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Chateau du Clos de Vougeot

For the first time, I decided to try my hand at making up a souvenir card model. The Chateau du Clos de Vougeot in Burgundy produced by Editions L'├Źnstant Durable in 2010. It has been sitting in the drawer untouched since we were there in 2017.

It looks and feels lovely. The printing is crisp and bright and detailed. The card feels to be good quality and the die cutting of the component pieces is superb. Nothing has to be cut out. The pieces just pop out of the single A4 sheet. Just a handful of little stubs. Though, to be honest I did help the process with my craft knife just a little. Some of the stiffer stubs might have popped loose with a bit more twisting but... better safe... The lines which have to be scored and bent are highlighted on the back of the sheet.

It does not quote a scale but based on the 5mm high doorways it is around 1/400. So, quite small. It cost me 4 euros. Which feels like a good price.

It is a slow job. Each score line has to be made and bent before anything else can be done. Just one of the pieces has 22 score lines. They are not all that complex. Some have only 7 or 8! There are 15 pieces altogether. I may be some time. On with the close-up glasses. Regular reading glasses are not enough

The instructions are minimalist. An icon says no scissors are necessary - which is true - but the text says simply "First prepare the folds - fold back" or forward according to the colour of the tab. Even with a straight edge to help I do not think the folding can be done neatly without a light scoring cut.

My tool of choice for this is a pair of rigid chisel edged knives that came as part of a budget carving set from one of the big DIY chains. I say a pair because there is one with the angled edge on the left and one with it on the right. The chisel edged style means that the knife has one flat face and one angled face. Which I find better than the regular craft knife with two angled faces. Easier to keep sharpened too.

The scoring and bending of the tabs is complete at last

The scoring and bending of the tabs is complete at last

It is time to assemble the pieces. Two things are clear. One is cosmetic - and a bit fussy. Some of the bare edges of the printed pieces will be visible after assembly. I am fairly sure it is going to be better to colour them before these 35mm high building sections are put together.

The second issue is more structural. The card may be high quality but it is quite flimsy. This thing certainly needs a base, and (IMHO!) really needs some stiffening on the inside to make sure that right angles are true and that staight lines stay straight.

Fig 1: With coloured edges and a strengthening card piece glued to one of the tabs

With coloured edges and a strengthening card piece glued to one of the tabs

So assembly is on hold for now. It is not a quick job. You will gather that I am writing this in real time as I work. The bare card edges were coloured with a felt tip pen from the grandchildren's craft box. The base, at least to start with is just a sheet of cardboard. An old document envelope.

There seem to be a lot of pieces that are all going to have to be glued together at the same time. I'm unsure how this is going to work. My first thought was to start by taping down a couple of pieces on the base marked with a pre-drawn right angle. But this did not help at all.

My next effort, on assembling block 1, made use of a piece of thicker scrap card cut to the width of the building. I began by gluing this to one of the base tabs as shown at the bottom of Fig.1 .


Then I folded in the end wall and went to glue the tabs supporting the roof and the tab connecting the end wall to the side wall. Which highlighted two things. First how fiddly it is. My finger only just fits inside the building to press on the joint. Having the roof and the walls and the roof on a single piece of card makes for complex folds and tricky gluing. As shown in Fig.2 my scoring and folding wasn't quite good enough and a small strip of blue construction tab is visible between the wall and the roof. Securing the end of the building (shown with the number 1 on it) required 4 tabs to be glued simultaneously.

Secondly, and much more significantly, my off-piste addition of strengthening card at the bottom of the walls meant that the tab connecting the end wall to the side wall -the blue tab at the bottom right of Fig.1- no longer fitted. The thickness of the strengthening card obstructs it and a small piece (just 2 or 3mm wide) needs to be cut off.

Similar adaptations are now going to have to be made at multiple points along the rest of the way. The price of trying to improve on somebody else's design.

Fig.3 : Section 3, the tower, with my infill piece.

Once that was done the second wall tab could then be glued underneath the strengthening card, both as highlighted in Fig.2 .

