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Up and Down the Scales

A Bryan Frost model. But what scale?

A Bryan Frost model. But what scale?

Writing an article on scales for modellers seems rather like teaching grandmother to suck eggs (have you ever seen your grandmother suck an egg incidentally? - mine never did). Nevertheless an introduction to what other modellers may be working in seems a worthwhile piece to write for a site seeking to cross traditional boundaries.

Scales are expressed in a variety of different ways.  A particularly confusing area is in railway modelling, where scale and gauge are loosely used interchangeably. This creates a nightmare, especially for newcomers. The “G gauge – scale” issue is particularly complex but the OO/HO/4mm argument runs it a close race.

But let us begin with some work that cannot be described as miniature. But certainly counts as modelling as they involve the creation of artificial representations of buildings.

2/1  For small people  From time to time film-set  modellers will make 'models' of buildings larger then the real thing (not necessarily 2/1) in order to give the impression that actors are smaller than they really are. Think Hobbits or Borrowers.

1/1 The world of film and stage set designers.    Not modelling by normal standards  but I mention it just for completeness since modelling is about creating illusion.

Michael Landy's "Semi Detached"

Michael Landy's "Semi Detached"

Mention has also to be made here of Michael Landy's "Semi Detached"  exhibited as a work of sculpture at the Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries in 2004.  Although giving the outward appearance of a real house, and using some real materials, it was just as much an artificial construction as smaller scale work. 

Take a look at the video of the construction of the exhibit at  The Tate Gallery .  Keep an eye out for the flexible sheet of roof tiles and the artistic weathering achieved without the help of a real bird.

Michael Landy's work is described as art (because it appears in a gallery?) but similar objects appear outside the world of 'art'. This example appears as a piece of shopfitting in a Rotterdam shopping centre specialising in home furnishings.

[Picture to follow!]

While helping out with the set-build for an amateur dramatics show a few years ago I was shown some wonderful full scale plastic sheet reproductions of brick, tile, stonework etc  - which I think were sold by Pinewood studios.  A topic for another day maybe.

Although they are certainly not to be described as miniatures we could also mention here the world of preservation villages - museums such as Beamish or Weald and Downland, if only as sources of ideas for models.

What a playhouse!

1/2 Half sized. We are probably talking grand garden playhouses here.  If you have the land and the children and the money to buy the skills, then why not. A regular door is around 2 metres high, with exterior doors often a little bigger, to allow for most adults, other than 2nd row forwards, to get through. So 1/2 scale is 1 metre. Which is actually a bit small. The average child hits the one metre mark during their fourth year. by the time they are eight (by which time they are done with a playhouse?) they are around 1.28 metres. (These figures from the first web page I found with no great scientific research!) So a really serious playhouse might actually be 1/1.5 sized.

What a playhouse!

I did once see a newspaper article about a boy who recreated the Sistine Chapel in a garden shed but I neglected to keep it. Which seems a shame now.  That may not have exactly 1/2 either.

The college campus at Missouri S&T, in the USA, has built a half-size recreation of Stonehenge in their grounds.  However, by most accounts, it's not terribly good as a model .   A has been made a bit too neatly, with machine cut blocks rather than rough hewn stone.

1/6th Almost unheard of except by toy makers. If you want to make a room for your daughter’s 12” Barbie or Sindy dolls or a bunker for your son's Action Man then you will be working in this huge scale.  You are probably on your own since I’m not aware of any commercial materials designed for this scale except a limited range from US firm Houseworks and some components from Real Good Toys - who no longer supply house kits.

They refer to the scale as "Playscale" and claim it as a registered trademark - though it sounds a bit descriptive as a mark.  If this is your enthusiasm feel free to correct me by e-mailing Miniature buildings. .  It could be an interesting project allowing reproduction of every detail from full size originals.  A complete house at this scale is, I assume, out of the question in most family houses but in kind climates you might be able to build one in the garden? 

I have probably upset some military modellers with my reference to toys as there are ranges of figures in this scale clearly designed for adult collectors - but they are not probably not reading this so let's leave them to their particular pleasure.

