I’d gotten most of the painting done on the building six years ago, then moved on to other projects as the 16th C ECW/TYW gaming failed to grab my attention. The barn has floated around the edges of my painting bench, almost but not quite finished, ever since.
Earlier this week I was off sick and needed something sedentary and easy to do, so I pulled the barn out and started adding doors, some final paint touchups, and flocking and terrain around the outside of the walls. I’d originally planned, long ago, to do hinged arched doors on the big front doorway of the barn, but decided that six years of not figuring out how to do that in a wargamer-proof way was long enough and have gone with simple closed doors across the back of the arch!
Here’s what it looked like back in June 2011:
Here, all finished and detailed, is the barn in April 2017!
The big front door is wooden coffee stir stick planks over an offcut of picture framing card (matt board), cut to size, and then roughed up with sandpaper, an Xacto knife, and a razor saw. The back door is just card, with planks scored into it with the back of an Xacto knife. The hinges on both are scraps of light card painted with Tarnished Steel. Both doors got all-over washes with several different colours of wash, including green on the front door to stain the wood.
The roof is towel thatch (this was the first thatch building I’d ever done!) with thin foam for the stonework on the bottom half of the walls. The greenery is a mix from all over, including the nice red flowers from Rain City Hobbies over in Vancouver.
For more details on building the barn, check the two 2011 articles I linked to right up in the first paragraph of this post, there’s lots of detail there.
Nice to finally get this building done and dusted after nearly six years of three-quarters finished limbo! Now I need to consider other buildings for an English Civil War or Thirty Years War hamlet… some cottages, maybe a version of the interesting dove cote seen in the ECW edition of WS&S I picked up at Trumpeter Salute. We shall see!
A few people on the Lead Adventure Forum and elsewhere have asked how the thatch on my variousRussianbuildingswas done, and I”ve been promising some in-progress photos.
I got those shot last month, and finally sat down to edit the pictures and write this tutorial. The basic materials are mattboard (good-quality picture framing card, used for most of the underlying roof structure), light card (used to bridge the spaces between the mattboard pieces and support the towel) and a cheap hand towel I picked up at the nearby dollar store, for the actual thatch.
The roofs pictured below are more complex than many, first because they’re hipped roofs, with all four sides sloping inward, and second because both buildings I happened to be building while I took these pictures have a complex floorplan, one T-shaped and the other L-shaped. I’ll discuss some of the peculiarities of doing towel thatch over a hipped roof in a bit.
I also design most of my roofs to be removable, which complicates design of the underlying structure. All that aside, the basic towel thatching technique is going to be basically the same for a simple gable roof permanently attached to a building or a complex removable roof like I’m doing here!
Above, the main structure of mattboard, with light card over some of the bigger gaps in strips. I don’t bother trying to cover the whole roof, the towel is more than strong enough to support itself once all the glue on it is dry. A simple gabled roof with one ridgeline is obviously going to be a lot simpler!
On this T-shaped roof, I started the sheet of towel on the top of the T, after putting glue over the card and along the edges of the mattboard pieces, then folded it over the main ridgeline and across the ends. I cut the towel on the hip roof ends and in the valley where the stem of the T goes out, and in several places removed triangles of towel to avoid having multiple layers of fabric piled up. The cut edges got an extra smear of white glue worked into them with a fingertip, to secure and help disguise the edge.
For these roofs, because they were complex enough already, I’ve gone with a single layer of towel, but you can get a nice extra effect by starting with strips of towel, and gluing them up from the eve toward the ridge of the roof in slightly overlapping stips. Real thatch is often laid in layers, and this recreates the look nicely. See my older English Civil War barn article for an example of thatch with strips of towel.
The photo above should explain how to fit the towel around the sloped ends of a hipped roof, removing triangles of towel to avoid having massive amounts of overlapping fabric.
After the towel has been fitted to the roof, leave the whole thing to dry for a while. Note that the towel is hanging well over the eves at this point, and to keep that fabric from being glued to the table, I’ve propped the whole roof up on a couple of bottles of craft paint. I don’t use the building itself, because I want these roofs to be removable and the next step could easily glue my roofs down to the building by accident!
That’s because the next step is to saturate the towel with dilute white glue. I mix a jar of roughly two parts water to one part white glue, well mixed, then apply it liberally with a big paintbrush, a 1.5″ household brush I use for all sorts of scenery painting. You might think a soaking in watery glue would wreck or warp the underlying cardboard structure, but I’ve done four buildings this way in the last few months and none have warped noticeably.