The same process worked on the similar second section but section 3 is a small tower, 11mm square. I am afraid I simply cannot get it properly square. It has a tendency to swivel into a diamond shape. I am coming already to a conclusion that card (at least the printed surface card) is not an adequate construction medium. That it needs a sub-structure over which the fine printed surface textures can go.

Rather than spending more time cutting and scoring and bending a second inner layer of heavier card I am going to go for a solid block inside it. While the outer dimmension of the tower is 11mm (or a fraction more) the inner dimension has of course to allow for two thicknesses of card. I did not have a little bit of wood exactly the right size of course so I packed it out with card. Now it assembles better to my mind.

I am less than 20% through this project and already I am wondering if it is actually worth all the effort. How many of these lovely little model packs actually make it to becoming a fully finished model the buyer (or gift recipient) wants to display? I have my doubts.

Fig.4 : Sections 1 ,3 and 2

At last I can move on to putting the first three sections together. Yet again, I am learning the lesson that making adjustments to the model as supplied has a cost. The yellow and blue tabs on the right hand end of section 1 (the section on the left in Fig.4) have to go inside the walls of section 2 (the building on the right). But I have put in a strengthening section at ground floor level. So I cannot get my fingers or a tool into building 2 to hold the tabs and hold the glued sections together. I'm using Pritt Power Glue which grabs and holds pretty fast but it still needs holding for a short while. The only solution I could see was to bend the tabs really hard back so that they spring themselves in the direction I want as they are put in place.

The first three sections joined up

The first three sections joined up

But it doesn't work. The two pieces of card to be joined have to be pressed together. The springing into place idea is not enough. Next step, try super-glue. Which seems to have worked. Actually it took two goes to get right. Right enough at least. As good as I am going to get it. It is still a little bit wonky!

No doubt the designer and manufacturer would tell me that their kit doesn't need the extra bits I've added and that I am just making my life unnecessarily difficult. I'm not persuaded. As I said earlier I just do not think that a single layer of thin card is enough to give structural strength and the correct shape and that structure is needed below the surface texture. I would much prefer the walls and the roof to be separate components. Not just to make construction easier but to allow that little overhang of roof at the top of walls. Even in a small scale like this model (where the overhang might scale to only 1/2 a millimetre) I think it is worth doing to get the sense of there being an edge rather than a bend. In anything bigger I think it is essential.

More broadly, I am quite convinced that card, or paper, is a useful component in model buildings. At this scale anything other than a printed wall or roof texture is unlikely to work as well. But it should not be the only element. If wood for strength or plastic or metal for precision gives a better result then use it. Vegetarianism I can understand as a point of principle but Paperism does not seem to me to have any moral dimension.

There are plus points though. As you might gather from the pictures, I can make this model sitting at the dining room table. Which is nicer and more sociable. I do not have to go upstairs and sit alone at my workbench. I had to do it only briefly to cut the little wooden section to strengthen the tower.

The dormers. Oh Dear!

That is all I am going to do on it for now. I may come back to it. Or I may never bother. Partly because it is so fiddly.

The dormers. Oh Dear!

But the real reason is the dormer windows. You can either leave them lying flush with the roof - like the one nearest the tower. Which is clearly wrong but is neat and tidy. Or you can press them out, as the designer clearly intended as they are all pre cut. Which looks incomplete and, to my eyes at least, frankly silly. It is therefore never something I am going to be proud to display in my cabinet.

There is lots to like about this model. But... I'm sorry, Editions L'├Źnstant Durable. I think this a fatal flaw.

Reims cathedral. I'm impressed.

Reims cathedral. I'm impressed.

Afterword: I wrote this article without researching the company or having any preconceptions about them. It turns out they were a very serious outfit producing a wide range of models of big subjects that ( made by the right person)look fantastic. An image search will show you lots of amazing pictures. But in the end it came to nothing. They went into liquidation in 2016.

As always, write to  Miniature Buildings if you have something to add.

David, 6 January 2020