How To Build a Model or Structure Six tips for better structures

Six tips for better structures

By Rene Schweitzer | May 22, 2023

Choose more durable paint, add texture to projects with metal foil, and more

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Six tips for better structures


Build better stair stringers

wood stair risers and steps
Bud Lutz photo

To build stairs with identical risers and steps, I cut a board, 1 x 2, or 1 x 4, into one wide stringer on my table saw with a dado blade set for 1/2″-wide cuts. You could also lay out the steps on the edge of the board and cut them with a band saw or even a hand saw. Once the wide stringer board is cut, I then rip my stringers to the thickness I will use and cut them to the length of stairway I am building. –Bud Lutz, Eagan, Minnesota

Add texture to projects with metal foil

pieces of metal foils with an assortment of tools nearby
Jerry Barnes photo

I use metal foils quite a bit to add textures to my projects. You can get the foils at craft stores. They need to be glued on with some 3M Super Trim Adhesive or Liquid Nails. Adhesive-backed metal duct tape is handy for lighter embossing. You can use anything for an embossing tool, as shown above, and special wood embossing tools are also available. –Jerry Barnes, Lexington, Nebraska

Durable paint for outdoor structures

Painting buildings for a garden railroad is an important chore, especially if you live in the Northeast (Cape Cod) like I do. I painted most of my outdoor structures with small containers of model paint, which I have found does not stand up to the elements very well and provides a poor selection of colors. I have started purchasing the little containers of sample paint sold in paint departments. It seems to be of better quality and there is a much wider variety of colors. When finished, I always over-spray all my buildings with Krylon clear matte or a flat-finish spray. –Ron Sgroi, South Chatham, Massachusetts

Avoid foggy windows

When gluing in windows, don’t use CA-type cements (aka, super glues). These will frost clear plastic. Instead, use Elmer’s Glue or Arlene’s Tacky Glue to hold your windows in place. Once the glue has dried, you can trim away excess with a #11 X-acto blade. –Michael Smith, Dania Beach, Florida

Create realistic asphalt highways

I have found the best way to make asphalt highways is to use a flat-black paint, then lightly sprinkle “Homax Tread-Tex” on the wet paint. When dry, I vacuum off the excess Tread-Tex and give it a second coat of paint. You would swear it’s asphalt. I buy Tread-Tex at Benjamin Moore stores; it’s an anti-skid product to mix with paint but I like my way of applying it better. I have tried sand but Tread-Tex is more uniform. –Jerry Jackson, Shoreline, Washington

Longer shelf life for paint

four bottles of paint upside down on shelf
Rene Schweitzer photo

We found a box of old model paint. I once read a tip in Model Railroader that paint should be stored upside down with three or four BBs in the bottle. I shook a bottle of Floquil Boxcar Red and heard the BBs rattling. The paint was still great. How old was it? According to the sticker, it was purchased at a hobby shop for 65¢! –Judy & Bob Huddleston, Northglenn, Colorado

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