Sunday, 19 November 2017

Card Building Model Tutorial

I had a few questions about how I’d built the Dave Graffam models so I figured I’d knock up a little tutorial.
Now nothing says suburbia than a man’s tool shed so I bought a new model and thought I’d give it a go.
One thing I really like about trying to create a war gaming table is to have lots of little bits of terrain for models to hide behind. When you walk around in everyday life it’s amazing to take a moment and see how cluttered the environment is. Recreating this on the table top is one of the things that I really enjoy.
So on with the build.
The first photo is of some of the tools I use.
Most of these are normal for any war gamer so just a few dot points on the more noteworthy items:
·        Screwdriver: When you cut out some of the foam board there can be residual foam. The screwdriver is great at either flattening it or scraping it off using the flat of the blade.
·        Knife: Use a new shape blade. It’ll go through foam core a lot better. If the blade is blunt the foam core won’t cut properly it’ll crush and rip rather than cut.
·        Glue: Normal cheap stick glue that kids use at school.
·        90 degree set square: You’ll need this later when cutting the base of the model.
The next photo shows the print outs of the model. It’s a relatively small model, just printed on 2 A4 sheets. Notice I’ve gone for the brick look, to give it a more modern feel.
The next step is to get them all cut out and glued onto either the foam board (for walls) or manila folder (for the roof structure).
Here we are with them all cut out.
This next picture shows one trick that I use. I use the newspaper as a base and go to town with the glue to make sure that all the edges are covered. This is one of the essential steps to make sure that the paper doesn’t de-laminate later on.
I usually start with the roof.
And then I get it under some weight and let it dry.
And then get the walls mounted onto the foam core.
Cutting it out is next. Take your time and get the lines as straight as you can. Normally it takes 2 to 3 cuts. Make the first one accurate and the second and the third will follow the first and complete the job.
It doesn’t take long. This model has a few more parts more than most but normally you’re only cutting out four walls.
Keep a few off cuts for bracing the roof.
Use one of the side walls as a template for the roof bracing.
A quick cut and then put them aside for the moment. Don’t worry that they are all a bit different. We’ll trim them up a bit later.
The foam core is 5mm thick. We need to take out 5mm of material from all floors and from two of the corners on two of the walls. I’ve chosen to take the corner cuts out of the long walls. 
First measure it up.
Then cut out the excess material. Now you might be feaking out that you’ll cut straight through the cardboard on the other side. Be a bit gentle and you’ll be right. Believe it or not I’ve probably made 20-30 buildings in this manner and I’ve never once cut through the cardboard when I haven’t meant too.
First make one accurate cut, then one a with a bit more force down through the foam onto the cardboard but not through it. Then pry the foam off the cardboard by sticking the knife between the two and pushing the excess material away.
Sometimes there is some foam left over. No drama. That’s where the screwdriver comes in. Either just flatten the excess foam or use the blade to dig it out a bit. Go gently and you’ve have no problems.
This next shot shows how I’ve cut down and I’m part way through pushing off the excess material. On longer cuts, I’ll need to just push off a bit at a time.
Now even though I’ve shown a few pictures of this it doesn’t take very long and before you know it you’ve got the lot done.
Cut out the base and you’re good to start gluing the structure together. Notice the old adage that your dad taught you about measuring twice and cutting once. Not once but twice during this build did I measure up bits wrong but both times by checking again before cutting I found my error.
A quick check just standing it all together to make sure that they sit right together and then glue it together using normal wood glue.
Glue on the little side shed (made the same way with a floor and the three walls but not back wall, obviously).
Cut out the little and big roof from the manila folder.
Then fold over the flaps and really really tightly crush the folds together (to reduce their want to come apart) and then glue them together and hold tight until the glue dries. Then glue the little roof to the side room.
Do the same for the main roof but this time also glue in the braces (which we’ve trimmed a bit now) and don’t glue the roof on so that it may be removed later to place models in it.
 Let it all dry and then see how it fits in with the other models.
And rotate the shed to see the back a bit.
On this build I went a bit quick so as to get it all done in about an hour. Normally I’d get a bit of a production line going and leave glue dry overnight and to black out all the joins before I glue them together and I’d also print and put in place some interiors. For today though I figured it was better to just use the plain white to make the pictures come out a bit better and also to help to get the job done on just the Sunday afternoon which means that I was able to complete the job this weekend.
Anyway, I hope that helps. Let me know if you’ve got any queries. Next weekend I might have a go at improving my play mat which looks a bit ordinary at the moment.


  1. Good tutorial, but I'd suggest that a decent metal rules should be used when cutting foam (preferably on ethat protects the fingers).
    I also think that it's so important to use rabbets for corners, butmention of 'edgine' should bemade too, where the white of cut carboard may otherwise show.

    1. Yeah good point Joe. I've got a metal ruler somewhere too you know but I'm not sure where it is at the moment.

      Another good point on the edging. I was getting a bit short on time last night. Normally I paint all the corners black before I glue them together. I probably should have just banged a bit of dark grey or black paint into the glue before I glued the model together. That works surprisingly well. I'll have to go back and touch them up a bit. Not a big job.

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  3. I use pretty much the same methods for my buildings, with 2 differences. I use full sheet labels rather than using regular paper and a gluestick - though I may give that a try.

    Also I use a foam core rabbit tool to do the rabbit joints, makes it quick and easy. Here's the one I use:

    1. Thanks Ray for the tip on the rabbet tool. That's pretty cool. I didn't know that they existed.

  4. Tank you SO much for this Tim :-)
    You'd already got me thinking seriously about having another go at card modelling, and this post has given me the final push!
    Just one question - what to you print onto? Normal paper, photo paper, or thin card?

    1. Hi and thanks. Glad it's inspired you a bit.

      It's just plain photocopy paper.

      I thought originally that they wouldn't last, wouldn't be tough enough to work on a war gaming table but most of the card buildings you see on my tables are about 5 or so years old and look as good as when I made them.

  5. This is fantastic, thank you so much for posting this! Sorry for being late to the party, life took over my spare time the last few weeks. I'm really looking forward to building models now!

    1. Hey Trevor. Glad you liked it mate. These buildings are so easy and cheap to make and I've got heaps of them now. I used to worry about them getting damaged but time has shown that isn't really a big concern. You'll really enjoy it once you get into it and in no time you'll have a great table.