The Ice House – Part 1

When planning a layout I first start by conjuring up individual scenes, these then piece together to form an overall layout plan over quite a period of time.  One such scene I’ve always had in mind for the new layout is an ice house.  The inspiration first came after seeing photos of this building at Portree, and then from seeing it in real life.

Portree ice house, used to store ice gathered from lochs during the winter to supply the fishing industry with ice for keeping produce cool.

The model of this building I’m making is by no means a scale model, but is meant to capture the feeling of the original.

A while ago I came across the techniques of Emmanuel Nouaillier, the structures he produces are about the most realistic I’ve seen and full of bags of atmosphere.  Seeing these really inspired me to have a go at some new techniques.

I first produced a drawing of the building, not having any dimensions I just assumed the doorway would be approximately 6′ tall and worked from there to make the other dimensions look ‘right’ relative to that.  The basic shell of the ice house was then cut from foamboard, I bought mine in Hobbycraft.

The basic shell of the ice house made from foamboard and assembled using 'gorilla glue'.

The next stage was to spray the building with hairspray to seal it slightly and avoid the moisture in the next stage from effecting it too much.  The very slight texture and tackyness created by the hairspray also provides something for the plaster used in the next stage to key into.

The tools and materials used. Some oil paint spatulas, some Ronseal 'Smooth Finish Filler'. and a scalpel.

The plaster is squeezed out onto the surface of the building in strips and spread out using the spatulas until it gradually becomes smooth.  At this point it may help to wet the spatulas slightly to aid spreading.

The plaster as squeezed out of the tube (right), and after the first pass of spreading with the spatulas (left).

Gradual application of more plaster and smoothing it off with the spatulas and water will result in a smooth-ish finish.

The, now, smoother plaster after use of the spatulas.

I’m not too bothered about the plaster being perfectly smooth.  I would be if I were modelling a brick building, but as the ice house is to be stone some natural unevenness is to be expected.

The coat of plaster applied to all sides of the building. I've yet to put the roof on, but I want the stones to cover all of the walls and it's easier to get to the whole surface without the roof in place.

And that’s as far as I have gotten for the moment.  When the plaster has dried I will be sanding it gently to smooth out some of the rougher areas, and then drawing on in pencil the stone blocks.  This will make carving them out with a scalpel blade really easy.

So far I’ve found this really therapeutic.  I’m particularly looking forward to applying Emmanuel’s techniques for making timber doors which look rather work worn, as well as the roof and some signage too.  The other advantage of this technique is that you can peel off the top layer of card on the foamboard basis and carve brick or stones into that, the plaster can then be placed around this to imply a rendered building where the render has started to spall away and reveal it’s walls.  I’m also looking forward to trying this on some other buildings.  The ice house is comparatively simple to get me started.

More on the construction of the ice house will follow when the building has progressed.

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2 Responses to The Ice House – Part 1

  1. Andy in Germany says:

    How far does that building go into the hill?

    • Tom says:

      The foot of the hill actually comes to the front of the building, so the lower parts are fully surrounded. At the top around 2/3 of the structure will be hidden, so I’m not going to go to too much trouble carving those bits, I just wanted something that would look uniform thickness along the sides as you’ll be able to see around it down a slight gap between the building and the rock face.

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