1:35 brick

I remember reading the articles on how to make model buildings, stretched across a great number of Model Railway Constructor magazines, back in the early 1980’s. An uncle had passed down a couple of decades worth of these to my Dad and I just read and re-read each one. Each month’s magazine’s article was focussed on one aspect of making model buildings in 4mm scale. The models and methods were those in use at the Pendon Museum.

I thought the articles amazing. I’d never read anything that covered making models in such great detail and it would have been impossible to not be inspired by them. Further inspiration came from the humble materials used in each, such as: thread, cardstock, paper, and like materials that one should be able to find around the house. I’ve since had the good fortune to collect even more books and magazines that describe the Pendon style of modelmaking and still enjoy reading them. Leafing through Chris Pilton’s Wild Swan book reminded me of brickwork.

In brief, the Pendon approach to making 4mm scale brick is to start with a clean sheet of cardstock and emboss the mortar pattern onto the card using a variety of suitable tools (tools that you are comfortable working with and those that help you gain that ‘right’ look). Once embossed, the card is washed with colour to represent mortar and to provide a background tone for the sheet. The bricks are individually painted one-by-one. It sounds like a mad process but the effect is amazing and I’ve yet to see any alternative that results in better looking work. While somewhat tedious I do find the method somewhat relaxing and while reading Chris’ book I wondered how well the process might work in a larger modelling scale.

“Only one way to find out” I thought and off I went to find some cardstock from my supply and the photos above show what I produced. The cardstock was just some cheap stuff from the back of a notepad. The Pendon method uses some rather cleaner-faced stuff than I had but I reasoned that the texture might be welcome in this larger scale and represent older bricks. In the end I think this worked. Using a 4H pencil I marked out the sheet to locate the horizontal mortar lines and then the verticals.

Once these lines were drawn I started embossing in the lines. I made up and used two different tools: The first was to scribe in the long horizontal lines and was little more than a finishing nail. Using a file, I tapered the nail’snend longer than it was originally and then ever so slightly rounded off the tip so it would crush the paper as it was drawn across and not tear or cut it. When drawing this tool I was worried it might drag the cardstock just a bit. This wouldn’t be a problem for the horizontal courses but might be for the much shorter (2mm long) vertical ones. I reasoned that something like a small screwdriver might work. I had a bunch of those cheap miniature screwdrivers in my toolbox anyway so grabbed one. I did file the head of this screwdriver just a bit – again to crush the paper but not pierce it.

Once the sheet was embossed I grabbed a few acrylic craft paints we had on hand. First I washed several different shades onto the sheet to represent the mortar and to provide that aforementioned background colour. My goal here was not to provide an even tone and to leave behind some deliberate streaks of colour ranging from a warm cream to darker grey, almost cinder colour. While the card was still wet from the mortar I grabbed a terracotta colour and set to work painting in the bricks. Working over an already wet base with ever so slightly watered down brick colours resulted in, what I think, was a fairly pleasant range of tones between each brick. Once the full sheet was completed I went back over the bricks a second, third, and fourth time with further layers of that brick colour to pick out different bricks.

Once satisfied with the bricks I thought it might be nice to try washing some highlights into the mortar. Working with watered-down white or black and a very small brush I painted colour into individual mortar courses. The course pigment floated nicely into the mortar lines and, for the most part, kept from the face of the bricks when my hands wandered.

In all, I’m very pleased with the end effect. The larger 1:35 scale bricks were quite easy to scribe and equally to paint. Of everything here are some thoughts on what I’d like to try an alternative for, next time:

  • Some of the vertical mortar courses have a tail of cardstock at one end that looks like I dragged the embossing tool and created that ridge. Not sure if I can resolve that on a subsequent piece with a tool that more overlaps each course or maybe a different tool altogether?
  • Never one to know when to stop I washed the full finished piece to weather it. I don’t know what I was thinking but a lot of the pleasant colour variation was lost and I’m a bit angry with myself over that rash decision.
  • At times I wrestled with mortar courses that were too pronounced or not enough. I may never overcome this balance and just need to spend more time observing the real thing to see how it looks and to improve the image in my mind of what I’m working toward.

What I made was a test piece. It’s a model of a very short length of brick. It lacks stretchers and it’s not big enough to be useful. I had a lot of fun making it.





  1. Reblogged this on The M.o.B. and commented:
    One of my railroad buddies was mucking around with ideas he’d read as a boy the other day. Using cardboard, and paint he made this very realistic 1/35th scale piece of brickwork. Ballarat’s cold as charity right now, and if you’ve nothing else to do, it might be the time to give this method a try.

  2. Chris;
    I’ve never modelled in card, I’ve always been afraid of the results. You have however, peaked my inquisitive nature. In the meantime I’ve reposted your idea over at my modelling club’s WordPress site. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. I’m glad to have caught your interest Andrew. A little project like this might be a great one to try. With almost no cost involved in materials and using tools I’m sure you probably already have around it would be a great one to try.

      Let me know how you get along if you do.



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