Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Coal Office

Strangely it's been two weeks since I last blogged about the Coal Office I was building. I'm not sure why it's taken so long to write this post as the building was essentially finished at that point. Anyway, at long last here is the completed building. It's not perfect, but as an experiment to see how well these print-your-own cardboard kits work I'm happy to call it a success.

Most of the problems with the final building can all be traced back to the rather poor quality paper the original sheets were printed on. Not only did this lead to the paper tearing, but also it isn't thick enough to hold it's own weight when used without being stuck to a cardboard backing; look at the barge boards on the side of the roof. This is, of course, entirely my own fault and not a problem with the kit.

The kit itself is well designed and thought out. It was also easy to assemble. In the second photo you can get a better idea of how the kit works. Essentially the walls are made from two layers of 2mm cardboard stuck back to back. This makes for a very rigid yet reasonably lightweight structure. The use of two layers of cardboard also allows for details, such as the drain pipes, to be modelled in relief, rather than simply printed flat, just by making the inner layer of the end walls ever so slightly wider than the outer layer.

While this specific instance isn't built well enough to grace a layout I'm certain I'll be building more models in this way in the future. The main things I've learnt from this experience is that I need a sharper modelling knife (cutting through 2mm cardboard is actually quite hard) and to print the sheets (at least the coloured outside layers) onto reasonable quality paper. Of course having paid for the kit (if you remember it cost just £2.99) I can easily build as many copies until I'm happy for just the cost of the plain cardboard (which is pretty cheap).


  1. Mark, it is awkward material to cut. Have you looked at picture Matt Board cutters? They may be expensive but when I've seen them in use they go through Mount board like a knife through butter!!

    1. That's certainly worth checking into thanks. I was also considering a scalpel (with a changeable blade) but not sure if that would be much better than the craft knife.

    2. In my experience it wouldn't.

      I used to get scalpels from my GP and re-hone them with jewellers rouge on a bit of leather glued to a piece of thickish glass. They are okay for rough work which is what they were designed for. Swann Morton are local to you and may have something finer in their catalogue. They do dozens of shapes...pointy ones and curved ones. The medics at the Uni no doubt have a selection.
      There used to be a holder for safety razor blades that protected one edge. Razor blades are a fine cutter but need support.

      I used to make model aircraft from balsa and plywood. If all else fails cut oversize and sand the edge, again glue the emery paper to something flat. I used to use a steel straight edge and lightly score the surface. After having been to college to study engineering I learnt that a pencil is a useless marking out tool. A little spike to mark out dimensions or better still a pair of dividers, then a scribe a groove to mark the outline, the scalpel would be handy as a scribe. A similar system is used by cabinet makers.

      I'm surprised that CAD/CAM and a laser cutter aren't the modern way of carrying on.

      It's a fascinating hobby you have. Artisan skills take time to master as of course do your computer skills or anything else worthwhile.

      Have fun and don't start on York Minster till August.

    3. I must admit I was tempted to turn the templates for the base cardboard pieces into something I could send to a laser cutting service. Problem is I haven't found one that has any 2mm thick products -- the best I can find is 1.4mm which would leave me with thinner than intended walls.

  2. Listening to you two makes me feel very very inadequate in my micro manual skills.