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In praise of 1/24th scale

the structure of a building
1/24 construction by 'TheMrFinneth'

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in Issue 1 of 'The Miniature Builder'. My very early attempt at a website. Long deceased.

the structure of a building

1/24 construction by 'TheMrFinneth'

1/24th scale. Big enough to allow heaps of detailing, small enough to fit on a bookshelf.  Light enough to move single handedly, rugged enough to be produced with a non-specialist toolbox.  Commercially supported - to a degree.  

If you are seeking to produce a single building there is much to praise in the easy to calculate scale of 1/24th, (aka ½” scale i.e. ½” =1ft).  

small brown buiding like a barn
A garden railway trackside building from (now disappeared?) Precision product
small brown buiding like a barn

A garden railway trackside building from (now disappeared?) Precision product

Although 1/24th is a crossover scale , providing a bridge between the Garden Railway G scale modellers and the world of dolls houses, it is fair to say that expressing it as 1/24th is approaching it from the dolls house side of the fence.  This is certainly how I came at it.  It was only later, as I started looking for materials and fittings, that I realised there was a parallel railway universe looking for big weatherproof trackside buildings.

(For the purposes of this article I have treated 1/24th scale and G scale as equivalent  - for a fuller discussion take a look at the G scale section in my Up and Down the Scales article. G scale equates equates to somewhere near 1/24 only when its '1 gauge' track is used for narrow gauge railways. If used for regular railways the scale is 1/32 - which is the subject of yet another piece 'In praise of 1/32'.

clonakilty street
An example of 1/24th scale used outdoors in the Irish model village at Clonakilty
clonakilty street

An example of 1/24th scale used outdoors in the Irish model village at Clonakilty

My own modelling background was in military modelling - mostly figures plus a bit of diorama settings and vehicles.  But as a father of daughters it was almost inevitable that at some point I would have to try my hand at a dolls house. 

As someone never satisfied with a simple solution,{"which is why you never finish anything!"} the building I wanted to make for them (Georgian mansion)  was never going to be feasible in the standard dolls house scale of 1 inch to the foot.  Certainly not if I was to remain faithful to the creed of true-to-scale.  (as to which, you might also like to read 'Scale or Effect' )

Three stories, high ceilings, basement, pitched roof - at 1/12th scale we were heading for over 5 feet tall - my girls would never be able to reach  the top bedrooms and I would never be able to move it.   The swinging doors would be massive and to produce a decent room size it would stick out much too far from the wall. 

Unfinished DB house
In play before it is finished
Unfinished DB house

In play before it is finished

It is not just the practicalities though which made me turn my back on the standard scale.   I was trying to produce a model which my girls could play with and they had no dolls or figures of the right size.  They probably didn't care about scale  {"of course they didn't you lummock head"} , but I did.  I thought it would offend me every time I looked at it. 

As it turned out I ended up fudging the scale in the interests of accommodating Playmobil figures - although the height is about right they are very wide so the doors are out-of-scale and the ceilings are rather high to make it easier to get hands in and out the rooms.

As a modeller reared on 1/72nd and 1/32nd there are additional attractions.    My approach to modelling is that I am trying to recreate a realistic image of a prototype which exists in one medium by producing a small sized version in another medium.

A dormer window constructed using bricks and tiles from Richard Stacey

If you are for example producing 4mm/OO/HO buildings you clearly cannot make your model house from miniature bricks.  You have to use plastic or paper and paint to produce a model effect.  However, if you seriously wanted to make a 1/4 scale house you would almost certainly want to use miniature bricks.  Trying to recreate the effect of brick and morter with timber and paint seems like too much effort.

At 1/12th scale there is still a temptation to do this and a manufacturer like Stacey's Miniature Masonry will be happy to sell you tiny bricks for you to stick together with fine grain mortar.  

A dormer window constructed using bricks and tiles from Richard Stacey

A look through their website shows that in skilled hands some really fine results can be achieved.  As the picture shows. I really love their work and their commitment to authenticity. They do offer the same for 1/24th (and 1/48th and 1/72nd!!) but I'm not entirely convinced the idea works in the smaller scales.

Simply staining real wood will not work for most of us

Moving for a moment from the outside of houses to their interiors, there are plenty of furniture and staircase makers working in 1/12th scale who use real wood which is finished by sanding and staining just like the real thing.  

Simply staining real wood will not work for most of us

Some of this is mass market, highly varnished and slightly wonky with extraneous bobbs of glue. It isn't hard to find. And some of it, which you will have to work to find and save up to afford, is master craftsman stuff.

