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 How to Build a Stone Wall
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Posted - 05/20/2003 :  1:22:40 PM  Show Profile
Several RR-L members have been constructing Sierra West's "Foss' Landing" kit as a "group project." Built up, the kit depicts a coastal or riverfront landing, so part of the construction calls for making a diorama base for the structures. Each of the group members decided to model the shoreline in a different way to suit his own layout needs. My version of the diorama, when completed, will be of a river landing and collection point for the tie rafts that were floated down the Osage River in the early 1900's. As a result, I decided to model a random-cut stone wall along the diorama's base shoreline.

My first task was to prepare the base. Because the whole scene is of a river landing with structures at different elevations, I needed to create different levels as well as depict an eroded shoreline. And as I said, I also wanted to model a stone retaining wall and seawall.

I used 1/2 inch pink foam and laminated it with hot melt glue. After carving it to suggest a shoreline (the plywood base will be the water level), I made plaster forms from strips of pink foam. These were attached in place with Elmer's Squeezable Caulk (it's a semi-liquid latex caulk in a squeeze bottle). I then poured plaster of Paris behind the forms. After the plaster had set for about a half hour, I pulled the forms off and scraped up the caulk with a putty knife.

The next step was to create what would become the rock faces on the wall. I mixed a soupy batch of plaster and stippled it on the surface of the wall with a stiff-bristled brush.

After the plaster was nearly dry, I started carving in the stonework. Actually, all I carved were the mortar lines because the rock facings were determined by the stippled plaster. I used a "headless" T-pin in a pin vise to do the carving. Periodically, I would spray some water on the plaster to keep it damp, and I used a nylon brush to clean away plaster chips as I carved.

I then let everything dry completely.

The final step was to color the rocks. For this I used Woodland Scenics' scenery pigments. I stained about 25% of the rocks individually and then washed the entire wall with several applications of WS's Burnt Umber and Stone Gray.

I didn't watch the clock, but I'm guessing my total time for this (excluding drying time) was about 4 hours.

After constructing the wharf and dock elements for the diorama, I decided to extend the seawall across most of the shoreline. Doing so was a very simple matter. I just repeated the steps outlined above. Below is a photo of the completed walls with the wharf and dock elements in place. (The backdrop is temporary and just for "scenic effect") Creating stone walls this way is a very simple procedure that anyone can do. It can be used to make bridge abutments, right-of-way retaining walls, building foundations, or even the exterior walls of an entire structure.

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