Saturday, July 25, 2009


Plastered base
Originally uploaded by Phil_Parker
Scenery work is messy. Perhaps that's the appeal - we all have a small child inside us who loves messing around with mud, or in the case plaster, and paint.

Many layouts use Modroc to produce embankments and hillsides. This is a plaster impregnated bandage (the same stuff used on broken limbs) which you wet and then place onto the hillside. More plaster is then worked over this and then it's left to dry, forming a hard shell over the formers.

I don't have any Modroc handy and anyway, it's not worth opening the bag for such a tiny project. Instead I mixed up some plaster and dipped strips of paper kitchen towels in this. Laying these on the polystyrene did the job just as well.

However I wanted to colour the plaster. That way if it chips you don't see white "earth" appearing. Being unable to remember where I had put the cheapo poster paint, I decided to try staining the water used with old tea bags. Not new ones obviously but the old one destined for the compost big (yes, composting tea bags, how very Guardian reader). Dunking the bags in the water made it brown but the colour vanished when the plaster was added.

So I though, "What about adding the contents of tea bags to the mix, giving me texture AND possibly colour". Well, I got texture but again no colour. The texture was small lumpy, not bad but not especially useful.

Then I remembered where the paint was, got this, squirted some in the mix and ended up with ochre groundwork. Much better.

Then on a whim I decided to carry on with the tea experiments. Perhaps sieving tea onto the surface will give an impression of earth ? Not enough to use as a final finish but a starting point for scenery.

Well I learnt a couple of things -
  • You can't sieve damp tea bag contents, they just stick in the mesh.

  • Crumbling the tea dust doesn't work very well either but it works a bit better. I'm still not convinced and only bothered with one side.

  • Cleaning tea bag contents out of a sieve takes forever.

After a day or so drying, the groundwork was painted with brown acrylics to unify the lot, making the project ready for track.

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