Bourton Model Village,,opened 1937

Bourton Model Village,opened 1937

1/9th   As esoteric a scale as you can get.  I include it only so I can mention the lovely stone built model village in the garden of the New Inn at Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire.  Building in stone involves a dedication and commitment most of us can only dream of.  More information. This is one locaton I do actually know first hand as my late parents used to live in the village and we would walk with my daughters past it on the way into the real village. I believe I'm right in saying that the model of the Old New Inn has in its garden a model of the model.

1/10th Another scale used by model villages and Miniature parks. One of the older examples is Godshill Model Village on the Isle of Wight.  


It is time, and at last you may say, to move on to the first of the regular modelling scales.

1/12th The mainstream dolls house scale.

A classic example of a
grand dolls house

A classic example of a
grand dolls house

Also known as 1” scale (i.e. 1” = 1ft). A walk around any dolls house fair or shop says to me that many (most?) enthusiasts consider the dolls house to be little more than a blank canvas for the display of miniature artifacts (often without any dolls in sight!).  What this means, for the building enthusiast, is that too many of the houses displayed and illustrated are little more than cupboards with serious lapses in scale sizing.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of suppliers of materials designed for this scale and at least two hard copy magazines in the UK.

For most buildings enthusiasts the size of buildings in this scale makes any sort of collection a practical impossibility within modern houses. Even a modest double fronted house model is going to be around 3 feet wide and 18inches deep. How many of those can you get into one room?

1/12th is also the scale used for some well known outdoor model villages in the UK such as Bekonscot at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and Babbacombe in Devon. All of which are (or will be) featured in the article Parks and Villages.

A Furnished interior, believed
to be by Natasha Beshenkovsky

A Furnished interior, believed
to be by Natasha Beshenkovsky

There is a lot of really high quality work in the making and fitting out of Dolls Houses (and, it has to be said, a great heap of out-of-scale tat).  Certainly at this scale it is necessary to spend time on interior fittings such as staircases and kitchens. 

A few years ago I was almost diverted from buildings into miniature furniture - lured by the soothing challenge of producing a mirror finish on tiny tabletops.  There is a clear overlap of enthusiasm here and from time to occasional time Miniature Buildings may allow itself a brief diversion into the fitting out and furnishing of its models but be assured I will not be writing about scale needlepoint or the construction of miniature fruit baskets from Fimo.

1:13.7  Trains ( Two-Foot Gauge on Gauge 1 Track) aka 7/8" Scale. How obscure is it possible to get?

1/16th A rather old fashioned dolls house scale used for some of the commercially produced dolls houses in the forties and fifties. The only supplier I know of who still caters for it is Hobbies.  However the following text from 'thesprucecrafts.com' provides a bit more detail:

"1:16 dolls house scale (sometimes called 3/4 scale) was a common scale for play dolls houses from the 1930s to 1950s and has now been revived by the Brinca Dada toy company for their new range of modern dolls house toys. ..... Collectible houses and furniture in this scale include pieces from Tri-ang (a British Manufacturer), Marx (Little Hostess, Amanda Ann) and Petite Princess (by Ideal, marketed in the US)."

1/18th Again according to thesprucecrafts.com :

"Lundby dolls houses made in Sweden, are made in [this]scale ...., sometimes called 2/3 scale".

1/19th One of my favourite suppliers, the late Richard Stacey, offered miniature bricks and tiles in this scale for Garden railway enthusiasts. His business continues as Stacey's Miniature Masonry at www.miniaturebricks.com

Joshua and one of his pieces

1/20th   Originally included just for Corfe model village in Dorset.

But I have recently discovered the stunning work of Australian artist Joshua Smith. His works are said to "capture the layered existences of urban environments in cities such as Hong Kong, Sydney, and Los Angeles,[showcasing] the details and detritus left by the diverse population of each city, bringing in elements of the city’s workers, inhabitants, and street artists. These marks can be seen through elements such as heavily graffitied exteriors".

If you know of others using this scale please do write in and tell us.

Joshua and one of his pieces;

Which brings us to G scale. Garden railway scale. I have no experience of this particular scale. One of the surprises is the range of scales around this point with little clear standardisation. G scale appears to be simply a generic for all the variants from 1:20.3 up to 1:29. and 16mm to the foot.