I'm not entirely convinced of the wisdom of this as I believe the surface textures are doomed to be wrong in all but the very very highest quality of work (but that is a subject for another day).   However, at 1/24th scale I believe that temptation has virtually disappeared. 

St Peters in Rome, as displayed at the Minimundus Park in Austria

This is not a universally held view however.  The highly professional Austrian Minimundus operation has this to say on the subject:

"A second reason why our models look so realistic is that we primarily use original materials, like marble, sandstone, basalt, tuff, etc. - insofar as it is technically feasible."

St Peters in Rome, as displayed at the Minimundus Park in Austria

Since they say they have 300,000 visitors every year and have been open since 1958 they might well be right. Who am I to disagree with their expertise and experience? Maybe that is the difference between making and showing a model of St Peters Rome in a garden setting and producing a model of a cottage to be displayed on top of my bookcase. As a former lawyer I also take into account their handy disclaimer "insofar as it is technically feasible." Which is a good way of saying 'If it works, do it. If it doesn't, do it another way'. Which works in all quarters of life.

A 1/24th scale dolls house from Cynosure of Exeter

A 1/24th scale dolls house from Cynosure of Exeter

A look at the dolls house magazines gave me some comfort that I was not alone - even though I was in a distinct minority.  When I first wrote this piece I said that

"Over the past ten years or so it is fair to say that 1/24th has consistently appeared to be the up and coming dolls house scale, but has never (yet) achieved the breakthrough I believe it deserves. Consider it as the Liberal Democrats of the Dolls House world, but operating within a one party state".

I'm not in touch enough today with the dolls house community to know if that is still true. Do you have a view?  Please do e-mail Miniature Buildings.

Connie Campbell's half-inch house

If the production of a house is just one step in producing a fully furnished miniature, it has to be admitted that the scale is not to everyone's taste.  This was well expressed by Connie Campbell, a prolific US miniaturist   " This was my first effort in half inch scale.  I love the little house, but I would never build another in this scale!  It is much too tedious, plus there is very little furniture and accessories available at a reasonable price." Despite her reservations about the scale she told 'The Miniature Builder' that she was having another go - tempted by an English kit. I wonder if she did.

Connie Campbell's half-inch house

On reflection, I get her point. If you are an adult collector and your real enthusiasm is the decoration and furnishing of rooms then the standard dolls house scale of 1/12th does make sense. But if you are at the other end of the hobby, producing a house for children to play with then I still think 1/12th is too big.

Conversly, if your real enthusiasm is modelling buildings then even 1/24th is too big. You might find a place for one or two, or possibly three or four, but unless you have a house bigger than most of us you cannot house a collection. What's your choice? 1/32-1/35? 1/48-1/50? 1/72-1/87? 1/100? Smaller?

Nevertheless, I do believe there is still a place in the adult world for 1/24th.

One maker who caught my eye a long time ago was Jeremy Collins of Gable End Designs. A web search, as I rewrite,this suggests he is no longer active. Which is sad. Although a lot of his standard offerings were 1/12th scale, take a look at his 1/24th special commission of a Georgian style vicarage.

A Ben Taggart piece

Although I only saw his work featured in the dolls-house magazines, it seemed to me that he was a perfect example of a modeller of buildings for their own sake; something Miniature Buildings is of course committed to promoting. Somewhere recently I saw this kind of work referred to as 'house portraits', which I thought was a neat way of putting it.

A Ben Taggart piece

This title is something featured prominently in the website of Ben Taggart, Modelmaking and Design. Wow! I don't know if he ever works in 1/24. I guess he could and would if commissioned. But he is outside my budget range. Proper professional architectural models.

The selection of 1/24th as a scale for buildings displays clearly its Anglo American and woodworking heritage - determindly imperial in its measurements.  Although working in Imperial is seen, at least this side of the pond, as a bit passe, the practicalties of working 1/2 inch to the foot are still easy to do. 9" brick - 3/8ths.

A tiny fraction of the Dutch miniature city of Madurodum .... all built profesionally to 1/25th

A tiny fraction of the Dutch miniature city of Madurodum .... all built profesionally to 1/25th

The obvious metric alternative of 1/25th is used for some professional architectural models and if (like me) you are happy working in metric then just carry on. Could you tell the difference by eye from a 1/24th model? Does anyone except the maker care?  Using the strange hybrid scaling beloved of so many railway modellers I suppose you could also think of it as 12.5mm to the foot.  As ever, you are welcome to write to MiniatureBuildings on this and any other subjects.   

