Friday, June 27, 2008

Handcarved Courthouse Model Part 1

McLennan County Courthouse

Custom model for the Mayborn Museum in Waco, Texas

I was asked by a friend of mine to construct a model of the courthouse for an HO scale model railroad layout at the children's museum in Waco, Texas. The layout depicts Waco, and has several loops of running trains with representations of several of the buildings in town. The courthouse, which would measure about four feet long at actual HO scale, had a spot of about 11 1/2" x 8" reserved for it. Heavy compression led to a caricature model, as I call it, that has all the elements of the original courthouse without the heavy footprint. A perfect strategy for layouts on a diet.


First a drawing was made of two faces, the front and a side (shown above). This was done in Adobe Illustrator by tracing over a photograph and then scaling it down to fit the footprint. The third of three sides was the same except for the addition of stairs and an entry door, which was added on the fly without a drawing. The fourth side is left open, as the model will be up against a backdrop about 10 feet from the viewer. This was then overlaid onto a 1" thick piece of Balsa Foam II, and the drawing transfered with a pounce wheel. The Balsa Foam can be acquired from Dick Blick's art supplies among other places. It is a Phenolic foam which has no memory characteristics and will hold an impression so it can be "dented". It is flame retardant and self extinguishing - just in case. It accepts all water based and most solvent based glues and paint finishes, and it comes in several hardnesses depending on your application. I used the 12lb density, but next time I will try the softer 7lb density, which should make carving easier.

Next posts will show some progress shots and discuss techniques used to carve and finish the Balsa Foam.

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