Before plaster cloth

Discussion in 'The Academy' started by JKountz, Jan 11, 2006.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. JKountz

    JKountz Member

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2005
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    I was wondering what most folks used for building up the topography of their layouts before things like plaster cloth from Woodland Scenics was available. A friend suggested just cheap ol paper towels dipped in a soupy plaster mix would do the trick. What else would be good??

    Thanks!

    Jim
  2. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2003
    Messages:
    956
    Likes Received:
    0
    Actually, before Woodland Scenics carried it, plaster cloth was available from medical supply warehouses--it is used for setting broken limbs! It's an old modeler's trick that WS noticed and started marketing the plaster cloth. Cheap paper towels dipped in plaster was often used as well--part of what is known as "hardshell" scenery. Cheap paper towels are better because you want ones that are thinner and less pliable.
  3. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2004
    Messages:
    1,509
    Likes Received:
    0
    The best thing I have heard of is "Glue Shell" scenery.

    Watered down glue, 50-50 and then instead of spending money on plaster cloth or even buying paper towels, just get your family to save their "Dryer Sheet", those little bits of cloth you throw in the dryer and then usually throw out.

    Note: a little "earth" paint in with the glue helps alot.
  4. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Messages:
    2,837
    Likes Received:
    0
    I use the plaster cloth, over a grid of cardboard strips. I then put a thin layer of Sculpta-Mold over the top of that.
    Quite satisfied with the results.
  5. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2002
    Messages:
    5,135
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you go back far enough, it was wood forms with wire screen then covered with plaster, or chicken wire, newspapers and plaster. Keep the screen from touching the rails and creating shorts.
    I had a roll of plaster cloth once...
    For the paper towels in plaster, use industrial grade towels -- the brown ones from the washroom.
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,707
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just a note to anyone wanting to try some of the old ways. Dcc does not like metal in the scenery, at least I know of one modeler who used foil backed foam for his scenery base and left the foil on the foam. He found when he switched over to dcc that he ended up having to remove the foil backing from all of his foam scenery. I don't know what effect screen wire would have on dcc. This was a wireless dcc system, I don't know if it would affect a tethered system or not.
  7. ezdays

    ezdays Out AZ way

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2003
    Messages:
    6,590
    Likes Received:
    0
    On a wireless system, from an electronic standpoint, the tighter the screen, the less chance that a signal will penatrate. Foil is like, a 100% screen. I'm not into DCC, but if the signal is carried through the rails, it shouldn't be affected by screening.

    On word on plaster cloth, the paper towel dipped in plaster is certainly a much cheaper alternate. That's what I've used and then went back with both plaster and pre-mixed joint compound to add details and contour.
  8. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2003
    Messages:
    4,707
    Likes Received:
    0
    I didn't operate on the guy's layout, just heard from another club member who had. I think the problem was that some of the scenery was tall, and the foil wouldn't let the wireless signal through to the receiver in the locomotive, but that was a theory of why things didn't work as they should have. The real problem may have been completely different.
  9. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2003
    Messages:
    897
    Likes Received:
    0
    The way my dad built layouts, the old fasioned way. He used paper mache and cardboard.
    [​IMG]

    The grade the train will descend will be the steepest. Unprototypical, I know, but this is for fun. I made this grade by cutting out a shape and gluing both ends down. Then I went along and made supports to steady the road bed and level it out.
    [​IMG]

    I start by stretching masking tape from the edge of the table to the road bed and build an outline of the surface I want. The paste I use is Vinyl Wallpaper paste. You could use just about any kind, but I find the vinyl wallpaper paste sticks better to a variety of surfaces with less fuss. It sticks very well to Styrofoam, cardboard, wood and masking tape, but it doesn't stick at all to BOX TAPE. I said this because you will notice I used box tape on the escarpment around the tree stand. I ran out of masking tape. On this particular shape, I could use the box tape because there are no under cuts. The shape is a nice dome and as long as I cover all the box tape at one time, then it will dry intact and the fact it is not stuck to the box tape doesn't matter. You will also note that I have no tape on the Styrofoam mountain peak. I am going to only use paper strips on this to create the shape as the actual shape is not as critical as the slopes beside the tracks and I can free form this.
    [​IMG]

    This is what it looks like after the first coat is dry.

