic articles for the cottage, a two story townhouse, walls and hedges, a larger town house, mines and shacks and a ruined temple. Later on, there were some other articles by other people, though these were not up to the same standard as Phil's and Dave's work, but they are okay. 

Anyway, I had lots of requests to explain how I built the old school cottage and I promised several people a full article explaining it all some time ago. Well, as its Realm of Chaos 80s's birthday week, I thought it appropriate to write up the article in full and share it with you. Its proved to be a bit more of a task than I expected, so I have had to split the article into two posts. The first will deal with the construction of the model and the second will deal with how I went about painting the piece. 

First up, here is the original article from White Dwarf 130. Looking back, this article is one of the most memorable pieces that I can recall, along with the WFRP stuff. As I have said before, I had a brilliant time building my own boyhood version of this (and I really enjoyed the latest effort too). 

The original article is pretty clear about what you need to work with. Foamboard. Now, this stuff really is easy to work and is really simple to get hold of, either online or at an arts and crafts shop, such as Hobbycraft here in the UK. You could also use thick plasticard, though this is much harder to cut. I chose foamboard as I had loads of sheets of it lying around unused in the house. 

Anyway, I just printed off the scheme from the article, enlarged it and then stuck it onto the foamboard as the article suggests. Using the wife's pins, it was fairly simple to create the the outline and slice the sections out using a sharp blade. Once this has been done, I stuck the foamboard together with Copydex. Now, I don't know if you have heard of Copydex before but in my opinion it is the best stuff out there for sticking card or paper. It sets as a sort of rubbery layer and dries rather quickly so you're not sitting around for hours waiting for the stuff to dry. Its fairly easy to remove too, if things go wrong, with the glue just peeling away like thin sheets of rubber from the card surface. You get quite a bit of movement too, which is essential in model making, ensuring that you can slide the pieces exactly where you want them to be with ease.

Once it was fairly dry, I stuck the model to a plasticard rectangular base and added the roof sections. These need to be thin, so use cardboard. The stuff you get from packets of cereal are best. Be careful though, as some cardboards can warp when wet so go easy on the glue.

The basic shape. I tend to leave the doorways cut out and use blobs of greenstuff, some attached to the top and some to the bottom, to help secure the doorway. In reality, there is no real need to remove the door but doing so allows you to suggest depth.
Leave the model to dry over night. The Copydex will really harden up and you should have a pretty solid model by this stage which will allow for more rough work. To create the timbers the article suggests balsa wood, though I find that matchsticks are easier (and hardier) in this regard. Cutting them can be a challenge so invest in one of the matchstick cutting blades you can get from craft shops. Match sticks have been used for centuries for building models, they are cheap, come in different sizes and are very easy to source. You can follow the pattern on the article or develop your own, remember though, the wooden frame held the building up so your frame needs to look like its up for the job or the finished cottage will look rather odd. 

The match cutting blade is triangular and allows you to apply pressure directly down onto the the match, making cutting a doddle. I bought mine for a couple of quid (along with loads of other strangely shaped blades) at B&Q. 
Once you have the basic frame complete, its time to add the door. A piece of card will suffice, though I use a flat piece of balsa wood and just score in the details. The hinges and things are made from thin card (again taken from the cardboard cereal packet) but I would recommend that you use the coloured side. You see, the coloured side is much more smooth in its finish, perhaps to help hold the printed image, and when painted gives a much better result than using the 'grey' side. This is also true of the roof tiles. Use the decorated side and slowly build up the layers (starting from the bottom) ensuring that the first row, and the last tiles on each edge, overlap slightly. This will allow you to paint them more effectively later on. Use longer pieces on card on the very top of the roof. This will help tidy up the over all finish and will prevent imaginary rain from ruining the imaginary interior. 

Avoid the temptation to apply the bricks as if you were building a wall. Just blob them on randomly and slowly build up the detail. If sculpting is not your thing, you could always buy some of that patterned plasticard. 
I added further details by using green stuff to build up the brickwork on the chimney. This was achieved by making little balls of putty, sticking them on the foamboard and shaping them suitably. Don't forget to produce convincing corner stones for the edges of the chimney, where the brick work touches the wall, otherwise your wall will look a bit odd. Use plenty of water here, as the sticky putty can easily rip away the card backing of the foamboard making it very difficult for the putty to attach itself to your model. You may find it easier to wait for some of the brickwork to dry before going back and plugging the gaps as it gives you the option of attacking the fresh greenstuff to the old. 

The model is now pretty finished. As you will have no doubt noted, I added a side extension, built in exactly the same way as the rest of the house. 
Instant polyfilla is a brilliant way of quickly texturing the walls of the building. Just squirt the stuff out of the tub (or tub) and apply to the wall with a sculpting tool. I find that a downward motion with the flat end of the tool gets the best results. Don't worry if the polyfilla ends up creating little peaks or smears onto the wood. Once its dry, it is very easy to sand down or simple break off to create a neater finish. It goes without saying, but you need to leave the window panes free of texturing so the glass painting looks more realistic. Final details can be now added; flagstones by the doorway, sand and even a small round ball of greenstuff to mimic a doorknob. 

Right, that is all from me. If you need any further advice just comment and I'll get back to you. Otherwise, I hope this article inspires you to get out there an get building your own little cottages. The materials used are most likely lying around your house as you read, so a piece like this can be produced for little or now real cost. 

What are you waiting for?



  1. I made so many of these as a teenager, great article keep up the great work

    1. I am hoping to see a new wave of fantasy cottages spreading across the 'net in the near future! (;

  2. The old GW/White Dwarf construction articles were some of the very best.

    They have proved to be classics and you have done a great job in reproducing this cottage.

    Well done.


  3. Do you have the plans for the other Buildings? I made this Cottage well 2 or 3 and the town house as well, though they have disappeared over the years as have the plans and articles. Vaguely recall the larger house though I didn't make that one. Would like to have go if anyone has the plans.