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N-Scale Build of Christmas Village

My venture into scratch building took an exciting change last month with an order for six buildings and with the craftsman style buildings I envisioned, that should take until the end of the year. Wrong! My client wanted a “Christmas Village”, the kind you’d find on a mantle.

I had primarily been building kit-based structures for display in my bedroom/office and for sale on my website,

Instead of two months, she (actually, my Visiting Nurse) wanted it complete in two weeks. Ms. VN has turned out to be a very good friend to both me and my wife and during one of her visits to change a wound bandage, noticed by miniature structure obsession and rendered the appropriate ooohs and aahs.

Now it has turned into a serious, growing project. It started out with two or three houses and is now up to eight buildings with four of them personalized with family names. Thankfully, she has added a week or two to the deadline. .

This Christmas Village project has taken on a life of its own and I have been devoting most of my working hours to scratch building and kit bashing and have four ready to go. There is a lot more to the process than you might expect.

The client furnished me with ideas for subject buildings and I start from there.

1. Research a given building through Google Images to come up with a subject with multiple viewing angles.
2. Estimate building dimensions by extrapolating known window or door sizes.
3. Here is a key step; I enter the resulting building dimensions into the program “Model Builder” from Evan Designs. This allows me to come up with a set of wall layouts (including window and door placement) to scale to work from. I add lines to one set which lays out the wall framing.
4. Using scale timbers from Northeastern or Kappler, I erect a set of framed walls to the scale desired. They actually closely resemble real life contractor framing; only I use glue where they use nails.
5. I like to let the framework dry three or four hours. In a project like this I tend to work on two or three buildings at the same time to occupy the drying time.

This is a search engine image of a Blair Lines model which combines all four views into two photos.

To get a rough idea of the dimensions of such a building, I started with a couple of known values. In this case, the personel door on the shed. This needs to match one of my stock N Scale personnel doors, 2.5 feet in width which can be used to deduce the heighth and width of walls for a general general store.

With these simple dimensions, I open up my Model Builder program which I use to generate a make-shift set of plans for the country store. It allows me to create a printable plan with overlaid wall studs to work from in scratch building.

Putting this working plan under glass on my modeling desk allows me to frame the basic walls in miniature.

This is as good a place as any to take a break, get a cup of coffee before we introduce the biggest refinement going for N Scale scratch building.

After Your Break