From DKL Garden Railway Buildings

Construction of a building robust enough to stand in the garden is a rather different discipline to most other modelling techniques. Unless you are a precision addict I guess you will probably choose to make buildings at 1/24th (imperial people) or 1/25th (metric types). For more on this  take a look at "In praise of 1/24th".

From DKL Garden Railway Buildings

The following explanation of the G gauge or scale question is a short extract from the website of Scale Rules, a supplier of a wide range of scale rulers and cards. So now you know.

First a word, taken from a more specialist web site run by ......about the difference between Gauge and Scale.  Gauge refers to, and only refers to, the inside distance between the two rails of the track.  Even though in real world measurement the inside measurement of “G” track is 45mm, when measured in different scales, the gauge is different! The same real world 45mm in 1:22.5 is 39.37 inches or one meter. In 1:20.3 it measures out to 36 inches. And in 1:32 it measures out to 4 ft 8.5 in.    And as a model buildings enthusiast you probably don't need to know any more than that .

But, just for the record here is a fuller description from the railway guys.

"When you're asked what scale do you run, do you answer, "G-gauge".  What G-gauge? The problem with the term G-gauge is that, in reality there is no such thing!  It refers to the Number 1 gauge track. The oldest existing gauge track in existence.

Originally "G-gauge" meant LGB. LGB selected Number 1 gauge as the track width, which is 45mm, for their "narrow gauge" Garden Trains. Number 1 gauge track was around before the turn of the century and readily available.

They then selected European O Scale (1:45) and doubled the scale of the locomotives and rolling stock. This made the scale 1:22.5. In doing so they now had a fairly realistic representation of a one meter narrow gauge in Europe. For years they were the standard in "narrow gauge" garden trains. Therefore, LGB is in 1:22.5 SCALE as are Bachmann models. Aristo-Craft and USA Trains are in 1:29 SCALE, Aster and Row & Company are in 1:32 SCALE. They build standard gauge locomotives and rolling stock. There are also a few specialty manufactures that make a 1:20.3 SCALE, a true three-foot narrow gauge, rolling stock.

But, they all use the same 45mm track or Number 1 gauge ("G-gauge")!"

Since there is such a range of scales I suspect that there is a great deal of fudging when buying or constructing trackside buildings and that in practice 1/24th is often seen as close enough to the majority 1/22.5 scale trains and a tolerable deviation from 1/29th especially if railways are your passion rather than buildings.

1:20.3. Trains (True Three-Foot Gauge on Gauge 1 Track) . Another obscure (American?) scale

1:22.5 Probably the most common of the G scale trains, as used by the major American manufacturers LGB, Bachmann and USA Trains.

Playmobil's own Western Bank

Playmobil  I mention Playmobil figures not because it is a scale but because my first dolls house build (intended for play by my daughters) was designed to acommodate  them. 

The German based Playmobil company do of course also sell their own range of toy buildings. Houses, schools, surgeries, castles, and a western street.


Playmobil's own Western Bank

A Custom Creation

Of more interest in a site like this is the work of those who take Playmobil components and customise them to produce individual creations. Some go further and create new pieces in the distinctive style. The most striking example of this seems to be the work of the French craftsman behind the Playmobil Custom Creations site. This picture is of his Gothic Cathedral model which goes way beyond the limits that marketability imposes on Playmobil itself.

A Custom Creation

The standard Playmobil figure is 75mm high and (at least according to Wikipedia) this makes them 1/24th scale.  Since 75mm x 24 equals 1.8 metres/5 feet 11 inches that is a fairly tall man.  If you start with  5 feet 8 inches it equates to 1/23rd.  And, they are wider than a true scale model.  To allow for this, I ended up building at 1/20 which seemed to work/play better. 
You might also like to look at the article Scale or effect? 

1/24th (aka ½” scale i.e. ½” =1ft). One of my personal favourites. When I first started writing this article, many years ago, I wrote that it was an up and coming dolls house scale. I suspect it never quite found the popularity I expected it to. But I remain strongly of the view that it has many advantages over the more common 1/12th scale.  See the full article "In praise of 1/24th" for more on this.

1/24th fits somewhere in the middle of the G scale railway spectrum.  And at least one model village can be found in this scale at Clonakilty in Ireland. 

