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What Is Scratchbuilding?

Scratchbuilding by Larry Summers

Scratchbuilding by Larry Summers

Scratchbuilding is exactly what it says on the tin; building from scratch.

True scratchbuilding is done completely using raw materials, from the foundations of your model train layout, to the buildings and detailing you use to decorate your model railway.

Rather than using a shop-bought kit, which simply needs assembling, scratchbuilding is the creation of a scale model by hand from raw materials.

Plywood, clay, plaster, metal and plastic are all materials that can be used to create your model railway if you choose to scratch build it.

Whether you choose to buy some of the extra layout detail, such as buildings, signs etc. is down to personal preference.

There are definite advantages to scratchbuilding.

Your layout becomes completely unique, with the exact measurements and specifications you desire.

It is very satisfying to stand back and admire your hard work once completed. The raw materials required to scratchbuild are cheaper than a commercial kit, which is an attraction to those with the practical skills to make a successful scale model by hand.

Planning is an essential part of scratchbuilding.

The concept of your railway layout can be based on commercial designs. Many scratchbuilders gain their experience from assembling kits first.

To begin with, you may wish to kitbash to help you get started.

With a big project, merging pre-made kits to create a new design, without having to think one up yourself, can be a good way to start.

Always plan your layout carefully.

You can include as much detail as you like. Specialized software is available to plan your model railway on a computer.

Simulations of the track and trains are very useful if you struggle to visualize a 2D design in 3D.

Making the transformation from paper to model isn’t easy, however scratch building allows ultimate flexibility as well as the ability to recreate a totally original model train layout.

Although scratch building uses raw materials, this doesn’t mean you can’t use things like plastic.

It simply means that instead of buying landscape detail, you build everything to start from scratch.

For example, instead of buying trees or buildings, you will scratch build them yourself.

Using wood, cardboard, or even paper, every last piece of your model train layout can be hand made from raw materials.

Very satisfying! Scratchbuilding is not for the faint-hearted but is incredibly satisfying.

It takes time and requires motivation, precision and patience. Almost everything can be scratchbuilt, from the buildings to the sheep grazing on your mountains.

I recommend to start by learning the basics through kit building.

This will give you an idea of how commercial, pre-made items are finished and then you can try to replicate them.

Scratchbuilding is a satisfying way to create your own unique model train layout.

When every last detail is perfect, sit back and enjoy your hard work. You deserve it!

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About Dan Morgan

Dan Morgan is on a mission to encourage more people to give model railroading a go... There is just no better hobby in the world!

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