Since the G in G Scale stands for garden the techniques and materials for 1/24th Model Railways, and for Model Villages/Towns, are inevitably different to those employed in the Dolls House world.  Take a look for example at American manufacturer Stoneworks who offer real stone pieces and a range of reusable formwork and casting masters for use with their Quikrete® Vinyl Cement product - modelling miniature buildings in cement  (www.rrstoneworks.com).    Look also at the construction page within the Dutch Madurodam website which discusses their preference for synthetic materials, brass and wood. www.madurodam.nl

The Black Boy kit from GRS

The Black Boy kit from GRS

Lighter materials can of course be used and one interesting idea is cribbed from a now disappeared website from Stephen Bazire displaying his Southwold railway (now viewable at 'Garden Trains Information'. He suggested using a perspex box covered with balsa and corrugated plastic - which he claims produces a robust structure.  He adds that he uses copious amounts of Cuprinol in construction and finds "Ranch" paint very long lasting (at least five years so far without deterioration).   One of his stations, Wenhaston,  has a village made from the 'British Outline Building' kits (sold by 'Garden Railway Specialists' of Princes Risborough, heavily adapted, and with a better tiled roof.

The raw materials for the miniature building trades – construction, joinery, wall finishes, roofing, flooring, etc - are all available in this scale, though the range is not as wide as in 1/12th or 4mm/OO/HO scales. 

One of the more irritating features of shopping for model building components is that several retail and web outlets feature products without identifying the manufacturer.  In featuring products within Miniature Buildings we will try wherever possible to make clear the source of products.  You can then choose who to buy them from.

The rest of this article is a bit of a jumble of old material I'm afraid. I'm working on it !

Complete kits are produced by

www.grandadstoys.fsnet.co.uk/ 24thhouse.htm

A big range of central European 1/24 buildings is the Pola brand, which is part of the Faller stable.  For my taste they all look a bit too clean and shiny but they can always be weathered.  My favourite, and the most exportable to other landscapes, was the "timber storage place", an open fronted shed complete with stacks of cut timber     .      View their catalogue via the website of US retailer  http://www.charlesro.com/pdf/pola2004.pdf

I've not seen the British Outline Building kits in the flesh but they certainly look to be very attractive as displayed on the Garden Railway Specialists website http://www.grsuk.com.  I particularly like the Welsh Farm cottage. Unfortunately the way their site is constructed does not make it possible to display any extracts here for you.   Are GRS the manufacturer here or just a retailer? 

Freelance Buildings  a limited range of UK trackside prototypes , with a couple of stone cottages.

Windows and doors in this scale are produced by Houseworks (US) - wooden , Precision Products (US) - plastic, Garden Railway Specialists of Princes Risborough (UK), Model Building Supplies (Canada) .

Until recently another source of good quality plastic components was Grandt Line but they have been taken over by The San Juan Model Co and it is as yet unclear if the architectural range has survived. I still have a small stock from my abortive venture many years ago into what we then knew as 'mail order'. (US) -plastic , 

r   
Precision Products windows      Grandt Line doors

      

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embossed or moulded sheets for walling, flooring etc are produced by Model Building Supplies (Canada)      Pola have a couple of stone pattern sheets.    American manufacturer Stoneworks who offer real stone pieces and a range of reusable formwork and casting masters for u  ----  casting master sheets (Precision Products), 15" x 15" x .025 styrene plastic sheets are reusable.

"Real" bricks and tiles are produced by Richard Stacey (UK)

UK Stockists of some or all of these products include 

 Garden Railway Specialists of Princes Risborough,  http://www.grsuk.com. for Freelance,

 Scalestreet (web only) who can supply in the UK many of the Canadian company MBS's embossed sheet products,

http://www.ontrackscart.co.uk/faller/faller_mainindex.html

UK Garden Railways    www.ukgardenrailways.co.uk(web only) for Pola buildings , 

If you are based in North America, mainland Europe or elsewhere and know of good sources in your patch , or know of other suppliers or outlets in the UK, do let us know and we will add your information. [ editor@MiniatureBuilder.co.uk ]

www.charlesro.com   - huge US railway retail site

Further reading:

Nesbit

How to Model in Stone & Cement:
"A complete modeling handbook, that includes creating detailed, all-weather models using Casting Masters,cement and natural stone. 2 Plans for modeling
• Stone & Cement chimney House
• Stone Tunnel Portal,
Plus 10 Modeling Tips,
and 3 Advanced Construction Technique

s

#7051......$ 19.95
(Add $2 Book Rate shipping in U.S.)

Plans are for Large, G-Scales,1:24
52Pages - 8 1/2" x 11"