 

Just one of the palaces at Madurodam
            and a reproducton of Basle Cathedral at Swiss Miniatur

Just one of the palaces at Madurodam

and a reproduction of Basle Cathedral
at Swiss Miniatur

1/25th Used for some professional architectural models.  In metric Europe, it appears, for model villages and grander 'miniature parks' - see for example the fantastic Swiss Miniatur in Melide near Lugano and Madurodam in Den Haag, The Netherlands. Could you tell the difference by eye from a 1/24th model? Does anyone except the maker care?

1/29th More trains (Aristo-Craft models, standard gauge on #1 gauge). Another of the G scale variants !

1/30th Included in this list just to enable this link showing a Viking film set. This fascinating and different 1:30 scale model of the Viking village of Birka was made by model builders from Swedish Television to form the set for a film it was making. Working from the archeologists' maps and sketches, the designers built the model in sections so it could be moved into a film studio. All told, the model took six to eight months to complete. It is now housed in the Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. And is on my bucket list for a visit.

Part of the Birka model

1/32nd – Popularised many decades ago by 'Britains' figures, and hence a common scale for models and toys of farms, castles and military subjects. For more modern and less toylike examples, see for example the resin pieces available from 'King n Country'.  or the Wild West town illustrated in Toy Hero .

Hopelessly not to scale!

It’s also easy of course to work out on a traditional imperial ruler.   At least one, indoor, model village, Beech End, at Leyburn in Wensleydale, Yorkshire  works in this scale.   It is also the end of the range covered by G scale.

54mm – a standard size for military figures - particularly serious metal castings. If 54mm = a 6ft soldier then the scale is just under 1/34th. If it is meant to represent 5’10” it is just under 1/33rd and at 5’8” is just under 1/32nd. Since there is no governing body defining these things, I guess it means what the manufacturer wants it to mean. Though According to the Britains website they set the standard at 54mm and 1/32 early in the 20th century. Whether this was truly their initiatibbe or if they were following another's lead I have no idea.

Just a backdrop to the
modeller's primary enthusiasm!

Just a backdrop to the
modeller's primary enthusiasm!

The military scales (1/32nd , 1/35th and 54mm) are featured in a separate article In Praise of 1/32 . In my, limited, exoerience build in the larger scales involves some modelmaking but also some full size carpentry work.

But at 1/32 we get to the crossover where the work can mostly be done at the modelling table rather than in the shed. A 6 or 8 metre house frontage in 1/32 is around the width of an A4 sheet. Card or Foamboard or Plastikard become a possibility. A 9 inch brick wall is around 7mm thick. ( Don't you love muddling up imperial and metric like this?). Though maybe the carcassing for the walls is still better done in Ply or MDF.

A 1/35th brick wall kit from Tamiya used to good effect. Showing a level of detail sometimes missing from complete buildings!

The availability of figures of this size also makes it an attrctive size for those who want to poulate their buildings. I have long been surprised that it hasn't been adopted as a hot scale in the world of dolls houses. It could lead to a much needed bridge between those who express their hobby as making models (typically men?) and those who identify themselves as miniaturists (typically women?). If Miniature Buildings can help to break down some of this gender stereotyping then so much the better.

A 1/35th brick wall kit from Tamiya used to
good effect. Showing a level of detail sometimes
missing from complete buildings

1/33?   - ( i.e.3 in a 100)   I am unaware of any commercial  production using this scale but it is an easy scale to use in practice as a shortcut for 1/32 , 1/35  54mm and 9mm

9mm    9mm = 1ft ; (=1/34th) Dare I say, an elitist model railway scale. Since it is all about accurately scaled engines it is not likely to be the chosen scale for many reading Miniature Buildings but it fits squarely in the middle of the military scales so there is maybe some scope for some crossover of materials.

1/35th – A military modellers scale dominated by Tamiya and other Japanese figure and military armour manufacturers. There is at least some scenic and building material available.  Given the desructive nature of warfare through the generations military modelling inevitably features lots of ruins! Which are I think more demanding subjects than the nice neat shapes that new buildings come in.

