Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Castle Ruins - Part Two

In the second part of my blog on building the castle ruins I’ll talk through the technique I used to get from a piece of polystyrene packaging to a castle ruin. In later blogs I’ll show specific pieces from this collection and talk about the different features of each piece.

The materials used are very basic, a piece of polystyrene packaging, some ready mix wall filler and acrylic paint. (Both the ready mixed wall filler and the acrylic paint were both bought from the local ‘pound store’ or equivalent shop.) Making this a very cheap construction.

When I first get a piece of packaging I twist and turn it in all directions, looking for interesting angles and shapes. Unless you’ve bulk purchased a large number of the same item every piece is going to be different. You’re looking for interesting corner pieces, angles and shapes. Sometimes the best shapes are not always the most obvious.

Once you’ve decided where you want to make your cuts you can either:-

• Use a very sharp knife (depending on how thick the packaging is),

• Break it by hand – this creates a better roughed up edge more like the final effect you’re trying to create but can create a lot more mess especially with some types of packaging,

• Use a hot wire cutter – makes for cleanest cuts, maybe a bit too clinical in some cases – and should be done in a ventilated room.

I use a hot wire cutter bought from the local hobby shop made by Woodland Scenics when I want specific cuts, but I have used all three methods during this build.

Once I’ve cut my shapes out, broken a few edges or with a drop of PVA glue put a couple of pieces together and allowed to dry I’m ready to start covering with the ready mix wall filler. You can use the self made up filler just as well provided you get the mix correct – follow on packet instructions carefully - I just find the ready mixed stuff more convenient, especially when I don’t have a lot of time going spare to work on my modelling.




If you already have a tub of ready mix to hand and you’ve found it’s gone hard – don’t throw it out, wait for my next blog.

New ready mix freshly opened will spread over the polystyrene easily without any effort, you should spread it over about  2 or 3 millimetres thick. You’ll get the feel for what is right as you work. If the mix is a little dry and does not spread so smoothly you can coat the polystyrene with a very thin layer of PVA glue first, when this goes tacky then spread the wall filler on. Do not use too much glue as this will result in a gooey mess and the wall filler will then slide off and could take hours to be useable.



For stone work smooth off the wall, sometimes I find patting it down with my thumb the easiest method – always wash your hands after. Leave the wall filler to set for a few minutes, again this will vary depending on room temperature and age and make of the ready mix you’re using. You’re looking for a fine skin to form before it goes hard.

Taking a small .5 to 1cm modelling chisel or even a plastic coffee stirrer (that’s actually what I used) you poke into the ready mix covering. For stone blocks use about the width of the chisel or stirrer blade as a guide, poking both horizontally and vertically with your cutting tool. Stagger the blocks like brick work. For the stacked rock effect that is more like the Tintagel ruins in my last blog just make very close repeated stabs into the filler, so that it puckers up into smaller thinner bulges. In this wall I’ve used the block style at the base and the stab random pattern further up. Work on one side at a time and allow to fully dry before working on the other, otherwise thumb prints will replace brick work. When using the block style always make sure you follow your pattern round the corner when working on your second side or edge otherwise the stone block won’t look correct.

Once the whole piece is covered and dry you can then paint.

First I under coated in slightly watered down black acrylic paint, the watered down paint allowed it to better get into the grooves. Beware; holding any painted piece before the paint is dry will result on you lifting the paint off on your fingers. Like the wall filler, work around the model in sections allowing half to dry before doing the second part. In some cases small white flecking may come through – you can either touch these up with black paint and allow to dry before colouring or just paint over when you colour the wall.

When the base coat is dry you can paint over the wall with either a black/white mix or blend and dry brush the wall with the neat white acrylic paint, smearing it over the wall to give a lighter grey rock effect. Obviously don’t use your best brushes for any of this work.

That was basically it how I created the majority of these pieces, some have distinguishing features which I’ll talk about next time. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions and I’ll try to answer them next time.


Happy ruins!