I saw a Mouse…there on an MDF stair. Crisis Build Continues

Buildings.  Well, I wanted something typically Dutch on a waterfront, something where one could almost smell the damp clogs.  I also wanted something that I could get hold of PDQ as time was evaporating.  Fortunately I was heading up to Nottingham and whilst there I popped into Arcane Scenery who always have a smashing stock of Sarissa Precision buildings.  (As an aside, here’s Arcane’s web site.  They are really smashing people to deal with, very prompt and always helpful:  Arcane Scenery)
“Why Sarissa?” I hear you cry, “You don’t like MDF buildings, you hypocritical fat git!”.  And in part that is true.  I LOATHE the uniformity of pre-painted MDF buildings which, by default of the fact that they are already painted, almost never get amended or tarted up to look different to the 101 other models appearing at the same wargames show or convention.
That said, MDF buildings can be SUPERB when treated as just one component part and enhanced with other materials.  Charlie Foxtrot’s pantile range being a great example and, indeed the Sarissa kits I have recently been building and converting to be damaged or wrecked buildings.  MDF models are ideal for this as you can hack, cut and generally snap bits off to turn the basic model into something else.   However, I have also been very pleased with some that I built intact, such as the one below.

Monsieur Alphonse Stabateur’s shop is pretty much straight from the pack but after I built the MDF carcass I “plastered” it using my usual method before adding the card door frames and shutters.  As with Charlie Foxtrot, Sarissa seem to have recognised that JUST MDF doesn’t cut the mustard.  The addition of card bits allows some really nice fine detail which allow a 3D building to result.
More detail below from the rear of the shop.

I am pleased as Punch with this model so I grabbed three different Dutch buildings from their range.  When constructed they looked like this.

Now, my mother once told me that if you can’t say anything good about something, say nowt.  So, on the positive side these buildings certainly look Dutch and I am VERY pleased that they are in 3mm MDF rather than 2mm as this gives a much better approximation of 9″ brickwork (it should ideally be 4mm if we wanted to be more precise).  With models made from 2mm material they break all too easily and I have to line them with foam board to give then a better approximation of what they should look like, all of which is a massive pain in the arse.  All good so far.  However, let me be honest here, I think these must be much older models from their range and from a time prior to adding card to models.  As a result, all of the detail is simply etched onto the MDF.  That is fine if I was just going to tosh some paint on, but if I wanted to plater them to get a more uneven and realist finish, that would simply obscure all of the detail.  The buildings also lacked any front doors, find if they were to stand alone, but I wanted a close fitting terrace, despite the fact that the over-size base meant that I would have to saw some of this away to achieve that.  It was at this point I realised that I had a job of work to do to get these onto the table.
Step One;  Add doors.  I am my own worst enemy here.  Much of my real working life (i.e. before I played with toy soldiers for a living) was in the construction industry and when I look at buildings they have to make architectural sense.  So when there is no front door I find myself having to add one.  So I did.

Next, I added some detail with some card.  This is actually thicker than cornflake packet but not as thick as artists mounting board.  I added lintels, sills and door frames with this.

Heavier detail was added with artists mounting board….

…whilst in places whole walls were blocked off as this was to be a terrace rather than individual buildings and I din’t want to waste time adding detail that wouldn’t be seen.  I used some 125gsm light card to do this and cornflake packet to add some fine detail around the doors which I cut into place with a craft knife.  For Health & Safety purposes please note:  BE CAREFUL with any cutting; don’t run with scissors, try and avoid red meat and only drink two pints a year.  Just like me.

Before going any further, I measured up some shutters which I cut from a cornflake packet.

Now came the fun bit, where I slapped on the Quick Drying Polyfilla.  Spread like butter with a knife and then polish to a relatively smooth finish.  Needless to say, the wall shown here was easier to do that the bits with windows…

The resulting buildings looked like this.  As can be seen, I allowed some of the etched brickwork to show through but in other places I covered up the detail with things like merchant’s store room doors.  Here you can also see that I have cut down the bases to get a continuous frontage and this also shows why I blocked off some windows.

As can be seen, the filler around the windows is what bricklayers would call “snotty”, i.e. the filler is stuck onto bits of the windows where it shouldn’t be.  A find file run around these sorts that out, albeit it is again slow work.
Adding window shutters came next.  I stuck on the shutters and then added some cross-bar sections before slapping PVA across them to bind them in place.

After that, it was a case of painting.  I normally re-roof MDF models with paper tiles supplied by Warbases, but here I haven’t done so as I am just too short of time. However, I dislike roof lugs showing, as they do with MDF models, so I filled these in with filler and gave them a light sand when dry.  I have lost some of the etched detail on the roof and if I get a chance I will be adding some highlights in paint and some roof moss to disguise this.  Time will, quite literally, tell.

I shall not bore you with the painting.  Suffice to say I wanted strong colours as one often sees in snaps of Amsterdam.  In the centre of the terrace is a Charlie Foxtrot model of what is now De Goulden Oorlop Inn.  I need to complete the roof on this, but the main building is pretty much complete.  So here they all are.

Do I like them?  No, not really.  Will they do?  Yes, they’ll have to.  I am afraid that any build on a tight time line only allows you one attempt and you hope to get it as right as possible.  These look a bit like Balamory so I will probably try to make some kind of adjustments with a paint brush.  Fortunately the hall at Crisis is quite dark so we may get away with it…
Sarissa, if you are reading this, PLEASE re-do these with the card shutter and door trims.  These could be great models, they just need some love.


2 thoughts on “I saw a Mouse…there on an MDF stair. Crisis Build Continues”

  1. I love reading your building projects, Rich , as they often make me smile . I absolutely loathe applying filler to MDF and compensate by paying on a thick coat of emulsion and dropping sand onto it , building up with PVA and finer sand where needed. Much neater and quicker to dry , hopefully ? . These buildings are recognizability Dutch / Continental and I like them combined into a terrace , although I would,nt have broken them up with the Inn , maybe have butted that on to the end of the terrace. I think these are crying out for a canal placed in front of them . As for the show , who was it said “ I love the sound Deadlines make as they go whizzing over my head “ . ?

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