Making Your Own Millpond Dam
From recycled Styrofoam Tray
The idea of raiding the trash to build an N-Scale mill dam at first seems kind of gross but it is a means to an end and in the case the end well justifies a little trash picking to recycle a Styrofoam meat or vegetable tray. Your wife probably throws away at least one per day.
I started with a pale green veggie tray cutting off all four sides to leave a flat bottom. We’re going to cube it into enough scale “stone blocks”. They will be individually placed and this same process can be used for a stone wall, a stone block tunnel portal or your own bridge supports. The end result is a lot more accurate looking then the resin castings that seldom fit the application you have in mind.
But with my trash-picked wall, I can lay as many “stones” as I want and easily create a span of 50, 100, even 200 feet. You can notch it for a pipe, build it around a rock escarpment or even build a standalone pier.
This process dates back to 2950-2975 B.C. (sorry, I couldn’t find a picture) when the Egyptians built the first dam 37 ft tall, 348 ft wide at the crest and 265 ft at the bottom. It was build as a gravity dam where the weight of the materials allows it to resist the water’s flow.
Unfortunately, our Styrofoam dam probably won’t resist much water (might even float away) if it gets really wet, but each stone block is individual and unique.
To get the right shapes, I turned to an old favorite website Brick Graph Paper Generator.
This graph paper resource gets plenty of use by me in my modeling. I print out a sheet anytime I need to align things vertically or horizontally. It is great for standardizing distances between holes (dock-piling modeling), you control the size and it is free.
You can set the size of the “bricks”, (mine are good-sized blocks) and they automatically print out as full blocks and half-sized blocks. It is really a simple process:
• Cut a piece of Styrofoam roughly the size of your dam or wall.
• Cut a piece of brick graph paper to match.
• Paste this to the Styrofoam with rubber cement.
• Paste a piece of cardboard to the other side.
• Line up a metal ruler along the horizontal lines and slice with a razor blade.
• Paint the strips with browns, greys, and cream-colored acrylic paints. Let dry.
• Peel away cardboard backing leaving the lined paper.
• Cut the strips into various width blocks using the vertical lines as guides.
• Peel the paper from a block and paste it against another piece of cardboard, alternating sizes and mixing colors, the more irregular the better.
• Work your way up the face of your dam, row on top of row. It helps to lay the base row and then run up one end to keep your work square.
• Touch up with paint, weathering materials and weed materials growing from crevices as appropriate. You’re done.
It seems like tedious work but it does go faster than the writing does.