    [​IMG]

    The mountain was made from an old piece of packaging Styrofoam that I saved. I just broke it in a few pieces, chose the ones I liked and glued them on with white glue and masking tape to hold it while the glue dried.
    [​IMG]

    In this close up of the mountain you can see the folds and bumps that will be sanded off before the next coat of paper. When the paper dries, it shrinks a little bit. This pulls the paper taught, but it can lift the edges in some spots where the tension is too great. You can see just such a lift along the bottom edge of where the mountain meets the table. This is easy to fix by running your thumb nail along the loose bit and split it so the raised part lies flat, or it could be torn or sanded off. Subsequent layers of paper will cover this up and it will never be seen.
    [​IMG]

    Now on to the change in elevation from the upper town level to the lower one. I placed the paper template of the siding track plan on the table and cut along the edge of the road bed to give me an idea of where to end my slope. You can just see the score in the top of the pic. I stretched the masking tape from the top deck to the score line, as you can see. The paper covers this no problem as long as I score the bottom edge with my thumb and smooth out the paper strips so they are taught and smooth.

    [​IMG]

    Here you see the long grade coming up from the right and the upper town level on the left with the lower town site in the center. I raised the corner with the block and cardboard method and I think this will be a good place for some detail. There was about 3/4" between the road bed and the back of the table. I didn't want my train to fall off the back if it went up the grade too fast, so I used the scraps of Styrofoam to build up a ridge. There is no slope off the grade towards the town because I want as much room for the town as possible. I put the rest of the Styrofoam scraps in the cleft of the Y at the top of the grade to give it some interest and to look like the road bed was put through a cut. This also made the sloping with masking tape job much easier.
    [​IMG]

    I have noticed on a lot of guys' layouts that the layout ends at the edge of the scenery and unless they go to the trouble of making a fascia board they have an unsightly edge they don't know what to do with. Especially on dioramas, I noticed that what is below the edge of the land is often overlooked. Only trouble is that it shows up in photos. Like this corner of the layout and the back edge.
    [​IMG]

    The solution.
    It's as easy as passing some paper mache over the edge to cover it all up. Bye bye, unsightly edge.

    [​IMG]

    This pic was taken when the paper was wet and you can see how the strips of paper were applied. Basic rule of thumb is, the smaller the diameter you are trying to cover, the narrower the strips of paper.
    [​IMG]

    This is just the first coat and it will smooth out even further with more coats of paper. It is most fragile right now and is easily damaged as the paper is drawn so tight, you can easily poke your finger through if you want to. But that's okay. It is plenty strong to receive more paper mache.

    [​IMG]

    The ridge.

    [​IMG]

    This is how it's shaping up.

    [​IMG]

    Today I get the second coat of paper on and if it dries I'll get the third and fourth. After the first coat goes on, the laying of paper is much faster and easy-er.

    [​IMG]

    After a quick sanding to get rid of nubbly bits, edges sticking up and dust in the glue, it's time for the third and final coat of paper mache. Now the strips can be cut into wide strips and they go on easy. Taxied into place with a sponge and air squeezed out.

    [​IMG]

    Remember how the back edge of the layout looked? Well here is how it looks now. The paper mache has built up a strong card board shell.

    [​IMG]

    A Freshly Fallen Silent Shroud Of Snow The new paint job.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Once the layout is put in the living room and the tree is inserted, all that's left are the details and decorations, lights and buildings.
    [​IMG]

    And that's how my dad taught me to do it.

    TrainClown
    :thumb:
  10. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hey TC, how do you make/mix/prepare (?) paper mache? What is it exactly?

