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Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Welcome. If you have not visited Minature Buildings before can I suggest you begin with my Aims and Scope article or at the Home Page. If you have visited before - welcome back. I hope this article is of interest to you.

Scale or Effect ?

Most Miniatures are, at least nominally, built to a particular scale.  There are exceptions but for most modellers a key objective is to recreate their chosen prototype object in a particular and constant scale.

Posing the question "scale or effect" sounds neutral enough  but I find it hard to develop or explore  the question in a neutral way.   For me, the question "how much should strict adherence to true scale be sacrificed in the interests of creating a pleasing effect" is a meaningful question.  But the converse, "should we compromise on effect in the interests of scale" , is harder to contemplate. 

Building to scale represents, for me, a clearly identifiable starting point from which divergence can be observed - regardless of whether that variation is considered to be desirable or not.  Yet I am conscious that I am displaying my own prejudices simply by posing the question in this way. Is this the difference between a mechanic and an artist; between left brain and right brain people?

There are clearly those for whom adherence to scale is a secondary consideration.  This view is pithily expressed in the interesting and useful site  .  In their FAQ pages they answer the question "How important is scale?" with the view "Not at all. If you like the look of something that is over or under scaled, who am I to tell you it's wrong.  Do be aware that some people are very snobby when it comes to scale".   Which puts me firmly in my place.

I don't entirely agree with them though. Either a door is the right height or it is not, either the tiles look realistic or they don't. But, there is always a but. A slate in real life might be 10mm thick. Let's say. 1/160 of that is less than 1/10th of a mm. Which maens you have to choose. Do not bother to model the thicknees, just use a printed or painted image. Or use overlapping strips, which are surely going to be thicker than scale thickness. You are going for effect rather than scale. Forget the rivets, or make them oversized. Doing it to scale is surely beyond most (all?) of us?

One of Lilliput Lane's more unusual items. Beamish Pit Village.

Leaving the fantasy modeller aside, for they are a rare species for whom effect must be everything, it appeared to me that the best people to approach for a view on the importance of effect would be the producers of resin models for the giftware market. Many years ago I did write to the makers of the well known Lilliput Lane range. My recollection of their reply was that they considered effect above all. That scale did not really feature in their modelling. They were, in their time, immensely popular but are no more. Though lots of collections still appear at auction houses - at prices which must seem ridiculously low to those collectors who bought them new at retail prices. They are still good examples of the breed.

But it is not really fair to ignore the fantasy modeller. This example is a 28mm scale cottage (with optional bakery add-on of a wood pile & outdoor oven) recently caught my eye. It is a design by Black Scroll Games. It is part of their City of Tarok range designed for Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder and Other DnD Like TableTop Games.

If that sounds disparaging it is not meant to be. I am not into D&D, and their like, and I suspect few of my readers are. But my concern is with the building models. I haven't seen any of this range in the flesh. Buying examples of everything I see on the web is beyond me, nor do I have house room for all the models I would like. But these models look nice and the comments from buyers are very favourable.

What I had not realised immediatly is that Black Scroll Games are not your regular model supplier. They provide downloadable files which the buyer can then use to 3D print the models. I had not realised (being an old guy) how many modelling enthusiasts there were out there with a 3D printer.

The Black Scroll site allows you to download the file for a simple cottage FOC. Or go to the top of the range $19.99 file of their roadside inn. If I had a 3D printer I would certainly be tempted.

But I am straying away from the scale or effect question. There is no doubt that in the fantasy gaming world effect is (almost) all. Since there are no prototypes there can be no scale models - just fantastic creations anchored, to a greater or lesser extent, in one or more periods of history. The buildings have to be judged on their own merits and the modelling on its own quality - not on accuracy. I say effect is 'almost' all but I guess that even in fantasies the doors have to be linked in size to the creatures inhabiting the buildings - but in a world of dwarves and giants and shape-shifters this is not much of a constraint.

As always, e-mail Miniature Buildings at if you have something to add.  Comments, criticisms, errors you have spotted, extra thoughts, pictures, or even complete articles for inclusion in the Miniature Buildings site are all welcome.  Or if you would like to be added to my mailing list to hear when a new article is published.

On this particular subject contributions, on all sides of the discussion, would be especially welcome. It is the kind of issue where the differences make the topic interesting.

November 2019
updated August 2021