It’s been a while – a long while – since I worked on the Leedham’s Mill buildings for Port Rowan. My hiatus from this project was the direct result of being unable to convincingly model the cinder block walls of the office addition.
Courses of cinder blocks will be pretty evenly laid, and the finished wall will look straight and neat. I first thought to use a commercial embossed sheet, but I could not find one in 1:64 – and one can’t get away with using a material in a “close-enough” scale, because a cinder block building is defined by its blocks. (Nobody builds a cinder block building that’s “X feet long by X feet high”: they build it “X blocks long by X blocks high”. Window and door openings are defined in terms of blocks, too.)
I decided to try my hand at scratch-building the wall, with block veneers cut from styrene strip. I found it was impossible to keep the pieces in straight rows and my first attempt at the office ended up looking too messy to be convincing:
That was in early 2018, and the project sat idle while I figured out what to do – and then got distracted by other things.
In March of last year, I found a solution: my friend Stephen Gardiner wanted a sound decoder installed in one of the locomotives for his Liberty Village layout, and while we worked on this I asked if he could design some 3D Printed cinder block wall sections for my mill. Stephen has done a lot of 3D Print work for himself and for others. (And while he’s primarily interested in HO scale, one of the most popular items in his Shapeways Store is his S scale track speeder, now available in two styles: Scroll around until you find them.)
Stephen and I measured the model and looked at the prototype photographs, did some math, and figured out the basic dimensions – in blocks – for each of the four wall sections. He then drew up a block, did a lot of copy and paste work, and designed the walls for me.
The prints work beautifully. I mounted the 3D Print material on 0.060″ styrene, sanded the abutting edges to 45 degrees, then cut out openings for four windows and a door.
The next challenge was windows. The project sat some more while I reviewed my options – and then got distracted by other things.
Recently, I noticed that the walls had curled a bit – the 3D Printed material shrinks, apparently. I braced the walls with scrap styrene, then glued them together to form a box – and then decided the only way I could make the windows I wanted was to scratch-build them. I spent a couple of days of cutting and fitting pieces of styrene strip… and in the process I became best friends with Tamiya styrene cement and its little, tiny applicator brush:
With the windows built, I applied Tamiya putty to the corners to fill some gaps, then cleaned up the corners with a razor blade and a pick. I also added a styrene foundation – smeared with more putty to give it that concrete look – and then gave everything a shot of primer. I introduced the office to the main part of the building and set it on the layout. So far, I’m pleased!
I’ll have to finish painting the office and add window glazing before I can attach it permanently to the rest of the structure, and there are roof peaks to add (plus lots of work on that big wooden building). But the cinder block problem is solved. Thanks, Stephen!