    Since my native language is German, the same expression must speciify different materials in our two languages.
    For me, paper mache (exact spelling here: "papier-maché" - a French word!) is made by mixing small paper scraps, maximum size 1x2", with a soupy wallpaper paste. The whole thing is mixed and kneaded until you get a soggy pulp. As kids we used to model puppet heads out of this stuff, and on my very first scenicking project (that was on a slot car race track) I used the stuff to model rock and concrete walls. Anyway, it looks definitely different than your paper mache. :confused:

    BTW, your series of photographs is a beautiful tutorial - I'd call it a hot candidate for the academy! :thumb:

    Ron
  11. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2003
    Messages:
    956
    Likes Received:
    0
    My guess is that it is in fact the same thing.
  12. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2004
    Messages:
    1,509
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ron and Jet, you are correct.
    "papier-maché" is the correct spelling and yes Ron, that is how we do it here in Canada.
  13. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2003
    Messages:
    1,441
    Likes Received:
    0
    i never used plaster cloth have never used paper towels have always ripped old bed sheets onto strips soaked in a bowel of plaster.first layout was on chicken wire what a hassle second and third just used cardboard and crumpled news paper a lot easer to change ,the layout in progress is using foam with plaster overlay(old sheets again).
  14. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2005
    Messages:
    186
    Likes Received:
    0
    If you haven't used plaster before be warned that you cannot pour the excess down the drain or it will set up and clog your pipes. Let it dry and throw it away, or make something useful out of the leftovers (rocks, ramps, foundations).
  15. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2003
    Messages:
    897
    Likes Received:
    0
    Howdy fellas.

    RailRon, long time, no see.;) You are right when you thought it was a different technique. It is a much easier and predictable method I use. I will elaborate. What I use is the commercial application of papier mache'. ​
    What you described was the nursery school method. Most people have no idea of the practical applications of this lost art. It is used by the film industry all the time. Have you seen the WW2 movie "Tora! Tora! Tora!"? If you have you will remember the famous scene where the airport is bombed and lots of planes are blown to bits. All those planes were papier mache'.That's one reason why they blew up so well.

    One big clue is that you can never get the smooth surface I did with the nursery technique.

    I will now explain the professional technique. I have been working in a professional way with this technique ever since I was 6 years old and my dad had me making Easter eggs for his displays out of balloons. I still use it in the construction of puppets and sets. This is the best way to apply paper mache' on any project.

    Once the base of your scenery is prepared, and this can be done with screen wire, cardboard strips, Styrofoam carved to shape, or masking tape jumping a gap, then it's time to mix the paste.
    I use vinyl wall paper paste because it sticks better than regular paste (although regular paste works too) Take my tip and don't use white glue for this job as it dries too fast and doesn't have the "slip" quality that paste has that allows the paper strips to be taxied into a perfect flat position. Paste is also cheaper in the long run. I bought 20 litres five years ago for $35 and I am still using it.

    The best paper to use for the initial coat is ordinary news paper. This type of paper is sized and will shrink less than most other papers. I go to the local news paper office and buy the end of the rolls for $2. These are perfectly clean and have about an inch or so paper left on the roll. I stuck a piece of rope through the tube and hung it from the rafters in the basement. I just pull down a section and cut it off with a blade. Old news papers are just as good, although your fingers will pick up the ink as you work, but this washes off as soon as you wash up. You want to work with half a sheet of news paper at a time, so start by cutting a stacked news paper in half with a big knife, and put the pile of paper where you can reach it easily. I like to fan them out so I can grab one sheet at a time with wet pasty hands.

    The best paper to use, best meaning strongest, is brown paper, like painters masking brown paper. This is a bit more challenging to use as it isn't sized and shrinks way more than news print. This tends to pull the paper out of corners, but the tension really sets up a strong surface when it gets a few layers built up.

    Building up layers is the whole secret to this technique. The more layers, the stronger it will be.

    Here is an important note!You must always let the paper completely dry in between coats for best results.

    Here is why. You put on one layer and let it dry, it shrinks a bit. You put on a second layer and let it dry and that layer shrinks a bit also. Now your building up dynamic tension between the layers. Put on 3 coats of paper like this and you can tap it with your finger and it will ring like a bell and make a nice "bong" sound. If you cut it apart, it will hold it's shape.

    If you just put 3 coats on without letting it dry in between coats, then you have lost the dynamic tension, the surface isn't nearly as strong, almost rubbery like, and will go "thud" when you tap it. If you cut it apart, it will not hold its shape and the edges will curl up on you.