LegoMinifigs  Included for the same reason as the item on Playmobil - as a parent or grandparent you may wish to construct buildings to accomodate them.  They are 39mm high, which for a 5'9" person amounts to 1/45th scale,for 5'6" to 1/43.  So broadly the same as O scale (below).

1/43rd    A big scale in the model car world.  Just as some people build model stables to house their collection of model horses I guess there are opportunities for garages and backdrops in this environment

JAlternatives

O gauge/scale - Once upon a time it was an important model railway scale but it seems too big for most these days.  According to  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_scale  it  has covered a variety of scales including 1/43 , 1/45 and 1/48 but has ended up meaning 1/43 in the UK and 1/48 in the US.  Strict 7mm to the foot = 1/43.5 !!!

1/48th - A dolls house and minituarists scale, rather more popular in the US than in the UK.  As more information is supplied by you the reader we can surely add more to this entry.

Alternatives

1/50th Sometimes used by professional architectural modellers, enamoured as they are with metric scales.  

1/56th This is said, by some, to be the scale of 28mm wargame figures. And where there are wargames figures there are buildings to go with them. Like this cast resin Eastern Front Log cabin with turf roof from Telfer Model Design of Ayr in Scotland. But 28mm is a figure size from the world of fantasy gaming (Warhammer and the like) and for at least some of the manufacturers all their models are 28mm rathe than the notional 'actual' size of the fictional prototypes. And to complicate things some people easure 28mm to the top of the head and some to the eyline. If you care (and to be brutally honest I don't really) you might like to read the explanation on the Alkony site.

1/64th Described in one article as S scale – a seriously minority railway scale which I had not heard of before.     Also lots of model cars

20mm See 25mm below

1/72nd The scale many of us, of a certain age, associate with Airfix kits.
1" = 6'.  Nice and simple if you are comfortable with imperial measures.

description
Although Wills' White Horse Inn is sold as a kit it is only a whisker away from scratch building using plasticard components!

1/76th / OO / 4mm     1/76th is as close as you can get to 4mm scale. 4mm = 1 ft which equals 1/76.1975 (whoever dreamt up this astonishing hybrid between imperial and metric measurement?).  OO Railway modellers have got themselves into a bit of a twist about scales because of the conflict between the requirements of miniature engineering and train operation and the desire to be in scale on the other.  As I understand it OO scale uses 4mm (1/76th) models and scenery on and around 1/87th scale track while 4mm uses the same 1/76th scale for track as well.

Although Wills' White Horse Inn is sold as a kit it is only a whisker away from scratch building using plasticard components!

By Chris Nevard for John de Freyssinet's
009 layout 'County Gate'.

Another variant is identified by its enthusiasts as "009". This involves the use of 9mm gauge track with 4mm scale buildings to feature narrow gauge railways. A bit esoteric but my reason for mentioning it is just to enable me to include this lovely picture by Chris Nevard of 4mm scale building. A model which, for some reason, has captured my imagination for many years. I guess it is what I aspire to do but have never (yet?) managed.

By Chris Nevard for John de Freyssinet's
009 layout 'County Gate'.

description
Village school from Scalescenes

But enough about railways; our interest is buildings. Fortunately if you're just a model buildings builder you can forget all that gauge and track stuff.  Some of the finest quality models you will ever see are in this group of scales. Which are explored in more depth in a separate article.

As a model builder one of the delights of this scale for me is the superb quality Wills kits (like the one above)and building materials.  Or if you are a card builder the wonderful offerings from Scalescenes and others.

Village school from Scalescenes

25mm, 1", 20mm, HO/OO A variety of scales of uncertain accuracy used by model soldier and wargaming enthusiasts covering a range of around 1/60th to 1/90th. For the model builder the most interesting seems to be 25mm - which for a 5'10" soldier is around 1/70th. This has ended up as the principal wargaming scale. It came as something of a surprise to me while researching this article how much scenery and how many buildings were on offer at this scale.   I will return to this

3mm i.e 3mm=1ft. A model railway scale for a tiny minority of enthusiasts. I don't even know if there are any commercial building products or whether they have to scratch build everything. 

