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"
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
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
Weald and Downland,
if only as sources of ideas for models.
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
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
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
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
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
1/20th Originally included just for
Corfe model village
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
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.
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
1:22.5 Probably the most common of the G scale trains, as used by the
major American manufacturers LGB, Bachmann and USA Trains.
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
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
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
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
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!
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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'.
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
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.
1/100th 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.
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
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
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 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.
rewritten November 2019
(last updated 28/3/20)