    Set up y
    our work station on a non-porous surface. To your right there should be 2 bowls. One has the paste in it with a 2" or 3" brush, the other has warm water in it and a sponge. Have a good sharp pair of scissors ready too. Dull scissors will make it all frustrating.


    [​IMG]

    Now that you all set to go, put a piece of paper on the table and wet it down with the sponge. Get it good and wet, and wipe up any pooling water with the sponge. Once you have done that pick up the paper by the top edge and turn it over so the wet saturated side is down. This is best done with printed news paper as the ink can act as a moisture block, this is also necessary with thick brown paper so you can wet both sides. You wet the paper like this so the paper doesn't leech all the moisture out of the paste and the strips dry prematurely.

    [​IMG]

    Now you put the paste on with the brush in liberal amounts. Be sure to cover every bit of the paper surface and leave an extra thick margin along the top edge of the paper.

    [​IMG]

    Now your going to "Book" the paper. This means you pick up the edge closest to you and fold it up to meet the edge at the top, and lightly push out the air bubbles being careful not to press too hard and dislodge the paste.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Now your going to do this again, picking up the folded edge and putting it about half an inch, or 1 cm, away from the dual edges of the paper.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    You see, you want to leave the two edges of the paper sticking out above the fold, and in the next step you will see why. Pick up the booked paper carefully so as not to disturb the way the paper is laying and cut it into strips with your scissors.

    [​IMG]

    The strips will fall to the table in a pile, and this is okay. You will cut the strips to the width you need. The general rule is: The smaller the circumference you are covering, the narrower the strip. You want the strips to lay flat on what ever you are working on. You will notice, if you look back at my layout, that a majority of the strips are quite wide. First coats are the trickiest to apply and require the most fiddling, but subsequent layers go much faster.

    [​IMG]

    Once you have the strips cut, place them pm a pallet of some kind to move them around easy.

    [​IMG]

    Now take the sponge and clean up the table of excess paste, otherwise it will build up an awful mess.

    [​IMG]

    Now you have you project. For this demonstration I am covering one of my famous Half Trash Cans. I cut a big plastic pail in half and make a cardboard wall for the opening. Kitchen catchers fit them nice and they make a novel trash can in the bathroom or office.

    [​IMG]

    Here is a good tip. If you are ever covering something that the paste will not stick to, cover it first with masking tape. You can see I covered the plastic can with masking tape so the papier mache' would stick.

    Start by picking up one of the strips. Hold it with the 2 edges up.

    [​IMG]

    Drop the folded edge down and spread the 2 edges apart with your thumb and index finger. Keep the top edge in your right hand and drop the bottom edge down with the left and open the paper strip carefully, so as not to inadvertently tear it.

    [​IMG]

    Now apply the paper strips to your project overlapping them about 1/4 of the width of the paper.

    [​IMG]

    Smooth the piece of paper out. It is not necessary to remove the paste, but remove all the air bubbles you can or these will create voids.

    [​IMG]

    And that's it. Keep this up you have the whole thing covered and then let it dry. You can put a fan on it to speed up the drying time. Just a cold fan, because if you put heat on it then the paper will shrink too fast and pull itself out of details, like inside a valley crease.

    Once the first layer is dry take a piece of 80 grit sand paper and run it over the work to get rid of any bits sticking up and dust caught in the paste.

    Important note! If you are going to add plaster details you should rough up the spot where you are going to put the plaster with a bit of sand paper first so the surface has "teeth" and the plaster has something to hold on to. Sometimes I put staples in and put the plaster over them to help hold it in place.

    Paint the paper surface once you are all done applying paper and you will be surprised how strong it will become. The paint fills in the pours on the surface and creates a hard surface that really adds to the dynamic tension built up in the paper shell. If you were to put on five or six coats of paper, then you could remove the interior stuff you used to make the shape and have just a hollow shell, quite strong and light. This would be especially good on modules where weight is a factor. You could also house Tortoise machines or gizmos inside hollow mountains.