1/87th / HO The other resolution of the railway scale dilemma. Track, trains and scenery are all at the same scale. It's just that it is such a strange and hard to envisage scale.  It has never seemed to me (“in my humble opinion”) a particularly useful or sensible scale.  Nevertheless there is a great deal of commercial material about thanks to the demands of scenic railway modellers - though not a lot of UK style buildings due to the traditional English attachment to OO.  There is certainly a lot of Continental and American railways UK stuff. If you want to build models of Alpine chalets then you will already have the Faller and Preiser catalogues.  For some nice looking industrial buildings take a look at the Dutch firm Artitec.  If you want to model groups of buildings or entire villages then you are likely to be working at or around this HO scale. For me and many others the highpoint of this is represented by the Pendon project (of which more later) .

Lilliput Lane The biggest UK brand name in resin cottages and other picturesque resin models, but scale is not something you will see on their literature. Scale appears to be around 1/90 or 1/100 for the cottages and other smaller buildings although they appear not to make any attempt to stick to a regular scale across their range.

1:96 ; 1/8" to 1 foot Said by one source to be used for Architecture, Ships and Space Vehicles but not one you will see much of.

1/144_loghouse
1/144 loghouse from NESM using laser cut wood with plastic doors and windows

1/100th A scale used by logical metric people , usually professional modellers

1/144th After an earlier version of this article, I got seriously told off by 1/144 enthusiasts for describing it as a quirky scale. Sorry to everyone I offended.

1/144 loghouse from NESM using laser cut wood with plastic doors and windows

It is sometimes used by dolls house modellers (and at least two commercial US suppliers) to produce a 1/12th dolls house model to go inside their 1/12th scale dolls house but is also a model buildings scale in its own right. The US firm New England Scale Models who made the illustrated building is no longer active regretably.  

1/144 work by Takashi Segawa of Tokyo,
who describes himself as a diorama artist
rather than a military modeller.

1/144 work by Takashi Segawa of Tokyo,
who describes himself as a diorama artist
rather than a military modeller.

The scale is also used for some ship and aircraft models but there is not much crossover to model buildings from either of those hobbies.   One correspondent suggested that that it was at one time a possibility for the smaller scale railways that ended up as N gauge. These days it seems the scale is used most by military modellers.

2mm Model railways again.  2mm to the foot = 1/152 which presumably makes it a variant of : 

N The second scale in the railway modelling world (if you count HO/OO/4mm as one). 1:160 ? I've often been attracted by some of the displayed layouts at this scale but actually building in it? A bit too small for my eyes these days. If this is your particular enthusiasm do please submit some pictures or an article.

Z scale model (discontinued) by Marklin

Z scale  1/220  There are a few people who make buildings this small to adorn their Z scale railway.  Actually there are more than I thought when I first started writing this article and if you are interested one site you might look at is Outland models.

Z scale model (discontinued) by Marklin

As the picture shows, it is possible to be a bit more ambitious in your choice of prototypes if a 50m frontage takes up just 23cm on your tabletop. The illustrated Marklin station is of the Anhalter terminus in Berlin.

T scale work by Ian Wigglesworth
using images downloaded from
Scalescenes and re-scaled


T Gauge , 1/450     I had never heard of T scale until I stumbled across this picture in the Scalescenes modellers gallery. It is a model railway scale with a track gauge of 3 mm, which is one third of N scale. It was, according to Wikipedia, introduced at the Tokyo Toy Show in 2006 by KK Eishindo of Japan, and went on sale in 2007 as the smallest commercial model train scale in the world. I am amazed that anyone can work at this size but there are clearly people who do. If you are intrigued you might take a look at Edinburgh based webshop Tgauge.com .

T scale work by Ian Wigglesworth using images downloaded from Scalescenes and re-scaled

Below this we are, I suggest, off the radar for the modelling of buildings as a hobby. Unless you want to share your miniature miniature interest with other readers? That said, there are certainly architectural and museum models illustrating whole towns or developments in some very small scales indeed though inevitably most of the buildings are just block shapes.  At some time in the future Miniature Buildings will try to take a structured look at this. In the meantime, you might take a look at the blog post Bronze Town.

If you do have any thoughts or additional information on any of the points in this article please do send them by e-mailing Miniature Buildings.   for inclusion in later issues.

David  
rewritten November 2019 (last updated 28/3/20)