Columbus? Pffff. Nothing. Lavoisier? A headless horseman. Scott? Fremont? Captain Cook? Who? These people weren’t explorers. None of them ever found what I found!
To be fair none of them had access to Officeworks or Jacksons Drawing Supplies. They were confined to the oceans, polar regions, and vast plains. Limited fields of endeavour. They did their best – be kind to them.
But I have discovered the secret. You can use the pyramids to store potatoes in and you can put your old magazines and yearbooks in the ark of the covenant. I’ve got the real prize.
It’s that flat sheet material with plastic foam enclosed within either sheets of heavy paper or PVC sheet. It comes in various thicknesses – from 3mm to 19mm – and the sheets are about the A3+ or A3 size. The sheets are pretty flat when you get them and they stay flat when stored properly.
You can cut the paper-covered ones with a sharp craft knife or X-Acto knife and the plastic -covered type goes through a jigsaw or table saw beautifully. You can glue sheets together with mitred or flat joints using PVA glue, Tarzan’s Grip, or C-23 balsa cement. The plastic one yields to styrene glue.
You can also get rather expensive cutters made for the architectural trade that will do automatic mitres and blind cuts to allow you to assemble models of buildings with double-sided adhesive tape. The cutters are a luxury as they need sharp blades and heavy straight edges to work. Regular knives with sharp blades work fine.
If you are a model train worker who has a chance to work in a scale larger than HO – say in O, Gauge 1 or G, you can make basic building structures with these materials and decorate them to a very realistic standard. If you are working in 1.24, 1:18. or 1:12 scale for dollhouses, dioramas, or cars, the world is your oyster. The beauty of the material is that plans and drawings can be made right on the sheets and once cut out, there is little surface preparation needed to allow either gluing or painting. Unlike, balsa, there are no sheet surface pores to fill.
If you are making flat 90º joints for buildings you need to decide how to disguise the edge of the model, though 45º mitres will allow walls to fold perfectly. Here the fancy cutter may actually pay for itself. Paint sticks well to the surfaces and stucco effect is particularly easy to do. If the nature of the sturcture that you are reproducing has an exposed edge that is covered by a trim strip there is no reason why you cannot exactly duplicate this on the model with paper strip.
And the bestest bit about it – it is cheap, light, and fast to work with. The model of the 1960 35′ Rollahome that is currently on the workbench came to this stage in one day. The 14 cu. yard roll-off rubbish containers were done in 3 days, paint, weathering, and all. Of course, the BP service station has been several weeks in the making, and will occipy another month before it is doen, but the basic structure of foam core was done in four days.
If you have never investigated this material, I urge you to go exploring.