    On my layout, I wanted to put plaster on the tracks to make them look snowed on, but I didn't sand all around the tracks. I painted the shell with flat latex and this left a porous enough surface for the plaster to hold on. This is an okay thing to do on flat areas, but on a cliff face you should rough it up and give the plaster something to hang on to better.

    I made this half can during the beginning of the Iraq war, hence the paint job.

    [​IMG]

    You can make any number of boxes to hold whatever you like, like this one I made to store and sort my strip wood.

    [​IMG]

    I just hot glued it together and gave it one coat of paper to bring it all together.

    [​IMG]

    Well, there you have it. A life times worth of technique and experience for you to take and do what ever you like. You should try and give this method a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results, and it's cheap and easy.

    This tutorial is in dedicated to my father who taught me everything I know about papier mache'. He was the master. I am just a chip off the ol' block.

    TrainClown ;)

    Here's the ol' block himself, dreaming of trains:


    Attached Files:

  16. jimmybeersa

    jimmybeersa Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2001
    Messages:
    516
    Likes Received:
    0
    Easy Plaster

    Here in South Africa we have some very very hot sunshine that ruins our Cars (auto's ) so someone came up with a material called " Shade Cloth " a fine mesh nylon type material
    I make up an armature of card board strips cover it with shade cloth push in a lot of "umps and ollows " which it retains, mix up a batch of Dry Wall plaster, with a dash of dishwasher liquid added ( Helps retard the plaster drying ) carve out some rock faces ,paint on a coat of earth coloured poster paint whilst its wet and its what I call easy scenery as seen in the photo :) :) :)

    Attached Files:

  17. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    1,665
    Likes Received:
    0
    Train Clown, this is just fantastic what you did. Another top notch tutorial, complete with illustrations! Wow! :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

    I didn't know this technique before, but I'll surely give it a try when I come to scenicking my layout. There will be quite a high vertical rock wall with very little clearance for a hidden track behind, and I figure that this hard and thin shell could be just the thing I was loking for. So I copied both your posts and printed them out for later reference.

    Thank you, Christopher, for giving us these informations. I really appreciate the lot of work you invested in the presentation of this technique!
    And I proposed to include them both into the Academy.

    Ron
  18. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2005
    Messages:
    3,844
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow, I hadn't bothered reading this thread earlier, since my basic scenery landforms are finished. However, curiosity compelled me to look and I'm certainly glad that I did. Excellent tutorial, TrainClown, and a method that I'll recommend to a friend who's nearing the scenery stage on his layout. This also explains fully those attractive papier machier objects that occasionally show up on the Antiques Roadshow: I could never equate them with the mooshy stuff we made as kids. Thanks for sharing.

    Wayne
  19. TrainClown

    TrainClown Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2003
    Messages:
    897
    Likes Received:
    0
    Your most welcome, guys. I'm glad to share.

    Ron, Yup, this technique is perfect for the hollow mountain idea. Build up the shape using crumpled paper or foam scraps or what ever and then cover it with the papeir mache'. Cut off the shell after 4 coats. This way it will be plenty strong to hold it's shape and thin enough so you can cut it relatively easily.

    Wayne, Your so right about the antiques. This is a lost art form now, but in the olden days it was the method of choice for many things. Have you ever seen black lacquer wear from Japan? That is made with papier mache' as well, only they use lacquer not glue, and tissue paper torn into bits the size of the tip of your finger, applied one at a time with a brush and this way they build up a strong smooth surface.


    TrainClown :wave:
  20. abutt

    abutt Member

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2006
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    0
    My first of four layouts in the mid-50s was screen and the plaster cast material. Worked fine but the screen was a pain to form, 2 and three were thesame. But four, my present is 1" strips of corrugated over which I used 2" wide masking tape then sculptamold for the final finish. This is fast, water soluable and easy to revise when I want to change things...which I'm doing now. The later is an important consideration. If you want to change some thing, it shouldn't be any more complex than an exacto knife or a razor saw to do the revision. I know you modular guys have perfected the syroform because of its lightness, and I work that in some times also. I'm very impressed with the stuff I'm seeing on this particular thread...very professional. And for those who haven't gooten into scenery, study it well. You won't go wrong.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.