Remember that you are dealing with towel. It will soak up your glue-water mix like, well, towel. Dab gently with the paintbrush, you don’t want to push the towel around or wrinkle it. After it’s well painted with your glue-water mix, leave the roof in a warm place at least overnight to dry.
After your roof dries overnight, the glue-soaked towel is basically strong enough to stand up on it’s own. Now you can trim the eves back accurately with scissors, making sure to fit the roof to the building (if it’s removable like mine are) to get a good fit and ensure the eves look good and even.
After that, basecoat with a dark colour, I go straight for black, and mix a bit more white glue into the paint to further strengthen the roof. This is also your chance to trim or re-glue any seams or areas you missed during initial construction. You could skip some of this by just starting with a black or dark brown towel — I started with tan as that was the least-objectionable colour the cheap towel I use came in.
After the black basecoat is finished, I do two drybrush coats to bring the texture of the towel out and make it look like tatch. The first, fairly heavy drybrush is with a 1:1 mix of light brown and grey paint; the second drybrush is brighter, more tan or light brown and less grey in the mix, and i concentrate on the ridgelines of the roof, to make the shape “pop” a bit. You could do more of a straw/yellow colour to your thatch, but real thatch almost always weathers to a grey/brown/black colour fairly quickly.
Finally, a photo from my earlier posting about the two buildings featured in this article, with everything finished except the fence on the L-shaped building. You can see the drybrushed finish that brings out the texture on the towel, and the slight highlighting of the ridges and edges of the roofs.
Hopefully this helps someone out there tackle their own thatch roof from towel. Remember that the roofs I’ve used as illustration for this article are at about the outer limit of complexity for a thatch roof, being hipped, T- or L-shaped and removable all at once! A simple gable roof can just use a single strip of towel, up one side and down the other; this gets even easier if you build permanent roofs instead of removable ones.
Richard Clarke of TooFatLardies has an interesting article on using putty for thatch, if you don’t want to try towel. I’ll have to give that a shot on the next small building I do, although I think towel is easier and more economical on larger buildings.
Any comments, suggestions or questions, fire them into the comments below and I”ll do my best to respond.
A quick pair of photos of the small Russian church I’m building for Russian Civil War gaming in 28mm. Earlier in January I discussed some planning and thoughts I had for a wargame-scale small church, and while it isn’t going as fast as I had hoped progress is being made!
As with the huts, the basic structure is mattboard with coffee stirsticks providing the woodwork.
The roofs of the church are going to be shingled rather than thatched, and while doing shingles with built-up strips looks good, it is frankly tedious… The smaller roof is done except for trim, though, and the main roof is about half done, then it’s on to the domes to provide that very Russian look that’s so distinctive.
It’s been a bit of a slow ten days or so on the wargaming front around here; I wish I could say there was a proper reason, but I just haven’t spent much time at the workbench. One of those weeks.
Regardless, earlier this month I did finish bothsmall Russian huts/farmhouses that I started over Christmas, and the Russian church is coming along nicely.
Here they are together, with a pair of Brigade Games’ 28mm White Russian officers for scale. The walls are mattboard and wood from coffee stirsticks, the roofs are towel with cardboard structure underneath.
The smaller one on the left is 3″x2″ and roughly 2″tall, the slightly larger one on the right is 4″x2″and about 3″ tall.
The hipped roofs are mattboard and light card underneath with towel soaked in diluted white glue as the thatch.
Here you can see the roofs removed and flipped over. The structure of the roofs is all just cardboard and I’ve had no warping at all despite the towel for thatch being fairly liberally soaked in diluted white glue after it’s glued down.
Both buildings got a basecoat of black paint mixed with white glue (my standard scenery basecoat), the woodwork was drybrushed with a grey mixed with some tan followed by a second drybrush of paler grey. The thatch got the same black/white glue base then a couple of drybrushings with various brown/tan/grey mixes. The towel soaks up paint and glue as well as you expect towel to, even during drybrushing — expect to go through paint like crazy.
I have vague plans for a couple more buildings for a Russian hamlet, maybe something in whitewashed plaster more suited to the southern portions of the country, and of course the Russian church is nicely underway. More about that tomorrow!