The Little World – When You Cross the Line…

The line? The line between a toy and a model. And who says that you only have to cross it in one direction…?

I purchased a number of Schleich dinosaurs and animals to help with my studio composites. They are a wonderful toys – well-modelled and painted, and as real as anything you can purchase in the stores. For a person who does not do figurine painting or modelling, they are a godsend. I freely confess to admiring the horses and ponies as much as any 9-year-old girl would.

When I saw a Schleich tank-trailer in the shop I grabbed that, and had a glorious time dirtying it up as a oil tanker. The fact that it is 1:16th rather than my preferred scale of 1:18th is neither here not there – I can position it in studio shots to make it any scale I wish. Far better to be larger and more detailed than the other way around, I find.

Then I googled around to the toy stores in the eastern states and found a Schleich barn. It is a beauty, but up until now has taunted me with a plastic-play appearance, even though it is largely made of wood. One week I set out to remedy that. My only problem was that I had no idea what a barn looked like or what the various bits did.

Oh. I knew that the Scheich horses and cows fit in there – I tried them for size. And I get the idea of putting real beasts under shelter in the northern winters – but the ins and outs of doing it were a mystery. I started with airbrushing the plastic base inside with a varied mixture of dung-brown colour and left it at that. The only other interior bit I felt confident about was to scribe wooden floorboards into the loft. I painted the pulley of the barn lift a rusty iron colour.

The roof came as three pieces of 5-ply in blond wood. I printed out sheets of shingles with a wood-grain pattern onto matte inkjet paper and glued them in rows to the ply roof. And then weathered it with moss stain between the shingles. The theme for the barn is dirt and age.

The external walls remained in their wooden form – I didn’t incise them for boards for fear of spoiling the surface – either it had to be smooth toy or perfect model. The plastic masonry, on the other hand, got some pretty rough stonework painting in matte and then the mossy green as grouting flowed down the channels between stones. Then green moss spray from the bottom and dust from the top with the airbrush.

I also researched period barn stickers with advertisements for suitable rural specialties like Red Man cut plug tobacco and possibly a Dr. Pepper sign. I tried the experiment of making these sorts of signs as stickers rather than decals…. the idea was to make up sets that can be stuck on or removed depending upon the era that the barn depicted. I could not made up my mind whether to have a Pennsylvania hex sign on the end or not…

I can hear the farmers amongst my readership laughing at my amateur efforts but I assure you that when the farm ute and the tractor are posed there it will all look as rural as hell.







The Little World – Inadvertantly Frugal

dscf0209Frugal is a popular word – just Google ” frugal “, Dougal, and watch your screen fill up. Overflowing with minimalism, if you will.

Well, very few of us modellers will. Be frugal, I mean. We may practise the trait in other parts of our lives – re-knitting jumpers and saving bits of soap to put in the shaving mug and such – but when it comes to a lashing out on something for our miniature building hobbies we suddenly become Lotto millionaires. It is nothing to be ashamed of – any hobbyist worth their ” Home Brand ” salt will buy the groceries at the discount market and save the money for the goodies.

This may not apply to the people who regard eating foie gras and drinking champagne as a hobby, but they probably resort to liverwurst and goon at the end of the paycheck fortnight anyway…

Back to frugality in my own workshop. I did not start out my latest project with that in mind. I did not start out with anything in mind. I have a mind like that. But I did want to make a modern car diorama – right now as opposed to the middle 60’s – and I decided to do it with a local Australian flavour. West Australian, if possible. I drove round to the local franchise coffee bar for a hot chocolate and sat pondering what scene to make…

The heading image is the result. I will detail the building process in another post, but the chief characteristic of this model, and of the diorama that it is going into, is the cheapness. Cheapness without sacrificing success.

Cheap because nearly every bit of raw material was sitting in derelict form here in the workshop. The side walls were discarded photographic matt board. The interior structure is off-cuts from foam-core board that were left over from two other building projects. The baseboard was the remains of a cabinet. And all of the other bits that make up the detail of the place were fashioned from fragments sitting in the wood, plastic, strip, or card bins here. The only purchases were two lengths of Plastruct ” H ” beam and two vials of acrylic paint. I now have more purple and lime green than any decent person needs…

The cars that will visit the Muzz Buzz or be parked nearby are all cheapies too – the sort of average suburban vehicles that attract no great interest from model collectors. So far, no 1:18 scale modern car has cost over $ 50, and several of them are half that price – discounted as non-sellers in the hobby shops. I am scouring the off-beat toy places for other unwanted vehicles. The wonderful thing about getting ’em cheap is you have no qualms about weathering or modifying them – they become truly your own once you have dinged them up. Just like the 1:1 scale cars, there is bugger-all resale value once you have owned them for a couple of years…

Rust Never Sleeps


I also suspect that Bill never sleeps. If he isn’t doing some fabulous weathering work on a scale model he is probably thinking up new techniques.


The Rolls Royce that you saw in black and white is really too good to keep hidden – here it is in gloriously horrible colour. Like Mae West, it started life as pure as snow but eventually drifted…


The kit that it was to begin with must have been very expensive. By the time he saw it, enough bits had been purloined to cancel out completing it as a pristine showroom car. So Bill weathered it a little…


Of course the daunting thing about seeing a model done this way is the perfection of the effect. You just cannot stop looking at the detail of it. In a way it’s a little frightening to those of us with less skill and artistry. The thought of trying the same is like a painter lobbing up in front of ” The Laughing Cavalier ” with a watercolour set and a sheet of typing paper…


Still, Bill is the best kind of scale modeller – he was prepared to tell me some of the secrets to that rust finish, and he was so clear and sensible in the explanation that I am going to try it on a small scale on one of my die-cast cars. I’m hoping for warmer spring weather to get to the paint shed. I can hardly wait.

Rust = Lust.