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 How to Make Real Wood Shingles
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Posted - 01/10/2004 :  10:43:09 AM  Show Profile
[Moderator's Note: The following tutorial was originally posted by Jim Faulks ("ANo10") in the Starting from Scratch Forum. I have moved a copy of it here for archival purposes. The original thread is still open for discussion in the scratchbuilding forum.]

In response to Bruce’s suggestion of lower cost hobby products, I’m posting my version of Boone Morrison’s technique of making homemade shingles. Although it is labor intensive, I believe it makes realistic looking shingle roofs.

I start with a sheet of Midwest basswood 1/32”x4”x24” that costs a little over two dollars from Hobby Lobby or Michaels. One sheet will make enough shingles for two or three medium HO structures. The first step is to convert the thickness of the dimensional lumber to scale lumber. The 1/32 thickness is almost 3 inches (2.7) in scale lumber. I sand the stripwood down to approximately one-half of the original thickness.

Next, add grain to the wood using either a razor saw or small wire brush. Dragging the razor saw with the grain and finishing with the brush, further reduces the thickness of the stripwood. At this point, it should be ¾ to one inch in scale thickness. Once I have the desired results, I move to the next step.

There are several choices here. If I am after a faded weathered look, then I will wait until I have cut the stripwood into shingles before placing it in an alcohol/India ink mixture. I have several combinations of mixtures of ink and alcohol to give the wood different shades of gray. If I want a particular color, now is the time to paint the wood. I use a wash of my color of choice in craft acrylic paints (Apple Barrel, Folk Art).

Once the wood is painted, I cut the width of the shingles in strips. Use a steel ruler and either a new single edge razor blade or an Xacto number11 blade making several passes. Then I use the “Chopper” to cut into shingle lengths. I set the base of the triangle to the length of the shingle I want. One-fourth of an inch works for me.

For new unpainted shingles, I divide them into several piles and put into zip lock bags of different percentages of India ink/alcohol solutions. After a couple of hours I use a tea strainer to separate the shingles from the A/I mixtures. For painted shingles I place them in a “light” mixture of ink/alcohol solution. Both methods make the grains “pop out”. Once they are dry, now it’s time to shingle.

I begin with a sub-roof made from the same Midwest basswood sheet. I place the structure upside down on the wood and use the lumber’s original square edges for two sides. I mark the width and length that I want and use a drafting triangle to square the two sides to be cut. Allow for the overhanging eaves.

After cutting, I cut the opposite half of the roof. I paint the edges, both top and underneath, with a matching color approximately one-fourth of an inch in from the edge and allow to dry. Don’t forget to paint the thin edge.

I cement my first shingle square to the edge and allow it to dry. Several cements work here. White glue, super glue, Alene’s tacky glue all work well. I prefer superglue gel as I may give the finished roof wet coats of paint or A/I mixture. For a square leading edge shingled roof, there are two methods I use to keep my shingles in line. One is to mark lines with a pencil, the other is to use a thin ruler and clothes pins. If the shingles are staggered, then I just “wing” it. After I finish a row I use a # 18 Xacto blade to taper the upper edges of the shingle. This makes the next row lay flat against the “just finished” row.

Now it’s just a couple of days of repetition. Shingle a row, trim the upper edges, shingle a row, trim, shingle, trim….

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